Nikon D850 - In action at the FIVB World Tour Singapore Open
Beach Volleyball is one sport that I always like to photograph. This sport is refreshing , dynamic , exciting and provides a great setting for spectacular shots especially when the weather is great.
The other nice aspect is that the beach volleyball field of play is not really that large and the spectator stands distance to the court is also very manageable if the photographer has a 300mm to 400mm focal length reach capability.
In this blog , I am going to share image highlights , my camera setup and tips which I find very useful and which work very well for me. Hopefully they will work for you too.
The images below were captured from the very recent 2018 FIVB World Tour Singapore Open which was held at Siloso Beach , Sentosa. This is a very prestigous 2 stars FIVB event where world class beach volleyball teams from different countries participate.
Camera Gear & Setup
Nikon D850 , 45.7MP Full Frame DSLR
Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-f5.6 with VR on
- Group AF Area Mode
- Focus Tracking with Lock-on Settings : Level 1 , Mid-point setting between Erratic & Steady
Dedicated Back Focus Button
9 Frames Per Second (FPS) camera setup
Shutter Speed needs to be at least 1/3200s or faster to freeze the action and the volleyball movement. The shutter speeds I was using were between 1/3200s to 1/8000s.
To have a chance to capture the best possible action shot , follow a chosen player closely while a point is being played until the point is over. What I do is I observe the player's action closely and will take the gamble to fire of the shutter in burst mode even before potential peak action happens.
Always include the Volleyball in your shots. As in all captures of sports which have a ball or another medium of play. It needs to be captured with the action.
The closer the volleyball is to the player , the more valued the image.
Do not capture random action and switch players , choose the action you want to capture and stick to it until you capture it successfully
Make sure the player's face can be seen (for most cases). It does not have to be the full face all the time but at least half the face should be visible in my opinion.
Use the pre-focusing technique to focus action at the net. For net action like a player spiking the ball or a player leaping to block on the opposite side of the net , I normally pre-focus on the bottom half of the body when the player is in position , then I swing my camera upwards to capture the action. I find that this method yields a much better hit rate then pre-focusing on the net itself or trying to AF through the net.
Include the opposition in your composition when possible. This will show a better perspective of the action happening.
Include relevant foreground (where & when possible) as this will help create more depth perception in an image.
Keep background simple when possible or include background that is relevant to the sport.
Capture unique action that is relevant to the sport
Beach Volleyball is the only sport that I know where the player can take a time out to clean up his or her sun-glasses if they were soiled during play.
Compose tight on the action especially if you are focusing on a single player.
Vary your shooting locations (depending on the action you want to capture)
For most of the shots shared here , I was either shooting well behind the A-boards (a good distance away from the court) or on a slightly elevated platform.
Being further away and on a slightly higher POV does two things for me:
- gives me more time to catch the action successfully
- allows me to capture the player's faces better and also gives me a cleaner background
Shooting further back does mean that you will need focal lengths between 250mm to 400mm to get good tight action shots.
Nikon D850 Performance - What I liked about it ?
9 FPS burst rate helped me capture peak action easily with the right shutter release timing
The continuous AF tracking was superb , I did not have a single problem following and locking on to the fast and sometimes erratic volleyball action.
The JPEG FINE* files were just excellent providing excellent details and sufficient dynamic range with the right exposure.
Hope you find my sharing useful.
Till the next blog , happy photography !