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 Thursday, April 28, 2016
While exploring Middle Caicos, I came across this great little old boat on Bambarra Beach. I opted to go wide and move in close, emphasizing the boat relative to the rest of the landscape. As I worked the scene, I continued to move in closer and lower until ... cue the pelican ... I settled on this shot.
 
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens is a great beach and seascape lens option, with or without a tripod.
 
Whether or not to use a circular polarizer filter when using the widest angles of this lens on a full frame body (and similar angle-of-view-equivalent focal lengths on APS-C format bodies) is a question that one must ask themselves. At very wide angles, a CPL filter can create an unevenly-darkened sky and tastes for such vary widely. One strategy is to shoot in the middle of the day. A high sun places the most-darkened portion of the sky evenly over the horizon. This provides a more-evenly darkened sky within the frame, as seen in this image.
 
While there is some gradient in this sky, I much prefer the CPL look and the high sky-to-boat contrast over the lighter sky (which naturally has some gradient even without the filter).
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/28/2016 11:56:32 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
by Sean Setters
 
lf you're like me, you keep a catalogue (either mentally or on paper/electronically) of locations you'd like to photograph "...when the time is right." For many locations, timing is everything.
 
Yet the opportunities for some types of photography are remarkably fleeting and/or rare. One such photographic endeavor where time is really of the essence is lightning photography. Typically speaking, lightning photography is optimally captured at night and the circumstances which make it ideal for capture sometimes catch you by surprise (for example, when you're sleeping).
 
For instance, I've been awoken in the early morning hours by the distant sounds of thunder and immediately thought, "Now would be great time to capture a lightning strike featuring downtown Savannah, GA." Unfortunately, the last time this happened I was unprepared to rush out the door quickly. It took me about 15 minutes to gather all the items I thought I'd need to capture lightning, including double-checking battery and memory card capacities. As I was driving downtown, I saw the last lightning strike that the storm had to offer. The opportunity had slipped through my fingers.
 
That got me thinking. What I really needed to do is prepare a "go-bag" that's ready at a moment's notice. So for the last two evenings where thunderstorms have been forecast, I've packed a bag before going to bed so that I can bolt (pun intended) out the door when necessary.
 
My lightning oriented go-bag includes:
 
For what it's worth, I carry the Canon TC-80N3 for redundancy; if the MIOPS trigger's internal battery becomes exhausted, or I'm photographing in a location that's too bright for the trigger to sense faint lightning, I'll use the Canon Remote Timer and simply fire the camera continuously using the intervalometer.
 
When packing the bag, I always check to ensure my camera's batteries have a sufficient charge and that its memory cards are in place. After that, I place my Induro CT-314 tripod (similar to this) on top of the bag so that I don't forget to take it as well.
 
Preparing your go-bag well ahead of the time you actually need it has two very tangible benefits. The first is that you're able to get out of the door as quickly as possible. The second is that you're less likely to forget a vital piece of equipment because you aren't frantically rushing to get everything packed.
 
Cloud and/or sunset photography are other endeavors that may benefit from a prepacked go-bag including a circular polarizing filter, step-up rings (if needed), and possibly a strong ND for longer exposures. If the sky is filled with interesting clouds or a beautifully warm, hazy sunset, just grab your bag and head out to your favorite location before conditions change (wherever that may be).
 
Do you shoot bands in night clubs? Do you ever get calls 15-minutes before show time with requests to shoot a gig? Your go-bag would likely include several wide aperture primes and, maybe most importantly, earplugs.
 
While having a go-bag prepared isn't necessarily advantageous for all photographic disciplines, it can really come in handy for those all-to-fleeting photographic opportunities where minutes matter.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/28/2016 10:43:52 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, April 27, 2016
While this beautiful bird had its eyes on dinner, I focused on getting a tight headshot with blue sky framing. The bird was in constant motion, so I aligned myself with the sun and held the single selected focus point (one to the right of top center) where I wanted the bird to be in the frame. As soon as the head turned to align with my vision for the shot, I pressed the shutter release. While my timing and/or framing was not successful on every attempt at this image, I really only needed to nail one of them. Persistence paid off.
 
The sky was clear (late in the day) and that meant the required exposure was not changing quickly. Stable exposure needs combined with a bright white subject shout "Manual Exposure" to me. I selected a manual exposure setting that made the brightest whites nearly blown and reduced brightness by 1/6 stop during post processing.
 
The sharpness of this image, captured handheld on the pixel-dense 7D Mark II with the 100-400 L II at 400mm, is really impressive. I see a lot of images, including a lot of sharp ones, but what I see here catches my attention. I highly recommend this lens (and camera), especially for birding and wildlife.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/8.0  1/500s
ISO 100
5472 x 3648px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/27/2016 11:09:58 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, April 25, 2016
There is no shortage of mountains in Denali National Park. However, a layer of snow adds greatly to how they look. Snow especially contrasts against the darkest-colored mountains.
 
Bright white snow and very dark rock can potentially be an exposure challenge. When photographing landscape under full sunlight with snow in the frame, setting the ideal exposure usually involves bringing the image brightness level up to the point where the brightest snow has a tiny area of blinkies showing on the LCD (be sure that these are enabled). This insures that detail remains in the snow while shadow/dark areas have as much color information as possible.
 
You may have noticed that this image is not showing as full-dimensioned for the Canon EOS 5Ds R used to capture it. This image was not cropped (the 100-400mm lens was not set to its longest available focal length), but as is often the problem with long distance photography, heat waves caused enough degradation that I opted to reduce the image size by 66%, using downsampling to improve image sharpness.
 
Note that I did not use a tripod for this capture. This lens' image stabilization system combined with a solid three-point sitting position (elbows on knees and forehead pressed into eye cup) were very adequate for sharpness in this regard, and a B+W HTC circular polarizer filter blocking less light than a standard filter also contributed to this run-and-gun shot.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
349mm  f/8.0  1/160s
ISO 100
5792 x 3862px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/25/2016 9:58:39 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
by Sean Setters
 
There are several variables that can have an adverse effect on image sharpness. Therefore, it's important to isolate each variable to try to determine the exact source of the problem in order to help formulate a solution that aids in achieving sharper images.
 
1. Subject and/or camera movement (Shutter speed is too slow)
 
Probably one of the most common sources of image softness is motion blur, either caused by subject movement or camera shake. Thankfully, diagnosing and counteracting the problem are fairly straightforward.
 
