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 Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Earlier this year I posted a walkthrough for an eye image I took using the Roundflash Ringflash adapter. While I liked the image, I thought a different lighting setup might work better to highlight the details of the eye (especially the iris). Over the past week I've been trying a few lighting setups and ultimately came to the conclusion that a simple, single light setup provided the best results.
 
Gear Used
 
EXIF: f/10, 1/160 sec, ISO 400
 
Thought Process and Execution
 
The biggest problem with the ring light, straight-on lighting approach was that the finer details in the iris became muted due to reflected light. This time around I decided to try a [near] profile view with the main light located slightly behind the subject.
 
The light source – a Canon 580EX in a 24" collapsible soft box – required precise positioning in order to create a column of light on the iris. The light was placed so that the subject's nose blocked light on the far side of the eye while the natural curvature of the subject's face (and eye) caused most of the left side of the image to be shadowed. I decided to use a white foam core reflector to open up the shadows on the left side just a bit. Note that the reflector is positioned far enough left so as not to create a second catchlight in the eye.
 
And while on the subject of catchlights, I chose a square soft box so that the catchlight would vaguely mimic an open window. The soft box's distance from the subject determined the size of the catchlight in the eye while also dictating soft the shadows were. If I had positioned the soft box further away, the catchlight would have been smaller and the shadows would have appeared less graduated. However, doing so would have required raising the ISO to compensate for the increased distance between the light source and the subject as I was already using full power with the soft box positioned relatively close (about 18") to the subject.
 
Using a tripod, I set the camera at the proper height to allow the subject to stand comfortably while capturing the image. At 1.0x magnification, very slight changes in distance to the subject can have a dramatic effect on focus. Even standing comfortably, the subject would sway a bit (almost imperceptibly unless looking through the viewfinder). This meant that I had to pay attention to the rhythm of the subject's movements in order to time the capture for optimal focus. If I were to shoot this again, I would have the subject sit in an arm chair with their head propped up on a fist to reduce involuntary movement.
 
When photographing an eye, it's also important to pay attention to the ambient light. If the ambient light is dim, the pupil will enlarge and the colorful iris will be reduced. A bright room will help showcase the iris in all its glory.
 
In post-processing, I increased clarity to help bring out details in the iris, increased the saturation a little and made relatively minor adjustments to brightness/contrast. The image shown was cropped moderately (from 5760 x 3840 to 4848 x 3232 pixels).
 
Click on the image atop this post for a higher resolution sample.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/23/2016 7:44:40 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, August 18, 2016
I have long admired images of Lake Moraine in The Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada), especially those taken from the Rockpile. While huge numbers of great images have been captured here, none of them were captured by me. That is, none until recently.
 
The Rockpile (ascended via the Rockpile Trail) is a foreground-rich location overlooking an amazing turquoise glacier-fed lake that, when the wind is not blowing, reflects the close, steep, craggy, with-character mountains beyond it. I was blessed to spend 3 very early mornings at this location (and would return in a heartbeat). One quickly forgets the 3:00-4:15 AM alarms (followed by 11:30 PM bedtimes) when reviewing Moraine Lake images.
 
For this composition, I moved in close to a carefully-selected large rock. This rock, with plenty of leading lines, appears to fit into the edge of the mountain reflections like a puzzle piece, with even the notches appearing to align with reflected peaks. With the large mountain weighing heavily on the top left of the image, the large foreground rock is positioned proportionally higher on the right to, along with the shaded trees, aid in the overall image balance. Required for this perspective, and not visible in this image, are the tripod feet (and me) precariously positioned on the top edge of several different rocks.
 
With the mountain peaks being directly hit with sunlight and the dark evergreens being in deep shade, the dynamic range in this scene was extreme. Thus, I was shooting bracketed exposures. A camera's built-in HDR feature is a good way to capture bracketed exposures, but ... I didn't want the in-camera-generated JPG image and didn't want to wait for that composited image to be created.
 
My favorite method of shooting bracketed exposures is via the camera's AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) feature. Simply select the number of bracketed images desired and the desired exposure difference between them. Each image captured in succession, up to the selected number of bracketed frames, will have a different exposure (ideally for landscapes, the shutter speed is varied), insuring that all parts of the scene are adequately exposed in at least one of the frames.
 
To speed up the capture, select and use the camera's high frame rate (burst) mode. When the sun is rising, speed matters for HDR captures (this is a manual HDR image). The line between sun and shade moves quickly and ... that line becomes hard to composite if time lapses between captures. With AEB selected, a high speed burst will stop after the selected number of AEB frames.
 
I usually have MLU (Mirror Lockup) enabled when photographing landscapes, avoiding any possible vibration caused by the mirror raising. However, using MLU adds a short, but undesired, delay between the frames captured in an AEB burst. There is a better way: Live View is another method of achieving MLU. By using a remote release with Live View and high frame rate (burst) mode selected, one press of the remote shutter release (pressing and locking the release button down for long exposure brackets) captures the set number of frames in very fast succession (without the mirror moving).
 
