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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Sports Talk 
Thread started 30 Apr 2016 (Saturday) 17:28
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Settings for capturing runners?

 
sploo
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Apr 30, 2016 17:28 |  #1

This is actually a question about kids (specifically toddlers around the age of 2) but I felt the scenario is closer to what might be experienced by sports shooters - hence posting to this forum.

I've had mixed (but mostly poor) results getting shots of kids running towards the camera; with maybe 1 shot in 3 being remotely in focus, and probably 1 in 10 being really good.

I'm using a gripped 5D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. The 70-200 originally had some focussing issues I couldn't fix with MFA, so the lens and body had a CPS service (Canon confirmed the body was good, but that the lens did need some adjustment). Since then the lens has been good in general use, and produces razor sharp images when I hit focus.

However, I seem to have very little luck with this combo when trying to fire off bursts with a toddler running towards the camera. My initial attempts were around 1/500 and f/4 or f/5.6, and following advice on this site I've tried 1/1000 and f/8. I've also gone through most of the AF point modes (single point with either 4 or 8 expansion, zone, and auto [all]), and tried all of the AF Cases.

The lens has IS enabled (and I've tried mode 1 and 2) and 1.2m-infinity selected; as small people do tend to run right up to you, so the shortest MFD is useful.

I keep reading hyperbole about "no missed shots" with good gear, but am I being unrealistic in expecting a higher rate of success?

I have noticed some motion blur in extremities (i.e. hands) even at 1/1000, but often the problem seems to be that the plane of focus is too near to the camera (maybe by just 10cm), and sometimes it's hard to work out where it is at all (the whole image is slightly soft).

Any advice appreciated!


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TooManyShots
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Apr 30, 2016 17:33 |  #2
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I normally use 1/400s to 1/500s for bike racing. You don't need 1/1000 for kids.... :) :) Set the F stop at 5.6. Are you using the continuous focusing mode? Not AF-S or AF A. How about using the back button focus, not using the half press shutter button?


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May 01, 2016 05:49 |  #3

I have the same gear as you and you should expect no out of focus shots. What was your success with IS off?


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Hannya
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May 01, 2016 16:10 |  #4

You don't need IS. It slows the autofocus a bit. Use AI Servo, single point focus, make sure you give it that fraction of a second to lock on. Anything getting in the way might knock it off so try back button focus.


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sploo
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May 01, 2016 17:21 |  #5

TooManyShots wrote in post #17990901 (external link)
I normally use 1/400s to 1/500s for bike racing. You don't need 1/1000 for kids.... :) :) Set the F stop at 5.6. Are you using the continuous focusing mode? Not AF-S or AF A. How about using the back button focus, not using the half press shutter button?

AI Servo (i.e. continuous AF).

Something that was mentioned to me by a motor sport photographer was that he knows of corners on tracks that have bumps, and he struggles to get good shots (because the impact of the car going over the bump causes a sudden movement that results in blurred images). He pointed out that a runner will also be moving up and down with an impact on each step, so it's harder than a (usually smoother) motion of a wheeled vehicle moving towards you. That said, I was still surprised to see a bit of motion blur on a hand at 1/1000s.

rholly wrote in post #17991459 (external link)
I have the same gear as you and you should expect no out of focus shots. What was your success with IS off?

Well that was kinda my thought (that the hit rate should be better). I haven't tried without IS yet though - so that's next on the list.

Hannya wrote in post #17992143 (external link)
You don't need IS. It slows the autofocus a bit. Use AI Servo, single point focus, make sure you give it that fraction of a second to lock on. Anything getting in the way might knock it off so try back button focus.

I (almost) always get the camera locked on and let it track before the subject runs towards me.

In the scenario where you're half pressing the shutter button to get a lock, then squeezing it down at some point to fire off a burst, is there any benefit to back button focus?

One other thing that occurs to me - as a rough overview I tend to have anything from around 90-100mm focal length with the height of a toddler being just over half the frame height (in portrait) all the way up to 200mm with a chest and head framing. With adults you'd obviously be further back or zoomed out for the same sort of framing, so is it a case that being so close is expecting too much of the gear?