Diagnosis
If you notice sharp areas of your frame, but moving subjects are blurred, you know that your shutter speed was not fast enough to freeze action. If you notice a fairly uniform blur across the entire frame, but the blur is directional (with sharper contrast lines running in a specific direction), or else your images' EXIF information indicates a relatively slow shutter speed for the focal length was being used, then your images likely suffer from camera shake induced by the photographer.
 
For more conclusive results, you can conduct a Control Test (found at the bottom of this article) to see what kind of sharpness you should expect when subject and/or camera movement has been eliminated from the equation.
 
Solution:
Fortunately, the solution to the problem is also straightforward – use a faster shutter speed. How fast? That's a tricky one, but... "as fast as it takes" is the true (but seemingly unhelpful) answer. Fast action (i.e., sports) may require a shutter speed in the 1/500 - 1/2000 second neighborhood. For more static subjects, a shutter speed of 1/focal length [or with more dense sensor cameras, 1/(focal length * 2)] is a good place to start. Experience is often the best teacher when it comes to determining the optimal shutter speed for obtaining sharp images in any specific situation.
 
If your subject isn't moving, using a tripod (or some other form of solid stabilization) and 2-second timer (combined with your camera's mirror lock-up feature) can help eliminate the effects of camera shake.
 
One thing to note is that wider aperture lenses will allow you to use faster shutter speeds while keeping high-ISOs at bay. If you notice that you must use a very high ISO to freeze motion because the maximum aperture of your lens is f/5.6 at the focal length you require, it might be worth considering upgrading to a lens that features a wider maximum aperture at that same focal length (or focal length range).
 

2. Autofocus not calibrated properly
 
It only takes a small amount of front or back focus to make your subject(s) look unsharp. If your camera and lens are not calibrated properly to work together at achieve perfect focus, your subjects will be noticeably soft. Keep in mind, even a top-performing AF system may miss focus occasionally. Calibrating your AF will help if your lens is consistently focusing at a point in front of or behind your intended plane of focus.
 
Diagnosis
The easiest way to tell if your lens is front or back focusing involves shooting several image of a distant, high-contrast object in the grass that's roughly the same height off the ground as your camera (shooting propped on a knee and pointed at a yard sign usually works for me). Reviewing the images on the LCD, the blades of grass and/or ground in focus should be on the same optical plane as the object you are trying to focus on. If the grass in focus is noticeably behind or in front of the original plane of focus, then your lens may not be properly calibrated for use with your camera body.
 
Solution:
If your DSLR features Autofocus Microadjustment, then a little testing should help you determine the optimal setting in order for your camera and lens to focus properly. If your camera does not feature AFMA, then you'll need to send both your camera and lens to the manufacturer's service department for calibration.
 
For cameras with the AFMA feature, you can dial in an adjustment to correct for front and back focusing. However, you'll need to figure out what value works best. My suggestion is to read John Reilly's excellent article "AF Microadjustment Tips" and try the setup explained in the section titled "The better DIY approach."
 
For DSLRs without the ability to adjust focus in-camera, you have a few of options. The first option is to exchange the lens (if it is a recent purchase) and hope that the next lens is better suited for your camera. The second option is to modify the lens firmware yourself if that option is available to you. Both Sigma and Tamron offer optional devices such as the USB Dock (Sigma) or TAP-in Console (Tamron) which allow you to modify focus parameters of compatible lenses. The third option is to send your camera and lens to the lens manufacturer (either OEM or third-party) to have them specifically calibrate your lens to your camera body.
 

3. Surpassing your camera's DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
 
If you're not familiar with the concept of DLA, the take a quick look at Bryan's full explanation here. However, a quick explanation of DLA is the approximate aperture at which diffraction begins to negatively impact image sharpness. The DLA value is derived by multiplying a sensor's pixel pitch (in microns) by 1.61. For example, the DLA formula for the EOS 7D Mark II with a pixel pitch of 4.1µm would be 4.1*1.61 = f/6.6.
 
That means that for the absolute sharpest results at the point of focus with the 7D Mark II, you should limit your aperture to f/6.3 (the next lowest aperture that the camera can be set to) or lower. If you'd like to see an example of the degradation that can occur when using apertures significantly narrower than the camera's DLA, check out these image quality comparisons. That's not to say that you should never use apertures smaller than the DLA; sometimes a small trade-off in overall sharpness is preferable to obtaining an increased depth-of-field.
 
Diagnosis
If you notice that your images are taken with apertures at or above the camera's DLA value, then your images will likely show varying degrees of diffraction (narrower aperture = visibly more diffraction).
 
Solution:
Fortunately, this cause of image degradation is easy to correct – use an aperture wider than the camera's DLA (which can be found by referencing the site's Camera Specifications Comparison tool).
 

4. Heat waves
 
If you are using a fairly long focal length and focusing on subjects relatively far away, any heat source between you and that subject can cause heat waves which will negatively impact image quality. Common sources of heat waves include hot sand and asphalt, but even flowing water on a cold day can be a culprit.
 
Diagnosis
Many times, heat waves are pretty easy to pick out. They cause your distant subjects to have a rippling look to them. The rippling effect will be especially noticeable when cycling between peview images that were captured in a burst sequence. You can also try photographing nearby subjects that do not have obvious sources of heat between you and that subject. If your nearby subjects are sharper, then heat waves may be contributing to the loss of sharpness visible in your distant subjects (though, this test does not conclusively isolate heat waves as the sole cause, as an incorrectly calibrated AF may lead to similarly unsharp distant objects).
 
Solution:
As Bryan says in his Are Heat Waves Destroying Your Image Quality?:
What can you do about this problem? Heat waves are an image quality factor that you generally can't spend money to put behind you. For example, a sharper lens and a better camera are not going to be helpful. Selecting a different location, a different time of day and/or a different day completely or even a different season is often the best solution. A cloudy day with low temperature fluctuation may work for your image.
 
Many times, the photographer does not have control of the day and time of a shoot and will need to deal with the issue. Sports photographers typically fall into this group. For example, auto racing often takes place mid-day on asphalt tracks and photographers capturing these events will encounter this distortion.
 
If opting to shoot through the heat waves, move closer if possible (but not dangerously so – referring to the auto racing scenario). The less air that light passes through, the less likely that heat waves will cause strong distortion. Also, capture lots of images to allow selection of the least-influenced and to give your camera opportunity to lock in proper AF distances.

5. Low quality lens
 
It's no secret that some lenses are simply better than others. If you're using the 18-55mm lens that came bundled with your camera, you probably won't be surprised to learn that a different lens may allow you to get sharper images. That doesn't necessarily mean that you need a more expensive lens (though that may generally be the case). For instance, our tests show that the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM is sharper at f/2.8 than the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens is at 55mm | f/5.6 (even though the kit zoom lens retails for $50.00 more than the prime).
 
Some may question my comparing a zoom lens to a prime, but I think it's a relative comparison from an image quality perspective. If you want to maximize sharpness, you may want to consider a set of prime lenses for a few reasons. For one, the low-to-mid range primes are quite affordable. For another, primes typically feature wider maximum apertures than zooms at their comparative focal length (which, as described above, can aid in obtaining sharp images by allowing for faster shutter speeds to be used). And finally, primes are typically sharper than zooms when compared at the zoom's maximum aperture at that specific focal length (because, inevitably, the prime is stopped down).
 
Diagnosis
Perform a Control Test (see below) to see what kind of performance your lens is capable of. Analyzing the images, see how the fine details are resolved compared to our Image Quality Test Results at the same aperture setting (or closest setting if we didn't test that exact aperture). If your results are similar, you know that your lens is performing normally from an image quality perspective. If your results are noticeably less sharp, and you've eliminated the other softness-inducing causes mentioned above, then see cause #6.
 
Solution:
If your lens is producing the best image quality that you can expect from it, but the sharpness level is below your satisfaction threshold, the solution is simple – upgrading your lens will be necessary to improve the sharpness of your images. The hardest part, of course, will be choosing which lens will represent the best upgrade for your needs. On that note, here are some helpful resources:
 

6. Lens malfunction
 
If you've ruled out all of the other causes of blurry images found above, then a lens malfunction is likely the culprit robbing you of sharp images.
 
Diagnosis:
Perform a Control Test. Compare your results to our own Image Quality Test results captured using a similar focal length/aperture/camera body for reference purposes. If your images appear noticeably soft by comparison, or else one side of the image appears significantly softer than the other, then there's a good chance your lens has a decentered or misaligned element (or some other design anomaly).
 
Solution
If you suspect your lens is exhibiting signs of malfunction, you'll need to contact the lens manufacturer to arrange for a repair. It may be beneficial to show the manufacturer control images to illustrate your concerns. If the item is under warranty, then the repair costs should be covered by the manufacturer (though shipping your lens securely to the repair facility – and insured – may result in a moderate amount of cost).
 
After the lens has been serviced and returned, it's a good idea to perform the same Control Test (and compare the new results to the old results) to ensure the repair was completed successfully.
 
So that's our top 6 reasons why your images may be blurry. Hopefully this list can help you "stay sharp" when capturing photographs on your next outing!



Control Test Setup
 
Here's what you do to find out how sharp your lens can be under ideal circumstances:
 
  1. Mount your camera on a steady tripod and focus on a subject that is roughly 50x the focal length using 10x Live View manual focusing (a good focusing target can be found here). If using a test chart, be sure to angle the test chart so that it is exactly parallel to the end of the lens, ensuring the focus plane runs flat with the test chart.
  2. Set the camera to RAW capture, Neutral Picture Style with a sharpness setting of 1 (for Canon cameras), Av Mode with an aperture of f/5.6 (or alternately the aperture you use most as long as it is below the camera's DLA), mirror lock-up and 2 second delay and take a picture.
  3. Repeat the process 5 or 6 times refocusing between every shot.
When analyzing the results in post-processing, be sure that your software is not applying automatic image corrections to preview images. Pick the sharpest test sample for your sharpness control image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/25/2016 9:57:00 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, April 22, 2016
Kids, especially young ones, can generate a large volume of artwork. Sources include school, home, church and other events. When this art happens, the question in parents' minds becomes: "What do I do with these treasures?" While these memories have tons of value, that value may not be high enough to justify a room addition to the house just for art storage. The solution? Implement an artwork workflow that first involves digitizing.
 
Photograph the artwork (scanning also works great for flat art sized within the scanner's capabilities). Once the artwork is in digital format, the uses for it are nearly endless. Load the images into a digital picture frame or other electronic device for playback in a slide show. Print a collage from large numbers of these art images. It might be fun to pull this print out for display at a graduation party or other life milestone event. Put the images into a scrapbook (paper or digital). Memorialize life.
 
The digital artwork files take up nearly no space and they can be available for a lifetime and beyond. A large benefit to digitalized art is that it can be backed up, providing resiliency to the original artwork and, if backed up to an off-site storage location, resiliency extends beyond the house should something terrible happen.
 
Once the art projects are digitized, implement a FIFO (First In, First Out) art posting workflow utilizing the refrigerator, a door or any surface that works well in your home. As the available space fills, the oldest work of art enjoys a quiet, parent-guilt-free trip to the trash can (when the creator is in bed or away). Keep a few of the most-treasured pieces and enjoy the photos of the rest.
 
Once the kids start creating long-term-display-worthy art, you may need to up your game also. A more advanced approach includes capturing high resolution images permit reproduction at a high quality level. But, more advanced, does not have to mean complicated.
 
My daughter (Brittany) has developed a drawing skill over the years and, when she puts a bigger effort into a project, I make sure that I get a photo of it. My light source is the first priority. I want the art to be very evenly-lit. Because of light fall-off, this means that I minimally need equal light from at least two sides or even better, a light source so far away that the light fall-off is no longer noticeable across the paper. The latter, in the form of sun, is uncomplicated, easy and what I usually use for flatwork.
 
Some considerations for using the sun as the light source include the angle and the color temperature of the light. Shooting too early or too late in the day may cause your art to take on an undesired color warmth. The camera angle (directly in line with the art) must be such that reflections of the sun are not a problem. The light angle on the art must not over-emphasize the texture of the material, and a cloudy day may be needed to photograph 3D works of art using this light source. The latter may work best outdoors, but I shoot flat art placed on the floor where the sun is shining directly through a window or door, often in the mid-late afternoon (depending on the time of the year).
 
