Things I have learned from shooting sports that might prove useful to photographers

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
One of the things that I do to put bread on the table is to test airguns for Airguns of Arizona and write a weekly blog about them. (If you are wildly curious, the blog can be found here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/ ) I have also competed in some airgun competitions and occasionally won. I am not an astonishingly great shot, but I do okay.

It wasn’t until yesterday, when Chris Yeats said, “You must have great technique,” that I realized that some of the things I have learned while trying to become a better shot with an airgun can also be applied to photography. So I thought I might put together a few thoughts and pass them along in case they might benefit someone here on www.seriouscompacts.com

So let’s start with the basics. There are three things you have to know.

Thing one: people wobble. When a person is “standing still,” they are actually oscillating, ever so gently, over their center of gravity. If you have a Wii in the household and have ever measured your weight using the Wii fit platform, you know that while it is weighing you, it is also measuring your wobble over your center of gravity, and it always, always, always, shows movement. Olympic 10-meter air rifle competitors try to reduce the wobble by wearing special clothes that essentially “strap them up” to reduce the movement. The special clothing helps a lot but does not eliminate the wobble.

Thing two: the greater the telephoto (apparent focal length) of your lens, the worse the apparent wobble appears. Hence the rule of thumb that your shutter speed ought to be one over the equivalent focal length of your lens. So, if you are shooting at 500mm equivalent, your shutter speed ought to be at least 1/500 second to try to reduce blur in the photograph. If you’re shooting a 1000mm lens, your shutter speed ought to be 1/1000 second, and so on.

Thing three: more points of contact with your equipment are better. No one has ever shot a perfect score in Olympic air pistol. Why? Because (in part) competitors are shooting with one hand holding the pistol, and it is waving all over the place. By contrast, perfect scores have been shot in Olympic air rifle. In air rifle, two hands hold the rifle, and it is also pressed into the shoulder of the shooter. More contact means more steady.

So how can we apply what we have learned?

Reduce wobble. Tripods are the ultimate anti-wobble tool. They steady the camera admirably and take wobbly old you out of the equation. But I don’t carry a tripod. Ever. So press your back against a tree or brace the barrel of the lens against a tree or the side of a building. If possible, sit down. Put your butt and your feet on something solid (the ground?). If you can sit on the ground and brace your back against a tree, even better. Put your elbows on your knees, creating a solid connection from your hands to the ground.

If possible, follow the rule about focal length and shutter speed.

Take advantage of more points of contact. Grab the camera with both hands, use the optical viewfinder or electronic viewfinder, and press the camera against your face, creating another point of contact. (For this reason, folks who only have rear view screens on their cameras for composition are at a disadvantage for telephoto shots.) If you are forced to stand, press your elbows against your rib cage.

Now we get to something I didn’t mention before: your breathing causes movement. So, as you prepared to take the shot, take in a breath, exhale half of it, and hold your breath as you press the shutter. Maintain laser-like focus as you slowly and steadily press the shutter. Don’t jerk it. Follow through – don’t move anything until you hear the final click of the shutter.
Give these techniques a try and let me know if they work for you.

Cheers, Jock
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
Here's a couple that go against common beliefs that stability only comes from using an eye-level viewfinder:

- When you have a camera with a tilting screen, holding it down lower at stomach level puts the camera closer to your centre of gravity than holding it with the viewfinder up to your face. At this position that the camera is less affected by any swaying motion in the body. This is also value in having the camera on a neckstrap and pulling it down tight to create another anchor point at your neck.

- Using a touchscreen to release the shutter induces less force on the camera body than pressing down on the physical shutter button.
 

entropic remnants

Hall of Famer
Mar 3, 2013
John Griggs
The 1/f rule for shutter speed is for full frame and if you have a crop frame sensor, it should be 1/(f x crop_factor). So APS-C with a 1000 mm lens the shutter speed should be 1/1500. Or you can just apply the rule to your "equivalent" focal length, to make it clearer.

Other than that, some great stuff.
 

entropic remnants

Hall of Famer
Mar 3, 2013
John Griggs
yup. also helpful, rid yourself of the modern preoccupation with shooting wide open. 2.8, 4, 5.6 and god forbid 8.0 are there for reasons. learn about depth of field.
Good advice but I've not noticed anything that could be considered a "preoccupation" with shooting wide open? Not sure what you're trying to say exactly.

