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 Friday, August 11, 2017
Sigma has discounted their telephoto zooms, but... with many solar filters now out of stock, a telephoto zoom without a solar filter (or some type of solar protection) will do you no good for the upcoming eclipse.
 
However, all is not lost. Amazon still has some Thousand Oaks Solar Filter Sheets that you can use to fashion your own lens filter.
 
If you already own a square filter holder, you can sandwich a square piece of film between two piece of stiff cardboard with a holes cut out that match the size of the end of your lens. Otherwise, if you don't own a square filter holder, you can make a cardboard filter holder that slides onto the end of your lens that is held in place by gaffers tape or a rubber band.
 
If you go the DIY approach, safety first! Be sure to guard against light leaks and ensure that your filter will stay in place throughout the event.
Post Date: 8/11/2017 11:53:05 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, August 7, 2017
We shared last week that the United States Postal Service has released a special edition stamp featuring a solar eclipse. Unique for a USPS stamp is that it is heat sensitive, revealing a full moon when the heat of a finger is applied to the moon's silhouette.
 
While the opportunity for photographing a spectacular solar eclipse is coming very soon (August 21), the details shown in the heated stamp's moon will not be available to photograph at that time – the back-lit moon will be totally black. However, tonight's full moon, the last before the upcoming total solar eclipse, provides a great opportunity (weather permitting of course) to capture the image needed to composite into your later-captured solar eclipse images (including even partial solar eclipse images). Compositing the full moon into your solar eclipse images should be relatively easy in post processing, and this strategy provides a great way to differentiate your work from that of other photographers, especially considering that this will likely be the most photographed total solar eclipse in history.
 
Compositing options include full opacity or at a reduced opacity to mimic the moon's details being very slightly perceptible in the shadowed area within the corona (think of it as a high dynamic range total solar eclipse image). Another option is to create animated GIFs.
 
Photographing the moon is also great for gaining experience with your solar eclipse gear setup (sans solar ND filter). Testing now means that there is still time to order or rent alternative gear for the big show.
 
If you don't have the opportunity to photograph tonight's full moon, don't fret – there will be more opportunities coming. Your next chance to capture a full moon image will be September 6, 2017.
 
Related Articles:
 
Post Date: 8/7/2017 8:20:45 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, August 3, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
I recently shared my experience making a DIY Automotive Photography Boom Rig and I thought I'd share another example image created using the same setup. My goal in creating the image above was to capture a moving vehicle during the daytime without over exposing the sky. The best method I could come up with was to use a location that blocked out most (if not all) of the sky in the frame.
 
The first location that came to my mind was a parking garage. However, parking garages are generally busy during the day, offer little wiggle room for maneuvering in the aisles and require a [minimal] fee to use them. The second location that came to mind was the nearby Wormsloe Historic Site which features a long avenue flanked by live oaks whose branches are filled with Spanish moss. As I already have an annual pass to Georgia's Historic Sites, and the avenue was wide enough to provide plenty of room for boom rig testing, I decided on the latter option.
 
To get an idea of how dense the tree canopy is, here's a shot of the avenue (with early morning fog) that I took in late 2016:
 
Wormsloe Historic Site Morning Fog

After arriving at the location and setting up the boom rig, I set my Canon EOS 7D Mark II (fitted with the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM + 4-stop ND filter) to interval mode at f/11, 0.8 sec, ISO 125 and drove down the dirt/gravel avenue at 10 mph (16.1 kph) for roughly 3/8 mile (0.6 km) before parking along a small side road. At that point, I removed the camera from the rig and previewed the images.
 
Every single image was blurry. I had underestimated just how bumpy the dirt/gravel road was.
 
Unfortunately, I needed to keep the shutter speed open as long as possible to capture a significantly blurred background at such slow driving speeds. However, driving faster would decrease the interval between bumps in the road. I settled on increasing the shutter speed by 1/3 stop (to 0.6 sec) for my next attempt. I backed out of the side road onto the main avenue, turned my wheels toward the park's entrance and drove back to the parking lot. With the only available spot, I had to swing the wheel pretty hard to park in the open space after passing a sign that marked the beginning of the avenue. It was a shot captured during my turn into the empty parking space that provided the sharpest results while also recording enough movement to significantly blur the background, with every other shot from the second attempt too blurry for practical use.
 
In post processing, I limited the area used by Photoshop when determining how to fill in areas using "Content Aware Fill", and the technique worked very well for removing the boom rig as well as the boom rig's shadow on the ground.
Permalink: Going for a Spin
Post Date: 8/3/2017 10:47:29 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface. However, the average duration between solar eclipses that are visible from any specific location on earth is roughly 375 years. If you live in the U.S. and miss the upcoming opportunity on August 21, 2017 to see the total solar eclipse, you won't have another opportunity until April 8, 2024 when the path goes from Texas to Maine. And if you miss that one, your next two chances will occur in August 2044 and 2045.
 
