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Follow the Bouncing Ball


Most of the photography that I have done over the past decade has been wildlife or landscape subjects. I own a macro lens, and I enjoy using it when the flowers are out. I even bought a used 600mm lens a while back for use in Yellowstone and other areas where wildlife is plentiful. For the most part flowers and mountains don’t move too much while you are trying to take their picture. Wildlife does, of course, but frequently you can get classic “posed” shots.

I also have two boys, aged 5 and 6 at the moment. They’re both playing soccer in a kids league. It has been an interesting experience trying to adapt to sports photography. Kids rarely stop moving. :)

We have had three games so far. Two of them have been daytime games, and one was a night game. I tried taking pictures at the night game but could not get my speed fast enough. And this is with f2.8 lenses. I could have bumped the ISO setting (I was shooting digital for the game) but I didn’t think about that in time.

On the last daytime game I shot over 100 pictures (again, digital :) ) trying to practice. After the first game I figured out that rather than trying to focus on the kids playing, I should focus on the ball instead. So this time I set my focal area to the lower part of the sensor, popped on my 80-200mm zoom lens, and started tracking the ball. It worked okay; I got some shots I am quite happy with. I also got shots like this one:

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If you look closely at the image you can see what the name of our team is. :-) I got several shots of feet and a ball, or just feet, or just a ball. But the strategy seemed to work as I also got some good shots like this one:

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And this one is my favorite:

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I have a few more games to practice. Since I am doing all of this with my digital camera, I had hoped to be able to post a large selection of team action shots and let parents download them and print them at their favorite discount store. So far it seems that I’ve taken mostly pictures of my own kids.

You can understand that, right? :-D

Image Data
All images were captured with a Nikon D70 on a Sandisk Extreme III compact flash card. I used aperture priority mode to ensure shallow depth of field.

Lens Focal Length Digital Equivalent Aperture Shutter Speed
Nikon 200-400mm 210mm 315mm f4 1/1000
Nikon 80-200mm 120mm 180mm f2.8 1/1000
Nikon 80-200mm 200mm 300mm f2.8 1/1600

3 Responses to “Follow the Bouncing Ball”

  1. Mom Says:

    Good images. I especially like the last one. Do you have a VR lens for your Nikon? That might help with the action shots.

  2. Dave Rathbun Says:

    The 200-400mm lens that I mentioned (it’s brand new, and the subject of another blog post to be finished soon) is VR. I tried it, but it was almost too close to the action depending on which side of the field the kids were on.

    The last image is now my computer desktop image. :-)

  3. Dave Rathbun Says:

    Today is another soccer game, so I’ll get more practice following the bouncing ball. I had hoped to get a monopod before the game to help support the larger 200-400mm zoom lens, but I will “rough it” today without one.

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