Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Photographing kids freeride mountain biking @ dusk

I was out shooting the kids mountain biking last week... it was a really great photo opportunity: kids on bikes, freeride mountain bike stunts, dark/moody lighting. But it was also very challenging obtaining fast enough shutter-speeds to freeze the action in the dark conditions (dark forest, 'dusk' lighting combined)

Here are some of the 'winners' from the riding:

Canon 5D camera, Canon 85 f1.8mm lens, Shooting mode of Aperture Priority, Aperture of f2.5, Shutter-speed of 1/160 of second shutter-speed, ISO 800, EC -2/3, Focus mode of AI-Servo, Picture style of Standard, White Balance set to Cloudy, flash is off.

Canon 5D camera, Canon 85 f1.8mm lens, Shooting mode of Aperture Priority, Aperture of f2.0, Shutter-speed of 1/250 of second, ISO 1600, Exposure compensation of -1, Focus mode of AI-Servo, Picture style of Standard, White Balance set to Cloudy, flash is off.

Canon 5D camera, Canon 85 f1.8mm, Shooting mode of Aperture Priority, Aperture of f2.2, Shutter-speed of 1/500 of second, ISO 1600, Exposure compensation of -1, Focus mode of AI-Servo, Picture style of Standard, White Balance set to Cloudy, flash is off.

Here are the camera settings I used for this session, and why:

  • Canon 85 f1.8mm lens: I needed a lens with a very wide aperture to gather lots of light. The longish 85mm focal length keeps the sky out of the background. This focal length is the longest I could have used in the cramped woods.
  • Shooting mode of Aperture Priority: Because I wanted to specify a specific aperture (and let the camera pick the shutter-speed.)
  • Aperture of f2.0 to f2.5: These wide apertures 1) allow the camera to gather maximum light 2) give a nice blurry-background 3) provide good subject isolation (the sharp mountain biker and the blurry background .) I didn't use f1.8 because this lens is sharper at f2.2 and smaller apertures (largest aperture #'s.)
  • Shutter-speed of 1/160 to 1/500 of second (selected by the camera): to Freeze the action.
  • ISO 800-1600: High ISO settings (800-1600) makes the sensor more sensitive to light, so I could get fast enough shutter-speeds to freeze the action. I avoid ISO 3200 because I find the level of noise undesirable. Note: the higher the ISO, the more 'noise' you'll have in the image.
  • Exposure compensation (EC) of -2/3 to -1: The camera wanted to make the scene much brighter than it was, so I dialed-in negative EC.
  • Focus mode of AI-Servo: I wanted to track the moving subject and release the shutter an the critical moment.
  • Picture style of 'Standard': This gives a generally 'punchy' photo.
  • White Balance set to Cloudy: it was cloudy so I had white balance set to cloudy. If white balance had been set to 'auto', the photo 'temperture' would have been too 'cool'.
  • Flash is off: I don't like the 'snap-shot' look of flash photos.
  • Shooting file format: RAW with noise-reduction on 'high' in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP.)

During the shooting, I adjusted the following parameters as it got darker: changed ISO from 800 to 1600 (so I could get a fast enough shutter-speed to freeze the action), changed aperture from f2.5 to f2.0 (to gather more light), changed EC from -2/3 to -1 (to have the photos look darker reflecting the darkening conditions.)

This type of shooting conditions really scream-out for a fast prime (50 f1.4, 85 f1.8, 100 f2). These are some old lenses (approx. 10 year old designs), but they still work great. These lenses with their wide apertures gather tons of light and are still sharp at very wide apertures [The Canon EF-s 18-55 kit lens not only doesn't support f2.0 (at 55mm it's widest aperture is f5.6), but the 18-55 is mushy at f5.6.] These shots would not have been possible using the 18-55 kit lens without turning on flash (probably needing the power of an external flash.)

Notes:
  • If I had been shooting with an APS-c format camera for these shots (Rebel XT, XTi, XSi, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40d), I would have used my 50mm f1.4 lens.
  • Different Canon bodies perform differently at various high ISO's. Newer bodies generally support better quality at higher ISO's. If you find the noise unacceptable, try converting to a monochrome picture style with a Sepia Tone -- this makes the noise look like film grain.

Location: 'Family Man Trail', Post Canyon, Hood River, OR

3 comments:

swimlappy said...

Interesting. Last night I went to a Velodrome nearby and was trying something similar. I had my Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens with me. It was very overcast, and horrible lighting, so I had to go to a really high ISO of 800 and 1600. The noise on the shots came out really bad. Plus, these guys were really moving fast on the track!! And it didn't help that I couldn't get a fast enough shutter speed with the lights. I have a prime lens I might try next time, that might yield better results, I just won't get the zoom I need.

Canon Digital Rebel XSI said...

When buying a camera, there's a lot of things to be consider. Aside from the brand itself, see its features, like its resolution and the quality of image

Kelli said...

These are exactly the same conditions I want to be able to shoot in, only I'm shooting adults so they tend to ride a bit faster. I'm on the fence about getting an 85mm, I have a 50mm but am finding the lack of available light in the forest makes for super dark photos. Thanks for posting all the info!