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Tips for shooting Motorcycle racing with E-M5 Mk2

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by nzdigital, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    99
    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Wayne
    Hi everybody

    I will be shooting motorcycle street racing this weekend with the E-M5 Mk2 and was wondering if anybody had any tips or advice for the settings to use to capture very fast action.

    This will be the first time shooting this type of event with my Olympus - I have used Canon DLSR gear in the past (EOS 1D at 8fps with 70-200mm f4).

    I presume the camera should be set to AF-C or AF-C-Tk? But which is better? Should I set the camera to low continuous for continued autofocus - or hi continuous for 10fps but focus on only the first frame?

    The light should be good - expecting a warm sunny day with lots of light, and the motorcycles themselves should have a lot of contrast. Do I set it on single point focus, group focus, or let the camera choose the focus point over the entire frame?

    My largest zoom is the 40-150mm f4/5.6 kit lens - is this a useable lens for super fast action?

    Also, should I be shooting jpeg for faster file transfer - or is RAW still ok?

    Thanks for all the help.
     
  2. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    With lots of light, that lens should work fine. Practice your panning motion when shooting. Also turn off the IS system since you will be using a fast shutter anyway and with a lot of panning you don't want it fighting you.

    My preference with stuff like this where your camera might try and refocus on far away backgrounds is to use single point focusing and rather than continuous auto focus I just use S-AF and rapidly "flutter" my shutter button a lot to keep refocusing. This assumes the bikes are riding more across your view than towards you. If it will be more towards you, then C-AF may work. But I still prefer to rapidly keep half pressing the shutter until I see the shot I want.

    I would also use continuous drive but my own preference is to set it to LO as the HI just ends up catching way too many shots in a row that look way too much alike (not enough time in between to catch much difference). So slow drive of 4-6 shots per second and I would generally fire off only 3 or 4 shots before lifting off the shutter. I assume you will likely be setting up in various spots for bits of time where you will get time to figure out where the best bike shots will take place so you can compose your shooting a bit more rather than just machine gunning everything and hoping for results.

    Good luck and have fun.
     
  3. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    The problem with the 40-150 4/5.6 lens is that it has feeble AF motor so it doesn't focus very fast. Unless you're shooting from a dead slow hairpin it won't focus fast enough. AF speed is dependent on the AF processing speed of the camera and how fast the lens can change focus. With a fast (AF) lens, AF-S works fine. I shot at Lime Rock a few years ago with an E-M5 and the75/1.8, and that worked pretty well.
     
  4. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    564
    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Denny
    It’s been a while since I last shot some dirt bikes in action but I never used the auto focus. In my minimal experience, I found that anticipation of a shot resulted in more usable shots. There are some shooters who run from area to area and never seem to get a decent shot. I would either watch the riders in practice or if it was a long race I would observe them in the early laps then find an area that looked visually appealing to me and was not already occupied by another shooter. Once established I would do a manual focus on a zone in the middle of the track then wait for the action to come to that zone. Usually in a corner or near a jump or landing area. If you are on the outside of a corner make sure you have protection in case a motorcycle slides. I shot at high shutter speeds over 1000 with a mid to wide open f stop. Time your continuous shots to start just as the bikes enter your focal area then let go of the shutter button just as they exit. Don’t forget to refocus every time you relocate. I never had a fast continuous shooting speed so the most I ever got was about 4 images in each burst. Some of these techniques I brought over from shooting sports car events in the film days. You might consider finding a post or something you can use to brace yourself when shooting.

    Good luck with your shoot and please post some of your images.
     
  5. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    I used to road race motorcycles in the 70's. I would also take pictures using a SLR and even a Konica C35 once. Yes you can take pictures with 40 year old photographic technology, but they also look like 40 year old photographs. Fast long focal length lenses and current technology makes it possible to take pictures of subjects in ways that can't be done, in any reliable way, with MF gear. Photographic aesthetic styles have evolved due to the enabling technology in modern cameras. Most of us have moved on from bell bottoms and big sideburns in our appearance and photography.
     
  6. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror!

    943
    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Clint
    PM Gridd
     
  7. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    I would not pick the EM5 Mk II as my first choice in trying to photograph fast action. The C-AF mode is not going to do what you are expecting it to do and certainly not act like the Canon - which would be my first choice out of what you have.

