Story by Timothy O’Brian of Blind Photographers on July 30th, 2009.
I have had some trouble focusing recently. Not with concentrating (not more than usual anyway), but with my camera. Being visually impaired, I have to rely on my camera’s autofocus. Using manual focus requires that I can see the viewfinder. I use the viewfinder to compose (mostly), but definitely not to focus. Unfortunately, autofocus does not always save the day.
Over the last month or so, I have shot a baseball and two softball games. I had more than a few instances where I thought I was focusing on a player in the infield (the pitcher, batter or a runner), but the camera instead focused way off in the distance, usually the outfield fence. This ruined an unnecessary number of shots that would have otherwise been submitted to the paper. The photo editor commented to me about this, letting me know that he needed me to sort out this issue.
I had tried the different focus setting on my D40X, closest subject, dynamic and point. I had no luck whatsoever in getting consistent focus out of the camera. An unlikely rescue happened however. A young DC filmmaker came down for a visit to understand better the how photographic workflow is affected by visual impairment for an upcoming short film about (you guess it!) a blind photographer (follow news of The Blind Photographer movie on Twitter). I showed Isaiah, the producer, the raw results of the baseball assignment and explained the issue. He suggested a solution that seems to be quite widely known (except to me). Borrowing from an article, Turn Off Autofocus – Do it Yourself! on Photography Bay, by fellow visually-impaired photographer Chris Gampat, “As I’ve learned when shooting actresses in short films while in college, it’s best to zoom in the tightest you can, focus on the exact point that you want the shot to be, zoom all the way out and then recompose your shot. This way all the detail that you could possibly want to make your shot work will be available to you.” I have tried this out with great results. I zoom in on the subject (or on something of equal distance) and half-press the shutter to engage the autofocus. Then, I either hit the autofocus lock or turn the lens to autofocus mode as I have not yet fully mastered the autofocus lock yet. Success (most of the time).
Originally seen here.