DockDogs Competition w/ EM-1 and ZD 50-200 SWD (FYI - Photo Heavy Post)

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Phocal, Mar 12, 2015.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    This past Saturday I headed out to photograph a DockDogs competition that was taking place close to my house. I had never photographed one of these events before so was not sure what to expect. I brought along my EM-1, ZD 50-200 SWD, EC-14, tripod, monopod, and BlackRapid strap. I was able to set up right at the end of the pool, so the EC-14 was not used. I actually wanted to get a little farther away but a deep water filled ditch prevented it. I could have gone to the other side and used the EC-14 but that would have prevented getting closer when I needed to. When I first got there I only took the monopod with me and was to lazy to go back and get the tripod. Next time I will make sure to bring it with me as a few times I would have liked to use it. One last thing to note was the cloudy to mostly cloudy sky that caused ever changing lighting conditions.

    Here is my favorite photograph from the day:
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    Not only had I never photographed this before, I have never photographed action with an OMD. My prior experience involves sports and using a Canon EOS 1V (yep, from my film days) or a Canon 7D. For this reason I cannot talk about how much of an improvement the new firmware has made or the difference between SWD and non-SWD. I can relate my experience with using the EM-1 and the SWD to shoot high speed action. Maybe not race car fast high speed, but these dogs are moving way faster then people coming off that dock.

    The first event was the long jump. The pool was in such a place that photographing from the side was going to look terrible. The background was just going to be way to busy, so I set up head on. For autofocus I switched back and forth between C-AF and C-AFtracking (using the center point for both). I did not try (because I did not think about it until the way home) using the large focus points with C-AF, but plan to try it next time (I am going to another one in a week). Using C-AF I got better performance, around 75% in focus when I could stay on the dog (which is why I think large focus points may be better). Problem is each dog jumps differently (have not learned all the dogs yet but if I keep doing this I will), some go high and some come strait out, this makes following them difficult. Using C-AFtracking was kind of hit or miss, with around 60% or so in focus. I say hit or miss because I would be focusing on the dog before he takes off and it would jump to a reflection in the water or would just focus on the sign behind the dog. When it worked it was pretty good, but getting confused caused all sorts of headaches. Given all this, I mostly used C-AFtracking just because it was easier.

    A few photos of the long jump competition

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    I discovered after I got home that cropping for composition was going to be a chore. Next time I will make some adjustments in my framing and what I am actually trying to capture, this will make things a lot easier. I shot all horizontal and many times was forced to crop vertical or square to get a good composition for the photograph.

    The next competition was the speed retrieval. This was pretty easy to shoot. Just focused on the bumper and waited for the dog to come into view.

    A few photos of the speed retrieval competition

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    They also have a high jump competition but I was not able to stay for that event. Next time I will be there for that event and it should be pretty easy to photograph. Will just have to focus on the bumper they are jumping for and wait for the dog to come into view.

    Here a few photographs of the dogs swimming that I liked.

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    9 Really wish I had nailed focus on this one
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    And a few of the crowd

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    Overall I was very happy with the performance of the camera and the lens. I think with practice my technique for photographing this event will improve and I will have a much easier time capturing the photographs that I want. This was also my fist time shooting the SWD without the EC-14 attached and I thought the quality impressed me when using it. I am really happy I bought this lens, the quality to price ratio is just way to good to pass up.

    Here is a link to my gallery of all the dockdogs photographs if anyone is interested:

    Here is a link to the dockdogs website if you want to find an event near you:

    Any input, critique or discussion is greatly appreciated.

    Added after initial post:

    I took around 2,400 photos during the competition. After going thru and getting rid of the out of focus ones or the ones where the dog was just coming into or going out of the frame, I was at just over 800 photos. For the entire day that left me with a 33% keeper rate which I feel was really good.

    I did not mention camera settings so here goes. I shot on aperture priority and started shooting wide open at ƒ2.8 but halfway thru the long jump I switched to ƒ4.0 to get a little more wiggle room for focus. While shooting the speed retrieval I was at ƒ2.8 the entire time I believe.

    Last edited: Mar 12, 2015
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  2. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Some cracking shot there!! Thanks for posting.
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  3. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you.

    Edited my post above to talk about number taken
  4. VooDoo64

    VooDoo64 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 17, 2010
    Zagreb - Croatia
    Davor Vojvoda
    Beautiful pictures and thank you for them because now I will give up buying 40-150 PRO and remain on 50-200 which is quite excellent in image quality, 40-150 PRO is 4-5 times more expensive than 50-200 non-swd and is not that much better - for tone 40-150 PRO I can buy 12-60, 50-200, ec-14, Sigma 150 Macro and 45 f/1.8, it's like the whole system or one excelent lens
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You are welcome. I feel that the 40-150 Pro is probably a bit faster and better for the job (Do not own so cannot say for sure), but for the price you cannot go wrong with the 50-200. I went this route because I really needed more reach then the 40-150 provides until the 300mm ƒ4.0 comes out. Eventually I will get the 40-150 Pro and sell my SWD, but being new to the system there are a lot of lenses that I need/want.
  6. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Did we lose the "nominate for feature" button? Because this post needs to be bumped to top page.

    Great set, and great explanations. Makes me want to think about about that setup for action!
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  7. marz

    marz Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Jul 5, 2011
    Pyrenees, France
    Superb, love the photos as well as the subjects...
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  8. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Nice photo set! Thanks and good proof the quality on the 50-200mm is very good. I also think 33% is pretty darn good for first time out AND doing action like this.

    The one of the Boston terrier looks oh so sad lol. I used to have one of those dogs and every book will tell you that they don't like water and will stay away. I don't think dogs read books tho because mine practically lived on my boat and would jump off into the water every chance he got lol! He loved the water!
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  9. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Stellar work, my friend. They need to hire you as the official photographer of the event. Yesterday. You got the goods!
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  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks everyone......................

    I forgot to add in there (will go back and edit post to include) that I started out at ƒ2.8 but halfway thru switched to ƒ4.0 to get a little bit more wiggle room for focus. When I was shooting the speed retrieval I was at ƒ2.8 the entire time I believe.
  11. Clicka

    Clicka Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 28, 2014
    Peter Campbell
    loved them all. that was terrific to look through. Nice work.
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  12. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Don't overlook the 40-150 f4-5.6. For the unbelievable prices at which you can get one, especially used or refurb, it is a great lens. Outdoors it has performed great for me. I'm sure the
    Pro is better, but you have light, fast, and great IQ covered if you add the little guy to the 50-200. Then you can save money to put towards that 300mm. The Pro can then be the long term upgrade if you decide you need it.
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  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I have the 40-150 f4-5.6 and may have to give it a try, it is a great little lens. Oh, I need the 300mm f4 and plan to have it when it comes out. Until then the SWD will fill my needs, still want longer tho.
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  14. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Great photos! Also appreciate you posting your experiences
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  15. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    great shots and good news for me as I have the 50-200 swd and an e-m1arrives next week.
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  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Would the 50-200 SWD work well on something like the GX7, or is the GX7 missing the phase detect?
  17. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    The only m4/3 it focuses well on is the EM-1, need the PDAF.
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  18. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Great shots. Love watching dock diving dogs - they look they have so much fun.

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  19. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You could see that the dogs loved what they were doing. Some were so excited I didn't think they would wait to jump into the water.
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  20. Very nice photos, great clarity. My #2 dog would be great at this, but there is little water and no docks around me.
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