Tag Archives: ISO

Up Top, Part I

Pearl puts up a shot.

Usually, the best part about shooting high school sports at our district’s closest fieldhouse is the walkway above the court. It’s easiest for my Nikon D700 and Nikon 85mm lens to isolate the plays from up top, above the action.

Intensity adds to the layup’s momentum.

But a few weeks ago when I was snapping shots of our high school’s girls’ basketball team, I noticed something equally important: New lighting!

Alexis shoots.

Those brighter bulbs over the court meant that my ISO was at a rather sedate 800 instead of its usual 1600-plus in this venue. Made it so much easier to process my photos.

Nicole drives in for two points.

And what about the athletes’ play on the court?

Natalie hones in on the basket.

Equally brilliant!

Jumpin’ for Joy

My younger son seems to be hanging in the air.

A few months ago, I noticed that there was a half-off Groupon for Sky High, a trampoline park in Houston. So I asked my younger son if he would be interested in going with a friend. He urged me to buy four Groupons so his older brother and Chase also could join him. No problem—the more the merrier!

Jumping is fun for my older son.

The boys ended up inviting my older son’s long-time friend Tanner . . . and we were so glad he came along!

Tanner flips off the wall and heads for a landing in the foam-block pit.

Tanner is a trampoline artist! He can flip like nobody’s business, sailing through the air with the greatest of ease.

Chase flips into the foam blocks.

Plus he was able to help teach the other three boys how to do flips. Tanner was lucky—he didn’t have a mean mama who wouldn’t let her boys have a trampoline when they were younger.

My #2 son loses his hat as he flips.

The Groupon was good for two hours, which is plenty of time to become exhausted, especially when you’re not in good shape. My three “sons” all were catching their breath after 10 minutes or so. Tanner? He was fresh as a daisy the entire time.

A foam landing awaits my #1 son.

Even though the place was crowded, and it sometimes was hard having to avoid all the little kids jumping and flipping, the four guys had a blast. They were bouncing off the walls with the best of them.

Tanner flips over the foam blocks.

I guess you could say they were heels over head in love with trampolining!

Photo notes: This was such a tough photoshoot! There were kids all over plus the lighting was poor. I used my Nikon D700 and Nikon 70-200mm lens; my average ISO was 2000.

Photo Friday: Resetting Settings

Forgot to reset the exposure compensation!

Forgot to reset the exposure compensation!

Even though I’ve been taking SLR (single-lens reflex) photos for about 40 years, I still make plenty of mistakes.

Sidebar: Yes, I was born with a camera in my hand, thank you very much! I’m really not that old!!

Probably the blunder I make most often is forgetting to reset my settings from the time I previously used my Nikon D300. Normally, I shoot on aperture mode where I choose how much light to let in (usually f/2.8, if possible) while the camera picks the shutter speed (but I keep an eye on it to make sure it’s fast enough to stop the action if needed). I often up the ISO to increase that shutter speed, and sometimes I increase or decrease the exposure compensation to let in more or less light.

That’s all well and good for the session at hand, but it can be disastrous if I forget to reset to my defaults (ISO 200 and no exposure compensation) when I put my camera away. As in the above shot of the #1 son teeing off at North SeaTac Park’s disc golf course in Seattle. I had the exposure comp set at +1 from the day before, resulting in a photo that was much too light.

The photo after Photoshopping

The photo after Photoshopping

The photo looks better after I darkened and sharpened it in Photoshop CS3, but it doesn’t look as good as it might have if my settings had been correct. Oh, and if I had upped the ISO more to increase the shutter speed; it’s a little blurry, too. Definitely not the kind of photo I’d show anyone to make them think I’m a good photographer!

Sometimes I forget to reset the settings as my photographic situation changes. When I shoot action pix, I like my aperture to be at f/2.8, the better to blur the background and focus only on that action. But f/2.8 usually doesn’t work when you’re taking portraits and need some depth of field.

The #2 son not totally in focus

The #2 son not totally in focus

Take this photo of the #2 son, for example. I snapped it on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. I had my aperture set on f/3, which meant that his face is in focus, but not his ears or most of his hair. Not a bad mistake, fortunately; good thing he’s so doggone cute!

Sharp son and blurry dad

Sharp son and blurry dad

But this error truly was unfortunate. I had been snapping flag football photos all afternoon at f/2.8 when I saw Chris and his toddler son. I took the photo without changing my aperture to at least f/5.6 to get both of them in focus. Result? Sharp son and his blurry dad. And one frustrated photographer who blew a good photo op. Arrrrgh!

So the lesson to be learned here? Always reset your settings to their default positions after you’re done shooting. And don’t forget to check your settings when you switch between subject matter. That great photo you save may be your own!

Now if I could just staple a Post-It note to my forehead for every time I pick up my camera . . . .

Photo Friday: I(n) S(earch) O(f) Sharper Photos

The batter in still life pose

The batter in still life pose (ISO 250)

If only every sports photo could be as easy as this one! The only movement might be from the wind; otherwise, the batter is so easy to keep in focus. Sharp pictures would be, dare I say it, a breeze!

Michael moves toward second base for the force out.

Michael moves toward second base for the force out. (ISO 250)

But that’s not reality. Sports photography means action, usually, and plenty of it. The trick is to capture that action in focus, which is hard when the light is fleeting and the players are on the move. A point and shoot camera can’t handle the challenge, but a digital SLR definitely can if the photographer remembers one simple rule: Your shutter speed should at least equal the focal length of your lens.

So if you’re shooting with a 70-300mm lens zoomed out to 300mm, your shutter speed needs to be at least 1/300 to stop the action. This isn’t set in stone, but it’s a good rule to follow.

Seamus is ready for the pitch. (iSO 320)

Seamus is ready for the pitch. (ISO 320)

The tricky part occurs when you’re shooting around sundown and later. As the sunlight lessens, so does the amount of light allowed in by the camera’s aperture (the f-stop). You can widen your aperture (go to a smaller number, like f/3.5 or f/2.8), but your shutter speed inevitably also will drop. And that means you’ll unintentionally blur your photos.

Cole throws towards first base in time to get the runner. (ISO 400)

Cole throws towards first base in time to get the runner. (ISO 400)

I thought about this problem while I was shooting Little League baseball a couple days ago. A parent came up to me and said he couldn’t get sharp action photos of his grandson. I asked him what his ISO was set on, and he replied 400. Easy solution! I told him to increase his ISO all the way up to 1600 if he had to. If he had enough light, he then probably would have a fast-enough shutter speed to stop the action.

Nick gets a warm welcome after a home run. (ISO 400)

Nick gets a warm welcome after a home run. (ISO 400)

So what is ISO? Back in the day, we would buy film by its ASA number—the lower that number (e.g., ASA 100), the less grainy (better image quality). ISO works the same way, except you can change it in the camera (a big plus!). Depending on your camera, photos taken at ISO 200-400 should look sharp. But once you get to the upper numbers, say, ISO 800-1600, pictures can be noisy. That’s where noise reduction software, like Noise Ninja, which is what I use, comes in handy.

Andre catches the ball in centerfield. (ISO 800)

Andre catches the ball in centerfield. (ISO 800)

So the basic ISO tradeoff is a faster shutter speed to stop action in exchange for noisier (grainy) photos. But with the newer digital cameras, the noise may be hardly noticeable. If you’re going to shoot sports photos and can’t use a flash, as the sunlight dims, you need to open up your aperture (low f-stop number) and increase your ISO. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of blurry photos to delete.

Griff lays down a bunt. (ISO 800)

Griff lays down a bunt. (ISO 800)

Is this football or baseball? Griff is out at first base. (ISO 800)

Is this football or baseball? Griff is out at first base. (ISO 800)

I took these photos of our local Little League’s 11-year-old all-star team from 7-8:15 p.m. When I hit ISO 1600 and felt I probably had enough quality photos, I put away my camera and enjoyed watching the action from the bleachers.

Cole and Harry watch the action from the dugout. (ISO 800)

Cole and Harry look out of the dugout. (ISO 800)

And as much as I really enjoy trying to capture memories with my Nikon D300 and my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens, I still like rooting for our boys among their parents.

Andrew readies to throw a strike. (ISO 1000)

Andrew readies to throw a strike. (ISO 1000)

The best part of taking photos of our 11s all-stars? I got to record how much sweat, effort, and heart they put into beating a long-time rival twice out of three games to advance to the next level of play. Looking back on these pix always will remind me of this young team that thought it could win and did. Glad I raised my ISO so I could document that sharp effort!