Photo Tips and Stories (Page 17) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Sunday, January 7, 2018

The sound of a bull elk bugling is music to my ears and I followed that music to locate this big boy in the dark. As soon as the Moraine Park meadow opened that morning, I was on my way to find this bull and that move proved quite productive.
While the golden grass in the meadow provides a photogenic, non-distracting base for an image at any time of the day, it is lighter in color when frost-covered and other colors take on a stronger contrast at that time.
Not so photogenic was this bull's right eye. He had apparently been injured in a fight and the camera-facing eye was not very attractive-looking. Obviously, I fixed that problem.
When I'm selecting down images, I'm constantly watching for issues in those selected for keeping. When an issue is found, I look for the fix in an image captured just before or just after the selected image. The issues I'm referring to here are many, including not-optimal subject framing and blinking as common ones.
With frames of the bull facing the other direction captured in the take, I was able to find one that enabled me to copy the eye, flip it horizontally and integrate it into my preferred image by pasting it in, transforming it (rotating in this case) to match the original eye and masking out the unneeded portion of the copied image (most of it). The portion of the eye that was repaired in this example is small, but without the flesh showing, the image is far more attractive (especially since our eyes are drawn to subjects' eyes).
The astute in the crowd have noticed that the horizontal pixel dimension in this image exceeds that of a Canon EOS 5Ds R image. Using the same image the eye fix was taken from, I manually stitched some additional border onto the left side of the frame by matching the details in the grasses and then blending the transition to offset the slight brightness difference caused by peripheral shading.
If the subject is important to you, don't worry about taking too many pictures. Not all will be optimal and having too many great images is a desirable problem.

Click on the image to view larger. Get the backstory on this image and learn about the gear and settings used here:

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/7/2018 6:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 2, 2018

by Sean Setters

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I spent some time this past Christmas in New Orleans. Fortunately for me, Audubon Park was located within walking distance of where we were staying. I spent several hours throughout the week photographing birds that could nearly always be found in and around Bird Island (Ochsner Island) in the park's lagoon. Because people are constantly walking around the lagoon or playing golf at a course that borders it, the ducks and other waterfowl/wading birds that inhabit the area have become very comfortable to having people nearby, a learned behavior that benefits just about anyone with a camera in-hand.

For the shot above, I used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens. The shot settings used were 250mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO 640, and the image was slightly cropped in post processing.

I often take the 7D Mark II with me when I travel because it's much easier to cover a wide range of focal lengths in a significantly smaller kit compared to covering the same focal lengths in a full-frame compatible kit. And while a 250mm won't likely be adequate for bird photography under many circumstances, it worked great for a close-up on this occasion because of my ability to get close to the bird without spooking it.

In this case, an overcast sky provided a couple of key benefits that allowed this image to work. For one, the soft light reduced contrast allowing me to capture details in both the highlight and shadow areas of the frame. And second, the glare of the overcast sky in the water behind the duck enabled great separation (producing a high key style) that made shape of the subject really stand out in the frame.

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Post Date: 1/2/2018 2:58:27 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, December 31, 2017

This mother bear and her cubs (there were four of them) came to the edge of the woods and then this pose happened. The cub sitting at the feet of an upright, alert momma black bear, Pennsylvania's apex predator, with her claws ready, seems to be about as safe as it can possibly be.
This was another case where a zoom lens saved the day. Had I been set up for the normal bear-on-all-fours position (I was) with a prime lens, I would likely have struggled to keep the bear in the frame when she stretched out vertically.

I wish you a "safe" and joy-filled New Year!

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
270mm  f/4.0  1/320s
ISO 800
3840 x 5760px
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Post Date: 12/31/2017 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 28, 2017

My site-related work consumes most of my time and I gave up trying to process all of my images long ago. After looking at all images and selecting down to my favorites, I just save all of the remaining RAW files and focus on processing my favorites and those that have other immediate value.
Recently, I carved out time to go through my youngest daughter's fall soccer pictures. I had decided to share one with you and had the selection narrowed down to 3 images (out of thousands).
Of the three images, two happened to be adjacent in a burst and one had an extra element of interest, a large bumble bee flying into the scene. Usually, I remove inadvertent insects from my sports photos. But, as I was editing the next image in that sequence, I noticed Mikayla's left cheek appeared differently colored/shaded and ... then I noticed the bee flying backward just below her ear. The bee had flown into her cheek, leaving an indentation and then bounced off. The 1D X II's fast frame rate caught that and I was amused.
What Happened to the Bee
Here are some of the qualities I like about this image:
Both the ball and the player's eyes are in the frame and the eyes are in sharp focus. That the entire player's body is within the frame is also often-desired. With the original image framed somewhat loosely, cropping allowed optimal composition.
Desirable is that the player's body position is open toward the camera and all limbs are visible (an arm or portion thereof did not go missing behind the body for example). All limbs stretched out indicates fast action – as do both feet off of the ground. If the athlete has long hair, the position of that hair can add to an image.
A positive is that the background is both strongly-blurred and very colorful. What is in the background can often be determined by your position on the sideline. While there are a lot of bad backgrounds at sporting events, the team's bench will often provide some color for you. Also, your height above the field makes a difference with the background pushing farther away when a low position is used (and the athlete appears large). The strong blur seen here is courtesy of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens combination.
For a sporting event, the lighting seen here is excellent. The photographer cannot choose game time and mid-afternoon, with a high-in-the-sky sun, can have terrible lighting. If the sun is bright, there will be hard shadows in the frame and especially under a clear sky, heat waves can spell disaster for image sharpness. If the sky is cloudy or the sun has set, dark conditions require a high ISO setting which means lots of noise. On this afternoon, the conditions were perfect. There were just enough clouds to diffuse the light, but not enough to require a high ISO setting. The non-directional lighting meant that I could set up optimally for both the background and for the expected direction of the game play.
With this share, I wrap up my fall 2017 soccer season. And, Mikayla is safe from the bees for a few months.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/28/2017 7:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 26, 2017

by Sean Setters

By now you've likely heard the same advice many times – "Shoot in RAW format, not JPEG." And the reason you hear that advice so often is because it is vital for obtaining the highest quality from your captured images. But it is important to keep in mind, JPEGs are limited to 8-bits, meaning that a lot of information originally recorded by the sensor is discarded to allow for a minimal file size. Shooting in RAW allows you retain all of the information that was captured at the time the image was taken.

But setting your camera to record in RAW format is only the first step. In order to achieve the highest image quality in your final image, you need to maintain a 16-bit workflow through your entire image editing process, especially if you use multiple image editing programs in your workflow. Even if your intended output is a JPEG (8-bit), you'll get a better image quality by maintaining a 16-bit workflow until the very end.

Here are some things to look for to ensure you maintain a 16-bit workflow when importing and exporting images, assuming you are starting with a RAW file.

Canon's Digital Photo Professional:

If importing a RAW file into Digital Photo Professional (v.3 or v.4), then you're working with all the information your file has to offer from the get-go. If you'd like to export your files for use in other editing programs, choose "TIFF 16bit (*.TIF)" as your export file type. Note: If you use the "Transfer to Photoshop" option in DPP, it will export a 16-bit version of the file.

Canon Digital Photo Professional 16 bit TIFF

Adobe Photoshop CC

When you open a RAW file in Photoshop, it will initially open in Adobe Camera RAW before being imported with the chosen settings. The important thing to look for here is the text displayed beneath your photo which displays the color space, bit depth, resolution and ppi settings for your imported RAW photo.

Adobe Camera RAW 16bit Settings

If ACR says "8 bit" below your image, click on the text and choose "16 Bits/Channel" in the drop-down menu beside "Depth" in the window that follows.

For saving files in Photoshop for use in other image editors, be sure to use the TIFF file format (the TIFF option is not available in the "Save for Web" dialogue) to preserve the highest quality image moving forward. If saving for posterity, saving as a PSD is recommended to preserve your adjustment layers and masks.

Adobe Lightroom CC Classic

Lightroom CC Classic imports RAW & TIFF files at their maximum bit rate, but you'll need to choose one of the non-JPEG file formats for export (TIFF, PSD, DNG or Original) to maintain a 16-bit workflow. Note that "Original" and "PSD" will only be optimal export formats if you plan on further processing the file in Photoshop.

Lightroom CC Classic Export 16bit TIFF

Lightroom CC Classic Export 16bit PSD

If saving as a DNG, there are no other options necessary to adjust for maintaining the highest image quality.

Capture One

Capture One imports files at their native bit depth, so there's nothing to specify when opening RAW files. While exporting your TIFF file, you may need to select "16 bit" via the drop-down menu in the Export Recipe Format.

Capture One Express Sony 16bit

Affinity Photo

Like Capture One, Affinity Photo will open compatible RAW files at their full bit depth. However, you'll need to specify a 16-bit file type while exporting images. The two most common options that support 16bit are TIFF and Photoshop PSD.

Affinity Export 16bit TIFF

Affinity Export 16bit PSD

Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2018

Both Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2018 open compatible 14/16-bit files (including .RAW and .TIFF) at their native bit depths, and recent releases of the software titles now allow for exporting 16-bit TIFF files, with the export dialogues being the same for both.

