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 Saturday, March 25, 2017
I've wanted to add an image of a densely-packed flock of flying snow geese to the porfolio for a long time. But, it was not until this year until I accomplished this task.
The first priority for photographing a flock of snow geese is ... to find a flock of snow geese. For many of us, when flocks of snow geese arrive is based on the birds' migration patterns. Find where these flocks typically travel and time your visit with theirs.
A good method of determining when the birds have arrived (or are expected to arrive) is to use wildlife management area status reports, including the historical reports as history in this form tends to repeat. While these reports are great aids to finding the flocks, remember that an entire population of these birds can completely leave an area within minutes. A location that is great on one day may be completely empty the next.
With a warmer winter than normal, the snow geese migrated early this year and, at the urging of two friends, I too went early. The location was Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Located at the border of northern Lancaster County and southern Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, this WMA is an about-2-hour drive from my house. While this is not a famous snow geese bucket list location that photographers most-target, the population at this location was estimated to be at least 50,000 on this day. And, that's a LOT of geese.
Mostly the white geese were swimming on the small lake, appearing as a large iceberg, or they were feeding in a nearby field, causing a small hill to appear snow-capped. While the huge numbers of geese in either of these two environments were interesting, the real show happened when they flew as a group. Even if one wasn't paying attention when the geese took off, a low thunder-like rumble was unmistakable and, if the flight path was overhead, the sky would darken (and an umbrella may be desired for protection from the strafing).
When photographing an individual bird, framing decisions are made in an at least somewhat more-controlled manner than when photographing a flock of birds. One reason that geese flock together is to make it more difficult for a predator to single out one bird as its prey and these flocks can have the same effect on photographers. With seemingly random chaos occurring, how does one create an attractive image?
Here are some thoughts for the flock:
The first thought is to simply go back to the basics. Start with focal length selection.
Perspective comes into play, but if you are photographing a flock of now-flying geese, it is likely too late to get a different perspective. Plan for that earlier, but ... geese always fly wherever they want to and predicting where they will fly will often be challenging. Predict as best you can (they like to take off and land into the wind) and react quickly to what happens.
How far away are the geese, how large is the flock and how wide of an area are the birds covering? If it is a small flock a long distance away and the birds are densely packed, a longer focal length will likely be best. That is, best unless more of the landscape is desired to be in the frame in order to create an environmental-type image. If the geese are close, the flock is large and/or the birds are widely spread out, a shorter telephoto lens might be a better choice.
For my Middle Creek WMA shoot, the birds went where they wanted to go, access was limited and even if it wasn't, moving fast enough to catch a flock of geese required some form of powered mobility. So, embracing what was available was, as often is, the thing to do. To handle this situation, I had a full frame Canon EOS 5Ds R and 600mm f/4L IS II Lens tripod-mounted using a Wimberley Tripod Head II. In the MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L at my feet was a second 5Ds R with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II mounted. When the flocks were far away, I used the 600. When the snow geese storm moved overhead in big numbers, I grabbed the 100-400. And when the squall became widespread overhead, I had the EF-M 15-45 on the EOS M5 ready to catch that scene as well.
Note that I started out this day with a 1.4x extender behind the 600mm lens, but quickly determined that the heat waves were too strong and sharp results were not possible at this magnification. Even at 600mm, many of my distant images were not tack-sharp until after the sun went low enough in the sky to end the heat source creating the air disturbance. So, yes, it is very possible to have too much focal length even if that focal length is more ideal for the scene as the additional magnification may be wasted.
The shutter speed required for sharp birds depends on how fast their details are moving across the pixels on the sensor. A large-in-the-frame bird moving at high speed across an ultra-high resolution imaging sensor requires a much faster shutter speed than a small-in-the-frame bird sitting on the lake does when using a lower resolution camera. Aperture and ISO settings are then balanced for depth of field and noise with the desired brightness being the other side of the equation. In regards to brightness, use care to not blow the white highlights on the birds, leaving no details in the white. If the birds were flying, I was mostly using a 1/1600 shutter speed and an aperture of f/8 or narrower was usually best to keep more birds in focus. Once the light faded, I began experimenting with much longer shutter speeds for a panning motion blur effect.
Bryan's Law of Bird Photography: The frame in a high speed burst containing the perfect wing position, head position, background alignment and lighting will time perfectly with the bird's blink.
When photographing birds, using the camera's high speed burst mode is often the rule. Especially with multiple birds in the frame, having many images to select from is going to be a big advantage for many of the above reasons.
I usually use only one specific AF point or one point plus the surrounding points. But, when a huge flock of geese is filling the frame, using the all-points-active can work very well, allowing you to concentrate on composition while the camera figures out which of the closest birds should be focused on.
Composition always matters and usually, the goal is a balanced composition. When such a huge flock of birds is flying, you need to figure out what a balanced composition is very quickly and see that in the frame no later than as it happens. The bottom line is that, unless you are shooting for someone else, if you are happy with the image, you nailed it. But, we are always trying to improve our skills and there are some composition variants that work well for the snow geese storm.
