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.

It was fun because 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.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island [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 the work of Remington and Russell for the first time. They not only painted but did sculptures.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island Bullriding [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

With the help of Remington and Russell’s work, Don taught me that expression makes the photo. The expressions of the animals and the people in the picture frame.

Hawaii High School State Finals at the Parker Ranch on The Big Island [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 animals. 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.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

I set up the Nikon D5 as I do for all sports shoots. Here is the blog post that goes into a lot of detail about all the settings.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island Bullriding [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 ride for 8 seconds, you compete.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island Bull-riding [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.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island Girl’s Cutting [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/4000]

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

Hawaii High School State Finals at the Parker Ranch on The Big Island [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 do other things to take care of their herd.

Hawaii High School State Finals at the Parker Ranch on The Big Island [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 while playing games.

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/8000]

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

Rodeo Hawaii High School State Finals The Big Island [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 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 #14 Engin Atsur during play at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, February 13, 2005. The final score was NC State 53 and Georgia Tech 51.

Isma’il is one of those photos most players either love or hate. I love that Isma’l flew over the NC State player Atsur for a slam. It made the ESPN highlights during that week play over and over. When Isma’l graduated, the coach had a large print made and gave it to him.

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 spiking 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.

I love the photo is the 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 at the moment.

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scored his first collegiate touchdown. In contrast, UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles could not stop him during tonight’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on September 3, 2016, at the Georgia Dome. [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 scored his first collegiate touchdown. At the same time, UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles could not stop him during tonight’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.

I love the effort made by both the teams in the moment of competition. Games are 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 seconds to count as a qualified ride. Then, 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. For example, this bull 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 that considers the bull they are riding.

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

When a bull is determined unrideable, every once in a while, the Professional Bull Riders Association has a million-dollar ride. At $125,000 per second, this bonus ride offers 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 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 this is my favorite place to photograph those teams that take it to the net. You get to see the effort in the facial expressions and how close they are to either making the basket or defending it.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2x, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000

Chris Campbell chases down Mike Trapani and tags 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 correct position, I can capture the effort of both offense and defense as they 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.

I hope you enjoyed some of the moments in sports and 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 the 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 halftime, 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 the 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 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 a tackle by Woodstock’s (13) Austin Bennett during the second quarter of play of the 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 suitable, from the highlights to the shadows with detail. The only place is in the shadows inside the helmets where no light was 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]

Even in the end zone, when the quarterback looked up for his receiver, I got some great light inside the helmet.

Roswell’s (1) Sheldon Evans carries for a 98-yard touchdown run while (3) Christian Ford protects him from Woodstock’s (12) Grant Jacobs during the first quarter of play of the 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]

I shot from the end zone sitting on a small folding stool for all these photos. I was at the 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; by adding these, you warm up the photo.

You just put the warming gel in the front of the ExpoDisc and then take your reading. This way, you can keep 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 is the pull-down menu 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 be your preference in the end.

Presets in Nikon D5

Check your manual for your camera because this is for the Nikon D5. You can adjust using presets for white balance somewhere in your menu.

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 of Sodium-vapor and High temp. Mercury-vapor. I have found a significant problem 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 a color spectrum of 3000 K and are famous 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 renowned for office lighting. Daylight fluorescents have a color spectrum of 5000 K to 6500 K, 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

These barrel racers come out of the gate at full speed and 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 outperformed 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, known as heading and heeling, is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente) and two mounted cowboy riders. The time of 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 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 that considers the bull they are riding.

When a bull is determined unrideable every once in a while, the Professional Bull Riders Association has a million-dollar ride. At $125,000 per second, this bonus ride offers one of the largest payouts any athlete has ever received for the 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 a 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 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. The ability to zoom soon and get the essential parts of the event in the photo was possible because the 120-300mm range worked perfectly 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 mainly during the sunlight, and the access to the action is the best you can get 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. You can get a great telephoto lens for anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to cover your kid’s 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, you are shooting 1/500 and wide open aperture under those lights to 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 kid’s youth sports activities.

  • Use a lens of 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 the 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 an excellent 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 trading cards of your kid and maybe their team. 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

I was in the end-zone in all these photos of the youth football game. 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 with kids who play ball and 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 an absolute deadline]

Nikon D5 was worth the purchase.

 
Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scored his first collegiate touchdown. In contrast, UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles could not stop him during tonight’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on 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, with great exposure and excellent dynamic range.

One of the settings I used 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 choosing the AF-ON will mean when you push the shutter release, it will not focus but 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 is 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. However, I am trying to get photos of moving subjects, and off-center is too tricky for me. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the issue to focus first.
 
UNC’s wide receiver #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, regardless of subject, is always preparation. First, 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 tries 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 is 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 athlete’s faces. Expressions make a big difference in communicating the effort in a play.
 
 
That is the spot I was in to get all the photos you see in this post other than the one I took in the press box of the halftime bands playing. We had another photographer at the same place on the opposite side of the field. So 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 look into the offense’s faces, 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-yard line.  [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 most significant 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 a track and field event. Now, if you are in the end zone, they run to your right and left, but you are not running up and down the field to get a good angle. So you need the lenses to get the photos.
 
The Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens I have fallen in love with, and it is on sale now for $3,399. 
 
I use 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 use the 2x converter almost 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 to give those who have older Nikon models some of my insights, here are a few things I love with the Nikon D5.
 
Nikon D5
 
Compared to the Nikon D4 I moved up from, I went from 16 megapixels to 20. The frames per second of 2 more frames have made it where you don’t lose 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 better capture what you want to do than earlier model Nikon cameras. 
 

