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.

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]

Using the ExpoDisc under Friday Night Lights Football

Roswell’s (1) Sheldon Evans rushes against Woodstock during the first quarter of play of Roswell vs Woodstock high school football game at Ray Manus Stadium on Friday, October 28, 2016 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000]

Another Friday Night Lights game at Roswell High School’s Ray Manus Stadium. By half time Roswell was up 49 – 0, so I left early.

Woodstock’s (7) Corey Smith misses tackling Roswell’s (7) Malik Willis during the second quarter of play of Roswell vs Woodstock high school football game at Ray Manus Stadium on Friday, October 28, 2016 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/7.1, 1/800]

I am really pleased with the dynamic range of the Nikon D5 for shooting at such a high ISO of 64000.

Roswell’s (1) Sheldon Evans shakes off tackle by Woodstock’s (13) Austin Bennett during the second quarter of play of Roswell vs Woodstock high school football game at Ray Manus Stadium on Friday, October 28, 2016 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]

The files are good from the highlights to the shadows with detail. the only place is in the shadows inside the helmets where no light was really shining.

Woodstock’s quarterback (6) Garrett Bass during the second quarter of play of Roswell vs Woodstock high school football game at Ray Manus Stadium on Friday, October 28, 2016 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/800]

Now even in the end zone when the quarterback looked up for his receiver I was able to get some great light inside the helmet.

Roswell’s (1) Sheldon Evans carries for 98 yard touchdown run while (3) Christian Ford protects him from Woodstock’s (12) Grant Jacobs during the first quarter of play of Roswell vs Woodstock high school football game at Ray Manus Stadium on Friday, October 28, 2016 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]

For all these photos I shot from the end zone sitting on a small folding stool. I was at kneeling height putting me about at the belt-line of the players.

Once the sun went down I took a custom white balance with the ExpoDisc.

The latest version of the ExpoDisc 2.0 comes with warming filters. They are slightly a cyan color of different densities to let you pick how much you want to warm up your image. So without them you get a pure 18% grey and by adding these you warm up the photo just a bit.

You just put the warming gel in the front of the ExpoDisc and then take your reading. This way you can keep a consistent warming to all your photos.
So what should you do?  I would advise always doing custom. You can always change it later using Adobe Lightroom if you shot it RAW. 
To the left here is the pull down menu that is available to you in Adobe Lightroom if you shot it RAW. These are very similar to the presets on your camera.
Sometimes the perfect custom white balance maybe not your preference in the end.

Presets in Nikon D5

Check your manual for your camera because this is for the Nikon D5. Somewhere in your menu you can go and adjust using presets for white balance.

On my Nikon D5 in the menu for White Balance you can choose up to five different presets for fluorescent.  Also there is a selection for Sodium-vapor and High temp. mercury-vapor. There is a major problem I have found trying this method, it isn’t easy to pick the right color, because the monitor on the back of the camera isn’t that easy to see color in all situations.
Fluorescent lamps are manufactured to a chosen color by altering the mixture of phosphors inside the tube. Warm-white fluorescents have color spectrum of 3000 K and are popular for residential lighting. Neutral-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 3700 K. Cool-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 4200 K and are popular for office lighting. Daylight fluorescents have a color spectrum of 5000 K to 6500 K, which is bluish-white.
Note that on the Nikon D5 you also have a pre-set for those awful Mercury-Vapor lights or the Sodium-vapor on the other end of the spectrum. Sometimes I have found that I prefer one of the fluorescent settings under some of the newer mercury-vapor lights when using this system instead of the custom white balance.

Pushing the limits of sports photography with Rodeo

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

Coming out of the gate at full speed these barrel racers take their horse through a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Keeping up with these animals was challenging.

I would shoot when I could see the rider’s face. Due to where you are standing with the camera the horse and rider are facing away from you more than half of the time. Picking your moments was tough. If I were to do this again I might even use remote cameras to give me more viewpoints.

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

The cowgirls are just as good with roping a calf. Breakaway roping is a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. There is a split second where you can capture the moment where the calf is roped.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/3200

A little side note here. The cowgirls out performed the cowboys when it came to roping at this rodeo. The cowboys missed more than the cowgirls, which lets me know women are showing more and more today their athleticism in our culture.

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

Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente) and two mounted cowboy riders. The time on this event is just seconds. Times on the roping events are in the seconds. For the cowgirl breakaway roping the winner was 2.7 seconds.

