Nikon D5 + Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S – A Winning Combination

Georgia Tech’s last ditch effort at a 2-point conversion that failed. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 4000, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
Between the photographer and the subject the camera and lens combination will give the photographer the ability to capture what they desire or fail.

When I started shooting football in 1983 at East Carolina University as part of the student newspaper and yearbook staff I could not have gotten most of these photos due to the camera gear. I was shooting with a Nikon FM-2 with either a Nikkor 80-200mm ƒ/4 or the Nikon 500mm ƒ/8 mirror lens.

This photo of Georgia Tech playing Florida state I shot with that Nikkor 500mm ƒ/8 mirror lens. If you look in the highlights you can see those signature round halos. This was probably the best shot ever with that lens. But this was bright sunlight. I was shooting inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

This is one of those images from 1983 when ECU played the University of Richmond. Now just compare those images to these from the Mercedes-Benz Dome of Alabama vs Florida State and Georgia Tech vs Tennessee.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
First of all these images are far superior in so many ways. They are sharper, better dynamic range and less noise [grain].

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000]
Back with film I was never shooting above 1/500. This actually made my images less sharp. Shooting at 1/2000 or 1/4000 will make your images much sharper.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 14400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
Here I got a series of image and these are just two of that series of the blocked punt that I have pulled for you here.

Alabama lnebacker (8) Dylan Moses recovers blocked punt. No.1 Alabama defeated No. 3 Florida State 24-7 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the first college football game to ever be played in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 16000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
While I always say it is the photographer that makes the photo and not the camera, there are times that the camera will limit your abilities. For one just getting the fast action in focus is quite difficult. The Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S is so quick that I almost never have an out of focus photo during the game.

One of the greatest inventions was to separate the focus tracking from the shutter release. I push the back button to focus and use the shutter to fire the camera. Here is how that is setup.

In the menu Pencil selections pick AF Activation under the Autofocus settings.
Then choose the AF-ON only. This will mean when you push the shutter release it will not focus, but just fire the shutter to take a photo.
By changing these settings you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them or maybe a football player running towards you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.
I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it so I don’t bump it. I am trying to get photos of moving subjects and off center is too difficult for me. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject in focus first.
Alabama’s #2 QB Jalen Hurts passes against Florida State during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. No.1 Alabama defeated No. 3 Florida State 24-7 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the first college football game to ever be played in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 28800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
This action is happening quite a distance from me. I started tracking the quarterback and followed him in the play. Then when I thought I had the moments I started pressing the shutter release.
Florida State’s QB #12 hands off to RB #3 Cam Akers during their match up at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Alabama. No.1 Alabama defeated No. 3 Florida State 24-7 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the first college football game to ever be played in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
Here is the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 lens:

Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport

I also use teleconverters for the lens. I have the 1.4X and 2X converters.

Sigma 2x

Sigma 1.4x

The biggest difference that the Nikon D5 and Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S make with my images is in the quality. Usually the Nikon FM-2 with the Nikkor 80-200mm or the 500mm I was able to fire and get the first shot. I wasn’t able to get now 12 fps action after that. But the photos are now more in focus, better dynamic range, more accurate color, and lower noise at even ISO 102,400 than I was getting with ISO 1600 on film.

If you shoot sports for a living then I recommend the Nikon D5. If this is more of a hobby or $6,500 is a little much, then get the Nikon D500.

Shooting the Chick-fil-A Kickoff with Nikon D5: ISO 5600 to ISO 40000

Tennessee’s tight end (82) Ethan Wolf is pursued by Georgia Tech’s line backer (51) Brant Mitchell, which he drops the pass, during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
What did I learn from my first game in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

If I had taken the time before the game and pulled up the last game in the Georgia Dome in Adobe Lightroom I would have had the exposures to compare.

My last game in the Georgia Dome I shot the Nikon D5 at 1/4000 shutter speed. I thought the lighting was darker in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and shot at 1/2000 in the first game.

So this second game I shot all the action at 1/4000. This would give me sharper images due to the athletes constant motion.