If the goose density is extremely heavy, just fill the frame with the geese and shoot away. Singling out specific birds is very challenging if they are not large in the frame and you are unlikely to notice the background through all of the geese. The huge quantity of birds essentially becomes a pattern and everyone likes pattern images, right?
If possible, determine which direction (in relation to the camera) the birds are flying and focus on your preference. I prefer an approaching side view, but all of the other directions have their own photogenic advantages, showing differing views of the geese bodies. If a large flock is flying within a location, such as over a lake, they may fly in a circular motion and you may sometimes have a choice. So, be ready to identify what you are looking for.
If the birds are not dense enough to hide the background, the background showing through must be considered in the composition. If the background is mostly a solid color, such as the side of a mountain, there may not be much concern in that regard. The background will be evenly colored and that often works well for flock backgrounds. It is hard to go wrong with a blue sky background for the white birds and images with birds flying against a sunset sky often look great.
Contrast draws the viewer's eye. If the background includes strong lines of contrast, such as where the land and sky meet or a waterline (often present where there are waterfowl), it is good to carefully position these lines in the frame. Use your landscape photography skills here – perhaps taking advantage of the rule of thirds.
When sitting or swimming snow geese flocks take off, they often peel away from one side of the flock in a surprisingly orderly fashion. The line between the stationary and flying birds can be incorporated into the composition.
When the birds are not filling the entire frame, additional compositional elements must be considered. Where the flock is positioned in the frame is a big consideration and again, the rule of thirds may be a good choice in these cases.
In the image I am sharing here, I could have filled the entire frame with a rather-high density of geese, but chose to include the water in the very bottom of the frame. I often like to keep a clean bottom frame border, giving the image a base to be built upon. Having the water in the frame in this case meant that some geese can be seen landing in addition to those still in flight.
When the flock was farther away, I often kept additional frame borders clean (void of geese) as well (especially the top border).
Especially if using an ultra-high resolution camera, don't forget that you can crop the image to create a better composition later.
Lighting always matters. At this location, I arrived early in the afternoon, giving me time to do some on-site scouting and planning to be ready for the late-day, low-angle, warm-colored light. Again, the birds fly when and where they want to fly and good images can be made at various light angles, but the sun at your back, your shadow towards the birds, early and late in the day is usually a sure-thing for wildlife lighting conditions. As mentioned earlier, shooting into the sunset can also work well, but be very careful to not look at the sun through a telephoto lens as serious permanent eye damage can occur. On a clear day, the sky opposite the nearly-set sun will also turn pink, creating a pastel background for your birds.
While a cloudy day will not provide the same illumination, the giant softbox effect from a cloudy sky results in a soft light with a lower dynamic range for greatly-reduced shadows and easier to control exposures. Ultra-bright, solidly cloudy skies may cause a background brightness issues when the birds are above the skyline. In this case, consider exposing the sky to be pure white for a high key effect. Or, there is nothing wrong with a gray background and silhouetting the birds is a strategy that can work.
At the onset of this trip, one of my goals was to capture frames densely-filled with geese, perhaps even with no background remaining. While I don't think any of my images were completely void of background, many images have multiple thousands of geese in them and some have very little background remaining. In addition to getting some fun images, it was a great learning experience and it was especially great to experience this phenomenal nature event.
Now, check the forecast and go find your own snow geese storm!
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.
Post Date: 3/25/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, March 24, 2017
by Sean Setters
While a sharp image is often most desireable, sometimes increased sharpness is counterproductive to achieveing specific photographic goals. For instance, lately I've been intrigued by slow shutter speeds and the motion blur recorded as a result of their use. Specifically, I've recently been using the RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform for automotive photography.
While I'm finding the camera platform to be an exciting tool to have in my kit, its not necessarily an inexpensive piece of gear and its uses outside of automotive photography are somewhat limited. But using the RigMount X4 got me thinking about other ways of capturing motion and the world of artistic possibilites at our fingertips, especially if nothing in the frame remains sharp as a result of one's chosen exposure variables.
With that in mind, I recently made set out with my camera in hand with a goal of creating a totally motion blurred image that looked more like "art" and less like "a mistake." With the goal of few (if any) details being discernable, I didn't have to go far to find a suitable location. The scene I chose was the normally-not-very-photogenic view seen across the street from my home. After about 20 attempts (using various panning/rotating techniques), I had a motion blurred image that intrigued me enough to post-process (seen above).
To capture the image, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (with a 4-stop ND filter) with the following settings: 40mm, f/6.3, 2 sec, ISO 200. I held the camera level to the ground and panned from right-to-left while bouncing the camera up and down (as if it were a bouncing ball) during the 2-second exposure which created seemingly the intertwined flowing lines seen in the image. For post processing, I applied vignetting correction and increased the image's saturation/vibrancy/clarity in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CC. For what it's worth, I ended up liking the end result so much that it's now my smartphone's wallpaper (slightly croped and rotated 90-degrees).
