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 Friday, January 20, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
Photography gear, typically speaking, is expensive. As such, we as photographers often entertain the idea of purchasing inexpensive camera accessories in lieu of adding the brand name equivalent to our kits.
 
But should we? Is it safe/reliable to buy cheap camera accessories? In some cases, the answer is "yes." When considering the purchase of a cheap camera accessory, here are the questions I ask myself:
 
1. How substantial is the savings opportunity?
Of course the biggest allure in purchasing cheap accessories is the cost savings realized over purchasing the brand name item. But just how much are you saving? Can you replace the inexpensive alternative more than once while still saving money in the long run compared to the brand name product? If so, the cheaper alternative may prove to be a good investment.
 
2. How complex is the item?
You're more likely to have issues with inexpensive accessories that contain electronics (especially those that must communicate with your camera) or lens elements (which require tight manufacturing and assembly tolerances). Lens hoods, for instance, are relatively simple to create. In most cases, they're simply a molded piece of plastic. However, that doesn't stop name brand camera manufacturers from charging an arm and a leg for them. A cheap knock-off hood may not have internal flocking or a fancy filter access window, but they'll typically do the job. I say "typically" because there is a moderately wide range of qualities of design and production for the manufacturers filling this low-cost market space. And that brings me to my next question...
 
3. Is the item made by a relatively well known brand? In-house brands, like Vello (from B&H) and Flashpoint (Adorama) offer budget-priced accessories that a major retailer will stand behind. This means that if you are dissatisfied with your purchase, you can likely return the item without financial consequence. These brands are usually slightly more expensive than unheard of brands, but often provide the best value-per-dollar from a security/reliability perspective.
 
4. How important are the item's benefits to your kit?
If you are going to rely on your accessory day in and day out, or you have clients whom depend on you to deliver images without fail, then the reliability of a name brand accessory may outweigh the benefit in cost savings realized by going with a cheaper alternative. Of course, brand name accessories can fail too, but... the brand name manufacturer has a reputation and [very valuable] brand to protect, so they will typically produce the highest quality products.
 
A Prime Example
 
Recently the eyecup on my now 8 year-old Canon EOS 7D broke (seen above). The item isn't necessarily vital to the operation of my camera, but I wanted to replace it.
 
In this case, I had three plausible options:
 
  1. Canon Eyecup Eg (direct replacement) for $16.95 + shipping
  2. Vello EPC-EG Eyepiece (B&H's in-house brand) for $14.95 with free shipping
  3. (2) Eggsnow Eyepiece Eyecups EG (completely unknown brand from Amazon) for $8.99 with free prime shipping
Ultimately, I chose to go with the third option for the following reasons:
 
  • The cost savings was substantial, especially since I received two items instead of one.
  • The eyecup is a simple product to make and therefore quality differences should be minimal.
  • If the eyecup fails, it won't have a big impact on my photography until I can find another replacement (in this case, an identical item shipped).
Upon receipt of the Amazon acquired eyecups, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they seem to be identical to the Canon eyecup aside from the model branding.
 
A few additional cheap accessory options I've had pleasant results with from B&H, Amazon or Adorama include:
 
  • Lens Hoods
  • Lens Caps (front and rear)
  • Body Caps
  • Extension Tubes
  • Tripod Rings
  • Arca-style Quick Release Plates and Clamps
  • Intervalometers, Wireless & Wired Camera Triggers
The Bottom Line
 
Sometimes the bottom line on your financial statement is more important than any potential risks a third party (especially non-vital) accessory presents. Other times, the potential risks simply aren't worth chancing. Of course, the differentiation will largely depend on one's particular priorities and preferences.
 
What do you think? Are there other cheap accessory items that you consider relatively safe investments? Let us know in the comments.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 1/20/2017 10:23:14 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, January 19, 2017
Schwabachers Landing in Grand Teton National Park is a huge favorite location for photographers, especially in the fall. There is good reason for this of course. The Grand Teton range is incredible from many vantage points, but with several beaver ponds making reflections possible, Schwabachers Landing offers twice as many mountain peaks in images captured here.
 
