Bad technique or technical problem?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Gremlin, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. Gremlin

    Gremlin Guest

    Using an EOS 10D with Canon 70-200f2.8 shooting dancers on a school stage
    with no additional lighting, I find at least 50% of shots are badly out of
    focus. Using Tv at 90/s I typically get at least 3 red boxes on the
    subject. Shots come out well exposed but blurred - and I don't mean motion
    blur, I mean not in focus.

    Tried using sports mode, still get the same problem. However, shooting in
    better light gives better results - almost all in focus. So, I understand
    that the autofocus likes as much light as it can get, but, if I am getting a
    minimum of three red boxes on the subject and a well-lit image, why am I
    getting out-of-focus images? What part of the technique/technology is

    Gremlin, Jun 19, 2005
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  2. Change it so that it's only using one focus point.
    Randall Ainsworth, Jun 19, 2005
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  3. Gremlin

    Gremlin Guest

    I'll try that, but in the cases I described, I am holding the camera in
    "portrait" mode and the three boxes are aligned vertically on the subject -
    and the subject is vertical on the stage - yet none of the subject is in

    But I will try that - thanks!
    Gremlin, Jun 19, 2005
  4. Gremlin

    Stacey Guest

    Check the autofocus in other controlled non-handheld tests. It could easily
    be a problem with the camera or it's focus adjustment.
    Stacey, Jun 19, 2005
  5. Autofocus requires light (and sometimes good contrast) to work. That's
    why many cameras have focus assist lights, either visible or IR. The
    less light available and/or the lower the scene contrast, the longer it
    takes to focus, if it works at all. If you're shooting in marginal
    lighting conditions and need fast, accurate focusing, do it manually.
    Stefan Patric, Jun 19, 2005
  6. Gremlin

    Alan Browne Guest

    Hopefully visible as IR does not focus on the same plane as the film as
    visible light. As the AF sensor depends on 'closing' a loop, the AF
    assist must be visible to get visible light focused. Many flashes and
    bodies have red lights and a pattern for focus assist. Unfortunately,
    many cameras now use a series of bried flash pops/buzz to assist the
    focus, including my Maxxum 7D. Thankfully I focus manually most of the
    time and almost never have the built in flash up.

    You can use focus assist lighting for manual focus too. It is hard to
    focus a lens in low light.

    Alan Browne, Jun 19, 2005
  7. Gremlin

    Gremlin Guest

    Thanks to all

    I expect that I am trying to operate at the minima of the camera/lens
    combination, no flash, poor lighting and a dancer moving across the stage.
    I have tried manual focus but, as they move so quickly, that isn't an option
    (my lack of skill I expect!)

    So, it seems that I need to get them in the best pool of light that I can
    and then hope for the best.

    Thanks once again.
    Gremlin, Jun 19, 2005
  8. Gremlin

    DoN. Nichols Guest

    If you *know* (from experience watching the same dance), or can
    reasonably predict, that a dancer will pass through a given area, take
    the time to manually focus on that area, and then wait for the dancer to
    enter it.

    Good Luck,
    DoN. Nichols, Jun 20, 2005
  9. Gremlin

    Frank ess Guest

    Here's my experience from last Friday at a Middle School promotion

    It seemed to me my first and most effective weapon was IS on the Canon
    70-200 2.8L lens. Figuring the one-over f/l thumb-rule and gaining
    two, maybe three stops advantage, I settled on 1/125 as the best
    compromise, actually the maximum length of exposure I'd count on for
    pretty good stability.

    I took several test shots at stage hands and the assembly on stage. My
    early arrangement here was Tv set at 1/125 and let the aperture find
    itself. It turned out f/2.8 worked mostly, so I went manual there,
    with the occasional stop-down for undoing full-light washout, and
    ended up in full manual at 1/125 @ f/2.8 ISO 800 for nearly all of the
    action. Reason being, stage lighting was full-on on the seated
    scholars on stage, but two or more stops darker on the speaker's
    location, and that was where the action took place. Pattern metering
    gave pretty good exposure to the folks in the action area, and washed
    out the remainder in full light. I made "panorama-ready" shots of the
    usually washed-out students at smaller apertures, still at 1/125, and
    they look good. On the big files, there is a lot to enjoy, looking at
    the kids interplay and all.

