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Florida Baseball- Beware 13 shots!

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The real reason for my trip to Florida this past week was to shoot college baseball. 9 games in 6 days and over 8,000 shots. Games went from 9:00am to 11:00pm in bright sun and partly cloudy skys and crappy night lights. Just something different to look at besides our normal outdoor related photography.

Virtually all shots were with the 300/2.8 with and without the 1.4TC. ISO's anywhere from 250 to 3200, shutter speeds as high as I could get away with, normally 1/3200s to 1/8000s.

#1 Home run


#2 That dirt is really that red.


#3 Just missed.


#4 Dropped the ball


#5 Wasn't even close in spite of the guy in the background saying safe!


#6 Whoops forgot to catch the ball.


#7 Catching a grounder and turning two.


#8 This was a whole sequence of shots on a hard hit grounder that the 2nd baseman made, threw the guy out at 1st.


#9 Tough stop and play, the next shot was the attempted throw to 2nd.




#11 Play at two.


#12 Toss to turn two again.


#13 And the last shot a dropped ball at home.


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Mike geeze don't start letting me think I know what the heck I'm doing! Sheer volume of shots will let a blind squirrel find an acorn now and again. You know all about nailing shots buddy!

Ken, yeah I think I need to revise my submission shots. I honestly have a couple hundred more like this, I just don't know what to narrow it down to. I want clean backgrounds, nothing behind and nice tight, sharp shots.

I am going to e-mail you tomorrow and go over some different selections and get your advice. Thanks again Ken!

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Great stuff Dan! Can't wait until baseball visits our part of the world. That mound in #2 looks like it would be awesome to throw off of. I can't remember what that is like. The mounds we get to use in senior league baseball all have the big hole for the plant foot to get lost in.

Your third photo reminds me of a shot I took during one of my games last summer.


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That shot does look similar WCS! Biff that dirt was like powder, you could almost get lost in it. Don't believe that it has seen much water this spring.

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MD, Dan's talent is at least the equal of his glass, and probably better. That's not faint praise, by the way. The old saw that there are a lot more pieces of fine equipment out there than fine photographers is true, and I still haven't learned to get the best out of all my equipment.

And I see by your avatar you're shooting the 100-400. That's also a very fine piece of glass, only slightly less sharp than the 300, though slower by two stops. It makes an excellent outdoor sports lens, particularly in good light, which is one way I've used it for the four years I've had it.

It would be fun to take your kit down to a local softball or legion baseball game when everything thaws and give it a whirl. Action sports photography is the most demanding photography, both on equipment and reflexes. Even though I don't need to shoot it anymore, I still go down to the diamond now and then to get back in the groove. It's amazing how long it takes me to get my timing and anticipation and reflexes back after not having been there. And it's just plain fun, too, especially if you like sports.

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Hey picksbigwagon shoot me an e-mail now I need to know who that was. I am sure she has a lot of pictures of her son. I shot around 8,000 or so.

[email protected]

waterhazard, the very same UMD Bulldogs that are now National champions in womens hockey!

Mtdew, thank you for the kind words. I have a business that specializes in this type of photography as does finnbay and Steve dables in this as well, so I do need to be able to produce quality work. I certainly strive to do that every time I click the shutter, if I don't I will not be turning a profit for very long. Good equipment makes that job easier no doubt grin.gif

Steve, your very generous words in my case are indeed appreciated.

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Steve, you're right. Takes reflexes and talent to get the shots. I'm VERY impressed how Dan got the action shots very well.

I've taken a quite few shots during the games. Mostly indoor games. Before I used the 70-200/2.8 lens, I used the 100-400/4.5-5.6, they turned out a bit noisy, because there wasn't enough light indoor. It was during my kids baskeball games.

As soon I got the 70-200 lens, they looked alot better. I really don't have alot of shooting gaming experience at all. In fact, I've only started. I've spent alot of time adjusting the camera settings to get what I want. I mean, it was hard to get the settings manually. It's almost in every different angle/light situation you'd have to change the settings. Mostly on the exposure and ISO settings. Usually I'd have in the AV mode. I'm trying to get in the habit of staying in that mode because I'd like to have it in both RAW and JPEG is great for PP reasons. So it's very tricky in indoor games. I need more experience in those situations.

