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Sports / Re: track and field photography
« on: February 04, 2014, 01:41:25 PM »
At an indoor track meet here is what I do to set up my camera:

1. Set white balance (optional--if you are not experienced doing this, then leave your camera on AWB, because nothing can improve or ruin pictures more than a good or bad white balance reading).
* ISO 100, f/5.6-f/8 (depending on the indoor lighting strength), 1/6th to 1/8th of a second (depending on lighting strength again). The reason for the slow shutter speed when taking a white balance reading indoors is to ensure that strobing effects (very common in indoor light sources) do not ruin the white balance reading.
* Photograph a gray card or a non-glossy white surface (like paper) with no shadows on it, that is equally reflecting light from the surroundings as well as from the light source.
* Look at the RGB histogram if you want to see what is going on here and to compare one white balance test photo to another.
* Set the camera's white balance and then reset exposure values back to normal shooting (high ISO, high shutter speed, wide open apertures) and take some test photos.
* If you arrive 30 minutes early and take time to set a quality white balance, you can get the majority of your photos to turn out at the quality level of studio lighting, except for a few shots where the strobing effects of some indoor lighting will result in an unavoidable color cast.
* It is well worth the time to set custom white balance in an controlled indoor lighting environment, and simply setting Kelvin color temperature is not as good due to the difference at every track including reflectivity of walls, color of the track, and lots of other factors.

2. Use camera and lens settings that work better in lower light.
*  On the 1D X I use most often a 135mm f/2 lens for indoor track with aperture values from f/2.0 to f/2.8. I also use a 400mm f/2.8, 100mm f/2.0, 85mm f/1.8, and several lenses in between which I believe are too expensive to recommend based on the percentage of use that I get out of them at a typical indoor track meet. My only reason for not using the 135mm f/2.0 is if I am limited by space constraints, such as if a high jump is crammed into the corner of the facility. There is always opportunity to use the 400mm lens for its unique photos, but it doesn't have much use in photographing the peak action except portraits of individual hurdlers or runners coming out of the blocks. So 90% of my photos are with the 135mm f/2.0. The 200mm f/2.0 is very nice as well.
* I use ISO values between 1600 to 6400, depending on the track and direction athletes are facing into the lighting.
* Everything is full manual exposure, and especially no auto ISO. Auto ISO simply trashes a great exposure as the background changes.
* Perhaps most importantly, whatever equipment you use, make sure you set the AF to Servo and only use the center 5 points in a cross configuration (center plus four surrounding), or perhaps all of the center 9 points. (Occasionally, the center 1 point alone.) I have found that even on the 1D X, in lower light, using fewer points will improve AF performance. This is true even with the 2.0.3 version of the 1D X firmware.
* Focus on the person's head or, depending on the uniform, the printing on their jersey if it is high contrast and on their chest. Some uniforms simply make it all but impossible to focus except on the head, and in long jump especially this can be quite a challenge, because it takes considerable photographer skill to track the head from head on during a long jump.

Results: sports photo of the year award in my state, Gatorade National player of the year coverage in the Chicago Tribune, etc.

When I see that quote, I assume that it is talking about a long newspaper article trying to describe a noteworthy person or event. So that is the thousand words that I think of.

For a photographer, a more appropriate question is to ask, "What picture?" Some pictures definitely don't tell a story, and aren't worth a thousand words. Imagine a photo of a gunfight. The answer to "What picture?" that could tell a thousand words would be a photo showing inconspicuously the town's name, some landscape that would show the locality, someone's expression showing how the hero was regarded, as well as someone's expression showing how the villain was also a human (like the sad face of his mother), and of course both of the prime characters in the gun fight--showing a story in each one, although not necessarily with their faces.

This is what makes photography so much a different art than videography. With video, you simply take a video of the event, and the story is told. Improving the story is a matter of improving the perspective and directing the event. With photography, it is completely different. In order to tell a story with a picture, it is not enough to simply take a picture of the story, but to put the parts of the story together in the picture. A low angle of a flock of baby ducks splashing water above themselves and quacking merrily would make a photograph that told a story. (This example comes from a recent photo situation I saw near a highway in my city.)