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TooManyShots
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May 01, 2016 22:19 |  #6
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You are over thinking the complexity of your subject and what he or she is doing. You are capturing kids running. There are no reasons why your $2k+ camera gear combined can not capture them correctly. Something is wrong with your lens or your camera or your settings. I am shooting with a $350 Nikon D7000 with a $300 Tamron 70-300 f4-5.6 zoom lens. I can get ultra sharp photos of adults racing with their bikes (traveling around 22 mph to 27mph)....just simply placing my AF point at the fast moving racers...and I can capture ultra sharp photos. Under low light situation when I have to use ISO 1600 to ISO 3200.


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sploo
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May 02, 2016 04:22 |  #7

TooManyShots wrote in post #17992479 (external link)
You are over thinking the complexity of your subject and what he or she is doing. You are capturing kids running. There are no reasons why your $2k+ camera gear combined can not capture them correctly. Something is wrong with your lens or your camera or your settings. I am shooting with a $350 Nikon D7000 with a $300 Tamron 70-300 f4-5.6 zoom lens. I can get ultra sharp photos of adults racing with their bikes (traveling around 22 mph to 27mph)....just simply placing my AF point at the fast moving racers...and I can capture ultra sharp photos. Under low light situation when I have to use ISO 1600 to ISO 3200.

Could well be. Although I didn't do it as much, I do recall taking a few similar bursts in the past with a 7D (mark I) and a 100L macro; with a decent hit rate. Probably not enough to call a problem with this current gear, but interesting nonetheless.

Perhaps I should contact CPS (especially given the gear had a service with them) and see what they think.


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Hannya
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May 12, 2016 10:58 |  #8

I've shot a number of 'informal' Park Run races. I sit down, shoot landscape mode. Kids can get nearer to you than adults without cropping bits out. AI Servo, centre point focus, settings around f/4, 1/1000th, iso400 (sitting in the shade). Not too difficult. What I try to do is catch the runner with feet off the ground. Flat footed is unflattering.
http://photodiva.zenfo​lio.com/p422678901/sli​deshow (external link)


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travisvwright
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May 12, 2016 11:33 |  #9

I think it would be beneficial to post some missed shots as examples. (With Exif hopefully.)


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sploo
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May 12, 2016 17:34 |  #10

Hannya wrote in post #18004617 (external link)
I've shot a number of 'informal' Park Run races. I sit down, shoot landscape mode. Kids can get nearer to you than adults without cropping bits out. AI Servo, centre point focus, settings around f/4, 1/1000th, iso400 (sitting in the shade). Not too difficult. What I try to do is catch the runner with feet off the ground. Flat footed is unflattering.
http://photodiva.zenfo​lio.com/p422678901/sli​deshow (external link)

Thanks. These shots are probably the closest to what I'm trying to do.

Roughly what focal lengths are you using though? I see you have some shots of kids, but in my case I'm shooting toddlers, so a fair bit smaller (and obviously much smaller than the adults).

travisvwright wrote in post #18004650 (external link)
I think it would be beneficial to post some missed shots as examples. (With Exif hopefully.)

Unfortunately there are privacy reasons that means I can't post the shots - which is frustrating; both because I'd want to in order to get assistance, but also for general critique (as I occasionally get a few good ones I'd like to share and get feedback).

In terms of "EXIF"; it's the full range of the 70-200, but most frequently between 80 and 160mm. I'd started at 1/500th, but more recently been using 1/1000th (I have seen motion blur in hands and even the head at that speed). I started around f/4, but have moved to f/8 to get more DOF.

Sometimes it looks as though the plane of focus is a bit off (and sometimes you can't even work out where it was - albeit it's probably not off by much). However, the lens is fine for pretty much any other scenario, and also in AI Servo.

I spoke to a local CPS guy who also suggested I turn IS off, but he mentioned using back button focus (BBF). I'm not totally convinced BBF would be useful in this scenario (I want the camera to focus all the time I'm taking those shots), so unless I've misunderstood something I don't think that'll be the solution.

Oh, he also mentioned configuring the AF to change AF points really quickly - the logic being that the camera will "give up" on the current AF point more quickly if it's struggling, and lock onto something else with detail. If the AF point happens to be on something unhelpful (e.g. a smooth bit of skin) then that will apparently delay AF just long enough that you probably will fail to track successfully.

I have generally been trying to put AF points over the subject's faces, but perhaps I should instead target the torso (usually, with toddlers, detailed tops, and maybe therefore better for focussing)? I guess the plane of the face should be reasonably similar to the chest, so maybe successfully tracking the torso will be better than struggling to track a face?

