Nikon Auto Focus Area Mode and Horsey horsey

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Mr Hamster, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. Mr Hamster

    Mr Hamster Guest

    I'm a bit of a novice so please bear with me! Have read the manual to my
    D90 a few times to get familiarised with what settings I may need to
    take some horse racing pics. Basically horses usually follow a
    predictable pattern when running (unlike some other wildlife/sports
    photography ) but I'm not sure if I need any of the focus modes which
    help if a subject moves from one part of the frame to the other
    regardless? One thing that has confused me is which AF mode I may need
    to use. I guess I'll need to use Continuous Servo rather than Single
    Servo for the AF-area mode. But then I can't work out if I need to use
    Dynamic, 3-D tracking or neither for the AF-mode. Am confused :-S

    As for the differences between Dynamic and 3D-tracking.. some resources
    on the net seem to suggest 3D tracking is for *stationery* subjects
    where you simply wish to recompose *not* track a moving subject. But
    then the Nikon site itself seems to contradict this by claiming it aids
    sports photography (nikon usa site).

    Can't I just select continuous servo mode and select single point and
    pan with the horse keeping the horse under the same selected AF point?
    Sorry if that's a silly suggestion.

    Opinions welcome! thanks!
    Mr Hamster, Feb 28, 2011
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  2. Short answer is yes.

    I have a D80 and recently a D7000. No 3D tracking on the D80 and the
    D7000 may be different from the D90.

    But anyway, this is my understanding. Continuous server mode focuses
    towards and away from you on the focus point (I think you can make it use
    a group of points but the idea is the same). 3D tracking will use colour
    of the subject compared to the background, and maybe other hints, and
    follow it across the plane left to right and up and down (and presumably
    forward and back as well).


    ( If replying by mail, please note that all "sardines" are canned.
    However, unless this a very old message, a "tuna" will swim right
    through. )
    Alan Clifford, Feb 28, 2011
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  3. Mr Hamster

    Mr Hamster Guest

    That was kinda how I interpreted what it said in the manual. Since the
    horse is not going to be moving all over the place (like , say, a
    football player). And is not suddenly going to disappear out of the
    focus point like , say, a bird flying away. So it seemed that Dynamic
    tracking and 3D tracking would both be pointless unless it was a low
    contract situation.
    Mr Hamster, Feb 28, 2011
  4. Mr Hamster

    Woody Guest

    More importantly are you intending to take pictures head on (ish)
    or whilst tracking as they pass? Also what lens will you be

    Here it is more about the art of taking a picture than of using
    the technology. If the horses are coming toward you, in terms of
    depth of field they will be moving relatively slowly, so
    get your position,
    focus manually on roughly the place you expect them to be for the
    adjust settings to give you the smallest aperture so you have a
    good depth of field consistent with the reciprocity rules for
    shutter speed
    set the camera to continuous shoot mode
    then, when the horses near your chosen position, hold the camera
    steady and press and keep pressed the shutter release until they
    have gone past.
    You will get at least one shot that is exactly what you want.
    Hint: shoot only in jpg mode - most cameras, Nikon included, have
    a fairly small continuous shoot capacity if RAW is being used. My
    D70s will do 20+ shots in jpg, but only 4 in RAW or RAW+jpg.

    If you intend to take a tracking shot, again focus manually on
    the centre of the tracking area, go for a good combination of
    aperture and speed, and press and hold the shutter as the horses
    pass and you track. Take care to keep your view what seems to be
    slightly ahead of the horses or you will find you have plenty of
    tails without heads - its easily done :))

    Reciprocity rules? The shutter speed should be the numeric
    equivalent or faster than the focal length of the lens, i.e. a
    200mm lens should be used at 1/200 sec or faster to avoid shake.
    VR is helpful but you will find doesn't work well with tracking.

    You can use continuous focus but you cannot be sure that the
    point that the focusing point is looking at at any given instant
    is what you want to take a shot of or something much farther
    away. Add to that that the light levels will change as the
    subjects pass and the camera will to re-meter and you will loose
    everything. Set the focus and exposure to manual and shoot
    through the target point and you will get a much better picture.
    Woody, Feb 28, 2011
  5. Mr Hamster

