dmwierz wrote in post #3971863
My stepson's middle school actually PAID somebody to shoot their volleyball and basketball teams a couple years ago (before I made the break to full-time photography, and while I was gainfully employed elsewhere) and at the end-of-season banquet, they showed a slideshow of this person's images during the student-parent dinner. He had shot with a Rebel XT (nothing wrong with the camera, btw), a kit lens and a EF 75-300/4-5.6 lens. From our seats we were able to easily watch the presentation, and as we sat through the 15 minute show cleverly put to music, I counted 2 images where we could actually recognize the subject. This was out of hundreds and hundreds of photos. All the others were either grossly under-exposed or way, way out of focus. He tried to take action shots at shutter speeds of around 1/80s and 1/125s, with nowhere near enough light, and with focal lengths of 55mm. Even when he used his telephoto, the aperture was so small and the resulting shutter speed so slow that he got horrible motion blur in the players and awful camera shake from his own inability to keep his rig steady (the old 1/(focal length) = shutter speed rule for maximum shutter speeds), and the players were all dark and unrecognizeable. Every so often an image would come up where he shot with a window in the background (installed high on the wall in the gym) and in this case, all you could see is the window, and you couldn't even tell where the image was shot. In fact, in many of the images, we had trouble figuring out if it was basketball or volleyball that was being photographed.
Dennis, I had a similar experience at a sports banquet a few years ago. In this case it was soccer, and the coach had pulled still images out of his video that he shot. Of course, his video source was an old VHS-C camcorder which in no way could produce good stills. The girls on the team appreciated his efforts, and I'm sure he spent countless hours working on it, but it really wasn't much to look at. Like you said, it was real hard to even tell who the players were.
I don't think people appreciate how hard it is to shoot indoor sports. Every year, the first couple of weeks in january the gyms are full of people with their new digital cameras taking pictures... flashes and red-eye reduction strobes going off all over the place. Within two weeks, there isn't another camera in the gym except for the pros. It is just a simple matter of physics... not enough light to work with.
dd, I hope you don't think we are being snobby jerks here... I am tying to be as genuine as I can. I took a look at your gallery and you obiously have some skills. If you were shooting something outdoors, then it would be a different story... you'd be able to do pretty well... but indoors without very fast lenses won't work. I realize you said you don't make money from your photos... which is why I suggested a $300 lens (85mm f/1.8) instead of the $4000 lens (200mm f/1.8) that I use for volleyball. The 85mm would be good for a lot of indoor sports, so if you are shooting pictures of your kids, then you need to consider the value of capturing them doing something that they love. You could use this lens for concerts, plays, volleyball, basketball, and pretty much anything indoors that you needed a medium telephoto for. Perhaps you could split the cost with the other person that was going to shoot with you and you guys could share it.
Here are a few examples in an average high school gym to illustrate the point...
This was shot with a 135 f/2 lens on a 1D Mark IIN ... so the focal length would be similar to an 85mm f/1.8 on your body. This was shot at f/2, ISO1600, and I just got 1/400s shutter speed, which is marginal to stop action... notice that there is still some blur.
And you could end up with even worse light... this was in a much bigger school, but horrible gym lighting. This was shot at f/1.8, ISO3200, and I could only get 1/320s shutter speed. The lens was the 200 f/1.8, but I couldn't get courtside for this, so needed the extra range.
So think about the largest aperture your lens will go to. If its f/4, then that's two full stops slower than f/2. So if my math is correct, and if your gym has the lighting of that last image, you'd be done around 1/80s, if you are able to get f/4, and most consumer zoom lenses don't hold f/4 at the longer ends. Bottom line is you'll have a lot of very blurry images. The images I posted is what you shold be able to get with an 85 f/1.8. If that is too expensive, then even the 50mm f/1.8 would work if you can get courtside. That lens is about $100.