Lightroom CC Update – Boundary Warp and Nikon Tethering

Posted January 27th, 2016 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink
Boundary Warp

Here’s the new Lightroom CC Boundary Warp control window. A great new addition for Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

Adobe released a new version of Lightroom today for the Creative Cloud and stand-alone versions. Lightroom CC 2015.4 and Lightroom 6.4 address a number of bugs while also updating the software for new cameras and lenses.

As far as I’m concerned though, the two most important things about this release are the Boundary Warp feature in Lightroom CC and the ability to tether Nikon cameras for photographers using the newest Mac OSX 10.11 (El Capitan).

Here’s the link to the press release at the Adobe website: Lightroom CC 2015.4 Press Release

1. Panorama Boundary Warp

Boundary warp is a brand-new feature available in the Lightroom CC version aimed at improving panorama merging. It is designed to warp the corners and edges of the panorama so you don’t lose those areas of the image.

This slider works exceptionally well when merging photos taken with extreme wide-angle lenses. You don’t typically get much distortion with focal lengths of 50mm or longer, but you get quite a bit with 14mm and 20mm lenses. Boundary Warp helps solve this problem in a very easy-to-use interface.

Check out this video I created to help further explain the tool.

YouTube Link: Boundary Warp (


2. Tethering with OS X 10.11 (El Capitan).

Another great fix with this release of Lightroom CC/6 is the ability to tether Nikon cameras in Mac OSX 10.11 (El Capitan). Finally!

Unfortunately, operating system updates can be very troublesome for us photographers. We heavily rely on software for our businesses, so any hiccup in the operation of our computers is a major deal. The most recent update to the Macintosh operating system, El Capitan, broke the ability of Lightroom CC/6 to tether with Nikon cameras.

For me, that was a deal breaker to upgrading to El Capitan since I use Lightroom tethering for my portrait and commercial work. Tethering really helps when shooting with clients on set as it allows them to immediately collaborate on images.

The newest version of Lightroom CC/6 now fixes the tethering issue for us Nikon shooters and represents my last obstacle to upgrading my Mac to El Capitan.

List of Changes/Additions in Lightroom CC/6

Fixed Bugs

– Auto Sync of some settings failed when using smart previews

– Lightroom would ignore model-specific custom default settings for some cameras, including some Leica and Sony models.

– Crop resets to image bounds when adjusting rotation via slider

– In Lights Out mode, an image would “disappear” if a customer uses the Undo functionality

– SIGMA 50mm f1.4 ART lens was incorrectly identified as Zeiss Milvus 50mm f1.4

– Soft Proofing RGB readout values differed for same file between 5.7.1 and 6.x

– Import from iPhoto would result in all photos receiving a “pick” flag

– Comments from Lightroom web come in to Lightroom on the desktop as already “read.”

– Lightroom would not display the correct EXIF metadata for some video files generated by Canon, Fuji and Panasonic cameras

– Vertical panoramas created using Merge could appear with the wrong orientation

– The video cache did not respect the maximum size specified in the preferences

– Customers experienced issues importing video files in some scenarios

– Tethering Nikon cameras on Mac OS X 10.11(El Capitan) did not work properly

New Camera Support in Lightroom CC 2015.4 / 6.4

– Fujifilm X70

– Fujifilm X-E2S

– Fujifilm X-Pro2

– Leica M (Typ 262)

– Leica X-U (Typ 113)

– Panasonic DMC-ZS60 (DMC-TZ80, DMC-TZ81, DMC-TZ85)

– Phase One IQ150

– Sony ILCA-68 (A68)

Additional Updates in Lightroom CC 2015.4 / 6.4

– Nikon 1 J4 Camera Matching Profile added

– The panorama merging process should complete roughly twice as fast as Lightroom 6.3

– Improved quality when applying Auto Straighten and Upright “Level” mode

– A preference was added to the Mac to prevent accidental “speed swiping”

– Metadata is added to merged panoramas to support Photoshop’s Adaptive Wide Angle filter

– Customers can now set the location of where photos are stored when downloaded from Lightroom mobile or Lightroom web in the preference panel or – contextually in the folder panel

– Thumbnails update much quicker when copying and pasting settings in the grid view

– Images load faster in the Library module when you are zoomed in and navigating images

– Tethered support added for the Nikon D5500 and Nikon D7200

Panoramas About Town

Posted January 22nd, 2016 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink
Gig Harbor Pano

Panorama of the Gig Harbor waterfront. Nikon D750, 14-24mm f/2.8. Processed in Adobe Lightroom CC and stitched in Adobe Photoshop CC. Converted to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I make a habit of carrying a camera with me just about everywhere I go, especially when heading out on short errands. I love finding new photographic gems in my hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington.

