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Thread: A lesson learned!

  1. #1
    davidedric's Avatar
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    A lesson learned!

    This is a cautionary tale, told against myself

    Yesterday, the Tour of Britain cycle race came by, actually no more than 100m from my home, so I went along to see Bradley Wiggins and his mates (if you're British you probably know who Bradley is, if you're not you probably won't care)

    Naturally I took my camera, a Canon 600D along. I have three lenses: a 17-70mm f2.8-4.0, a 70-300mm f4-5.6, and a 18-270mm f3.5-6.3. I didn't know where my vantage point would be, so I just took the 18-270mm.

    (I'm no sports photographer) but I decided on a fast shutter speed (1/1000), "servo" focus, and multi-exposure shooting. I also decided to shoot just in JPEG, because I knew I would have to shoot quickly (the peloton goes by in not much more than 30 seconds) and the buffer would have filled with RAW. There would be no chance to change settings once the action started.

    I found my spot, experimented with White Balance to find which was most pleasing, and settled down. Then, as the cyclists drew near the skies got darker and darker, and it had just started to rain as they came past. I shot away, the LCD seemed to suggest I'd got some decent shots, and headed for home.

    Up onto the PC and oh dear. Noise - lots of it. When I checked the EXIF's - yes, ISO's up to 5000.

    What do I think I did wrong?
    - When I looked at the EXIF's I realised that almost all were at focal lengths less than 70mm. I should have taken all my lenses, and selected the most appropriate one when I knew where I would be. (Obviously, I would have used the faster and better 17-70mm)
    - As the lighting conditions changed I should have re-evaluated the set up. I would probably have compromised on the shutter speed to get the ISO down. Or maybe not, the point is I didn't think about it.

    Well, the Tour won't be coming past again, so it's to work with PSE and try some noise reduction. Still, a couple of lessons learned, I think.
    Last edited by davidedric; 11th September 2012 at 10:28 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    I think it's great that someone like you is able and willing to share that information. It's not nice when we realise we've made a bit of a boo-boo of a shoot and the temptation is to not tell anyone about it. We've all been there, I suspect. One of mine was in trying to shoot the Tour de France in 2009 after I had just got the 40D and was learning my way in the world of DSLR photography. The Tour just happened to be passing within 20 yards of the cottage that we had rented in the Pyrenees. God, what a mess I made of that!

    But it's through sharing like this that not only you, but now others, can learn. Thank you, Dave.

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    I had a very similar experience just a few days ago. I was shooting a waterfall lit very brightly by the sun with no clouds obscuring its light. I shot at f/8 to ensure full depth of field and 1/2000 to stop the action of the water. I don't remember why I checked the EXIF, but I noticed that the ISO was 2800. Considering the quality of my camera's ISO in such bright light, I wasn't overly concerned. Even so, I was miffed that I didn't notice before releasing the shutter that the ISO was unnecessarily high and might cause unnecessary noise. I retook a similar shot at f/5.6 and 1/800, which resulted in a better ISO of 500. However, I didn't get the same scene because the tourists were no longer positioned the same at the bottom of the waterfall.

    As you mentioned, lesson learned: be aware of the ISO before capturing the image.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 11th September 2012 at 11:42 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    One of the 'work-arounds' is, of course, to go fully manual, in which case nothing gets set by anything else, you have to do it all yourself. That is my normal 'modus operandi'. However .................

    That is all fine when what you do is work exclusively on one of the three (I have a Canon 40D) Camera User settings (C1, C2 and C3). When the camera is woken up or switched on after being off, everything reverts to the settings that you had previously programmed in, even if you had temporarily changed them on the last session; e.g. upped the ISO. I have these three settings programmed for all my normal range of activity and just flick between them for the sort of thing I usually do. For example, C1 is set on one shot. C2 on 2-second delay and C3 on rapid-fire and AI-Servo focus mode (don't use that very much). Other settings, such as metering mode, also vary between the three.

    However, the problem arises when you've become so used to using the C1, C2 and C3 options and then, for whatever reason, go to 'M'. When in that, the settings, of course, remain as you last had them. So, if you waken the camera (or switch it on) and think that you've reverted to previously programmed settings, you get back to your computer, look at the EXIF data and wonder why on earth you shot that beautiful landscape long exposure at ISO800 and remember that you wondered why the shutter speed you had to use was faster than you would have expected. .......... And then swear loudly and find a glass of wine.
    Last edited by Donald; 11th September 2012 at 12:38 PM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    I think one of my first "lessons learned" when I switched to a DSLR is that some Japanese engineer thought he was smarter than I was in selecting the ISO I should be shooting with. I turned the auto ISO "feature" off as soon as I figured out how to do it. And it has stayed off; I manage ISO rating manually, even when I occasionally slip into program mode. My histogram display is always on, so that I can quickly check to make sure I'm getting results.

    Coming from film; the rule tended to be to shoot the slowest ISO rating you could to maximize image quality; unless one was trying to be funky with grain. The same rule applies to digital, and while grain could be used as a compositional element, sensor noise really cannot.

    I had a similar issue earlier on this year, when the annual "Motorcycle Ride for Dad", a charity event to raise money for prostate cancer research passed close to my house. It was lightly overcast when I started to shoot; but the rain moved in and everything got rather dark. I upped my ISO to 800 and dropped the shutter speed to around 1/200th; and shot with my 70-200mm lens.

    A lesson learned!


    Given the conditions out, I was quite pleased with a number of my shots.

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Hi Manfred,

    I take your point. I just wonder, what kind of setup might you do here (I realise you weren't there, so it may be a dumb question).

    The situation was as described above, and this was the scene just before the bikes arrived (please ignore the focus):
    A lesson learned!

    There was quite variable lighting in the scene anyway, irrespective of what was going on overhead. The bikes were going to appear suddenly around the bend, perhaps 100m away, travelling around 50 kph. I just didn't think I had the time to set the shot manually. As I said this is not my usual style of photography, so I am looking for advice.

    Thanks,

    Dave

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Dave,

    I would have used matrix metering (or whatever your camera system calls it), aperture priority and Auto ISO set to whatever minimum shutter speed I thought was appropriate for the focal length, the speed of the cyclists, and the amount of motion I wanted to show. Considering that I don't shoot cyclists, I probably would have played it safe and tried to stop most of the oncoming action except perhaps the feet and lower legs using a shutter set at 1/1000.

    Unlike Manfred, I always use Auto ISO. Doing so ensures that I'm using the lowest possible ISO given the aperture and shutter speed that I select. On the other hand, Manfred saved me last week by showing me how to revive my defunct D7000, so perhaps I should pay more attention to him.

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Hello Dave,

    I have some short experience (this year) of taking some action cycle racing shots. If you check out my link to my website below then you can see some of them.

    I am only using a Canon Powershot G2 so things are probably a lot simpler for me. But, my basic setup was to use a fixed ISO. I have been using Tv mode, shutter priority and have found 1/500 worked. Although I have recently read that the 'pros' favour 1/640. I think I have also use 1/250 when things got a bit cloudy. I'd let the camera sort out the aperture.
    On the Canon G2 I used the max. focal length which was 21mm (35mm equivalent approx. 100mm)


    Ideally, you want to try and 'slow' the cyclists up. By choosing a position on say a bend or when they are going uphill. Preceeding the cycle race are normally a group of motorcyclists/ cars. I would use them to focus on (They are also your advanced warning that the cyclists are coming!). So, basically, I would focus on the motorcyclist/car, half press my shutter down which locked the focus, wait for the cyclists then take the shot. Then refocus on the bunch and take another shot. Even, when they went round a bend I was lucky to get 2 max 3 shots. Depending on how far they are spread out. If you want to practice for these type of shots there are probably lots of local cycle events you can practice on. There are things called 'Sportives' which are events for amateurs and at slower pace which gives you opportunities to practice. Also, on the day I would take some test shots on cars passing through that also gave me an idea of what my results would be.

    I haven't got a DSLR, so I don't know how continuous focusing works. But I would suspect that with the last image you have shown there is plenty of opportunity for that process to get confused with the scene?

