Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!

Started Dec 5, 2012 | Discussions
luvmybec
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Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
Dec 5, 2012

I have a new Sony A-57 I am trying to shoot girl's basketball pics with.  I've done some research and know the recommended lens is a 70-200mm f2.8, but that's a little out of the budget now.  I bought two Minolta lens, the beercan and the 50mm 1.7 (for very little money) that I have tried.  Here's what I got out of the beercan:

Minolta 70-200 F4, using Automatic Sports Action Mode setting

Many of the shots using the Automatic Sports mode did not freeze the action (shutter speeds ended up around 1/250 on some).  I've gotten much better shots with the 50mm 1.7, using Shutter priority at 1/400 and ISO set at 1600, for example:

Minolta 50 mm, Shutter Priority at 1/400, ISO 1600 and this one:

Minolta 50mm f1.7, Shutter priority 1/400 and ISO 1600

Keep in mind I am a new shooter and am just learning the basics.  Are there any other settings I should attempt to get better shots with the equipment I have?  Would an 85mm prime lens be too long for these shots from the end of the court?  Are there any other inexpensive Minolta lenses that might take better shots than this one?  All help, criticism and comments are greatly welcomed!  Thanks!

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GPapa
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Lens Choice and Exposure Modes
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 5, 2012

Lens Choice:

For indoor sports the 85mm f/1.8 prime gets recommended often. The focal length is about right on a crop sensor body if you can get access to the perimeter of the court. A couple of days ago I posted 14 photos in a thread titled High School Girls Basketball. I was shooting with a 70-200 lens. Of the 14 frames I selected to share in this forum, 11 of them were in the 70-90mm range. I think this is fairly typical. You won't miss much action using an 85mm lens.

I have an 85mm f/1.8 that I use when in gyms with poor lighting, where the 70-200 f/2.8 just will not perform.

Another plus for the 85mm lens is image sharpness. I get sharper images from the 85mm than from my 70-200. Being able to use faster shutter speeds may be part of this.

When choosing lens brand/model be sure the auto focus is fast. The Canon 85mm f/1.8 is recommended for this reason. I don't know about performance of other brand/model of the 85mm lens. Maybe someone will offer some suggestions on that or you can do some web research before making a purchase.

Exposure Modes:

Most sports shooters will avoid any automatic exposure modes. The light in gymnasiums is usually fairly constant and you can easily strike a balance between shutter speed, aperture and ISO that will work for just about any location on the court for the entire game. I will usually set up the camera to slightly over expose at mid court where there is more light than under the basket. Most of the interesting action takes place under the basket anyway.

Another problem with auto exposure modes is the light and dark uniforms of the athletes will cause auto exposure to both overexpose and under expose. You really want to expose for the faces of the athletes.

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pjman792
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 5, 2012

Hi - From the looks of it, you're off to a decent start. I've shot literally hundreds of high school basketball games in my career, and here's what I recommend: First, as previously mentioned, shoot on manual exposure mode. Avoid shooting at a shutter speed slower than 1/250th/sec., with 1/500th (or above) being ideal. Most high school gyms have conditions that will give you an exposure of around 1/250th at f2.8 at ISO 1600. If you can do so, shoot at a higher ISO to get a faster shutter speed. (Personally, I'm willing to give up a bit in terms of image quality to freeze the action.) The 50mm lens you have should be fine for near-court shots, especially if your camera has a cropped sensor. For far court, I like at least a 200mm lens (or your 85mm on a cropped sensor). Where you sit matters, too. And I would definately sit, rather that stand - it gives a better perspective on the players when you shoot from a sitting position. If you don't know what I mean, next time you shoot a game, shoot one shot from a standing position and another from a sitting position - you'll see the difference. I like shooting from the baseline at one end of the court, near the corner. It gives a nice view under the basket, and also lets you shoot the guards in backcourt and around the top of the key. Good luck, and I hope to see more of your action shots soon!

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Buchanan
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 6, 2012

I think the quality of the 3rd shot is pretty good. As the others have said 1/250 is going to be too slow. Open the aperature and/or up the ISO. Some noise at higher ISO is preferable to motion blur. 1/400 is pretty much my minimum and sometimes it takes shooting wide open with a high ISO to even get that with my gyms. 6400 ISO, 2.8, 1/400 to 1/500 is pretty much my norm for my gyms around here with my Canon 60D. The other night in a really bad gym and using my new 5Diii (which I am still learning) I went to iso 8000 and 10000 to just get to 1/400. Don't know your camera so can't give you other specifics for settings but I use a single focus point (although I will change it depending in my composition) and AI servo setting.

