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08-01-2012, 05:14 AM   #1
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Mid air bird photo, how to focus

Hi

Today I came across a Osprey (Pandion haliaŽtus). Using one fucus point on a flying bird isn't easy.
If I miss the bird, my K5 first tries to focus on a cloud far behind. Then pulls all the way back to 4,6 ft on my
55-300 DA lens. And then back again... Sigh! So I decided to try out the 11 focus points setting. That seemed to do
the trick. No back and forth auto focus pulling trouble. I notised that the points lit up all around the bird but it looked o.k.
in the view finder. When I came home and had a look att my 254 pics, most of them where out of focus. I believe
that all out of focus ones are taken with a focus point beside the bird although it was right in the center of the frame.
Am I right? If so, how do you do it?

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08-01-2012, 05:20 AM   #2
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I shoot in manual focus, spot focusing, and mine are in focus, 85% of the time.



Red Tailed Hawk, handheld:
08-01-2012, 05:28 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by photolady Quote
I shoot in manual focus, spot focusing, and mine are in focus, 85% of the time.
That's bragging.

To get as good as Mar at this, you'll need lots of practice. The AF system isn't generally praised as one of Pentax's strong points (quite the opposite, unfortunately). But added to that are the problems inherent in shooting moving subjects, plus the narrow depth of field you get using long lenses at relatively large apertures. What camera settings were you using for that shot?

Edit: another thing you'll notice about many successful bird-in-flight (often abbreviated BIF around here) shots is that the bird is moving across the frame rather than toward it, i.e. the subject distance isn't changing, or at least not changing rapidly.

Last edited by baro-nite; 08-01-2012 at 05:31 AM. Reason: addendum
08-01-2012, 05:43 AM   #4
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it takes practice...i focus on the eyes and try to move with the bird and shoot with spot focusing...high shutter speed and aperature based on what i am trying to get (tav mode), oh an i use autofocus ...my eyes just don't seem to handle manual focus
MOVING TARGETS | Camera & Photography Forum - Camera-Enthusiast.com

08-01-2012, 06:00 AM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
To get as good as Mar at this, you'll need lots of practice.
Absolutely. Always remember the three P's in any area of photography...practice, practice, practice.

I also shoot all manual, and often use the focus confirmation to help, set for center spot. Auto focus keeps searching because it can't tell where you want to shoot, and what you're pointing at keeps moving. Larger birds like Hawks, your Osprey, Egrets, Herons, Eagles all are great for practice because they don't move as fast as smaller birds like Cardinals, Hummingbirds and Swallows.

The main thing that will help you is lots of practice. You might try the catch in focus option, but I haven't used it much so I know little about it. I have tried it a time or three and I know it works, but I'm not accustomed to it, and usually just take my chances with manual focus, and I constantly practice. Most of the time I can't take time to reset the camera for catch in focus, he's long gone...I delete far more than I keep, but I do get some keepers. Certainly not 85%, probably more like 30%...but I do get some nice shots.

Swallow not long ago, Vivitar 200mm at f8, 250 shutter speed so I didn't stop the wing motion. Handheld (always)



Green Heron, same lens, 1/750 stopped almost all motion except the wingtip. But I was already focused when it decided to fly...so i was already close.



Red Tailed Hawk, also at 750



This is what can be done, with a little practice. I shoot 99% hand held, especially with birds, By the time I get a tripod set up, he's long gone. I also usually try to keep the shutter speed up to 500 if possible, but I won't hesitate to shoot at 250 or even 180 if lighting won't let me shoot faster, and I rarely remember that I can push the ISO to 400 or 800 if I want, but I don't like noise so I usually stay at ISO 200.
08-01-2012, 12:07 PM   #6
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What were the other settings on your shots? (T, A, ISO, AF-mode)

A few thoughts: Even wide open the DOF should be about a 1m (assuming bird at about 20m). But the bird is easily able to move at about 10-20m/s so you could be OoF in milli-seconds. The multi-point AF system might work better on AF-C rather than AF-S with a moving bird. Might be worth trying both if time allows. But inherently if the DOF is wide enough you should hit it if the camera selected on the bird and updates quickly enough. You could also try MF and a short burst of images on Hi continuous shooting

From the purple fringe on the bird it looks like you shot wide open. Have you tried TAv mode to set A and T while floating the ISO. The K-5 auto ISO up to 3200 is very usable.
08-01-2012, 04:26 PM   #7
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If you have an airport nearby, I'd suggest spending time shooting planes in flight. They're kind of like birds, only bigger. That or maybe find a spot next to a busy highway and spend a day shooting traffic.

Basically you want somewhere where you can shoot fast moving objects on the fly (or wheel) to discover what works best for you.
08-01-2012, 05:48 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Affe Quote
Using one fucus point on a flying bird isn't easy
I only shoot center point when birding (all in flight) [xposted photos]:

Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Juvenile Bald Eagle


IMHO shooting "Manual Focus" for moving subjects is the way to go...


