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D300 focus settings for mountain bike photography


vxrich 1 3
8 Oct 2013 12:45PM
Hi Guys

Bit of advice needed please. Starting to do some mountain bike shots on my local trails but having problems getting the subject sharp? Im using the D300 with a Sigma EX 70-300 lens and a db800 flash. Im trying to get the bikers sharp and lit up and the background blurry and slightly under exposed but the bikers are always out of focus! The bikes are generally coming towards me,ambient light is good,using a fast shutter etc. Any advice on focus settings/techniques would be great

Cheers

Rich

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sparrowhawk e2
6 268 2 United Kingdom
8 Oct 2013 12:57PM
i would say continuous and if you have it auto tracking ! another technique is panning but make sure the subject is in the centre of the frame ! hope this helps
vxrich 1 3
8 Oct 2013 1:34PM
Thanks for the advice. Ive tried all of these which is making me think its my technique?
Gundog 1 624 Scotland
8 Oct 2013 1:40PM
Are you sure the bikes are out of focus - rather than being blurred?

Remember that, with the D300, you need to apply the crop factor to the normal reciprocal rule for determining minimum shutter speed.

If you are using that zoom at the long end of its range, you need at worst, 1/450th to avoid motion blur. That's faster than your normal flash sync speed.
vxrich 1 3
8 Oct 2013 7:43PM
The photos are blurred (motion blur I guess) Also tried using a really fast shutter without the flash but still not happy?
11 Oct 2013 8:18AM
Assuming your camera normally autofocuses OK getting sharp pictures of the riders coming directly toward you relatively slowly uphill should not be difficult even at a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/60.
Cyclists coming downhill toward you at 45 degrees at 35 mph may need at least 1/2000 - and 1/8000 if you want to zoom in to head and shoulders.
I presume your zoom is f5.6 which is not ideal for AF with fast moving subjects.
It is possible you do not have the camera and flash set to 1/250 sync. At 1/60 you may be getting a sharp flash image on top of motion blur exposure at 1/60.
Another possibility is, if you try to take cyclists which are strongly back lit, there may be insufficient light on the cyclists for AF to be reliable.
discreetphoton e2
10 3.5k 20 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2013 1:56AM
Can you post an image so that we can give more specific advice?
17 Oct 2013 1:37PM
Greetings,

Here is a picture I took of Danny Hart back in 2008 at Inners.

Danny Hart Whip

The settings I used are:

Manual Mode
Shutter - 1250sec
Aperture - F/5.6
Focal Length - 220mm [on a 70-300mm f/5.6 lense]
Spot Metered
Hand Held
Flash - Off Camera set at custom to coincide with the shutter.

Edit to add, ISO was set to 800.

Also bare in mind how your flash is set up. One setting you don't want to use is rear curtain sync though this would be useful for left to right panning such as this shot of another rider at Inners >

Between The Lines

A few touch ups in PS after such as, levels and Saturation.

I hope this helps.

See you on the trails, perhaps?

Stevie
17 Oct 2013 1:49PM
Incidentally, If you are in the North East area and are keen to meet up I would be more than happy to show you a few pointers?

Stevie
vxrich 1 3
17 Oct 2013 2:59PM
Hi Stevie
Thanks for the great advice. I think my problem (having looked at my flash settings) was that the flash was unknowingly set to rear curtain which will obviously give a 'moving effect'.
I'm down in the Midlands but used to live in Beamish near Chester le Street. Keep meaning to visit! Are there many trails round there?
Great shots by the way. When you use off camera flash how far from the rider/track do you position the flash? Just asking for safety reasons?
Cheers
Rich
17 Oct 2013 4:52PM
Greetings,


Quote:Hi Stevie
Thanks for the great advice. I think my problem (having looked at my flash settings) was that the flash was unknowingly set to rear curtain which will obviously give a 'moving effect'.
I'm down in the Midlands but used to live in Beamish near Chester le Street. Keep meaning to visit! Are there many trails round there?
Great shots by the way. When you use off camera flash how far from the rider/track do you position the flash? Just asking for safety reasons?
Cheers
Rich



Your very welcome. The best trails around here [north Yorkshire/Durham] is Hamsterley Forest. It can be hiving with bikers at the weekend as they take advantage of Descend Hamsterley which is an organization that build and maintain the trails and also provide uplifts. There are the usual XC trails however, the greatest photo opportunities are to be had on any of the 5/6 downhill trails which offer endless places to get various pictures at various angles.

The position of the flash really depends on the setting, by setting I mean location. If it's under thick tree's [dark] then keeping it far from the rider is paramount so as not to have it flash close to their eyes and blind them. This may sound silly but riding in a dark environment and having flash in your eyes can seriously put a rider off. If it is being shot out in the open, as in the Danny Hart picture above, then it can be moved closer, but not to close that it shows in the picture. Having said that, some photographers like the effect the flash gives when included in the shot.

Positioning is very important and equally the strength of the flash output. I find I really only need it for fill flash, just to A:freeze the rider and B:keep the tones in check.

To much flash can overexpose the rider and underexpose the surrounding. Experiment, shoot loads and shoot loads more, trying different settings and you will finally master it.

Another tip if not feeling confident with the flash, should the setting allow, is to UP your ISO. It can be pushed to as far as 2600 and give great results. Though, later in PS this noise can be removed. Agreed, ISO wont always give you what you need however, its worth baring in mind Smile

I hope this helps,

Be safe and be well

Stevie
Nick_w e2
7 4.1k 99 England
17 Oct 2013 6:08PM
Do you have an example we can look at? Preferably with Exif Data?

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