Test Surfers: Observations on Panasonic G9 and 100-300 I

ooheadsoo

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The possibility of shutter shock was mentioned elsewhere. At these shutter speeds not below 1/1000 and averaging around 1/2000, does anyone else concur that it's not a likely culprit?

Is there any consensus that these are more likely to be AF errors vs camera shake errors?

Also, how likely are these images soft due to shooting the lens wide open?

Lastly, @ac12, which 500mm lens do you have, and do you like it?
 
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ac12

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Lastly, @ac12, which 500mm lens do you have, and do you like it?
I have the Nikon and Olympus 500/8 reflex/mirror lenses, and Vivitar 800 solid cat. I like them.
  • The Nikon has the famous light smooth focusing ring, which makes manual focusing so nice and easy to use when shooting sports.
  • The Olympus lens is TINY for what it is. It is about the size of the 12-100/4 zoom. The focus ring is stiffer, so not as well suited for follow focus applications, like sports. I may take it in to a shop and ask if they can clean and relube it to be easier to turn.
  • The Vivitar is really short. But I have not cleaned it, and tried it out . . . yet.
Logistics:
  • Both the Nikon and Olympus mirror lenses easily fit into my camera bag. So very easy to transport.
  • For shooting tennis, I used the Nikon 500 on a tripod with a gimbal head. That is a bulky setup to transport and setup, but the gimbal head is WONDERFUL for tracking a moving subject, at high magnification.
 
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ohaya

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ooheadsoo

I've been meaning to post for a few days.

I started "trying" to shoot surfers about 3 years ago, although I only get to do it for about 2-3 months and the 1st 2 years, I only was "dabbling", then this past winter, I got more serious and went out quite a lot, and during that I progressed from, originally, a ZS50, to a Fuji X-T2+Fuji 100-400mm lens (plus a 1.4x TC that I rented, but just for a week). When I started, I thought that this type of shooting would be easy... but it is definitely NOT easy, and, I guess unless you are fortunate, it takes time to learn a lot of different things, plus I have some things working against me. I am a bit older, so steadiness is not something I have, so I now progressed to using a fairly heavy tripod, and probably next year, I am also going to try using a gimbal, which a lot of people on one of the Fuji forums suggested.

I also just got a Tamron 150-600mm lens and am testing it, with an old Canon camera, while I am also waiting for a Canon-to-Fuji adapter.

I am not 100% sure about sharpness of the shots you posted. I think that I tend to look at the clear (not foam) water near the surfer. It's easier to see if you have some kind of motion blur if you look at that area, I think (though it's not always that easy to tell for sure!).

I had/have the same questions about a lot of my shots, which I posted over on one of the Fuji forums, and I get mixed responses about aperture. I was originally shooting mostly at about 7.1 to 8, but got kind of "flat" pictures, then when I came back and did some post-mortems on the Fuji forum, they said avoid going that small aperture, because then diffraction can occur.

Most of the time, we (I mean when shooting surfers) are shooting in bright daylight so have some leeway with the shutter speed (I mean usually it's not hard to use fast shutter speeds), so I would do some controlled shooting with different aperture settings, then try to see what works best. This is probably not going to be a "1 day and nailed it" deal unless you get really lucky (or have a really good teacher).

Also, I am learning that, with a long lens, there are all kinds of things that can come between the lens and the subject, like heat waves, mist/haze, etc. Those things REALLY can cause images to look kind of "flat" and "gray" and actually not sharp. You can do some post-processing and use dehazing presets, sharpening, filters, etc. that can help a lot.

This past winter, I started with a Fuji 230mm zoom lens but then one day, one of my nephews, who is a Nikon shooter (50 Mpixel camera!) went out with me and we compared images afterwards when we got home and it was kind of embarrassing. That was when I went out and found a local rental place that had the Fuji 100-400mm zoom and tried that, and it was much better (much faster focusing and larger, more detailed images), and I eventually bought one of those for my own.

