High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8

Started Oct 10, 2012 | Questions
Sbarbian
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High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
Oct 10, 2012
I have posted on general talk and Canon 7d, but someone suggested posting on sports.  I have gotten a few responses.  

I have a Canon 7d with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens - Non-IS.  I have been really frustrated shooting night time high school football games with this camera/lens.  I was on last year and get some great info, but my pics aren't as clear as my friends Nikon.  I'm ready to give up all my Canon equipment and move to Nikon.  I have an older Canon 20d w/ Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 which I don't use. I haves scoured the internet for custom function settings and have found a few good sites.  I am shooting AI Servo on Manual, usually shot with evaluative metering, but now trying Center-weighted, using single shot focus 2nd square from top middle (not sure if I should be selecting a highlight point or not) and use a monopod.  I was trying to stay at ISO 3200, but then I read it was okay to take it higher.  I only have 2 games left to shoot and would love some great shots.  I've tried expansion focus but someone said that might be too jumpy.  I have tracking sensitivity on -1.  I don't know what else to do - really frustrated!  Thanks for any help you can give.

D5000, Shutter 1/320, AV 3.2 - no listing for shutter

Nikon D7000, ISO 4600, Shutter 1/200, AV 5.0

From all the posts I've read, everyone says to keep it above 1/500 and usually shoot with AV 2.8.

Canon 7d, ISO 6400, Shutter 1/640, AV 2.8

Canon 7d - ISO 6400, Shutter 1/400, AV 2.8

Canon 7d w/ Canon Lens 70-200 f/2.8 Non-IS - ISO 5000, Shutter 1/500, AV 2.8

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Canon EOS 20D Canon EOS 7D Nikon D5000 Nikon D7000
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rolette
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Moving to Nikon is unlikely to fix your problem.  The 7D plus the lens you are using is very capable of getting excellent football photos even at night under stadium lights.

Your settings sound like they are in the right ballpark.  Use single AF point (mileage may vary on enabling 2 expansion points around it), AI Servo.  Shoot wide open (f/2.8).  I wouldn't go below 1/500 and you won't freeze 100% of the motion at that speed.  Don't be afraid of ISO 6400 on the 7D.  A little NR will clean it up nicely.

If the lighting is fairly even across the field (unlikely), shoot in M.  If the light varies a lot as typical (particularly in the end zones), then either adjust your settings as the plays move down the field or shoot in Av and set a min shutter speed in the custom functions (can't recall if you can do that on the 7D or not though... might not be an option).

The problem is more likely to be your technique.  Couple of key things besides the usual questions about how steady you are supporting your camera:

1) With AI Servo, are you tracking the subject/player with the shutter half-pressed _before_ you take the shot or are you just pressing the shutter when you want to take a shot?  AI Servo works much better if it has some history to base its predictions of motion on.

2) How good are you at keeping that single AF point on the subject as the play develops?  Not sure what your experience level is, but this is definitely a skill that takes practice.

3) Where on the player are you placing the AF point?  AF systems need lines of contrast to focus on.  If you are focusing on a jersey that is all one color, you are unlikely to get consistently sharp focus.  It's one thing to keep the AF point "somewhere" on the player.  It's another to keep it somewhere on the player that has something for the AF point to latch on to.

4) Wait for the play to come to you.  Ideally you want the subject to fill 2/3 of the frame.  It's amazing how much easier the camera will accurately track focus when the subject is within a reasonable range.

The 70-200mm is a great lens, but it's a little short for football fields.  Realistically it let's you cover action that is up to 20 yards away from you.  One of the rules of shooting football is that you can't cover every play.  Get the shots that are in your coverage zone.

4a) Given the limited range you've got, the better you understand the game and the plays for whatever team you are covering, the more likely it is for you to be in the right spot in the first place.  It's 2nd down and 3... where is the play likely to go?

Hope this helps and you can avoid an expensive unnecessary switch.

Regards,

Jay

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Sbarbian
Junior MemberPosts: 44
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to rolette, Oct 10, 2012

rolette wrote:

Moving to Nikon is unlikely to fix your problem.  The 7D plus the lens you are using is very capable of getting excellent football photos even at night under stadium lights.

Your settings sound like they are in the right ballpark.  Use single AF point (mileage may vary on enabling 2 expansion points around it), AI Servo.  Shoot wide open (f/2.8).  I wouldn't go below 1/500 and you won't freeze 100% of the motion at that speed.  Don't be afraid of ISO 6400 on the 7D.  A little NR will clean it up nicely.

If the lighting is fairly even across the field (unlikely), shoot in M.  If the light varies a lot as typical (particularly in the end zones), then either adjust your settings as the plays move down the field or shoot in Av and set a min shutter speed in the custom functions (can't recall if you can do that on the 7D or not though... might not be an option).

