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Thread: Photographing sports

  1. #1

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    Photographing sports

    Hi all. My daughter plays softball, which is like baseball but with a slightly larger, and bright yellow ball. I would like to get some good action shots of plays at the bases or nice swings while the girls are batting. I can't be on the field so I plan to be about 100 - 200 ft away from the action. Would a nice 70-300 lens do what I'm asking?Light should not be an issue because we will be outside. Shooting with a Canon XsI. I'm a complete novice so any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2

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    Re: Photographing sports

    Will you require close ups or more general overall shots?

    300 mm should suffice for the latter category. Anything bigger will start to get expensive.

    You will require a fairly fast shutter speed but you will probably be OK if the light is good. I'm thinking about a lens which is somewhere around F4 wide open. Going for F2.8, for example, will, once again, get expensive; although it would give greater flexibility.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing sports

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnypar View Post
    Hi all. My daughter plays softball, which is like baseball but with a slightly larger, and bright yellow ball. I would like to get some good action shots of plays at the bases or nice swings while the girls are batting. I can't be on the field so I plan to be about 100 - 200 ft away from the action. Would a nice 70-300 lens do what I'm asking?Light should not be an issue because we will be outside. Shooting with a Canon XsI. I'm a complete novice so any advice would be appreciated.
    Please define "a nice 70-300 lens"?

    How old / what level of play are the Girls?

    What lenses do you already have?


    For example:
     The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM on a 450D will do a reasonable to very good job, provided you have the light.
     If you are at 200ft, then you could crop a bit to get a Full Length Shot: if "about 200ft" means 300ft, then your lens is not long enough
     If the Girls are fast, and the afternoon is cloudy, then shooting at ISO1600 and F/5.6 - you will have your work cut out to get “reasonable to very good” shots.


    WW

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    Re: Photographing sports

    One of the 70-300mm lenses such as the Canon IS model (but not the 75-300mm which is a bit of a lemon) or the Tamron VC model should do very well for softball photography. In fact, if price is a limiting factor, I would have no qualms regarding shootng softball using the low priced Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens...

    IMO, you really don't need the longest lens not the fastest focusing to shoot softball.

  5. #5

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    Re: Photographing sports

    Not sure what "nice" really is but I have been looking at a canon 70-300 IS USM F/4-5.6.
    My daughter is 15 and she plays softball at a very high level.
    I have the kit lens that came with the camera, an 18-55. I will never be any further away from the action than 200 ft but I will often be closer but may be obstructed by the fence surrounding the field of play. The outfield fence is 200 ft. away from home plate and I plan on shooting from this area.
    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    Please define "a nice 70-300 lens"?

    How old / what level of play are the Girls?

    What lenses do you already have?


    For example:
     The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM on a 450D will do a reasonable to very good job, provided you have the light.
     If you are at 200ft, then you could crop a bit to get a Full Length Shot: if "about 200ft" means 300ft, then your lens is not long enough
     If the Girls are fast, and the afternoon is cloudy, then shooting at ISO1600 and F/5.6 - you will have your work cut out to get “reasonable to very good” shots.


    WW

  6. #6
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing sports

    Thanks for the information. I will interpret “Very High Level” as equivalent to a 15 year old Athlete competing at State Age Level.

    Understood that you have the distance accurately sorted and it is not a guess.

    I re-iterate that your camera’s ISO and F/5.6 could be limiting, if the clouds come over.

    On a sunny day – if the sun is behind you – typically with that lens you will be at:
    F/8 @ 1/1600s @ ISO400.

    If you are shooting with the sun on the side let’s say you’ll need to open up ⅔Stop – so:
    F/8 @ 1/1600s @ ISO640.

    Still a sunny day and the sun is behind the players and you are shooting into the sun - then you’ll need to open up maybe 1½ or 2 Stops:
    F/8 @ 1/1250s @ ISO1600.


    OK so taking those as a guideline for the three possible main positions of the sun, relative to the camera and the players, you’ll be more than OK in Bright Sun.

    Let’s assume light cloud cover and you need to open one stop.
    Let’s assume medium cloud cover and you need to open two stops.
    Let’s assume overcast and you need to open three stops.
    Let’s assume very overcast and you need to open four stops.
    Let’s assume play can be called off, for poor light (five stops).

    Now once we get to medium cloud cover – the position of the sun doesn’t matter – so the only scenarios we need to consider are opening up two, three or four stops from the original bright sun being situated behind the camera – so if we need four or three stops open we will be around:

    F/5.6~F/8 @ 1/800s @ ISO1600.

    And that IMO has used up ALL the leverage and reserve you have in regard to Aperture and Shutter Speed and ISO – the Camera is Maxed at ISO1600- the lens is wide open and / or the Shutter Speed is beyond the limit of being able to regularly freeze an experienced and capable 15year old Athlete sprinting between to a base, much less striking a bat on ball. (I’d want 1/1250s or 1/1000s minimum as “typical”)

    So the 70 to 300 will do the job, but you will have your work cut out if it gets cloudy.

    My guess is that you want this lens for other uses also and that’s why a zoom is being considered.
    If you could get a little closer, then a 70 to 200F/4 would be a safer bet: on the other hand, if it is sunny mostly always where you live – then the F/5.6 lens will do the job at much less cost and give you an extra 100mm of FL.

