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10-29-2015, 03:54 AM   #1
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Manual focussing moving subjects

Take this as an example scenario, not what I'm exactly looking for, but to start with this will cover it:

# An animal moving around in an enclosure, randomly, so can't pre-focus.
# A zoom lens at around 100 - 150 mm - zooming as animal moves
# Around f5.6/ f8 is requiring say around 1/60 to 1/100 don't want to raise the ISO beyond 400
# Want to capture the eye(s) in sharp focus

Can't hand hold this scenario. So supporting and panning on a tripod. Manually focusing to try and capture the eye precisely. So far this works out, sometimes, but I'm finding I miss focus too often.

So the question(s). How faced with this scenario, using a zoom at around 100-150mm (framing as animal is moving) with this amount of light and wanting to keep quality at the highest possible, would you approach it ? Maybe, I'm close and just have to accept the many failures ...

# Just to add, I don't find manual focusing very accurate on my K-3. I tend to focus-bracket when I have the time. I have the dioptre adjusted so I can see the the focus area lines clearly, but I miss focus often. I use reading glasses to read, but not when I focus, relying on the dioptre adjustment to compensate. So maybe there's some pointers here ... ?

Thoughts, please...

10-29-2015, 05:04 AM   #2
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You did not mention SR. So, if you did not already considered SR, you could switch SR on in order to stop down to f11 or f16 while keeping the same ISO, so that the depth of field is increased in order to allow for manual focus inaccuracies.
10-29-2015, 05:17 AM   #3
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did you read the article here in PF about the catch in focus feature of the camera???
10-29-2015, 05:29 AM   #4
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A few questions:

What lens are you using?
What is the average distance to the target?
Can a flash be used in your situation?

I'm thinking of times I had to shoot equestrian events. I found a tripod/monopod is really more of a hindrance. I would forget the zooming and use a fast prime ( F,A,or M 135mm) in burst mode. The K-3 has plenty of pixels to crop later in PP.

I would really recommend shooting handheld in your situation. Leaning against a tree or post helps.

10-29-2015, 07:03 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
# An animal moving around in an enclosure, randomly, so can't pre-focus.

So the question(s). How faced with this scenario, using a zoom at around 100-150mm (framing as animal is moving) with this amount of light and wanting to keep quality at the highest possible, would you approach it ?

Thoughts, please...
Watching animals in enclosures carefully,
I've generally found that they don't move randomly, but tend to follow a pattern.

Since I'm normally using MF lenses,
I just prefocus on the spot in their path where the composition and lighting is best.
10-29-2015, 07:08 AM   #6
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biz-enginneer - SR is being used

cpo-buttons - CIF. I'd not thought about that. I get the impression this is especially useful when your subject arrives at a planned point in focus. I could be useful, but my subjects are probably too random. Worth considering it.

hamilton - I either use 50-135, or 100 mm prime. Flash, not really practical as it's outside and distance would typically be 10-15 metres away. Equestrian is one subject and farm stock in general. Trees are not always top hand ;-). I liked to keep as many pixels as I can, to allow a potential large print.
I take your point about the tripod. I've been experimenting with a ball and a three-way head to see what might be easily to track. I can just mange to hand hold at 100mm with various body contortions (eg
- a useful technique) to 1/80 or so, so it's possible.

Thanks so far for help.

I've attached an example from yesterday evening, if this might help - this was a slow moving subject, but it still caused problems as cattle's heads bob around a bit. I'm planning a project on the side of farm life in the South Downs, UK. This is first attempt to get the ball rolling.
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3  Photo 

Last edited by BarryE; 10-29-2015 at 07:38 AM.
10-29-2015, 07:21 AM   #7
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There's also auto-focus.
10-29-2015, 07:35 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
There's also auto-focus.
I tend to miss the eye with auto focus.

10-29-2015, 07:47 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
I tend to miss the eye with auto focus.
Why don't you zoom back a bit and keep the center auto focal point on the eyes. Then you can crop for composition. I have several 11" X 14" (28cm X 35.5cm) prints on my wall from my 6 MP DS. The 14+MP cameras most people have now leave plenty of room for cropping and still produce nice size prints.

Tim
10-29-2015, 07:56 AM   #10
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Stop down for greater depth of field, then zone-focus so you're not trying to frame and focus while panning.

