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Photography Question 
Kris Oechsle

Shooting Soccer in Overcast Conditions

I shoot sports with a Nikon D80 using a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D (telephoto) lens. I have had much success using this combo, except when shooting late afternoon outdoor games in cloudy conditions ... typically just before or after rainfall. Most of my images are blurred (see the sample). I've brought my monopod on several occasions but this hasn't improved the problem. Does anyone have suggestions on adequate shutter speed and aperture settings for these types of low-light conditions? Thanks!

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5/3/2008 4:35:27 PM

Tom Leckwart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/7/2007
  I have shot football in a drizzle, and it was no picnic. My best advice is to boost your ISO to the point where you can use a shutter speed of at least 1/320. I prefer 1/500 minimum, but have gotten sharp images from 1/320. I use a 30D, 80-400 Tokina ATX, monopod, and I will push the ISO as high as 1000 on lousy days. The last shot in my gallery here was taken on a day just after the drizzle let up, with my backup camera no less. You can always underexpose a stop or two, then adjust later in PS as well. That should get you sharp pics in poor light. An IS/VR lens does not hurt either...

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5/3/2008 10:16:33 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Your example did not load but you can look carefully at your blurred images to determine the best course of action.
Are they fuzzy overall?
Are the athletes blurry against a sharp background?

If the first scenario is true, better support for your camera will help sharpen things up.
In the second scenario, try a wide aperture and don't zoom all the way to 200 mm. You can gobble a little more of that lousy light and get a faster shutter speed without boosting your ISO.

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5/4/2008 2:10:17 AM

Kris Oechsle   Thank you Bob & Tom. Bob...the second scenario is more common. I have a sharp background with blurred foreground subjects. I have been using 1/320 shutter speed with an ISO of 800 on average. I will use your advice the next time I'm shooting in those conditions.

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5/4/2008 10:16:57 AM

Martin J. Preslar
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005 Editor's Pick   He Shoots, He SCORES!!!!
He Shoots, He SCORES!!!!
A tighter crop of this action shot. The player flying through the air was the top scorer on my son's hockey team this past season.
© Martin J. Preslar
Canon EOS 20D Digi...

I would echo the comments of Bob and Tom. (Sounds like a radio morning show...)

I do a lot of sports in poor lighting conditions. Using a mono-pod (or tripod if you have room and don't need the mobility) is a big help, but if you can't get shutter speeds that are OK for hand-holding you risk motion blur on the players anyway. Now, for soccer, if you have a clear shot of the face and the ball and foot are blurred, that is called "Art" and can look really cool! :)

In general, don't be afraid to bump up the ISO. I generally shoot in shutter priority mode and bump up the ISO to ensure that the aperture is OK. I shoot raw+jpeg so I can adjust the exposure as needed, but I can also quick-process the jpegs and upload them quickly.

For baseball I used to use a 2x extender with my Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 at the beginning of games, then as the light faded I would take off the extender and finish shooting. (My new Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 DG doesn't work with my old extender, so I can't do that anymore.) I would still have to bump the ISO up late in the games though.

This example is from Ice Hockey in conditions similar to a cloudy day, but with artificial lighting instead. It was shot at ISO-1600, 1/320s, 117mm, and F7.1. I hand held, because the mono-pod makes it hard to keep the shots level when shooting from the stands at a hockey arena.

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5/13/2008 7:31:45 AM

Dale M. Garvey   Soccer is difficult because you need at least 1/500 to stop headers. The new D300 has opened many fields that I could shoot otherwise. Shooting at ISO 2500 is not a problem. It is also faster than the D80. Costco has allows you to take a 90 day trial. The other guys have given you good advise. I would be happy to look at some images if you want to send them to me.

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5/13/2008 8:46:07 AM

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