Sports photography.

Discussion in 'Sports' started by hagifan77, May 19, 2008.

  1. Hi,

    I own a Nikon D40 standard kit camera, with the Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm lens. I've
    had it for approximately 7 months and I've been shooting photos ranging from
    street scenes, landscape, architecture, pets, nightshots. I will be shooting a
    little league game soon, as well as softball/baseball and also soccer. I was
    wondering if those who have had the Nikon D40 for a while have attempted any
    sports photography/action photography with their cameras and if you have
    changed/added lenses, or remained with the kit lens. Any tips and techniques,
    and any other feedback will be appreciated. Thanks a bunch.
  2. AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is probably a good compromise in term of price & performance. It will auto-focus with your D40 with the lens' built-in AF-S motor, has long reach for field sports, and will be fine for youth sports since they're mostly played in outdoor during daylight time.
    Set your D40 to AF-C, assign your AF/AE lcok button to perform AF-ON function and use that button (use your right thumb) to auto-focus while leaving your shutter release button the sole function of tripping the shutter.
    To keep it simple, set metering to Evaluative (Matrix), ISO to 400, exposure mode to Aperture Priority and set a widest aperture, and make sure to get around 1/500 sec. shutter speed (if you plan to stop action.) Make adjustment to ISO, aperture, and/or shutter speed as necessary after reviewing your "Digital Polaroid" at back of camera.
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Wilson:

    This little point goes to the question and expanding on your answer, but mostly to my inquisitive nature and to increase my detailed knowledge about Nikon gear:

    Can you please tell me what is the functionality of the Nikon Camera is this situation . . .

    We are using a varying maximum aperture zoom, such as the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED.

    We are at the game and it is the second half and getting a bit dark and we have set Av (Aperture priority), but as it is getting darker we notice at, FL = 70mm, we have 1/500 @ F4.5 @ ISO400.

    My question is, what happens on a Nikon D40 when we zoom the lens to FL = 300mm, (assuming the meter registers the same light).

    Does the SS automatically drop to 1/320, and does the camera give any warning of the SS change?

    Thanks in advance for the insight,

  4. "To keep it simple, set metering to Evaluative (Matrix), ISO to 400, exposure mode to Aperture Priority and set a widest aperture, and make sure to get around 1/500 sec. shutter speed (if you plan to stop action.) Make adjustment to ISO, aperture, and/or shutter speed as necessary after reviewing your "Digital Polaroid" at back of camera."

    Mike, Wilson is right on the money. Open that lens up so you will blur the background. It would really help if you have a f/2.8 lens such as a 70-200 or 300 f/2.8. Even though I shoot with a Canon, the process is the same. I shoot in AV mode. A shallow depth of field, a fast shutterspeed, (adjust ISO as necessary to ensure that fast shutterspeed) will help make your images pop out from the background.

    Good luck.
  5. Hi William, it is an understandably valid question since that lens is a variable aperture zoom lens. First of all, since the OP only had the cam less than a year and moving into sports, I figured budget is an issue as well as AF compatibility to his D40, so goes my 70-300 VR suggestion (considering daylight condition and type of sports.) When EV goes down at sunset, obviously you'll need more light to keep shutter speed and ISO level in check, but eventually the f4.5-5.6 won't cut it when night falls (if it were me, I'd get a screwdriver-AF body with an 80-200 f2.8 2-ring for budget reason.)

    With aperture priority mode, you don't have to worry too much about the different apertures at different focal length since AV auto-exposure would take care of proper exposure at given ISO and selected widest aperture. However one must keep tab of the shutter speed and try to keep it around 1/500 sec. You might need to up the ISO to retain that shutter speed. Alternatively at that time of the day, another train of thought would be to shoot Shutter Speed Priority and locking it down to 1/500 sec. If your cam body has auto ISO, set it so. This way you'll maximize whatever maximum aperture you might have at your disposal.

    Had an 80-200 f2.8 constant aperture lens been used, I'd might as well go manual exposure and adjust based on light condition especially since there isn't any variable apertures involved for you to calculate diffierent exposure combinations at different focal length.

    Regardless of above comment, considering the OP's current situation and intended photography priorities (youth games during daylight with existing cam body,) I still think the 70-300 VR Nikkor is probably the most logical answer, but I could be wrong.

  6. the suggestions presented already are correct. The 70-300 vari zoom is probably 1/2 price of Sigma 70-200 f2.8 and 1/4 of the Nikon model!
    Also, the 300mm focal length will be needed for baseball or soccers to get nice close ups of the far players - although still not enough for soccer on full size field from one end to the other.It will be fine for 2/3 of the field coverage/action. Set shutter release to 'burst mode'. Have a few 2gb cards. In soccer I'll take between 300-500 shots per hour game. Baseball, somewhat less since there is more time with nothing going on!

    Try to get some shots before the games during practivce/warmup. If you catch the right action, you'll not know if it was during the game or not! You'll have more acess to most of the field before the game starts.

    Also, remember - balls and faces make better shots. Look at sports photos on line and in mags like SPorts Ill. Put some of yours here on for critique. Also, be ready for the post action re-action of players or coaches. Sometimes that split second momnet is better shot than the actual action shot.
  7. Hey Mike,

    I'm in a similar situation to you - I've had my D40 maybe a couple of months longer than you, shooting lots of pictures of the pets, sunsets, landscapes, Christmas & birthday parties and all the usual snapshot stuff but I've also been using it to shoot my stepson's high school tennis team all spring.

