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      06-03-2011, 09:50 PM   #1
M_Six
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Crop Duster

One of my neighbors owns a crop dusting outfit here. Not sure if this is him, but it's probably one of his planes. Love watching these guys and when I spotted this one just starting a field right beside the road I was on, I had to stop and grab some pics. Good thing I had my gear with me. These were shot with my nifty-two-fifty, which is actually a pretty nice piece of glass.















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      06-03-2011, 10:01 PM   #2
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nice shots Mark. I like 2, 3, and the last one.
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      06-08-2011, 07:20 AM   #3
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just pull over at the side of the road for these? I love seeing these things in action!
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      06-08-2011, 08:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by The1 View Post
just pull over at the side of the road for these? I love seeing these things in action!
Yep. For all of these shots I was standing inches from my car. His first pass was along the border of the road/field maybe 6 ft from my car. One day several years ago I had to stop to avoid driving into the path of a crop duster who was crossing the road at the end of his run.
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      06-08-2011, 08:58 AM   #5
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Nice shots! I especially like the last shot.
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      06-08-2011, 10:54 AM   #6
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You were lens-limited. Imagine these with the 70-200mm f/4L IS. You'd have gotten better critical focus on all shots (some are dead on and some are soft) and you wouldn't have needed to crop so much. The nifty-fifty is great for street shots, but sucks for this kind of stuff.

Still, this is a great effort Mark. I really like the second shot, which has the best combination of light, critical focus and action pose.

Notice how your exposure varies quite widely. You needed to either use Manual exposure or adjust them to closer levels in Processing. A longer lens would help with that. Of course the plane may have been moving from forelight to backlight on you, greatly complicating things for you. In that case, I would have selected only those with forelight for posting.

In this situation, with my 7D, I'd probably take 200 to 300 images and then post only two to five. A low panning shot might have been nice and some slower shutter speeds to let the prop spin, etc.

Just ideas for you next opportunity. Keep 'em coming.

Dave
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      06-08-2011, 11:14 AM   #7
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Thanks for the tips, Dave. Part of the issue was the intense haze that day. The more overhead the plane was, the less haze I had to shoot through. And the 70-200mm L is still on my wish list. I'll have one someday. The nifty-two-fifty is a great lens for the ridiculously cheap price, but like you said, it's not the sharpest tool for this type of shot. I was also somewhat disappointed in the AF. I would have a shot lined up, and suddenly the lens would go completely OOF and start to hunt. Not sure what that was all about. Shooting fast moving subjects is definitely something that requires practice, though.
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      06-08-2011, 11:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MATT0404 View Post
Nice shots! I especially like the last shot.
Thanks, Matt. This guy also sprays for mosquitoes and when he does our neighborhood he's barely above the tree tops. It's something to see when his plane is 50ft above your roofline. One of these days I'll get a pic of him buzzing the 'hood.
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      06-08-2011, 11:47 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by M_Six View Post
Thanks for the tips, Dave. Part of the issue was the intense haze that day. The more overhead the plane was, the less haze I had to shoot through. And the 70-200mm L is still on my wish list. I'll have one someday. The nifty-two-fifty is a great lens for the ridiculously cheap price, but like you said, it's not the sharpest tool for this type of shot. I was also somewhat disappointed in the AF. I would have a shot lined up, and suddenly the lens would go completely OOF and start to hunt. Not sure what that was all about. Shooting fast moving subjects is definitely something that requires practice, though.
Definitely, put a 70-200mm on your must-have list. It's such a useful range that I put it on par with a great wide-angle as a must-have. If you have to go outside Canon for monetary reasons, then do it, but you'll find a 70-200mm very useful for stuff like this, cars, women, macros, sports and even scenics when the wide-angle shows too much. All the Canon L-series in the range are superb and highly recommended to those that can afford them. (Consider used).

Oh, I have lots of experience shooting flying things and you must understand how the AF works to get the most out of it.

I forget which body you have, but on many Canon bodies, like my 7D, you have a number of AF point choices. When shooting against a low contrast background, like your blue sky here, I turn on all AF points. That gives you the highest odds that an AF point will be on the subject. When you press the shutter half way down to AF, you must be certain that an AF point is on the subject. If not, the lens will lose focus because it'll grab onto the contrastless background and start hunting. Once it starts hunting you're in deep doo-doo. To grab focus again, point the camera at some with high contast at about the distance of the subject and it'll snap into focus. (That's called pre-focus).

If the plane is flying low, with ground in view and maybe building or trees in the BG, then you need to use single-point AF, or a small number of tightly clusters AF points. (My 7D has a mode with 9 tightly clustered points that I really like for flying subjects). Because there's high contrast stuff behind the subject, there's grave danger that the AF point will come off the subject and grab onto the BG. Then you're in deep doo-doo again. Here I use a technique called "bumping" the AF, where I only put the shutter release half way down when I'm certain that my AF point is on the subject. Repeat regularly, as needed, but always be certain that the AF point is on the subject. Don't just contiously hold down the shutter release.

