Friday, November 18, 2011

Back-Button Focus Faux Pas

About three months ago I switched to using back-button focus on my Nikon D3S and for the most part have adapted fairly well. Although I've had a few missteps, such as yesterday when I was shooting a change of command and retirement ceremony, switching back and forth between a D700 without back-button focus set and the aforementioned D3, I just failed to focus during a cake cutting. Since I was using a 14-24 lens, I was able to recover the images in post, but it had me thinking if I should switch back.

I have also been thinking about all the other things I've changed recently such as shooting flash with the camera set to manual mode vice aperture priority mode (default setting for most of my photography) and pushing ISOs to 3200 on a regular basis. Well technology has certainly improved and my photography has improved as a direct result of these changes, but sometimes I wonder why I'm changing. After all I've been using the shutter button to set focus ever since there has been auto focus. And truth be told, setting my Nikon's to aperture priority and the flash to TTL produces fine results.

I think it simply comes down to change is good and after all why would I shoot my D3s or D700 the same way I shot with my N90 or F4 film cameras. It feels good to push myself and starting tomorrow I'm going all in and switching my D700 to back-button focus as well. One word of warning, be prepared to explain back-button focus to everyone you hand the camera to.

And speaking of my assignment yesterday, I've probably photographed hundreds of change of commands and retirement ceremonies over the years and while some are bigger, they are all pretty much the same. Yesterday's assignment also included spending some time behind-the-scenes prior to the ceremony, mostly to cover the promotion of the incoming admiral. Enjoyed that more than I thought I would and was really happy with the results. The location was Quarters E on the historic Washington Navy Yard which made a real nice environmental location and setting my camera to manual mode - along with using a SU-800 wireless Speedlight Commander - allowed me to get my SB-900 flash off camera and resulted in some nice natural looking images.

One other thing I do when shooting an event is to look for something that I find interesting or different, something that may not make it into the final edit for the client. I thought the photo below of the Washington Honor Guard crowding into the exit following the ceremony was funny.

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