Last week, I headed down to the Post Office to ship some books and took a quick side trip to photograph the Gig Harbor waterfront with my Nikon D750 and 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. A couple days prior to that, I took a one-hour break from writing to walk across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with my D750 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. In both cases, I decided to create panoramas of the scenes before me.

Narrows Bridge

Panorama from center span of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Nikon D750, 24-70mm. Processed in Adobe Lightroom CC. Stitched together in Adobe Photoshop CC.

I’ve been shooting more panoramas lately because I really enjoy the entire process from capture to print. I also love being able to capture the atmosphere of the scene in a way most people don’t normally see. On the technical side, I thoroughly enjoy the discipline it takes to create a good-looking pano. There are a lot of settings and techniques that have to be executed well in order to produce an image that works.

For example:

– Exposure control for the darkest and brightest areas of the scene

– Depth of field

– Composition

– White balance

– Panning technique

– Dealing with subjects that are moving

– Wind

– Sun

– Clouds

– Overlap percentage for individual frames

– Lens choice

– Distortion control

– Developing the images in software (Lightroom CC) so all images work together in the final panorama

– Stitching the images together in Lightroom CC or Photoshop CC

– Post-processing the panorama to fix problem areas

– Final presentation and printing

Some panoramas work really well and others are just, well, boring. Sometimes, you don’t know until you’ve gone through all the work and have the final image on your computer screen. In the case of the two images I’ve shown here, I like the image of the boats from downtown Gig Harbor, but don’t really care for the Narrows Bridge image. I think the reason why the Narrows Bridge shot falls flat for me is the clouds lack texture and form. I’ll need to go back on another day when the sky is more dramatic.

Because of my love of panoramas, I have decided to teach a panorama workshop on when I travel to The Woodlands, Texas in April. My partner in crime, Rick Hulbert (, and I are running a series of four different workshops from April 4th – 9th, including one on panorama photography. These workshops are open for all camera users (Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, etc.) and all skill levels.

While in The Woodlands, we are joining The Woodlands Camera Club to celebrate their 10-year anniversary. After their party, we’ll run workshops and photo walks on a variety of topics like autofocus for action, urban and street photography, studio lighting, HDR photography, and more.

You should join us! More information here:


January 2016 Newsletter is Posted

Posted January 7th, 2016 by   |  Photography, Travel, Workshops  |  Permalink

Our January 2016 Newsletter is posted. We have a great series of articles covering everything from book reviews, to backpacks, to new products.

In This Month’s Newsletter

– Greetings
– Instagram
– Stuff I Like This Month
– Workshop Updates
– Our Newest Book: The Nikon Autofocus System
– Book Review: The Digital Negative, 2nd Edition
– Book Review: Jay Maisel, Light, Gesture & Color
– Long Term Gear Report: Naneu K5 v2 80L Backpack
– Workshop and Business Updates

Jan 16

Check it out here: Visual Adventures January 2016 Newsletter

Nikon D5, D500, SB-5000, & KeyMission 360

Posted January 6th, 2016 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

D5-D500-SB500-KeyMission-Comp-1200pxNikon has been busy this last year developing some amazing new camera gear. They have totally knocked it out of the park with the release of two new professional cameras, the Nikon D5 and D500. While the D5 is indeed an impressive new camera, the D500 is truly the new DX flagship camera that we’ve all been waiting for.

Nikon is still innovating in the DSLR market and have so far, at least publically, ignored the mirrorless professional market. I am one photographer who really likes shooting with DSLRs because of their excellent speed and top-notch autofocus. Time will tell what Nikon intends to do with the mirrorless world.

In addition to the two new cameras, Nikon also released a new SB-5000 flash and a new sports-action camera called the KeyMission 360. Read below for more details on all these new products.