In other words, the upcoming total solar eclipse is so rare that you have few opportunities in your lifetime to see (and photograph) the event in North America. Don't wait! Prepare for the solar eclipse today.
 
Here's a list of suggested gear for photographing the event:
 
As to which telephoto lens you should choose, that depends on how large you want the sun to be in your frame. Generally speaking, the longer the focal length, the better. Below you can see how the sun will appear at various full-frame focal lengths.
 
Sun at Various Full-Frame Focal Lengths.gif

A couple of things to keep in mind:
 
  • During totality, you won't be photographing the sun, you'll be photoraphing the sun's corona, so the area of the frame taken up by the sun's corona will be larger than what is shown above.
  • With APS-C sensor cameras, you need to multiply your lens's focal length by 1.6 to get the full-frame equivalent focal length.
There are several great options in regards to long focal length lenses, including the following 400mm+ lenses:
 
** Budget consideration with an MSRP less than $1,500.00 USD.
 
Of course, the benefits of having a long focal length telephoto lens in your kit extend far beyond the August 21 event.
 
Total Solar Eclipse Resources
 
Post Date: 8/2/2017 10:00:26 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, July 29, 2017
This little green heron was hunting for early morning breakfast in a relatively thick-growth area over shallow, duckweed-covered water. While the bird was not at all concerned about my presence, I was struggling to acquire a clear view of it, and finding a good body angle along with a pleasing background aligned within such an opening was especially challenging. When the bird hopped up onto this dead limb and walked to the end of it, pausing to determine its next move, I at least had a few seconds with a relatively still bird.
 
And at that moment, I had two of those three goals met. The heron was horizontal to the camera and the background was distant with good color. The foreground obstructions were the remaining issue.
 
I shifted my position enough to get a clear view of the bird's head, focused and held the shutter release down for a short burst (always photograph birds in high speed burst mode as you, minimally, never know when a nictitating membrane is going to come across the eye). When reviewing the result, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens faded the foreground obstructions into a "dreamy" look. Note that calling any kind of photo effect "dreamy" always put a positive spin on an effect that might otherwise be used to downgrade an image, but ... I do like how this one turned out with this photo having a unique appearance.
 
The lighting conditions for this shoot were ranging from direct early morning sunlight to full shade. I was using Manual exposure mode with the aperture set to wide open (f/4) and ISO set to Auto, allowing the camera to adjust to the lighting conditions as needed with me adjusting the exposure composition as lighting situations required. While shooting, I could quickly adjust the shutter speed by simply rolling the top dial. When the bird was about to strike at prey or otherwise move, I quickly selected a fast shutter speed (such as 1/1600 or higher).
 
Of course, when the subject was in full shade, as seen here, 1/1600 meant a very high ISO and that of course means higher noise level in the image. When the bird paused at the end of this dead limb, I quickly rolled the shutter speed down to 1/400 with ISO 2000 being camera-selected. Full frame ISO 2000 looks great. And, that is my little green heron story for today.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/400s
ISO 2000
8688 x 5792px
Post Date: 7/29/2017 8:46:19 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, July 27, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
A few months ago, I reviewed the RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform, a device that allowed me to safely and securely mount a DSLR to the hood (or just about any other metal part) of a car for capturing dynamic, in-motion automotive imagery. While RigMount platform works perfectly as designed, I became interested in other tools used for similar automotive photography, specifically boom rigs.
 
It didn't take me long to realize that a specially designed car boom rig can be a significant investment. Therefore, I made it my goal to create a DIY version that met the following requirements:
 
  • Easy to assemble
  • Compact enough for transport
  • Strong enough to provides sufficient safety to camera gear
  • Rigid enough to allow for slow shutter speed use (creating a sharp vehicle)
  • Relatively economical
The "relatively economical" portion is just that – relative. As I had several of the components that I would later employ in my boom setup, the investment cost for me was less than it may be for you, if you don't currently have any of the components conveniently at hand.
 
Before I go on, let me be absolutely clear – use of a car boom rig involves a certain amount of risk. In other words, you could damage your camera if a suction cup fails, you could damage the car's paint job with a high-strength suction cup and you could easily injure yourself or someone else if they were to get clipped by the boom during a moving photo capture. Proceed with caution; we are not responsible for property damage or injury which may occur as a result of using the gear or techniques described below.
 
