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10-18-2018, 01:46 PM   #1
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Focus for birds

Hi, I'm no bird photographer, but decided to take my K3ii, 300mm lens with 1.4 convertor in to the local park, my problem is how to keep the focus point on a small bird that isn't gonna it still for you? I use single point in afc, but still couldn't keep up with them, finally a woodpecker felt sorry for me and posed on a stump. I love the effect, but surely there is a setting that makes life easier?


Last edited by tuggie76; 12-23-2018 at 01:41 PM.
10-18-2018, 02:19 PM   #2
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@normhead may be along to give you some ideas. There are a lot of good shots of birds taken with that lens combo - and many techniques. I'm not a great birder so I'm hoping one of the others wanders in.
10-18-2018, 02:44 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuggie76 Quote
a setting that makes life easier?
Back Focus & lock on to approx. distance on some other point is one.

Last edited by honey bo bo; 12-04-2018 at 03:34 PM.
10-18-2018, 03:08 PM - 13 Likes   #4
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I almost always use single point in AF try to focus on the eye and then recompose (prefocus on the tree or whatever is close), AFC I only use with birds in flight with auto 5 or 9 focus points (depending on camera) pre focus on where you think they fly by and hope for the best the DA* is a bit slow for that anyway but with practice you get some results. Practice as much as you can it does not cost anything to hit the delete button afterwards.

Its important you be patient, watch the birds where they feed, study their behavior and try to get as close as possible without scaring them away.


Attached a few samples see exif at flicker
(ok these where taken with the K70 but guess those focus tips work with most cams)

K70 DA*300 plus X1.4


K70 DA*300 without the X1.4


K70 DA*300 without the X1.4




K70 DA*300 without the X1.4



Last edited by Urs; 10-18-2018 at 03:18 PM.
10-18-2018, 03:30 PM   #5
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I feel your pain. Single point is nearly impossible to keep on a small moving bird, i was thinking maybe continuous focus maybe using 9 points so i have a larger focus area when tracking. Keep trying different settings til you find one that works.
10-18-2018, 03:48 PM - 3 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Urs Quote
I almost always use single point in AF try to focus on the eye and then recompose (prefocus on the tree or whatever is close), AFC I only use with birds in flight with auto 5 or 9 focus points (depending on camera) pre focus on where you think they fly by and hope for the best the DA* is a bit slow for that anyway but with practice you get some results. Practice as much as you can it does not cost anything to hit the delete button afterwards.

Its important you be patient, watch the birds where they feed, study their behavior and try to get as close as possible without scaring them away.
I concur wholeheartedly with Urs, and with his gallery how can you argue?
It's usually not possible but getting the birds close is extremely helpful. Do some research, find where certain birds are likely to be and when. If you're lucky enough to live near a migration hotpoint, find out when that is and go.






10-18-2018, 04:22 PM   #7
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I did see one video on youtube recently where the photographer watched the birds behaviour for some time and set up his camera to focus on a particular perch or branch and waited for the birds to come to him. Camera on tripod with remote control etc Required a lot of patience but enabled him to pre-compose the shot for effective background, exposure etc. . I have not had much opportunity to try this myself but I have, like you, experienced much frustration trying to chase the birds with the camera.
10-18-2018, 04:47 PM   #8
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There are times I miss the AF point switch on the K-5...I wish Ricoh had kept it instead of the worthless photo/video switch...The least they could have done is make an RAW/FX button option to switch between multi-point and center point.

10-18-2018, 04:51 PM - 1 Like   #9
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For a stable bird like that, that may move around a bit, a shutter speed of 400 and an F10 aperture might have worked well. I use TAV mode usually when I am shooting birds that are relocating themselves in a tree or on a bush frequently. If the bird is a woodpecker like what you are showing in your picture, they are known for moving around quite a bit and their heads are pecking on the tree a lot, so that movement is usually accounted for with a 400 ISO, but if you get a bird that is just standing there with just slight movement, you can use a slower shutter speed like 320 or 250 along with an aperture of F10 or F11. If you are in TAV mode the camera is going to automatically figure out your ISO. You may want to set your meter area to center spot also to make sure it does not stray by metering on something that is not in the area of the bird itself.

Example(s):

Slightly moving stationary bird: F10-F11, 250-320 Shutter Speed, in TAV mode

Quickly moving stationary (on branch eating or pecking): F10, 320-400 Shutter Speed, in TAV mode

Flying Bird moderate pace (Great Blue Heron or Tern): F10-F11, 1000 Shutter Speed, in TAV mode

Flying Bird moderate-fast pace (Osprey hunting): F10-F11, 1250 Shutter Speed, in TAV mode

Flying Bird fast pace (duck or Kingfisher normal flight): F10-F11, 1250 Shutter Speed, in TAV mode, adjust Shutter if needed


Below is a shortcut to one of my Pentax Forums gallery images of a semi-stationary bird.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/gallery/images/52508/1_IMGP6444_Crop.jpg

Last edited by C_Jones; 10-18-2018 at 05:05 PM.
10-18-2018, 04:52 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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I do quite a bit of birding, Tuggie, and it's all about improving speed and correctness of technique.