This DX (small sensor) DSLR is truly a professional camera in a smaller body. Nikon shooters have been waiting many years for a Nikon D300/D300s replacement and we now have our new DX flagship camera that is a small version of the full-frame Nikon D5.

Nikon D500

The Nikon D500 is the new DX flagship.


This smaller camera is approximately the same size as a D750 or a D810 and utilizes the same autofocus system as the Nikon D5. This new AF module incorporates 153 autofocus points for almost full coverage of the entire frame. Additionally, quite a few of the sensors (15 to be precise) will operate at f/8 effective maximum aperture.


The native ISO range has been increased to 100 – 51,200. The D500 also uses expanded ISO options of Hi-1, Hi-2, Hi-3, Hi-4, and Hi-5. Hi-5 is an equivalent of ISO 1,640,000!


In the interest of speed and high ISO performance, Nikon has chosen a 20.9 MP CMOS sensor for the D500. I would have liked to have seen more pixels, but 20.9 is perfectly adequate for almost all shooting scenarios we come across. I’ve become used to the 36 MP sensor on my D800, but I also shoot quite extensively with my 24 MP D750 and find its resolution just fine.

High Speed Continuous

Again, working to claim its title as a professional DX camera, the D500 will shoot at 10 frames per second. Nikon claims the camera will sustain 10 FPS for a total of 79 shots in a row while shooting 14-bit compressed RAW using an XQD card. That’s unheard of in a camera this size. Truly amazing. Kudos to Nikon.

Tilting Touch Screen

The D500 incorporates one of my favorite features of the Nikon D750; the tilting screen. The screen allows me to place the camera in awkward positions while still being able to compose during live view. The D500 monitor adds touch screen capability, a first in the DSLR world.

D500 touch screen

The new tilt screen on the D500 is touch sensitive.

Light Meter

Nikon has created a new light meter, increasing the resolution of the light sensor to 180,000 pixels. As many of you know, Nikon uses the light meter to work in tandem with the focus system, so this new light meter will be better suited for subject tracking and facial recognition.

Automatic AF Fine Tune

Nikon has created an internal automatic AF fine tune utility. Supposedly, it compares a live image on the CMOS sensor with a captured image, then fine tunes the focus for each specific lens.

XQD and SD Cards

Further tipping its hat to professional photographers, the D500 utilizes both XQD cards and SD cards. The XQD format is blazingly fast and allows transfer speeds of 400 MB/s write and 350 MB/s read. That’s over twice as fast as the current super-speed CF cards of 160 MB/s.

4K Video

For the video enthusiasts in the crowd, the D500 can shoot 4K video at 30p. It also shoots 1080p at a variety of frame rates. While shooting video, it has the ability to send 4K video to the memory card and an HDMI simultaneously.

Cost and Availability

The D500 is set to retail for $1,999.95 and should start shipping March 15, 2016.

More Information

D500 PDF Brochure


D500 at


D500 at


D500 Sample Photos


Pre-Order D500 at Adorama



The Nikon D5 is a professional FX (full-frame sensor) camera. At a price point of $6,500 USD, it is out of reach for most casual shooters, but does things that no other camera before it has done.

Nikon D5

The D5 is Nikon’s new professional flagship camera designed for ultimate performance.


The brand-new autofocus module is shared with the D500 and boasts 153 AF points. 99 of those are cross-type sensors. The center sensor will that operate down to EV -4, which allows full autofocus on moonlit nights.


The native ISO range of the D5 is 100 to 102,400. With an expanded ISO up to Hi-5, the system will take pictures at an ISO equivalent to 3,276,800. Yes, that’s ISO three million. Unbelievable.

Nikon D5 back

Nikon carries on its tradition of excellent ergonomics and a logical button layout.


The FX (full-frame) sensor comes in at 20.8 MP. This is a modest increase in pixel count from the D4s’ 16.2 MP sensor, but is sufficient for most everything a professional sports or action photographer might need.

High Speed Continuous

The D5 will shoot 12 frames per second with full AF and AE tracking. The frame rate increases to 14 FPS with the mirror locked up. In that scenario, the camera won’t track autofocus or exposure. The camera has a 200-frame buffer when shooting at 12 frames per second. With this performance, you can shoot for almost 17 seconds straight without stopping.