    Moving on from that, if that was my only choice I would:

    1) Shoot manual mode with auto ISO
    2) Shoot S-AF.
    3) Pick as wide an aperture as you feel appropriate. Given it is the 4-5.6 40-150, shoot it wide open.
    4) You'll want to experiment, but to get a sense of speed, you do not want too fast a shutter speed so that the wheels are blurred. (probably somewhere between 1/500-1/1000 depending on the bikes speed - maybe less - again - experiment)
    5) You'll want to pan a bit with the bikes and I would try to keep the focus plane consistent (you are using S-AF, makes sense).
     
  8. Robstar1963

    Robstar1963 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    899
    Jun 10, 2011
    Isle of Wight England UK
    Robert (Rob)
    Hi
    Please see my thread from Moto GP 2014 for results with my then EM10 with ECG1 grip and Panasonic 100 -300mm
    Single S-AF focussing with pre focus a lot of the time and panning
    Nothing spectacular but will give you an idea of what you might get with those settings
    https://www.mu-43.com/threads/68896/
    Regards
    Rob
     
  9. bjurasz

    bjurasz Mu-43 Regular

    127
    Dec 10, 2014
    Cedar Park
    No. No. No! You do not want a fast shutter speed for this type of photography! You want a relatively slow shutter to show tire blur and motion blur. If you stop the action with a fast shutter it looks like the bike is just sitting still. Not what you want. That shot would look BORING. I'd go shutter priority, auto-ISO, starting at 1/500 second shutter and working your way down to 1/125. Lower still if you dare.

    Now, about panning properly. Panning with a slow shutter is a learned skill like a golf swing. Its all in technique. Put the EVF up to your eye so that the camera is resting and supported by your face. DO NOT PAN WHILE LOOKING AT THE LCD AT ARM'S LENGTH. Right hand on camera, with that elbow braced to your ribs. Left hand at end of lens, with that elbow braced at ribs. Your camera now has a lot of support and stability. THAT IS KEY! Now, very important, twist at the waist only to follow the motion of the bike. Shoulders, arms, neck, head all rotate in unison. Proper technique, along with practice, is why I've been able to capture fast moving cars as low as 1/40 a second tack-sharp.

    Some advice I got here in another thread would be useful as well, so I'll reiterate what I learned there. Turn off face detection, it just slows things down. Go for center focus point only. Unsure which focus tracking mode you will want on that body.
     
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  10. Robstar1963

    Robstar1963 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    899
    Jun 10, 2011
    Isle of Wight England UK
    Robert (Rob)
    Re the above post about shutter speeds etc
    This was one of my better shots to demonstrate what Bjurasz is saying - managed to get this one in focus with shutter speed slow enough to show movement blur on the tyres and panning to blur the background to highlight the speed to some degree :-
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/85846444@N02/15119491066/
    Regards
    Rob
     
  11. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    99
    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Wayne
    Thanks to all who have replied so far....

    Some slightly conflicting suggestions, but hopefully I'll have all day shooting so I will probably try them all? ;)

    Thanks for the inspirational photos Rob - if I can get any half as good from the day I'll be very happy.

    Because it's street racing, and because I'll have fairly unlimited access to all parts of the track, I plan on doing a mixture of head-on shots and panning side-on. So I will try both AF-C and Manual focusing to see what works better for me.

    General consensus is to turn face detection off, use single focus point, and continuous drive on Lo?

    I appreciate that the E-M5 Mk2 might not be the 'best' choice for fast action sport - but I like a challenge, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can get out of the camera when pushed this way. It will hopefully also make me get a little more creative in terms of angles and make me really think about composition.

    Thanks again for all your input. You guys rock! :hail:
     
  12. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    After reading a lot of threads like this, you can find many on this site, I'm still convinced that what matters most is practice. Go outside before the event, and try all the options you said shooting passing cars and see what works best for you.
    Different options works best for different situations. It was reported recently that tracking can get confused by a busy background for example. Doing panning, where focus distance does not change much, is different then shooting a motorbike moving straight to you. Distance and aperture obviously also matter to get a reasonable DoF.
    For example there is no point in taking 10 high-speed burst shots of a motorbike moving straight to you if after the second one the bike is already outside the DoF. But could be fine for panning instead.

    The EM-5 II C-AF (CDAF) needs constant "focus/defocus" to work and the lens is not super fast, so you have to make it work, understanding what works and what not and moving inside these limits (location, settings, etc.).

    That said, RAW is fine, disable face detection, many people use the smallest center focus point only. Tracking does not get much love. C-AF vs S-AF depends, if C-AF works fine consider experimenting with "Release priority C" to On.
     
