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Hard to steer these when in mid air and even tougher to put the breaks on.
Your excellent shot is weakened by the DOF it has. You should have shot at f4 and 'zeroed' your background a lot more. With a zoom of that range is there any reason why you didn't extend it and shoot a much tighter image? This would have assisted in removing your DOF range too. Also your 1/400th shutter speed is too slow to freeze the action. While the image size on here is limited it looks a little like your focus is on the fence, not the horse and rider. Did you pre-focus on that or has your AF not caught up in time?
If you're going to shoot sport, try and get out of the 'freezing movement so I must shoot in shutter priority' mindset. Shoot in aperture priority, wide open, and manipulate your ISO to keep your shutter speed as fast as at least 1/640th, preferably a lot faster. Sport is about causing your subject to leap off the page at you and the shallower your DOF, the better the image looks. Tracking a fast-moving subject is difficult and pre-focusing on a static object isn't always a good bet (if that's what you did). If your camera has a 'servo' AF mode make sure you use that too and track the object for some distance before you 'fire', to give the AF a chance to get used to the speed of the subject. 'Single shot' AF mode will lose the focus you were after within the short space of time it takes for the shutter to raise.
I hope I'm not stating too much of the 'bl33ding obvious' but without knowing all of the settings and techniques that you used it's hard to know exactly where to comment. I hope that's ok.
thanks for the comments,
i was using AE priority the reason for f6.3 rather than f4 was I was trying to get two shots in 1 at a further jump and 1 at this closer jump thus was at 500mm for 1/2 the time. I think you are right about the focus point but I think this is due to the lens (its a bit slow at refocussing) and this was shot 3 (or 4) of a burst. As for the composition of the shot I wanted it wider as I had taken a great many close in shots from this jump that day, so was trying something different. (tomorrow I'll probably upload a close up from this jump)
Well that was an excellent critique. I have to admit I was more interested in the awkward way the horse had taken the fence and the expression on the riders face to notice any focusing errors.
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