Common problems I had starting out that still happen sometimes is I don't get my focus point on target and the back wall is in focus and the intended target player is not, and also shooting before giving the AF time to lock/focus on target (in that case nothing is in focus).

One other thing to consider is you can improve a lot of the shots by cropping for effect in post.  I think if 1st pic had sharper I would have cropped it larger, cutting out all but the girl with the ball and the 3 opponents surrounding her (this would also get rid of the unneeded space above the girls).  Result would have been a more striking rendition of 3 girls against the 1 which is the action part of the shot.

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Nevada-is-HOME
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 6, 2012

You are in the minority here.. a fellow Sony shooter as me.

Arguably your A57 is one iteration better than my A550 so I think I can speak in similar relative terms.

Additionally, you have the same two Minolta lens that I have -- a cheapo 50mm f/1.7mm and the best bang for the buck, Minolta beercan F/4.0 lens.

As with you, you are close to top limits of what your camera and lens setup can deliver.  If you are continuing in sports shooting and thinking about upgrading.. changing to Canon or Nikon is a prudent choice.

On the other hand, the cheapest way to defer the desire to upgrade hardware, is to fine tune your post processing skills in your photo editing software.

At a minimum, learn how to use levels and curves to make adjustments to your pictures.  A de-noise software is a must.. which I don't have as of now.

I am just learning to use Corel Paint Shop Pro X2.. but today I got my copy of Corel Paint Shop Pro X5.  My pictures will certainly get better (and not worse) because of it.

If I learn the software as intended by the author.. I think it can make up one to one and one half F/ stop in lens light.

The picture below was shot (Minolta 50mm f/1.7 at 1/500sec ISO 1600 - manual focus is the only way to overcome the slow focus) in the darkest HS gym in the Reno / Sparks area -- and the color of the lights is toilet pee yellow.  Yuck.

Last year, the two local newspaper photographers covering Sparks HS used camera flashes (One shooting with Canon 7D F/2.8 lens and other using Nikon D300 with F/2.8 lens)..

This year, the same photographer is using the latest version of the Canon 5D but no flash.  He showed me his latest purchase yesterday.

On the other hand.. for the type of shooting I do, I can live with what I got -- for now.  But the itch is always there to change to a Canon 7D or a Nikon D7000 just for starters.

As they say.. when you buy wrong, you buy twice.



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luvmybec
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to Nevada-is-HOME, Dec 6, 2012

GPapa, thanks for the feedback.  I've been lurking a while and your basketball shots are very good!  The last shots I was shooting, I used the Shutter Priority Mode, letting the camera pick the rest.  Going totally manual is a bit scary, but I'll give it a try next week and adjust the exposure as well, because most of my pics were on the dark side.

PJ Man, thanks for the positive comments.  I'll try sitting next week as well for a different perspective.  Maybe my focusing can improve by sitting as well too, I am still struggling with getting a lot of sharp shots.   I was able to get some great outdoor flag football shots using my Minolta beercan 70-210mm lens, but unfortunately I don't think it's going to cut it for the indoor basketball, at least not in our home gym. Your soccer shots were great too!

Buchanon, you are spot on regarding the cropping of the first pic.  That was my best action shot that night, but unfortunately it wasn't very sharp. I am having difficulty keeping all the shots sharp. I am using the continuous auto focus.  On a layup run for example, I may get the first and last shots sharp but the middle shots are out of focus.   If anybody has any tips for that, I would appreciate those too.  I am trying to prefocus, and pressing the shutter button throughout the shots to try to get focused.

Nevada-is-HOME, I appreciate the comments from a fellow Sony shooter.  I am only shooting indoor sports until my daughter graduates from high school, which is another reason I didn't want to buy a $1000 lens.  I have been using iPhoto to crop and adjust exposures, etc.  I downloaded a trial verison of Elements 11, but it didn't seem to be the easiest to pick up and use immediately, and I haven't had much time to play with it.  I'll have to check out the Corel Paint Shop.  Your basketball shot is awesome, by the way!

Thanks to everyone for being so welcoming on my first post.  I've been lurking for a while, and this forum can be a scary place!  You've all been kind and helpful and it is greatly appreciated.

