February Challenge: Focus… Entry #6 What was I thinking?

I will present our final entry to this discussion.

In reviewing my photos from years ago, I found that many were out of focus and that brought up the question as to why? Sometimes I think I shot too hurriedly without looking at and understanding my camera settings. Sometimes I thought I could hand-hold a shot at a very slow shutterspeed, when indeed, I could not. Sometimes my shutterspeed was not fast enough to capture the flying bird. Sometimes I was not focusing on the eyes… be it animal or human. Sometimes there was simply not enough light and back then, it was not possible to push the ISO as you can with the more modern cameras of today.

This is what I have learned. It is necessary to understand how aperture affects your depth of field. I have come to the realization that it is best to take several shots of the same subject using different apertures (f/stops) and then choose which is best when visualizing the photos on the computer. If you do not have enough light, you either have to push your ISO up or pull out your tripod to get the shot. Or… use your flash! And that is another steep learning curve. I rarely use mine. And as far as getting those flying birds in focus… it is important to use continuous tracking as well as a fast shutterspeed. And of course we have to choose how to focus… center spot, moving your focus point as necessary, back button focus or continuous focus. Different situations call for different methods.

A few of us are ruthless at weeding out and deleting the out of focus shots, but I am not one of them. I have saved way too many out of focus shots and they eat up precious space on my hard-drive. Some I need to delete forever and some I will hang onto simply because of an emotional attachment, for whatever reason.

This is a photo I took in the little village of Saignon in France back in 2008. I was still shooting jpegs at that time. Even shooting in raw would not have corrected the issues with focus. Obviously, it was taken at night with little light. I could have pushed my ISO a bit further but did not. (What was I thinking? It might have salvaged the shot in spite of increased noise.) I was on a shallow depth of field, probably to try to get as much light as possible to shoot the image and I was still on too slow a shutterspeed to hand-hold this shot. My next best bet would have been to crank up the ISO to the max. Not having a tripod, I should have found a solid surface to set the camera on and then used the timer to get the shot. I took two shots and both were totally out of focus.

F/3.5, 1/2 sec, ISO 800, 28mm (Photo by Fay-la-la)

F/3.5, 1/2 sec, ISO 800, 28mm
(Photo by Fay-la-la)

Years have passed and I am finally learning; although, slowly! I am now shooting in raw and better understand why a photo is or is not in focus and how critical it is to the final image. This was a gull flying at “my happy place” at White Rock Lake. I had good light coming from the right direction and was able to catch him in flight, got his eyes in focus and with a catch light, stopped the wing action, and was able to edit the raw image. I have learned to shoot white birds with a minus one-stop exposure so as not to blow out the highlights.

F/8, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, -1 exposure compensation, 150 mm (Photo by Fay-la-la)

F/8, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, -1 exposure compensation, 150 mm
(Photo by Fay-la-la)

And when going through those old photos and deleting the ones that look out of focus… BE CAREFUL! Look at them closely before clicking the delete button as some may appear out of focus but with some basic editing (even on a jpeg image) you may salvage a shot and find it is indeed a keeper. This is what happened with this lizard photo from the arboretum.

I remember being so disappointed that I did not get it in focus back when I took it in 2008 but, I kept the “out of focus” images. Fast forward to a cold day in 2015 and I decided to try to edit the photo in Lightroom, and to my surprise, with some underexposure, increasing clarity and contrast, adding some vibrance and with some minor cropping, I found that I did indeed have a keeper… and the eye of the lizard was sharp!

F/14, 1/800 sec, ISO 1600, 300mm (Photo by Fay-la-la)

F/14, 1/800 sec, ISO 1600, 300mm
(Photo by Fay-la-la)


Same photo after editing in Lightroom (Photo by Fay-la-la)

Same photo after editing in Lightroom
(Photo by Fay-la-la)


And the learning process continues!

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2 thoughts on “February Challenge: Focus… Entry #6 What was I thinking?

  1. Very relatable and informative, Fay. Well done and thank you. It was so disappointing not being able to meet this weekend.

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