With that out of the way, listed below is the kit I assembled which sufficiently met my requirements above:
 
(2) Qadira Premium Quality Heavy Duty Aluminum Suction Cup Plate
(5) Impact Super Clamp (1) Arca-style Clamp
(2) Arca-style Plate
(1) Ball Head
(1) 96" Heavy Duty Closet Pole
(1) Manfrotto 022 Counter Balance Weight - 15 lbs
 
Of the components listed above, I already had the ball head, Arca-style clamps/plates, Manfrotto counter balance weight and two super clamps, making the total investment in new gear relatively reasonable. However, even at full cost for all of the components listed above, you'll likely be spending significantly less compared to a specially designed car photography boom rig setup.
 
Here's a closer look at the components that make up the portion of the rig that holds the camera:
 
Mounting the Camera to the Boom Pole.gif

Because I loathe having to screw ball heads onto surfaces over and over again, I've installed a quick-release plate onto one particular ball head so that I can quickly be swap the head between various rigs. With a clamp installed on a super clamp, affixing or removing the ball head takes all of 2 seconds.
 
Note that one of the Arca-style plates listed above is installed on the camera, with the other (as previously mentioned) installed on the base of the ball head. Typically speaking, I have a battery-grip and an L-bracket installed on my DSLRs. However, wanting to reduce the overall weight hanging on the end of the boom, I opted for exchanging the battery grip and L-bracket for a traditional Arca-style plate.
 
Here's basically what the setup looked like in use (taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5):
 
Car Photography Boom Setup

And yes, being roughly 13 years old now, the paint is peeling on the right side of the windshield and the paint on the bumper seems to have faded at a much faster rate. Just after taking the picture above, I disassembled the setup and then recreated it on the passenger side to avoid capturing the peeling paint on the driver's side. I adjusted the front bumper's color in post-processing.
 
Notes on the DIY Boom Rig
 
I originally purchased the 96" (8') regular duty closet pole at Home Depot after trying to stress it in store (propping it against a sturdy shelf and pushing on the middle of it) to see if it would flex. A quick test seemed to indicate the regular duty (less expensive, lighter) would work. However, after assembling the components for a test run, I realized that the regular duty pole flexed/bounced a bit too much. Therefore, I bought the heavy duty version instead.
 
When it comes to booms, 8' (2.44m) isn't necessarily all that long. In fact, a longer pole would likely provide more flexibility in positioning with increased rigidity being required for similar performance. However, as my pole isn't sectional (it doesn't break down), getting anything larger would have required a different vehicle to get my boom to the shooting location. As it was, I was still required to drive to the location with my passenger-side window down with the pole sticking out several inches (I forgot to close the window when capturing the shot atop this post).
 
Something to keep in mind in regards to boom poles, as the market for car rig photography is relatively small, I don't think anyone is designing boom poles specifically for the purpose. As such, even companies that are selling car boom rig kits are sourcing their boom materials from other companies who design them for other industries. As such, poles designed for windsurfing masts or other similar products could also be used. In fact, you may even be able to purchase your boom pole directly from a tubing manufacturer, with a wide range of materials and specifications to suit the purpose.
 
When affixed properly to flat portions of your vehicle, the aluminum suction cup holders in the setup above worked quite well in my limited experience (3-4 test runs). Depending on the shape of your vehicle, though, finding flat enough areas for optimal suction can be challenging without articulation between the two handle-connected suction cups. An even more versatile (and more professional-looking) solution would be to use Avenger F1000 Pump Cups, high-power 6" suction cups with a baby swivel pin. Using the Avenger F1000s would require a smaller flat working area and would eliminate two of the super clamps needed in my particular setup. Another benefit of the F1000s is that there is visual confirmation of proper suction, as a red line will appear on the pump when suction is at a critical level (requiring a few more pumps).
 
Be sure to clean your hood of dirt and debris to ensure the best possible connection between your suction cups and the car. Years ago, a photographer friend of mine who used to do these kinds of shots warned me that strong suction cups can damage a car's paint job, so he typically used paint protection film under the suction cups to protect the car's paint job.
 
Also note that suction cup mounted car rigs should not be used in colder weather, as suction cups will lose suction very quickly at lower temperatures.
 
Also pictured in the setup shot above are the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (set to intervalometer mode) and Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye lens used to create the final image, with settings of f/5.6, 1s, ISO 160. For the location, I chose to shoot at a large shopping plaza near midnight to ensure I had an expansive open area (parking lot) with almost no obstacles aside from the easily avoidable light poles.
 
An important thing to keep in mind when creating your in-motion car images while using a boom rig is that you will likely want to remove the boom rig in post-processing. That means that you may wish to be careful how you position the camera and rig so that hard-to-recreate elements of the car are not blocked by the suction cups or boom pole. To keep post-processing requirements to a minimum, I purposefully positioned the camera so that the suction cups could be seen just above the edge of the car. If the camera had been higher, the suction cups would have blocked a portion of the hood scoop which would have been difficult to recreate in post-processing. If you are an expert in Photoshop, you'll likely have more leway in positioning the camera.
 
