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 Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The conversation (via text) went something like:

"Dad, can you shoot graduation pictures for me?"

Answering that question required no thought. "Of course!"

"Can I come down the day before graduation for that project?"

"Sounds good."

Later, I asked what time we can start.

"How long does shooting in 5 locations require?"

I replied, "Figure 15-30 minutes per location plus time to get to the next location."

Her reply: "15 minutes should be adequate."

Later, she says: "I can't be ready until 6:45 PM."

I quickly calculate the amount of time before the 8:14 PM sunset to be 1:29. That meant 15 minutes per location and 15 minutes total for getting to the next locations, which happen to be spread over a half-mile distance. You see where I'm going here — it was going to be a rushed shoot. Then she arrived 30 minutes late.

I foresaw the shortness of the time allocated for this portrait shoot and planned for shooting fast and for shooting in low light.

One of my overriding goals was to include a sense of place, to include background showing the university campus. This goal caused me to favor wider but still portrait friendly focal lengths as these angles of view would include more background and avoid unrecognizably blurring it. Still wanting to keep the subject standing out prominently (and wanting the shutter speed help for run-and-gun handheld shooting that would end in very dark light levels), I opted for wide aperture lens options. That these lenses were also among the best available from an image quality standpoint made the decision process easier.

Into a MindShift Gear FirstLight 30L went:

The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens.

The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens mounted to a Sony Alpha a1.

The Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens mounted to a Canon EOS R5.

The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens (primarily intended for headshots on this shoot) mounted to a Canon EOS R5.

The 24mm lens didn't see much use, but having the other three lenses instantly ready (already mounted to a camera) enabled efficient use of the limited time. And, the image quality delivered by this entire kit was outstanding.

The a1 and R5 both feature outstanding eye AF performance. With the cameras set to the widest AF area (covering most of the frame) and people eye AF enabled, switching between camera brands was easy, and my primary job was to create the composition.

This shoot started with a grand exit, and the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens was called into play.

Here, the ambient shade light mixed well with the interior lighting brightness level.

Precisely capturing symmetry in a scene is a challenge even when not rushed. Ideally, the camera should be centered in the scene and horizontally level.

I worked with a variety of camera distances and roll angles, including fully leveled. From a technical perspective, I like the sides of the door frame parallel with the side of the camera frame. However, I kept coming back to this image as my favorite. The slightly lower camera angle makes the subject appear grand as she exits the doorway to this beautiful building. In addition, this camera position aligns the subject's head on a background window and includes the chandelier in the frame.

I hope to share images captured by the other mentioned lenses soon.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
35mm  f/1.4  1/160s
ISO 100
5760 x 8640px
Post Date: 6/1/2021 10:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, May 22, 2021

A large bull moose is a good animal to run out of the path of.

This image is brought to your by the R5's incredible AF system paired with the versatile RF 100-500's outstanding image quality. This camera and lens combination is perfect for the quick catch-the-shot and get-out-of-the-way moments.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
200mm  f/5.0  1/500s
ISO 200
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 5/22/2021 10:46:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, April 29, 2021

A bull elk with an incredible set of antlers intently watches his herd of cows in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Strongly blurring the background while keeping an animal this large comfortably in the frame requires a long focal length and wide aperture. The 600mm and f/4 combination is unsurpassed for meeting that challenge. In this case, it was the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens getting that job done.

Behind the lens was the Canon EOS R5.

While the pose shown in this image does not appear to be an AF challenge, this bull was constantly in motion. The elk moving in all directions meant that the required AF point was continuously changing. Chasing the animal's eye with a focus point used to be a considerable challenge — and stress. With the R5's game-changing animal eye AF performing incredibly well, the person behind the camera can better enjoy following the animal in the frame.

As I've said many times before, low shooting positions work great for photographing elk (and most other animals). This scenario permitting going low and a few quick leg lock twists on the Robus RCM-439 Carbon Fiber Monopod placed me there. This position pushed the bright grasses lower in the frame, with the dark blurred evergreens creating an excellent background for the elk's head and antlers.

Elk in Rut and More, Rocky Mountain National Park Workshop 2021 Special Offer

Be at my hotel near the Denver airport in the morning on Sat, 9/25/2021, or meet me at the house in Estes Park late in the afternoon, and you can join me a day early for a soft start to this transportation-provided workshop! There is only one opening remaining for this year. Contact me for more information.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 4/29/2021 11:01:24 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, April 23, 2021

Even when 50 MP resolution exceeds the final resolution required for an image, the ultra-high resolution is often unexpectantly valuable. In this example, the selected camera position was optimized for capturing vertically oriented images of the runners jumping from a hurdle (going high in the air) while attempting to clear a water pit.

Crashes always draw attention, and the fall was the eye-catcher of this pass. However, the compressed body position and splashing water no longer worked well in the vertically oriented frame. The horizontal orientation crop seemed favorable, and the optimal framing required a tight crop, including pulling in from the sides. Despite the heavy cropping, the a1 image provided an often sufficient nearly 20 MP of final resolution.

While the Sony Alpha a1's 30 fps drive rate seems extreme, I am finding it addicting. In this case, the 30 fps results provided the ideal moment of touch down and splash combination.

Regarding splashing water, bright water droplets in front of a subject are notorious for stealing a camera AF system's attention. While a sustained high volume of water drops covering the subject sometimes eventually stole the a1's focus, the default AF settings held on the subject's eye behind the splashing very well.

The 400mm and f/2.8 combination is often perfect for photographing track and field events. In this example, the Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens renders the foreground and background diffusely blurred, making the subject and water drops stand out. Despite the cloudy day and 1/2000 sec. shutter speed, the ISO setting remained relatively low.

We can enjoy the spectacle of this water crash without feeling too sorry for the runner. Being cold is apparently motivating for running because she went on to win this event with a top 10 list time for the university.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/2.8  1/2000s
ISO 1600
5440 x 3627px
Post Date: 4/23/2021 9:05:29 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, April 10, 2021

Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500 Lens Create Giant Bull Moose Environmental Portrait, Alaska When the subject is in a great environment, incorporating that environment into the portrait is usually the priority. While I love tightly-framed wildlife portraits, capturing a great environmental portrait is a more significant challenge.

Of course, with that set of antlers in the frame it is difficult to take a bad picture.

As is so often the case, the Canon EOS R5 and Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens were a perfect handheld combination for this run-and-gun pursuit.

Right, the 1/200 shutter speed is a relatively long exposure for photographing close wildlife. The beast paused (he was watching a cow) long enough for me to roll the shutter speed down to this setting. With auto ISO selected in manual exposure mode, the camera then chose a very low noise ISO setting despite the dark light levels.


The Canon EOS R5 is in stock at B&H.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/4.5  1/200s
ISO 500
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 4/10/2021 9:30:28 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, March 29, 2021

Last week's goal was to put a significantly challenging subject in front of the Sony Alpha a1's AF system.

This project started with 350+ images of whitetail deer captured with the outstanding Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens. At f/4, this lens produces a shallow depth of field that presents an AF challenge. Initially, the deer were milling about (erratic motion), but the game was quickly upped when a large group of deer came in fast, primarily single file, leaping toward the camera position. With animal eye detection and the entire AF area selected, the a1 easily and impressively tracked these subjects' eyes and produced an extremely high in-focus rate, including when the deer were leaping at close distances.

Despite the in-focus aspect of the image, none of these pics were worth keeping as the deer were shedding their winter coats and looking shaggy. I needed pictures that would look good in a review. From a wildlife perspective, birds, primarily ducks, were the acceptable subject I had access to.

After watching the weather forecast and the migration reports for some hotspot locations within driving distance, I made a final decision. On this day, the temperature was going well above freezing, and clear skies were forecasted. Bright sunlight brings out birds' iridescent colors, and the sky color reflects in the water, which, in this case, provided a surrounding blue color in the image (deep blue late in the day). The wind speed was supposed to be light for calmer water. The temperature was going to be comfortable — sitting in the water in the wind and sub-freezing temperatures complicates duck photography.

On this morning, I drove to the closest of the four selected locations, about 2.5 hours away. Unfortunately, the perfect subjects, the wood ducks reliably found there, were not there. While Canada geese were plentiful, I was looking for something different.

Plan B was immediately implemented. The Chesapeake Bay location was 2+ hours farther away, but this location is best in the afternoon, so there was still time to make it there for the ideal lighting.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the huge winter flock of ducks was down to a small fraction of the count. I expected a reduced count, but not this reduced. Fortunately, a selection of the ideal species was there, and with fewer birds, it was easier to isolate individual subjects, making the situation was ideal.

The scenario was ideal except for some wind that made the water choppy. Ideally, swimming duck photography is done at the water level, with the camera just above the water. This low camera position provides a side view of the duck, with a more-distant background, meaning the background has a stronger blur, making the subject pop.

When photographing floating ducks, getting the camera low involves sitting in the water, with chest waders and thick insulated pants required at this time of the year. With the high-frequency wind chop, splashing salt water was an issue, requiring a slightly higher camera position (a LensCoat rain cover protected most of the camera and lens). An unexpected wind complication was that bobbing with the ducks while looking into the viewfinder contributed to a strong sense of motion sickness.

Ducks floating on water may seem a low challenge to photograph (the proverbial sitting duck), but this scenario was the completel opposite. Many near-1' (0.3m) waves rocking the already-twitchy, constantly-erratically moving ducks and me (at different frequencies) made keeping a duck in the 600mm frame (I started at 840mm with a 1.4x teleconverter) extremely challenging (especially when the duck was obscured by a wave). I monitored image sharpness until becoming confident that a 1/3200 shutter speed eliminated motion blur in most pictures.

One of the biggest wildlife (and portrait) photography challenges is to keep the proper AF point selected. A motionless subject permits a focus and recompose strategy, but moving subjects require selecting a specific AF point that produces the optimal composition while remaining on the subject's eye. Fast AF point selection is an especially big challenge for unpredictable wildlife. Tracking a twitchy, bobbing duck with a specific focus point held on the eye would have been nearly impossible. However, the 600mm, f/4, close distance combination's shallow depth of field made focusing precisely on the eye a requirement.

Eye AF eliminates this challenge for a significant percentage of subjects. With the Sony Alpha a1's eye AF enabled, bird selected as the subject, and the entire AF area chosen (most of the frame), I was left to concentrate primarily on framing the scene and timing the shutter release press. Note that, when eye AF is locking on the subject, gloves are no longer an impediment to cold-weather wildlife pursuits.

When many changes are happening simultaneously, a fast frame rate has your back. I began shooting in the 30 fps drive mode but backed off to 20 fps when I saw how fast the image count was increasing.

Twenty fps is still an exceptionally fast frame rate. Most 20 fps shot sequences captured, minimally, a properly-framed duck image, and often, many well-framed shots, despite all of the motion (ducks would sometimes bob from one frame border to another during a short burst). With 20 fps capture, I didn't feel the need to repair closed necessitating membranes as the previous or next image still had the ideal pose. The foreground and background matter, and wave and reflection nuances vary constantly. These elements can be the deciding factor for selection, and the 20 and 30 fps capture rate provides considerable options in this regard.

That the a1's viewfinder responded fast enough to keep the birds in the frame was remarkable, and the lack of viewfinder blackout was also critical. Even more remarkable was the extremely-high in-focus rate the a1 delivered. In this 3:45 shoot, 8,985 images were captured, and in almost all of them, the eye was in sharp focus – even when the eye bounced into the periphery of the frame.

When packing, four batteries seemed a lot, but 4% of the fourth battery was consumed by the time I walked out of the water. That said, capturing nearly 3,000 images per relatively-small battery is great performance.

Similarly, taking a full terabyte of memory cards seemed overkill, but the last 256GB card was half-filled when shade reached the water. As much as I want to purchase CFexpress Type A memory cards for the a1, I can't get past the current price. Let's put a Type A number on this day. As I write this, adequate 160GB Type A memory cards to contain this under-4-hour shoot would have cost $2,394.00.