We invite you to share your artistically motion blurred images in the comments below.
Post Date: 3/24/2017 8:51:00 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, March 23, 2017
by Sean Setters
In my review of the RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform, I demonstrated how the mount could be used to capture a vehicle in motion (with blurred surroundings) while attached to the car being photographed. The example I created can be seen below.
Self Portrait with RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnet Camera Platform 1

Getting a shot like the example above is relatively easy and straightforward using the magnetic camera platform. But ever since posting the review, I had been wondering whether or not the RigMount X4 could be utilized to photograph a vehicle it wasn't attached to with a sharp vehicle and similarly blurred background. From a photographer's perspective, this type of situation would be ideal as the camera gear's safety and security remain the responsibility of the photographer rather than the driver of the subject car (assuming you're not using the X4 for a self-portrait like I was).
However, I knew that there would be several challenges involved in photographing a following vehicle, all of which can cause unwanted motion blur of the vehicle being photographed. To capture an acceptably sharp follow vehicle, the following would all need to happen simultaneously during the relatively long shutter duration:
  1. The car with the camera mount could not hit any significant bumps
  2. The follow car could not hit any significant bumps
  3. The follow car would need to maintain a constant distance from the lead/camera mounted car
I reasoned that using an image stabilized lens would help reduce the impact of small vibrations caused by the mount vehicle, but... it wouldn't be able to compensate for any noticeable bumps in the driving surface.
Unfortunately, there was another challenge to consider – lighting. If photographing on a bright, clear day, the single primary light source would not likely produce great results.
For instance, if driving into the sun, the lead vehicle's shadow would likely cast a distracting shadow into the scene. If the sun were camera right, the broad side of the subject vehicle as seen from the lead vehicle would be in shadow with, yet again, another distracting shadow cast into the middle of the frame. If driving away from the sun, then the bulk of the subject car would be in shadow. With the sun camera left, the broad side of the subject vehicle would have been well lit, but... I still wasn't sure that I'd be happy with the lead vehicle's shadow likely being visible in the frame.
Shooting at night seemed to be the best solution to the lighting problem. With street lights (and possibly head lights) providing the bulk of the lighting required for an exposure, the car could be lit from multiple angles with any shadows cast being less severe. Also, the direction of travel would be less of a concern, meaning that a wider variety of shooting locations would be available for consideration. As ideal nighttime lighting conditions would likely be sporadic on any given route (aside from a well lit parking lot), it was necessary to add "good lighting" to the ever-growing list of variables that had to fall in line for the desired final image.
Before attempting a nighttime shot, Alexis (the driver of the following vehicle) and I did a dry run during the day to determine which focal lengths and shutter speeds might work best. Tests with a shutter speed of 1/2 second never created a sharp-looking vehicle. We found that wider focal lengths and a relatively close vehicle in an adjacent lane with a 1/3 second shutter speed provided the most promising results. At 1/3 second, there were still only a few sharp images compared to the total images captured. However, the blur created at 1/3 second appeared significantly better at comfortable speeds than when using shorter shutter speeds.
Before I go any further, let me be clear – please use caution if attempting to photograph moving vehicles. Do what you can to minimize risks and always be alert to potential hazards and/or traffic conditions. We are not responsible for property damage and/or loss of life if you attempt to replicate the results.
How I Got the Shot
Because of its wide angle of view and image stabilization feature, I opted to use a Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens paired with an Canon EOS 7D Mark II. The 7D II was not only a good camera choice because of its compatibility with the EF-S 10-18 IS STM, but it's built-in intervalometer feature made triggering the camera during the shooting runs very easy.
I mounted the camera and lens to a ball head attached to the RigMount X4 and – using the included (4) Long Magnetic Mounts – I affixed the rig to the driver's side back quarter panel of my car. With the road in front of my house free of traffic, I directed Alexis to a spot for optimal framing, manually focused on the car, made a few test shots to determine the proper exposure settings, and with the exposure settings determined, I set the camera's intervalometer to take a shot every second. With the camera triggered, I told Alexis to try and maintain a constant distance from the car when she could (while abiding by all traffic laws, of course).
The exposure settings used: 10mm, f/5, 1/3 sec., ISO 1000.
We ended up doing two 1/2 mile laps traveling down a four lane road featuring a decent number of street lights. After the first lap, we took a look at the images to see if there were any adjustments that might be made to improve our results. We determined that the follow vehicle needed to be just a little bit closer and a little more forward in relation to the lead car than the previous run. On the second lap, we got the shot atop this post. Out of the two laps, there were only a handful of acceptably sharp images (out of 400+) and only a couple of the shots featured decent lighting and optimal vehicle placement within the frame (making selection of the best shot a very easy task).
Can the RigWheels RigMount X4 be used to photograph a moving vehicle that it isn't attached to, with motion blurred surroundings and a sharp subject? In a word – "absolutely." However, planning, patience and persistence will be your allies in getting those results.
