focus settings

Share your photos with other surfers here or discuss photography, technique and equipment.

focus settings

Postby mikan1089 » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:36 pm

What focus settings do you guys use for in water surf photography? I will be getting my tyokina 10-17 in a few days and was wondering should i use auto focus or not! should i set it to infinity? Any pointers would be great.
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:40 am

Re: focus settings

Postby aninternalaffair » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:16 am

I usually set mine to autofocus to infinity, tape the lens and then switch it to manual - but everybody is different and there are others on here that have a lot more experience than me and do things differently. I was recently having a chat with Ray Collins via facebook on this. His reply to my prefocus question was as follows (verbatim):

"Hey Alex, i meant locking the focus settings. Find your distance with either auto focus or manual, then i usually tape it in place (waves breaking on you can make the focussing rings move sometimes) if it is an underwater session usually i prefocus to under a ft, if it is a standard shoot i focus on something 3ft (ish) away. If it is big hollow waves where i might not be able to get so close, i usually try 4-6ft away.

At the end of the day you get a nice image or you dont, 90% of the time I find its my positioning rather than my equipment."

I'd say that Ray's advice could be taken as gospel based on the quality of his work.
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:11 am

Re: focus settings

Postby Chris F » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:15 am

Surely it should depend on the amount of available light on the day?

I have no actual experience of surf photography, but from a general photography point of view you could work on hyperfocal distances to maximise your depth of field. If you have lens set to infinity you only have 1/3 of the depth of field in front, but you can set to a hyperfocal distance and still have infinity as your furthest depth of field, but the closest would still be a lot closer. With a 10-17mm lens the DoF is pretty huge anyway, so this may not be a problem.

There's a good DoF calculator app you can download to smart phones so you can do a bit of number crunching based on the available light and respective f-stop so you can select the best setup before you get in the water.
Chris F
Posts: 7629
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:13 pm
Location: Yabberdabberdeen

Re: focus settings

Postby aninternalaffair » Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:03 pm


You're right but most fisheyes don't have a very accurate focus scale and the Tokina is no exception - it's a well regarded lens but most reviews slam the focus scale. I would recommend using a wall or physical object to set your focus than the scale itself. Indeed it does have a massive DOF throughout the aperture range. Setting the focus to 2M would give you around 1M-infinity at full aperture (I think).

With a fish eye you need to get close - In my experience normally closer than feels comfortable (it feels a lot safer with a competent surfer but that's another story). Anything less than close will need cropping and that's not ideal. I would say that between 4-8 foot is ideal with the Tokina but that's easier said than done when you've got a surfboard and a lip to keep your eye on. At my level of water shooting experience (less than 12 months), I have far more chuckers than keepers after a good session and usually always because not close enough. Objects through a fish eye are usually closer than they appear in the finished shots.

Here's one I took last week. The sponger (Dan Catten) was probably 1.5 metres away max but in my opinion he looks much further away in the shot. That was with the lens was in manual and set to infinity with really poor light. Exif - 17mm, ISO320, F4.5, 1/1250. It's not a perfect shot (partly because it has been squished to get it onto this forum) but have just used to demonstrate.
IMG_0351.jpg (241.15 KiB) Viewed 1954 times
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:11 am

Re: focus settings

Postby Zac Gibson » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:42 pm

I tend to focus on an object a similar distance away as i would ideally be with the surfer then just switch to manual focus, i dont bother taping it down as never had any problems with it being moved if i get hit by a wave, in terms of depth of field i tend to shoot at 400 iso and then adjust my apeture so i can have a larger depth of field so that i can almost guarantee the surfer will be in focus.
Zac Gibson
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:42 pm

Re: focus settings

Postby surfphoto » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:14 am

I use the back focus button to preset the distance. Just float on my back in sea and focus on me swimfin. Perfect distance for in barrel work. If you get slammed check it after but it's rare for it to move.
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:40 am

Return to Surf Photography

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests