Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A lens Comparison

by Kim

Okay, I just have to preface this by saying . . . yes there may be a few football photos here, and I might mention football a lot here, but it's not really about football. I'm sure I've confused you.

But stay with me , okay?

Last year as my son entered high school football, my husband and I joined the booster club and with that we signed up for some volunteer duties, one of which was to take that great big blow up tunnel you see in the above photo with us in our van to every single football game. And as a side note, if you're like me and had never really thought about it, it takes an entire village of high school parents, teachers, police officers, and volunteers not to mention time and a whole lotta money, to make one of these said games happen.

Anyway, in order to get in to the stadiums and on to the field with said tunnel one needs a sideline pass. And having a sideline pass, well, you know what that means right? Make sure you have your camera!

I have to say I was somewhat apprehensive about being on the sidelines. You know, where should I stand and OH the smell! I felt a little uncomfortable, but at the same time I was as excited as a school girl with her first date (I love high school football). But I also felt like the odd man out, standing next to a couple of other photographers that had lenses over a foot long. To be fair, one of them shoots for the Galveston Daily. But one of those photographers (a hobbyist) is retired and takes photographs of all the football games (well every sport really) and posts them for free for the parents and players on Facebook. 

One night at one of the games he looked at me and said, "I can't be here next week, if I lend you my 300 mm lens will you fill in for me, and give me the photos to load on Facebook?" Without even thinking about it I said yes.

And then, I started to freak out! I even tried thinking of excuses why I couldn't do it.

My thoughts took me here . . . I've never used that lens (and it's a $6000 lens), what if my photos aren't good enough, the parents are all expecting great photos . . . what if I don't deliver?

And as with most things that we stress and worry over it all worked out, but I fell in love with a lens I most likely will never be able to afford in my lifetime. And you know what, I have discovered that's okay. 

Now, I know you are all wondering, how is this not about football.

Well, remember my last post here about the man I watched fish? I talked about lens envy and our assumption that bigger means better. That I believe it's more about our technique rather than the equipment we use and how technique isn't the only thing that affects our work. The very last thing I wrote was this, "I believe it also lies with the experience of the tools we have, right now."

[ 1 ]

[ 2 ]

[ 3 ]

[ 4 ]

Well, as I have filled in for him quite a few times since then, a week ago being the most recent, I realized as I borrowed yet another lens that here on my hard drive sat a little experiment. And this my friends is finally where it's not about football. Let's compare lenses.

Each of these four photos above were taken with a different lens at four separate games that range in price from $150-$6,000! So I have a little challenge for you. Scroll back up and look again at the photos and pair up each photo with one of these lenses . . . a) 70-300mm f4-5.6, b) 85mm f1.8, c) 300mm 2.8, d) 70-200mm f2.8.

I chose to compare nighttime photos since taking action shots is not nearly as difficult during the daylight and low light is more extreme for challenging a lens. Sports can be challenging to photograph with changing lighting situations. When the sun starts to set, that time right before the sun goes down but before the stadium lighting comes on, and there are the shadows on the field from the press box and stadium seating that get tricky. And then there are the variables that range from uniform colors to the different stadium lighting at each field, not to mention the danger of being run down by the very subject your trying to capture. Believe me, I have had split second battles in my mind about getting the shot, or being the reason they have to take an injury time out. So far reason has won out every time.

I can only hope that you didn't pair them all up correctly or my experiment didn't work very well did it?! Here are the lenses paired with the correct photos (on my D7000 Nikon body) all shot in manual mode:

1. d) 70-200mm f2.8 - focal length 155mm, 1/640s, f2.8, ISO 3200 ($150) *

2. a) 70-300mm f4-5.6 -focal length 100mm, 1/640s, f4, ISO 3200 ($2400)

3. b) 85mm f1.8 - 1/640s, f2.8, ISO 2500 ($450) *

4. c) 300mm 2.8 - 1/500s, f2.8, ISO 2000 ($6000)

* These are my lenses

This last time I filled in I opted to use his 70-200mm on my crop sensor camera for more flexibility in also getting shots of the cheerleaders, the band, etc. But as I had never used that lens before and found it quite heavy without my mono-pod, I struggled a bit as it caused me back and shoulder pain, not to mention it was 100 degrees in horrible humidity running up and down the sidelines following the plays (for 4 hours). It kinda sucked the life right out of me and I felt like my pictures suffered because of it. I felt like I didn't have enough reach and wondered if I had made a mistake not using the 300mm lens. It seems some of my old perfectionistic ways rear their ugly head when it comes to doing something for someone else and my self confidence falters. I loaded all my photos to the CD and took them over to his house, and explained that they weren't my best work to date.

A little while later he texted me back and said the photos were loaded to his football Facebook page and that he thought I had captured a lot of great shots. And then what he said next were my own words coming back at me . . . It's more than just the lens. I guess I have a short memory. So the next time you think you can't, remember the experience you have with the tools right now. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this epic post that wasn't about football! lol
Did any of the lens/photo combos surprise you? 

Enjoy your day, Kim


Linda said...

Great shots! Close up, action shots taken at night are difficult with any lens! You're right about it being about more than the lens! You are very good, I love your photography!

