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 Monday, September 26, 2016
by Sean Setters
 
Portrait phtography is an art. And while the most important component for expressing that art lies between the photographer's ears, there are a few accessories that can help elevate one's portraiture to higher levels.
 
Impact Telescopic Collapsible Reflector Holder

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

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

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

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

Ryobi 18 Volt 120 Volt One Plus Hybrid Fan

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

So the next time you're facing a portrait session with an uninspiring background, just grab your wide aperture telephoto lens and kiss the background goodbye!
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/19/2016 10:19:01 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, September 9, 2016
Lake Louise, referred to as the "Jewel of Banff National Park" is high on most of the park visitors' must-see lists. Fortunately, for many at least, is that it is easily accessible including large parking lots just a short walk away. Unfortunately, it is so popular that these lots fill up early and the easy-to-access side of the lake becomes very crowded even early in the day.
 
Photographing this lake wasn't my highest priority, but I did want some decent photos of it. After spending the early morning at Moraine Lake, I headed over to Lake Louise at roughly 8:30 AM. While there were plenty of people here already, the crowd was considerably thinner than later times of the day (the icy boardwalk also helped thin the summer crowd). The crowd was thin enough that I was able to capture a clear view of the foreground rocks and the glacier-fed lake still looked like glass (prior to the lake filling with canoes and the wind picking up). The beautiful mountains reflected where the lake was shaded and a glowing turquoise color showed where the lake was directly illuminated by the sun.
 
While I captured a variety of images, I found the round rocks at the edge of the lake to make a nice foreground and selected a red-toned rock as the standout. Once again, the 11mm field of view proved very useful.
 
Note that this is an HDR image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/9/2016 7:51:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, September 4, 2016
The Wilcox Pass Trail is one of the highest-rated trails in Jasper National Park (Alberta, Canada). While I have not hiked most of the trails in this park, I have hiked a lot of trails and can say that this is one of my favorites.
 
The 6.8 mile round trip hike (we stretched it closer to 10 miles) starts just below the tree line and quickly ascends above it into the alpine meadows. From that point on, the views are continuously excellent. The Athabasca Glacier, a significant toe of the Columbia Icefield, is always visible to the west and a multitude of mountain peaks surround the entire area.
 
For this hike, I opted to go light on the gear. I packed a single Canon EOS 5Ds R and a pair of lenses (Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Lens) into a MindShift Gear BackLight 26L (I'm loving this pack – it goes everywhere with me) along with other essentials including food, water and additional clothing (always recommended when hiking at high altitudes – and needed on this hike).
 
If I hike this trail again, I will have a second camera body along as I spent too much time changing lenses. The primary driver for the lens changes were frequent wildlife encounters and telephoto landscape photo ops interspersed with wide angle landscape opportunities. To take advantage of all situations, I was constantly changing between the two lenses I brought.
 
Yes, another camera body would have added a bit of weight to my kit (the reason I didn't take it), but I probably exerted more energy changing lenses than I would have simply carrying the additional camera body. And, changing lenses at a high altitude often means wind, which often means risk of dust finding its way onto the sensor, leaving spots in the images. Fortunately, the 5Ds R did a great job of avoiding the dust and I had no cloning tasks to add to the post processing of this hike's take home.
 
I selected this image to share with you because I like how the lines in rock and the clouds point (lead the eye) to Wilcox Peak. As you likely already guessed, the 16-35mm f/4L IS was used to capture it.
 
Absent from my short gear list above is a tripod and for weight reasons, I was sans tripod on this hike. While the 1/80 second shutter speed may seem easily hand-holdable at 16mm even on a 5Ds R, that was not the case as the wind was very strong. Image stabilization proved quite valuable to me in this situation.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
16mm  f/11.0  1/80s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/4/2016 7:22:29 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, September 2, 2016
Earlier this year, I posted a Ben Franklin Bridge image and talked about running back and forth between two camera setups during the shoot. At that time, it was requested that I share an image captured by the second camera and ... I am crossing that request off of my to-do list with today's post.
 
As is often ideal for cityscapes, the timing for this image was such that just a touch of color remained in the sky and the sky brightness balanced nicely with the city lights. With this camera's closer-to-the-bridge perspective, the closest bridge support was emphasized and the broad dark line from the underside of the bridge leads deep into the frame. The river keeps the bottom of the frame somewhat clean (giving the image a foundation) and many of the city's best-known tall buildings are framed between the two in-the-river supports, adding interest to the frame. (full disclosure in case you go here: I removed a small conduit from the center of the bridge support for a cleaner look.)
 
