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Thread: Photographing gymnastics.

  1. #1

    Photographing gymnastics.

    Hi there,
    My daughter competes at a fairly high level of gymnastics, which means her routines can be very fast, especially with all of the tumbling and flipping etc. The competitions take part inside and I am not allowed to use a flash. I have experimented with a few different settings but have never found the perfect one. if the ISO is too high then there is a lot of noise. My last attempt resulted in blurry extremities (feet and hands). I have Nikon 70-200mm VR11 lens which I love. Most of the time the audience sits so far away that I have the stretched right out. Just wondering if anyone else has photographed gymnastics and they can pass on some tips

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    1. Try panning if photographing the gymnasts moving parallel to your position, positioning yourself at different angles to the gymnasts, so that at times they may be moving directly towards you and you will be able to stop the action very easily.
    2. Fast shutter speeds will stop the action, but might lead to underexposed photos, so balance your ISO and/or exposure compensation.
    3. Anticipate when the gymnast will be at rest and fire away.

  3. #3

    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Thank you for your response. Panning would work great when they are doing their floor exercises as long as I can get in the right position. Viewing space is always difficult, with so many parents all wanting part of the action.
    Would it work to have faster shutter speeds and then work on the photo in post production??? Something I might try
    Yes Knowing their routines and when they stop is extremely important, these are always the best shots.
    Thanks for your advice

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Debbie Riddle View Post
    Thank you for your response. Panning would work great when they are doing their floor exercises as long as I can get in the right position. Viewing space is always difficult, with so many parents all wanting part of the action.
    Would it work to have faster shutter speeds and then work on the photo in post production??? Something I might try
    Yes Knowing their routines and when they stop is extremely important, these are always the best shots.
    Thanks for your advice
    Faster shutter speeds and post processing will work but sometimes it's difficult to recover textures, etc. and there will be a little bit of noise in the shadows. And regarding the no flash rule, it's only for the safety of the gymnasts, if they aren't in the middle of a routine, then fire away.

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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    you didnt say what camera you are using ?, a lot of modern camera.s are pretty good at handling noise if you get the correct exposure, if you underexpose you risk dragging up unwanted noise, the 70-200 vr is a good choice of lens, i would guess an ideal shutter speed would be 1/500 sec @2.8 (iso ? to achieve that?)

    cheers martyn

    ps you may find some arenas are more brightly lit than others.
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 1st May 2011 at 12:32 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Hi Debbie - and welcome to the CiC forums from me

    I agree with Martyn, it would be useful to know the camera model.
    To which I'd add; are you shooting RAW?

    I can think of two reasons why you might answer 'no' to that, speed of shooting may be improved with jpg only and of course, if you shoot a lot, the PP (post processing) time overhead can be a pain to reconcile, but practice speeds things up.

    Noise can always be dealt with in PP by something like Neat Image, but it will be better if you have shot RAW though and have done any exposure/WB/etc. corrections first.

    What PP software do you have available?

    I'd definitely, apart from for deliberate artistic effect (and Martyn knows a lot about that - have a look at some of his other posts), I'd raise the iso to get sharper 'extremities'.

    Any chance of seeing an example?

    Hope that helps,

  7. #7

    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Thank you so much for your help. Yes of course knowing what I am using would be of help. I have a Nikon 300s, which is great if I want to shoot in both RAW (haven't ventured into using this yet) and jpeg. I am also using Photoshop CS5 for PP. This is a whole new ball game for me trying to watch as many tutorials as I can on the whole photoshop process. Yes every gymnasium has completely different lightning. The one I will be shooting in next has a lot of natural light, which is great but the others have huge stadium lights, which sometimes I find harder to shoot in. I have an example to show you. This photo was shot using the Nikon 70-200 using an ISO of 800. Now that i am looking at the app. I had it on 5.6 and the shutter speed was on 1/125. Am I right in saying these settings were wrong????
    Photographing gymnastics.

  8. #8
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Debbie Riddle View Post
    Am I right in saying these settings were wrong????
    Yes, inasmuch as you need to get a faster shutter on a shot like that. As you can see, there's quite a bit of motion blur. Now, I suspect some motion blur might be quite good on some shots of these athletes at work, but on one like this I think you're probably need to get key parts; e.g. the head, pin sharp. And that's going to need more than 1/125th.