Luminar 2018 TIFF 16 bit Depth


As previously noted, shooting in RAW is absolutely necessary for obtaining the highest image quality. However, especially if multiple programs are being used in your post processing workflow, saving/exporting 16-bit files will ensure that your images retain high image quality all the way through publication.

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Post Date: 12/26/2017 12:41:20 PM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, December 24, 2017

I spent some time researching the optimal destination for my daytrip to New York City with photographing the 9/11 Tribute in Light as the primary goal. While the lights can be seen from anywhere with a view over the city, I was looking for something especially nice. I decided that the perspective from the Manhattan Bridge, as shared here, was the ultimate one for a variety of reasons.
The first is that I would have an elevated view on the city. This means the river would fill a larger portion of the frame (all things equal, water surface area fills more of the frame as the camera gets higher). Because the tribute lights need to go straight up through the frame, the camera needed to be level for both pitch and yaw. While a tilt-shift lens could have solved this issue, shooting from a higher elevation permits a higher framing of the scene.
What can be seen from this location was another reason for selecting it. Starting on the left side, Jane's Carousel is always an attractive element to have in a NYC frame. It is also hard to go wrong with the Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center and the rest of the South Manhattan skyline, any of which individually make great subjects. Even the Statue of Liberty can be seen through the bridge cables on the left side. I didn't plan on the American flag being prominently featured on top of the bridge, but it is very fitting to have it in this scene.
Having water in the frame means reflections and this location had that feature. While the water was not still, there are still reflections and the reflected light colors were smoothed by the long exposure
The Manhattan bridge span is a very long one and that meant the position on the bridge needed to be selected. Because bridges move when traffic crosses them, I like to photograph over the piers where the amount of movement is minimalized. Using online maps, I verified that there was a walking area for crossing the bridge and I could see the location of the piers. I also determined that one of the bridge piers provided alignment of the tribute lights so that each was behind the pointed top of a skyscraper. That same pier appeared to also provide the best perspective of the city overall.
The plan was to arrive at Brooklyn Bridge Park (seen in the left side of this image) early enough in the afternoon to scout the primary shooting location and to find secondary locations for later use. I walked the park down to the end of Pier 1, back up to beyond the Manhattan Bridge and then proceeded up onto the bridge. The online maps clearly showed a walkway across the bridge and that was indeed present. But what I couldn't see was the high fence that bordered the entire walkway, from one end to the other. I was disappointed, but it was early and I went forward with my scouting plan on the bridge.
As I moved farther out onto the bridge span, I realized another significant problem, one that I thought was a show-stopper. This bridge had a very significant amount of vibration and when I arrived to the pre-selected pier, I discovered that this location was not insulated from that significant movement. However, I also discovered that someone had cut small holes in the fence at two places at this pier. While the holes gave me the view I needed, I didn't think there was a chance of getting a sharp long exposure image after dark.
I decided to walk the rest of the bridge span into the city. I found one more hole in the fence over the pier on the Manhattan-side of the East River, but the vibrations were no better at this location and the view from the first pier was as I wanted. I decided to head for solid ground, but upon arriving at the preferred bridge pier, I decided to attempt a long exposure image through the hole.
I set up a camera and lens and installed a 10-stop neutral density filter with a circular polarizer filter to simulate darkness. I was shocked to find that 30 second images were rather sharp. I was timing the image captures between the (very loud) subway trains passing and the long duration of the exposures were allowing the vibrations to equalize out of the final result.
As I was mentally finalizing my plans to come back for sunset and blue hour photos, another photographer arrived and began setting up at the other hole in the fence. It was only about 4:00 in the afternoon and sunset was not until 7:11 PM. But ... if other photographers were arriving already, I decided I need to stay the duration to retain my optimal shooting location.
The other person was very friendly, additional photographers began showing up and the time passed quickly. While waiting, I determined that a very-carefully placed camera and medium-sized lens without a hood could *just* fit between the about-4" diamond-shaped metal crossbars at the bottom of the fence and I was able to deploy a second camera and tripod I had along.
The 90-second image shared here was captured just after 8:00 PM with the shutter being opened just after the ferry entered the frame, creating a long streak of colorful lights.
This is a single-frame capture with the Brooklyn Bridge Park area being brightened slightly. The blue channel was boosted for a cool look and saturation was increased to bring out the colors.
Check out the 9/11 Tribute in Lights Reflection with One World Trade Center for more of this day's adventure.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/24/2017 7:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 22, 2017

by Sean Setters

My wife and I are currently staying with family in New Orleans and yesterday I woke to find a dense fog had had settled in over nearby Audubon Park. I grabbed my Canon EOS 7D Mark II (my consummate travel companion) and the EF-S 10-18mm IS STM lens to explore any opportunities the park had to offer.

