Dogs running, looking for suitable settings

bjurasz

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Struggling to get some good shots of my puppy as he runs towards me outdoors. The images of his face are a bit soft. And I'm not positive I have my camera settings correct, first of all. Next will come my execution, followed by lens choice. But first, settings:

EM-1 Mark II
Lens: 40-150 / 1:4-5.6 (this lens might not focus track fast enough)
C-AF, and only a few focus points in the center enabled
Face detection off
Aperture priority, wide open
ISO set to 800
(note: this gave me shutter speeds faster than 1/500)
Shutter on sequential high

The dog is a 5 month old Bichon Frise. For those not familar, white dog with black nose and eyes, about 12 pounds. Surprisingly quick. Distance started about 50' and ended about 25' away from me. So, high speed, not too far away, and an inexpensive lens.

I've photographed high speed action before, albeit its been awhile. Karts, motocross, racing cars, briefly youth football too. So I'm no stranger to this type of photography. But I've gotten something amiss here.

Thanks.
 
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The biggest, easiest change: sequential low will allow the camera to focus between frames, which should up your keeper rate considerably for something moving towards/away the camera. Pretty sure sequential high doesn't do that.

Other thoughts- the lens isn't optimal for action shooting, but it should be marginal to ok outdoors in good light. Shutter priority is generally preferred for action, but I usually go with aperture priority in order to get a more consistent DOF of the background. To be fair, it's usually not an issue outdoors in good light (there's that phrase again), but it can be a thing.
 

Mack

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I tried the "running at me" dog shoot when I first got my E-11 Ii with a friend's black Schnauzer. Zero luck. Might be in part with the AF system and the all black dog. Dunno. Not easy. Only good ones were it standing still or maybe running side-to-side, but running at me was a total mess.

It was a bit better with the E-1X though, but still maybe only 20% were good 'nuff. Might be a job for a Sony, but a black hairy dog that has hair over its eyes is a tough situation for any camera, imho.
 
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I shoot with this combo frequently. I keep my shutter speed at 1/1000 or higher, C-AF low, Auto Focus adjustment -1, AF Tracking -1. I shoot manual and adjust F-Stop and ISO as necessary. Single small focus point.

EDIT: sorry just noticed you have the 4-5.6, I had this lens and upgraded to the 2.8 partly because of my dog....

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I wish I had an AF tracking suggestion, but I'm not familiar with that combo. You could always try setting your focus manually and then "trap shoot" as the dog runs towards you.

One thing with white dogs... I find you're better off setting all of your exposure yourself. The camera will see all that white as medium grey and underexpose by a bunch.
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bjurasz

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Thanks! I'm hoping to try again this weekend. Will go to sequential low, and might also trying C-AF-TR (I did notice on a few shots the dog had wandered off the dead-center of the frame. I'm also turning off shutter release for C-AF, which I believe means the camera will achieve focus before it opens the shutter. If I can get out this weekend and try again I'll update everyone.
 

Hendrik

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Struggling to get some good shots of my puppy as he runs towards me outdoors. The images of his face are a bit soft. And I'm not positive I have my camera settings correct, first of all. Next will come my execution, followed by lens choice. But first, settings:

EM-1 Mark II
Lens: 40-150 / 1:4-5.6 (this lens might not focus track fast enough)
C-AF, and only a few focus points in the center enabled
Face detection off
Aperture priority, wide open
ISO set to 800
(note: this gave me shutter speeds faster than 1/500)
Shutter on sequential high

The dog is a 5 month old Bichon Frise. For those not familar, white dog with black nose and eyes, about 12 pounds. Surprisingly quick. Distance started about 50' and ended about 25' away from me. So, high speed, not too far away, and an inexpensive lens.

I've photographed high speed action before, albeit its been awhile. Karts, motocross, racing cars, briefly youth football too. So I'm no stranger to this type of photography. But I've gotten something amiss here.

