When shooting track sports with multiple laps involved, the participants will often get into a line and, especially at the beginning of the race, will be bunched tightly together. If the participant in first place is your primary subject, you can generally get a clear front-on shot from anywhere on the track. But, if you are shooting a second place participant or beyond and want a front-on shot, minimally the person in first place has great potential to block that shot.
That is unless you are in the corner. As the racers break into the corner, visibility of the next person in line becomes momentarily clear for a front-on shot or shots. Yes, you can often get a clear side view on the straights, but the corners are better for a clear front-on shot. Also, passing happens most frequently on the straights, meaning that even the side view is more likely to be obstructed.
While this advice applies to multiple sports (including motorsports if safety permits), I most frequently use this strategy for shooting distance running on the track. I most frequently choose the first corner, just past the start/finish line (so that I can photograph the finish of the race as well), on condition that the background and lighting are good. In this indoor venue, access to turn 1 was not available and a wall of windows would have created a blown white background or silhouetted subjects, so I opted for turn 3. In this corner, a second wall of windows provided a great broad, shaded light source.
Taking a very low-to-the-ground position helps keep the runners looking large/grand and often aids in keeping the background relatively clear of distractions by positioning ground-based distractions below the subject's head. Using a wide aperture telephoto lens at max aperture on a full frame body also helps create a strong distraction-eliminating background blur.
Those of us in the northern hemisphere are in the dead of winter as I post this photo. Motorsports are mostly in hibernation and track and field events are indoors. Indoors usually means very low and potentially spectrum-starved light and, in the case for this track venue, mixed light sources were present.
Mixed light sources often mean white balance trouble. By positioning near the wall of windows, the outdoor shade light source became primary on the subject. While auto white balance keeps getting better in-camera and I nearly always use this setting while shooting, the key to easy white balance for this image was the neutral colored number label on the runner. Selecting the custom white balance eyedropper and clicking on the white part of this label brought the subject into nearly ideal color balance with a very slight warming being the only additional post processing color change I made.
It is a race and that means participants are going fast. This means that the duration of the into-the-corner visibility is going to be very short and this is where a great sports camera and lens combination is going to make a big difference in your results. A great AF system is needed to quickly lock onto the just-exposed subject and track them into the corner and a fast frame rate increases the odds of catching the perfect subject position. In this case, I was anticipating the shot. I positioned the camera (on a monopod), leveled using the electronic level in the viewfinder, pre-focused the lens to the expected need and then tracked the runner. As soon as the view opened, I pressed the shutter release and relied on AI Servo AF tracking and the fast frame rate to capture the ideal shot.
The Canon EOS-1D X is an awesome sports camera choice and the EF 200mm f/2L IS is an equally impressive lens for the task. This combination rocks for indoor sports action and that the 1D X Mark II promises to bring us a significant upgrade ... I can't wait!
Hopefully you were not told to "Stand in the corner!" very often during childhood, but ... I'm telling you to do this today. Take your great sports camera and lens and go find a corner to stand in!
When it comes to macros, I generally like to get as much magnification as possible. This means I'm usually shooting at minimum focus distance so my tiny subjects fill the frame.
The Canon macro lens that would give me the highest native magnification – the MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro lens – is not part of my current kit. As such, I wanted to see just how much magnification I could get out of the gear I already had available to me, namely the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, a set of Kenko Extension Tubes and a Kenko 1.4x Teleplus PRO 300 DGX Teleconverter.
As for the subject, I took Bryan's advice and bought some roses at a local florist. Sure enough, the flowers worked well for my test. But better yet, my girlfriend loved them. So if you're ever looking for a good macro subject, keep this in mind – your significant other will likely appreciate any excuse you have to buy more flowers.
For lighting I used one camera-mounted Canon Speedlite 580EX set to ETTL mode and diffused by a RoundFlash Magnetic Ringflash Adapter. While I knew the Roundflash would produce a rather flat look to the image, I was curious to see how the reflections of the ring light would show up in the water droplets. As you can see, it created a relatively interesting and not too unflattering reflection. However, I'm sure it's a matter of taste.