The first scene that caught my eye was the view from a stone bridge that overlooks Audubon Park Lagoon. As I crossed the bridge, I noticed that ducks were following the water and flying over the bridge at regular intervals. I set the camera to burst mode, pointed it over the water, prefocused on some tree limbs on the left side of the frame, and waited. I photographed several flocks of ducks that passed over me during the 10 minutes or so that I waited, with the image below being my favorite because of the ducks' position in the frame and their reflection in the water.

The View From The Bridge at Audubon Park

Without the fog, the ducks would have been unrecognizable in the frame as Bird Island splits the lagoon just past the point obscured by the haze.

While following the pathways of the golf course at Audubon Park (it was too foggy for anyone to be playing golf at this time), I came across the scene shown at the top of this post. The fog aided in separating the tree from the background and provided a beautifully soft, ethereal light even with the sun in the composition. Without the fog, the trees in the background would have been a distraction and the scene would have been much less remarkable. The use of a wide angle lens is also key here, as it requires you to get much closer to your subject(s) for them to be prominent in the frame, and the close proximity reduces the amount of fog between the camera and the subject, increasing the clarity and contrast of your subject in relation to background elements.

So the next time you awake to find dense fog with a few minutes to spare, don't hesitate to grab your camera and explore!

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Post Date: 12/22/2017 10:57:08 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, December 21, 2017

While the subject is always very important, the background usually consumes a significant portion of the frame and that means it too is important. One background option is to blur it away and the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is a master at that task. Still, bull elk are very large animals and even 600mm f/4 does not completely erase the background when the entire animal is comfortably in the frame. At long environmental portrait framing distance as seen here, the background is going to be recognizable.
Another great option is to utilize brightness to separate the subject from the background. Having a subject in direct sunlight and the background in complete shade is one of my favorite wildlife photography situations.
An evenly-patterned background often works well. In this case, the distant evergreen forest provided that option.
For this image, the combination of long focal length, wide aperture, distant background, strong brightness difference and evenly-patterned background all work together to make the bull elk stand out and look good. It was nice of this large, frost-covered bull elk to stop at the top of a small ridge, turn his head and exhale into the early morning sunlight for me.
I did not have time to get closer to this rutting bull before he went over the edge on his way to find cows. That meant I simply had to accept the framing available at the time and that was not bad at all. The entire frame was good and with the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R behind the lens, I had a lot of options available for cropping. I struggled to select the one to share and eventually opted to modestly crop the image to show the elk larger in the frame.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/21/2017 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 17, 2017

Here is a winter photography tip for you: Go underwater! Going underwater may not sound like something you want to do in the winter, though destinations close to the equator may be sounding very inviting right now. Your local aquarium may be a much more realistic pseudo-underwater destination that can provide great entertainment, good education, comfortable temperatures and of course, interesting photos.
My nearest aquarium is the National Aquarium located in Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland. My youngest daughter and I spent an enjoyable day exploring the many exhibits together and wisely, she took a book along. Some of my primary photo subject were in the Jellyfish Invasion exhibit and Mikayla found time to get a little reading done while waiting for me there.
To go with this post, I've created a list of 6 Aquarium Photography Tips. Read the tips, grab your gear and go visit your nearest aquarium.
The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is a great general purpose lens and it worked very well at this location.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
105mm  f/4.0  1/125s
ISO 5000
5792 x 8902px
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Post Date: 12/17/2017 6:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 14, 2017

Oneida Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls in Rickett's Glen State Park (or anywhere) and it is easy to get nice images prominently featuring it. But, this falls also makes a great background.
Wide angle lenses are ideal for making a foreground subject appear large relative to a distant background subject and that is what is going on here. The very small foreground waterfalls are close to the lens and Oneida Falls is in the distant background. The final wide angle result is that they all share a similar size in the frame.
Getting the camera in close to a waterfall presents another issue – water splashing onto the lens. When using wide angle lenses and narrow apertures, water drops become very obvious in the image and their results can be very difficult to remove during post processing. As usual for photographing waterfalls, I was using a circular polarizer filter and this is one scenario where a nano-coated CPL filter earns any additional cost required for that feature. The low adhesion properties of the nano coating meant that the water drops were easily removed with a simple squeeze of a Rocket Blower. I simply blew away the water drops before each photo capture and captured enough photos to ensure that I had the shot well-covered.
Another reason to take multiple pictures of especially small or medium-sized waterfalls is because the waterflow is typically varying slightly. The change is usually only slight, but slight is enough to change the splashing characteristic of the water and sometimes one frame will be preferred to the others. Especially for perfectionists, the multiple images may create a selection challenge for later. It is always better to have too many good photos than to miss the one you really wanted.
The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is a superb option for landscape photography. This day was a little late in the season for ideal fall foliage, but I was quite pleased with my take home from this daytrip to RGSP.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/14/2017 7:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 13, 2017

As a kid, Christmas morning is an event you look forward to months in advance, with excitement and anticipation building to a climax Christmas Eve making it difficult to sleep. But once morning comes, all that anticipation turns to joy and amazement as the presents under the tree are surveyed. Following are a few tips for maximizing your Christmas morning photography.

