Lens comments for an event shoot...

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Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:41 pm

So it appears that I will be doing event photography for a major RC gathering that my club is sponsoring. Event activities will be during daylight hours, 8AM to 7PM or so and outdoors. We do have a covered area, but it is still open on two sides. Lighting may range from heavy overcast to full Texas sun. The subjects will be people and planes ranging from around 30" wingspan up to 120"+, both static and in flight. My plan is to have two, possibly three camera bodies, all Nikon. Current, the bodies are going to be a D70s and D300, so all DX sensors. It's what I have ready access to.

Shooting will be mostly quick, as they happen type shots. Very similar to sports in that regard. Probably no tripod, though I'm thinking I'll put a mono-pod on one of the bodies. I have a couple of shooting positions that are 400-600 feet out, right at the end of the safety fence. From there I can get a close to "straight on" shot for landings and take offs. There is a better spot, but it is almost 1000 feet away. Everything else will be a variety of distances and situations.

Right now, I'm looking at a Nikon AF-S 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 DX VR II for one body and probably a Nikon AF-S VR II 70-200mm f/2.8G with a 1.7x tele-converter on the other body. The latter setup, on a DX body will give effectively 180-500mm. Yeah, it's big and heavy and a bit overkill on a DX body, but for what I will be shooting, and for safeties sake, I don't think it will be a bad setup.

Any thoughts? The 18-200 will cover most of my needs, I think.

--SS
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sat Apr 23, 2011 8:41 pm

I'm kind of hyped about the shots you're going to get from the 70-200x1.7. With the monopod that will be a killer rig for shooting small planes at long distances. It would be interesting to put the 1.7 converter on the 18-200. That'll still be (sorta) wide enough for regular shots and reach pretty far out, too.

Whatever you do, I want some pics :)
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:15 pm

FireGryphon wrote:I'm kind of hyped about the shots you're going to get from the 70-200x1.7. With the monopod that will be a killer rig for shooting small planes at long distances. It would be interesting to put the 1.7 converter on the 18-200. That'll still be (sorta) wide enough for regular shots and reach pretty far out, too.

Whatever you do, I want some pics :)


Based on what I was reading (mainly from Ken Rockwell's site), the teleconverters are useless on anything over an f/2.8 lens and in fact won't even fit on the non-pro and non-AFS lenses. The 1.7x TC will take make that 70-200 an f/4.8 lens. It would take the 18-200 to around f/5.5-f9.5. I don't think the autofocus on my poor D-70s could handle it. It has enough trouble at f/5.6 and anything but good light.

The intent for the large zoom is to be able to get what looks like "up close and personal" shots of landings and take-offs without putting the photographer (me) in the path of very fast moving planes, including some 250+mph jets. I'm looking forward to it, but it will be a challenge. There isn't a whole lot there yet, but the event site is www.warbirdsovertexas.com

--SS
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:20 am

Sounds like fun. Not being too familiar with the Nikon equipment, my only suggestion would be to run a series of test shots in Aperture Priority at a couple fairly high ISO values and using your preferred f-stop, and then figure out where you need to be to get typical shutter speeds in the range of 1/2000 to 1/4000 when fully zoomed. Some of the fast-moving gear could be obscured in motion blur otherwise.
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:26 am

Have you considered renting one of the long Sigmas?
50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 OS HSM
150-500mm f/5-6.3 OS HSM
120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OS HSM
These can be rented for less than $100 for a long weekend.
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:36 am

With fast-moving subjects auto-focus tends to let you down when you need it most, and with slow-moving subjects you don't really need it anyway, so if you assume you're going to be doing manual focus the teleconverter might not be a big problem. But yeah, check pro photo rental places in your area to see what it would cost to rent a serious long lens for the weekend.

I don't know about RC aircraft, but I know from shooting full-size prop planes you generally don't want a shutter speed higher than about 1/125, because when you go much higher you get frozen props in the photo rather than a nice blurred prop disk, which looks really weird (like the engines have shut down in flight). And yes, that means you have to be good with panning to get a clear shot of the aircraft. It may not be as big of a deal with much smaller aircraft, as the props may be spinning faster (considering the upper limit on prop speed is having the tips go supersonic, which is a function of both RPM and size) but it's something you may want to test before you're shooting "for real."

Although... 120" wingspan? Holy crap, that's getting into the "carrying Hellfires over Waziristan" range of RC aircraft.
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:05 am

UberGerbil wrote:With fast-moving subjects auto-focus tends to let you down when you need it most, and with slow-moving subjects you don't really need it anyway, so if you assume you're going to be doing manual focus the teleconverter might not be a big problem. But yeah, check pro photo rental places in your area to see what it would cost to rent a serious long lens for the weekend.

I don't know about RC aircraft, but I know from shooting full-size prop planes you generally don't want a shutter speed higher than about 1/125, because when you go much higher you get frozen props in the photo rather than a nice blurred prop disk, which looks really weird (like the engines have shut down in flight). And yes, that means you have to be good with panning to get a clear shot of the aircraft. It may not be as big of a deal with much smaller aircraft, as the props may be spinning faster (considering the upper limit on prop speed is having the tips go supersonic, which is a function of both RPM and size) but it's something you may want to test before you're shooting "for real."

