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Thread: Soccer photo, autofocus

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    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Soccer photo, autofocus

    Hi,

    A few weeks back I posted a query re autofocus settings for sports. I've gotten some practice at soccer games (I know, football) and thought I'd show a sample photo. Photographing sports is fun: it's a challenge to capture a good action shot and have it in focus. For exposure, I use an old spot meter and meter off a gray card. I set the exposure manually and can pretty much leave it alone. A dark background is nice (semi-achieved in the attached photo). I usually stand 1/4 way down a sideline (i.e., in the center of one half of the field) and limit myself to photos on that half. They players in the images are just too small and flat when the players are on the other half of the field. I'm still fine tuning autofocus settings. I think a single point is best for initial focus, but there's probably some advantage in having a multi-point area focus to track that initial in-focus point. The players move to fast and focus is easily lost if I set the tracking focus to a single point, too. (If anyone cares, I'll look up the right terms for these things.)

    Bruce

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    Photo iso 400, D7000, f/8, 1/750, 70-300 mm lens at 180 mm

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    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Thanks for sharing this. It was good to hear that old fashion exposure meters and grey cards are still in use. I haven't done any sport photography but it sounds like some of the focussing problems are like those that occur in photographing birds in flight -- which I'm not very good at so can't really offer any useful thoughts.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Not sure if you are looking for feedback – but in Bright Sunlight you might consider bumping to ISO 800 to get that Shutter Speed up around 1/1250 ~ 1/2000s for Field Sports for Girls that age.

    The sample image appears a touch soft: usually that will be because of one of three main reasons, or a combination thereof:

    • Subject Movement (Shutter Speed to Slow)
    • Inadequate Post Production Sharpening
    • Missed Focus.



    I reckon there’s a good chance you have captured Subject Movement.

    WW

    BTW – I see no real need to meter that shot – and I wouldn’t necessarily meter if the light was consistent.

    Full Sun, Hard Shadows Side Lit – just open up one stop from the F/16 Rule – i.e. F/8 @ 1/1600s @ ISO800.

    If the play turns to backlit then I’d open up one more from that: if the play turns to front lit then I’d stop down one more from that.

    Here’s a sample, similar in:
    • lighting
    • speed of play
    • age group


    But the shutter speed was up around 1/1600s and there is some punchy sharpening on the image file:
    Soccer photo, autofocus


    WW

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Bill,

    Thanks very much. So "sunny 16" rule for full-on sun (by the way, that's what my spot meter and gray card tell me, too), + 1 stop for side sun, + 2 stops for rear light and shaded faces (although won't I risk over exposure by opening up 2 stops?). I did not sharpen the image (yet), so that may improve the sharpness (I'm not thrilled with the sharpness, either). Gosh, do I really need a faster shutter speed? I thought 1/750 would be plenty fast, but I will double that on my next outing. Do you recommend similar shutter speeds for track and field? I have a second athlete in the family and she has a track meet this weekend. I suppose if the outdoor lighting is sufficient so that ISO doesn't need to be too high, there's no harm in a fast shutter speed.

    thanks again, Bruce

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    There are several topics in your response – but briefly:

    Concerning your Football Image - I’ve just shot a lot of sport and those two girls appear fit and both are running full tilt for that ball – and therefore 1/750s is too slow for that shooting scenario, according to the ‘limits’ I have set for my own shooting..


    So, yes I do recommend a faster Shutter Speed, for that sport; that age group and the general physical tone of those two Subjects.

    The key elements to selecting a Shutter Speed for Sport (any moving Subject) are:
    1. Speed of Subject Movement (faster Subject needs faster Shutter Speed)
    2. Direction of Subject Movement relative to the Camera (Transverse Movement needs faster than Head On Movement)
    3. Distance of Subject from the Camera (Closer to the Camera requires Faster Shutter Speed)
    4. Focal Length of the lens used (Longer Lens requires Faster Shutter Speed)
    5. Format Size of the camera (Smaller format size requires faster Shutter Speed)


    (*[1] see footnote)

    To keep it simple points 3, 4 and 5 can be rolled into “how big the Subject appears in the frame”. (The more the Subject fills the frame – the faster the Shutter Speed required.)

