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 Saturday, November 19, 2016
Wildlife photographers can spend many days or weeks working with the same subject at the same location and, due to ever-changing behaviors of their subjects, they can continuously capture unique images. Sports photographers have unique action at every game/meet/match/race/etc. at the same field/track/event location. Street photographer are always finding new entertainment at the same locations. Wedding, event and portrait photographers have a steady stream of new subjects coming through the same locations. But you, landscape (and cityscape) photographer, usually find the same subjects in the same positions each time you go back. However, you still have reasons for going back.
 
Basically, you most often go back in hopes that something might be different this time.
 
Perhaps you didn't get it right the first time. You didn't provide adequate depth of field or didn't focus to the right distance to keep everything in the image sharp. Or, perhaps you want to use a wider aperture lens to better define the primary subject. Perhaps the focal choice was not ideal and part of the scene was cropped too tightly. Maybe you were too close or too far away and didn't get the ideal perspective. You want to move up/down, left/right or closer/farther to get it right the next time.
 
You now have better skills. Closely aligned with getting it right this time are your improved photography skills. You are now better at reading a scene and better able to select the composition, perhaps including a foreground element or better aligning the background within the foreground framing.
 
You go back to work on your creativity. The more bored you become with photographing a scene, the more likely you are going to find a creative new way to photograph it.
 
You go back because you have better gear. While we sometimes think that camera and lens technology is not moving forward fast enough, what is available today is far better than what was available not long ago. Taking your new camera(s) and lens(es) to a past-visited favorite location is an easy recipe for bettering your portfolio. Your higher resolution, lower noise camera and sharper lens will create results that look better, especially at high resolution. Taking a circular polarizer filter, a neutral density filter, etc. that you did not originally have can make a huge difference in your repeat visit results.
 
You go back in hopes for better weather conditions. You hope for better skies, a better sunrise, a better sunset, better clouds, more/less fog, less (or possibly more) wind, warmer light, etc. Everyone loves a fiery sunrise or sunset and those don't happen every day – you might need to go back repeatedly to find these. Fog? Some locations have it with some regularity, but many others have it only occasionally.
 
You go back because the timing is different or better. You may have better water flow, creating better waterfalls that give images a completely different look, one well worth the effort of a revisit. The seasons of the year provide a very different look to many locations. Spring brings bright green foliage and (usually) good water flow. Summer brings darker foliage and warmer weather (required for the snow to melt enough to access some areas). Late summer and fall brings amazing color to the trees in many areas. Winter brings snow, completely redecorating the landscape.
 
The timing of the visit also dictates the position of the celestial bodies. Go back when the sun, moon and/or stars (the milky way) are better aligned. Perhaps the sun shines between two mountain peaks at a certain time of the year. Perhaps you want to go back when the milky way is best aligned over a scene. The same applies to the moon with a specific desired phase and position.
 
Perhaps the scene has indeed changed and is no longer physically the same. While there are not usually macro changes occurring to landscape without a significant environmental disaster (such as a tornado, hurricane, fire, etc.), micro changes frequently happen. Trees fall, erosion occurs, sediment moves in streams during strong flows and fields have a different crop in rotation. If the scene is significantly altered, new images will be more current than those taken before the alteration. Before and after photos may be valued in this case.
 
Sometimes, you go back just because things can happen. Wildlife showing up can add a prize-winning element to any image.
 
If you are considering going back, the location is probably amazing and somewhere you love to be. That alone is a great reason to go back as just being there is awesome. There is no reason why the same location cannot be enjoyed time and time again. If you like the location that much, perhaps you want to share it with a friend or friends.
 
You go back because the location is a known entity. You know that it is repeatedly good for a quality image – an image worth sharing is sure to come out of the effort.
 
You go back for practice. If the location is relatively close to home, visiting the location to practice skills and technique prior to a big photo trip is a great idea. Unlike riding a bike, more like distance running, photography requires practice to stay in top shape. It also affords the opportunity to test the camera gear that will accompany you on the trip.
 
Again, a primary reason to go back is that something might be different this time and the reason that different is desirable is for, minimally, variation and, ideally, for bettering. Photographers are constantly striving to better what we have already done, to raise the bar, to take another step forward in our passion/profession.
 
The previous time I visited Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, was convenient, but not so well-timed for photography. It was mid-summer (not bad in itself). The sun was high and the leaves were green. The sky was forest fire-hazy. While my cameras and lenses were the best-available at the time, they were not as good as those I'm using today. While I was happy with my results at the time, they do not hold nearly as much value to me from a photographical perspective now.
 
Late this past year, I was blessed with a revisit to this very photogenic location. And, the results from my revisit were much higher grade in many accounts. Though I'm missing the moose that was in my first set of images (it was so small in the frame that I didn't know it was even there until reviewing the images back at home), but my late summer (photographer's fall in this location), early morning timing for the second visit to Oxbow Bend combined with my now-current camera gear and 9-year-upgraded skillset turned in much better results this time around. I'm sharing one of my favorites with you today.
 
What about you? Where do you want to revisit and why?
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, 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: 11/19/2016 6:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, November 10, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
With nothing planned on slightly overcast Saturday, I decided to venture downtown to find an interior space in Savannah to photograph. Although not my primary focus, I wanted to be able to shoot outdoor subjects (buildings, fountains, etc.) as well should a suitable interior space prove elusive. I packed a Lowepro Nova Sport 35L AW with the following gear before heading downtown:
 
I also brought along my Induro Carbon Fiber Tripod (CT314, now discontinued) fitted with a Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 Ball Head to serve as my primary means of support.
 
Notes on Gear Choices
 
First off, Tip #1: When weight is not necessarily an issue, fill your bag completely with gear and/or supplies. This will enable you to quickly check to make sure you haven't left any gear behind when packing up after shooting at a location. The gear above completely filled my bag.
 