1) Grab your wide angle prime lens or an f/2.8 max aperture general purpose zoom.

Christmas morning festivities will generally play out in your living room or den, places where a wide aperture (f/1.4 - f/2.8) will be advantageous for obtaining action-stopping shutter speeds while avoiding the use of flash or noise-inducing high ISOs. Using wide angle focal lengths will allow you to capture subjects as well as their surroundings to best document the seasonal cheer and decor.

If you don't have a wide angle, f/2.8 max aperture (or wider) lens, then use [preferably bounce] flash to achieve action stopping shutter speeds while keeping your ISO low. Note that you may want to gel your flash with a 1/4, 1/2 or full CTO (orange) if the room is lit with warm, tungsten bulbs so that the color of the light emanating from your flash matches that of the ambient light in the room.

2) Capture video as well as still photos.

One of the greatest aspects of today's DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is that they can be used to capture high quality video as well as stills. And since most of Canon's recent cameras feature Dual Pixel CMOS AF, creating high quality videos has never been easier, so don't miss the opportunity to create a video highlight reel of the morning's events by capturing some video clips in addition to stills.

And if you own a 70D/80D or higher-level camera, you can make the process of capturing video clips easier by setting different exposure and camera settings via your camera's Custom Mode so that you can quickly switch between photos and stills without missing a beat.

3) Set up a timelapse camera in the corner of the room.

Want to be part of the fun instead of behind a camera all morning? Set your tripod up in the corner of the room (possibly with a second camera if that option is available), use manual focus and manual exposure variables and set your camera's intervalometer to capture a timelapse sequence of the morning's events. With a "set it and forget it" approach, you are free to join in while capturing the entire family as the fun unfolds.

As Christmas day rapidly approaches, there will be many tasks calling for your attention. Having the photo plan ready well in advance means that the capture of your important memories will not be sidelined. Starting creating your plan today. That may include purchasing or renting gear in the time that remains before Christmas. Check out the site's index for a list of relevant reviews to help get the most out of your Christmas Day photography.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/13/2017 8:40:33 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, December 12, 2017

While it is awesome for many purposes, the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II Flash made this monarch butterfly wing close-up very easy to capture.
Of course, a monarch butterfly wing photograph first requires a monarch butterfly wing and ideally, a perfect specimen. The easiest source I've found is to raise them ourselves. Well, more specifically, letting the kids raise them. Perhaps even easier would be to purchase the chrysalises, avoiding the higher-maintenance caterpillar stage. Upon exit from their chrysalises, these beautiful creatures pose very nicely until their wings dry, at which point they can be released outdoors.
The depth of field at this extremely close focus distance is very shallow and photographing perfectly square on the wings is required to keep all of the little scales in sharp focus. Also, don't think you can make them all sharp at f/2.8. There is enough curvature in the wing to require stopping down significantly. You will likely need at least f/11 and I even went to f/16 here.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens is also awesome for this purpose, but filling a full frame imaging sensor with a monarch wing requires a reproduction ratio greater than 1:1 (1x maximum magnification). While cropping can accomplish this (and APS-C format imaging sensors are smaller), I'm always trying to avoid cropping to ensure that I have as much resolution as possible in my final results. To go beyond 1:1 with the 100 L macro lens (and any other brand similar lens), add an extension tube. My choice was for this image was the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II. It reduced the lens' minimum focus distance by just enough to produce nothing-but-wing.
When photographing at such short focus distances, lighting becomes a serious issue. First, the lens blocks a lot of the ambient light and using narrow apertures combined with the ultra-short focus distance causes the effective aperture to be even narrower. While you might be able to set a tripod up perfectly to capture a wing, there is also a good change that the butterfly will move slightly before you accomplish that task – and again before you finish retrying.
The ring flash was the perfect answer here. The lights are ideally positioned to evenly light a very close subject. The duration of the flash is very short, meaning that motion blur is not an issue and handheld flexibility is available. The color spectrum produced by the flashes is ideal and the light brings out the brilliant color of the subject.
I used a manual exposure for this capture and usually use this mode when using a flash. In M mode, the camera applies the amount of flash needed for a proper exposure in combination with the selected aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. Exposures can then be adjusted using FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation). In this case, FEC was set to +2/3, though I reduced the RAW image brightness by the same amount, meaning ... the camera had the brightness correctly determined in the first place.
Butterflies are just one of the many great subjects for a macro flash. What could this flash do for your kit?