Photographing wildlife is a challenge. What helps the most is honing your skills through practice.
10-29-2015, 08:00 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
# An animal moving around in an enclosure, randomly, so can't pre-focus.
Animals do not move randomly, even though it can be difficult to predict where they will go. But especially in enclosures, you can find a patter that an individual animal tends to follow. Or set up near the place where the food is. MF and CiF can work well, here. If you will be using fast lenses and manual focus, you might want to invest in a focusing screen or a viewfinder magnifier. The stock focusing screen and viewfinder on modern DSLRs are not optimized for MF. Of course, if you add these tools, you need to calibrate them correctly to your lens, camera and eyesight, or they can cause even more focusing problems.
Finally, you can try manual focus in live view with focus peaking and digital zoom. Focus peaking highlights the area that is in DoF, and digital zoom opens the aperture and magnifies the image to help you find critical focus. Its a good combination, you should try it. Just don't hold the camera far away from you with arms extended, as that can cause the arms to shake.
And to be sure, you can use something like burst mode and just take 10 photos in a row, deleting all that are OoF. This will greatly increase your chances of getting a photo with the animal's eyes in focus.

I would also say that, while keeping ISO under 400 is great, you shouldn't worry much about going slightly above. 800, 1600 can be perfectly manageable. And its better to get a photo that is slightly noisier, but has good focus and zero motion blur, than getting noise-free photos with all kinds of blur. If you shoot raw, you can play with the NR settings in the software or even get special plugins like Topaz Denoise (these tend to be better than the stock NR). If you shoot jpeg, you can change the in-camera settings.

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Can't hand hold this scenario. So supporting and panning on a tripod.
Ok, if you are using a tripod, you should NOT use SR. SR should be disabled for tripod photos, or it can introduce blur. Also, when using a tripod, it is important how you press the trigger button. If you push it hard, you can actually wobble the tripod. Other problems are vibrations caused by people walking by, poor placement of tripod legs, by equipment dangling off the tripod, by wind.. If you work on those and make sure the tripod is really stable, then you can get away with relatively low shutter speeds. The other factor is how quickly the animal is moving.

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
f5.6/ f8 is requiring
Using f8 is a good idea because it means a large DoF and high resolution. This can mask slight focus errors.
QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
I liked to keep as many pixels as I can, to allow a potential large print.
This is technically correct, but I have seen poster sized prints made with fairly old cameras with much lower resolution than what you have. I think you can get away with quite a bit of cropping, and that is not a bad idea. A wider photo will have more DoF and you can crop it to get the perfect composition, instead of frantically zooming to find the composition before the animal moves again. Keep in mind that zooming takes valuable time, and can cause vibrations, blurring the photo. Also, not all lenses are parfocal. Some will shift focus as you zoom, wasting even more time

And finally, don't worry about getting a lot of missed photos. Learn from them, and delete them. The main thing about being a pro photographer, is to only show your best work. Just like magicians or comedians - they don't put the failed acts on DVD.

Last edited by Na Horuk; 10-29-2015 at 08:10 AM.
10-29-2015, 08:02 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by atupdate Quote
Why don't you zoom back a bit and keep the center auto focal point on the eyes. Then you can crop for composition. I have several 11" X 14" (28cm X 35.5cm) prints on my wall from my 6 MP DS. The 14+MP cameras most people have now leave plenty of room for cropping and still produce nice size prints.

Tim
Hi Tim, true. I tend to do this too. I also, lock focus and recompose slightly, but then the focal planes tend to shift too much. Thus I thought I'd try the manual focus route.

This discussion is handy as it's throwing ideas into the mix... I've just tried the CIF - not especially useful for this subject, but it works nicely.

The McNally technique does work well for me on auto. I have to left eye view, but it is effective. Like most of us I have adopted/arrived at a version of his technique for auto use and a long lens, but it's less helpful for manual.

---------- Post added 10-29-15 at 03:07 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by AquaDome Quote
Stop down for greater depth of field, then zone-focus so you're not trying to frame and focus while panning.

Photographing wildlife is a challenge. What helps the most is honing your skills through practice.
Thanks AquaDome. Stopping down, means lower shutter speed or higher ISO, which in the case attached because of the weakevening sun was impractical. I also tend to like the shallow DOF.

Yup it's a challenge I agree. I've had to sacrifice quality for birds in flight with high ISO, but want to keep quality high, if I can for these shots.

Learning and learning more ...

