Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Jeff Wignall.

“The best way out is always through.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Surf's Up Dude: Go Find an Action Subject!

This time of year is kind of an off time for scenic photos outdoors--at least here in New England. The leaves are pretty much gone, the pumpkins have been picked and the days are getting shorter. But there is a lot of sports action at this time of year--football is in full swing, the outdoor rinks will be frozen soon and, believe it or not, there are still people playing in the water.

I photographed windsurfer Mike Colombo off of the seawall in Stratford, Connecticut last weekend and it was quite a challenge to get a good sharp photograph of someone moving so incredibly fast. The day was a bit gray and the wind was really blowing, so just holding the camera steady was a challenge too; I tried using a tripod but the windsurfers (there were probably 6 or 8 there) were whipping by so fast that the tripod, while great for holding my 70-300mm lens steady, did slow down my reactions a bit. This photo was shot using the tripod (a Manfrotto 3021), however, because Mike was heading right toward me and it was easy to predict where he was heading.

The keys to stopping this kind of action and getting good focus are to set your camera to its highest burst rate (if you have that option) and to place your autofocus in the "continuous" mode. In this mode the camera will continue to fire whether the focus is exact or not, so it's a bit risky, but at least the camera won't balk when you press the shutter. I shot this with a Nikon D90 and I have to tell you, most of the frames are extremely sharp and well focused--and I give a lot of credit to Nikon's predictive autofocus. I also give some credit to the fact that last summer I spent a lot of time photographing high speed subjects, including the Blue Angels and really practiced with the various focusing/metering/burst combinations. You can't just show up and start shooting with action subjects like this, you really need to study the action modes in advance and keeping working at it.

In my next posting I'm going to show you an incredible shot of Mike in a near collision with a U.S. Coastguard boat...a very exciting shot! And trust me, the collision would not have been his fault!


Dominic DiMaria said...

Great post! Just the other day I came across some young skateboarders and got some shots - check them out here! http://dominicdimaria.blogspot.com/2010/10/two-totally-radical-skateboarding-dudes.html

Jeff Wignall said...

Hey Dominic, you're still shooting, that's great! I have lots more windsurfers to post, soon as I find the energy. But first I'll go look at your skateboarders. Tragically a 14-year-old kid in Connecticut was hit and killed by a car while skateboarding last week--riding home from a skateboard park with his twin brother. So tell those kids you shoot to stay out of the street! We need to get them into the Olympics!

Dominic DiMaria said...

Yes, I'm really into it more than ever right now! Trying some things to grow my business. Things are slow, but I'm still working at it. I had one pro invite me down to his studio to shoot some video sometime, so I really would like to do that! I'm just trying to meet people and get my name out there!

Wow, that's very sad. How quickly a future can vanish... makes we want to grow ever closer to the Lord...

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