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Nikon d60 football night photos

Rachelle Noah , Oct 21, 2009; 09:07 a.m.

I have just recently bought a Nikon d60. Last night I was taking pictures of my sons football game. I was using the the Sport Mode and Continuous Mode. It was working fine until the night got dark and then the photos were totally black. I was using the flash but it was still dark. I was sitting in the stands so I just switched it to Auto and continued taking pictures. Any clue what was wrong or what I should have done?

Responses


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Joe A , Oct 21, 2009; 09:22 a.m.

You were simply coming up against the limits of what your camera and lens can do.

Here's a few things to try to improve your chances: Shoot at ISO 800 (or ISO 1600 if you won't be printing past 4x6). Shoot Aperture Priority mode at the maximum aperture of your lens (probably f/5.6). Do not use the flash (it's useless from the stands and only drains your battery and annoys your neighbors). The next step is probably a MUCH more expensive lens, so see what results you get by setting the camera up best it can for low light.

Kent Staubus , Oct 21, 2009; 09:24 a.m.

Easy answer. When you went to flash, the camera selected 1/60 or maybe 1/125 second shutter speed. There is no way the wimpy little flash on a camera is going to light up a football field. The flash might go 12 feet and that's it. Probably didn't even make it to the sideline. You have several options if you want to take football game photos at night. The first is free. Set your camera at the highest ISO it will go, probably ISO 3200. Select "aperture priority" mode on camera, dial in your fast f-stop. (Probably f5.6, which isn't fast at all.) Camera will select the shutter speed for you, and it won't be at all fast. My guess is something like 1/15 second. You won't be able to take shots of action and you'll have to hold the VR lens very still. Another option is to do the above AND buy a much faster lens. The cheapest fast lens that will do this is a used Nikon 50mm f1.8. You should be able to find one for about a hundred bucks. You won't be able to zoom in on any specific player, but you will be able to get a photo of the field and players. Third option is to buy a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens, about $1,600 used. You will then be able to zoom in on specific players. Finally, add an Alien Bees B1600 monolight ($300 used + light stand) and a used Vagabond battery pack ($150), firing it with a pair of CyberSync radio triggers ($140.) This will be a big enough flash to do what you want. Taking photos of moving subjects at a distance in low light (darkness) is a specialty kind of photography, and it's going to cost you $$ to get good image quality in those conditions. Try the cheap way first, see what you think. Then try the 50mm f1.8 if you really want the shot. The Sigma 50mm f1.4 would be even better. It's more money, of course.

Kent in SD

Matthew Banks , Oct 21, 2009; 10:29 a.m.

The 50 mm won't auto focus with your D60 though as it is not AF-S. I bit the bullet and got an AF-S 50mm 1.4G which is considerably more expensive, but at least it focuses.
Forget the flash as Kent mentioned (unless you can run with the players on the field). I would forget low light sport photography altogether with the D60 and kit lens - the ISO is pretty noisy after 400.

Kent Staubus , Oct 21, 2009; 10:48 a.m.

Here's a shot I took with a 17-55mm f2.8 lens. Exposure was ISO 2,500, f2.8. That gave me a shutter speed of 1/125 second. That's too slow for action shots, but for stationary shots it works OK. This was shot with lens at 17mm. If I had used a 50mm f1.8 I could have had a shutter speed of 1/250 or maybe even 1/320 second. That can freeze motion. It's true that the 50mm f1.8 won't autofocus on your camera, but it shouldn't be too hard to manually focus these kinds of shots since the distance stays relatively constant. If you want to start doing a lot of these kinds of shots, the cheapest lens that will do it is the new version of the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 VC. In this context, "cheapest" is a relative word. Another choice would be the Sigma 50mm f1.4. It's even faster, and I have no doubt it could freeze motion in a play. Below shot wtih a 17-55mm f2.8 lens on D300. The rain destroyed one of my flashes. Oh well.
Kent in SD

David Peterson , Oct 21, 2009; 02:59 p.m.

As others have mentioned, low-light action shots that require long focal lengths (e.g. night football) is an expensive hobby! My guess is that you will not be happy with a 50mm lens from the sideline, noneless the stands. Flash of any type has its own problems (deep shadows, areas of overexposure/underexposure, difficulty in moving around easily, etc.)
I successfully shot a high school game Friday night with my 70-200/2.8, from the sideline, and got some good shots. I wanted more reach at times and ended up cropping a number of the pictures. Settings were typically at 2000+ iso and 1/250-1/400 shutter speed because the field lighting was not great.
Tips: 1) Zoom with your feet. Get as close to the field as you can. The closer you can get, the shorter focal length you can effectively use. 2) Get a 70-200 or an equivalent prime at the mid-to-longer end of that range. You will want a fast lens (e.g. 2.8: Shooting real wide open has Depth-Of-Field challenges but at 2.8-4.5, you can usually get pretty good results). 3) Use a good monopod.
You should be able to get pretty good results with the above.

David Peterson , Oct 21, 2009; 03:41 p.m.

Here is a shot from the game...

Undisplayable photo attachment:
Sack -- Sack1.bmp)

Rachelle Noah , Oct 21, 2009; 03:57 p.m.

I am using a Nikon DX 55-200 mm lens. The issue I am having is I wanted to take continual shots and it only allows me to on the Sport Mode. The pictures are coming out fine on the Auto shot and are not dark at all but if I flip to the Sport mode they are totally black.

Wouter Willemse , Oct 21, 2009; 05:10 p.m.

Rachelle,
Many people here do not use things as the sports mode, landscape mode and so on. All the options you have there are also available in the 4 "major" modes: P, A, S and M. In these 4 modes, your camera will allow you every single setting (while the specific modes may lock out certain features, and auto mode locks out a lot!).
Sports mode will tune everything to getting a as-short-as-possible shuttertime, but as the others have already indicated: there is this point where you run out of light. At which point:
- you can increase ISO, but it has a limit
- open up the aperture, but it has a limit, and breaking that limit means more expensive (or less versatile) lenses
- lower the shutterspeed, which sucks for sports because of motion blur.

For sports, I can really recommend to use the "S" mode, rather than the sports mode or auto mode, and learn the behaviour of your camera in those modes. It's a tiny bit more work, but in the long run more rewarding and it will give you more insight in exposure. I hope this does not come across as an insult, but I think you should maybe learn a bit more about photography to understand fully what your options were here. The book "Understanding exposure" by Brian Peterson is a solid introduction for this, I think.

William Pahnelas , Oct 21, 2009; 06:13 p.m.

when you say continual shots, does this mean you want to just press and hold the shutter and take lots of exposures? if sports mode allows you to take more continuous shots than auto mode, it's probably because sports mode shoots at a lower quality/resolution. smaller images mean the camera can write them out to the memory card faster. check your manual and see what it says about image quality for each mode. it might be that you want to lower your settings to achieve a higher frame rate.


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