In comparison, four fast Lexar 256GB Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II SDXC Memory Cards currently cost $300.00.

With these Lexar cards, the a1 was writing the buffer to the card most of the time. This writing prevents some camera features from being accessible, though image playback functions during the writing process.

Ultra-high performance AF combined with an extreme frame rate results in a problem, albeit a great problem — too many excellent images yield a long selection process. You may have foreseen this issue: reviewing nearly 9k photos is a massive project, and the phenomenal in-focus rate makes that job far more difficult. It is hard to delete excellent pictures, but the quality bar must be raised (or considerable hard drive storage space acquired). Again, the a1's extreme performance create a problem you want to have.

I didn't mention the a1's 50MP resolution in this post, but the bouncing ducks were often not ideally framed. This camera's high resolution meant that significant resolution remained even after cropping deeply.

The Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod (great tripod, excellent value) provided the support for this shoot. With the tripod leveled, the two-way pan and tilt of the smooth-functioning Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head ensured that every shot was level (though the wave action diminished this requirement).

The bottom line is that Sony Alpha a1, and especially its AF system, is an outstanding performer, as expected.


Last week's goal was to put a significantly challenging subject in front of the Sony Alpha a1's AF system.

This project started with 350+ images of whitetail deer captured with the outstanding Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens. At f/4, this lens produces a shallow depth of field that presents an AF challenge. Initially, the deer were milling about (erratic motion), but the game was quickly upped when a large group of deer came in fast, primarily single file, leaping toward the camera position. With animal eye detection and the entire AF area selected, the a1 easily and impressively tracked these subjects' eyes and produced an extremely high in-focus rate, including when the deer were leaping at close distances.

Despite the in-focus aspect of the image, none of these pics were worth keeping as the deer were shedding their winter coats and looking shaggy. I needed pictures that would look good in a review. From a wildlife perspective, birds, primarily ducks, were the acceptable subject I had access to.

After watching the weather forecast and the migration reports for some hotspot locations within driving distance, I made a final decision. On this day, the temperature was going well above freezing, and clear skies were forecasted. Bright sunlight brings out birds' iridescent colors, and the sky color reflects in the water, which, in this case, provided a surrounding blue color in the image (deep blue late in the day). The wind speed was supposed to be light for calmer water. The temperature was going to be comfortable — sitting in the water in the wind and sub-freezing temperatures complicates duck photography.

On this morning, I drove to the closest of the four selected locations, about 2.5 hours away. Unfortunately, the perfect subjects, the wood ducks reliably found there, were not there. While Canada geese were plentiful, I was looking for something different.

Plan B was immediately implemented. The Chesapeake Bay location was 2+ hours farther away, but this location is best in the afternoon, so there was still time to make it there for the ideal lighting.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the huge winter flock of ducks was down to a small fraction of the count. I expected a reduced count, but not this reduced. Fortunately, a selection of the ideal species was there, and with fewer birds, it was easier to isolate individual subjects, making the situation was ideal.

The scenario was ideal except for some wind that made the water choppy. Ideally, swimming duck photography is done at the water level, with the camera just above the water. This low camera position provides a side view of the duck, with a more-distant background, meaning the background has a stronger blur, making the subject pop.

When photographing floating ducks, getting the camera low involves sitting in the water, with chest waders and thick insulated pants required at this time of the year. With the high-frequency wind chop, splashing salt water was an issue, requiring a slightly higher camera position (a LensCoat rain cover protected most of the camera and lens). An unexpected wind complication was that bobbing with the ducks while looking into the viewfinder contributed to a strong sense of motion sickness.

Ducks floating on water may seem a low challenge to photograph (the proverbial sitting duck), but this scenario was the complete opposite. Many near-1' (0.3m) waves rocking the already-twitchy, constantly-erratically moving ducks and me (at different frequencies) made keeping a duck in the 600mm frame (I started at 840mm with a 1.4x teleconverter) extremely challenging (especially when the duck was obscured by a wave). I monitored image sharpness until becoming confident that a 1/3200 shutter speed eliminated motion blur in most pictures.

One of the biggest wildlife (and portrait) photography challenges is to keep the proper AF point selected. A motionless subject permits a focus and recompose strategy, but moving subjects require selecting a specific AF point that produces the optimal composition while remaining on the subject's eye. Fast AF point selection is an especially big challenge for unpredictable wildlife. Tracking a twitchy, bobbing duck with a specific focus point held on the eye would have been nearly impossible. However, the 600mm, f/4, close distance combination's shallow depth of field made focusing precisely on the eye a requirement.

Eye AF eliminates this challenge for a significant percentage of subjects. With the Sony Alpha a1's eye AF enabled, bird selected as the subject, and the entire AF area chosen (most of the frame), I was left to concentrate primarily on framing the scene and timing the shutter release press. Note that, when eye AF is locking on the subject, gloves are no longer an impediment to cold-weather wildlife pursuits.

When many changes are happening simultaneously, a fast frame rate has your back. I began shooting in the 30 fps drive mode but backed off to 20 fps when I saw how fast the image count was increasing.

Twenty fps is still an exceptionally fast frame rate. Most 20 fps shot sequences captured, minimally, a properly-framed duck image, and often, many well-framed shots, despite all of the motion (ducks would sometimes bob from one frame border to another during a short burst). With 20 fps capture, I didn't feel the need to repair closed necessitating membranes as the previous or next image still had the ideal pose. The foreground and background matter, and wave and reflection nuances vary constantly. These elements can be the deciding factor for selection, and the 20 and 30 fps capture rate provides considerable options in this regard.

That the a1's viewfinder responded fast enough to keep the birds in the frame was remarkable, and the lack of viewfinder blackout was also critical. Even more remarkable was the extremely-high in-focus rate the a1 delivered. In this 3:45 shoot, 8,985 images were captured, and in almost all of them, the eye was in sharp focus – even when the eye bounced into the periphery of the frame.

When packing, four batteries seemed a lot, but 4% of the fourth battery was consumed by the time I walked out of the water. That said, capturing nearly 3,000 images per relatively-small battery is great performance.

Similarly, taking a full terabyte of memory cards seemed overkill, but the last 256GB card was half-filled when shade reached the water. As much as I want to purchase CFexpress Type A memory cards for the a1, I can't get past the current price. Let's put a Type A number on this day. As I write this, adequate 160GB Type A memory cards to contain this under-4-hour shoot would have cost $2,394.00.

In comparison, four fast Lexar 256GB Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II SDXC Memory Cards currently cost $300.00.

With these Lexar cards, the a1 was writing the buffer to the card most of the time. This writing prevents some camera features from being accessible, though image playback functions during the writing process.

Ultra-high performance AF combined with an extreme frame rate results in a problem, albeit a great problem — too many excellent images yield a long selection process. You may have foreseen this issue: reviewing nearly 9k photos is a massive project, and the phenomenal in-focus rate makes that job far more difficult. Most of us are not interested in a large volume of images, but we do care about quality. Still, it is hard to delete excellent pictures, and the minimum quality bar must be raised (or considerable hard drive storage space acquired). Again, the a1's extreme performance create a problem you want to have.

I didn't mention the a1's 50MP resolution in this post, but the bouncing ducks were often not ideally framed. This camera's high resolution meant that significant resolution remained even after cropping deeply.

The Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod (great tripod, excellent value) provided the support for this shoot. With the tripod leveled, the two-way pan and tilt of the smooth-functioning Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head ensured that every shot was level (though the wave action diminished this requirement).

The bottom line is that Sony Alpha a1, and especially its AF system, is an outstanding performer, as expected.

Post Date: 3/29/2021 10:40:06 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, March 21, 2021

More precisely, a big beautiful bedded bull elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Stay with an elk long enough, and it will bed down, and a stationary subject is easier to photograph than a moving one.

However, once bedded, obstructions (such as grass or trees) are often an issue. This cooperative bull opted to bed in a meadow with short grass, meaning that foreground obstructions were not an issue.

The background can typically be counted on to present a challenge, and distractions are among the most frequently encountered issues.

In this image, the first background distraction avoidance strategy was to blur it away. The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens rises to that challenge. The bokeh capability of many ultra-wide aperture lenses is raved about, but the 600mm f/4 combination is unsurpassed for diffusely blurring the background. The 600mm f/4 combination smooths the strong contrasting background lines, such as trees, that would otherwise catch the viewer's eye, distracting from the subject.

The big in-the-field challenge is aligning the subject within the background. Once it is bedded down, you know where the animal will be for at least a short time — usually long enough time to allow perfecting of the composition. In this scenario, the goal was to avoid strong lines and color differences intersecting the animal's body and antlers.

I love a low shooting position when photographing elk (and most animals). While this image was captured from a low position, the position was high enough for the elk's back to remain below the brush behind it.

For many, it is all about the antlers. The camera position that placed the rack between the background trees also worked well for the animal.

A sleeping animal is usually not too exciting (unless it is a baby). Fortunately, during the rut, bull elk make use of their downtime. When bugling (one of my favorite sounds), elk raise their heads which lowers their antlers for my also-favorite elk body position.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 3/21/2021 6:45:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A few months ago, I noticed a large oak tree standing alone at the top of a field in the countryside not far from home. I made a mental note of the interesting tree, keeping that photo opportunity in the pocket for later application.

Right after a recent snowstorm and during the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review seemed like the perfect timing to photograph this lone tree. The snow minimalized the scene's details, and the lens was a perfect choice to capture it. I pulled the SUV into a snowbank to get out of traffic (there was little on this country road), turned off the vehicle (eliminating the vibration), and photographed the tree until I couldn't think of any more compositions to try and adding any more insurance shots seemed complete overkill.

This scene was filled with bright subjects. At most, changes in lighting through the thick clouds happened slowly. Thus, a manual exposure that pushed the histogram graph to the right edge proved perfect. In this image, ISO 100 provides low noise, f/8 yielded adequate depth of field, and 1/160 with image stabilization activated made getting sharp elbow-rested photos easy.

The focal lengths in the 70-200mm range are among my most used for landscape photography. These focal lengths provide angles of view that make good compositions easy to find. While parked along this road, I used all of these focal lengths, with the tree filling various percentages of the frame, ranging from the 70mm result shared here to the tree nearly filling the frame. An example of the 70-200mm focal length range using this tree is shared in the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review.

I shoot a lot of action and other images where timing is critical to get the perfect shot, with a stress-induced adrenaline rush typically accompanying the moment. A nice change for this image was that I had as much time as I cared to take. The tree was not moving, the snow was not melting, and the clouds were unchanging.

At the longer focal lengths, not much time was needed to get the good compositions. At the wider focal lengths, there was considerably more freedom to position the tree in the minimalistic scene within the frame. My favorite tree position at 70mm is shared here, but I also like the tree toward the upper left, and the tree centered at the bottom in a vertical orientation also looks great (at my wife's request, I ordered a metal print of that image this morning).


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
70mm  f/8.0  1/160s
ISO 100
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 2/23/2021 10:41:02 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, February 22, 2021

Let me introduce you to "Nala," my oldest daughter's year-old goldendoodle. I was looking for a subject to challenge the new Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens for the review, and Nala happily volunteered. She maintained a great spirit for 25 minutes until the session ended abruptly when another dog arrived.

Not long ago, capturing an eye-sharp image of a big dog in a great pose while running (bouncing) full speed toward and close to the camera was extremely challenging. With the Canon EOS R5's incredible animal eye AF combined with the 20 fps frame rate and the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens in front of it, the biggest challenge of this shoot was deciding which of the 1,400+ images on the ProGrade Digital 325GB CFexpress 2.0 Cobalt Memory Card to keep.

Bright white snow is a strong auto-exposure influencer, typically causing the camera to underexpose images. With bright white snow filling greatly differing percentages of the frame during each dog pass, exposure compensation was not optimal. Thus, my most frequently used exposure mode, manual, was the ideal choice.

This shoot's goal was to challenge the camera and lens AF system, so the shallow depth of field provided by a wide-open aperture was best, providing little margin for error. The wide-open aperture in combination with the longest focal length provided the strongest background blur possible, making the subject stand out.

