How to Shoot a Mountain Biker on Snow?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Bruce_h, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. Bruce_h

    Bruce_h TPF Noob!

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    Hi there, I was out today setting up for a snow cross race and it was really sunny out. We tried a couple practice runs and I tested out my new 40D for the first time really today and I seem to have trouble getting the shot right.

    [​IMG]

    ISO 800, f/16, 1/2500 Canon 40D 70-200mmL IS USM lens
    I couldn't see very well on my LCD because it was so bright so I didn't find out til I processed them that they didn't turn out as well as I thought. It is underexposed, but my concern is if I exposed it a little more that the snow would be overexposed and leave my subject dark still.

    I just learnt how to use the light meter the other day (reading Understanding Exposure, not quite done, but helpful book), and it said before I took the shot that it was correct so what did I do wrong?


    We are doing the same thing tomorrow with same conditions, so any info would be appreciated on how to get both the subject and the bright background exposed properly.
     
  2. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    Your camera was metering for the snow therefore making it 'grey', which would in turn cause the rest of the exposure on the image to go down with it. You should read a few books just to test out exposure some more and how to meter for conditions. You are starting out with one of the very most difficult types of photography - sports. So overall you did a great job.

    I am thinking that this may be 1.5-ish stops underexposed so lets say in this case you bump your f-stop to around 4 or 8 (it really matters on the lighting conditions and you bring your shutter speed down to 1/2000th. Always check your histogram and learn how to read it - much more reliable then the LCD image.

    Edit: I just read where you have read understanding exposure.. so just practice :)
     
  3. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    What you could really use here is some high-speed flash fill to get some light on the front of the biker to balance out the photo. Or if you have an assistant, somebody standing with a reflector. I'm not familiar with Canons, but on Nikon you can use a D40 which will do 1/500s flash sync out of the box, or an SB-600 or higher in "FP" mode will let you run the flash at any speed, albeit with limited power. I think the fastest a 40D syncs at natively is 1/250s, so maybe one of the Canon guys can chime in on how to get a flash running quicker for those.

    Also, not quite sure why you're shooting at iso800 and with the lens stopped all the way down to f/16. Try opening it up to f/11 & iso400 or f/8 and iso200 and that'll lower the noise in your photo (if there is any) and should make for a sharper shot too. You start to get softening in the images due to diffraction once you're past f/11 on most DSLRs.

    In these conditions it'll be pretty hopeless at seeing you LCD screen. The best you can do is just look at the RGB histograms to see where your exposure is at and adjust from there. Don't be afraid to crank it up and start blowing out the snow if you don't have any other way of getting the rider more properly exposed (ie fill flash or a reflector). It might actually look pretty cool. Also I'd shoot in RAW for this (and I'm a big JPEG guy) since it'll give you maximum leeway for adjusting later. Very difficult lighting conditions where it's difficult to see your image review on DSLRs that have limited dynamic range demand RAW shooting.
     
  4. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    Regarding flash you will want to check with the bikers if that is permitted/wanted - if even a single individual says it is distracting don't use it. Otherwise yes you could use flash to fill them in (I have a few mountain biking shots on my flickr page which might ive you a few ideas... mine are dragging the shutter however...) As Mav was mentioning, you can set it to Highspeed sync with a single push of a button (at least on a 580EX) and you are off to the races (quite literally)
     
  5. Bruce_h

    Bruce_h TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the replies guys!

    The f/16 came from somewhere on this forum, I was searching for info yesterday and somebody said this was the best for sunlight. Which contradicts what Understanding Exposure says - you guys are right on the money for what he says, so I will try that.

    As for the ISO it is quite high, I thought the speed of the rider warranted it, but in those conditions I realize my shutter speed would take care of that - my mistake... and I did notice noise in the subjects face and shirt when I tried to adjust it with my RAW software, so it didn't turn out (new to that too).

    I do like your idea of the flashes or reflectors they are great, but the race is in 10 hours, so its kind of out... and it is a 4 person heat, so I would have to get all 4 people to agree like Brittany says.

    And I was able to look at the histograms and semi figure them out, so I should have more of an idea tomorrow reading them rather than just he LCD. Thanks so much for all your help! I'm just glad I got this trial run, and the helpful people here to help me get some good pics tomorrow!

    Cheers!


    PS Brittany, your biking shots are amazing!
     
  6. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    HA!! If there was a best example for why we need Exposure Compensation then this would be it. You should post it in the thread discussing EC just to prove my point :)
     
  7. djrichie28

    djrichie28 TPF Noob!

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    Another idea you can try considering you have less than 4 hours now, is to use spot metering on the riders using manual mode, or spot meter a gray card which should bring the snow to it's whiteness and properly expose for the riders too.

    As Peanuts mentioned in the first response, matrix metering will want your scene to look 18% gray forcing the camera to under expose your mostly bright scene. If you use a gray card and to set the exposure in Manual mode, you should be able to leave the settings there. If you don't have a gray card and the riders are moving too fast to get your settings, try using the sky or another static neutral toned object. And if you have to, meter off the snow and set your exposure to +2 to 2.5EV, or somewhere around there to force an over exposure.

    Good luck and if you like, please post your images from todays meet.
     
  8. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    F/16 and ISO 800? SS at 1/2500th?

    A bit of a strange/conflicting combination (but kudos for having the camera in manual).

    Something like this would have helped you a little better:

    - spot metering and make SURE you hit the biker not something beside/behind them, else it will meter off the snow not the biker. Spot meter off the biker and they will be better metered, hence better exposed.

    - If you think you can get away with it, a front fill flash may help, *if* it is off camera. If it is ON camera, your shutter speed drops to it;s maximum sync rate (around 1/200th - 1/250th). It may not be fast enough to freeze all the action, but its a close call.

    - STRONG daylight? ISO 100 or whatever the LOWEST you can get it at. Lower ISO = lower noise.

    The old "sunny 16" rule is a rule based on manual film cameras. Becuase we can adjust our ISO on the fly and metering is more advanced, this rule really doesn't apply anymore... let me rephrase... it does apply, but it can be improved upon now by a LOT. ;) Put it aside and leave it for the film people. Digital does things slightly differently. This rule was created WAY before there were reliable metering systems in cameras at all!
     
  9. audiobomber

    audiobomber TPF Noob!

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    I assume the race is over by now, but I've had good results in winter conditions by setting the custom white balance while aiming at a clean patch of snow.
     
  10. Bruce_h

    Bruce_h TPF Noob!

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    Hey everyone, thanks for all your hints and tips. I have processed one pic for or now so you can see how it went....

    [​IMG]

    ISO 100 f/4.5 1/1600s @ 100.5mm Same camera, same lens.

    Please feel free to critique this picture and add any suggestions, especially ones that tell me what I can do to this in the RAW processor, as I just copied it straight to JPG so I could post it here.

    Once again, thanks! Took 223 pictures, so I hope to get some more up here, I just need to study a bit before I can take the time.
     
  11. eterrisinCYQX

    eterrisinCYQX TPF Noob!

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    Just gonna add one thing: It's not snowcross. Snowcross is snowmobile racing. It's fourcross on snow.
     
  12. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Without reading the other comments, my suggestion would be a 12 gauge autoloader with BBB buckshot. That will certainly knock him down but you may have to use another shot to finish him off.

    You're really lucky to get a shot at one; I've always wanted to but its illegal around here.
    Don't try cooking them; they're a beast to clean. Just have the head mounted.
     

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