Although... 120" wingspan? Holy crap, that's getting into the "carrying Hellfires over Waziristan" range of RC aircraft.


With the relative angles, most of the time the planes aren't moving fast enough in the camera frame for autofocus to have a problem. However, for flybys where the camera is close to the runway and at a 90 deg angle, you are correct about autofocus. My D70s does a reasonable job in continuous focus mode most of the time. However the pan can be rather challenging as a plane traveling at 100mph, 75 ft away, moves really fast. :)

The problem is the same with RC planes, re: the prop disk. Usable shutter speeds really vary depending on the size of the prop and motor RPM. Landings and taxing can be in the 1/250 range to 1/2000 for a full throttle fly-by.

Image

That image is a crop of a shot taken at 300mm f/5.6, 1/2000s. To give you an idea, that plane has an 80 inch wingspan and the props are probably about 10" in diameter, spinning at around 9000 rpm.

I'll have to look at the Sigmas. My immediate thought on the 50-500 was "jack of all trades, master of none". I just can't imagine a lens with that range being very good at any setting, but I'll go read. My normal lens rental place doesn't carry them, but I'll see if anyone in town does.

--SS
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:44 pm

SecretSquirrel wrote:I'll have to look at the Sigmas. My immediate thought on the 50-500 was "jack of all trades, master of none". I just can't imagine a lens with that range being very good at any setting, but I'll go read. My normal lens rental place doesn't carry them, but I'll see if anyone in town does.
You know, I'd kind of forgotten about this, but ten years ago I flew into the EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh (highly recommended if you ever get the chance, assuming you're at all into airplanes) and I brought along my Sigma 170-500 lens. I even had a 1.7x teleconverter to go with it. I hardly used it. Yes, there were a few shots I got that I couldn't have gotten otherwise, but the field-of-view was so small with the thing fully-zoomed that it was really difficult to get usable photos during flybys. Of course I was dealing with aircraft that were going considerably faster, though I was also further away. But I found that my 70-300 Nikor (sometimes with the TC, but mostly not) was a much better lens for this purpose -- especially on the cloudy days, and most especially in terms of carrying around. Though "ease of carrying" was a big consideration because I was walking around a lot more than you would be -- walking to the end of rows upon rows of parked aircraft takes a lot more effort when the scale of the models in question is 1:1 ;)

I'll have to dig around and see if i have any copies of the photos I took with the long lens -- this was in 2000, so I was still using my F100: no digital, but "full frame" ;)
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:28 pm

If you had access to an EOS camera, I'd suggest the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM as a good choice for air shows, but the Sigma telephoto lenses get a lot of good press. My 100-400L hasn't been to an air show yet. Maybe I'll make it to Pensacola on May 3 and 4th.

Latest version 50-500 OS vs. 100-400L:
http://www.juzaphoto.com/eng/articles/s ... 00-400.htm

Previous version 50-500 + 120-400 & 150-500 vs. 100-400L:
http://www.juzaphoto.com/eng/articles/c ... 50-500.htm
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:26 pm

Yeah, unfortunately, I'm a Nikon person and the photo nuts I know here locally are Nikon people as well. I could rent a Canon body, but I don't care to learn a new camera too. To UberGerbil's point, I expect the 18-200 to cover about 90% of what I will be shooting for the weekend. Lots of shots in the pits, at the pilot stations, close flybys, etc. My intent is to put the long lens on the D300 to give me room for cropping as well. I have used the 70-200 f/2.8 to do a helicopter event shoot several years ago, and while it is not a light lens, it did quite well for the day. I didn't have access to a second body for that event and that hampered things.

Looking at the Sigmas, they seem to get very soft and show pretty serious chromatic aberration towards the edges at high zoom. I know it isn't quite as big a deal on a DX body, but I expect to be pushing the lens to its limit. I can say for sure that I don't like the extending lens on the Sigmas. I suppose I am spoiled by having used the Nikon f/2.8 in the fast. Nothing moves.

I'm going to chat with a couple of camera buffs at work, but I think I'll likely stay with the original setup. It is a known quantity and should cover what I need. Though, I may have to use a D90s instead of a D300 for the second body. If I have to rent the second body, I'm not paying extra for the D300 when it doesn't really give me any technical benefit.

Thanks for all the feedback and feel free to keep it coming. I won't put in the rental order for a while. I will certainly post back images when I get them.

--SS
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Re: Lens comments for an event shoot...

Postposted on Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:54 am

Renting a D90 would make all your images consistent in terms of quality and resolution. I'm a fan of the D70s (awwww, my first DSLR, them's were the days), and it was great in its day and still is if someone's looking for cheapy-Mccheap-cheap, but next to a D300 it'll be... noticeable. Distractingly so, in my opinion.
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