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12-03-2012, 03:47 PM   #1
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Looking for suggestions/critique

I am a beginner and still learning to use my K-7 to its full ability (first DSLR). My hit ratio for good photos (i.e. in focus and sharp - not composition wise) is still fairly low.

So, I have attached two photos from a walk today. I typically shoot in aperture priority mode, fyi, My main question is - when I zoom in (particularly the owl in the attached pic), it is not as sharp or in focus as i would like in order to crop and get a 'closer' pic. Just as an FYI, it was a very foggy day with no sun, which may or may not have contributed to it?

Am I not exposing correctly? Settings in camera incorrect? Something with focus?

Any suggestions and/or critiques would be much appreciated. I understand this takes practice so I am willing to put in the time... I have read 'Understanding Exposure' and I feel I understand the relationship b/w aperture/shutter speed/ etc... just not how to make a good photo with my understanding yet, lol...

PS: first time uploading pics so hopefully I did it correct.

Thanks!
DK

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12-03-2012, 05:48 PM   #2
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The owl picture is difficult for autofocus due to all the branches and stuff in the frame. For that, I'd change the autofocus setting to "spot" and focus only on the owl. You could do the same for the squirrel. With animals, set the spot on the eye, lock focus and recompose if necessary.
12-03-2012, 06:11 PM   #3
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Good start

Unfortunately the human eye has an ability to isolate and focus on an object from the background clutter that no automatic camera can emulate. Centre focus will help but manual focus has to be the best solution for the owl. This can be sometimes difficult to achieve but with practice, you will get better. Getting closer to the object is also desirable but with birds, they are likely to see you and depart the scene.

Keep us posted on your progress.
12-03-2012, 06:14 PM   #4
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I was taught a very long time ago "aim small, miss small". What it means is don't focus on the owl, focus on the owl's eye. Use spot focus and proper holding technique. Just putting the camera to your eye and snapping doesn't cut it. Learn proper holding and proper breathing techniques, just like holding a rifle.

Shutter speed on the first one (squirrel) shows as 1/25sec with a 135mm lens. Hand held with that lens you should never be slower than 1/125 and probably better at 1/250sec. No way you can hand hold 135mm at that speed, well I can't anyway. Rule of thumb is at least 1x focal length for speed with 2x better if you can. Also, the squirrel might well have moved a bit, at 1/25sec even on a tripod you are liable to get motion blur from the subject moving.

The owl picture is hard to focus with all the branches in front. If you are using AF that is a real challenge in this case and manual focus is not easy either with all the stuff in the way, grey background, low contrast. EXIF says 1/100sec, so the speed is closer to what you need but still too low unless you are superman.

12-03-2012, 07:50 PM   #5
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Congratulate yourself on your awesome handholding ability. Seriously, if you can do that squirrel shot more than 20% of the time, that's great. That skill will come in handy. For wildlife, it's not as useful. You might be perfect but the animals move, or branches move in the wind. Subject or camera motion will kill sharpness right away, so it's best to avoid that possibility.

You might try TAv mode next time for stuff that might move. It will allow you to set aperture and shutter speed and the camera comes up with an ISO to match. The advantage with TAv is you can have a reasonable aperture and shutter speed set in advance, ready to shoot if something happens. You can still change aperture if you need to. The ISO automatically backs you up. You might get home and find some shots ended up at too high an ISO - the K-7 is not that great here. Then you can change the upper ISO limit on the camera and try again.
12-03-2012, 08:29 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the replies. Good advice that I will try to take to the field.

It sounds as if spot focusing would have worked better in those situations. I will definitely try that out. A longer reach on my lens would probably have helped on the owl as well due to all of the distracting elements around it. I only have the 18-135mm lens in my arsenal at the moment though...

jatrax - thanks for enlightening me on the shutter speed/focal length Rule of Thumb. I will definitely put that to use.

Just1moredave - thanks for the encouragement. I did not anticipate shooting animals today as I actually live downtown Milwaukee and did not expect to see an owl near the city... Did not bring the tripod with today! The squirrel was just for practice, lol. I will give Tav a shot for sure!

Thanks again! This was exactly what I was looking for. Any more suggestions are welcome!

DK
12-04-2012, 05:29 AM   #7
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Wildlife and tripods don't mix. I tried long ago, gave that up in a hurry. By the time I get it set up, he's long gone...have it alreayd set up, trying to move it to get a bird or squirrel in the frame is very difficult, a bird flying by or squirrel running along a limb is impossible.

As Jatrax said, keep the shutter speed up. A longer lens wold help a lot. A prime would help even more. Better image quality every time. I put my zooms up 2 years ago, haven't touched them since.

Move slow, sit in one place and watch for a while. When you see a bird or squirrel, or other animal, get it in the viewfinder, get decent focus so you can follow it and wait for a good shot. Sometimes it never happens. Expect a 10% success rate. Practice as much as you can.

