8 Tips For Sharper Wildlife Photos

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Steve

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Do you want sharper wildlife photos? Are you tired of deleting otherwise amazing shots because of sharpness issues? Then take a look at this quick ten minute video where I’ll share eight different field-tested (and time-tested) methods for consistently securing tack-sharp wildlife images!

 

JHud

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Excellent! Just a side note, on my new version 80-400, I leave the VR on all the time on my monopod. Shooting the wild horses in the forests that we have here, it can be difficult to get super sharp thru all the shadows and such, so every little help is good.
 

marmotguy

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Thank you for addressing the VR on/off issue. There's so much conflicting information out there. Even on a tripod with a loose gimbal, I almost always have VR on, even at higher shutter speeds, because I really find the stabilized viewfinder valuable when tracking rapidly moving subjects.
 

jer

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I just read a review on how my Nikkor lens is unreliable in focus across its zoom range. It's a good thing I hadn't noticed that in my images—I might have tried to calibrate it. 🤣
Got a lot of good tips in all 8 points in this video, hope others are not passing it by because they are already very experienced. 👍
 

Ralph Bruno

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Do you want sharper wildlife photos? Are you tired of deleting otherwise amazing shots because of sharpness issues? Then take a look at this quick ten minute video where I’ll share eight different field-tested (and time-tested) methods for consistently securing tack-sharp wildlife images!

Hi Steve,
Great video. I have an observation and a question. When speaking about stationary subjects and single point focus, I noticed that the red box tracked the eye of the bird. Is there a certain setting in Single point that allows the camera to do that? When I use single point I have never seen that happen.
 

Steve

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Hi Steve,
Great video. I have an observation and a question. When speaking about stationary subjects and single point focus, I noticed that the red box tracked the eye of the bird. Is there a certain setting in Single point that allows the camera to do that? When I use single point I have never seen that happen.
I use thumb tracking :)

Some cameras / AF tracking modes can stay on it though. In that exact case, I think 3D AF would have stuck to the area, although it's really not my first choice (it's prone to going where I don't want it to). Nikon tracking in their mirrorless cameras can sometimes stick with subjects like that, Sony's tracking can fairly well - and Sony eye-AF can is good with animal eyes most of the time (Although, I head Canon's is even better). Still, in a scenario like that, I'll usually just move the AF point or move the camera (loose gimbal) to keep on target.
 

Steve

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Excellent Steve, especially clearing up the VR confusion. I expect that people using gimbals for vlogging turn off the camera VR as it does work against the gimbal‘s own VR...and that could cause confusion for those using tripods.
Yeah, video and VR often don't go well together. There are times it's OK, but I know form our experience, it's usually off.
 

Ralph Bruno

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I use thumb tracking :)

Some cameras / AF tracking modes can stay on it though. In that exact case, I think 3D AF would have stuck to the area, although it's really not my first choice (it's prone to going where I don't want it to). Nikon tracking in their mirrorless cameras can sometimes stick with subjects like that, Sony's tracking can fairly well - and Sony eye-AF can is good with animal eyes most of the time (Although, I head Canon's is even better). Still, in a scenario like that, I'll usually just move the AF point or move the camera (loose gimbal) to keep on target.
Not sure what you mean by thumb tracking? I have a D 500.
 

Flyboy

Active member
Excellent information, Steve!
I have discovered a couple of things about Heat mirage...At an air show, I noticed the bellies of the airplanes looked "ripply";o_O it was the heat mirage from the black asphalt runway! On yet another day, an F 35 Squadron was doing a flyover, and as they approached my neighborhood, they were using IFR, (I follow roads) flying over a highway. I got some good side-on photos, but when they were on my computer, the photos were unsharp, and the undersides of the aircraft were definitely a little "funny" looking! The heat mirage from the highway extended to their altitude...I estimate about 1,500 feet. This probably would be something to be aware of for BIF photos, too!
 

Woodpecker

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Thanks a lot @Steve for this summary. Many of the items you mentioned in different spots in your "public library" already. But ist is always a good thing to have them side by side. Due to the professional background I am a great fan of structured workflows and diagnostic processes. What you did here (again) is another good example of what I call a mental checklist. Even if you knew some of the aspects before it supports people in getting the sequence right in which they turn the different avaiblable knobs to correct the problem ... and sometimes there are still surprises about the direction in which the knob should be turned ;).