Depending on the Lake Moraine scene and scenario, I was shooting 5 or 7 frames varied by 2/3 or 1 stop. From most sets, I deleted all except 3 or 4 images with the exposure variations needed remaining available. This image was created from three exposures.
 
Due to packing restrictions, I nearly left the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens at home. Upon arriving at Moraine Lake, I was SOOO thankful that I had it with me. Aside from using the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens on a second camera and tripod setup some of the time, the 11-24 was the only lens I needed at this location. And, it performed extremely well as did the Canon EOS 5Ds R camera I used behind it.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image. If you find these tips useful, please share them in your circle of friends!
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/18/2016 9:12:43 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, August 12, 2016
Plane rides are often a means to an end, but this one was so much more. Flying in a float plane over the Shelikof Strait and along the remote southeast coast of Katmai National Park was ... breathtaking. And those breathtaking sights were very photo-worthy, but not without complications.
 
Airplane windows are not designed with photography in mind and there is some non-optical glass between the camera and the subject. Reflections, uneven contrast reduction and color toning (mostly in the sky in this frame) were among the complications. After an initial attempt at cleaning up the image, I revisited it a number of times over the nearly 1 year that has passed since this flight. The incredible scene was worth the extra effort that went into post processing, but ... I'm still not sure I have this right.
 
What do you think?
 
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
70mm  f/8.0  1/1600s
ISO 500
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/12/2016 10:12:29 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, August 9, 2016
This is a wild baby cottontail rabbit photographed in the studio using a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens. Yes, there are some inconsistencies in that statement. The 100mm macro is not a first choice for a serious photographer photographing wild rabbits and ... why is the wild rabbit in the studio? Let me explain.
 
First, apparently the dog couldn't help itself and had to show us a baby cottontail rabbit (called a "kit") from a nest it found. Golden retrievers have soft mouths and she gently delivered the rabbit to the front door unharmed. The baby rabbit was so cute that a few photos were a requirement.
 
To create a natural scene, I took a decorative piece of driftwood and placed it on the shooting table along with a couple of ferns sacrificed from the flower bed just outside. With control over many aspects of the image, the 100mm macro lens was the ideal choice in this case. The 100 L is one of my MFU (Most-Frequently-Used) around-the-house lenses because of its versatility (great image quality, relatively small size with a light weight, image stabilization, 1:1/1x magnification ability, ...). It seems that there is always a subject available for this lens.
 
A large softbox and studio monolight is always beside my shooting table, ready to light whatever small or medium-sized subject that shows up. From lenses to backpacks to ... baby rabbits. A light source significantly larger than a close subject creates a soft light, lacking hard shadows. In this case, the light was a bit too soft for my taste, making the scene appear somewhat unnatural. Adding a few exposure adjustment layers with creatively painted layer masks (in Photoshop) created a more-natural unevenness (digital flagging) to the lighting. Of course, an octagonal catchlight in the eye is not going to say "sun" to anyone.
 
The rabbit (mostly) cooperated and after capturing a few photos, the kids asked Sierra (the dog) to find the nest. I thought that request was unrealistic and that the rabbit was orphaned, but ... Sierra took the girls to the middle of a nearby field of thick grass and impressively used its nose to point out the covered nest. The rabbit was reunited with its siblings with ... an unbelievable story to share.
 
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
100mm  f/11.0  1/160s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/9/2016 9:18:19 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, August 8, 2016
I recently mountain biked to a nearby wildflower field and spent a very enjoyable end of day with the Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC Lens (and a large black bear that also showed up). The Samyang 135 is not a macro lens (it's not a good bear lens either), but this lens is great at creating a strong background blur and that is precisely what I wanted this evening.
 
The sun had set, giving me even, low contrast lighting, and the wind had practically stopped, allowing sharp images to be made without clamping the flower stems in place. I worked along the edge of the field (to avoid damaging the flowers), looking for compositions that could work. This white-trimmed brilliant red poppy caught my attention and I found an angle and background combination that I liked.
 
When photographing people and wildlife with shallow depth of field, the eye(s) are nearly always the right focus point. When there are no eyes, more difficult decisions sometimes need to be made. In this case, I set the lens to its minimum focus distance and moved in so that the front edge of the upper set of petals was in sharp focus. I later second-guessed my decision and focused on the top edge of the closer flower petal, but ... in the end, I liked the first choice best. The very shallow depth of field covers more of the flower and the stem (also known as a leading line) is more prominent in this version.
 
The Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC Lens performed excellently for me this evening. This lens holds lots of creativity-unleashing potential (and it is a very good value).
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/8/2016 8:43:20 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, July 28, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
There are few simple joys in life that surpass witnessing a beautiful sunrise, a fog-laden valley or a majestic mountain with snow-capped peaks. However, to capture the magnificence of the outdoors, there are a few accessories that every landscape photographer should have at hand.
 
