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 Tuesday, June 9, 2015
As is often the case, I created a self-portrait to gain more experience with a technique that I rarely employ – using a ring light as fill light.
 
A ring light is often used as a main light in high fashion, high key situations. The on-axis light is flattering because minimizes the look of flaws in skin. Using the ring light as a main light can get a bit stale after a while largely in part because of its conspicuousness. How often do you view the world with a bright light emanating from your eyeballs?
 
Using a ring light as a fill light is nothing new; it's an often used technique of David Hobby – the Strobist – and it was through his blog that I was first introduced to the concept. The ring light works particularly well as a fill light because, being on-axis with the lens, it doesn't leave a telltale shadow. Then again, the catchlights in a subject's eyes will always give away your fill light technique if he/she is looking at the camera (a circular catchlight is hard to miss). However, you can also remove the catchlight in post if desired.
 
I've used several different ring lights over the years, but my favorite is the RoundFlash Ring Flash Adapter. Why? Because it's compact when folded down, lightweight, and relatively easy to incorporate into a standard portrait session.
 
With the goal of practicing ring light use, I dusted off last year's Halloween costume (the hat and glasses, at least) to once again take on the role of Walter White, aka Heisenberg.
 
For this particular setup I used a tripod mounted Canon EOS 5D Mark III + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. A Canon Speedlite 580EX (forerunner to the 600EX-RT) flash was mounted in the camera's hot shoe and fitted with the RoundFlash Ring Flash adapter. As noted, this light was dialed down and acting like a fill light. Its light allows detail visibility in the shadow areas without leaving a discernable shadow of its own. The rim lights were provided by two more 580EX flashes set slightly behind me on both sides. The flashes were bare and zoomed in a bit (50mm, I think) in order to reduce their spill onto the background. And speaking of the background, I used a fourth 580EX flash to illuminate it – a Botero #023 Collapsible Background (Dark Grey) – from below. I lit the background just enough so that its mottled grey surface vaguely resembled smoke or fog behind me.
 
I used manual power settings for each of the flashes to reduce the number of variables involved and employed one of my favorite self-portrait tools – DSLR Controller + TP-LINK Portable WiFi Router – to frame the shot, focus and trigger the camera. The off-camera flashes were triggered via optical slaves (but yes, ETTL optical triggering would have worked just fine in this situation).
 
One thing I should note here – if a subject is wearing glasses, lighting can be a bit challenging. In this case, looking straight into the camera would have caused a very distracting glare in the glasses. To deal with the glare, I simply angled my head downward just enough so that the majority of the reflection did not appear in the lenses.
 
As you can see, the ring light did a good job of allowing me to keep the bulk of my face dimly illuminated without leaving a telltale shadow of its own. The shadow cast by the ring light would have been visible behind me (evidenced by a dark halo) if I hadn't used a background light to illuminate that area.
 
In short, the ring light is more than just a one-trick pony. Sure, it can be used as a bright key light for a high fashion look, but the ring light really shines (pun intended) in its ability to reveal details and control contrast when used as a fill light.
 
You can find a larger version of the image on my Flickr photostream.
Post Date: 6/9/2015 10:07:48 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, June 8, 2015
Spring Photography Tips: Baby Animals
Spring is when most baby animals make their entry into the world and who doesn't love a baby animal photo? Baby animals are the definition of cute.
 
Create your spring baby animal photography plan now (regardless of the season you happen to be reading this tip in). Determine what your baby animal subject(s) is(are) going to be, determine where they are located and plan on being at the right location to photograph them when they are introduced to the world.
 
This year, my animal of choice was the white-tailed deer. Newborn whitetail fawns are about the cutest animal on the face of this planet. They are also full of energy and very playful, making them very fun to watch.
 
My selected location for white-tailed deer fawn photography was Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park. Whitetail fawns are born in late May and Early June, and I made it a priority to be there in that time-frame.
 
Watching the weather forecast about a week out, I booked a lodge room for one night. I know, that date was too far away for anyone to accurately predict the weather, but I needed a bit of planning time. The weather forecast was for "cloudy" and that meant I would have decent light all day long and wouldn't need to concern myself with harsh shadows even in the woods.
 