Post-Processing
 
In post, I applied some distortion correction to remove much of the fisheye look while leaving some of the lens' distortion intact, as well as minor color corrections (including adjusting the color of the bumper) before tackling the boom removal. Here's a before/after shot showing the removal of the boom.
 
Car Photography Boom Before After.gif

After working with the image, I decided that I wanted less tilt and a looser framing. I decided to give Photoshop CC's Content Aware Crop a try to see how well it generated extra space around a significant portion of the edges. I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
 
Tips and Final Thoughts
 
If I were going to be offering this type of photography to potential clients, I would probably change a few things about my setup and image-capturing procedure. For one, I'd likely use two Avenger F1000 Pump Cups with Baby Swivel Pins for easier positioning of the rig and the visible indicator of proper suction provided by the red line on the pump. I actually own one of those pumps from a project I did years ago, and upon testing it yesterday, it took about 10 seconds to affix to my hood and about 5 minutes of forceful pulling to remove it.
 
Also, instead of having the client actually drive the car with the boom rig installed, I think a better idea would be to push the car and simply use a longer shutter speed for a similar effect. That will reduce vibrations induced by the engine as well as lessen the chance impacting obstacles with the boom with avoidance being even easier at ultra-slow speeds. Of course, those pushing the car would need to remain in an area blocked from view by the car.
Post Date: 7/27/2017 7:46:58 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, July 22, 2017
On August 21st, 2017, over much of North America, the moon is going to cover the big fireball, creating a spectacular sight (weather conditions permitting of course). Start preparing now – photographing the sun is not difficult and likely is affordable to you.
 
Read through the Solar Eclipse Photography Tips posts and don't miss the Meade Glass White Light Solar Filter review to learn how this image was created.
 
This image is moderately cropped from a 1200mm full frame capture.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
Post Date: 7/22/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, July 20, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
As I mentioned earlier this week, I recently renovated an old workshop to serve as my new photography studio. Above you can see a 360-degree view of the studio. Note that the middle of the panorama shows the back wall of the studio while the edges show the curtain-covered french doors opposite the back wall.
 
Below are some organizational tools and techniques I used for optimizing the space.
 
Black Light Portrait July 2017

Always Available 12' Background Support Crossbar
 
If you look closely at the panorama atop this post, you'll notice a 12' 4-section background support bar held up by the side walls. I purchased the support bar several years ago and it has served me well for larger backdrop needs. I had originally intended on hanging hooks from the rafters to hang the background support, but upon measuring the space, I realized that wasn't necessary. The walls of the studio are slightly less than 12' (3.66m), so it was relatively easy to add a couple of nails to the top of the walls to keep the background pole in place, while still being able to take the pole down when it's needed for on-location work.
 
Having the 12' background support semi-permanently installed has the benefits of freeing up storage space that would otherwise have been required for the collapsed set of poles while reducing setup time when the background support bar is actually needed.
 
For the shot above, I used (6) black lights to photograph Alexis in front of an 84x52" tapestry.
 


Snowboard Rack for Lightstands

Surfboard/Snowboard Rack for Light Stands/Tripods/Monopods
 
Want a great way store your light stands, tripods and monopods? Get a surfboard/snowboard rack! With 16" arms and a support rating of 100 lbs. (45.4kg), the surfboard rack can store a lot of gear neatly and efficiently.
 
Just how much lighting and photography gear can you support with a surfboard/snowboard rack? Well, right now, mine is holding:
 
(9) Light stands (of various sizes and weights)
(2) 40" Extension Arms
(2) Monopods (1 alloy, 1 carbon fiber)
(1) Avenger D600 Mini Boom
(1) Alloy Tripod
(1) Manfrotto 173B Mini Boom Arm
 
The above gear totals approximately 93 lbs (42.2kg).
 


Pegboard Organizer for Photography Gear

Pegboard for Misc. Supplies
 
I tried to make use of previously installed organizational items when possible, and the pegboard installed by the previous owner worked great for storing miscellaneous items such as the following:
 
A pegboard hooks variety pack was all I needed to transform this otherwise unutilized area behind my post-processing computer's monitors into a convenient storage solution for often-used gear.
 


Bungee Straps Securing Shelf

Ball Bungees Keep Gear In Check
 
After placing a few soft boxes/octa boxes on one shelf and umbrellas on another, I quickly realized I needed something to contain the items while leaving them quickly accessible. My solution was to wrap a ball bungee around the top portion of shelf section and a no-damage hair elastic band to the bottom portion of the shelf. With the two fitted together, the gear stays in place yet can be accessed very easily.
 