1. Circular Polarizing Filter
 
If I had to pick the most important landscape accessory, the venerable circular polarizer would be an easy choice. Not only can a circular polarizer give you rich, dark blue skies, but it can also allow you to dial in just how much surface reflection you want in water scenes. No other item on this list will have as much of an impact on your landscape photography than a CPOL. If you want better landscape photos and it's not already part of your kit, make a CPOL your next photography purchase. Our particular favorites are B+W XS-Pro circular polarizers. Their rims are wide enough to use standard lens caps but not too wide to cause vignetting.
 
2. ND Filter(s)
 
Sometimes captivating landscape photographs require longer-than-normal exposures times. Want blurred water in your waterfall pictures? How about clouds streaking across the sky? Unless the ambient light is relatively low, you'll need a neutral density filter to restrict the amount of light reaching your camera's sensor.
 
ND filters come in two basic flavors – solid and variable. Solid NDs have been around for decades and feature a fixed opacity. The opacity rating can be a bit confusing, though. For instance, an ND that blocks 10-stops of light can be listed as a "10-stop filter," "3.0 filter" or "ND1000." Just for the sake of clarification, here's a reference table below:
 
Stopsx.xNDx
20.6ND4
41.2ND16
61.8ND64
82.4ND256
103.0ND1000

So why isn't a 10-stop ND referred to as an ND1024? Your guess is as good as mine.
 
In addition to solid ND filters, variable ND filters are also available. The benefit of a variable ND is that you can dial in the exact amount of density you want for a specific need. That means a typical variable ND filter can replace a 2-stop, 4-stop, 6-stop and 8-stop filter thereby reducing the amount of gear needed for a given landscape adventure. The downside is that variable ND filters are thicker than their solid ND counterparts and may cause strong vignetting (especially on wide-angle lenses).
 
When it comes to solid ND filters, Breakthrough Photography's X4 filters came out tops in Bryan's tests. As for variable NDs, Singh-Ray makes some of the best, but they are extremely pricey (and even that may be an understatement). I own the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo, a combination variable ND and circular polarizer, and love it. However, its width makes it impossible to use at wide focal lengths without hard vignetting. If I were in the market for a variable ND right now, I'd probably pick up the B+W XS-Pro ND Vario MRC-Nano. It's still pricey, but compared to the Singh-Ray, a definitely more wallet-friendly.
 
Before we get off the topic of ND filters, let's address the issue of color casts. Most ND filters will introduce some sort of color cast in your image. To counteract this, shoot a properly exposed test image of a color calibration target (like the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo) in the same light as your landscape and calibrate colors in post processing.
 
3. Lightweight Tripod and Head
 
While just about any focal length can be advantageous for landscape photography, very few photographers will prefer carrying around big white supertelephoto lenses for landscape use. As such, a landscape-oriented tripod can be smaller and lighter with a low-to-moderate load capacity. We generally prefer to purchase a tripod with a maximum load capacity at least twice what we intend on using on the tripod to ensure optimal stability. For my own general landscape use, that translates to a tripod with a load capacity rating of around 15 lbs.
 
How'd I arrive at that number? Well, my typical landscape setup includes a gripped 5D Mark III with an L-bracket and an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM with the hood attached. That combination tips the scales at 4 lb 10 oz (note including the weight of any filters being used). While that may be a "typical" setup, I want the tripod to be able to support my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS as well (should the focal range be desired), and that combination weighs in at 7 lb 8 oz.
 
Arguably the three most important factors for choosing a tripod for landscape use are size, weight and load capacity. While there are many great landscape vistas within a short walk from available parking, the vast majority of breathtaking views require at least some hiking to reach. As such, the benefits of a lightweight, compact tripod seem to be augmented with each step required to arrive at your ultimate destination.
 
When it comes to lightweight, compact, high-quality tripods, Gitzo Traveler and Mountaineer carbon fiber tripods are hard to beat. Unfortunately, they feature a price tag that may be difficult to justify unless you consider landscapes to be a primary photography interest. Other tripods you may want to look at in this market are the Benro Travel Angel, Oben Travel and Manfrotto Manfrotto 190go!-series tripods.
 
As travel tripods are not designed with ultimate in load capacities in mind, you don't necessarily need the highest-spec'd head on top of it. While the Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 is our favorite ball head, it's anything but lightweight. Considering that my needs above dictated a tripod with a load capcity in the neighborhood of 15 lb, putting a ball head on top which can support 130 lb may be the definition of "overkill."
 
One of the best ball heads for travel tripods is the Acratech GP-ss Ballhead with Lever Clamp. Reasons why we like it: 1) it's lightweight at 0.84 lb, 2) has a load capacity rating of 25 lb, 3) features an Arca-style lever release clamp on top and 4) is compatible with tripod legs which fold up beyond the ball head (relatively common with travel tripods) and 5) it looks really cool. Ok, so that last benefit doesn't really matter from a landscape perspective, but still...
 
