As luck would have it, I currently cannot write any detailed posts for the site yet. Upon returning home for Christmas break (and after the dreadful finals week), I have found my internet to be…sporadic at best. Currently it goes in and out every few minutes; rendering the uploading of photos and saving of posts useless. The only reason I’m writing this post now is that I am on location for a sports shoot, waiting for all my photos to export to my supervisor. Luckily there’s a bit of wi-fi I’ve hopped on to. I really do hate this happening, seeing as one of the biggest things I was looking forward to coming back home for a few weeks was to not only take photographs but to also share them on this site!
Regardless, I do have a quick photo I can share before I have to leave the building, one of the shots from the game tonight. I am photographing a basketball tournament for my university, with at least 3 more games over the next couple of days. I can’t wait to get back into the groove of basketball shooting, as well as getting my internet fixed soon! Once it is, count on a basketball-filled post (among other things).
50mm, ISO 1600, f/2, 1/500
Let’s get this show on the road.
First up, some more thoughts on the Noktor Hyperprime 50mm f/.95 by SLR Magic. So far this lens seems to be a toss-up for me. The build is certainly impeccable, the operation is smooth, and hey! The amazing subject separation possible at f/.95 gives images that “full-frame” look along with supreme low-light capabilities! That comes at a cost, though. Detail is only fair in the center wide-open. As a subject moves away from the center of the frame, the total loss in sharpness is noticeable even at the image level. Throw in what appears to be pronounced field curvature, and the corners almost always look awful with this lens. Icing on the cake, contrast at f/.95 is pretty low (though, this can be helped somewhat in post-processing).
I haven’t really stopped it down that much to see how much the image improves at f/1.4 and f/2 (beyond that, what’s the point?), but if I don’t really see a marked improvement, I won’t see this lens getting a good recommendation from me. That said, I don’t tend to let technical issues get in the way of photography; I have taken it along with me the last couple of days to see how it fares in making images, wide-open for the most part. First up, at an art gallery:
50mm, ISO 100, f/.95, 1/80
For my second weekly round-up, allow me to get you caught up on my happenings. This time, it’s a very picture-heavy post, rather than a narrative-guided one. All of the following were taken with the Sony NEX-7.
First up, I’ve been tasked with taking “Environmental Photos” of the professors at my university. The goal here is to capture a professor while teaching:
50mm, ISO 400, f/2, 1/80
105mm, ISO 800, f/1.8, 1/200
What better way to finish up my return to sports photography than a true test of both my manual focusing skills and the capabilities of my camera than indoor volleyball? Sure, soccer was much more difficult to chase focus, and field hockey didn’t fall too far behind in the challenge department, but both of those sports are generally played outside; where there is a lot of sunlight. Shutter speeds can top out very fast and ISOs can stay at a cool low thanks to the abundance of natural light.
Not so for indoor sports!
Save for professional arenas well-lit by tons of floodlights or corner-mounted room strobes, getting high shutter speeds with low ISOs under artificial light is pretty much impossible. Staying around ISO 1600-3200 with a shutter speed of at least 1/500 will stop most motion in sports such as basketball and volleyball (and should have controllable noise with modern cameras). Only problem for this situation, a fast aperture is needed to get what little light there is to the sensor. If a lens isn’t at least f/2.8, forget about it, and if the optic doesn’t perform well at this aperture, consider it a nail in the coffin for trying effective indoor sports photography.
But I came prepared. Enter the 180mm f/2.8, 105mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8 E (not used this time, but I brought it just in case), three lenses that perform very well at f/2.8. With these I get the light, I get the shutter speed, and I also get the “pop” from the large aperture allowing subject separation. In other words, no worries.
All of the following captured with the NEX-7. I decided to not apply any noise reduction to maintain as much detail as possible. Pretend it’s just like old-timey film grain.
105mm, ISO 1600, f/2, 1/500
I guess my first excursions into sports photography this year will all be trials-by-fire. Following up my first time shooting soccer last week, I shot my first field hockey game this past weekend, and will be photographing indoor volleyball for the first time later this week!