A camera and tripod are a given when it comes to low-light interior photography for me. The EF 17-40L, TS-E 24L and Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 encompass the typical focal lengths I use for indoor and outdoor architecture photography with the TS-E providing the excellent benefit of keeping vertical lines straight (when 24mm is a viable focal length option). I brought along the EF 24-105L IS and circular polarizer (CPL) to cover general purpose needs if I should come across anything interesting outdoors that was not ideally covered by the wider focal lengths. I threw in the 15 stop ND just in case I wanted to photograph a fountain (with blurred water) or a building exterior where individual pedestrians would be unnoticeable (blurred to oblivion). The step up rings would allow me to use the CPL and ND on all of my lenses except for the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, thereby increasing my options. I also brought along the Miops Camera Trigger for time lapse purposes and to provide the ultimate flexibility in bracketed exposures. With extra room in my bag, I also packed the table top tripod in case I found an interesting place to position the camera or for low-level photography needs. I filled the remaining slot in my bag with a water bottle as I had no idea how far I'd be walking on the relatively warm November day.
 
Venturing Downtown
 
With no specific destination in mind, I traveled to downtown Savannah and found a free metered parking space on W Oglethorpe Ave. Tip #2: Parking in downtown Savannah is free on the weekends (and after 5pm on weekdays). As soon as I parked, the Savannah Civic Center at the corner of Oglethorpe and Montgomery St. caught my eye. As I neared the building, I noticed people were going in one of the doors idicating that it was open on this particular Sunday. Conspicuously, there was a lot of temporary signs posted which warned, "No Loaded Weapons are Allowed on Premises."
 
After entering the building, I noticed several individuals filing past a table on the other end of the foyer and filing into one of the larger event halls. As it turns out, there was an NRA sponsored gun show being held at the Civic Center. "Ah, now the abundant signage makes sense," I thought.
 
After exploring the building's entryway, I found a set of doors with the heading, "Johnny Mercer Theatre." As the security guard's office was positioned next to the theater doors, I poked my head inside with tripod in-hand and asked if the theater was open and if I could take a look around. He nodded and said, "Sure thing! The door's open."
 
Tip #3: If you are in an unfamiliar place, make sure you are not violating a facility's regulations by exploring. Being respectful and asking for permission to wonder about may not technically be necessary (depending on the facility's policies), but doing so may mean favors, if needed, are more easily granted in the future. Or as my grandmother would have said, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
 
The theater was extremely dark. The aisle ways were lit with dim LED strip lights and there was a flood light in the middle of the stage pointed toward the seats. After walking up on stage, I could see that the balcony aisle ways were also lit with a few overhead lights.
 
Unfortunately, I thought it might be a bit presumptuous to ask someone to turn on the theater lights, and I didn't feel like cashing in my good will karma just yet. As such, I tried a few bracketed exposures utilizing the the Miops Camera Trigger to trigger the camera via smartphone while standing behind the stage light. While bracketing technically worked to give me enough dynamic range to ultimately create an HDR image, the scene did not seem inspiring.
 
After a little while, though, someone who worked at the facility entered the theater and made his way down the aisle as he was headed to a room to the right of the stage. After a small conversation, the man asked, "Do you want me to turn on the lights?"
 
"Um, yes, that would be great!"
 
With the lights turned on, the view in front of me came alive. I continued taking bracketed exposures to give me the ultimate leeway in post processing. After viewing the results on the back LCD, I decided it was missing something. Looking around, I found a stool to serve as a foreground element and add a bit of interest. I returned the stool to its original location, packed up my gear, thanked the facility employee for turning on the lights and headed off.
 
Post Processing
 
I loaded a 7-image auto exposure bracket into HDRSoft's Photomatix Pro 5 and, starting with one of the "Natural" settings, I adjusted the sliders until I arrived at an HDR image that I liked. I then loaded the resulting .TIFF file into Photoshop CC for slight adjustments to color and levels.
 
A larger resolution version of this shot can be found by clicking on the image atop this post.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 11/10/2016 9:01:59 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Wildlife photographers can spend many days or weeks working with the same subject at the same location and, due to ever-changing behaviors of their subjects, they can continuously capture unique images. Sports photographers have unique action at every game/meet/match/race/etc. at the same field/track/event location. Street photographer are always finding new entertainment at the same locations. Wedding, event and portrait photographers have a steady stream of new subjects coming through the same locations. But you, landscape (and cityscape) photographer, usually find the same subjects in the same positions each time you go back. However, you still have reasons for going back.
 
Basically, you most often go back in hopes that something might be different this time.
 
Perhaps you didn't get it right the first time. You didn't provide adequate depth of field or didn't focus to the right distance to keep everything in the image sharp. Or, perhaps you want to use a wider aperture lens to better define the primary subject. Perhaps the focal choice was not ideal and part of the scene was cropped too tightly. Maybe you were too close or too far away and didn't get the ideal perspective. You want to move up/down, left/right or closer/farther to get it right the next time.
 
You now have better skills. Closely aligned with getting it right this time are your improved photography skills. You are now better at reading a scene and better able to select the composition, perhaps including a foreground element or better aligning the background within the foreground framing.
 
You go back to work on your creativity. The more bored you become with photographing a scene, the more likely you are going to find a creative new way to photograph it.
 
You go back because you have better gear. While we sometimes think that camera and lens technology is not moving forward fast enough, what is available today is far better than what was available not long ago. Taking your new camera(s) and lens(es) to a past-visited favorite location is an easy recipe for bettering your portfolio. Your higher resolution, lower noise camera and sharper lens will create results that look better, especially at high resolution. Taking a circular polarizer filter, a neutral density filter, etc. that you did not originally have can make a huge difference in your repeat visit results.
 