    I don't know the lens you're using, Debbie. What's the maximum aperture? Is it 5.6? It would be good if you could get is faster, not only to increase the shutter speed, but also to start blurring backgrounds. The background in this one is very busy and actually doesn't allow us to concentrate on the athlete. If it could be thrown out of focus by using a wider aperture that would decrease the depth-of-field, you would have a win-win on your hands.

    As Colin has shown us all on here many times before, get the exposure right and noise really becomes a pretty minor issue. If you are using a high ISO and get it under-exposed, then noise becomes a major problem. So, push the ISO as high as you can to get the exposure right with a high shutter speed.

    And shoot RAW. I see you saying that you've got CS5. I think that's wasted if you're just putting JPEGs through it.

    But keep shooting. This is wonderful subject matter for the enthusiastic photographer. Have a search for photos of athletes taking part in the major competitions, to see how the pros shoot gymnastics. That will give you some ideas.

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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    2.8 would allow you to increase the shutter speed,to me it looks like you missed the gymnast and focussed on the back wall in this shot, its an easy thing to do,the camera focus system is not brill in this kind of lighting,another good thing about using 2.8 is that it will blur the background nicely,
    one tip you might try if you know the gymnast is going to leap (like in this pic) is once you them in focus then lock your focus (i think if you are using S focus mode the camera should automatically lock when the shutter is half pressed,but you need to check this), you can also assign buttons to lock the focus instead of half pressing the shutter,
    obviously if the gymnast is coming towards you or away from you its best to use C mode, i am not very good at explaining things so if you dont understand just say so and i will try and explain better, cheers martyn ps i quite like the blur,lol.

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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Hi Debbie,

    What auto focus mode did you use for the above shot? Focus missed the gymnast and picked up the wall.I'm not familiar with Nikon cameras,but I would try center focus point only in continuous(not one shot).
    Definitely get your shutter speed above 1/250".I've not shot gymnastics,but I would get focus locked on her and follow her into the shot you are after.If this was a floor exercise,I would start my burst at the point she started to leave the floor and follow.

  11. #11

    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Thank you so much for all of your input. The lens I am using is a 2.8 so I will definitely use that setting. I am more than sure the focus was on the full area 52 point so maybe if I try on spot focus that might help too. I like the idea of blurring the background so I will give that a go as well. This time I will shoot in both Raw and jpeg as I can do that on two separate memory devices on my camera. I am getting use to her routines now so I will be able to anticipate her skills better next time. Her next competition is this weekend so I am going armed and ready. I will post my results up next week. Thank yo again to everyone who has contributed

  12. #12
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Debbie Riddle View Post
    Thank you so much for all of your input. The lens I am using is a 2.8 so I will definitely use that setting. I am more than sure the focus was on the full area 52 point so maybe if I try on spot focus that might help too. I like the idea of blurring the background so I will give that a go as well. This time I will shoot in both Raw and jpeg as I can do that on two separate memory devices on my camera. I am getting use to her routines now so I will be able to anticipate her skills better next time. Her next competition is this weekend so I am going armed and ready. I will post my results up next week. Thank yo again to everyone who has contributed
    Great; we look forward to seeing them Debbie

    f2.8 and single point (continuous servo) focus should help a lot, now all you have to do is get that 1 point on a part of her that needs to be sharp (e.g. her face) and not let an odd limb or two escape out of frame in the process - not being too tight on zoom will help there, until you ge used to her routine.

    Good luck (both to you and your daughter),

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Another thing to take note of, Debbie. Did you see John's picture in this thread? As you can see, he shot this at ISO 1600 and there's no discernible noise problem. So, don't be afraid to push the ISO up to allow yourself to get a good exposure.

  14. #14

    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Yes, it is a great shot. I will be making sure the ISO is pushed right up. I am looking forward to the challenge

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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    Well what a nice surprise! ....I wake up and find a friend here..... no Donald not you lot

    Great to see you here Deb - but be warned this site is very addictive... in a very good way

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    Re: Photographing gymnastics.

    hi Debbie how did you get on this time ?cheers martyn

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