    ALSO – it is important note that the suggestion of using a faster shutter speed, based upon these criteria does NOT “stop the motion” as such. Selecting a shutter speed, based upon these criteria is a guide to rendering the final image free from the ‘capture of Subject Movement’.

    The Subject will still move at the same speed: but an aeroplane far way in the sky can be “stopped” with a 50 mm lens on 5D with a Shutter Speed of 1/100s. But the same aeroplane when landing (and travelling slower) and filling the camera’s frame, might require 1/4000s to render it “frozen”.

    For example – this is shot with a Wide Angle Lens (24mm) on a 5D – the facts that the Subject ‘fills the frame’ and ‘is travelling fast’ and is in ‘transverse motion’ requires a very fast shutter speed, so don’t get caught up with the (incorrect generalization) that a wide lens means: ‘I don’t have to use a fast Shutter Speed to arrest the Subject Motion'

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    ***

    Track and Field


    What disciplines? How old? What level?

    The finish line of a sprint at reasonable “Club Level Competition”, capturing transverse motion and one athlete filling the frame – 1/2000s would be a good starting point - faster would be safer.

    A 5 year old's running race at the School Sports’ Carnival – 1/800s for the same shot – and head on I reckon I could make 1/320s for a ‘good’ 11 x14 print, 90% of the time.

    Best that you experiment and really pixel- peep, especially at the feet and the hands and you will work out what the “limits” are for the level of sport you are shooting.


    ***

    On the matter of worrying about opening up 2 stops for hard BACKLIT sunlight (note that is not necessarily "shaded faces").

    Let’s think about what exactly are you going to blow out? – maybe the rim of the hairline? – some grass IN FRONT OF the Subject?

    Because - as you have already (correctly) mentioned, you will put yourself in a shooting positing, so you get a dark i.e. “in the Shade” background.

    And you can always crop or frame tight to rid as much of the foreground grass, as possible (if it blows out).

    Anyway, you should be able to pull back about one stop overexposure in your Post Production.

    WW


    *[1]Footnote - the Degree of Enlargement of the final print; the Viewing Distance and / or the Degree of Cropping of the image are also considerations of the Shutter Speed required to arrest Subject Motion.
    (Mentioned only to make the list of considerations, 'complete', as such)

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Bill,

    Thanks very much for sharing your knowledge. Re subject movement and shutter speed, I might look into this analytically. Without getting too technical, one can probably relate pixel size to angular field of view or horizontal distance to traverse the sensor when the subject is at a given distance from the camera. If a subject is traversing the entire field of view in X seconds, he (or she, of course) is covering Y pixels in X seconds (Y is the entire width of the sensor), so Y/X pixels per second. For a static subject, X = infinity, so I don't need a fast shutter speed. For a moving subject if I expose for too long, the edge of a subject is going to smear across many pixels. So a very brief exposure will produce cleaner edges and a sharper contrast. I imagine someone has already made this calculation, so if I find anything I'll post it. Or if I can find a subject with a suitable constant speed (a car, a bike, runners at a track meet?) I could simply try 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000 and see how the edges of the subject look. Anyway, thanks again for your ideas.

    Bruce

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by brucehughw View Post
    Re subject movement and shutter speed, I might look into this analytically. Without getting too technical, one can probably relate pixel size to angular field of view or horizontal distance to traverse the sensor when the subject is at a given distance from the camera. . . .
    That is exactly the premise of the mathematics behind what I wrote and the basis of WHY each of the eight points relate to how fast the shutter must be, to suitably arrest the motion.

    In simple terms it is all about how long the "streak of the blur" is, on the Sensor or Film.

    Yes there are many tables, and "Rules of Thumb" and have been for many years. Historically, the Ilford Manual of Photography and the Kodak Professional Handbook of Photography have these - the Ilford Manual published around 1932 is about the first to record these calculations and tables formally, I think. I cannot confirm that as I am not at home, but on tour shooting, at the moment.

    Also in your calculations and / or practical experiments (with People as Subjects), remember that a person (running for example), is not the same as an aeroplane flying. The aeroplane moves as one unit through space. The person on the other hand has a general overall forward velocity (and direction) - but bits and pieces of the person are moving in other directions and at other velocities: typically the arms legs and sometimes the head.

