July 28, 2014, 01:53:30 AM

Author Topic: track and field photography  (Read 3602 times)

AmbrojaP

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2014, 01:10:36 PM »
@privatebydesign all of this helps, i understand everything that you are saying and i do not take offense to it at all.. thank you fro all the suggestions and in sites. it helps a lot. and ido like the motion blur but i want the main subject more focused and it was single shot i believe, or evaluative. like i said i do great with reg photos, portraits, and outside.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 01:15:32 PM by AmbrojaP »

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2014, 01:10:36 PM »

bseitz234

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2014, 01:33:17 PM »
Aperture really was my first thought too. At an indoor venue, I'd never want anything narrower than 2.8. Granted, I read this thread on my phone while walking, so may have missed previous discussion of this, but I usually prefer my 85 1.8 @f/2 to my 70-200 @2.8 if I'm indoors. Opening up more will give you better background blur and a faster, action-stopping shutter speed. I know everyone always says "a stop isn't that much", but in terms of stopping action, 1/1000 is much better than 1/500. So I'd go as wide as reasonably possible, and definitely recommend at least 2.8 if not faster.
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #17 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.

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BLFPhoto

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2014, 02:21:58 PM »
I shoot T&F, running, triathlon, cycling, etc.  With a 1Dx, 5D Mk III and the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, you have more than enough equipment to produce great T&F photos.  With the 70-200 Mk II you can shoot all day at f/2.8 and not have issues with blur unless you're talking about situations where you don't have enough DOF for the subject (multiple runners stacked around the corner). 

You want a MINIMUM shutter speed of 1/500 unless you're specifically doing panning or other induced motion blur shots.  At 1/1000 and above you should never have a problem with blurred T&F photos with respect to motion blur.

So then we're talking about focusing.  Either the 1Dx or the 5D Mk III have fantastic AF systems that should allow you to get good focus while tracking moving subjects.  My typical setup for T&F type events is Ai Servo, Single Point w/4 pt. expansion, and high speed shooting mode.  In some situations I may change to single AF point only, or to AF w/8 expansion points.  The cases for those may be counter intuitive if you don't understand the AF system and what you're trying to achieve.  What I mean by that is that the instance that I go down to a single point is when I'm shooting a single runner in a group.  In that instance, using expansion of either 4 or 8 points, or zone or all 63 pts can confuse the AF system.  It's going to find focus on whatever makes the most sense to it, not necessarily the runner I am trying to get sharp focus.  So I change it to single point and track the runner with that point.  This is important for things like you've posted where you really want the lead runner in focus for sure.  The rest can fall out of focus, if that is your intent.  If you want them all in focus, you need more DOF (smaller aperture) and more ISO to compensate for the loss of light. 

With the 70-200 IS II, properly calibrated on either a full or crop frame, you can track a single runner with the primary AF point high on the chest or head, at f/2.8 and have them come out sharp.  The 1Dx will get VERY slightly more of a burst of, say, 8-10 in focus than the 5D Mk III.  But the 5D Mk III will shoot most in focus up to filling the buffer. 

Very few moving sports lend themselves to single shot AF in my book, unless you are using the back AF button and only shooting a single shot.   The problem with that is often that you'll miss the peak moment with your single frame.  I get far better take by shooting a burst of 3-5 shots of a runner, using AI Servo AF.  Using single shot AF with burst shooting is a non-starter.  The AF may hit on the first shot, but will never catch up after that, particularly if the subject is moving toward or away from you. 

I shoot these sports with a 1D Mk IV, 5D Mk III, and 7D.  The main lenses I use are the 300 f/4 IS, 70-200 f/2.8 IS Mk II, and the 135 f/2.  Occasionally I'll use the 100-400 zoom, but only when I can't be down at the field.  The 300 f/4 IS can be marginal on the 5D and 7D in anything less than good light and when tracking subjects coming directly at me.  In good light on the 1D Mk IV, it is a pretty great piece of gear, though the resulting photographs are just "good event photos" rather than the great images that the f/2.8 version gets when I rent it. 