Parting Thoughts
 
Optimizing your gear storage will help you get the most out of your studio space, whether it's a small room, a garage or a large commercial workspace. By utilizing techniques similar to the ones outlined above, you can maximize floor space while simultaneously allowing for quick access to often-needed tools and supplies.
Post Date: 7/20/2017 12:40:41 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, July 18, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
I just moved into a new house in Savannah and, unfortunately, this one didn't have a large extra bedroom with high ceilings to use as my studio/office space. Fortunately, it did have a detached building that served as the previous owner's workshop.
 
The floor space available inside the workshop is 17' 5" x 11' 2.5" x 10' 5". The ceiling is 10' 5" at its apex but angles down to create walls which are roughly 7' high. As far as photography studios are concerned, this area is adequate for many needs but few would consider it spacious (especially with the gear that would eventually fill it).
 
After cleaning out the shop, washing the walls, installing insulation in the ceiling and fixing a minor electrical issue, it was time to decide on what color to paint the walls. Traditionally speaking, white is a good option. But I decided that the traditional option wasn't right for this space.
 
My previous studio was very slightly larger than this one. And even in that space, controlling light spill could prove problematic. That's because of the numerous nearby bright (yellow) colored walls for the light to bounce off of. Aside from the wall color making color balancing a pain (an x-rite ColorChecker Passport helped), limiting fill light in the space required using black [negative fill] cards for certain shoots.
 
So while white walls would have helped me avoid color balance issues, it would have compounded my previously-experienced light spill issues in a small (but larger than this) space. After thinking it over, I went to Home Depot and asked the associates in the paint department to mix me "middle gray," or specifically, 18% gray. Apparently, that's not a color that's found in their system. The next day I took a gray card to Home Depot and asked for a color match.
 
The above photo was taken just after the studio was painted. There's substantially less useable space now that my studio gear is all in place.
 
For this relatively small space, the benefits of having 18% gray walls include:
 
  • Less light is reflected compared to white walls, helping to limit light spill for better overall control.
  • For the light that does bounce off the walls, color influence is negligible.
  • A gray background is great for classic portraiture.
  • When gelling the background with flash, gray tends to work better because gelled flashes firing at white walls tend to get washed out relatively easily if any of your ungelled main light contaminates the background.
Unfortunately, there's only one small section of the room where the wall is actually bare and useable for background purposes, and that particular section is located on one of the longer sides of the room (shown above, left side between two power outlets), leaving a relatively small working space that is more appropriate for headshots or head-and-shoulder portraits as opposed to full length portraits. I can of course shoot longways in the studio with many other background options available. Below is recent head-and-shoulders shot I made in the new studio that was used by the subject's parents for a modeling call.
 
Head and Shoulders Modeling Image

So far, I'm pretty happy with how the studio turned out. I'll be making another post later this week about some of my organizational techniques utilized for the space.
Post Date: 7/18/2017 7:30:24 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, July 17, 2017
The pronghorn is a beautifully-colored animal and this sharp-looking buck gave me a glance perfectly timed with a brilliantly-colored background.
 
I shared the pronghorn chase story (with me being chased most of the time) before, but got around to processing another favorite from that experience. I won't tell you the same story twice, but head over to that page if you do not remember reading the story and strategy before.
 
The 5D Mark IV is a great general purpose camera and wildlife photography is just one of many excellent uses for this model.
 
Do you have your fall photography plans in place?
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1000s
ISO 320
5088 x 3392px
Post Date: 7/17/2017 8:27:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, June 25, 2017
Catchlights in a subject's eyes are usually desirable in a photograph. A bright reflection in the eye creates a sparkle that brings the subject to life. While this applies to human subjects, it also applies to wildlife subjects.
 
This mother black bear (I know that she is a mother because she stashed her 2 cubs high up in a huge hemlock tree 100 yards/m or so behind her) was hunting for food in the woods in Shenandoah National Park. The woods were quite dark due to a heavy tree canopy, but there was a small clearing in the direction the bear was headed. I moved ahead of her and positioned for what I envisioned being the ideal situation that could develop ... and the bear was unusually cooperative.
 
The clearing of course had an opening with sky visible. Sky, especially the sun if the sky is clear, is bright and can create the desired catchlights. However, the angle on the eyes still must be correct to get that reflection.
 
A key point here is that bears generally walk with their head hanging down low and a downward viewing angle on animals' eyes seldom results in a catchlight. This is another good reason to get level with (or even below) your animal subjects, increasing the likelihood of catchlight reflections being created.
 
The other issue created by the head-down walking is the that bear's head falls below most of the beautifully-rich-green plant life in this area. While a bear back showing above the green plants may be interesting, visible eyes are usually required to pass for a keeper image for most serious bear photographers.
 
