45-Point AF for Flight on the Hooptie Deux « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

45-Point AF for Flight on the Hooptie Deux

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This Black Vulture flight image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 off the blue sky: 1/1600 at f/8 set manually.

45-Point on the Hooptie Deux

Clemens van der Werf and I joined James Shadle yesterday for a morning of photography on James’ customized pontoon boat out at Alafia Banks in Tampa Bay. With the wind from the west northwest and Black Vultures flying by us from left to right with the wind at their backs, they were moving along quite quickly. I could not keep the central sensor (usually best for flight) on the birds so I went to 45 point AF. Below is a (BreezeBrowser) screen capture showing the focus points. Using 45-point makes it much easier to maintain focus when try to track fast or erratically flying birds. I love either the wings down position (as in this image) or the wings up position.

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Even though only the outer ring of focus points is illuminated when you are using 45-Point with a Canon pro body all of the focusing sensors are active.

I did not have good results using 45-Point AF for flight photography with the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. (Note: Robert O’Toole did the few times that he used the MIII.) I have done quite well with 45-point with my two Mark IV bodies with flight especially in sunny conditions on clear days. Canon has always advised acquiring focus with the central sensor when using 45-Point, i.e., with the bird centered in the middle of the array of AF sensors, but I have always felt that 45-point acquired better when the bird was more on the edge of the AF array (as depicted in the screen capture above). In this instance however I did acquire focus with the bird in the approximate center of the AF array. I will use the frame before that illustrates this point well in the next BAA Bulletin (that I hope to send tomorrow).

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This pleasing blur was created with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X II TC (handheld at 215mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 100. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/13 sec. at f/4 in Tv mode. You can learn a ton about creating pleasing blurs including why it is best to work in Tv mode when doing so in A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly.

I almost always use 45-Point when photographing flocks of birds in flight whether I am doing pleasing blurs of trying to create sharp images. If you use a single sensor there is a chance that the sensor my see through the flock and try to focus on the background (though this is not likely with sky backgrounds it is possible).

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This is a a cropped (BreezeBrowser) screen capture that again shows the focus points.

If you compare the screen capture with the JPEG that represents the optimized image file you will note the I cropped the image, boosted the color and contrast, and cleaned up the image by eliminated a few telephone poles and several birds and groups of birds from the frame edges. You can learn to do all of that and tons more quickly and easily in our Digital Basics File (a PDF sent via e-mail; it will be the best $20 you ever spent on improving your Photoshop skills and your digital workflow).

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens Man, I am loving this lens with the 2x on my shoulder.
Canon EF Teleconverter 2X II This 2X is currently being replaced by the EF 2X III TC.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body And this is the very best professional digital camera body that I have even used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card Fast and dependable.

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide.

7 comments to 45-Point AF for Flight on the Hooptie Deux

  • I’m never sure whether to use the 45-point of center point for flight photos. This helps for this situation. Thanks.

  • avatar Jeff Guettinger

    Are you talking about all 45 points vs. picking a single point or are you using C. Fn. III-8, selection 3? What is the difference? Thanks.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Jeff, I will answer your question in a blog post later today. Thanks for your patience. artie

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    MB, YAW. If you get a 7D you will want to get a copy of our 7D User’s Guide. I reveal all of my focusing secrets and tons more. Clue: there is no 45-point AF with the 7D; but….

    Myer: will do.

    Denise. Thanks a stack 🙂

  • Your sunrise blur is beautiful. The colors and the cleaned up edges are very nice.

  • avatar Myer Bornstein

    would you ask Robert how you would set up a Nikon to do the same re 45 points?


  • avatar M. Bruce

    Thanks for the excellent illustrated thoughts concerning the various focus point options for flight photography – it’s something I’m constantly grappling with. I’m thinking seriously about a 7D and was wondering if its focus point options are similar to your Mark IV?