A couple of days later, the forecast changed to sunny and another day later the National Weather Service began calling for about 80% chance of rain for both of the days I would be there. I prepared for rain (rain gear for both me and the camera equipment along with a large umbrella). What I didn't plan for was heavy fog the entire two days and I really didn't expect it to rain most of the time I was there, but that was reality.
 
While I sighted many deer, those with fawns were not interested in being in view of photographers (even when approached in a vehicle). The fog drastically reduced contrast and cut realistic photo distances down to 30' (10m) at times, so approaching was necessary. After a long day, what I really felt like doing was hitting bed early the first night, but I continued the effort. That perseverance was rewarded when watching a doe in front of some bright ferns at the edge of the woods.
 
The ferns made an interesting background and as I was photographing her, she was bleating. Deer bleat to communicate, so I knew that there was another deer or a fawn nearby. With no warning, the cutest little fawn came bouncing out of the woods and began nursing.
 
The adorable fawn drank with fervor and I shot similarly, capturing nearly 200 images in the about-8 minute long encounter. While the fawn drank, the mother cleaned it and when the fawn finished drinking, it peered out from under the mother, providing additional poses including this one (I also like this image cropped tighter, emphasizing the fawn and removing the bright ferns). Then both went back into the woods and darkness came over the scene soon after.
 
While my trip overall was not one of my more productive efforts, but 8 minutes with one of the world's cutest animals produced a series of images that made the effort worthwhile.
 
On this trip with ultimate image quality being my goal, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II and Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS (used for this image) were my wildlife lenses of choice with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III mounted behind them. When hiking longer distances, I carried the 100-400 L II and also used it from the car at times when the light was strong enough. The 200-400 L was my choice when the light waned and often used it on a monopod when not moving too far from the car. Both lenses and the camera performed amazingly.
 
Determine which baby animal you want to photography this or next spring and create your plan to photograph it!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, 500px and Facebook. Also, if reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
258mm  f/5.0  1/320s
ISO 1600
5760 x 3840px
Post Date: 6/8/2015 12:04:39 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
Tamron 150-600 VC Lens Compared to the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens
The "Which is better?" question is frequently being aimed at the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens and the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens, the first major entry into the 150-600mm lens category. These two lenses are direct competitors, sharing many features including USD/HSM AF, OS/VC, build quality and lightweight design. From the image quality perspective, here is the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary Lens vs. Tamron 150-600 VC Lens comparison.
 
At the wide end of the focal length range, the Sigma is sharper with a wide open aperture. The Tamron is 1/3 stop wider at some of the comparison focal lengths (200mm and 400mm) and to be fair, I am comparing those focal lengths at the widest equal aperture. At 200mm, these two lenses are very similar in sharpness wide open. At 300mm, I'll give the Sigma a slight advantage and at 400mm through 500mm, the slight advantage swings to the Tamron, though the Sigma's corners are better at 500mm. At 600mm, the Tamron has a very slight center-of-the-frame advantage and the Sigma has a larger corner-of-the-frame advantage.
 
Stopping down to f/8 reduces most of the sharpness advantages one lens has over the other. The Sigma has sharper corners at 150mm and 500mm, but the Tamron has sharper corners at 400mm. The Sigma is noticeably sharper at 600mm, especially in the mid and peripheral portions of the image circle.
 
The Tamron has slightly stronger pincushion distortion and has more noticeable CA. The Sigma has more vignetting with a wide open aperture, averaging roughly .5 stops of stronger corner shading over most of the focal length range except at the 600mm end where the the difference is only about .2 stops. Stopped down to f/8, the vignetting difference at the long end remains small, but the Tamron holds an edge in the wide end corners. Corner shading differences at f/11 are not going to be noticeable except perhaps in 300mm corners.
 