So, in order to see the eyes in this location, I needed the bear to look up. In a case where I couldn't have planned things any better, this bear hit the clearing, stopped and looked around.
 
This was a randomly moving animal. Though it was not moving fast, it was moving most of the time and its was a bit unpredictable, including making 180° direction changes at times. I had the camera in M (Manual) mode, but was using the camera's autoexposure system via the Auto ISO setting. With these settings, I could simply roll the top dial to get the shutter speed I thought I needed at any moment.
 
If the bear stopped walking (though even then it was always moving its head from side to side), I immediately took insurance shots at confidently-fast shutter speeds and then quickly began shooting bursts at longer exposures in attempt to get some even higher-grade images without motion blur (the longer shutter speeds resulted in lower ISO settings for lower noise). The 1/250 setting used for this image is not close to stressing the capabilities of this image stabilized lens at 560mm on a monopod (used over a tripod for setup speed), but the bear was still moving some. Fortunately, the 1D X II image quality is extremely good at the auto-selected ISO setting of 2500 used here. When the bear began moving, I quickly rolled the top dial to get an action-stopping shutter speed again.
 
The vibrant green foliage in Shenandoah National Park works very well for wildlife images. The wet bear hints at the recent weather conditions. There had been dense fog and a considerable amount of rain and as the 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 2500 camera settings hint, this image was captured under heavy cloud cover.
 
Though this bear appears to be lit by flash, no flash was used. The lighting is all natural ambient light. The bear's position in the opening meant that just enough cloudy sky was visible to brighten the scene and create a nice sparkle in the bear's eyes.
 
So, those are some lessons from a momma black bear. Hopefully you found something said here to be applicable to your own photography!
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
560mm  f/5.6  1/250s
ISO 2500
5262 x 3508px
Post Date: 6/25/2017 12:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, June 19, 2017
Have you ever wondered what kinds of Lightroom adjustments were made to an image you found online? Now, there may be an easy way to find out.
 
Assuming that the JPEG image in question was saved with all EXIF information intact, a website called Pixel Peeper can display the camera and lens used, exposure settings and exactly what types of adjustments were made to that specific image in Lightroom.
 
I loaded a few images into the tool and it seemed to work as advertised. Give it a try and see what you think. [Sean]
Post Date: 6/19/2017 12:00:58 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, June 13, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
Several years ago when I was first exploring the wonderful world of off-camera flash, radio triggering options were very limited with rudimentary capabilities. It's amazing how much the radio triggering market has changed since then.
 
Now, in addition to the basic triggers of ye olden days, we have radio triggers that can remotely adjust the power levels of compatible flashes or even adjust power levels automatically via TTL technology. In other words, there has never been a better time to explore what radio-triggered off-camera flashes can do for your photography.
 
If your current flashes support radio triggering – like the Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT – then you don't need anything else. However, if your flashes or studio strobes don't feature radio triggering, or if you need to incorporate non-radio enabled flashes into your radio flash setup, then radio flash triggers will be worth looking into. And on that note, there are a few things to consider when arriving at your preferred choice of radio trigger.
 
Type of Connection
 
First, it's important to understand how these radio triggers connect to our shoe mount flashes (and possibly studio strobes). Radio triggers primarily connect to compatible flashes in one of two ways, either by a cable connection or via a hot shoe (and most of those triggers featuring a hot shoe can also trigger via a cable connection).
 
The most common type of sync port found on shoe-mount flashes is a PC terminal. These sync ports have been an industry standard for decades, but... they are not my personal favorite type of connection. First of all, PC cables are not very robust (easily damaged) and they sometimes disconnect from the socket when a flash is handled with the cord attached (though locking PC compatible ports mitigate this issue).
 
Impact Sync Cord Male Mini 3.5mm to Male PC 1ft


A select few flashes feature a 3.5mm (1/8") miniphone sync port, which is very convenient as it's the same sync port that's featured on almost every radio trigger with inexpensive 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male cables being easy to find.
 
A far simpler solution, however, for triggering a shoe-mount flash is to use the flash's mounting foot. Many newer radio triggers feature a built-in hot shoe that your off-camera shoe-mount flash simply slides into. In my opinion, this is the best triggering solution as it eliminates the need for cables which can easily be lost, damaged or simply not long enough (or inconveniently too long) for a specific application.
 
Transmitter/Receiver or Transceiver
 
In addition to the type of connection a radio trigger features, it's important to understand whether a specific triggering system is built on separate transmitters and receivers or if a single device can act as both, i.e. is a transceiver. In regards to the separate transmitter/receiver systems (such as Vello FreeWave LR, Radiopopper Nano), a significant pitfall is that is that a single transmitter failure (without a spare transmitter to fall back on) will render all of your receivers completely useless. Alternately, a single device failure in a transceiver setup (such as the PocketWizard Plus/FlexTT* or Cactus V6) means that you only lose the ability to trigger one flash, not the entire group, as any of the devices can act as a transmitter.
 
