how to get a sharp image in sports

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by robvasi, Nov 19, 2018.

  1. robvasi

    robvasi TPF Noob!

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    Rodeo.
    breakaway.jpg

    11.10.2018.0908.0065.jpg
    600mm lens on tripod with gimbal head
    300mm lens on tripod with gimbal head
    70-200 hand held

    Nikon D5
    AF-C

    1/2000 t0 1/3200

    F/2.8 to 7.1

    focus is not sharp.

    I strive to keep the focus point on the face or upper body. Alas, I have a hard time doing this, as I am shooting, the focus point appears where I want it but when viewed, the focus pt. will be off the subject. Something is wrong with my technique and I don't know what it is.

    What am I doing wrong?


     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2018
  2. ronlane

    ronlane What's next? Supporting Member

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    What camera body are you using? AF-C is Nikon terminology. It could be that the camera body is having trouble tracking subject moving straight at you.

    I see that you are using expanded AF focus, try single point auto focus point 1 up from the center. It will be less likely to jump focus on you.
     
  3. robvasi

    robvasi TPF Noob!

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    Nikon D5
    I edited my post to show this after I received your reply.



     
  4. ronlane

    ronlane What's next? Supporting Member

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    Nice body. I would just suggest trying a single focus point. When you use the expanded, you have a chance that it will pick the wrong one of the spots. It could also be your focus case too but I am not up to date on those for Nikon, as I shoot Canon bodies.
     
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  5. robvasi

    robvasi TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for your reply and insight.

    As you suggested, I checked the focus modes, did some research, and also chatted with a photographer friend about this.

    I had focus on both the back button and the shutter release. My friend and I surmised that this might be the problem, we are not sure.

    I changed to single pt. as you suggested.
    Set to back button focus
    Set AF-C to release priority. I don't understand this, but that's what was recommended in a video on this topic.
    Used a toy that swings and tested the focus.
    Seems to be good.

    Because multiple changes were made this is not a scientific approach to problem resolution. I'll do that later. The time now is 0257 and I could not sleep because of this problem.

    Your suggestion of using single pt. will turn out to be a pivotal change to my setup.

     
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  6. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    I know you didn't ask but let me throw in that, imo, the larger picture is very nice but suffers from a bright and intrusive cluttered background. That could be 'cured' with a bit of editing.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    A few thoughts to add:

    1) A subject moving toward the camera at speed is one of the hardest things for the camera to focus upon, because the subject to camera distance is always changing, thus it has to resample and move the focus constantly. More modern cameras have a lot of AF systems and setups that can help so do read around how your camera can be best setup for this kind of shot.
    At its most basic AF sensors seek out variations in contrast within the scene and aim to focus upon the point of contrast difference that is the closest to the camera underneath all active AF points. Hence why for spots and action many people use 1 AF point since then you tell teh camera where you want it sharp (many cameras will also use AF points around the selected one to aid the focusing system).

    2) A horse and rider moving toward you is challenging in many ways:
    a) You've got a moving subject so you need a fast enough shutterspeed. My own experiments are that 1/640sec is the slowest you can go to get a sharp shot with horse and rider. At 1/500sec hooves and hair is going to start blurring (and likely ropes too). So that gives you at least one bottom end speed. Any faster and its going to improve sharpness.

    b) The subject is coming toward you, as stated above this is hard for the camera. Sometimes an angled or side on photo can be a lot easier because the shift in distance becomes far less marked second to second.

    c) A horse and rider is a very deep subject. From the horses eyes to the riders eyes is quite a distance, even at range with a long focal length. This can mean that very wide apertures can make an already tricky situation even harder to land focus. Sometimes f4 or even up to f8 might be preferable for certain shots. OF course events are doubly hard because you often have no control over the background or lighting or positioning (and often even your own position is limited).
    If you wanted cow and rider in focus then you're likely looking for when horse and cow are very close and for a smaller aperture such as f8 or even f10. At least if they are all heading directly toward you.

    d) The horse moves. It's head can be going up and down and the rider too (depending on the nature of the motion). I tend to find that for this reason the horses shoulder is often a better target for the focus point. It's often close enough to the riders face in terms of the plane of focus and the shoulder isn't tossing around quite as much as other parts of the animal and rider. It's also a slightly larger area so its easier to keep the AF point locked onto it, plus most of the area surrounding it should be horses neck,head and riders body - so all parts that the focus shouldn't be bad having it on (unless you're very wide open and thus have a very thin depth of field).
     
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  8. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    What an excellent analysis.
    Something like this for all the major sports would be incredibly useful. I think.
     
  9. robvasi

    robvasi TPF Noob!

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    I agree, there is so much clutter that the horse and rider get lost. I'll show some rodeo photos that have a nice background in another post. If a photo meets the guidelines for focus and composition, then I'll make an attempt to darken the background with the Radial Filter tool in Lightroom.

    I was supposed to publish this Breakaway series on my webpage, alas, not enough photos meet the focus criteria. So, I have one more opportunity to get a few hundred breakaway photos.


     
  10. Solarflare

    Solarflare No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Release priority means the camera will always take the image, even if it thinks the picture wont be in focus.

    Thats used because sometimes the photo is in focus anyway, even if the camera doesnt think it is.

    It is only useful if you shoot series of images, which is the norm for sports. Then you will have some images not in focus, which is okay because the next images should be in focus again.

    If you use release priority it is crucial that you engage the autofocus for a moment before you start shooting images, otherwise the first images you take will always be out of focus.


    Not even remotely. A subject that moves irratically up close is the toughest challenge. Something that moves in a straight line is childs play in comparison.
     
  11. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    I did a bit of editing on one to look at potential and will post if you allow.
     
  12. SquarePeg

    SquarePeg hear me roar Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good point Solarflare - OP, are you shooting in continuous high burst mode so that you get multiple attempts at each shot?
     

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