A photograph essentially requires the use of art in order to effectively tell its story. With a video, the story can be told even without the use of art. With the example of ducks above, a photograph of some yellow blobs several feet straight down out the window of your car on top of a one-dimensional spot of wetness on a service road to a freeway downtown would tell nothing. A video straight down out the window of your car of those same yellow blobs would still tell the story that they were ducks splashing in a puddle, but there would be no art involved. You can see the birds splashing in a video, regardless of the art involved. But a photograph to tell the story of the birds splashing requires greater artistic achievement. And to tell the full story of where the birds were downtown near the freeway would require a very beautiful touching photo. A video telling the same thing could be absolutely horrible, though, simply rotating the camera to the highway and then back.

The standards of art are far higher for telling a story with a photograph. And "What picture?" can tell a thousand words is a question that we as photographers make a life out of answering.

EOS Bodies / Re: Patent: Microadjustment Automated
« on: January 12, 2014, 09:22:12 PM »
If this would be done properly, it would be the best advancement ever (that I can imagine) in the current professional workflow. I personally would use it at just about every shoot, setting up my camera and calibrating the focus adjustment to middle of the exact expected distance to  my subjects, in just the same way that I set custom white balance to fit exactly the environment I am shooting. I have noticed, for example, that perfect calibration of my 400mm at 80 m does not result in perfect calibration at 25 m, and vice versa, so hence the usefulness to a professional of AF microadjustment in the field under working conditions.

Hopefully there will be an option to base the AF micro adjustment on not only the results of contrast AF comparison, but on several real automated test photos. There could be a "faster" and a "full precision" option. It would surely be possible to AF calibrate for a certain target using contrast AF comparison without taking any real photos in a matter of 1-2 seconds using Newton's method (possibly with least squares fitting) to refine the results. And with the option to use several actual photographs for exact data, it would hopefully be possible to complete the entire process in less than 5 seconds and obtain results as absolutely perfect as the maximum theoretical potential precision of the AF phase detection sensors, by centering their accuracy on dead center.

Technical Support / Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« on: October 13, 2013, 01:16:28 AM »
Your ideas for pre-race photos and starting line photos are good.

For the rest of it, remember that the difference between an average photo of someone just running, and a great photo of a runner often depends on something else in the picture, like breaking the tape in the case of the winner, or for most everybody else, the background. Careless photographers have terrible pictures with telephone poles sticking out of people's heads, crooked buildings, cut-off arms or legs, etc. But a sports photographer worth his salt will always think about these things in a running photo, especially the background which may include other runners as well as whatever else is in the field of view. (Unfortunately, except for steeplechase, there's not usually something there that you'd want to put in the foreground of a running picture besides the finish line.)

For race photos like the one you are describing, I would scout out the running trail to find a spot with a good background as it would be seen through the 200mm lens when facing the runners. If you carefully pick the spot you can get a beautiful background, like a patch of trees or some water (or snow-covered hillside as the case may be), even in the middle of a mostly ugly/drab environment. Take pictures of as many people as possible as they pass by that point in the race, while still leaving you a chance to move to the finish line and take pictures of the winners.

If you want more race-like photos, you might have to pick a spot within a mile from the start. You could get pictures with strong leaders and and closely-following packs of runners. This will also help you have time to get a picture of almost everyone and still have time to get to the finish line, but there is the risk that someone will be right behind someone else and you can't get their photo.

If you want mostly individual pictures and want to minimize the chance someone is blocked by other runners, then pick a spot farther from the start when runners will be much more separated. The cost of this is much less dramatic photos, more like an isolated person going for a jog. But at least the background will be nice if you choose your spot well.

Nailed both aperture and ISO on my first guess... f/4 and 12,800.

Of course, there's just my word for that fact, but I felt pretty good so I posted this worthless post anyway. Fun challenge!

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: What is 20,000 shutter clicks worth?
« on: August 13, 2013, 12:03:09 AM »
20,000 shutter clicks is absolutely nothing, completely ignorable. For what I do in sports, it's easy to shoot 5,000 in a day. I've shot as many as 12,000 in a day. The back up to my back up to my back up Canon 7D already has 36,000 photos on it and I consider it to be brand new. In fact, I've only had one camera shutter fail so far, and that was a Nikon D7000 after 136,000 actuations (it was completely replaced for free under warranty).