In some cases, a company may even produce radio receivers that are completely compatible with camera brand master flashes or transmitters, thereby allowing the use of older (non radio enabled) flashes to be used in an otherwise radio-enabled setup.
 
Range
 
One of the primary advantages of radio triggering technology is that it eliminates the line-of-sight requirements for trigging off-camera flashes as well as boosting the range even if line-of-sight positioning of flashes is possible.
 
For instance, Canon Speedlite's optical flash triggering system has an advertised range of 32.8 ft (10m) outdoors and 49.2 ft (15m) indoors. And technically speaking, line-of-sight isn't always required indoors if surfaces are available for the master flash's transmission to bounce off of in order to communicate with slave flashes.
 
Now contrast the previously mentioned optical triggering range with that of typical radio triggers advertising anywhere from 300 ft (91.4m) to 1,600 ft (487.68m).
 
Suffice it to say, most photographers will never need to trigger an off-camera flash from 300+ ft away, but... it's nice to know that your flash will fire when you need to position it in a location that exceeds the capabilities of optical triggering.
 
Brand Longevity and Backward Compatibility
 
Another thing to consider when shopping for radio triggers is the likelihood of the brand remaining in the radio triggering market for the foreseeable future and whether or not they have displayed a commitment to backwards compatibility with previous generation devices. One example, PocketWizard, has been producing flash triggers for more than 15 years with newly released products always being backwards compatible in terms of radio frequency.
 
Basic / Advanced Triggers
 
In regards to radio flash triggers, there are basic triggers and advanced triggers. Basic triggers transmit/receive only one highly relevant piece of information – FIRE! Because they are relatively easy to design and manufacture, there are a wide range of companies that produce these very-easy-on-the-budget triggers. While most of the triggers will work as intended most of the time, you may experience or occasional misfires and you'll likely forego high build quality with flash triggers at the lowest tier pricing level. Examples of basic triggers include the PocketWizard PlusX, Radiopopper Nano, and Yongnuo RF-603C.
 
On the other end of the spectrum, advanced triggers provide a myriad of features that make them more versatile and/or more convenient for those working in a professional (or semi-professional) atmosphere. Some advanced triggers are capable of:
 
  • Flash power levels adjusted automatically via TTL communication
  • Remote manual flash power adjustments
  • Rear curtain sync
  • High speed sync
  • Seamless communication with camera branded flashes
  • Upgradeable firmware
  • Multiple channels to avoid interference
Not all advanced triggers feature all of the capabilities listed above, but most offer at least some of them. The extra features of advanced triggers compared to basic triggers come at a higher cost, of course, but the price differential translates to significantly increased convenience and versatility. Examples of advanced flash triggers include the PocketWizard FlexTT*, Phottix Laso, Cactus V6 and Yongnuo YNE3-RX .
 
Which radio trigger is right for you?
 
If you're just exploring off-camera flash for the first time, it's probably a good idea to invest in a set of basic triggers. Why? Because all of the extra features afforded by advanced triggers can complicate the off-camera flash learning process. Basic triggers require manual flash power adjustments and therefore simplify the "cause and effect" learning process. Once basic lighting principles have been conquered, the value of the advanced triggers' full feature set can be fully appreciated.
 
Then again, nearly all advanced radio triggers can replicate the functionality of basic triggers. So if you're ready to jump down the rabbit hole, but still inexperienced with off-camera flash, you can invest in an advanced flash trigger system and use them as basic triggers until you're ready to explore the augmented feature set.
 
Other Photography Lighting 101 Posts
 
Post Date: 6/13/2017 1:22:13 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, June 10, 2017
When a unique weather pattern arrived with numerous little rain storms showing on the radar, it seemed like a good time to go trail running with the lightweight Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens. After photographing some distant storms from a high vantage point, I took a direct hit from one of them. But, that was good news. Rain storms make rainbows and this one delivered superbly.
 
Also delivering superbly was the Sigma 100-400. While a telephoto zoom may not seem like a first choice for landscape photography, this focal length range is excellent for that purpose (and many others of course). And, using a telephoto lens for rainbow photography is often a good idea.
 
It was a good night for a run with the camera. In addition to some intense rainbow images, I brought home a large number of nice dramatic sky images including at sunset – and got some exercise.
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Post Date: 6/10/2017 7:15:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, June 4, 2017
I know, some of you are thinking that snakes are creepy and that putting any thought into photographing them is ... completely wasted effort. Even if that is your thinking, stay with me here as you can likely apply the same thought pattern to a different subject, one that you find more photogenic. If you scroll your browser past the snake image, you even won't have to look at it while reading.
 
