Q: I have a 35-mm Nikon FE, and most of the pictures I've taken with it have been satisfactory. The problem is that when I take action pictures of hockey games the results are poor.
'I've tried Fuji ASA 4000 and Kodacolor ASA 100. With both the pictures are dark and have a greenish cast. (The camera is set at the shutter speed of 1/250th and the lens at f/4 on an 80- to 200-mm zoom.)
When shooting the players standing still, the auto setting handles it quite well, but I can't get a fast enough reading on the meter for action shots on auto.
I would appreciate some helpful tips on how to overcome this problem.
A: The auto setting on a camera doesn't mean that all the pictures will turn our automatically good. You have to know when to use the robot and when to step in with some human help.
On auto your Nikon FE has aperture priority exposure, which means that you set the lens opening (f/stop) and the camera sets the shutter speed for the correct exposure. That's why your closeups are good -- the camera sets a slower shutter speed -- and your action shots are not -- because the shutter speed of 1/250th is too fast for the available light, which results in underexposure. There are three ways to correct for under exposure: increase the light, open the lens more or push the film. You certainly can't increase the light in a stadium and the lens opening is already at maximum f/4, so the only solution is to push the film.
Pushing the film means that you can increase the sensitivity by setting the film for a higher ASA rating. This is done by doubling the ASA until the meter tells you that you can get the correct exposure for the f/stop and shutter setting that you want to use.
In this case you have decided that a 1/250th of a second setting will stop the action at f/4 (the largest opening of your lens). To find your new ASA setting put the camera in the manual mode and keep doubling the ASA dial until the meter reads good exposure. For ASA 400 film try 800, 1600 and 3200. If the exposures you're getting at ASA 400 are just a bit dark, ASA 800 will correct for the light; if not, keep doubling.
Any good commercial lab can develop your film for the increased ASA (Kodak labs will routinely develop Ektachrome 400 at 800 for an added charge).
You will lose some quality with the increase in ASA. The best model is to experiment and decide for yourself.
The greenish tint on your color slides is caused by the fluorescent lighting. To correct this use a Tiffen filter, FLD (for daylight film) or FLB (for tungsten film).
For other readers who have cameras with both auto and manual settings, here are some guidelines.
Use the auto mode for average snapshots in good light. If the system is aperture-preferred, set the f/stop for f/5.6 with slow film such as ASA 25 to ASA 100 and at f/11 with ASA 400 fast films. For shutter priority use 1/125th for the slower emulsions and 1/500th for the fast 400 emulsions.
For dim light or unusual lighting, such as backlit scenes, use the manual override and meter a middle-toned area for the best exposure. And remember, if you want to stop action first set the shutter speed and then the lens opening, and for depth of field (so that the foreground and the background are both sharp) first set the lens opening and then adjust the shutter speed.