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

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.

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.

Take Aways

As you can see 2.5 sec is really short time to get your photo in the breakaway roping. You don’t have time to wait to frame your shot. You don’t have time to check your focus. You must have the gear that will allow you  the ability to focus on the event.

The combination of my Nikon D5 and the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S was perfect for this event. The composition changes so quickly with these events that a fixed lens would have been too tight or too loose. Having the ability to zoom quickly and get the important parts of the event in the photo was possible because the 120-300mm range worked just perfect for the rodeo.

Nikon D5 was worth the purchase

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 September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

While I have to know where to point the camera, which does take years of expertise to develop the Nikon D5 camera is coming through on keeping the camera in focus, great exposure and wonderful dynamic range.

One of the settings I use to help me get this photo is using the 72-point dynamic-area of AF.


You want to pick Autofocus Continuous mode for sports.



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.

UNC’s wide reciever #3 Ryan Switzer is tackled by Georgia’s defensive back #2 Maurice Smith & defensive end #51 David Marshall. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The key to getting great photos no matter the subject is always preparation. It is setting the camera up to execute what you need it to do. Dialing the camera to sports mode on some cameras will come close, but dialing in all the fine tuning makes a HUGE difference.

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 on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Maintaining focus is very important. You often start following a receiver as I did here before the ball arrives. They are not standing still. They also are not running in a straight line. In football the running tends to be very erratic and this is where the technology of the Nikon D5 does a better job than every other Nikon that I have ever owned up to this current model.

Georgia Bulldog’s #27 Nick Chubb Tailback pushes for more yardage as North Carolina Tarheel’s defense trys to contain him. Georgia defeated UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Now this a tip that has improved my photography more than anything when it comes to photographing sports. Get in a spot where you will see the athletes faces. Expressions make a big difference in communicating the effort being put forth in a play.


That is the spot I was in to get all the photos you see in this post other than this one that I took in the press box of the half time bands playing. We had another photographer at the same place on the opposite side of the field. We had the plays covered.

Georgia’s #5 Terry Godwin Wide Reciever is tackled by North Carolina’s #90 Naxair Jones defensive tackle after a reception during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at The Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
In football if I am looking into the faces of the offense then I am where they are trying to go the entire game–The End Zone.

Georgia’s tail back #22 Brendan Douglas fumbles at the North Carolina 12 yardline.  [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The other thing is the closer they get to me in the end zone the more that background goes out of focus. So the biggest plays are often the ones where they are in the Red Zone. The Red Zone is the 20 yard line to the goal. 

Georgia Bulldog’s #27 Nick Chubb Tailback is tackled by North Carolina Tarheel’s safety #15 Donnie Miles. Georgia defeated UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
If you notice in all these photos the players for the most part are running right at me. Being in the end zone is like being at the finish line of track and field event. Now if you are in the end zone they do run to the right and left of you, but you are not running up and down the field to get a good angle. You just need the lenses to get the photos.

This is the lens that I have fallen in love with for sports. It is the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S. It is on sale now for $3,399. 

I have also the Sigma 1.4x and 2x converters. The 2x makes the lens a 240-600mm ƒ/5.6 lens. The 1.4x makes the lens a 168-420mm ƒ/4 lens.

For football I am using the 2x converter most all the time.

UNC’s tail back #34 Elijah Hood is pursued by Georgia’s defensive back #35 Aaron Davis. Hood had less than 10 carries during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 32000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Now just to give those who have older Nikon models some of my insights here are a couple things I am loving with the Nikon D5.

Nikon D5

Compared the the Nikon D4 that I moved up from I went from 16 megapixels to 20. The frames per second of 2 more frames has made it where you don’t really loose sight of the action. At 12 FPS it looks like a movie in the viewfinder while shooting.

Nikon D4
I gained 3 more stops due to the higher ISO. 

Georgia Bulldog’s #27 Nick Chubb Tailback pushes for more yardage as North Carolina Tarheel’s defense attempts to contain him. Georgia defeated UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 32000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Buying a Nikon D5 will not make you a better sports photographer. However, if you understand the technical side of photography the Nikon D5 will let you do a better job of capturing what you want to do than earlier model Nikon cameras. 

