Yes, the flash duration determines the speed of the exposure and not the shutter speed. With studio strobes and a focal plane shutter, if you set your shutter at a higher speed than the sync speed of the camera, only part of the frame will be exposed, and part will be black usually. If that's not the case in this situation, then it is likely that the flash is weak compared to the ambient lighting.
The way that high speed on-camera flash works is to flash repeatedly as the shutter slit moves across the frame, but it does so usually at the expense of power, so you can't usually get the maximum power out of your flash this way.
If you are using a handheld flash meter, it should measure the flash output independent of the shutter speed set on the meter. Try setting the meter at various shutter speeds and firing the flash, and you should get the same f-stop no matter what the shutter speed, unless it is metering flash+ambient, and then you might get a smaller f-stop when you are using a fairly long shutter speed.
A powerful studio strobe has a fairly long flash duration at full power--maybe 1/500 sec. That's why for dance photography, one might use several heads at low power, rather than one head at high power. Your heads have a flash duration of 1/1600 sec. at full power, according to the Buff website. At half power they have twice that speed, etc.
Panning skills are essential and I can assure you that people that make their livings shooting sports do it well. But panning isn't going to get you tack-sharp beads of sweat flying off the dunking player's brow, frozen in mid-flight. Even with all the camera skills in the world, there are things that can be accomplished with massive amounts of fast-syncing light that cannot be without it.
Jim makes a good point about panning, and I pan regularly.You have to, in order to follow the action on the court. I did a major tournament two weeks ago and set the strobes up, pointing into a ceiling corner. Fired the strobes at 100%, shot ASA200, 1/250 and f3.5 to 4.2. I took some of the best shots I have taken this year. Again, probably 1/3 of the images were blurred to some extent, so I went back and looked at them.
What I think is happening is that it's an auto focus issue. In all the poor images, there was always a section, or player that was in focus - but not always on the "key player". The auto focus sensor that I select is in the center of the matrix, and apparently it sometimes will pick up a on a spot that is not where I want to capture action - like a player behind the "action".
The strobes are a bit of a pain to set up, but I have it down to about 20 minutes from the time I open the bag to when I am ready to shoot. I'd be hard pressed to go back to available light, 800ASA f 1.4 - f1.8 shooting unless forced to do so. The enhanced light and stop action is much superior and provides me with more usable images. On Camera flash is an option, but delivers very harsh shadows and offers limited floor coverage.
When we publish to our website for sales we usually load about 1/4 to 1/3 of the take - so out of 100 to 150 shots 35-50 might end up on line. Some are not crisp, some don't have enough interest or action, and some are just not good enough to load. When I first started shooting basketball 4 years ago, I'd shoot 300 plus shots in one game - and If I got 10 decent ones, I was happy, so I guess time, experience, lighting and technique all help.
Wat gear are you using? Nikon? Canon?
Originally Posted by tahoe2k
Speedotron makes a "sports" reflector so somebody must be using studio lights for sports. The 16" [I think it's 16"] is supposed to really concentrated the power. When you consider how big some of the Speedotron lights are the fact that an added special purpose reflector is needed speaks to how much power people feel is needed.
I have a tele-reflector that I use with my Norman portables on camera sometimes for bird photos. They're pretty powerful. Should be plenty for sports.
The effect is pretty straight-on, but it does get the light in there, when there might otherwise be no other options--
Alternately, there are fresnel attachments like the Better Beamer and such that can be used with dedicated flash units, so they work with TTL flash metering.
A Norman, on camera...producing enough light to light and freeze the subject will not likely be balanced with the ambient light. You'll get a nice darkness behind that high-flying basketballer. Four ceiling mounted high power strobes illuminate everything in the shot evenly from anywhere in the arena (thank you, inverse square law). With a radio trigger, the shooter is free to roam and know he's got every shot lit. Virtually all Division I and absolutely all NBA arenes have at least one set and often many sets hung.
I shoot a pair of Nikon D1H's and my prime basketball lens is an f2.8 80-200. I also carry an f1.8 85mm for under the basket shots, but you have to move around a lot more. White Lightning makes an 11" reflector for sports shgooting that will be my next acquisition. I use WL s radio triggers, and only shoot one end of the court w/ the two X1600 strobes. I'd love to put two strobes on the other end and shoot both ends as jstraw says - but, that's a "next investment".
I been experimenting with basketball shots, too. And I, too, use a DSLR (though I promise to use a Nikon F100 once I get better at this). I most often use a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 lens. The 1.5 crop works well. But I don't use flash for fear of disturbing the players.
This brings up a good point...the rafter-mounted strobes fire many many times per game...at many games that many people here have attended. We tend to be oblivious to them. So do the players. On-camera flash is another story...
Originally Posted by Robert Budding