In this series of the tight end trying to catch the pass I was able to get a great series of images all sharp due to the 1/4000 shutter speed.

Tennessee’s tight end (82) Ethan Wolf is pursued by Georgia Tech’s line backer (51) Brant Mitchell, which he drops the pass, during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Every photo I took was razor sharp. There were some where the auto focus was not where I wanted it due to a player coming between me and the play, but those were sharp, just not the right spot.

Tennessee’s tight end (82) Ethan Wolf is pursued by Georgia Tech’s line backer (51) Brant Mitchell, which he drops the pass, during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
When you increase the shutter speed you sacrifice the ISO. The reason I didn’t sacrifice aperture is it was already wide open. This sacrifice did introduce a little more noise, but I felt like for the way the photos are used it was an acceptable amount of noise.

Georgia Tech’s quarterback (16) TaQuon Marshall dives for touch down during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 5600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
The photos that I liked technically the least were when the football player’s face was pointed toward the ground. This basically meant there face was like the shadow side of the moon. There is little or no detail in those faces. Now if it were a full moon where the light was hitting the face then it was just perfect.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Occasionally there was enough light bouncing off the field or another player to help brighten up those faces.

Tennessee’s running back (4) John Kelly dives for touch down against Georgia Tech during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
If the team was in the red zone I would take the 2x converter off and shoot the action at ƒ/2.8. The red zone is the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal line.

Now the only time I would take it off is if the play started in the red zone. If they had a break away play I didn’t have time to take it off.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
I think this photo of the Georgia Tech player going for a catch that is shot at ISO 25,600 is great example of what my Nikon D5 is capable of producing. The advantage here is of course that the player is looking up towards the lights.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 32000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
This photo here is shot at ISO 32000 of the Tennessee players celebrating after a touchdown.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
This was the highest ISO I shot of the action during the game. ISO 40,000 was more than usable for me.

Why different ISO settings? Well I am shooting in AUTO ISO.

I go to the Nikon D5 Shooting Menu and the pick the ISO sensitivity settings.

I turn on the Auto ISO. Then as you see in the photo of the screen above I set the LOW ISO to 100 and the HIGH ISO to 102400. I then set the minimum shutter speed to 1/4000. At no time during the game did I shoot above ISO 40000 for action shots on the field.

Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) is interfered with by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Step Durham (8) during the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs Tennessee Volunteers college football game. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 5600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
While on this play there was interference on another play it was a touchdown for Tennessee.

Tennessee’s wide receiver (1) Marquez Callaway catches pass over Georgia Tech’s defensive back (6) Lamont Simmons for a touchdown during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on September 4, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm Ä/2.8, ISO 5600, Ä/2.8, 1/4000]
Just compare the photos above. They go from an ISO 5600 to ISO 40000. The way you see them here is pretty much the way most people will see photos from the game–on their computers or smartphones.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Here is one photo of the fans in the stands shot at ISO 51200.

I loved the Nikon D5 for the performance it gave me to capture these images from the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.

 

Storytelling Photo vs Point Photo

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

“When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!”, sings Curly in the musical Oklahoma!

This photo above is the only time on the stage during the entire production of the musical at Roswell High School where the surrey is on stage. This is the one scene that captures the build up of the whole show to where we see what Curly was singing from the beginning of the show promising Laurey how he would treat her on a date.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

This is Ado Annie Cames singing, but because I am isolating her alone only the corn in the background helps to place this with the musical Oklahoma!.

This is what I call a point shot verses the top photo which has much more information and is getting closer to helping to tell more of the story. You still need words with either photo to make it storytelling, but hopefully you are seeing the difference between the scene establishing shot and the closeup.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100

Now the reason this photo of Curly and Laurey often works as well as the shot of the surrey is that this particular pose is used often in posters to promote the show. Just Google “Oklahoma! Musical” and look at all the photos and you will see this style shot pop up.

Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/8000
Here is how I shot a promo shot verses the photo above it is from the show. Now while this doesn’t tell the story say as well as having the surrey in the photo, Curly is gesturing about how the future he promises to Laurey is better than where she is now.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/180

Google “Oklahoma Barn Scene” and you can see variations of other productions that show similar scene. Again this is more of a point photo, but because I included more of the set most theatre folks will know this is the Musical Oklahoma!.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

People Need The Lord Photo

“I don’t need a lot of ‘People Need The Lord’ photos,” commented Jeff Raymond to a photographer shooting photos with him in the Dominican Republic. “What do you mean?,” commented the photographer.

Jeff went on to explain the photo style like the Afghan girl on the front of National Geographic by Steve McCurry. This photo has had such an impact that many people think this is the “BEST” way to shoot.

Give me more context is what Jeff coached the photographer to do in addition to a few portraits.

You see the photo of the boy here could have been shot anywhere in the world.

This is a frame from short movie clip. Notice how the kids in the foreground are close enough to give you a portrait, but including the background gives you more context. Here is the movie and you can see what conditions I was shooting.


Please understand this blog post is not saying Storytelling Photo is better than a Point Photo. What I am saying is you need both.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000

The problem I see with many new photographers is falling in love with the closeup shot at ƒ/1.4 and centered. Then they have only slight variations of this photo in their portfolio.

If you are going to be hired over and over you must be the photographer who gives the client more than they expected. This is why learning how to use a variety of lenses, different apertures and shutter speeds on an assignment will have clients raving about you.

Sure you can do OK shooting the “People Need The Lord” photo, but you are a one trick pony show.

What high school theatre can teach us about Volunteers

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Roswell High School had their last show of the musical Oklahoma! yesterday. What a production it was for everyone involved.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/180

Our daughter Chelle was in the musical as Aunt Eller and this is the main reason my wife and I were involved as volunteers.

While there are many other ways I could talk about being a volunteer I thought this was a great way to talk about the roles of the volunteer.

If your organization is using volunteers it is imperative on you to define roles of volunteers so everyone knows what they are doing. Most organizations that regularly use volunteers usually have a volunteer coordinator.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100

Now in theater the term role came from literally an actor being given a part. No one had the entire play in the time of Shakespeare. They just had their part. This is why often their role would setup the next actor.

For the play to be successful each person needed to know their part/role.

Think of your organization like a musical to give you an idea how important it is for each person to know their part and for someone to be responsible for coordinating like the director of the show.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S,  ISO 32000, ƒ/5, 1/500

If you want to see excitement on your volunteers faces like here in the scene from Oklahoma! then you need to make everyone feel like they are part of the team.

Now everyone in this musical except for the two teachers were all volunteers. The student actors could have quit at any time.

By the way very seldom does this not cross someone’s mind as a volunteer. The main reason for the thought of quitting coming up is due to communication problems, which are often rooted in poor understanding of volunteers.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.2, 1/140

Here is a list of some suggestions for you:

  • Developing ways to recognize and reward volunteer efforts
  • Helping volunteers feel welcome and supported
  • Developing and managing policies, procedures and standards for volunteers
  • Looking after the volunteer database and records
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Rostering and organizing volunteers
  • Delegating projects and tasks
  • Managing any associated budgets and expenditure
  • Communicating with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Resolving conflict or managing the grievance process.

