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D90 Focus type for action shots? #24153
07/14/09 11:07 AM
07/14/09 11:07 AM
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rabhobbes Offline OP
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rabhobbes  Offline OP
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Hi All,
I am trying to do more outside dog shots...playing, running, etc.
I did a practice shoot with my dog and husband the other day (around 6:45-7:15 in pm).
My problem is I am not sure which focus type to use for such shots...single point, 3d tracking, etc??

I was shooting shutter priority or manual for the most part, a few in full auto to see what would work. I was switching between center focus and auto, 3d to see if any difference would show up...I can't tell what works best!

Most of the action was not quite frozen, but the main problem was alot of them were just nowhere near in focus...anywhere! I was using my new D90 with 18-105 lens, is the problem due to the 5.6 max opening?
I am going out this evening again to shoot at a dog park, what tips can you give so I can try again. Basically, in lower light outdoor situations what are you all using?

1. Nothing's totally in focus.
(f 7.1 1/250 iso200)


2.(f5, 1/500, iso 400) Same here, or is this blur?



3.(f 5.6, 1/100, iso 1600)No reason this would not be tack sharp...so what happened???



4. (f6.3 , 1/200 , iso 200) This one is good, but did I just get lucky? It was shot about the same as the other bad ones...


Rebecca Brittain

www.rebeccabrittain.com
Re: D90 Focus type for action shots? [Re: rabhobbes] #24154
07/14/09 12:06 PM
07/14/09 12:06 PM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline
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Jim Poor  Offline
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
3D tracking is OK for times when there is no chance the sensor will get confused. Birds in flight in a clear blue sky comes to mind. Dogs in action won't come out well well with 3D tracking in any sort of numbers that could be considered reliable.

Even at f5.6 or f8, you don't have a full dog's worth of Depth of Field at the distances you seem to be shooting so you have to get your focus point on the area you want critically sharp (the eyes in most cases). This means not always using the center focus point.

1. 1/250 is too slow for this and it looks as though the focus is on the dog's abdomen.

For photo #1, you should be using one of the focus points up at the area of the frame where the dogs eyes are. Using the center focus point puts your focus on the fur right about in the center of the dog's abdomen and if you look, that area is pretty sharp.

2. Looks like the focus point is well behind the subject. The light pole back there is pretty sharp. I'm guessing your focus point was probably positioned right above the dog's head at the time of shutter release. You can check this in several different programs that will show the focus point on an overlay of the photo.

3. I think you just missed. Looks like the focus in on the nose rather than the eyes to me, and at f 5.6 you don't have enough depth of field to focus on the nose and still get the eyes in focus. Depending on your focal length here, 1/100 is to slow in terms of camera shake.


4. Looks pretty good, but with 1/200, I'm thinking you got a lucky click during a pause in the action, even if only for an instant as the dog switched from shaking one way to shaking another.

Re: D90 Focus type for action shots? [Re: rabhobbes] #24155
07/14/09 04:33 PM
07/14/09 04:33 PM
Joined: Jul 2009
Connecticut
Sunstruck Offline
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Sunstruck  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2009
Connecticut
You want to change your focus to AF-C , page 54 of your manual tells you how. You can also switch to the Sports mode. Shutter priority in action shots is better than Aperture priority. You may get less DOF, but you will get nice action shots.

#2 looks like it was shot before the focus locked on.
#3, was it really dark enough for ISO 1600?

Good luck!

Pj


Penny J. Wills
[color:"#08c3c5"]www.pennyjwillsphotography.com[/color]
Re: D90 Focus type for action shots? [Re: rabhobbes] #24156
07/15/09 12:45 PM
07/15/09 12:45 PM
Joined: Feb 2006
Donner Summit, CA
glamson Offline
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glamson  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2006
Donner Summit, CA
Quote:

Hi All,
I am trying to do more outside dog shots...playing, running, etc.
I did a practice shoot with my dog and husband the other day (around 6:45-7:15 in pm).
My problem is I am not sure which focus type to use for such shots...single point, 3d tracking, etc??