With the artwork in place, setting up the tripod is the next task. Care must be taken to not cause any hint of shadows on the art. This means that the sun is shining between two of the tripod legs. The higher the tripod is raised, the less likely the legs are to influence the lighting. To avoid any perspective distortion (including keystoning of rectangular art), the camera must be positioned directly over the subject.
 
Note that a tripod with a center column that can be adjusted to horizontal orientation makes positioning a camera straight downward easier. Also note that a camera positioned on a horizontal column can easily become unbalanced – use this feature with care.
 
Selecting a lens is another important step. In addition to good sharpness across the entire frame (keeping the corners of the art sharp), lack of linear distortion is important as barrel or pincushion distortion will change how the art appears. The choice of focal length is also important, but since the tripod can be raised or lowered to achieve optimal framing, there is often a range of focal lengths that work well. A prime lens is often the best option. If using a zoom, select one that has low or no distortion at a focal length that can be used for ideal subject framing (use our lens distortion tool to find this). Note that gaffer taping the zoom ring in position may be necessary to prevent gravity zooming when the camera is facing straight down.
 
While a flat piece of paper photographed from directly above requires very little depth of field and permits a very wide aperture to be used, most lenses are at least modestly sharper when stopped down and most show some vignetting or peripheral shading when used at their widest apertures. Thus, using an aperture narrower than necessary for adequate depth of field may be beneficial (use our lens vignetting tool to find the ideal aperture). While narrower than max aperture is likely desired, using a too-narrow aperture may result in a less-sharp result. Try to use an aperture that is wider or not too much narrower than the diffraction-limited aperture (look for the DLA spec for your camera in the camera specifications tool). If unsure about aperture selection, use f/5.6 or f/8.
 
With the aperture selected, the proper shutter speed for a desired-brightness at ISO 100 should be determined. Note that a mostly white paper is going to need an exposure that is brighter than the camera calls for. Ideally, shoot in RAW format with the brightest RGB (Red, Green or Blue) color value captured being at the right side of the histogram. Then adjust the brightness as necessary during post processing.
 
To capture the image without any camera motion, select mirror lockup with a 2-second delay in One Shot drive mode, use the 2-second self-timer drive mode with mirror lockup enabled or use Live View with 2-second self-timer drive mode selected. A remote release can be used in place of the 2-second self-timer, but ... I don't usually bother getting this accessory out.
 
Focus and take the picture. Review the result, making any adjustments needed.
 
Once setup, many similar-sized works of art can be photographed in rapid succession. I will often setup for the larger piece of art and not change the tripod height for modestly smaller works unless they are deemed very important.
 
Modern DSLRs produce a very accurate color balance when photographing under direct sunlight, but capturing a photo of a custom white balance target at the same time as the art may be good idea. This is an especially good idea if under cloud or shade lighting or using alternate light sources. This CWB image can be used to properly adjust the color balance later if needed.
 
If you are documenting the work of more than one child, consider having them sign or initial their art prior to photographing it. Otherwise, you may find it hard to differentiate between artists' work in 20 years.
 
Start now. Make plans to photograph the artwork around your house and begin your own artwork workflow.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/22/2016 10:45:51 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, April 21, 2016
While the Canon EOS 5Ds R is not marketed as the ideal sports camera, it is what I've been using for my spring sports photography so far this year. The reason? I sold my Canon EOS 1D X to fund the purchase of a Canon EOS 1D X Mark II. At the time of the sale, the 1D X Mark II was " ... scheduled to begin shipping to authorized Canon USA dealers in April 2016." [Canon Press Release] My spring sports photography starts in mid-April, so I thought the odds were good that I would have a 1D X II in time or just into this season.
 
B&H currently lists the expected 1D X II availability as May 1st. While this is only 1 day past "April", it is also 1 day past worst case from the press release's expectation.
 
So, I have been using a 5Ds R with a BG-E11 Battery Grip for spring sports photography. For this purpose, the 5Ds R has only one limitation. As we know, this camera has a great AF system and it has no problem tracking fast action. The image quality this camera delivers is likewise excellent and, with extreme resolution, high resolution images remain even after heavy cropping. This means that a focal length or focal length range can effectively be used to cover a much greater percentage of the field than the 1D X II will be able to.
 
That one limitation I referred to is the frame rate. Capturing frames at 5 fps is not fast enough to catch the ideal moments happening during a play, including providing the ideal capture of stride position for a running athlete. The workaround is to time the shutter press with what is expected to be the ideal point of the play. Using this tactic, anything happening prior to the initial shutter press will of course be missed. The first shot timing takes more skill than simply holding the shutter release down, but can be effectively used and once practiced, can be used very effectively.
 
I still hold the 5Ds R shutter release down after the initially timed press as additional good shots are often captured subsequently, but capturing at 10, 12 or 14 fps makes a huge difference in getting the ideal shot while reducing the skill needed to do so. While the 5Ds R is delivering great sports images for me, I anxiously await the 1D X II.
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 4/21/2016 11:39:58 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, April 20, 2016
As close to vertically level as possible is often the ideal camera position for photographing a bird, especially one swimming. Of course, when a bird is swimming, perfectly level would mean a nearly or partially submerged camera. I don't recall seeing an underwater housing for a birding lens and I therefore prefer to be high enough above-water to keep the lens dry.
 
On this day, I was sitting on the ground at the edge of the creek with two tripod legs and one of my own legs in the water. Though I was bending over uncomfortably hard to get to a low-positioned camera, all was good with the setup. That is, good until I heard two Canada geese getting into a squabble. Two very loud geese were taking flight from mid-stream and headed directly toward me. While that shouldn't be a problem, they were watching each other instead of where they were going.
 
It didn't take long to realize that I was directly in their trajectory. I raised a foot to block the rapidly incoming fowl and held the camera and lens tightly with both hands. Minimally, the first goose crashed hard into my boot. I say minimally because I turned my head just prior to impact and I'm not sure if the second goose crashed also or was able to correct itself in time (wish I had video of that). There was lots of flapping and ... lots of water covering both me and the gear.
 
I quickly sacrificed the remaining dry areas of my shirt to dry the camera and lens. Fortunately, both were weather sealed and fine, but ... I still don't like to take chances and like to keep the gear clean – much more than I cared about my shirt.
 
Capturing interesting behavior is always a goal of photographing wildlife, but this behavior was a bit over the top and ... I was unprepared to capture it. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L Lens would have been ideal for this accident scene. The best I could do was photograph the rude goose after the incident.
 
