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D300 w/ 18-200mm VR...Action Shot Settings?

Discussion in 'Sports Photography' started by ravencr, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Hello,

    I'm brand new to shooting with a DSLR, Nikon, or pretty much any high end camera. :) 

    I've read the entire manual, and I'm partially through an outside book a lot of folks recommended, as well. I'll be honest that I'm used to having a running man setting to capture the action shots in a crisp manner, but with the D300 it doesn't have anything like that.

    I'd like to be able to capture crisp shots whether the vehicles I'm shooting are coming straight at me or passing by right in front of me. The biggest thing I struggle with is popping off that perfectly timed one shot instance of a jump, for example, like the little one below. I find that it does fine most of the time I'm panning along with the vehicle while shooting in either CL or CH. The part I need help with is when I'm shooting single shots, maybe with the remote SB800 to get that one perfect shot when it's flying past past me.

    What I'd like to be able to do is set the shutter speed to the proper level, then let the camera control the ISO and Aperature automatically, but I haven't figured out how to do it properly. All of these shots below were shot in P mode, and the only things I had changed was the WB to direct sunlight. They were alos shot in standard vivid, because as you can see the vehicle is bright, but the surroundings were rather blah from all the dust making the little bit of green brown.

    I guess my questions rely around the following:

    1) How do I manually set the shutter speed and let the camera do the rest automatically?
    2) What would be the ideal way to set up the focus systems? How many focus points? Tracking?
    3) And, how do I determine what to set my shutter speed at to freeze the action? Is it some combination of what level of zoom I'm at, how far I am away from the subject, or any good guidelines?

    I have to say that I'm brand new to shooting with this camera, so my knowledge is limited to what the manual has told me so far. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    These were all shot at f/7-f/8, 1/500, ISO-200, 35mm-40mm focal length, max aperature 4.1-4.2. These all seem to be in focus to me...any comments would be greatly appreciated to make these better.
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    Lots more examples to follow.

    Chris
     
  2. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    These were shot the same with 112mm to 40mm focal length and max aperature of 4.9...same settings as above.

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    These all appear to be in focus to me, as well.

    Chris
     
  3. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Okay, these were shot the same with f/6.3-f/7.1 and 95mm focal length. All other settings are the same.
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    Same as above with f/7.1 and 56mm focal length.
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    f/6.3-f/8 with 42mm-95mm focal lengths.
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    And, the next ones will be the ones shot from the side with my SB-800 setup remotely shot from the bottom left and upward slightly.

    Chris
     
  4. Zee71

    Zee71

    Apr 1, 2007
    Queens, NY
    Although I'm not an expert, maybe the following can help:

    I guess my questions rely around the following:

    1) How do I manually set the shutter speed and let the camera do the rest automatically? I recommend using Shutter Priority (set the camera's mode to "S" instead of having it in "P" mode), also, you might consider also using Auto ISO as well (the Auto ISO can be set in the "Shooting Menu" under ISO sensitivity). There you can set the maximum ISO, and the minimum shutter speed.

    2) What would be the ideal way to set up the focus systems? How many focus points? Tracking? According to some stuff I read, 21 points or 51 points should work fine (I'm not sure about 51 points and 3D tracking).

    3) And, how do I determine what to set my shutter speed at to freeze the action? Is it some combination of what level of zoom I'm at, how far I am away from the subject, or any good guidelines? This is something you have to play around with, and really depends on what you're trying to freeze...........for example, I think a shutter of 1/500 will freeze a spinning prop on a plane, so if you're shoot propeller type planes that are flying in the sky you would want to slow down the shutter speed to about 1/250 (this should give the prop a little blur, so it shows the prop is spinning).

    NOTE: If you're going to use a monopod to shoot some action shots, make sure you switch the VR on the lens to the "Off" position.