Pro bodies like this one have never had a shutter failure for me, but I'm probably lucky because they have hundreds of thousands of shots, and they definitely DO fail (more often for people who don't have backups, it seems to me, however!).

But just 20K is completely irrelevant. Don't return it. Just enjoy it.

As far as lying, the other posters do have a valid point there. A lie is a lie, and maybe you can't trust the seller to be clear about other details. But it is possible that those extra exposures were actually put on the camera AFTER the sale began. For example, he used it for a wedding while the auction was going on... 3,000 actuations... for track and field in Moscow.... 25,000 more actuations, etc.

But if there is anything wrong with the camera worth returning it, it has to be something else, not the actuations.

Canon General / Re: Failure rates
« on: August 08, 2013, 03:29:48 PM »
Watch out because I was burned by this same type of situation. I bought a 300mm Nikon lens grey market. Two years later, an internal element CAME LOOSE, the only time this has ever happened with any lens. The lens was perfect when I left my studio, but apparently while I was wheeling my lens case across the parking lot to a baseball game the element came loose. Maybe vibrations from similar situations over time caused this to happen.

Anyway, the only available repair locations Nikon permits are its two national service centers. I was told by phone that even if not under warranty, I could still pay full price and have it repaired.  So I insured the lens and shipped it to Nikon... bad decision.

After an 8-week debacle and hours of wasted time on the phone and email, I finally got the lens back from Nikon, completely unrepaired. They absolutely refused to do anything no matter what I paid, because it was imported from Japan by a 3rd party.

I have heard that sometimes Canon U.S.A. will repair gray market lenses as a courtesy only to some customers who pay full price. And I know for a fact that Canon's customer service is close to a 10 out of 10, while Nikon's is close to a 0 out of 10. So my horror story probably wouldn't have happened if I was working with Canon.

But in general, gray market lenses will NOT BE REPAIRED unless you ship back to Japan, and local repair centers may not be trustworthy.

The problem in my case was that I could not even ship back to Japan, because Japan required the ORIGINAL paperwork that B&H Photo Video had when they imported the lens from Japan, and of course B&H refused to provide me their wholesale bill of sale from Japan.

Lenses / Re: 200mm f/2.8 II vs. 70-200 f/2.8 IS II
« on: July 11, 2013, 05:03:10 PM »
It is definitely not possible to say that one of these lenses has an absolute advantage over the other one, but there are some really good things about the 200 mm prime. For the kind of photography that a few people do, that makes the prime incredibly wonderful. For most others, the zoom is more useful.         

As someone else pointed out, Roger Cicala has this to say:

Roger's Take
Roger Cicala
President of LensRentals.com
For years now, I think I’m the only person who likes this lens, and I can’t understand why. It’s sharper than the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II zoom and a third of the size and cost. It’s inconspicuous and great for spontaneous photography. People who start posing when they see a big white lens never look twice at a camera with this mounted. My personal favorite use is at events that won’t allow “professional” lenses in the stands— security won’t let me in with a big white lens but never look twice at the 200mm.
March, 2013


Reasons for picking the 70-200 II are versatility and high performance over its whole focal length. It also has a huge advantage with image stabilization for stationary subjects.

Reasons for picking the 200 f/2.8 are

  • A slight, but definitely noticeable, improvement in light transmission due to significantly fewer elements--this is an advantage for moving subjects (perhaps the only situation where IS doesn't help)
  • There is a huge advantage in weight and handling for the 200mm prime. For a strong person like me the 70-200mm zoom can be negligible even for hours of shooting, but subconsciously my photography is dragging at the end of 12 hours of shooting. I probably never would have realized that until I found out how much more fresh and dynamic I felt using the 200mm prime instead, producing as a result better photos.

Yes, it is supposed to be as sharp. (Note that this compares Nikon vs. Canon versions, but results should be comparable because they're using the old D3s to evaluate the Nikon lens.)


At f/1.4 the Sigma ranges from 3K to 3.2K. And at f/2.0 the Sigma ranges from 3K to 3.7K. At f/2.8 the Sigma ranges from 3.2 to almost 3.9K (line widths per picture height).

At f/2.8 the Canon 70-200 ranges from 3.1K to 3.5K. The all around peak of the Sigma is 3,960 @f4.0 while for the Canon it is 3,721 at f/5.6 at 70mm.