    Cheers for now

    Gary
    Last edited by oldgreygary; 12th September 2012 at 07:18 AM. Reason: adjust wording

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Dave, I have often been bitten on my bottom when I try to go exceptionally light and end up not having the appropriate gear. I tend now to take my 70-200mm f/4L IS and 17-55mm f/2.8 IS wherever I go. Even when I expect to shoot macros or to use a long telephoto for sports or wildlife; I carry my go-to pair of lenses along with the macro or tele lenses...

    I last experienced the bite on the bottom when I ventured to a local zoo butterfly preserve. I thought that I would be effectiveve with my 300mm f/4L IS lens because it has a relatively close focus capability yet, can pick out a subject from a distance. Before I entered the butterfly preserveve, I was quite proud of the light weight of my gear!

    The problem was that there was no distance to shoot! The preserve was absolutely crowded with viewers and the butterflies were thick and up very close. One actually landed on my lens as I was trying to shoot. Almost every time I trto getoget a shot, some one with a P&S camera would step into my frame to get a close-up of the butterflies. My 90mm f/2.8 Tamron Macro would have been an excellent lens for this shoot but, I didn't have it with me...

    I have probably made every error possible. Once I shot a collection of items for a friend to sell on eBay. Since the friend did not have extensive editing capability; I shot the items using JPEG (small) on the 350D camera I was using at the time. Then, I went to shoot the San Diego St. Patrick's Day Parade... You guessed it! I hadn't changed the quality of my capture and shot the first half of the parade (until I noticed a strange enormous number of images left on the card) in JPEG (small). I like to say that one of the reasons I didn't notice it to start off with is because the 350D doesn't have a top-side LCD. However, that's just a flimsy excuse...

    One thing I will say, I try to learn from my mistakes. I was chewed out by my superior as a young Navy photographer for leaving my camera case in the image. That was fifty years ago and I don't think I have ever done it again...

    The one positive side of your shoot is that you realize the problem and I'll bet, like my camera case, it won't happen again!

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    Hi Manfred,

    I take your point. I just wonder, what kind of setup might you do here (I realise you weren't there, so it may be a dumb question).

    The situation was as described above, and this was the scene just before the bikes arrived (please ignore the focus):

    There was quite variable lighting in the scene anyway, irrespective of what was going on overhead. The bikes were going to appear suddenly around the bend, perhaps 100m away, travelling around 50 kph. I just didn't think I had the time to set the shot manually. As I said this is not my usual style of photography, so I am looking for advice.

    Thanks,

    Dave
    It's not my usual type of photography either, but my brother-in-law is an avid motorcyclist and was on a similar ride in a different city, so I thought he woudl be interested. I had gotten my new camera a few days earlier and this was my first real heavy-duty shooting with it. I was shooting an f/2,8 70-200mm lens on a full-frame camera (Nikon D800). Things got a bit complicated due to the weather as I often had to shoot with a rain hood on both cameras.

    I try to set things up so that I can keep one eye on what is coming down the road and try to position myself where there would be a natural slowing down of movement. In the picture I posted, the motorcycles had just come out of a very tight turn where they had to slow right down; that being said they were still coming through at between 20 and 40 km/hr; although sometimes they came to a dead stop. The other thing I try to do is shoot at a bit of an oblique angle. That does two things for me; it gives me a bit of a more interesting POV than either a straight on shot (easiest to frame and freeze) and a side shot (crosses the frame quite quickly). I obviously pan as I am composing and shooting.

    I always try to shoot shutter priority for motion shots. That way I can determine how hard the freeze action is. Oftentimes, I prefer a tiny bit of motion blur, rather than trying to totally freeze the shot. I believe I was shooting around 1/200th and generally try to hit an aperture that gives me fairly shallow DOF but is forgiving enough to keep the subject in focus. That means I usually try around f/4 - f5.6; but I see that this image was taken at f/6.3.

    The shot you show is almost mirror-image to where I was shooting and I would have been positioned across the street from where you were standing. Just to complicate matters; I was also shooting video (stationary camera on a tripod) and I positioned myself ahead of a marshalling point where the riders were stopping. This meant that at times things were quite bunched up and in fact at times the whole thing came to a dead stop; generally no interesting shooting then.