While photography is often used to tell a story, very often photographing creates stories. This day gave me a story that I'll long remember. Go photograph frequently and you will likely have many interesting stories to tell.
 
Disclaimer: No geese were harmed in the making of this image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/20/2016 10:32:31 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, April 19, 2016
This mother great horned owl may be the most popular and most photographed of its species in the Mid-Atlantic states at this time. Being able to photograph a primarily-nocturnal bird, very visibly sitting in its nest throughout the day, is an unusual situation and MANY photographers took advantage of this opportunity. I made this opportunity a priority and carved most of a day out of my schedule to get my great horned owl photo.
 
The viewing area of this nest is in a public park with a significant bank and stream separating viewers and the owl family (two owlets are deeper in the cavity). This meant as much focal length as possible was needed in front of a full frame camera (and a significant amount in front of an APS-C model). For me, this meant the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens in front of an EF 2x III Extender along with the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R.
 
While this uncropped image indicates a clear view on the nest cavity, that was not completely the case. Getting the right position for a semi-clear view of this owl was challenging and I spent much of this day leaning to the side so that I could use a tripod position immediately next to another cooperative photographer for the best-available view. My primary concern was getting a clear view through the tree branches on my side of the creek as these branches became very defocused and lowered contrast over a significant portion of the image if in the frame. The branches on the nest tree were of a lower concern as the healing brush in Photoshop made branch removal a trivial task.
 
While the owl spent most of the day sitting nearly motionless, it occasionally changed positions. When a loud motorcycle came into the park, the mother great horned owl showed her personOWLity, making for one of my favorite shots of the day.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/19/2016 11:55:22 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, April 14, 2016
When flying with camera gear, I always carry it on the plane with me. At least the most expensive and highest importance gear goes with me. But, just because I want to carry the gear onto the plane does not prevent the airline from forcing a gate check of a typically-large roller case, even if it falls within dimensional compliance. The scariness of this scenario was reinforced to me recently when I watched gate checked bags sliding down a very long tube, landing with significant force at ground level. So, I take precautions against being forced to turn over a camera case at the gate.
 
The first precaution I often take is using the airline's credit card to buy the flight tickets. This move typically results in priority boarding privileges. United Airlines and American Airlines (my two most-used airlines) charge an annual fee for their cards, but another benefit these cards provide is a certain number of free checked luggage bags on each flight. A flight or two a year generally equalizes the credit card's annual fee.
 
While there are generally a lot of people flying with priority boarding passes, getting in line early within this boarding group has always insured that I can stow my largest case in the overhead storage, avoiding a gate check requirement caused by lack of storage space.
 
Another key to avoid gate checking is knowing the size of the planes that you will be flying on. The smallest plane on your trip is going to be the limiting factor. If flying on a small plane such as a regional jet, this can be a problem (especially if it is the first leg of a multiple flight trip). The isle seat on the side of the plane with the most side-by-side seats may have the largest storage option – under the seat in front of you. In this case, know what size case fits here – a full-size hard or rigid case will often not fit.
 
With large-sized planes booked for all of my commercial airline flights and priority boarding passes in hand, I was comfortable taking a full-size roller bag as my carry-on to Alaska. My choice? The Think Tank Photo Airport Security V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag. TTP sent me this case a long time ago, and I have used it with great frequency since, leaving many of my other cases to gather dust.
 
This trip involved a mix of travel (including float planes, various boats and an SUV) and in-the-field use of camera gear. While the Airport Security is not my first choice for backpack-style carry, it provides this option and I carried it full of gear for many miles in the Katmai National Park back country on this trip. The straps work fine. Aside from having a large capacity, including the ability to hold a 600mm f/4 lens with a pro-sized camera body attached (snug fit), this case provides very solid protection for the contents and the build quality was something I had a lot of confidence in.
 
The lead image for this post shows most of the primary items I carried in this pack while traveling. I removed a 15" sleeved laptop and some other odds and ends (including some spare clothes) prior to taking this picture. The laptop fits in the outside pocket or, to save some dimensional space, inside in the shown load configuration.
 
In the case, starting at the top, is the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens mounted to the Canon EOS 5Ds R with a Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip. I talk about my reasoning behind the camera and lens choices here:
 
My Wildlife Lens Selection for Katmai National Park, Alaska
 
My Camera Selection for Katmai National Park, Alaska
 
From left to right across the bottom of the case are the following:
 
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens was along for my ultra-wide angle needs (didn't end up using it much). The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Lens earned its ticket to travel from its excellent image quality at a wide aperture. Night sky photography its primary intended purpose. The Canon EOS M3 with a Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens mounted made the trip. With Canon EOS Rebel T6i-like image quality, this tiny camera with the 18-55 gave me a very compact general purpose kit to use when I could not (or did not want to) take a full size camera and also provided a backup under the same circumstances. The EOS M3 proved a convenient choice for photographing from commercial airplanes (you do this, right?), from float planes and for a part-day salmon fishing trip.
 
In Lowepro Lens Cases under and beside the M3 are Canon EF 1.4x and 2x III Extenders. While I have no regrets from bringing these, I did not use either on this trip. The 600mm lens was enough, but you never know when a unique situation calls for more reach.
 
An Arca-Swiss Z1 Ball Head is fit into the bottom right divided section of the Airport Security. This head was chosen because ... it is my current favorite – it works great and reliably so. While I don't usually have room for tripods in my carry-on cases, I usually include my primary ball head because of its dense weight. Keeping my checked bag under the 50 lbs. limit is usually a challenge.
 
Numerous circular polarizer and neutral density filters can be seen in the two backpack images shown.
 
My "personal item" carried onto the plane was a Think Tank Photo StreetWalker Pro. This pack is ideal for maximizing the camera gear carried onto the plane and great for lower volume needs on location.
 
Think Tank Photo StreetWalker Pro Packed
 
Shown in this pack are a pair of 5Ds R bodies, one mounted to the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens (amazing lens, again, see the lens selection link above) and one mounted to the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens, a great handheld landscape lens. The other two lenses shown in this pack are the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. Both are best-available for landscape and other needs.
 
Lots of additional accessories were along in the carry-on packs including well over 1TB of memory cards, many batteries, chargers, power supplies and including power supplies, charges, external hard drives. I always carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it from a water fountain before the flight, insuring adequate hydration for a long period of time.
 