Some No-Nos

  • Complaining about a volunteers work
  • Ask people to volunteer and then when they show up not use them
  • Make volunteers wait on you
  • Don’t thank your volunteers
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S,  ISO 18000, ƒ/5, 1/500
TIME
The one thing that is the most valuable given by any and every volunteer is their TIME. No matter the person no one’s time is more valuable than any other person.
The only time it seems that we are really aware of how valuable our time is seems to be when our time is running out on this earth. Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t think about how valuable your time and others is until your last days here. Each person’s hour of time they donate is the same value as another person.
Now some who read this will disagree with me, but just like this play if one person didn’t do their assigned part then it is noticed. An actor doesn’t appear on stage at the right moment the other actors have to improv and the plot can be affected in the storyline. 
Just think of the time you had a splinter and how annoying that is and affects the whole body. That is how big of a deal each person’s time is to the organization. Something so small will be felt by the body.
Feelings Get Hurt
When people get upset working as a volunteer it can almost always be traced back to miscommunication. Often it is when the role wasn’t well defined or just as often is when volunteer shows up and those who are coordinating their time dropped the ball.
Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5, 1/100
When you take the time to plan and organize your thoughts about using volunteers you can get everyone in step together.
When a plan comes together
I can tell you healthy organizations are the ones that treat everyone’s time as precious as gold. When they do the word gets out. People see what is going on and want to join. You see way too many people are aware of volunteering and wasting their time or at least not being treated with the respect due when you are giving away your time.
When a theatre company consistently is putting on great performances it is due to someone coordinating all those volunteers and treating everyone’s time a precious.
When respecting people’s time you will benefit from more friends and deeper friendships. You see a good relationship is respecting one another’s time.

Monday Devotional for Photographers – Full-time Ministry

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500

Capturing moments like this one in Togo, West Africa is what I thought many years ago would be my full-time career today.

In high school during a youth retreat I responded to what I believed was a call to full-time christian ministry. My church licensed me into the ministry. This was the first step down a process which I thought would have me doing ministry/missions full-time. Full-time meaning I would pay all my bills from being on staff of a missions agency.

I received this call while a senior in high school. My father, a pastor/missionary, gave me counsel. My father mentored me and guided me to avoid some of the mistakes that he made. Together we determined that I needed an education path.

You will open more doors with a master of divinity degree. This is required for most pastor and missionary positions. Before you can get masters you need a bachelor’s degree. This is where my father gave me some of the wisdom from his experience. He said there is basically two areas that he worked in a great deal that a master of divinity don’t prepare you very well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2500

Most ministers and missionaries are the leaders of an organization and having a business degree would really help you with the administrative responsibilities. The second area was that as a counselor.

I decided to major in social work and then the plan was to go to seminary.

Well while in college I discovered photography and more specifically photojournalism. My senior year while on spring break I was offered a job as a photojournalist for a newspaper. I really didn’t see this as a departure from ministry but rather a call to a specialist role in ministry.

I met Don Rutledge my senior year in college and he would become my mentor. Rather than telling that entire story here you can read more here. Basically Don was a photojournalist who worked for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board as the main photographer for The Commission Magazine.

Just a year and half later I would get a phone call from Don Rutledge telling me about a photographer position on their staff.

I would spend five years working on the staff before they went through financial crisis and cut my position.

This was a great time it seemed to go ahead and attend seminary. This was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I thought I was going to study and learn all this theology that was going to help me and I did, but what I didn’t know was how much I would learn about education. I learned a lot about lesson planning and how people learned.

Upon graduating I thought I was now better equipped to help tell those missionary stories and I was a better communicator. However no positions opened up for me in the church. I did find a job at Georgia Tech.

The assignments here stretched me in other ways. I worked with Gary Meek and the two of us were helping to tell the stories that were shared through all kinds of media. We were published in many national magazines and newspapers as well as all the public relations materials for the school.

I thought my time at the school was God’s way of further preparing me for something in missions. Well it did help me in so many ways and I learned many new skills, which I use today.

For the past fifteen years I have been a full-time freelancer taking any job coming my way in photography and in communications to help pay the bills. I was helping NGO with web design. I had learned how to create my own webpage to help me with freelancing and then others heard and asked me to help them.

Every few years I would do a missions trip, but never did this turn into a full-time career. Last year I did four separate trips for missions and each one was for a week. The rest of my freelancing helped to pay the bills allowing me the ability to do those mission projects.

I am still longing for the opportunity to do full-time ministry work.

Nikon D3S, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/8000

Today I am asking myself did God really call me? If he did why am I not working full-time for an organization doing missions/ministry?

Most likely I am limiting God with all my questions. Maybe I am doing missions and ministry and my understanding of what defines ministry is more limiting than the way God sees it.