I captured many composition variations here, but in this simple example, I wanted to emphasize the distant mountains and the 53mm focal length was effective at keeping them large in the frame. Though wide angle focal lengths also created nice compositions here, the mountain peaks were rendered small and much less significant.
 
The angle of the mid-September morning light is rather flat on this mountain range, but I think that the color of the trees more than offsets this time-of-the-year deficiency.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, 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: 1/19/2017 10:01:44 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, January 12, 2017
Have you ever wondered how this site's product images are created? If so, you'll want to check out our most recent addition to the Photography Tips page:

 
Canon EF 16 35mm f 2.8L III USM Lens/Canon EF 16 35mm f 2.8L III USM Lens Comparison

The Ideal, Simple, General Purpose Product Photography Setup (How this Site's Product Images are Captured)
In it, you'll get a behind-the-scenes look at Bryan's product photography setup, details on the gear he utilizes to create the classic, white background product imagery found throughout the site and a few tips for creating your own product images.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 1/12/2017 7:52:58 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Obviously, there is one less tree on the ranch.
 
While I mostly used the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens on this elk photo trip, there were times when I was really glad to have the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens readily available. In this case, thanks to the zoom range afforded by this lens, I was able to capture both full-body images and close-ups in rapid succession.
 
This huge rutting bull rocky mountain elk was in the bottom of a valley that had long been in the shade from the setting sun. He was intently tearing up this tree, which meant that I needed a fast shutter speed to stop the motion. My choice of 1/1000 was certainly not overkill, but I wanted to keep the noise levels down as much as possible. The 5D IV's ISO 5000 looks good enough that choosing an even faster shutter speed would have been a non-issue.
 
With the upward head angle, it was almost as if I was lighting the 8x7 bull with a huge softbox in the studio.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
371mm  f/5.6  1/1000s
ISO 5000
6720 x 4480px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 1/4/2017 8:41:32 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 3, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
Some photography and general purpose accessories are so useful, so vital and/or so inexpensive that they're worth having in every single camera bag you own.
 
The first thing you're probably thinking is, "Why wouldn't I simply remove all the items in one bag and put them in another?" And while this practice does work in theory, unfortunately it does not work as well in practice. That's because the purpose of having different camera bags is because they serve different functions. As such, we may not (or simply cannot) put the exact same items in similar places in another bag. That means that it's too easy to miss something when transferring items unless you are diligent enough to use a checklist every time you switch bags. However, using a checklist and transferring items also takes time which may leave you rushed if the perfect photo opportunity is fleeting.
 
For these reasons, I prefer to keep duplicates of the most useful accessories in each of my main camera bags (2 backpacks and 2 messenger bags). To be considered for this list, the gear must meet the guidelines outlined in the first sentence of this post.
 
1. Memory Card(s)
 
It's a pretty simple concept – without a way to store images, the best camera & lens in the world are not going to help you capture the moment. Memory cards are an essential part of the digital imaging process (unless you are tethering, and even then, many DSLRs require a memory card).
 
Memory card capacities have increased substantially over the years with the result of the previous high-to-mid-range capacity cards dropping in price. And when it comes to a backup memory card, you don't necessarily need the highest capacity, highest performance card on the planet. You just need something that will cover your temporary needs in case of an emergency.
 
2. Microfiber Cloth
 
Few tools in the photography arsenal are as inexpensive as they are invaluable, but that would be an apt description of microfiber cloths. They're so inexpensive that they're often given away for free with various purchases, yet I can never seem to have enough of them. Be sure to keep at least one in every camera bag and/or lens case; you'll be glad you did.
 
