# Where's the ball?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by achristensen, Jun 18, 2008.

1. ### achristensen

I shot a baseball game tonight- specifically doing some senior pictures of a young man who is the catcher on the
team. I have never done any sports shots but I knew I should do continuous shooting, at least 1/250 shutter and
put the camera on a tripod. 70-300mm Canon lens. I got some great shots of the senior but I never saw the ball.
How do you get the ball? It was just so fast...

2. ### clarence|1

I watched the pitcher with my left eye (my right eye looking through the viewfinder, camera pointed at the batter). When he threw the ball, I'd fire 3 shots to get the ball as it reached the batter and catcher.
Baseball shots I took last month...
http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder? folder_id=825275

3. ### achristensen

Clarence, I was pointed at the catcher and fired about 6fps and didn't capture a loose ball in over 500 shots. Why is that?

4. ### achristensen

I was zoomed in much closer. That would cut out on the space in which it could appear I suppose. Still wouldn't you think I would have gotten at least one ball that just reached his mitt?

5. ### tom_spalding

It's probably not the problem, but you might want to try a faster shutter speed. You usually need 1/500 or faster to freeze sports action. I'd have thought with 500 shots at 6 fps you'd get something!

6. ### tommyinca

Lets see the math. 100mph is about 150 feet per second. At 6 fps you need to frame about 25 ft and press you shutter with-in about 1/10 of a second shutter accuracy. It is still more about timing then fps (but looks like not for long).

7. ### clarence|1

>> Clarence, I was pointed at the catcher and fired about 6fps and didn't capture a loose ball in over 500 shots. Why is that?

Can you post one of your attempts so we can see where you were positioned and how close you were framing the shot. You were probably much closer than I was. But I'm surprised you didn't catch at least one shot out of 500.

I know the feeling... we had a big thunderstorm last week with some great lightning. So I set up a tripod by our sliding glass door pointed to the horizon above our backyard and filmed the lightning from inside the safety of our home. It was an afternoon storm, so I could only set the exposure to 0.8 seconds... even with ISO 100 and f/22. I needed a ND filter. Seemed like a good round of lightning was coming every 5 minutes. I took 500 shots. I ended up capturing only one frame with a partial bolt.

8. ### daniel_harris

As Clarence suggested, keep both eyes open. One looking through the lens and the other on the pitcher. As soon as the pitcher is about to release the pitch, press and hold the shutter button. My Canon xti only shoots 3fps. Here are a couple I captured these using the the above technique.

Works for softball too!
http://
i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh102/gaelson/photnet/049.jpg

9. ### achristensen

Yes, after reviewing the shots, I discovered that I am only getting about 3-4fps. 1 second just isn't very long, huh. Anyway, here is a series of 4 shots taken at 90mm from about 20 feet away, f4, 1/250, ISO400 at 7:59:25. I wasn't ready to lower the ISO and fstop was as low as it could go. I had similar results earlier when shutter was around 1/500 to 1/640.

#2

11. ### achristensen

Oops. My connection is not real great today. #2

#3

#4

14. ### clarence|1

Nice. I'm really surprised you didn't get a shot of the ball, even by dumb luck.

f/4, 90mm, ISO400, 1/250s... Do you have a longer lens? If the catcher was your main subject, I think several steps towards 1B or dugout would show more of his face though the mask. Plus, getting the ump, catcher, and batter in the same plane would let you decrease the DoF and use a larger/faster aperture. Plus, this gives you a high/low pitch placement (but not in/out.. so I can never tell from the shots afterwards if it was a strike that flew past the batter.

If you keep moving further and further towards 1B, you'll be able to see the front of the open catcher's mitt. From there, it's all just a matter of practicing the timing... keep chimping the shots... if you missed the ball, start firing as soon as the pitcher does his windup.

