Shooting an NBA player's basketball camp with the OM-D and JPEGs

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by napilopez, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    So a couple of weeks ago someone saw my craigslist ad and decided to hire me to shoot a youth basketball camp event sponsored by NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony. In fact, he wasn't just the sponsor; he would be participating himself.

    Turns out the original photographer backed out, so they scrambled to find someone new. I was pretty flattered, as Carmelo is one of the very best players in the league; for them to have chosen me out of plenty of other photographers was an honor. At the same time, I was nervous. I would be the sole official photographer for the event, and well... we all know sports isn't exactly Micro Four Thirds' forte. Not that I hadn't shot sports or action before with M4/3, but never seriously. Worse still, basketball is a particularly difficult subject. A small, typically indoors field, continuous playtime, and swift, erratic movements make it a one of the harder challenges for camera.

    The worst part of it all for me, however, was that I would have to provide unedited jpegs for immediate upload. I have never left a photo untouched since getting my first real camera, a G3, in January 2012. Post processing is essential to my workflow.

    So, I thought I would have to rent a full frame kit and a fast zoom to not mess the photos up, but I also didn't want waste my all my pay on gear. I also figured it wasn't that serious, given they had only one photographer for an event spanning 2 days for a total of 16 hours. Thus, I compromised; I rented the 75mm f1.8 and a flash to compensate for low light. All in all, I was armed with my OM-D, the 12-50 kit (used exclusively as a 12mm prime), the 25mm Panaleica, the 45mm f1.8, the 75mm f1.8, and the FL-600R flash (which I ended up not using because, well, I just don't like flashes).

    To summarize, it was one of the toughest shoots I've done. But given my unusual set-up, I think I got results different form your typical sports/event shoot. I was able to maneuver around a crowded venue easily, and carried four lenses, two flashes, 3 batteries, 4 filters, and a charger in this tiny bag. I shot exclusively with primes (again, I used my kit lens as a prime), so I was able to capture more light than any APS-C sensor would have with a fast zoom set-up, and in many cases not too far off from FF-like light gathering abilities with your standard fast zooms.

    My main issue came with focusing. I've actually use C-AF very often to good results before on my OM-D, but basketball pushes the limits. Still, in many ways, I preferred shooting this with my OM-D than other sports I've shot with a 7D or 5D MKII. Using S-AF+MF and High Refresh Rate mode made for a very pleasant shooting experience that handled movement with surprising aplomb. The advantages of the system became immediately apparent when I started zipping around an extremely crowded event, changing lenses and snapping away like a madman. Because of the system's size, I could run around with a lot more agility and endurance than frankly would have been possible with Full-Frame kit. Trust me, some of the media photographers there with their big D4s could not keep up.

    Once M4/3 gets continuous autofocus and focus tracking right, the system will truly be set for almost any scenario. Though we're not there yet, it's nice to know it was only a matter of time.

    Onto some images! These are all SooC, except for some cropping on one or two photos. I'll still end up editing them later, but I thought they weren't that bad as jpegs. Keep in mind the venue was darker than it appears here, for the most part. I just overexpose everything =P

    P8030523 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8042046 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8042127 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8042135 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8042337 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043024 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043060 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043168 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043411 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8040053 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043019 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043114 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043119 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8043341 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8030770 by napilopez, on Flickr

    P8031854 by napilopez, on Flickr
  2. marcl

    marcl Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 8, 2012
    Very nice results. What was your keeper ratio?
  3. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    If you mean amount of bursts with at least one keeper, with C-AF probably about 40%. The keeper ratio definitely went up using S-AF + MF, to 75% perhaps. I fact, I found it quite easy to use only MF with high refresh rate enabled.

    To give you an overall sense sense, I believe I took about 4000 shots across the two days, and think I am saving about 400 to 500 usable ones for the sake of quantity, although if it were my own choice I probably wouldn't save more than 100.
  4. Photodan1

    Photodan1 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 26, 2012
    Nashville, Tennessee, USA
    Nice set - they look great!
  5. desleyjane

    desleyjane Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 5, 2013
    Brisbane, Australia
    Great shots!
  6. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
  7. rhoydotp

    rhoydotp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Toronto, Ont
    wow, that's only 2.5% keeper rate! Do you think you would have more if you used the flash to freeze the motion?
  8. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    That's not that much less than my regular non-sports keeper rate :p. I'm not the type of photographer that simply makes sure every frame comes out nicely, although of course I aim for that too. I shoot a bazillion pictures and spend most of my time curating which ones are actually the most interesting.

    Still, I think you're misinterpreting me a bit. I had plenty of "usable" images that are plenty acceptable to share. Sharp, in focus, capturing action. The 500 or so I'm submitting are all quality images. When I say I might've only kept 100 personally, I mean photos that are wholly unique, visually interesting, and capture a completely different moment from the rest of the set. Among the 500 images I'm submitting, many of them are frames from the same burst, for example.