---------- Post added 10-29-15 at 03:23 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Animals do not move randomly, even though it can be difficult to predict where they will go. But especially in enclosures, you can find a patter that an individual animal tends to follow. Or set up near the place where the food is. MF and CiF can work well, here. If you will be using fast lenses and manual focus, you might want to invest in a focusing screen or a viewfinder magnifier. The stock focusing screen and viewfinder on modern DSLRs are not optimized for MF. Of course, if you add these tools, you need to calibrate them correctly to your lens, camera and eyesight, or they can cause even more focusing problems.
Finally, you can try manual focus in live view with focus peaking and digital zoom. Focus peaking highlights the area that is in DoF, and digital zoom opens the aperture and magnifies the image to help you find critical focus. Its a good combination, you should try it. Just don't hold the camera far away from you with arms extended, as that can cause the arms to shake.
And to be sure, you can use something like burst mode and just take 10 photos in a row, deleting all that are OoF. This will greatly increase your chances of getting a photo with the animal's eyes in focus.

I would also say that, while keeping ISO under 400 is great, you shouldn't worry much about going slightly above. 800, 1600 can be perfectly manageable. And its better to get a photo that is slightly noisier, but has good focus and zero motion blur, than getting noise-free photos with all kinds of blur. If you shoot raw, you can play with the NR settings in the software or even get special plugins like Topaz Denoise (these tend to be better than the stock NR). If you shoot jpeg, you can change the in-camera settings.


Ok, if you are using a tripod, you should NOT use SR. SR should be disabled for tripod photos, or it can introduce blur. Also, when using a tripod, it is important how you press the trigger button. If you push it hard, you can actually wobble the tripod. Other problems are vibrations caused by people walking by, poor placement of tripod legs, by equipment dangling off the tripod, by wind.. If you work on those and make sure the tripod is really stable, then you can get away with relatively low shutter speeds. The other factor is how quickly the animal is moving.


Using f8 is a good idea because it means a large DoF and high resolution. This can mask slight focus errors.

This is technically correct, but I have seen poster sized prints made with fairly old cameras with much lower resolution than what you have. I think you can get away with quite a bit of cropping, and that is not a bad idea. A wider photo will have more DoF and you can crop it to get the perfect composition, instead of frantically zooming to find the composition before the animal moves again. Keep in mind that zooming takes valuable time, and can cause vibrations, blurring the photo. Also, not all lenses are parfocal. Some will shift focus as you zoom, wasting even more time

And finally, don't worry about getting a lot of missed photos. Learn from them, and delete them. The main thing about being a pro photographer, is to only show your best work. Just like magicians or comedians - they don't put the failed acts on DVD.
Thanks there's useful info here.

I'll look into the screens.

I'll experiment with the focus peaking idea. Never really looked at this option...

I was a bit loose with the SR comment. I sometimes remember to switch off SR with a tripod. As I usually use MUP, my default technique, for landscapes, SR is automatically off. I need to remember to set it off. I know I'll use the the last remaining User Setting when I've got this worked out.

I have heard SR causing blurring on tripods, but haven't experimented. How real is it ? I need to experiment here too ...

I've been experimenting today with this while this discussion has been going on. Your comment "Keep in mind that zooming takes valuable time, and can cause vibrations, blurring the photo. Also, not all lenses are parfocal. Some will shift focus as you zoom, wasting even more time", does nail one problem I was beginning to appreciate/suspect. Again helpful. Thanks


And thanks for all, there's some useful ideas coming out.
10-29-2015, 08:41 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Another vote for trying Live View with Focus Peaking.
10-29-2015, 09:08 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnmflores Quote
Another vote for trying Live View with Focus Peaking.
Yup, focus peaking could be handy. To be honest I've tended to shy away from LV when outside as the screen is often not too clear in bright daylight. This is, however, another useful tool.

---------- Post added 10-29-15 at 04:27 PM ----------

A question on Focus Peaking in LV ?

I've just tried it. Seems to work nicely enough, but is it supposed to reflect the DOF ? I ask, because I changed the aperture and used the DOF preview button, but I could not see much difference in the Peaking area being displayed.
10-29-2015, 11:41 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
# An animal moving around in an enclosure, randomly, so can't pre-focus.
# A zoom lens at around 100 - 150 mm - zooming as animal moves
# Around f5.6/ f8 is requiring say around 1/60 to 1/100 don't want to raise the ISO beyond 400
# Want to capture the eye(s) in sharp focus
I would suggest a contract with the Devil on this one. It is that last point that clinches the deal with the ruler of darkness.

The other option is to prefocus, wait, spray (max FPS), and pray (implicit contract with the ruler of the upper realms).*


Steve

* Sorry about the flippant comments regarding matters of religious significance. I, personally believe in a very real Devil and God, but the traditional reference to selling one's soul to get to accomplish the near impossible seemed appropriate in this case.
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