I was shooting shutter priority or manual for the most part, a few in full auto to see what would work. I was switching between center focus and auto, 3d to see if any difference would show up...I can't tell what works best!

Most of the action was not quite frozen, but the main problem was alot of them were just nowhere near in focus...anywhere! I was using my new D90 with 18-105 lens, is the problem due to the 5.6 max opening?
I am going out this evening again to shoot at a dog park, what tips can you give so I can try again. Basically, in lower light outdoor situations what are you all using?





Rebecca,

It's always a challenge using a "still" camera to shoot action. Today the AF and metering systems in most DSLRs are pretty sophisticated and allows for pretty good action shooting. However there are still some basic rules that apply.

Shutter speed is probably the most basic requirement. To really freeze action I think 1/500 is the minimum. Sure you will occasionally catch the action just right at lower speeds, but as you point out it is usually due to luck. I try to shoot really active scenes at a minimum of 1/1000. The consequence of shooting at such high shutter speeds is the requirement for pretty good light and/or using high ISO. Shooting action is tough enough, but shooting action in low light is a double whammy. This is where the advantages of the higher end cameras are required.

The D90 uses the older CAM1000 AF system which is a very good system in good light, but has some real problems in low light. The more sophisticated CAM3500 system that is used in Nikon's high end cameras like the D3 and D300 is much better at nailing focus in low light situations. I use a D200 (CAM1000) and a D300 (CAM3500) and I can tell you that in low light the D300 outperforms the D200 every time. That's part of what you pay for when you spend the extra money for the higher end cameras.

Having said all that there are some things to do to optimize action shooting using the CAM1000 system. As already mentioned, keep the shutter speed high. There are two parts to getting and keeping focus. First the system has to acquire focus and then it must track. I'm not familiar with the details of the D90 system, but there must be a dynamic mode that is used with AFC focusing. It sounds like you have played around with some of these. I agree with Jim that 3D usually works well only for isolated subjects so I probably wouldn't use that. In any event, with respect to acquisition and tracking, it is best to put the focus square on the subject and let the camera acquire focus and then follow the subject and allow the system to track. Then I recommend shooting at the highest frame rate in burst of 2 or 3 and try to keep the focus point on the subject. There is a learning curve here and with practice the number of infocus shots will increase as the technique improves. With Nikon DSLRs there are a number of other fine points concering shutter release mode and lockon timing that you can Google about if you really want to, but I think these are the main points I would try first.

Hope this helps.

Geo

Re: D90 Focus type for action shots? [Re: glamson] #24157
07/16/09 12:11 PM
07/16/09 12:11 PM
Joined: May 2009
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rabhobbes Offline OP
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rabhobbes  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2009
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Thanks everyone for all the info and pointers!
I went to the dog park and practiced some more, got some better stuff. (the shots are linked in my newest blog post)

Not used to "not getting the shot" as I do most of my stuff in the studio and/or with flash, so this is frustrating!
Thanks again.
Rebecca


Rebecca Brittain

www.rebeccabrittain.com
Website design... [Re: rabhobbes] #24158
07/16/09 02:40 PM
07/16/09 02:40 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Kansas
psmith Offline
Pooh-Bah
psmith  Offline
Pooh-Bah

Joined: Nov 2008
Kansas
Hi Rebecca,

Not to hijack your thread, but what am I looking at on your web site. Is it a customized Smugmug pro page? Or is it your site with Smugmug embedded? Or....?

I like it (although I wish I could do a slideshow thru the dog park photos).

Re: Website design... [Re: psmith] #24159
07/16/09 04:03 PM
07/16/09 04:03 PM
Joined: May 2009
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rabhobbes Offline OP
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rabhobbes  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2009
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Hi,
It's actually both...the blog is embedded in one of my smugmug galleries (pro account) and the rest of my site are all (somewhat) customized pro pages.
I just have the dog park page set to a certain look. I will go change it to a slideshow! Takes 2 secs.
Actually it's good to get feedback like that on how people like to view things...I have things all set differently depending on how I think they should be...


Rebecca Brittain

www.rebeccabrittain.com

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