Indoor Sports Photography Canon 30D - Gymnastics

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by michelle_shurts, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. I recently purchased a Canon 30D and I am trying to take indoor pictures of
    Gymnastics. I've used the Automatic Sports Setting. The camera is not stopping
    the action. Unless the subject is almost still they are blurry. I've tried
    some manual settings and adjusting the ISO speed to 1600 but this does not seem
    to be working either. I want to use the continuous picture taking feature and
    this seems to go away when I change the ISO setting.

    Any help please?

    Thank you,
  2. It sounds like you have a slow lens (=big maximum f-stop number) that is too slow to freeze the action.

    What lens are you using to take pictures? Perhaps 70-300mm f/4-5.6 or the kit lens perhaps? The sport setting can't really help you if your don't have a fast lens. Most of us actually use TV or AV modes to tell the camera how fast it should take pictures (it should be at least 1/250 or faster) or use higher ISO setting with maximum aparture using AV mode. Your camera, then calculate the right aperture or shutter speed to get a proper exposure. I personally find automatic mode unreliable for sports photography.
  3. My lens is 28-135mm f/4.5

    I should also mention we are not allowed to use a flash.

    Since we probably need to buy an additonal lens - what do you recommend? thanks!
  4. It depends on your budget! Some suggested lenses are 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, 135mm f/2.0L, or 85mm f/1.8. Most of us, photo geeks, like 135mm f/2.0L since it is super sharp, but it's tad bit expensive. If you are fairly close to the subject, you may be able to get by with 85mm f/1.8, which is fastest among all the lenses listed. If you have $$$$, you may find 85mm f/1.2L II to another choice (slow auto focus, but it is currently a brightest lens in Canon line up, along with 50mm f/1.2L). Perhaps, you can check your photos for actual focal length (mm) you've most frequently used to guide your decision.
  5. Budget is of course a consideration. I will research those lenses you suggested - and hopefully get one. Until I get a new lens - what is the best setting with my 28-135mm f/4.5 lens?
  6. I've been looking at some of those lenses. Yes, the are pricey. $900 - $1800. I found the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Is that a totally useless lens? I'd be giving up zoom - but would it give me sharp results? It's only $80 and I thought it might get me by until I make the big splurge. At the same time - I don't want to waste time and money.
  7. Michelle you really need to take advantage of the flexibility of an SLR as opposed to a P&S which does everything for you. You need to understand the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO and also an understanding of lens specifications and what exactly they mean. I strongly suggest acquiring the following book by Bryan Peterson:
  8. Actually I'm not familiar with that lens. Is this (28-135mm f/4.5) Canon EF lens or is that a typo for Canon 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM EF Lens? FYI, if you have a variable aperture zoom lens (Canon 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM), your maximum aperture will change when you zoom in or out.

    I would use TV mode at 1/250 or 1/500 at ISO 1600. If you get a blinking AV value, it means your lens is not fast (=bright) enough for you to make an exposure at that shutter speed. If so, I would use AV mode with the largest aperture value, f/3.5-5.6, to let camera pick whatever the fastest shutter speed it can use. If so, try to stay with the shorter range of zoom to keep the aperture from switching to f/5.6. Also other thing you should consider is that when you shoot photo with these zoom lens at wide open, your image won't be very sharp.

    This way, your camera will shoot at the fastest shutter speed it can physically
  9. Sorry, my post got cut. What I mean to say was, "This way, your camera will shoot at the fastest shutter speed it can physically
    capable of shooting."
  10. Michelle,

    The 30D is an excellent camera for sports. Remember to multiply by 1.6 to calculate the effective focal length on your 30D.

    Three prime lenses that are affordable and well suited to your purpose are:

    Canon 85mm/f1.8; Canon 100mm/f2; Canon 135mm/f2L.

    If you can get quite close, the Canon 50mm/f1.4 is also good. If you can't get close, the Canon 200mm/f2.8 and the Canon 70-200mm/f2.8L are both excellent, although slower than the primes. Going from an f2.8 aperture setting to f2 doubles your shutter speed (1/250 sec. becomes 1/500 sec., etc.).

