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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    44

    action sports focus issues

    So I noticed on a lot of my photos from sporting events, the background is more in focus than the intended subject. Which can sometimes look good, but it's obviously not what I'm aiming for

    Is this an issue of my focus selection (continous mode, AI-servo) or simply a limitation of my camera and lens combo? (Canon Xti and 28-135 IS) I see no real pattern to the issue besides that closer action is more consistently in focus than further away stuff.

    I've tried to get pairs of photos that are fairly similar. Numbers 1 and 2 were taken the same day, with the action at about the same distance away.

    Numbers 3 and 4 were taken at slightly different times, but about the same distance. The action in number 4 is a probably a little closer than the action in number 4.

    Sample 1 - background in focus


    Sample 2 - subject more in focus


    Sample 3 - background in focus


    Sample 4 - subject more in focus



    (My sport of choice here is ultimate frisbee. It's a 7-on-7 game that's most easily explained as a cross between soccer, and american football, and aussie rules football without the violence.. It's continuous running, no stoppages until a goal is scored or a foul is called. You catch the disc from a teammate and then have ten seconds to throw it someone else, the idea being to work it down the field and catch it in the endzone for a score. If the other team blocks it or your team drops it, the other team gets possession and then tries to score. )
    Canon 400D
    Canon EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6
    Canon EF 28-135 f3.5-5.6
    http://picasaweb.google.com/johnwstratton
    http://flickr.com/photos/21657613@N03/

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    58
    Is your focus point set to center focus only?
    10D, 20D, 30D 1D MKII N
    300mm IS f4, 35-350 L, 70-200 2.8 L, 24-70L, 50mm 1.4, Sigma 18-125, Sigma 18-200 OS, Tamron 180 macro, Tamron 28-75 2.8, Tokina 50-135 2.8

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    38
    I also recommend only using the center focus point. Using all 9 points will lead to a lot or random focus points, mainly the background or the bottom point picking up the ground in front of your subjects.

    The XTi isn't going to perfom miracles when it comes to sports, but you should still be able to get a decent keeper rate. I've also found a monopod increase my keeper rate, as I'm more likely to track motion without the weight of the camera, instead of just watching the action then trying to get focus when I think something is about to happen.

    Hope it helps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    8,163
    Center focus point, tighter composition so the subject is easier to hit with the AF point, and faster lenses (and a faster camera too wouldn't hurt).

    You can find the fault based on the type of missed focus:

    1. Way out/background sharp = focus point wasn't where it needed to be. User error.
    2. Barely out/subject focused but not sharp = kit couldn't keep up with the speed of the action. Equipment error.
    Ouch.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,153
    If you shot raw, i think the Xti could even show you where it decided to focus.

    Make sure your using AI Servo, Center focus only, Make sure you track the action and keep it half-pressed, so its in constant focus when your not shooting. (Will drain your batteries though.) Pointing it at something constrasty also helps it focus faster. Jerseys usually help with this.

    Shooting fast sports is hard, you'll get the hang of it eventually. At some point the Xti and the lens will become the limit factor, but you haven't told us your keeper rate.

    Its normal that some of the photos will be out of focus with lower-end gear, but if you kept something like 10 photos out of 600*, you know theres a problem. Let us know an approximation of how many photos you shot and how many you kept.

    *Thats what happened when i tested the Sigma Apo 70-300 DG Macro. The rest was awesome, optics and all, but the AF ? A joke.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    44
    Thanks for the tips guys. Yeah, I will try out the center focus only next time. I'm nearly certain I would have had it set to all 9 when I took those.

    Keeper rate is decent, I don't know any percentages. But out of any given sequence of continuous shots, I only keep 1 or 2 that got the action right, even if the rest were exposed okay. So I'm not sure that's a good indicator. . . .

    (Tongue-in-cheek - Also I apply my pack-rat tendencies to all my hobbies, so I "keep" almost every photo I take, even if the exposure and such is crap. Because you never know when it might be useful, someday. )
    Canon 400D
    Canon EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6
    Canon EF 28-135 f3.5-5.6
    http://picasaweb.google.com/johnwstratton
    http://flickr.com/photos/21657613@N03/

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Sydney, Australia
    Posts
    1,680
    Having said that, it is quite possible that if you had "centre focus point" selected, the results would have been the same as it appears that 1 & 3 have focused on the centre of the frame....which in this case, is the trees/tree in the background.
    Canon 5D MKlll & Canon 50D
    Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM | Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM | Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM | Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro | Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Canon 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 | Canon 430EX Flash | Lowepro Mini Trekker AW | Lowepro Toploader 65 AW | Lowepro Slingshot 200AW | Kata 3n1-10

    Panasonic Lumix FZ200
    Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (aka ZS3)
    Panasonic Lumix FT3 (aka TS3)

    Ali Baba.....the Thief of Bad Gags

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Sydney, Australia
    Posts
    1,680
    Quote Originally Posted by Csae View Post
    If you shot raw, i think the Xti could even show you where it decided to focus.
    You don't need to shoot in raw for this function to work (Zoom Browser will still show the focus points on JPG files).
    Canon 5D MKlll & Canon 50D
    Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM | Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM | Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM | Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro | Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Canon 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 | Canon 430EX Flash | Lowepro Mini Trekker AW | Lowepro Toploader 65 AW | Lowepro Slingshot 200AW | Kata 3n1-10

    Panasonic Lumix FZ200
    Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (aka ZS3)
    Panasonic Lumix FT3 (aka TS3)

    Ali Baba.....the Thief of Bad Gags

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Kitchener, ONT, Canada
    Posts
    1,225
    The latest version of DPP shows the focus points too... Alt+L
    My best pics on Flickr

    Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/garysimmons
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    Gear: Canon 60D, Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX DC Macro, Sigma 50-150 f2.8 EX DC II, Canon 50 f1.8, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC, Sigma 120-400 DG OS. 1 430EX, 1 430EXII, 1 580EXII, ST-E2, Manfrotto 190XPROB (soon to be replaced by the carbon version)
    Plus filters, wireless triggers and other junk...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Dallas, Texas
    Posts
    3,209
    also dunno if this has been addressed or not, but you want to make sure the image stabilization is off during action shots.
    40d | 5d mk II | 2.8/16 zenitar fisheye | 16-35L | 35L | sigma 1.4/50 | sigma 2.8/50 Macro | sigma 1.4/85 | 70-200L IS
    website
    disclaimer: posts are for personal entertainment only...not to be taken seriously...ever.

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