Next, the shutter speed was selected, with freezing motion the goal. I opted for 1/1250-1/1600, choices that proved marginally short enough for this fast dog in some instances.

ISO was the last image brightness factor to be applied. As a rule, snow in the sun should be nearly blown-out white. To determine the optimal brightness, the histogram is the proper tool. The ISO setting was increased until the brightest pixels were registering nearly against histogram graph's right side. Note that the blinkies will likely show before color channel capacities are reached. Use the histogram.

This day was cloudy, and cloudy skies often bring brightness changes. Thus, the histogram required monitoring for ISO adjustment needs.

With the R5 in face and eye detection mode and animal eye AF selected, the remaining job was to keep the dog in the frame while holding down the shutter release as my daughter repeatedly positioned and ran Nala toward the camera.

With the R5 and a good lens, getting the perfect action shots is (often) only a small challenge.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
200mm  f/4.0  1/1250s
ISO 250
5715 x 3812px
Post Date: 2/22/2021 12:59:41 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, February 4, 2021

When reviewing a lens, I'm always looking for ideally suited subjects to photograph. The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens is a great option to have on hand. It is perfect for wildlife photography, and this amazingly-colored blue jay timely volunteered a moment to pose for me.

When this bird showed up, providing a unique scenario, I was in full reactive mode. This fleeting opportunity was not expected, leaving no opportunity for preparation.

Working quickly with the Sigma telephoto zoom lens mounted to the Sony a7R IV, I first switched to Av mode. The overall scene was not especially dark or bright, so letting this competent camera determine the exposure was a logical, fast move.

A cloudy day meant that the late morning lighting remained soft and that the sun angle held little relevance. The camera could be positioned for the ideal bird angle, sideways or slightly facing the camera.

A cloudy day also meant somewhat dim lighting that called for a wide aperture. Not so fortunate is that wide open isn't especially wide for this lens. Very fortunate is that this lens is very sharp wide-open.

An additional benefit to this lens's specific wide-open f/6.3 aperture selection at 400mm is the relatively strong background blur, making the subject stand out, yet providing adequate depth of field for this close subject. Birds are seldom still, and ISO 400 seemed the immediate logical guess to go with this aperture, providing an adequately short shutter 1/160 speed.

After quickly capturing some insurance shots, the next move was to continue to work the scene, optimizing the composition. In this scenario, optimizing the composition included juxtaposing the background elements with the primary subject, primarily avoiding distractions around the bird's head and adjusting the camera elevation. More specifically, I moved to the left and slightly down.

With the next round of images on the card, moving closer seemed the next best option, and as close as the lens would autofocus was the subject distance for this image. While the entire bird was not close to fitting in the frame at this distance, I liked how much of the frame was filled with this bird's incredible colors. Of utmost importance is keeping the head entirely in the frame and providing some breathing room around the head. That concept meant cropping the tail out of the picture.

The next move was to rely more heavily on the Sigma and Sony coordinated optical stabilization, reducing the ISO setting to only 100. The bird was still enough for some of those images to be rendered sharply, but my eye preferred this overall composition better.

Those looking for a compact, lightweight, highly affordable telephoto zoom lens for Sony (or Leica) cameras should seriously consider the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/6.3  1/160s
ISO 400
9504 x 6336px
Post Date: 2/4/2021 12:51:30 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, December 26, 2020

The annual Christmas tree photo session was late this year, but ... I'll take satisfaction that it happened before Christmas.

Our space calls for an ultra-wide-angle focal length, and a wide max aperture lens typically makes the starburst effect from individual lights pronounced at narrow apertures. Last year, the impressive Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens got the call for this job. Another impressive lens, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, was a recent addition to the kit and a perfect choice for this year. That lens choice made the Sony a7R IV the easy camera choice.

When shooting the same scene every year, the composition selection tends to become established, and I didn't get too creative this year vs. last year, choosing again to utilize the wall unit as a right-side frame to the full room scene. The straight vertical lines of the wall unit lead me to a level (for pitch and roll) camera as those lines need to be straight along the edge of the frame (or they can be angled enough to appear intentionally so). The leveled camera position then determines the composition.

Note the lack of geometric distortion in this uncorrected 12mm capture.

With the close foreground, this composition requires f/16 for adequate depth of field, and narrow apertures produce larger starbursts. However, f/16 is considerably narrower than the a7R IV's DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture), meaning that the image becomes very noticeably soft at f/16. Since this lens produces nice starbursts at f/11, I opted for this aperture for the base image and composited the closest subjects and the candle starbursts from an f/16 image via layers in Photoshop. Otherwise, this image is right out of the camera.

With that, another Christmas tree photo is in the archives.


Post Date: 12/26/2020 9:58:57 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, December 19, 2020

When you have to look down to see the sun rising, you know you are in a great location, and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is such a location. This particular morning greeted our group with extraordinary sky color – this image is practically right out of the camera.

Telephoto lenses are excellent choices for filling the frame with the color of a sunrise or sunset. The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was the choice for this morning. It's a superb lens. At least that is the lens I originally thought I captured this image with. I later realized that the EXIF indicated the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was the lens responsible for this image. The two lenses are interchangeable at this focal length.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
70mm  f/8.0  1/50s
ISO 100
8636 x 6148px
Post Date: 12/19/2020 9:32:12 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I love a challenge, and photographing outdoors often presents many challenges. When planning my Rocky Mountain National Park trip, I considered many factors for the timing. Smoke was not one of them.

Smoke filling the air was troublesome overall, but this scenario illustrated making the most of a unique situation. The decreased air clarity meant that contrast decreased rapidly with distance, creating distinct layers of mountains.

I love a tight portrait of a beautiful animal, but it is often more challenging to include that animal in a beautiful landscape. Environmental wildlife images require the photographer to think like a landscape photographer – and a portrait photographer.

My favorite Canon lenses for environmental wildlife photography are the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens.

Sony camera owners should consider the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens for this purpose. While the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens is a great wildlife lens and has a long end advantage, I sometimes find 200mm to not be wide enough for this type of imagery. That said, this range would have worked great for this photo.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
300mm  f/8.0  1/500s
ISO 125
8192 x 6228px
Post Date: 11/24/2020 7:56:15 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, November 22, 2020

As long as the correct exposure and basic compositional skills are applied, it is hard to take a bad picture of the milky way.

Here is a list of steps for photographing the milky way.

  1. You need to be able to see the milky way, and it is not always visible. Find that schedule. The Photographer's Ephemeris and similar apps are useful for this. Mid-late summer is ideal.
  2. You need a dark sky. Dark as in no city lights, even in the distance, is most important, and no moon or a small moon is also helpful. Plan for the dark sky location and moon schedule.
  3. You need a clear sky. Heavy cloud cover is a milky way photography show-stopper.
  4. A camera is required. Most modern interchangeable lens cameras will work fine, but with equivalent lenses, the full-frame models have an advantage.
  5. The camera requires a lens, and lens selection is critical. The lens needs a wide aperture to create a bright enough image in an exposure short enough that star trails do not appear within the acceptable ISO range of the camera. Think f/2.8 as a minimum, and f/1.4 is awesome. A wide-angle focal length is needed to get enough of the milky way in the frame. While 35mm can work, go with 28mm and wider (full-frame equivalent). Stars are pin-sharp and you want a lens that renders them pin-sharp fully into the corners at the wide-open aperture. That lens does not exist, but some lenses are considerably better than others for this purpose.
  6. Mount the camera and lens on a solid tripod and head.
  7. While the milky way looks great without any other supporting environment, an attractive foreground can make such an image stand out, as illustrated in this image.
  8. Focus the camera. If the moon or another very distant light is visible, autofocus on it, and then switch to MF. Otherwise, or alternatively, use manual focus (pick a bright star and fully zoom in to focus manually).
  9. Set the camera to manual exposure, and remember that your LCD is going to appear very bright in the dark.
  10. Use a wide-open aperture.
  11. Set the shutter speed. Basically, use the longest possible shutter speed that does not create offensive star trails. Consider starting at 20 seconds for a 24mm lens on a medium resolution imaging sensor. Higher resolution imaging sensors more readily show star trails and require shorter exposures for equivalent pixel-level results. Review the shot until the ideal duration is established.
  12. Set the ISO. Too high is the setting most often needed. At f/2.8, ISO 12800 is probably needed. At f/1.4, try ISO 3200 or 6400.
  13. Set the drive mode to 2-second self-timer.
  14. Frame the scene as well as possible (it will be very dark), capture an image, adjust the camera, and repeat that process until perfection is achieved.
  15. When the composition is just right, cue the meteorite to streak through an ideal area of the composition. Want a meteorite in the frame? The odds for any given frame to have a meteorite in it is low, but selecting a date within a known annual meteor shower, such as the Leonids, greatly increases the odds. After establishing the perfect shot, set the camera's drive mode to high speed, plug in a remote release with a locking button, lock the remote's shutter release down, and walk away. Tending a second camera setup is a good use of this time. If available, a bowl of ice cream is also entertaining. Come back to adjust the composition for the milky way's movement across the sky (I know, the earth is what moves).

Amazingly, and out of the norm for me, was seeing a meteorite streak by while the shutter was OPEN, without using the continuous drive mode technique. While I welcome meteorites, I do not fancy satellites. They get removed (this is easy with Photoshop's healing brush and clone tools).

As mentioned, the earth rotates, causing the milky way to move across the sky like everything else up there. On this evening, I followed the heart of the milky way around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park until Hallett Peak was a foundational element in the composition. Despite the 4:30 AM alarm, it was well after midnight before exhaustion overcame excitement.

What is my favorite milky way lens? Currently, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens holds that title for me. The 24mm focal length fills a significant portion of the frame with the heart of the milky way. The f/1.4 aperture is extremely wide, permitting lower ISO settings for less noise. This lens's image quality at f/1.4 is excellent. The size is compact enough that I can take it along as a lens dedicated to this purpose.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 11/22/2020 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, November 21, 2020

There is something incredibly photogenic about a huge, dangerous animal emerging from dense cover. Seeing the large paddles approaching through the brush is a bucket list-grade experience.

Often, the key to wildlife photography is predicting where the animal is headed, selecting a photogenic environment along that path, and being in that place with a ready camera. Though highly simplified, that plan sometimes works, as in this case. Getting non-obstructed moose images meant finding the next opening on the moose's route.

The Canon EOS R5 and Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens were a perfect handheld combination for this run-and-gun pursuit.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
159mm  f/5.0  1/500s
ISO 2500
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 11/21/2020 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I like frogs, and I know that I'm not the only photographer who does. If one owns a big, expensive supertelephoto lens, it is easy to use it for any subject that comes along, including skitish frogs. However, most of us will not find photographing frogs high enough on the justification list for the purchase of such a lenses.

Fortunately, there are two very affordable long focal length frog photography lens options available. Canon's RF 600mm F11 IS STM and RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lenses are able to nicely capture these subjects from non-threatening distances.

These lenses are simple to use — F/11 and be there simple. Having a single aperture setting available simplifies exposure settings, and the relatively deep depth of field makes keeping the subject in focus easy. These are aspects that casual photographers and beginners, including kids, can appreciate.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/11.0  1/30s
ISO 160
5472 x 3648px
Post Date: 11/17/2020 8:10:53 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, November 12, 2020

When Canon introduced the RF 600mm F11 IS STM and RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lenses, a primary shortcoming was recognized. The F11 in the name gave many of us reason to pause – who would want a lens that only opens to f/11?

When shooting birds at relatively close distance with a long focal length, it is challenging to keep the entire head and bill in focus, and a narrow aperture is the solution. This lens is built for that specific solution, and bird photography is a good use for this lens.

The f/11 fixed aperture brings significant benefits, including light weight, compact size, and low price, and these features meet a range of other needs. Those not able to (or do not want to) carry heavy gear around, those not able to afford the expensive glass, beginners, kids, etc. are loving this lens and its 600mm sibling. These new RF lenses fill that niche.