    Shooting wide open in aperture priority (Av) with these lenses should enable you to achieve a shutter speed of 1/500 sec., the absolute minimum for freezing sports action. Faster speeds are even better, and 1/1000 sec. will freeze almost anything a human can do. You can also use shutter-priority (Tv) set to the speed you want. Program mode won't give you the control you need for your purpose.

    If the lighting is too low to achieve 1/500 sec. at 800 ISO (the highest noise-free speed on a 30D), go to 1600 ISO, or use the fastest shutter speed you can and wait for those instants when the athlete is relatively still (top of a jump, holding a pose, sticking a landing, etc.).

    Also, consider using Custom Function 4 to put the autofocus on the * button instead of the shutter release button, and use centre point focusing in Servo focus mode at 5 frames per second.

    This enables you to lock the focus point onto an athlete, hold down the * button for continuous refocusing, and fire short bursts of shots. Later you can choose the best ones.

    Sometimes you can ask the organizers to increase the lighting level (our daughter's school defaults to "econo-mode" settings, but will pump it up to max for big games), or bargain free photos for them in exchange for the right to shoot from as close as is safe and non-distracting for the athletes.

    Hope this info helps.

    Brent Reid.
  11. Michelle, f/2.8 is too slow. Consider the 85/1.8 or 50/1.4. William Castleman shoots gymnastics and review the lenses. Here is his site and recommendations. Go to the bottom for more reviews.

  12. Hi Michelle, The only lens (IMHO) is the 70-200 f2.8 - This is the ultimate sports photographers lens. Using the 20d set at 1600 ISO, f2.8 and a shutter speed of about 1/200, you should get excelent pictures without flash. Primes are faster and less expensive, but you will not have the flexibility to reach out or to close up to frame a shot. You will be probably shooting from the sidelines and cannot walk up to or back away from a competitor to frame a shot. The 70-200 F2.8 is expensive but it is an investment you will never regret. I would alway use manual settings, start with the above and increase your fstops to increase DOF or increase shutter speed to get better stop action. You will be surprised at the picture quality at 1600 ISO. Check your histogram and you may have set your color balance to account for the temp of the lighting. Good luck
  13. Canon 135mm/f2L

    You'll still need high ISO values and time at your local library with some basic photography books to understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and you.
  14. You have two problems: one the lens is way too slow. Really the 70-200/2.8 is probably the best bet unless you are comfortable with primes--but those take some getting used to. The 50/1.8 is a great lens for the price & if it gets close enough for you can be an effective stopgap. F2.8 is plenty fast enough--the 30D can go to ISO 3200 with no problem, so you can shoot in truly awful lighting with it. Once you get going, lens cost will far outstrip that of the body.

    The second problem is you are letting the camera do the thinking for you. Learn to use the manual settings (Av, Tv, M) and stay away from the P&S modes (the pretty little picture modes). Start off with Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.
  15. Canon 50/1.8 is an excellent lens, very sharp, great value. Highly recommended. Set the iso to 800, camera to AV, select 1.8, and away you go. Remember that this lens requires accurate focusing. This can be hard to do when your subject is moving fast. I usually select the center AF point, center my subject, then crop later for better composition.
  16. The 50/1.8 is a great lens, however will autofocus to slow in the lighting conditions that you are probably working in. I would suggest the 85mm 1.8 the autofocus will be able to keep up with the action. Don't get this one confused with the 85 mm 1.2 L lense, the 85 mm 1.8 should run about $400. This is probably the cheapest option as the 70-200 2.8 is way up there in price.
  17. You will need f/2 or faster (i.e. lower aperture number) lenses. That confines you to primes, not zooms. Provided you can get reasonably close (i.e. on the gym floor, not in the bleachers), then a 50mm f/1.8 is cheap and optically excellent - the f/1.4 version would allow slightly faster shutter speeds. For slightly greater reach, the 85mm f/1.8 or 100mm f/2 are good choices while still being relatively affordable, and the 135mm f/2 is a rather more expensive option that you might add eventually.

    As to settings: the Sports mode is quite useless, since it only operates at a maximum of 400 ISO (a bizarre choice by Canon in my view). For indoor sport where lighting is constant it is best to work in M mode.