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GPapa
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Take some practice shots before the game
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 6, 2012

I think the 50mm photos you shared are more than OK. I really like the third one a lot. I spent my first year of seriously trying to shoot sports using a 20D and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I got plenty of good photos and lots of not so good ones.

I spent a lot of time experimenting with suggestions offered by folks on this forum. Sometimes the advice worked and other times, because we were using different equipment, the suggestions didn't really apply. Other times the lighting situation in my local gym just made it impossible to do what was suggested. I learned a lot and it was rewarding to see my keeper rate go up over time.

I'm thinking right now you don't need a new lens. The 50mm is working and you will get more bang for your buck working on technique. Later you may want to look at another lens.

If your daughter's practices are open to the public ask the coach if you can go in and practice with your camera. I have done that myself when trying new techniques.

Definately go with full manual or at least give it a try.

Shutter Speed: 1/500 or faster (like maybe 1/1000?)

Aperture: f/2.2 - f/ 2.8

ISO: Experiment. Set it whereever you have to to get into the shutter speed/aperture range above. Then experiment some more to see what shutter speeds and apertures you can get when you bump the ISO up into the higher ranges. Compare the output. What happens if you set the ISO at 12800 and then balance the exposure by raising the shutter speed? What happens if you set ISO at 12800 and close down the aperture? Do you get more well focused images with higher shutter speeds? Do you get more well focused images with a smaller aperture? At what ISO level does the noise really begin to interfere with the quality output?

I usually shoot at ISO 6400 as I find the trade off between high ISO noise and faster shutter speed acceptable for our home gym. One thing I will not do is under expose. I always use the expose the the right technique. It works and it limits the really awful low frequency noise.

Below is a link to the concept of Exposing to the right.

Digital Exposure: Exposing to the Right Explained

http://www.ronbigelow.com/articles/exposure/exposure.htm

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garykohs
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 7, 2012

luvmybec wrote:

Keep in mind I am a new shooter and am just learning the basics. Are there any other settings I should attempt to get better shots with the equipment I have? Would an 85mm prime lens be too long for these shots from the end of the court? Are there any other inexpensive Minolta lenses that might take better shots than this one? All help, criticism and comments are greatly welcomed! Thanks!

I've shot 100s of thousands of high school basketball photos over the years - with Konica-Minolta, Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras, but most of them have been with KM/Sony. A lot of those have been with the 50/1.7 Minolta lens. It's a good choice for the baseline.

These days I'm shooting more with my Canon 1D MkIV, which is a 1.3 crop camera and the Canon 85/1.8 that GPapa referenced. It's about perfect for the baseline IMO. But there's no comparably priced lens for the A mount. The best choice would be the Sigma 85/1.4 HSM but it's a premium lens with a $1,000 price tag.

My favorite A mount basketball lens is the Sigma 50-150/2.8 HSMII.

http://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/50-150mm-f28-ex-dc-apo-hsm-ii-sigma

Unfortunately it has been replaced by a newer version with IS but the new version is big and heavy and it doesn't have IS in Sony mount anyway. If you can find a used one I'd recommend it. It should be about $500 - $600 used. They occasionally pop up on the Sigma outlet refurbished lens page. http://www.sigmaphoto.com/sigma-outlet-shop?sCID=0&sCSID=4#

I'm shooting with an A77 these days and it's fine at ISO 3200 if shooting Raw and post processing in Lightroom or DxO Optics Pro. I know from my experience with an A55 that you can use ISO 6400 if you need it on your A57 (same sensor). So get your shutter speed up to at least 1/500. I'd shoot the 50/1.7 in A priority mode at f2.2 or so and adjust the ISO high enough to keep the shutter where you want it. Or, shoot in full manual mode as others have adjusted. Just shoot Raw and know you are going to have to adjust exposure regardless of which way you go with your shooting mode.

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luvmybec
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to garykohs, Dec 7, 2012

Gary, that does look like a perfect lens for what I need. The 200 has really been too long (and pretty heavy) for what I've been shooting in basketball.   I'll keep an eye open.  I have not yet shot in Raw, so I'll have to figure that out.  Thanks.

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garykohs
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 7, 2012

luvmybec wrote:

Gary, that does look like a perfect lens for what I need. The 200 has really been too long (and pretty heavy) for what I've been shooting in basketball. I'll keep an eye open. I have not yet shot in Raw, so I'll have to figure that out. Thanks.

The beercan is a great lens - I have one and I've shot lots of baseball with it plus portraits, etc. - but it's way too slow focusing for basketball and it's not fast enough (in terms of max shutter speed with a max aperture at f4) for basketball.

