The Raging Mackerel of Samut Songkhram were visiting the The Fighting Beetles of Chiang Rai this past Sunday so I decided to take my camera to United Stadium near the airport for this Thai Premier League clash and capture the action. Now in retrospect, I should have seen if I could garner a press pass. Joup after all is a publication, but I caught wind of the game a bit late so I was subjected to the stands and certain positions that were still within 5m of the action. Using my normal average Joe set-up I stuck with my 55-250mm the entire night because of the necessity for distance shots. Let’s look at what we came up with and go into detail about the shots:
Where to start…well first I think the biggest thing to know about night sports photography that I have found is have a good lens! But I’ll say that the 55-250mm performed admirably especially with some help from lightroom. The shots are in chronological order through the evening. You see at dusk, when I was in the fifth row of the main stands at midfield, the lens performs great. There is no noise and the colors are quite good out the box. Generally from what I have read and experienced to capture great “still life” in sports photographs you’ll have to be shooting at the very least 1/800 sec and generally around 1/1000 or 1/1250 sec. Which here in the dusk under the lights was not an issue. I took a shot of the clouds reflecting the light of the beautiful setting sun as a mark for separation in scenes and then onto the full under the light night shots.
Here is where it became more challenging. In good light, whether it be sunny or cloudy, 1/1000 sec at F4.0 would be fine in exposure for the 55-250mm, heck any lens really. You might lose some when cloudy but not much really. However when you get into the night with only four main sets off floods on the pitch, the amount of light the camera lens can see goes down dramatically.
These are things that most professional sports photographers would know (well I hope at least!). But, they are shooting with tele-zoom lens of 300mm+ at an aperture of F2.8 or probably less, and stationed right off the pitch at the goal. How do I as an average Joe photographer capture similar images? First, you need to get lucky. If you have a good seat that helps, and I bought a good seat because they were cheap ($6.50). Heck, I could have even gone cheaper and would have been able to get access to certain spots. Second, scout the area for those spots. I found a spot at ground level near a corner a mere 3m away! Sick! Third, push your camera and post production to it’s limits but accept what you have and be proud of it.
Here is how I pushed my camera: Lowest Aperture (f4.0), highest ISO (6400 or 12800) at 1/1000 sec usually and of course NO FLASH. At times I was considerably further from the sideline (let alone the action) at a distance of 10m or more. I had to bear this in mind when extending the focal length to 250mm. Now for the fan shots it was different because they are not moving as quickly. I experimented with all the setting but keeping the ISO as low as possible.
The issue with high ISO as photographers know is noise…and yes even with high-end cameras, although some Leica’s I have seen have little to none! Again obviously having a higher end lens will help (a lot) but can an average amateur photographer afford it and would they carry it around traveling? My assumption is no.
Having Lightroom for post production helped me yet again. I was able to separate colors better and some of the subject contrasts in this scenario are color nightmares. Orange and baby blue jerseys under flood lights on green grass? Yikes. Focus on the green and yellows levels here. I shot the images slightly warmer and then just removed some of the temperature and adjusted the tint in Lightroom to my liking. I wanted to keep the skin tones as real as I could without coming across washed in a sea of yellow and green. Sharping and noise removal… … …(for dramatic pause) it’s really up to the individual in this situation. But I’ll say avoid over-sharping and over-reduction. For me I’ll settle for a slightly noisy shot then a over-produced shot because I go for the reality behind the shot. There is fine line which I will be discussing in my next addition.
I AM content with the results. I took a ton of shots and made a quick collection then worked from there. Advice here is find the shots you want first to make the work flow easier. Once you find the adjustments (or have preset) you like with the first shot you can mass adjust. Then tweak from there. I imagine that most pros go this way now, but some might just send original jpegs out because of time constraints.
The game ended in a 0-0 but the score does little to indicate the amount of action in the match not only from the players but the fans as well. So I was able to capture The Flying Beetles…if only for a night.
Your Average Joe currently shoots with a Canon 600D and two different lens. One being the stock 18-55mm lens and the other being a 55-250mm tele-zoom lens. He utilizes Lightroom for post production but not over production.
Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is an artist developer focusing online on front end development and keeping up with new techonolgies. Photography has been his most recent and strongest passion. He’s shot thousands of photos throughout the years only recently display a larger portion of his library here on Joup.