Not seen in the two backpack images are a pair of tripods that were along for this trip. My favorite all-around tripod is the Gitzo GT3542LS. It is an extremely rigid, strong, lightweight, reliable tripod that is easily up to handling the 600mm lens kit. Nested inside the legs of the larger tripod was the Gitzo GT1542T Traveler Tripod with an Acratech GP-s Ball Head mounted (great little head). The second tripod served as backup, permitted use of two simultaneous tripod setups and offered an ultra-lightweight tripod for those times when the full-size option was too much. This little tripod could have handled the 600mm setup if necessary. A pair of empty Lowepro Toploader Pro cases were placed over both ends of the nested tripods with their open lids providing protection for most of the sides of the tripods. Clothing provided the balance of the protection necessary for the tripods.
 
Large lenses are far easier to use on a gimbal mount and the Wimberley Tripod Head II is my first choice. I packed this head in a padded case inside my checked bag.
 
Think Tank Photo Airport Security V 2.0 in the Field
 
The above image shows the Airport Security in action in coastal Katmai National Park. I like to keep my gear clean – The Airport Security can be seen here on The 1 Cheap Accessory that should be in All of Your Camera Bags. I always have these along.
 
My Alaska trip itinerary, in brief, involved a flight to Anchorage, SUV rental, driving to Seward and then Homer and float plane flight to coastal Katmai National Park where I stayed on boats for 4 nights. After flying back to home, a 1/2-day side trip to fish the Kenai River was in order and then on to Denali National Park for a few days. There is very little I'd change in my packs if I were to do this trip again.
 
Have any questions? Ask them in the comments section below!
 
Get your Think Tank Photo Airport Security at B&H or direct from Think Tank Photo.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/14/2016 12:04:13 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Warning: You might want to go here. "Here" is Mudjin Harbor in Middle Caicos (Turks and Caicos, British West Indies), where there are surprisingly few people and the scenery is amazing. Capturing my attention for the large part of a day were the large cliffs and the rugged landscape bordering the brilliant turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean here. And, who is the landscape photographer that can pass up a cave framing the ocean?
 
By moving deep into this cave and zooming the Canon EOS 5Ds R-mounted Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens out to 16mm, I was able to completely frame some of the most-beautifully-colored water found anywhere.
 
Caves are (usually) very dark and that was case here. This image is composed of three separate exposures – one for the water and sky (slight blinkies in cresting waves), one for the cave walls and another for the upper right portion of the cave wall as it was even darker and needed some detail brought out. With a handful of exposure variations available, I experimented with differing cave wall brightness during post processing. In the end, I opted for noticeable walls, but not bright enough to distract from the idyllic beach and water scene being framed.
 
Because the sun is constantly moving, multiple exposures intended for combining via HDR that include a shadow line should be captured in quick succession due to that line moving. The always moving and always different waves determined the primary exposure timing. The other exposures were simply captured very close in time to the primary ones.
 
A circular polarizer filter played an important role in capturing this image, making the sky and water colors pop.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 4/5/2016 10:41:10 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, April 4, 2016
Photographing amazingly-colored wood ducks has been on my bucket list for a long time and, when I located some potential subjects, I dropped everything and made the 6-hour round trip drive to photograph them.
 
While I had done some intelligence gathering (via a friend), I went prepared for the full range of bird photography scenarios. This included taking the just-reviewed Canon EOS 80D mounted to a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens and a Canon EOS 5Ds R mounted to a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens with a Canon EF 1.4x III Extender behind it in a MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L Backpack.
 
Upon arrival, I was able to quickly locate the wood ducks. However, they proved to be a big challenge to photograph due to their constant, often-quick movements and the ideal lighting angle required, minimally, for their iridescent colors to show.
 
I ended up using the 600 with 1.4x on the 5Ds R the entire time due to the distance and rather small size of the ducks. The 840mm focal length gave me a deep ideal subject framing distance. I captured environmental portraits when the birds were distant and tight portraits when they came close, a logical tactic that provided a variety of subject framing in the take-home.
 
The subjects were in constant motion and that means AI Servo AF mode was required to keep them in focus. Specifically, a focus point needed to be constantly placed on the wood duck's eye. I shot in Case 1 (general purpose) and Case 5 (instant adjustment for erratic motion) AF Modes on this day with Case 1 showing the best results. I also used the 5 fps burst drive mode, in part because birds blink with some frequency. Capturing minimally a few frames at a time usually results in at least one fully opened eye.
 
In the end, the daytrip was very worthwhile, with hundreds of keeper-grade images resulting from the effort.
 
As seems often the case (I think that Murphy has a law to cover this), the image with my favorite pose had some minor motion blur due to the drake raising its head rapidly. To counter this, I reduced the overall size of the image (down-sampled) modestly. Along with some modest cropping, the remaining 5Ds R-captured image still has about 15 megapixels of resolution, an adequate amount for many uses. I used a layer mask to darken the background modestly, helping to place emphasis on the drake.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Permalink: Wood Duck Drake
Post Date: 4/4/2016 9:19:25 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, March 28, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
I'm sure you've seen them before, but in short, a photomosaic is a photo that is made up of lots of individual photos. If arranged and edited properly – and viewed from a distance – the individual tiles transform into one beautiful overall image.
 
My first experience with photomosaics came in high school. A favorite history teacher of mine had a photomosaic of Abraham Lincoln adorning his door which used utilized of the Civil War as the tiles. It was captivating.
 
After college I came across a very cool free program – AndreaMosaic – that allowed users to create photomosaics simply and easily by adjusting a few variables and letting the computer do all the hard work. I created several photomosaics at the time but I hadn't created one in several years before last week.
 
The good news is that AndreaMosaic is still in development and works better than ever. The desktop application is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 2000, 2003, Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10, OS X 10.7 - 10.11, and can even be installed and run from a flash drive (Windows only). And the best news – it's still free. There are a few very advanced features that are unlocked by purchasing the software, but... my guess is that very few people will feel limited by the features included in the free version.
 
The ease and simplicity of creating photomosaics – along with the large batch of images necessary to create a good one – make it a perfect add-on for your wedding photography services. Wedding clients typically love them.
 
For the example photomosaic seen above, I used a little more than 450 images from a wedding I shot in late 2014 as the individual tiles. The overall image was my favorite shot of the couple, Kim and Brian, on their wedding day.
 
