Sports photography for the novice

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by Digidurst, Mar 5, 2006.

  1. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi everyone :smile: In a few weeks I will be photographing a local cycling race as a volunteer. My bike club just wants some pictures for the website. I'm happy to help and I want to do a good job so I'm going to be 'cramming' until the event to improve my action shooting skills which are pretty much non-existent as I mostly shoot things that are still. I'm thinking I might use my Mamiya 645 - maybe.

    So, I would really appreciate any tips or advice any of you could offer regarding technique, equipment, etc. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have shot sports over the years, I can't say that the 645 is the best tool for the job, when I started out, I was shooting a Minolta XD-11 with a motor drive and a 200mm f/2.8 lens, I have had a couple of 645 for years now and used them for various types of shooting, but would not consider them as easy to handle or as fast as might be required for sports work, currently I shoot a 300 f/2.8 on a Minolta 9xi with the motor drive set to high speed, one of the keys with sports photography is speed, and it don't matter what sport your shooting, the faster you can shoot the action, the better your chances of getting those unique shots that turn out to be memorable, when shooting sports, I don't use a tripod, but I do use a monopod, which allows good steadyness as well as great flexability to move as the action moves..

    Anyway, have fun.

    Dave
     
  3. leeturner

    leeturner Subscriber

    Messages:
    491
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2004
    Location:
    North of Eng
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I used to do quite a lot of motorsports and powerboating photography including F1 and Superbikes. You need a fast 35mm lens, preferably over 300m but it depends on how close you can get to the action. With cycling, as with motor racing, you have to convey a sense of speed and movement. Set your camera to shutter priority and a shutter speed of around 1/60 to 1/125 sec. This will allow you to pan with the cyclist, blur the background and get movement in the wheels. The wheel movement is the most important for side on shots. If you use too fast a shutter speed the wheels and background look static and this gives no impression of movement, in fact the cycles look as if they're stationary. I practised panning on a normal street by photographing passing cars, and the technique is very similar to clay pigeon shooting! You pick up your subject as they are coming towards you, follow them and press the shutter when they are squaare on to you. However you must follow through with the panning movement as it is this that gives the blurred background instead of a blurred subject.

    The other option is to get on a corner and shoot the riders coming towards you. This is more dramatic with motorcycles as the riders lean a lot more. By using a longer telephoto lens you can compress a group of riders coming towards you giving the impression of a much closer race that is normally the case.

    Good luck and enjoy it.
     
  4. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Is it a road race, or criterium ?
     
  5. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

    Messages:
    1,504
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Westminster,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    35 mm is far better for sports photography then 6x4.5.

    That said, David Burnett has used 6x4.5 and 4x5 to make fabulous sports images.

    http://www.davidburnett.com/

    Also check out http://www.sportsshooter.com

    Do a search on bicycle photography, both on sportsshooter and on the internet.

    Mostly, just have fun and put your stamp on the images.
     
  6. sajianphotos

    sajianphotos Member

    Messages:
    206
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I do quite a bit of sprint boat photography and agree a 35mm seems best. I have used MF and have gotten some good shots but, by far, have mostly used 35. I primarily use a Nikon f3 with a motor, a Nikon Fm with a motor, and several fast lenses from 135 to 400. I also use a zoom but it's harder to get the speed I need. I can't really add to the great advice above except 2 (or more) cameras has been very valuable. I can use different fixed lenses with better opportunities and I also have a backup when the film in one or the other needs changed.
    BTW, though I see an occasional film shooter, digital photography virtually dominates this sport professionally. I get some pretty goofy looks from the "pros" and am somewhat of an "oddball" on the circuit. One photog boasts that he takes over 3000 shots of a race day. The most I've ever taken is 1200 and that was a LOT of film changing. I still shoot transparencies and have had some good luck with them but for the most part people are asking for their photos quickly. I've turned a lot of heads, though, over the quality difference in analog when I show the slides.
    Good shooting!
     
  7. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I agree, getting a lot of shots can be a pain, I keep three identical Minolta 9xi's going all the time when shooting a sporting event, my wife acts as my assistant and as I empty one, she hands me another loaded and ready to go, all I have to do is dismount and remount another body, but it works out good, I have shot as much as the digital guys during a shoot, and I have to say, whether I review on the light table or the computer, I would take the light table any day!

    Dave
     
  8. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

    Messages:
    576
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2004
    Location:
    Italy
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Alot of good advice, but I'd disagree with one aspect: the need for bazooka-style focal lengths. Granted, if you aren't allowed to get closer, you have little choice. But with cycling you run more the risk of getting run over than not seeing. The most effective shots I've gotten, either waterskiing or snow skiing, were not the ones I "picked off" sniper style but the ones taken close up and personal.
     
  9. sajianphotos

    sajianphotos Member

    Messages:
    206
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Good point. Never pass up the up close if one can. Facial and body expressins in sports are great. That brings up another point. As I said, I use (mostly) slide film for the vivd color, which most sports enthusiasts really want. IMHO when you think about it sports are really saturated with color and it's important to render vivd, or more precisely true color, but the drawback I have with transparency is the narrow shadow range. The ideal is to render good colors WHILE capturing detail in the shadow (often the faces are in the shadow). I am still looking for a good film for that. Fuji 400 and even 800 are decent but some other suggestions might be useful.
     
  10. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Most of the stuff I have had printed in magazines, including taking the olympics in Austrailia were taken with a large telephoto with a big aperture, rendering the background unfocused, the film I used the most when working in this arena has been provia 400 or provia 100, both good on color, low grain the 400 works great for fast action shots when early in the morning or later in the evening, I do however agree, getting the "Up Close and Personal" shots are very important, if you can get close enough to get the beads of sweat on the forehead and the upper lip, you got a winner, I have also pushed provia 400 1 stop and shot at 800 with it and got images that were quite printable in the magazines.

    Anyway you choose to do it, over the next week do some practice, follow the birds around the yard, and follow the cars down the street as was suggested by another!

    Dave
     
  11. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    An important aspect of action photo you need to take into consideration is your ability to anticipate what will happen. There's no point in shotgunning like crazy if you don't have a sense of how the event unfolds. Football games photogs, for instance, know intimately the rules and the strategy of the game, so that they know in which direction to run.

    Make sure you scout the locations along the race to see where the most interesting shots can happen. A nice bend going around an interesting building could give you a more meaningful subject than a straight stretch. Think of where you will stand, and whether this would disrupt the personnel and/or the races. Think also the key moments in the race (start line, finish line, sprint).

    Think also about the relationship between the race and the crowd, and of the role of the organizers. In this year's Winter Olympics, a Canadian cross-country ski sprinter broke one of her stick, and a Norwegian coach serendipitously saved her day by giving her another stick. She won the silver. If somebody caught this moment, that must be a very happy photographer. Races depends on a huge organization, and those people are worth their weight in gold for making sure the athletes can perform. They deserve some exposure too.

    One way to approach your subject is to plan your shots so that your final result should allow you to reconstruct a narrative-like structure to show the event in a nutshell. If you look at standard sports/events reporting, the shots give a sense of a story. There are other ways to think about your final result, but the means to get there will be your ability to be at the right moment for what you want to do.

    If you can plan enough your shooting scenario, then the question of what equipment to choose will probably resolve itself. You can shoot a horse-jumping race with an 8x10 if you want, if what you care about is that half second when the horse is standing still at the top of its jumping curve!
     
  12. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If the race is a criterium, basically a lap race on a closed course, a photographer can easily shoot great pictures with a 645 and 75 mm. A good place to be is on the inside of a turn whose apex draws the riders single file near the photographer. As a priveleged person ( the sponsor's photographer ) you can claim this place and let them come to you. You will need two friends, to keep people out of your way. A 4 foot ladder helps sometimes.

    A fast rider will be moving about 50 mm in 1/250 of a second, a slow rider half that. So, figure if the camera is standing still, you won't get anything in an 8x10 sharper than a 5mm blur. But panning, moving the camera with the riders as they sweep past, fixes that. If you are shooting with a leaf shutter or fast sync, a little flash can help, by letting the background go a little dark: just don't shoot a flash into their eyes.

    If you can get a meter or two from the cyclists, a wide angle lens is great.

    In any case, practice before the day. Cars going by, cyclists practising on the course... anything. If you're a rider, drag a couple friends out to let you get the hang of it.

    If you are shooting a road race, you will either be in an official car off the front, or on a motorcycle... on on the ground. Then, a longer lens is needed, but seldom longer than a 180 on a 35mm. Well, that depends on how fast the rider is, and how experienced the driver. If you are on the ground, find a big ladder, cherry picker, or SUV to shoot from.

    Have the club give you a written list of the shots; shoot negs and make incident readings on the generous side; have fun.

    .
     
  13. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Wow! Thank you everyone for all the great advice - it'll be helpful while I'm brushing up my action shooting skills in preperation for the event.

    By the way, Pinhoemaster, thanks for the link to Dave Burnett's work. Really amazing stuff there. I wonder which images were MF?

    Oh, and speaking of MF, I don't think I'm going to use it for the majority of my shooting but for some of the more artistic stuff, I think I'd like to have it along.

    Thanks again!
     
  14. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    See if you can catch a ride on the back of a Ducati....
     
  15. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Right! I'm sure there are LOTS of folks around here with those! LOL
     
  16. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Or a Beemer.

    Something than can turn and doesn't leak oil.

    :D

    Google "Graham Watson". Great race shooter.

    d
     
  17. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I already have - I loved looking at his work.
     
  18. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, it's almost time! Now before the big day, I have another question - this time about flash. DF, you mentioned this briefly... The one thing I am worried about it blinding a cyclist. But I know flash is used - I looked at Graham Watson's site and he apparently uses it all the time. So, any tips?

    p.s. Thanks again - having APUG as a resource makes me feel so much more confident about tackling a genre I am not used to.
     
  19. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Beings it seems to be a daytime shoot, I doubt you will have any problems with flash blinding the riders, they normally are moving fast enough and focused on what they are doing that they rarely if ever notice the flash going off, you will be using as fill flash right? the duration of the flash is really quite short.. Should be no problems..

    Dave