Dotti said...

Action photos are not easy in any light but nighttime adds an extra challenge. Well done, Kim! Does Sports Illustrated know about you? I loved the photo-lens comparison ... such a great illustration.

TesoriTrovati said...

Wow. Great shots. I am pretty good at football (but not the nighttime!), and especially baseball and would love to be able to get basketball shots (but those gym lights are awful) and of course action shots on stage of my Tiny Dancer in performances. I recently dropped my camera which jammed the basic lens that I have so I need to save up for a new one and this is all very interesting! Thank you for sharing both your passions, football and photography! Enjoy the day! Erin

Barbara said...

WOW, not only great but very professional shots! I got my first dslr camera (crop sensor) last year and I've been learning to shoot stills on manual and using BBF. My biggest challenge at this time is to try shooting actions and movement. I love reading FOL's tips & trics on photography, so thank you for sharing the lens comparison.

CarolHart said...

These are great shots and what a wonderful opportunity to be able to use these other lenses for a real world comparison. Awesome!

Gail Dixon (LaBelle) said...

After perusing the photos, my favorites were 3 and 4, but really all are terrific shots. Just goes to show, it's not only the equipment! Great job, Kim.

Cathy H. said...

Fantastic job capturing all the action! Thanks for the reminder to learn how to use what we have!

kelly said...

these are great kim! and i always love seeing things side by side like this. another perfect example of how the person behind the lens is as important (or more) than the lens itself.

Viv@within the Frame said...

Wow great close ups, the colours are so bright.

terriporter said...

Sports photography is no easy thing and add in low light and it's definitely a challenge.You have done an amazing job here, both with your own lenses and the borrowed ones. This gives me the nudge I need to crank up my ISO when I need to. You can't tell that these were taken with a 3200 ISO! Still so sharp and clear! Your comparison of the different lenses really illustrates that the photographer taking the shots is more important than the equipment he or she is using. Can I hire you to come take some shots of my son's indoor soccer games? I am finding the lighting (not to mention the glass between the field and the crowd) quite a challenge! He remembers the days when I used to get some great shots of him playing outdoor soccer but indoors is a whole other animal. Great post, Kim!

Carol said...

I while ago I did my first sports shots when a friend asked me to take her daughter's championship high school basketball team. First of all, using a telephoto lens, I'm very happy to still have my nose - when those team mates are charging at you through a long lens, you have no idea how far or close they are - it's frightening! Even more frightening are the yellow lights! It was a wonderful exercise, and I was very proud of myself for overcoming the difficulties - a year ago I don't think I could have figured it all out.
But these football shots are a whole other animal - they are WONDERFUL Kim! No matter what the lens, you know what you are doing! I applaud you! In fact, standing ovation!!! I suspect the guy with the big lens is in awe of you!
Thank you so much for this lesson - it's the kind of fascinating post that makes all of us better photographers!

Kathryn said...

Cool experiment. I have a 70-300 mm f4-5.6 which is the one I use for my bird shoots. I'd love to have the f2.8 version though but it's beyond my budget. It seems my eye definitely favors the wider F stop which is why I love my macro lens so much. It really is your ability with a lens though and knowing your equipment. I know someone with a point and shoot that takes amazing pics that I swear would have come from a higher end Digital Camera. Way to go Kim, you do great with action shots.

Kathryn said...

. . . not that you don't do great with other types of shots too. :0)

The Wandering Shutter Fly said...

I recognized which pic was taken with the 85mm lens immediately..I have an 85mm 1/8 lens, it is one of my favorite and most used lenses that I have in my collection :-)

Barb Brookbank said...

Well, they're all awesome shots in my opinion. I too need to remember to crank up the ISO when necessary - I'm always so reluctant to do that!

Barb said...

Enjoyed this post and agree with your philosophy. I've even started using the phone camera more - I like some of the shots I get, and it's always with me.

Kelly said...

Kim you did GREAT...and no...i didn't do so well...except for number 4! These are great...super post.

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting post, Kim! Kudos for you for taking on sports photography and doing SUCH a great job. I liked the test. I figured out the first and the last ones -- that last shot is a stunner -- but not the two in the middle. That 85 mm F1.8 is great value, obviously. I have a pretty expensive zoom telephoto and I'm almost always happier with my 50 mm prime in terms of quality. I'm learning....

Cathy said...

first off all those shots are amazing. my boys played soccer, the youngest is 28 now. i have shot on film, but nothing like these. i loved looking at the compared lens shots too. we all have our favorites for different things.

Anita Johnson said...

I have lens envy all the time, this was good for me to read! Thanks!

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...

I really love that first black and white photo! My best guess was that 2 or 3 were with your 85.

Anonymous said...

Kim, you really opened my eyes regarding the equipment verses the "know how"! I really studied those football photos and I can honestly say, I didn't really see a lot of difference in the quality of these. Maybe just a little, but not enough to go out and break the bank on a new lens! Thanks so much for reminding me that its not all about the camera or lens, but instead more practice and experimenting!
Did I forget to tell you how awesome you are??
Thanks Again for a lovely post!

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