3. Filter Wrenches
 
I'm a big fan of buying filters which fit my largest diameter lenses and using step-up rings to allow those larger filters to be used on lenses featuring a smaller front filter diameter. However, filters have a way of [seemingly] becoming glued to step up rings. It's difficult for me to imagine how many times I've needed a filter wrench to aid in separating a filter stuck to a step-up ring or a filter stuck to another filter. A circular polarizer stuck to anything can be especially difficult to remove as there is very little gripping surface to work with. In those cases, a set of filter wrenches can really save the day.
 
4. Weather Protection
 
Even if your gear bag is full of L-series lenses and professional bodies which feature a good degree of weather sealing, it's always a good idea keep some type of weather protection on-hand for those times when torrential rain is on the horizon or wind gusts are blanketing your location with fine dust/sand. One of my personal favorite rain sleeves is the OP/TECH USA 8" Small Rain Sleeve. It's perfect for a (gripped or non-gripped) DSLR with small to medium-sized lenses. It's inexpensive and easy to pack insurance that's hard not to justify adding to every camera bag you own.
 
5. Small Rocket Blower
 
Have you ever zoomed in on one of your landscape images only to find a dark spot in the middle of your clear, blue sky? If so, a Small Rocket Blower could have likely saved you the trouble of removing the blemish(es) in post processing. The Rocket Blower is also handy for removing fine dust from cameras, lenses and lens elements.
 
6. Small Flashlight
 
If you photograph any type of nighttime scene (cityscapes, astrophotography, etc), then you'll need some type of light source for finding your gear (or your way) in the dark. While a smartphone can work in a pinch, it's often best to have a small, dedicated AAA flashlight in your camera bag ready for when you need it.
 
7. Camera/Lens Plate & Allen Wrenches
 
Additional tools that you may find useful on occasion include camera/lens plates and the corresponding Allen wrenches. For instance, when using a gimbal stabilizer or otherwise mounting your camera in a way where reduced weight is a priority, you may want to remove the camera's battery grip and L-bracket (if applicable) and substitute a standard camera plate for affixing to your platform. And to do that, you'll also need the corresponding filter wrench(es). I typically keep a Multi Bicycle Tool in my main camera bag and a couple of my most-used Allen wrenches in all of my camera bags. They take up very little room and can definitely come in handy when tripod and/or plate adjustments are required.
 
8. Garbage Bag
 
Bryan eloquently detailed the value of keeping garbage bags in your camera bag in his article, "The 1 Cheap Accessory that should be in All of Your Camera Bags". Garbage bags are cheap, versatile and easily accessible. If you don't add anything else from this list to your camera bag(s), there's simply no excuse for neglecting to one of these.
 
9. Pen and Notepad
 
While a smartphone may be the ultimate Swiss Army knife of gadgets, its need for constant power to make use of the device means that there's still room for tried and true analog tools in your kit, especially when they take up little space and are so easy to stow away in a pocket. A small notepad and pen are perfect examples. I personally prefer the reliability and versatility afforded by the Fisher Space Pen and Rite in the Rain Tactical 3x5 Notebook, a combination that allows for usage in extreme environments (including rain) where I am much less likely to prefer using my smartphone.
 
10. Business Cards
 
Have you ever struck up a conversation with a total stranger just because you were spotted photographing with a "nice camera?" One of the best ways to convert a complete stranger into a photography client is to have a business card at your fingertips when the conversation is initiated.
 
11. Photographers' Rights Reference Material
 
Police, security personnel or even everyday citizens may have the best intentions, but they may also prove a little overzealous if they decide they do not like you photographing a particular scene. A little education goes a long way, and keeping some sort of reference material in your gear bag can be advantageous in any confrontation where the law is clearly on your side. Print out the relevant information and keep a folded copy in a camera bag's pocket; hopefully you'll never need it, but you'll likely appreciate it if and when you do.
 
So that's our 11 small, inexpensive things you should consider adding to all of your camera bags. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 1/3/2017 9:07:06 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, December 31, 2016
On this day in Shenandoah National Park, white-tailed deer and more specifically, fawns, were my primary target. However, I knew that sunsets from the Big Meadows area were often beautiful and therefore, I coordinated my efforts to be in position to photograph the sky should it blow up in color. And on this evening, it did.
 
