Horses jumping under lights

edited April 2017 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
My husband tried to take pictures of my horse and I competing in a hunter derby under the lights, but all that was in focus were the jumps. We have no idea what settings to use; he used the sports setting. The lens used was the Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm 1:4.5-5.g GED. What settings does the camera need to be on in order to have both the jump and the horse in focus? Thanks!


  • edited April 2017
    It sounds as if you are limited in depth of field, and the focus point was not ideally placed. With that slow lens, under lights, you will be hard put to get much more depth of field. You're going to have to experiment with how high an ISO you can go to, and then figure out how slow a shutter speed you can afford to go to, while still stopping the motion you need to stop. Once you have figured that out, you will have gotten your smallest lens aperture. A slightly wider view than the full 300mm might help as well. Rather than sports setting, you can use shutter priority, deciding what shutter speed to use, and set your auto ISO maximum to the point where you can still tolerate the ISO noise, and then set the focus to single point or the smallest number of dynamic area points (likely either 9 or 11), and C continuous servo. Aim for the rider's eyes, or chest if eyes are too difficult to hit. If you get the rider's face in focus, other blurs will be less important. If you blur the rider's face, it's likely to count as a missed shot, though there might be a shot if you get the horse's face sharp and the rider blurred. One or the other set of eyes should be sharp, though, and it's likely you won't be able to do both in one shot without a faster lens. Make sure your focus starting point (the red light in the finder) is centered. I'd leave it on continuous release mode and take bursts of shots.

    With continuous focus on the rider's face, he should practice panning (moving the camera with the subject), and try to lock onto the face before the critical moment of the jump. Follow that face, and as soon as you're near the apex of the jump, he starts firing as he pans.

    If the rider is much better lit than the surrounding area, and there's a lot of dark area in the shot, you can also try shifting to spot metering, or exposure compensating a stop or two in the - direction, so that the face is lit but the background stays black. The spot meter follows the focus point, so if you have the focus point centered, the meter will read that area too, and ignore the background.
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