I have found that I can never seem to achieve the depth of field I would like when photographing birds from the optimal distance - very close.
I was wondering if anyone else struggles with this. I've found that it is absolutely critical to focus directly on the bird's eye, or it is a ruined shot. But it can be extremely challenging to achieve and maintain focus on the eye of a bird that is moving quickly in various directions. Birds often tend to have twitchy head movements, and making sure that the eye is the thing my active focus point is on is quite difficult. Besides, even if I get focus locked in on the eye when I snap the shutter, all I really have in sharp focus is the eye. I'd like to get much more of the bird in sharp, clear focus. I normally shoot birds at f8, which should provide a workable DOF. Yet even at this fairly small aperture, my DOF is extremely shallow.
If any of you have the same difficulties, I'd like to hear what you've done to avoid this problem. Do any of you shoot birds at f16 or smaller? Is that what it takes? Or is it just a problem to which there is no solution?
Below is an image of a Blue Grouse taken at f8. Notice how I just barely missed focus on the eye, and accidentally focused on the feathers on the back of the neck instead? See the one very small area on the back of the neck where the feathers are in focus, and how the rest of the bird is entirely soft? This was taken at f8, which one would think should give more DOF than that. Even if I had focused on the eye, the rest of the bird would have been OOF. I really don't want to shoot them from further away and then crop alot to get the image I want. This causes a loss of detail that is unacceptable.
So the real question is, how do you photograph birds from a very close distance and still get most of the bird in focus when it is facing you or facing away form you? Is this even possible?