Focus wildlife

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Timppa, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. Timppa

    Timppa No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hi!

    I have been active for a while now with wildlife photography, but for some reason I always have issues with my focusing....

    When the animal is not moving, I could get 7 out of 10 pictures good, but as soon when it moved, even just small movements, I get issues o-o
    when In action, I always feel its more of lucky shots, it is not consistent enough from my point of view.
    Also, with birds in flight, the bird could be very dark, despite doing a EV of +1 or even +2...
    Also when there is lots of trees in the way, my camera seems to take focus on the leaves before or after the animal, even tough I focus on the eyes of the animal.

    I think I tried almost everything,...
    5, 9, 51, 3D focus points, spot meting, center meting, changing the settings of center meting to smaller or bigger
    Also I go fast high in ISO to keep high speed, but sometimes I think I could take it at lower speed, but always worried to get blurry pictures ( and I have had many after testing...)
    I do know my D7100 lacks some speed and is not perfect for wildlife photography, but people did it for so many years already with worse gear, so It clearly is me who needs to get the blame, not the camera! (and for who would like to know, my lens is Nikon 200-500)

    What am I doing wrong? I have read so much, but cannot figure it out, I know, more practice! But still..
    Or could I ask you, wildlife photographers, What settings (on Nikon preferable) do you use for this?
    birds in flight
    birds still in trees/on rocks
    wildlife (like for example deer)
    ...
    I am mostly looking for what kind of focus tracking/points or tips/tricks

    Thanks!


     
  2. SCraig

    SCraig Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It's the "Almost" everything ...

    Single-point autofocus in continuous mode. Keep the focus point on the bird. Make sure you're using an aperture setting to give yourself plenty of depth of field, I never shoot birds in flight at less then f/8 and prefer f/11.

    I normally shoot in manual and meter something neutral (gray gravel, grass, something like that) beforehand to get a good exposure value. That way the expanse of sky doesn't affect the exposure.
     
  3. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper Furtographer Extraordinaire! Supporting Member

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    I shoot similar to SCraig.

    The only difference is I shoot auto ISO since almost no two shot will meter the same from sky to tree to shadows etc.
     
  4. Timppa

    Timppa No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This is good help for birds in flight, I always tried to keep the aperture as low as possible, so 5.6, I will try it at 8 to 11
    thanks!

    I took my camera by hand and got some more questions popping up

    I have a function saying: focus tracking with lock-on, I have this at 2, is this a good setting, or should I keep this setting off?

    I will try to use more single point instead of center measuring, specially for in flight. Do you think I should still use center measuring when the animal/bird is in the tree for example? and if yes, what is like a good value for the center measuring-field? currently my camera is set at Avg, but I can choose a value between 6 and 13mm

    I always use af-c mode ofcourse, but I have choice of value 5, d9, d21, d51 and 3D, should I keep this at 5? Or is this to low? It makes it faster, but maybe if the subjects goes a bit out of the focused area it loses the focus faster too?

    Any other things I should check in my options?

    I mostly use auto-ISO as well, but it goes high fast, and the D7100 is pretty bad above 1600 I find...
    Maybe I want to shoot at to high speeds? is 1/2000 to fast for BIF? how about moving subjects on land, like fighting, running, ... I try 1/1600 for this, and still objects with my 200-500 VR lens I could technically do at 1/500 right?

    woooh, tons of questions :p
     
  5. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper Furtographer Extraordinaire! Supporting Member

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    Hand held still subjects I will shoot down to 1/320th with stabilisation on. Running subject down to 1/500th. These are the lowest and only if required by lack of light. I'll also drop my aperture as well to it's lowest setting if I have to slow my shutter this much.

    BIF, large slow birds like eagles, seagulls etch anywhere between 1/500 to 1/1600, small quick birds 1/2000 and up. Small fast birds I tend to only try in better light as to shoot them in darker conditions is just an exercise in frustration.

    Experiment with how slow you can reliably shoot handheld. It differs for everyone but good technique and practice can make a 1/200th sec difference to your shots.
     
  6. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Most all AF systems CANNOT deal with anything between you and the subject. The AF will lock focus on whatever is between you and the subject, in this case the leaves. This is because the AF does not know what is the subject.
    If you have a clear view of the subject, AF, single point, center maybe able to focus on the subject.
    But if there are branches and leaves between you and where you want to focus on, AF likely will not work, and you will have to focus manually.
     
  7. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    regarding ISO level.
    You need to have the shutter speed high enough to capture the subject without subject blur, so you have to raise the ISO enough to do that.
    The option is a low ISO but a blurry subject.
    I do not see that you have an option.
     