More Info: RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform Review
Post Date: 3/23/2017 8:10:50 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, March 18, 2017
This was a situation where a fast frame rate was extremely helpful for wildlife photography. While I had intended to use a Canon EOS 5Ds R as my primary camera for this trip, the 5 fps frame rate quickly proved too slow for the fast-moving fawns. Switching to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II immediately solved the frame rate problem and significantly increased the ideal body position captures. However, I remained challenged to keep the adorable little animals in the viewfinder.
Another challenge presented by the fast-moving fawns was anticipating where they were going to be before they got there. The fawns would sometimes run right up to me in curious fashion, and then turn around and run far away in next moment. I used the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens almost exclusively on this several-day trip. Having the zoom lens meant that I could (mostly) frame the fawns as desired and often I included the mother and/or siblings in the same frame. I had the built-in extender switched into the optical path for this capture.
Another reason that a zoom lens is a great option for this location is that Big Meadows has many line of sight obstructions. This makes it difficult to get a clear view of the subject and getting closer is sometimes what is needed to avoid such.
I wasn't totally happy with this image due to the fact the fawn was leaping just slightly away from me – I usually prefer an approaching position. But, my daughter walked by as I was selecting one of the fawn pictures to share and was immediately drawn to this one. While the late-day sunlight was ideally-warm, what she loved was that namesake tail raised and an approaching angle would not do that part justice. Sometimes it takes another set of eyes to see things in a different way.
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
533mm  f/800  1/1600s
ISO 1600
3707 x 2471px
Post Date: 3/18/2017 8:09:59 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, March 12, 2017
While stalking elk on this ranch, I was focusing on areas with the potential for fall maple tree colors in my backgrounds. The sun had set, but the light, though somewhat dim, was still very nice when I noticed antlers approaching in the distance. I was working in heavy sage a moderate distance out from the maples and this bull's approach was as I would have directed.
I captured many images of the bull, but I selected this one to share for a few reasons. One was that I didn't cut off the antlers even at this relatively close distance and that the bull was large in the frame was another. That the bull is alert with a head angle that reflected the sky in his eye, adding some life to the image was another. I also like the body position displayed here. The bull is mostly broadside but approaching and his head and antlers are about 1/3 of the way into the frame facing toward the 2/3 side for good balance. While the animal itself is beautiful, a beautiful background adds greatly to an image.
When photographing antlered animals, I frequently try to keep the complete antlers in the frame, preferring the legs and sometimes the body to be cropped if desired.
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
600mm  f/4.5  1/800s
ISO 1600
8688 x 5792px
Permalink: Alert Bull Elk
Post Date: 3/12/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, March 4, 2017
This happy-looking wood duck drake was swimming in the Wissahickon Creek just outside of Philadelphia.
A key to good swimming duck photos is to get as low to the water as possible. Then, use a long focal length and a more-distant duck to get the camera angle even closer to level.
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.
Post Date: 3/4/2017 8:28:54 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, March 3, 2017
by Sean Setters
I thoroughly enjoy visiting new destinations and reveling in the photographic inspiration that the unfamiliar scene inevitably engenders. My yearning for exploration is often the result of being blind to the beauty of the all-to-familiar locations I've photographed before.
There is a way to help tame the bordem with often visited locations, though. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Absense makes the heart grow fonder?" I'm not altogether sure how true the concept is in relationship terms, but the phrase seems perfectly applicable to locations I've visited and photographed numorous times.
For instance, I've photographed this Spanish moss-covered Oak several times primarily because it is only a short walk from my home. However, I hadn't photographed it for quite some time when, a couple of days ago, I decided to take a walk with my IR-converted EOS 7D and EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens.
I've photographed this tree under similar, cloudy circumstances with the very same gear and shared the results here before. While I preferred a tighter framing before, I found that the freshly-cut field aided in isolating the tree in the scene thereby allowing a looser framed image to have more impact. It was a minor difference, but one that made a definitive impact on my framing preference. One could also argue that having photographed the tree from a closer perspective meant that I was subconsciously looking for a reason to find/utilize a new perspective, and that would be a fair point. But seeing a familiar scene with fresh eyes helps to get one's creative juices flowing, and being familiar with a location means you're better able to seek out and capitalize on those minor differences that can have positive impacts on your already-photographed location imagery.
For the shot above, the exposure settings were f/2.8, 1/2000 second and ISO 100.
During post processing, I first inverted the red and blue color channels in 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.
As the promise of brand new foliage fills the warming seasonal air, now is the time to send your (older, seldom used?) camera in for an infrared conversion to take advantage of the IR photography opportunties that lie ahead.
Learn more about infrared photography and IR conversions in our Infrared Camera Conversion by LifePixel Review.
Post Date: 3/3/2017 10:43:26 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, March 2, 2017
We recently spoke with a high-level Canon representative about the benefits of using image stabilization when high shutter speeds are being utilized to stop fast action. While the information below should not be considered official Canon guidelines, they do represent the experiences of a person who has had a substantial amount of experience with Canon lenses and their IS systems.
