D800: focus setting for wildlife

Started Mar 29, 2014 | Discussions thread
T O Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 7,383
Re: D800: focus setting for wildlife- Also consider Exposure

RBFresno wrote:

p m h wrote:

Landscape photographer here http://500px.com/protik. Basically zero experience with wildlife photography and AF-S with Single point is the only mode i ever use for landscape photography (well, the truth is most of the time I use contrast detection focus in liveview). However, i've acquired a afs 80-400mm couple of weeks ago and have an opportunity to shoot sandhill cranes this weekend.

So, what focus setting you guys use for wildlife, especially birds in flight?


You've already received good advice about focusing, and doubtless, will receive more.

A few words about exposure.

While the different "auto" exposure modes (e.g. Matrix, center weighted, etc) will often work well, some times they don't. MAtrix is usually the best default.

I've been through many times in the past where I've had blown highlights on light colored birds and dark colored birds appearing as featureless black shadows in the sky.

There are so many different lighting situations that it's hard to generalize: Strong back-lighting; harsh direct light on the subject; shadows:, etc.,

If the lighting conditions are very constant, I'll sometimes set the exposure manually.

If I'm shooting light feathered birds, but under quickly varying lighting, I might use an automatic mode like Matrix, but dial in a negative exposure compensation.

Basically, I'm suggesting that you might want to pay more attention to the camera's exposure under some circumstances, than simply setting to Matrix or even spot metering.

Nikon D4 ,Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4G ED VR
1/1250s f/4.0 at 500.0mm iso1600

Nikon D3 ,Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4G ED VR
1/200s f/6.3 at 500.0mm iso200

Nikon D3 ,Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4G ED VR ,TC 14 E II
1/250s f/5.6 at 700.0mm iso800

Sometimes the back-lighting is so strong, I'll just say, "The heck with it", and intentionally underexpose to get a silhouetted shot:

Nikon D4 ,Nikkor 200mm f/2G IF-ED AF-S VR
1/2500s f/2.0 at 200.0mm iso125

Nikon D3 ,Nikkor 200mm f/2G IF-ED AF-S VR
1/3200s f/2.0 at 200.0mm iso200

Just a few thoughts...

Most of all, have fun!



You certainly can do birds right. Some great shots here.  For exposure, I always meter auto and use exposure compensation.  Dark birds against light back - add some compensation.  Light birds - go to the minus side. I find that keeps it simple.

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