Night Football and Monopods

Discussion in 'Sports' started by trunfio, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. Hi friends, Many of you may have read my post last week about night football (now my least favorite photographic situation). As I said, I shoot with bracket in all manual with a 70-200/2.8 VR lens. I'm shooting at my max sync which is 1/250. Here's my question: I see almost all the other photographers using a monopod (some with flash, some without, though it was so dark I don't know how they can shoot without). Would using a monopod give me better pictures? I think NO because I'm shooting at 1/250 which is faster than 1/focal length plus it's a VR lens with VR on. But am I missing something that all these other photographers aren't? Here's a sample photo.
  2. Paul -

    I've tried shooting with a monopod and haven't liked it. (I've been shooting action handheld for 30 years.) To me, it got in the way, I wasn't able to pivot fast enough to follow the action, etc... but I think it's more of me need to get used to it than anything else.

    At longer zoom lengths the monopod will give you extra sharpness and stability. The other advantage is that it minimizes fatigue from hand holding a 2 lb camera and the 3 / 5 pound lens.

    As you noted, some use it some don't. I personally don't, but since I bought one, I'm going to work with it and learn to use it.


    By the way... If you haven't already, go up to a couple of the other photographers at the game next time and ask what settings they're using. Most will be happy to share with you... those that aren't willing to...well write it off to a cold night of football.
  3. someone once said" the sharpest lens is a tripod". for years I used a 4x5press with a strobe , today with 35 or digital, I use a monopod to help steady the camera. Here is a test you can do. take a photo hand-heald and one (same exp.) on a tripod try this for landscape fall colors. you will see the differance .
    have a nice day.
  4. Thanks guys... I did ask and some were using TTL, some were using f/2.8 at 1/125 and 3200. whole range. my question is: if i'm shooting at faster than 1/focal length and my lens is VR, how will monopod help with sharpness?? i don't understand how it will.
  5. Paul: because movement is still movement, and anything that contributes to lowering the quality of the image is cummulative. That 1/focal-length notion is a decent guideline, but you should remember that if you happen to be using a DX-format sensor that you need to be at more like 1/300 or better.
  6. I shot sports for quite few years for the local paper. I used a 70-200 2,8L at night. It is heavy. My arms got tired. I used it for relief and probably got a half a stop out of it. Watch a Red Sox game, or a Patriots game. You will see a lot of monopods. It's up to you but I shot fifty or sixty photos per game(so I could get two or three to print, says something for my skills) and the fourth quarter became unbearable just hand holding. I did mount a flash at dimly lit HS games. I used mostly shooting behind the end zones but most of the time I had it off. I got some very good night pictures(also some that no one ever saw).
  7. Pressing down on the monopod does help stop camera motion if you can't get enough shutter speed.
  8. i hear all that you are saying... but isn't that what VR/IS is for too?
    at 1/250s with VR/IS, shouldn't that be enough. as far as getting tired, i'm up and down and moving all over the place. i think i'd get more tired with a monopod. i like to get down low and shoot up so the ballplayers look larger. plus i'm shooting crowds, cheerleaders, etc. the monopod would be too restricting. anyway, you couldn't pay me enough to do a night football game again with cave lighting!
  9. Paul: a quick disconnect mounting system and a belt-worn scabbard for the collapsed monopod works great for when you don't want it, and it's still there when you do. Carbon fiber makes them weigh almost nothing. It really is a great tool for some situations.
  10. It's my preference to not use a monopod. I find they restrict my movement when I'm following the action on the field. The other photographer that covers the games with me always uses one. Try it and see if you like it. If you don't like using it leave it at home or in the car next time.
  11. I used a 400/2.8 lens once. That's about 10 lbs and certainly requires a monopod at least. For me it seems silly to have a 70-200 3lb lightweight on a monopod which is woefully restricting. If you've got a big lens---300/2.8, 400, 500, 600---then of course you need a monopod or tripod. Those are the only lenses you see at pro baseball and football games, not measely 70-200/2.8 lenses to my knowledge. But I still didn't see an answer... hoping someone can help me: If I'm shooting a 70-200/2.8 VR at 1/250s, then how would I need a monopod for crisper images if the VR is on? My thought is that the monopod is more a convenience, but not something that helps make the images any sharper. Am I correct?
  12. It seems like the question you keep asking is : "Does a monopod allow for steadier focus
    than VR (image stabilization)?"

    I've always been told that for night sports, if using a monopod, don't waste money on the
    image stabilization version of a particular lens--'course I am shooting Canon gear.