Question: Is there a shutter speed above which image stabilization should be turned off? Should IS be turned off when shooting action under bright light with short shutter speeds, perhaps 1/1600 – 1/2500 using a 400 f/2.8L IS II or 600 f/4L IS II, as the benefits of stabilization may be reduced substantially?
It's definitely true that there's a point, as shutter speeds get progressively faster, that the shake-prevention qualities of Image Stabilization really have little or no added effect. In other words, if you take a 600mm f/4L IS lens, mount it on a monopod (definitely NOT a totally stable platform, obviously!), and shoot at 1/8000th of a second, it's absolutely arguable that I.S. has no direct benefit in terms of minimizing camera shake. I think we can agree that with or without I.S., most users could get consistently shake-free pictures with that monopod-mounted 600 at 1/8000th of a second.
Turning I.S. off in situations like that (maybe not at 1/8000th, but perhaps at 1/2000th or thereabouts) will save a small amount of camera battery power... probably a minor consideration to most users, but perhaps a bit more relevant to someone working with a camera like an EOS Rebel or the new EOS 77D, which have smaller batteries with less capacity than, say, an EOS-1D X Mark II. Definitely a potential consideration for anyone shooting with a mirrorless camera like an EOS M5, which *always* have less battery life per charge, since they use more power-hungry LCD monitors or electronic viewfinders.
For sports, action, wildlife and so on, keep in mind the potential benefits of a more stable image in your viewfinder. Even if your shutter speed pretty much precludes any problems with camera shake, if I.S. is active and set to Mode 1 or Mode 2, you see a steadier, more stable view in your finder when working on a monopod or a gimbal-type tripod mount. This can be beneficial in a number of ways, from subtle benefits in frame-to-frame composition when following moving subjects, to being able to keep an AF point solidly upon a detailed area of a moving subject.
For those who consider the effect of visible stabilization during shooting to be an annoyance (for instance, it may seem to delay rapid lens movements to follow a moving subject), there is Mode 3 on lenses like the 400/2.8 II or 600/4 II. This is a specialized I.S. mode that does provide the shake-prevention effects, but ONLY when the shutter button is **fully** depressed, and a shot is actually being taken. Otherwise, at all other times, the effect of I.S. is disabled, although stabilization detection is continually taking place between shots, and the lens's moveable stabilization optical elements are held in a non-locked, "ready" position. In other words, in Mode 3, you don't SEE the effect of stabilization, but it still is there when you actually shoot each picture.
Here's one that never gets discussed among sports, action and wildlife shooters, but which our engineers HAVE said is a benefit of Image Stabilization, even at the fastest shutter speeds. Because Canon's I.S. is optical, if you do have your stabilization set to Mode 1 or 2, where it's continually active, the viewfinder isn't the only place where a steady, stabilized image is seen. The FOCUSING SYSTEM also gets the same benefit of a clean, steady and stabilized look at the subject, too. This matters, especially during fast, high-speed sequences, and even more so if/when you're shooting subjects that are (a) moving aggressively, and (b) may not have tons of detail, contrast and texture to them. The AF point or points being used must see some detail, and during a fast, AI Servo AF sequence, have less than 1/10th of a second in cameras like an EOS 7D Mark II, or certainly an EOS-1D X model, to read the subject between each frame. By using I.S., regardless of how fast the actual shutter speed is, the AF system gets a cleaner, steadier look at the subject during that interval between each frame, and is more likely to be able to read subject detail and provide continuous AF where most or all frames in a sequence are sharp (in terms of FOCUS).
I know there's a body of thought out there among some sports shooters that since they're already at fast shutter speeds, I.S. isn't needed, but they should contemplate what I just said. And, there's a body of thought that I.S. being active can slow down AF... I've directly asked our leading engineers that, and been told emphatically that this is NOT true, regardless of anecdotal "evidence" some shooters may feel they've experienced.
Bottom line, my basic suggestion would be to leave it on, unless you absolutely have deliberate reasons for not doing so. Consider the above points; remember the potential impact of Mode 2 (panning mode, so to speak) and Mode 3 (stabilization, but without visible effects in the viewfinder); and we do still suggest turning I.S. off if you know you'll be mounted to a completely rigid, locked-down position.
Question: Extending your engineering discussion … I understand the benefit of IS to the AF system. What about when the subject is moving rapidly and IS is trying to hold the image still? It seems to me that the AF system would be better having the exact subject framing present at the moment it is making its decision. And, isn’t the addition of Mode 3 supporting this concept?
Like I said, if you have distinct reasons for shutting I.S. off, go for it. But, in the VAST majority of action-type situations, especially with human-subjects (football and similar sports), the likelihood the movement would be SO sudden that what I.S. projects into the viewfinder and the subject's actual composition at the same time or an instant later would be extremely different is probably pretty slim. At least, in my experience. Might be a little different for someone photographing small birds in flight with a big lens, from relatively close distances.