The one character in the bible I can relate to the most is Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob. He was given a dream that wouldn’t come true for most of his life. In telling of the story it wouldn’t be fulfilled until the very end of the story, which took most of his lifetime.

His older brothers knew Joseph as their father’s favorite. For this reason his 10 older brothers conspired against the boy and sold him to slave traders, while telling their father the boy had been mauled by an animal. Joseph had been given dreams of God’s plan for his life; so with confidence and strength, he endured in this amazing story in Genesis.

He would be falsely accused and thrown into jail. It would be his gift to interpret dreams that would have him later become a leader for the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead them through a time a famine and for the dream he had as a young boy to come true.

Are you too feeling depressed and beat down? Do you wonder if you were ever really called by God to pursue your profession?

Did you know that scripture most commonly associates those who minister for a paycheck as false ministers?

Matthew 6:24 – “No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold.”

The first missionary was Paul and he earned his living as a tentmaker. He said:

1 Corinthians 9:12 – If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.

Paul also instructed people to work and earn a living:

2 Thessalonians 3:11 – Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people-no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.

The biblical word “pastor” is the same word for “shepherd” (which is simply a caring servant of God’s people) and, as a matter of fact, Jesus Himself made this point clear when he said the following about such “ministers”:

John 10:12-13 (MSG) – “A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.”

Christians did support Paul’s travels financially and Paul encouraged the Saints to consider those that spend their lives ministering the Gospel, but the gifts were given freely, from love and in response to need (ACTUAL NEED – i.e. FOOD AND CLOTHING).

1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NKJV) – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

I fully believe that IF God has ordained their service than He will also fully provide every legitimate need they have. But the minister should not have a high and mighty opinion that he is above the need to earn his own living and provide for his family and ministry.

That provision may be having another job to pay the bills.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you have the money and time to do missions full-time then God wouldn’t get any credit, but if you lack money and time then when you get to do missions you know it is because of God and not your abilities that made it happen.

Gear recommendations for Spring Sports like Soccer

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

The teams are practicing now for Spring soccer and baseball. Here are some tips for getting those action shots for soccer.

You need the right gear to get those peak action shots. Your camera phone is just not going to cut it.

For a majority of your action shots you will need a lens that will bring that action close to you. I recommend a lens that covers the 300mm to 600mm lens range.

Here is what I use:

Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S

I also use the 1.4 or 2x converter with it.

Sigma TC-1401 1.4x & Sigma TC-2001 2x

This lets me get close to the action.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Now there are less expensive choices for you to use. I would recommend for the Sigma 150-600mm. It comes in two versions a contemporary and sports version. If you are a heavy user you would want the sports version.

You just need to pair these lenses with a good camera body. You can use DSLR and mirrorless cameras to capture the action.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I like to shoot at a high shutter speed of 1/4000. This lets me freeze the action which makes the photos even sharper. I also like shooting wide open aperture to keep a shallow depth-of-field.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Now when I was buying my lens Nikon had not made the 200-500mm which is selling today for about $1250.

These lenses let you shoot from the end zones. I like to be not far from the net capturing the players faces as they move closer to the goal and defend the goal as well.

Many people try to shoot this action with a 70-200mm lenses, but they are not not long enough for soccer. They work ok as the action gets really close to the goal, but you need to be close to that goal as well.

Let me just say that all of these lenses paired with the latest camera bodies of the major camera manufacturers will give you incredible results.

Here are some features that I would compare with camera bodies.

  1. ISO – I recommend cameras with high ISO of 12,800 or higher
  2. Shutter Speed – you need to be shooting at 1/1000 or faster.
  3. Motor Drive – I would recommend 5+ per second
  4. Buffer – The higher the better. The Nikon D500 and D5 have buffer of 200 shooting RAW.
For shooting sports I believe that the Nikon D5 is in a class all it’s own. If you don’t want to shell out $6,500 then seriously look at the Nikon D500 for $2,000.
While I say all the time it is the photographer and not the gear that determines a good photo–with sports you do need some long glass or you just cannot capture the action.

Treat your Camera like a Pen and you will get better photos!

