Hawaii High School State Rodeo at The Parker Ranch

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 560, ƒ/4.5, 1/4000

Today I had a lot of fun shooting the Hawaii High School Rodeo at Parker Ranch Arena in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The reason it was fun is I brought the camera and lens that let me get the action shots I wanted. I didn’t bring my long glass, but rather what I call my go to lens for capturing just about anything. That lens is the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. In this first photo I shot it at the focal length of 58mm. I wanted to capture the girl doing barrel racing, but also capture the Parker Ranch sign.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/4.8, 1/4000

I was introduced to Cowboy art by Don Rutledge. We went to the Cowboy museum in Oklahoma City where I saw for the first time the work of Remington and Russell. They not only painted, but did sculptures.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

What Don taught me with the help of Remington and Russell’s work was that the expression makes the photo. The expression of the animals and the people in the frame of the picture.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

What I love about Rodeos is that the cowgirls and cowboys must work as a team with an animal. The more they know about their animal and how it likes to get clues from the people on what to do the better the show.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I setup the Nikon D5 the same way I do for all sports shoots. Here is the blog post that goes into a lot of detail for all the settings.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Now to me the crazy sport is bull riding. These bulls weigh as much as a car and can crush you just as quickly as a car. That is why the sport is just about 8 seconds long. If you can just ride for 8 seconds you are in the competition.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Most of the time I see the bull riders being kicked off the bull in less than 8 seconds.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/4000

The cowgirls have an event where they are to lasso the cow. Two of the cowgirls did so in less than 4 seconds. WOW! I was really impressed at these high school girls being so good.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

The cowboys have a similar event where they lasso the cow and then with a teammate they wrestle the cow to the ground and tie their feet. This is a skill they use in the fields to capture the cows to give the shots, brand them and other things to take care of their herd.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/1600

It was just fun to see the high school kids having so much fun and learning a skill in the process of playing games.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/8000

Asking the cowgirls if I can take a picture of them with their horse was always greeted with a big smile. They were proud of their horses and the bond they had built with them.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250

I cannot recommend enough finding a rodeo near you and spending the time to capture the action with your camera.

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.

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.

Why youth football is so much fun to photograph

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Youth football is a dream come true for most sports photographers. The games are played mostly during the sunlight and the access to the action is the best you can get as compared to shooting high school varsity football which is usually played on a Friday night under poor lighting conditions and limited access.

You do not have to own the most expensive lenses to get great photos. For anywhere from $500 to $2,000 you can get a great telephoto lens to cover your kids games.

Sigma makes a 150-600mm lens for about $989. I shoot with the Sigma 120-300mm with a 2x teleconverter most of the time for football.

During the daytime there is enough light to shoot at most shutter speeds and apertures of your choosing. On a Friday Night football game under those lights you are shooting 1/500 and wide open aperture to just get an image.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Here are my tips for those wanting to start shooting your kids youth sports activities.

  • Use a lens at least 300mm – For the money I recommend a zoom like the Sigma 150-600mm
  • Use Auto ISO
    • Set the lowest ISO to 100
    • Set the highest ISO to the one recommended by camera manufacturer as top of the normal range
    • Set the Shutter Speed to 1/4000 
  • Shoot in Aperture mode since the Auto ISO is taking care of the shutter speed
  • Custom White Balance
  • Use a monopod
  • Shoot close to wide open as possible. If shooting with a ƒ/1.4 lens this may be too shallow of depth-of-field. ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/5.6 is a good range to make the background go blurry
  • Position yourself so that the action is coming towards you and that you are where you can see the athlete’s faces
  • Shoot RAW 
  • Use Adobe Lightroom to process your images
Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
Parents are in love with the “environmental portrait”. They love a good photo of their kid in uniform on the playing field. I think of these like the trading card photos you see of your favorite pro players. By the way today it is easy to make your own trading cards of your kid and maybe of their team as well. Here is a link to doing it. 
Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
In all these photos of the youth football game I was in the end-zone. Because I am using the 240-600mm lens [because of the 2x converter] I can get some pretty good action shots without running up and down the field. I am just waiting for them to come to me.
Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
I shot these for my friend to use as a gift to him. Maybe you know someone who has kids who play ball and they could use some photos of their kids. 
Why is youth football so great to photograph. As compared to Pro Football here are some things that are different.
  • You don’t need a press pass
  • You can get closer to the action
  • You can get by with less expensive gear since you are shooting in daylight
  • Parking is an ease
  • No one is expecting your images right away [if you had access to pro sports you are shooting for someone who has a real deadline]

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


Stanley’s Tune Up Ritual for the Football Season

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

This past Friday Night and during the day on Saturday I went through a tune-up. There are basically two parts to the tune up.

First I have bought new cameras since the last football game and needed to calibrate the lens to the camera body.

This is a photo I took when I talked about how to calibrate your lenses in an earlier blog post. Take a look here if you want a refresher on how to do this.