There has been a push -- and a good one -- to demand lenses with excellent quality wide open and that's a good thing. A lens which can be used well over it's entire aperture range rather than just stopped down is a joy.

But you're right in that one should try to select an aperture that serves the image, regardless of what that is.
 

staticantics

Regular
Oct 15, 2013
Central California
Chris
The 1/f rule for shutter speed is for full frame and if you have a crop frame sensor, it should be 1/(f x crop_factor). So APS-C with a 1000 mm lens the shutter speed should be 1/1500. .

This is so key! I struggled with the Panasonic 100-300 on my oly when I first got it. I was convinced there was something wrong until i realized the slight blur was created by less than ideal lighting combined with my own movement not being fast enough for the 1/200 shutter speeds I was using.
 

Yeats

All-Pro
Jul 31, 2012
New Jersey, USA
Chris
Good advice but I've not noticed anything that could be considered a "preoccupation" with shooting wide open? Not sure what you're trying to say exactly.

There has been a push -- and a good one -- to demand lenses with excellent quality wide open and that's a good thing. A lens which can be used well over it's entire aperture range rather than just stopped down is a joy.

But you're right in that one should try to select an aperture that serves the image, regardless of what that is.
On the brand-specific forum I visit, there are periodic influxes of n00bs who are obsessed with "blurred background" and happily post pics with OOF subjects in an attempt to get it. So I totally understand what Tony is saying.
 

Yeats

All-Pro
Jul 31, 2012
New Jersey, USA
Chris
Here's a couple that go against common beliefs that stability only comes from using an eye-level viewfinder:

- When you have a camera with a tilting screen, holding it down lower at stomach level puts the camera closer to your centre of gravity than holding it with the viewfinder up to your face. At this position that the camera is less affected by any swaying motion in the body. This is also value in having the camera on a neckstrap and pulling it down tight to create another anchor point at your neck.
I do/have done both of these things. I've done many close-ups using the neck strap to stabilize my K-01 + 100/3.5 macro lens.

Also, for those who think that using the camera's LCD to compose means assuming the "zombie pose": hold the camera 8-10 inches from your face, clamp your elbows to your sides, and fire as you complete your exhale.
 

Lightmancer

Legend
Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
I think that this is a really interesting thread, thanks to Jock for starting it. A couple of points from Sunny Frimley:

- Sharp is not the only fruit, in the same way that bokeh is not always appropriate. Blur - motion blur, "camera shake" etc can sometimes be not only desired but right for the subject matter.

- Anything worth doing consistently well requires practice, practice practice to get the end result you desire - see previous point

- Personally, i am not a tripod person. I hate being "tied down". That means that sometimes my shots have blur. I live with it.

- I am a firm believer in OVFs. A camera wedged against my monocephalic brow is going to be steadier than one waving about at the end of my arm.

- TLRs are pretty damn stable in use. You wedge it against your ample belly (thank you middle age) and Bob's yer father's brother. Being closer to your "core" (and the ground) helps. Roger Hicks wrote informatively and entertainingly about this in his book "Night and Low Light Photography".

- At low shutter speeds, take two or three exposures - you will often find that the second or third frame is better than the first.
 

entropic remnants

Hall of Famer
Mar 3, 2013
John Griggs
On the brand-specific forum I visit, there are periodic influxes of n00bs who are obsessed with "blurred background" and happily post pics with OOF subjects in an attempt to get it. So I totally understand what Tony is saying.
Ah, well mastering shallow DOF for when you want it is difficult. I see what you mean about the n00bs, lol -- but still I don't see it as a preoccupation. That word usually implies that most photographers are obsessed somehow with shooting wide open -- at least that's the way I took it I get where you're coming from though.
 

staticantics

Regular
Oct 15, 2013
Central California
Chris
That word usually implies that most photographers are obsessed somehow with shooting wide open -- at least that's the way I took it I get where you're coming from though.
I think the preoccupation that I've also observed is in equipment capable of shooting wide open ... "give us a f1.2 prime lens pany"
or "that oly tele zoom is too slow! f6!" etc. etc. etc.
 

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