Most of the time, I tried to go out to shoot 1-2 days every week if I could (I also had to squeeze in time for work), and this was over a period of about 2 months.

Besides the technical and equipment aspects, I think that there are a lot of things that I still "need" or need to learn. Things like where are good places to shoot, and from which position, times of day, and what kind of things make for good shots. I think that you also need to kind of just watch, to get better at anticipating what is going to happen. For example, there is a lot of sitting around waiting, right? But, I am getting really good at "seeing" when someone is actually going to make the drop on waves, and if I don't do that, I miss a lot of shots.

It is frustrating at times, but I am really loving it, just about any other type of shooting, and even though we are back home, I am looking forward to next time I get the chance.

See? This is why I hadn't posted before... there is just a LOT to say, but, just BE PATIENT and don't give up, get as much advice as you can from others, and keep trying different things! And, enjoy yourself!

And, post your pics with EXIFs (I can't see the EXIFs because I haven't subscribed here yet).

Good luck!

Jim
 

ac12

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Jim,
Concur with what you said.
Also STUDY some of the surfing magazines, then deconstruct the pictures to figure out where the photographer was, angle of the photographer to the wave, time of day, angle of the sun, etc. Then make a binder with the pictures, and your deconstruction notes. Even pictures that you don't particularly care for can teach you stuff, so study them as well.

It is not always obvious if a polarizing filter was used or not. Because BIG polarizing filters are expensive, most people probably don't use them. But it might help kill some of the glare off the water.

As you said, and as I told one of my students when she asked me why I was still shooting soccer pictures after the yearbook deadline had past, "I need to practice to get better."

I use a Chinese gimbal off Amazon. But, it NEEDS work. The grease they put in the bearings is STIFF and STICKY. So the gimbal was hard to move. I had to degrease (lighter fluid works well) and regrease the elevation bearing (with lithium grease). Wear rubber gloves and use a chopstick or popsicle stick to scrape out the bulk of the grease. That stiff grease is HARD to clean out.
The azimuth bearing is a problem, as I cannot disassemble it. They must have used a strong tread lock on the screw. So I've dripped in lighter fluid to cut and soften the grease. The problem is lighter fluid evaporates, and after a while it gets stiff again.
 

ooheadsoo

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As always, I appreciate the thorough replies.

It's hard to get out to practice since the baby is just 6 months and the beach is about 1.5 hrs away. Nevertheless, I look forward to my next session. With such limited time, it's always good to know what you need to improve on, rather than practice blindly, so I greatly appreciate your feedback. It's often very hard to determine where the error is.

EXIF added for those of you who do not have an EXIF viewer built into your browser.

ac12 - try acetone?
 

ohaya

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As always, I appreciate the thorough replies.

It's hard to get out to practice since the baby is just 6 months and the beach is about 1.5 hrs away. Nevertheless, I look forward to my next session. With such limited time, it's always good to know what you need to improve on, rather than practice blindly, so I greatly appreciate your feedback. It's often very hard to determine where the error is.

EXIF added for those of you who do not have an EXIF viewer built into your browser.

ac12 - try acetone?

Thanks for adding the EXIF.

As for driving distance: We were in the same boat, about 1-1.5 hours away from where I liked to go to shoot, plus like I said, I was working during the weekdays. I am lucky my wife put up with it, driving out early in the morning (she grumbles about it, but I think/hope that she actually enjoys being out on the beach).

One thing I forgot to mention: I found this from a web page I found about shooting surfing: "Expose for the skin". What that means is try to set your exposure so that the skin color/tone looks good. I think someone else said something similar earlier in this thread, but, for example, a lot of shots I made the surfer was under the lip of the wave and so the pictures were underexposed (the water was expose correctly, but the surfer's face, arms, etc. were all under-exposed), so I now tend to set the exposure compensation to +1/3 or +2/3.

Same thing goes for a some of your shots... some looked like they were backlighted. Also the black wetsuits probably didn't help the auto-exposure... the camera probably was trying to set the exposure based on the largely black areas and the water.


ac12,

Thanks for the comments, and I agree with a lot (all) of what you said.

