Need help with Barrel Racing

PictureTaker7PictureTaker7 Beginner grinnerRegistered Users Posts: 1 Beginner grinner
edited November 26, 2016 in Sports
I was recently asked to come shoot an indoor barrel race. I have a Canon T5i. I tried to go full manual and use similar settings to when I was outside shooting the weeks prior. No go. The faster the shutter speed, the less light it let in. So to compensate, I lowered my shutter speed so I didnt have to crank up my ISO. That seemed to do ok, and I can adjust in LightRoom. I also tried to shoot in Sports Mode, but it wouldnt let me adjust my shutter speed. Now the problem I am seeing now that I get to look at my pictures they almost all came out blurry. I am currently using back button focus, which I think I hate and want to go back to half a shutter click, and even in full manual I only have one focus dot. I get to go back in a little under a month and I'd like to be on top of my game, but really prefer to shoot outside with natural light. Any help/feed back is much appreciated.


  • jmphotocraftjmphotocraft GWC for hire Portland.ME.USARegistered Users Posts: 2,987 Major grins
    edited November 22, 2016
    Your shutter speed was probably too slow, causing your pics to be blurry. For shooting action indoors you need a bare minimum of 1/500, preferably 1/800, ideally 1/1000. When I shoot high school football at night under the lights, I'm usually at 1/800, f/2.8, ISO 3200 or so. Sharp and grainy beats blurry but smooth every time. If you are shooting with a slow lens, like f/5.6, it will be hard to keep the ISO down while keeping shutter speed up. The cheapest way to get faster lenses is with fixed length ("prime") lenses.

    Back-button AF vs shutter button is really a matter of preference. There's no electro-mechanical advantage to either. The one advantage of back-button AF as far as I can tell is when you are in Servo (continuous) AF, it allows you to stop the AF by releasing the button. This can be handy for focus-recompose of a still subject while in Servo AF.

    An "accurate" reproduction of a scene and a good photograph are often two different things.
  • PhotogbikerPhotogbiker Exploring the desert Registered Users Posts: 351 Major grins
    edited November 25, 2016
    Jack nailed it. Push up the ISO, a blurry picture is garbage. 6400 on that camera should not be a problem (extended range on T5?). If you don't have a 2.8 lens, rent one. You will be continually frustrated trying to shoot indoors with a consumer grade f5.6 lens. Go to and get some good glass for a weekend. A 70-200/2.8 will be very versatile if you can move around the arena. A 300/2.8 would work if you are in one spot shooting the far barrel as the horse turns for the home stretch. The fun of shooting with it will hook you.

    Then you really need to stay at 800th shutter or higher. "Sport" mode will go for the high shutter speed, but it can't if it is limited by an f5.6 lens. As the horse comes around the barrel and is dug in there is an instant where they are almost stopped--that is about the only time a 500th shutter will work. Most arenas are pretty constant light so shooting in manual is good, just be aware of any brighter corners that would change that.

    Last thing, even with the f2.8 lens push the f stop up, and slower shutter and go for some intentional blur. As the horse rounds the barrel and is looking at you, or on the run between passing right to left in front of you. A slight blur because you are at 250th of a second is bad, a lot of blur at 60th or 30th of a second is 'artistic'. It can really convey the motion and energy, but just a couple of them goes a long way.

    Have fun and lets see the results.
  • TonyCooperTonyCooper Major grins Orlando, FloridaRegistered Users Posts: 2,246 Major grins
    edited November 26, 2016
    I'm a fool rushing in in this group of pros and owners of better kit than
    I have, but I have shot indoor barrel racing. I used a Nikon D300 with a 18/55
    Nikon kit lens and shot at shutter priority, 1/125th, ISO 400 which resulted in
    f/4.8. RAW.

    Naturally, I would have used a faster shutter speed if possible. But, my D300
    produces unacceptable noise at anything higher than 400, and faster than
    1/125th wasn't working.

    This photo is uncropped to show the conditions. Yes, it's not at all sharp and
    there's blurring - especially at the hind legs.

    I do wonder about the advantage of using a longer lens. When shooting
    continuous, it's very difficult to frame and focus a fast moving rider in a
    series of shots rounding the barrel. Using a short lens and a wider field
    works better for me in this case. At first I used my 55/300 lens, but I
    wasn't getting good results.

    Moving around, as mentioned, was difficult at this arena. The arena is
    covered - as you can see in this photo - but open at each end. That
    means shooting into bright sunlight background if I moved to either end.

    Tony Cooper - Orlando, Florida
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,325 moderator
    edited December 11, 2016

    Everyone is giving pretty good advice, but, like user "Photogbiker" suggested, for an indoor barrel race I believe that you need a sports-capable telezoom, namely a Canon EF 70-200mm, f2.8L USM (the original without IS should be fine for this application.) The reason is that you may need to cover multiple turns at different distances.

    Additionally I strongly suggest using a FF body, and with Canon 5D Mark III factory refurbished going for under $2000 it's a very sensible choice. (The factory refurbished units include a full 1-year warranty.)

    That combination, the 5D Mark III plus EF 70-200mm, f2.8L USM, should give you the results you desire.

    Otherwise, the same body with a pair of primes, like the EF 85mm, f1.8 USM plus the EF 135mm, f2L USM, might get you some good compromises as well as the extra stop for twice the light-gathering capability.

    Good luck!

    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
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