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Author Topic: How do you focus for landscape shots?  (Read 19372 times)

lostlandscapes

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« on: November 20, 2008, 08:19:12 PM »

Here's a very basic question, but one I've been curious about for a while. How do you focus for your landscape shots? I always focus on a single element in the frame (on the subject, or whatever I would prefer to be in focus), using the center auto-focusing point. Is this normal/smart/wise? Does it depend on the type of shot and aperture you're using?

(I'm not really concerned with hyperfocal distance, or *where* you focus, but just your method)

THanks!
« Last Edit: November 20, 2008, 08:20:49 PM by lostlandscapes »
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DarkPenguin

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2008, 10:34:59 PM »

I use live view.  Get what you have to have in focus in focus and then stop down to get whatever else you need.
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Josh-H

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2008, 12:25:23 AM »

" How do you focus for landscape shots?"

CAREFULLY  

feppe

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2008, 02:52:33 AM »

There is a very good article here on LL about it - can't remember the title, but it was "focusing in the digital age" or something along those lines.

GerardK

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2008, 02:57:55 AM »

Same as DarkPenguin. Live View is a terrific focussing tool. I have a Canon 450D - you can zoom in 5x or 10x on whatever you want to have in focus, and the great thing is, the mirror's already up. So if you take the shot with a cable release, you really have zero vibration!

Also, this is especially handy if you take wide angle shots, because autofocus is not very accurate and with modern zoom lenses the old technique of zoom in - focus - zoom out and reframe - doesn't work anymore. The focus shifts when you zoom out. Live View to the rescue.


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JeffKohn

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2008, 11:28:41 AM »

I also use LiveView when shooting from a tripod. The 100% zoom and excellent LCD on the D300 make judging critical focus much easier when manual focusing; and the contrast-based AF is very accurate (if slow). I also like that LiveView AF lets you focus on any portion of the image rather than being limited to where the AF sensors are located.

MarkL

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2008, 11:32:00 AM »

Manually using the viewfinder, I see no use for af for landscapes it is more hassle than it is worth. I don't use live view unless I need very high focus accuracy because it is slow to use.

I am used to MF and LF cameras though.
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lostlandscapes

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2008, 11:48:55 AM »


Hi Mark. Can you explain this a little bit? I'm curious how AF is a hassle for landscapes.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2008, 11:49:18 AM by lostlandscapes »
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Mauro

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2008, 05:23:08 PM »

I am on the same line as markL. I always use manual focus (well some times for laziness I make the first focusing in auto).
The main reason for me is that the focusing points (marks ?) are almost never where you need them  (it could be a murphy's law), and  need to wear glasses to use liveview.
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lostlandscapes

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2008, 05:50:22 PM »

Makes sense, but why not focus with center point, lets say on a shrub in the foreground, and then recompose (re-frame) and shoot? Don't you get the same result doing that as you would manually focusing on that shrub? Or is it that you don't trust auto-focus?

(again, i'm not trying to argumentative or anything i'm just trying to understand)
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Geoff Wittig

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2008, 07:46:27 PM »

Quote from: lostlandscapes
Makes sense, but why not focus with center point, lets say on a shrub in the foreground, and then recompose (re-frame) and shoot? Don't you get the same result doing that as you would manually focusing on that shrub? Or is it that you don't trust auto-focus?

(again, i'm not trying to argumentative or anything i'm just trying to understand)

Too complicated!
Autofocus is simply redundant for landscape photos, as the landscape surely isn't going anywhere. I have the lens set to manual focus so it doesn't try to refocus on me. I always shoot on a tripod, and usually do a quick 'rough focus', then take my time to compose the photo. Then I focus at the correct point for the scene manually. I guess I'm too old fashioned to use the live view on the LCD; instead I just make sure everything's in focus using the depth of field preview button. For wide angle shots sometimes I don't trust my eyes, and I'll use a depth of field program on my Palm computer to get the hyperfocal distance if there's something important in the foreground.
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Mauro

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2008, 08:03:51 AM »

[quote name='lostlandscapes' date='Nov 22 2008, 06:50 PM' post='238841']
Makes sense, but why not focus with center point, lets say on a shrub in the foreground, and then recompose ................

