Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back in action

You will have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  I've had a busy few weeks organising my son's wedding and hosting guests from abroad - so no spare time for fun photography, or blogging, etc.  But I'm back now, and yes - the wedding was a great success and the sun shone from a brilliant blue sky right up until they left for their honeymoon (thanks for asking).

So, what to post?  Well, while I was acting as host and tour guide to the best man, who had travelled over here from the UK, we visited the Motor Show in Sydney, went surfing, went to the wedding (obviously), and then the whole party went on a jetboat tour around Sydney Harbour the day after the wedding (it was pretty miserable weather, but they were going to get drenched in seawater anyway...)

I've already posted the best of my Motor Show shots on flickr and some on DPS, so I'm not going to repeat them here (just follow the links from the sidebar if you want to see them), and I'm not sure I should post the wedding shots, so that leaves... surfing :D (at this point, the chorus of the Beach Boys "Surfin' USA..." should start playing in the back of your head - and now that I've suggested it - it's going to plague you for the rest of the day...)

So - some things to consider for surfing pictures...

  1. It is inevitably going to be windy, with sand and/or salt spray blowing around.  You don't want this inside your camera, so go with the correct lens already in place - or go back to the car if you need to change lens at all.  Probably also a good idea to have additional protection such as a UV filter on the lens, and a plastic bag around the bulk of the camera - especially if there is a lot of salt spray around, and some sunblock for yourself (but DON'T keep it in the camera bag... you just KNOW the tube will split, or the top come off, and cameras don't really need or like sunblock)
  2. If you are taking pictures from the shore, the action will be far away - you'll need a longish lens or lots of extra megapixels to allow you to crop later without losing resolution.  My 200mm could've done with another 100-200mm to get me closer in, since my camera has a (normally quite adequate) sensor of 10MP only.
  3. If you are out on the water either in a boat or on a board yourself, then a waterproof camera or casing is probably advisable ;-)
  4. Some locations may offer the chance to get out in the vicinity of the surfers via long jetties or headlands that stick out into the water - take advantage of these for sideways action shots along the line of the wave, if they are available.
  5. If you've got really big waves, keep down low so that you can see them towering above you (and the surfers) and always get a surfer dude in the picture for scale.
Well, I was on the beach, head on to the waves, with the odd big wave but mostly just a gentle swell, and a nervous surfer on a brand new board (that he had blown half his holiday money on in the first day), with tales of blue-ringed octopus, great white sharks, and blue-bottle jellyfish someone had very meanly implanted in his brain (poor kid - mwah-ha-ha!).  This was obviously not going to be a spectacular shoot, but I wanted to get some shots of him on his new board, that he could take home to his proud mum and surfin' buddies in England.

I had the camera set to 'continuous' focus mode, so that it would automatically keep in focus as he was riding the waves in.  I could have used aperture priority and selected a small aperture to give me a large depth of focus (see Lesson 03 from August), though this would've meant longer exposure times and risked potential blurring given that I was at extreme zoom.  It was actually a lot brighter than I realised, and at f/5.6 I was getting shutter speeds of around 1/800 to 1/1000, so I could possibly have gone to f/8 or f/11 with a fixed manual focus point, and just relied on DOF rather than continuous focus - but what the heck.

After missing several shots, I realised I should also be in 'burst' mode, so I could fire off a handful of shots and capture the entire period from getting up on the board to getting dunked again, though his runs frequently lasted only enough time for me to get three or four shots in, even in burst mode (LOL - sorry Mike ;-) but it's OK - nobody actually reads this, so your secret is safe).

You'll need to be patient if you are following a particular surfer, as one good ride that lasts 5 or 10 seconds means a wait of 5 minutes while they paddle back out again, and then another 5 minutes while they get their breath back and wait for the next good wave.  If you are shooting a competition or a busy beach, then you are more likely to have continual action to choose from.

Finally, when I got home and zoomed into the tiny specs in the middle of my pictures, I was able to crop and get a few reasonable pictures, such as the one above, that retained enough pixels to still print out at 6x4".  This is one of the few occasions I'd agree that a 20MP camera is worthwhile - but if you are going to be getting serious and regularly shooting surfing action, then you'll probably not be content with your entry level dSLR and kit lenses anyway.

You'll see that I cropped this one using the rule of thirds (with Mike towards the left of the picture, and the line of surf in the lower portion), giving him room on the right to surf into - this is just a trick of composition that adds to the 'dynamic' of the picture - but that's a subject for another day.

Till the next time,
Happy Snappin'


No comments:

Post a Comment