Some new gear got dropped off on Friday…just in time for me to do a little real world field testing with it on Sunday!  I was invited to share ten seconds of excitement with Michelle Hedstrom when the US Bike Pro Circuit came through town.  Not only was her house extremely close to the route, we got a chance to catch up since we last chatted on the podcast.  She’s got quite the keen eye, as we walked down the street I gleaned useful and valuable nuggets on shooting sports photography.  One such tip is that with bicycling, it’s always good to capture them as they are coming into or going out of a curve to get the angled view that is always popular.  She also used a tried and true practice of finding an area to get our own unique brand of photography – away from the rest of the folks that had set up about half a mile further down the road.  We had the area mostly to ourselves!  Her husband Leif came along too, and got some second shooter shots to add to their portfolio.

Since we weren’t shooting in any sort of “official” capacity, i figured it’d be a good time to kick the tires on this new lens (sorry, can’t reveal it just yet).  Suffice to say, I was not thrilled with the shots.  As luck would have it, I had swapped out between my 70-200 Canon and this lens right before the race, and inadvertently left my 1.4 TC on.  The end result was that the shots were just “off”.  The entire ten second scene was exciting to watch, and a few great shots presented themselves to me, but because of the gear selection and conditions – I got nuthin’!

However, always with education in my mind, this was a great story for two reasons.  First and foremost – it’s a reminder that if you are shooting an important event, always shoot with tried and true gear you know, and have had positive results with before.  Second, it’s always a good idea when testing new gear to try it in various configurations to make sure you know what you are getting before your return period expires.  Imagine if you purchased a lens, had enjoyed it, then past the return window, you decided to then test it with accessory items like a TC, only to get less performance than you expected. Oh well, chalk it up to an expensive mistake (glass is never cheap, and even good glass can not work for your particular style of shooting!).

As sort of a bonus tip, I also learned that when shooting sports, always keep your aperture above the minimum for a couple reasons.  First, a deeper depth of field will give a better sense of place, and second, if your focus is even slightly off and you happen to be shooting at a higher number, the chances of getting at least part of the scene in focus is better than if you shoot like I did – at 1.4!  While I normally don’t share bad shots – in this case, it’s helping to serve as an example of what not to do:


As you can see, nothing is really in focus, and my suspicion is that it was due to the presence of the TC as further studio testing produced results consistent with what I would normally expect without the TC.  And with the TC, the oof results also continued in studio – with a lot of difficulty in even achieving focus on objects unless the contrast was especially evident.  Even then, it jiggled a lot betwenn two focusing points, so the lesson I got in all of this is that when using a __________ (thought I was gonna say it, didn’t ya?_, don’t use the TC!

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too.  What did you shoot and what were your lessons learned?  Sound off in the comments with your own thoughts, ideas, tips, and tricks!  Until tomorrow – happy shooting!

3 thoughts on “Testing Some Gear

  1. The more bad shots and silly mistakes we make the quicker we learn, but then again on that basis i should be wiping the floor with the greats by now….. or maybe they also took lots of bad shots too…..

  2. I picked up “trick” at an off-road bike event: to pre-focus manually and lock it when you have a set location like that curve. Just focusing on a nearby object like a tree or road object, or your partner, a few minutes before the riders come would do it with, as you say, enough DOF.

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