Shooting flying birds -- how to set the focus? (Canon 40D)....

Discussion in 'Canon' started by Archibald, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. Archibald

    Archibald Guest

    I was shooting Cliff Swallows on the weekend, trying to get them in
    the air. Shooting 1600 ISO, Tv at 1/2000, sunlight (aperture was
    around f8-11), 300mm lens. Most of the time I was set at AI Servo AF
    and automatic focus point selection, but foreground birds that I
    managed to catch were usually out of focus. The 40D manual is not very
    clear about how the focus settings work and what to use when. Any

    Archibald, Jun 17, 2008
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  2. Archibald

    Shawn Hirn Guest

    Set the focus to infinity and try to use the something along the lines
    of f11 apeture at 1/125 second for shutter speed. Aim the camera's
    center point at the middle of the flock. This should give you a
    reasonable depth of field.
    Shawn Hirn, Jun 17, 2008
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  3. Archibald

    Archibald Guest

    For swallows, I need 1/2000 sec minimum to stop the birds' motion.

    I should add these birds were flying in and out of their clay nests,
    and sometimes hovering briefly before entering. There was usually
    background (nests, the wall that the nests were attached to) present
    (not just sky) and the autofocus was going for the background.

    Archibald, Jun 17, 2008
  4. Archibald

    Shawn Hirn Guest

    In that case, you give up a lot of depth of field due to the fast
    shutter speed. Chose a focal point where you expect the interesting
    point of the scene to be, then focus there. Depending on the
    capabilities of your camera, you might get away with auto focus if you
    can use one focal point and aim it exactly at the main point of interest.
    Shawn Hirn, Jun 17, 2008
  5. Archibald

    tomm42 Guest

    I was out on my kayak this weekend paddled under a bridge where
    swallows were zooming all around. I was trying to think how to focus
    and photograph these birds, they were coming close enough that my max
    focal length (210mm) would have come close, I must have been
    attracting a lot of bugs. Best way I could figure was predictive
    focus, and have the action come into your range. No way an autofocus
    system could have caught up, expect a lot of misses.

    tomm42, Jun 17, 2008
  6. Rather than set the focus at infinity, if your lens has 'depth of
    field' guidelines set it so that the outer edge of the DOF is at
    infinity. That is, set it at the hyperfocal distance for the aperture
    you will be using. You will get more available DOF that way.
    Don Stauffer in Minnesota, Jun 17, 2008
  7. Archibald

    Archibald Guest

    A couple of examples will clarify the issues...

    My question is, for this situation, what are the best settings for the

    Archibald, Jun 17, 2008
  8. Archibald

    Ron Recer Guest

    In the winters I take a lot of photos of gulls, pelicans, turns, osprey,
    etc. flying. On my 10D in bright sunlight I use the center AF point, ISO
    400, AI Servo and aperture priority with an F stop that gives me a shutter
    speed of at least 1/2000 second with a 100-400L lens with the IS turned off.
    The hard part is keeping the AF point on the bird. Sometimes you succeed,
    sometimes you don't.

    Good luck!

    Ron Recer, Jun 17, 2008
  9. Archibald

    Ray Paseur Guest

    A couple of examples will clarify the issues...
    I'm familiar with that sort of issue. Here is what I've done with similar
    problems in sports photography. It may just work for you since the
    swallows are going into and out of nests.

    Attach the cable release.
    Focus on a fixed point on the field, in your case, the nest.
    Switch off autofocus.
    Watch the action.
    Shoot away (continuous mode) as the action passes through the target area.

    With the 40D prefocused, you'll probably get the full 6+frames per second.
    If you're fortunate enough to have a sturdy tripod under the camera, you
    can watch the nest with the naked eye or with binoculars and fire the cable
    release when you see action.

    Good luck! Lookingo forward to seeing the pix. ~Ray
    Ray Paseur, Jun 17, 2008
  10. Archibald

    TRoss Guest

    Without going into the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow....

    You are trying to photograph a 6" bird that can hit speeds of 45mph.
    Your reaction time and the autofocus speed just can't keep up.

    I would set the camera on a tripod, focus on the closest nest colony,
    and use a small aperture to increase the DOF. A shutter speed of
    1/1250 should be fast enough to stop the motion, and it would give you
    more depth. I would also set the drive shoot in bursts.

    If the shooting distance is close enough and your flash supports
    high-speed sync, it might help to freeze the action or provide a
    little fill.

    TRoss, Jun 17, 2008
  11. Archibald

    Archibald Guest

    Thanks. I was using flash, my Metz 45CT-4 on manual full power, but
    the flash was not keeping up by far, and was barely close enough to
    make a difference. And it was not possible to get closer... short of
    building a scaffold.

    I will try the slower shutter speed... will help the DoF and may still
    stop the motion enough.

    Archibald, Jun 18, 2008
  12. Archibald

    Ray Paseur Guest

    Forgot to mention it, but if you're taking RAW files you will have more
    latitude to make up for underexposure, thus enabling you to keep a higher
    shutter speed.
    Ray Paseur, Jun 18, 2008
  13. Try to lower the aperture to f/5.6-8 and ISO 800.
    Try Center AF.

    Wolfgang Weisselberg, Jun 18, 2008
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