My first (pathetic) attempt at birding.

Joined
Feb 27, 2007
Messages
1,850
Location
Murfreesboro, TN & Old Hickory, TN.
I'm not sure if it was me, my settings, or what, but I just couldn't get a good sharp well focused shot. I tried, but it seemed the camera was focusing just in front of the bird which left them looking soft with the background. :frown:

These were the best of over 100 shots. The female cardinal looks to have the best focus of all. :redface:

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Shot with a D80, Nikon 75-300 AF, on sports auto mode, mounted on tripod, shot in RAW NEF, cropped and resized in Nikon Picture Project.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2007
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1,096
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London
John

These aren't too bad, and with some PP a few could be improved. It does seem that the camera found things of better contrast to focus upon, such as the black seeds on the paving slab and the earth in the grass.

Keep going, things will improve quickly I'm sure, but I have definitely seen (and personally taken) worse than these.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2006
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IN
John,

first, I agree with Simon's post.

second, the 300mm zoom lenses tend to be a little soft when zoomed all the way out, along with all the way open at f5.6. try experimenting around 250mm and f8 or so.

third, Picture Project is not the best for RAW conversions. go to Nikon's web site, and download Nikon View for free. while its very basic, its a good starting point to understanding the capabilities of RAW. and it's much better than picture project.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2007
Messages
1,096
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London
Do you know of any reason why the camera was focusing in front of the birds 98% of the time even though I had the center focus right on the bird?

:confused:
John

Not sure if your D80 is like my D2X, but the AF sensor area is larger than the brackets in the viewfinder, significantly so on the D2X. That means that the camera can focus on something that presents more contrast around the sensor frames rather than what is bang in the middle of them.

Here is a good link to a picture of this:

http://www.luminescentphoto.com/articles/CAM2000/cam2000.html

As I said, not sure if your D80 is the same on this point.

Here is one of yours PP'd a bit:

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Hope you don't mind :smile:
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2006
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19,938
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TX originally from Louisiana
Hiya! Are you SURE you wanna get into birding? You know eventually you're gonna want bigger lenses! One thing I've learned is to not shoot in sports auto. I put my camera in aperture priority, continuous focus, WB according to the skies, check my EV settings for blown highlights, and etc. There's a bunch of really good experienced birders on the forum, but they maybe a bit scarce as they're all in AL. Keep practicing! It will only get better!
 
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Nov 11, 2005
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5,148
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Houston, TX
Those settings Dianne gave you will help a lot. BUT the most important thing is PRACTICE and not to get discouraged - you WILL improve. DO NOT keep doing the same thing over and over again - vary your camera setting a bit, swithch from A priority to S priority, use differents F stops, different focal lengths Move the EV from + to -, and if you don't have a tripod abd ballhead, get one! A very good one - so you won't end up like I did, going through 2 heads and 3 tripods before settling on a G1327 and RRS BH-55. If any one thing helps a photographer get sharp, crisp images, it is the tripod.
 
Joined
Feb 27, 2007
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Murfreesboro, TN & Old Hickory, TN.
OK, I tried again today with different settings (aperture priority, continuous focus, and tried center focus, auto/sports, etc.,), but still had similar results with the 75-300mm AF and for testing my AF I tried my smaller 24-85mm for birds up to about 12-15ft away.

The auto focus seems to always focus just in front of the bird, or only parts of the bird come in to focus. I put the center focus right on the bird, too.

Is it common for a camera to have such a narrow range of focus, or to do this (miss focusing on the subject)?

I'll post some examples with EXIF shortly.

:confused:
 
Joined
May 7, 2006
Messages
303
Location
West Virginia
I am not sure if this will help or not but its something you can easily check.

Check your highlighted focal point. The D80 has eleven focal points and when I have the center focal point highlighted for the camera to use, opanda tells me that my "Auto Focus Area = 00, 00, 00, 01" and if I highlight the bottom center focal point it tells me "Auto Focus Area = 00, 02, 00, 04" . I get a different reading with each focal point highlighted. I checked your photos and opanda says the focal points on most of them were "Auto Focus Area = 05, 00, 00, 01" .

I have inadvertently changed my focal points several times when I hit the multi-selector by mistake. Page 30 of the owners manual will show you how you can lock the focal point once you have it set to where you want it, so that you cant change it accidentally.


Also shooting in sports mode will change your focus area, as this mode will change the camera to dynamic area focusing even if you have the center focus area highlighted the camera will focus based on information from other focus areas if the subject (bird) or you moves any at all while you are focusing on it.

Hope this helps.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Murfreesboro, TN & Old Hickory, TN.
Examples of good focus and bad. :confused:

Compressed RAW (12-bit)
Image Size: Large (3872 x 2592)
Color
Lens: 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6
Focal Length: 300mm
Digital Vari-Program: Sports
Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern
1/400 sec - F/5.6
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 400
Optimize Image:
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-A
Flash Sync Mode:
Flash Mode:
Auto Flash Comp:
Color Mode: Mode Ia (sRGB)
Tone Comp.: Auto
Hue Adjustment: 0°
Saturation: Auto
Sharpening: Auto
Image Comment:
Long Exposure NR: Off
VR Control: Off
High ISO NR: Off

This is one of the better focused...

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Nikon D80
2007/03/30 16:11:16.1
Compressed RAW (12-bit)
Image Size: Large (3872 x 2592)
Color
Lens: 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6
Focal Length: 300mm
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern
1/50 sec - F/9
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 100
Optimize Image: Normal
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-S
Flash Sync Mode:
Flash Mode:
Auto Flash Comp:
Color Mode: Mode Ia (sRGB)
Tone Comp.: Auto
Hue Adjustment: 0°
Saturation: Auto
Sharpening: Auto
Image Comment:
Long Exposure NR: Off
VR Control: Off
High ISO NR: Off

Worst. Tried it on 2 other settings (Auto Sports and Aperture) with the same ersults.

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Nikon D80
2007/03/30 16:46:40.3
Compressed RAW (12-bit)
Image Size: Large (3872 x 2592)
Color
Lens: 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6
Focal Length: 300mm
Digital Vari-Program: Close Up
Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern
1/125 sec - F/6.3
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 200
Optimize Image:
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-A
Flash Sync Mode:
Flash Mode:
Auto Flash Comp:
Color Mode: Mode IIIa (sRGB)
Tone Comp.: Auto
Hue Adjustment: 0°
Saturation: Auto
Sharpening: Auto
Image Comment:
Long Exposure NR: Off
VR Control: Off
High ISO NR: Off

This is a good example of what 98% of my shots look like. If you look at the grass, it looks like there is a line of focus just before the bird, and the bird is right behind the focus making it look soft/out of focus. This happens even though I'm using a tripod and have the bird dead center with the focus weight. A have tried this in sports auto, Aperture, and even macro to see if I could get it to focus right on the bird, but no dice. :frown:

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Seems I can only get decent focus just by luck or something. :confused: :frown:
 
Joined
Feb 27, 2007
Messages
1,850
Location
Murfreesboro, TN & Old Hickory, TN.
I am not sure if this will help or not but its something you can easily check.

Check your highlighted focal point. The D80 has eleven focal points and when I have the center focal point highlighted for the camera to use, opanda tells me that my "Auto Focus Area = 00, 00, 00, 01" and if I highlight the bottom center focal point it tells me "Auto Focus Area = 00, 02, 00, 04" . I get a different reading with each focal point highlighted. I checked your photos and opanda says the focal points on most of them were "Auto Focus Area = 05, 00, 00, 01" .

I have inadvertently changed my focal points several times when I hit the multi-selector by mistake. Page 30 of the owners manual will show you how you can lock the focal point once you have it set to where you want it, so that you cant change it accidentally.


Also shooting in sports mode will change your focus area, as this mode will change the camera to dynamic area focusing even if you have the center focus area highlighted the camera will focus based on information from other focus areas if the subject (bird) or you moves any at all while you are focusing on it.

Hope this helps.

Hmmm... I'll check out page 30 and see what goes next time. :Depressed
 
Joined
May 7, 2006
Messages
303
Location
West Virginia
Just a tip....other peoples advise may vary, but....

Shooting at 300 mm hand held it is very hard to hold the camera still to keep your subject in good focus and have a good clear shot unless you crank the shutter speed up. Next time you go out shooting birds with the 75-300 mm your using ...try this:

. Put the camera in Manual Mode
. Set the aperture to 7.1 or 8 (you can play with this...but these are a good place to start)
. Set the shutter speed to 600 or more to start with...then increase a click (stop) at a time, if its sunny out its not unusual to get away with a speed of 1200 or more.
. You may need to Increase your ISO as your shutter speeds go up ...(I use auto ISO and the camera decides when I need to increase based on my shutter speed, f-stop and light conditions at the time)

OR

Shutter priority
. get your shutter speed up to 500 or more...
. your aperture will probably bottom out to 5.6 with that lens ...but thats ok
. try some shots increasing the shutter speed a click at a time....
. You may need to Increase your ISO as your shutter speeds go up ...(I use auto ISO and the camera decides when I need to increase based on my shutter speed and f-stop)


The faster the shutter speed the less movement the camera picks up...

Knowing what speed works best depends on you, the subject, the location, the lens, and available light. Trying the above should give you a good start...let me know how it turns out.
 

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