    As the ceremony concluded and the kids filed out, I took a single
    flash picture. Now I wonder if I should have tried more, facing the
    action. It also seems to me there is evidence that something in the
    neighborhood of 1/125 @ f/2.8, ISO 800 with the built-in flash should
    make pretty good exposures on the 20D. My early arrangement here was
    Tv set at 1/125 and let the aperture find itself/ It turned out f/2.8
    worked mostly, so I went manual there, with the occasional stop-down
    for undoing full-light washout.

    Things have changed since I left Middle (Junior High) School a while
    back. 'Way back. This ceremony was advertised at beginning at 9:30 am.
    It actually went off at 9:27, according to my camera. The graduating
    class of about 300 (about 80 in mine) meant there were two tickets per
    kid, and fifty people who had tickets didn't get seats. I arrived at
    8:07, claimed one of about 10% of all chairs not occupied by
    people-butts or some sign of intended occupation.

    Amazing Paparazzi-like elbowing among camera-toting parents, et al. I
    had made a point of sitting at the edge of an aisle, where
    theoretically no one should insert their body between me and the
    action. One minute before the actual start, they were six deep in the
    aisle. Before I had to wreak any devastation, the Principal said every
    one should sit or be along the back wall. "There will be NO STANDING
    OR SITTING IN THE AISLES !" And so it came to be. I didn't have to
    stand up, no one (well, one one) stood in front of me.

    Anyway, I took about 250 raw + JPEG shots, a score of which I erased
    on first computer view. The remainder are much, much better than the
    parents with P&S cameras could get from out there, and will print
    pretty good at 4x6 inches. The images are much, much better than I
    expected, what with a heavy camera poised on fading arms for an hour
    and a half, and a general sense of "can't lose, so why not" about the
    entire enterprise.

    I reckon these photos will be of use to anyone interested in the
    event, and a trip to the eventual display URL will be much more
    economical than the DVD to be sold by the school: the entire thing is
    recorded and to be published and distributed during the summer.

    During the post-ceremony leave-taking and excited-chatter session I
    noted a dozen dSLRs; all but one were silver Canon Rebel XTs with the
    lesser kit lens. The other was my 20D/70-200. Weapon of choice for
    most was the video camera in several declensions. Quite a few modern
    P&Ss, and a surprising number of those little misshapen, colorful

    Things _have_ changed.
    Frank ess, Jun 20, 2005
  10. I got lots of practice focusing in low light, with slow lenses, long
    before there were "focus assist lights" or auto-focus or auto-exposure
    or auto-anything. If the photographer didn't do, it didn't get done.
    So, manual focusing in low light is not a problem for me. I know all
    the tricks.
    Stefan Patric, Jun 20, 2005

  11. So I asked my wife, who is not a professional but has shot high school
    theatrical performances for the past 3 years or so, your very question and
    her answer with a smile was, "You see this is your problem, you guys over
    analyze everything... Just pick up the camera and shoot." ;-) From there
    she tells me that she shoots everything on manual with lens wide open. If
    there's enough light she'll use the AF with the center point only.
    Otherwise that's done manually as well. She shoots 800 and sometimes even
    1600 ASA film. The film results are of course grainy especially with the
    1600 ASA but the pic are clear and in focus.

    When she shoots a show she shoots every performance, usually 3. The best
    shots come on the last night because by then she's memorized the play and
    light queues so she's ready for the shots as they come up. Also, when
    possible she shoots the final dress rehearsal with a flash. Of course she
    has to get the directors permission for this but I've been there on occasion
    and this is the ideal shooting situation. The performance starts and stops
    scenes are run over multiple time and she doesn't need to worry about being
    in the audiences way when shooting. It's also the perfect time to get the
    complete cast and crew pictures.

    Robert R Kircher, Jr., Jun 20, 2005
  12. Gremlin

    RSD99 Guest

    You have just found out the reason(s) why a professional will use manual
    exposure settings, and manually focus the camera.

    Especially in sports photography, and the problems encountered in dance
    photography are *very* similar to the ones you would have shooting a
    basketball game. [With the exception that you ... the "private"
    photographer ... cannot install a bank of high powered electronic flash
    units in the rafters like the guys from SI do.]
    RSD99, Jun 21, 2005
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