The tripod-mounted EOS 5D Mark III's camera settings were f/10, 1/200 sec and ISO 200 - 800 (depending on the shot).
This first example shows the central part of the rose using the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro's minimum focus distance.
For aesthetic purposes with this particular subject, I would usually just stop right there. I don't believe getting more magnification out of this subject will improve the image, but for the purpose of this test I wanted see just how much magnification I could get out of the equipment I had at hand. Consequently, I added all three Kenko extension tubes (12 + 20 + 36).
The extension tubes reduced the minimum focus distance thereby increasing magnification with the consequence of losing infinity focus. That's not a problem, of course, as we're utilizing the opposite focus extreme. The following image shows the difference that the extension tubes make.
The central part of the rose is now considerably larger in the frame. Keep in mind, though, as our minimum focus distance decreases, so does our depth-of-field. At this point, depth-of-field is already very limited even at f/10.
For the final image, I mounted the Kenko 1.4x teleconverter behind the lens and then mounted lens/teleconverter in front of the extension tubes.
As you can see, the addition of extension tubes and the teleconverter have had a huge effect on how much magnification we can get out of the macro lens. The combination is a little cumbersome to work with, so using a tripod is highly recommended (if not completely necessary) if you are wishing to try this for yourself.
This site supports my family, but my family also supports this site. Brittany, my 13 year old, frequently provides support through subjects she raises or finds. This time, it was an at-least 54" (1.4m) black rat snake that she carried home.
Black rat snakes are somewhat common here. They are non-venomous and usually docile after a short initial fright. This one, however, was anything but docile. It was out to get anything near it.
And of course, an angry snake provides a more dramatic picture than a friendly one. So, with the new Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext 1.4x Lens begging for subjects, Brittany and I had a short photo session with the snake.
The first photos (just snapshots) were of course of Brittany holding the snake – for the memory – and to freak out her friends. I grabbed the handy Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Kit Lens for these shots.
Having held the snake for a good period of time, Brittany was ready to photograph the snake herself. She goes everywhere with a Rebel T3i and a Tamron 18-270mm VC Lens in a Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 over her shoulder. But, she needed a second hand to operate the camera with – and didn't want her snake to escape before getting the shot. We quickly moved on to more serious photogrpahy - snake portrait photos to be specific.
I usually have specific shots I am looking for at any given time. For this session, I was looking at the 200-400's maximum magnification and AF accuracy at minimum focus distance. Both proved to be quite good.
This snake was not about to pose in a more-woodsy environment, so we shot right in the front yard. Groomed front yard grass is not ideal for nature subject backgrounds, but getting down very low (only my hand between the grass and the lens plate), using a long focal length (560mm, f/5.6) and moving in close allowed the background and foreground to be completely blurred. This position gave a nice perspective of the always-ready-to-strike snake. It was not too hard to focus the snake's attention on us (and it was incredibly fixated on the dog), so I was able to position myself in relation to a nice background.
The highlight of this shoot was the snake moving toward Brittany and suddenly striking her front lens element. Brittany squealed. I laughed (knowing that she was not at risk as her hands were farther back from her extended long lens – I was closely monitoring). The snake eventually calmed down. And we let it crawl away.
One photography-related snake characteristic I like is their curves. Snakes naturally create the curves that photographers are frequently searching for. Note also that longer focal lengths allow you to stay farther away from dangerous situations.
Now, the next time your kid brings home a snake, you know what to do.
Just added to the Photography Tips section of the site is a page about Helicopter Aerial Photography.
If you ever get the opportunity to photograph from a helicopter, the insights and experience shared on this page should be helpful to you. You may also find this page motivating your next photo trip.
I added a new page to the Photography Tips section of the site:
The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens was among the pile of gear I hauled up to Northern Maine two weeks ago. I'm sharing a sample picture of Rocky Brook Falls in Northern Maine taken with this lens along with some information about the capture of this photo.
About a week ago, I had the privilege of shooting in the Deboullie Mountain area in the northern tip of Maine. I will post many of the pictures captured on this trip as I get time, but have posted a Canon EOS-1D X-capture of the Milky Way and Perseids Meteor Shower with more-than-usual detail included about how the image was created.
