Sunday, 3 May 2015

Junior Soccer with the Canon 1D MkIII

Tis the start of the soccer season here downunder, and my son Joshua is getting to play for the first time. We live in a small town, with limited numbers, and soccer is way down the list of 'popular' games for local kids. As such, the competition happens on a Sunday morning - right at the time when we are heading off to church :-(

He has wanted to play for a few years now, but it's really only now that he is in High School that he has been able to join a club and get involved in a competition. And the games seem like they will be early enough that he will get to play and maybe even make it to church after?

Joshua in his first game for Grey Main Junior U14s. Canon 1D Mk3 with Canon 75-300mm @f5.6
The 'other' great news, now that he is playing soccer, is that I get to be the Dad with the camera (I'm not the only one) and go down to the games to practice my sports photography :-) Yay!

Before heading off I consulted the EOS1D MkIII official guide to AI Servo AF Custom Functions (whew) that I downloaded from the internet. To shoot soccer, it suggested setting tracking sensitivity to '0', AI Servo Image Priority to '0', AI Servo tracking method to '1', and AF expansion with selected point to '1' as well. So I did :-) I also boosted the ISO to 800 (it was a slightly overcast morning), and obviously had continuous servo autofocus with hi (10fps) frame rate capture selected.

1D Mk3 with Canon 75-300mm IS at 300mm @f5.6, 1000th sec, ISO 800
I focused using the central focusing sensor and tried to keep that 'locked on target' as the players moved around. This work fairly well. Of the 200 images I shot during the game, I would say about 70 to 80% of them were acceptably sharp. Of course that doesn't mean I got about 150 great shots :-) I culled this down to about 20 images that are 'keepers', where Joshua is engaged in the action, is in focus, and looks good.
Canon 1D Mk3 with Canon 75-300mm IS at 250mm @f5.6, 750th sec, ISO 800
So that's about a 10% 'keeper' rate. Don't know if that's acceptable or not - but I'm happy, and it was my first time shooting soccer, so there's definitely room for improvement. Which is a good thing I suppose, because I'm keen to keep going back and doing it again. I've already decided that next time I'll change my position on the pitch. I stood with the other parents at about half-way and covered both ends, but next time I think I will go the the goal area and shoot Joshua head-on running towards the camera.

And finally, just a quick word about the Canon 75-300mm f4.5/5.6 IS USM lens. It's the original version - the first lens to introduce IS (Image Stabilization), and probably not the greatest lens in Canon's arsenal. But it's actually performing rather impressively for its price and specs and I'm finding the AF speed more than adequate in decent light with the 1D Mk3. Wide open it's pretty sharp too! I've got not worries shooting it on 300mm at f5.6 and expecting sharp results (not counting user error).

All the above images were shot with the camera and lens stabilized on a Manfrotto monopod, with IS on as well. The monopod helped shoulder some of the weight of the 1D Mk3 and probably increased my percentage of sharp shots. Another dad was there with what looked to be a Canon 7D with 70-200mm f4 IS attached, but he was shooting all hand-held. That would certainly be a lighter combination than the 1D with 75-300mm, although I'd probably still shoot it from a monopod? A friend I know owns the 70-200mm f2.8 which I may borrow and use at some stage, but I'm definitely happy with the results I'm getting from the 75-300mm in the meantime.

So here's to the start of the soccer season in New Zealand! And here's to many more sports outings with the Canon 1D Mk3! :-)

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