Light was a little hot (bright sun), which washed-out some shots and made harsh shadows. But bright light also provided high-tone opportunities like this and sparkles. This shot of the DC Velo guy is a favorite. This year's Rock Racing jersey looks like something that calls for EMT gloves and occlusive bandages. Kelly's Jeff Brandon was awesome (placing first in 1/2/3 ... Kelly also grabbed 3rd and 4th). Something strikes me about this candid, wholesome, appealing.
Things that seemed to work best: Shot almost all race pictures manual focus (Canon 5D autofocus is slow for sports); varied ISO from 400-800, aiming to keep at F5.6-8.0, shutter speed 1/800-1/1250; work to keep low, on ground if possible (to capture cyclists' faces).
Skills to work on: Manual focusing, background management (tossed a number of otherwise good shots because junk behind racers), and hydration. I may bring a second body with wide angle; results were comprised when shooting in tight corner (turn 3) with longer lens (70-200 mm).
It sucks you have to manually focus, but if you can do it- more power to you! The more you do it, the better you'll get.
As for harsh shadows, that's why we use flash in the middle of the day. Flash works best when the sun is at it's brightest. As a matter of fact, when it's cloudy, I shut my flash off, there are no shadows to fill then.
The sun doesn't need to be overpowering or screwing up your metering. Switch to Manual metering and use the Sunny 16 Rule. Sunny 16: When it's bright and sunny with full sun/harsh shadows, aperture=f/16, tv=1/ISO. With the sun highest in the sky reflecting off the pavement, you say you like f/5.6-f/8, so let's say for example at f/6.3, the other values according to Sunny 16 would be ISO 400 and Tv 1/2500. Your rider will be properly exposed. OR, alternatively if you know the sun will underexpose your shot and would like to stay in a semi-auto mode like Av of Tv, dial in some positive exposure compensation. At Wilmington at the finish line at the finish of the Pro Women's race I felt like staying in Tv mode. The sun was high and bright reflecting off the pavement and was screwing with my metering causing underexposure. I had my 1.4x teleconverter on the 200mm shooting at 280mm, so I was too far for fill flash. I dialed in +2/3 Exposure Compensation and the shot came out perfectly. Try it sometime.
That was my tip of the week. Stay tuned next week.
Thanks, Anthony. I move a little slowly in adopting some of these things. I've long heard that using flash will make things better, but it also makes carrying the equipment more cumbersome ... we'll see on that.
Now that I think I've got a good path for focusing for bike shots (short of upping to a 1D or such), I'm going to begin working to better understand exposure techniques and options. Many thanks for your tips! -- Jim
That's a great shot of the DC Velo guy. Did you know you could see through his sunglasses at the time?
Jim...that's amazing that you shot all of that with manual focus.
How are going about that? Are you tracking with a rider and constantly focusing or are you pre-focusing on a spot and then waiting for the rider to hit the mark or maybe something else I can't imagine?
BTW thanks again for the tip on credentials.
Les, I usually pre-focus on a spot (e.g., a line on the road), then wait for riders to cross that area, then expose. Where folks are in a predictable train (like in the pro race, where you have about 20 seconds from one end of the peleton to the other), I'll adjust focusing as the subjects come by. My "keeper" rate for manual focus seems about 50-75% higher than relying on autofocus); that said, it's hard work and my results get worse as the day progresses (I get tired).
Mike, I'll pick individual subjects based on their clarity in the action or race, and based on folks I know (e.g., my sons get more coverage than most ...). Sometimes it's chance. With race shots, I usually don't see much detail until post-processing. I didn't know about the DC Velo rider's sunglasses until reviewing the posts.
DC Velo has been a no-fee client of mine (they publish my work in the Don Beyer Volvo catalog), so I keep my eye out for those jerseys. Same with NCVC (my club), Kelly (my son's team). I like the physicality or comedic bent of some racers, so they probably get more attention (e.g., Super Dave, Russ Langley, Jay Dawg). I did a lot of Lance Armstrong when in Gila. Some folks ask me to look for them and sometimes that works.
Jim...I forgot to mention that I always enjoy your attention to the details of your surroundings as well as your profiles of the folks attending the races.
BTW...your keeper rate using manual focus is much higher than my auto focus rate. I tend to machine gun my shots and hope that one or two out of each burst is ok.
This is the first time I read your blog and I didn't know it can be so informative. Usually I come to your site to just view your shoots. But now I realize this is a place for this wanna-be-amateur to learn some tips and tricks as well as the rules.
Great shots! I think this was one of your best sports outings - in my opinion. It looks like you were having fun which is I guess the most important thing.
All the best.
(AFCC Chief Marshal - the guy in the orange)
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