I only had the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with a EOS 5Ds R behind it and a Gitzo monopod under it. Fortunately, that ended up being an ideal setup. With the brilliantly colored sky being relatively small in scale, the telephoto focal lengths allowed me to get a frame full of color.
 
I photographed this scene through and after sunset, but liked this image, with the last bit of sun still shining over the distant mountain, the best. With a great sky, interesting and colorful images can be made with little or no content other than just the sky in the frame. In this situation, I liked how the mountain in shadow gave the image a base in addition to adding some needed framing below setting sun.
 
The colorful sky found just before, during and just after sunrises and sunsets help to create some of the best landscape images possible. But, there is one post processing adjustment that can give these images some extra "pop" and that adjustment is saturation. Find the saturation slider in your image processing tool, slide it to the right and watch your image come alive.
 
But, don't move it too far to the right. Use caution in the amount of saturation you add as this adjustment can easily be (and often is) overdone. Add the desired life to the image without creating a garish overdone look that screams "I ADDED TOO MUCH SATURATION!" I like to come back to a processed image the next day to see if I still agree with my original decision. Sometimes, I change my mind months later.
 
The sky was so amazingly colored on this evening that I only adjusted the saturation setting for this image to "1" (in Canon's Digital Photo Pro software).
 
It seemed fitting to post a sunset image on New Year's Eve, the sunset of another year. My family and I wish you and yours a Happy New Year and hope that your 2017 is a blessed one!
 
Camera and Lens Settings
377mm  f/5.6  1/1250s
ISO 100
7460 x 4973px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/31/2016 7:55:46 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 29, 2016
While actively reviewing a lens, I generally have it mounted and ready to capture any appropriate subject that comes available. On this day, it was a raccoon that provided the entertainment and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Contemporary was fortunately the mounted lens.
 
If you could use long focal lengths in a relatively small, light and affordable package, this lens is worth considering. With the 600mm focal length and image stabilization, I was able to capture this image handheld from a distance long enough to avoid scaring the critter away.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/7.1  1/200s
ISO 1000
4859 x 3239px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/29/2016 10:55:58 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 25, 2016
An 85mm lens is usually not my first choice for bird photography, but ... I can be an opportunist. When this shot presented itself, I saw the opportunity for demonstrating this lens' minimum focus distance combined with the look of the 85mm focal length and f/1.4 aperture. The shallow depth of field makes the tufted titmouse stand out in an image containing many potentially distracting details.
 
Aligning the edge of the bird within the gold ribbon also aids in isolating the subject and the Christmas-decorated basket "ties" the image into the season.
 
My family and I wish you a warm, joy-filled and very merry Christmas! We consider you part of our family and hope that your Christmas is filled with great meaning, great memories and, as always, great images And, may all of your camera cases be overflowing.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
85mm  f/1.4  1/200s
ISO 200
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/25/2016 7:20:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 23, 2016
What would a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens review be without a sample portrait? The problem was that the schedules of my most-potential subjects were crazy and the weather had been mostly not very nice since the lens arrived.
 
When I saw my best opportunity, time was short, it was raining lightly and with the associated heavy cloud cover, outdoor lighting from the massive overhead softbox was very flat. Fortunately, the giant softbox makes lighting easy (and the f/1.4 aperture means that the low light levels were a non-issue). All that was needed was a form of shade to give some direction/shape to the light. I simply had my subject stand at the edge of a porch roof. The white columns and white window trim background was able to be melted away with the aid of the shallow depth of field this lens can produce.
 
The diffusely-blurred and neutrally-colored background does not compete for attention with the primary subject and the red scarf adds just a touch of Christmas color.
 
