Recommendations for tennis from the sidelines?

Macroramphosis

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Had an interesting afternoon this weekend when I finally managed to persuade my 12 year-old model to go the other end of the court. Not having buildings or cars to contend with made life much more pleasurable. As for the tennis, I've decided that 'balls in strings" is not my forte, nor my main desire either - I definitely prefer the all-action shot. I can understand why some like the former, and perhaps if I had a high speed demon in my hands I'd think differently, but my time at the court is very definitely spent more in pursuit of the "look at me, I can fly" sort of shot :) I just think they tell a bit more of a story then a hunk of yellow fluff bulging out the racket - I can fully understand why some love getting the 'string' shots though.

Incidentally, I'm a novice at this, but I think the Sigma 60mm is a great lens for the money for this sort of lark, but a pro-level zoom will offer much more benefit at some stage. Some of these shots are cropped quite significantly, which the IQ of the Sigma lets me get away with, but I can see a zoom would help with framing a great deal better. Suggestions for the next step up lens-wise would be much appreciated (and yes, I know a better camera will also help)....

The last shot illustrates the determination and fitness levels one has to have, at a very young age, to get where you want to in this game. My jaw dropped when I saw that particular photo!

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AussiePhil

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Hiya Roddy
As you started this for help i'll apologise upfront for the following critical comments on the last set.

Noting you are using a camera I have no familiarity with but i do know the lens as i own it. Technical discussion first..

Using the court surface to judge the focal plane
Photo 1 - Focus is one the chain link fence, at 1/1600 the softness is from the focus being behind the player

Photo 2 - same issue with the focus looking to be in the middle and on the fence, with the angle the player is well forward of the focal plane and hence out of focus.

Photo 3 - focus is only just behind leaving nearly 1005 of the player in focus.

Photo 4 - focus is again behind but the player is at the front of the focal plane, I'd also be looking for the frame before or after so her face is not obscured, likely the frame before so you still have the ball in the image.

Photo 5 - same issue with the chain link fence grabbing the focus point, shutter speed a bit low as well unless you want the motion blur on the racket :)

In all cases there is little reason the shoot the Sigma 60mm stopped down... even wide open at the distance your shooting the depth of field should cover player and racket if not then just a little stop down.
your max shutter speed of 1/4000 may prevent your getting wide open in bright sunlight though. I'd be very tempted in bright light go to S mode set to 1/4000, Iso to 160 and let the aperture vary.

Here's an example using the 40-150Pro wide open at F2.8 and 86mm and if you look at the clay surface you can see i have enough DOF to cover player and racket.
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Canberra Clay Court International #2 by Phil Gartner, on Flickr

Thoughts:
You have a significant advantage in some ways as you spend a lot of time around the court..

* you get 7fps ... seriously that is quick enough to get interesting bursts
* Go to back button focus, if the player is on the baseline, focus and stop, DOF is usually enough that you likely don't need to refocus unless they run further forward
* I like the compositions and the concept of more "action" shots.
* Fairly certain i could have got each with prefocus on the player before the shot
* I often use prefocus when capturing serves as the player rarely moves outside the DOF and focus never gets confused by the racket movement
* shooting with the sun behind you and the player having a cap on add in a little bit of exposure comp... let the background blow out a little if you have to, save's lifting cap shadows too far.

I'm sure you may get a lot of lens suggestions but i have found the 40-150 range lets you cover all the court with better framing from most close seating arrangements. Can only recommend the 40-150Pro, worth saving up for. and will still be a great lens on a newer body.
the P35-100F2.8 would be an option but i think you give up to much.... the 100-150 range is needed on a tennis court.

Improvement order in my opinion
Focus nailing :) -> Lens -> Camera

cheers
Phil
PS not fair you now have nice bright sunshine ... we have watched Madrid and now getting Rome each evening, some great tennis action happening... Julie has just put the tennis on the TV as i type this... :)
 

CD77

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I know you've bought the S60, but another option that I use for photographing my daughter's ballroom dancing (indoors, poor lighting, fast movement... all in common with tennis) is a combination of the O45 f/1.8 and an Olympus A200 front mounted x1.5 teleconvertor. With this combo you get two fast lenses, one at 45mm, and with the A200 attached, a 67.5mm f1.8 lens with very little noticeable degradation in the image. It's the cheapest way of getting close to the reach and speed of the O75 f/1.8, I paid £120 for the lens and £12 for the A200 which is about 25% of the cost of the O75.

Here's an example... these dancers are running towards me celebrating their final result.
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Macroramphosis

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I know you've bought the S60, but another option that I use for photographing my daughter's ballroom dancing (indoors, poor lighting, fast movement... all in common with tennis) is a combination of the O45 f/1.8 and an Olympus A200 front mounted x1.5 teleconvertor. With this combo you get two fast lenses, one at 45mm, and with the A200 attached, a 67.5mm f1.8 lens with very little noticeable degradation in the image. It's the cheapest way of getting close to the reach and speed of the O75 f/1.8, I paid £120 for the lens and £12 for the A200 which is about 25% of the cost of the O75.
That's an interesting, option - thank you!
 

ac12

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Get ideas from others, but do what YOU want to do.
But keep exploring and keep your eyes open, as you may find something new that you had not thought of before.

