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Old 08-17-03, 07:33 PM   #1
epicycle
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Race Photography

I went to the US Pro Criterium Championships in Downers Grove Illinois this weekend, some great racing. Anyhow while I was there I took quite a few pictures wiht my digital camera and a few turned out but more than often they ended up blurry. I have control of the different focus, speed, f stop, iso settings, etc ... not that I know how they apply to fast events like cycling.

So, I was wondering if people could give me some pointers so that my photos don't end up so blurry next time. What speed, iso, f stop etc do people use? How should I varry these under different conditions like downhill and uphills etc? Also, my camera has a ton of differetn focus settings but I couldn't seem to get it to focus on the bikers, instead it got the background perfectly in most of the pics.

FYI have a Coolpix 4300 with tons of CF storage. Thanks for the help everyone ... I look forward to your replies.

Sean

P.S. I'll try to post a few pics once I sort through all of the rubbish.
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Old 08-17-03, 07:42 PM   #2
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Whoa, I was there too! All weekend! And I got a great burn all over my shoulders to prove it!

I'm also in the process of downloading my pics onto my computer and posting. Luckily, mine are not blurry- set your shutter speed higher, that should help. Also, I noticed the angle you would take the pics of the riders from made a difference too. If they were whizzing around a corner, pics tended to be a bit blurred, but if you got them as they were riding past you (straight in front of you) or coming at you, pics came out crystal clear.

I ended up with 163 clear, beautiful shots. Just downloading all of them now and getting ready to post a few of them for now...

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Old 08-17-03, 07:59 PM   #3
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Let me know where you post them to, I'd be interested in checking them out. I got fried as well, my wife gave me the 3rd for not wearing sun block.

I played with a lot of things on my camera and the shutter speed was one of them. I think that the focus was the biggest problem. Do you use a digital camera? How do you set up your focusing? I have a centered, matrix, dot, and a few other options for focus. The lighting was fine, generally it was things weren't focused enough.
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Old 08-17-03, 08:26 PM   #4
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epicycle can you post some examples of your focus problems? Do you think the camera is out of focus or the shutter speed too slow?

As Koffee said I would try a faster shutter speed. Depending on how much light you have I would try to shoot with the lowest ISO, high shutter speed (1/500+) and let the aperature fall where it does. Your camera should have a shutter priority mode, that should be the easiest. The smaller digital cameras have some limiting factors for shooting sports. Are the bikes you are shooting in the same spot when they come by? If so you could switch to manual focus/manual exposure and be prefocused for the action, just focus on the point they will cross, pan (follow) the action through the before, taking and after the shot, hold the shutter release half-way down it should reduce the shutter lag. The AF to your particular camera may or may not be great to follow action, you could always go and test it on the sidewalk trying to follow cars, that way when you are at a race you will be ready to go. Also try different shutter speeds and panning to see what you can get. That is the great thing with digital is the bad shots do not cost anything.

Here are a couple quick examples that I shot, testing my camera. Sorry all I have at the moment, at least they are two wheeled, even if they cheat with motors.

This shot had a much higher shutter speed, notice that the wheel are almost stopped even thought the motorcycle was going very fast.



This photo has a slightly slower shutter speed. Panning with the action blurs the background while keeping the rider/bike mostly in focus. Notice the difference in the wheels, showing much more motion.



I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any questions.
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Old 08-17-03, 08:30 PM   #5
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There's a few things you need to know about consumer digital cameras and fast-moving sports photography.

1) They suck
2) See #1




At high shutter speeds a digital camera usually has trouble getting enough light onto the sensor.

That said here's how I (I'm far from a pro) get the best results from my Nikon 990.

- forget aperture, set the shutter a good right speed (1/250 or faster... experiment) and let the camera set exposure. Take some test shots in a earlier race and view them on the display. Use your exposure lock feature if the conditions aren't changing.

- Adjust EV to get a good exposure

- Manual focus. Pick a object about the same distance as where you're planning on catching the riders and focus the camera on that spot. Lock the focus there.

- "Rapid-fire". If your camera has a multi-shot or continuous shot mode then use it. I'll usually fill the camera's buffer (5 shots) for each shot I want.

- Riders coming towards you are easier to catch sharply then those moving across the frame. This pic was taken at 1/250s... I needed 1/500s to catch the lead guy.



- If the rider is moving across the frame consider panning along with his motion. You'll blur the background but the rider should be sharp.

- If your camera supports an external flash then I've read that such a flash is pretty good for freezing the rider's motion. That said I don't know the tricks of the trade for using a flash in daylight.
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Old 08-17-03, 08:35 PM   #6
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Whoa!

I'm sure my pics won't be as sharp- I wanted more pics, so I chose a smaller file size... still, the majority of the pics I took ended up well. I still f- up some of my pics for unknown reasons.

I'm definitely in agreement about digital cameras- I have one, but I'd prefer a professional cannon camera, 35 mm, with lots of different lenses so I can do different types of shots. I have a plan in the works to get a new camera in a couple of months, and start taking photography classes so I can learn how to use the camera and take good shots.

Pics will be forthcoming- I started a thread called something like "Great Race, Bad Burn". I'll be posting some of my pics there for now.

Koffee
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Old 08-17-03, 08:53 PM   #7
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I did cheat with my photos and use a Canon EOS 1D. It has incredibly fast focusing, virtually no shutter lag, a real viewfinder, 8fps/21frame buffer and a real fast lens. I also have a Canon S50 that I bike with and I took some photos with a friend of mine when we were riding and I did use the continiuous mode and it did well.

Here is the result with the S50 and contiuous drive mode.



The prices and quality of DSLR's is coming down a lot. The new Canon 10D is a lot of camera for the money if you can live with the 1.6 focus multiplier. The best part is they keep getting better and cheaper. I use http://www.smugmug.com/ to host my photo galleries, I am a very happy user. They are simple to use, cheap and give you a huge bandwidth allowance. They are similar to pbase, check them out if you are looking for a way to upload all of you photos at once without needing to resize them, the site handles the work for you.
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Old 08-18-03, 03:20 AM   #8
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I'd concure with Patch. Use manual focus and pre-focus on a patch of ground. Follow the riders and take the shot as they come into your pre-focussed zone. Calibrate the shutter lag so you know how to take the picture before they reach the focus zone. Pan the shot. You can use background blur creatively to give a sense of speed, but master sharp photos first.
Try using a tripod or support.
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