Mrs. Bluebird, depth of field and focus

Yesterday I was telling you a little about how I have my yard setup for photographing birds.  I mentioned that I have my blind setup right at the minimum focusing distance for my lens.  The lens I use most often for these types of shots is the Tamron 150-600mm.  When using the lens at 600mm at the minimum focusing distance the depth of field (DOF) is pretty small.

ISO 640, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/500th second

Hover over the image to view the camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

If you look at the above image, you can see how shallow the depth of field is.  You can see the eye is tack sharp, but 3 or 4 inches away the bird's tail is out of focus.  It is important to remember this when using a telephoto lens at the longer end  close to your subject.  Since the DOF is so shallow your focus is critical.  If I had missed the eye by even a tiny bit, it would have been soft.  Images of wildlife or birds rely on the eye being in sharp focus!

When I hear people complain about getting soft images out of any telephoto lens, it is usually related to distance.  Either they are so close that the DOF is so shallow that they simply miss the focus point, or they are too far away and end up cropping the image heavily and expect the image to be sharp.  Keep this in mind when using those longer lenses.

This image was made using my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Both mounted on my Sirui Tripo and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Manually Focusing using Live View

So, for probably 90% of the type of photography I do, I am using manual focus.  There are several reasons for this, but mostly it allows me full control and consistency from shot to shot.

I manually focus for all of my Landscape shots, HDR shots, Macro shots...pretty much the only time I use auto focus is if I am hand holding and my subject is not much ;)

Often times people will ask about my method of manual focus and I tell them I always use Live View Mode on my camera.  Again, there are several reasons for this, but the biggest two are the ability to zoom in on a scene to dial in very fine focus detail and my failing eyesight.

Here is a video that is a segment of a longer video I am trying to put together and I thought I'd share it with you.  In this example, I am using the Sony A7R camera body, but I go through the exact same procedure with all of my Canon DSLR bodies, too.