    But before you set the exposure, it is a good idea to set the camera up in stages. First set the ISO to 1600, and use a shutter speed of 1/60th in Tv mode to take a custom white balance frame in the arena lighting of a white object. Use that to set the custom white balance. The reason for choosing 1/60th is that it should cover at least two cycles of any mains frequency lighting variation (some lights actually flicker at twice the mains frequency). The reason for using a custom white balance is that gym lights can often fool auto white balance, and none of the available presets (e.g. tungsten or fluorescent) are likely to be a good match, especially if the lighting is the yellowish HMI type often found in gyms.

    Next, switch to M mode and set the aperture to its lowest available number (1.4, 1.8 or 2.0) - this will ensure that you will use the fastest possible shutter speed to freeze the action. Now aim the camera at a mid tone subject - e.g. the gym floor, or the exercise mat if it is coloured, but not if it is just a light grey - and adjust the shutter speed while metering by a half press on the shutter release until the indicator is centred under 0 in the viewfinder. Hopefully you will have a shutter speed of 1/320th or faster. Take a test shot, and adjust the shutter speed if necessary - faster if the image is too bright, and slower if it is too dark - the histogram is a useful guide. The advantage of M mode is that once set you can forget any need to adjust exposure, regardless of the brightness or otherwise of the background: the exposure is correct for the gymnast on the apparatus under the lights and that is that.

    Obviously you will also want to set the camera for continuous shooting. You should also set the focus mode to AI Servo. Both these settings are in fact made automatically if you use the Sports mode - they are appropriate choices.

    When using AI Servo focus mode it is important to start focussing a second before you start shooting to allow the camera time to acquire focus and start calculating the movement of the subject. You should aim the centre focus point at the gymnast, and half press the shutter. Try to keep the centre point on the gymnast throughout, and shoot small bursts of shots to increase your chance of well focussed images. You can use longer bursts for e.g. tumbling sequences on the mat or a vault, but beware that at close distances the ability of the focus system to keep up with a moving subject reduces sharply. It is probably best to set the camera to use just the centre focus point, though if you are finding it difficult to keep it on the gymnast, you might set "all focus points" provided that you start focus aiming with the centre point: the camera will try to follow the subject as it moves between focus points once it has locked on. Once you feel you are beginning to master the art of keeping the focus point on the subject you might try switching focus to the * button via setting CF 4. The advantage with that is that it will also allow you to pre-focus without having to switch the lens to manual focus, which can be helpful when follow focus can't keep up and you know where the gymnast will be for the image you are trying to capture (e.g. on asymmetric bars).

    The manual explains how to make all the relevant settings.

    Incidentally, there is one use for your blurry pics. Check the ISO, aperture and shutter speed the camera picked (assume 400ISO in Sport mode if it just shows Auto) using e.g. Zoombrowser. Then work out what shutter speed you could expect at say f/2 and 1600 ISO: it will be the square of the aperture times faster than using Sport mode - e.g. if the aperture was f/5.6, just over 30 times faster, so 1/10th would become ~1/320th.
  18. I think some of these posts missed the INDOOR sports. In a standard lit gymnasium, I find myself at f/1.4-f/1.8 ISO 1600 and still wanting a faster shutter speed. I have the 70-200 f/2.8IS and its useless for indoor Karate that I shoot (about the same speed as gymnastics). I use my 35/1.4, 50/1.4 and 85/1.8. Almost all wide open and high ISO.

  19. 85/1.8 or 100/2 are probably your best bets at a reasonable price - around $300-350 I think? Check B&H Photo in New York for good prices and service. Don't bother with 50/1.8. While it has good optics for the price, AF is slower and build quality isn't the same. Also, it's too short for what you're shooting. You'll still be shooting wide open at 1600 to get a decent shutter speed, go to 3200 if you need to without worry. Images will clean up nicely with post-processing and the extra shutter speed will help eliminate blur. Try to get 1/250 if possible, 1/125 at least.

  20. Thanks a TON everyone! I never expected to get SO MUCH great information and I appreciate it. I have ordered the book you all recommended and I am reading up on all the lenses. I am looking forward to great pictures at the gym.
    THanks! Michelle
  21. This site is well worth a look:

    The process of qualifying to join it will be instructive, and improve your shooting.
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I shoot a lot of indoor sports. I use a 20D

    My touches / enhancements to previous comments are:

    1. Essentially prime lenses, 50mmF1.4, 85mm F1.8, 100mmF2 and 135mmF2 also I use a 70 to 200F2.8L.

    2. Focal length of the lens will be dependent upon your viewpoint (where you are positioned) and your freedom to move, the latter point is VERY important: the ability to roam can save a truckload of money on lenses.