With lower load capacity requirements, there are many ball heads that can fill the role of a travel head. Weighing in at only 1 lb, the Oben BC-126 would be a lower-end but quite reasonably spec'd option.
 
Of course, if reduced size and weight are not important for your landscape photography needs, any high quality tripod and ball head will work.
 
4. Hiking Backpack
 
When it comes to choosing a backpack for landscape photography, there are a few things to keep in mind:
 
  1. How much gear will you want to travel with? This includes cameras, lenses, filters, miscellaneous accessories and a tripod.
  2. Does the backpack have a waistbelt? The longer you plan on traveling with the pack, the more advantageous a good padded waistbelt becomes. Be sure that the waistbelt sits on your hips at a comfortable spot for supporting your camera gear load.
  3. How easy is it to access the camera? Some backpacks allow you to access gear without fully removing the pack. Most require removal for access to gear.
  4. Is the backpack capable of handling inclement weather? Is a rain cover included?
  5. How is the tripod attached? Some may prefer side-mounting while others will prefer the more even weight distribution afforded by straps running along the back of the pack.
Exactly which bag is right for you will depend on your own preferences, but... we're a big fan of MindShift Gear's Rotation 180 Professional. Its design seems extremely well suited for those who may want to hike several miles to capture unique landscapes. If the Rotation 180 isn't to your taste, check out Bryan's other reviews of camera backpacks.
 
Note: Site visitor Mark suggests the Olivon PodTrek Backpack is a great option for smaller amounts of gear. Simply attach the pack to your tripod, throw it on your shoulders and get going!
 
5. LCD Viewfinder Loupe
 
This is one of those items that you can't imagine living without after you've added one to your kit – an LCD Viewfinder Loupe. Whether focusing at 10x Live View or checking an image preview on the LCD screen, the loupe blocks out all extraneous light so that you see things clearly. While we certainly advise using the histogram to aid in determining exposure settings, being able to see the LCD without glare can help you get a better sense of the tones in your image and how they relate to one another.
 
My particular favorite LCD viewfinder loupe is the Hoodman Compact HoodLoupe Optical Viewfinder for 3.2" LCD Screens which I use with a 5D Mark III and 7D Mark II. I like it because it works well and compacts down into a relatively small space.
 
Well, that's our Top 5 Landscape Accessories. Was there another piece of gear that deserved to be included but wasn't? Let us know in the comments.
 
Site Visitor Suggestions:
 
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/28/2016 7:39:49 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, July 20, 2016
East coast beaches are usually better situated for sunrises than sunsets and Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park in New Jersey, is usual in this regard.
 
A habit I have while photographing at the edges of the day, is to make regular glances to the east, "watching my back". While that habit may apply to safety in some locations, I'm referring to the lighting and color in the sky. It is natural for us to watch and photograph the sun rising or setting, but often great images are found behind you at these times of the day.
 
While photographing the colorful post-sunset sky to the west on this evening, I took that glance to the east. What I saw was that the color in the sky was visible toward the north while the rest of the easterly scene was very evenly lit. The ultra-wide 14mm focal length lens' angle of view was sufficient to capture that color along with the Atlantic Ocean and lots of sand in the foreground. To add some foreground interest, I moved in close to the sand fence post, placing it approximately 1/3 into the frame with the beach fishing party framed between it and the dunes to the left.
 
While the lighting was rather even, I still used a combination of three 1-stop-different exposures combined via a manual HDR process to darken the brightest portion of the sky relative to the rest of the beach scene.
 
Capturing a colorful sky is just one of the many reasons that your kit should have 14mm covered.
 
While the Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Lens is a great deal at regular price, the Canon mount version is a killer deal right now at B&H. Use promo code PSWBH16 to save $40.00 on the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Lens for Canon. Free expedited shipping is included.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/20/2016 8:34:01 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Sometimes, it's all about the ears. The white-tailed deer mother cleaning its fawn's ear in the bright green grass of Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park was just too cute to not share.
 
As I have mentioned before, photographing white-tailed deer in Big Meadows is very challenging. Though I took a lot of photos in my few days there, some quickly stand out over the rest to me. In addition to the cuteness factor, I liked this frame for a couple of reasons. The first is because of the relatively evenly colored bright green grass framing and strongly-contrasting the animals – but not obstructing them. I also like the balanced overall position of the animals. And, all the eyes are sharp.
 
One of the big challenges to photographing moving animals is often keeping the proper AF point(s) selected and when an animal changes direction, the proper AF point may be on the opposite side of the viewfinder. If the primary subject's eyes are not in focus, the image will likely end up in my recycle folder. This means that keeping the selected focus point(s) on the primary subject's eyes is more important than maintaining ideal subject framing. Getting both right is the goal of course, but I am more likely to delete an image because the eyes are out of focus than because the framing isn't perfect. Cropping can often solve the latter issue.
 
