Focus issues- wildlife shots

Peeb

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Shooting a nikon d5500 (with my 55-300 this AM)

This morning I've got the focus settings ready (I thought) for birds/wildlife:

Focus Mode: AF-S
AF Area Mode: Single-point AF
Metering: Spot metering

My goal was to have ONE focus spot dead center in the view finder that I could train on a subject, obtain focus lock, then compose and shoot.

SO... I see this cute squirrel. Let's practice on him while waiting for something more interesting to come along. He scurries along the ground until he is vignetted by some spruce branches but is clearly entirely visible without obstruction. The focusing point in the viewfinder is CLEARLY on the squirrel but the camera doggedly focuses on the branches again and again. I try several focus points all over the squirrel- always get branches.

OK, I need to TPF brain trust to help me figure out what I can re-set or learn so I can improve. Thanks!
 
Change to AF-C - Continuous Focus Mode
with the Single point
how was the lighting / aperture / shutter speed ?
 
camera needs something it can lock a focus on too. a tiny squirrel is tough. tree branch ez.
 
Change to AF-C - Continuous Focus Mode
with the Single point
how was the lighting / aperture / shutter speed ?
Thanks! Was shooting in M with shutter 1/1500 and aperture at f/8. ISO was on auto and was defaulting to just above/below 1000 each shot.
 
camera needs something it can lock a focus on too. a tiny squirrel is tough. tree branch ez.
Maybe lighting related? Branch was getting direct sunlight, squirrel was more shaded.
 
When I wanted to move to a longer focal length from my 80-200/2.8 I tried a 70-300 VR.
that lens had an issue with contrast detection for sports. It wanted to focus on anything but our lower contrast jerseys. The grass, the neat fence in the background, et all. It was like a random focus point generator was turned on. Drove me nuts .. just that lens. All other lenses I had were fine even a smaller focal length. Normally my sports shots are 80+% accurate. on that 70-300 it was under 20%. Tried different techniques, etc but nope ... sold the lens .. problem solved.

Though in this case your lens, after reading a bit, isn't really recommended for anything fast action.
but if the squirrel wasn't really moving then that's not really fast action.
I would think it's more of a contrast detection issue as you mentioned the branch nicely lit up and the squirrel not so much. Do you have and example image?
 
Thanks for that. It didn't exactly address my precise issue, but it was provocative and informative.

The article talks about how, if the focus point is above-below the horizontal plane of the lens, then physics demands that the actual in-focus plane which is perpendicular to the line between camera and subject will be BEHIND the subject every time. That sounds right, based on the well written article.

What I'm dealing with is that the camera refuses to ignore branches well in front of the subject- it refuses to focus where I have placed the solitary focusing block.
 
Here is an example where the camera DIDN'T focus on the branches, even tho the opening was incredibly tiny in this image.

90% of the time with a much bigger opening, it was all branch-focused. I didn't take those shots, so no examples.
MJK_4740_zpseo3wi2ju.jpg
 
Here is an example where the camera DIDN'T focus on the branches, even tho the opening was incredibly tiny in this image.

90% of the time with a much bigger opening, it was all branch-focused. I didn't take those shots, so no examples.
MJK_4740_zpseo3wi2ju.jpg
This is a prime example of where Focus Override is needed.
It's like me shooting through a soccer net ... focus override otherwise the camera focuses on the subject in 95% of the image.
 
Oh my...yes, definite time for human decision-making capability--that tree branch scenario is even worse than I had imagined. Seeing the photo above made the situation pretty clear. In many situations like that one, the closest subject, and one which also takes up a large percentage of the frame, will be determined to "be the subject".

Like astroNikon wrote:
"This is a prime example of where Focus Override is needed.
It's like me shooting through a soccer net ... focus override otherwise the camera focuses on the subject in 95% of the image.
"
 
BTW, here he is WITHOUT a tree in the way:
1. Something up?
2. Yeah, I'd best check it out.
3. Oh my, worse than I thought
4. I must fly!!
squirrel_DxO_zpsjo2euxrb.jpg
 
Here is an example where the camera DIDN'T focus on the branches, even tho the opening was incredibly tiny in this image.

90% of the time with a much bigger opening, it was all branch-focused. I didn't take those shots, so no examples.
MJK_4740_zpseo3wi2ju.jpg

this took manual, camera couldnt figure out what the hell i was looking at.


Hidden Fawn by The Braineack, on Flickr
 
Here is an example where the camera DIDN'T focus on the branches, even tho the opening was incredibly tiny in this image.

90% of the time with a much bigger opening, it was all branch-focused. I didn't take those shots, so no examples.
MJK_4740_zpseo3wi2ju.jpg

this took manual, camera couldnt figure out what the hell i was looking at.


Hidden Fawn by The Braineack, on Flickr
Hmmm, not sure what you're look at- there's a deer in the way. ;)
 
I was aiming for the squirrel.
 

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