4K UHD Video

Along with the D500, the D5 offers 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video at 30/25/24p. It uses dot-by-dot readout, which means it doesn’t use the full frame when recording 4K video, so the crop factor ends up being about 1.5x. When shooting 1080p, the camera does use the full frame.

The great thing about video with this camera is that you are able to use the full range of ISO sensitivities while recording. This will allow ISO ranges from 100 to 3 million. Imaging shooting video in almost complete darkeness!

Light Meter

Nikon created a brand-new 180,000 pixel light meter for the D5 and D500 cameras. Coupled with the EXPEED 5 engine, this camera’s metering performance should be the best in Nikon’s history.

Touch Screen

The D5 uses a new touch screen monitor on the back of the camera. This LCD is 3.2 inches diagonal and 2.4 million dots of resolution. Unlike the D500, the screen doesn’t pivot, but the new touch functionality will dramatically improve navigation through pictures.

Memory Cards

The camera ships with one of two options for memory cards; either dual CF cards or dual XQD cards. Most professionals will probably opt for the dual XQD cards due to the increased speed they provide over CF cards. Nikon says the card slots are modular, so I’m guessing that you’ll be able to send the camera back to Nikon and swap out one module for the other.

Pricing and Availability

The D5 will retail at $6,500 USD and will be available March 15, 2016.

More Information

D5 at


D5 PDF Brochure


D5 Sample Photos


Pre-Order at Adorama CF Version


Pre-Order at Adorama XQD Version



This new flash packs more power than the SB-910 into a smaller form factor. Also, it adds radio control in addition to the standard infrared light-pulse system of the legacy creative lighting system (CLS).


The SB-5000 is more powerful and smaller than the SB-910.


More Groups

The cool thing about the new SB-5000 is it will now work with up to six groups while the previous CLS allowed three groups. It allows control up to 18 flashes within those 6 groups, so you’ll have no more excuses for not having enough flash control.

Backwards Compatable

The SB-5000 is backward compatible with the previous CLS control system, allowing it to use three groups in legacy CLS control with three groups in the new radio CLS control.

Radio Control

The operation of the new wireless radio control requires a Nikon D5 or D500 to send the signal with the optional WR-R10 wireless transceiver. Radio control allows the off-camera flashes to be positioned around corners and even outside the room. The previous system was IR light controlled, so all flashes had to be line of sight in order for the system to operate.


SB-5000 mounted on the Nikon D5.

Cooling System

Because the flash is smaller and more powerful, Nikon designed an internal cooling system to prevent overheating. Previous flashes like the SB-800, SB-900, and SB-910 would overheat or even shut down after firing multiple flashes in a row. Now, Nikon says the SB-5000 will shoot 120 continuous frames at 5-second intervals without overheating.

Price and Availability

The SB-5000 will retail for about $600 and will be available in March of 2016.

More Information

SB-5000 at


Pre-order at Adorama


KeyMission 360

This is an action camera built in a similar form factor as a GoPro, but with significant differences. The KeyMission 360 uses two cameras pointed in opposite directions. Each camera has a super-wide-angle lens so that the system captures a full 360 degrees of coverage while recording in 4K. You can edit the video so you have continuous spherical coverage of the action.

KeyMission 360

The KeyMission 360 action camera shoots spherical 4K video.

The camera is waterproof to 30 meters (100 feet) and shockproof to 2 meters (7 feet). It also has in-camera electronic image stabilization.


More Information


KeyMission at NikonUSA


Pre-order KeyMission 360 at Adorama


Instagram Leopard Week

Posted December 17th, 2015 by   |  Travel, Wildlife  |  Permalink

Each week we post a new theme to our Instagram account. Here’s the summary of Leopard week.


AF Tip – Autofocus for Portraits

Posted November 25th, 2015 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

Using the correct autofocus settings will help you create great holiday portraits.

Note: Part of this article is an excerpt from our new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time. It has been modified to include information on both Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

The holiday season is coming up and we’ll be taking lots of portraits of friends and family over the next two months. It is time to brush up on your autofocus skills for holiday portraiture.

The most important thing to focus on when you shoot portraits is the subject’s eye. Humans learn a lot about a person by looking into their eyes, so in a photograph, the eye must be critically sharp. Therefore, I generally like to use single-point AF area for my portraiture. This allows me to accurately select my focus point (eye) where a different autofocus setting like auto-area or group-area might pick a different point of focus.