Auto focus may work ok on the squirrel shot, on the owl I agree that manual is the way to go. I shoot all manual anyway, I've been doing it 30 years though and I'm very comfortable with manual. I also like older lenses for the slower focus rings. The new ones I've tried focus too fast, too easy to pass the focus by and have to come back. I tend to focus in front of the subject and move the focus out toward it until it comes into focus. I started years ago by trying to get close then use the back and forth method, trying to pick the middle spot, didn't work as well as starting in front and moving the focus out does.

Keep at it, these are not bad at all for being unaccustomed to this type of shooting. Focus is off, but you get better at that with practice. I don't see motion blur in the squirrel shot, if you look at the twig just behind him it looks like it's very close to in focus, so you hit the focus just behind him. Not a bad effort at all, as i said it gets better with practice. I think I do see motion blur in the owl shot but not positive. Can't really tell where that one focused but it looks like slightly in front of the owl.

I would think the main thing you need to watch is shutter speed. With a 135mm don't let it get under 1/125, I prefer 1/180 or better. I can shoot as low as 1/60 with my 135mm, but I seem to be able to hold it pretty steady for an old fart and I have years of practice...even though I can shoot slower, I always try to keep that shutter speed up as fast as possible to avoid photographer shake. Try to keep your arm under the lens, not out to the side. Take a full breath, let half out and try to relax. If you hold the camera up for more than about 30 seconds, you're going to start shaking. Especially with a heavy lens. Squeeze your entire hand, not just the finger that pushes the shutter button. I find putting my first knuckle over the button works better that the finger tip. Try not to "jerk shoot, do a smooth squeeze if possible. I get camera shake if I jerk it suddenly most of the time.

Main thing is remember the 3 P's...


Practice,


Practice,


Practice.
12-04-2012, 10:00 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Paleo Pete Quote
Wildlife and tripods don't mix. I tried long ago, gave that up in a hurry. By the time I get it set up, he's long gone...have it alreayd set up, trying to move it to get a bird or squirrel in the frame is very difficult, a bird flying by or squirrel running along a limb is impossible.

As Jatrax said, keep the shutter speed up. A longer lens wold help a lot. A prime would help even more. Better image quality every time. I put my zooms up 2 years ago, haven't touched them since.

Move slow, sit in one place and watch for a while. When you see a bird or squirrel, or other animal, get it in the viewfinder, get decent focus so you can follow it and wait for a good shot. Sometimes it never happens. Expect a 10% success rate. Practice as much as you can.

Auto focus may work ok on the squirrel shot, on the owl I agree that manual is the way to go. I shoot all manual anyway, I've been doing it 30 years though and I'm very comfortable with manual. I also like older lenses for the slower focus rings. The new ones I've tried focus too fast, too easy to pass the focus by and have to come back. I tend to focus in front of the subject and move the focus out toward it until it comes into focus. I started years ago by trying to get close then use the back and forth method, trying to pick the middle spot, didn't work as well as starting in front and moving the focus out does.

Keep at it, these are not bad at all for being unaccustomed to this type of shooting. Focus is off, but you get better at that with practice. I don't see motion blur in the squirrel shot, if you look at the twig just behind him it looks like it's very close to in focus, so you hit the focus just behind him. Not a bad effort at all, as i said it gets better with practice. I think I do see motion blur in the owl shot but not positive. Can't really tell where that one focused but it looks like slightly in front of the owl.

I would think the main thing you need to watch is shutter speed. With a 135mm don't let it get under 1/125, I prefer 1/180 or better. I can shoot as low as 1/60 with my 135mm, but I seem to be able to hold it pretty steady for an old fart and I have years of practice...even though I can shoot slower, I always try to keep that shutter speed up as fast as possible to avoid photographer shake. Try to keep your arm under the lens, not out to the side. Take a full breath, let half out and try to relax. If you hold the camera up for more than about 30 seconds, you're going to start shaking. Especially with a heavy lens. Squeeze your entire hand, not just the finger that pushes the shutter button. I find putting my first knuckle over the button works better that the finger tip. Try not to "jerk shoot, do a smooth squeeze if possible. I get camera shake if I jerk it suddenly most of the time.

Main thing is remember the 3 P's...


Practice,


Practice,


Practice.
Thanks for the advice Paleo Pete. I haven't attempted manual focusing much yet as I have been too worried about getting exposure settings correct. I guess if it's out of focus exposure settings don't really matter much...

I will certainly put this advice to practice.

Thanks again

12-08-2012, 07:54 PM   #9
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My general settings for shooting wildlife are to use spot metering. I auto focus because my eyesight for focusing sucks. (I miss the younger years when I could get manual focus dead on) I set both right smack in the middle spot. ISO is either 400 or 800 depending. I like using shutter priority rather than aperture. I want to stop movement rather than control DOF. I never let the camera control ISO. And truthfully I rather use full on manual for everything.

One other thing. In your experimentation don't make more than one change at a time. Example. Change your shutter speed. Doesn't work set it back and change another setting. Always have a baseline you can go back to. That's one of the first things I have to correct in most of the beginners that want me to teach them.
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