This image quality comparison does not place either lens with a clear lead and either lens can be justified, perhaps with decision emphasis being placed on the focal length expected to be most-valued. Here is a list showing additional differences between the Tamron and Sigma Contemporary versions of the 150-600mm lenses:
 
  • I found the Tamron's autofocus to be more consistently accurate at the wide end, but the Sigma's was more accurate at the long end.
  • The Tamron is modestly less expensive.
  • The Sigma has an optional dock, with various advantages including custom switch programing, AFMA, firmware update capability, and much more.
  • The Sigma is extender compatible.
  • The Sigma's OS system offers mode 2 and I found the Sigma's stabilization more effective at the long end of the focal length range.
  • The Sigma's zoom rotation direction is the same as Canon's; the Tamron's zoom rotates in the opposite (Nikon standard) direction.
  • The Tamron has slightly wider (1/3 stop) apertures over some of the focal length range.
  • The Sigma's focus ring has modestly more rotation (150° vs. 120°).
  • The Tamron has a smoother, larger, easier-to-use manual focus ring.
  • The Sigma has a smoother diameter.
  • The Tamron has lower profile switches.
  • The Sigma better-facilitates push-pull use.
  • The Sigma has a multi-position focal length lock while the Tamron only locks at 150mm.
  • The Tamron weighs slightly more, but has a 2x heavier tripod ring, allowing it to weigh slightly less with that ring removed.
  • The Sigma has a replacement ring for the removed tripod ring.
  • The Tamron's hood is larger.
  • The Tamron focuses slightly closer, but shares the Sigma's 0.20x maximum magnification spec.
  • The Tamron's warranty is 6 years vs. the Sigma's 4 year warranty (in the USA).
Which lens is better?
 
I don't think that there is a right or wrong answer here, but I lean slightly toward the Sigma, partially because these lenses are going to most frequently be bought for and used at the 600mm focal length and, at least at f/8, the Sigma holds the optical advantage at 600mm.
 
Get Your 150-600:
 
B&H has the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens in stock.
 
B&H has the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens in stock.
Post Date: 6/8/2015 9:15:42 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan

 
YouTube channel Sky Arts runs a regular segment called "The Unspoken Truth" where British celebrities provide their candid opinions on various topics. In this episode, the celebrities answer the question, "Is photography an art?"
 
If you take pride in what you do while holding a camera, these opinions may leave you shaking your head.
 
However, the video got me thinking. Anyone with a DLSR can set their camera into "P" mode and take a technically correct, eye-pleasing image with even a modest amount of creativity and luck thrown in. No, it's not going to happen every time, but it's much easier to take a good picture (even via inexperienced luck) than it is to create a comparably captivating oil painting from an equally inexperienced artist.
 
In the example above, technology has made the job of creating a decent image much easier; using "P" mode might be akin to using a paint-by-numbers canvas, thereby making "art" easier to create. There's nothing wrong with that, but it has led to a devaluation of photography as an artistic endeavor.
 
I think a photographer's work transcends into the art realm when they consistently produce images that captivate and intrigue those who gaze upon their work. That audience could number in the hundreds or it could simply be the sum of a photographer's close friends and family.
 
But at the end of the day, does it matter whether or not photography is considered an art in general? I don't think it does. What matters is the fulfillment a photographer experiences while creating his or her images. Whether it's an art form or simply snapshots is irrelevant as long as the camera fills a positive role in the photographer's life. [Sean]
 
What do you think about photography as an art form?
Post Date: 6/8/2015 8:20:26 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

 
In this quick tutorial, see how easy it is to create your very own backdrop for a studio photography fashion shoot.
 
Amazon carries canvas fabric.
Post Date: 6/8/2015 7:08:55 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
Nikon D810A DSLR Camera
Adorama has the Nikon D810A DSLR Camera in stock with free expedited shipping.
 
For more information on this DSLR designed for astrophotography, check out Nikon's press release for the D810A.
Posted to: Nikon News
Post Date: 6/8/2015 7:00:50 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
creativeLIVE Logo
Free Online Class with Sue Bryce – June 17 to 18
 
Join our friends at CreativeLive for Portrait Startup with Sue Bryce - a free, live online class that will teach you essential elements for building a successful portrait photography studio.
 
During this two-day class, Sue will detail the nine areas of mastery required to build a sophisticated, profitable portrait business. You'll meet several photographers who will share their own unique story of following Sue's business model and what worked (or didn't) for them.
 
Don't miss this chance to watch one of Sue's inspirational, action-packed classes. Tune in live on June 17 and 18 at 9 AM Pacific.
 
RSVP Now for the Free Classes
Post Date: 6/8/2015 6:53:29 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, June 5, 2015
Breakthrough-Photography X3 Filter
B&H is now carrying Breakthrough Photography ND and UV filters.
 