    And there's more - depending upon the TYPE of sport or activity - those directions and velocities can be accounted and reckoned. For example I shoot a lot of swimming. At elite level of competition, I know I can pull a good head-on shot of Breaststroke and (if I need to) use 1/320s and be safe - but for a good head-on shot of Butterfly I need about 1/500s – and that is simple because the HEAD is moving faster when it is out of the water and at its “peak position” for Fly than for Breast.

    You can equate this to Track and Field and your shooting – let’s say you are the finish line and shooting transverse motion of your child as they cross the tape. IF they are inexperienced they might not thrust forward at the finish, so maybe you will find 1/800 ~1/1250s will be a safe limit for you, if you fill the frame with just them and a bit of air around them.

    However, as they improve at their sport the coach will have drills and practice just for the last 10 or 15 meters and they will develop techniques so they will thrust at the line, in which case, as well as their general speed increasing as they get better at their sport - JUST for that fraction of a second at the finish the velocity of their upper body will be a little faster. As you notice this you might need 1/2000s to be safe for the same shot of the finish.

    Also, once you know the sport (or activity) you can reckon on “points of least movement": and use anticipation to release the shutter at those points – again for example in Breaststroke at the top of the upward movement of the Swimmer’s Head, when it is out of the water.

    You can go as deeply or as superficially as you like and there are many methods of attacking this matter: personally I have found that I just “feel” most of it now and one activity can be linked to another and similarities found: for example shooting ballet, is just the same as shooting “sport”.

    But I do know the maths of it, because we were taught it in College and we were tested on calculating Shutter Speeds from first principles, in our exams.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 2nd May 2013 at 10:48 PM. Reason: corrected typos

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Bill,

    Thanks for your further comments and insight. (If I may ask: Where are you on tour? And what are you photographing?) As I was reading about the person and the limbs ("extremities") in your post, I started thinking about kinematics and absolute vs relative motion, which I used to teach as an engineering professor. You're right that one can get very technical as a photographer, and I suppose each person finds their balance. For now I think I'll just go out and increase my shutter speed by a factor of 2 or 4 and examine the results. I do appreciate, again, your suggestions. I hadn't given a much thought to using a faster shutter speed, 1/500 seemed fast enough, and now I see that a moving subject needs a much faster speed.

    I'll try to post some results next week.

    Cheers, Bruce

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    You are welcome. Look forward to hearing about you findings.
    I lasted one year in Mech Engineering at uni and chucked it in - had a fight with a teacher over mathematics (imaginary numbers) . . . it was good that I did as I have found Photography more interesting.

    Swimming, Adelaide. Australian Championships.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 3rd May 2013 at 12:05 AM.

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post

    The key elements to selecting a Shutter Speed for Sport (any moving Subject) are:
    1. Speed of Subject Movement (faster Subject needs faster Shutter Speed)
    2. Direction of Subject Movement relative to the Camera (Transverse Movement needs faster than Head On Movement)
    3. Distance of Subject from the Camera (Closer to the Camera requires Faster Shutter Speed)
    4. Focal Length of the lens used (Longer Lens requires Faster Shutter Speed)
    5. Format Size of the camera (Smaller format size requires faster Shutter Speed)


    (*[1] see footnote)

    To keep it simple points 3, 4 and 5 can be rolled into “how big the Subject appears in the frame”. (The more the Subject fills the frame – the faster the Shutter Speed required.)

    ALSO – it is important note that the suggestion of using a faster shutter speed, based upon these criteria does NOT “stop the motion” as such. Selecting a shutter speed, based upon these criteria is a guide to rendering the final image free from the ‘capture of Subject Movement’.

    The Subject will still move at the same speed: but an aeroplane far way in the sky can be “stopped” with a 50 mm lens on 5D with a Shutter Speed of 1/100s. But the same aeroplane when landing (and travelling slower) and filling the camera’s frame, might require 1/4000s to render it “frozen”.

    For example – this is shot with a Wide Angle Lens (24mm) on a 5D – the facts that the Subject ‘fills the frame’ and ‘is travelling fast’ and is in ‘transverse motion’ requires a very fast shutter speed, so don’t get caught up with the (incorrect generalization) that a wide lens means: ‘I don’t have to use a fast Shutter Speed to arrest the Subject Motion'

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    ***
    [B]

    On the matter of worrying about opening up 2 stops for hard BACKLIT sunlight (note that is not necessarily "shaded faces").