I also heavily use wide angles of 17mm on up to 35mm, either zoom or prime, to shoot these sports.  The key is to use them from low angles so that the athletes rise well above the horizon.  I call them my "superhero" shots.  You can see lots of those in my sports galleries. 

My favorite shots come from using either the wide angle superhero lenses or the 135 f/2...ALWAYS at f/2.  Head to toe runner shots with the 135 L, with the athlete filling the frame are awesome.  I use this lens all the time in tight trail confines in the forest when I'm shooting ultra running.  Far better than the 70-200 IS II. 

The best things you can do to get great shots, though, have little to do with gear and all to do with your framing and composition.  Shoot often from low angles, even with long lenses.  For instance, shoot the long jump laying flat on the ground from off the end of the pit, at least 135mm and 200mm is better.  Aim up and fill the frame with the athlete, while keeping the board in the frame.  The perspective will heighten the affect of the athlete's jumping height.  If you shoot the same shot, standing, the athlete will not look heroic and your shot will be boring and stiff. 

If you have High Speed Sync capability (or Hypersync w/Pocket Wizards), add counter-lighting to your shots.   Put the sun over the athletes' shoulders and light their front (not usually possible during T&F, but it can sometimes be used). 

Get as close to the action as you can.  I'll say it again...get as close to the action as you can! At some meets I have access to place my camera directly alongside the rail on the homestretch.  I place the camera as low as I can, often directly on the deck.  I use a wide angle lens, prefocused on manual focus to the point I want to capture, and set the exposure settings to manual.  As the athletes run by I rip off bursts of 3-5 for each athlete.  I use f/5.6 or even f/8 to ensure adequate DOF as the athletes move through the focus zone.  That gives me a margin for error to ensure I get the peak action with the both of the athlete's feet off the ground.  Those make awesome, "superhero" shots that the athletes and parents love. 

Shoot hurdles from many angles, but especially with your longest lens, straight down the track with the athletes running into your frame.  Rip off burst of 3-5 as they clear each hurdle.   The best shots have the athletes hands straight to the side while both legs clear the hurdle, with visible distance between the lowest point of the athlete's shoe and the hurdle.  That is a micro-instant that very few can get right with a single shot.  With a 1Dx and 12fps, better to rip  of a burst at each hurdle.  For those shots I use single point AF, and hold it directly on the athlete's face.  Most experienced hurdlers are fairly fluid and don't bob their heads much. 

From the shots you posted, your post processing can use quite a bit of work too.  The panning shot isn't too badly executed, but it lacks any punch at all.  Better post processing and perhaps a judicious crop would turn that into a fairly passable shot.

There is a lot to learn and apply to get great athletic shots, but it can be done.  Number one rule is NEVER, EVER, EVER shoot standing.  No matter how well you execute the technical aspects of operating the camera, your image is going to be boring and common.  Think ALWAYS about simplifying and cleaning up the background.  Sometimes it can't be avoided, but still...when you have to break the rule make sure you have no alternative.  If you must have something in the background because of the venue, try to find an angle to put the scoreboard timer behind or next to the athletes.  Give some context. 

Group shots (running packs around the corner for instance) rarely work well when executed with DOF to have all runners sharp.  Make a decision to focus on a single runner and drop your DOF as thin as you can.  The image will still tell the story of the runner running in a pack, but it reinforces the image to make it about THAT runner.  Too much DOF usually leaves the image subject-less, at least in telephoto type shots.  I rarely shoot such shots with deeper DOF that I am happy with, and almost never when the athletes are in motion. 
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BLFPhoto

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2014, 02:32:30 PM »

"Woah. What shooting mode are you in? There is no way you should be at f23 unless you want the motion blur, personally I like it. But this is not an AF issue it is basic camera use, I am not belittling you, just getting the information out there. "

This was similar to what I thought on this one.  You're panning and want a low shutter speed like the 1/40th that you shot.  In that case, drop your ISO down to 100 and you'll get a lower f/stop which will help separate your subject.  You could have shot that at f/4, ISO 200 and around your 1/30th-1/60th shutter speed.  The shot would have been better and you'd have had better color than the somewhat duller high ISO gave you. 