#1 and 4 are cool. I like the "floating in the air" look.
#4 - If you got the shot a fraction of a second earlier, so her face was clear of the racket. Yeah I know, HARD to do, you get what you get. But that is why you shoot a LOT, so you have more to pick from.

#2 and 4.
Try a vertical crop, so you can concentrate on her face.
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I may have cropped too far into the racket in the bottom pic.

When I do crops like this, I will keep and post both the wider overall pic and the crop, as I don't know which one the parent will like, or if I change my mind in a few months. Sometimes the lower body and leg position tells an important part of the story, and tight cropping won't work. Like I think #1 needs to show her feet above the ground.

Keep up the good work.
 

Macroramphosis

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Hiya Roddy
Hi Phil, sorry for the delayed reply - I've been trying a few of the ideas you have mentioned and thought I'd do so before replying.

I can see just how unfocused some of those shots are, and looking through the rest of the series for the day I can see I have the same problems in many of the other photos, but one or two seem to have her face in perfect focus. The chain fence is a problem in that light from that direction, for sure. I was shooting single frame, small AF yellow box, following her face as she moved about. I found using burst mode that the focusing was always off and I seemed to have a much better success rate with the single, timed, shot. I also don't have the time or computer system to go through the many shots that would build up during a session with burst mode - it's an ageing Mac and I delete 70% of the shots on the camera before downloading anything - my computer slows to a crawl otherwise.

Anyway - I've been playing around with the camera the past few days, trying out some of your suggestions, and will get back to you again when I have managed to successfully achieve what you think might work. I have problems with the camera though - for starters, aperture will not float in S, at all. I have to find out why. I can also set back-button focus (I've used it before) but at the moment the camera does not retain that setting after being restarted. My custom modes are also not retaining shutter or aperture settings when turned off. So give me a couple of days and I'll come back to you again. I'm thinking I'll have to restore the beast to factory settings and re-do everything. There is a bug in there somewhere I have to get rid of.

THANK you for your detailed reply though - I am looking forward to trying out some of your suggestions, I really am. :D
 

Macroramphosis

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Get ideas from others, but do what YOU want to do.
But keep exploring and keep your eyes open, as you may find something new that you had not thought of before.

#1 and 4 are cool. I like the "floating in the air" look.
#4 - If you got the shot a fraction of a second earlier, so her face was clear of the racket. Yeah I know, HARD to do, you get what you get. But that is why you shoot a LOT, so you have more to pick from.

#2 and 4.
Try a vertical crop, so you can concentrate on her face.
View attachment 744184

View attachment 744185
I may have cropped too far into the racket in the bottom pic.

When I do crops like this, I will keep and post both the wider overall pic and the crop, as I don't know which one the parent will like, or if I change my mind in a few months. Sometimes the lower body and leg position tells an important part of the story, and tight cropping won't work. Like I think #1 needs to show her feet above the ground.

Keep up the good work.
Cheers ac! I tend to do what I want to do all the time, much to the annoyance of others. I'm old enough to know that following your own path is far more enjoyable and honest than following footprints :D I have no qualms at all about taking the shots I want - and, as you say - finding something different along the way.

With the Sigma i find I have to crop quite substantially sometimes, so the quality degrades quite a bit as I do so - it is, as you say, what it is. I am not afraid to crop at all, and do so with abandon. In fact I think every photo I have ever posted on this forum has been cropped to some extent for composition. Probably complete heresy, but I really do not care. If I had different glass and could frame at the distances I wanted to, I would probably still crop!

Thank you for the comments, too - much appreciated :D
 

ac12

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With the Sigma i find I have to crop quite substantially sometimes, so the quality degrades quite a bit as I do so - it is, as you say, what it is. I am not afraid to crop at all, and do so with abandon. In fact I think every photo I have ever posted on this forum has been cropped to some extent for composition. Probably complete heresy, but I really do not care. If I had different glass and could frame at the distances I wanted to, I would probably still crop!
Don't worry about the cropping.
I found that with FAST action, I CANNOT crop in camera. The issue is, with a tight crop in the camera, I cannot follow the fast action. I end up with limbs out of the frame or I miss where the action is going.
So in the camera I crop wide, to give me plenty of space around the subject, so that I can track the subject. Then I do final cropping in the computer.

When I shoot something that does not move, or moves very slowly, then I can afford to crop in camera.

This is one thing that I like about digital. I used to shoot slide film, and I had to crop in camera, cuz what I shot was what was projected.
 

Macroramphosis

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Don't worry about the cropping.
I found that with FAST action, I CANNOT crop in camera. The issue is, with a tight crop in the camera, I cannot follow the fast action. I end up with limbs out of the frame or I miss where the action is going.
So in the camera I crop wide, to give me plenty of space around the subject, so that I can track the subject. Then I do final cropping in the computer.

When I shoot something that does not move, or moves very slowly, then I can afford to crop in camera.

This is one thing that I like about digital. I used to shoot slide film, and I had to crop in camera, cuz what I shot was what was projected.
Agree on all points - that's exactly what I do, and what I did, too. :D
 

Macroramphosis

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Been a while since I had a play up at the court, but I did like this one from this afternoon - tentatively titled....

Some People Play Their Tennis in the City

G8 + Sigma 60 DN
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