Q: How can I take action shots of events such as rodeos, ball games and other sports when I can't go down close where the press photographers are?
A: About the only way that you can take action photos from an arena seat is with telephoto lens. The kind you need will depend on your distance from the action.
Some events can be pictured with a moderate telelens of 105 mm to 135 mm; for others you may need a 200mm or even a 500mm mirror reflex lens.
A basketball game, for example, can be shot from quite close if you can choose a good seat near one of the baskets. The same is true of Little League action from the baseline seats. Tennis, too, is possible if you can shoot from mid-court and watch for the action at the net.
The longer focal lengths are needed in the big arenas for baseball, football and soccer. But even here a fast 200mm is better than an awkward longer lens.
Now I'm saying that You'll get a Sports Illustrated -type action photo from the stands -- unless it's a lucky popfly that lands close enough for an audience-catching-the-ball shot -- but with the proper techniques you'll get a picture that can be proudly shown.
By "proper techniques," I mean using the right film, shutter speed and focusing techniques,
The right film to stop action is the fastest possible. Today it would be the 400-ASA black-and-white or color films -- either negative color or slide film. And you can speed these films up even more by doubling the ASA to 800 without any undue fuss, because most labs will routinely "push" film to this rating at a slight extra cost.
The shutter speed should also be the fastest possible. Use a 1/1,000th if the light is sufficient. For most outdoor sports you will be able to shoot at 1/1,000th of a second at f/8 with an ASA-400 film in normal light, and at 1/1,000th of a second at f/11 in bright sun. These shutter settings will stop the action and the f/ setting will be sufficient for good depth focus.
If the daylight is very poor, or you're shooting under artificial lights, double your ASA to 800, use your largest lens-opening and adjust your shutter speed to that setting.
You will have two handicaps to compensate for in poor light: One is the opened-up lens, which means you will have little depth of focus; and the other is the slower shutter speed, which means you won't be able to "freeze" the action completely.
Focusing is the most important part of sports action photography; most action pictures are lost through improper focusing techniques.
The thing to keep in mind is that you can't focus on the action as it's happening. You have to pre-focus on a spot where it's about to happen and then shoot when the action happens. To do this, of course, you have to understand the game or activity so you can anticipate correctly what's about to happen -- not what has happened. Let me explain.
If you see the action and shoot, you've already missed it, because there's a lag in your reaction, and in the mechanical function of the camera as well. That's why so many photographers are disappointed -- they were sure they got the action, because they "saw" it; but the camera missed it.
So: Shoot when the football is about to be caught, the basket about to be made and just before the sliding runner's foot touches home plate.
Where you prefocus varies with the game. For football, use the yard-line markings; for baseball, the bases, and for basketball, the floor marking from where most of the baskets are made.
These same techniques for shooting action will also work on your vacation: Use a fast film, the fastest shutter and prefocus.
Q: Recently I framed and hung a large number of old (100-to 132- year-old) family snapshots and photographs in a room that gets very strong light in winter and dim light in summer. A friend has said these pictures would fade and be ruined by exposure to strong light and should only be kept in an album. But they make such a striking decorated wall that it seems a shame to confine them to an album where they will seldom be seen.
Is there any way these pictures can be treated so they can be safely displayed ?
A: I'm afraid your friend is right -- the strong light will fade out the photographs eventually, and no, I don't know of any way they can be treated not to fade. The degree of fading will depend on how well the original prints were fixed, washed and dried.
Some of the studio portraits that have been archivally processed (which means that there is very little of the harmful chemical residue left in the photographic image or its support) will outlast the quickly processed snapshots.
Unfortunately, even archival processing will not absolutely guarantee permanence, as there can be small amounts of hypo (sodium thiosulfate) left in the photo, which will combine with the silver of the image to form silver sulfide. This reaction is what causes the fading; improper storage conditions will accelerate the process.
My suggestion is to move the display to a dimly lighted area. You can turn a light on for examination of the pictures. And make a copy negative of the really valuable photos so you can always make replacement prints. My added thought is to have copy prints made of the pictures, display those and return the originals to the album.