While I concentrated on keeping the ideal AF point selected and placed on the subjects (the doe's nose in this case – to keep both sets of eyes in focus), the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II's high speed burst mode took care of catching the frame of what seems like the ideal ear position in both animals.
 
Seeing and capturing too-cute moments like this one feed the addiction!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/5.6  1/640s
ISO 800
4450 x 2967px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/19/2016 9:58:13 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, July 15, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
While working with The-Digital-Picture.com has enabled me to become competent in a variety of photographic disciplines, I always find myself coming back to my first love – portraiture. The look on someone's face when they see themselves in a whole new light [pun intended] is such a joy for me.
 
But alas, there are some types of portraiture I'm just not that interested in pursuing. If someone wants their 2-3 year-old photographed, I will gladly refer them to someone else. Being 34 and not a father, I never acquired the patience it takes to photograph young children. For those who can create great pictures with kids of that age group, I tip my hat to you. But as for me, there are three things I look for in clients:
 
My ideal clients...
 
  • must be able to follow directions.
  • actually desire having their picture taken.
  • are interested in creating unique and/or creative imagery.
For the longest time, high school seniors have been the group that I preferred working with most. High school seniors are young, exuberant and usually excited at the idea of standing out from the pack. And with high school graduation being such an important event in one's life, a graduate-to-be's parents are typically willing to mark the occasion with a significant photo investment. All of these factors make high school senior photography very attractive to me (as well as many others).
 
But it wasn't until this week that I realized another, fairly untapped market existed that also met all the criteria for my ideal client – those with online dating profiles.
 
We've previously promoted the importance of creating an eye-catching self-portrait for the purpose of online dating, and even the CDLC provided some self-portrait tips specifically for this purpose. But until recently it never occurred to me to mention this as an available service to potential clients.
 
With that in mind, let's take a look at our potential market. In 2014, census data showed that 45% of Americans over the age of 18 were unmarried. That's about 107 million Americans. Large market – check! And with a seemingly increasing number of single Americans being older and educated, my guess is that here is a lot of disposable income at stake.
 
From a consumer's perspective, putting your best foot forward in the form of an attractive profile picture is the easiest way to generate interest in your profile (more interest = greater odds in finding an ideal partner). Your first impression – that little profile picture – is big factor in causing potential partners to click "View More Details." And after your detailed profile has been explored, more great images can further increase interest. Let's face it – physical attraction is a part of life (thankfully!).
 
From a photographer's perspective, if we can help people find their soul mates while making money at the same time, everyone wins. The relatively small investment for a portrait session tailored for online dating may turn out to be the most gratifying and fulfilling investment the client ever makes.
 
And that brings us to Teddy. Teddy is 40 years-old, single, has a good job and has recently tried online dating. He's been on a few dates over the last couple of months and his dates always noted that he "...looked better in person than he did in his profile pictures." Armed with that feedback, Teddy hired me to take a variety of pictures to replace the iPhone snapshots he was currently using.
 
Being relatively new to the Savannah area, Teddy temporarily rents the third floor of a large, beautifully decorated home. With lots of interesting rooms to work with, choosing to shoot inside the common areas of the home was an easy decision. And while I packed quite a bit of gear, I ended up using only the following items:
 
Using a two-speedlite setup allowed me to easily move to different areas throughout the common areas of the home that he and his landlord share. Following are some of my favorite images from the roughly 2-hour session:
 
Teddy Profile Picture 2-3

Teddy Profile Picture 4

Teddy Profile Picture 5-6

Overall, Teddy was extremely pleased with his images and quickly changed his Facebook profile picture to one of the images above soon after delivery. I assume his dating profile images were updated around the same time.
 
In short, the online dating market is growing because of social and cultural factors, and the proliferation of mobile devices means this market is poised to be very strong for the foreseeable future. Adding dating profile pictures to your advertised list of services will likely generate clients that are easy to work with and eager to get the most out of their session. And maybe best of all, you can help someone find a companion for life while doing something you enjoy. That's rewarding for everyone.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/15/2016 5:09:45 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, July 13, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
The bright, sunny days of spring, summer and fall present perfect image-making opportunities when you have an infrared converted camera in your gear bag. For me, that camera is an EOS 7D converted by LifePixel with a Super Color IR sensor.
 
While conventional photographic wisdom dictates that the golden hours just after sunrise and before sunset are ideal times for image-making, those with an IR camera at hand can take full advantage of midday sun to create compelling IR images. This IR benefit came in handy a couple of weeks ago.
 
Seeing a beautiful blue, midday sky overhead on my way to the mailbox around 1pm, I decided to head out with the IR camera to a spot I had filed in the back of my memory. It was a small parking area off of Victory Dr. on the way to Tybee Island from Savannah, GA. After arriving at the location, I photographed various scenes for about a half hour before ultimately deciding it wasn't as photogenic as I had thought (or maybe my creative skills simply weren't doing it justice on that day). With my tail between my legs, I headed home.
 