I will try without IS next time too though - apparently it does slow AF down a bit.


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May 12, 2016 18:11 |  #11

The 5D3 has a pile of focus settings to be able to tweak things to your liking. But, the most simple and basic part of the equation is back button focus (used correctly) and AI servo (set correctly). I find IS doesn't make a whole pile of difference either way, and I almost always have it on.

I have shot a number of very fast subjects with the 5D3 and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, in a pile of different lighting conditions. If you are using BBF and AI servo (with additional settings tweaked to your liking to ensure best performance), there is no reason to not be 10/10. These two pieces of equipment are really that good together.

If you are not getting 10/10 with BBF and AI Servo, you are making mistakes or your gear is malfunctioning. I'm not always 10/10, and when I'm not 10/10 it is very obvious in examining my photographs that the out of focus shots were a direct result of my errors: usually poor reaction time.

1/1000 sounds like a bit of overkill for toddlers. I typically shoot ice hockey at 1/640, and motion blur is rare.

Learn how to use BBF and AI Servo. It will make a world of difference. If you don't, you'll probably still be asking the same questions a year from now, and you'll be getting the same answers. It will work (unless your gear is broken, or you are making mistakes).


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sploo
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May 13, 2016 07:43 |  #12

neacail wrote in post #18005010 (external link)
The 5D3 has a pile of focus settings to be able to tweak things to your liking. But, the most simple and basic part of the equation is back button focus (used correctly) and AI servo (set correctly). I find IS doesn't make a whole pile of difference either way, and I almost always have it on.

I have shot a number of very fast subjects with the 5D3 and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, in a pile of different lighting conditions. If you are using BBF and AI servo (with additional settings tweaked to your liking to ensure best performance), there is no reason to not be 10/10. These two pieces of equipment are really that good together.

If you are not getting 10/10 with BBF and AI Servo, you are making mistakes or your gear is malfunctioning. I'm not always 10/10, and when I'm not 10/10 it is very obvious in examining my photographs that the out of focus shots were a direct result of my errors: usually poor reaction time.

1/1000 sounds like a bit of overkill for toddlers. I typically shoot ice hockey at 1/640, and motion blur is rare.

Learn how to use BBF and AI Servo. It will make a world of difference. If you don't, you'll probably still be asking the same questions a year from now, and you'll be getting the same answers. It will work (unless your gear is broken, or you are making mistakes).

Thanks... but can you (or someone) actually quantify the advantages of BBF for my scenario? My understanding of the advantage is that you can focus recompose (because focus and shutter are on two different buttons), but, for my application I'd want focus to be running the whole time I'm shooting a burst, so the only difference with BBF is that the focus button would be held and the shutter button would only be pressed during the actual shooting burst. Maybe having the shutter button half pressed is slowing things down because the camera is metering all the time? (but it seems odd that would affect AF performance).


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May 13, 2016 08:50 |  #13

sploo wrote in post #18005531 (external link)
Thanks... but can you (or someone) actually quantify the advantages of BBF for my scenario? My understanding of the advantage is that you can focus recompose (because focus and shutter are on two different buttons), but, for my application I'd want focus to be running the whole time I'm shooting a burst, so the only difference with BBF is that the focus button would be held and the shutter button would only be pressed during the actual shooting burst. Maybe having the shutter button half pressed is slowing things down because the camera is metering all the time? (but it seems odd that would affect AF performance).

With BBF and AI Servo (both are very important parts of the equation) you press the back button to lock focus on your subject. Keep the button pressed. AI Servo (which is spectacular in the 5D3) will keep the focus locked on your subject, and as your subject moves it will continue to keep focus locked on your subject. The AI Servo in the 5D3 is so good that I can track an ice hockey player from face-off through an entire play and keep that same player in perfect focus, with my index finger poised on the shutter button, and ready to capture a series of shots. There is no waiting to lock focus. There is no wondering about focus. It just works. It allows for instant response.

There are a lot of ways to tweak AI Servo in the 5D3 to get the best performance for what you're shooting, but the AI Servo presets are the best place to start. I personally find that AF point expansion (4 points) really helps as well.

Now, here comes my "tough love" rant. I'm hesitant to do this over the internet as things can really get lost in the translation, but I'm hoping to put things in perspective for you. I don't want to come across as harsh, and if I was saying this to you face to face and you were able to see my body language and expressions this would be so much easier.

