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07-23-2015, 05:06 AM   #1
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Help picking the Focus Area

I went out yesterday to shoot very fast birds Skimmers. These birds fly fast and low over the water, dip their lower mandible into the water, and skim for fish and food.

I had two problems with my results. I was using too low a shutter speed - I need to shoot at least 1/3000 or faster - probably around 1/6000. I was shooting at 1/1250.

The second problem I had was focus. With a 500mm lens these birds occupy a relatively small portion of the viewfinder. If they are close enough to fill the frame they fly so fast they are impossible to track with a long lens.

What Focus Area setting would you recommend for shooting small fast moving birds?

Thanks for your help

07-23-2015, 08:16 AM   #2
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Over open water I would use the expanded area, center select with AF-C. You should turn off SR, although the K-3ii is supposed to help with panning. I agree that you should use the fastest shutter speed conditions allow. First frame Focus Priority, Continous Shooting H or M, etc
07-23-2015, 09:33 AM   #3
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I would suggest catch in focus. Lots of light is needed for fast shutter speeds like you need

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07-23-2015, 11:39 AM   #4
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Thanks for your advice
I will try Expanded Area and experiment with the S, M and L options of 8, 24 and 26 peripheral points. As fast as these birds move I am guessing I would need the 24 or 26 peripheral point.
Light would sure help Pentax AF but many mornings there is not a lot of light when these birds feed.

07-23-2015, 03:08 PM   #5
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Don't be afraid to raise your ISO, even to 1600 or beyond to keep up your speed. The K-3 is pretty good up to that level in daylight. Also try TAV which lets ISO float while keeping Shutter Speed and Aperture steady.
07-23-2015, 03:15 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mikesul Quote
Don't be afraid to raise your ISO, even to 1600 or beyond to keep up your speed. The K-3 is pretty good up to that level in daylight. Also try TAV which lets ISO float while keeping Shutter Speed and Aperture steady.
Thanks again. TAV is probably my favorite mode for wildlife. I have just never shot anything at very fast shutter speeds. However focus of moving subjects, in particular birds in flight, has been a challenge to me and Pentax autofocus. I just have ot used expanded areas enough and I need to find out what works for me. I appreciate you pointing me in that direction.
07-25-2015, 08:33 AM   #7
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Went out to practice today. The number of birds was low but there were some at a distance. I used TAV with SEL-M focus area setting. I thought the results were fair to good. Here's two heavily cropped results (55% crop and 65% crop). Agaist the sky the results were fair. When the birds got lower and there was more background stuff, then results were not as good. Even tracking a bird from the sky background into the land background resulted in more lost focus shots.
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07-25-2015, 08:46 AM   #8
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These shots are very nice! I'm looking forward to testing the K-3 out in the fall when I go on another boat ride on the James River, looking for bald eagles. I'm sure there will be frustrations, but I'm hoping to see at least an improvement from my K-30/K-r.

08-03-2015, 08:26 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RockvilleBob Quote
Went out to practice today. The number of birds was low but there were some at a distance. I used TAV with SEL-M focus area setting. I thought the results were fair to good. Here's two heavily cropped results (55% crop and 65% crop). Agaist the sky the results were fair. When the birds got lower and there was more background stuff, then results were not as good. Even tracking a bird from the sky background into the land background resulted in more lost focus shots.
It sounds like you didn't have AF Hold set properly. I previously had some suggestions for you. Did you try these?
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/122-lens-clubs/257619-pentax-hd-pentax-da...ml#post3063720
08-03-2015, 04:21 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
It sounds like you didn't have AF Hold set properly. I previously had some suggestions for you. Did you try these?
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/122-lens-clubs/257619-pentax-hd-pentax-da...ml#post3063720
I reset them per your recommendation.
I had been using 17 with fps priority and 18 Hold AF high
I have also been using a smaller select area.
I find the lack of information provided by Pentax abysmal. For one of the weak links in the system you would expect them to spend time helping users get the most out of their system.
I really appreciate your help - thank you.
08-03-2015, 08:33 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by RockvilleBob Quote
I reset them per your recommendation.
The only thing I can suggest then is that perhaps you were not in focus when you tripped the shutter? Focus priority and AF Hold demands that the first shot be locked on the subject. I had pretty good success shooting skimmers, terns and pelicans.

QuoteOriginally posted by RockvilleBob Quote
I find the lack of information provided by Pentax abysmal. For one of the weak links in the system you would expect them to spend time helping users get the most out of their system.
I really appreciate your help - thank you.
I completely agree and have said so elsewhere. If you shoot Canon or Nikon, you can find reams of info on how to set the camera for action. The only thing we can do so far is try settings on our own and share the results. Hopefully Pentax will get this message and step up.

Last edited by audiobomber; 08-03-2015 at 08:42 PM.
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