Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Keep Sparring in Focus

Canon 40D, 23.0mm, 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO: 1000

Erica Germain is doing sparring drills with Ethan Parker as part of the World Champs training on Saturday at Mt Wellington. I know that a small number of you are interested in some of the techniques I use to capture images so I've written a bit about the approach and settings that I used for this training session.

Photography notes:
The relevance of the image above is to illustrate how I've managed to capture Erica nicely in focus (manually) with Ethan completely out of focus in the foreground.

I set my Canon 40D camera on manual mode after taking some test images to check out the optimal ISO setting to achieve a medium shutter speed of 1/200s with the lens wide open on f/2.8 on my 17-55 zoom. This worked out to ISO 1000 which is acceptable, especially for black and white where high-ISO noise in the image is less noticeable than colour. I also set the camera on monochrome. I turned off the lens image stabalisation as with sparring you are panning and moving the camera a lot and I figure the image stabalisation is going to be struggling to keep things steady so it may as well be turned off rather than have it slow things down. It takes a few seconds for the IS to settle in on a shot and there isn't time for that. For sparring I usually have the auto-focus set to AI Servo so that it is constantly focusing but today I turned the auto focus off completely relying on manual focusing. I normally don't do this so it was a bit of an experiment that has worked out well. I like capturing sparring images with one person in the foreground and the attacker in the background which makes the image look more dynamic than where the sparrers are horosontal to the camera. With the aperture wide open (due to lack of light) and therefore minimal depth of field, the camera usually auto focuses on the person in the foreground - the wrong one! There are four ways around it for me:

1. Try to get the camera to track the person in the background by madly pressing the shutter half down while focusing on them then re-framing the image. This is what I usually do.

2. Use the little joystick on the back of my Canon D40 to tell it to focus on the left or right zone and swapping that back and forth depending on the positioning of the person you are focusing on.

3. Use manual focusing - not recommended because it is soooo hard to get right.

4. Ignore and just shoot away. This is what I've done until the last couple of months and you get about 60-80% of images focused ok and the rest write-offs. The shame is the number of out of focus images that would be awesome if they were in focus.