Shooting Raw is not hard. What it requires is a program that allows you to quickly and easily convert your raw files to jpeg while also allowing you to make the adjustments - noise and exposure and white balance - that you need to maximize the quality of the shots you have taken. The best program in my opinion is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It is expensive. I'm fortunate in being a high school teacher since the education price is $99. If you keep your eyes open, though, you'll find sales on Lightroom that make it well worth the price.

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Nevada-is-HOME
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Dec 21, 2012

When you buy wrong, you buy twice..  That is good advice that I don't seem to be able to follow.  Variety / trial and error / experimentation are spices of life -- at least for me.

That said, I finally won on Ebay a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.. but in my case an 80-200mm Tokina lens.

I guess it is my way to stay with Sony a bit longer until they actually build a camera with the sports shooters in mind.

I am encouraged by the dpreview Gold award for the Sony A57 and now the A99.  So there still might be hope for Sony shooters out there yet.  I hear the Sony video features are top notch.. so if that is the future, then Sony is well positioned and is ahead of the curve.

Certainly the A57 burst mode is far faster than the Canon 7D that I had my eyes for a while.. but the 7D price point of less than $1K hasn't been breached just yet.. so I am staying put with Sony a while longer.

I also see today that BUYDIG has the Pentax K-5 body for less than $690 for the first time.  The low light ISO performance is rated right there with the Nikon D7000 because they use the same Sony based 16mp sensor.

All the while.. I have been experimenting with PP to clean up my images at ISO 1600 and hoping the 1/500 - 1/640sec shutter speed at F/1.7- 2.4 range will fit the bill for most HS gyms.

On the other hand, I am still hoping for the day that the likes of Canon G15 can make a giant leap in low light performance that is acceptable to me.  In the mean time, I have experimented with a Samsung EX-1 for sports shooting.. so the next iteration of premium compact cameras may be on the verge of breaking through as a back up camera to carry next to a DSLR for most away from the action shots.

Sony A550 shot with a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens using manual focus in a 1970s era gym with decent / average lights primarily due to low ceiling and white ceiling/walls.  Pics will appear soft at full resolution for variety of reasons.. aggressive cropping, shadow DOF, and manual focus error.



I shot the girls game with a Samsung EX-1 and it did ok.  I wasn't willing to go over ISO 800 and kept the shutter speed between 1/180 and 1/250.  If I had used the on board camera flash, I could have upped the shutter speed to 1/500 and dropped the ISO400.. and I am confident the premium compact P&S camera with f/1.4-2.4 lens can perform comparably with any $1K DSLR setup using no camera flash if you are positioned right.



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luvmybec
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to Nevada-is-HOME, Jan 11, 2013

Hello everyone,

I am continuing to shoot basketball shots.  I have tried to incorporate the recommendations of those who so graciously provided help and comments.  I have tried the aperture priority from 2.2 to 2.5, adjusting the exposure compensation to +3.0, even bumped the shutter speed up to 640 and 800, and Iso from 1600 to 6400.  I have also shot manual with settings around the same area (but there is no exposure compensation setting in manual).  I have found that any ISO above 3200 is too noisy and 3200 is even marginal.  Keep in mind that I don't have any photo processing software other an iPhoto for my Mac.  Trying to adjust the noise with iPhoto is not giving me the results I want.  I am also missing some great shots that are out of focus.  I am shooting with the 50mm Minolta 1.7.  These pics were just downloaded from Facebook, I don't have the originals with me today showing the data, but maybe this will give you an idea of the results I'm getting.  These photos were adjusted (to the best of my ability) in iPhoto.  I did see someone's elses basketball shots that were shot at 8000 ISO.  I haven't shot in raw yet, since I don't have software yet, and I'm trying to nail down getting good shots first.

So I guess my question is...where do I go from here?  I am not opposed to buying a new lens, but just can't figure out which one (and don't want to spend $2000)...Sigma 85mm?  (I've read that the depth of field can be a real issue when shooting sports on that). I've looked everywhere for the older Sigma 50-150 2.8 but cannot find one.  But I'm not sure that I can shoot these pics at 2.8.  I haven't been able to bump my aperture to 2.8 on the shots I'm taking now without it being too dark.  Or should I start with getting some photo editing software?  If so, what would be recommended for a Mac?  Should I buy photo processing or noise reduction software first?  And how high of an ISO is realistic and can be processed away?