I can't wait for outdoor sports to start! This would be where the 100-400 come in. My son is going out for football this year. But it won't be till end of summer when that starts. Sadly, both of my kids won't take baseball this year. Too much stuff going on. Time during summer usually takes up time with everything I do in the everyday life, like workin' outside, big garden, 10 acres of mowing land, outdoor chores, etc. So, it'd be hard for me to have time just to go other games which it doesn't involve me to go to. But I would love to have the time to do it and have fun with the camera!

I would LOVE to get into sports photography. I'm going to try to spend time on shooting pictures on fishermen when I get out on the lake and fish!

Dan, your pictures are amazing. And it takes alot of talent just to do that. Amazing...just amazing.

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Hey MD, I shot indoor and outdoor sports for a newspaper for four years, so that's where I've gotten my experience. Part of my photography but not all of it.

For outdoor sports, I only ever really used the 100-400, though I had a few stints using the 70-200 f2.8 for football under the lights, and that was a lot of fun.

My settings for typical daytime outdoor sports were manual settings whenever the light was consistent (full sun or consistent cloud cover), generally iso400 or 800, aperture at f8 (for best combination of shutter speed and sharpness on the 100-400), and a shutter speed that varied from 1/400 to 1/2000 or higher, depending on light conditions. To get this dialed in (I generally wanted faces exposed right and didn't mind a SMALL amount of blowout on white jerseys in bright sun), I'd take test shots and use the histogram to dial it in.

In changing light conditions I kept my camera in Av mode, generally at iso400 or 800 and also at f8, using iso to adjust in case it was getting a bit too low light for what I needed. Sometimes I'd bump iso down to 200 if it was very bright.

In either case I stuck with Al servo focus mode and the center focus point (the center focus point is the most sensitive on all Canon DSLRs except for the "1" series bodies.)

For Dan's and finnbay's work, that extra two stops afforded by f2.8 lenses over the f5.6 of the 100-400 is important because they most often want to freeze all or as many as possible aspects of the scene. For my work that was less important. As long as faces and torsos were sharp, some blur in legs and arms was OK, so I could get by with slower shutter speeds.

Dan and Ken can chime in with their perspectives and settings, which as I said are somewhat different than mine.

For baseball/softball, you'll be OK for most infield shooting with the reach of the 70-200 (if you're shooting from behind one of the baselines or near a dugout), though you'll want the reach of the 100-400 for outfield shots. For football that 70-200 will do you really well in many situations if you need that extra speed of an f2.8. In daytime football, I stuck with the 100-400 because it was plenty fast for those conditions, and I had an especially good time shooting with the reach of that lens from behind the end zones.

The flexibility of the zoom also allowed me to capture on-the-fly compositions I couldn't have gotten with a telephoto prime lens, but that's true in any fast-developing situation, not just sports.

Good luck with it, and have a blast! grin.gif

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That is great information. Thanks so much! I had it pretty much the right settings as you said except for the Al servo focus. I had it in Al focus setting...also had them in center focus point too. Wonder if that made that much of a difference? Will change them to Al servo focus and try it.

Thanks again Steve! What a GREAT helpful site!

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MD, I never trusted that Al focus could detect the difference between static and moving subjects fast enough to switch gears automatically, like Canon claimed. Seemed like more of a marketing gimmick to me than anything. I played around with it for a couple months experimenting and then gave up on it.

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Just to add to Steve I agree the AI Focus is for the most part worthless with most moving objects! Most sports shooters also separate their focus from the shutter button. This is done with most Canon bodies with Custom Function #4 I use option #3 with in that custom function.

So what this means is that in order to engage the auto focus you must push the * button the back of the camera. When you push the shutter button you are only taking the picture. What does it matter you ask? Lets look at a situation. Lets say since we have baseball pictures here that you are shooting pictures of the batter.

You are on the third base side with the camera set to center point only, AI Servo. You fill the frame with all batter but you also realize the the batter moves forward during the swing along with the bat so you want to actually put the batter in the right side of the viewfinder to allow for the movement. The problem with that is now your center point focus is not on the batter at all but on something behind, a dugout, fence, etc. So what happens when you go to push the shutter during the swing? Most likely you will have an out of focus shot because the camera focus system could not keep up with the speed of the swing and quick movement of the batter.

