So you have an Olympus OM-D and are interested in photographing some sort of action sport, but aren’t sure where to start? Let’s see if I can offer a few pointers to get you headed in the right direction capturing all the gnarly action you can handle!
1 GET YOUR CAMERA IN THE RIGHT MODE
For some of you this may mean we are exploring a new spot on the Mode Dial, the S mode! Or as it is more technically known, Shutter Priority. Shutter Priority is exactly what it sounds like, controlling the shutter speed while letting the camera control things like aperture and ISO to maintain the shutter speed we choose. And for us, and action sports that means choosing a fast shutter speed.
So to do this we simply move the Mode Dial to S, and then once there you can use your control dials to move the shutter speed to a speed appropriate for your subject. A good starting point is around 1/800 of a second for a lot of sports. But you may find you need to go higher.
2 SET THE ISO TO AUTO.
The easiest way to do this is via the SCP or Super Control Panel on the rear display of the camera. With the SCP shown, just hit the OK button to highlight the rear screen, then navigate to ISO. Once there hit OK again to activate it and set it to auto. Perfect!
I shoot AUTO ISO so that the camera will be able to maintain the shutter speed I haven chosen. If I locked the ISO at say 200, then set shutter speed at 1/800th sec, I may end up with underexposed shots. By enabling AUTO ISO the camera will boost the ISO to help properly expose the image.
3 TURN ON SEQUENTIAL SHOOTING.
This, depending on the camera, will allow us anywhere from 10 to 60 frames per second of shooting! Imagine how much easier it will be to capture that perfect shot with so many images being captured.
To enable high speed sequential shooting, go back to the Super Control Panel on the rear display. Select the shutter mode, then roll the control dial until you reach the High Speed Sequential shooting.
With the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, you can enable Pro Capture* to pretty much guarantee the moment is captured! I prefer Pro Capture Low as I find that most action sports do not need the incredible speed of Pro Capture High. That said, you may find Pro Capture High to be great for a close up shot of a golf club striking a ball on a tee.
* Editor’s Note: The new Pro Capture mode, found in the E-M1 Mark II and TG-5, buffers a running series of high-resolution images, then captures a precise moment plus a number of the previous frames (varies by model) with a single button press.
4 SET YOUR AUTO FOCUS
This will vary from sport to sport. Try using S-AF or C-AF depending on your subject. "S" stands for single and it means that the camera will focus automatically only once, and will not do so again until the shutter button is pressed halfway again. "C" stands for continuous and it means the camera will continue to focus automatically on the subject as long as the shutter button is pressed halfway.
Automotive sports, including off road such as rally and moto-x, are good candidates for C-AF as many shots might be panning from a plane parallel or oblique to the subject.
For something like a kiteboarder, surfer or subject coming towards you, try C-AF Tracking (aka, continuous autofocus tracking). This will track your subject while constantly adjusting focus for you. When using C-AF Tracking, keep the moving focus target in the middle 2/3 of your viewfinder to help prevent your subject from moving out of the frame.
S-AF is useful for sports where you can pre-focus on an area where the action will take place. So for the skateboarder shot below, I just pre focused on the area of the bowl where he was going to be, and when he was in position, I fired off my shots! This works great for things like skateboarding and even freestyle biking where people are going off ramps!
5 CHOOSE THE RIGHT LENS
This is one of those things that we can leave up to your specific situation. For instance, if you are shooting a sport that would be dangerous to be in the middle of like motocross, or something far away like surfing, you’d want to use a telephoto lens.
So we have all our settings ready, now what? Now we go find some action!
Here are a few tips for shooting ANY action sport that will help you out and make this especially fun!
Watch your subjects for a while to understand where they are headed when riding in skate and bike parks.
Talk to the people riding and ask if you can photograph them. Most of these people LOVE to get their photo taken and would jump at the idea of having someone photograph them.
Ask your subject if they can point out where they will be doing tricks (so you can pre focus on that spot) and landing those tricks, or if they know of a certain part of the park that would look good in photos.
Shoot when the light is good. Action sports usually are fast paced and good light means it will be easier to use a fast shutter speed and be able to freeze the athlete in motion.
Be creative in your angles when photographing up close! These are extreme sports and they look even more cool using offbeat angles!
Offer to give some copies of the photos to the people you are photographing. This makes it worth their time to put on a good show, and it makes it easier for you to come back and have subjects to shoot again!
My final tip is to reach out to all of us in the Visionary program with questions! You can find us on Facebook and most other social media platforms. We LOVE being able to help with questions so don’t hesitate!