Breakthrough Photography got their start via a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Bryan recently ranked their 10-stop X3 Solid ND tops in a comparison of leading black filters.
Post Date: 6/5/2015 3:13:04 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
Photograph the Flowers Now
A rhododendron just outside of my studio was calling me. It was in full bloom and looking beautiful in the wooded landscape. With an already overwhelming to-do list, my mind said "No time!"
 
As you may have guessed, "No time!" was the wrong answer. About 6 hours later I walked by the window again and the flowers were completely wilted. The warm sun had finished them off with amazing speed. It will be at least another year until that opportunity returns, and more likely, it will be many years until the equal opportunity arrives as this shrub is seldom as beautiful as it was in the morning.
 
No, your computer/phone/tablet isn't having trouble loading the image. Instead of a beautiful flowering rhododendron image leading this post, the image is blank. Blank represents what you might get if you do not take your photo opportunities when they present themselves. Don't wait!
Post Date: 6/5/2015 1:41:32 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
Canon Copa America Chile 2015 Logo
From Canon USA:
 
Canon U.S.A. to be Official Supplier
 
MELVILLE N.Y., June 05, 2015 - Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced the Company will provide onsite service support to help professional photographers and broadcasters capture the iconic moments of Copa America Chile 2015. Canon's professional onsite service support will include simple equipment repair, clean and check service and equipment loans to outfit professionals with the proper gear to capture the excitement on the field. Service and support will be available in the media centers in each of the nine stadia hosting matches in the tournament.
 
"Canon is thrilled to join the Latin America community once again in supporting the Copa America soccer tournament," said Kenji Kobayashi, senior vice president, Canon U.S.A. Latin America Group. "This tournament is an excellent opportunity for Canon to strengthen our bond with our Latin American consumer and business markets. We are proud to provide onsite service and support to assist imaging professionals in sharing the action of the games with devoted fans across the world."
 
The international soccer tournament will take place in Chile from June 11- July 4, 2015 in eight cities, with 12 countries participating, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
 
For more information visit http://www.canon.cl/canon/cps/cps-en.htm.

 
B&H has posted a hands-on mini review of Rode's first foray into wirless audio – the RodeLink Filmmaker Kit.
 
B&H carries the RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit.
Post Date: 6/5/2015 9:40:20 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
Canon EOS 5Ds & 5Ds R DSLR Cameras
B&H has updated the status of the Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R listings to include "Will begin shipping Sun, Jun 14."
 
We expect the preorder list to be fairly large for these highly anticipated DSLRs. If you haven't already preordered, now would be a good time to do so if one of Canon's ultra-high resolution cameras is on your wish list.
 
If you were one of the first to preorder, then your wait is likely coming to and end. :-)
Posted to: Canon News
Category: Canon Preorders
Post Date: 6/5/2015 8:41:05 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, June 4, 2015
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
B&H has the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon in stock with free expedited shipping.
Posted to: Nikon News
Post Date: 6/4/2015 11:46:28 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
Canon Logo
From Canon USA:
 
Actor and Longtime Baseball Fan Invites Fans to Enter Photo Contest For Chance to Win a Trip to Little League World Series in August
 
MELVILLE, N.Y., JUNE 3, 2015 - Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced its partnership with actor Mario Lopez, host of TV's EXTRA, in support of the Canon Little League Photo Contest powered by PIXMA Printers. As part of the "Picture Perfect Season" initiative that kicked off last month, Lopez is encouraging his fans, and baseball fans everywhere, to take part in the photo contest for the chance to win a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, PA.
 
"I've always been such a fan of the game of baseball, and it really starts for so many families, including mine, with Little League," said Lopez. "I'm excited to take part in this celebration of family photos and especially the printed images that we all cherish, and showcase the excitement and passion of the game."
 
By submitting photos based on a monthly theme in May, June and July, fans will have the chance to win one of three trips to join Lopez in South Williamsport, PA and see their photos on display in the World of Little League Museum in the Richard "Hank" Bauer, Jr. Little League Photography Exhibit in the World Series Gallery presented by Easton Foundations.
 