I won’t lie, field hockey is a strange sport. It’s essentially ice hockey (which is interesting enough by itself), but with shorter sticks, a ball instead of a puck, and it’s played on short grass. Oh, and there’s no real pads or helmets, so players feel every push and shove from their adversaries. It isn’t as fast-paced as soccer, but when the ball gets in-between two players, chaos ensues—what I try to capture, in other words.
Conditions were bright and sunny for this match, helping keep ISOs low and shutter speeds very high. Harsh shadows are no match for Lightroom 4′s excellent shadow recovery tools. All the following taken with the NEX-7 and Nikon 180mm f/2.8 AI-s ED and Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED, two lenses I love more and more every day.
300mm, ISO 200, f/3.5, 1/1250
If you haven’t been able to tell from my recently lowered volume of posts lately, I’ve been busy. Classes getting into session and photography assignments are making it difficult to keep up with the website (such as working on the 36-72mm review). Fortunately, I still have a bit of time to share some of my assignments with everyone, such as the first soccer game of the 2012 season. Coincidentally, this was actually my first time photographing soccer. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game (no pun intended). Unlike baseball and basketball, where there are general areas I can pre-focus on to get near the action, soccer is quite literally all over the field. Let’s just say it is testing my manual focus skills, heavily. Though, I’m sure I’ll get much better as the season progresses and I get back into the swing of things. After all, it’s been 4 months since my last time photographing sports. Hopefully I’m just rusty.
All of the following taken with the NEX-7 and Nikon 180 or 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED. Lighting was dull due to clouds (it was actually spitting rain most of the time), but at least it made it easy to keep exposures consistent.
Eye on the Prize
300mm, ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/1000
What a monster…
Many have called me a retro pioneer, others, a glutton for punishment. Either way you may feel about my choice on using manual-focus lenses for sports photography (and photography in general), the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED is highly capable of some stunning photographs, even on today’s digital cameras.
Lenses such as this in the “exotic” category have been hyped up enough on their own with their fast apertures and long focal lengths (and cost at the time of release), so instead let’s move onto the main review!
THE BIG ONE
And this is with the hood retracted…
Well, I’ve finally gotten around to taking an in-depth look at my favorite lens, the monstrous Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED. This optic is not one to mess around with. Weighing in at over five and a half pounds, this 10+ inch chunk of metal and glass is NOT a walk-around lens (unless you are an odd body-building photographer). Just as how macro lenses are built to do particularly well up-close and wide-angle lenses do their best with landscapes, the 300mm f/2.8 is a special-purpose lens. If you have just now started following this site, I spent much of this past spring doing sports photography primarily with this 450mm field-of-view super telephoto . The fast (and useable) maximum aperture keeps ISOs down and shutter speeds high, freezing the action with less digital noise. And yes, sports photography with manual-focus equipment is even easier nowadays with great focus-assisting technologies. Other applications of this lens on APS-C could be tight head-shots and even a bit of close-up birding (good luck sneaking up on them). On m4/3, this lens would have a 600mm super telephoto field-of-view, great for birding and other wildlife.
The editing is done, the orders are filled, and I have finally gotten caught up with the thousands of photos captured over the past few months! It has been a lot of fun, really. Over the course of pretty much no time at all, I have gone from not having a clue to what I was doing, to today really starting to utilize the intricate features of my camera and lenses, quirks and all. I can only hope it keeps getting better from here.
This set contains some of my best captures from the last game of the season in particular, along with a little update at the end. All taken with the NEX-7 and Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s. Enjoy!
300mm, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1250
Welcome to a new adventure I have embarked on, maintaining a photography blog! Keeping this post short and sweet, and leaving you all with a few of my best photographs I’ve taken so far. One thing I will go for here is quality well over quantity. If I don’t have a picture that blows me away personally, I won’t bother boring you with it. Photos posted here will all have to be cracker-jacks in my book! Just a small bit of background, I’m an upstart sports, event, and general freelance photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky who is hitting the ground running fast in photography. Will write more posts as photographs trickle in. Thanks for looking, and have a great week.
And of course, to be updated on future posts from my photo walks and sports events, make sure to follow me or add yourself to my e-mail list! New post going up tomorrow with a few other hand-picked favorites over the past month.