If you use the CF4,3 to move focus to the * button you don't have this problem. Focus on the batter in the box, let up on the * to stop the focus and now recompose the batter in the viewfinder on the right side. When the batter swings just push the shutter button to take the photo. Everything is in focus!

This is only one good use of * button focusing there are others. I use it for all of my shooting, especially portraits, family shots, sports, wildlife. The only downside to this is handing the camera to someone to take a photo and they can't get the focus to work!

Steve has given you good advice on the 100-400 and the settings to use. I used that lens for one outdoor season with mixed results, but I also had a soft copy of that lens. Two of the biggest factors with sports shooting lenses are light gathering ability, f2.8 or faster and the other is the ability to get out of focus backgrounds or bokeh. So many of the venues you shoot at have distracting backgrounds and the 2.8 lens will allow you do get good smooth out of focus backgrounds concentrating on the subject not the background. That is one of the biggest things that will separate your sports shot from one that is taken from a slower lens or one with variable aperture, which most slow lenses are.

If I shoot in Av like these shots because of changing light conditions I generally will ride the exposure compensation (EC) a fair amount. Shooting under harsh bright light will result in underexposure of the skin and depending on the backgrounds the entire subject itself. As Steve mentioned sports shooters are more concerned with proper exposure of the face so you generally accept some blown highlights. With white uniforms that will happen. With dark colored jerseys I will be using at least +2/3 maybe even up to +1 EC. With all white uniforms I may not need EC or maybe +1/3. Backgrounds will require the same thinking. There are also times such as late in the day when looking for a certain look to the photo where you may want -EC. A ball to stand out against a dark background or out of focus pitcher with a ball sharply exposed half-way to home (called the Detrick Shot after Salt Lake Tribune photographer Chris Detrick who was the first to publish this type of shot).

Sports shooting is not easy, there are so many variables at play and things happen at a very fast pace. You usually only get once chance to get "the money shot". If you or your camera are not properly set up to get that shot you end up with nothing.

I've shot wildlife for years and most other types of photography, but I have never found a subject like sports that constantly pushed my abilities on a daily basis. As many of the wildlife photographers can tell you there is great excitement in getting that "shot" after waiting and setting yourself up to get it. Sports does that for me now, get into the proper position, with the right gear and the moment and bamb....you get the shot.

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An excellent example of different needs and preferences leading to different shooting styles, Dan.

I have used the * focus technique in certain situations and found it very useful. I didn't use it in sports in the example Dan mentioned because I was generally able to back off my zoom enough to keep the center focus point on part of the batter, and because newspaper resolution is only about 180ppi, I was able to get away with cropping, which is much harder to do when a person needs to make top quality prints for clients, which generally need 300ppi and aren't as easy crop and still get large prints because of it.

One other reason the * feature makes good sense in focusing is it lets users keep the * focus depressed with their thumb and leave their forefinger available to spin the top dial to change certain settings before tripping the shutter.

So if you have the camera up and are focusing on a subject and need to keep Al servo focus locked (like with bird-in-flight and many other types of action shots like sports,) you just keep the * button depressed with your thumb, check exposure through the viewfinder and if you decide you want a different combo of shutter speed/aperture, you can maintain focus with your thumb, spin the top dial with your forefinger and the hit the shutter with your forefinger to take the image.

Because I sometimes go quite awhile without picking up my cameras (several days at a time, sometimes), I generally stay with one style of focus button rather than switching back and forth. Too much potential to forget which one I've got activated at the moment and miss a key grab shot.

It takes some practice and shooting to figure out which way is best for you. And that's the key, finding the way that works best for your style and comfort. Many DSLRs these days offer several different combinations of controls to accomplish the same task. This is especially true when you get to and past the mid-priced bodies. With Canon, the aforementioned technique will work with cameras from the XT on up, though the more fancy redundancies don't start until the 20D/30D/40D series, reaching their apex on the "1" series bodies Dan and Ken typically use.

I should also say, MD, that while the "1" series bodies, and in particular the 1DMk2, Mk2n and Mk3, are the class of the industry for sports photographers, I did most of my work with the 20D/30D and XT, and that equipment produced many fine sports photographs.

All that experimenting. It's part of the fun! grin.gif

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