    3. I usually need to work at 1600 ISO, minimum, sometimes requiring 6400ISO (equivalent, post production)

    4. I do a White Balance. I use an exposure of 1/30th or 1/40th second, because we have 50Hz AC and I use a standard photographic grey card: (that might be pedantic for some, but it is technically correct. I have a colour temperature meter, but I have found with digital it is a bit `ho hum`.) None the less a white surface will give you good results.

    5. I always use manual exposure, under controlled lighting, taking an athlete`s skin tone as the Reflected Light meter measure. (If there are sky lights allowing the passage of strong ambient light stream: this is a problem which requires special attention should the subjects wander into the stronger light. Not usual in Gymnasia here, but common for indoor Swimming Pools)

    6. Continuous Shooting / AI servo.

    7. I use the Centre Focus Point only and use Focus and Recompose when necessary.

    8. For Vault, Floor, Horse and Uneven Bars, (and fast Parallel Bar movemenmts), I would like the Shutter at 1/500sec MINIMUM for the athlete`s fastest manoeuvres. For Rings, Parallel Bars and Beam, essentially most captures are at the static position: if so 1/320 should be adequate and you might consider any gain from using a slower ISO for these events.

    9 Do not underestimate the value of (prior) manual focussing at the critical point: especially useful for events capturing the action moving across you at 90 degrees to your lens` axis. (e.g. 90 degrees to the vault execution, manual pre-focussed on the centre of the vault, pan with the athlete, release at the critical moment.

    10. I shoot RAW + JPEG (F), this is for a specific, fast turn a round purpose, you may not require the use of such large capacity.

    11. With experience, and practice (mostly practice) I encourage you to think `one shot` (that is to NOT rely on a big burst to get a good shot): this requires you to become one with the athlete and their motion; and to allow you finger to respond without your brain thinking. Even using continuous shooting mode, with practice, one can control the burst to one, two, three etc, as one desires; but it takes practice.

    12. Most importantly: have fun, analyse the errors and learn.

  23. Michelle: I guess by now, you've heard from everyone that you need a fast lens.
    Most of the gymnastics photos I take are taken using a 135mm f2.0 lens (I'm using a Canon lens). The fixed focal length "prime" lens, a moderate telephoto, lets you capture enough light (f2.0) in a dimly lit gymnasium, while at the same time, at f2.0 and 135mm, limits the depth of field sufficiently to give you a very nice "bokeh" or blurred background.
    If your gymnastics event allows you to sit at a judges table, you can often use a 50mm f1.4 or f1.8 lens.
    I'd recommend using Aperture priority (Av) at the widest aperture you can use (e.g. f2.0, f1.8, or f1.4) and the highest ISO you can set. On the 30D, you'll have to use a custom function I believe to get the "H" setting...the highest ISO available on the 30D. (I use a 40D now, which has ISO3200 = "H"). Set your camera to provide a fast frame rate (the 40D give me 6.5 fps).
    For many events such as floor exersize, you'll want to prefocus and shut your auto-focus off, and stand where the gymnast will travel perpendicular to your line of sight (across the image...remaining the same distance from your camera). For the parallel bars, great images can be taken directly off the end of the parallel bars (bars facing straight towards you), and you can often use your Servo focus, since you can usually keep the gymnast in the center of the image. You may want to preselect one focus point so the camera doesn't get confused. Rings...I use servo autofocus. Vault...prefocus on the vault (auto focus then shut off), and capture the gymnast head-on as they come over the vault in mid-air. Pommel...again, servo autofocus usually works well, pick your angle, and capture the gymnast when they briefly stop mid-air and reverse direction (they are nearly still for a fraction of a second). High bar...tough to get good photos, but again, I often pre-focus and shut autofocus off since the gymnast may swing out of the center (focus) and my camera may then focus on the back wall...which is certainly worse than a slightly soft image!
    Good luck. Here's some additional advice:
    Touching Light Photography - Gymnastics Tips Page
    (Blog with gymnastics tips)

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