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This fall I’ve been working on getting better at shooting volleyball. The gyms here in Montana are old and poorly lit. Last season I kept my shutter at 1/250th of a second at 800 ISO - wide open at 2.8. I got a decent exposure at this setting and the candid shots of the players standing around were good, but the action shots were blurry due to the shutter speed and auto focus issues. This drove me crazy. So I did a bit of research, made some adjustments and now I think I’m on the road to much improved sports photography.
Here are the adjustments I made:
1. Volleyball is a vertical sport so I began to frame with the camera flipped 90 degrees to make “up and down” photo’s. This was no easy feat because of my decades of compositing in a horizontal format as a DP.
2. Shoot JPEGS instead of RAW. I found that I could hold a burst longer while shooting JPEGS in high speed mode. Also, I liked the look of the JPEGS and it saves me hours of editing and color adjustment time. Plus JPEGS are much easier to share and use far less memory.
3. Shoot at no less than 1/1000th of a second.
4. Set the ISO at 3200. I gave up some quality but I’d rather have a cool “noisy” shot than none at all. Besides these aren’t wedding photos and I kind of like the look at these settings.
5. Maybe the most important change I made was de-linking the servo focus from the metering and shutter trigger button. This handy feature on the back of my 70D allowed me to preset the focus in a particular action area and let the athlete, (my daughter Sutton) enter it completely in focus. The ability to define the specific focus zone on a long lens eliminated that bothersome searching that many DSLR auto cameras seem to do. The focus will not change until you target another area and that took a little getting used too, but well worth the benefits this new discovery provided me. If the subject is coming at you or going away, hold the button in while shooting and the lens will track the subject really well.
The two lenses I shoot with are “L” glass Canon EF 17-55mm short zoom and the 70-200mm medium zoom. Both always wide open in these old gymnasiums.