So keep the shutter speed on that one, but drop your ISO down to 100 or 200 and you'll get the advantage of a thin DOF to help the shot.  The idea of this shot seems to be focused on the runner in purple.  Do everything you can to place the viewer's focus on him. 

The other shot you posted is a boring shot at a boring angle, with far too much DOF.  The viewer has a hard time separating the runners from the background.  Look for angles to put as much distance between the runner(s) and the background as possible.  Unless there is nothing outside the track at the angle you shot from, shooting from the inside like you did just clutters up the image with too many distracting spectators, etc.  Better to shoot from the outside on that one, perhaps shooting across from the runner in yellow in a straight line across the field.  Depends on what is on the infield behind that angle.  Again, for athletic photos should be as much isolation of the athlete as possible in the frame. 
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Northstar

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2014, 03:12:55 PM »
All the feedback so far looks pretty good. 

As a 1dx user that shoots indoor sports all the time, I would like to add some very simple advice for indoor action when the lighting is not good (when using 70-200 2.8)

1. You mentioned spot metering...don't do that.  Use center weighted average for this setting.

2. Use Manual mode and set your shutter speed at 1/640, aperture at 2.8, and ISO on AUTO.  Don't change these settings for action shots. 

3. Make sure your AF is on "servo" not "one shot". (i'm sure it is but just thought i'd make sure)

4. Auto WB is fine, if the 1dx gets it wrong, you can easily correct in Lightroom.

Good luck.

North
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 04:09:50 PM by Northstar »
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2014, 04:30:44 PM »
I do pretty much as Northstar, except I start at 1/1000 and compromise that if the ISO is going too high.  Less than 1/640 and you tend to get motion blur.  What strikes me most in the first pic on the thread is that you're in the wrong shooting position.  There are way too many people in shot taking focus away from the subjects.  Reducing the depth of field to blur out the background would help, but personally I'd start by standing somewhere else.

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2014, 04:30:44 PM »

digitalpuppy

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2014, 04:41:50 PM »
As an avid Track & Field fan, I have to second what BLFPhoto described above about the best location and angle to shoot athletes.  If you go to Track and Field News, you can get some ideas for great framing and shots from some of the best shooters to cover the sport. 
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2014, 04:50:43 PM »
When I shoot my daughter, I try for f2.8, 1/1000 of a second using ai servo, the center af point and variable iso with Ecuador compensation 1/3 to the right....

So... yeah.
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2014, 04:53:01 PM »
Try to get access near the field.. shots from the stands look like punt and shoot images... the better you location... the better the images.
Upgrade  path.->means the former was sold for the latter.

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2014, 05:18:52 PM »
A few things I've learned from shooting Cross Country that might help you:

1) Use a small aperture (but not too small), such as f/2.8 or f/3.5. f/4 is good too. This separates the competitors front he background, which is really important, as meet backgrounds are often very bright, colorful, and distracting from your subjects. 

2) Prefocus on a specific spot. A tripod or monopod will help you with this. This is the best method to freezing action that I've found, as it guarantees sharp shots when the runners are in that zone.  Use your 1DX to focus on one spot on the track, and when the runners are roughly 5 feet away from that spot, start mashing the shutter button.

3) Use at least 1/2000th sec shutter speed. Self explanatory.

4) Put your camera in AI servo mode, it saves time on AF

5) I hope this goes without saying, but don't use the 5D III as your main body. I wouldn't use it at all for action if you can avoid it.
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2014, 05:21:30 PM »
His first shot clearly shows a standing position inside turn 2 or turn 4.  The problem with that one, as I and others pointed out, was not necessarily a lack of positional access, but a lack of attention to the framing that his access afforded him.  If you have access to the infield, which he clearly did, then the object should be, as you (JDRamirez) said, to find a framing and position that declutters the image to the greatest extent possible.  That can be hard indoors.  But not impossible.  The first thing to try is to shoot from low to high.  Generally that clears out the trackside crowd, excess hurdles, and the other riff-raff present in his shot. 

