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Jumping the last

By LensYews      
Photo taken at the last fence in the ladies race at Wadebridge in December. F8 @ 1/1000 ISO 500, 100mm focal length, IS off, subject distance 20.6m, partial metering, single central AF point, AI servo, focusing approximately at the saddle of the leading horse, having tracked since the horse came into view.

At the moment I'm trying to master how best to capture the action. I tend to use an aperture between f4 and f8 where possible, with ISO starting at 400 and increasing to 800 as necessary, dropping to 1600 only if the light is very poor.

I've tried manually focusing in the middle of the 32 foot wide (length), 5 foot wide (width) fence, but can't predict accurately where the horses will jump and if itís a big field it can be in the middle and at both ends, and the tend to land approx 12 feet in front of the fence. The best images are either as the where the horse is diagonal across the frame Ė i.e just before they land. I've tried auto focusing, but from shooting angles of 0-45 degrees I only getting a couple of seconds to lock on because of the 'wing fences' down the side of the jump block the AF tracking. I can track them from a front on track side shooting position, but that results in a sharper, because I can also get away with a shutter speed as low as 1/50, but a less satisfactory composition.

I think next time Iím going to try for a depth of field of approximately 30 foot, and manually focus about 4-5 feet in front of the middle of the fence, which by my calculations should mean I get most of the fence and landing area in the zone of acceptable focus, and just have to adjust my shooting position and aperture as appropriate. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Iím not sure what happened with the resizing here, but it looks like something has gone wrong with either the resizing or the sharpening (USM: 200, 1.0, 20)

Tags: Photo journalism General Sports and action

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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.


shawpaul 13 7 United Kingdom
12 Jan 2010 9:27AM
The 4th shot is great the head-on action is brilliant, there the eye can rest on the action and not find itself going round the shot looking for interest. Top shot. There's nothing wrong with the first, except my eye thinks it needs to focus on the distracting sign (I would remove) and the transmitter poles I would personally loose as well - Good shooting all the same! Paul

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LensYews 9 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
12 Jan 2010 10:45AM
Thanks Shawpaul, that's the one where I know I was using the settings I needed, just not quite got the image I need for my client base. I should have mentioned, my normal workflow would be using lightroom to process around 500 images from a day's racing, of which about 15% get to the website, with light touching up white balance, sharpening etc - probably too many to do too much cloning work, and maybe 10-12 to the local press etc. So as far as possible I need to remove the distracting background through choice of shooting position. The banners I have too include sometimes at the request of the organisers, who want it included for the sponsors.
danh 8 61 36 United Kingdom
12 Jan 2010 12:16PM
Definitely no. 4 for me, looks great.

If you're struggling with intrusive backgrounds you should consider opening up to f2.8 for all your shots. Not only will it give you less background intrusion but it'll give you a much faster shutter speed and less noisy images (as I think you've already said yourself). I appreciate it brings your focus into much closer scrutiny but if you've got a fast lens and want to blur your backgrounds it seems a logical way forward.

With regard to the focusing problems, you should stick with AF if you can, but use it creatively. Use your AF to pre-focus on the fence and then take your finger off the shutter button (I'm not sure if the 4D has a back-button for AF operation). As soon as the horse hits your viewfinder, half depress your shutter button momentarily and then fire. Your AF should capture the focus fairly quickly and give you something worth looking at.

Perhaps you could either re-crop, or consider shooting in portrait orientation when you're head-on - it'll suit the shape of the horse and rider a lot more. If you rotate to portrait orientation you can use the focus point at (what becomes) the top of your viewfinder, which might just make a difference in how quickly your AF locks onto the horse and rider, and how much frame-filling action you can get.

if you crop image no. 4 really tightly I think it'll have a LOT more impact (assuming your focus is sharp enough to allow it)

You should also try zooming in a lot closer sometimes. I appreciate the full image is great, but if you manage to capture some real close ups of the horses and riders with spittle flying everywhere it'll look great, and further blur your backgrounds. Shooting at 100mm is ok but challenge yourself to go in really tight and see how it looks.

I look forward to seeing a few more, and wouldn't mind a go at some of this action myself. I'll have to see what's around. Smile

LensYews 9 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
12 Jan 2010 12:50PM
Thanks Danh, exactly the find of feedback I was looking for. I tend to use landscape format because you never quite know how the horse is going to jump the fence and I've lost a few images because the horse changes the jumping angle at the last moment, and I can't quite get the camera back onto the action fast enough using portrait mode. Also I'm less confident about the 40'd outer focus points accuracy - I'd had a few misses using those where I thought I'd nailed the image looking through the viewfinder.

So cropping is what I tend to do at the moment for the selections. Although Note: Versions 2-4 are straight from the camera, just resized and converted to Jpeg for upload here as references really, rather than anything I'd processed. Version 1 is not cropped but has been processed for sharpening, raw adjustment, blue channels etc.

As for frame filling shots, I'm working on it, but still a way to go with that skill. Smile definently practice, practice, practice for that one.
banehawi Plus
14 1.8k 3890 Canada
12 Jan 2010 6:47PM
Yep, - 4 is the best of the bunch purely from the sense of drama it conveys.

It looked a little skewed if I used the fence as a level guide, - which is probably a mistake on my part, but I loaded a mod anyway, with a little sharpening, and removed the spot.


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