Photo Tip: Maintaining Sharp Focus Has Nothing To Do With Your Camera’s AF System


Tech Talk: Diana Robinson took the photo with a Nikon D4S and an AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4D IF-ED II lens. The camera settings were 1/2500 second, f/4, ISO 400, aperture priority exposure, and Matrix metering.
© Diana Robinson

The race was more joy than suspense. American Pharoah had already taken the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and he led the 2015 Belmont Stakes from the start and was never challenged. Early on, racing fans at Belmont Park were pretty sure they were going to see the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Diana Robinson, shooting for Sports Illustrated, was jammed into the press photographers’ section. “When he came around the last turn, the sound swelled, and I couldn’t believe how loud it was,” she says. “At that point I had to tune it out to make sure I didn’t mess up the shot. I heard the sound and felt the excitement, and then I let it go to concentrate on getting a good shot.”

She got many good shots, including this one of American Pharoah’s jockey Victor Espinoza celebrating after crossing the finish line. “Being in the moment, there’s that temptation to just experience and enjoy, but you can’t do that—you have to stay with it,” Robinson says.

There was an additional distraction. “About three feet behind us were the stands, and people threw their drinks up in the air when he crossed the line, sloshing beer onto us as we were photographing.”

She had a great vantage point, a long lens, and a monopod for stability, but she had to battle the sun for most of the race. “The way the sunlight hits the track at that time of day, I was often shooting right into the sun. It was an issue at the start of the race and even at the finish line. I had to underexpose, so I got a lot of shadowed areas, but a little Lightroom manipulation opened them up.”

You can see a selection of Robinson’s travel, nature, and wildlife images at her website,