Thanks.
With this slowish lens, perhaps it would be better to use shutter priority (at least 1/800, preferably 1/1200 or faster), and Auto-ISO. The lens will likely never budge from wide open. You can trim the settings with + or - EV. Some +EV should help insure that noise will not be a big problem, especially on the white dog.
Focus-wise, a 12-pound dog at 50 feet can be a heavy lift for autofocus. If the focus picks up the dog at all, it will likely find the nose. Absolutely use low sequential in order to allow the camera to refocus between frames. Further, consider pumping the shutter and consider setting or maintaining a lowish frame limit. If you can keep a single focus point on the dog's eyes, consider using just a single point. Otherwise, if the dog's path toward the camera is not too erratic, C-AF + T might be your best bet.
 
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Are you doing the -1 AF adjustment only for dogs running at you or are you keeping this based on your particular lens/camera combo from focus tuning in general?
It seems to give me the best keeper rate for most of my body/lens combinations. I typically photograph moving subjects (dogs, airplanes) but their trajectories are predictable. The odd picture I take of a static subject I typically switch to MF.

On the EM1.2 Custom Menu > A3 > AF Docus Adj. > Default Data > -1
 

PakkyT

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Lens: 40-150 / 1:4-5.6 (this lens might not focus track fast enough)
Aperture priority, wide open
It can be tough focusing on something moving towards you rapidly and then firing the shot before the subject moves out of the "DoF" range of your setting. As an example, if the dog is 20 feet away, you are at 150mm and f5.6 then your depth of field is less than a foot meaning if the AF grabbed the nose, by the time you fully press the shutter and the photo is taken the dog may have moved a foot or two and that nose is now well forward of the DoF range.

While the advice is typically to try and get in close, in this case it might be better to shoot wider but also closing down the aperture and then cropping on the computer. To use the same example, that dog at 20 feet, if you instead zoom out to 40mm and let the aperture open to f4, your depth of field goes from less than a foot to near 10 feet! If you then closed the aperture back down to f5.6 you get about 14 feet.

You could also play with getting further away and then zooming in. For example, 40 feet away at 150mm/5.6 gives you a DoF of 3.6 feet. But if you are close, long focal length, and wider aperture changing any of those to further away, shorter focal length, and closed down aperture will increase your DoF. Unfortunately this will usually mean cropping on the computer and not getting all your mega-pickles of your camera on the shot, but depending on the use (like a screen saver, flickr, send to someone in email, etc.) it might be perfectly fine.


I've photographed high speed action before, albeit its been awhile. Karts, motocross, racing cars, briefly youth football too. So I'm no stranger to this type of photography. But I've gotten something amiss here.

Probably the main difference being a lot of those are fast but moving side to side from you or at least not always directly at you.
 

bjurasz

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Probably the main difference being a lot of those are fast but moving side to side from you or at least not always directly at you.

Good point. Most of the shots are not head-on indeed. And with the karts/motocross/cars, they are PREDICTABLE (most of the time). They follow a racing line, in other words. I need to teach my dog the racing line before our next outing... :D And, get side-running shots of the dog.

Thanks.
 

ac12

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In reading the thread, and thinking about it, I agree about setting the aperture smaller, to give you more DoF.
That would give you a focus "buffer" when the lens does not focus fast enough.

Personally, I would not bother with tracking mode, I would use either single point or 3x3 zone.
The problem with tracking is, HOW does the camera track a subject? Nikon uses color (it is in the camera manual), no idea what Olympus uses.
Even with 3x3, I've seen the camera light up AF points that were not on the subject. So the camera was not even able to track the subject in the 3x3 zone.

Or, as Joel said, "trap focus."
Manual focus on a spot, set camera to Continuous-high, and start firing before the dog reaches the focus spot, and hold until the dog has past the focus spot. Some place in that burst of pics, will be an in focus shot.
We used to do similar with film cameras, where it was sometimes difficult to focus on a subject moving towards you, in dim light. I pre-focused on a spot and fired when the subject hit that spot.
 

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