However, on my return trip I spotted an interesting dock area to my right on the other side of the bridge that crosses the Wilmington River. After turning off the main road, I worked my way back to the dock and found that it was a public park – W.E. Honey Park, to be exact – and the dock I had seen from the bridge was easily accessible.
 
I parked and attached the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM to the EOS 7D to allow for a wide range of framing opportunities from the dock. I also attached a B+W Circular Polarizer to the lens to see how it might impact the image. After several attempts to capture the bridge as seen from the dock, I turned around to photograph a small river winding its way through the marsh with lots of clouds near the tree-lined horizon. After returning to my vehicle, I realized that my normal custom white balance may not be optimal with the circular polarizer attached. As such, I pulled out my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport and photographed its white balance target in direct sunlight with the CPOL attached for color correction purposes in post processing.
 
As I do with all my images captured in IR, I set the white balance in Digital Photo Professional and then exported a TIFF into Photoshop CC. There, I view the image a few different ways to see which post processing technique I feel best suits the scene.
 
Here's what the image looked like straight out of the camera with only an Auto Levels applied:
 
Wilmington River in Super Color IR Auto Levels Only

While I find that non red/blue channel flipped images may work well for some portraits, I rarely find the nearly straight out of camera approach well suited for landscapes.
 
Let's try another technique. Below I've applied Auto Levels, swapped the red and blue color channels and desaturated the yellow color of the foliage.
 
Wilmington River in Super Color IR Desaturated Yellows

The above represents a more typical IR photo, albeit with blue color in the sky and in the water. While this image looks much better than the straight out of camera example, I decided to leave the Yellow channel untouched in the final image above so that there was a clear separation between the clouds and the tree line. The circular polraizer that was used seemed to create an even more intense blue in the scene compared to images taken without the filter in place.
 
I've been really happy having an IR-converted camera in my kit these past few months. It's been a great investment for me and a fitting use for a DSLR which would have seen little use after upgrading to 7D Mark II. And the great thing about the Super Color IR sensor option, in particular, is that I gain great flexibility in creating multiple image styles from the same capture.
 
Ready to learn more about infrared camera conversions? Take a look at our Infrared Camera Conversion by LifePixel Review.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/13/2016 11:07:11 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, July 8, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
Before I go any further, I must make one thing very clear:
 
  • The image above [closely] resembles the image I had intended to capture. It does not represent the reality of the event.
Backstory
 
Having never attended an Independence Day celebration on Savannah's River Street before, I asked several people where exactly the fireworks were launched from. I was told the fireworks launched from behind the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa on the other side of the Savannah River. Therefore, my plan was to position myself on the east end of River Street near Belles Ferry, where I hoped I could include the Westin hotel and possibly a small portion of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in my fireworks image.
 
The fireworks were scheduled for 9:30pm. Expecting a sizable crowd on River Street, my goal was to pack my gear so that it was minimally cumbersome and as light as possible. I knew that shooting fireworks would require some type of support, but the idea of carrying a full tripod downtown (even if affixed to the outside of my backpack) did not appeal to me. In this particular case, I didn't think my very-travel-friendly Feisol TT-15 Mini Carbon Fiber would be a feasible option as I would likely have to utilize one of the concrete supports positioned by the river as the base, and having my camera atop a tiny tripod next to a river did not sound like a good idea. I wondered if I could cobble together a few odds and ends from around the house that could do the job.
 
So here's the solution I came up with:
 
Mobile Support Setup

Above you'll find older Cullman (my first) ball head with an Arca-style plate attached to the bottom. Affixed to that is an Arca-style clamp which has been bolted to an Impact Super Clamp with T-Handle.
 
This setup can be broken down into two pieces (at the clamp) for compact backpack storage and, when assembled, affixed to just about any fence which borders the Savannah River along River Street.
 
Not knowing exactly which focal length might provide the optimal framing for the event, I packed a Lowepro Flipside 400AW with my mobile support setup and the following gear:
 
Independence Day
 
Amanda and I planned to meet up with a few friends downtown before the scheduled fireworks. Unfortunately, we ended up getting to River Street later than I had intended (8:45pm). As we descended onto River Street, I realized the crowd was much larger than I had anticipated. Almost every square inch of the fence bordering the river was accounted for. It took me about 20 minutes to find a gap along the fence where I could position my camera, after which I attached my support rig, 5D III, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L and TC-80N3 remote timer. With only 10 minutes left before the show, I hurriedly composed the scene and took a few pictures at 10x Live View to obtain proper focus on the hotel building (in this case, anything beyond 14 feet would be in focus because of the hyperfocal distance). My camera settings were f/4.5, 5 seconds and ISO 200.
 
Unfortunately, my tardiness in getting to the location combined with the hot/humid Savannah night meant that condensation was inevitable. While I did wipe off the end of the lens before shooting my test images used for focusing, condensation immediately reappeared and caused halos around all the bright lights in the image. I decided to wait for the condensation to clear up in hopes that it did so before the fireworks show began.
 