Last edited by joe.penn; 08-01-2012 at 06:59 PM.
08-03-2012, 12:12 AM   #9
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Hi Affe,

I'm not a great BIF shooter, but I do okay.

What I do is use Multipoint mode with all 11 points active with AF-C since I have a hard time keeping a bird in the VF, much less perfectly centered, and with all the points active, I have a better chance of one of them registering focus, even if I don't really keep up with the movement well. I always stop the lens down to get extra DOF, so even if there is a slight misfocus, the subject might still be captured well -- don't forget that your lens is wide open during focus, and if you stop down, you get a DOF advantage when the image is captured, so you're giving the AF system a hedge. With the K-5, I can use ISO 400-1600 even in direct sunlight to allow the use of small apertures and still get shutter speeds fast enough to freeze wing motion.

A good tip is to first gain a focus lock before you start a continuous series. If you start with faulty focus, you're unlikely to actually gain focus during the string. I activate the "beep" which allows me to use an audio cue to start shooting the string and allows me to pay more attention to acquiring the bird in the VF.

The closer the lens is to being in focus on your subject to start, the more likely you are to gain a quick initial focus lock, so a;ways start with the lens prefocused to close to the distance that you expect to be shooting. I usually just get an AF focus lock on a subject near my expected starting distance, then let off on the half press and wait for the bird to come into range. I usually use a point on the ground, or surface of the water. This should cut down on the lock to lock focus hunting you described, which is normally caused by starting AF acquisition with the focus too far off actual subject distance. If everything is blurry when you first try to gain a focus lock, you're making the AF system work too hard.

Another thing that I've discovered is that fast tele lenses aren't necessarily the ticket for BIF. I had originally thought that a fast lens lets in more light, so the AF system would have more to work with. I was surprised when my consumer grade 70-300 at 300mm smoked my uber expensive FA* 300 f2.8 in every respect for this purpose. Not only is the lens much lighter and much faster handling, focus was faster and more accurate since the f5.6 telezoom only had to refocus occasionally at it's smaller max aperture while the fast prime was constantly trying to make adjustments. Stopping down didn't make any difference since the lens focuses at max aperture. The big lens does work fine on a gimbal when the aperture is pre set using the aperture ring as long as there's enough light to drive the AF system with the lens stopped down though, but I've generally gotten better results with a more nimble lens mounted, shooting handheld.

Another trick that can work for faster flying birds at closer distances is to use a Red Dot sight mounted on the flash shoe, sight the bird with the Red Dot, activate AF, wait for the beep, and just shoot without the VF.

Good luck with your future BIF shooting. Hope this might help.

Scott
08-07-2012, 01:46 AM   #10
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Hi all...

Thank's for all your tips n' trix. It's not so often that we have a Osprey as a celebrity guest over the local park pond. Living in suburbia, Stockholm, Sweden, I'll follow Sagitta's suggestion. Planes and cars for practice.
baro-nite asked for exp. info. 1/1250 f. 5,8 @ ISO400.
08-07-2012, 03:25 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Affe Quote
baro-nite asked for exp. info. 1/1250 f. 5,8 @ ISO400.
Thanks -- 1/250 is on the slow side for a 300mm lens, especially for a subject that is moving. As someone who shoots quite a lot with a 400/5.6 (sometimes on a teleconverter, making an effective 560/8 or even 800/11), I'm well aware of the problems of using long, slow lenses. Even shooting wide open you need bright light to get a shutter speed appropriate to a long lens (and a moving subject; even when perched birds tend to move a lot). And you want to stop down a little to improve sharpness and CA, and now need even more light. So with that lens I mainly restrict myself to excellent light, and supplement it with flash when I can. Especially when shooting handheld.
08-09-2012, 11:25 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Affe Quote
....
baro-nite asked for exp. info. 1/1250 f. 5,8 @ ISO400.
I think baro-nite misread your post. 1/1250s is more than fast enough for 300mm FL. Perhaps even faster than necessary. IMHO, the main problem was the camera missing focus or the bird moving out of the focus zone. Give AF-C a try with 11-point.

And bump up the A to f/8-11. I find TAv mode with 1/500-1/750s and f/8 pre-set with floating ISO 100-3200 works well.
08-12-2012, 06:02 PM   #13
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AF-C and 5 point

As I practice more with my K-x I have more success. The first two are the same gull flying toward me and then away:





These two are laterally:





The gull was taken with my K-x and Sigma 50-150 and the pelican was taken with my K-x and 55-300 DA L. In both cases I used AF-C and 5 point focus. This setting has resulted in the most keepers. In fact the pelican was a series of about 14 pictures and they were all in focus, despite framing it at the last moment as it came in.
08-13-2012, 08:36 AM   #14
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Yes, it was 1/1250s.
So, KevinR., if I use AF-C with 11-points as suggested and get a focus point that's beside the bird, won't I get a focus on what's beside/behind then?
08-13-2012, 08:50 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Affe Quote
Yes, it was 1/1250s.
So, KevinR., if I use AF-C with 11-points as suggested and get a focus point that's beside the bird, won't I get a focus on what's beside/behind then?
Spray and pray!
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