Which gimbal do you use?

Jim
 

ooheadsoo

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One thing I forgot to mention: I found this from a web page I found about shooting surfing: "Expose for the skin". What that means is try to set your exposure so that the skin color/tone looks good. I think someone else said something similar earlier in this thread, but, for example, a lot of shots I made the surfer was under the lip of the wave and so the pictures were underexposed (the water was expose correctly, but the surfer's face, arms, etc. were all under-exposed), so I now tend to set the exposure compensation to +1/3 or +2/3.

Same thing goes for a some of your shots... some looked like they were backlighted. Also the black wetsuits probably didn't help the auto-exposure... the camera probably was trying to set the exposure based on the largely black areas and the water.
Indeed ALL of the shots in this series are backlit.
1) that was the angle afforded by the picnic tables where the family was seated
2) I thought that would give me some more interesting head on shots
3) I shot +1 exposure compensation most of the time

What has me interested is that none of the photos in the hundreds of photos taken are critically sharp. It would seem to me that at least some of them should be sharp, by random chance if nothing else. This leads me to believe I am doing something systematically wrong.

@ac12 have you tried acetone, or do you think it might be too much?
 

ohaya

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Indeed ALL of the shots in this series are backlit.
1) that was the angle afforded by the picnic tables where the family was seated
2) I thought that would give me some more interesting head on shots
3) I shot +1 exposure compensation most of the time

What has me interested is that none of the photos in the hundreds of photos taken are critically sharp. It would seem to me that at least some of them should be sharp, by random chance if nothing else. This leads me to believe I am doing something systematically wrong.

@ac12 have you tried acetone, or do you think it might be too much?
I noticed that (the apparent sharpness/lack of sharpness), but I am terrible at judging sharpness :)...

Can you upload the images (do you have raws) and maybe someone (I will try) can take a closer look?

Also, your shutter speeds were good (> 1/1000 in all cases, I think), so it could be aperture and diffraction, or it could be motion blur, or it could be out-of-focus. I think those are the 3 main possibilities, but upload the raws or full jpgs somewhere?

Jim
 

danelkins

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If you are not shooting in RAW files I would certainly recommend doing so for the best DR. I think for these surf shots I wouldn't crop in this tight. For milder surf shots it could be better to get a little scenery in with it. If you get into a situation where the surf is big and the surfers are really shredding then go for the tight shots – they will have more body language. As others have mentioned, try to get there for the best lighting and keep shooting for experience.
Enjoy!
 

ooheadsoo

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Yes, I always shoot raw+jpg. I'll try to upload raws somewhere when I get a chance.

Something to mention that has occurred to me before but never while I was composing a post: my AF technique required me to pan the camera in order to ensure the af target box stayed on the surfer. At such high shutter speeds, I assumed the movement should have had negligible effect on image sharpness. Does this ring true? Should I be experimenting with trap focusing so I can maintain a more stable shooting position?
 

ohaya

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You might try that. The way I sometimes shoot is to try to anticipate (guess) where they will go, and I point the camera there. That way, I don't have to move the camera a lot to get a shot. That was kind of what I was alluding to about spending time watching, to try to anticipate. I still end up at least panning in one dimension (e.g., to the right) a lot though :)...
 

ac12

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Tip: Keep notes, so you don't end up solving the same problem over and over. Or making the same mistakes over and over.
Also helps when you are tracking down a problem to keep track of what you tried.
 

AussiePhil

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Lot of great advise in the thread so not a lot to add.
1. if the camera supports it drop back to manual mode, turn on focus peaking and use that to get a good idea on your DOF, it will be surprising deep at the distance you were taking away some of the stress of CAF. If the surf break is consistent as it looked in the photos then if you can MF for the key area, leaves you to concentrate on framing and action.
2. as others have said exposure comp is you friend.
3. for CAF work i'd use BBF.
4 Watch the action of the guys laying on the boards and the waves coming in, they will pick the wave to ride and start paddling on the upward swell, at this point pick the one most likely to stand up and drop into the wave and follow them in the view finder. this way you are tracking them early. if they don't take that wave shrug look at the next one rolling in

Even high shutter speeds may not protect against slight motion blur if the pan is fast enough but extremely unlikely in this case.