At almost precisely 9:30pm, the fireworks started. However, instead of being launched from directly behind the hotel as I had been led to believe, they were actually set off several hundred yards to the east. I quickly rotated the ball head, re-leveled the camera and began shooting the fireworks (using the remote). Unfortunately, this framing led to a very uninteresting backdrop for the colorful display.
 
With my original plan out the window, I decided to try something I had used on a previous fireworks image – compositing. I changed my camera settings to isolate the explosions from the surrounding background: f/5-6.3, 8 seconds, ISO 100. These settings allowed me to capture 1-4 bursts in each frame, depending on how fast they were launched. In post processing, I would overlay my favorite fireworks images with the original framing I had imagined.
 
At the end of the night, I was left with about 150 images of fireworks that looked like this:
 
Savannah Fireworks Single Frame

Post-Processing
 
Unfortunately, I only captured a few test shots of the hotel scene before the fireworks started. As such, even my best image showed very noticeable halos around the lights.
 
I selected my favorite fireworks images in post processing and composited them with my hotel image using a "Lighten" blending mode in Photoshop CC. Note that this blending mode also allowed the fireworks' reflections in the water to be seen which was key to making the image look somewhat realistic. I also added a slight Gaussian Blur to the fireworks to simulate the type of halos/lack of sharpness visible in the base image.
 
Final Thoughts
 
Things don't always go as planned. As photographers, we sometimes have to roll with the punches and do the best with the cards we're dealt. In this case, the fireworks launching location meant that I couldn't capture the scene I had in mind in-camera. And the lateness of my arrival, combined with the hot/humid weather meant that my base image in the composite didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. However, my mobile support rig worked very well and I'm not completely dissatisfied with the final image. The halos seem in the base image actually add a dreamlike quality to it; maybe it's a fitting look as the image never actually happened in real life, but only in my dreams.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/8/2016 9:52:55 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, July 7, 2016
Mixing brilliant turquoise-colored water with a dramatic sunset is not so easy. The ideal light to bring out the water color is from a high overhead sun and that is of course not available at sunset. However, the water in some locations is amazingly colored enough to still show turquoise even at sunset. Three Mary Cays in North Caicos is one such location.
 
Most of the west side of North and Middle Caicos islands is inaccessible without a boat, leaving few good locations for mid-winter sunset photography (with the sun setting farther north mid-summer, more northern locations can work well at this time of the year). Of those remaining locations, the shoreline by Three Mary Cays presents very nice winter sunset views. And, the shoreline and islands all have the character I was looking for.
 
Three Mary Cays is amazingly beautiful and also amazing is how seldom it is photographed by serious photographers. Online scouting revealed very few images and I spent two evenings watching the blazing ball drop into the Atlantic Ocean at this location with no one else as far as the eye could see.
 
While the cloud moving over the sun helped significantly with the brightness balance in this image, I still opted to use an HDR technique to balance the overall exposure.
 
It has become rare for me to photograph landscapes without the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens in the pack. This lens delivers amazing results every time. Well, at least every time I do my part of the job correctly. It is hard to believe that my other primary piece of landscape kit, the 5Ds R, is now over 1-year-old. #lovingthiscamera.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/7/2016 11:33:44 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, July 1, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
Back in late 2014 I purchased a Vello FreeWave Stryker from B&H (via a Daily Deal) with the intent of exploring lightning photography. After only a few times using the device, I fell in love with the endeavor. However, while the device worked well for me in very dark conditions, the device could not be correctly set to trigger the camera if the ambient light was above a certain [very low] level.
 
That left me wondering, "Is there a more flexible lightning triggering device that's also reasonably cost effective?"
 
In this case, patience paid off. In February B&H featured the Miops Camera Trigger in another Daily Deal; I decided to pick one up. Not long afterwards I also purchased the OP/TECH USA 8" Small Rain Sleeve to protect my camera during the anticipated downpours.
 
With storm season well underway, I can say I've been very impressed with the device. It can be set to detect lightning and trigger the camera in significantly brighter conditions compared to the Vello FreeWave. And the OP/TECH USA rain sleeve has proven to the perfect tool for protecting the camera. I even used it when photographing dirt track racing with Bryan a few weeks ago.
 
Miops camera trigger and camera protection in-hand, I began planning where I wanted to capture lightning. After a little bit of exploration, I settled on a view of River Street as seen from the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center just across the Savannah River. The location was optimal because it gave me a great view of downtown Savannah with City Hall (the gold domed building) being recognizable in the center of the frame. The convention center's awning also provided a decent amount of rain protection, though gusts of wind would still compromise gear if left uncovered/unprotected.
 