However, although AF fine tuning being just one of these eight aspects I think there is still something to it, making it a standard procedure when getting a new lens - or having other things changed in the setup.
  1. If you belong to the group of people that do not have the privilege to go out shooting on a day to day basis or at least regularly enough, you often don't get the time or the number of shoots to reliably diagnose a wrong focus adjustment by means of "normal" shots. On the other hand many people are still working on their technique to get sharp photos based on @Steve's input. In other words, having learned the lesson and being able to comply with 7 of the 8 aspects more or less perfectly is a prerequisite for being able to diagnose front or back focus with your normal photos.

    So, before getting into fine tuning itself IMHO for many people out there it is the more easy and reliable way to check the AF setting under controlled conditions. And if you did that, you are half way down the road to actually doing the fine tuning.

  2. I perfectly agree that people sometimes cheat themselves by "correcting a lens to death", but this is not because they do AF fine tuning, it is because they are doing it WRONG and I am happy to admit that I did it to myself- not only once. But if you do it correctly I believe it is a good thing to have it as a first step and as a standard procedure.

  3. For budget reasons I have to buy most of my gear second hand, but reading the reviews you find enough examples where even reknowned people like @Steve have to get three copies of a lens to get one good sample. This on its own shows that you can have quite a bit of variation. If you use the same lens on different bodies I think it is almost inevitable to check for the need of AF fine tune setting as the variations can be quite big.

    To give an example:

    Sometime ago I had a lens combo getting a pretty good bump, because I was a bit hectic in a situation and made a stupid mistake. It was the 500 f4 G with a TC14 and one of my D750 on it following the law of gravity - luckily with a plastic basket with dirty clothes getting in the way. All critical combos were AF fine tuned berfore that and I had to bring the complete combo I dropped to the Nikon service.
    When I got the stuff back I did an AF fine tune check and found out that
    + for the body I have sent in all fine tuned lens combinations got different results than before,
    + for all three bodies the values for the 500 f4 G with and without TC had changed,
    + about 50% of the values had changed in a way that the difference would be visible (the biggest change went from +10 to -2 !),
    + there seemed to be no obvious system, i.e. all values for one body needing a correction of +4 or x% in one direction (the values were changing kind or erratic) and
    + the checked and adjusted body even needed bigger correctioh values with certain lens combos after coming back - possibly because the adjustment failures of the body and lens before the check had partly compensated themselves.
It is by no means my intention to make other people's life more complicated as it might be already, but if one follows the argument that putting a cheap filter on a 4000$ lens IMHO it is worthwhile considering the same philosophy if it comes to AF fine tuning. The investment in terms of time to do it doesn't really matter if you compare it with the potential level of frustration after not doing it. This applies especially if you belong to the people that usually don't have the chance to shoot so regularly and thus might have quite some shooting opportunities turning into a "one-of" type of event. Last but not least having the confidence that the AF tuning is sitting on spot also helps to gain speed in improving while working on the other seven aspects that @Steve mentions. AF fine tuning is the only of the seven aspects that is purely technological and static - as long as you don't change gear by getting something new or the condition of existing gear changes for whatever reason. All the other seven are more or less depend on the situation, the subject, your personal physical and/or mental conditions right down to the form on the day.

That all said, I still deeply promise to practice on the other 7 :D.
 

Joody

New member
Steve, I have a distant memory that you put out a video that demonstrated you favourite settings on you mirrorless z cameras. I have spent as much time trying to find that video as I spent trying to find my glasses first thing in the morning. I often need help in both situations. Are you able to point me in the direction of the link to that video please? Thanks a bunch
 

Steve

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Steve, I have a distant memory that you put out a video that demonstrated you favourite settings on you mirrorless z cameras. I have spent as much time trying to find that video as I spent trying to find my glasses first thing in the morning. I often need help in both situations. Are you able to point me in the direction of the link to that video please? Thanks a bunch
I'm guessing it's one of these:



Maybe...

 

Joody

New member
I'm guessing it's one of these:



Maybe...

Thanks Steve! The second one is the one I'm looking for! By the way, I'm really happy to hear to are recovering from the bout with Covid. Sounds like it was a tough time. Be well!
 
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