Today’s top end cameras and lenses are designed for the user to optimize the focusing through calibrating the focus point. I use LensAlign and here is a great video explaining how it works.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urinJiG35PU]
So I spent a number of hours doing this with my cameras and lenses. Now I shoot with a Sigma 120-300mm lens and recommend you look at that blog post where I explain how I calibrated the lens using Sigma Optimization Pro software coupled with the Sigma USB docking station to calibrate the lens. I also use it to calibrate my Sigma 24-105mm Art and Sigma 35mm Art lens.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

The second thing I do each year is to go out and shoot some football games before my first job shooting a game. This year I went to the Catholic High School near me and shot their home varsity game on Friday night and then shot their 7th grade team playing the next morning.

Now before actually taking photos of the game I set my Nikon D5 camera up for shooting the game. Here is a blog post going through all the settings and explaining this is great detail for those who have a Nikon D5 and want to see my settings for sports. Here are my settings for the Nikon D4.

Let me tell you that the Nikon D5 was a definite upgrade over the Nikon D4. When shooting on high speed motor drive of 12 frames per second I can say it looked more like an old time movie. You could still see the action through the mirror because of the speed of the camera. Very cool!!!!.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

For those of you who are just starting out shooting sports like your child’s games, don’t just go and shoot their games when getting started. Go and practice at the local recreation center and get used to following the action and keeping it in focus. I use the back focus button so I can then improve my chances of getting in focus photos. You need to try my setup to see what I mean.

Honestly being able to just walk up and start shooting a kids game like I did this weekend is so much more relaxing than getting to a game two hours early that you must do when shooting Division 1 college and when shooting the NFL.

Another thing with shooting for fun is if you want to stop you can. When shooting professionally you must arrive early and stay to the very end. Now if you want to get hired to shoot professionally then you need to learn why we get there early and stay late.

Rather than telling you what we shoot when we arrive early and stay late–let me challenge you to arrive early and stay late and try and make compelling photos around the entire game.

Have you tuned up for this football season?

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.

Testing the Nikon D5 on College Lacrosse

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

The past two days I shot two Lacrosse games. The Citadel was playing in the SELC Southwest Division tournament.

I was trying different settings with the camera and still haven’t settled on all my settings.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 320, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I tried the 3D focusing on normal and then wide. Due to the players running around the goal and therefore having people in front and behind the subject it was hard to stay focused with this setting. Now I also didn’t modify the long versus short delay on continuous focus.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

The camera was staying on the player I focused on with 3D it was just I might have them covered up by so many for pretty long time for sports.

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

No question the Nikon D5 was locking in faster, shooting so much faster frame rate and giving me superior results over the Nikon D4. Yes it is a real upgrade for a sports camera.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I think there are two sports which I am so comfortable shooting that when I am shooting those sports I will know even more. However, basketball and football are not in season. I did shoot some baseball at the Citadel earlier with the camera, but I don’t think this is quite the same challenge as Lacrosse where the focus would be a major factor.

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

I do think that the dynamic range is also better than the Nikon D4. It is holding together highlight to shadows on a bright sunny day. That is a wide ƒ–stop range for sure.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I am looking forward to shooting more sports in the coming months to really test the camera’s capabilities.

One more thing that I did notice is the buffer is huge. I never once had the camera slow down the next faster XQD cards and the camera’s processor let me shoot 12 fps with never having to wait on the camera.

I also shot about 30% more than I would normally shoot due to how quick the camera was handling.

To see more images go here to gallery I have on line http://www.stanleylearystoryteller.com/gallery/Citadel-Lacrosse/G0000RauPQOuPQGM

Test driving the Nikon D5 with College Baseball

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Today I took the D5 for a test drive with college baseball. I first started to shoot the game like I did with my Nikon D4 which was using 1/2000 for shutter speed.

Also when I setup the camera for one of the Shooting Banks. When I did this I forgot that the Quality of the file setting would be default for JPEGs and not RAW. So the first batch of images was shooting in JPEG mode.

Frankly those images were pretty awesome. Here is one of first base that was shot as JPEG.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The Nikon D5 is so good with ISO I decided to crank the shutter speed to 1/4000. You can see in the first frame at the top how awesome the results were even at an ISO 1400.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
I can tell you one thing for sure, if you want your images to look really sharp one the best things you can do with sports is crank the shutter speed up. Next time I have a day game I think I will go for 1/8000.
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
Here you can see that at 1/4000 you can see how hitting the ball was actually bending the bat. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/8, 1/4000
I wanted the ball and the pitcher tact sharp and so I increased the depth-of-field to ƒ/8. I think the quality of the ISO 2800 was great for these photos.
Once I get all the calibrating done on my settings for sports I will post those and more images in the future. This was the test drive and I can tell you I am really impressed with the larger image, dynamic range, high ISO and focus on the camera. All of these are upgrades over a stellar Nikon D4 camera.
I think my clients will be getting a better image due to the camera. I think Nikon really hit this one out of the park with the Nikon D5.