The Canon EOS R5's animal eye AF performs incredibly well with this and other bird subjects. While the f/11 max aperture reduces the camera's AF area (and pushes ISO settings up), there was no need to select a specific AF point to keep this little green heron's eye in focus within that area. Simply frame and shoot. The bird turned its head? Frame and shoot. It's game-changing.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
800mm  f/11.0  1/250s
ISO 5000
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 11/12/2020 9:13:47 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, November 11, 2020

When the conditions at a destination are not as we expected or as we hoped they would be, we tend to get discouraged. However, when those circumstances are unusual, we can capture images that look different. With the extreme number of images being captured today, different is very positive.

The massive wildfires in the western USA were timed with the elk rut in Colorado this year, and the resulting smoke was not a welcome aspect of this Rocky Mountain National Park trip. While the smoke eliminated sky and sunlight color at sunrise and sunset and prevented clear viewing of the milky way and stars, the look of wildlife images captured under a late morning sun was different — and improved. As seen here, the harsh shadows were strongly reduced, and the background has an interesting low contrast appearance that makes the closer subject stand out in the image.

This image is an 86MP panorama captured with the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens. At this moment, the bull came in too close for a 600mm lens to capture the composition I wanted.

When over-focal-lengthed for a situation, attempt to capture the composition's in-motion portion in a single frame. For wildlife and portrait photography, the in-motion part usually includes the head and may include the entire body. For landscape, the in-motion subjects may be a stream or an ocean. After capturing the in-motion portion of the composition, quickly capture the desired additional pieces of the frame in subsequent images, ideally using the same focal length (easy with a prime lens), the same focus distance (switching the lens to MF after the first capture makes this easy), and, preferably, the same exposure settings (manual exposure makes this easy but brightness differences can be resolved when editing the individual RAW files). If there is potential subject motion not contained in the first frame (the back legs of the bull in this example), the immediate second frame should capture that potential motion.

Later, stitch the images together using your favorite image processor. The image shared here was manually merged in Photoshop. The images were stacked, and the hard edges between the frames were removed using a layer mask with a soft-edged brush painting black over the edge of the top image mask.

Another teaching point from this image is the camera position. By photographing from down low, more of the elk is shown against the mountain vs. the meadow and the already-large animal is made to appear even larger.

An exceptional subject always helps overcome any shortcomings in an image. Shown here is, among the animals I've photographed, my all-time favorite set of antlers. The overall size is huge with good mass, the points are long, and the symmetry is impressive. I can't wait to see what this bull grows next year.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 11/11/2020 10:12:20 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Hypothetically speaking: Let's say that you visit your daughter at college. She is on the track and field team but will not be running the time trial event occurring while you are there due to her having overtrained. You, of course, brought a camera kit, but without expectation of your daughter running, you packed light.

Upon arrival, you learn that she is going to do "a few laps." Fortunately, your light kit included the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, an impressive lens that is sports-capable, and you were able to capture some nice pics of your daughter on the track. Since you were actively photographing, you also captured some nice pics to share with her teammates.

The 20-fps drive mode meant that the perfect body position could be captured in every pass, despite the relatively short optimal framing window the 70-200mm focal length range offers. Perfect body position except that you were positioned near the starting line where your daughter glanced at her watch as each lap was completed. Eye detection AF meant the framing was the photographer's primary remaining job to be concentrated on during the race. Well, their primary job until having to process the over 1,000 in-focus images delivered by the Canon EOS R5's 20 fps drive mode in a short time.

The image quality at 20 fps was superb until the sun began to set. Then the flickering stadium lighting began to show some mild banding in your full electronic shutter images. Fortunately, only the last lap was affected by this condition (which could have been avoiding by using the still-fast mechanical first curtain shutter).

After the time trial ended, cool-down runs were over, and the team meeting was finished, your daughter says, "Hey Dad, can you take a team photo?" Your only valid response to this question is "Sure!" As you care about your images, you are not willing to make this a simple snapshot. That these kids have worked hard for years to make this team makes a good team photo especially important.

Your first assessment is the available lighting. This one is easy. The sun set a long time ago, and the only lights available (you did not bring strobes) are the four large stadium lights, two evenly located on each side of the field.

You know that the image background is very important and decide that the home stadium seating provides a clean, non-distracting background, along with giving the image a relevant location.

To get balanced lighting and a symmetrical background, you move the 19-member team down to the centerline of the soccer field inside the track. As mentioned already, and as is frequently the case, the stadium lighting was the flickering type. The Canon EOS R5 and R6 can avoid that issue for you, but a 1/100 second shutter speed is slow enough for the flicker to not cause a problem without using the flicker avoidance feature.

The team was very cooperative with great attitudes. Upon seeing how the double-cross lighting with the stadium background looked in the image review, the excitement increased, and additional photo requests begin flowing in: individuals, with friends, with boyfriends, with roommates, silly photos, tough and serious poses, etc.

The RF 70-200 was again the perfect lens option. The widest focal length is long enough to force adequate subject distance to eliminate group photo perspective issues, including the people in the front row appearing much larger than those in the back row (keeping the rows close to each other also helps in this regard). The individual and small group images were also easily captured by this focal length range.

Your dinner was late this evening.

After spending many hours processing and uploading the images to a private SmugMug gallery for the teammates to access, you wonder if it was such a good idea to take the camera in the first place.

Of course, it was.

OK, maybe I am not hypothetically speaking in this case. However, this scenario is a quite common one — be ready for it. Consider using the same lens and easy subject-on-night-sports-field strategy for your athlete subjects.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
95mm  f/4.0  1/100s
ISO 1250
5464 x 8192px
Post Date: 11/10/2020 9:10:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, November 7, 2020

With a very early alarm in the past and the road lottery ticket on the windshield, a friend and I drove the lead vehicle deep into Denali National Park this morning. We were focused on photographing the Denali peak at first light, but with color in the sky and fog in the foreground, I couldn't resist pausing for a few moments to capture this image.

This scene is one of the many reasons the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is part of my standard landscape kit. With the mentioned goal remaining a high priority, this was a jump out of the car, sit, shoot, and jump back in the car scenario. With no time for tripod setup, the Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500 combination IS was counted on to make the shot sharp, and it did.

When driving by a scene that calls for a photo, I often regret not heeding that call. The captured image is usually worth far more than the very little time and effort the stop typically requires. This was one of the latter cases. Within three minutes of stopping, we were back on the road.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
118mm  f/8.0  1/25s
ISO 200
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 11/7/2020 8:20:31 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, November 2, 2020

Do adapted EF lenses work well with the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6? Yes! Adapted EF lenses will continue working as well on a Canon EOS R-series camera as they always did on your favorite DSLR. With the improved AF performance of the latest mirrorless models, you might find your EF lenses performing even better than before. A significant EF lens kit should not be a hindrance to a mirrorless migration.

I love clean wildlife portraits with beautiful frame-filling subjects. Our workshop crew referred to this bull elk as "Incredibull". For 2020, this elk was sporting a huge, symmetrical 6x6 rack – easily one of the best-looking racks I've seen. I look forward to seeing what 2021 brings for this beast.

The soft portrait lighting seen here is courtesy of a lenticular cloud hovering over the meadow. With the edge of the cloud covering the sun, soft, bright light was provided for most of the over 7 hours I spent with this bull and his cows.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 11/2/2020 8:48:45 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, October 30, 2020

In the 2.5 Seconds, 70mm, No Tripod, Cadillac Mountain Moonrise post, I shared that I had locked a Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head into a sunrise-ready position. It seemed logical to share the image that setup captured next.

I love photographing when the sun is below me and visible. In this case, a location with significant unshaded area (sloping toward the sun) (and void of people) was selected. Granite rock provides a solid foundation, and the evergreens on the right aid in framing the scene.

When the sun is in the frame, an HDR capture is often the ideal strategy. This capture involved using auto exposure bracketing (AEB) set to 5-shots 1-stop apart with the exposure adjusted so the brightest and darkest images had detail in the shadows and highlights, respectively. With the 2-second self-timer enabled, the shutter release simply needed to be pressed for the bracketed sequence to be captured, followed by shooting a few more frames with the other camera. Repeat until the scene decreased in photogenic value.

I use a variety of HDR software but selected Lightroom for this one. The set of images that seemed optimal (the sun reflecting in the water influenced this choice) were selected and processed.

You likely already noticed that this image is not in the typical out-of-the-camera 3:2 aspect ratio. There are two ways to get the aspect ratio shared here. Ideal from a final resolution perspective is to stitch multiple images together. Capturing and processing an HDR pano adds complications, and with the ultra-high resolution of the R5, the other option, cropping, proved easier with a very sufficient final resolution. The primary reason for this final aspect ratio was that the cropped away sky was not adding value to the image.

Some minor cleanup in Photoshop resulted in the picture shared here.

Why f/16? At 15mm, f/11 would have provided adequate depth of field for this scene and exhibited less softening from diffraction, but f/16 is a compromise that provides a stronger sunstar, a strong element in this image.


Go big. A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 10/30/2020 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, October 27, 2020

On the Acadia National Park bucket list is to be the first person (or more accurately, among the first group of people) in the USA to see the sun on that day. Checking off that item requires an early morning drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Leading a small workshop on this day meant my priority was to make sure each participant was in their preferred location with their camera set up and ready for the action to start. With that goal accomplished, I moved into the next-best location and locked a Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head into a sunrise-ready position.

During this setup, the incredible scene unfolding on the horizon had my attention. A tiny crescent moon is a great supporting element. Combine that feature with a strong, colorful pre-sunrise or post-sunset gradient in the sky and throw in some water and mountains, and images I like are easy to create.

While this scene was in my locked-down composition, even 35mm does not render the moon a substantial size in the frame. Fortunately, the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens and another R5 were in my MindShift Gear BackLight 26L. What was not along was my second tripod, and I did not want to lose the locked-down composition held by the first. So, I sat down on the rocks, rested arms on knees, and began shooting with the settings that would have been used if tripod-mounted. Those settings were ISO 100 for the least noise, f/8 for considerable depth of field and reduced vignetting, and the shutter speed necessary to yield a right-aligned histogram.

That shutter speed was 2.5 seconds, a very long 70mm exposure without a tripod. Amazingly, all of the dozens of images captured at this and, later, faster shutter speeds were sharp. There was no need to use a higher ISO or a wider aperture setting — or a tripod. This is impressive performance from the R5 and RF 70-200 combination.

It is often easy to create nice landscape images with telephoto focal lengths, and the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is a great landscape lens. This image is simple — minimalistic. The dark mountain provides a base to the image, and the waterline is positioned approximately 1/3 into the frame. The position of the 3.2% waning crescent moon and silhouetted evergreen trees work together to create an overall balance to the scene. While many rules can be used for composition, overall balance is what I usually look for first.


Go big. A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
70mm  f/8.0  2.5s
ISO 100
8192 x 5464px
Post Date: 10/27/2020 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, October 22, 2020

Sometimes, an ultra-wide-angle lens becomes a requirement to get the shot. Sometimes, a wide aperture is also required. Both were requirements down in Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, on this night. The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens had the credentials to get the job done.

As I climbed down into the cove, the plan was to capture the monolith in front of the milky way. Upon arrival, I decided that the rock on the other side of the frame also had great character and wanted it included in the image. Even at the extreme 12mm full-frame angle of view, keeping everything seen here in the frame meant my back was against the rock wall.

The milky way is typically photographed against a black sky. However, if the sky is dark and the milky way is in view, it can be photographed at the end of the blue hour. This image was captured about 7 minutes after "nautical end." Despite a bit of light showing in the sky, it was very dark in the cove, and the f/2.8 aperture proved very helpful, keeping the ISO setting down to a still-high 8000.


