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08-04-2011, 08:11 PM   #1
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How to photograph subjects that are approaching?

I was hired to shoot pics at the SF Marathon for a company that wanted pics of their product in use. I was at the finish line and the athletes weren't moving very quickly towards me after they received their medals, but I still had a tough time getting them in focus consistently. I had two cameras, K-x and K-m. The K-m and the kit lens worked well at f8.

Using my K-x and 50mm F lens was a little more challenging. I tried different modes during the shoot but kept getting unsatisfying results. A lot of times people in the background would be in focus. I was using the AF-IF button for focusing (mode 2) and center focus point only and AF-C mode to enable quick adjustments.

I did manage to get dozens of good shots, but the whole time I felt like I could improve my technique for achieving quicker and more accurate focusing.

Any ideas?

08-04-2011, 08:26 PM   #2
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If you know where YOU are and where the ACTION is, it's pretty easy: prefocus. It's what I did when I only had a non-RF folder. Measure or guesstimate or pace-off the distance from the hot point to where I'd be. Set the focus to that distance; set the aperture for an acceptable DOF and shutter speed; wait for the action to reach the hot point. I still do that with my street shooting: pace-off the distance from a building corner to the lamppost I'll be leaning against, wait for folks to reach that corner, and shoot. Doesn't matter how slow or fast they are. I don't even need to have the camera at my eye. Just prefocus, point, wait, shoot. No hay problemo!
08-04-2011, 09:23 PM   #3
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I am not really surprised that you have some problems with runners. I have been shooting approaching objects, incl. waves and surfers. As RioRico pointed, pre-focus is the key.

In the case of really fast-approaching, I obtained my best shots with:
- a fast shutter speed (1/60 s or faster)
- manual focus, and
- Hi continuous shooting.

On the MF ring, I pre-focus the distance in advance. When the object approaches, I start shooting before the object is in focus and I gently follow (manually) the object with the focus ring. For that, I prefer to use MF lenses because the MF ring is much smoother, longer and more accurate. See also

Note that you do need to use a fast shutter speed. If you want to use a small aperture (eg f8), you will need some good sunlight or a fast lens.

I hope that the comment will help.
08-05-2011, 03:09 AM   #4
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I personally haven't shot in many situations where that has been an issue. I am also unsure if either of your cameras have catch-in-focus but I think you should give that a go, combined with manual focusing on a point leading the subject and high shutter, I would think you could get a few decent shots.

08-05-2011, 06:57 AM   #5
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Original Poster
Thanks for the tips. I own a couple of manual focusing lenses, but they just aren't quick enough for a busy photographer to get the shots he's being paid for.

I'm looking for more than a few decent shots. I want to be able to improve my autofocus technique.

I think that using hi speed shooting might help, but not if I can't get the right subject in focus.
08-05-2011, 08:58 AM   #6
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If you are getting paid, I would suggest trying a used Canon 1d mark iin and a 70-200f4. Both are a pretty good deal for action. Don't get hung up on the brand thing, use the right tool for the job.

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