Mainly because all the lenses I have (15 more or less bought along 27 years)  have different ways to switch to manual focus (or are MF), so I usually forget about it after the first switch. Recently I  took some pictures without the tripod (did not last a lot) in that case I found that AF could be useful but only with wave*something lenses, however since I not in sports, I have found that in that case,  as Geoff pointed out, hyperfocal still has some points against AF even in term of speed :-D, unfortunately, it is getting to much complicated to use given the total absence of marks on the ( even not so recent) AF lenses.



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marcmccalmont

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2008, 08:03:54 AM »

I can usually focus more accurately manually with my 5D (sometimes) and Mamiya AFDII(always)
I find the object I want to focus on and manually focus, then use the military artillery method of over, under, on
I focus a bit off in one direction then a bit off in the other direction then set the focus ring to the center of the 2 out of focus positions
When compared on the computer at 100% this method consistently beats auto-focus. Don't know why.
Marc
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Moynihan

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2008, 08:52:42 AM »

Manually, for the reasons already stated.

If all i have along is a "bridge" style camera, then liveview, lock, reframe.
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mahleu

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2008, 09:14:23 AM »

Quote from: lostlandscapes
Makes sense, but why not focus with center point, lets say on a shrub in the foreground, and then recompose (re-frame) and shoot? Don't you get the same result doing that as you would manually focusing on that shrub? Or is it that you don't trust auto-focus?

(again, i'm not trying to argumentative or anything i'm just trying to understand)

Why Focus, Recompose Sucks
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MarkL

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2008, 11:50:19 AM »

Quote from: lostlandscapes
Makes sense, but why not focus with center point, lets say on a shrub in the foreground, and then recompose (re-frame) and shoot? Don't you get the same result doing that as you would manually focusing on that shrub? Or is it that you don't trust auto-focus?

(again, i'm not trying to argumentative or anything i'm just trying to understand)

With the camera on a tripod and composition set, moving it to af on something and them moving it back is a pain and much much slower than just turning the focusing ring watching the focus point change. The alternative is moving the af point around in the frame which takes even longer. ALso, on my D700 if I'm using live view the contrast detect af is very poor! There may also not always be something at the exact distance you want to focus on so the af will fail to lock.

I only ever use af if I will not being able to focus manually in time, there really is no other reason to use it (unless you have dodgy eyes or awful viewfinder).
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JeffKohn

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2008, 08:23:34 PM »

Most of the points made against AF seem to be in regards to traditional AF, but with LiveView it's really different. You can focus anywhere on screen you want, even zoomed in at 100% pixels level. I find precise focusing easier with LV AF for some of my lenses, because the manual focus on some AF lenses leaves much to be desired (very short travel from a meter or two all the away to infinity, because they're optimized for fast AF).

I don't understand the comment about needing glasses for LV, I would think that a zoomed in LV would be much easier to see than the viewfinder.

Focusing through the viewfinder just isn't an option for me on a DX camera, it's impossible to judge critical focus and I don't think I could do much better with a full 35mm viewfinder. I'm sure it's different with MF and LF though.

DarkPenguin

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2008, 08:45:08 PM »

Quote from: JeffKohn
I don't understand the comment about needing glasses for LV, I would think that a zoomed in LV would be much easier to see than the viewfinder.
The LCD doesn't have a diopter adjustment.
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lostlandscapes

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #18 on: November 24, 2008, 12:13:03 AM »

Thanks for all the replies. I've learned quite a bit from this. On to manual focus!
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JohnBrew

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How do you focus for landscape shots?
« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2008, 08:54:00 PM »

Quote from: lostlandscapes
Thanks for all the replies. I've learned quite a bit from this. On to manual focus!

It would appear that most of the answers are based on digital photography. Since I use a 6 x 9 my method is a bit different. However, most are probably not interested in film camera with LF lenses. I will tell you that the AF on most digital cameras is pretty much worthless and if you want really well composed shots you will use manual focusing possibly (depending on your needs) choosing a wide depth of field. Good luck.
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