Ummmm....no.  Ignore for the moment the fact that Klaus specifically states, "Please note that the tests results are not comparable across the different systems."  The Sigma 35/1.4 was not tested on 'the old D3s' (a 12 MP FX camera) but on the D3x, a 24 MP FX camera.  Those extra 3 MP directly translate to an increase in LW/PH compared to the 21 MP Canon 5DII, all else being equal. 

Compare the TDP ISO 12233 crops (where the Canon version of the Sigma lens was tested on the same camera as the Canon lens), is the Sigma as sharp?  Nope.

Your correction about the D3s vs. D3x is valuable. I meant to write D3x and I was thinking of that model, but out of habit without noticing my fingers typed D3s.

However, my respect went down (a little) for you, neuroanatomist, because you suggest ignoring Imatest results in favor of subjective pictures which, no matter how carefully made, cannot be used for valid comparison.

It makes no difference whether it was an ISO 12233 chart, whether was originally shot in RAW, whether it was made on concrete floor with a $25K setup, etc.

All those things may be true, and yet the sharpness selected on output has more to do with how sharp it looks to our eyes than even a 33% difference in lens sharpness. Also, I know for a fact that some of the cheaper lenses were not properly focused on the point shown in the cropped image area, by accident, I'm sure (I know that it is an immense time sacrifice, and I am not trying to criticize TDP in any way) while the more expensive lenses like the 200mm f/2.0 were properly focused. That alone makes a night and day difference when pixel peeping.

Additionally, some of the lenses shown by TDP have curvature of field which makes them look more blurry than they would if a focus point was actually used to focus at that point in the frame. This is just another reason why looking at a photo and allowing our imperfect senses to judge sharpness just doesn't work.

As a case in point, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 images show terrible softness in the images at TDP (they never look anywhere near as sharp as some of the other lenses do, even when stopped down to f/8!), but I know for a fact that they are not so bad.

Once again, I know that it is an immense time sacrifice to make those visualizations of lens quality, and I am not trying to criticize TDP in any way. But I am urging that proper scientific metrics should be used when discussing lens sharpness, not looking at a subjective picture and saying, "Nope."

We have to use logic first before allowing ourselves to make a decision based on a picture. Case in point: Some disreputable websites have for years used a sleight of hand trick to "prove" to people that RAW is sharper, by using "default" sharpening on JPEG output that is actually a lot weaker than the "default" sharpening used for RAW. Saying that RAW is sharper makes no more sense than saying that RAW has better white balance. Yes, RAW has more data in it to be used for any purpose, but both the sharpness and white balance are determined by processing after the fact. (You can never see RAW data. You can only see a visualization of RAW data.) So any comparison saying RAW is sharper than JPEG is by definition a comparison of two different levels of sharpening of RAW data and therefore make no logical sense other than to say that one amount of sharpening looks different from another. The same is true for comparing sharpness of lenses subjectively by looking at pictures on a website with our eyes. It just makes no sense.

Yes, it is supposed to be as sharp. (Note that this compares Nikon vs. Canon versions, but results should be comparable because they're using the old D3s to evaluate the Nikon lens.)


At f/1.4 the Sigma ranges from 3K to 3.2K. And at f/2.0 the Sigma ranges from 3K to 3.7K. At f/2.8 the Sigma ranges from 3.2 to almost 3.9K (line widths per picture height).

At f/2.8 the Canon 70-200 ranges from 3.1K to 3.5K. The all around peak of the Sigma is 3,960 @f4.0 while for the Canon it is 3,721 at f/5.6 at 70mm.

Remember that the resolution of the Sigma is not as dramatic as the zoom lens because the zoom lens makes everything look closer and therefore seem much sharper. Objects will look more blurry with the Sigma lens because they take up a smaller number of pixels unless you are 5.7 times closer. In other words, the resolution of the 70-200mm will seem higher for a picture taken at 50 feet away than the 35mm will for a picture taken around 8 feet away. The apparent resolution increase of the 200mm lens is 5.7^2 = about 32 times higher apparent resolution for the same object photographed at 200mm vs. 35mm.

If Sigma makes a 135mm f/1.8 lens that is twice as sharp and twice as aberration free compared to the Canon 135mm f/2L, and if it costs up to $1,000 or less, it will be the most popular lens in the world. If it costs up to $1,500 then it will be the most popular lens in its category.

