Gymnastics photography tips

Gymnastics photography tips

15 posts
24 Aug 2014
richie4tfp
Photographer
richie4tfp
Just wondered if anybody had any advice who may have shot in this field before. I have shot in a studio (a while back now) but I am looking to do a number of shoots emulating competition lighting in a gym as well as actually (eventually) shooting at competitions.
I will be using a Sony NEX 5 Series and have a 16-50mm F3.5 - 5.6 lens and will shortly be getting the 55-210mm F4.5 - 6.3 lens. I'd just like to be able to use what I have got to the best of its ability. Obviously, flash is a big no-no for competition so I have to work on using what else I have to its best. I have been reading around what other people use and I'm getting all kinds of figures. I also notice that not a lot of people use Sony cameras (not a bad brand surely). 
Anyway, any relevant advice appreciated.
Posted 24 Aug 2014
marlhamphoto
Photographer
marlhamphoto
I would have thought you're going to need a long lens in order to fill the frame (assuming you're not going to be wandering about in the arena up close) and although you have a bit of reach in the 55-210 I doubt it's going to be anywhere near fast enough at 6.3 long end. Unless the event is going to be blessed with excellent lighting (unlikely I'd have thought) you may want to consider hiring a much faster and image stabilised lens. A monopod wouldn't go amiss either.

Posted 24 Aug 2014
RupertRudd
Photographer
RupertRudd
Light - find out what your highest ISO is without too much noise. You are likely to need it. Guessing 1600 NEX 5.

Posted 24 Aug 2014
profilepictures
Photographer
profilepictu..
Same thoughts here, I'd be surprised if you can catch much other than static shots with much certainty with your kit. Probably better off with a 50mm and f1.8 at least to get a clean focused picture and then crop rather than a relatively short range and probably noisy potentially blurred pics? Can you get hold of an f2.8 zoom?

Posted 24 Aug 2014
alexcrawford
Photographer
alexcrawford
this seems to be one of those extreme cases that stretch the kit as well as the kit operator !

i'm in the same position of wanting to shoot some indoor sports, in dim to awful lighting, and
thankful that i've got decent kit to use, but still hankering after better/faster.

sony don't make a bad camera, but the lens max aperture is the restriction in my opinion.

i am considering upgrading a canon 5d2 to a 5d2 allowing me to capture better quality high iso shots,
and although i'd dearly like a 300/400/500mm lens, i will be staying with the 70-200 2.8 stabilised lens
as i do not want to spend even more money on what is now totally hobby photography.

good kit is an investment, but sometimes its difficult to justify the initial outlay
when balanced against eating/paying rent/mortgage/etc. only you can answer that part...

good luck, and keep us advised on what you do, and show us the results if you can,

cheers alex


Posted 25 Aug 2014
Keltica
Photographer
Keltica
When I'm doing my sports photography, have bumped into the same people now and again and they have the advantage over me, in that they are working for an organisation that provides a pool of lenses but they would normally have three top of the tree bodies (Nikon D3s & D4s or Canon EOS 1D), and a range of lenses such as Nikon 200mm f2, or the 300mm, a 70-200mm f2.8 and perhaps a wide angle 14-24mm f2.8

Unless you can hire a body and a lens, and have your own kit as a back up then you will struggle I'm afraid.

The reason that not many use a Sony (although it's probably a good camera), is that they do not have the huge system, and range of lenses that Canon & Nikon have accrued over the years, and there is only two choices for professional shooters.





Posted 27 Aug 2014
Spike
Photographer
Spike
I'd agree with Keltica - a Nikon/Canon camera with F2 or F2.8 lenses.

Great camera it is the Nex-5(or 7) & lenses aren't up to the job - I use a couple for underwater & travel photography so I know their limitations.

Posted 27 Aug 2014
LaurenceJPower
Photographer
LaurenceJPow..
Keltica

The reason that not many use a Sony (although it's probably a good camera), is that they do not have the huge system, and range of lenses that Canon & Nikon have accrued over the years, and there is only two choices for professional shooters.


More importantly it's the availability of hire kit, I can walk into a number of dealers and wlk out with long fast lenses, until Sony start giving/loaning kit away to dealers to hire out people like me cannot afford to change over.

Having said that, it might be worth going to the venue in advance to check the light levels, for action shots you will need 1/250 to 1/500th of a second, unless your focus is perfect, f3.5 possibly f4, now work out the iso needed, then decide if the NEX system can cope remembering that you will want to fill the frame if possible.