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

There is currently a substantial $150 instant savings available on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens. It is in stock at B&H | Amazon | Adorama.

Also, B&H has the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for $2,099.00 with free expedited shipping. Regularly $2,799.00.

Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/16.0  1/200s
ISO 100
5760 x 3840px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/12/2017 6:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 10, 2017

Many of you know that I usually consider the ideal wildlife light to be from behind me, directing my shadow toward the animal (though keeping it outside of the frame of course), but that is just another of the many photography rules looking for an opportunity to be broken.
It was a great start to the day. I had found this beautiful large-bodied 10-pt buck right away in the morning while there was barely light enough to see it. The buck was staying close to a calmly-feeding doe and defending against the occasional intruder. I was ready to photograph as soon as there was enough light to make it worth attempting.
When the buck moved, I would also change position to what I felt would be photographically optimal (often moving farther away as it approached) and was able to stay with the buck until the sun rose high enough to directly light it. It was at that point when the buck made a short charge to contain the doe, deterring it from going toward a distant intruder. The buck ideally stopped on the crest of a hill. The sunlight was hitting the deer nearly horizontally and I was up-light in position, but ... I saw the background that I had been looking for and that became the higher priority for me.
Shenandoah National Park is known for its many mountain ridges and incorporating them into a white-tailed deer image background is a great goal, but one that is not so easy to achieve, especially with the narrow field of view that a 600mm focal length presents. The lighting was making hard shadows, but the intruding buck was positioned toward the sun and that meant this buck was watching toward the sun, easing the shadow issue.
Selecting the to-share image from the couple-of-minutes take was challenging and I eventually narrowed the choice down to two. In the other example, the buck had its head turned even farther to the right with its left ear angled back, resulting in no shadows on the head. While that pose made the deer appear larger, I opted for the wider rack perspective shown by the more-toward-the-camera head angle.
Especially cool is that, with the Canon EOS 5Ds R's extreme resolution, I can crop this image down to a tight full-body portrait and still have about 24 mp of very sharp resolution remaining.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/10/2017 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 8, 2017

by Sean Setters

One of the greatest features found in current Canon DSLRs is a Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DPAF) sensor which allows for easy and smooth autofocus tracking in video mode. This capability alone is a compelling reason to upgrade cameras if your current camera lacks the DPAF feature.

On that note, I was recently asked to film a high school basketball game and create a highlight reel of the team. I had never filmed or produced a sports highlight reel before, but here are a few things I learned during the process.

1) Small, inexpensive (even variable aperture) Canon STM lenses work great in moderately well lit gymnasiums.

When photographing indoors sports, I typically rely on very wide aperture prime lenses in order to achieve the fastest shutter speeds (to free action) while keeping my ISO as low as possible (for the cleanest possible images). However, an action-stopping shutter speed isn't a requirement when shooting video. Optimally, your shutter speed should be double the reciprocal of your video frame rate. That means that when capturing, for instance, 1080p video at 29.97 fps, your shutter speed should be 1/60 second.

At 1/60 second, even lenses with a max aperture of f/5.6 can be used in reasonably well lit gymnasiums without requiring the use of your camera's highest ISO settings to achieve a proper exposure. For the game above, I used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II combined with the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lenses, with the same manual exposure settings of f/5.6, 1/60 sec., ISO 2000 employed for all of them.

And with STM lenses in-use, AF transitions are smooth and AF sounds are [typically] minimized (though the ambient sound level in a gym with cheering/jeering fans can drown out a substantial amount of AF noise).

2) A monopod is really helpful to have for stabilizing video and reducing fatigue.

Lenses with built-in image stabilization are certainly handy, but a monopod with a tilt head is a relatively inexpensive universal stailization solution that is especially handy when using prime, non-stabilized lenses (like the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM). You can easily pivot a monopod for horizontal panning while using the tilt head to track subjects vertically (be sure your monopod features a rubber foot that will not damage the gym floor).

3) Where you can position yourself on the floor will depend on the most conservative referee's consideration of safety.

For the game shown above, two referees were perfectly fine with me being anywhere along the baseline or sides of the floor. However, one particular referee requested that I go no further than about 5 feet in on both ends of the floor. Gyms offer differently sized areas designated as "safe zones" around the playing floor, and those zones are often up for interpretation. Respect the referees and the venue by following all rules, regulations and requests to ensure you can film in the same venue (or in another venue with the same referee crew) in the future.

4) Record everything that could result in a great play and use your camera's Rating feature to mark the best videos recorded.