That's my prediction, even if it has no image stabilization.

Pricewatch Deals / Re: Canon Refurb 400mm f/5.6L $910
« on: April 10, 2013, 05:59:31 PM »
Thanks, I got one. What a deal. I miss these 1993 lenses and actually sold my last one in fall 2012 for $1,000 on CL. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to the next three days with my 400mm II, and am actually craving to return to these lightweight lenses, which are perfect for outdoor track, as soon as I receive my order.

Lenses / Re: Migration from zooms to primes...your suggestions?
« on: April 04, 2013, 02:45:05 AM »
Out of your options, my choices would be these:

  • 24mm f/1.4L II (or the Sigma f/1.4 if you don't think you'll need this wide)
  • 85mm f/1.2L II
  • 200mm f/2.8L II

Some might say why no 50mm, but I find myself in almost all situations using either a two-camera combo of two of those three, or a three-camera combo of all three of them. And I get way better shots than the people with their slow, heavy zooms. The 200mm is a slower f/2.8 to be sure, but as a prime it is much lighter and quicker to acquire and track targets (and actually slightly higher light transmission as well). I support your wish to go to primes.

Lenses / Re: Do I need the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM?
« on: March 19, 2013, 10:50:18 PM »
helpful how is it that you can use 3-4 times faster shutter speed with an 85mm 1.8 -vs- a 70-200mm 2.8 IS? you can react faster with a prime than a zoom?  halos around out of focus objects making things appear less sharp?

dude, what are you talking about?

I will answer, but by my answer I mean no disrespect to those, like myself, who invested over $2,000 in the 70-200 lens:

In regards to stops:
The transmission of the 70-200 II is T/3.4. The Tstop of the 85mm f/1.8, in both Nikon AF-D and Canon USM versions, is almost exactly T/1.8 as advertised. Let's just say 1.9 to be safe. The reason for the difference is because of the sophisticated lens design in the 70-200mm II that is used to correct aberrations at many distances and many focal lengths, not to mention the extra elements used for the IS unit.

To compute the relative speed of lenses to one another, one simply divides the higher Tstop value by the lower Tstop value, then squares the result.
3.4/1.9 = 1.789
1.789 squared = 3.2, i.e., three times faster of a shutter speed. 3-4 times was a bit of an exaggeration because I did not actually do the math, but was just basing it off of real-world experience.

In regards to out of focus characteristics:
There are those who look at the edge of someone's jersey, and see a halo/blur, and return their lenses, not realizing that the plane of focus is sharp. It happens most often when people are shooting stage events from down in the seating, and their cameras consistently focus around waist level because that's the nearest object within the active focus points, making 80-90% of the shots unsharp.

By no means is the 85mm lens perfect, and yes, it does have the purple fringing problem, but at f/2.8 it does not have it more so than the 70-200 II lens.

Lenses / Re: Do I need the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM?
« on: March 19, 2013, 09:19:43 PM »
The 85mm f/1.8 will give you better images at f/2.8 than the 70-200mm II as well much better light transmission.

Actually, the 70-200 II is sharper at f/2.8 than the 85 f/1.8 at f/2.8, and very significantly so in the corners.

Light transmission is only of a concern for videographers. For still photography, through-the-lens metering takes care of those types of differences. And I really doubt there's much of a T-stop difference between the two when used at the same apertures.

No, the corners wide open on the 85mm f/1.8 are 2,888 line pairs per image height, versus 2,954-3,100 for the 70-200mm II. That difference is almost invisible. At f/2.8 they are essentially the same in resolution figures (28 line pairs difference), but the chromatic aberration of the 70-200 mm II is at least five times worse: 29 - 60% versus only 5% for the 85mm f/1.8.

The shallow depth of field of the 85mm f/1.8 causes halos around out of focus details, making people think that it is not sharp, but for me that's the beauty and my intent in using this lens.

It doesn't impress people watching me take pictures, but my photos impress the people selecting them for running in the news. I can react much more quickly, focus more quickly, and use 3-4 times faster shutter speeds.

There is that much of a Tstop difference when used at the same apertures.

As a reference for those who may own the 50mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.8 is much better. Even when stopped down two stops all the way down to f/2.8, the 50mm in the corners is worse than the corners of the 85mm wide open.

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