Shooting water skiiers from the boat. Questions

Started Aug 8, 2012 | Discussions thread
RBFresno Forum Pro • Posts: 12,484
Re: Shooting water skiiers from the boat. Questions

Either of the lenses you listed would probably work fine. However, I have found that a lens with VR helps a lot when shooting from a boat. In fact, you would want to use the 'Active VR' setting since the boat itself will be moving as well as the skier. I prefer a 70-200 f/2.8VR or Nikon's newer 70-300VR.

There has been much discussion about focus. While I tend to agree with RBfresno, his point only make sense if you are shooting from exactly where the rope attaches to the boat (which is unlikely).

It doesn't need to be that exact.

-The DOF of an 80-200 at f/2.8 150 mm from 75 feet (standard slalom rope length) is 8.6 feet; stopped down to f/4 and DOF is 12 feet.
The DOF at 55 feet (common wakeboarding or trick skiing length), f/2.8, 100mm
is 10 feet. At f/4, 15 feet.

Honestly, auto focus has worked fine for me.

Me too .

But I would still advise someone with less experience than you or I to consider manual focusing

The OP stated he was getting OOF shots with MF, and shots 1 and 4 are focused on the background. Once the focus is properly set, this shouldn't happen.

And I've been taking water skiing photos since before autofocus was the norm.

Me too!

Personally, I think the bigger issue is exposure.

Agree. Also dynamic range.
I try to shoot when the subject is facing the light.

With backlighting, it's hard to see the skier's features well:

Nikon D50 ,Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6g IF-ED AF-S DX VR
1/800s f/7.1 at 120.0mm

Front lighting is less problematic....
Nikon D2h ,Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR
1/2500s f/4.0 at 400.0mm iso200

With the skier moving all over the place, the background can have a large (unintended and detrimental) influence on auto exposure.


For this reason I always use manual exposure. I set the lens at or near its widest aperture (to minimize depth of field and blur the background). Then I ensure the shutter speed is fast enough (1/250 or faster). Depending on lighting conditions this may require an increase in the ISO setting. Once I find a setting that works, I leave it there (unless the lighting actually changes).


With a DX camera (D40) you won't need to go much beyond about 100mm, and may find most shots are around 70mm.

Best regards,


 RBFresno's gear list:RBFresno's gear list
Nikon D2H Nikon D4 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR +14 more
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