Below is an enlargement of the happy couple from the photomosaic above:
 
AndreaMosaic Photomosaic Sample Image by Sean Setters Closeup

How to Create a Photomosaic with AndreaMosaic
 
For starters, the more tile images you have to start with, the better off your final photomosaic will look (with fewer duplicates). My suggestion is to create a resized batch of tile images to reduce the algorithmic processing load. I personally used COOLTWEAK to create a set reduced resolution images that were 800 pixels on the longest side (although I could have resized to an even smaller resolution). If using Lightroom or DPP, simply set the Resize option accordingly in the program's export/batch dialogue.
 
The main reason for using reduced resolution tile images is that your photomosaics will be calculated and compiled much more quickly, meaning that you can easily modify the various parameters and create several different versions of your photomosaic in a very short amount of time. And since your tiles will likely end up relatively small (depending on your chosen settings), you won't likely miss the incremental resolution you gave up to gain faster processing time (each tile in the photomosaic seen above is only 120 x 80 pixels at full-resolution).
 
Once your tiles are ready, the next step is to open AndreaMosaic. You'll be greeted with the following screen:
 
Andrea Mosaic Start Screen

As you are visiting this site, you are probably most interested in the "DSLR Tiles (3:2)" option, and that's what I chose for creating the example atop this post. After that, another window will appear:
 
Andrea Mosaic Screenshot

Now use the "+" button at the top of the window to point AndreaMosaic to your main mosaic image. Using a full resolution file is preferable here, as it gives the program the best chance to closely match details using the tile images.
 
Next, click the stacked images below the number "2" to select your tile images. The program will bring up another window. Click the Add Images or Add Folder buttons to specify your tile images.
 
Loading Tile Images List Window

Now click "Save List" to save this collection of tile images. Doing so will expedite the process of creating future photomosaics with the same images. The program will then analyze your tiles and provide some handy information on them.
 
Loading Tile Images List Saved

Notice the part at the bottom that says, "307 Landscape images, 157 Portrait images" from my example tile set. It's important to note an approximate ratio of landscape to portrait images as it will help us choose an optimal Pattern algorithm later on. Click the OK button to return to the main parameters window.
 
The Size Parameters will vary widely based on need, but I chose to create a [roughly] 20 MP image at 300 PPI. Because details in my overall image are quite small, I chose a relatively large number of tiles per row (30) because smaller tiles will help define smaller details. If your overall mosaic image has larger (and fewer critical) details, you can easily choose a lower number of tiles per row. However, if your photomosaic features a relatively small number of tiles per row, your individual tiles will have to be large enough in resolution to fill the row accordingly.
 
The Tile Parameters, just like size parameters, will vary significantly from user to user and from job to job. For my image, I set the Pattern option to "Mixed (2.0L 1P)" because I had roughly a 2-to-1 ratio of landscape to portrait images in my tile set, meaning that the program should utilize my tile set more effectively (with less need for duplication) using that option. I also could have chosen "Parquet (2L 1P)" or "Mixed2 (2.0L 1P)" for similarly tile-efficient results but with a different looking pattern. If you resized your tile images as advised, you can easily try several different tile variations in a short amount of time to see which one best suits your overall image and intended use.
 
Note that some of the features, like certain patterns and select 1/2 and 1/4 tile options, are only available to those who donate at least $2.00 to the developers.
 
Let's take a look at the next set of options – Use same tile up to, Duplicate spacing & Color Change.
 
By default, AndreaMosaic will analyze your tiles and attempt to use the place them in the overall image where it calculates they look best. This means some of your image tiles may get used significantly more than others. To minimize duplication, you can limit how many times the program utilizes any one tile with the Use same tile up to option.
 
One way AndreaMosaic helps you improve the look of your photomosaic is to allow you to space out duplicate tiles with the Duplicate Spacing option. I chose the "5 tiles minimum" spacing option, but if you're starting with a large number of tiles (with less need for duplication), you might want to set this value even higher for optimal results.
 
The next option, Color Change can have a huge impact on how your final photomosaic will look. If you set this value to a low percentage, your final photomosaic may not be recognizable as far as the overall image is concerned. Setting this value to a higher number will ensure that the overall photomosaic is a good representation of your featured image, with the downside that each individual tile will be automatically adjusted to a higher degree. For my purposes, I chose "65%."
 
The next set of options is the Tile Variants. These parameters are here to help bolster your number of tiles available (reducing duplicates) by allowing rotated, mirrored and flipped images. Note that the "Integral Tiles" option is new (it isn't even shown in the User Manual that's installed with the program) and, from my understanding, is supposed to keep your final row intact (uncropped) by adjusting the overall dimensions of the image slightly to accommodate for any discrepancies in sizing. Unfortunately, my final row was cropped even though I left a checkmark beside the option.
 
You can save your parameters in the Load/Save Settings section for future use and/or specify file type, mosaic filename/save location using the More Options icon located at the top/right of the window. When ready, simply click the Mosaic icon at the top of the window (it has a "3" beside it) to compile your photomosaic.
 
And voilà! Your photomosaic will be created after processing.
 
Keep in mind, the photomosaic market isn't limited to wedding couples. Hospitals, large businesses and any medium-to-large sized organization will likely enjoy seeing their logos comprised of hundreds of images of their employees or group members. And creating a photomosaic is an excellent way to generate income through large print sales and billable hours of photography services necessary capturing the tile images.
 
As I noted earlier, a donation of at least $2.00 will unlock a few additional features of the program. If you need even more flexibility in creating photomosaics, you can unlock Professional options with a $35.00 donation.
 
What do you get with the Professional version of the software? Take a look at the following screen shot from their User Manual.
 
Andrea Mosaic Professional Benefits

Want to create a 100 Gigapixel photomosaic? The price for the Professional version of the software will be well worth the investment. And even if you don't plan on making photomosaics that ambitious, you might consider throwing a few dollars the developers' way to thank them for providing an excellent profit-generating program.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 3/28/2016 8:40:33 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, March 14, 2016
After researching potential Philadelphia photography locations, I decided to make the sunset and blue hour view of center city from the South Street Bridge my priority. After conveniently parking at the Penn Museum parking garage, I carried a MindShift Gear BackLight 26L full of gear a short distance to the bridge to finalize my scouting. As expected, the bridge piers could be photographed from, eliminating the potentially major mid-span issue of bridge movement caused by vehicle traffic. Satisfied with my plan, I went on to explore the great Philadelphia riverfront and some of the inner city.
 
