Long Distance Surfing Photography. 400mm 2.8? or Other?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by rob_johnston|4, Jun 3, 2014.

  1. About to Move to Biarritz France for a 2nd season of surfing and want to get a lens that will be good for shooting 300 metre+ offshore breaks from the Shore. These will be big waves and want to treat some of my friends to photos of themselves.
    So far based on research think I'm going to go for a 400mm 2.8 with a 1.4 converter. Was going to get one of the older and somewhat cheaper ones on ebay or to be honest, If I needed to could just fork out the tremendous amount of cash and buy a brand new VR 2.8 one.
    I want Fast glass as I will be cropping, photshoping, etc.. so need the biggest cleanest image to start with. My eyesight is going a bit, so AutoFocus would be a good idea!
    thought I'd come on here for suggestions based on proven experience..

    Worryingly; I Went for a Month of Heli-Boarding in March in Alaska and in route one of my professional photographer friends in Salt Lake told me to ditch the Nikon and get a Canon as the processor is better.
    PUH!? I did get quite a few amazing shots in Alaska.. but spent hours on Photoshop correcting my bad decisions on settings.
    I've just dropped a fair amount of cash on this current Set up a couple years back. sure I got deals on each as bought used on ebay. but the process of changing over to Canon wasn't an appealing one.
    Current Set-up
    Nikon D300s
    AF Fisheye 10.5mm 2.8 ED
    AF-s 24.70 2.8 ED
    AF-S VR 70-200 2.8G
    Frustratingly I took much more consitent, better photos with my D70 that I bought in 2002 than I do with this D300s.
    After a couple years of ownership still Dialling in the best settings and regularly have to spend time on photoshop to correct images ( pretty embarrassing to admit )
    background
    Although I've been shooting pictures since the mid 90's and even managed to get in a few magazines on the Snowboarding front... I'm a pretty hapless photographer. In the 90's I used a N90s and spent $1000s developing film that came out useless ( never invested in a Light Meter! )
    Fast forward to 2011 when I decided to get back into a camera. bought a D300s, and the best glass I thought I could find.
    Now I want a super Long Lens to capture some Surfing shots this Season. I am buying a professional tripod, fluid head etc. to deal with the weight.
    Constructive Thoughts? Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    I uploaded a couple images into my gallery so you can see a little of my style. results as of late.
    00ccix-548803884.jpg
     
  2. here's a used one I could get into at a discount.
    ebay 400mm 2.8 II ED currently at £1200 figure it won't go a whole lot higher..

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NIKON-AF-S-NIKKOR-400mm-f-2-8D-II-ED-LENS-TRUNK-CASE-GOOD-CONDITION-RN7175-/390851799467?pt=UK_Lenses_Filters_Lenses&hash=item5b009529ab
     
  3. One question I have what sort of results you guy think I might get with a 5.6 200-400.
    gut feel is that I wont be happy with the sharpness on any cropping of shots I do. I can see most of my shots being between the 200 - 400 metres distance range.
     
  4. Rob,
    If after investing so much money in to hardware you still have to spend a lot of hours photoshoping your results I'd sudgest to invest some of your time and money into photo classes to learn to use your equipment to get the most return from your investment.
    just my 2c.
     
  5. another 2c on the lens recomendation -
    I think that unless you are planning to take pictures in low lights investing in f2.8 glass is over kill. Also, having VR is not going to help much for action photos. If I was in your place, if money is not an object and you a planning to invest in a VERY good tripod, I would buy Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 EX Autofocus Lens. Than, with proper use, you can forget about cropping and photoshop.
    Good Luck.
     
  6. I'd update to a D7100 body -better bmetering and hugely better AF than the D300s. A D4 or D4s is even better, but of
    course not as cheap.

    A used AF-S 400mm f/2.8G VR that is excellent condition should serve you well.

    Also invest in the LensAlign Mk.II target And FocusTune software combination to tune your individual cameras' autofocus
    system to your individual lenses. Http://www.lensalign.com and www.focustune.com

    I hope you have a really massive tripod and head. With super telephotos a really good video head is superior to a
    standard photography head. Look at Really Right Stuff's new video head or a medium size Cartoni..
     
  7. I'm going to call BS on the notion that you should switch to Canon because it's better. The best camera is the one you know how to use, so get more familiar with the camera you have by doing some test shots at different settings and reviewing them on your monitor.
    As to which lens, I would say that unless you plan on taking your shots at dawn or dusk, you won't need a really fast lens. Most surfing I've seen generally takes place during sunny weather, so go for a longer lens that doesn't need the tel-converter. In full sun you can still keep you exposure times short. I just checked a picture of a surfer I took at f/8 in full sun at ISO 200 and the exposure time was still 1/500th of a second.
    One thing to think about is whether you plan on shooting hand held or with a tripod. I seem to be able to get away with shooting hand held even with my 500mm lens using image stabilization and a fast shutter speed. But If you go with the tripod, you may want to invest in a gimbal-head for smooth panning with a long lens.
     
  8. 1/500th isn't really short enough for really crisp action photography, around 1/2000th and higher is much better.