When capturing portraits with a very shallow depth of field, the closer eye minimally needs to be in focus. If the subject is looking directly at the camera, both eyes can be in focus, but if there is any other head angle, a decision needs to be made and the closer eye should get priority. At this lens' minimum focus distance with the maximum aperture in use, even the eyelashes will not be sharp when ideal eye focus is achieved. Pushing the plane of sharp focus to the closer iris or very slightly farther away will give the best look to the image (shifting focus slightly closer makes the eyelashes sharper, but the more-distant eye becomes even more blurred).
 
The camera height for this portrait was slightly higher than the subject's head angle. This camera angle keeps the subject's mouth (mostly) in focus (another desirable goal) and usually provides an ideal portrait look. Having the subject shift their head toward the camera slightly helps tighten the skin around the jaw line and un-squishes the neck area. At least for female subjects, I often ask for a slight head tip as also seen here.
 
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is an awesome choice for portraiture. It makes a great look easy to capture.
 
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
85mm  f/1.4  1/250s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/23/2016 10:51:53 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, December 17, 2016
Most of the time, images of wildlife approaching are better than those of wildlife going away. The problem is, where the wildlife is going to go is not always predictable. It is much easier to follow wildlife than to stay ahead of it.
 
These incredibly-cute twin white-tailed deer fawns were with their mother and she was meandering through the woods, feeding in a seemingly random manner. I was constantly adjusting my position, trying to be in the right place as they passed through a potentially good scene.
 
When I saw the adorable little fawns headed for a fern-bordered clearing, I immediately saw the potential image and moved into position. I couldn't have requested a better direction, though they came through very fast. With the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in high speed burst mode, I was able to capture a string of images as they came through. The fast frame rate afforded me the opportunity to be quite selective, choosing my favorite body positions. This one stood out to me for the symmetry in the fawns' stride along with their head positions.
 
Photographing in the woods with direct sunlight reaching through the canopy makes lighting very challenging. The giant overhead softbox that a cloudy day creates resolves that problem and this day had been perfect. There was direct sunlight in the early morning, providing great warm lighting in the fields of Big Meadows. As the sun rose and the lighting cooled, cloud cover rolled in and provided great light for photographing in and near the woods all day long. This image was captured at 2:39 PM on a late spring day.
 
But, just because the lighting is good does not mean that the animals will be there. Deer typically feed early and late in the day and finding them mid-day can be challenging. Many photographers don't feel that mid-day is worth their time. Perhaps I'm not that smart, but ... this mother had two hungry little ones to feed and was in need of additional meals. I was out hunting for subjects and our paths crossed.
 
As I've mentioned before, a monopod is faster to setup and adjust than a tripod and the monopod was a key part of my kit on this encounter. Being able to set up fast enabled me to position myself closer to where the fawns currently were, making the ideal position prediction more accurate.
 
Another fawn photography tip I'll share is the timing for fawn photography. You will probably agree that fawns are their cutest just after birth, before they grow very rapidly. But, newborn fawns are not as active as those a week or two old. The newborns stay hidden in their beds a significant percentage of the time, making them harder to photograph. If your time is short and you want your encounter rate increased, consider timing your photography trip for a week or two later than you would for just-born fawns.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, 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/5.6  1/500s
ISO 2500
5212 x 3474px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/17/2016 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The girls were my support staff on this trip and we rolled into Whistler late in the afternoon after a challenging 10 hour drive through western Canada. We checked into the hotel, unloaded, drove to the other end of the village to park in the free lot and began walking back through the village to find dinner. The girls were a bit vague about what we were doing on this end of our trip ("Whistler" wasn't a location they knew much about) and they were quite awestruck as we came into the beautiful and impressively-designed Olympic village. Fitting were the Olympics rings being one of the first sights seen in the village as the 2016 summer Olympics were scheduled to begin a few days later. To be at one of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics venues was very fun to them.
 
I knew that our schedule was tight (and I was really tired and hungry), so I tried to keep moving them along (vs. stopping at every shop we were walking past). We finally found a restaurant (with reasonable prices and still open), ate and went back to the hotel. It was nearly midnight until we got to bed and that meant the morning was not going to be an early one as I needed enough sleep to drive to Vancouver the next night.
 
By the time we packed in the AM, finished breakfast and waited in line for lift tickets, it was afternoon and we arrived near the top of Whistler at about 2:00 PM. As we got off of the gondola, we noticed a sign stating that the last lift ride down was at 5:00 PM. While it would have been nice to know that piece of information before heading up the mountain (and even better to know it the night before), the 6 mile (9.5km) High Note Trail was a high priority and we were determined to make loop trail hike happen. We had another line and chair lift to go before hitting the trail head and we proceeded. So, we were left with about 2.5 hours to do the moderately difficult hike with photos of course being the primary goal.
 
Although I had the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L loaded with several lens options, I mounted the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS and left the pack on my back for the duration of the hike, due to the time constraints. That lens mounted to the Canon EOS 5Ds R worked great for the scenery encountered on this hike. I hadn't brought a tripod along and, with image stabilization doing its job, I didn't need one.
 
If photographing landscapes during the middle of a sunny day, I nearly always have a circular polarizer filter installed and did on this day. By cutting reflections, these filters significantly increase saturation, making colors "pop".
 
The hike ended up being mostly a run with stops for photos while trying to resist some of the constant photo temptations along the way (for time reasons). At about 7,000' (2,133m) in elevation, the view over the valley 5,000' (1,524m) below (including the turquoise-colored Cheakamus Lake seen in this image) was continuously spectacular. The timing of this trip, to coincide with wildflower season, was also perfect. I captured numerous images I liked and, though exhausted, made it back to the lift in time to ride down. That was a very good thing as hiking the 3 mi (5 km) down the steep mountain would have been rough at this point.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/11.0  1/50s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/14/2016 7:54:48 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 11, 2016
One of my primary goals for my time at Moraine Lake was to capture the warm light from the rising sun hitting just the top of the mountains with the amazing blue lake reflecting the same. The scene I was visualizing required a very clear sky to the east, allowing the sunlight to reach the mountain unimpeded/undiffused. The other important factor was wind – I needed there to be none of it. I had three mornings for everything to come together.
 
Capturing this scene of course meant being in place and ready to go before the sun rose. On the first morning, having never been there before, I not only needed to find the lake, but needed to hike to (find) and climb up the Rockpile (via a trail) followed by scouting – all in the dark. Well, in the dark but with the help of a super-bright SureFire Maximus Headlamp. As incredibly bright as that light is, I was not going to be lighting the distant mountains and it was a guess as to where the sunlit mountain peak reflections were going to fall in the lake.
 
I picked what seemed like a great position, with a distant glacier framed between the trees, some nice boulders in the foreground and the overall scene nicely framed and bookmarked with a pair of large evergreen trees. After setting up a Canon EOS 5Ds R with an EF 11-24mm f/4L Lens on my primary tripod, I set up a second 5Ds R with an EF 16-35mm f/4L IS Lens mounted on my travel tripod a short distance away. The plan was to go back and forth between the cameras, rapidly capturing multiple compositions with immediate redundancy available if a problem was encountered (it is called the Rockpile for a good reason and I had one very close call).
 
The weather proved ideal and everything was looking great until ... I realized that the mountain peak reflection was being cut off by the foreground. I immediately abandoned the carefully selected locations, running across the rocks with the primary camera setup to quickly find a better position. There was no time to waste because the sun line moves down the mountain very rapidly.
 
While I have a large number of images I like from my three mornings at Lake Moraine, this one, one of the first ones I captured on the first day, remains a favorite. The sun line had moved down the mountains slightly farther than I originally visualized, but ... I may actually prefer this version better. While simply having that preference adds to the satisfaction of achieving the goal, I really do think that I like this scene better. With more of the mountain in the still-very-warm sunlight, there is more desired color in the frame and more of the peaks are being lit than when the first light hit only a couple of the peaks.
 
