Step by step Focusing from afar
01 Set a wide aperture
When using a long telephoto lens to photograph wildlife at close range, depth of field is very limited, especially at wide apertures. Because of this, you should take care to focus accurately on the eyes or face of your subject using a single autofocus point (see page 31 for more on this). Set a wide aperture using aperture-priority or manual mode, and then adjust the ISO to provide a shutter speed fast enough to prevent any blur from camera shake and subject movement spoiling your photograph.
02 Track your subject
For moving wildlife you’ll need a fast shutter speed – upwards of 1/500 sec – continuous focusing and a fast frame rate. Once the subject is well-framed, engage AF by half-pressing the shutter release (though see Pro Tips!, left, for more on this). The central focusing point is often the most sensitive, so use this whenever possible, and keep the shutter button half-pressed to maintain focus. Try to keep the subject framed so that the focus point remains on the eyes and shoot in short bursts.
03 Keep an eye on the background
To make your subject stand out clearly against the background, take care to line it up against distant landscape features and set your lens’s widest aperture to produce soft-focus backgrounds. Solid backgrounds of a neutral colour – greens and browns – work best for wildlife. Also, try to avoid hotspots or highlights in the background. Get down low to introduce blurred foregrounds too, which will give extra depth to your images and add a feeling of intimacy.
Far right, top Shooting in burst mode will help you capture the peak of the action
Far right, bottom It’s important to keep the active focus point over the subject when using continuous AF
Above Including something in the foreground and blurring it out helps to leads the viewer’s eye towards your subject
Left Getting down low and including some blurred foreground also helps to isolate your subject from its surroundings