Focus, focus, focus

Well, it´s been one of those weeks. A very frustrating one in my role as nature photographer. It began after debating whether it was worth carrying my heavy D300 down into the valley. I usually do but I decided not to bother on this day. Lo and behold the unusually hot weather had forced a grey heron to land on the local duck pond and four black swans took great interest in this new arrival. It made for a great shot as the four swans inspected the heron perched on a small island. I took some shots with my mobile but with it wildlife rarely comes out in focus and it was no exception on this day. The following day I took my camera along but of course there was no sign of the heron.


A few days later I spotted a buzzard perched on top of a pine tree. It was there for at least 15 minutes but the D300 autofocus refused to lock on despite trying everything. I even switched to manual focus but that is pretty useless on these ‘new’ DLSRs. I miss the days of SLR manual focus with split frenzel screens. A 500mm on a tripod would have done the trick but I have to make do with a handheld 18mm-270mm and the buzzard was a fair way off.


Above: Chaffinch and buzzard out of focus shots and a jay caught in flight and in focus (sort of) but a long way off and too small to be of much use.

This afternoon I had a perfect opportunity to photograph squirrels collecting hazelnuts on a nearby tree. The sun was going down and the tree was shaded so I was forced to shoot a low shutter speed. Added to this it was hard to see the squirrels through the lens and be sure the focus point was on them. So like the buzzard this resulted in 50 or more photos that were out of focus and had to be trashed. A professional photographer would have nailed it for sure.


A little later two jets flew so low down the valley I could almost see the pilots, I managed to grab my camera for the second jet but as usual the auto focus refused to lock on, not that manual focus would have been any better as I had no time to focus anyway.

Below this woodpecker shot shows how difficult it can be avoiding branches and such like which can play havoc with autofocus.


When auto focus works it is wonderful, particularly for nature work but often even with spot focus it finds something in the foreground or distance more interesting much to my dismay and the loss of many a good photo. In the days of analog you would have taken more time, been more selective and only taken a few shots.

… but hell, who wants to wait two weeks for 36 expensive postcard prints to arrive and still be disappointed.

Long live digital I say! 🙂



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