Sunday, 19 February 2012

Reefton Rodeo

Yesterday I went on the first photography field trip of the year with my local camera club - to the Reefton Rodeo. I was really looking forward to it, since it would give me a chance to shoot in a fast, action sports style that I don't often get to shoot in.

Bull Riding. Canon 20D with 70-200mm f2.8

I decided to use the 20D, since it shoots at 5 frames per second, and would add a 1.6x cropping factor to any lens I used. I own a Canon 70-200mm f4L, but for the Rodeo I knew there would be quite a lot of background distractions, so wanted to blur the background as much as possible. So I borrowed a friends 70-200mm f2.8, as well as a Canon 1.4x extender, just in case I needed extra reach (I generally didn't).

What goes up...
I also shot using a monopod to keep everything steady, and to save my arms from having to support the f2.8 lens all day. Even if I had been using a lighter lens, the monopod would still have been a great idea, as it keeps everything stable.

... must come Down!
I shot in jpeg, since it meant that I could shoot 26 frames continuously before the buffer was full - whereas if I'd shot in RAW it would have only allowed me 5 frames before locking up. As it was, shooting in jpeg meant that the camera never locked up and I could shoot at the top frame rate without missing any shots. It also helped that I was using a fast (200x) Lexar CF card to speed up file transfer times.

Ropin' and Ridin'
This set up allowed me to shoot all day, wide open on f2.8, at about a 2000th of a shutter speed. But during the roping demonstration, I wanted to pan with the riders and get some blur into the image to indicate the sense of speed that the riders are moving. So I set the camera to ISO 100, and closed the aperture to f11. This gave me a 60th of a second shutter speed, allowing me to blur the background, but the front horse that the camera auto focus locked on to is in pretty sharp focus.

Over the course of the day I shot around 600 photos. Later that evening I whittled this down to about 100, and of that 100 I probably have 20 that I would consider as 'keepers'. Why did I get rid of 580 shots from the day? Well, about half were slightly out of focus, and many of the others had a background that I wasn't happy with. Given the way the rodeo was set up, there wasn't much i could do about the backgrounds. I just had to wait to see if the cowboy was going to stay on long enough to clear the gates and the clutter. Many did, and they were the shots that counted. And then I just had to hope that the camera nailed the auto focus - which it did about half the time. I would expect a better hit rate with a newer camera, since the D20 is a fairly old body.

So next year, my haul of great images should be bigger? We'll wait and see.

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