After I got home from the basketball game, I had recorded over 100 individual videos. Unfortunately, I had to preview each one to determine whether or not it was worth including in the highlight reel. While previewing, I marked videos that I would definitely include with a special character (I added an underscore) and videos that could possibly be used with another special character and moved uninteresting videos to the trash. This left me with only the videos I needed for the highlight reel.

After going through my organization process, I realized that I could have simply rated the videos right after they occurred, opened up my memory card in Digital Photo Professional 4, filtered by the star rating and then only copied the relevant videos to my hard drive to begin with, quickly culling the videos that weren't interesting enough to use. You can even distinguish between "will use" clips and "possible filler clips" with a two star and one star rating, respectively, to further expedite the organization process.

5. In post processing, separate the video and audio tracks and extend/blend the after-play audio with the next play's audio.

When an exciting play happens, the crowd usually cheers afterwards. To best capture the drama, preserve some of the audio captured just after an exciting play and blend it into the following clip. Even if the clip doesn't feature a cheer-worthy play, blending a clips audio with the adjacent clip(s) will ensure the audio of the crowd sounds natural.


Offering to shoot highlight reels is a good way to earn a little extra income and gain exposure (especially if wearing a t-shirt displaying your photography/videography services brand) while getting to enjoy a sporting event up close. And, not only does the team get something awesome to show for their efforts, your highlight reel could possibly help a student get noticed by college scouts resulting in a scholarship offer.

That sounds like a good deal for everyone involved.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/8/2017 9:18:32 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, December 7, 2017

The addition of a new lens can add life to a kit, sparking creativity and inspiring a new look on old subjects. One such lens example is the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly and for most photographers using full frame gear, the extreme wide angle focal length is the big appeal for this lens.
Shared here is the Irix 11 view of the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda ceiling. While this appears to be a simple image to capture, establishing the perfect camera alignment is very challenging. Any decentering within the space causes opposing side detail alignment mismatch and forces slight camera tilt to establish balanced framing with the latter quickly being made apparent by converging lines.
While software can be used to correct some issues such as perspective, it cannot easily move the relationship of near and far details. Getting it right in the camera is a much better option.
With those bright lights in the frame, an HDR strategy was needed for this picture.
Consider getting the Irix 11 or another lens that would be useful to you and provide a creative spark. The holidays are great time to use such a lens and your Christmas tree makes a great 11mm subject.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/7/2017 8:41:38 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is rapidly approaching and the days are already short. That means nights are long and, while plenty of indoor photography avails itself at any time of the year, late fall and winter is a great time to photograph the night sky for a few reasons.
First, there is more dark time of the day and that means more hours of star visibility. You can spend hours photographing the night sky and still get to bed in time to be well-rested in the AM. When the nights are long, the biting bugs are gone (depending on where you live, the potentially-biting bears may also be gone). One more reason is that, because cold air is not able to hold as much moisture as warm air, winter tends to have clearer skies, and clear skies are of course a prerequisite for star photography.
Winter astrophotography is not without downsides and these include less-comfortable temperatures along with a Milky Way alignment that may or may not work well for you. Of course, a bright moon can preclude dark skies at any time of the year.
The Milky Way (or any photo of the stars) can make a nice image, but a meteorite is a huge bonus. How do you increase the odds of getting the perfectly-positioned meteorite in the frame? Photographing during a meteor shower is ideal. However, meteorites can happen at any time and a formally-designated "shower" is not a requirement. A big key is to take a lot of photos, significantly increasing the odds of a well-placed shooting star streak.
Night sky exposures are long, especially with long exposure noise reduction enabled, and that means taking many photos takes a lot of time. Time-consuming tasks that can be left unattended beg for multitasking. Set up the camera (on a tripod of course) with the desired manual exposure settings dialed in and set the drive mode to high speed burst. Then, using a remote release featuring a shutter release lock, lock the release down and go do something else.
If you are fortunate enough to have great stars in your backyard (and you are not concerned about the camera being stolen), that something else could be anything indoors including eating dinner. Or, set up a second camera to photograph the night sky with, perhaps using a different foreground and/or focal length. Read a book, call your mom, sleep, etc. You get the point – and you get the pictures.
If long exposure noise reduction is turned off, the set of images captured can later be combined to create a star trails photo (these are especially great if including the North star). Also optional with the same set of images is creating a time-lapse sequence with the stars moving across the sky.
For this image, I used the suggested strategy and spent my time working with another camera I had also set up. Every 5 minutes or so, I came back to adjust the composition (keeping the bottom of the Milky Way aligned with the break in the trees). Upon reviewing the images later, I found one with the ideal meteorite streak position (along with four smaller meteorite streaks visible in the full-resolution image).
I should mention here that even with a 14mm lens, cameras with imaging sensors having pixel densities as high as the Canon EOS 5Ds R (and all 20+ MP APS-C models) begin to show small star motion-blur streaks at the 25 second exposure used here (except those stars closer to the North Star and the southern equivalent). One option to extend exposure times while avoiding star streaks is to use an equatorial tracking mount. However, a tracking mount will just cause the foreground to be blurred (if a foreground is included in the frame). A great feature of the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracking mount is the 1/2-speed rotation setting option, permitting the motion blur to be balanced between the earth-bound subject and the celestial ones. This setting effectively doubles the exposure times that can be used or, alternatively, it facilitates a 1-stop lower ISO setting. The Star Adventurer likely costs less than you think. Start with the "Astro Package" and consider adding the EQ base and counterweight.
Multiple times I've started to assemble a list of the best star photography lenses, but ... that project remains unfinished. That is a really hard list to assemble and there are no perfect astrophotography lenses. However, there are several really good choices and I currently consider the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens to be the best astrophotography lens available today. I have a dark sky photo trip planned for next summer and the Sigma 14 Art is the primary Lens I plan to take for that purpose.

