Manual Focus for Better Results

Jaime is up and about to go over in the pole vault.

I’m a huge autofocus fan. I just don’t trust my aging eyesight. But sometimes ya just gotta use manual focus when you’re shooting youth sports photos, because it’s hard to keep a moving body clear and crisp when a stationary object is involved.

I’ve found that when I shoot pix of sports with a bar, like the high jump and pole vault, my Nikon’s focal point tends to wander. That means I often get either the bar in focus or the athlete . . . or even the fence behind the bar . . . but not the bar and the athlete. To solve the problem, I manually focus on the bar and let the athlete jump into the already-focused area.

Sidebar: Don’t know how to manually focus your digital SLR’s lens? Check your camera’s manual!

Michael prepares to vault over the bar.

In this series of photos of Michael pole vaulting in a recent high school track meet, I set up close to the pit where I could see the athletes’ faces (depending on which way they turn when they vault). I manually focused on the bar and waited for the pole vaulters to approach the area.

As Michael flies over the bar, he tosses the pole backwards.

Then I held down my shutter and used burst mode.


Michael was successful . . . and so was I!

One response to “Manual Focus for Better Results

  1. Yes, this works well in a situation like this. I take lots of bicycle pics and find this technique works well for bicyclists coming up the hill, but for a group coming at me fast and furiously on the flat, I prefer to set the camera on autofocus and blast away with bursts. Lots of wasted frames, but I usually get a couple that are worth keeping.

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