Now, if you are like me, with more than 30 years of experience, you know that you need to keep fresh. You need to practice with your gear like a professional musician does daily. Take the time and shoot kids playing sports in your community regularly and refine those skills, which let you anticipate what will happen rather than react. That is the other massive key to great sports photos. Those who can expect will always be a better sports shooter than someone who responds and 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 two parts to the tune-up.

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

I took this photo 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 focus by 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 several 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. For example, 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 following day.

Before taking photos of the game, I set my Nikon D5 camera up to shoot the match. Here is a blog post on sports settings with the Nikon D5. Next, 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 the high-speed motor drive of 12 frames per second, I can say it looked more like an old-time movie. However, you could still see the action through the mirror because of the camera’s speed. 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. Instead, practice at the local recreation center and get used to following the action and keeping it focused. I use the back focus button, so I can then improve my chances of getting in-focus photos. It would help if you tried my setup to see what I mean.

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

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

Rather than telling you what we shoot when we arrive and stay late–let me challenge you to come early and stay late and try and take 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, the icon picks 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 trying all my settings and then tweaking them to your preferences.

When shooting sports, it is prevalent 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 my thinking.

Go to the camera icon 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 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 as 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 shutter speed will only dip below 1/4000 if the ISO peaks at 102400.  If my aperture is wide open, the camera is doing everything 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 go into the Custom settings bank.

Again just like the Photo Shooting Menu, create a Sports Menu as I have done here.

Next, choose 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 occurs 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 one, 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 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 is 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 tricky. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject to 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 tried 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 regular and then comprehensive. However, the players running around the goal and having people in front and behind the subject made it hard to stay focused in this setting. 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. I might have them covered up by so many for a 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. So 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 I am so comfortable shooting that I will know even more when I shoot those sports. 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 significant 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 think the dynamic range is also better than the Nikon D4. It is holding together highlights to shadows on a bright sunny day. That is a wide ƒ–stop content 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 look forward to shooting more sports to test the camera’s capabilities in the coming months.

One more thing that I did notice is the buffer is enormous. I never once had the camera slow down the following faster XQD cards, and the camera’s processor let me shoot 12 fps without ever having to wait on the camera.

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

To see more images go here to the gallery, I have online 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. First, I started shooting the game as I did with my Nikon D4, which used 1/2000 for shutter speed.

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

Frankly, those images were pretty awesome. Here is one of the first bases that were 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 excellent 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 sharp, one of the best things you can do with sports is crank the shutter speed up. So 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 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, so I increased the depth-of-field to ƒ/8. I think the Quality of the ISO 2800 was excellent 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. The game at The Citadel was the test drive, and I can tell you I am impressed with the larger picture, 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 get a better image due to the camera. I believe Nikon hit this one out of the park with the Nikon D5.

Why I chose my Nikon D4 over my D750

 
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/500

While in Florida at a family reunion, we were suddenly in the backyard watching our kids enjoying Go Karting. I started shooting this with my Nikon D750 with a Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens. I quickly realized the performance was not what I was used to with my Nikon D4.

 
Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

I returned to the car and got my Nikon D4 and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM. I immediately went to the “Shooting menu bank” and picked what I saved as my sports settings.

Next, I went to my “Custom menu settings” and picked the setting I saved as my sports settings.

Lastly, I put the shutter release on continuous high.

Now to see what each of these settings are on my Nikon D4, you can read this earlier blog post on my Sports Settings for the Nikon D4.

There is a good possibility that the Nikon D750 could have performed much better, but the point of this blog post is how important it is to concentrate on the action when you need to capture a moment and not your camera.

The one significant advantage of the Nikon D4 over the D750 was 11 fps. The focus tracking and 11 fps gave me more moments to choose my best shot from. In addition, the buffer is more significant, so you can shoot more frames before the buffer fills.

The best thing to know is that if you need to get the shot, you must know that you have maximized your camera settings. You don’t do this when you need a photo; you do this when you take your camera and go and practice. For example, maybe you go by a busy road and practice shooting moving traffic so you can tweak your focus settings. After you get that set, then you move to another location to set.

Once you get all the settings just right, then save them. My Nikon D4 gives me four different memory banks to save my settings.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

The payoff for taking the time to maximize my camera’s settings is having a moment like this to remember my daughter and her cousin having fun.

You will pick the camera you are most comfortable with to get the photo you need, so take the time and calibrate the camera for the situations you will shoot.

Same lens, but a different perspective can engage your audience.

 
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

The same lens and a different perspective can change a photo’s impact on an audience.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Here is a clue to your photos having more impact. Find a perspective that the audience rarely will see or has access to.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100

How often does the audience ever get to see the coin used in the coin toss to start the football game? It is even rare for them to see the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl coin.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 450, ƒ/4, 1/100

You are probably curious about what is on the other side once you see the coin.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Using long glass like this 600mm ƒ/5.6 allows you to help isolate the flute player in the pregame show. Even if you were at the game, you most likely never will see this except if the television captures it and puts it on the jumbotron.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

I had to share this photo because that is a former player for East Carolina University Pirates, Jeff Blake, and the famous coach Lou Holtz who were both honored as inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame. My alma mater is ECU.

Now many of the other photos I shot from a kneeling position in the end zone. Here are some for you to see.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

These are all from a perspective that, even in the stands, you cannot get to see. So even those in the stands would want to see these later, giving these photos more value.

Now, remember those first two photos in this post. What if I shot the same lens from a different perspective?

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

You might have seen this perspective if you were at the game and had binoculars. You might have seen this perspective if you were at home watching the game on TV. But many online galleries forget to show this perspective.

Tip

Look for a different perspective and then look for another one, and so on until you have a more well-rounded coverage of the event.