Lessons from East Kilbride Pirates at Yorkshire Rams

This was my second day out photographing one of our local american football teams, the Yorkshire Rams. Here is what I learned…

Set the white balance manually. During the Lancashire Wolverines game I left it on auto, whereas in this game I manually set it to cloudy and left it there. The photos came out a bit cold in the first game and a little inconstant too. This time they have a more consistent, warm feel.

An exposure of 1/500 is not fast enough to freeze the action. It is OK for players running around but when the ball is being thrown, you need at least 1/1000. When I photograph birds in flight I use 1/1250, and the ball is probably moving faster than that, so makes sense.

I tried taking off my 2x extender and just using my 70-200mm lens (whereas with the extender on I would get a focal range of 140-400mm), as this allowed me to open the aperture up to 2.8. I didn’t see much benefit though, I was already shooting at around ISO 100, so I simply didn’t need to open it up to that unless I specifically wanted to do so, and while that allows me to easily blur at the background, it makes it difficult to keep everything in focus. So 140-400mm f5.6 it is then; it is broad daylight after all.

I also tried increasing the ISO to 3200 in an attempt to get a much greater depth of field. This allowed me to work at up to f11 even at 400mm, again I didn’t see a great deal of difference, but I might give it another go next time and see if I can shoot some catches and plays where I don’t have time to re-focus the camera.

I used AI servo and back button focusing for this shoot. That means I turned off auto focus activation when you press the shutter half way down (I posted a video on how to do this a few weeks ago), and used a button on the back to activate it instead. Because it is in AI servo mode (continuous auto focus), I could then press this button on the back to focus, hold it if I wanted it to work continuously and then release when I wanted to take a shot, or even leave it going the whole time. Mostly I focused and then left it alone, unless the action started coming towards or away from me.

There is also an element of luck to it. I was shooting in continuous mode, but cameras can only take so many shots per second, and given a kick of a throw takes less than one, being able to capture the exact moment comes down to chance. Of course, the more expensive your camera is, the more it can take – my 6D clocks in at 4.5 I think, whereas if you have a 5D Mark III it can take up to 6.

You can find some of the photos in a
previous blog post.

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