Tuesday's Tip

Focus on Focusing
Greg Downing

When making close-up photographs (with super telephoto zooms and macro lenses) of wildlife, some photographers make the common mistake of always focusing on the eyes.

Generally speaking, the eyes are the preferred point of focus but the photographer also needs to consider the other elements in the scene – and how to make the most of the available depth-of-field. For example, when looking at my image of a bald eagle, the eyes are in focus – but as important in this shot, so is the tip of the eagle's bill.

With any lens, more than half of the depth-of-field falls beyond the initial point of focus. So, in this case, had I chosen the eyes as the focus point, getting the tip of the bill sharp might not have been possible.

Here the depth-of-field just barely makes it to the eyes before falling off rapidly. To get the desired depth-of-field, I very carefully composed the shot and then manually tweaked my focus well in front of the eyes, near the base of the bill. I used my depth-of-field preview feature to ensure that the eyes were also in focus. The magnification was so great (I was shooting with a 600mm lens on my Canon 1D Mark II) that I needed to use f/22 to get the bill and the eyes in sharp focus.

I also used a bit of fill-flash to help maintain sharpness – a technique that I often use to do close-ups shots of distant animals.

To learn more about how I create close ups in nature, see my article on Creating Intimate Portraits in Nature on NatureScapes.net.

And . . . mark your calendar: Rick and I are giving a full-day seminar on wildlife, outdoor and nature photography on November 7th in Fairfax, VA. Be there or be square.

Until then, focus on focusing.