    It seems to me that if you already have the image-stabilized lens, it's pretty much up to
    you whether you use a monopod or not. Maybe borrow someone's for a quarter or

    My personal opinion is that I don't like football shots with obvious flash; that said, it
    means I often have to go up to ISO 3200 to get anything useable. And with the 70-200, it
    means I've gotta crop almost everything (enlarge by 25-100%), then unsharpen, thereby
    increasing the appearance of grain in every shot. What that says to me is that I need to use
    whatever means necessary to get the sharpest image, help my lens to focus as tightly as

    To me, the monopod helps the lens "find" the focus pretty well; way better than I can do
    by hand, given the darkness, and that the action is often occurring on the far side of the

    I find that following action is difficult. I pretty much have to decide who I'm going to shoot
    with each shot. When I shoot daytime college football (300mm f4.0) following any action is
    just plain impossible. When the action goes by me, I can't find it again.

    Hope that helps.

    I have some on a my site --hope it's ok to post that.
    Some of those are taken with a 24-70mm, though.
  13. Chuck: Great site! Thanks for your comments. I see exactly where the monopod will help for 300mm lenses even during day. My 300mm's are not VR either. And maybe you're right for 70-200 maybe it will help me follow the action better, not necessarily make crisper images. That I understand. So, any recommendations on monopods? I have been looking at the Induro MXC45 carbon fiber AND Gitzo GM2941 Reporter Basalt. Question: Do I need a head for the monopod or just attach directly to the lens collar foot?
  14. Actually, I partially answered my own question. I read Really Right Stuff's monopod tutorial. I already have the Bogen 3232 head. In addition to the monopod, I think I need:
    • For the 70-200/2.8, the Really Right Stuff L10 plate or LCF10 replacement foot.
    • For my 300/4 AF-S, the Kirk NC-300 collar with base plate.
    • Then I just attach either to the 3232 head which is attached directly to the monopod. Is this right? I don't want to screw up.
  15. I see Really Right Stuff also makes a collar for the 300/4 which connects to the LCF10 replacement foot.
  16. There are a ton of variables with the monopods and heads.

    Usually for big lenses, the lens comes with a collar/foot for mounting or you may have to
    buy it. Make sure it's the right one. you need a head as well, probably same manufacturer
    as the monopod you end up getting. There are trigger-released heads (for easy change in
    position vert-horiz), ball heads, geared heads. I use a manfrotto the standard model
    (forget which) and a geared head, keeping everything pretty much horizontally oriented
    the whole time. I just found over time that works best for me.

    (By "Chuck" I'm assuming you mean me--thanks! "Chucktown" is one of the many
    nicknames for Charleston, SC. Get it?)
  17. One last thought. Sometimes the play comes right at you on the sideline. Just before I started to run like hell I wanted one last tight shot. I have a light monopond(does not have to be carbon fiber) and I would just pickup the monopod with the camera and track and shoot with the monopod off the ground. I covered all sorts of sports and did not use a monopod under the basket at Bball games or wrestling(where I laid on the floor). Believe me a three pound lens can get damn heavy. I was responsible for almost all of the sports section at the paper I worked for. BTW IS does not stop action and in my mind is virtually useless for sports. I never bothered with a ball head. Just mounted directly to the monopod. I also had a photo business and did weddings,pr and other stuff. When running a lot of volume the simplest approach worked out the best. For instance I had portable lights but setting them up at weddings cost me too much time and I missed pictures so I became with bounce and fill flash.
  18. I did one with flash & one without. I didn't like not seeing the faces. I liked the flash brought out there faces.
  19. My editor used to tell me not to come back without a local face, or a ball, or in hockey a puck in any picture to be published. Regardless of opinions about flash, I used it when I needed to make a picture. My motto is simple use what works. Shooting sports is not for art it's for editors, fans, parents and the kids who play.
  20. I started shooting high-school football this season for my kids team, and I use a monopod every game. The camera with a monopod usually has either a 70-200 f/2.8 or a 300 f/2.8, while the other has a 85mm f/1.8 for close action. I do not use flash, and so far haven't had a problem.

    My two cents,

  21. I always use a monopod. I can follow a runner much easier that way, especially as the night
    goes on and that 4.5 pound camera/lens combo gets heavier and heavier :)
  22. Oh, one other problem with night football at most badly lit high school stadiums is that, even
    with a flash sync speed of 1/250, there is still enough ambient light to cause ghosting of the
    image even with flash if you don't shoot at f/4.5 or greater. Which is why I use a really BIG
    Metz flash for night football.
  23. Old thread but here's what I've found after ten night football games this season: I like the monopod most of the time. When the action comes right to me I just pick up the foot and am able to track a little faster. Otherwise, with the foot planted, panning is smoother and I do get sharper results. Another reason I like the monopod is that I can mount my flash low for better fill into the helmet. I use the dedicated TTL cord with my SB-800 clamped low on the monopod leg. TTL is the only way to go. I shoot high ISO and 2.8 glass, and can get 1/320th sync speed on my D300. This setup saturates colors, puts fill inside the helmet, and cuts down on red-eye.

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