How I took this (Action) Photo Number One
This is the first of a series of articles that uses a photo to show how you can get a particular type of shot.
Whilst some of the examples won’t necessarily be stock, product or marketing photos (although any image can be used to market anything). It is a good starting point for taking similar photos and I hope that this inspires you to go and emulate and maybe even improve on the method I give you here.
This one kind of leads on from my recent Shutter speed priority post Learn how to use shutter priority in 15 minutes
And for more reading on shutter speed go to:
Let’s enlarge on this and see how I took this image below:
Now on the surface of it you could if you were really unkind suggest it was luck and yes, there is always a little bit of luck involved in success at anything.
Certainly, a football team needs a bit of luck to go its way but it also plays to get that luck and as in life “you make your own luck”. Which without wanting to digress too much, means If you want to make your own luck, you have to be open to where life might take you, trust your instincts, and go for it. Here endeth the lesson!
So what did I do here?
Well let’s look at where I was. The Fort Worth Stockyards rodeo is an event that happens weekly and I just happened to be in town at that time.
The first thing I did was buy General Admission tickets, which are not reserved seating, so once I got in there I could to a certain degree work out where a good place to sit was to get the best photos. I chose the opposite end to where the bulls or cows appear so that I could follow them out. That position also allowed me to take some photos close ups of the cows themselves as I was above their pen.
Now as you can see it’s dark, that is it’s after dark, and the place is well floodlit. In addition to that most of the photos I was taking were going to be action and I was looking to freeze that action. You can see that by the fact the cow and rider are off the ground.
If I had blurred the action It would have looked like they were still on the ground.
But I also needed flexibility to be able to get close up and distance shots.
So I needed to ensure the equipment and settings were as flexible as possible.
When taking shots in false light it’s never going to be as bright overall as natural light.
My gear was a Canon 5D MKII with a 75-300mm telescopic lens. Which is a full frame DSLR
The settings were a very high 3200 ISO with a wide open, aperture in this case f5.6. Now with this lens, which is not a pro lens and therefore not very fast, the lens minimum aperture was actually f4 but as you zoomed out so the aperture increased up to a max of f5.6. I had to make sure that at 75mm the aperture was actually f4 otherwise the minimum aperture at 300mm would have been higher giving me a slower shutter speed. The other significant factor was that the lens has IS – Image Stabilisation, which meant I had a cushion of at least one stop.
What does that mean? Well the shutter speed actually took care of itself but had it dropped say below 250 at 300mm then the chances of camera shake or blur are greatly reduced as long as it didn’t reduce too much.
This photo was taken at f5.6, 300mm and a shutter speed of 1/250. As I mentioned the ISO was quite high, higher than I would have liked but after playing around with the light beforehand it seemed like that was going to be the only way without a tripod to get sharp photos.
So why not a tripod? Well it’s extremely difficult to have the flexibility to move around.
If you have been to a football game of any code or type, you’ll see the media photographers have big fast super zoom lens that have a big (fast*) aperture like f2.8 or even larger and the zoom can be up to 600mm.
These babies weigh a fair bit, but they don’t use a tripod, they use what’s called a monopod or something equivalent that supports the weight of the lens and (very important) they also have prime position usually on the sidelines. I’m sure it happens in other sports but I’ve seen them almost get cleaned up by a player who ended up on the sidelines.
So in conclusion
To get a good photo of anything you need a bit of luck but at the same time you make your own luck and I did that by:
1 Scouting the location
2 Taking a reading of the light
3 Working out the best position bearing in mind your own budget and access
4 Ensuring you have the correct equipment which can be basically the best you have.
But be realistic. For example don’t expect to get good photos in low light with a smartphone.
5 Set your camera to the correct setting and make sure that if you are taking action photos you have the flexibility to make quick changes.
The other tip I would give is if you are at an event that you would enjoy make sure you actually make time to enjoy it and move in front of the camera and not be behind it all the time
*Fast lens means that the lens in question has a large maximum aperture (the bigger the aperture, the faster the lens will be) e.g. f1.8.
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