    Here is a link to some air show images I took which might give you some insight to some of my settings: http://www.pbase.com/zee71/air_shows
     
  5. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks for the help...uploading more photos right now, and I'll probably have many more questions. :) 

    Chris
     
  6. Holy excessive photos Batman! 38 photos? Really?!?

    Well, to be pretty blunt about it, it's because the D300 is not designed to be a beginner camera. Instead, it's designed as a semi-professional/professional camera. That's why there are no cheesy landscape, portrait, sports, flower, blah blah blah modes on a pretty dial. This camera is designed for the serious photographer that knows his way around a camera, and how to use aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the results one would get by dialing in the little running man, or the flower. It amazes me how many people buy a camera like the D300, D700 or D3, that is way over their head in features, and then wonder why they can't figure out how to set simple things like shutter priority, aperture priority etc. Nikon should put some sort of disclaimer on their products to let folks know when they're stepping out of "hand-holding-simple-knob" territory, and into "this-is-a-serious-tool" territory. Again, sorry for being so blunt, but it's quite possible you've decided to start out just a tad over your head. Photography is hard enough to become proficient in as it is. When you start out with a camera designed for serious pro/semi-pro use, the camera can get in your way, especially when you don't know how to change important settings, or know how to access even the most basic ones.

    Now, to answer your question, you are trying to put the camera in shutter priority. There is a Mode button to the left of the LCD screen. Press that with your right index finger, and while holding it down, rotate the rear wheel with your thumb until you see an "S" on the LCD. Then set your shutter speed to what you want it to be (recommend a speed twice that of the focal length for stopped action). The camera will set the aperture to keep proper exposure. You also need to turn Auto ISO on and set a max sensitivity. For AF, you need to set the selector beside the lens mount to "C", and then turn the control knob until CL or CH is shown. Then, set the AF switch on the back to the middle setting. As for 3D tracking, there are pros and cons to that mode. Try with it on and with it off, and see which works better for you. Your photos, while they are in focus, they seem a bit soft. They could benefit from some sharpening in post.

    And seriously... 38 photos of the same thing with slight movement of the subject between each frame? You really should put a warning to those folks with dial-up before slamming a post that full of images.
     
  7. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Okay, these were shot using the SB-800 remotely fired off using the commander mode on the D300, and I had both flashes firing. The on camera flash as +1, and I think the external was at normal intensity. The flash was set on the ground facing slight up, and roughly 10 feet from the point at which I took the pictures from the vehicle. I was probably 20ft from the vehicle. Because I was using the flash, I only snapped one picture. I remember some setting saying the minimum shitter speed of 1/250 somewhere when using flash, but isn't there a way to increase this to something higher like 1/500 or higher? Or, just forget the flash and set the shutter speed higher? I'd like to do both, if at all possible.

    In these pictures, as you can probably tell, I'm shooting off one shot directly from the side of the vehicle flying by me at 20-30mph, so nothing too fast really. There's many times these UTVs are going by me at 50-70mph, so having the right shutter speeds is going to be critical for me.

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    I really appreciate the help with all this, and these are all the pics I have so far to show the comparison to this point.

    Probably a dumb question, but I didn't see it in the manual, when setting it on S mode, how do I actually change the shutter speed? I couldn't figure it out for the life of me the other day while out there.

    Chris
     
  8. Depending on how you have the command/sub dial set up, you either rotate the wheel below the shutter release with your finger, or you rotate the wheel on the rear with your thumb.

    <subliminal message>sellD300andbuyD60orD90</subliminal message>

    Photography will be so much easier then...:wink:
     
  9. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I totally agree with you on this...no worries at all. I am a editor for a magazine and the need for my photos to be better is the reason I bought this camera and have a lot to learn. I'm very excited to learn the camera and get it right, and I appreciate your help on the matter, that's for sure. It's probably unusual to hear that an editor is asking for questions on how to use a semi-pro camera, but here I am. I quite frankly think most of the photos in our industry suck, so I'm excited to start producing some better quality photos.

    [/quote]Now, to answer your question, you are trying to put the camera in shutter priority. There is a Mode button to the left of the LCD screen. Press that with your right index finger, and while holding it down, rotate the rear wheel with your thumb until you see an "S" on the LCD. Then set your shutter speed to what you want it to be (recommend a speed twice that of the focal length for stopped action). The camera will set the aperture to keep proper exposure. You also need to turn Auto ISO on and set a max sensitivity. For AF, you need to set the selector beside the lens mount to "C", and then turn the control knob until CL or CH is shown. Then, set the AF switch on the back to the middle setting. As for 3D tracking, there are pros and cons to that mode. Try with it on and with it off, and see which works better for you. Your photos, while they are in focus, they seem a bit soft. They could benefit from some sharpening in post.[/QUOTE]Thanks so much...that helped a ton. I just pulled out the camera and for whatever reason I couldn't figure out how to set the shutter speed for the life of me out there in the field. I just figured it out and it works great, especially with the help of the slider to tell me if it's going to be overexposed or under exposed. Very cool!

    So, if I'm zoomed in to 200mm, I understand you correctly I should be at a minimum of 1/400 shutter speed, right?

    Thanks so much for the help,

    Chris
     
  10. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Subliminal message taken, but no can do...I will master it, for sure. Especially with all you guy's help. I really appreciate it.

    Chris
     
  11. But the D90 has the same sensor as the D300, so the image quality should be, for all intents and purposes, identical. The D80 and D60 both have the same sensor at 10.2 MP. Honestly, the difference between 10.2 and 12MP is almost negligible. All three will give you stunning images. The difference is, the D60, D80 and D90 are much, much more user friendly (D60 being the most). The only thing you get with the D300 is better build quality, and a lot more customization options that are designed specifically for the very serious user. In other words, a bunch of stuff that will get in the way of you taking pictures, but will do absolutely nothing to make your photos better. In fact, it may cost you some great photos because you forgot you changed a setting, and don't remember how to get back to where you need to be for a certain situation. I completely feel your pain. My step sister did the same thing a couple years ago. She is a great painter/artist, and has a great eye for photography and abstract work. Well, she decided to "upgrade" from a point and shoot camera, to a more serious DSLR. What does she buy? A Canon 1DMkIIn. Needless to say, she was completely overwhelmed with the camera and all it's settings/features/menu options that she couldn't figure any of it out. I had to show her how to use the thing, which to be honest, was no small feat, as I was not familiar with Canons. So basically, I had to learn it first, and then teach her. She ultimately got frustrated, and bought the camera I recommended to her in the first place... A Canon Rebel XT. Now, she's making stunning photographs that weren't possible with her other camera, all because it got in her way. Am I saying you can't learn the D300? Absolutely not. I'm just saying that it's a VERY steep learning curve. It's even steep for most of us who came from D70's and D80's. It's going to take a lot of reading and practicing before you become even remotely comfortable with it. Personally, I would recommend the D90 or D60 so you can jump right in and start taking the photos you want to take, and not have to worry about mucking up an assignment because you had the camera's settings all wrong. Take that advice for the $0.02 it's worth, and keep the change. If you decide to keep the D300, just keep practicing. And buy Thom Hogan's D300 guide.



    That is correct. Actually, 1/500 second is probably better, because the 200mm on DX bodied cameras acts like 300mm.
     
  12. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I can't say enough how much I appreciate the help even though you're trying to buy my D300 from me at a steal. :)  Totally kidding...I will learn it for sure. Nice to know that the 1.5x rate of the focal length applies to the shutter speed, as well.

    So, another question. If I set the shutter speed to say 1/500+ to stop the action, and for whatever reason the camera says it's going to underexpose the picture with the little slider on the top menu, is there a quick way to further adjust the aperature to a smaller number to help with this, or does the camera automatically do this the best it can for the lens I'm using?

    And, with the camera going up to 1/8000 shutter speed, is this just something I need to play with depending on the speed of the vehicle flying by me? I would imagine the 2 times the focal length is merely a beginning guage, right?

    I've got David Busch's book and getting through it slowly...Does Thom's have a lot of good stuff for shooting action photography?

    Chris
     
  13. The camera will adjust the aperture to the largest opening (smallest number) that your lens will allow. If that still isn't enough to get the correct exposure, then you need to bump up the ISO. If you're shooting for a magazine, then I recommend you shoot in RAW to give yourself some more leeway with adjusting things after the fact. Once the file is processed to JPEG in camera, your adjustments are quite limited.

    Also, there are times when motion blur actually helps an image. Take for instance the shots you posted. After the first 25 shots :wink: they got a little boring. Try slowing the shutter speed down to around 1/30 second or slower, and pan with the motion. This will help blur the background, while keeping the buggy relatively sharp. It will give a nice, much more interesting, feeling of motion. Panning takes practice, so don't worry if your first 100 shots or so are complete failures. When you nail one, you will be hooked. Take the two shots below. Which one is more interesting?

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    Or

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    As you can see, I'm not even that proficient at this type of shot. This was the first time trying this with off camera flash. But, it gives you an idea of what you can do to spice up an otherwise "blah" photo.


    Thom's book lays out all the settings and features of the D300, and helps you figure out how to use them to their fullest. It's probably one of the highest rated user guides out there. I know many folk here recommend it. www.bythom.com to buy it.
     
  14. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Just ordered his book. I appreciate the recommendation. Sorry for the repetitive pictures...obviously only the best will make it the magazine, and I'm sure they'll be touched up on photoshop.

    On your comment on shooting in RAW, I heard it drastically slows down the FPS and processing time for the buffer, possibly resulting in more out of focus shots? Is this correct?

    When panning, do you find it better to be closer to the vehicle or further away with a longer focal length to achieve the proper blurred effect?

    Sorry to be asking all the questions...I guess I can only stop when you stop helping. :)  I greatly appreciate it.

    Chris
     
  15. wendy

    wendy

    78
    Jul 5, 2008
    PA
    Great discussion here. I always tell people interested in learning digital cameras to take a class that uses film cameras exclusively. Understanding the balance between shutter, aperture and ISO on a film camera, in my opinion, is the BEST first step to mastering the digital camera.
     
  16. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Just going through my specific questions tonight has really made me realize why the 2.8 lenses are so much better for action. It's simple when it's explained the way Medic1210 explained it. I'm going to take a class up here in Flagstaff as soon as I can too. It's amazing how these cameras can do such neat effects...all we have to be is creative in coming up with what different effects will look good.

    Chris
     
  17. I'm willing to bet if he's buying the camera and taking the photos, it's a very small publication, with a very limited budget. I may be wrong, but that's my guess.
     
  18. Your frames per second doesn't drop unless you're shooting in 14 bit RAW. What does happen is, your buffer fills up quicker, so the camera's FPS will drop down sooner than it would shooting JPG only. As far as I know, this does not affect AF accuracy. Not sure if you have it or not, but if you need fast frame rate, you can buy a MB-D10 grip and put AA NiMH batteries or the D3 battery in it and boost the frame rate to 8 per second.

    A longer lens will definitely make blurring the background easier, because you don't need the shutter speed as slow as you would if you were shooting at 17mm or so. For the shot above, I was trying for a wide angle effect. Didn't pull it off like I wanted, but I don't think it was too bad for my first attempt at that type of shot. I've done panning shots before, but never with the wide angle and off camera flash.
     
  19. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Sorry for not replying guys...didn't get any notifications on email. I'm part owner of the magazine: http://www.utvoffroadmag.com It is small, been around for a little over 2 years and it's a very niche but exciting growing market. Both the other partners can work magic on Photoshop, so no worries there. I would just like to get better as taking pictures is part of my job and a hobby.

    I'll try the 12 bit Raw's, and I've got the MB-D10 with the EL4 battery for the higher frame rates. Thanks again for the help,

    Chris
     
  20. ravencr

    ravencr

    55
    Aug 30, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I've never claimed to be a good photographer, not here or anywhere I work. I try my best to absorb all the info I can from the best I've seen in the industry and go from there. But, thanks for the assumption. :) 

    Chris
     
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