This pic especially looks better big. A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 10/22/2020 8:59:38 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, October 19, 2020

In my Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 Setup Guide, I indicated that "Focus bracketing" and "Number of bracketed shots" were included on the My Menu tab 2. The R5 is my first daily-use camera to have this feature (one of the first Canon EOS cameras to get it), and I've been anxious to put this feature to use in the field. Remembering that the feature is now a couple of button presses away is the first in-the-field challenge.

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society beautifully maintains the Somesville Bridge, Selectmen's Building, and the surrounding grounds. This includes planter boxes that always hold attractive flowering plant arrangements in the fall. These planters beg to be included in the frame, but including the plants, the bridge, and the building in the same frame requires extreme depth of field for all details to be sharp. Extreme depth of field generally requires a very narrow aperture, and a very narrow aperture generally results in a diffraction-softened image.

Focus bracketing solves this problem.

For this picture, the focal length that best composed the scene was first selected, and the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Tripod with an RRS BH-40 Ball Head was moved into a somewhat awkward position to lock the composition down. ISO 100 was selected for the least noise, f/11 was selected to gain a significant depth of field for each image (f/8 would have been a good alternative in hindsight), and the shutter speed, 1/10 sec., was selected for the final exposure brightness, just bright enough to cause minor overexposed highlights on the bridge (blinking during image review). The R5's "Focus bracketing" was enabled and the "Number of bracketed shots" was set to 15.

With the lens in AF mode, the focus spot was placed over the closest subject, the ornamental cabbage flower. When the shutter release was pressed using the 2-second self-timer mode, the camera took a series of images. While I selected 15 bracketed shots in the menu, the camera knew that only four were required for this scenario.

In Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), the four RAW images were selected, and the Tools > Depth Compositing > Start depth compositing tool menu option was selected. The default settings were used to output a 16-bit TIFF file that only required minor adjustments unrelated to focus.

My wife thinks the cabbage is too big relative to the background elements, but moving into the street to capture a more distant view was not a good idea from a safety perspective, and that perspective would have resulted in sidewalk and other less attractive elements being included in the frame. Harder to argue against is that the flowers provide lots of color in the frame. Regardless, hopefully the ease of creating a focus bracketed image with the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 is illuminated.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 10/19/2020 7:10:07 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, October 8, 2020

The day before my arrival, still late summer, Rocky Mountain National Park received a wintry weather blast that included a snowstorm. With a clearing storm forecasted for the next morning, heading to a high elevation mountain lake for a dramatic landscape image seemed the right plan. That excitement ended abruptly. Instead of an amazing set of landscape images, I was delivered dense cloud cover, continuous snow, and brutal winds.

However, the sunset conditions easily made up for the AM troubles. The wind became still, and the remaining clouds took on great color.

There are times in the field when you know that you are capturing an image that you will be excited about. This was one of those times. I quickly shot a variety of images from my rock perch, capturing bracketed exposures, varying the focal length, and fine-tuning the composition. This selected image was a single exposure captured at an extremely wide 12mm focal length, enabling the large rocks on the lower right side of the frame to be included along with the high clouds and their reflections. A fully-level camera keeps especially the trees on the left side of the frame straight.

What do I like least about this composition? The wide-angle focal length makes the distant mountain appear small in relation to the foreground. I decided that there was enough valuable supporting detail in the frame to offset that deficit (and I zoomed in to capture that image also).

Unknown to me this evening was that the snowstorm had cleaned the air of wildfire smoke and that this would be the last time I would see an even marginally photogenic sunrise or sunset for the duration of my time in Colorado.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 10/8/2020 1:01:58 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 3, 2020

Is the Canon EOS R5 a good wildlife camera? Absolutely.

I had the opportunity to select any camera available for an over-two-week wildlife photo trip. My choice? The pair of Canon EOS R5 bodies already in my kit, and I am left extremely impressed as I review the images from this trip.

Here are 7 reasons why I find the Canon EOS R5 to be the ultimate wildlife camera:

1. The AF System Rocks, Especially the Animal Eye AF Feature

Most notably, the eye-in-focus rate from the EOS R5 was considerably higher than my experience with any camera prior. Keeping a wildlife subject's eye in focus is a critical challenge of wildlife photography, and keeping the ideal focus point on a wildlife subject's eye is a key to that challenge. When a bird or animal turns its head, the ideal composition typically changes just as fast as the head turned, often requiring the AF point to be moved completely across the frame. Swimming ducks can change directions almost instantly. Too often, the subject changes position again before the AF point is in the required new position. Hence, the shots are missed.

In a large percentage of scenarios, the R5's animal eye AF system eliminates the AF point challenge, permitting the photographer to concentrate on proper scene framing with the eye being tracked throughout nearly the entire frame. I have photographed a variety of birds and animals with the R5, including whitetail and mule deer, elk, moose, coyote, ground squirrels, turkeys (ever try to focus on a feeding turkey's head?), green herons, magpies, whistling swans, frogs, and even stuffed animals. The only subject in that list to confound the R5's animal eye AF enough for me to not trust using it nearly 100% of the time was the moose, and with the dark hair surrounding that animal's eye, it is hard to fault the R5 for that one.

Even when not using eye AF, this camera's AI Servo AF tracked moving subjects very accurately

2. The Frame Rate is Fast

Animals move, and capturing the ideal body, leg, and wing position can be critical. The challenge is even greater when multiple subjects are in the frame. Capturing the movement sequence can also be desired. Even when the subjects are standing still (or bedded), there can still be movement in the frame. A drip of water falling from a duck's bill can make the difference between a good shot and a great shot. A moose's big eyebrow lifting even slightly can allow a catchlight or a larger catchlight, increasing the value of the image. If the eye goes closed during a blink (I'm amazed at my ability to time a single shot with a bird closing its necessitating membrane), the image is not likely as attractive to me as an alert, open eye. A fast frame rate can catch the pinnacle point in time.

Fully supporting the fast frame write is the deep buffer coupled with the fast card write speed. Even when writing to SD cards, I barely reached the buffer full state only once.

3. The EVF is Excellent with Lack of Blackout

When shooting in continuous mode, electronic viewfinders typically freeze or blackout while each frame is being captured, and it is very difficult to track a moving subject without being able to see it. The R5 does not have that problem. In addition, the resolution of this EVF is high enough to be able to see when a catchlight appears in the animal's eye along with other important details.

4. The Image Quality is Excellent, Ultra-High Resolution Included

The R5 delivers crisp, high-resolution image quality that is ready to be printed large, and when focal length limited in the field, the EOS R5 provides adequate resolution to crop deeply.

5. The Grip is Adequately-Sized and Comfortable

Spending many hours a day with the camera in hand was not unusual on this trip, and having a significantly-sized, expensive lens hanging from it was the norm. A sore hand developing could cause problems for the remaining days, and a grip slip could spell doom for especially the lens, a big problem when a replacement is not readily available. I find the R5 grip to be comfortable and sure.

6. The Weather Sealing and Build Quality can Save the Day

While the R5 is not built up to the standard of Canon's 1-series cameras, it is solidly built with good weather sealing. The weather is not controllable, and when photographing wildlife, unfavorable conditions are not uncommon. I photographed in a snowstorm in CO, and while photographing moose in Alaska, it was raining lightly nearly the entire time. Sometimes I used a rain cover in AK, but not always.

That this camera is relatively light is a definite bonus when it is being carried for many hours and many miles.

7. The Controls are Intuitive and Customizable

The faster I can adjust the camera settings that are important to me, the faster I can get back in the game. The set of controls provided on the R5 are just right for changing the important wildlife photography-related settings, especially with the M-Fn button programmed to provide the ideal subset of options.

 
I was fortunate to spend nearly 7 hours with the Rocky Mountain National Park bull elk in the image accompanying this post. Few elk have antlers that are larger, more symmetrical, and more perfectly shaped than his set. My time with this brute included the dreaded mid-day hours where harsh shadows and heat waves tend to rule. Amazingly, the edge of a large cloud remained still, blocking the sun during nearly this entire time. The provided light was bright and soft while the heatwave issue was significantly reduced. In this case, the denser portion of the cloud darkened the background, providing a high contrast that, along with the shallow depth of field from the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens, makes the subject stand out.

I prefer to photograph wildlife at their level and often like to be even lowered than eye level to give them a larger appearance (and increase the odds of a catchlight appearing). The low flora in this meadow accommodated a squatted shooting level nicely.

Is the R5's battery life adequate? The pair of Canon LP-E6NH packs in the Canon BG-R10 Battery Grip delivered 4,300 images before giving up on this day. It is easy to add another battery or two to a pocket if this volume is not adequate for your needs.

How do EF lenses perform on the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R? After mounting the adapter, I forgot that it was there. The lens seemed normal during use, and the R5 delivered a considerably higher in-focus rate than I am used to.

Get your Canon EOS R5:

Body: B&H | Adorama | Amazon USA | WEX

w/ RF 24-105 L: B&H | Adorama | Amazon USA


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr where it looks considerably better.

Post Date: 10/3/2020 12:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I've just returned from 17 days of field testing in some great locations with the Canon EOS R5 (best camera ever), Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens (awesome lens), and an assortment of other gear.

A solid set of images of this huge Alaska Yukon moose was the reward for packing gear nearly three miles into the Alaska mountains. On this afternoon, the cloudy sky created soft, shoot-from-any-direction lighting, and the light rain saturated the fall-colored foliage and hemlock backdrop. I couldn't have scripted a scenario much better than this.

Working in the thick forest meant a zoom focal length was required clear obstructions while facilitating ideal framing that included, at times, a significant amount of the environment around the subject(s). The need to move and work fast meant there was no time for tripod setup. While the RF 100-500 does not have the widest aperture, its image stabilization system coordinating with the R5's in-body image stabilization meant that nearly all of my images were sharp. I came away very impressed and have been re-training my brain to shoot handheld at longer shutter speeds throughout the trip. That is when the animal was motionless.

When photographing wildlife, I usually use manual exposure mode with the aperture wide open (unless the scenario dictates otherwise) along with auto ISO. These settings enable the top dial to be quickly rolled to the minimum shutter speed required to stop any camera or subject motion (or until ISO 100 is reached) in the current shooting scenario. Often, after getting the insurance shots with a relatively fast shutter speed, I capture images at progressively longer exposures attempting to better what has already been captured. Exposure compensation was adjusted as appropriate as moose are very dark animals, encouraging the camera to overexpose the scene.

For this shoot (and for most wildlife photography), AI Servo AF was used, readying the camera for any movement the animal makes. For the moose photos, touch and drag AF was used with the small AF point selected. While this camera's animal eye AF is awesome (game-changing for most wildlife photography, including birds), the black around the moose's eye caused animal eye AF challenge enough times that I opted for the also-good alternative selection method. When I did my job correctly, nearly all images were focused correctly.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr (with the catchlight in the eye much more visible).

 
Camera and Lens Settings
118mm  f/4.5  1/500s
ISO 1600
7757 x 5174px
Post Date: 9/30/2020 9:29:27 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, August 14, 2020

The Canon EOS R5 arrived just in time to capture the spectacular night show Comet NEOWISE was providing. Sorry that the noise test results for this camera were delayed by a day, but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up (at least I waited until after the R5 review was finished to process this image).

The first challenging comet photography decision to make was the desired composition. Including landscape or filling the frame with the comet were the options, and the latter option was chosen. After determining that NEOWISE would nearly fill a 200mm frame, the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens was the chosen lens. The wide f/2 aperture is excellent for use in the dark, and the impressive sharpness of this lens at f/2 means that stars (over 7,000 software-recognized in this frame) remain pin sharp.

The next decision was whether or not to utilize an equatorial tracking mount. A 200mm lens directed at the comet's location in the sky with an ultra-high-resolution imaging sensor behind the lens meant that relatively short images, about 2 seconds, were the limit before star trails became noticeable. On the equatorial mount, 13-second images showed no motion, and this was the option taken. Though the 200 f/2L is rather heavy for the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Astro Package, this affordable mount along with the Star Adventurer Mini Latitude (EQ) Base and Counterweight Kit were up to this task. With that much weight riding on it, this mount works best on a solid tripod, and the Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod was a perfect choice. B&H had just sent me a Robus RTH-1050 Ball Head. It works great, so that option was mounted on the Sky-Watcher.