    EDIT: Never actually answered your question though, haha. No, flash wouldn't have helped. I had no issues freezing the motion using f1.8 and f1.4 primes at ISO 800-1600, and the reduction in noise I might've achieved with with it at a lower ISO was not worth the yucky flash look. For the record I did try using the flash a few times, I just never liked the results as the indoor lighting was quite beautiful.
  9. rhoydotp

    rhoydotp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Toronto, Ont
    i got you! yes, I did misinterpret what you meant.
  10. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    First of all, fantastic shots all around! Great job! :2thumbs:

    I shoot indoor and outdoor sports with only Manual Focus (in fact, even using manual lenses with no other choice) all the time. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, my manual focus can keep up with the action faster I can. As an example, this is what happens when I'm tracking the ball but accidentally set my shutter speed too slow to stop the players (motion pan on the ball itself). I can track focus on the ball which is moving much faster than the player (fast enough to completely pan out said player), so what's keeping me from tracking focus on the slower-moving players?

    In fact, when I'm manually focusing I find that about 80% of my "blurry", unusable photos have perfectly sharp balls, which is what I have a tendency of following (not a good thing I know). What that means is that I'm simply not using a fast enough shutter speed, not that my manual focus is off (the poorer high ISO of the older bodies with the Panny sensors didn't help).


    But more on topic, look at the difference in your keeper rate between S-AF and C-AF. With all the griping about C-AF for sports using m4/3 (I'm talking about public perception, not yourself personally - you showed us by action what you can do with the system), I wonder if anybody has ever considered the fact that maybe it is the PHOTOGRAPHER who is not using his tool the way it is best used? As you can see, there is nothing wrong with using S-AF in sports, and why should there be? Modern S-AF is blazing fast. We all know that S-AF is a strong suit of CDAF-based cameras like m4/3. In fact, even in the fairly early days of m4/3, Olympus was making claims of "fastest AF in the world" (within limitations of course). The DSLR community immediately jumped on this and disputed this claim by stating that it does not apply to C-AF and is therefore bunk. I'm sorry, but how does that invalidate the claim? 90% of photographers probably use S-AF at least 90% of the time (not real stats, lol). So CDAF is strong in S-AF but weak in C-AF.. how does that make it an unusable tool as so many claim?

    I've seen many others come to this realization that "maybe I should have just stuck with S-AF, as that's what works best!". If more people would try sticking to the strengths of their system and using those strengths to their advantage, they would get a lot more done and have a lot fewer complaints about it.

    And like you mentioned, the sheer joy of zipping around the court and shooting with a small camera is unparalleled after lugging around big DSLRs during a long sporting event, isn't it? ;) I never enjoyed the game before, like I did after moving to m4/3.
  11. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez

    This is an excellent post. I started my M4/3 journey using legacy lenses almost exclusively, so learning to MF well was a priority. Not to be an MF hipster and say C-AF is useless; it's obviously invaluable to many. But you have to make the most of what you've got!

    Truth is, most scenarios in sports don't involve objects running straight at you, the only scenario where S-AF on M4/3 with a quick lens has a bit of an issue. But then again, if an object is running straight at you, it also means it's easier to predict with manual focus or prefocus. S-AF + MF worked wonderfully for me.

    One note, it helps to keep the camera with Shutter release priority off, as otherwise the camera will shoot even if the picture isn't in focus yet. Give it the 10 milliseconds it needs :p.

    And yes, being able to be mobile helps so much. In fact, it reminded me a lot of street photography, where I was often able to get up close and even run in and out of courts sometimes while games were ongoing. Difference is, no one cares you're taking pictures of them =]
  12. pcnyc

    pcnyc Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 15, 2010
    Great shots! I also find that S-AF works better than C-AF for omd when it comes to shooting action, since S-AF is so fast; I just click away following the action with my body, and even leaning forward and back a little to adjust for the Z-axis movements (manual focus using my body).

    in any case I always fix the AF point at a spot, and turn off the face recognition, this way it frees up the omd processor from spending time deciding where to focus, so all it has to do is AF at where I tell it to.
  13. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    This is a great tip; originally this post was much longer than it already is, with some of my tips and tricks for shooting sports on the OM-D. I'll probably publish that on my blog.

    If you have facial recognition on, frame rate will often drop even when in high refresh rate mode as the processor tries to identify faces. Turning it off speeds things up considerably. As does locking exposure.

    I also tend to alternate between using the tiny AF point in magnify mode and using the large, 9 square AF group for following action.
  14. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Great work here! :2thumbs:
  15. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    Another reason to lock your exposure: live view will be jumping around exposure all over the place if you're in a situation with varying dynamic range and you're constantly moving around the camera, which makes it very hard to follow action. OVFs have a partial advantage here: you can follow action easily because you see 'real' light. On the other hand, you still need to lock your exposure because you'll have no clue what your sensor will actually record; with mirrorless, WYSIWYG.
  16. ariel777

    ariel777 Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 10, 2013
    Los Angeles
    Congratulations, you did excellent, professional work.
  17. audiodrive

    audiodrive Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 9, 2013
    Nice set... great photos!
  18. enzodiac

    enzodiac Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 7, 2012
    Andreas Fougner
    Very good! I also find MF to be really useful. I shoot wildlife and macro and almost always use MF.
    Unfortunately Olympus first attempt at focus peaking isn't very useful for fast movement. But whenever we get high framerate and more options for MF I think it can work wonders for sport.
  19. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord Subscribing Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    Great set, mate! I love how well framed each and every photo is! :2thumbs: