ManualFocusBirdsInFlight - Johan Eickmeyer



- Manual Focus Birds in Flight Guide -

Subjects covered in this guide:

  • Manual Arc Zone Focusing
  • Manual Pump Focusing
  • Manual Trap Focusing



        Current auto-focus systems can deliver outstanding results if used correctly. Even then, there are instances when your lens and/or camera are just not able to get the focus where you need it. Sometimes, it can't focus at all, and other times it might be focusing on a wing instead of the body of a bird. In extreme situations, you are better off using a sound manual focusing method to get great focus. It will never be as effective as an AF system that is working as it should, but when all else fails, it can get the money shot! This guide will show you some basic, yet effective techniques for getting perfect focus on some shots. Best of all, you can easily get professional level results with even a camera like the Rebel T1i and 55-250 lens. Click HERE to see a full gallery of results from just several hours with a T1i and kit lens.


Image taken with a Canon Rebel T1i and 55-250 kit lens!

Using Manual Arc Zone Focusing



Manual Arc Zone Focusing

        This is the easiest method for birds flying perpendicular to the camera, if you are limited in frames per second in burst mode. Since the bird is flying perpendicular, its distance from the camera lens changes at a much slower rate than if the bird was flying head-on. The black arc below shows the focus plane as the photographer tracks the bird in the viewfinder. First, manually focus just in front of the bird. Second, follow the bird as it travels into the focus plane and fire off shots when necessary. It is impossible for the bird to NOT travel through the focus plane if done right. You should also get two chances for focus in a lot of cases where the bird must exit the focus zone. The green line shows the path of the bird.




Manual Pump Focusing

        Instead of waiting for the bird to put itself into focus, you can manually pump the focus plane through the bird during a fast burst. It does not matter where the bird is moving, this method, if done right, can always deliver something with good focus. It also helps to have a camera with a fast frames per second like a 7D2 which has 10 FPS. First, focus behind or in front of the bird. Second, shoot a burst while focusing through the bird to the other side. There should be a good shot of the body in focus! After making one pass, just go back the other way to the other side of the bird in the next or same burst.


Manual Trap Focusing

        Trap focusing is just like shooting the arc method, but it involves faster subjects coming directly at the camera. First, manually focus just in front of the bird. Second, quickly fire a burst of shots and either leave the focus plane alone or move it through the bird to the other side, like pump focusing. With each burst, move the focus plane closer and closer to follow the action. I find that not pumping the focus works the best for me here, but that could change in a different situation.


Image taken with a Canon Rebel T1i and 55-250 kit lens!



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