Now if you are like me with more than 30 years of experience then you know that you need to keep fresh. You need to practice with your gear just like the professional musician does every day. Take the time and shoot kids playing sports in your community regularly and refine those skills which let you anticipate what is going to happen rather than reacting. That is the other huge key to great sports photos. Those who can anticipate will always be a better sports shooter than someone who reacts and the shoots. They never get the moment.

One last photo for those interested in the highest ISO I shot at during the game. That was ISO 65535.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 65535, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000


Nikon D5: Sports Camera Settings

These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D5 for shooting most all sport action. Nikon has made it really nice to allow photographers to save these settings so they do not have to remember each and every little setting they like to use for a style of shooting.

If you go to Menu and under the camera icon pick the first item “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen B, which is my sports menu.

If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend to go ahead and try all my settings and then tweak them to your preferences.

When shooting sports it is very common for the lighting conditions to change instantly. While the football player runs toward you they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason I let the camera do some of the thinking for me.

Go to the camera icon again and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this and you will then see this menu:

I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/4000. You could pick something else. I used to shoot at 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I set this to ISO 100 and then set the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 102400.
While I am in Aperture Mode shooting the camera will always pick 1/4000 shutter-speed. If in sunlight I am at ƒ/4 the shutter-speed may go as high at 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade the camera will automatically drop to 1/4000 @ ƒ/4 and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/4000.
The only time the shutter speed will dip below the 1/4000 is if the ISO peaks out at 102400.  If my aperture is wide open then the camera is doing everything that I would have done manually, but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.
Next select the Pencil on the menu and then go into the Custom settings bank.
Again just like the Photo Shooting Menu create a Sports Menu as I have done here.
Next choose the Autofocus in the menu.
Then choose the Focus tracking with lock-on.
I change the “Focus tracking with lock-on” from Normal to 4. What happens when I do this is the delay for the lens to refocus if something comes in between the camera and subject (like a referee). While I am following someone the camera will not refocus right away. This is something you need to try and pick what you like. You may want the lens to be more responsive and therefore go to setting 1 which will let the lens refocus instantly.
Focus Settings
Note the lenses you choose affect the availability of focus points.
You want to pick Autofocus Continuous mode for sports.
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.
Now this gets a little complicated so pay attention to the highlighted text above. 
  • Moving Predictable – 25-point dynamic-area AF
  • Moving Unpredictable – 72-point dynamic-area AF
  • Moving Erratically side to side – 3D-tracking in AF-C
Here are the selections again with more explanation
The only other setting is on the lens that I turn on VR.

Nikon D5 Sports Photos @ 1:1

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

While I talked about covering the Lacrosse game I really didn’t show you the files very well. This is a full frame from the coverage.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

This is close to a 1:1 crop of the above photograph.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

This is another photo from the game. This is also a full framed image.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Again this is a 1:1 crop as close as I could approximate.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000 [Click to see full size]
You can click on this photo and see the full size image. Now this is ISO 2000. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000 [click to see larger file]
Here is one more for you to analyze. I love now shooting at 1/4000 to help freeze the ball. 
Now to shoot with a camera for just a couple weeks is still not enough for me. I have yet to shoot video with it and can’t wait for those projects as well to test the 4K. Stay tuned.

Covering the oldest football rivalry in the south–The 125th Game

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The weather in Richmond for the football game was between 48º and 57º F and sunny, which was great fall football weather.

This was the 125th meeting between the University of Richmond and William and Mary making this the oldest football rivalry in the South.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 750, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The sun was so bright that on this pass play the receiver was looking straight into the sun and therefore missed this well thrown pass.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125

While I wanted to surely capture some action shots of the historic game I also realized that photos like this with former Spiders Coach Dal Shealy with some former players and staff was just as important to commemorate the day.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

Richmond’s #1 Jacobi Green leaps over his offensive lineman during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against William & Mary, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in Richmond, Va. Jacobi Green ran for 217 yards on 36 carries with a touchdown to help lead Richmond to a 20-9 win over William & Mary on Saturday, clinching a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title in the process.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

Jacobi Green’s third quarter touchdown gives him 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, which rank atop the CAA.  Green stands alone in third on the single-season rushing touchdown list.

Equipment I flew to Richmond to use for the game.