    Let’s think about what exactly are you going to blow out? – maybe the rim of the hairline? – some grass IN FRONT OF the Subject?

    Because - as you have already (correctly) mentioned, you will put yourself in a shooting positing, so you get a dark i.e. “in the Shade” background.

    And you can always crop or frame tight to rid as much of the foreground grass, as possible (if it blows out).

    Anyway, you should be able to pull back about one stop overexposure in your Post Production.

    WW


    *[1]Footnote - the Degree of Enlargement of the final print; the Viewing Distance and / or the Degree of Cropping of the image are also considerations of the Shutter Speed required to arrest Subject Motion.
    (Mentioned only to make the list of considerations, 'complete', as such)
    Very informative post. ( Attn: Christina & Terri )

    I guess Bill's post above should also apply to flying birds.
    It's worth copying and filing , then, actual praxis in our next flying birds shoot.
    Or for any shoot of fast-moving subjects.

    This one's a very practical guide in the field.
    “how big the Subject appears in the frame”. (The more the Subject fills the frame – the faster the Shutter Speed required.)
    Thanks Bill

    ( Hi Bruce, thanks for letting me post on your thread. Although my focus here is on flying birds. But the same guidelines appear very apt. )

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by nimitzbenedicto View Post
    Very informative post. ( Attn: Christina & Terri )
    . . . post above should also apply to flying birds.
    It's worth copying and filing , then, actual praxis in our next flying birds shoot.
    Or for any shoot of fast-moving subjects.
    This one's a very practical guide in the field.
    Thanks . . .
    Thank you for the compliment.

    Just an additional couple of NBs for "flying birds":

    1. I don't do flying birds as I am not really interested in that subject matter - but yes techniques are techniques and maths is universal and never tells lies so adapt the logic as you see fit and it will work for you.

    2. 'Flying Birds' (might) introduce the Photographer’s Technique of "Panning". That should be self-explanatory in so far as the idea of Panning is to make the (resultant) relative camera's movement the same as the Subject's Movement, so the Subject appears "frozen" in one linear direction (usually horizontal).

    Also, on a general note I cannot stress enough that working out the maths and the theory is fantastic and is a lot of fun and I like doing that – but it is far more important to spend twice, thrice or four time as much effort and time “doing it” and analysing the results such that the Camera just becomes an extension of one’s hand and brain.

    WW

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    T....................

    2. 'Flying Birds' (might) introduce the Photographer’s Technique of "Panning". That should be self-explanatory in so far as the idea of Panning is to make the (resultant) relative camera's movement the same as the Subject's Movement, so the Subject appears "frozen" in one linear direction (usually horizontal).

    it is far more important to spend twice, thrice or four time as much effort and time “doing it” and analysing the results such that the Camera just becomes an extension of one’s hand and brain.

    WW
    Hi Bill,

    Now that you mentioned it, perhaps, its time to test panning when shooting flying birds. It may give the impression of motion.


    ------------------------------------------------------

    0ff-topic

    Bill,

    Surely you must be a master of Iaido.

    Years ago, my friend Nariko Tsuchiya, Iaido practitioner, mentioned the great Miyamoto Musashi said almost the same as you did. He said something like:
    ......................practice, practice and more practice until the katana becomes one with the mind and body.

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    There is another approach in that knowing the limitations of one's gear ... with a bridge camera one may not wish to shoot above 100 ISO for IQ reasons ... one chooses the subject where in this case 1/214 shutter as picked by AE for me will work.
    The static moment ....
    Soccer photo, autofocus
    Nikon 5700 But after several false goes due to the slowness of its AF I also got this shot .... EXIF lost so I guess AE likely picked a bit faster shutter with the sun out.
    Soccer photo, autofocus
    But nothing like the high speeds suggested which are needed to freeze action
    Though occasionally AE gave me 1/98 for this shot when I was panning with the camera.
    Soccer photo, autofocus
    What with the Nikon5700 slow AF I shouldn't have got it but was lucky I guess.
    I'm not really into sport so rarely go to these events. But after 26 years with TV and editing numerous events under the direction of a sports reporter I guess I may have a feeling for these things
    A final point ...I took very few frames at these events, more at 'Gotyou' becuase it was early days with the Nikon, and knew what I was after and positioned myself to get it ...perhaps if I had a fast Canon and burst I could go for the snapshot ... probably my Panasonic MFT could do it too except I think it is purely luck when using burst as opposed to single shot shooting.
    An 'Old Codger' with his predjuices
    Last edited by jcuknz; 3rd May 2013 at 11:40 PM.