The R5 was set to manual exposure with 13 seconds, f/2, and ISO 1250 selected. High-speed continuous shooting in 1st curtain shutter mode (this is where I learned that the full electronic shutter does not allow exposures longer than 0.5-seconds). A Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 was plugged in, and its shutter release was locked on. With the Star-Watcher Star Adventurer polar aligned, the lens framing the comet, including the extensive tail that was not readily seen in the viewfinder, and the camera continuously capturing images, I walked away, watching the comet through binoculars and enjoying a bowl of ice cream.

Despite the night having a clear forecast, clouds showed up in the frame a significant amount of the time prior to the comet setting (while the rest of the sky remained clear). Fortunately, 45 images captured contiguously were able to be made cloud-free with slight cropping. 45 x 13 seconds = 9.75 minutes of exposure, long enough to produce a nearly noise-free image and long enough to capture the color in the ion tail.

While the air traffic is not currently as strong as usual, more satellites than ever are in the sky. Nearly every image had at least one satellite, and some photos had as many as three satellites streaking through. I opted to crop out the clouds before processing the RAW image into 16-bit TIFF files and then removed the streaks using the healing brush tool in Photoshop.

The next task was to stack the images. Stacking comet images is a level of challenge higher than stacking star images due to the comet moving at a slightly different rate than the stars. I know, it is the earth that moves the most, but from an earth-bound perspective, the stars and comet are moving. Stack the comet, and the stars become streaked. Stack the stars, and the comet is stretched. Fortunately, some very smart people created DeepSkyStacker software with an option to align both the comet and the stars.

DeepSkyStacker does a superb job, but you would not know that when looking at the default image created. The low-contrast 32-bit image requires "stretching", contrast significantly increased with colors pulled out. The only adjustments made to this image were contrast (levels and curves to stretch the low contrast 32-bit stacked image), saturation (+10 and -60 in PS), and a white balance adjustment (cooled the image slightly).

I love NEOWISE's colored ion tail, pushed away from the sun by solar winds and separated from the dust tail. BTW, the name NEOWISE uses all capital letters because it is an acronym, named after the device that discovered it.

Now, NEOSWISE is gone, effectively, forever. Comet NEOWISE was awesome but will not be seen again for another 6,800 years. Hopefully, another comet will entertain us in the night sky long before that.


The larger version of this image available on Flickr looks considerably better.

Post Date: 8/14/2020 10:27:11 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, July 4, 2020

For those of us residing in the USA, today we celebrate our country's independence. Take some time to study the history, including what our forefathers said, did, and wrote on this day, one that is foundational to our country.
 
Independence Day (aka, the 4th of July) is often celebrated with friends, family, grilled food, and fireworks. The effect seen in this fireworks image is from manually adjusting focus during a long exposure. Check out the following tips articles and the gear list below them.
 
Fireworks Photography Tips
 


Post Date: 7/4/2020 10:48:20 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, June 14, 2020

Much is said about using photography to tell stories, but another great aspect of photography is creating stories. I'm not talking about deceptive reporting and the like, but setting the goal to be photos, and enjoying an adventure unfolding, the story, while capturing them.

There was an exceptionally long off-trail hike in north-central PA involving a couple of deep canyons and lots of waterfalls that I had been planning to take for a long time. The schedule for this spring looked favorable for making that adventure happen, and I selected what appeared to be the perfect waterfall photography day. The weather forecast indicated full cloud cover and some light rain could be expected.

Then my youngest daughter asked if she could go along, and after my enthusiastic, positive response, I was then asked if three of her friends could also come along. After warning them over the duration and exertion this hike entailed, all were set on going. All four of the girls were distance runners, so I expected they were physically up to the hike. They were advised to bring the appropriate gear and supplies for an entire day that could include rain, and I welcomed the additions to the adventure.

We arrived at the start location late in the morning, and a beautiful waterfall greeted us a short distance into the forest. I hurriedly set up the camera (four girls were waiting for me), established the right settings, and captured some nice images. We then bushwhacked, rock-hopped (including creek crossings), and hung on the side of very steep terrain for, according to my daughter's Garmin watch, three miles until we arrived at another impressive waterfall. I captured more images, and we ate lunch.

That was the last time the camera came out of my MindShift Gear BackLight 26L. The rain started and quickly exceeding the forecasted slight-chance volume. The sky became very dark, and the rain didn't relent until it was nearly dark out.

Waterfalls require a cliff for the water to fall over, large falls require big cliffs and the falls that we continued to encounter had larger-than-needed cliffs. Getting around waterfalls meant moving downstream a distance until the wet sides were climbable (without ropes). How steep were the canyons, and how much time did we spend on them? At the end of the adventure, the girls were complaining that their arms hurt more than their legs, a sure sign that a good adventure happened.

At about 8 miles into the hike, a key landmark was missing. I had spent hours researching the hike, but this missing landmark was a key to finishing the hike as planned. There was no signal to locate ourselves via a smartphone, so I relied on a previously downloaded topographic map and a conventional compass to continue our route. While I knew we wanted to go east, I was not precisely sure how far north we had traveled. If I didn't guess correctly, we could miss the canyon we needed to find. Hedging enough to be safe, we walked southwest across the vast, densely forested, flat mountaintop. Note that walking through such terrain under a cloudy sky without a navigational aid is a sure way to get lost.

About 2 miles into the compass-directed portion of the dark and rainy adventure, the girls were becoming nervous, and one member of our team was staying immediately behind me. Eventually, we encountered a swampy area with a little flowing water, and I relented to traveling due east following that flow as the water had to be going down into the canyon we were hunting.

After a considerable distance down the steep mountain, we arrived at the targeted creek. While there was some relief among our group, deep, forested canyons are dark, and the what if we don't make it out before dark question began to be raised — repeatedly. I assured the group that we would light up the dark (I like the Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp BTW), and that we had the supplies necessary to make it out.

Still, the challenge of hiking the sides of the waterfall canyons increased while the light levels decreased. Finally, I declared that everyone had to begin wading across the streams. Yes, building rock bridges was fun, but it was time-consuming, and darkness was approaching.

Amazingly, we arrived back at the first waterfall at the precise time I had guessed to the group to expect to return. My distance estimate was not quite as accurate, with the Garmin indicating 13.1 miles of distance with 3,500' (1.07 km) in elevation change. The excitement brought on by the accomplishment and relief hitting the girls simultaneously made the adventure worthwhile, and all were ready to sign up for the next adventure. Interesting is that the next day their arms were sorer than their legs — due to holding onto trees and rocks while navigating the steep terrain.

No girls were harmed in the creation of this image, but photographically, the adventure was not so productive, with most of the waterfalls being from the sky. However, I know where some great images are, and will likely return for at least a partial repeat hike.

What will your story be? Use photography as a purpose for creating a story!

Here is one of the last photos I captured on this journey: Girl on a Waterfall Adventure.


Post Date: 6/14/2020 6:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Sean's recent Filming an ISS Transit of the Moon article reminded me to check for an upcoming locally-viewable International Space Station transit. Amazingly, there were two ISS solar transits scheduled for the next week, with my back yard being the perfect location for the alignment I wanted for both transits.

International Space Station Solar Transit Schedule

Sean's How to Photograph an International Space Station Lunar Transit article was directly applicable, with a solar filter being an additional requisite.

Only the sun was going to be illuminated in the frame, and the space station is especially small. I combined the longest focal length lens combination I have, the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens and Sony FE 2x Teleconverter, with the highest resolution ILC camera available, the Sony a7R IV. This combination was then mounted to the most solid tripod and head in my kit, the Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head on a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod.

The ISS moves across the sky very rapidly, leading me to select a 1/2000 shutter speed to avoid motion blur. With the transit duration predicted to be a mere 0.52 seconds, timing the shot was crucial. From testing, I knew this camera with a V60 SDXC card loaded would capture an over-four-second burst before the buffer filled. At just under two seconds before the transit start time, I pressed and held the release button on the Vello ShutterBoss Remote Switch.

The a7R IV's high speed+ mode netted three images that included the ISS in front of the sun. That count seemed a little weak in the composite (the space stations were "spaced" too far apart), so some additional space stations were cloned into the final image.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 6/10/2020 7:17:54 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, June 5, 2020

by Sean Setters

Bruce, a site visitor, forwarded us a post by weather.com – ISS Crosses in Front of the Moon Captured in Rare Video. Coming across the weather.com post, Bruce had been reminded of an article we posted 2 years ago offering tips for photographing the International Space Station as it crosses the moon. And after seeing the video, I was eager for my own opportunity to film the ISS transiting the moon.

As luck would have it, an ISS transit of the moon visible from a location near me (about 1/2 mile away) was scheduled to occur the very next evening at 10:44 PM Eastern Time. With a calendar entry set to remind me an hour before the event, I was ready to narrow down what gear to take.

As the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM is the longest telephoto lens I own, using it was an easy choice. But my previous experience photographing an ISS transit with a 300mm lens left me wanting for a longer focal length/closer view. Since then, I had picked up two key pieces of gear that would help me get a more magnified view of the moon in my video – a Canon EF 1.4x II Extender (predecessor to version III) and a Canon EOS R.

But how would an EOS R help me get a more magnified view? The 4K crop factor (1.75x), a bane to those who desire ultra-wide angles of view, is a big benefit when one is focal length deficient for a particular endeavor. The setup left me with a manageable 725mm equivalent focal length (300mm x 1.4 x 1.75).

Unfortunately, a limitation of utilizing 4K for capturing the event would be the 30 fps frame rate. I seriously considered setting the camera to high frame rate recording (120 fps), but the camera can only record at a max resolution of 720p in that mode and movie cropping (to provide a similar magnification) is unavailable. In other words, I was faced with a choice of either capturing high resolution video at a higher magnification or lower resolution video at a lower magnification but with a 4x faster frame rate (useful for creating a slow-motion effect). In the end, I opted for shooting in 4K to record the moon as large in the frame as possible with a resolution that would enable me to scale the video with decent quality.

Because it was so close to my home, I arrived at the shooting location only about 15 minutes before the event. I set up my Induro tripod, attached the EOS R to the tripod's Arca Swiss Z1 ball head, and proceeded with adjusting the camera settings accordingly. Up until that moment, I hadn't yet decided on what shutter speed strategy to use. Typically speaking, your shutter speed should be set to a reciprocal of double the frame rate (for 30 fps video, a 1/60 sec is optimal). However, I at that time I wasn't absolutely certain that I wouldn't want to slow down the 30 fps video a bit in post. Knowing that the transit would occur very quickly, I was concerned that if I did slow down the video, the ISS's fast motion would leave little of its detail remaining if using a 1/60 sec shutter speed. However, using a much faster than twice-the-reciprocal-framerate shutter speed can lead to an unnatural look. In a spur of the moment decision (and with transit time quickly approaching), I set my camera to the following settings to gain the desired exposure while maintaining a near multiple of my 30 fps frame rate: f/6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.

About a minute before the transit was scheduled to take place, I hit the record button and anxiously awaited the ISS's crossing. Roughly a minute after the event time, I stopped the recording. Even though I had been watching the moon throughout the recording, I never saw the transit take place until I was processing the video in Premiere Pro a short time later.

And speaking of processing, I actually produced two versions of the video. The one below is the first option I produced. The ISS's fast motion and shape reminded me of an Imperial TIE Fighter from Star Wars, so I thought the dramatic music seemed appropriate:

However, knowing the cinematic-style music may not be for everyone, I created the second version (featured at the top of this post) with different music. I recommend watching the embedded videos full screen on the highest resolution setting using the largest display available to you. Otherwise, you may not be able to see the transit in the normal magnification portion of the video.

So which version do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.

Post Date: 6/5/2020 6:02:09 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, May 30, 2020

That is a lot of stairs.