Single AF

Single point autofocus allows you to focus on a specific object like an eye.

Group Area AF

Be careful when using other autofocus patterns like Group Area AF. As you can see in this photo, the pattern focused on the tip of the nose, causing the eyes to be out of focus.

If you shoot with a fast lens, like the 85mm f/1.4 lens with the aperture wide open, then you need to be particularly careful about critically focusing so you don’t accidentally focus on an eyebrow or the ear. At f/1.4, your DOF (depth of field) is so narrow that if you don’t focus directly on the eye, then it will be out of focus and the viewer will reject the shot.

Group Christmas Portrait

For group portraits, focus about 1/3 of the way into the group from front to back.

When you shoot groups, use a smaller aperture like f/8 or f/11 to gain more DOF, and focus about one third of the way into the group to maximize the DOF. In group portraiture, you don’t necessarily focus on any specific person; rather, you focus into the group to maximize DOF. One third of the DOF occurs in front of the focus point and two thirds of the DOF occurs behind the focus point.

When shooting portraits, you frequently need to focus, then recompose so the subject is on the left or right of the frame. Therefore, you’ll need to set your autofocus motor to single servo. On a Nikon, this is called AF-S, and on a Canon, this is called One-shot. If you if you are a back-button focuser (you know who you are), then you’ll set the camera to AF-C or AI-Servo for Nikon and Canon respectively.


For shots like these, I focus first, then recompose for the best composition. I also shoot in burst mode to try and capture the best expressions.

I keep my camera in continuous high (CH on Nikon, Continuous on Canon) frame rate so I can shoot bursts if necessary. Even in portraiture, there are times when it makes sense to shoot a quick burst of images in order to get the shot. If you use flash in your portraiture work, I suggest staying in single-shot mode; otherwise your flash units won’t be able to recycle fast enough to keep up with a fast frame rate.

Nikon Autofocus Book

Interested in learning more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.


The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook


The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover

Autofocus Tip – Live View AF

Posted November 17th, 2015 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink
Live View

These happy photographers are using Live View to frame up their photographs of mushrooms in Iceland.

Note: This excerpt from our new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time has been edited to include information on both Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

Live View Overview

Most newer Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras have a Live View mode that you use for capturing video and still photography. Live View in early Nikon & Canon cameras was a bit cumbersome to use. These early bugs have been worked out in newer cameras and now Live View is a breeze to use. Even though focusing in Live View mode is slower, it is definitely the most accurate way to focus for non-moving subjects.

There are many reasons to use Live View:

– Composing product and still images for magazines and advertising

– Obtaining critical focus for macro shots

– Composing images when the camera is low to the ground to avoid lying down to look through the viewfinder

– Composing images when you hold the camera overhead, like when you take a photo over a crowd of people

– Shooting video

Activating Live View

Most newer Nikon and Canon DSLRs use either a Live View button or a Live View switch. For models like the Nikon D810 or Canon EOS 5D Mk III that capture both video and still photographs, you’ll need to make sure you select the correct capture mode. Autofocus generally works the same way in photo Live View mode or video Live View mode, but be sure to set the camera for still photos if that’s what you will be shooting.

D810 live view

Here’s the Live View button and Live View selector switch on a Nikon D810.


Canon Live View

Here’s the Live View button and Live View selector switch on a Canon EOS 7D.

The Difference Between Focusing Systems

Live View uses a different AF technology than regular AF on Nikon and Canon cameras. Live View uses contrast detection from the camera’s imaging sensor, as opposed to the phase shift sensors used by the camera’s AF sensor system. Live View AF doesn’t use predefined focus positions so that means the focus point can be located anywhere in the screen, or field of view.

D750 live view

The Live View AF sensor can be positioned anywhere on the screen. Here, the focus point (red box) is located at the lower left on a Nikon D750 monitor.

Focusing with Live View is more accurate because you are able to focus the lens with the actual plane of the imaging sensor. If the imaging sensor (CCD or CMOS) looks sharp, the resulting photo will be sharp. In traditional focusing with the camera’s autofocus module, you must trust that the AF sensor is calibrated. When the AF sensor thinks the subject is sharp, that is how the image will be captured on the imaging sensor after the mirror flips up and the shutter curtain moves out of the way. Focusing on the imaging sensor with Live View removes the AF sensors and the mirror from the equation.