So you should begin quickly deploying and bracing the camera then framing and shooting large, tame waterfowl at a park, and build up to the jumpier, smaller, wilder birds.
10-18-2018, 05:16 PM - 1 Like   #11
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Just had to give Tom a huge shoutout for his warbler shots. Can't get much better. As for birds, knowing their habits is key to getting close which is the thing that will improve your chances the most. I find that doing a Big Sit where the birds come to you rather than the other way around can be productive. Stay calm and quiet and they will be curious enough. Using a blind (hide) is another approach that works. - Jack
10-18-2018, 07:39 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Urs Quote
I almost always use single point in AF try to focus on the eye and then recompose (prefocus on the tree or whatever is close), AFC I only use with birds in flight with auto 5 or 9 focus points (depending on camera) pre focus on where you think they fly by and hope for the best the DA* is a bit slow for that anyway but with practice you get some results. Practice as much as you can it does not cost anything to hit the delete button afterwards.

Its important you be patient, watch the birds where they feed, study their behavior and try to get as close as possible without scaring them away.


Attached a few samples see exif at flicker
(ok these where taken with the K70 but guess those focus tips work with most cams)

K70 DA*300 plus X1.4


K70 DA*300 without the X1.4


K70 DA*300 without the X1.4




K70 DA*300 without the X1.4
So great pics~ thx!
10-18-2018, 07:41 PM - 1 Like   #13
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With the exception of trying to track something in flight, I do better with a single point AFS instead of AFC. And prefocusing is key too. Much more likely to nail a crisp shot if you're 99% there to start.
10-18-2018, 08:56 PM - 3 Likes   #14
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I've been experimenting with birds and birds in flight for awhile, both with my K-3 and K-1. It's definitely a practice makes perfect process. For birds not in flight, I will sometimes use a tripod with a gimbal attachment. For the most part for birding (hand held or tripod mounted), I use TAV with minimum shutter speed from 1/750 to 1/1000, and higher if light allows; aperture is set to the lens's sweet spot (F8 for my D-FA 150-450, or F13 when I use my F-300), and I let the ISO ride (the dynamic range on the K-1 is significantly better than the K-3, so I don't get a lot of noise if the light isn't great). I use center weighted average metering, AFC with Auto- 9 focus points, and continuous shooting high drive mode in 4 to 5 image bursts (the K-3 has a better frame rate than the K-1, so I can use a longer burst if needed). I also shut off every in camera adjustment and shoot in raw only in order to keep the AF fast. Lastly I use back button focus.


There's a great article that for shooting sports that translates very well to shooting wildlife.

Guide to Camera and Autofocus Settings for Shooting Sports - Articles and Tips | PentaxForums.com

Attached image was shot handheld at 1/3200, F8, ISO 800, focal length 450mm.

---------- Post added 10-18-18 at 09:29 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by tuggie76 Quote
K3ii, 300mm lens with 1.4 convertor
One other thought. Besides for the camera settings, depth of field is one other thing you need to think about. The longer the lens, the shorter the available depth of field. Add a teleconverter and the available depth of field gets reduced. For example, a 300mm lens on a K-3 at F16 and 10 feet from your subject will give you a depth of field of approximately 2-3/8" but add a 1.4x teleconverter and that DOF at F16 becomes 1-1/2". Go to F8, that DOF gets even more reduced. So it becomes trickier to get any or all of the bird in sharp focus.


When I first started chasing birds, I didn't really understand the relationship of lens length, distance to subject and how much DOF was or wasn't available. Often I'd get a soft bird and a really sharp branch because I was often pre focusing on a branch an not on the bird. Fortunately someone on the Forums explained this issue to me and I used the PhotoPills DOF calculator (they list Pentax bodies under camera types) to help me understand the relationship of all the factors. It was a bit of an eye opening lesson. It really helped me dial in my camera settings for my lens length and what my limitations where going to be.


One other interesting item of note - a full frame sensor will have a greater DOF than a crop sensor. In the above example, trading out the K-3 for the K-1 (and everything else being equal) the DOF increases from 2-3/8" to 3-1/2", and with the 1.4x TC the 1-1/2" increases to just over 2-3/8".
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10-18-2018, 10:08 PM   #15
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AFS, spot focus f8, 1/300+ and whatever iso you need to get that. .... practice & luck, the more you practice the more luck you have.
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