Thanx! Yes the white background was not a good idea. I was setting the aperature and letting the camera choose the shutter speed. It did much better with the darker backgrounds."Promoted Pawn" looking good!
Do you think that the larger area of bright white background that was present in the 'distance shots' was messing up the exposure? I'm guessing that your 'distance shots' that didn't come out so well were overly dark?