Posted 28 Aug 2014
emmwood
Model
emmwood
At comps you need a camera with very low noise on higher isos. It's an absolute nightmare and honestly, your best bet is forget all "figures" and go and do trial and error. All the gyms I've ever competed in or trained in are about the same lighting as a sports hall, so see if your local leisure centre will let you stand in there and have a play with settings when it's empty
Posted 29 Aug 2014
ExcelR8
Photographer
ExcelR8
All above comments, re aperture and ISO are obviously totally correct and lights in a lot of sporting venues (unless Premiership grounds) is pretty poor. However, my basic advice is to take lots of shots (in the World of sports photography you can never have too many - most work on a 15-20% shot to useable image ratio) but also to try to find that different angle over the normal. Put ten 'togs in the same place and most will get similar type images of the main action, but the one who gets that different shot (facial expression, slip up, atmosphere, etc.) sometimes gets a better image and, to be blunt, with your equipment it may be the better bet.
In shot, ignore what anyone else is doing at the event, or where they are standing (you'll just get the same shot as them) and do your own stuff.

Posted 29 Aug 2014
LaurenceJPower
Photographer
LaurenceJPow..
As somebody who is now a professional sports photographer albeit specializing in equestrian events (both indoors and out) I would dispute the suggestion to take as many images as possible, certainly using "motor" drive does not guarantee that the peak action will be caught, practice makes perfect, go to some low level events take some shots and find out exactly when the shutter release must be pressed so that the peak action is caught.

Re shooting position, you may not have a choice, if you do, look at where the pros are and copy them, then decide whether to move and where to, a pro knows that the perfect, unique image is great, but we have to get the bread and butter image in the bag to ensure that the client has at least got something usable.

Posted 29 Aug 2014
tob
Photographer
tob
From my personal experience in shooting ballet on stage I can give you the following advice:
- Use a camera that has a really good autofocus and is able to focus with low light, e.g. Canon 1Ds MKIII / Canon 1D MKIV / Canon 1Dx / Canon 5D MKIII or a Nikon equivalent.
- Use lenses with an open aperture of 2.8 or better, 24-70 / 2.8 and 70-200 / 2.8 IS are really good for most situations
- Depending on the available light you might need to choose ISO up to 6400 to get a decent image
- Use shutter priority at e.g. 1/125s or less and disable safety features that prevent taking the shot if it seems to be underexposed
- Use the exposure compensation and select a negative value (depending on the situation it can be -2 to -3) if the overall light is rather dark.



Posted 31 Aug 2014
marlhamphoto
Photographer
marlhamphoto
tob

....Use the exposure compensation and select a negative value (depending on the situation it can be -2 to -3) if the overall light is rather dark.

That certainly wouldn't produce desirable results with my Nikon. Nor would I expect it to with a Canon...
Posted 31 Aug 2014
Edited by marlhamphoto 31 Aug 2014
stolenfaces
Photographer
stolenfaces
tob
From my personal experience in shooting ballet on stage I can give you the following advice: - Use a camera that has a really good autofocus and is able to focus with low light, e.g. Canon 1Ds MKIII / Canon 1D MKIV / Canon 1Dx / Canon 5D MKIII or a Nikon equivalent. - Use lenses with an open aperture of 2.8 or better, 24-70 / 2.8 and 70-200 / 2.8 IS are really good for most situations - Depending on the available light you might need to choose ISO up to 6400 to get a decent image - Use shutter priority at e.g. 1/125s or less and disable safety features that prevent taking the shot if it seems to be underexposed - Use the exposure compensation and select a negative value (depending on the situation it can be -2 to -3) if the overall light is rather dark.
There may be some situations where this would give you passable results, but normally it would (as you say) under-expose the whole image. This might work if you have spotlights on the subject but if you have backlight it would be a complete disaster and probably pretty terrible with balanced front/back lighting. I would have thought that gymnastics or any other indoor sports would be lit fairly evenly and constantly lit (however bad the lighting) and that you would normally get the best results by shooting on manual with settings which suit the particular type of shot you are shooting and the limitations of your camera and technique. However good your focusing system it will be much easier if you can shoot fast moving subjects from side on so the subject to lens distance is constant.
Posted 31 Aug 2014
Edited by stolenfaces 31 Aug 2014
tob
Photographer
tob
I agree it depends on the situation. As always you need to know how to handle it to make the best out of what you are provided with.

Just to show that an exposure compensation of -2 EV works, the stage had a black curtain in the background and a rather dark surface:
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B27_L_KVf5rdMUUxam5URDJEVUE&usp=sharing

There is no correction applied to the images except of white point, everything else is just a straight raw conversion with Capture One 7.
In this case the negative exposure compensation had helped to close the aperture a bit and to keep the ISO between 1600 and 3200.
All images were taken in AE mode. mostly with 1/125s and without flash.


Posted 31 Aug 2014
To reply to this thread you must be a member. Click here to join