  • 2 Nikon D4 Camera Bodies
  • 1 Nikon D750
  • Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S
  • Sigma TC-2001 2x
  • Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens
I did take more gear that is always in my Thinktank Airport Security™ V2.0 rolling camera bag, but this is what I took onto the field throughout the game. 95% of the time I just shot with Nikon D4 and the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S and the Sigma TC-2001 2x which gave me a 240-600mm lens.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I kept the 2X converter on most of the time until the team would get past the 20 yard line and then I would take it off and shoot with the 120-300mm range.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I was always facing the Richmond Spiders. Either I was covering their offense or defense where I could see their faces most of the time. 
This way when they had those break away plays like this one of Jacobi Green I could capture it.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
By covering the game from the endzone I was able to capture the defensive play of the game where in the fourth quarter defensive back David Herlocker makes on interception. He returns it all the way back to the Richmond 30. 
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Remember when covering sporting events they are much more than just the game action.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Capture all you can from the sidelines to the stands.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I even was able to catch a photo of Sports Illustrated’s rates top 15 college athletes of all time Brian Jordan.
So keep your eyes and ears open and you never know all you can capture. Just remember there is more than just the action during the play taking place at a college football game–especially one with a tradition of 125 years.

Love of photography can cloud your judgement

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

There are two things I love to shoot more than anything else: Sports & Humanitarian subjects.

Both of these subjects are like an adrenaline rush for me to cover.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I am not alone and find that both of these subjects have photographers lining up in a row to shoot them for free just to have the chance to do so.

Here is a big clue to your brain cells–ANYTHING that people are willing to do for free requires you to be the very best there is to make a living at it.

The odds of you being a professional sports photographer earning all of your living doing this full-time maybe more difficult than playing the sport professionally. The reason is simple, since so many people want to stand on the sidelines and will do whatever it takes to do it even if it is for free.

In sports we call these jock sniffers. Well that may sound crude but they just want to be close to the action.

Not sure what we call them if they are willing to do whatever it takes to do humanitarian photography for free, but there are so many of these folks out there it is scary.

In a Facebook group there was a comment/question about covering missionaries for church organizations. Here is a small snippet:

The missions organization pays you little or in some cases NOTHING for your work after all is said and done. There are some of us who can walk away with photos worthy of National Geographic. I ask you, is it fair and right for missions groups to get all the benefits of having talented photographers shooting for them while the photographers get little or nothing to show for it? 

Here was my response

There are basically three types of mission organizations. 

1. The William Carey model of mission societies where people give to the society and then the society hires missionaries and pays them as staff is one model.
2. Each person raises their own funds. They have their supporters give to the organizations that endorse them and they take a percentage [usually 10%] but this gives people a tax write-off. So the entire organization raises their own support. Campus Crusade works this way for the most part.
3. There is often a blending of the two models where a small support staff that might be staff but the majority raise their own support.

So if the person who hired you to work on the project is raising their own support then I think you don’t really have a case in the traditional sense in their eyes.

The problem in missions is when everyone is not operating on the same model.

I have a capitalistic freelance business. I find clients who I charge for my services. I either must make enough to subsidize my missions photography or I must charge to cover my costs.

In My Humble Opinion

I think there are way too many unqualified “missionaries” who are able to convince people to give to their cause. They are great fund raisers and not necessarily great “missionaries.”

I think the movement away from the William Carey Mission Societies to each person crowd funding is basically funding those who are fund raisers and not missionaries by skill set.

The problem also has been that many “missionaries” in the William Carey Mission Societies were not good at communicating their work when people visited them on the mission field. Many visiting the missionary would think they were not doing enough. Often the visitor would think they did as much good as these seminary trained missionaries. In some cases this was true, but many times the lack of understanding of cultural differences played into the equation.

You cannot change these models, but you must be aware of them and decide for yourself how you will respond. You can create your own 501c nonprofit and crowd source for example and have people give to the communications efforts of missions work around the world.

You can go and be a tentmaker who makes most of their money like Paul one of the first missionaries and author of much of the New Testament did as a tentmaker/missionary.

You can find those organizations that have set aside budget to hire you because they value true expertise and understand how this will help their missions objectives.

After more comments where people still felt like they should be paid by those organizations who often are all raising their own funds, I thought I needed to add some more thoughts. Here they are for you.

I don’t think you will get very far with feeling people should pay you when they are raising all their funds.

If you need to be paid then just state that and if they want to work with you they will find a way. If they don’t then move on. This is true with even clients who offer you money but it is below your cost of doing business–you must walk away.

There is another aspect to the discussion other than pay versus fund raising.