With good gear and basic skills, this image is not that challenging to capture and as is often the case, being there is the biggest key to success.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/2/2016 8:09:09 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, September 1, 2016
The 600mm focal length may not be the best for creating a sense of presence for the viewer, but ... it certainly helped me to distance myself from this bear's presence. And, I think the bear did a nice job of creating a presence all by himself.
 
The bear has apparently experienced trauma in its life as it is missing the bottom of its right front leg and one of his canine teeth is broken. Although such an accident would be enough to make any bear angry, I really don't know for sure if this one was angry or not. But, saying that it is angry sounds more dramatic and people seem to like drama these days. And, almost universally, animals lay their ears back when angry, helping to justify the thought.
 
The EOS-1D X Mark II has been very reliably focusing on the bears' eyes (bear noses often get in the way of this) even in bad weather conditions and this camera and lens combination easily erased the distant background, making the bear the unmistakable subject.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/640s
ISO 1250
3648 x 5472px
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/1/2016 9:31:35 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
Not long ago I detailed how you can use photomosaics to add value to your wedding services and attract more clients. Today we'll be looking at another technique – multiple exposures – which can serve the same purpose.
 
In the film days, a multiple exposure was created by neglecting to advance the film between successive exposures. Years ago, many of them were created by accident. However, the advent of auto-advancing film cameras reduced accidental multiple exposures dramatically, though most higher-end film SLRs still allowed for multiple exposures to be recorded on the same piece of film (when desired).
 
Fast forward to today and several of Canon's higher-level DSLRs feature the ability to record multiple exposures in-camera. Those bodies are:
 
  • EOS 1D X Mark II
  • EOS 1D X
  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R
  • EOS 5D Mark III
  • EOS 6D
  • EOS 7D Mark II
  • EOS 80D
  • EOS 70D
While most of the DSLRs above can be set to record the final multiple exposure image and the images used to create the final exposure, the EOS 70D, 80D and 6D only allow for saving the finished image (not the component images). This feature limitation can be important. More on that later.
 
Why target wedding clients?
 
With the prevalence of economically-priced DSLRs, ample online education and the fact that weddings are a fairly consistent market opportunity, wedding photography is a crowded market these days. Your competency, personal style and unique creativity can help set you apart from the pack. And that's where multiple exposures come into play.
 
When it comes to wedding pictures, many shots are not just common, but expected:
 
  • Bride and groom getting ready
  • The wedding dress/shoes
  • Ring and bouquet macros
  • Wedding parties (groomsmen/bridesmaids)
  • Bride walking down the aisle
  • The kiss
  • Bride and groom together
  • Family group pictures
  • First dance
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet toss
  • etc, etc, etc...
The list above just barely scratches the surface, but the prevalence of what's expected (and the fulfillment of those expectations) can lead to a lot of wedding pictures looking similar. And while any photographer can certainly differentiate his or her work based on those shots listed, adding something like a multiple exposure (which may likely be a combination of any of the two images above) can easily gain recognition for one's photography services and increase client satisfaction. Considering the small amount of time it takes to create a multiple exposure image, it's definitely worth the effort.
 
And the good news is that you don't actually need a camera with the multiple exposure feature to create an exposure blended image; you can do it in Photoshop. However, having the feature in-camera can allow you to determine just how good your images will look when combined into a single image. And with the Live View preview option, proper framing of the two images is significantly easier.
 
Case in point – I shot a wedding in July and intended to capture an in-camera multiple exposure the day of the wedding. However, as the day dragged on I completely forgot about capturing the multiple exposure. I didn't realize the omission until the clients had already received their wedding images.
 
With the RAW images still on hand, I tried to see if I could find two images that might blend together well. It took me about 5 minutes of searching, but I settled on two images – one of the bride's dress and another of the couple's first dance. To be perfectly frank, neither image on its own would be considered exceptional. In fact, the wedding dress shot was a throwaway as I had much better shots of it against a dark curtain (I removed the image from the Lightroom catalogue before batch processing/converting the wedding images but never deleted it).
 
In Photoshop, I used the dress picture as the base layer and placed the first dance picture above it set to a "Lighten" blending mode. I also used Brightness/Contrast clipping masks on both layers to adjust how the images blended together. The final result is shown above.
 