The camera’s traditional AF system is very fast and allows you to track moving subjects. Of course, you have to look through the viewfinder to keep the sensors on the subject. Live View focus, on the other hand, is very slow in comparison and doesn’t work well with moving subjects. It works best when you focus on static scenes and the camera is on a tripod or very stable.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices for using Live View photography and video modes:

1. For still photography in Live View mode, I recommend setting the Live View AF system to AF-S (single servo) mode and normal focus area. These two settings result in the most accurate focus and is easiest to use.

2. To initiate focus in Live View, press the shutter-release button halfway or press the AF-ON button (back focus button). Look for the focus box to turn from red to green. When the box is green, the camera has achieved focus for the subject inside the box. When the box is red, the camera thinks the subject is out of focus.

3. To obtain critical focus on the subject, press the zoom button on the back of the camera. It allows you zoom in to the subject on the LCD monitor to really dial in the focus. At this high magnification, you can manually or automatically focus to make sure the shot will be crisp.

Zoom buttons

Zoom in to the Live View screen with the zoom buttons to help you achieve critical focus.


4. For shooting videos, I recommend turning off the AF system. The Live View AF modes that allow subject tracking are not reliable and often result in focus hunting, which makes it nearly unbearable to watch the resulting video.

5. Live View automatically actives the VR/IS (vibration reduction/image stabilization) system in your lens. Any time the Live View screen is on, your lens is actively reducing vibration. If you are using a tripod to shoot video, I recommend turning off VR. If you are handholding your camera in Live View mode, keep VR turned on to either the normal or active setting.

Nikon Autofocus Book

Interested in learning more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.


The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook


The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover

Autofocus Tip – AF and Hyperfocal Distance for Landscape Photography

Posted November 12th, 2015 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink


I’m sure each of you have experienced a similar scenario: you’re at a beautiful location, perhaps the American Southwest, and are ready to take a photograph at sunset that captures the beauty of the scene in front of you. The colors are popping, the clouds are red and your adrenaline is flowing while you set up your camera. Then, it hits you … where should you focus the camera? Obviously, the entire scene is beautiful, but you can only pick one distance to set your focus.

The crazy thing about landscape photography is that your goal isn’t necessarily to focus on any specific thing, rather you should focus so the majority of the scene appears to be sharp. Landscape photography is all about maximizing depth of field (DOF), which will hopefully produce sharpness from the front to the back of the image.


For this scene in Sedona, Arizona, I focused at the hyperfocal distance to maximize sharpness from the foreground to the red rocks in the background.

Rather than focusing on a specific thing in the scene like a mountain or a flower or a river, you want to focus at a specific distance. This distance is called the hyperfocal distance.

Hyperfocal Distance

The term hyperfocal distance is defined as the focus distance that places the farthest edge of the depth of field at infinity. In other words, if you focus at the hyperfocal distance then the mountain in your scene will be in focus (infinity) as well as objects close to your camera. More specifically, focusing at the hyperfocal distance for your photograph keeps everything from infinity to half of the hyperfocal distance acceptably sharp. To better understand what this looks like, see the figure below.


This graphic shows how setting focus for hyperfocal distance will render everything from infinity to 1/2 hyperfocal distance in focus.

In this scenario shown in this figure, let’s say the photographer chooses an aperture of f/16 with a 24 mm lens. The hyperfocal distance for this combination is 2.7 feet from the camera. In this example, everything from infinity to half of 2.7 feet (1.35 feet) will be in sharp focus.

I have a section in my new book (The Nikon Autofocus System) on hyperfocal distance that includes a hyperfocal distance table, but here are two web resources for you to calculate hyperfocal distance if you aren’t planning on purchasing the book:

Cambridge in Color Discussion on Hyperfocal Distance


Cambridge in Color article on DOF.

DOF Master Hyperfocal Distance Calculator


DOF Master depth of field calculator


To set your focus distance to the correct hyperfocal distance, simply use your focus markings on the lens barrel. In the example I described above, just rotate the lens’ focus ring to 2.7 feet, then take the picture.

But Mike, Give Me Something Easier!