The addition of Mode 3 *might* bring some benefits if and when you feel this difference in what you see vs. what you shoot is happening, but it's not the sole reason for its existence.
Most of the time, I'm very comfortable to suggest using I.S. Mode 1 or 2, even at fast shutter speeds, and with nearly all moving subjects. But I repeat, if for whatever reasons you feel it's hindering your ability to compose in real time, either switching to Mode 3, or turning I.S. off completely, remain options as well.
So, there you have it. Even when using shutter speeds fast enough to negate camera shake, leaving image stabilization "On" is generally a good idea. If nothing else, it's providing a stable viewfinder scene for you and the AF system, allowing for easier tracking of moving subjects.
Post Date: 3/2/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Image via
In just a few short months, the United States will be treated to a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, an event which hasn't been witnessed by the citizens of the US mainland in 38 years.
In other words, mark your calendars and start planning / preparing for your solar eclipse viewing now.
On August 21, assuming fair weather and an unobstructed view of the sky, those residing in or traveling to the pathway above will enjoy an experience of a lifetime (click to download a larger image).
Due to the fact that the total eclipse pathway will traverse the central part of the US from the Northwest to the Southeast, a large percentage of the US population lives within a day's travel to a total eclipse viewing point.
Of course, finding a hotel in one of the larger cities placed along the total eclipse pathway will be more challenging as the August event draws near, so start making your reservations now to avoid accommodation issues.
You'll likely also want to stock up on your solar eclipse viewing/photography supplies. With that in mind, B&H has created a special Solar Eclipse 2017 page with gear specific the rare event.
The Canon Digital Learning Center has been publishing articles on the upcoming event and will continue add more articles in the months ahead. Here's what they have posted so far:
If you miss the opportunity to see and/or photograph the August 21 solar eclipse, you'll have to wait another seven years for the next opportunity to roll around (April 8, 2024). Our advice is to try and view this rare event from a total eclipse vantage point if you can; assuming clear conditions, you will never forget the awe-inspiring scene.
Post Date: 3/1/2017 6:23:14 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Put a large specimen of one of my favorite animals in front of my favorite tree trunks in front of my favorite leaves and ... an image I like is shaping up nicely. The leaves are from Idaho maples in the peak of their fall color. The tree trunks are aspens and their white color makes most images look better. Of course, a large bull elk makes practically any photo look good.
What is the easiest way to create panorama image? Crop a wide aspect ratio from a single image. While successfully capturing multiple images and seamlessly stitching them together can create a higher resolution image, it is easier just to use a wider angle lens and crop them to the desired aspect ratio. Using the cropping method also avoids issues with subjects in motion (waves, clouds, people, animals, etc.). Especially if a very resolution camera is used (one of the 5D Mark IV's upgrades was resolution), there can still be plenty of resolution for large output remaining after cropping.
In the example shared here, the "wider angle lens" was due to a focal length limitation at the time of capture. I was stalking the elk, didn't have an extender with me and the bull was walking towards the woods (the moment was not going to last). The cropping technique is often useful in helping to mentally justify the result.
I'll save the argument as to whether or not the angle of view from a 600mm lens covers a wide enough view of an area to qualify for the definition of "panorama" for another day, but the wide aspect ratio is at least in the spirit of these images.
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
600mm  f/4.0  1/1000s
ISO 800
5772 x 2574px
Post Date: 2/28/2017 7:03:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The snow line usually marks the elevation above which there is snow, often forming snow-capped mountains. On this morning, the snow line was below the mountain top.
I had just spent two hours in the tractor cab taking care of snow removal duties and was then able to concentrate on capturing some fresh snow images. My studio overlooks a valley and a small mountain ridge. The snow came with a strong wind from the opposite side of that ridge and above the ground line, the windswept trees remained bare while the lower elevation trees, protected by the mountain, were heavily snow-laden. The snow/no-snow line was strong and I was drawn to the contrast.
The mountain was roughly 1,500 yards (1,500m) away and I could see over a mile (1.6 km) of it in width. This meant that the primary interest for me was strongly horizontal. I could photograph using a wide angle focal length and crop the top and bottom off to get just the strong line of bare trees over the snow line, I could capture multiple frames at a longer focal length to later stitch into a panoramic image or I could go with a telephoto focal length and frame tightly. I chose the telephoto lens option and began isolating specific areas of mountain.
My lens choice was the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens and mounted it to the being-reviewed Canon EOS M5 via the EF-EOS M Adapter.
The storm was clearing and periodically, the sun was shining through breaks in the clouds. The areas of snow in the direct sunlight became especially bright and the partial illumination created additional interest within the already interesting scene. When available, the partially lit portions of the scene were my focus.
Often, photographing scenes this far away results in details being strongly affected by heat waves, but on this crisp, clear morning, the M5 behind the 100-400 L II delivered very sharp image quality, even at this distance. Notice that photographing subjects from very long distances always results in a compressed look with less perception of depth (trees farther away appear similarly-sized as closer trees). This attribute can be good or bad depending on the scene, how the composition comes together and the viewer's taste.