Set the AI function to Tracking (I think that's the name or it may be Continous) so that the AF is adjusting constantly when you've got the shutter button or AF button on the back depressed. The more expensive bodies actually have predictive AF tracking, which is a must when the subject is flying staight at you and closing fast (one of the hardest shots of all).

This was a great example for you and a good subject to work on. Some birds are way faster in proportion to their size and distance from you, than this plane.

You can't just point the camera at a moving subject and expect the AF to keep up and in focus. By understanding how it works, your success rate will go through the roof.

Oh, one more point about pre-focus. When you see the subject coming at you, you'll want to pre-focus slightly further away than you actually plan to trip the shutter. Pre-focus, then when the subject is in range, then focus on the subject using the appropriate number of AF points given the BG, then shoot as the subject gets to the outer limit of you distance range and continue to shoot as the subject flies closer. If the subject flies behind trees (birds do this all the time) get your finger off the shutter release until it comes out into the open again, otherwise the AF will grab onto the trees and not find the bird on the opening.

Dave

All AF points:

Bald eagle juvenile flies close by by dcstep, on Flickr

Single-point AF point:


Juvenile red-tail hawk hunting in snow by dcstep, on Flickr
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      06-08-2011, 01:16 PM   #10
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Thanks, Dave. I was using single (center) autofocus and was trying to keep the center point on the plane. I was using AI Focus, but it was the first time and I probably kept re-pressing the shutter halfway to focus instead of letting the camera do the work (like the first time you use ABS brakes). Even so, the 55-250mm isn't the sharpest lens with a stock-still subject, so...

Next time I'll try the multi-point focus and see if I can set the points to cluster in near the center. Not sure if I can do that on a T1i body.
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      06-08-2011, 01:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M_Six View Post
Thanks, Dave. I was using single (center) autofocus and was trying to keep the center point on the plane. I was using AI Focus, but it was the first time and I probably kept re-pressing the shutter halfway to focus instead of letting the camera do the work (like the first time you use ABS brakes). Even so, the 55-250mm isn't the sharpest lens with a stock-still subject, so...

Next time I'll try the multi-point focus and see if I can set the points to cluster in near the center. Not sure if I can do that on a T1i body.
Ok, single-point against BG with no contrast makes it much harder. You have to select based on the BG. My 7D has a quick toggle, but I'm not sure what you'll have to do with your Rebel. If there's no quick way to change, then staying with single-point is probably the best compromise, unless your camera has expanded single-point or a tight cluster of AF points near the single-point, then you might chose one of those and set it and leave it.

The AF will not track the subject when you release the shutter button. The purpose of releasing is to avoid it locking onto the BG instead of the subject. You just keep "bumping" it to to keep it on the subject and focus. With all AF points activated and a contrastless BG, then it's pretty safe to keep it pushed down most of the time, so long as one of the AF points is on the subject.

Oh, I thought you said nifty-fifty, not nifty-2-fifty. Ok, at least you had a good focal length. A Canon 70-200mm will give you a better IQ and better AF and you can use a 1.4x TC on that body without slowing the AF too much. Sorry, I thought that you were using a 50mm and cropping the hell out of it.

You seem to have good (high) shutter speed. When handholding out at 250mm and beyond, you need to keep the SS up over 1/1000-second for sharpness. What seems like OOF is often a little vibration blur. Of course, it could be OOF to, particularly when the distance is constantly changing. Faster lenses will allow the camera to AF faster.
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      06-08-2011, 04:49 PM   #12
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Dave, the T1i autofocus is very similar to that of the 5Dmk II which makes it a bit slow when used on AI Servo (continuous) I find an object that you are tracking the front of will end up keeping the back of it in focus. This happened to my when i was doing horse photography, I'd always get the hind quarters even though i was focused on the eyeball.

The 7D is so much faster, and you can change the speed of the AI servo for your needs on a sub menu, very handy, I haven't tryed it yet, however, i just learned to pre-focus and stop down the F stop to keep more in focus. I do that a bit when i'm shooting birds. I focus on the eye and stop down the F a little bit so that i have some freedom of movement. Mind you, i can't stand still long enough yet to catch many birds taking off. My attention span is a little short. Lots of learning still to do, but i like the larger window of opportunity to hit my target untill i can develop better habbits and methods.

Mark, if you do get to the point where you're ready to spend on the 70-200, it's a night and day difference over almost every other lens i've touched. it grabs focus faster then any other i've used to this point, which makes it a blast to use on moving targets. It also has a switch to stop it from focusing too close to you, so that if you end up in a hunting focus situation, it will still regain it's focus faster, very handy as well when doing sports and you know objects won't be getting too close.

The 60D also has a faster AF system then the T1i, so that may be a consideration for you one day. but i wouldn't hurry because the T1i is still a decent shooter.
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      06-08-2011, 04:54 PM   #13
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I love crop dusting the bar...
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