You go back in hopes for better weather conditions. You hope for better skies, a better sunrise, a better sunset, better clouds, more/less fog, less (or possibly more) wind, warmer light, etc. Everyone loves a fiery sunrise or sunset and those don't happen every day – you might need to go back repeatedly to find these. Fog? Some locations have it with some regularity, but many others have it only occasionally.
 
You go back because the timing is different or better. You may have better water flow, creating better waterfalls that give images a completely different look, one well worth the effort of a revisit. The seasons of the year provide a very different look to many locations. Spring brings bright green foliage and (usually) good water flow. Summer brings darker foliage and warmer weather (required for the snow to melt enough to access some areas). Late summer and fall brings amazing color to the trees in many areas. Winter brings snow, completely redecorating the landscape.
 
The timing of the visit also dictates the position of the celestial bodies. Go back when the sun, moon and/or stars (the milky way) are better aligned. Perhaps the sun shines between two mountain peaks at a certain time of the year. Perhaps you want to go back when the milky way is best aligned over a scene. The same applies to the moon with a specific desired phase and position.
 
Perhaps the scene has indeed changed and is no longer physically the same. While there are not usually macro changes occurring to landscape without a significant environmental disaster (such as a tornado, hurricane, fire, etc.), micro changes frequently happen. Trees fall, erosion occurs, sediment moves in streams during strong flows and fields have a different crop in rotation. If the scene is significantly altered, new images will be more current than those taken before the alteration. Before and after photos may be valued in this case.
 
Sometimes, you go back just because things can happen. Wildlife showing up can add a prize-winning element to any image.
 
If you are considering going back, the location is probably amazing and somewhere you love to be. That alone is a great reason to go back as just being there is awesome. There is no reason why the same location cannot be enjoyed time and time again. If you like the location that much, perhaps you want to share it with a friend or friends.
 
You go back because the location is a known entity. You know that it is repeatedly good for a quality image – an image worth sharing is sure to come out of the effort.
 
You go back for practice. If the location is relatively close to home, visiting the location to practice skills and technique prior to a big photo trip is a great idea. Unlike riding a bike, more like distance running, photography requires practice to stay in top shape. It also affords the opportunity to test the camera gear that will accompany you on the trip.
 
Again, a primary reason to go back is that something might be different this time and the reason that different is desirable is for, minimally, variation and, ideally, for bettering. Photographers are constantly striving to better what we have already done, to raise the bar, to take another step forward in our passion/profession.
 
The previous time I visited Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, was convenient, but not so well-timed for photography. It was mid-summer (not bad in itself). The sun was high and the leaves were green. The sky was forest fire-hazy. While my cameras and lenses were the best-available at the time, they were not as good as those I'm using today. I was happy with my results at the time, but they do not hold nearly as much value to me from a photographical perspective now.
 
Recently, I was blessed with a revisit to this very photogenic location. And, the results from my revisit were much higher grade in many accounts. Though I'm missing the moose that was in my first set of images (it was so small in the frame that I didn't know it was even there until reviewing the images back at home), but my late summer (photographer's fall in this location), early morning timing for the second visit to Oxbow Bend combined with my now-current camera gear and 9-year-upgraded skillset turned in much better results this time around. I'm sharing one of my favorites with you today.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, 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: 11/9/2016 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 8, 2016
You have 20 minutes to capture a complete set of homecoming pictures. And, there is a complication. Actually, three of them. A palomino horse, a blue roan (black) horse and a dog are to be included in most of the photos. And, one of the horses "needs" to be bridal-less for a segment of the shoot.
 
It was a crazy day (I know, that is not unusual), but high on one daughter's priority list was getting pictures of herself dressed up for homecoming. Having been through this scenario before, I knew what to expect. Primarily, there would be no time remaining for those pictures. I also knew about the desire to include the animals, but the specifics had not yet been communicated to me (even though I had asked).
 
Oh, I forgot to mention – it was lightly raining and with horses involved, the shoot was of course outdoors. Looking on the bright side, the heavy cloud cover made lighting easy with no harsh shadows and a reasonable level of dynamic range in the scene which included a black dress along with the black horse. Also positive is that with animals in the picture, the subject always seems to find it easier to smile naturally.
 
None of the subjects remained completely still at any point, meaning that my timing, framing, focus distance, etc. was always being challenged. In the end, I "borrowed" 10 minutes from the next-scheduled homecoming event and came away with an adequate number of keeper-grade photos. And, I thought that I would share one of them with you today.
 
For low light outdoor portraits with a variety of subject framing required, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens was my choice. It was a rather easy choice for me to make. It has only good portrait focal lengths in it and a nice range of them. The wide max aperture was ready for the low light levels and that this wide aperture was available over the entire focal length range, meant that I could lock in an exposure and, as long as the light levels did not change, all images would have identical brightness. While a right-on exposure was my intent, any adjustments needed could be globally applied for very fast post processing. The wide aperture combined with the telephoto focal length range created a nice background blur, making the subjects stand out in the scene. Being weather sealed made the light rain a non-issue. The Canon EOS 5Ds R behind this lens allowed me to shoot with framing slightly loose if I needed to, with cropped images still having very high resolution remaining.
 
As the animals were not overly cooperative, I tried to work with the positions that were available at any given time. Of course, the handler's position was partially dictated by the animal's position and ... there was a constant challenge to keep the subjects in attractive and complementary positions while keeping the background aligned in a pleasing manner. We didn't quite get the left hand position right, but all things considered, it was good enough.
 
Notice the low-to-the-ground camera position? There had been a long drought and the grass was thin with lots of brown spots showing. By shooting from low to the ground, the grass appeared thicker with a better-colored foreground being the result. As I was shooting downhill slightly, the low camera position was also complementary to the subjects.
 