If all this technical discussion makes you want to pull your hair out, then I have an easier answer for you. Don’t worry about the hyperfocal distance calculations or tables. Rather, just set your lens aperture to f/16, then focus about 1/3 of the way into the scene.


To approximate the hyperfocal distance, just focus approximately 1/3 of the way into the scene.

Obviously, this method requires a bit of guesswork, but after you’ve framed the scene with composition you want, then focus about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom edge of your composition. This will approximate the hyperfocal distance and your brain won’t hurt from looking at tables or plugging numbers into a calculator.

Autofocus Settings

Since the scene doesn’t move around in landscape photography, go ahead and set your camera to AF-S mode. AF-S stands for single servo. This means the camera will focus once then lock the focus while you take the photograph. The common approach is to focus with the AF sensor pointed at the hyperfocal distance – or 1/3 or the way into the scene – then recompose the photograph before taking the picture.

For your autofocus pattern, I recommend using single-point AF. Again, since the scene doesn’t move, the single focus point allows you to precisely choose a focus point that maximizes DOF.

Nikon Autofocus Book

Interested in learning more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.


The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook


The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover

Autofocus Tip – Theater, Plays and Stage Productions

Posted November 4th, 2015 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

Don’t be that photographer who takes blurry pictures at this year’s Christmas play. Use the correct AF settings and shutter speed to get great pics.

Imagine this scenario. Your 7-year-old granddaughter has been selected to be a maiden in this year’s Christmas play. You are excited to photograph this momentous event, so you get to the venue early and set up in the front row with your camera and long lens.

As the play starts, you begin taking pictures and notice that the resulting images all look blurry and soft. In a panic, you set the camera back to Automatic mode in the hopes that the camera is smart enough to figure this out on its own. Unfortunately, the camera’s automatic settings don’t help, so you come home from the play without a single decent photograph of your granddaughter’s Broadway debut.

Don’t be THAT photographer. Instead, use the autofocus and shutter speed tips I outline here to create great images of theater and stage productions.

More Than Just Autofocus

It is a little known fact among newer photographers that one of the most important camera settings for getting sharp photos during stage productions is to use a fast shutter speed. That’s right. Your autofocus settings don’t matter one bit if your shutter speed is too slow.

In my book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, I write extensively about the interaction between autofocus settings and shutter speed. You can have all your focus settings properly configured, but if you shutter speed is too low, then it is all for naught. I’ll get into the details of shutter speed later in the article, but for now, let me discuss the best autofocus settings on the camera.

AF Settings

Before moving to shutter speed details at least get the AF settings correct before talking about shutter speed. Most stage performances are fairly slow moving, so you don’t need your camera’s wide area dynamic autofocus modes to track moving subjects. These would be analogous to settings such as dynamic 51-point, 3D, or auto-area autofocus. Quite often the problem with using these larger area autofocus patterns is that they will mistakenly focus on bright objects in the background.

Rather, it is better to use something like single area autofocus or dynamic nine-point auto focus area. These settings allow you to pick out an individual actor and focus on their face.

Again, since the action is relatively slow, you might want to use AF–S, which is a single servo autofocus. This allows you to focus on the subject and then recompose before taking the photo.

Shutter Speed

Now that your autofocus system is set up properly, the next thing to consider is your shutter speed. There are two types of movement you have to consider when working to achieve a sharp photograph – subject movement and camera shake.

Subject Movement

Subject movement is motion from the actors as they move about the stage in dialog or while walking and dancing. Each of these activities has a different level of movement and requires a different minimum shutter speed to freeze the movement. Here’s a list of movements and the corresponding shutter speed you’ll need to freeze the action:

  • General conversation = 1/60 sec.
  • Walking around on stage = 1/100 sec.
  • Waving arms during a scene = 1/250 sec.
  • Jumping up and down in excitement = 1/500 sec.
  • Dancing during an ensemble = 1/1000 sec.

You might be able to get away with longer shutter speeds than I mention here, but using these shutter speeds will almost guarantee freezing the motion of the actor/actress.

Bethlehem star

Most action on the stage is fairly slow, so you can use AF-S (single servo) and single-area focus.

Camera Shake

Camera shake is caused by the photographer while handholding the camera. The longer the lens you use, the faster the shutter speed you’ll need to get a sharp picture.