    I'm using the Nikkor 55-200mm 4-5.6 VR and it's worked out pretty well for me. The extra reach on the 70-300 mentioned above would be nice to have but the 55-200 is less than half the price if you're on a really tight budget.

    After a season's worth of shooting, my conclusions are that a faster 2.8 lens would be great to have for isolating subjects (and making the chain link fences I'm usually shooting through disappear!) and letting me keep the shutter speeds cranked up a little deeper into the evening, and that a 300mm lens would be nice to get closer to the action when I can't get physically as close as I would like - glass like that is a little beyond my budget though. I'm very happy with what I was able to capture with the 55-200 however. I am planning on renting a big, fast lens next year for the team's annual beach trip and seeing what I can do with it.

    Here's a gallery of tennis shots from this spring if you want to take a look:

    Almost all of the action shots were made with the 55-200. A handful might have been made with a pre-AI 85mm f/1.8 that I break out when it gets really dark.

    I've been shooting in shutter priority mode with auto ISO turned on. I like the shutter speed up at 1/2000 - the ball, rackets, hands & forearms can really be moving and at 1/500 you can still get a good bit of motion blur, which is fine but I prefer a crisper shot (that's just my taste though). As the sun starts to drop, I have to keep an eye on exposures and start dropping the shutter speed if images start coming out too dark. I usually can stay ahead by checking the ISO and dropping the shutter speed a stop once I start seeing a few at ISO 1400 & 1600.

    I've been using center-weighted metering - I don't remember exactly how I settled on that but I seem to recall experimenting at some point and deciding I got more predictable results with CW instead of matrix. Exposure is something I'm going to be working on between now and next season but there may not be a perfect recipe for me because the team's bright red & white uniforms cause the faces to get underexposed or the uniforms blow out if the faces are better exposed. That's all compounded by the fact that a lot of them wear baseball caps or visors so their faces are always in shadows or that I can't always get in the best position relative to them and the late afternoon sun that's hitting them sideways - you''ll probably face similar problems.

    I'll be trying out some of the exposure techniques suggested above and see if they work better for me.

    Steve's advice about getting shots during practice & warmups is excellent - some of my favorite shots were during warmups where I could get out on the courts just a few feet from the action.

    His advice about reaction shots is right on too. I found that to be the hardest thing about shooting - getting perfectly timed shots of the ball hitting the racket isn't really that hard but capturing the spontaneous burst of emotion after a point won or lost was really tough and capturing those moments in a way that comes across in a picture is another order of magnitude more difficult. That's something I tried to get more of towards the end of the season and something I'll be working harder to catch next season.

    My best advice is to practice shooting a lot - my kid has a weekly tennis lesson and I'll usually take the camera and work on timing and framing and can use that time to freely experiment with different techniques (or practice tracking focus with that 85mm 1.8). Same with after school practice - if there's not room for me to hit with the kids, I'll break the camera out and practice getting shots with it.

    I found, at least with tennis, that in addition to the moment of impact, there's a moment when they've lined the ball up and are preparing to swing and a moment when they've completed their follow through and still have their eye on the ball and haven't started moving towards setting up their next shot yet that both make great looking pictures. There's also little movement in both those moments so you can get those shots late in the afternoon when the sun and your shutter speeds have dropped to the point where any other action is just a ghostly blur. That should work in baseball & softball too - catch the leg lift and then right before they drop the bat and take off for first after their follow through. That may not be as useful in soccer where the action is probably a good bit more unpredictable. You'll just have to practice and see what works though.

    Good luck and have fun!
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Wilson:

    I think you might have misunderstood the INTENT of my question.

    I was NOT commenting on your suggestion or advice to buy that particular lens: there was no underlying meaning in that regard, (my comments on these forums are quite simple in that regard, I just spit out the plain words).

    I was simply wanting to know (for my knowledge) how the Nikon behaves in that situation, and by consequence of my question the OP would be aware that the lens mentioned is a varying maximum aperture and would adapt accordingly, if and when necessary.

    If you (or someone else) has the time to indulge me, given the scenario I mentioned can this question be answered, thanks:

    My question is, what happens on a Nikon D40 when we zoom the lens to FL = 300mm, (assuming the meter registers the same light).

    Does the SS automatically drop to 1/320, and does the camera give any warning of the SS change?

  9. Hi William, I actually understood your original intent of the question and during my reply above in second paragraph, my mind must have wondered off on a tangent.

    For Nikon aperture priority, when you set the 70-300mm f4-5.6 at 70mm focal length and at maximum aperture of f4, and then rake it out to 300mm focal length, the aperture will automatically change to f5.6 and shutter speed will change (slower speed) to keep the same metered exposure as what you had before when you were at 70mm @f4. If you were to zoom back out to 70mm, the aperture will automatically revert back to f4 (shutter speed also changed automatically to retain same exposure.) The photographer will have to be aware of the shutter speed as there isn't any warning of the shutter speed change. However, there is an auto-ISO function in recent Nikon DSLRs that I haven't personally tried myself, but which may come in handy when one uses a variable aperture lens to keep aperture and shutter speed constant.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Wilson.

    That`s the same with Canon, or at least all those bodies I have used.

    IMO, The main issue to be aware of when using Av in this situation is even if the photographer is watching the display in the viewfinder, the Shutter Speed change is sometimes not noticed: especially with the smaller sensor cameras, on sunny days: the display is not that easy to read, through the viewfinder.


    Indeed you reckon your mind might wander off . . . you should hear me babble on at three o'clock in the morning!


    Thanks again.



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