After we finished, Brittany's hair was flat (due to the light rain), over two inches of her heels were covered in mud (shoes sunk into the grass) and the dress was dirty (the horse gets the blame for this one), but ... she made it to the big event and the photos I sent her later that evening made her day. So, all was good in the end.
 
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
95mm  f/2.8  1/200s
ISO 400
7643 x 5095px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 11/8/2016 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, November 5, 2016
There are few churches with a view comparable to that from The Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park. I'm thinking that this view would be a strong distraction from the sermon.
 
The next time you visit Grand Teton National Park, make sure that The Chapel of the Transfiguration is on your to-photograph list. It is as attractive outside as it is inside. Morning is the best time of the day to photograph at this location as the tall mountains go dark when the sun sets behind them. A visit timed for the right week (late September) results in brilliantly colored aspen trees for the mid-ground layer of interest (though the aspens are only barely visible in this image).
 
Obviously, I went inside to capture this photo. My goal was to see the mountains through the window while capturing most of the interior of this little log-constructed church. My preference was to see the mountain peaks in the window and this meant a low shooting position at the back of the sanctuary was required. That position seemed to work well for the rest of the scene, so I went with it.
 
Though a steady stream of people were coming through the little church, there were enough breaks that patiently waiting was all that was needed to capture a wide range of exposures. Because the dynamic range was extreme, the wide range of exposures were required. I later used a manual HDR technique to composite several of those images into a balanced final result.
 
The Canon EOS 5Ds R and EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens were the perfect combination for this photo.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, 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: 11/5/2016 6:38:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, October 23, 2016
My day trip to Ricketts Glen was carefully planned. A pair of calls to the park office gave me redundant information. Both individuals indicated that the leaves in the falls ravines were going to be peak and one said that the water flow was good (that was necessary for waterfalls of course). This information aligned perfectly with the weather forecast calling for very light wind (enabling flora to remain still for long exposures), heavy cloud cover (keeps lighting low and free of harsh shadows) and light rain likely throughout the day (keeps the crowds at home, out of the frame and provides saturated colors).
 
After driving 1.5 hours in the fog, I arrived to find ... no wind. The leaves were indeed peak, but they were peak at the top of the mountain – not down in the deep falls ravines. The fog cleared to a mostly sunny sky and my opinion of a good water flow differs greatly from the person I talked to.
 
Fortunately, there are always great photo opportunities in this park. And, after photographing in the early morning shade for over an hour, the clouds eventually came and were present for a number of hours, creating good light.
 
Especially high up in the falls trails, there were some good leaves, but ... many of them were on the ground. However, the ground can be a great place to photograph leaves, especially when they are wet from a stream they have fallen into or nearby. During the fall, especially late in the local fall foliage season, look for colorful leaves on the ground that can be worked into an image.
 
Don't forget to use a circular polarizer filter to reduce glare and increase saturation of these leaves. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens was the only lens I used this day. I didn't need a focal length that it didn't contain and the image quality coming from this lens is very impressive.
 
Fall, my favorite photography season, has just arrived in the northern hemisphere. Just as photographers consider the bookmarks of daylight to be the golden hours, I have a set of golden weeks of the year, bookmarking the leaf season. The beautiful bright light green new foliage (and abundant water flow) of late spring marks one of them. The other is marked by the changing leaf color of late summer/early fall and this one is easily my favorite.
 
Read our Fall Photography Tips for ideas and inspiration, select a great location, pack some great gear and go capture some portfolio-grade imagery! Whether that foliage is the primary subject or a backdrop to another subject, we are in the golden weeks.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, 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: 10/23/2016 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 22, 2016
There are few landscape photography locations more popular than Oxbow Bend, near Moran in Grand Teton National Park. This location is especially favored during the week or two in late summer when the aspen trees take on their brilliant fall colors. However, on a calm morning with interesting clouds in the sky, those colors are just icing on the cake.
 
When the wind dies down, most often early and late in the day, the Oxbow Bend area of the Snake River becomes glassy and only the jumping fish and feeding ducks remain to mar the mirror-like surface of the water. The highlight of this location is Mount Moran along with the other nearby mountain peaks and a telephoto lens best emphasizes distant mountains. I took a few telephoto pics here, but ... I couldn't resist framing the scene wider, including the reflections of the photogenic clouds present on this great morning.
 
I always say that a great landscape scene can be made greater by reflecting it and I think this theory holds true at Oxbow Bend. Within this theory, vertically centering the top edge of a large reflecting surface (such as a body of water) usually works very well.
 
Even though there are many dozens of photographers targeting Oxbow Bend at sunrise, there is plenty of room for everyone to find a good shooting location. Schedule your presence here for mid-late September (this image was captured on the 19th) if you want the yellow aspens in your frame.
 
I'll likely feel compelled to share a few more images captured at this location on this morning.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, 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: 10/22/2016 9:10:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, October 14, 2016
It's a relatively well known fact that some lenses work better with IR photography than others. The most common lens issue – hot spots – are bright, visible circles in the image (sort of like flare) typically caused by various lens and barrel coatings which reflect IR light in undesired ways.
 
A few Canon and Nikon lenses which are prone to hot spot include (according to Life Pixel):
 
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8 USM
  • Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 USM
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
  • Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR
But I recently ran across another issue when it came to utilizing two different lenses under identical lighting conditions; the images looked completely different (angle of view differences aside). A white balance target taken with one lens didn't seem to work well with the other lens. And even when I took a second white balance target image with the second lens, I could never get the image to look the same as the first image. Hmm...
 
Bear in mind, I have the Super Color IR conversion which allows you to captures yellow and blue hues in IR imagery. Obtaining the correct white balance in a Super Color IR image is critical for isolating the various wavelengths for proper post processing. At least, I've found it's critical when shooting landscapes. Typically speaking, I take a picture of a pure (or nearly pure) white target in the same light that is illuminating the landscape. With a custom white balance selected in post processing, foliage becomes yellow and the sky remains blue after switching the red and blue color channels.
 
