Recomposing with Pro Capture H has some benefits which this article discusses, as well as sharing a selection of photographs captured using this technique.
Prior to the introduction of mirrorless cameras it was very common for DSLR owners to use focus and recompose technique as a way to overcome the somewhat limited array of auto-focus points in their cameras. A photographer would acquire focus, keeping the shutter release half depressed, then recompose their photograph before fully depressing their shutter release.
After purchasing my Nikon 1 gear about 8 years ago I haven’t had the need to use focus and recompose technique. My Nikon 1 camera bodies have autofocus points covering the majority of the sensor area. It is quick and easy to move a single auto-focus point to my desired position. For my style of photography this made focus and recompose technique pretty much redundant for me.
Like most photographers I’m always looking for ways to react faster to image opportunities and tweak my technique accordingly. A while back I decided to revisit focus and recomposing, specifically with Pro Capture H.
This article shares my experiences using focus and recomposing with Pro Capture H, and shares a selection of handheld images captured with an E-M1X and M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.4 IS zoom. All of the images in this article were captured in my backyard during one 3-hour bird photography session.
One of the advantages of recomposing with Pro Capture H is improved speed and reaction time.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
The image above was one of many I captured of a cardinal on my DIY bird photography perch (more on that in a future article). The bird was very animated which can make it somewhat challenging to acquire auto focus when using Pro Capture H. Rather than attempting to move my single auto-focus point using the joystick on my E-M1X, I used focus and recompose technique instead.
I left my single auto-focus point centred and moved my camera to place the AF point on the eye of the cardinal. I then half-depressed my shutter release to lock auto-focus and exposure. This also activated Pro Capture H so my E-M1X would start saving images in temporary memory. I kept my shutter release half depressed so my camera would keep spooling updated images in temporary memory. Once the desired action had been completed by the cardinal I fully depressed my shutter release, which then allowed my E-M1X to write those images to my memory card.
The cardinal left my DIY bird photography perch, landing on a garden statue nearby. All I had time to do was to acquire focus on the cardinal and slide my framing to the right, then fully depress my shutter release as the bird reached mid frame. The following 6 consecutive photographs were from that Pro Capture H image run.
When dealing with fast moving subjects like this cardinal we sometimes simply don’t have time to mess around trying to move an AF point. Recomposing with Pro Capture H in this type of situation works very well.
Another scenario where recomposing with Pro Capture H can be used successfully is when a photographer is unsure of the flight path that a bird may take. This is especially true when photographing smaller birds.
When large birds take flight they typically do so by launching into the wind as the breeze creates more lift for them. As a result it is usually much easier to predict the flight path that a large bird will follow. Smaller birds are more erratic and their flight path usually follows the direction to which their beak is pointing. This could result in a small bird launching in almost a backward flight path, or on an abrupt angle.
This was the situation that I faced with the next series of 13 consecutive images. The subject bird appeared nervous, looking over its shoulder multiple times, downward and in other directions. It was very difficult to assess its likely flight path. This made moving my AF point around the composition impractical.
By focusing on the head of the bird and recomposing with Pro Capture H as the direction of the bird’s beak changed, I was able to allow for flight motion room in my ever changing composition as I kept my shutter release half depressed.
It is critical to remember to refocus on the subject bird if it has moved in such a way that the focusing distance between the bird and the camera being used has changed.
Another scenario when recomposing with Pro Capture H can be beneficial is when a photographer wants to capture a bird mainly in flight, rather than launching from a perched position. In this situation a photographer can acquire focus on the subject bird, then recompose their image by sliding their framing well out in front of the subject bird.
This was my intent with the blue jay images that follow. In this particular case the blue jay launched into flight before I was able to adjust my framing as far to the left as I had planned. Here is the first frame of the Pro Capture H image run.
As you can see the blue jay is still visible on the right hand side of the photograph as it launched into flight before I could frame it exactly as desired. The next 3 consecutive photographs are frames 9 through 11 of the Pro Capture H image run. These will give you a better indication of my intent. Imagine that my framing did not include the shepherd’s hook.
The following photograph of a cardinal in full flight is another example of moving the framing of a composition so the subject bird doesn’t even appear in the first frame of the image run. For this approach to work effectively it can be important to use ‘both eyes open’ technique.
The final scenario when recomposing with Pro Capture H can be beneficial is when we are trying to photograph a bird taking flight that is obscured by branches and foliage. Sometimes all that is visible of the subject bird are tail feathers, its back, or a portion of its head.
By focusing a small, single AF point on whatever is visible and half depressing our shutter release with Pro Capture H, we lock auto-focus and exposure on the subject bird… and begin writing photographs to temporary memory. Then when the bird launches into flight and emerges from the foliage we can fully depress our shutter release and write our Pro Capture H image run to our memory card.
While the starting position of the bird in the next series of 11 consecutive images is not obscured, the subject bird does fly behind obstructions created by foliage.
Recomposing with Pro Capture H can be a very effective technique when photographing birds taking flight. This approach provides a photographer with added flexibility and image acquisition speed.
My standard approach when using Pro Capture H now includes the use of focus and recompose technique.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. My standard Pro Capture H settings for small birds in flight were used. These include Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter both set to 15 frames, and a frame rate of 60 frames per second. This is the 1,039th article published on this website since its original inception.
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