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Ski Racing Photography (Critique and Advice)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

A few of my better shots (more can be seen in the albums linked at bottom)


1


2




3


4


5


6





Being the kid with the camera, it has become my job to shoot our races when I have free time. In general I have been please with my results and feel I have been making improvement with each race; nonetheless, I am looking for ways to improve.

Lighting is always challenging with a largely snow covered background and usually flat lighting. I have been shooting manual with settings around 1/400-1/500sec, f5.6-8.0, ISO 400 depending on the conditions of the day. We are not allowed to use flashes as it may distract the racers. 


The main problem I have been having is focusing, and I think it is largely stemming from my lens being primarily a macro lens. I mainly shoot macro and bought it for that purpose, but I have been struggling with focusing and focus tracking. I have been using the center point as my focus point. 


I do not know if anyone has specific experience with shooting ski races, but I have been trying to stay as close to the fall line as the race officials will let me. 


I have tried using a monopod, but have found it to be more of a hassle than anything since the subject is moving both vertically and towards me. I have ended up ditching the monopod every time I have tried to use it. 


I always shoot raw and tend to try to just underexpose the skiier while over exposing the snow, then bringing both back into range in post. I have noticed that this method does exaggerate some colors, but have yet to find a better method without blowing out the snow completely. 


I have been shooting on high speed burst with Servo AF and try to shoot a sequence of images though a few turns, both to achieve a quality single image at the apex, but also so the racers can analyze their movements. I plan on trying shooting in jpg next race so I can shoot longer sequences and hopefully not miss that crash that always seems to occur after I max out my buffer. 


Equipment:
Canon 50D/battery grip
Sigma 150mm f2.8
monopod 



Here are the 3 races I have shot so far, the bottom one is my most recent attempt. 

Penn State Ski Team
Penn State Ski Team
Penn State Ski Team

post #2 of 6

Can't see any pics or the link but, the lens is going to have some trouble tracking a fast moving subject. I would want a ss of at least 1/1000 for skiing. I almost always shoot on aperture priority with jpegs. You can push it a stop with exposure compensation when needed and do little post. Always try for a correct exposure, fixing in post is never best. Don't limit yourself on positioning, try to find new angles and ways of showing the action, think outside the box. Draw inspiration from seasoned professionals, make a commitment financially. Always watch your backgrounds.

   With skiing usually try to put something in the background other than snow. Rocks, sky, trees all look better than snow.

 

my blog http://blog.aim1photoblog.com/

web http://aim1photo.com/#  some skiing under "all sports"

post #3 of 6

Nice shots.  My very unprofessional suggestions:

 

I think the trees are a little distracting.  Any relatively bland background would work well, whether it be snow or sky or the fencing.  I understand that could be hard to set up, but could make the skier pop out more.   The focus looks good to me.  I'd use the greatest aperture and fastest shutter speed possible to freeze the subject and maybe get a little background blur.  On my camera the quality is perfectly usable up to ISO 800.   Newer cameras are good up to at least 1600, which gives you more leeway with your other settings.  I agree with using RAW, gives you more options later.  Also I wonder if a polarizer would help with the bright white conditions (Honestly not really sure)

 

Good luck!

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the comments.

 

I know my lens is not ideal for this type of shooting, and I am currently saving for a Canon 70-200 f2.8, but being a student, I am sure you can understand that funding is tight.  My lens does alright as long as everything flows the expected movement patterns but struggles when I try vary from that.  

 

I will try a faster shutter speed and larger aperature and see how it does.  I was mainly worried that with the shallower DoF that I would have to be more precise on the focusing which I know is the weak point of my whole setup.  

 

pdxammo,

What do you set your exposure for, the snow or the skier?  The main reason I have been shooting in raw is that I find the 14bit images provide more overhead so I can approach a more correct exposure on the skier in camera.  However, I have been running into situation where I have filled my buffer right before a spectacular crash and ended up missing it, so I am interested in trying to shoot in jpeg, but I am worried about he limited range.   (buffer holds 15 raw, 50 jpg).


What lens do you shoot ski races with?  If your lens has IS, have you found it worthwhile?

post #5 of 6

My two cents: fine results with less than optimum equipment. My only equipment suggestion, given the budget issues, is to try some shots with a moving camera held on the focal object, i.e., the skier, with a shutter speed less than 1/500. This will blur the background but keep the skier in sharp focus.

 

Given your budget issues, let me point you in the direction of processing tweaks that will help bring out what you can capture. While professional race photographers with deadlines for images shoot jpgs -- because they do not have time to process thousands of shots from a race -- you do have time I presume. Thus, shoot camera raw only. Jpgs tremendously limit what you can do in processing. If the third photo you've posted was originally in a raw format, then you could use curve and levels tweaks to create greater contrast on the snow (most of the snow is at 255, i.e., burned out highlights) and create contrast between the snow and the skier. You could also bring out some of the detail in the snow spray or fan being shot from the skier's edges. Burned out highlights and blocked shadows inherently limit the punch that photos have.

 

Keep shooting. Post some more.

post #6 of 6

Neither, I do sometimes use exposure compensation and different metering modes but like I mentioned before aperture priority is a great way to shoot. The camera is simply faster than we are. The performance of my 1d4 is flawless in this regard. A 50d should be at the very least acceptable. The only caveat with the 50 is its limited dynamic range. highlights blow out easily. High noise at higher ISO, still a fine camera though. If you have to have results shoot raw, if you want to grow, shoot jpeg and shoot it right in camera the way it should be done. I have shot skiing with everything from a 400 2.8 (which i hand carried down a black bump run I might add) to a 16-35. each gives a different feel. There is no wrong choice. I personally am going through a short glass phase. If I could only have one lens it would be the 70-200 2.8.  BTW IS is highly overrated in sports until you get to 300mm+ doesn't do a thing for me with my 70-200 unless the shutter speed is slow and then not likely shooting sports.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matseski View Post

Thanks for the comments.

 

I know my lens is not ideal for this type of shooting, and I am currently saving for a Canon 70-200 f2.8, but being a student, I am sure you can understand that funding is tight.  My lens does alright as long as everything flows the expected movement patterns but struggles when I try vary from that.  

 

I will try a faster shutter speed and larger aperature and see how it does.  I was mainly worried that with the shallower DoF that I would have to be more precise on the focusing which I know is the weak point of my whole setup.  

 

pdxammo,

What do you set your exposure for, the snow or the skier?  The main reason I have been shooting in raw is that I find the 14bit images provide more overhead so I can approach a more correct exposure on the skier in camera.  However, I have been running into situation where I have filled my buffer right before a spectacular crash and ended up missing it, so I am interested in trying to shoot in jpeg, but I am worried about he limited range.   (buffer holds 15 raw, 50 jpg).


What lens do you shoot ski races with?  If your lens has IS, have you found it worthwhile?

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