The general rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should equal your focal length. In other words, if you are shooting at 100mm zoom, then you need about 1/100th second shutter speed. If you are shooting 50mm, then you need 1/50th second shutter speed. A 300mm lens requires approximately 1/300th second.

You can get around this rule of thumb by using a monopod or by using your lens’ built in vibration reduction. Usually, VR (vibration reduction) or IS (Image Stabilization) settings will allow you to use shutter speeds 2 to 3 stops longer than normal. So, if you are using a 300mm lens, then VR might allow you to use a shutter speed of 1/30 second or 1/60 second.

VR/IS is all well and good, but you also have to consider the subject movement that I mentioned above. If your VR allows you to handhold the camera at 1/60 second but you are trying to photograph a dance, then you’ll still get a blurry photo because of the subject movement.


Even Sacajawea approves of these camera settings.

Use High ISO and a Wide Aperture

The only way to get fast shutter speeds during a stage production is to use high ISO values like ISO 1600, 3200, 6400 or higher. If you try to shoot at low ISOs such as 100, 200 or 400 then your shutter speeds will be around 1/2 to 1/15 second. At those shutter speeds, you are bound to have a lot of subject movement.

I know, the purists among you scoff because you know that cameras produce more noise & grain at higher ISOs. However, you can always deal with the noise in software like Adobe Lightroom but you can’t deal with a blurry photograph. So, use the higher ISOs in order to get your shutter speeds up to 1/125 second or higher.

The last piece of the puzzle is to use a wide aperture to let as much light into the lens as possible. I suggest using an aperture of f/2.8 or larger. If your lens is a lower-cost model then at least use f/4.5 or f/5.6.

Ok, that’s it for this autofocus tip. Want to learn more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.


The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook


The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover

Autofocus Tip – AF for Panoramas

Posted October 29th, 2015 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink



Eimskip ferry boat in Westman Islands, Iceland.

Creating panoramas with digital cameras is easier than ever these days. Since most image editing software packages have panorama stitching utilities built in, building the final image is often as simple as selecting the photograph sequence and then clicking “merge to panorama.” Even though the software side of things is fairly simple, making sure your camera’s focus settings are configured properly will make a big difference in the final quality of your panorama.


New York City skyline panorama from the Staten Island ferry.

As most of you know, the process of taking a panorama with a camera requires you to capture a sequence of photos horizontally or vertically. In other words, take a photo on the left side of the scene, then pan the camera to the right a little bit and take another image. Repeat this sequence until you’ve captured the entire scene in front of you. You’ll use these photos in your software program to stitch together the final single image.

With respect to autofocus, the most important thing to consider is to make sure the focus distance remains constant from picture to picture in the panorama sequence. If the focus changes from shot to shot, then the software will have a difficult time merging photos. Even if the software is able to merge together images with different focus values, the final image will look weird because one section might be blurry while another section next to it looks sharp.

New York post office

Post Office Building, New York City, NY.

So, the solution is to make sure that you lock focus distance for the entire sequence of shots. Here are four ways to lock focus:

1. Set focus manually. I like using autofocus to acquire focus initially, then I switch off autofocus on my camera body for the entire image sequence. This ensures focus remains constant from picture to picture.

Focus switch

Setting the AF switch on your camera to Manual focus will prevent refocusing before each shot.

2. Use the AF-L (autofocus lock) button on your camera. Press and hold the AF-L button on the back of your camera to lock focus during the sequence.


The AF-L button can be programmed to lock focus.

3. Use back-button AF. If you’ve programmed your camera to operate with back-button autofocus, then you don’t need to change any other settings on the camera. Basically, take the photographs and the camera won’t re-focus from the shutter release button.

AF-ON button

If you use the AF-ON button on your camera, then release your thumb from the button while shooting. This will lock AF.

4. Press and hold the shutter release button in AF-S (single servo) mode. If you focus your camera the traditional way with the shutter release button, then you’ll need to press and hold the shutter release button for the duration of the photo sequence. This is difficult to do since you’ll be panning your camera between shots and you might accidentally lift your finger from the shutter release button at some point. Then, when you go back to press the shutter release button, the camera will re-focus. The easiest thing to do if you focus with the shutter release button is to switch your camera to manual focus.

Cheney Stadium

Cheney Stadium at dusk. Tacoma, Washington


Want to learn more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.


The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook


The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover


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