RESULTS

Those photographers who are able to tell stories effectively and in the process help organizations communicate why they are needed and why they need supporters to give to their cause they will be pursued and paid.

Too many who want to do “missions” or “humanitarian” are more in love with themselves traveling and getting paid to take photos. They are not ones who really believe in a cause. Their work is average and not what people will want to share in social media. They don’t have followings. They are irrelevant with their work, but in their own minds they are legends.

MORE THAN A STORYTELLER

You cannot just be a great storyteller these days alone. You must also be one who connects with the audience. There are photographers that when they “Tweet” they are communicating with more than 100,000 followers. They are a media outlet themselves. The reason they have so many followers is they are communicating in a way that it appeals to the audience.

They have an audience and when they share people get involved and those who are blessed to have them working for them benefit. Many organizations will hire them just for the access to their audience.

TRUE SUCCESS

You need to have outstanding work today. That is a given. But you need so much more. You must understand the entire process of a crisis needing people to get involved. You understand what it takes to engage that audience and you are part of a team helping them to understand all that must take place with your work to make it successful.

Those photographers who are running successful businesses are more likely to help a missions or humanitarian agency than a photographer struggling to get by. The reason is simple–they know you must make good business decisions for something to be successful.

SUMMARY

ANY PROFESSION where people are willing to do something for FREE there will always be those who at the very pinnacle of that profession can earn a living. Here are some professions you find many people doing for free all the time:

  • Music
  • Theater
  • Sports
  • Humanitarian 
  • Photography
To get paid and earn a living you must not just be the best technically. There are many amateur golfers who can out drive many on the tour. There are many musicians who are technical wizards with an instrument. 
Those who get paid are the total package. In photography that means you understand better than your client how you can best help them. You also understand everything that needs to happen for your ideas to create a real impact for the client. You are able to communicate and work with a client to achieve those goals. 
You also understand the business of the profession and understand what you need to charge to make a living. You are able to convince people you are the solution to their problems and that they need to pay you to help them achieve their goals.
You are also a person that exudes a confidence that makes people know you have their back and are on their team.
You can own all the very best gear available. You can have the best portfolio there is in the profession. But if you don’t know what business you are in and what problems you are solving for others you will never make it.
Don’t fall in love with what you get to do in a profession, fall in love with how you love to solve other people’s problems and it just happens that photography is part of the solution.

Covering the bicycle race–The Roswell Criterium

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 220, ƒ/14, 1/30

Today I decided just to go and have some fun covering The Roswell Criterium for a wonderful Sunday sunny day after a lot of rain in our town.

I thought I would just play with panning and let me say it is hard to just play with panning. That is hard to get a good photo with bicyclist blazing by you are about 45 mph.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/14, 1/30

I tried with the 14-24mm, but felt that I needed to be closer and the Nikon 28-300mm at 28mm on the curve was just perfect.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The pack of bicyclist would come by at such a clip that you had a really hard to unless you had decided before they came into view your next course of action. Will you pan or shoot tight? Who will you focus on? Will it be the leader or someone else in the pack?

Technical choices like with panning require you to shoot a slow shutter speed and freezing the action like I did of the pack was shot at 1/2000.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/6.3, 1/2000

I preferred shooting at a greater depth-of-field since I hadn’t shot tons of bicycling and wanted at least a few in focus photos. This gave the camera a little room front to back to play with on focus sharpness.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1400, ƒ/13, 1/2000
Here you can see I used my ultra wide-angle lens the Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm. Unless you shoot this wide you might not realize how close I was to the action, but the rider came by me less than a foot from me.  
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1600, ƒ/13, 1/2000

Now I didn’t like the power-lines in the background, but I couldn’t move to an angle and get rid of them for this type of a photo.

Nikon Dr, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1800, ƒ/8, 1/2000
I did pull out the long glass and shot this photo at 600mm to pull in the start and finish lines.
Nikon Dr, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/2000
When they are coming up a hill it looks like I am on the ground, but actually was standing for this photo to shoot over the fence.
Nikon Dr, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/6.3, 1/2000
For this last photo I decided to clean up my background and make it “A Classy Clutter” for a background.
We have bicycle races pretty often in Roswell, so look for them in the news and come and shoot it for yourself. No press pass needed for all access. Here is another group to follow that will tell you about the next events http://www.bikeroswell.com/.