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 1400, ƒ/1.4, 1/200

If photographers would take photos the way they write all of their photos would most likely be ten times better in quality.

So many people just pick up their camera and point and shoot. Just try and do that with writing. Go ahead and try it. Pick up the pencil or pen and just write.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100

For those of you who use the methodology of “Spray & Pray” how is that working for you? Your percentage of a photo you like is probably better than just clicking one time and moving on.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 320, ƒ/4, 1/100

The famous photographer Ansel Adams first chapter in his very first book was about the concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Adams is often quoted as saying “Visualization is the single most important factor in photography”.

Adams was referring to not just what was in front of the camera, but rather his interpretation of what was in front of him all the way to the print before he clicked the shutter.

The reason most photographers are not producing work like Ansel Adams is because very few have taken the time to think about what they are trying to capture and say with their photos.

Previsualization is applied to techniques such as storyboarding, either in the form of charcoal drawn sketches or in digital technology in the planning and conceptualization of movie scenery make up.

The advantage of previsualization is that it allows a director, cinematographer or VFX Supervisor to experiment with different staging and art direction options—such as lighting, camera placement and movement, stage direction and editing—without having to incur the costs of actual production. On larger budget project, the directors work with actors in visual effects department or dedicated rooms.

At the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London they have displayed the sketches which then are turned into models like here.

After they have done this then they make the actual set that will be used in the movie as you see here for Diagon Alley.

Now compare this set to the street of Cecil Court that most likely inspired J. K. Rowling for Diagon Alley.

This is why Harry Potter the movie is a little more exciting than the just point and shoot of the tourist that I was on Cecil Court. The street has been the inspiration and then the artists create their vision of what they want to use to convey a mood for a story.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Even in sports the creative photographer is anticipating. I am down field waiting for the action to come to me. I have thought about where I need to be and what I want to capture.

TIP FOR BETTER PHOTOS!

Treat the camera like the pen. Before picking it up and putting it to your eye have some idea of the sentence you are going to write. If you don’t you will have only gibberish and that is why your photos don’t work. You didn’t know why you took the photo and no one else will either.

Take this one step further and have in your mind the caption that will accompany that photograph as well. This will help you know what you are trying to say with your photo.

My favorite images from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2016

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) is knocked out of bounds by Washington Huskies defensive back Taylor Rapp (21) during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

This is a sampling of some of my favorite images from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) is knocked out of bounds by Washington Huskies defensive back Taylor Rapp (21) during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. [Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 64000, ƒ/8, 1/1600]
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 32000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
Washington Huskies (20) defensive back Kevin King pursues Alabama’s (9) Bo Scarbrough. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) scores their first touchdown. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts looks for running room. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts looks for running back Bo Scarbrough for hand off. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 65535, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates Bo Scarbrough (9) 68 yard run for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 32000, ƒ/4.2, 1/1600]
Alabama head coach Nick Saban addresses the crowd as the Tide celebrates after the Alabama vs. Washington Peach Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal football game, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. [Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
Alabama head coach Nick Saban receives the Peach Bowl trophy after the Alabama vs. Washington Peach Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal football game, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. [Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

My coverage of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl FCA Breakfast

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My morning started off early with the annual Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s breakfast.

They had surprise guest of Heisman Trophy Winner Hershel Walker being interviewed by Ernie Johnson Jr. at the end of the event.

This year the event was moved to the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

For many this is a fun place to come in Atlanta. Seeing all the memorabilia was just an added bonus that the football fans loved in addition to hearing from the football legends.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

The emcee for the event was Ernest Thorwald “Ernie” Johnson Jr. is a sportscaster for Turner Sports and CBS Sports. He also interviewed Dan Reeves.

