D2Xs focus settings for birds in flight?

Started Oct 23, 2007 | Discussions thread
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jfriend00
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D2Xs focus settings for birds in flight?
Oct 23, 2007

For the first time, I've been experimenting with trying to shoot birds in flight with a D2Xs and 200-400 f/4 and sometimes with the TC 1.4 (if good light) . I shoot a lot of soccer so I'm used to the general idea of tracking a subject, AF-C, group dynamic, etc... But these birds are a lot harder than my soccer players - they are smaller, faster, less predictable and require a lot more patience. The birds are a variety found in a salty marsh area. Some are larger, slower and more graceful (white pelicans, egrets) and some are smaller and faster (ducks).

I'm looking for some specific focus settings that other shooters of birds in flight have found useful. Here's what I have been using:

D2Xs
200-400 f4 VR
Sometimes with TC 1.4
VR off
Min shutter speed 1/1000th
Aperture f/4-f/8 depending upon light
ISO 200-800 depending upon light
AF-C
Group dynamic
Usually shooting from a monopod
a1 - AF-C mode priority: fps rate

a3 - Group dynamic AF: Pattern 2 - Center area (this is just what I use for soccer)
a4 - Focus tracking with Lock-on: Short

Some things I'm wondering about:

o I've been getting a lot of focus misses. Should I switch the AF-C mode priority to "focus priority"?
o Would a closest subject mode be good for birds in the air?

o Should I lengthen the focus tracking lock-on time so it's not quite so quick to snap to the background?
o What group dynamic pattern should I use?

o Should I try to shoot at a minimum of f/8 to give myself a little more depth of field and focus tolerance?

o I'm having real trouble tracking things that go over my head on a monopod. It easy if they go by from left to right, but not so easy when they are coming more at me?

Any suggestions from the rest of you who shoot birds in flight would be much appreciated.
--
John
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