    Even though I AMA pretty hardcore Canon shooter -my main camera for the past two years as been the 1D X - I agree
    with Siegfried about the non-difference between contemporary Nikon and Canon cameras in AF and metering. The D300
    series cameras are essentially 7-8 year old technology at this point.
     
  9. I agree, that 1/500th isn't optimal, neither is my 200-500mm Tamron that I use. But none the less, I've taken plenty of pictures at those settings of people surfing that everyone (non-photo enthusiasts) thought were excellent. Of course they weren't up the standards of a pro photographer. But if your just wanting to get nice images to give to friends, I find that the images need not be publishing quality. I guess my point was, that given the choice between a 400mm f/4 or a 500mm f/5.6 I'd take the later for surf pictures.
    [​IMG]
    Handheld Sony a55 with a Tamron 200-500mm at f/8, ISO 200, 1/500 sec.
     
  10. Hey Guys.. many thanks on the comments. greatly appreciated. I will take all on board.
    agree fully with comments. going to spend more time getting things dialed this summer.
    forgot to mention I also have a 50-500 Sigma.. but haven't been overly impressed with the results on cropped long distance. (? 1000 metre shots of Skiers/Snowboarders doing 1st descents cross canyon from me)
     
  11. Rob, you might show us some shots with your 50-500 that disappoint you, along with the EXIF info. There are lots of mistakes to make with a long lens. You want to get the shutter speed up over 1/1000-sec., which is pretty easy if you set ISO at 400 on bright days and 800 if it's not bright. Soft telephoto shots are usually some sort of user error or the micro focus is off.
     
  12. I'd update to a D7100 body -better bmetering and hugely better AF than the D300s.​
    I'd not be too sure about this - the D300s AF module is identical to the one in the D7100, the only difference is the D7100 will AF with f/8 lenses, where the D300 doesn't. On the downside, the D7100 doesn't have a very deep buffer, which is limiting when using RAW, for longer bursts.
    In my experience with the D300, the AF takes times to learn and the defaults aren't ideal for action at all. It might explain the advantage your D70 had, as it's effectively a simpler camera to ge the best from.
     
  13. OK. Will take me a day or so, but will dig up some pictures and make a post here.
    I'll also create a Album on here of a small plane flight I took over the FairWeather Mountain range in March. It was a 2 hour flight from Haines Alaska. - got to see some amazing, rarely seen areas.
    With your guys Help I'm getting really confident that I'm going to nail some amazing surf shots this this Summer. The image I posted with my original post here of the Moroccan Shot wasn't half bad, was it??
    ..thanks for putting up with my have-a-go sounding approach.. not trying to be flippant on any of this stuff!
     
  14. OK. Will take me a day or so, but will dig up some pictures and make a post here. So that you can see what I'm talking about on my 50-500 or even my 70-200 VRII ED lens on heavy crop. what I am looking to improve upon.
    *I'll also create a Album on here of a small plane flight I took over the FairWeather Mountain range in March. It was a 2 hour flight from Haines Alaska. - got to see some amazing, rarely seen areas.
    With your guys Help I'm getting really confident that I'm going to nail some amazing surf shots this this Summer. The image I posted with my original post here of the Moroccan Shot wasn't half bad, was it??
    ..thanks for putting up with my have-a-go sounding approach.. not trying to be flippant on any of this stuff!
    Actually went into PhotoBucket and found a few I took with my 50-500
    http://i119.photobucket.com/albums/o136/boomin33/Snowboarding/Val%20Thorens%20-%202012/8e9ebedd.jpg
    This was taken in 2007, about 7:30 a.m. can't remember settings but did play around with them for 10 minutes to see what came out best. This was about a Mile from my Apartment balcony.. perhaps more like 2 miles. I then had to zoom in/crop on Photoshop a lot even with the 500mm.
    I'm looking for a lense that will be much sharper at this sort of distance, or even half this distance.
    Here's one that shows the sort of distance we're talking about.
    http://i119.photobucket.com/albums/o136/boomin33/Snowboarding/Val%20Thorens%20-%202012/DSC_3496-1.jpg
     
  15. Just kind of realised this isn't a relevant shot to this query. It's a super zoomed in crop, over saturated, no subject matter etc.
    If I were to say my hopes/dreams.. it would be to take a photo at 1/2 this distance and be able to crop in closely on an image very, very sharp with defined edges.. perhaps we are talking the 300-800mm .
    I will put a couple up tomorrow that highlight what I'm after here based on existing shots. tks
     
  16. Expect to crop. Here's a shot taken with a 1,000mm rig (500mm plus 2.0x TC-III) that I cropped.
    [​IMG]
    The extra reach will reduce the crop and preserve pixels, but rarely does it reduce the need to crop.
    Those samples with your 50-500mm don't look bad to me. What disappoints you about them?
     
  17. OK. think I'm decided on a Nikon 200-400 VR ED.
    kind of expensive so going to play around with my Sigma 50-500 until I find a used one come up for sale.
    the 200-400 is big, but not too big,, will be great for Sports and is the natural addition to my 70-200 that I currently have.
    figure a 1.4x multiplier will work OK with it.
     

Share This Page