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Old Oct 10, 2009, 11:21 AM   #11
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I admire and respect your ability to capture such stunning photos.

I do, however, believe that auto-focus will allow many people to get stunning photos also, when manual focus is out of the question. As for the ability to shoot through foreground obstacles, auto-focus can achieve great results – if one is careful – an in a fraction of the time.

These are not as stunning as your examples. The focus may not even be as sharp. But they are an example of the ability of a good auto-focus system to lock onto and keep on the subject of the image in the middle of clutter. Thanks for a great discussion,


Garry
If you read my first post, I started out using AF, and as I said, half my pictures did not come out, meaning that half did. Well for one thing, in thick brush, you turn off continious focus. You pray that your subject doesn't move, and all things being well, you get the shot.

In other words, AF is a handicap, and not a virtue. Your subject is not interested in waiting around while the AF seeks...

I like to take a series of shots of the subject as they hop around inside a tree or a bush...

Here's a series of a Common Yellowthroat, searching for the source of the damned "clang" as my shutter goes off. This would simply not be possible with AF, unless you were having an extemely lucky day. Each shot is two or three feet from the next. Might have gotten one of the shots, but not the six I actually took










Or this series of seven shots, of a Towhee, also searching for the clang





These birds hop, the AF locks onto a near by branch, and you have to reorient and recompose.

Mind you, obviously I'm not saying it's impossible to take such shots with AF - And it does take WORK to learn how to use manual focus.

Ahh, sorry, missed this remark

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when manual focus is out of the question
Manual focus is Never out of the question. I've never been in a situation where I couldn't use manual focus. What is true is that it takes more time to learn it.

Sheesh, missed this remark as well...

Quote:
if one is careful – an in a fraction of the time.
I am not aware that manual focus takes much time at all. Certainly if a person has never done it, yeah, sure - it's going to take time. But shoot six months on manual, and you wont even notice the time, in fact, it's not a serious factor at all.


Dave

Last edited by Chato; Oct 10, 2009 at 1:03 PM. Reason: another addendum
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 12:31 PM   #12
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So far, I've given examples of shooting in heavy brush. Now my favorite spot consists of three environements: Open beach, Thick woods and brush, and and a fantastic marsh covered in eel grass. One of the best series of pictures I've ever shot was taken of a mother and baby Clapper Rail. The series consisted of a dozen shots. The middle shots of this series would have given AF no problem at all. Here's a shot from the middle part of the series.



But what about the beginning of the series?



How could I pick out Mom and not the kid, or vice versa? Indeed, AF would have a hard time with the eel grass as it is.

And then there was the end of the series. How well would AF work in this situation as shown by these two photographs?







To sum up here, basically on this occasion I was shooting in an open environment, an environment where AF shouldn't have to many problems. But an unanticipated opportunity occurred. Why should I handicap myself by waiting for AF to "seek" and avoid objects before or after my subjects? No doubt this could be overcome - How much time would this take? And this opportunitiy was over 15 seconds later.

Dave

Last edited by Chato; Oct 10, 2009 at 12:34 PM. Reason: correction
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 3:02 PM   #13
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“In other words, AF is a handicap, and not a virtue. Your subject is not interested in waiting around while the AF seeks...

I like to take a series of shots of the subject as they hop around inside a tree or a bush...”


My shots are from a series, as they hop through the clutter. Over three quarters of those shots were correctly focused. When set to continuous / dynamic focus, the “3-D color matrix” system in my D90 locks on the subject under the main focus sensor as it moves, rejecting clutter that passes in front of and behind, even if the subject moves away from the main sensor.

You make a good point, that manual focus can achieve photos that auto-focus may not. But with the newer cameras, that is not like it use to be.

Garry
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 3:32 PM   #14
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When set to continuous / dynamic focus, the “3-D color matrix” system in my D90 locks on the subject under the main focus sensor as it moves, rejecting clutter that passes in front of and behind, even if the subject moves away from the main sensor.

Garry
I question the statement that the newer cameras have better AF than my Nikon D1x and D2x. I know of no such improvements.

Nor do I doubt that it is "possible" to take a good picture with AF, even in the midst of clutter. My stating that in these situations AF is a handicap, is not to say that it can't be done.

But no offense, your image is "soft." A very nice shot, but soft.

In your statement, you're confusing the program which sets light and speed, with the program which uses the focus point. That point can be adjusted, and even adjusted on the fly. I can set it for left, right, up, down and center. A skilled photographer can keep their target in this focus point. But the camera will "seek" if you totally lose the target.

Here's an example where AF would simply fail. And this is because the subject was actually flying through the eel grass.




Or in this example where it was possible for the AF to lock onto the wrong subject.



Mind you, none of my remarks are aimed at putting down the wonders of AF. For my street photography, I use AF for 90 percent of the shots. But here were are talking about a different form of photography. Where you have a long lens, with the best will in the world the subject may leave the focus point, and the lens will seek. This is something I am trying to emphasize. It's difficult with a long lens to keep the subject in the focus point. Not a problem with MF, because it's the human doing the seeking, it is a problem with AF, because despite what you said, depending on the circumstance, AF will from time to time leave me saying, "What the hell," and then trying to frantically recompose my image. I can even recall using stronger language...

Here's an example which is a touch soft. But I simply didn't have the time to react, and since this bird was flying through heavy brush, I doubt if I would have captured anything with AF.




So, once again let me sum up what I'm saying. Using AF for long lens wildlife photography is to operate under a handicap. Not to say it can't be done. Nor am I saying that AF is always a handicap. Which is to say, if you Know that all your shooting will be taking place in open areas - Who cares? AF is fine. But wildlife photography, unless you're going to such a place, or a zoo, consists of fleeting opportunities.

Dave
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 7:18 PM   #15
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Agreed, that shot only shows a D80 or 90 with a "G" lens can auto-focus through clutter on the move (it is a 100% crop @ 1080X810).

You do a great job of motivating me to use manual focus, which I will take advantage of.

A new D5000 thru D3x with the 3-D focus tracking and Scene Recognition System (sorry, not Matrix Metering), will auto-focus (and track outside the sensors) better than most people realize - again, with a CPU type lens.

I hope I have not dismissed this excellent discussion. I just wanted to say auto-focus does work well for me in these conditions. Thanks for the great explanation and examples,

Garry
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 9:06 PM   #16
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Agreed, that shot only shows a D80 or 90 with a "G" lens can auto-focus through clutter on the move (it is a 100% crop @ 1080X810).

You do a great job of motivating me to use manual focus, which I will take advantage of.

A new D5000 thru D3x with the 3-D focus tracking and Scene Recognition System (sorry, not Matrix Metering), will auto-focus (and track outside the sensors) better than most people realize - again, with a CPU type lens.

I hope I have not dismissed this excellent discussion. I just wanted to say auto-focus does work well for me in these conditions. Thanks for the great explanation and examples,

Garry
100 percent crop? As I said before, good shot.

Once again, no offense, but there have been no qualitative advances in AF for a number of years, although the propaganda keeps on moving forward dramatically...

I AM Impressed by what AF achieves. Remarkable. But hey, if it could do what the propaganda claims, no ones image would be soft.

I was motivated to start this thread because I was privately e-mailed that many people give poor advive over the net, and to recomend that people shoot MF for wildlife photography, was poor advice. This curtious person cited a series I did of a Canada Goose, still on the wildlife forum, to make his point that my shots were good, but lacking in quality.

However, I am so confident in my ability that I often post less than perfect shots, simply because even a decent series of shots can tell an interesting story.

Now 100 percent crops fall into the catagory of "pixel peeping." No one looks at a printed image with a magnifying glass. I sell 16x20 prints of my photographs, and the proper viewing distance is three feet or more.

Even so, here are two 100 percent crops of much smaller birds than a Great Blue, and both shots would have been far more difficult to take with AF as opposed to MF. Both shots are are about as good as you can get with my lens.

First a Willet...



And here's a Salt Marsh Sparrow, deep in the eel grass.




Dave
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Old Oct 11, 2009, 10:41 PM   #17
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I almost never post 100 percent crops. I don't do it because it's meaningless (at least to me). An image with a bit of noise will print flawlessly.

So I just tossed up some quick crops from what I have on my hard drive. But here are some 100 percent crops from some stored images...













Shooting as I do at ISO 800, my images always have a bit of noise. These are better than my run of the mill shots, but they certainly should put to rest any idea that you can't close focus manually...

Dave
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Old Oct 12, 2009, 6:55 PM   #18
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Dave,

I wanted to say you've got some great images here. I doubted the veracity of your technique, but based on these photos it obviously is working well for you. I'm still not convinced MF is better for larger targets and not for flight shots but I certainly can't say it doesn't work. For my part I'll stick with AF for the larger birds when I do shoot. It's been working for me with the little I do of birding. But hats off to you on some excellent shots! Please accept my public apology for calling you out. I can see you do indeed know what you're talking about with wildlife photography! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Oct 12, 2009, 7:16 PM   #19
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Dave,

I wanted to say you've got some great images here. I doubted the veracity of your technique, but based on these photos it obviously is working well for you. I'm still not convinced MF is better for larger targets and not for flight shots but I certainly can't say it doesn't work. For my part I'll stick with AF for the larger birds when I do shoot. It's been working for me with the little I do of birding. But hats off to you on some excellent shots! Please accept my public apology for calling you out. I can see you do indeed know what you're talking about with wildlife photography! Thanks for sharing.
I have enough confidence in my ability to post stories, that are illustrated with less than perfect shots.

Now this thread stimulated me to search the net. While I know a number of pros, and they shoot as I do, I found that about half of all pros shoot a majority of their shots using AF - Even so, they too shoot MF when in deep forest or brush. You have too. Searching the net also confirmed that about half of all pros shoot a majority of their shots with MF.

Now I stacked up about 100 additional shots to post on this thread, and it's a real shame to waste them...












Dave
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