Burning River Roller Girls

© Elaine Hessler

Burning River Roller Girls

Uploaded: April 14, 2013


ISO 800, 70mm, -1EV, f/7.1, 1/125, possibly decreased flash output too.

Exif: F Number: 7.1, Exposure Bias Value: -1.00, ExposureTime: 1/125 seconds, Flash: fired, compulsory flash mode, return light detected, ISO: 800, White balance: Auto white balance, FocalLength: 70.00 mm, Model: NIKON D5100


Elaine Hessler April 14, 2013

I spent the evening at the roller derby and boy was this a tricky shoot!!! Poor lighting and fast girls do NOT go together. I shot for about 4 hours and got few good ones. The girl on the far left is one of my amazing students (Cornell grad in English lit).

I wanted to print this for her. I made a few adjustments in PSE, but couldn't figure out how to get rid of the noise. I can also recrop-original is below along with a few other fun ones. #1523973

Elaine Hessler April 14, 2013

Oh, by the way, any tips on photographing in these arenas would be appreciated. Jeff, I remember your basketball picture-it was great. How did you get such a sharp clear picture under those lighting conditions? Or is this a matter of quality of camera sensor? Here we go again... #10653591

Dale Hardin April 14, 2013

Exciting stuff Elaine. I have a half sister that used to play the game.

You will probably get better technical advice from the other guys but I did notice a few things. You shot at 800 ISO which is OK but probably could have gone down to 400 (less noise) instead of reducing the EV as you show in your data. Also, why did you reduce your flash output?

By making those changes you would have been able to increase your shutter thus eliminating some motion blur.

On occasion, I will shoot with the fastest shutter speed the conditions will allow even if the image is a bit dark because that can always be helped somewhat in post processing. Too much and you would have to contend with noise reduction also.

By the way, I prefer the original crop because it shows the opening the skater was breaking through and is a better story than just surging around. #10653728

Jeff E Jensen April 14, 2013

It's always an eye opener on how tough these kinds of events can be to shoot. Even though it appears to be plenty bright, it is usually deceiving. The big question is how much ISO can your camera handle before the noise is unbearable. In this case, I would have done the opposite of Dale's suggestion. I'd have removed the EV adjustment and bumped your shutter speed up to the quickest you could get while using your flash. You are dealing with quick action, so you need the fastest shutter possible. Also, you shot this at f/7.1, I'm assuming for some depth? Well, here's the deal, if you were 20 feet from your subject (pure guess), with your settings and camera, you have a total of 7.2 feet of depth from the front to the back of your DOF range. Way more than you really need. Assuming you can get to f/2.8, with everything else the same, you still get about 2.3 feet of depth to work with. The big advantage is that you end up being able to use a faster shutter and lower ISO. Yes, you will have more that is out of focus, but as long as you nail focus on your main subject (tough with fast moving subjects), your image will work. Make sense? #10653758

Dale Hardin April 14, 2013

A bit confused Jeff. I was also suggesting she not reduce the EV and to increase he shutter speed. Opposite? :o) #10653868

Jeff E Jensen April 14, 2013

I was thinking of your suggestion of going to ISO 400. #10653880

Kristin Duff April 14, 2013

Thanks for the lesson Jeff and Dale! And Elaine -I too prefer the first photo and the motion of her feet just starting the skate stride! #10654011

Beth Spencer April 14, 2013

This does look like it would have been difficult to shoot. I like the cropped one, seems a little closer to the action. Thanks Dale and Jeff because I would have no idea how to answer the question. #10654030

Michael Kelly level-deluxe April 14, 2013

Bad lighting a fast motion are tough for anyone. In Derby three it looks like you were panning with the action. Besides what Dale and Jeff mentioned this is a great way to make a good capture under these conditions. In fact I might have lowered the ISO and the shutter speed with a pan to further blur the BG and reduce noise potential.

The other thing is to shoot at the high end of the curve. That is make sure that the shot is almost overexposed rather than in the center of the histogram. More data is collected at this upper end and reducing the shot back to the middle range in post processing will hide a lot of noise at the dark end. Of course a fast lens and a sensor that is as noise free as possible help too. #10654045

Stephen Shoff April 14, 2013


Lots to say here. It will take a couple of posts...

Dale's computations, taken stepwise...
-- reducing to ISO 400 [keeping aperture and ISO constant] would have doubled your shutter speed to 1/60th of a second
-- then removing the -1 EV exposure compensation (at least on my Canon cameras) would have doubled the shutter speed again to 1/30th of a second [again keeping aperture and ISO constant]. Note: I suppose it is possible that Nikon and Canon use reversed nomenclatures for exposure compensation in which case Dale's suggestion would managed to maintain the shutter speed...I've never looked into it but I've also never seen it referenced in the literature.

Jeff's comments: he described some aperture/DOF flexibility based on an assumed working distance from your subject (20 ft). From what I can tell, Jeff grossly underestimated your working distance. I used my crop-sensor NEX camera with a zoom set to 70mm to estimate how far away from a subject I had to be to get the approximate vertical dimension of a doorway in my field of view. By my estimates, that would have been nearly 50 ft. Sometimes focusing distance is recorded in the EXIF data. You might want to see if you can verify that. It is important to the next point. However, for Jeff's purposes, I think he is correct that you could have shot at f/2.8 (presuming your lens supports that) and had acceptable DOF. As he implied that would have have allowed you to reduce your ISO down by a factor of about 1.5x to reduce degradation due to noise, and still retained your f7.1 and 1/125 shutter speed, and/or been able to remove the -1EV that you had to deal with in post-processing. #10654123

Stephen Shoff April 14, 2013


But then the several comments about flash might need to be discounted -- yours, Dale's question about your reduced flash comment, and Jeff's implication of making up lost light due to fast shutter speeds using flash. Unless you have a really powerful flash, you are too far away for the flash to help you much. I will concede that I'm not experienced in flash and sports photography, but I seriously doubt that typical flash units have a 50 ft effective range. I'd be happy for Jeff to set me straight on that score.

Looking at your picture, it doesn't appear to me that the flash helped much, if at all. There isn't much light fall-off as you move away from the closest subject and the background is as light as the foreground. But as you mentioned, we don't know if that was because you were out of range or if you had flash compensation set down.

If you think you are going to be in this indoor sports photography situation very often, then my summary of everyone's recommendations above:
-- familiarize yourself with Jeff's DOF vs working distance numbers so that you get the most leverage using large apertures
-- familiarize yourself with your flash's guide number and what that means in terms of effective flash range. Flash effective range can vary with your focal length on a zoom lens, and in terms of telephoto focal lengths possibly increase the flash's effective range
-- Also know what your camera's fastest and default sync speed is. My guess is that your camera might have set itself to 1/125 second as a default flash sync value, and f/7.1 was the camera meter's decision based on your ISO and EV value.
-- avoid using exposure compensation (i.e., +/- EV) as a way to manage shutter speed. ( Again, my guess is that if you actually intentionally set the -1 EV, it was an attempt to keep your shutter speed acceptably high for action shots; or possibly to get the camera to actually take the picture.) As Mike pointed out, and Dale implied, if you can get enough light to over expose a little then noise is [supposed to be] a minor problem; but having to pump up brightness in post-processing risks introducing more noise than exposing properly in the first place.
-- acquire a post-processing capability to deal with noise. (Ex: ACR, or one of the 3rd partly noise filters like NIK Define)

BUT AFTER all that...I honestly don't see any noise in your posted picture. I'm presuming you saw it in your desired print size.


Jeff E Jensen April 15, 2013

I love it when Stephen gets all techy. . .

I think by the end of my comment, I'd have gone without the flash. #10655063

Elaine Hessler April 15, 2013

Wow, lots to think about here. You can see I was struggling with this. I started with panning, which is incredibly difficult to get the timing just right. I would have used a larger aperture overall, but I was having a lot of difficulty focusing, due to all the movement and change in location on the track. I think I got confused with the shutter speed, because the thought at the time was I wanted it slow enough to have some of the ambient light come through so we could see the background, and I thought the flash would make the girls in front not blur.

I ended up decreasing my flash output because parts of the girls were getting overexposed, and at the time, I thought it would be easier to fix an underexposed image, than one with parts that were blown out. The girls were about 20-30 feet from us when I used the flash, and the flash definitely reached them. You can look at "derby 2" which used no flash. They were much further away from us.

Oh, and I originally used my flash with a diffuser on it, but none of the light reached the girls. I had to bend the flash head so it was lighting the girls directly, which worked best, but got a little red eye in some of the pictures I took.

I am taking a class on May 1 about using flash, so I hope to learn some more. I am having such a hard time with this. It really shouldn't be this difficult, right?

Here's my picture with the original crop, I've included the girls on the left, but this puts my main subject in the middle. Any other ideas to improve the placement of my main subject?

Thanks for the detailed input! #10655125

Rita K. Connell level-classic April 15, 2013

Elaine I won't get all techy. . .the boys did that for us. I think you did an awesome job with capturing them especially in a difficult situation between movement and lighting. I bet theses girls were fun to watch. #10655234

Elaine Hessler April 16, 2013

You have no idea Rita! I'm going back soon! #10655457

Peter W. Marks April 16, 2013

Yeh! What they said; I think! But now I have to go Google to find out what the hack roller derby is. Lots to look at in these images, Elaine. Probably two cups of coffee to take it all in. Very interesting indeed. #10655543

Elaine Hessler April 16, 2013

I highly recommend going to one of these gritty events. It is very entertaining and a lot of fun. Looks a little dangerous, but no serious injuries. The actual game is actually pretty interesting. The costumes, names, and attitudes are the icing. A lot of good people watching too:) #10655602

Debbie E. Payne April 20, 2013

So, there is Roller Derby in Cleveland? Or is this even Cleveland? I have always wanted to go to one of these events. I will have to cut and paste Stephen's treatise and put it in a folder for future needs. I like the close-up best. #10660405

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