I called the helpful people at LifePixel to inquire about white balance variations and other differences between lenses. The technician I spoke to believed that various lens coatings might make a significant difference in the quantity (and possibly quality) of IR light that makes it to the sensor.
 
Intrigued, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I chose five different lenses (two zooms and three primes) which all feature 24mm focal lengths and shot the exact same scene on a cloud free day. The lenses were:
 
Here was the test setup:
 
  • The camera was set to manual exposure for each test: f/8, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.
  • Zoom lenses were set to 24mm (or reasonably close).
  • UV filters were removed from the lenses.
  • An X-Rite ColorChecker Passport target image was taken directly after the scene was captured by each lens.
In post processing, I white balanced each lens' scene with an identically sampled color patch (pure white) on its corresponding ColorChecker target image. The red and blue color channels were swapped and an identical Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was added with Yellow Saturation set to -100 and Lightness to +100.
 
Here were the final results:
 
Infrared Lens Comparison at 24mm

In the images above, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM produces the results I want to see when capturing IR photography. In other words, there is a very clear distinction between the color hues that are recorded. Notice how muddy most of the other results look by comparison. The only lens that comes close is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.
 
Are lens coatings solely to blame for the varying results? I'm not sure. The lenses vary widely in their design, introduction year and [likely] coatings. But one thing is certain; a couple of them look better than the others, and one stands out above them all.
 
Now I'm curious to know if more simply designed lenses and lenses with minimal (or no) coatings may provide results similar to the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, even though the 24mm STM is advertised as featuring coatings to reduce ghosting and flare. For my next test, I'll disregard focal length differences and choose lenses which I hope will mimic the 24mm STM's results.
 
Stay tuned.
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 10/14/2016 10:23:23 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, October 13, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
I ran across some UV/black light portraits not long ago and was intrigued by them. I decided to do some research to see if I could produce similar black light portraits on a reasonable budget.
 
When it comes to black light photography, you need two things – something that is fluorescent under UV/black light and a product to emit the light.” Searching for "black light makeup" on Amazon left me with dozens of options to choose from. I settled on an 8 tube set of water-based face paint. Next up, the black light.
 
Searching Amazon again I found a myriad of black light products available for purchase including flashlights, dance club lights and the run-of-the-mill black light bulb that many of us had in high school and/or college. After weighing the options I decided to get a couple of black light CFL bulbs that I could install in a three bulb floor lamp that I already owned (similar to this). The UV bulb reviews warned that the light emitted wasn't terribly powerful, but I hoped that using two bulbs positioned relatively close to the subject would do the trick.
 
And speaking of the subject, I was aware of a model here in Savannah (Kim) that was looking to expand her portfolio with "creative ideas." I contacted Kim to see if she'd like to try out some black light photography. I explained to her that I was completely inexperienced with this particular field of photography but I thought it might be fun and yield interesting results. She readily agreed and we set a session date.
 
After receiving the face paint and bulbs, I set up a small test in my studio to see how well the UV face paint glowed under the black lights. My initial tests were a little disappointing. It was early in the evening and I still had some ambient light coming through my studio windows. Considering that Kim was only available during the day, I knew I would have to limit the amount of ambient light that would be flooding into the room under broad daylight conditions to maximize the effect of the black lights. Thankfully I already had a couple of blackout curtains that I use to eliminate glare on my living room TV produced from a large pair of windows behind the couch. The blackout curtains allowed me to turn my studio nearly pitch black in the middle of the day.
 
For the background, I used the black side of a collapsible black/white background supported by a light stand and a Lastolite Magnetic Background Support.
 
When Kim arrived for the shoot she was carrying a box full of makeup. While the makeup she brought was superfluous in this case, it was comforting that she knew how to handle her own makeup needs. I handed her the bottles of face paint and the brushes and sponges I had purchased for application needs. I said, "Have fun with it! But from what I've read, the blue is more fluorescent than the other colors. You might want to use it sparingly."
 
However, working with the UV face paint proved problematic as it's quite watery (making it challenging to apply) and it doesn't show up very well in regular light, so it's difficult to judge exactly what the final results will look like. Kim simply had to deal with the first issue the best she could. However, the second issue was easily remedied by her applying the face paint in the darkened studio with the black lights illuminating her face.
 
Even knowing that blue was the most fluorescent color, we were still a bit surprised by just how much brighter it was compared to the other colors. In fact, Kim ended up washing off her first application of the blue paint so that her face wouldn't be overly bright in those areas.
 
With the face paint applied and my tripod mounted 5D Mark III and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (precursor to the version II) ready, we started shooting. I don't usually use constant lights for portraiture, so it was a little challenging finding the right balance of relatively slow (but fast enough) shutter speed without pushing the ISOs too high. Even wide open at f/2.8, I still needed shutter speeds of 1/30 - 1/40 second at ISO 6400 - 8000 with the black lights positioned just out of the frame.
 
After figuring out the exposure and shooting a few images, I quickly noticed that because there was very little light hitting the background (which is what I had intended), the photos lacked punch; it needed some light. I reached for a Canon 580EX Speedlite (precursor to the 600EX II-RT), added a deep blue gel, a speed strap and a 1/8-Inch Universal Honeycomb Grid. Even with the gel in place and the flash set to its minimum of 1/128, the light was too bright for my exposure settings. Adding a 1-stop ND gel to the mix helped bring the background light down to a tolerable level.
 
My favorite image from the shoot appears at the top of this post. Following are two more images from the session that I liked.
 
Kim Black Light Portraiture 2

Kim Black Light Portraiture 3

What I Learned
 
First off, UV/black light photography is really fun and quite economical. The black light bulbs I purchased have an 8,000-hour life expectancy, so their cost is very reasonable considering their life span. However, I wish I had gotten just one more bulb so that I could have shot with a higher shutter speed (for more keepers) or lower ISO (for cleaner images). The amount of face paint I received will likely be enough to cover 2-3 sessions, so the cost is relatively reasonable as well. Using a full frame camera (the 5D Mark III in this case) proved extremely beneficial in producing satisfactory results at my exposure settings (though I still applied some noise reduction in post-processing).
 
If you have any UV/black light specific recommendations (products / techniques), please leave them in the comments.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 10/13/2016 9:12:44 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, October 8, 2016
Pronghorn were on my to-photograph list for my time in Grand Teton National Park and I had some success in this pursuit.
 
Upon arriving at the park, I made a scouting drive around the main loop and then drove through Antelope Flats where a large heard of bison roams and pronghorn are frequently found. In this last section of the drive, a line of short trees in brilliant red and orange fall colors caught my attention. I made a mental note about working these trees into an image, perhaps as a background to a bison or pronghorn portrait.
 
The next morning, the buck pictured here and I spent some quality time together. It didn't care that I was there and I was mostly moving away from it to maintain my distance. The pronghorn was walking and feeding in what appeared to be a random route. After about 30 minutes and over a mile covered, this buck crossed the road and unbelievably walked right up into the beautiful red and orange trees I had been admiring. I was of course seeing what could unfold in front of me and made sure that I was in place to capture the visualized image.
 
Pronghorn are most typically seen with grass and sage surroundings, so capturing one in front of fall foliage was unique for me.
 
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV performed splendidly behind the EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and another favorite image joined my collection.
 
The 5D IV's increased resolution over the 5D III was appreciated in this situation. While the entire frame looked nice, I decided that modest cropping would greater-emphasize the beautifully colored animal.
 
I very much appreciated the 5D IV's fast 7 fps high speed continuous frame rate as I was able to select an image with both good body position and good alignment with the background. The animal was in constant motion, so AI Servo AF mode was selected with a single point selected and held on the eye or base of the horns. I rapidly changed the selected AF point to match the animal's current position (this is often a challenge).
 
With heavy cloud cover yielding a varying amount of light, a relatively neutral-brightness subject/scene and my focus being on getting a well-framed shot, I gave the camera the job of determining the brightness. Although I utilized the camera's AE capabilities, I still used manual mode so that I could choose the aperture (wide open f/4 for maximum light and background blur) and shutter speed (I adjusted this as needed to keep the subject sharp). The Auto ISO setting took care of the brightness (I adjusted this image +.13 EV in post).
 
Note that I was using a monopod instead of a tripod in this situation due to the faster setup and height adjustment it afforded as I worked fast while maintaining good position with the pronghorn. The downside of this strategy was the challenge of keeping the animal in the frame due to very strong winds I was shooting in. This large lens catches a lot of wind.
 
A tripod would have better kept the lens in place and made the job easier (if I could have set it up in time). However, this better support would not have resolved the issue as the tripod head would not have been tightened due to the animal being in constant motion and the wind would have remained an issue. Removing the large lens hood could have helped greatly, but I was shooting in rain some of the time and even the huge hood was not deep enough to keep all of the rain off of the front lens element.
 
Grand Teton National Park is a very popular photo destination – for more than one good reason. The wildlife is one of those reasons and I was able to check off the pronghorn line item on my to-photograph list during this trip.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1000s
ISO 320
4961 x 3307px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 10/8/2016 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, September 30, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
As I mentioned in our Infrared Camera Conversion Review, having an infrared camera at hand greatly increases the "great light" portion of the day. It's well known that golden hour (shortly after sunrise and just before sunset) provides the greatest opportunities for capturing scenes with beautiful, interesting and/or compelling light in traditional photography. Typical landscape scenes don't as good in the middle of the day. And since there are a lot more hours in the day that aren't golden hours, that presents a bit of a problem from an inspiration standpoint for landscape photographers.
 
As landscapes captured in IR typically look best with a lot of hard, midday sun, getting an IR-converted DSLR can provide ample opportunities to capture beautiful landscapes with the sun right overhead.
 
Sometimes I'll simply grab my Super Color IR-converted EOS 7D and EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM and/or EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and walk around my neighborhood to see what piques my interest. Typically speaking, my neighborhood isn't very inspiring from a landscape photography perspective. However, there are a few spots nearby that tend to draw my eye. This large oak tree in the middle of a field is one of them.
 
When it comes to IR landscapes, I typically set my camera to aperture priority (Av) mode at f/8, ISO 100 and let the camera choose the shutter speed (dialing in exposure comensation if needed). Considering that IR landscapes are typically captured at times with an abundance of ambient light available, using f/8 allows me to achieve near maximum sharpness (though the setting is just slightly above the camera's diffraction limited aperture, or DLA) while typically keeping everything in focus (assuming the point of focus exceeds the hyperfocal distance for the situation).
 
For the shot above, I used the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and the exposure settings were f/8, 1/160 second and ISO 100.
 
I first inverted the red and blue color channels in post processing and then desaturated the yellow hues to achieve the traditional IR white foliage look while maintaining the blue color captured by the Super Color IR sensor. Click on the image above for access to a higher resolution version.
 
Learn more about infrared photography and IR conversions in our Infrared Camera Conversion by LifePixel Review.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/30/2016 8:17:58 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Wildlife is unpredictable – and too often lives up to the "wild" in its name. Getting warm light from a very late day sun to hit an animal directly from behind your back (shadow pointed to the subject) with a good background is challenging. Having the animal be an incredibly-large bull elk and the background be maple trees in peak red fall color definitely increases the image value to me. Having the broadside bull scratch itself with its antlers, aligning the shoulders within a green portion of the background, the antlers within the glowing red section of tree and the head in front of the brightest background (high contrast draws the viewer's eye) was more than I thought to pray for.
 
This huge 9x8 bull elk had been bedded in the sage and grass. The sun was setting rapidly and while I captured many images of the head and antlers rising above the obstructions, I really wanted a full (or nearly full) body image in this setting. Fortunately, that happened. I was in a great position when the elk stood up. However, the bull's head, looking forward, was in the shade of trees on the horizon behind me. The back scratch was precisely what I needed to leave only the legs in the shadows, completing the image.
 
While I prefer to use completely manual settings, the light falling on the subjects was changing frequently and the shots were often being captured in haste. So, I opted to use manual mode with Auto ISO for much of my elk photography on this trip. The color of the elk bodies and their environment was neutral enough in brightness that, at most, only a small amount of exposure compensation was needed. In this case, I exposed this image 1/2 stop brighter than needed. The 5Ds R did not have any trouble recovering the red channel pixels that exceeded a 255 RGB value. This brightness adjustment left just a tiny patch of red pixels retaining 255 values, though even more headroom is available.
 
Based on the movement of the elk at the time of capture, ranging from standing (often looking at me) to running away, this exposure method meant that I could simply roll the top dial to select the shutter speed I needed for the scenario (to keep the image sharp) while keeping the ISO as low as possible. If only one elk was in the frame, the aperture was nearly always intended to be set at f/4, so don't read anything into my f/4.5 actually used aperture for this image. I must have inadvertently (sounds much better than "user error") adjusted the rear control dial at some point during the action. Bull elk are huge and at the distance required to keep the entire elk in the frame, f/4 was still not shallow enough to completely erase the background in most scenarios encountered.
 
The 600 f/4 is a large and heavy lens. Using it without support is asking for a shoulder injury. While a tripod with a gimbal head is the ideal support for this lens, I find a strong monopod (with twist-locks for quietness) to be much faster to setup and adjust. This speed is very important for positioning in wildlife photography as the subject seldom stays in place for very long. Setting up fast and quietly can mean the difference between getting a great shot and getting no shot.
 
As you may have guessed, I have recently returned from a photography trip. This one was a 10-day wildlife and landscape adventure to Idaho and Wyoming. As usual, the trip was exhausting but amazing. The in-the-field experience is not only great fun, but also extremely important in fully understanding how gear works in the situations it is designed to be used in.
 
This trip featured the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera that arrived just prior to my leaving. I rotated the 5D IV and a pair of Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies between the primary lenses I was using at the time, namely the EF 100-400mm L IS II and EF 600mm L IS II for elk and other wildlife. The 5Ds R happened to be behind the 600 on this day and the resulting image is incredibly detailed, but I would not have been disappointed to have had the 5D IV behind this lens at this time. It too is a great camera. My 5D IV is quickly approaching 10k frames and completion of its review remains a very high priority.
 
Question: Would you like this image better in a square/1:1 aspect ratio?
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.5  1/1600s
ISO 640
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 9/28/2016 11:42:55 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, September 26, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
Portrait photography is an art. And while the most important component for expressing that art lies between the photographer's ears, there are a few accessories that can help elevate one's portraiture to higher levels.
 
Impact Telescopic Collapsible Reflector Holder

1. Reflector & Holder
 
A great portrait starts with great/inspiring/creative light. While great portraiture can be created using only ambient light, being able to redirect that light is a liberating asset. That's where the simple, collapsible reflector comes in handy.
 
Reflectors come in wide variety of shapes and sizes and are typically gold, silver or white. A white reflector will provide the softest results while the gold and silver versions will be able to reflect a higher intensity light onto your subjects (although your surface choice will affect the color of light being reflected). Thankfully, the fact that collapsible reflectors have two sides means that you usually get at least two different reflective surfaces with a single investment. When comes to collapsible reflectors, my personal favorite is the Sunbounce Sun-Mover. Although relatively small, the Sun-Mover's spring steel frame keeps the reflector very taut and the built-in handles make it very easy for a person to hold and direct. For larger reflectors, I've owned an Impact 41x74" Collapsible Reflector for years and it has also worked well for me.
 
If you do not have an assistant to hold your reflector, as the photographer you can hold the reflector yourself. However, this technique will limit your ability to position the reflector and the amount of hands available to hold and control the camera. The solution to this problem is the collapsible reflector mounting arm. The mounting arm attaches to a light stand (that link is preloaded with my favorite stand) and allows you to freely position the reflector while leaving both of your hands free for manipulating/supporting the camera.
 
If using the stand and reflector outside, I highly suggest weighing down the ring to prevent wind from tipping it over (risking damage to gear and injury to your subjects). Sandbags are a convenient option and purpose built for such needs.
 
Canon Speedlite 600EX II RT Flash

2. Off-Camera Flash
 
While on-camera flash can certainly produce eye catching portraits especially when bounce flash is employed, getting the flash off-camera allows for greater flexibility for creative portraiture. And considering that all recently released, non-full frame Canon DSLRs feature a master optical pop-up flash, it's easier than ever to get an Speedlite flash off-camera. That said, Canon's radio communication enabled flashes – the 600EX-RT, 600EX II-RT and 430EX III-RT – offer even more creative freedom by allowing flashes to be spaced farther apart without line-of-sight requirements.
 
If you don't mind going fully manual, there are a ton of relatively low-cost radio triggering options to help you get your flash off-camera. And by spending a little more, you can even get radio triggers that allow you to control a TTL flash's power manually from the camera. And with a little more trigger investment, full radio controlled, high range TTL-enabled flashes are well in within reach. Traditional studio flashes are another option if portability is less of a priority.
 
Portrait Setup with 2 Collapsible Umbrellas

3. Light Modifier
 
Light modifiers play a key role in getting the most out of your off-camera flash, especially when it comes to portraiture. Types of light modifiers include:
 
  • umbrellas (white/silver, normal/parabolic, etc.)
  • soft boxes (including octa and strip boxes)
  • grids
  • beauty dishes
  • colored gels
  • reflectors/scrims/flags
  • snoots
  • gobos
  • ...and more!
Each modifier will affect the flash's output in different way and may only fit specific types of lights (or else may have a mount that can be customized for one's specific gear). My suggestion is to start out with an inexpensive, medium-sized collapsible white umbrella, an umbrella swivel, a light stand, a sandbag or two and a radio trigger (if needed) and then move on to the next modifier that intrigues you.
 
X Rite Digital ColorChecker Passport Photo

4. Color Calibration Target
 
There are some people who are very particular about color; I'm not necessarily one of them. However, few people will complain if the color of your images is spot on. For that, a color calibration target is essential. My personal favorite is the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo. Here's how it works:
 
  1. Take a properly exposed RAW image of the color calibration target in the same lighting used for your portrait (most of the time I just have the subject hold the calibration target for a test capture).
  2. Open the calibration target image in Lightroom or Photoshop. Save the image as a *.DNG file. Close the post processing application.
  3. Open the calibration target *.DNG in X-Rite's ColorChecker Passport software. The software will automatically detect the calibration target.
  4. Save the Camera Profile with a unique name.
  5. Open your post processing software and import the original color calibration target and portrait session RAW files. Apply the unique Camera Profile and use the target for setting white balance.

Ryobi 18 Volt 120 Volt One Plus Hybrid Fan

5. Fan
 
It's surprising how a small amount of movement in long hair can take a portrait to the next level. As such, a fan is a good thing to have on hand. However, this is one item you likely already have lying around the house (in one form or another). If going the mechanical route, it's important that your fan can be set not to oscillate and that it can be dialed down very low. If you want to use a fan on location where no power outlet is available, you have a couple of options.
 
The first option is to use a voice-activated reflector holder (in other words, an assistant who wafts a reflector at your subect on cue). This is the easiest and least expensive option if you happen to have a photo assistant available for your session.
 
The second option is to get a battery-powered fan for location use. Some battery-powered fans even have clips that you can use to attach to a spare light stand for optimal positioning (expect needing to position the fan relatively close to your subject because of these fans' relatively lower power). Otherwise, if you own rechargeable Ryobi hand tools, this portable hybrid fan should provide plenty of power from a ground level position.
 
Note: The Ryobi fan does not come with a battery or charger which must be purchased separately if not already owned.
 
So that's our top 5 portrait photography accessories. Did we miss an item that you think should have been included? Let us know in the comments.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/26/2016 8:57:51 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, September 19, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
Not long ago I was walking down a street near my home when an abandoned, overgrown lot grabbed my attention. While the lot wasn't what I would call "scenic" with its fallen branches and litter, the tall weeds in the middle of the lot intrigued me. A short time later I was contacted by a model wanting some images to add to her portfolio and I she liked my suggestion of using an overgrown lot for our backdrop.
 
As I mentioned, the vacant lot on the whole did not look very good. As such, I decided to use two techniques to minimize the impact of the shooting location and draw focus to the tall weeds which I really liked: a long focal length and a wide aperture.
 
I had originally planned on using the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, a very wide (f/1.2 - f/1.8) aperture and a 4-stop neutral density filter (to allow me to achieve a shutter speed below the 5D III's max flash sync speed) for the shoot. Unfortunately, I had temporarily misplaced my 4-stop ND filter. Without a 4-stop ND filter at hand, I decided to use the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (predecessor to version II) paired with a 2-stop ND filter instead.
 
My inability to find the 4-stop ND filter actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The 85L II has a field of view (FOV) of roughly 28° while the 70-200L IS has a FOV of 12° at 200mm. The smaller field of view meant that I could capture a smaller slice of the background in each frame. And when coupled with a wide f/2.8 aperture (with background elements a decent distance from my subject), the background became a creamy blur of color which didn't include recognizable [distracting] elements. Another benefit of the 70-200mm lens in this particular case was an increased working distance (with similar framing) that allowed me more opportunities to capture blurred foreground elements as well.
 
For lighting I used a radio triggered, battery-pack powered White Lightning x3200 monolight reflected into a 60" white parabolic umbrella perched atop a C-stand.
 
Here's another image captured during the session:
 
Long Focal Length and Wide Aperture Portrait #2

So the next time you're facing a portrait session with an uninspiring background, just grab your wide aperture telephoto lens and kiss the background goodbye!
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/19/2016 10:19:01 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, September 9, 2016
Lake Louise, referred to as the "Jewel of Banff National Park" is high on most of the park visitors' must-see lists. Fortunately, for many at least, is that it is easily accessible including large parking lots just a short walk away. Unfortunately, it is so popular that these lots fill up early and the easy-to-access side of the lake becomes very crowded even early in the day.
 
Photographing this lake wasn't my highest priority, but I did want some decent photos of it. After spending the early morning at Moraine Lake, I headed over to Lake Louise at roughly 8:30 AM. While there were plenty of people here already, the crowd was considerably thinner than later times of the day (the icy boardwalk also helped thin the summer crowd). The crowd was thin enough that I was able to capture a clear view of the foreground rocks and the glacier-fed lake still looked like glass (prior to the lake filling with canoes and the wind picking up). The beautiful mountains reflected where the lake was shaded and a glowing turquoise color showed where the lake was directly illuminated by the sun.
 
While I captured a variety of images, I found the round rocks at the edge of the lake to make a nice foreground and selected a red-toned rock as the standout. Once again, the 11mm field of view proved very useful.
 
Note that this is an HDR image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/9/2016 7:51:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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