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Thread: Dogs in snow

  1. #1

    Join Date
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    Dogs in snow

    Hi everyone! It took me a while but I came back to give something new for you guys to chew on. This is my first attempt at capturing action, so ways in which to improve should be plentiful.

    The camera used for these shots is a D90, with a brand new 16-85mm lens. I used a gray card for exposure and color balance prior to the shots and adjusted the exposure time slightly (or tried to) whenever the sun broke through the cloud cover.

    These are jpegs straight from the camera, so no post-processing; I did not shoot in raw, only jpeg (a collective sigh of disappointment echoes through CiC).

    1.
    Dogs in snow
    1/800, f/5.6, iso 200 at 85mm

    2.
    Dogs in snow
    1/1250, f/5.6, iso 200 at 78mm

    3.
    Dogs in snow
    1/640, f/5.6, iso 200 at 56mm

    I'm hoping for comments from you on composition, exposure, correct techniques for capturing these scenes and anything else you think is worth mentioning. Feel free to edit or modify the images.

    I feel the biggest mistake I made was to use single focus point instead of one of the smarter focus area modes the camera has. Which autofocus mode would have been optimal, dynamic area, auto-area or 3D-tracking? Would you have used manual pre-focus?

    What are the best ways of capturing action?
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 5th March 2011 at 06:13 PM. Reason: added EXIF data

  2. #2
    jeeperman's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs in snow

    Dan, I think your exposure works, and the color is great. I like the first shot the most but wish the branch had been a little bigger, I struggle to see it at first. And now I see it is a ball and string. =} The third shot may have been more effective from a low angle. Just some off the cuff comments from a non pro here. Have not worked with the subject much myself.

    I might also clone out the weeds in the top left of #1. It is a little distracting.
    Last edited by jeeperman; 5th March 2011 at 07:02 PM.

  3. #3
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs in snow

    Hi Dan,

    I added the EXIF information below each shot (before people ask)

    You weren't kidding when you said "straight from the camera and no PP"; they're the full size of 4,288px x 2,848px, which, at between 2.7 and 4.1 MB, is a bit big for some folks to download (in a sensible time). We would always recommend at least doing a down size to say, a max. of 1500 on the width and 1000 on the height, whichever is the lesser because not doing so will mean people cannot even view them on any screen at 1:1 - essential for assessment of sharpness. The forum makes them appear as 700px anyway - and that can get soft, but with no ability to view the whole picture, we have to scroll around, or worse still, the browser will downsize it and that will be really soft.
    When you do the downsize, you'll need to sharpen again; typically at 100%, 0.3px and say, 2 threshold, with UnSharp Mask (USM). Look in the HELP THREAD: How can I post images here? thread, there's a post on quality issues which explains things.

    Although, in this case, in #2 it gives me an opportunity to see what the lens is capable of sharpness wise (it's a cracker isn't it?)

    Now to the pictures;
    (and yes, I did sigh)
    #1 is shot with too low a shutter speed for the action really, although it gives blur to the flying snow around the paws, for me, there's just too much blur in their faces. ALso, being able to see the eye of the second dog would be nice, if shot on continous drive mode (4 fps I think) you might have got a cleaner shot with a bit more separation between the overlapping dogs.
    #2 good composition, although there's yet another crop available in the middle, with just the head and the ball, so you can see his/her lovely brown eyes.
    #3 has a slightly messy background and again, for me, too slow a shutter speed.

    All three have excellent exposure and white balance.


    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheManWithTheSuntan
    I feel the biggest mistake I made was to use single focus point instead of one of the smarter focus area modes the camera has. Which autofocus mode would have been optimal, dynamic area, auto-area or 3D-tracking? Would you have used manual pre-focus?
    No, it wasn't a mistake (IMHO), with one focus point, you know what to expect. While you might have got away with it against snow, on normal ground with contrast detail, with any of those other methods, the chances of the camera deciding you wanted a certain clump of grass sharp instead of the dogs, is too great.

    Not that this is noticeably bad, but practicing your panning technique may help improve the odds of good shots.
    You want to have it in "AF-C" mode on the single point and adjust the point in use to be one that can get a good contrast edge on the eye, or near to them.


    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheManWithTheSuntan
    Feel free to edit or modify the images.
    Thanks, here's what I meant about #2 (click to see bigger (and sharper));
    Dogs in snow
    I rotated to make the 'string' vertical, although I appreciate it may have been swinging and the shutter speed (higher on this one) froze it - well, either that or the cold temperature did

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 5th March 2011 at 07:06 PM.

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Re: Dogs in snow

    Thank you Paul and Dave!

    So the correct shutter speed for the first and third pictures would have been faster than 1/1000; I thought the softness was due to the focus point lagging behind the action. I also bought into the notion that on a bright day I had no excuse to use an ISO above 200 since that always means introducing slight noise. How far would you have gone? 1/2000s? 1/4000s? What is the highest tolerable ISO for the D90 or similar on daylight? When would the benefits of hight shutter speed start to be outweighed by the noise of high ISO?

    I used f/5.6 on all because that is the lowest f number at 85mm for this lens. I wanted to be free to use any focal lenght without having to readjust; is this the correct way of using variable aperture lens in action shots? Would you have used a lower f number to blur out the background, but foregoing the medium-tele end of the lens?

    I used continous drive mode but for some reason it never reached 4 shots per second or got close to it; either my card is too slow or the camera would lose time refocusing. Either way, I felt I was spraying shots left and right and hoping I would luck out and get at least some usable shots. I'm not sure I can be fast enough to move the focus point left or right for each shot, since for most pics I barely managed to zoom to a proper lenght and press the shutter before the action moved elsewhere and I had to move with it. I must have taken 200+ shots in under an hour; is that too much? Would a different strategy have worked better?

    All "portrait mode" pics I took were crooked; I need to work on my technique and hold the camera straight when using portrait orientation. The second pic was forgiving, as Dave said, although the string was perfectly straight in reality.

    As far as post-processing goes, I fear it's too easy to get carried away with it and overdo it, but cropping and straightening are kosher. Edit: I accept PP is an invaluable tool in the photographer's arsenal, I just want to stay off the drug until I have a good understanding of how to best use camera settings while in the field.

    Please keep the critique, advice and comments coming!
    Last edited by DanTheManWithTheSuntan; 5th March 2011 at 09:42 PM.

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