    The video camera was pointing down the street a bit shallower angle than my stills. You can see the slowdown as the bikes are coming around the corner.

  11. #11
    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: A lesson learned!

    And even worse - if I'd got my act together I might have had some decent images But this is about the best I think I can do - and so far as I know, professional cyclists don't do Botox!

    BTW - I picked that side of the road because I could stand a couple of meters above the action (and there was also a parked car that would have got in the way )

    A lesson learned!

    A lesson learned!
    Last edited by davidedric; 12th September 2012 at 06:24 PM.

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Hi Dave,
    Ken Rockwell says, a noisy picture is better than a blurry one (make your pick).
    I think you did a decent job here. You are not a sports Pro with a million worth in lenses. If you had an 18-200 F2.8 and you did not use it you had reason to blame yourself.
    Auto ISO is a very handy feature if you decide what the max ISO is you are prepared to work with. If you are a pixel peeper and only shoot at ISO 100, you would not have had any photograph of the action at all. Personally I think 1/1000sec for a cyclist is a bit of an over kill. You could have gone a lot slower on the shutter speed – with panning, IMHO.

    I guess it is all about practice and practice some more before the time, if you know what you are going to shoot. Why not shoot cars driving down that road under the same conditions and prepare for the next time you do a cycling event?

    Still think the pictures you posted are nothing to be ashamed of.

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Dave

    I do a bit of sports photography. It always starts out as a bit of trial and error. Every time I shoot a new sport, I make some elementary errors. Your shots aren't bad but to me they look too static and the background is too "in focus". So you just don't isolate the cyclists. Your biggest limiting factor here is your camera. There is no way your 600D with kit lenses is going to give you professional looking shots. Let me rephrase that - I don't want to say it is impossible, but high end gear makes it a lot easier. There is a reason the pros take these types of shots with a top professional body and a 400mm prime lens

    I ALWAYS SHOOT MANUAL MODE FOR SPORTS SHOTS. My approach to fast motion sports is firstly to decide on a shutter speed. In this case I would go as low as 1/160th to try and convey some motion in the wheels and perhaps the legs. I might push this up a bit to 1/500th if the cyclists aren't sharp enough. The slower shutter speeds are going to allow you to pan and blur the background in a linear way which also conveys speed, action and motion. Next I get my DOF right. If I'm far enough away I'll go with 2.8 and I'll never go over 5.6 for these shots. Now comes the real problem, ISO. I'll often set the camera at ISO 50 if I'm using 1/160th at f2.8! But in most cases I use the auto ISO setting. Now this is ok if you've got a 1D body which has true Auto ISO functionality, but in your case the ISO probably just defaults to 400 if you choose the auto setting.

    Your mistakes were (and I've made all these myself)
    1. Shutter speed too high
    2. DOF too deep (aperture too narrow)
    3. This combination led to ISO having to be too high = noise

    Slow down the shutter speed, open the aperture, ISO 400 should work just fine for these and pan. Your shots will be great. Another little trick the pros use is to tilt the camera a little left or right to give the shots some "attitude". It gets things off horizontal and puts a few diagonals into the image. Examples using these techniques.

    A lesson learned!
    slowish shutter, blurred background, diagonals

    A lesson learned!
    slow shutterspeed, panning, blurred background and wheels = speed

    A lesson learned!
    diagonals and crop in tight - in your shots the background is irrelevant unless you want to show a spectacular mountain pass
    Last edited by Markvetnz; 14th September 2012 at 09:39 PM.

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    ... and find a glass of wine.
    Does that help?

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    Re: A lesson learned!

    Just back from safari

    Your mistakes were (and I've made all these myself)
    1. Shutter speed too high
    2. DOF too deep (aperture too narrow)
    3. This combination led to ISO having to be too high = noise

    Slow down the shutter speed, open the aperture, ISO 400 should work just fine for these and pan. Your shots will be great. Another little trick the pros use is to tilt the camera a little left or right to give the shots some "attitude". It gets things off horizontal and puts a few diagonals into the image. Examples using these techniques.
    Thanks very much Mark, those are some very helpful points. When I get another chance, I'll certainly give them a try.

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