"Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action shots?"
I am shooting football games. I have a D200 and am primarily using a 70-200 VR. During the daylight hours, I shoot A priority and seem to have little problem. However, some of the games are at night and this seems to be a big problem. I have tried leaving it on A priority and 2.8. The shutter goes down to 60-80. (The field is rather dark) I didn't think it would be too much of a problem still freezing the action since I'm on the sideline using the SB800. I realize it won't get across the field, but with 20 or 30 yards. Many of the pictures are blurry. Some not a lot, but some quite a lot. The next time, I switch to Shutter priority, and set the shutter at 125. I seemed to be too underexposed if I tried to go any higher. Same problem. Many of the pictures are blurry. I am shooting in TTL no compensation. I would appreciate any help. I've tried shooting in different metering and focusing. Nothing seems to help much.
#1. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 0
The easy and simple answer is of course "you need higher shutter speed". This is not sufficient though. Are you using rear curtain sync? Are you using any flash extender?
As you state that you need shutter speed of 1/125 or otherwise your shots will be underexposed, it seems to me that the SB-800 just does not have enough power to stop the action. If the SB-800 had enough power in your situation, the shutter speed would not matter. Now you clearly need the ambient light too to achieve correct exposure.
The ovious solution here is to crank up the ISO, but quadrupling the ISO only doubles your flash reach, so this path will not take you to nirvana. One member Nikonian has something like 12 SB-800's, so maybe you need more flash power. Quadrupling the number of speedlights will also double your reach. And naturally there are several third-party high-power flashes to replace your SB-800.
These are my tips in the order of increasing cost:
#2. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 0
From your profile, I gather you are a pro wedding shooter trying your hand at high school night football. Welcome to the dark side (literally) 8^)
In answer to the question in the subject line, flash will not stop the action unless it is significantly overpowering ambient light. This means that you need to be at least 3 stops below ambient on your camera exposure and let the flash light up the scene. The short duration of the flash will act as your defacto shutter speed, stopping the action. Of course with this kind of approach using an SB-800 on an open football field, you will get a very dark background and an overall unnatural looking photo. That's not to say that this approach isn't useful. It may be the style you want. Just accept that your SB-800 can't reach too far into the field and shoot only the nearby action.
In the body of your message, you describe the other way to shoot - using available ambient light and a flash for fill. You will get a much more natural result because the background isn't so dark. But with a 1/60 or 1/125 shutter in this scenario, you will get motion blur.
High school night football forces a sports shooter to work at the limits of the current crop of digital cameras' abilities and exposes the tradeoffs in photography like few other situations. High ISO performance is really the key for this type of shooting. That's why sports shooters are so excited about the Canon Mk3 and the new Nikon D3.
#3. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 0
Fleming Island, US
You need more flash power. You need a lot more flash power. The SB-800 is OK inside at close distances, and maybe outdoors as a fill-light, but as a primary light outdoors, especially at night, it won't cut it.
I would suggest something like the Quantum T5D. Pricey, but there aren't a lot of options for high power flash, especially if you want to use Nikon's iTTL.
- Arved "Once the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur. -- Alfred Eisenstaedt
- Arved “If you like the way it looks, take the picture. You don’t have to be a portrait judge to know when something looks good. You simply have to develop good taste through learning the basic principles of good composition and lighting.”-- Monte Zucker
#4. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 0
Other posters are right, you are expecting a lot of a single SB800 during a night football game where you want fast shutter speed, plenty of light and great depth of field.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you identify the reach of your SB800. These steps will all be in manual mode which will give you an opportunity to see how far the single SB800 will reach.
Set your camera to manual mode and leave the aperture at F/2.8 initially. Set your shutter to 1/125 second.
Cancel the power zooom function on the SB800 and then set it manually to the 105 mm position. This concentrates the given quantity of light into a smaller area, increasing its intensity and guide number. Then set the SB800 to manual mode and select the M1/1 power setting (full power). These steps raise the guide number of the SB800 to 184 at an ISO of 100. At F/2.8, my SB800 indicates a reach of 65.7 feet, almost 22 yards. (Guide Number of 184 Divided by F/2.8 = 65.7 Feet)
Remember that these calculations assume an average reflectivity of eighteen percent for the subjects. Darker subjects will be underexposed and you will have to move closer or increase the ISO. Lighter subjects may be overexposed and you will have to move farther away, decrease the ISO if possible, or stop the lens down a bit.
Once you discover how far the SB800 will reach at these settings, you have two adjustments you can make: aperture and ISO. Leave the shutter speed alone for now. If ISO = 100 is too slow, try raising it one step at a time (100 to 200 to 400, etc.) and see what happens. Each one step increase in ISO increases your SB800 guide number by a factor of 1.4. At an ISO of 200, at the 105 mm zoom head position and in the M1/1 power setting, the guide number becomes 257.6. At F/2.8, the SB800 will reach 92 feet, which may or may not be realistic, depending on your conditions.
Once you find your working range with these settings, you can start changing the aperture as required. As the subject get closer to you, you will need to move up to smaller apertures so long as the SB800 is in the manual mode.
You will obviously have better results when the action is on your side of the field.
Experiment a bit in the manual mode described above. Once you are comfortable in that mode, try using the TTL mode (Not TTL BL) on the SB800 while leaving the camera in manual mode and selecting spot or center weighted metering, depending on the distance to your subjects: closer subjects, center weighted; distant subjects, spot.
Start here and see what happens. Without knowing your shooting distances and the ambient illumination levels on the field, I cannot go much farther.
Hope this helps a bit.
HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
HBB in Phoenix, Arizona Nikonian Team Member
Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.
#5. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 4
You might move up to a Metz 76 (MZ-5). As I recall the GN on this 'bad boy' is about 250/ISO100/100mm. But you will need to buy an F4 lens to reach 60 feet. However, I'll bet the players wouldn't like it. Most 'filming' (movies) of H.S. night time football is done with high ISO digicams, and the field lights. Might see how a still from a 'fast' digicam looks.
I did a lot of football games in high school. I used a Honeywell Strobonar (GN 140/ASA100) and didn't bother with anything not full-frame with my 200mm/F5.6 mounted on the old 2x3 baby Graflex, and the fastest film available pushed to ASA/1600. This is about the same frame size as the 85mm point on a DX camera/zoom.
I had a darkroom. Now I have a PC. PC smells better.
#9. "RE: Why isn't flash stopping my sports night action sho" In response to Reply # 7
Have you used the Better Beamer? It looks interesting. Also the monopod setup looks like it might work, but rather cumbersome. I have enough trouble getting use to using the monopod, much less have all that equipment on it. Although, several people say that set-up works well.