I previously shared a Hudson Yards Vessel image (with a longer story) but decided to add another to the RF 15-35 gallery. The Vessel is full of symmetry, and the elevator provides an eye-catching contradictory element. In the other Vessel image shared, using the elevator rails compositionally was suggested, and this image illustrates that suggestion. Aside from some background subjects and incidentals, the elevator rails are this image's only non-symmetrical element, and being different stands out.

Being different also makes the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens a standout.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
15mm  f/16.0  10s
ISO 100
4444 x 6720px
Post Date: 5/30/2020 9:22:26 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, May 9, 2020

Bryce Canyon National Park is awesome and Bryce Point is a great location to photograph this canyon from. This vantage point has a complete view of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater with good lighting both early and late in the day. This image was captured just before sunset with the warm late day light reflecting into the scene from the back-lit pinnacles.

Sometimes we don't get it right when we first process an image. Usually, the older the image is, the less likely we got the processing right. As our skills increase, our older work does not seem as good as it once did, and that was the case with this image.

Significant underexposure was the issue I grew to dislike the most. Truth is, I'm not really sure what I was thinking when first processing this image, but I later prefered a much brighter brighter exposure (while still managing the highlights).

Check out our full list of Stuck at Home Ideas for Photographers.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
105mm  f/10.0  1/40s
ISO 100
5616 x 3744px
Post Date: 5/9/2020 8:59:54 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, April 29, 2020

by Sean Setters

Over the past several months I've been bolstering my video-specific kit, and those acquisitions have made a big impact on the overall quality of the home movies I'm able to produce. And each time I create one of these movies, I'm immediately reminded of the home movies my parents shot with their VHS (and then MiniDV) camcorder – shaky, with terrible sound quality, and completely unedited – the catalyst for my desire to produce videos my family will actually enjoy watching a decade (or two) from now. That's my hope, at least.

To be perfectly frank, I'm not sure if our current situation will become the "new normal" in the years ahead or if this is a once-in-a-generation type of event. Regardless, now seemed like a great time to shoot another "Day in the Life of Olivia Jane" video (previously produced version here) to document our family's life while in social isolation. To record the video embedded above, here's the gear I used:

To film video, a camera is of course required. Not long after my daughter was born, I added a Canon EOS R to my kit to gain the advantages of eye-detect AF, and it has proven to be a great investment from both a stills and video perspective. All of the gimbal shots were filmed with the EOS R + EF 40mm f/2.8 STM with the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro Microphone + windscreen in the hot shoe. Of course, the windscreen wasn't necessary indoors, but I opted to balance the setup with the windscreen on and leave it there so I wouldn't have to rebalance the gimbal when adding it for any outdoor shooting.

The tripod-based shots were captured with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EF 300mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4x II Extender (outdoors) or EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM (indoors). Speaking of the tripod, the Benro A373T Tripod and Manfrotto 502AH Video Head proved to be an excellent choice for this video and my overall filming needs in general. Note that I attached the SMALLRIG DBC2506 Quick Release Clamp so that I could quickly affix my camera to the tripod when desired, and an extra clamp with a plate attached to the bottom of it (which in turn is clamped into the SMALLRIG clamp) provides the ability to use a tripod foot plate that's turned 90-degrees from the camera's while also allowing for enough vertical camera clearance to properly balance the rig using the fluid head's mounting plate. This setup was particularly handy when switching between the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM and 1.4x II Extender combo and shorter lenses.

In terms of audio capture, I previously mentioned that I used the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro on the EOS R. In addition to that (and the cameras' built-in microphones), I also used two Tascam DR-10L Portable Audio Recorders – paired with tiny Polsen PL-5 microphones that were hidden on my wife and myself – to capture audio while using the telephoto lens + extender or when I wanted to include myself in the scene (we started using the Tascam recorders just after the planting scene). Also listed in the gear list above is the Zoom H2n, which I used to record an outdoor track (with birds singing) which I used as ambient sound for the scene where my wife and child are walking down the sidewalk (the lav mic didn't seem provide enough ambient context). For editing the video, I used Adobe Premiere Pro.

So that's my current setup for recording home movies. Are there any other pieces of gear you find vital for such projects? Strongly prefer a different video accessory than what I'm using? Let us know in the comments.

Post Date: 4/29/2020 6:02:05 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, April 16, 2020

This old buck has its eyes on the doe it is pursuing.

I like some animal leg positions better than others. In this case, the lifted-high front leg and corresponding raised back leg show that the deer is in motion. When I have the mental wherewithal to time image captures with the ideal leg positions, I do. When I don't, that is what a fast frame rate is for.

While the beautiful early morning sunlight gives the image a warm look, the frost-covered whiskers indicate the true scenario. This was a very cold day. While I was functionally challenged by the heavy gloves (and my breath freezing on the camera), the Sony a7R IV worked flawlessly in these low temperatures.

It only takes a short amount of time with a great subject in a great scenario to generate a large selection of good images. Selecting a single image to share from such a situation becomes the next challenge. I opted to share two images (for now) of this buck, the other illustrating the lip curl behavior.


Post Date: 4/16/2020 9:45:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, April 13, 2020

A colorful image requires a colorful subject. Where do you find a colorful subject? Look no further than your local candy store (or candy aisle in the supermarket). As a generalization, candy not sold in individual wrappers is brightly colored – eye candy inviting consumption. Another benefit to this subject is that it is usually not expensive – and that you get to eat it after you are done photographing it is a benefit that cannot be overlooked.
 
To arrange the candy, I simply dumped it into a large dish and pressed the top level. Finding the right composition of the randomness was a bit more challenging. Most options worked, but in general, I liked when the candy not fully contained in the frame was mostly out of the frame. The color of the eggs could have been arranged, but I went with the default as-they-landed pattern.
 
Lighting this subject was easy. Rogue FlashBender Softboxes were mounted on a pair Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes that were sitting on the floor on opposite sides of the dish. The flashes were supported by their shoe stands and their heads were directed straight up. A hot shoe-mounted Canon ST-E3-RT triggered the flashes. The result of this setup was an even, soft light across the entire dish. I was able to move closer or farther away and could photograph at various angles with no change to the lighting.


I originally shared this image many years ago, but with the just-passed Easter holiday potentially providing this subject and with the candy isle likely full of discounted options, I am re-sharing to illustrate one of our Stuck at Home Ideas for Photographers. No special equipment such as a macro lens is required to create an image like this and lighting options abound.

The kids may not be happy to see you take their candy, but just ensure them that flash does not hurt candy (use caution with hot lights) and that you will return it soon.

Post Date: 4/13/2020 10:50:51 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, April 11, 2020

Water in the shade with a reflected subject in the sun is a great photographic scenario. Add maple trees in their peak fall color to that background and the opportunity value increases significantly. That is the scenario that can be found in the fall at The Tarn in Acadia National Park.

The number of composition opportunities at this location is a bit overwhelming and changing continuously as the sun rises and the wind ebbs and flows. Selecting an image to share from the hundreds captured is the resulting challenge.

This is an example of telephoto lens being ideal for landscape photography. Most often a 100-400mm lens is in my landscape kit and on this day it was the excellent Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Many of my favorite landscape images have been captured within the range offered by this lens.

Here is another selected image from The Tarn.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/11.0  1/25s
ISO 200
7952 x 5304px
Post Date: 4/11/2020 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, April 3, 2020

A cow elk gives her calf a bath while standing in a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Long telephoto lenses were meant for times like these. This was a scenario where I couldn't get any closer – wetter was not an option I was willing to accept. Not only did this lens's 600mm focal length make the animals substantial in the frame but the f/4 aperture created a blurred background even at this long distance, making the subject stand out.

I am considering a return to Rocky Mountain National Park in September. Let me know if you want to be part of this trip!


Post Date: 4/3/2020 12:08:06 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The most difficult aspect of capturing this sunset image was being there. Once in location, wait until the sun is nearly set behind a distant mountain, use an f/16 aperture to create a sunstar (but not lose too much sharpness to diffraction), select a shutter speed that nearly blows the red channel at ISO 400 (I had been running and did not have a tripod), compose for the foreground, sun, and clouds, focus roughly 1/3 into the frame, press the shutter release, and get that great feeling of knowing that a beautiful scene was part of the evening's take-home.

On this mid-July evening, I timed a trail run with the sunset and the clouds and slightly hazy summer sky cooperated to provide great color. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, small and light enough to not pose a physical limitation, was also getting a workout. This lens has the core general-purpose focal length range needed and it handled this scene nicely.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr (and the foreground appears brighter in the larger size).

 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/16.0  1/40s
ISO 400
7952 x 5304px
Post Date: 3/31/2020 8:52:34 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Life has become crazy for a vast number of people as I create this post and the fragility of life has become more real. Know that the time we are in is a temporary one. As always, hold onto Faith and make the most of the situation.

If temporarily unemployed, you suddenly find yourself with a huge amount of time available. Even if still working but from home, you no longer have commute time in your schedule. While relaxation has some value (I keep telling myself that), I challenge you to stay motivated and make good use of your extra time.

Kid Portrait

Shoot the Kids

If you have kids, they are extremely important to you but finding time in overlapping schedules is often a major obstacle for photographing them. Your schedule and their schedule have likely been cleared, green-lighting this project. I promise that you will not regret having the images and your kids might find it of value to share the pics on their social media (market that usage to get their buy-in).

Shoot formal portraits ranging from full-body (slightly wide-angle to normal focal lengths) to tight headshots (telephoto lens), find brightly-colored clothing and props, go wild with lighting, photograph them doing something they are passionate about, make them go out and get some exercise while you work a run and gun approach to catch them in action, etc.

When the kids lose patience, move to the pets — or consider including the pets to extend the kids' patience.

Bryan Carnathan

Shoot yourself

Perhaps your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media profile pictures are lacking in quality? No need to hire someone for this — go into full selfie mode. Consider photographing yourself doing something you frequently do such as exercise (which should always be part of your routine) and consider using an exposure long enough to create some motion blur as motion is a minimum requirement for exercise.

Canvasback Duck

Shoot Something Different

If birds and wildlife are your thing, try shooting architecture. If you are a portrait photographer, try wildlife. Browse Instagram, Flickr, etc. for ideas. Now is a great time to learn to shoot video. Perhaps the portfolio you build from this experience will open new doors.

Love Is Patient

Shoot with Something Different

A lot of the fun of photography is using new gear and that is a valid reason to try another brand camera. This is a great time to try a mirrorless camera model. Tilt-shift lenses are very educational (and useful).

A new season is coming and now is a great time to research the gear you need to capture it. If unsure about your future with that gear or you can't afford to buy it, go big for a small cost by renting something. It is super easy to order a camera, a lens, lighting gear, etc. from Lensrentals and have it show up on your doorstep.

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Number 1 Sample Picture

Shoot from New Heights and Angles

Shoot from positions that require you, your tripod, and/or minimally your camera to go into positions they are not normally used in. This may be from up high, down low, very close, very far, etc. Go for a walk with your camera with a self-imposed limitation such as "All images must be captured within 6" (150mm) of the ground.

I know, that electronic viewfinder level not showing all green makes us perfectionists hesitate to press the shutter release but sometimes it is OK to take a not-gravity-level photo. Consider imposing a limitation on the angle of the camera such as angled 45° downward, tilted 45° sideways, or both.

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Architecture Sample Picture

Shoot Your House

Think like a real estate photographer and photograph your house. Shoot the exterior during the blue hour. Stage and photograph the interior with an ultra-wide-angle lens, timing the shooting with exterior light levels if relevant for your space. Then market yourself to the local real estate companies.

Moth

Shoot Something Small

Especially for a macro lens, there are unending subjects available.

Rose

Bring a flower in from your garden. If your garden is bare, perhaps a neighbor would trade one of their flowers for a much-longer-lasting print. Or, perhaps you can buy a subject.

Candy

Go through your cabinets and drawers looking for interesting subjects that could include noodles, candy, utensils, etc. Find colorful art supplies such as crayons and pencils.