With my T1i and an EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM shooting ice hockey (AI Servo, shutter button focus), my cull rate was 90% based on missed/soft focus.

With a 70D and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (AI servo, shutter button focus) my cull rate went down to 80% due to soft/missed focus. In changing to BBF and learning how to use it my cull rate due to missed/soft focus went down to 50%. That is really significant. I was skeptical about BBF, but the numbers don't lie. It worked.

With the 5D3 (BBF and AI Servo) and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II my cull rate due to missed focus is under 5%. Notice that I don't get soft focus anymore. I just get missed focus when I make a mistake. It happens when I've locked on to the wrong subject, and I'll lose a bunch of photographs in a row as I wasn't focused on the player I was actually shooting.

Let's sum that up . . .

I had the same focus hit rate with a T1i and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM as you do with a 5D3 and a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. Toddlers are not fast (I walk faster than they can run). They are very erratic (which is part of what makes them so challenging). Hockey players are fast and erratic.

With the same gear as you, I have a 95%+ hit rate shooting subjects that are just as erratic but much faster than your subjects.

You have asked for advice here and from and from a CPS professional. You are reluctant to follow that advice. You have very capable equipment. If you are not going to learn how to utilize it to best ensure your success you should sell it, pick up a Rebel, and put the left over funds in your children's college funds.

This is where I would give you a hug if you were here with me, and then we'd go out to shoot so I could teach you how to use BBF and AI Servo.

But, you aren't here. All I can do is ask you to please try it. Switch to BBF, remove focus from your shutter button, really invest the time in learning how to use BBF (it will seem really weird and awkward at first) and AI Servo. Ask for advice and help as you work with it. Don't let initial frustration push you back to the shutter button for focus. Once you get the hang of it, it will absolutely change your photography for the better.


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May 13, 2016 09:28 |  #14

sploo wrote in post #17990895 (external link)
This is actually a question about kids (specifically toddlers around the age of 2) but I felt the scenario is closer to what might be experienced by sports shooters - hence posting to this forum.

I've had mixed (but mostly poor) results getting shots of kids running towards the camera; with maybe 1 shot in 3 being remotely in focus, and probably 1 in 10 being really good.

I'm using a gripped 5D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. The 70-200 originally had some focussing issues I couldn't fix with MFA, so the lens and body had a CPS service (Canon confirmed the body was good, but that the lens did need some adjustment). Since then the lens has been good in general use, and produces razor sharp images when I hit focus.

However, I seem to have very little luck with this combo when trying to fire off bursts with a toddler running towards the camera. My initial attempts were around 1/500 and f/4 or f/5.6, and following advice on this site I've tried 1/1000 and f/8. I've also gone through most of the AF point modes (single point with either 4 or 8 expansion, zone, and auto [all]), and tried all of the AF Cases.

The lens has IS enabled (and I've tried mode 1 and 2) and 1.2m-infinity selected; as small people do tend to run right up to you, so the shortest MFD is useful.

I keep reading hyperbole about "no missed shots" with good gear, but am I being unrealistic in expecting a higher rate of success?

I have noticed some motion blur in extremities (i.e. hands) even at 1/1000, but often the problem seems to be that the plane of focus is too near to the camera (maybe by just 10cm), and sometimes it's hard to work out where it is at all (the whole image is slightly soft).

Any advice appreciated!


Set the camera to AV mode and shoot at the largest aperture (f2.8)
Adjust the ISO so that you get a minimum shutter speed of 1/640 or faster.
Use the centre focusing point.
Set the camera to the fastest drive rate and shoot in short bursts of three to four frames.
Turn off image stabilisation it has no effect at fast shutter speeds.
Using BBF or the shutter button to focus makes no difference.


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May 13, 2016 09:44 |  #15

john crossley wrote in post #18005625 (external link)
Using BBF or the shutter button to focus makes no difference.

I find it curious that you find no difference. BBF more than doubles my keeper rate based on focus issues.

But, I think this reinforces the point that the OP should try it. I would be very surprised (shocked, actually) if the focus based keeper rate wasn't improved, but if it wasn't improved there should be no reduction in the keeper rate. And thus, there is absolutely no reason for the OP not to learn how to use it if there is only the room for potential gain and not loss: once the kinks in the technique are ironed out.


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