This is an HDR image. Because, as I mentioned, the line of sunlight moves quickly down the mountain, it is important to capture the HDR frames in very quick succession in this situation. My preference is to use AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) with the camera in high speed burst mode. I used Live View to gain mirror lockup and used a locking remote release to complete to capture. Lock the release down and quickly go to the second camera. Quickly check the results, fine tune if needed and repeat.
 
For processing the HDR image, I used a combination of Photomatix (the best HDR software I've used) and manual blending in Photoshop.
 
While 4-5 hours of sleep three nights in a row is not a good habit from a physical or mental health standpoint, I'm sometimes willing to make that sacrifice for a good image. While that effort is not always rewarded with a great photograph, the disappointing efforts serve to make the successful ones even more special. Fortunately, disappointment didn't happen in this location.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, 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: 12/11/2016 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 8, 2016
The obvious reason to use high speed burst mode to photograph wildlife is because wildlife moves and you want to capture the ideal body position and behavior. Use your fastest frame rate to capture the frame with the perfect body/angle/leg/wing positions against the best possible background. When the wildlife is in fast action, that motion is obvious and further discussion is probably not warranted. But, the motion can be more subtle – I'll call it "micro-motion" – and micro-position differences matter.
 
One of the most frequent subtle wildlife motion issues I encounter is blinking and birds especially cause me grief in this regard. The bird may appear completely motionless, allowing you to take your time to set up for and capture the perfect shot. The image looks great on the LCD, but when you get home and load the images, you realize that the nictitating membrane is covering half of the eye (this is not technically "blinking", but the problem is similar). While this issue can sometimes be remedied in post processing, correction is challenging and time consuming even on the easiest repairs. If 5 or 10 images of the same scene had been captured in rapid succession, the odds are very good that at least one of them would have had a clear eye.
 
Another issue I find problematic is animals chewing their cud. Even when I'm aware that this is happening, it can be quite challenging to capture a single frame without the animal's fast-moving lower jaw in a strange and usually detracting position. Ear position is a similar issue. Certain ear positions are often preferred and since these features are often moving, a burst can help capture the optimal positions.
 
Sometimes it only takes a subtle movement to make a big difference in the desired catchlight in the subject's eye. One of the frames captured in a burst may have this key difference, giving that particular image the extra sparkle needed for greatness.
 
Did you ever have an image degraded by something passing through the frame? This is often a photobombing insect or bird that shows up at just the wrong time. While these can sometimes be removed in post processing, that is not always the case and even if removal is possible, the process may prove time consuming. Grasses blow in light wind, passing into out of ideal positions. Leaves on trees do the same. A frame burst may contain an image void of the undesired objects.
 
Speaking of the blowing, most wildlife photography takes place outdoors and there are many factors out here trying to reduce your image sharpness, including wind. Not every frame may be sharp, but an increased number of images brings an increased chance that sharp images are in the mix.
 
On occasion, I find that I need to merge two or more images from a burst to get the ideal subject framing. Especially when using a long telephoto lens not locked down on a tripod, I often get a modest variety of subject framing in a burst set. While the differences may not be big, I sometimes find it optimal to add a side of one frame to another image to provide the ideal framing or to expand the frame. This is an especially good option to use if the focal length is too long and the scene is being cropped too tightly.
 
Even when not moving fast, wildlife is often moving. Capturing just the right point in time can make a big difference in wildlife imagery and using the camera's burst mode may be all that is necessary to bump your image quality up a notch.
 
In this regard, a camera with a faster frame rate has an advantage over those with a slower rate. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV used for this capture has a faster frame rate than any 5-Series predecessor, but the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Canon EOS 7D Mark II make the 5D IV seem slow.
 
Using a high frame rate-capable camera in high speed burst mode greatly increases the volume of photos captured. Be ready for this and be heavy handed when selecting down the keepers. It is OK to delete good images (and far better to have too many good images than missing the optimal one). You probably can't use them all – keep only the best.
 