While the circular polarizer filter was not making a noticeable effect, I had it mounted in case blue sky opened up and I note its use for those questioning the exposure settings.
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
182mm  f/5.6  1/500s
ISO 100
6000 x 4000px
Post Date: 2/22/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, February 19, 2017
The Crossing Place Trail in Middle Caicos leads along some spectacular coastline. "Trail", however, is a rather generous term for much of what is encountered here, especially west of Blowing Hole. Very sharp rocks (the ironshore formation limestone you see in the foreground in this image) and thick brush (with occasional very-deep holes beneath) take the place of anything resembling a trail.
The Turks and Caicos Islands have the world's 3rd largest reef system protecting it, but along this trail, the reef comes close to shore. This means that, on a normal day, waves hit the coast hard. And, on a windy day, things become rather spectacular along this section of the trail.
The winds on this day (like the entire 9 days of this trip) were sustained at just over 30 mph and gusts were reaching 50+ mph. The waves were crashing into the cliffs and blowing up in dramatic fashion, easily visible from the causeway over a mile away.
Upon arriving at this location, I determined that I could safely approach the cliff and I did so cautiously. I didn't take a rain cover for the camera or a rain coat for me on this trip, but ... after thinking about the situation for a while and watching my daughter figure out how to cover her camera with extra clothes and a hat for a lens flap, I couldn't resist the opportunity. The waves were too beautiful and mesmerizing to leave uncaptured.
What I had was the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L's rain cover and the plastic bags I always store in the backpack. The large garbage bag, with three holes torn into it, went over me (it was cool out and with the wind, I was cold) and a 2-gallon clear heavy plastic food storage bag nicely wrapped around the camera with the lens directed through the opening. I held the bag tightly around the lens hood and could see the viewfinder through the bag reasonably well – well enough. The front of the lens was not protected aside of the hood, but holding the camera downward under my body during times when spray was hitting (most of the time), kept it dry. I had a dry microfiber cloth readily available for cleaning the lens when my timing was not stellar.
When a wave was timed to hit while there was little or no sea spray in the air, I would quickly move the camera into position and shoot an image (or burst of images) as the wave crashed and violently blew upward. I was learning the Sony a7R II camera's capabilities, but ... this scenario proved challenging and my sharp image percentage was not as strong as I had hoped. Still, I made some nice images.
With the quick-shooting tactic, getting the camera perfectly level (or even close to that) proved challenging (it proves challenging to me on a good day) and this shot was a bit tilted. The horizon over an ocean makes any tilt obvious and this one needed repaired. However, simply rotating the image was going to result in more of the scene being cropped out that I was happy with. I could have used a wider focal length to shoot with (the Sony a7R II has plenty of resolution), but ... I was already using that tactic. This wave was simply bigger than I had anticipated.
How did I fix the tilt? I used the Lasso Tool in Photoshop to select and area above and below the horizon where the non-splashing water is meeting sky (on the right side of the frame), being careful to draw through areas lacking details. I then copied the selection (CTRL-C) and pasted it into a new layer (CTRL-V). I pressed CTRL-T (Free Transform) and rotated the copied waterline until it was level. Using a layer mask with a soft brush, I hid the borders of the copied layer and smoothed out anything that appeared out of place in the result. The image was effectively leveled and I didn't have to crop off any of the splash.
Being in the wave zone of a rough sea is not safe and in addition to watching for photogenic waves approaching, I was constantly watching for trouble. Twice I successfully ran to drier ground when monster waves hit directly in front of me, but twice I had very large waves splash completely over me, sending buckets of water pouring from myself and the bags (enough to make a water cooler dumped over a winning football coach appear like a Dixie cup). The described bag technique, while not optimum, kept the gear (and most of my shirt) dry and allowed me to capture some fun pics.
Big waves are fascinating – I could spend hours watching them.
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
31mm  f/9.0  1/200s
ISO 200
7952 x 5304px
Post Date: 2/19/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, February 13, 2017
by Sean Setters
Over the Valentine's day holiday this year, the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers in the US will spend roughly $2 billion on floral arrangements. As such, I think it's safe to say that many of our site visitors will be purchasing flowers very soon (or have already done so) to show appreciation for a special loved one on this special occasion.
Unfortunately, unless a potted plant is gifted, the floral arrangement will not likely look as pristine and beautiful in the days/weeks following February 14th as the effects of time takes its toll on each once-vibrant petal. Yes, you may put a preservative in the water to stretch the life of your floral gift as long as possible, but ... that solution is not nearly as long-lasting as another available to you.
Your camera holds the easy solution for extending the practical life of your floral gift. By using your camera, you can capture the fleeting beauty of your loved one's flower arrangements and immortalize your thoughtfulness in the form of a print. A print represents the physical manifestation of a memory – in this case, a very good one – that can pay heartwarming dividends year-round.
