A First Attempt at Sports/Action Photography

I recently had the chance to try out a big 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for a project I was working on for a photography course I was taking.

For my final project I wanted to push myself to try something I’d never done before. The one type of shooting I’ve always shied away from, mostly because I’m not properly equipped for it, has been sports/action photography.

A few weeks back we had an ISU World Cup Short Track Speed-Skating event come to town, so I rented this big lens for the weekend and spent an entire day wandering around the arena trying to capture images of these amazing athletes.

My biggest challenge is that I have a 5-year old entry-level DSLR camera. It doesn’t have nearly enough pixels, nor the higher ISO capacity of the newer cameras. I pretty much can’t go beyond ISO-800 without my images becoming too grainy.

The other difficulty is the fact that these skaters zip around at about 50 kms (35 miles) per hour, which means shutter speeds of 1/500th or faster.

Because of the indoor lighting and relatively low ISO, I had to keep the aperture wide open at f/2.8 to let in enough light. But a wide open aperture also severely shortens the depth of field, which explains why some of these images do not have the tack-sharp focus you’d expect.

In any case for a first attempt I was actually pretty satisfied. Here are some of my favs:

#1Start 2

#2Start 1

#3start 4

#4start 3

#5Fans 1

#6Action 3

#7Fans 2

#8Crash 1

#9Action 2

#10Crash 2

#11Action 1

#12medal 1

#13Medal 2

Conclusion: I certainly came out of it with a better understanding and a new appreciation for this type of photography.

It was fun and I’d try it again if and when I get a new camera, but at the moment I simply couldn’t justify investing the $10,000-$15,000 needed to be properly equipped to shoot sports on a serious level.

Let me know which ones you like best, and as always thanks for looking 🙂

About Norm 3.0

World’s youngest grumpy old man & heart failure wonder boy. Interests: writing, woodworking, photography, travel, tennis, wine, and I know a bit about power tools.
This entry was posted in Photography, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to A First Attempt at Sports/Action Photography

  1. You can get better angle if you take action photos from within the court than court side. Beware though. I’ve tried in a tennis game. Soccer is tiring! I’ve used an old point and shoot camera then for school paper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Yes the closer the better. If I had planned it further in advance I would have contacted the organizers to see if they’d give me a Press Pass so I could shoot rink-side.


  2. Pretty good for a first effort! Poor light is difficult, particularly with limited ISO and high speed action. I do a bit of motorcycle sport but manage to make things work by picking the slowest points in the track but where it still looks like all out action. Also, the better you know the sport the more easily you can predict when/where something may happen and ensure you’re in the right place – it’s just a matter of time and luck then!
    My favourites are 6 (shame about that foot!), 9 (relative positions/colours of the skaters) and 12 (touch of humour). Great comment about hiring a better camera! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thank you for the insightful comments. I had debated brushing out that foot on #6 in Photoshop…
      Overall it was a great fun and I got some useful lessons out of it.


  3. Sabina says:

    I love the lines of #6. Speed skating would definitely be tough, but other sports (soccer, etc.) might be better suited for your equipment–people can’t run as fast as they skate! I did some tennis photography a few years back and that was really interesting, but I wouldn’t want to do it for my career or as a frequent subject for hobby photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are really good, Norm. My faves are #6,7,9 and 10. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks. That #10 shot broke my heart. The subject really is the guy wiping out but with the shallow depth of field I was working with he’s just out of the focal range. I still like it, but I would have preferred he be in sharp focus and the others just a little blurry.
      Thanks for stopping in 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sue Slaght says:

    Norm I think these are spectacular! 1, 2, 4, 6, 9 are my picks. I like 2 because she is Canadian. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. NancyTex says:

    Really nice work, Norm. I love the one of the girl who had crashed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. NotAPunkRocker says:

    2, 6, and 10. Good job for a first try and not being “properly equipped” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks. It was funny, I got back home that evening and Honey saw my disapointment when I started sorting through the 800+ shots on the computer.
      She looks at me and asks, “You rented a lens, could you have rented a better camera to?”
      Long pause…
      Don’t know why but it never dawned on me. Next time, for sure.


  8. graydaysandcoffee says:

    #6. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nelson says:

    These were probably taken at the Maurice-Richard Arena. I was there in January for the Scott Tournament of Hearts and took some photos. Luckily for me curling is a slower sport and I did not need the 1/500 s shutter speed. The good thing about that place is the level of light is very good because of television. I tried to take photos at a local arena in Ottawa at a roller derby game; the level of light was so poor I had to shoot at 3600 ISO and still could not get the speed shutter I needed but the photos were OK.

    And you came to the same conclusion as me, not ready to spend that amount of money for the equipment to get good indoor sports photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      I was there for the Scotties last winter too! We went the opening weekend and also saw the finals. We were with friend though so I left the camera home and just sat in the stands to watch.


  10. Congratulations – great shots. My favorites would be: #7, #3, #4. You did good. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.