15. ### mark u

Have you ever seen a batter shut his eyes when he sees the pitcher wind up and whirl the bat in the hope he'll hit the ball? I bet if you have, he missed, the same as you did. You have to practise timing your shots the same as a batter. Don't use continuous shooting. In 1/4 second between shots the ball will travel 22 feet at 60 mph - enough to miss being framed completely - and it will be further if the pitch is faster or the interval between shots is longer. Also, 60mph is just over 1000 inches/sec, so the ball will travel 4 inches in 1/250th - expect blur at such a slow shutter speed. It's better to increase your ISO setting to get the shutter speed up.

16. ### dave_hoffmann

For catching the ball, continuous shooting is never going to work. You need to work on your timing and nail it on the first click. Spray and Pray is not the answer.

17. ### wilsontsoi

When it comes to catching ball in frames, I agree with Mark and Dave above that spray & pray won't work nearly as well as single frame timing. I find it best to pretend that you're a batter, watch the pitcher with your left eye, and try to hit the ball tripping your shutter as you frame the batter with your right eye. The more often you do this, the easier it'll get, and you can tell easily whether the same pitcher is throwing a fastball or a slow change up. Save the 10 fps bursts for actions at bases, home plates, or when player's diving for ball. Meanwhiel, practice, practice, practice...

18. ### eric merrill

I'd also suggest moving beyond 1st or 3rd base, depending on the
direction of light and what hand the catcher throws with. For
righties, go to 3rd base. Otherwise, the catcher is anonymous.

<p>
<img src="http://www.merrillphotography.com/canid/pics/080602_058b.jpg">
<p>
<img src="http://www.merrillphotography.com/canid/pics/080602_061b.jpg">
<p>
<img src="http://www.merrillphotography.com/canid/pics/080602_063b.jpg">
<p>
<p>
Eric

19. ### William MichaelModeratorStaff Member

Amy:

I haven`t read any answers, in fact I didn`t really dissect the question that much becasue it was slowish loading all the images. . . SO sorry if this has been stated . . if it has been mentioned I am agreeing with it

I just noticed you were at 1/250 and in continuous mode and were shooting baseball and could capture the ball. . .

I haven`t shot much Baseball, (1game), I have shot lots of Softball, and a truckload of Cricket.

I do know, to catch a ball at the bat or out of the bowler`s (pitcher`s) hands for any serious competition (ball speeds >90kph / 60mph), you have to be at Shutter speed1/1000 (at least), if you are at about 90 degrees to the action, and you should use ONE SHOT and TIME the shot.

To TIME the shot you need to practice repetitively.

I got my skills by going to Cricket Practice and shooting the Batsman when he was practicing with the automatic bowling machine . . . I guess there are mechanical baseball pitchers for batting practice?

When you get it right for a particular camera, (yep there are differences), it is instinctive: just like playing a musical instrument in a band, you are `in time`: but you have to practice the scales and core finger work and drills, to get the dexterity.

3, 5 or even 10 FPS is virtually useless, because you are really guessing the timing and leaving it to luck: the ball travels a long way between the holes in the shutter burst: it is just the maths of the ball`s speed.

Sports photography (in regard to freezing action, is basically simple maths. . . and for some it comes easy mental arithmetic: others benefit by remembering what minimum SS for every specific occasion.

eg, this image is taken at one sports Shutter Speed `limit`:

http://www.photo.net/photo/7303794

WW

20. ### clarence|1

Eric, I love the DoF on your middle shot... batter and catcher are both in perfect focus, and the background starts
bokeh beyond the backstop. If the ball was in frame it'd be perfect. Great example of showing the catcher's face,

Wilson, great shots... I love the crispness of the Stanford logo.

21. ### William MichaelModeratorStaff Member

Oh, and also this is one main reason why we see those massive F2.8 telephoto lenses being used in bright sunshine, they are not just bought for use indoors and at night under floodlights.

A fast lens allows a very fast shutter speed at low ISO.