This month, the Canon Little League Photo Contest powered by PIXMA Printers focuses on "Fandemonium," a theme focusing on shots of the passionate fans. Whether it's the parents of a Little Leaguer cheering them on or a whole crowd doing the wave, these images should capture the essence of what it means to be a fan. Entries will be judged on the use of the theme and on the quality of the image and overall impression.
 
"Canon is thrilled to welcome Mario Lopez to this special partnership with the Little League World Series, as we encourage enthusiasts everywhere to capture meaningful moments of fans, families and players," said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc. "He is a great advocate as we continue to share the power of the printed image with fans across the country and deepen our relationship with Little League."
 
Canon Little League Photo Contest: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States, D.C. and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 years of age or older as of the time of entry. The contest begins at 9:00 a.m. ET on May 5, 2015 and ends at 9:00 p.m. ET on July 24, 2015. The contest consists of a three separate Entry Periods for which there are separate entry deadlines. See Official Rules for complete entry details and restrictions, prize descriptions and odds of winning. U.S. and Canadian law govern. Void where prohibited. Sponsored by Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Posted to: Canon News
Category: Canon USA News
Post Date: 6/4/2015 10:27:54 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
As usual, this self-portrait was created in order to answer a question I had rolling around in my head:
Is it possible to make an outdoor portrait taken in bright, sunny conditions appear to be taken at night? And with relatively limited gear (shoe-mount flashes)?
I knew that choosing the right location was key to producing the effect I wanted. It was about 1:30pm and the sun was high in the sky and very bright. Speedlites are not necessarily the best choice when overpowering the sun (especially when used with a light modifier). I chose a spot in my driveway that was completely shaded by an overhanging tree. The pointed the camera at a fence that borders my driveway which was also in shade. I set up a tripod mounted 5D Mark III with the versatile EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (forerunner to the version "II" model) attached and framed the shot. I used a 4-stop ND filter on the lens so that I could use a wide aperture to limit my depth-of-field (the fence behind me wasn't all that interesting) while staying below my flash max x-sync speed. Truth is, I could have easily gotten away with a 2-stop ND filter as I had to use ISO 400 with the 4-stop ND Filter in place. So why didn't I change out NDs having had a 2-stop ND filter inside the house? The answers – 1) laziness and 2) it simply didn't matter. The 5D III's performance meant that the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 400 was not significant enough to worry with, so leaving the 4-stop ND filter on the lens wasn't a problem (especially as the 5D III's autofocus is quite sensitive in low light).
 
The main light (Canon 580EX in Westcott Rapid Box Octa) was boomed overhead using an Avenger 40" Extension Arm mounted to a C-stand. The extension arm allowed me to position the light above me (slightly in front) without having the light stand in the way. I gelled it with two full CTO gels with the intent of shifting the color balance blue to simulate the cooler colors of nighttime.
 
I wanted the picture to have a dark, ominous look to it. The modified main light was positioned a little high to light my face while leaving my eyes in shadow (thanks to my pronounced brow ridge). Having the eyes in shadow added to the effect I was going for. Still, I was asking a lot of the shoe-mount flash. With two gels in place and a diffusion panel in front eating away at the flash's output, I had the flash set to full power and still could have used a bit more light (I upped the exposure a small amount in post).
 
I used a bare 580EX (ungelled) as a rim light (positioned behind me). I decided not to gel this flash so that it would produce a cool rim light that would contrast well with the still-slightly-warm main light. I think that flash was set to 1/32 power. Both flashes were fired via radio triggers.
 
To trigger the camera, I used a wireless RC-1 remote and simply pointed the tripod-mounted camera at my desired spot using the AF points to cover the area where my head would be. Then it was simply a matter of standing in the right spot (roughly middle of the frame) and pushing the RC-1's shutter release button.
 
EXIF:
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (forerunner to version "II")
125mm, f/3.2, 1/160 sec, ISO 400
 
Click on the post image to see a larger version on Flickr.
 
Fun Fact: Conveying a specific image is often about the ideal framing. In this instance, you'd never know that I was wearing baggy, tan colored cargo pants with my button-up shirt and suit jacket. Because of the framing, I knew that changing into matching black dress pants (on this warm day) would be superfluous. ;-)
Post Date: 6/4/2015 9:37:01 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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