Hint: if it comes in a box or bag and is in your cupboards, it might make a great pattern subject. Consider photographing one unique small subject among a significant amount of similar subjects.

Hint 2: Avoid eating too much of your subject until the project is finished.

Hint 3: This is a great time to learn lighting including with flash.

Hint 4: Try focus stacking.

Condensation

Hint 5: Try strong white balance adjustments.

Blurred Pansies

Shoot Blur

Everyone loves a lens blur and an easy way to get artistic is to intentionally blur a scene by making it out of focus. I often shoot intentional focus blurs when testing lenses and sometimes I like the results enough to keep them. Shooting these blurs will teach you how to approach a scene differently with the structure created by color and contrast taking over the frame.

Consider going really crazy with zoom blurs. Use an exposure long enough to allow you to turn the zoom ring a noticeable amount while the exposure is being captured. A tripod will usually improve these results.

Attach your camera to something moving. Use an exposure duration that is long enough to make the scene blurred with, ideally, whatever the camera is attached to remaining sharp. If lacking a good mounting platorm, simply hold the camera in front of a colorful scene and, while using a long exposure, pan the camera left and right to create a sea of color. Note that a Neutral Density Filter may prove vital for achieving exposure durations necessary for optimal results.

Include something very close in the foreground that adds blur to an otherwise-common-appearing subject such as a person (please do not block their face).

Tilt-Shift Lens Blur

Consider using a tilt-shift lens to create interesting blurs.

Bear Cub Picture

Shoot Sharp

Focus calibrating cameras and lenses can be time-consuming but the adjustments can be worthwhile to make. Go through your kit, shooting a Datacolor SpyderLensCal or other focus calibration aid and fine-tune your combinations to perfection.

Loon Picture

Shoot for the Background

Find a background that works superbly with the focal length you are using and then find an attractive subject to place in the foreground for a sure win. Sometimes different lighting on the subject and background can create a look that stands out.

New York City Tribute Lights Sample Picture

Research Your Next Shoot

Determine what subject you want to photograph, determine where and when is optimal for that subject, and make plans to be there with the right gear. Utilize apps such as The Photographer's Ephemeris and Photo Pills to determine the alignment of the celestial attractions.

Milky Way, Rocky Mountain National Park

Sign up for a workshop going to a location that interests you. Enjoy the anticipation of capturing your planned image(s).

Kure Beach Fishing Pier

Improve an Image You Already Shot

Re-post-processing is a thing. Hopefully your photo editing skills are improving and likely you captured some great images in the past that could now be re-processed for better results. Perhaps some challenging images you didn't attempt processing are now within your capabilities.

Now is a great time to learn a new software application. Consider adding Photoshop & Lightroom, Capture One, and/or Luminar (use coupon code THEDIGITALPICTURE to get a $10.00 discount) to your kit and skill set.

SmugMug

Share What You Shot

If you are not already maintaining a portfolio site, now is a great time to set one up. I use SmugMug and highly recommend their service which optionally includes selling. Plans start at only $48 per year and a 14-day trial is available.

Consider taking your marketing/professionalism to the next step by purchasing a personal domain name and hosting for it. Through experience, I can tell you that there are a lot of bad web hosts out there. There are also some very good ones and an inexpensive host I have grown to trust is InMotionHosting. SmugMug can also utilize your custom domain name with their hosting.

If you already maintain a portfolio site, this is a good time to remove the lower-grade images still there. Your skills are surely improving and some of those old images are no longer reflecting your abilities.

Printique

Print What You Shot

You now have time to create that family or trip photo book you have been putting off. Perhaps it is time to put some of your prints on your walls. Consider metal prints — they are awesome and you don't have to select or buy a frame. Also not requiring a frame and loved by most are canvas prints. Printique (formerly AdoramaPix) is one of my favorites.

Backup What You Shot

You have a backup plan that includes secure, remote off-site storage, right? If so, make sure that those backups are current. If not, fix that problem ASAP. WD My Passport external drives are a great option.

Scan What You Shot

Still have prints and slides hanging around? Don't wait any longer to digitize them. I used the predecessor to the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Film and Document Scanner to digitize my old prints and the kid's artwork and still use it to eliminate most of my paper receipts.

Ricketts Glen State Park

Learn to Shoot Better

Learning is worth intentionally interrupting work for and the decision to spend time learning during a forced interruption is a no-brainer. Our Photography Tips page is a good place to start. Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has made a huge set of free online classes available.

Laptop

Upgrade your Computer and Home Office

You have been tolerating that old, slow computer for long enough. It is time for a change and you have time to set up a new system, migrating your images and workflow. A faster system will save you valuable time later and a more reliable system will save more than time. I have been using Dell XPS computers for about 20 years.

While at it, if kids are involved, upgrade all of the systems. Education is extremely important and making learning easier will encourage that practice.

Is your printer adequate? A wireless printer makes life much easier in our house.

If spending a significant amount of time sitting, the ergonomics of your chair become very important. Check out the full range of home computing necessities at B&H and Amazon.

Do you enjoy music while at your desk? A quality sound system can make a big difference.

During a time of change is a good time to drop bad habits and start new ones. Hopefully something just said has stirred your creativity and motivation. Move in positive new directions. This world is a better place with you in it — carpe diem.

Post Date: 3/24/2020 10:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, March 21, 2020

It is so hard to get kids to smile nicely but apparently, even animal kids have this problem. What was this black bear cub thinking? What induced it to bend its nose sideways? I have no idea, but I love humor in wildlife images and am always looking for it.

A second cub is facing the opposite direction in the background and the side of the mother bear can be seen along the left edge of the frame.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 3/21/2020 1:42:22 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, March 20, 2020

A university administration building had caught my eye. It seemed a perfect subject for the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens I was reviewing and photographing it was on this evening's to-do list. During the blue hour is a great time to photograph architecture and starting with a shooting direction away from the sunset provides the earliest brightness balance between the building lights and the sky. As the sky darkened, the light balance on the other side of the building, looking toward the sunset (brighter sky), improved and that was the direction the camera was facing for this image capture.

To get a level camera for this perspective required fully extending the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod legs and positioning the feet as close together as possible without risking stability. The camera was well above head height but the tilt LCD enabled proper leveling and composition. The low geometric distortion of this lens makes it a great option for photographing subjects with straight lines along the edges of the frame.

This was a single RAW image (not an HDR) captured with the brightest areas of the image somewhat too bright. In post, utilizing the Sony a7R IV's excellent dynamic range, the highlights were pulled back and the shadows were boosted for a balanced appearance.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 3/20/2020 7:46:11 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, March 19, 2020

The "Which software should I use for image editing?" question hit the inbox so I thought I'd share the software I am using with you.

If processing Canon RAW images, I use Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP). While this software is not as feature-filled as other options, it is easy to use and more important is that it produces very good image quality, including very good color. That this software is free is a strong positive feature.

The huge industry favorite is feature-packed Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is included in the Adobe CC Photography Plan required to acquire this software. I process Nikon images with Lightroom and finish most web-bound images with Photoshop.

I use Capture One for editing Sony RAW images. This is well-designed software and when I last compared results, Capture One produced noticeably-better-looking noise patterns in Sony images than Lightroom. The Sony Express version is free.

Another app growing rapidly in popularity is Skylum Luminar.

Nikon and Sony both offer free image processing software but I find both challenging to use.

Post Date: 3/19/2020 1:31:28 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan

No, post-processing was not used to create that perfectly-placed shadow. Outdoor photography is often about being at the right place at the right time. On this day, my timing was about perfect for the shadow of a large university field house to fall across the lanes of the outdoor track next to it, shading all but the first lane.

Also aiding in emphasizing the "1" was the perspective. With the 20mm lens positioned closer to the "1" than the other numbers, the "1" becomes the largest in the frame and therefore the most prominent. Everyone loves number "1" and there are far more uses for an emphasized "1" than any other number.

The Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens is very fun to walk around with, letting your creativity take over. The results from this lens are quite impressive.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
20mm  f/11.0  1/80s
ISO 100
9504 x 6336px
Post Date: 3/19/2020 8:13:19 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I was there to photograph mountain goat kids but the bighorn sheep also showed up and the lambs were totally adorable.

The Canon EOS 5Ds R and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens combination were perfect for this capture.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
227mm  f/8.0  1/600s
ISO 2000
8688 x 5792px
Post Date: 3/10/2020 8:09:11 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, February 27, 2020

I'm evaluating Canon EOS-1D X Mark III images, selecting a few for inclusion in the review, and thought I'd take a moment to share an image of another amazing-looking duck, the American widgeon. The goal of this short trip to the Chesapeake Bay, in addition to testing the 1D X Mark III in the field, was to photograph canvasback ducks. Like most other wildlife photographers, I'm opportunistic and it wasn't hard to be attracted to the beautiful American widgeon. The colors, patterns, and shapes of this bird's feathers are incredible.

Again, I was sitting in very cold water just upriver from the Chesapeake Bay wearing chest waders (and a heavy layer of fleece insulation under them) to enable a low camera position. The Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head held the big lens and mostly submerged under the Wimberley was a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 2/27/2020 2:24:21 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Do you like your bird images cropped tightly or do you prefer some breathing room around your birds?

I shared a canvasback duck image earlier today and mentioned that I was struggling to decide which of two images I liked better. While that topic is fresh on my mind, I thought I would share the looser-cropped image and get your opinion.

Which image do you like better? The composition with the closer duck filling a greater percentage of the frame or the more-distant duck showing more surroundings?


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 2/25/2020 2:20:41 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III arrived mid-afternoon and immediately the battery went on the charger. Setting up the camera came next (didn't wait for a full battery charge) and shooting the noise test followed. Late-night packing ensued and the road trip started the next morning.

The goal of this trip was to give the 1D X III a workout and the Chesapeake Bay ducks seemed a good choice.

One of the challenges I frequently encounter when photographing ducks is selecting the correct focus point(s) in time to get an image before the duck changes direction again. Those webbed feet can make 180° turns very fast but the 1D X III's new Smart Controller is a game-changer in DSLR focus point selection. Simply slide a thumb (even with a glove on) across the AF-ON button's Smart Controller feature and the AF point moves in the same direction. Keeping up with the ducks is now considerably easier thanks to the Smart Controller — this feature is awesome. I'm now less-satisfied with my other DSLRs.

When photographing ducks, I seldom appreciate a downward camera angle. This means getting the camera down to the level of the duck which becomes complicated when the duck is swimming. Sitting in the low-40-something-degree-F water just upriver from the Chesapeake Bay wearing chest waders (with a heavy layer of fleece insulation under them) was the option selected. Obviously, the camera cannot go right on the water level, especially with saltwater sometimes having splashing waves, but getting into the water helps reduce elevation.

Another aid to a flatter camera angle is using a long focal length lens. The longer the focal length used, the farther away the subject needs to be for proper framing and to frame a farther-away subject requires the camera angle to be raised, creating a closer-to-level shooting angle.

Prior to leaving for this short trip, I had a number of accessories sent to me for testing.

Holding the camera and lens in the river was a Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head. The Wimberley Tripod Head II (full gimbal head including the cradle) is an awesome choice for holding a big lens. This head is very solid but the Sidemount version is even more rigid, weighs less, consumes less space, and provides a better handle (such as for lifting the tripod out of the river). The only downside to this side-mount head is that some lenses, primarily very large lenses with high-profile tripod feet, may not be perfectly centered over the head. This slight offset didn't seem to matter in my use with a 600mm f4L lens. My cradle will not likely see any future use.

Mostly submerged and holding the Wimberley Sidemount tripod head was a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod. This solid, heavy-duty tripod was a superb solution for anchoring (literally in this case) a 600mm f/4 lens on a pro body. I continue to be impressed by the quality of the Robus products, especially for the price. They are great values.

I might share another Canvasback photograph with you soon as I struggled to select between this one and a looser-framed shot (and many others). The warm lighting on this duck is from a setting sun and the blue water color is courtesy of a blue sky.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Post Date: 2/25/2020 10:23:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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