So should I start by buying a different lens with faster autofocus?  Or photo software, and if so which one and high high can I go on ISO?  My daughter has been pulled up to varsity team as a sophomore, so I am even more anxious to get great shots!  Thanks so much!



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rolette
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to luvmybec, Jan 14, 2013

luvmybec wrote:

Hello everyone,

I am continuing to shoot basketball shots. I have tried to incorporate the recommendations of those who so graciously provided help and comments. I have tried the aperture priority from 2.2 to 2.5, adjusting the exposure compensation to +3.0, even bumped the shutter speed up to 640 and 800, and Iso from 1600 to 6400. I have also shot manual with settings around the same area (but there is no exposure compensation setting in manual).

Why do you need EC in manual for an indoor gym?  Unless the gym you are shooting in has half the lights out on one end of the court, it really shouldn't be necessary for basketball.

The settings you describe are all over the place.  Here's my suggestion:

1) Put your camera in Manual.

2) If the gym has fluorescent lighting, set your WB to match.  Otherwise you might as well stick to AWB and deal with it in post because chances are the color of the lights is going to cycle.

3) If you are shooting with an f/2.8 lens, then shoot wide-open.  If it is a faster lens, then drop down to f/2.0.  DoF starts getting really thin below that and is going to make it tough to get shots that are in focus.

4) Figure out what shutter speed you can live with.  What's required to freeze motion depends a lot on the sport and age group.  For HS girls, 1/640 usually works great.  You can get away with slower, but it depends on your tolerance for motion blur on arms/legs and on your ability to capture peak action where lower shutter speeds work.

5) Take a test shot during warm-ups and check your histogram.  Adjust your ISO until you've got the exposure right (for faces).  Do NOT underexpose your shots!  Noise is significantly worse if you underexpose and then try to push the exposure later.

Most of the trade-offs in this process are between SS and ISO.  Faster SS means you'll freeze the action better, but higher ISO means more noise.  It's a balancing act, but keep in mind that you can deal with noise in post-processing but you can't fix motion blur.

I have found that any ISO above 3200 is too noisy and 3200 is even marginal.

Post a couple of examples at ISO 3200 and 6400.  Chances are you need to adjust your expectations if you aren't used to shooting indoor sports.  To give you an idea, fairly typical settings for HS gyms would be something like f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 8000.  There is a lot of variance and it can get MUCH worse than that.

Everyone has a different tolerance level for noise, but it's kinda how life is for this sort of thing unless you want to go to strobes.

Keep in mind that I don't have any photo processing software other an iPhoto for my Mac. Trying to adjust the noise with iPhoto is not giving me the results I want.

<snip>

So I guess my question is...where do I go from here? I am not opposed to buying a new lens, but just can't figure out which one (and don't want to spend $2000)...Sigma 85mm? (I've read that the depth of field can be a real issue when shooting sports on that). I've looked everywhere for the older Sigma 50-150 2.8 but cannot find one. But I'm not sure that I can shoot these pics at 2.8. I haven't been able to bump my aperture to 2.8 on the shots I'm taking now without it being too dark. Or should I start with getting some photo editing software? If so, what would be recommended for a Mac? Should I buy photo processing or noise reduction software first? And how high of an ISO is realistic and can be processed away?

So should I start by buying a different lens with faster autofocus? Or photo software, and if so which one and high high can I go on ISO? My daughter has been pulled up to varsity team as a sophomore, so I am even more anxious to get great shots! Thanks so much!

First step would be to get something like Lightroom or Aperture.  LR is better, IMO, but you need something that has good NR capabilities.  Most of the really good indoor sports shots you see around here have had post-processing done on them.  Not all, but most.

That's a whole lot cheaper than a new body or lens...

Once you have something like LR or Aperture, I'd recommend shooting in RAW.  It gives you more leeway during post-processing.

Next, post some examples of properly exposed ISO 3200 and 6400 shots from your camera.  The folks here can give you a good idea of whether the noise is unreasonable or not.  None of that matters ultimately if you aren't happy with it, but it's something to help you get a baseline.

Regards,

Jay

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luvmybec
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Re: Girl's Basketball--New Shooter here...Help and Comments please!
In reply to rolette, Jan 14, 2013

Thanks for the help Jay.  I shot some more games this weekend and actually got good results at the higher ISO, shooting in manual (game was during the day though, that may have helped)....I'll try to get them posted soon for comments.

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