Indoor Action Photography

es.volpe

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I'm looking to start doing some photography at indoor horse shows. I've had plenty of experience shooting horse shows, but only outdoor ones where there's plenty of light to allow for a quick shutter speed. My other photography is mostly nature photography or portraiture, so I don't have much experience with indoor action photography and am trying to figure out what equipment I'll need. (And any general tips would also be appreciated!)

I'll be mostly photographing shows that include jumping horses. The lighting at these shows is obviously what concerns me. Usually they are held in large arenas where the only lighting comes from a very high ceiling. While some horse show photographers use flash at certain shows, it's not always acceptable, as horses can spook at a flash.

I'm also wondering how much noise is acceptable in photographs that I'm looking to sell. I'm assuming that even with the proper lens, there will be some noise due to the lack of flash.

I currently have a Nikon D80 with an 18-135mm Nikkor lens. As much as I'd like to keep it inexpensive (at least for the first few shows), I'd be willing to drop the money for a new lens if necessary. Also, I've heard something about being able to rent lenses ... is this an option for the first couple shows maybe? How expensive is it and how would you go about renting a lens?

Thanks in advance for your help!
 
I would think a 2.8 zoom lens, maybe a 24-70 or so, would be best. It depends on how close you can get to the horses. If you are far, might need a longer zoom, but I'm thinking that due to the low light, a 2.8 would be a necessity.

There are softwares that help eliminate the noise in a picture. Look at Noise Ninja, a plugin for Photoshop.

As for renting lenses, I'd check out local camera stores to see if they offer the service. A few local ones here do.
If not, you can look online.

I have never used these, I only found them via google:
LensRentals.com - Rent Canon, Nikon, Olympus, or Sony Lenses and Cameras
Lens Lenders - SLR Camera Lens Rentals in Canada

*Make sure you check into shipping, specially if you are overseas
 
You will want fast lenses. F2.8 for zoom or you could get even faster with a prime (non zoom) lens.

The 70-200mm F2.8 VR lens would be a good choice, although it's quite expensive. An 85mm F1.8 or 50mm F1.4 would also be suitable options.

Also, you may need to use a high ISO setting on the camera...which, of course, gives you noise. If you are selling the images, you will want to do your best to keep the noise levels low. Short of getting a newer/better camera, you can control noise by getting your exposures correct and 'Expose to the Right'. You can also use software noise removal.

Renting a lens before deciding if you want/need to buy it, is a good idea.
There are several lens rental outfits. It may be best to get them locally but that may or may not be an option for you. One rental place is http://www.prophotorental.com/
 
I think you know the answer here, you are gonna have to get some fast glass. I think you are just going to have to experiment with the "acceptable ISO" and just see how low of an ISO you can use to obtain a fast enough shutter. it will be a give/take kind of thing.

i know you want to keep it as cheap as possible, but some of the newer bodies are capable of insanely low noise at insanely high ISO. FWIW.
 
It does not make an sense to go buy a new body to get better higher ISO, it will end up costing more money to do that then just buying a 70-200 VR, because even a new FX body which is what you gona want to get the higher iso, you wont be able to use the 18-135 b/c that is a DX lens
 
As others have said, fast glass is pretty much a necessity. As for noise, when it comes to any kind of action shooting, crisp and clear action with noise is preferred to low or no noise with blurry action. You can help noise in post processing. Blurry out of focus is just blurry out of focus. It can't be fixed.
 
Thanks for all the input!

So I've accepted the fact that I'll need to get a new lens. I'm wondering if I can get by with a lens like this http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/247091-USA/Nikon_2137_Normal_AF_Nikkor_50mm.html#specifications, just until I've done a few shows and can save up for a better one. I shouldn't need to zoom, as I'll be able to get pretty close to the horses (I'll be photographing from within the ring). I'd like to have a lens like this anyway; it wouldn't go to waste after I upgraded.

I'm also planning on getting some noise reduction software. I checked out the Noise Ninja Photoshop plug-in and that seems like a good option, seeing as I use Photoshop to edit my pictures. Are there any other good ones I might want to consider?

Big Mike, thanks for the 'Expose to the Right' link ... very helpful!
 