Also, shooting into the corner from that position, across the track, puts the potential background much closer to the athlete, making shallow DOF much less effective.  Shooting from even another 30-40 meters down the track would have at least equalized the distance between the shooter to athletes and athletes to background.  Combine that with a 2.8 aperture and the separation would be much more effective.   Better yet, for an indoor arena, the 135 f/2 really shines here to drop out backgrounds in favor of the athletes.  The guys with the 200 f/2s are really in business, though can be challenged for working space in the small venue, when trying to get uncluttered angles. 

My personal style for this stuff is shooting low to high.  It's not exclusive, but it's certainly the bulk of how I tend to shoot.  I like to get the athlete taller than the horizon in the background.  As I said above, it's about making them a superhero.  Everyone wants to feel and look great when they are making such physical efforts.

I contrast my approach to the approach of the event company that shot the 1/2 marathon I ran recently.  They had a beautiful shot venue where we were running alonside a river, with palm trees  and an ampitheater.  How did they shoot the shot?  Looking down on us from ladders.  I look like I have a bush growing out of my head.  The photo looks ok, but barely.  I noticed they were using equipment like 7Ds and 70-200 zooms.  They could have done so much better with the shots.  I just wanted to scream "Make me a superhero!"  But I don't imagine the shooters would have understood.  They had their ladders and their planned shot.  It cleaned up their backgrounds for them...by making it mostly the sidewalk behind us runners.  Blah.  Boring. No water in the shot, no ampitheater.  No context.  Runner with a bit of grass and sidewalk.  It could have been taken anywhere. 

On the track, if you must clutter the background due to positional limitations, try to use the scoreboard in the background.  At least then the viewer has a sense of context to the shot.   

« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 05:25:14 PM by BLFPhoto »
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2014, 06:14:29 PM »
Learn to shoot in manual mode and watch the light meter in the view finder.  I don't trust the auto exposure modes.  All too often, the background can adversely affect the meter reading (such as skaters against a white ice rink).

Action shots need a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 (maybe 1/400 for younger kids).  Preferred speed of 1/1000.

Shoot your 70-200 wide open (either 2.8 or 4.0 -- I don't know which lens you have).

ISO up to 3200 often produces clean images with the 5D3 without noticeble noise.  Don't be afraid to go higher.  I often shoot up to 6400 in indoor gyms.  Remember, a sharp noisy photo is begter than a blurred clean one.

Shoot AI SERVO focus mode and single-point focussing with 8 expansion points.  Use Case 2 to keep your subject in focus when something else gets in the way.  Lock on to your subject with the center point and follow your subject.  Keep panning with your subject as you shoot.  As long as one focus point stays on your subject, your subject will stay in focus.  Keep in mind that AI SERVO is a predictive mode.  It keeps your subject in focus by tracking its movement, then predicting where it will be when the shutter trips.  It works best when you start tracking a second a so before triggering the shutter.  Track with the shutter partially depressed. 

Google "Canon back button focussing".  It may take some getting use to, but it is quite handy.

Set drive mode to high speed burst.  But, don't make it a crutch.  In many cases the only way to get "the" shot is with good timing.

Some indoor venues may benefit with custom white balance.  But, shoot in RAW and you can fix this in post if needed.  If not comfortable with custom white balance, shoot AWB.

Develop good habits for holding the camera -- cradle the lens in the palm of your left hand and keep your wings in.  Pan at the waste.   A monopod will help eliminate fatigue for longer events.  Hold steady, but not too tight.  Relaxed hands are steadier than clenched hands.

If using IS, set it to pan mode.  At 1/1000 second, you can turn off IS.  Some advise turning it off at anything above 1/500.  But, with the 70-200 f2.8L II, I can't tell a difference with IS on or off.