    WW

  7. #7
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    Re: Photographing sports

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    Thanks for the information. I will interpret “Very High Level” as equivalent to a 15 year old Athlete competing at State Age Level.

    Understood that you have the distance accurately sorted and it is not a guess.

    I re-iterate that your camera’s ISO and F/5.6 could be limiting, if the clouds come over.

    On a sunny day – if the sun is behind you – typically with that lens you will be at:
    F/8 @ 1/1600s @ ISO400.

    If you are shooting with the sun on the side let’s say you’ll need to open up ⅔Stop – so:
    F/8 @ 1/1600s @ ISO640.

    Still a sunny day and the sun is behind the players and you are shooting into the sun - then you’ll need to open up maybe 1½ or 2 Stops:
    F/8 @ 1/1250s @ ISO1600.


    OK so taking those as a guideline for the three possible main positions of the sun, relative to the camera and the players, you’ll be more than OK in Bright Sun.

    Let’s assume light cloud cover and you need to open one stop.
    Let’s assume medium cloud cover and you need to open two stops.
    Let’s assume overcast and you need to open three stops.
    Let’s assume very overcast and you need to open four stops.
    Let’s assume play can be called off, for poor light (five stops).

    Now once we get to medium cloud cover – the position of the sun doesn’t matter – so the only scenarios we need to consider are opening up two, three or four stops from the original bright sun being situated behind the camera – so if we need four or three stops open we will be around:

    F/5.6~F/8 @ 1/800s @ ISO1600.

    And that IMO has used up ALL the leverage and reserve you have in regard to Aperture and Shutter Speed and ISO – the Camera is Maxed at ISO1600- the lens is wide open and / or the Shutter Speed is beyond the limit of being able to regularly freeze an experienced and capable 15year old Athlete sprinting between to a base, much less striking a bat on ball. (I’d want 1/1250s or 1/1000s minimum as “typical”)

    So the 70 to 300 will do the job, but you will have your work cut out if it gets cloudy.

    My guess is that you want this lens for other uses also and that’s why a zoom is being considered.
    If you could get a little closer, then a 70 to 200F/4 would be a safer bet: on the other hand, if it is sunny mostly always where you live – then the F/5.6 lens will do the job at much less cost and give you an extra 100mm of FL.

    WW
    William,

    With the settings you mentioned you should also describe the quality or style of the shots that can be achieved. Will there be some blur, sharp focus on the player with visible blur in the background, will the photographer need to pan the shot.

    I recently photographed a marathon in cloudy weather and quickly set my camera to f/5.6, 1/400s, and ISO 800 and 270-300mm. The results were fairly good with many sharp subjects, very low visible blur in the background, and some visible noise on shiny objects and dark clothing. I was using a Nikon D60 with a 70-300mm 4.5-6 lens. The estimated speed of the fastest runners is about 12 mph, most of the runners I photographed were moving at a much slower pace.

    A few other comments, try the shutter speed calculator in the tutortials that are designed for sensor, lens, and aperture settings. However, the calculation for my particular setup suggests about 1/4000s shutter speed. I shot another race under similar conditions using a 55-200mm lens and had to use the following settings f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1600.

    it was suggested in an article I read that using a shorter focal length would reduce the amount of blur in a sports image. I believe this was based on camera shake rather than lens capabilities.

  8. #8

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    Re: Photographing sports

    If you are stuck behind a safety fence then you should get up very close to it and shoot through a hole, at 300mm it should be nicely blurred ... otherwise you will have a tedious editing job cloning away the fence if further back. I assume since the ball is a reasonable size the mesh should not be too fine.

  9. #9
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing sports

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    . . . you should also describe the quality or style of the shots that can be achieved. Will there be some blur, sharp focus on the player with visible blur in the background, will the photographer need to pan the shot.
    I thought I did, but apparently I was not clear enough:

    "And that IMO has used up ALL the leverage and reserve you have in regard to Aperture and Shutter Speed and ISO – the Camera is Maxed at ISO1600- the lens is wide open and / or the Shutter Speed is beyond the limit of being able to regularly freeze an experienced and capable 15year old Athlete sprinting between to a base, much less striking a bat on ball. (I’d want 1/1250s or 1/1000s minimum as “typical”)”

    My main concern is the shutter speed to freeze the action: typically at that SD and FL you should make 1/1600s as a minimum to maintain sharp images of all field play: that's why I moved the ISO first, nit the shutter speed.
    1/2000s would be better.
    Bat striking ball – 1/3200s would be better.

    I used F/8 where possible, because that lens at FL = 200~300mm will be sharper at F/8 than when wide open.


    WW

  10. #10
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    Re: Photographing sports

    There are several ways to stop action using slower shutter speeds...

    First is shooting at the peak of the action. There is usually a point in which the action slows or almost stops. The runner hitting the base on a slide is one example. The outfielder as she catches the ball is another. This is a technique that was often used by film photographers who did not have the advantage of using an umteen-quadrillion ISO to maintain a high shutter speed.

    The second is that you can stop action using a slower shutter speed when the subject is moving towards or away from the camera than when the subject is moving across the frame.

    Finally, let Google help you by doing a search using the following search parameters: "tips for photographing softball" you will get many hits on websites that contain some valuable information. Some of that information might provide you with an insight as to what equipment to purchase.

    Have fun shooting your daughter and her teammates...

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