    Mr Hamster Guest

    Well I'd imagine sideways on, though a forward facing shot would be
    nice. It would just be easier to get into position for a side-on view
    on my local track. As for lenses, well that's simple as I only have two
    :) The kit lens , the Nikkor 18-105mm and the Tamron 70-300mm which I
    bought with sports/wildlife in mind. I kinda thought that the Tamron
    would be a better choice though I guess it focuses slower and doesn't
    have VR. If I can get closer to the action I guess the 18-105 would be a
    better choice?
    Being a bit of a geek I poured over the manual a few times learning each
    and every feature and what you use it for. It's just the way I'm wired
    :) Then I was going to see which settings I should punch in for this
    photo trip. I have been trying to look at other people's horse racing
    pics for some inspiration. My main concern at the moment is the
    technique for focusing on a moving object - something I've not really
    had to think about up until now. I've always used Single server with a
    selected auto-focus point or manual focus.
    How do you do this without some kind of landmark that you can focus on
    here? Like a post or some such? I can imagine just seeing an expanse of
    green turf and I'm not going to be able to focus on that.
    The problem is I'm going to need Shutter speed priority and I may not be
    able to select an aperture small enough. I know the VR lens gives you a
    couple extra stops?
    This is a good idea. I do currently shoot in raw though considering I've
    taken about 1000 pics so far and I'm only happy with 9 I'm thinking that
    for now I should switch back to JPG (high quality) otherwise I'm just
    wasting disk space. Or JPG + RAW and delete the RAW files for the ones
    I'm not happy with. Though if I shoot JPG + RAW I'm still, presumably,
    going to be limited to how many exposures I can fit in the D90's buffer
    when shooting in continuous release mode.
    I have already done this with motorbike racing. I have lots of pics of
    corners with no bikes!
    Worth bearing in mind. Which means the Tamron may be OK after all.
    Can you use Single server on a moving subject? Will the camera be able
    to focus on it fast enough? As you pointed out about depth of field, if
    it's sufficiently big and I can get a focus lock I should be in business.

    Thanks for your feedback
    Mr Hamster, Mar 1, 2011
  6. Woody <> was inspired to say

    [snips some good advice with which I agree]
    I would just comment that the above is a 'rule of thumb' - higher speeds
    are more likely to avoid shake, lower speeds more likely to cause it.
    You can't 'avoid it'!

    HOWEVER, when taking moving horses, shake is the least of your worries,
    as the legs at least are likely to be moving much faster. The real issue
    is do you want to freeze the horse action, or to pan and give the
    impression of movement by blurring the background and some of the
    horse's and rider's limbs? There, I'm afraid, only lots of practice and
    attempts at different shutter speeds will be your advisor!

    Just take lots and lots of shots, vary the settings and look at the
    results. You'll soon be the expert!!

    [Snips more good advice]

    Lastly, don't wait for the event, go to the nearest main road and
    practise on moving cars - even if they don't wave their arms about.
    (Preferably near a speed camera!! <g,d & r>)

    Michael J Davis

    All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.
    - Richard Avedon - 1984
    Michael J Davis, Mar 1, 2011
  7. Mr Hamster

    Mr Hamster Guest

    I read somewhere that the rule of thumb for shutter speed/focal length
    is just a mark of probability. Go slower and your likelihood of blur is
    higher than if you go faster. Though I'm not sure how VR factors into
    that, but as Woody said, VR may not factor into it at all if it has
    problems with panning.
    To be honest this is more about shutter speed and aperture. I don't mind
    playing around with these to acheive various artistic effects. My main
    problem is I don't know what focus mode to put my camera in, and how to
    actually focus on a moving horse. That is, I don't know much about
    focussing on a moving target - though at least with a horse it's
    following a predictable pattern. I kinda assumed I'd use Continuous
    Servo and pan. Maybe panning to achieve background blur but trying to
    keep the horse (and its legs) in focus. But I can play around.

    LOL. I did already think of doing this :)
    Mr Hamster, Mar 1, 2011
  8. Mr Hamster

    Woody Guest

    No, possible misunderstanding.

    Go fully manual. The camera will still tell you in the viewfinder in P mode what exposure to set, but going manual will remove the camera's decision making process (which is a relatively long period) from the equation. You then move the settings to compensate what you are trying to achieve. If the camera says use 125th sec at f5.6 then 250th at f4 or 60th at f8 are the same exposure. The faster shutter speed will freeze motion but depth of field will be poor; conversely the slower speed but smaller aperture will give greater depth of field at the expense of movement blur.

    As you suspect you can get yourself in position, chose the point where you want the horses to be when you take the picture and focus on something nearby - the rail posts are as good as anything. Then switch to manual focus and don't touch anything. When the horses are getting close to your focus point press and hold the button until they have gone past. Whatever you do resist the temptation to follow them, just stay steady pointing at one place.

    If you want to try panning, do the same thing. Read exposure on P at the point opposite you on the course, switch to manual and set shutter and aperture as the camera had advised. Again focus on the rail or a rail post opposite and then switch off the auto-focus. As the horses approach pan with them trying to keep slightly ahead and press the shutter as they go past.

    However you have a dilemma here. You will need to set a smallish aperture to make sure you get enough depth of field to take care of the whole field - which will mean a slow shutter speed and thus blur. You will have to practice but I would suggest setting the ASA to 800 or 1000 to give you the option of a small aperture and fast shutter. A sunny day also helps. The outcome may be a bit grainy but that just adds to the effect IMO.

    As they say practice makes perfect, but I guarantee you will get far better pictures in this application by NOT using the technology and learning a bit about plain old picture taking. VR/auto-focus/auto exposure have their place but I don't think it's here.
    Woody, Mar 1, 2011
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