Made another trip to the Richmond Oval. I had learned how to set my flash by following some formulas in the manual. I found this to be no better than trial and error, since any distance measures are guesses, and the amount of light required also depends on the subject. The number I had calculated turned out to be much too dim for what I was shooting, and the sad part is that I didn't clue in to this very well and ended up with some pretty lame shots. On the bright side, at least I know what the numbers on the my flash's display mean.
During the shooting, and after looking at the pictures on my computer, I picked up a few pointers.
Firstly, I now understand why a larger number of autofocus points is desirable. For example, I wanted to have my shots composed so that the entire skater is in frame, on the right side (with lots of room on the left to "look into"). I also want the focus to be on the face. With my measly 3 autofocus points, the best I could do was keep their bum in focus, and hopefully not cut off too much of their feet.
Secondly, dark lycra is hard to shoot against a dark background. Drawing attention to the subject in this situation is tough. Not surprisingly, all of my favourite shots ended up being of people who were not wearing dark lycra.
Thridly, I figured out that by not closing my other eye, I can simultaneously track the skater in frame while looking ahead to time the shutter release so that they are passing through the flash's range. It works somewhat reliably.
Lastly, position the flash so that the face is well lit. I had ended up placing the camera and flash as shown (experimenting with various elevations for both).
My reasoning was 2 fold: 1) I want the skater to be coming towards or past the camera, and 2) I want the flash to be far off camera because it produces interesting shadows. Unfortunately, what could have been some great shots turned out to be disappointing because of shadowy faces.
All said and done, my favourite shot is not of someone skating hard, it's of Matt being a goof. And I like it because the subject is well lit and sharply focused, standing out against the dim and out of focus background. I also think the low flash (in this case, on the floor) produced some interesting shadows, except for that annoying nose shadow. Notice the lack of dark lycra.
Update (03-03-2009): After learning some more features of Adobe Camera Raw during the processing of Rob at the Velodrome, I went back and did some retouching of this photo. The white balance for the subject was about 250K on the low side. I warmed up his skin, upped the saturation of the green, lowered the saturation of the ice, added some noise reduction and slight vignetting. What a difference!