  8. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You appear to be getting the AF configuration mixed up with the meter configuration.
    You need to keep focusing separate from metering or you will be confused. And address each separately, not at the same time.
    • AF
      • 5,9,51,3D
    • Metering
      • spot, center, adjusting the center weight size
      • Metering does NOT affect the AF.
    You need to make ONE change at a time, or you won't know what change worked and what did not work or made it worse.
    Then take notes about each change you make to the AF and the results.
    This will be a slow process, but you need to be methodical to figure out some of these issues.

    Birds in flight (BIF) can be VERY hard to do, because tracking a fast moving bird is HARD, even more so if it is not flying straight.
    With AF D9, you need to be able to hold and track the bird so that the 9 center AF points are on the bird. If you can't do that, the AF will fail.
    You may have to expand the AF zone to 21 or 51 when you shoot BIF.
    I suggest starting with the SLOW moving birds, until you can reliably get them, then step by step, move on to the faster moving birds.

    Here is a trick for you to try, to work on your tracking.
    • Go to a road, then walk back from the road, so that the cars are moving at about the same relative speed as the SLOW birds are flying.
      • The farther from the road you are, the slower the relative speed of the car.
      • As you get better, you move closer, so that the relative speed of the car increases.
    • Then track the cars with your camera+lens.
    This gives you practice tracking without having to go into the wild to do it. And cars are easier to practice on.
    All you are working on here is being able to track the car, and have the car in focus.
     
  9. Timppa

    Timppa No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Alright, so I have indeed been aiming to high in my speeds, many places on the web I read things about 1/1600 or faster, and I stuck this in my head, I kind of have kept using these settings, not thinking about changing.

    I know with lots of leaves it is very hard and sometimes I do manually focus, but even with less leaves, that I can focus straight on the subject, I sometimes have the issue, although less, I guess its my other settings that are wrong and causing this issue.

    yes, so true, I was kind of just complaining about the bad ISO capability of the D7100, I really want an upgrade! (but first an upgrade of my own skills...)

    THIS, this is so true :O

    Dear ac12,
    Thank you for making this so clear to me, I was indeed mixing these 2 up with each other.
    I know in the back of my head that the metering is for of course, measuring the brightness of the subject. But along the way, reading more about focusing and metering at the same time, I could not take them apart anymore and have been doing it wrong ever since...

    So, like I already knew before, the blame is with me, not the camera :)
    I will try out your car idea and practice :)

    I will try the following next;
    First I will practice to follow the subject faster
    I will also practice how slow I can go handheld my camera in speed (1/200, 1/320, ...)

    first settings for practicing, I will tweak this along the way I get better:
    I will put a U1 setting on my camera for wildlife/birds in rest, but fast enough for when they would have some kind of action (running, fighting)
    I will put a U2 setting for BIF

    U1 =
    center weight light measuring (Avg)
    AF-C with D9
    Aperture at 5.6 (highest possible with my lens)
    Shutterspeed at 1/640, to start with, with practice and learning about the movement of subject bringing it down later.
    ISO-auto with max sensitivity of ISO 2000
    I will put focus tracking with lock on at ´3 - Normal´
    EV at +0.3 (I always find my camera takes it pictures a bit dark)

    U2 =
    Spotmeting
    AF-C with D51 (again, lowering it later with more practice)
    Aperture at 11
    shutterspeed at 1/1600
    ISO-auto with max sensitivity of ISO 2000
    I will put focus tracking with lock on at ´3 - Normal´
    EV at +0.3

    I will exactly do so, the settings I gave above will be my ´start´ settings, and then step by step making it best for myself.


    Thank you all for the help! :)
     
  10. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    BTW are you handholding or shooting on a tripod with a gimbal head, or shooting on a monopod?
    The D7100 + 200-500 is a fairly heavy and bulky kit. You need good muscles to handle that, for more than a little while. My arms would be tired and shaking fast.
    I hand hold a 70-200, but anything much heavier I put on a monopod or tripod. But you do loose freedom of movement on a tripod.
     
  11. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I see a possible flaw in U2
    With spot metering, you need to put the metering spot on the bird.
    If the bird is in the top right quarter of the frame, were is the spot meter; on the bird in the top right, or in the center of the frame were the bird isn't ?
    I do not know, as I have not plotted the meter pattern on my camera, with an off center focus point. I suspect spot is in the center of the frame, and does not follow the AF, but I may be totally wrong. I would have to do a test plot to determine this.
     
  12. Lorrilia

    Lorrilia No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I also love shooting birds in flight. I have a Canon 1300d.I'm not a pro, for example. I shot this one. and the settings as follows.
    ISO 1000, Speed 1/1600 and F5.6, 55mm IMG_2282.JPG
     
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