Swim meet photo resuts after advice on using my Nikkor 70-200 VR2

Discussion in 'Sports' started by cjk, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. cjk


    A few weeks back, I asked for advice on using my brand new 70-200 f2.8 VR2 Nikkor to shoot swim meets. I got some really good advice from Richard Snow, Shun Cheung, Eric Arnold and others.
    Some of the advice was not immediately applicable - moved recently to the deserts of the Middle East so buying something like Black Rapid straps is not an option until this summer's trip back to NYC - but a lot was very helpful.
    I was completely taken aback by the quality of the results. I even had 2 large 20x30in posters printed by SmugMug and they are stunning. Keeper rate is fairly high (around 40%) with few technical duds. A few out-of-focus where the camera focused on the drops of water in front of the swimmer's face. Many throwaways were due to bad timing (face in the water, etc.).
    So it's only fair to share some of the results of the shoots and thank all who helped with their advice. Of course, additional advice is very welcome! (Another swim meet coming up this weekend... )
    I will put an image inline but a few more are available in my folder:
    Equipment & settings used:
    - Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VR2
    - Manual exposure mode: 1/1250s, f2.8 - 4, Auto ISO, often at 100-200. Some photos were slightly overexposed
    - AF-C (continuous), Single sensor (most often the center one)
    - Autofocus on AE-L/AF-L button (amazing trick)
    I guess I am lucky because meet was outdoors with gorgeous sun.
    BTW: Parents are ecstatic about seeing and showing off their kids sports achievements. I just uploaded the whole lot to Smugmug so that they can buy prints and other goodies. A no hassle solution for me that might even offset some of the cost of that (absolutely stunning) lens.
    Again, thanks and happy shooting to all,
  2. nice work Cesar. I've never shot swimming... I'd love to try. I'd also like to shoot water polo.
    Smugmug is also a great tool. I've been using it for about a month now with very good results (traffic + sales).
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    70-200 f2.8 VR2 Nikkor to shoot swim meets. Keeper rate is fairly high (around 40%) with few technical duds. A few out-of-focus where the camera focused on the drops of water in front of the swimmer's face. Many throwaways were due to bad timing (face in the water, etc.). . . additional advice is very welcome! (Another swim meet coming up this weekend... Some photos were slightly overexposed - AF-C (continuous), Single sensor (most often the center one - Autofocus on AE-L/AF-L button (amazing trick).​
    Only looking at the few samples in the Photo.net folder a few things you might consider:
    > If outdoors and consistent sun, you might be better taking a skin tone reading, using Manual Mode and setting the exposure and shooting from the same aspect relative to the sun. The camera’s TTL meter will be fooled, at times, by the water and the reflections.
    > A CP Filter, is very useful for outdoor meets.
    > The lower the camera’s vantage point, usually the more expression of speed and power you will get and you can vary your camera vantage point make a more interesting portfolio - (if you have not already)
    > For Fly - A 45° Profile is good at the end of the pull through: http://www.photo.net/photo/10291553&size=lg
    > Also a 90° Profile can be very powerful also – especially later in the day outside shooting as the swimmers are swimming into the sun: http://www.photo.net/photo/12964852&size=lg
    > For Back – getting really low and close can make for a far more interesting shot than shooting high: http://www.photo.net/photo/10291550&size=lg
    > Also the Backstroke start is a good addition – maybe the 70mm end or even a wider lens can be creative, if you get low down: http://www.photo.net/photo/9193571&size=lg
    Don’t forget there are other shots, which are NOT the swimming – but which can be just as interesting:
    “Famous”: http://www.photo.net/photo/10738830&size=lg
    “Before the Race”: http://www.photo.net/photo/9193572&size=lg
    And a scene setter is good fun too: http://www.photo.net/photo/10291472&size=lg you can make a scene setter with any lens though – just think to do it.
    Also you can follow one swimmer and make a story around them: http://www.photo.net/photo/12980937
    In regard to the OoF shots you pulled, you might find it useful to use a pre focus point in some circumstances, for example at the start, lock focus and then just concentrate on timing the shot. \
    In regard to better timing the shot, you might think about the rhythm or beat of the swimmers - especially Fly and Breast.
    If one knows the Rhythm of the swimmer and one can also predict a pre focus point during the race: and this technique can be useful in some situations, also.

  4. cjk


    Dear William,
    thank you for your advice and tips. I looked at your portfolio and found it quite creative.
    Ideas I like a lot and will try and pursue over the next few meets :
    - Telling the story of a swimmer (training, preparation, etc.)
    - More scene setters. I did a few in my first shoot when I was using a 17-55/2.8 lens but now that I have the monster 70-200 f/2.8 attached (on a DX body), I got lazy about changing lenses to catch some broader shots
    - "Lock the exposure" (skin metering): I need to try it but I have to be careful about the EV difference (on the skin) as I move around the swimming pool a lot. So some shots will be against the sun while others "under it" (sun in my back) or even side lighting
    - CP filter: I definitely need to try it.
    - Various angles: some I have already tried (I didn't put a lot of photos on pnet but the portfolio is quite varied) even though I don't have anything with the low angles you have. So definitely on the "to try" list.
    - Race starts: I have some nice shots (with my 35mm) of both backstroke starts and diving. I used to have a higher rate of good starting shots when I was using a 7D. Its 8fps were perfect for this. I switched to a D7000 a few months back and while I am overall happier, I do miss the speed of the 7D (D7000 maxes out at 6fps).
    - For OoF shots, it seems to me that this could work with side shots where distance is constant but not with head-on ones (swimmer coming towards photog). Again, to try, maybe during a training session.
    - Timing of swimmer: need to continue working on that one. I've improved on this but still find that I need to shoot in bursts. Do you take single shots or bursts?
    Other nagging things that I have to solve are focal length and aperture:
    - I absolutely love my 70-200 f/2.8. Considering how close I am able to get to the pool thought it is a little too long for shots of race starts. 2/3 into last week's meet, I felt I had enough good swimming photos so I switched to a 35mm for race start shots and that yielded some nice photos. I think I would like to have something like a 17-55 f/2.8 or f/4 for these shots which would allow for some more creative compositions. Having it on a second body would be ideal... Alas, I don't have either at this point (I do have a 16-85 f/3.5-5.6 though but I find it way below the IQ of the 70-200).
    - I've been using the 70-200 fully open or almost. I need to try it at f/4 or f/5.6. It would help with some lightly OoF photos (when due to water drops in front of the swimmer's face) but I don't know how the background will look. I will do some trials over the next couple of weeks...
    Again, thanks for the tips.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You’re welcome. Thanks for the note.
    I shoot quite a lot of younger children’s' sport also. Timing the beat for their swimming stroke is a little more difficult - but it is still a good habit to put the brain in that mode, I think.
    For younger children the facial expression is a key part of the shot because though not as technically skilled as the youths, they usually express having a lot more “fun".
    Generally, for most of the actual swimming shots, especially Fly, I would advise you to get a bit lower with the camera.
    For the race starts, if you are just a few steps beyond the 15mtr line, you can get a spread of the eight lanes with a 70mm lens on a 135 format camera – maybe look at using F/11 for necessary DoF.
    But yes a 35mm lens out a few meters from the start is a nice perspective.
    Also 16 mm just about level with the starting blocks and very lo down is nice too.
    I also shoot a lot of field hockey and run into the problem of shooting into the sun and with the sun.
    Often I will meter for two exposure settings and manually switch between those.
    You could try the same for the outdoor swimming.
    Note for some shots into the sun, where you just have a close up of the head, in Breaststroke for example and a mass of water surrounding the face is way under exposed - the issue is if you make an exposure reading for the shadow side of the face the water will bleed to white. Personally, for outdoor meets, I usually avoid shooting into the sun altogether. Though “creative”, the shots don't usually make for good, "parents like 'me shots" - but on the other hand it is all fun.
    Entry into the water for the Backstroke Start is a good shot too - if they use the “pin drop” entry (feet first, straight down) - aim to get them walking on the water or half submerged.
    For the head on shots of the Fly (and Breast) I do tend to use a pre focus point and use the beat of the stroke - maybe you could try that, even for the younger children, but I don't use continues shooting very much for swimming. Also you have advantage of light - maybe open up to F/5.6
    For the Breaststroke especially, if you are shooting side on, get the approach to the camera to include the face more - once the swimmer has passed the camera there is not much of a photo tom make especially for the smaller kids.
    Once I had a little girl stop her stroke and wave for the camera - be prepared for everything!
    Good shooting.

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