With the location decided upon, I needed to organize the right gear to tackle the job. And just in case I forgot to check the weather for a given day, I also installed Dark Sky - Hyperlocal Weather on my Android phone in order to receive alerts whenever precipitation was imminent. I also created a bookmark for LightningMaps.org which showed lightning activity around Savannah. After receiving a notice of precipitation, I would quickly check the map to see if lightning was also headed my way.
 
I keep a Go-Bag packed and ready for immediate use whenever storms are in the forecast. This allows me to bolt (pun intended) out the door at a moment's notice.
 
While the lenses have changed slightly in my Go-Bag over the last couple of months, most of the items remained constant. For the image above, my Go-Bag contained:
 
Every time I received a Dark Sky precipitation warning and confirmed lightning was headed toward Savannah, I would grab my gear, head downtown, drive across the Talmadge Memorial Bridge and make my way to the convention center. It took me four attempts, but this past Tuesday I was finally able to capture the lightning I had envisioned.
 
As I crossed the Talmadge Bridge Tuesday evening, I could see a significant amount of storm activity to the west. The storm was getting very close. As I was setting up my equipment, a light sprinkle of rain began to wet the ground. Soon after, it looked like a strobe light was illuminating the sky. Most of the lightning was occurring above the clouds, but every now and then one would connect with the ground within my camera's field of view.
 
I chose to use the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM because its hood would be more protective against the rain compared to the EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM's hood. I used 10x Live View and manual focus with the camera set to f/5.6, 8 seconds at ISO 100. The f/5.6 aperture was chosen because it allowed me enough depth of field at 24mm to have most everything in focus while also keeping individual lightning bolts from overexposing the sky. An 8-second shutter speed allowed for the city lights to be decently exposed. While these settings worked well under individual strikes, multiple strikes within the 8-second shutter speed would cause overexposure in the sky especially if the bolts were large and nearby.
 
I varied the Miops Trigger's sensitivity throughout the evening so that I could limit the camera's captures to instances when they were more likely to capture a compelling lightning strike. With the sensitivity set too high, the camera would trigger at the reflection of lightning bouncing off of the clouds with no actual bolt within view. Finding the preferred setting proved very easy, though.
 
The final image above is a composite of several images taken that night. In post processing, I layered all the individual images that featured interesting lightning bolts and set them to a "Lighten" blending layer to allow the brighter parts of those images to come through. A few parts of the scene required masking so as not to have duplicate ghost items in the image (especially true around the flag poles where wind blew the flags occasionally).
 
I wish more lightning had occurred on the right side of the frame so that the image would appear more balanced, but... I didn't like any of my shots with lightning on the right side.
 
In short, I captured an image that was very close to what I had in my head and the Miops Trigger helped me do it. For what it's worth, there's currently a $40.00 instant savings on Miops Camera Trigger + cable kits and the device allows for many other types of triggering, including sound and laser triggering (which certainly increases its value). Personally, I wouldn't bother getting the mobile-branded kit as you can just as easily control the Miops trigger (connected to the camera) via your mobile phone rather than control your phone (connected to the camera, requiring an additional cable) via the Miops trigger. The only time the mobile kit would be beneficial is if you need the Miops device to be positioned well away from the camera for triggering purposes.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 7/1/2016 7:10:16 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, June 30, 2016
If you are a USA resident, I am sure you are keenly aware of the explosive holiday that is approaching. Of course, I'm talking about Independence Day (July 4th) and with it brings an excellent opportunity for festive image making.
 
As you enjoy the colorful explosions this year, be sure to bring along your camera to capture the action. Here are a few basic tips:
 
  1. Arrive early and find out exactly where the fireworks will be setting off from at your chosen location. Use this information to plan your optimal shooting location, keeping in mind various elements that might be used as a background.
  2. Choose a wider focal length to capture background elements in your fireworks photos; choose telephoto focal length to isolate the explosions. A general purpose zoom works well and allows you to capture a wide range of framings without the need to change lenses.
  3. Use a sturdy tripod to allow you to capture the fireworks from their lift off point to explosion. The trails leading back from the explosions will help viewers' eyes wonder around the image.
  4. Bring a shutter release cable for a more relaxed style of shooting. It's easy to enjoy the fireworks from a folding chair and still get compelling images with a cable release trigger in your hand.
Want to get creative? Check out these posts on capturing fireworks:
 
And if you plan on shooting off fireworks off this year (or plan on being in close proximity to them), please BE SAFE and enjoy the celebration!
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 6/30/2016 6:30:11 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Looking for great access to photograph a car race? Your local dirt track may hold that key for you. Sprint car racing and other dirt track events provide great photography experiences with typically easy access and lots of freedom. Check out the Dirt Track Racing Photography Tips page to learn much more about this topic.
 
The 1D X Mark II and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II make a great combo for this event.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image. If you find these tips useful, please share them in your circle of friends!
 
Camera and Lens Settings
70mm  f/4.5  1/250s
ISO 2000
4716 x 3144px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 6/29/2016 8:16:30 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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