Yes, that lens would be a good start.

I would worry too much about noise software just yet. See what you can do with that lens and just Photoshop. The key will be nailing your exposure.
 
Don't we have a few people here that already shoot indoor horse events? Perhaps they could chime in (or have the OP do a search, this topic has come up at least 3 times that I recall).

From what I know, these events are usually (but not always) indoors and therefore in dark locations. Sometimes fast glass just isn't enough becuase you end up with a very shallow DOF so a camera that does well at higher ISO is a boon (1600-3200).

Of course this is very venue specific. If it is done outdoors during the day, you could alomost use any low end slow lens and still get acceptable results... but I would not put money down on that... lol.

Shutter speeds will need to be in the 1/500th range to keep from having a horse blurred from motion blur. A little higher would be better. An important point is your shooting location. If you are not allowed inside the riding area, a 50mm is going to be far short of what you would need. In that case, a 70-200 is about your ONLY choice.
 
Go with the 70-200, you won't regret it.
 
It does not make an sense to go buy a new body to get better higher ISO, it will end up costing more money to do that then just buying a 70-200 VR, because even a new FX body which is what you gona want to get the higher iso, you wont be able to use the 18-135 b/c that is a DX lens

what? you don't need an FX body to get the good iso performance.... the D300 and the D90 are dx bodies, and feature really good iso performance at iso 3200, and pretty good performance at 6400.
 
what? you don't need an FX body to get the good iso performance.... the D300 and the D90 are dx bodies, and feature really good iso performance at iso 3200, and pretty good performance at 6400.

Though I agree that the D9 and D300 have ok higher ISO performance, I think that you are off a little. They have good 800-1600 performance, and barely acceptable ISO 3200 performance. 6400... you are going to have to work DAMN hard to get acceptable results. Without nailing the exposure perfectly and the addition of noise reduction software, it would not be what I would call acceptable.

This is what I would call an acceptable ISO 6400 shot, and every little bit of that help was needed as the lens was at 200mm and already at F/2.8 and 1/500th. The action was very fast but still nicely frozen. This was done on a Nikon D700.

3142794536_1f80259cb5.jpg


I do not think that the D300 or D90 can come close to this level of high ISO performance. At least this is what Nikon is saying, as they are touting the D3 and D700 as their kings of high ISO performance. The D300/D90 are good, just not as good as you may be thinking that they are.
 
Though I agree that the D9 and D300 have ok higher ISO performance, I think that you are off a little. They have good 800-1600 performance, and barely acceptable ISO 3200 performance. 6400... you are going to have to work DAMN hard to get acceptable results. Without nailing the exposure perfectly and the addition of noise reduction software, it would not be what I would call acceptable.

This is what I would call an acceptable ISO 6400 shot, and every little bit of that help was needed as the lens was at 200mm and already at F/2.8 and 1/500th. The action was very fast but still nicely frozen. This was done on a Nikon D700.

3142794536_1f80259cb5.jpg


I do not think that the D300 or D90 can come close to this level of high ISO performance. At least this is what Nikon is saying, as they are touting the D3 and D700 as their kings of high ISO performance. The D300/D90 are good, just not as good as you may be thinking that they are.

Is the ISO performance on a D300 or D90 going to rival a D3 or D700, no I don't think so. I've looked at shots from D300 and D90 and I thought that the D300 was acceptable at 6400, and the D90 was acceptable at 3200. Now obviously when you are looking at 100% crops it will look a bit noisy, but I don't print 100% or even 50% crops.

That being said it's quite likely that you have much higher standards when it comes to ISO performance than I do lol.
 
I would stand by a 2.8, body later if necessary, you can get the same change in stops with fast zoom at the same quality then if you go with a D700 and 70-300 4-5.6, for a lot less coin.
 
...go with a D700 and 70-300 4-5.6, for a lot less coin.

ACK! I would never put a low quality lens like a 70-300 on my D700. :confused:
That's like putting bicycle tires on a Ferrari... its just NOT done. :thumbdown:

Seriously, before doing that, I would rather sit and stare at a lensless D700 for 6 months and get the BEST lens on the market for it, than put the equivalent of a kit lens on a camera like that.
 

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