Kiteboarding photography is something that most kiteboarders get into at one stage or the other. But there's a difference between taking pictures and great pictures. Here's a few tips to get better looking kiteboarding pictures, based on my experience.
Sports photography is very demanding on your wallet. If you want to get good at sports photography be prepared to start spending some money. Sports photography lends itself to favor fast telephoto lenses, ultra wide angle lenses, and the fastest camera you can buy. You'll need to invest in at least one or two fast telephoto lenses and at least one wide angle or ultra wide angle lens. When it comes to camera bodies, professional sports photographers prefer the Canon EOS 1D or Nikon's D2X which are top of the line sports cameras.
You don't need to invest in top of the line DSLRs though; a mid level camera that can shoot at 5 frames per second and has relatively fast auto focus capabilities is more than adequate if you couple it with a pro level lens - think Canon EOS 40D or a Nikon D200 coupled with a 300mm f2.8 or a 400mm f2.8.
You can also get great results with an underwater housing and a wideangle lens. But this combo can be expensive and this method brings along a whole new set of challenges. You have to make sure that there are no water drops on your housing and that your horizons are level - this is easier said than done. Great pictures can be taken with an underwater housing but it takes a lot of practice and patience.
Pictured below is the Canon EF 300mm f2.8L lens. This and the 400mm f2.8L lenses are the sharpests and fastest lenses I have used to date, but they're also expensive coming in at ZAR46,000 and ZAR75,000 respectively.
Before you begin, ensure you know how to use your camera properly. Know how to use your camera's AI Servo function (the function that tracks movement and keeps the subject is focus as it moves closer or further away from you).
- Ensure you have your maximum frame rate enabled, you'll want to fire away multiple frames when you need to.
- Know how to use Aperture and Shutter priority on your camera.
- A monopod is an absolute must if you are using a telephoto lens of 200mm or more. Tripods are recommended for focal lengths of 500mm or more.
As you increase the focal length, you also increase camera shake which makes it increasingly difficult to keep your camera still at focal lengths of 300mm or more. If you can't keep your camera still you will have a tough time to keep your auto focus sensors on the subject.
If you hand hold your camera your pictures won't be pin sharp as hand holding telephoto lenses causes camera shake - not even a high shutter speed will give you pin sharp images. Always use a monopod, even better if you can use a tripod.
- The best way to become good at sports photography is to practice as much as possible. Your first few shoots will have a lot of misses and very few keepers. When you get home after a shoot load your pictures and analyze your mistakes.
- Learn to anticipate the action. Immerse yourself in the sport that you are photographing - knowing what's coming next in sports photography is almost a prerequisite.
- Getting sharp pictures will be your greatest challenge. The first thing you'll have to learn is to keep one or more of your auto focus sensors on the subject as the subject moves. This sounds a lot easier than it is as only a slight movement on a 400mm or 500mm lens can move your subject out of frame completely.
If you get a lot of out of focus pictures it's usually one of the following things:
1) Auto focus sensor.
- Auto focus sensor not on subject at the time that you took the picture. Use your digital SLR’s software to show you the active focus points. Usually the standard software that comes with your DSLR allows you to see the active focus point. (e.g. Canon's Easy Viewer Utility)
In such cases your auto focus sensor usually missed the subject and focused on something just behind or in front of the subject. More practice will ensure that you will be able to keep the sensor on the subject.
2) Camera shake.
If your picture is not pin sharp, but your subject is in focus, you probably have camera shake. Make sure you use a monopod and move up to a tripod if possible.
3) AI Focus.
It's possible that your AI Focus did not engage properly. Always give your camera a second or two to lock on to the subject before taking the picture. To do this, ensure that your shutter is pressed in half way and that you are tracking the subject with one of your auto focus sensors. I usually always track the subject with the shutter pressed half way so that I am ready to shoot at any time.
4) Low shutter speed.
If you are shooting in low light you might not have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action and to prevent camera shake. Bump up your ISO to 400 or more if this is the case. Also ensure that you are using a fast lens with a wide aperture like f2.8.
5) Inadequate equipment
If your pictures are still out of focus and you have ruled out technique, it might be time for an upgrade. If you're not using pro level equipment you'll have to accept that your equipment will let you down at times. Standard lenses and camera bodies simply cannot track your subject at the same rate as pro level equipment can.
Sports Photography Examples:
The following are some kiteboarding pictures I have taken with various lenses and cameras.