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Thread: Action shots Indoors and at Night?

  1. #1
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    Action shots Indoors and at Night?

    I'm new to photography, only really dabbling in it for a year now, but is there some tip or trick or technique that I'm missing here? I shoot at many horse shows and rodeos. Most of them start at dusk and can continue to the wee hours of the morning, others are indoors in poor lighting situations: lots of dust, filtered light, etc. Because of that I feel like I'm constantly having to sacrifice shutter speed for lighting? It's always either shoot the clear photo and heavily edit it later (not always with great results), or have a fairly lit photo that comes out blurry and unintelligible.
    I've had many people suggest using flash to brighten the arenas and know many great photographers who use this. I personally refuse to use this option as a rider. I've seen too many people's rides ruined because of flash photography and worse yet several people and horses injured. Sudden bright, large, blinding lights just don't mix well with prey animals. Any advice or insight on this matter is greatly appreciated, thank you. Oh and I shoot with a canon rebel T1i with a 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 III USM lens.
    -Jay
    Some examples of what I mean (and no I'm not experienced in post-processing):
    Unaltered- Indoor, dusty
    Action shots Indoors and at Night?
    Altered
    Action shots Indoors and at Night?
    Same venue, lowest shutter speed I could manage without the horse becoming one big blur- unaltered
    Action shots Indoors and at Night?

  2. #2

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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Not really a lot of options here, Jay.

    Increasing the Iso can help but beyond Iso 800 you risk getting a lot of 'noise' particularly in the darker areas. In fact I would prefer not to go beyond 400 when possible.

    Shooting in Tv mode with a suitable shutter speed to match the action may help to prevent camera shake problems. But this may result in having the aperture wide open, which will reduce depth of sharp focus. However, with care, this can work if you pick the exact areas of sharp focus. For example a rider's face, or horse's head, etc.

    Even then, with that lens, you are somewhat restricted in what can be achieved. The only other option means a lot of money for a top notch lens which will operate at F2.8.

    Although, if you can get close enough so you don't need a large zoom there are a number of alternative smaller prime lenses which will operate around F2.8 which may be worth considering.

  3. #3
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Hi Jay,

    I agree with Geoff, not a lot of options, especially as you were already at iso 1600 and wide open on these.

    On the first/second shot; 200mm, f/5, 1/160s and iso1600
    On the third; 160mm, f/5, 1/125s, iso 1600

    Flash won't be that useful at that distance and it will light up the dust a treat, giving you a major cloning job or spoiled pictures.

    How is your bank balance?

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 30th April 2012 at 09:57 PM.

  4. #4
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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    I have to agree with both Geoff and Dave... There is not a lot you can do short of raising the ISO or shooting with a faster lens.

    Shooting your subjects as they approach you directly will allow you to capture a sharper image at a slower shutter speed than you can with a subject moving across your frame.

    IMO, raising the ISO is probably the first choice. I, for one, would rather have an image which is slightly noisy than one which has motion blur. You can help out noise with a noise reduction program. I would try at least ISO 3,200 combined with noise reduction software which would give you one additional stop to play with..

    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/0...rison-part-ii/

    However, you might possibly have some all-over blur resulting from a shutter speed too slow to hand hold effectively. Shooting action with a shutter speed of 1/160 second @ 200mm and 1/125 second @ 160mm can be fairly difficult - even with an IS equipped lens. I would try a tripod, monopod or beanbag on a railing to ensure that the only motion in your image is that of the horse and rider, not of the camera.

    A lens with a faster f/stop (combined with the above two suggestions) could allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed. Of course, this is a two-edged sword because your DOF will be shortened. Your lens is at its slowest aperture when zoomed out to its longest focal length (f/5.6). If you could work with a shorter focal length (waiting until the horse and rider are closer) you would be shooting with a wider aperture (possible wide open at f/4).

    Long focal length fast lenses are fairly expensive. I don't know how much control (if any) you have over the rider but, the closer you are approached the shorter lens you will be able to use. Zoom lenses with an f/2.8 aperture are pretty costly but, there are several low to medium price prime lenses which might do the job for you. I am listing these in the order of price from the least expensive to the more expensive.

    50mm f/1.8
    50mm f/1.4
    85mm f/1.8
    100mm f/2
    135mm f/2.8 soft focus

    Look into used copies ofthe last four lenses to save money!

    This last lens is a pretty unique tool. It has two soft focus modes which can be activated by choosing #1 or #2 on the lens barrel. However, without the soft focus dialed in, it is a pretty sharp 135mm f/2.8 lens. It is one of the original Canon EF lenses and doesn't have USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) focusing. However, the focusing is not all that slow. But, I have not tried mine in a relatively dimly venue.

    I mention this lens because I purchased a used copy on eBay (USA) for one hundred U.S. Dollars plus a few dollars for shipping. I occasionally see then go for between $100 and $150 USD. That is about as cheap as it gets for a longish f/2.8 lens.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 30th April 2012 at 11:29 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Hi, Jay,

    Do you have the option to shoot RAW? Sometimes, I've shot RAW and had very good results by processing the RAW image in such a way that I get a uniform improvement in (a) lighting, (b) color, especially skin tones, and (c) backgrounds. I'm generally shooting in either a baseball stadium which may not be so well lit in the nooks and crannies or in a basketball arena where the backgrounds are noisy with color and skin tones vary from very dark for Negroid individuals to about as light as you can imagine for Caucasian individuals.

    v

  6. #6

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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Shooting Raw also allows for converting 2 images with different settings then combining them with layers and mask which will expand the available tones a little. Something which I regularly do.

  7. #7

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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Unfortunately, the camera needs light to be able to do it's job; if you can't use flash then all you can do is max out the aperture (noise won't be an issue UNLESS you under-expose or crop severely) - open the aperture - or get a camera with better high-ISO performance.

    You may be able to under-expose at a HIGH ISO setting (and thus get a higher "action-stopping" shutterspeed) and then deal to the noise with a noise-reduction program, but it'll be at the expense of image sharpness.

  8. #8

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    Re: Action shots indoors and at night?

    Hi,
    Unfortunately if you are at any sort of mid-level (or lower) sporting event held either indoors, or outside at night, that hasn't got the top notch TV lighting that major events and stadiums will have, your image quality will suffer - you simply can't shoot fast action with the same quality and clarity that you can in broad daylight - yes, modern technology will help - but it will only get you so far.
    As an example, back in the mid 1990's I had to shoot (for a newspaper) an FA Cup Third round replay (that's soccer for any non-uk readers) in the depths of winter, outside, at night, with only rudimentary floodlights, a ground temperature of somewhere around -7C not taking into account wind chill, and snow blowing horizontally across the pitch. I was using 1600ISO B&W film pushed to 3200 and was struggling to get shutter speeds above 1/60th on a f2.8 300mm lens. In circumstances like that you know that you're not going to get quality (not with grain like golfballs and anybody moving above snails pace reduced to a blur by the slow shutter speed) - so you shoot for atmosphere instead.
    You shoot where the slower shutter speeds can work for you - e.g. static set pieces (in the case of football - throw-ins, freekicks, corners, injuries etc.), where the subject is moving towards you (reducing blur), and for emotion on faces (just how damned cold it was).
    The high ISO speeds achievable with top end DSLRs will give you a definate edge these days, but you will get noise, but don't consider that as an evil to be avoided - think of it as grain on film that will give you atmosphere.
    At the end of the day sport photography is about the subject, and a well composed picture with strong emotion coming out of the frame will always work - even if the actual "quality" isn't top-notch.

    Mike

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