Thursday Night Lights - need help with which lens and settings

SquarePeg

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My daughter has recently started cheerleading for our town's middle school team. I'm completely new to any type of sports or action photography and I'm having difficulty getting any decent pics during the games which are at night under the lights. In addition to very limited angles of view due to where the girls stand while cheering, they are constantly in motion and the lighting is a nightmare. My only options are from the stands in front of them (close but looking down) or from all the way across the field. They face the stands and the field about 50/50.

Most of my photo gear was bought with landscape and vacation photos in mind. I'm not interested in buying anything new for these pics but would love some help in making the best of what I have.

I'm shooting with a D5100 and for lenses I have the following:
Nikon 18-55, 55-200, 18-105, 35, 50
Sigma 17-70
Tokina 11-16

Suggestions for which lens would be my best option? So far I've tried the Sigma which I had terrible focus issues and the 50 which were a bit better but still not any good. I'm fairly certain that I'm the issue though, not the equipment! I've mostly been shooting in Shutter priority mode using single point AF. I've also tried a few other settings but I'm really at a loss on what to use in this situation and would appreciate any suggestions or pointing me toward a tutorial that will help.

Thanks!

Here are a few of the pics that I took. I did adjust the exposure and the blacks in raw but I haven't really done anything else to them.

FNL 2015_7114a.jpg


FNL_7299ab.jpg


FNL_7292ab.jpg
 

480sparky

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If you're getting those results with a 50/1.8, I'd say stick with that lens.

However, your EC is set to +2.67 and you're shooting at ISO 100 and f/1.8. That leaves very little DOF. I'd suggest you increase the ISO to 800 or 1600(after resetting your EC to 0) and shoot at f/4. You might need to increase the ISO even more if you are wanting to limit motion blur, which is evident in the images. 1/160 is rather slow for stopping arms, legs, feet and hands from blurring.

I would also shoot an event like this in full manual exposure. Once you figure out the ISO/aperture/shutter combination that gets the exposure right, you can just fire away. Lighting in venues like this are very consistent.
 

Derrel

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A fast-aperture lens helps a LOT under lights....something f/1.4 or f/1.8 or f/2 is what I mean by fast, so...the 50mm is a decent bet. Get close if you want close-up shots. Shoot in raw mode. You might very well end up shooting at ISO 1,000 or so, one click above 800, and then DELIBERATELY under-exposing by a couple EV, then "pushing" the images in post.

I would shoot Manual mode, pick an f/stop, say f/2, and a shutter speed that will stop most movement; see the moving pom-poms??? That speed is just a bit too slow, but it's not horribly slow. At every hand-clap, the hands are stopped; at the verrrrry top and bottom of each pom-pom rise/drop, the hands are stopped. When the poms are shaken...then will blur a bit, but the still parts of the body will be pretty still. Once you find that speed, two-thirds of an EV faster (two clicks more speed) will give you a bit of a safety margin.

You can also use a VR lens, and shoot deliberate motion blur stuff. Jumps, spins, twirls, that kind of stuff can look neat if it is artistically blurred, at like 1/8 to 1/45 second. You can also shoot a LOT of frames, and hope to catch fleeting still moments, like the landing of a jump, the claps, the hands and poms raised overhead as they spell out the school name or mascot, etc..

Walk right down in front if you want to. Both the 50/1.8 or 85/1.8 are good, FAST-aperture lenses that gather a lot of light, and might well get you to 1/250 at f/2 at high ISO; again, I am suggesting deliberately under-exposing by 1 and 2/3 stops or so at the games, and then "pushing" the files in software to get to the higher ISO equivalent that will allow you that desirable f/2 at 1/200 or 1/250 speed at minimum.
 
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SquarePeg

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If you're getting those results with a 50/1.8, I'd say stick with that lens.

However, your EC is set to +2.67 and you're shooting at ISO 100 and f/1.8. That leaves very little DOF. I'd suggest you increase the ISO to 800 or 1600(after resetting your EC to 0) and shoot at f/4. You might need to increase the ISO even more if you are wanting to limit motion blur, which is evident in the images. 1/160 is rather slow for stopping arms, legs, feet and hands from blurring.

I would also shoot an event like this in full manual exposure. Once you figure out the ISO/aperture/shutter combination that gets the exposure right, you can just fire away. Lighting in venues like this are very consistent.

Thanks for your response! The first pic I used the Sigma and had ISO 1000, the other 2 I used the 50. I must have changed the ISO back to 100 at some point (2 different games). I'll try those suggestions at this week's game. I'd love to use the Sigma instead of the 50 so I can get a few different perspectives. Because of where the girls are located I don't have a lot of options on where I can stand.

A fast-aperture lens helps a LOT under lights....something f/1.4 or f/1.8 or f/2 is what I mean by fast, so...the 50mm is a decent bet. Get close if you want close-up shots. Shoot in raw mode. You might very well end up shooting at ISO 1,000 or so, one click above 800, and then DELIBERATELY under-exposing by a couple EV, then "pushing" the images in post.