  13. bjurasz

    bjurasz Mu-43 Regular

    127
    Dec 10, 2014
    Cedar Park
    The "best" choice would be a Canon 1D-X and a 2.8-L prime lens. ;) But the E-M5 is up to the task, no question in my mind.
     
  14. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I missed the part about it being "street" motorcycles. I was thinking we were talking about dirt bikes, so lots of jumps and air shots where you do want to stop the action and you would also be panning in both directions at the same time. So ya, maybe the slower shutter would be best for street racing. Regardless, he still probably will want to disable IS if it is going to entail a lot of panning shots. Or be sure you are completely familiar with which IS modes work in which panning direction. Out on the field is not the time to be second guessing if IS1 or IS2 is what you want.

    Don't forget your sunscreen and hat! :)
     
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  15. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    You may do best by using a long lens from a distance than a shorter lens up close. C-AF seems to work best from a distance. Up close its outpaced by the subject.
     
  16. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    99
    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Wayne
    Firstly - a big 'thank you' to all who replied to this thread and helped me with advice.

    Now that the dust has settled (literally), I wanted to give a quick update and post some images I took on the day. Not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I thought it made sense to add it on the end of the thread?

    Anyway - went to the racing armed only with the E-M5 MkII and Oly 40-150mm f4-5.6 (and a spare battery).

    Streetrace Web-5.

    I was nervous beforehand that the E-M5 MkII wouldn't handle fast action photography, since even though I don't do a lot of this kind of shooting, I wan't to be able to with the kit I have.

    I needn't have worried. This year, with the E-M5 MkII and plastic fantastic cheapo telephoto was the best fun i've ever had at the street races and I came away with more images than I know what to do with!

    Streetrace Web-3.

    After getting a few 'establishing' shots of the races, I decided to try out the technique Denny suggested of manual focusing (thanks Denny)! It worked amazingly well, and the results blew me away. In fact, I had a few other photographers with their big DSLR's start doing the same thing after they saw the results I was getting on the back of my camera :thumbup:

    Streetrace Web-10.

    Streetrace2015-16web.

    The panning technique was less successful :( The bikes were flying past so quickly that they were literally a blur. Only got a couple of images that were even half decent from panning.

    Streetrace Pan2web.

    So for most of the day I stuck to the manual focus technique and looked to freeze the action. It's the kind of image I tried to shoot when I was using Canon gear and letting the autofocus track the bikes, but manual focusing gave me a much better hit rate.

    Streetrace2015-8web.

    I know this doesn't give the sense of 'speed' like the panning does, but I think (hope) that the angles and stances of the riders conveys some of the action of street racing?

    Streetrace2015-14web.

    Anyway, thanks again to those who answered my thread (and especially to Denny). I shot over 3500 images over the course of the day (about 7 hours), and used up two batteries. I started on the third battery in the last hour of shooting. That's a few more than the recommended 300 images per battery, although I was shooting Continuous Low for about three images per sequence. Of those three shots, at least two are tack sharp. Amazing.

    Streetrace Web-2.

    My worries and fears about using the E-M5 MkII for fast action sports shooting have now been put to rest. Can't wait for next year.:yahoo:
     
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  17. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Really great photo set and looks/sounds like you had a lot of fun. Panning is something that takes a lot of practice and is not as easy as it sounds. Did you try shooting a lower shutter speed to blur the tires? All your shots have the tires frozen and if there was a bit of motion blur in them it would help show the speed a bit better. I have never shot street racing so I am not sure how low you would need to go.
     
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  18. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    99
    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Wayne
    Yeah, panning is something I definitely need to practice. I think I will build up to it for next years event.

    Most of the other images were shot at around 1/2000th, so maybe I could play around with that a bit as well?

    Things to work on for next year :D
     
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  19. bjurasz

    bjurasz Mu-43 Regular

    127
    Dec 10, 2014
    Cedar Park
    1/2000 way too fast for this type of work. I would have gone about 1/640 or 1/500, which is what I typically did for Motocross photography.
     
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  20. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    99
    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Wayne
    Will definitely experiment a bit more with shutter speeds next time. Was a bit paranoid that everything would be blurry and unusable, so probably went to the other extreme :dash2:

    Have also identified a couple of areas on the track where a panning shot might work better as the riders slow down around a corner.

    Just as well it's an annual event! Only another year to wait :eek: