Here are some notes on how I can take better pictures.
Keep the aperture wide-open (2.8 or 1.8) in order to get best bokeh (blur) outside of the subject being focused on. Will also allow for faster shutter speed by allowing more light to come in. Likewise, close down the aperture to (8+?) to get everything in focus.
To capture runners mid-stride, a shutter speed of 500 or faster works best. Might be able to get away with 250 except in fast movements (jumps especially). Anything slower will start to blur.
Really want ISO to be as low as possible (100) in order for best quality, but with the Canon 70D you can get good quality at 800 and perhaps 1600. You definitely lose some quality at 3200.
Manual Exposure Setting
While the automatic settings (Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority) are usually pretty good, the camera still tries to auto-adjust between each picture and doesn’t always get it right. This set and the below are great examples of Automatic (Aperture Priority) where the exposure being all over the place within seconds of each other. I should try getting manual-mode set up w/the appropriate settings and leaving it during one session to see if the pictures are more consistent.
The first picture below is at 1/400 and the second at 1/2500. I have no idea why the camera changed the exposure so much. Looking at other photos taken at the same time, an exposure of 1/500 – 1/800 produced great looking pictures.
Fewer Locations with Better Pictures
I need to focus on finding just a few locations to take great pictures of everyone. I tend to try to go to lots of locations to get people from different views, but frequently don’t give myself time to get to those locations and either miss runners, either leaving before the last runners go by or missing the fast runners at the new location, or have to scramble to get to the best location and get the camera set up.
It’s worth spending time to find really good locations. While it’s easy to find a place in the woods to take pictures of someone, if there is a special spot it can make a huge difference.
For example, while this picture is nice:
These are far more interesting:
The first shot going under the tree was less than 50 feet from the above picture, I just hadn’t found the tree location yet. Likewise, I knew about the grassland area, having seen similar pictures from previous years. However I didn’t have an exact shooting location picked out and this led to many of the pictures having cars in the background which could have been easily avoided if I had picked out an exact location and hadn’t been in a hurry to get there from my previous, lamer, location.
Scout the Entire Course
This really brings up the point of scouting the entire course to find great locations. I got as close as 75′ from the tree on my scouting trip the day before but simply hadn’t gone down that part of the path. Doing the entire 10M course would have taken me 3 hours instead of the 2 hours I spent the day before and it would have produced far better locations. I ended up spending 2.5 hours driving anyway, so the incremental difference really wasn’t that much.