I would shoot Manual mode, pick an f/stop, say f/2, and a shutter speed that will stop most movement; see the moving pom-poms??? That speed is just a bit too slow, but it's not horribly slow. At every hand-clap, the hands are stopped; at the verrrrry top and bottom of each pom-pom rise/drop, the hands are stopped. When the poms are shaken...then will blur a bit, but the still parts of the body will be pretty still. Once you find that speed, two-thirds of an EV faster (two clicks more speed) will give you a bit of a safety margin.

You can also use a VR lens, and shoot deliberate motion blur stuff. Jumps, spins, twirls, that kind of stuff can look neat if it is artistically blurred, at like 1/8 to 1/45 second. You can also shoot a LOT of frames, and hope to catch fleeting still moments, like the landing of a jump, the claps, the hands and poms raised overhead as they spell out the school name or mascot, etc..

Walk right down in front if you want to. Both the 50/1.8 or 85/1.8 are good, FAST-aperture lenses that gather a lot of light, and might well get you to 1/250 at f/2 at high ISO; again, I am suggesting deliberately under-exposing by 1 and 2/3 stops or so at the games, and then "pushing" the files in software to get to the higher ISO equivalent that will allow you that desirable f/2 at 1/200 or 1/250 speed at minimum.

Thanks for taking the time, much appreciated. I'll definitely have to read that a few times, lol. I would love to get closer but parents are limited to the stands or by the fence. I agree a little motion blur with the limbs or poms can look good as long as the faces are sharp.

Should I be using single point AF and AF-C?
 

KmH

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Stopping the 50 mm down 2 stops or more (f/3.5 or smaller, like f/4) will help the lens deliver sharper focus.
f/3.5 is about where that lens 'sweet spot' range of lens apertures for focus sharpness starts.
Three full stops of smaller aperture than f/1.8 is f/5.
 
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Derrel

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For action photos of ALL types, I use AF-C. Why? Because AF-C allows me to determine when a shot is triggered. If I see something I want to shoot, AF-C will allow me to press the shutter and shoot it. I do not want the camera to determine, based on focus status, that a shot can NOT BE MADE, because "the camera brain" says the focus is not dead-on perfect. At longer ranges, focus can be off a tiny bit, but the subject can end up in-focus in the final photo if there is even a small depth of field cushion; that depth of field cushion can be had by shooting at f/2.8 or f/3.2 or f/3.5 or as 480Psparky mentioned, at f/4; at 20,25,30 feet, if you were using AF-S the "camera brain" might determine that the focus was not precisely dead-on, and it would NOT allow you to shoot a shot! if the lens were say at f/1.8, but the shooting aperture was f/3.2...the actual picture could easily be IN-FOCUS, but the AF-S system would NOT allow you to fire!

AF-S made sense when we shot film, at 79 cents per print....now that clicks are free, it makes no sense to me most of the time to use AF-S.

AF-C focus is my absolute preferred focus mode. Af far as focusing pattern, 9-point or 11-point focusing are my favorites. I typically use the 4-way controller on the rear of the camera to move my "hot" focus square onto my main target. You can do focusing any way you like, using one single AF point, 9,11,or 21 points, whatever your camera offers, whatever you like. On wider-angle shots like your first sample, you might prefer the single-point AF pattern.

Keep in mind the advice above: while stopping down to f/3.5 to f/4 as KmH mentioned might produce sharper "focus"...that comes at the hugely increased risk of motion blurring...as in so many things photographic, you must strike a good, acceptable balance between shutter speed and lens aperture size, and depth of field. On a SINGLE person, you do not need f/4 when the shot is made from 20-30 feet.

Your stadium is probably like many: the sideline area has brighter light than the middle of the field, which is good for you!
 
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SquarePeg

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Yes, I use the focus point and toggle it to where I want. More time consuming I think than the focus recompose method but I can never seem to get that trick to work for me.
 
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@480sparky and @Derrel and @KmH

Thanks so much for your help. There was another game tonight and I tried again with both the 50 and the Sigma 17-70 (I needed to get a wider viewpoint and could not back up any further with the 50). Shooting in Manual with 1/400 shutter speed and f2 - f2.8. I think I got better results - I definitely got many more keepers.

The 50 is great but I'd like to get more of the squad in the shot together. The 17-70 pics are noisy. I'm going to bring my 35mm with me to the next game - it may be a good compromise (???) What do you think of using the Tokina 11-16 2.8 for something like this? I tend to think of it only for landscapes or the occasional real estate pics I take for a friend's business...

Here are a few from tonight's game. Appreciate any feedback on what I should do to improve.

1. (50)
FNL_7315a.jpg

2. (50)
FNL_7317a.jpg

3. (50)
FNL_7322a.jpg


4. (50)
FNL_7338a.jpg


5. (Sigma 17-70)
FNL_7357a.jpg
 
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SquarePeg

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Ask for permission to get down below the fence.The worst you can be told is 'no'.

Already told "NO" on that one by my daughter! She barely tolerates my taking these pics from the stands and would absolutely cringe and die of embarrassment if I were to be on the field. I'll have to stick to the from the stands angle. My only other option is from the near end zone which I might try again next game. There's a net over there that I would need to shoot through though.
 

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