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Photo Tip for after the shoot

Here's a chance for you to learn from my mistake.

I was out shooting last Thursday night at my local airport just to work on my low light (or no light) technique. I was shooting with my Canon 30D and my 100-400mm IS L lens which is not what we call a fast lens (f/5.6 @ 400mm). So I set my camer on aperture priority (Av) mode and cranked it all the way open to f5.6. Then I took a bunch of test shots at various ISO settings until I was able to get a shutter speed fast enough to hand hold and get a decent shot. I ended up at ISO 1600 that night. I managed to get a few decent shots but not too many so I called it quits and headed home.

So, this weekend I went out to shoot a university level water polo tournament with the same body and lens. The light was not fantastic so I figured I'd better shoot in aperture priority, wide open to get my shutter speed up to the point where I can stop the action.

I turned on the camera and saw that it was already in Av mode and it was already wide open. So, of course I started shooting. I was getting amazing shutter speeds, up to about 1/2500 ... I was amazed.

So to make a long story short I shot for the better part of the day in Av mode with my ISO still set to 1600 from several nights ago! I never even thought to check my ISO, my brain was so into the sports shooting mode that I forgot the camera and concentrated on the action.

So to prevent this from ever happening again I've made a rule for myself. When I'm done shooting for the day I will:
1. Put the camera in Av mode and set the aperture to f/8 and ISO 100
2. Put the camera in Tv mode and set the shutter to 1/640th (a good setting for my 100-400mm IS L) and ISO 100
3. Put the camera in M mode and set the shutter to 1/640th, the aperture to f/8 and ISO to 100

This way if I ever get a case of happy finger and start shooting without checking all my settings again I'll have a decent chance of good results.

The good news is that the EOS 30D does a pretty good job at high ISOs and the photos are not nearly as noisy as I thought they would be. And half way through the day I feared I would run out of CF cards so I switched from Av mode (shooting RAW) to the "Sports" image mode (shooting JPG) which got me out of the ISO 1600 mess. A few photos ended up in the bit bin, but most of the 1500 images from that day were OK.

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