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by nimitzbenedicto View Post
    0ff-topic . . .
    Off topic answer: Yes, sort of.
    In a manner Iaido: but Knives and not Swords and not exclusively Japanese Martial Arts' influence.

    The principles of kata are the same. . . same also for: archery, shooting, piano playing, . . . and using a Camera.

    I was lietrally stunned at your question. What made you ask that, surely not just my phraseology?

    WW

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    There is another approach in that knowing the limitations of one's gear ... with a bridge camera one may not wish to shoot above 100 ISO for IQ reasons ... one chooses the subject where in this case 1/214 shutter as picked by AE for me will work..........

    What with the Nikon5700 slow AF I shouldn't have got it but was lucky I guess.
    I'm not really into sport so rarely go to these events. But after 26 years with TV and editing numerous events under the direction of a sports reporter I guess I may have a feeling for these things
    A final point ...I took very few frames at these events, more at 'Gotyou' becuase it was early days with the Nikon, and knew what I was after and positioned myself to get it ...perhaps if I had a fast Canon and burst I could go for the snapshot ... probably my Panasonic MFT could do it too except I think it is purely luck when using burst as opposed to single shot shooting.
    An 'Old Codger' with his predjuices
    Hi Photonut,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Very informative.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    OT:

    .....................................

    What made you ask .............

    WW
    I gleaned from your posts you have "internalized" , mastered your craft.

    surely you are " Hikari-Do"

    A state of , "Mu".

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    OT –
    Ah, OK. I understand.
    Thank you.
    I also work a lot, nowadays, with (seriously) elite athletes.
    Very inspiring and educative: there is still so much to learn and accomplish.
    I have learnt, at least, that it’s very important to be open to that learning – it often comes from sources, least expected: so, not yet 'Master of the Craft'.

    WW

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    A very interesting read, Bill!

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Thank you Phil.

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    Hi, everyone.

    Last week Bill gave me some great advice on sports photography. I tried it out over the weekend and here is a sample. It was a beautiful day, sunny 16 rule applied for most of the meet. Comments welcome!

    Thanks, Bruce

    ISO 1600, 155 mm, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec.

    Soccer photo, autofocus

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    Re: Soccer photo, autofocus

    I have read through everyone's posts and I do agree with a lot of what has been presented. That being said, I do disagree with a few of the finer points.

    Much of how you shoot depends on what you shoot. What are you attempting to convey with your images? Solitude of the athlete, competition, toughness, pain and agony, teamwork???? Much more goes into a sports image than many tend to think.

    In regards to ISO allowing you to increase shutter speed, I disagree when it comes to conveying speed and movement. I rarely shot cycling at anything other than ISO 100. You pan, adjust aperture and shoot for the effect of movement and speed. By the way, in instances of shooting from the side I generally use manual focus, setting my focus on a point and shooting from there.

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    After a little bit of experience you get to the point where you can convey movement and speed when shooting head-on. For this I generally use the auto focus capabilities of my lenses. Although from time to time I will pre-focus on a point such as finish line shots or when I know that I want a certain shot from a particular point.

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    Whatever you do, never forget the emotional side of images. I spend a lot of time in the "pits" in order to catch the images that really present the feeling of sport. Doesn't matter what lens or settings as long as you capture the feeling. You could accomplish this with a darn phone camera.

    Soccer photo, autofocus

    The bottom line for me anyway is that I rarely shoot above 100 ISO, I shoot what I know (used to race) and I love what I do. Take lots of pics, review them and learn from your mistakes. Every bit of advice you may get from the fine folks on this website will help and the bottom line is HAVE FUN!

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