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Old Nov 25, 2007, 6:45 PM   #1
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OK...be patient with me because I'm trying to understand and learn at the same time. I have been searching and reading for the last week and it's just not sinking in.:G


Canon 350D

Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM lens

I just started shooting wildlife within the last three weeks and it seems about 90% of the shots I've taken are blurry or half of the subject is blurry and the other half is in focus....especially when I crop the image. The subjects range from 3" long to 7"-18" long and the distance is anywhere from 8'-20' away. I understand at one certainpoint the image is in acceptable focus but as the image is cropped things tend to de-focus.

Is my problemdistance, camera settings or a combination of both. I mainly shoot in aperture priority and today I varied the aperture settings but had the same results. I alsoknow that hand shake is part of the culprit but I can tell those images right off the bat when I review them on the LCD but what I'm mainly concerned about are the photo's where the body is in focus but the head isn't. I double checked my focus points when I go to edit the photo's and they're right in the center (body) of the subject.

This is an example of what I'm refering to....

No crop:

60% crop with the head out of focus:

I will apologize ahead of time if this is a basic question but it's something I've been trying to figure out on my own for some time so it's not basic to me. :?

Thank you and sorry for the long winded post,


EDIT: I've read this link about 10 times so far. :G


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Old Nov 25, 2007, 7:41 PM   #2
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from the sample you included I would say the problem is twofold:

1. subject is too small in the frame - making it difficult to get accurate focus

2. subject is too small in the frame - resulting in too little detail captured.

Both of which combine to yield the results you have. It's especially important for small birds to have longer focal lengths (since getting closer isn't really an option). If birds are your thing I would suggest either a feeder of some sort to attract them close to a good shooting position or getting a longer lens. 300mm is a decent start for larger birds - but for smaller birds a 400mm would be preferable.
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Old Nov 26, 2007, 2:27 AM   #3
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The basic problem is that you are just MUCH too far away to get any kind of decent print from that shot.

It is always quite a shock to realise just how close you have to get to small birds to get decent pictures, even buying a super-telephoto still leaves you usually needing to attract them with a feeder or camoflaging yourself in a hide and going equipped with a lot of knowledge about the birds' behaviour and a large bag full of patience.

Birding has a lot in common with angling - there are a lot of days where you simply won't catch anything.

I don't have the budget or the patience for it.
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Old Nov 26, 2007, 6:10 AM   #4
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Your shutter speed was 1/125 second.

That means that you could be seeing some blur from camera shake if you were not using a tripod or monopod at focal lengths that long, as well as blur from subject movement if the bird was not perfectly still. Both could be causing softer photos, even though the cause may not be obvoius.

So, you may want to increase your ISO speed when you notice your shutter speeds start to drop off (that was shot at ISO 200, and ISO 400 would have gotten you 1/250 second in the same lighting with the same aperture.

It was shot at f/4.5. If you went to f/5.6, that would probably improve sharpness a tad, as well as increase DOF so that you could be off a bit more and still keep your subject in focus. That would result in slower shutter speeds, so have to balance the benefits of a smaller aperture (higher f/stop number) against higher noise as you increase ISO speed, depending on the lighting.

IOW, keep an eye on shutter speeds in less than optimum lighting (increasing ISO speed if necessary). Your shutter speed of 1/125 second was slow enough to be a suspected cause of less than optimum sharpness.

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Old Nov 26, 2007, 6:45 AM   #5
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Here is a handy online depth of field calculator that you may find helpful:


Just keep in mind that depth of field calculations were devised with image size and viewing distance in mind.

So, what one person considers to be "acceptably sharp" may differ from another person's opinion, with viewing/print sizes entering into it.

You can change the Circle of Confusion used in some calculators if you want a stricter intepretation of what is acceptably sharp. Here's a very good free calculator you can download that lets you change it:


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Old Nov 26, 2007, 8:14 AM   #6
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At least in this image, the bird's head is no more out of focus than the body. The reason it looks that way is the lack of contrast between it and the background. There is a shadow line behind the bird, and the body background is much lighter, giving the impression of better focus.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Overall sharpness would be improved, as JimC mentioned, by a higher shutter speed, both to help with hand-held camera shake, and because small critters just don't hold still. You could try using a higher ISO setting. It takes much patience and lots of deletes to get acceptable bird shots.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"If you think we have it bad as photographers, remember, Audubon had to use paint.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"brian
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