Track: Get the hell out of my way!

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I should note this was just the angle. The girl on the ground tripped over the hurdle and was not hurt. The girl in red was in the next lane and never made any contact with her. :)

This was my first time shooting track. Some of the photos are a bit soft. I had just gotten there when I snapped the above photo. It is in Program mode - shutter 1/250. Right after this I switched to Shutter Priority, 1/800, ISO 200 Aperture was 4.5. Here is how that worked out.

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I'd love any tips on what settings I should be using for outdoor track. I have the Nikon d300 and was using the Nikon 70-300mm D lens. Do you have any setting adjustments that you use for outdoor sports?
 

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Joined
Dec 1, 2008
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779
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New York
Here is what I generally use in a track meet.

Aperture priority. I generally use the largest aperture. This reduces background distraction and provides better subject isolation.

SS of 1/1000 or faster. I am willing to bump up the ISO to get faster SS.

AFC focusing to track athlete's movement.

Dynamic area focus. Shooters find success in single area focus as well as dynamic are focus. Personally I find more success with dynamic area focus. Shooters find success in 9 and 21 point dynamic area. I tend to use 21 point. 51 point area seems to be less successful as there are too many data points for the camera computer to process.

Some shooters prefer to focus on the athlete's torso. This is a bigger area and you will that easier to focus on. I prefer to focus on the face of an athlete but it is more difficult and it does require practice. Also, the failure rate is probably higher.

I prefer to use the highest frame rate and shoot a burst, then select the photo with the best action. Others find it successful to anticipate the action and just take one shot at a time.
 
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hmmm... Aperture Priority - I wouldn't have thought of that but it makes sense. I will try it next time. I was using single point and trying to get their face but they were going so fast I often couldn't get the focus box on the face while keeping all their limbs in the frame. I will try dynamic area. Thanks so much for your advice!
 
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Dec 1, 2008
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Just thought of a couple more things.

Turn VR off. At higher SS, not only VR does not help, it actually slows down the focusing mechanism. Since your subjects are not stationary, VR is not helpful here.

Set up the AF-ON button for focusing. That way you can use your thumb depressing the AF-ON button to track focus. Once you are ready to take a picture, you then use use your index finger to depress the shutter. The general approach of depressing the shutter half way to track focus seems to be more error prone since you use one finger to do two tasks (focusing and taking a picture).
 
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I use manual with auto-ISO, but if you use Aperture priority and auto-iso set the minimum shutter to 1/750 or whatever you're comfortable with, maybe 1/1000. And from what I've read, turn VR off from 1/500 or faster, apparently it can degrade the photos at those speeds.
 
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I did have the VR on. I'll try turning it off for next time. I will also look into AF-ON I've never tried it. Time to dust off my manual.
 

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