WW

22. ### craig_shearman|1

Getting the ball in the picture has nothing to do with how many fps your camera can shoot. It's a matter of timing and getting a sense for where the ball and bat will be. You have to anticipate, and squeeze the shutter buttom before the ball is there. If you wait til it's in position, it will be gone by the time the signal can get from your eye through your brain to your finger, let alone the camera itself. I shot baseball for years with a Nikon F2 and no motor, and before that with a Mamiya C330.

23. ### achristensen

Great food for thought guys! I am terrible at softball- I studied music professionally and am much better at
sitting and just moving my fingers. Coordinating my whole body, ugh. No wonder I didn't get the ball. I will get
some more opps to shoot- they have a game every night of the week (save Sat and Sun). I will try increasing my
ISO and try to get the shots first thing before it gets too dark and try focusing on the batter and skip
continuous and see what I can come up with. For now this is my longest lens with lowest fstop at 4-5.6. Wilson-
great shots!!! William- thanks for the music analogy. I can relate to that. I did go on the field- but only at
the very edge near each dugout. I will try over by 1st to get his face better. I did get up in the announcers
booth but those were essentially behind him too. William- great shot.

24. ### craig_gillette

I found when I tried shooting for a girl's softball team a couple of years ago, using consumer film gear that the key was indeed anticipation. I doubt you'll be able to glance to pitcher, then home and still shoot. I used the batter's start of swing to tell myself to "trigger the shutter" at the same point the girls would "pull the trigger" on their swing.

The catcher, batter and umpire go through a routine getting ready for a pitch. The catcher signals, moves around some and sets up. While this is going on, the umpire moves to the position they hold to watch the pitch and the swing. The batter does whatever he or she does to ready, then they usually steady up some. there's a point at which all are in their ready position, watching the pitcher. There will be a point at which the batter reacts to the pitch, pulls the bat up and back a bit or at least stops their own motions, then triggers the swing. You want your action to finish essentially the same time time the batter's does. They react, you react. Shoot then. You should be able to get some good feedback and adjust your responses to the cues from checking your results. You might want to consider manual focus or very careful selection of focus points. It's easy to get the focus drawn off by 1st/3rd bases players, coaches or umpires if they are between you and the plate and not to difficult to lose focus to the backdrop.

25. ### don_james

Watching the pitcher with your "free" eye doesn't work very well when you're on the right side of the field (as you were) because the camera is in the way. Try this instead: most batters will take a short step toward the pitcher with their front foot at the start of the swing; when their foot hits the ground, snap the photo. If you're shooting digital, you'll have instant feedback to tell you if you're firing too late or too early, and you can adjust accordingly.

As for shutter speed, 1/250 is fine unless you want to freeze the action, which at a 90-degree angle will require the fastest speed you've got. I like the blur of the ball at the slightly slower speed, but do what works for you. In any event, forget about holding the button down. You're shooting close in, about a six-foot section of the ball flight, and at 120 feet/second (80mph), it's only in the frame for 0.05 seconds. If you aim more to the right (e.g. put home plate in the center of the frame), you'll improve your chances.

26. ### achristensen

Craig and Don,

Great suggestions. I agree- I have trouble looking through the viewfinder with one eye (usually my left) and then looking at the pitcher with the other. Thanks too for the insight on what the various players do. All, thank you so much for taking the time to answer this post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading each one and gleaned so much insight from you all! Its not as easy as it looks and I have a newfound respect for sports photogs. Amy

27. ### bjscharp

I'd like to agree with the `timing' better than `spraying' part. When shooting Waterpolo, I've gotten some good shot by putting the camera on a tripod, focussing on the goal of the defender and following the game with wired-remote in hand. Using MLU will make the response of the camera slightlyly quicker as well. This way, you can keep BOTH eyes on the game, making proper timing even easier. For baseball, the same would apply: focus on the home plate, set a fast shutter speed, and look at the pitcher.