So you have a digital camera? The basics still apply...
by Janet Hickey

I recently posted a invitation to the club to attend the Lu Lu Shriner's Rodeo.  Even though I'd given a few weeks notice, I appear to be the only one who attended the event.  So...

while this would not be considered a 'trip memoir' that I might post for a group, with every shoot, I learn something new (or remember something I knew).  I decided to write this article and share what I re-learned

Three dates were available and I chose Sunday because the rodeo would be held early afternoon.  I have an older camera and I was looking to minimize issues with noise at higher ISO speeds.  I brought my mono-pod.   Even with all the prep and some thought, I relearned some important lessons during my excursion.

Thinking it through; what are the basics?

  • Light - I had a bright sunny day.  At f3.6, I was getting speeds from 1/125 to over 1/1000 sec, depending on whether I was aimed at the subjects in the shade or at the sand in the arena.  Even if I changed the f-stop, I made sure that I overexposed a little to get some detail in the shadows.  Overexposure decreases speed.
  • Color temperature - A sunny day required adjusting the color temperature.  With the sun very bright and early afternoon, the light was almost white.  I decided to use 'cloudy' to warm up the image.  It was my color choice for that day.
  • Distance - I needed to sit higher up in the stands to avoid spectators wandering in front of my view.  The height gave me the ability to reach further into the arena without the crowd and the fence in the way.  My choice increased the distance; therefore I used more of my camera's zoom capabilities which obviously increases the need for image stabilization.
  • ISO - your digital camera introduces noise at some point.  The older the camera, the more noise at higher speeds.  Without the newer technology, my camera reproduced some noise at ISO 200 and it's ugly at ISO 400 and higher.  ISO 200 is acceptable, but I prefer ISO 100.  Speed is sacrificed but with the sun out, I should get the speeds I need to handhold.
  • F-stop - Make sure you set your camera properly choosing an f-stop that would give you sufficient depth of field to accommodate a moving subject.  The horses and bulls would be coming out of the chute towards me and I was at the far end of the arena.  I assumed most of them would start the action close to the gate.  I focused about 10-15 ft in front of the gates and used f5.6, allowing me to increase speed with a wider shutter opening. Digital cameras will give you more field of clarity than film cameras at the wider opening using a zoom.
  • Capture the image - To speed up my capture (rather than wait for auto focus and miss a shot), I chose to pre-focus, as described above, and switched to manual settings.   This would eliminate any auto-focus delay however small.  This is critical for the quick action I expected that day.  You have to anticipate and shoot, essentially capturing your vision of the next moment.  (If any of you have tried to shoot birds, you can relate to this concept.)

Where did I go wrong?  What didn't I think about?  I had my mono-pod.  Did I use it?  No.

Thinking that I had plenty of light and that the 'pod' is sometimes annoying, I chose to 'forgetaboutit'.  My reasoning?  I had company on that row and the stand would vibrate with their movements.  The mono-pod sat on the floor of the stands. Because I was using my camera zoom capabilities, I probably would have had sharper images if I had used the mono-pod vs hand-holding. I should have at least tried it.

I relied on hand holding the camera while I used a zoom.  The general rule for setting your speed is 1 divided by the focal length of your lens.  So if you have a speed of 1/125, you can use zoom to 100mm.  IMy zoome was in between 300-400mm.  I should have used a speed of 1/250 to 1/500.  I wasn't anywhere near that criteria with my f-stop and ISO speed.  I could have raised my ISO and taken a little hit on the noise.  it would have helped and the images would still be very good vs slightly blurry.

I was excited and often forgot 'technique'.  Take a deep breath, exhale, hold the camera still with your elbows at your side and press gently.  There was so much going on, my technique became shoddy.  I tried to keep the camera moving with the animal, pressing the shutter and often failed to get the image I wanted.  I should have allowed a wider image to allow for cropping.  Panning is a great idea, but it does takes practice to get an image in motion that looks good.  Have you tried getting a sharp image while panning?  Unlikely, but you have to have a camera that tracks the subject and provides excellent image stabilization.  (You can almost hear me say it - time to buy another camera.)

And finally.....
Turn off the preview function.  I like to take a peek at the image after I take it, so I usually have the preview turned on.  I take the picture; I see the image for a moment, and then it disappears.  When you're taking quick action shots, the preview will block your view of that next moment.  It makes good sense that if you have more viewing time, you will follow your subject with more accuracy and you'll capture more images.  You can also choose to take multiple images; it gives you a better ratio of good shots.

It was a great day to get out of the house.  I saw the bareback and saddle bronc riding and the bull riding.  The rodeo arena was posted this year with signs that stated 'no video or photos', however, after speaking to "Illustrious Potentate" Bill Adamson Sr, I was assured that as long as I was in the middle of the stands and not high up and in the corners of the stands, and if I promised to only take still images (not video), I would be able to take photos.  The cowboys do not like their competition viewing their secrets; their successful techniques earn them money.

Here are some of the images from the Lu Lu Shriner's Rodeo this year....


Last Updated on Monday, 14 November 2011 08:34