Learn to anticipate the action and be prepared.  Lastly, practice, practice, practice...
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2014, 06:14:29 PM »

Northstar

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #28 on: February 04, 2014, 06:20:12 PM »
A few things I've learned from shooting Cross Country that might help you:

1) Use a small aperture (but not too small), such as f/2.8 or f/3.5. f/4 is good too. This separates the competitors front he background, which is really important, as meet backgrounds are often very bright, colorful, and distracting from your subjects. 

2) Prefocus on a specific spot. A tripod or monopod will help you with this. This is the best method to freezing action that I've found, as it guarantees sharp shots when the runners are in that zone.  Use your 1DX to focus on one spot on the track, and when the runners are roughly 5 feet away from that spot, start mashing the shutter button.

3) Use at least 1/2000th sec shutter speed. Self explanatory.

4) Put your camera in AI servo mode, it saves time on AF

5) I hope this goes without saying, but don't use the 5D III as your main body. I wouldn't use it at all for action if you can avoid it.

Pretty good advice Teentog but 1/2000 shutter is probably not happening indoors with track and a 70-200 2.8 (maybe with a 100, 135, or 200 f2, but almost certainly not at 2.8 unless you don't mind ISO 12,800 and above)

As Brymills described, 1/1000 is a good starting point if there's enough light to do it at 2.8 and ISO 4000 or lower. (or ISO 6400 for others depending on personal pref.)    But usually there isn't enough light indoors to do this so 1/800 or 1/640 come into play.  With 1/640 being the slowest I would go for this situation.

Remember, for a 1dx user, it's highly advisable to "shoot to the right" in this situation, so if you set this up in your custom settings for an extra 1/4 to 1/2 stop of light then you'll be pushing the ISO even further.



« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 06:24:18 PM by Northstar »
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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2014, 06:38:51 PM »
Learn to shoot in manual mode and watch the light meter in the view finder.  I don't trust the auto exposure modes.  All too often, the background can adversely affect the meter reading (such as skaters against a white ice rink).

Action shots need a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 (maybe 1/400 for younger kids).  Preferred speed of 1/1000.

Shoot your 70-200 wide open (either 2.8 or 4.0 -- I don't know which lens you have).

ISO up to 3200 often produces clean images with the 5D3 without noticeble noise.  Don't be afraid to go higher.  I often shoot up to 6400 in indoor gyms.  Remember, a sharp noisy photo is begter than a blurred clean one.

Shoot AI SERVO focus mode and single-point focussing with 8 expansion points.  Use Case 2 to keep your subject in focus when something else gets in the way.  Lock on to your subject with the center point and follow your subject.  Keep panning with your subject as you shoot.  As long as one focus point stays on your subject, your subject will stay in focus.  Keep in mind that AI SERVO is a predictive mode.  It keeps your subject in focus by tracking its movement, then predicting where it will be when the shutter trips.  It works best when you start tracking a second a so before triggering the shutter.  Track with the shutter partially depressed. 

Google "Canon back button focussing".  It may take some getting use to, but it is quite handy.

Set drive mode to high speed burst.  But, don't make it a crutch.  In many cases the only way to get "the" shot is with good timing.

Some indoor venues may benefit with custom white balance.  But, shoot in RAW and you can fix this in post if needed.  If not comfortable with custom white balance, shoot AWB.

Develop good habits for holding the camera -- cradle the lens in the palm of your left hand and keep your wings in.  Pan at the waste.   A monopod will help eliminate fatigue for longer events.  Hold steady, but not too tight.  Relaxed hands are steadier than clenched hands.

If using IS, set it to pan mode.  At 1/1000 second, you can turn off IS.  Some advise turning it off at anything above 1/500.  But, with the 70-200 f2.8L II, I can't tell a difference with IS on or off.

Learn to anticipate the action and be prepared.  Lastly, practice, practice, practice...


BLF and FTb....lot's of really good advice from both of you.
Sport Shooter

1dX and 5d3... 24-70 2.8ii, 70-200 2.8ii, 1.4xiii and 2xiii, 85, 40mm, 300 2.8L IS....430ex

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Re: track and field photography
« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2014, 06:38:51 PM »