The story starts with me brushing my teeth (you didn't see that one coming, did you?). I looked out the bathroom window and noticed this cute garter snake lying on top of a weeping spruce tree. While garter snakes are common here, they are usually on the ground and are seldom cooperative. So, it is unusual to have the opportunity to photograph them in such a nice environment.
 
The weather was perfect for this opportunity. It was a very cloudy day, meaning that I had soft light to work with and the camera angle decision was not going to be light-driven. After checking to be sure that I could approach at least reasonably close to the snake without it being immediately frightened away, I decided to move forward with an attempt at photographing it.
 
There was no action involved here, so the frame rate didn't matter and the Canon EOS 5Ds R is nearly always my preference in such situations. For lenses, I observed that I had a limited working distance and I knew that getting too close would send the snake looking for a safer location. Interpretation: I needed a telephoto focal length, but not the longest available.
 
I quickly narrowed my choices down to the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. I decided that the snake would not likely tolerate me being close enough for the macro lens' close-focusing advantage to be a benefit over the 100-400 L II's already very good maximum magnification ability and I wanted to be able to adjust my framing to the positions I was able to get into along with the scene available at that perspective. Basically, I'm saying that a zoom range was preferable. The macro lens' wider aperture would allow me to create a stronger background blur at 100mm, but the 100-400 easily wins the background blur contest overall due to its much longer 400mm focal length and the longer focal length provides a longer working distance at its maximum magnification. I mounted the 100-400 and began working with the scenario available to me.
 
Using a tripod was going to be too great of a challenge due to the in-the-tree location of the snake. Thus, handholding was going to be optimal and image stabilization was once again proved highly valuable.
 
The lighting was relatively constant, but it was changing with enough frequency to make a manual exposure challenging. Also, because I wanted to use a wide open aperture, the variable max aperture of this lens increased the manual exposure challenge. While I still technically used manual exposure mode, I opted to lock in my shutter speed (I was in unstable shooting positions and counting on some assistance from image stabilization) and aperture (I selected f/4.5 with the lens at 100mm and let it auto-adjust to the max available at longer focal lengths) with Auto ISO becoming the auto exposure parameter. Because the colors in the images were relatively neutral, the camera's auto exposure system worked great with the brightest colors, the yellow lines in the snake, being right where I wanted them at the right side of the histogram.
 
When photographing a potentially-fleeting subject, I quickly capture some good-enough images to have the safety shots on the card. Along with having those safety shots, I can quickly check the exposure and other settings before moving in closer. Upon reviewing these images, I immediately noticed that reflections were impacting color saturation on the snake and that meant a circular polarizer filter would, as it frequently does, provide a significantly improvement in image quality. I slowly backed away from the snake and went back inside to get the filter.
 
With the filter installed and properly adjusted, I was happier with the results and began to work the composition more seriously, including approaching closer to the snake.
 
Finding the proper perspective is often the key to creating the best composition and the longer I photograph a subject, the better I can determine what the best perspective is. Moving closer/farther, up/down or around the subject can significantly change the juxtaposition of the subject and its surroundings, significantly changing the resulting image.
 
To jump start the composition process, I wanted the snake's head to be facing in a direction other than away. That factor eliminates about half of the potential camera positions. A sideways-facing head can work well and a slightly-toward-the-camera angle is usually a great choice. That the snake was on top of the tree removed much of the below-the-subject camera position options.
 
The background is always a huge key to good composition and using a telephoto focal length is useful in both reducing what remains in the background and blurring what remains into obscurity. I adjusted my position to take in a variety of background colors and textures and also worked my position around the snake to get different angles on the main subject. Eventually I went for a step ladder and tried some downward angle compositions for some variation.
 
Another compositional opportunity available to me was that, with no discernable horizon or other sense of levelness showing in the frame, I was free to rotate the camera as I desired and that adjustment could change the entire balance of the snake in the frame.
 
Every so often the snake would move slightly and I was able to work with a modified scenario for a period of time. The snake cooperated for about an hour – long enough for my arms and shoulders to get tired from holding the camera in awkward positions. Then the snake abruptly dropped from sight and it was game-over.
 
As so often is the case, the 5Ds R and 100-400 L II proved to be the perfect combination for this purpose. With a bit of unexpected rain occurring during this shoot, I was happy for the camera and lens' weather sealing protection, meaning I could simply keep shooting without worry in that regard.
 
Just an hour of shooting not only gave me some of my best-ever garter snake pictures, but it also provided a great practice session. Simply spending an hour photographing something that interests you around the house can keep your photography skills fresh along with teaching you new ones. So, get out there!
 
A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
263mm  f/5.0  1/200s
ISO 1250
8688 x 5792px
Post Date: 6/4/2017 7:12:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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