AWeber Communications has produced an Email Marketing Guide for Photographers - it is available for free download here.
I want to share some thoughts about Backing Up When on the Road with you.
Hopefully you can find a new idea for improving your own travel backup plan.
John Reilly (neuroanatomist) is back with his AF Microadjustment Tips.
John Reilly (neuroanatomist, from the forums) presents: Canon EOS DSLR Autofocus Explained
Brush up on your studio portrait lighting techniques:
From the forums: Cameras, Humidity and Condensation by Tony Drew.
Late last night, while preparing to backup my work from the day, I inadvertently deleted file folders from the source drive instead of the destination drive. Make no mistake - this was a stupid move - done in a tired state of mind. But stupid happens. :)
I had a backup from the previous night, but ... restoring from that backup would would mean that a long day of work was completely lost. As thoughts of the movie "Groundhog Day" were going through my mind, I turned to Piriform Recuva File Recovery software (for Windows).
I loaded the free version of Recuva, selected my undelete-from drive, created a filename filter (*.jpg|*.cr2 in this case) and the software went to work. I was presented a list of the filter-matching files able to be restored. I selected the files I wanted restored (click on the first, shift-click on the last and press the space bar), selected the restore-to drive (never the same as the undelete-from drive) and Recuva restored 100% of my just-deleted files. As I had not written any more files to this drive, Recuva was able to completely restore my day's work.
File recovery software should be part of any serious photographer's kit. Piriform Recuva is one such application. SanDisk and Lexar typically ship photo-specific recovery software with their pro-grade memory cards. And I know that many more options are available - with some being more feature-filled than others.
The free version of Recuva includes a filename filter feature that was important to me for this recovery as I needed recover about 1,100 files out of the 106,000 files able to be restored from the drive. I keep the Recuva setup program and the Lexar and SanDisk equivalents on my always-with-me external drive for installation whenever needed.
Ready for some bird photography? Next up in the forum-sourced photography tips: Backyard Bird Photography Setup Tips by Joel Eade.
Bob Williams has been lining up some reference forum posts for the site's Photography Tips section.
First up is Bob's own Hummingbird Photography Tips.
I added a new article to the Photography Tips section: Counterfeit Camera Accessories Warning
You'll love the email I included.
Your hard drive is going to fail. It is not a question of "if" it will fail, but "when" it is going to happen. If your drive failed right now, what would you lose?
This topic is especially hot to me as I'm dealing with a partially failed SSD drive right now (bad block). While this problem has cost me a LOT of time this week (my most precious resource), I have not lost any data or files.
I talk briefly about my backup strategy on my Digital Workflow page. There are many good ways to store copies of your data (including some online services), but the device I use most (and the device that saved me this time) is the Western Digital 1TB My Passport Essential SE Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive (B&H).
I have 10 of these in my current backup rotation (along with many additional small capacity drives). They are very small (easy to take off site) and have given me no problems to date. The autorun software is a pain, but there are fixes available for this. I just turned off autorun.
This is the second primary drive failure I have experienced in less than two years. Backup what you care about!
I've used tripods unconventionally for video support, but here is a great HDSLR tripod application I have not tried to date:
I added a Packing for a Landscape Photography Trip page to the tips section of the site.
As I mentioned in the Air Show Pictures and Photography Tips, a high-mileage 1Ds Mark III was DOA at a distant event I was attending. Had I not taken a second camera, I would have no pictures from my 10 travel hour trip.
If you do not have a second camera body and lenses (or third if you shoot with two at a time), give consideration to buying or renting them for your next big event/vacation. And if renting, remember that summer is the busy season for the photography gear rental season. Roger at LensRentals.com recently noted on his site that reservations are an important step to insure you get the gear you want when you want it.
Summer vacations are often a great time to try out that new piece of gear you've been eyeing up. New gear adds fun to an already fun time.
The Canon Digital Learning Center has posted 5 printable (PDF), trifold guides:
Maybe its my guy-perspective, but ... who doesn't love speed, power and precision? Spring and summer mean air show season and air shows are filled with speed, power and precision. So, today I bring you a gallery of Air Show Pictures and Photography Tips. The air show photography tips are below most pictures in this gallery.