Dan Reeves spent  23 years coaching for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. He played or coached in a record nine Super Bowls – five with the Dallas Cowboys, three with Denver and one with Atlanta. Prior to coaching, he also spent 16 years in the Cowboys organization – five as a player, three as a player/coach and eight as an assistant coach.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

The keynote speaker was Benjamin Watson. In the 2005 AFC Divisional Game against the Denver Broncos, he made perhaps one of the most notable plays in NFL history, when he tackled Denver cornerback Champ Bailey one yard short of what would be a 101-yard interception off Tom Brady. Bailey intercepted the pass one yard inside of the Patriot end zone and proceeded 100 yards before Watson, the only Patriot within ten yards of Bailey, hit Bailey violently, knocking both the ball and Bailey out at the Denver 1-yard line. This play is of note due to the fact that Watson was on the other side of the field when Bailey made the play. He had to sprint an estimated 120-yards, run through a referee and never gave up in the chase.

My job this morning was to document the event. I got some overall shots to establish the location of the event and then also had tight shots of the speakers and everything in between.

I shot the event with what I use on the sidelines of the football field, because the distance to the speakers without standing right down in front of the lectern is a good distance away.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My tip for covering an event as this is to plan ahead. Which lenses will you need? Will you need a tripod or monopod? I used the monopod.

Take the time and think all through the event. If you can go early and scout the location.

Some of my favorite Sports photos

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/2000

I just thought I would share some of my favorite sports images that I now have in my most recent “Sports Portfolio.”

This first photo is of Kerri Walsh spikes the volleyball against Jenny Krop & teammate Nancy Mason in the 3rd round of the Women’s $100,000 AVP Crocs Tour at Atlantic Station in Atlanta.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Georgia Bulldog’s #2 Defensive Back Maurice Smith breaks up the pass to North Carolina Tarheel’s #3 Ryan Switzer in their win over UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome.

What I love about the photo is there is an anticipation of the big play and we see both the offense and defense in a very competitive and athletic moment. Both players appear to be giving it their all in the moment.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.

I love the effort made by both the teams in the moment of competition. This is what the game is all about, getting a touchdown and defending all wrapped up in a split second.

Nikon D100, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/350

Jaron Nunnemaker attempts to ride Hot Rod during the 2004 RBR Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome.

Bull Riding is the wildest and most dangerous event in rodeo. In the American tradition the rider must stay atop the bucking bull for eight full seconds to count as a qualified ride. The rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long braided rope. It is a risky sport and has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

The bulls are rated and even more famous in many ways than the cowboys who ride them. This bull here had 27 consecutive buck offs, now that is 28. A cowboy must stay on the bull 8 seconds for the ride to count. Then they get a score which takes into account the bull they are riding.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000
Every once in a while when a bull is determined unrideable the Professional Bull Riders Association has a million dollar ride. At $125,000 per second, this bonus ride is offering one of the largest payouts any athlete has ever received for the amount of time they are required to compete. In comparison, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received roughly $12 million dollars to play in 15 NFL games in 2013.  At 54,000 seconds per season, it took Romo 4,500 seconds to make $1 million.
Nikon D100, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180
Georgia Tech’s #1 B. J. Elder lays up and passes Duke’s #2 Luol Deng during second half play at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia.
I love basketball and for those teams that take it to the net this is my favorite place to photograph. You get to see the effort in the face expressions and how close they are to either making the basket or defending it.
Nikon D100, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180
Georgia Tech’s #2 Isma’il Muhammad slams one early over NC State’s #11 Gavin Grant during play at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia.
This is one of those photos most players either love or hate. Love that Isma’l flew over the NC State player Gavin for a slam. It made the ESPN highlights during that week and was played over and over. When Isma’l graduated the coach had a large print made and gave it to him.
Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2x, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000
Mike Trapani is chased down by Chris Campbell  and finally tagged out by Nick Chigges  of the College of Charleston during play at the Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
I love the steal in baseball and if I am in the right position as here can capture the effort of both offense and defense as they both are trying to advance a base or stop it.
Nikon D2X, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6,  ISO 100, ƒ/16, 1/200–[6] Alienbees B1600
Sometimes my favorite moments were when I made the team photo that would help sell tickets for the season. Seeing this photo on the side of buses around town to promote Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2006 season was a pleasure.
Hope you enjoyed some of the moments in sports of mine through the years.