Am I completely happy with the image? Not really. I think I could have done better if I had purposefully attempted the multiple exposure the day of the wedding. However, my satisfaction with the final image is rather irrelevant from a client satisfaction perspective. When I showed the new bride the multiple exposure image, she seemed extremely happy with it. She later posted the picture on Facebook with a glowing review of my wedding photography services.
 
If considering adding multiple exposures to your wedding services, here are a few tips:
 
Set the camera as follows:
 
Multiple exposureOn:Func/ctrl
Multi expose ctrlAdditive
No. of exposures2
Save source imgsAll images
Continue Mult-exp1-shot only

* The option to save source images may not be available on some cameras.
 
  1. Create a silhouette image to use as the base layer. Note that the brighter areas of the each image will be what comes through prominently in the final image. An underexposed profile/silhouette set against a bright sky tends to work well for a base layer.
  2. Turn on Live View. Use the LCD's preview to help you align the next shot. Note that you may need to use negative exposure compensation (for both the base and second image) to keep from overexposing the final image.
  3. Preview your results. If you don't like the final image, simply go back into the Multiple Exposure options and designate your original base image to be used for your next attempt.
The best way to become proficient at creating multiple exposures is to practice. Last week I was practicing some multiple exposures and created the following self-portrait.
 
Multiple Exposure Self-Portrait Spanish Moss 2016

Here's where saving the source images can be really beneficial even when creating an in-camera multiple exposure. Try as I might, I couldn't get the right framing and depth of field that I wanted in-camera. However, I was able to pick out two of my attempts (one base image and one Spanish moss image) and craft the final multiple exposure in Photoshop. The second layer required enlarging (in relation to the base image) to achieve the look I was going for.
 
So the next time you're about to shoot a wedding, try a multiple exposure. Your clients will likely enjoy your unique style in capturing their wedding.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 9/1/2016 8:21:00 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, August 31, 2016
The weather on much of this day in Banff National Park ranged from poor to terrible (including wind and strong thunderstorms). I knew that, if the rain at least mostly stopped, this was the perfect time to visit Johnston Canyon. The ground would be wet and colors would appear very saturated with a circular polarizer filter cutting reflections. The lighting would be void of hard shadows and ... would (somewhat) reach into this cave.
 
Johnston Canyon is typically packed during the short summer tourist season, but a late-in-the-day arrival timed just after a heavy thunderstorm (waited in the SUV for it to pass) meant that the trail was nearly void of people. Also, few people venture down the steep, slippery (at least when wet) slope to this cave and very unique land formation at the bottom of the canyon. A downside of the late day start meant that I had to run most of the trail, stopping only long enough to grab the occasional photo.
 
My initial plan (if I could find the cave in the first place) was to include the top of the interesting chunk of land in the frame, but that view included a bit of sky in the background. I went ahead and captured that set of images, but was undecided about the extreme difference in brightness the sky created. To eliminate the sky from the frame, I moved back/up into the large but shallow cave until the top of the cave blocked the sky.
 
As I find so often to be the case, the Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens were the perfect combination for this landscape situation.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/31/2016 9:12:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, August 30, 2016
My pre-trip research placed Peyto Lake, along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, high on my to-photograph list. With a strong glacial flour flow in the summer, this lake takes on an amazing turquoise color, with Caldron Peak and Mt Patterson providing exclamation marks behind it.
 
To get the high sun position required to light up the lake color, a late morning or early afternoon-timed shoot was determined to be best. Of course, summer is the peak tourist season for this location and tourists come here in droves (and buses) ... and this time of day seems to be best for many non-photographers as well.
 
Combine this common timing with a relatively small viewing area at Bow Summit and, even though a hike is required, the place was packed. Upon working my way to the front corner of the platform, I took some photos but soon determined that somewhere below deck would work better. Even down there was challenging with people sometimes walking up and sitting right in front of the camera. Patience paid off when a thunderstorm rolled in and created some great drama in the sky and contrast on the lake. No, even the approaching thunderstorm did not chase the crowds away, but patience and my position worked out for the capture of an image that I was happy with. Then, I ran back to the safety of the SUV.
 
The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens were the perfect combination for this location. The Gitzo GT1542T Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber Tripod (now GT1545T) and Acratech GP-s Ball Head were my choice for their light weight, small size and rigid support. As usual for middle-of-the-day landscape photography, I was using a circular polarizer filter for this capture.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, SmugMug, Google+, Facebook, 500px and Instagram. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted to: Canon News,
Post Date: 8/30/2016 8:22:27 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 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
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