As a younger man i spent countless hours on surfing beaches and even did some surfing and it does help to be able to read the waves as the surfers do.
I don't get near surfing beaches much now and i was looking at some images from 5 yrs back taken with the EM1 and a adapted Canon 85-300 +2x tele so 1200mm, needed the reach to get to the action but man are those images soft.... some later ones taken with the PL100-400 are significantly better.
Reach is often king for surf action, doesn't mean a 300 isn't enough if the break is close inshore or you can shoot from the rocks etc but longer makes it easier.
Damn i want to go and find some surfing action now :)
 

ohaya

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Lot of great advise in the thread so not a lot to add.
1. if the camera supports it drop back to manual mode, turn on focus peaking and use that to get a good idea on your DOF, it will be surprising deep at the distance you were taking away some of the stress of CAF. If the surf break is consistent as it looked in the photos then if you can MF for the key area, leaves you to concentrate on framing and action.
2. as others have said exposure comp is you friend.
3. for CAF work i'd use BBF.
4 Watch the action of the guys laying on the boards and the waves coming in, they will pick the wave to ride and start paddling on the upward swell, at this point pick the one most likely to stand up and drop into the wave and follow them in the view finder. this way you are tracking them early. if they don't take that wave shrug look at the next one rolling in

Even high shutter speeds may not protect against slight motion blur if the pan is fast enough but extremely unlikely in this case.

As a younger man i spent countless hours on surfing beaches and even did some surfing and it does help to be able to read the waves as the surfers do.
I don't get near surfing beaches much now and i was looking at some images from 5 yrs back taken with the EM1 and a adapted Canon 85-300 +2x tele so 1200mm, needed the reach to get to the action but man are those images soft.... some later ones taken with the PL100-400 are significantly better.
Reach is often king for surf action, doesn't mean a 300 isn't enough if the break is close inshore or you can shoot from the rocks etc but longer makes it easier.
Damn i want to go and find some surfing action now :)

Hey AussiePhil,

There's a WSL championship tour event going on at Bells Beach/Winkipop this week :)!!

Jim
 

AussiePhil

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Hey AussiePhil,
There's a WSL championship tour event going on at Bells Beach/Winkipop this week :)!!
Jim
Hey Jim
Nice thought but Bells is just a little bit to far to go... plus i actually have an equestrian event to photo this weekend :)
Here is the drive for me to go to Bells...
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 

ToxicTabasco

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I agree with shooting with monopod or tripod for the long shots, and shooting in the mornings. Or on a overcast day. Sunsets would be good for the East coast.

Using a tripod will help greatly to get things in focus at the 300mm end. You can also shoot horizontal to the waves, and use a zone area technique.
 
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The lens you used is not very good for the kind of pictures you were to taking. So technical issued may be hard to overcome.Sorry,but this is just a fact of telephoto shooting. If you had 300mm Oly f-4 some of your pictures could have been knockouts/ Also on G-9 Shoot on AFC. This baby will really lock on to moving objects with this setting,while wandering badly in AFS
 

ooheadsoo

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The lens you used is not very good for the kind of pictures you were to taking. So technical issued may be hard to overcome.Sorry,but this is just a fact of telephoto shooting. If you had 300mm Oly f-4 some of your pictures could have been knockouts/ Also on G-9 Shoot on AFC. This baby will really lock on to moving objects with this setting,while wandering badly in AFS
I'm a bit saddened, but know that this could have some role to play. I don't shoot this subject matter often enough for me to sink serious money into a super telephoto, but it is definitely very fun when I can get at it.
 
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