I came back to my bridge position about an hour before sunset, setup two tripods and cameras and began taking some long exposures using 6 and 10-stop Breakthrough Photography neutral density filters, capturing the setting sun bathing the city in warm color. Warm color turned into orange in the sky for another nice set of images. But, the best was yet to come.
 
When the lights in the city became sufficiently bright relative to the sky, the images took on significantly more sparkle – exactly what I was looking for. While I have a very good idea of when this time is happening, I shoot images from before the expected time until the color in the sky is gone. I later select the image captured at the most-ideal time as it is most easily discernable in post.
 
A 30 second exposure was ideal for eliminating moving people from the image (the riverfront walkway was filled with walkers, joggers, bikers, etc.) and for blurring the water. While a far wider aperture would have provided an adequate depth of field for this image, but f/11 and f/16 create larger starburst effects from the lights. An even narrower aperture will create even larger stars, but I find the detail-softening effects of diffraction to become too strong for this purpose beyond f/16. At this capture time, f/16 at 30 seconds needed ISO 200 for the desired brightness. I could have gone to a 1-minute exposure and ISO 100, but with long exposure noise reduction turned on, that means 2 minutes per image and I wanted a faster capture rate.
 
Post processing adjustments to this Philadelphia skyline image were primarily adding saturation along with a minor curves adjustment. Often the case when photographing city lights is that some areas of the photo are illuminated more strongly than others, often the photogenic tops of skyscrapers go pure white first. To counter this issue, I captured bracketed exposures and selected a 2-stop shorter variant to put the color and details back into the triangular-shaped gridded roof-top on the BNY Mellon Center building via an HDR process. I usually remove airplane light trails, but ... the up-curving arc, to my eye, seemed to work in this image, so it remains.
 
I mentioned using two complete camera and tripod setups. I was using a pair of Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens on one (capturing a wider image including the west side of the Schuylkill River) and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens on the other, capturing a more-tightly framed image emphasizing the city's great architecture with the riverwalk providing a strong leading line into the frame. The two cameras in simultaneous use essentially doubled the take-home from the prime time of this day's shoot.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image. If you find these tips useful, please share them in your circle of friends!
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 3/14/2016 10:09:44 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, February 10, 2016
I'm not focused on me, can be accused of under-marketing myself and until very recently, I had never taken a selfie (at least not one shared beyond the immediate family). Of course, when the request for a portrait came in, I didn't want to under-deliver on the effort and set out to have some fun, creating my first selfie. Since the task turned into a major project, I thought I would share some of the undertaking.
 
I know, I gave away the focal length choice in the title and right away some of you are thinking that I've lost my mind. The 12mm focal length, and anything close to it, is not going to create a pleasing portrait perspective, right? Not necessarily. Perspective is created by distance and, if you are far enough away from the subject, any rectilinear focal length can work (I'll save the fisheye discussion for another day). The 12mm angle of view includes a lot of environment in the frame at that adequate distance, and that was my goal for this shot.
 
I should mention that human subjects tend to look best closer to the center of an ultra-wide angle frame, avoiding the stretched look that can be present in the corners. Keeping the camera level (both pitch and yaw) also helps keep perspectives looking reasonable in this image, though you can still find some stretching closer to the borders. For example, the white lens on the left appears somewhat wide.
 
I stopped short of making this image into an I Spy photo, but there are lots of (hopefully) interesting items in this photo. Some are easy to see and some are more obscure (such as the Multicart R12RT loaded with camera backpacks). Overall, I tried to keep the image borders free of lines, fully containing most items in the frame. I also attempted to position the closest lenses so that the hoods were directly aligned with the camera with the hood lines mostly clear of intersecting lines, making them stand out, including the one in my hand.
 
After "decorating" my workspace (my wife's reference to what I was doing), I positioned the camera for the composition I was envisioning. Then, I started pulling out Speedlites.
 
For the main light, I opted for a Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash with a Photogenic Eclipse 60" Umbrella positioned mostly above the camera. This setup provided a soft light over the entire foreground. To reduce the remaining shadows, a second 600EX-RT, with the wide angle diffuser down, was directed into a 30" umbrella positioned behind the camera. This flash was below the first umbrella and acted as a fill light. Note that it is a good idea to use the camera's eyepiece shade/shutter when firing a flash into the back of the camera (especially if using E-TTL metering).
 
I added a third 600EX-RT on a backlight stand behind me with the unmodified flash firing directly toward the camera. This light provided some rim lighting that helped to separate me from the background and lit up the middle layer of the image including some strong reflections.
 
The last Speedlite, a Canon 430EX III-RT, with its wide angle diffuser down, was placed on the floor deep into the studio. This flash's job was to keep the background from going dark.
 
While I ended up selecting this image for use, I also photographed with other camera positions and lighting variations. One change that I liked was moving the background-most flash under the desk and aimed at the left wall seen in this image. This added a pop of brightness that created some stronger lines in that area of the photo.
 
The Canon EOS 5Ds R was tripod-mounted and the tripod was placed immediately against the edge of the desk and triggered via a Canon RC-6 wireless remote. See it on the desk in front of me? I would press the release button, put the release on the desk and grab the lens in time for the 2 second self-timer trip the shutter.
 
I photographed this image in three exposures. The primary f/11 exposure was selected to keep the cloudy sky properly exposed (this exposure happened to be convenient for the overall image) with the flash output, controlled by a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT, adjusted to balance the overall image.
 
A second exposure utilized a more-diffraction-softened f/16 aperture for keeping the closest subjects in better focus and the third exposure was 4 seconds, necessary to capture the image on the monitor. The three images were composited in Photoshop.
 
Note that ISO 200 was used to increase battery life in the flashes (18 AA batteries in use, I used two sets).
 
See the ColorChecker in the foreground? It is serving a dual purpose. The first purpose is to add some color pop that balances with the images on the walls and on the monitor. The second purpose is for an easy custom white balance. While the Canon EOS 5Ds R provided a good auto white balance in-camera, it was extremely simple to select the custom white balance eye dropper and click on a gray square for the ideal white balance.
 
So, that is the story of my selfie. If you are interested in capturing a selfie of your own, be sure to check out Sean's guide to self-portraits in the site's photography tips.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 2/10/2016 9:40:38 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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