You can employ your DSLR and a general purpose lens, a large window (or strobes) and a collapsible/muslin background to create a traditional still life photo of your bouquet. Otherwise, you can attach your macro lens to commemorate the beauty of a single flower. The possibilities are endless, and your loved one will likely enjoy displaying their new sentimental print on a prominent wall.
Make plans now to photograph the flowers you are going to give (if they will not remain available to you) or have already given. Pick out your favorite (or a few of them) and get those prints on order for the second wave of gifting.
Post Date: 2/13/2017 12:25:30 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, February 8, 2017
The first thing you reach for when a rainbow shows up is of course a camera, but ... what is the first lens you reach for? Probably one with wide angle focal lengths, enabling you to get as much of the rainbow in the frame as possible. That is often a great choice, but ... what if the landscape does not support a wide angle composition?
Especially if you find rainbows intriguing (where else can you find the entire visible spectrum separated and displayed brilliantly?), you will, over time, likely accumulate many average rainbow photos. These will have a narrow arc of color running through the image with whatever scene happens to be in front of you at the time, including houses, streets, power lines, etc. The rainbows always look great, but eventually ... something more is needed for the image to be worth keeping. With plenty of average rainbow images on my hard drives, I now often keep driving, working, etc. while admiring a rainbow as a so-so landscape is no longer a good enough supporting background.
Especially when facing a rainbow with a just-average landscape surrounding it (or, when there is a partial rainbow), consider grabbing a telephoto lens to photograph it. With a narrower angle of view than wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses can make great images with a less scenic background available, allowing the rainbow's beauty to be isolated from less-desirable surroundings. If the sun is high enough, a short telephoto focal length (70mm in that example) can even keep some of the arc in the frame. Zooming in to 150mm permits more surroundings to be excluded (an entire town in that case).
For the image I'm sharing here, I zoomed to the longest focal length I had available. A benefit of that 400mm focal length was that the amazing colors of the rainbow filled a much higher percentage of the frame than a wide angle focal length would have provided. It also made the sheets of rain more prominent within the rainbow.
Yes, an even longer focal length would have filled an even higher percentage of the frame with color and 600mm through 800mm focal lengths should also be considered for rainbow capturing at times. But, as mentioned, I didn't have a longer lens available. However, a benefit from having 50 megapixels of resolution is that this image can be cropped considerably and still retain very high quality, a result that can still be output to a large size. While I contemplated cropping (and still may create that variation), I decided to share this one as-captured with additional elements supporting the color. I like the ocean providing a base and context for the storm and the shading variations to the sides of the rainbow help indicate the heavy storm's presence.
The heavy, dense rainstorm approaching over the Atlantic was a welcomed sight on this afternoon (from an imaging perspective at least). The direct sunlight reaching the storm created an intense display of color that lasted long enough to ... allow me to create more images than I needed. I admit to capturing some wide angle images of this scene with the lens I was already using prior to reaching for one of my favorite telephoto zoom lenses. After installing and adjusting a circular polarizer filter, I captured a variety of images, including both camera orientations, a variety of focal lengths and sometimes with clouds passing in front of the rainbow worked into the compositions.
This rainbow image was captured in North Caicos, but aside from the water color, it could have been over any large body of water. I mentioned that wind was an issue on this entire trip and, with a storm approaching, the wind was especially strong while photographing this rainbow. With the sun at my back and the wind in my face, I left the lens hood in the pack. The filter was completely shaded by the lens and large hoods become a source of vibration in the wind. I sat on the ground with my elbows on my knees, my left hand holding tightly over the lens mounted to a retracted Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Carbon Fiber Tripod. With the camera's eyepiece pressed against my eyebrow, the setup was completely locked down and my sharp image rate was nearly 100%.
Rainbows are made possible by the right weather conditions and ... the weather can be unpredictable. But, when your next rainbow shows up, consider chasing it with your telephoto lens.
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.
Post Date: 2/8/2017 9:58:37 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, February 3, 2017
I recently shared an image showing an Incoming Storm Over Dragon Cay. That image came with a promise. My promise was to share the loved-by-everyone landscape photography element that a back-lit rainstorm holds promise for. A back-lit storm, once passed, becomes front-lit and that is the recipe for a rainbow, the referred-to strongly-desired element.
As soon as the rain stopped, I left my cave shelter (going out into the high winds) and there was the rainbow, complete with supernumerary bands (a stacker rainbow) and a slight second/double rainbow. I found a vantage point offering a photogenic view looking away from the sun (as that the requirement for the rainbow to be visible). I mounted a circular polarizer filter to the excellent Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, framed the scene, rotated the filter to get the brightest rainbow and captured a series of images.
It was a great feeling to have confidence that some solid keepers were on the memory card as I drove back to the villa for second breakfast. I saw at least one rainbow on every day of this trip, saw several of them on most days and was able to capture some of them in nice photos.
Of course, seeing many rainbows means that there were many storms. Planning enough days at a location can be the key to successful outdoor photography – just to make sure that you get some storms worth photographing. Of course, one can never spend enough time at some locations.
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.
Post Date: 2/3/2017 9:53:25 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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