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Using the Nikon Autofocus System

Lesson 14 of 17

Landscape with Autofocus

Mike Hagen

Using the Nikon Autofocus System

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

14. Landscape with Autofocus


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:05:53
2 Autofocus Defined Duration:04:45
3 How Autofocus Works Duration:06:39
4 Focus Servo Modes Duration:09:02
5 Focus Patterns Duration:17:20
6 Autofocus Settings Duration:19:55
7 Impacts on Autofocus Duration:16:17
8 Menu Banks Duration:04:47
10 The AF-ON & Back Button Focus Duration:12:45
11 Lens Switches Duration:07:31
12 Autofocus for Portraiture Duration:05:54
14 Landscape with Autofocus Duration:07:04
15 Bird in Flight with Autofocus Duration:05:30
16 Outdoor Sports with Autofocus Duration:08:05
17 Indoor Events with Autofocus Duration:09:18

Lesson Info

Landscape with Autofocus

How 'bout landscapes, you know landscapes, it's a whole different world for focus. With landscapes we're really trying hard to maximize our depth of field and get everything from the foreground to the midground to the background to the clouds that are you know, way up in the sky. All of that needs to be in focus. The way we do that is we use a small aperture and then we actually focus beyond the closest subject. This is in Iceland. One of my favorite places to photograph in the whole wide world. I go there every single year and I, to get this photograph of the flowers and the city and the rocks and the mountain there in the background I used something like f/16. I then focused out here about 1/3 of the way into the picture and then I composed the shot to include the appropriate amount of sky and then took the photograph. So, focus at what we call the hyper focal distance and then take the image. Depth of field at f/16 allows stuff before that to be in focus and also stuff beyond that t...

o be in focus. Here we've got my hometown. This is Gig Harbor, Washington. Here I'm using a long lens. This is actually my 70-200 f/2.8 lens. This one in Iceland, that was my 14-24. So super wide angle. This is a landscape as well. It's a telephoto landscape. So here what do I have to think about? Well I got boats, trees and Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier is, I don't even know how many miles away let's just call it 80 miles away. A long ways away. So, I have to still use this concept of hyperfocal distance even though my subjects are so far away. I don't focus on the boats. I don't focus on the mountains. I focus just a little bit beyond the boats to get the whole scene in focus. So with that said, let's go back up to Gas Works Park and see how I managed a photograph there. So what about auto focus for landscape scenarios. You know obviously here, nothing's really moving around so I need to focus though in a way that maximizes my depth of field. My scene that I have here, I found some flowers here in the foreground and I thought those would be an interesting foreground element. We got some middle ground here. Maybe a boat will come by in a minute, maybe not but we got the water as the middle ground and then we of course have the city skyline as the background. So I wanna focus very carefully so that I maximize the depth of field. This is called using the hyperfocal distance. For every focal length and every aperture there's a different hyperfocal distance. So for this though I'm just gonna estimate. In fact, when I'm out in the field a lot of times I just try to estimate and focus about a third of the way into the picture and that's a good rule of thumb for maximizing depth of field. So, first thing is I need to pick an auto focus setting that allows me to selectively choose focus and so what I mean by that is I don't wanna use an automatic area auto focus. In other words I don't want the camera to decide for me. I wanna decide. So I'm gonna make an adjustment here. Okay and with that I'm go to right in the little auto focus single and then I'm gonna use S, which is single area auto focus. Single, so a single servo, in other words the camera's gonna focus and stop and then I'm gonna use a single area auto focus and that's one little point and now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna point, move that sensor with my toggle here. I'm gonna move it up into the scene 'till it's about 1/3 of the way out there into the water and hopefully that'll maximize my depth of field. Another tool that I have and I'll describe this real quick is I'm gonna use my depth of field preview button here to stop down my lens and I can actually look through it. It's this PV button, or preview. I can stop it down and I can see if my flower's in focus and the city skyline's in focus. So we'll take that shot. I'm gonna go to about f/16 for this image and focus kinda out in that area. (camera clicks) Cool. Then I'm gonna hit my depth of field preview. Stop that down and see if it works. Great and now we take the shot. Good, done. Awesome, I'm laughing because that wasn't the greatest landscape photo I've ever taken in my life so hopefully you learn more from the technique rather than that resulting photograph. That said though I did illustrate another point during that video that I wanted to reiterate right now and that is your depth of field preview button. It's right here on the front of your camera and in the newer cameras it's actually labeled PV. PV standing for preview. Back in the day, maybe back in the film days we actually used to use the depth of field preview button quite often because we couldn't see our images right away right? You'd take a photograph back in the film days and then you'd send it off the lab and it could be hours or days or even weeks later before you got the results. So we always wanted to make sure that we had adequate depth of field for the scene. So let's take it back to Iceland. In this scenario, I actually used my depth of field preview button to get the shot. I had my camera set up and then I started changing around my aperture and I started changing around my focus distance and while I did that I pushed my depth of field preview button down and it actually physically stops the lens down. Then I can see what depth of field I have inside of my viewfinder. I can actually see if the flowers are sharp and the mountain is sharp in the background. So that's a really great tip I have for you for landscape photography. Use the depth of field preview. Again back to this back button focus thing. If you're a back button focuser you can do this. You focus at what I would call your hyper focus distance there. Let go, recompose to get the mountain in the scene and then take the shot. So focus, let go, recompose, take the shot. If you're a front button focuser and you know who you are. What I want you to do is change the camera to AFS mode, auto focus single servo. You're gonna focus with the front. You're gonna hold your finger down on the shutter release, recompose and shoot. So, two approaches there for landscape photography.

Class Description

The best photo moments often present themselves to us when we least expect it. Every photographer knows the feeling of lining up what they believe will be the perfect shot, only to realize after the fact that their focus was off. Nikon cameras have a built-in autofocus system for these situations. 

Join Mike Hagan, Nikonians Academy Director, to learn how to make the most of this often-overlooked function of your digital SLR. 

In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to set your focus within the menu settings and overall various camera settings
  • How to use autofocus patterns and area modes
  • How to use servo modes and lens configurations
Mike will help you configure the autofocus system for portraits, sports, wildlife, and landscapes. Relying on autofocus will also let you concentrate on lighting and composition, and help you take advantage of those fleeting moments.



Good course! I am a beginner and this course helped me a lot. I agree with some students that a better work could have been done in preparing the presentations. It seems to me that Mike is great in having informal live workshops. However, for recorded classes like the ones we buy in Creative Live, the teaching technique should be adjusted. Overall I am glad I bought this course.

Cindy Manly-Fields

This was a great course. I just got a Nikon z5 and I also shoot a D750 and your explanations helped me understand how the autofocus works. I pulled out the cameras while you were teaching to follow along and now I have a better understanding. i appreciate at the level you teach, you keep it simple and practical which is helpful. Good job and thanks.

Catherine Lucas

After having my camera D800 for 5 or 6 years and never really got the focussing down I can finally do it. This video should be included with every Nikon sold. I am so happy that I am finally get the fullest out of this great camera, I am more of a visual person. Reading the manual is not the same as actually see it done... Thanks Mike, you rock! I have watched the sequences over and over and learned so much. Thanks. And always welcome when you pass in New Mexico...