Humor has a value in wildlife imagery and a high speed burst rate is advantageous for capturing humor. I photographed this pronghorn having a sit-down dinner (it was eating the green plant in front of it) in Grand Teton National Park in very heavy wind. This wind was so strong that I was having trouble keeping the animal in the 600mm frame. Yes, I had the hood on the lens, increasing the wind load, but it was raining lightly and rain was hitting the front lens element even with this giant hood in place. By using burst mode, I came away with a very satisfying set of sharp, well-framed keepers from this encounter, including this humorous one.
 
I can still hear him saying "Is that a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens?!"
 
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.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s
ISO 1600
5847 x 3898px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/8/2016 9:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Did I ever tell you that the Canon EF 200-400 f/4L IS Lens is really sharp? My daughter and I had one evening and one morning to photograph deer in Shenandoah National Park. The evening presented us with primarily darkness including dense fog and light rain (and wind), but the morning proved much nicer.
 
This decent-sized 7pt buck tending a doe amidst the short red saplings in Big Meadows was a grand find on this morning. We worked around the deer to get the morning sun at our backs and, as best as we could, stayed within ideal photo range of it for over an hour. The buck was very attentive to the doe and gave us some nice behavior images. In this image, the buck had been cleaning its back (see the ruffled fur?) and stopped to look at the doe.
 
I used the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS Lens for this image. While my preference for wildlife photography is the look that the EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens provides, the 200-400mm focal length range has proven more useful to me in this park, primarily because of the need to work in front of obstructions. Fortunately, image sharpness is something this zoom lens does not sacrifice. Take a look at this 100% crop from the ultra-high resolution EOS 5Ds R:
 
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens Crop Sample
 
This image was captured at 400mm with a wide open f/4 aperture (to create as much background blur as possible). The RAW image was processed in DPP 4 using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness reduced to only "1". While the camera is extremely sharp, its resolution is unforgiving to lens quality. The 200-400 L is definitely 5Ds R-ready. It is simply a very impressive lens.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, 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/4.0  1/800s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 12/6/2016 8:18:39 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, December 5, 2016
There are only a small handful of DSLR lenses that can take in a view this wide. Basically, excluding fisheye lenses, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens or one of the three Sigma variants including the latest, the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens are your choices.
 
With the senate recessed for the holiday, I made a visit to this location to give the Sigma 12-24 Art a workout. The angle of views afforded by this lens are a blast to use and with the widest, I was able to capture a great deal of the French Renaissance architecture in the senate chamber.
 
While the 12mm angle of view was great to have, the bright lights were a bit of a problem from an exposure standpoint. But, they were very beautiful and I wanted to see some of the detail in them. Thus, an HDR technique was needed.
 
The primary image was captured at 2.5 seconds with a second image captured at .4 seconds (2 2/3 stops darker) to retain some of the detail in the lights. It can be very challenging to composite two images captured at such drastically different brightness while retaining a natural appearance, but here is a technique that proves rather easy.
 
First, stack the two images in Photoshop with the brighter image on top. Then add a layer mask to the top layer and select the layer mask. Select the brush tool, select black as the color and reduce the opacity to something low, such as 10%. Select a brush size appropriate for the area that needs detail added (areas too bright in the original exposure) and adjust the brush hardness as desired (softer may be better in this situation). Then paint the blown areas until just the right amount of detail shows through. The process is easy and the results appear natural.
 
When photographing a symmetrical scene such as this one, it is usually desirable to have the scene perfectly centered in the frame (for perfect balance) and to have the camera perfectly centered in the room (to avoid perspective-caused converging horizontal lines) and horizontally level (to keep horizontal lines parallel to the frame borders). As you can figure out from the resulting image dimensions, I cropped this image very slightly from the top left to perfect my capture. Note that no distortion correction was used. Even at 12mm, this lens is a good performer in this regard.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, 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: 12/5/2016 9:50:59 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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