Shooting Tulsa Tough - 3 Tips To Get AMAZING Sports Photos

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The last few weeks have been packed with plenty of events to cover in Tulsa, including concerts, festivals, and the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough, a three day bicycle race through the streets of the Tulsa Arts District and culminating with a final series of races on Cry Baby Hill in downtown Tulsa. During the races, the joy and the challenge of shooting exciting shots meant using equipment geared for the situation.


LENS CHOICE

For Tough, I used personally the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master lens, a focal length and aperture popular among all the other photographers I got to chat with at the event. Whether it was attached to my Sony a7 III, a Canon 5D Mark IV or 1DX Mark II, a Nikon D850 or D5, the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens was the most popular lens being used. That lens allows you to get tight shots as racers cross the finish line or pull off tricks, or just exciting moments in general. Combined with image stabilization that helps counteract the movement of the lens, and a wide aperture, the images that you can get can come out with sharp focus on your subject with amazing bokeh, or blur, behind them. It also helps to have a body that has a high burst rate to capture all of the fast action.

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CAMERA SETTINGS

With this lens, the other two things to keep in mind were shutter speed and aperture. ISO was not as much of an issue since this was in the middle of the day, so being able to drop it low to get clean shots was fantastic. Since the idea is to freeze the racers in your shot, I used a shutter speed between 1/1250 - 1/2000 of a second. This allows you to essentially freeze the action, and since the racers are whizzing by you, I found this to be essential. When it came to choice of aperture, that revolved around both shutter speed choice and creative choice of depth of field. Did you want to focus on the leader of the pack with the racers trailing behind blurred out to illustrate how far ahead they are of everyone else? Did you want to get more in focus as a group was racing by together? For the former, I would shoot ‘wide open’ at f/2.8 to create that depth of field that creates that effect, while the latter, I would ‘stop down’ to f/4 - f/5.6.


To summarize:

  • Use the right lens that allows you to take tight shots of the subject (70-200mm f/2.8 being an ideal solution)

  • Use a higher shutter speed to freeze the action

  • Use a shallow depth of field to create different layers in your images

Bonus Tip

Different focusing modes work better on different subjects and conditions. While continuous autofocus can work well on a group of racers moving by, the camera is constantly refocusing as it hunts for subjects. What I did instead was to use lock on continuous autofocus, pick out a racer to follow around a turn, and then let the camera track the subject while I focused on shooting.

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