Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thank goodness - we have sports to photograph again!

It is crazy to think that it has been well over a year since I photographed any sports, but of course, with the pandemic all sports have been shut down for that long. At least, that is the case here in California. But now things are starting to open up a little and I could finally get out and shoot local sports and get warmed up for the upcoming Olympic Games. Just like the athletes themselves, us photographers have to get back into practice as well, honing our skills and trying new gear.

I have had many people ask me how the new Canon R6 works when shooting sports, and up until now I really did not have a good answer for them. But I recently photographed a field hockey game here in my home town and gave the Canon R6 a try. 

I mounted the Canon R6 to my Canon 200-400mm lens and used a Gitzo monopod to support the weight of all that. I put the camera into aperture priority mode and set the ISO to 320 which gave me plenty of shutter speed to freeze the action. 

My absolute favorite feature of the new Canon mirrorless cameras is the eye detection and I rely on that for all my portraits and event photography. I started with the camera in eye detection mode but quickly found that it was not reliable locking onto my intended subject. There were times when the intended subject would face away from the camera for an extended period of time (and the camera then searches for another face) or it would lock onto another athlete that was not my primary subject.  With all of this said, I did not take this as a fault of the camera, but the wrong mode for shooting this type of sport where people are constantly changing directions. So...I changed the camera to IO Servo focus mode using only the center point. 

I am VERY curious to see if this changes with the upcoming Canon R3. I will keep you posted when I can share that information with you.

Once I was back in center point focus I found it much easier to lock focus on my subject. I was shooting in the Electronic 1st-curtain mode at a fast frame rate and the camera worked flawlessly.

After shooting the field hockey game for over an hour I felt totally comfortable using the Canon R6. The controls were easy to get to, and making slight changes to the camera settings (ISO, aperture...) really thoughtless.

To really put the autofocus to test, I decided to shoot through the goal net, to see if the camera would lock onto the subject and not be "distracted" by the net. and sure enough, it did a great job.

I am a pretty trusting guy huh? People often ask me how heavy this setup is, so I let our friend Lauren give it a try. 

Next up was a chance to photograph baseball at another local high school. This time around I decided to shoot with my Canon 1DX MKIII. It is not because the Canon R6 did not perform well, there were three things that I used based my decision on:

1. I figured that, since I was not using the eye detection mode and this camera that the Canon 1DX MKIII would focus even faster in center point Servo mode.

2. The Canon 1DX MKIII captures to CFexpress cards which are much faster for buffer clear and downloading (although I never really had any lag with the R6). 

3. I had not used the bigger camera in a while and I kinda missed it. :)

Even though I had a lot of sunlight, when photographing the batters, I set the camera to an ISO of 400 and an aperture at f/4, which gave me a shutter speed close to 1/4000 sec. 

This really fast shutter speed helped me get the ball sharp without too much motion blur. 

I took a lot of photos of the kids at bat, but found the background a bit distracting, and I also had a ton of photos of them swinging and it was time to capture something else.

I really have not photographed a lot of baseball, so I found the biggest challenge not the camera, but predicting the play and capturing the best action.

Like I do with any sport, I try to capture images of every athlete. At this time, I was focusing specifically on the catcher.

It was late in the afternoon and I saw the sunlight hitting the pitcher straight into his face. I got down low on the ground and shot this photo of him mid pitch.

Using the fast shutter speed, I was able to catch moments like these...

I saw this guy on second base, and looking like he was going to steal a base. I focused on the third baseman and hoped he would run. He did, and I was ready for the shot. As he approached third base, he flipped around to try and avoid the tag and I got this awkward photo. As you can tell, he was safe, since the ball got away from the infielder. 

I decided to take a selfie of me in action. This is how I look best (in shadow).

As many of you know, I will be shooting a lot of water polo at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, so it was great to finally get some practice shooting this sport. 

Obviously, the backgrounds at the Olympics will be better than shooting at a local high school, but the action is still great.

Once again, I chose to use the Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 200-400mm lens. This particular lens lets me shoot from 200mm all the way to 560mm (using the built-in teleconverter) and is really ideal for this sport. 

The next time I shoot water polo, I am planning on using the Canon mirrorless camera since most of the athletes are facing me, and the face tracking may doing really well.

I am really curious to see how eye tracking would work in situations like this, where an eye is barely visible and also behind a lot of splashing water. Stay tuned!

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1 comment:

David A said...

Jeff, nice to see you "kicking the tires" once again.