The problem is more likely to be your technique.  Couple of key things besides the usual questions about how steady you are supporting your camera:

1) With AI Servo, are you tracking the subject/player with the shutter half-pressed _before_ you take the shot or are you just pressing the shutter when you want to take a shot?  AI Servo works much better if it has some history to base its predictions of motion on.

2) How good are you at keeping that single AF point on the subject as the play develops?  Not sure what your experience level is, but this is definitely a skill that takes practice.

3) Where on the player are you placing the AF point?  AF systems need lines of contrast to focus on.  If you are focusing on a jersey that is all one color, you are unlikely to get consistently sharp focus.  It's one thing to keep the AF point "somewhere" on the player.  It's another to keep it somewhere on the player that has something for the AF point to latch on to.

4) Wait for the play to come to you.  Ideally you want the subject to fill 2/3 of the frame.  It's amazing how much easier the camera will accurately track focus when the subject is within a reasonable range.

The 70-200mm is a great lens, but it's a little short for football fields.  Realistically it let's you cover action that is up to 20 yards away from you.  One of the rules of shooting football is that you can't cover every play.  Get the shots that are in your coverage zone.

4a) Given the limited range you've got, the better you understand the game and the plays for whatever team you are covering, the more likely it is for you to be in the right spot in the first place.  It's 2nd down and 3... where is the play likely to go?

Hope this helps and you can avoid an expensive unnecessary switch.

Regards,

Jay

Thanks.  That's really helpful.  I have back button focus, so I do press that and follow the player before I take the picture.  I have it on AI servo and single point focus and have used expansion.  My next question was going to be: when I set my focus, do you set a highlight point?  You can press the AF point selection button/Magnify Button to get either "select AF or select HP (highlight point) which flashes until you press the Illuminate LCD button along with the first button.  That point flashes.  If you don't select HP point, the point is just blank in expansion.  I have gotten better at following the action.

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Sbarbian
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Do you know what you should set your AI servo tracking sensitivity to?  Slower?  Faster?  Middle?

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apice
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Night football is tough regardless of the gear. Seems like some of the shots are a bit light and could use an exposure adjustment. Auto metering tends to blow out the high lights leaving zero detail. I have Nikons and can pull back the shadows a little easier than filling in a washed out highlight.

As for focusing moving subjects, try and anticipate the action before it happens. Pay attention to the game as it unfolds. If the team has a star running back, chances are it's gonna be him with most of the carries. It sounds like you do have experience. Another thing I do is get there early when you still have some ambient light and get some warm up shots.

I have some on my website if you feel like peeking around.

Again, shooting at night is not easy. It just takes a little additional effort from the camera operator.

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thanks,
Apice
http://apicephoto.com/
E.P.T.A.S.

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Sbarbian
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to apice, Oct 10, 2012

Very nice pictures.  Thanks.

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rolette
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Sbarbian wrote:

Do you know what you should set your AI servo tracking sensitivity to?  Slower?  Faster?  Middle?

On my 1D4, for most sports I have it set to -1 (one step slower than middle).  I don't want it switching targets if someone (ref, another player, etc.) passes in front of them briefly.

The same idea probably applies to the 7D, but I don't have one so not sure.

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rolette
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Sbarbian wrote:

Thanks.  That's really helpful.  I have back button focus, so I do press that and follow the player before I take the picture.  I have it on AI servo and single point focus and have used expansion.  My next question was going to be: when I set my focus, do you set a highlight point?  You can press the AF point selection button/Magnify Button to get either "select AF or select HP (highlight point) which flashes until you press the Illuminate LCD button along with the first button.  That point flashes.  If you don't select HP point, the point is just blank in expansion.  I have gotten better at following the action.

Bonus points for using back button focus!  Makes things easier, IMO, but didn't want to pile on until we got some of the other issues worked out.

I'm not familiar with the "highlight point" concept.  I took a quick look in one of Canon's online guides and didn't see anything about it either.  I'm guessing this is just how you pick which particular AF point gets used when you are using single point AF.

If there are no points selected, that may mean it is in what we'd call Ring of Fire mode on a 1D body... all the points are active and the camera chooses which one to use.  Normally not a good idea for field sports.

Sorry for all the conjecture on this... I have a 1D4 and a 40D, so don't know all the particulars for the 7D.

Jay

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Sbarbian
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to rolette, Oct 10, 2012

I'll try expansion and set the 2nd point from the top - middle row - as my highlight point, I guess.

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plautoq
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Re: High School Football - Canon 7D / Lens-70-200 f/2.8
In reply to Sbarbian, Oct 10, 2012

Yes, great pictures. I posted some of mine here : http://worldphoto.smugmug.com

I could take pictures with the 5D MK III that I could not even consider trying with my 60D. Most of the pictures are at ISO 6400, and for the purpose of displaying on the computer looks great. I had to crop some (more than I would like to) as I was shooting from far away using a 70-200L. It is on my list to get a 100-400L in the future...Lots to improve, but the camera itself is of great help.

Cheers.

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