What is your favorite astrophotography lens?

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
14mm  f/1.8  25s
ISO 3200
5792 x 8688px
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Post Date: 12/5/2017 8:17:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 3, 2017

I shared this white-tailed buck image in the LensCoat RainCoat Review and decided I would share it individually as well. This deer encounter was mid-afternoon on a mid-fall day in Shenandoah National Park. The time of the day combined with the time of the year meant a relatively low sun angle and the time of the year also meant that the buck was in rut. This nice-sized buck was with a doe and he was making sure that rivals did not intrude and was constantly watching for such.
The constantly watching aspect is a key point. During non-rut times, it can be hard to get a buck to lift its head in this national park, but during rut, that problem vanishes. The buck are constantly giving their best alert poses. And, when a challenger shows up, the action gets especially entertaining.
Many basic image composition strategies involve establishing balance in the frame. When an included subject has eyes, the direction they are looking adds weight to the side of the frame being peered toward. This means the subject, adding weight itself, should be moved toward the opposite side of the frame for equalization. There is some flexibility as to how far to move the subject and the rule of thirds often has value in this situation.
Had this buck simply turned his head the other direction, I would have had to rapidly change AF points to the other side of the frame and recompose to move the majority of empty space to the right side of the animal to again achieve the desired balance. As an aside, if that head turn happens, quickly grab a photo placing the already-selected AF point on the closest eye. Then switch AF points as desired prior to continuing to photograph. I often do this because moments with wildlife can be fleeting and as long as you have the entire animal/bird in the frame and in focus, you still have the option to photograph additional empty space after the animal is vanishes. The photo of empty space probably will not be very special (don't accidentally delete it later), but it can be perfect for stitching into the fast-captured wildlife image.
In this case, the buck was motionless for a long enough period of time for me to capture a dozen or so images. All seemed ideally-composed in the viewfinder, most were composed slightly differently and many variants still looked potentially the best during review on the computer. That of course meant that picking only one of them to share was a challenge.
Some of you remember that I often use the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens at SNP. The zoom is ideal for working around obstructions, but this time I opted to use the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. I made this choice primarily to get the stronger background blur (and foreground blur in this case). I know, you are thinking that this is a big and expensive lens. But, it is among my most-frequently-used and a large percentage of my favorite images were captured with it.
One editing question regarding this image remains in my mind: should I remove the small branch over the deer's head? Or does that detail add to the image, emphasizing of the thickness of the brush he is in?

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/3/2017 6:45:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 1, 2017

by Sean Setters

I was in the middle of a head shot session with a local Savannah model when I thought to myself, "Just how many flashes do you need in a studio setting?" After the session was over, I thought a little bit more about that question.

Before going any further, let me be clear – a flash is not absolutely necessary to create a compelling studio portrait (but the use of flash can make capturing compelling portraits easier). Many beautiful, classic portraits have been created using window light alone, or possibly combined with an inexpensive reflector or two. Other constant, man-made light sources (either inexpensive or high-end LED panels) can be used for compelling portraiture, and can even be combined with flashes for interesting effects. But when I think of a versatile lighting tool for the studio, my mind immediately goes to "flash."

With that said, flashes have a few inherent benefits over constant lighting:

  • Wide range of light output variability (and easily controllable)
  • Action freezing potential regardless of ambient light level
  • Full-spectrum light, ideal for color rendering
  • Huge range of light modifiers available

Right now, I have (5) shoe-mount flashes and (6) studio monolights. I use the shoe-mount flashes and monolights interchangeably in the studio, often in the same setup.

So let's walk through a few of the images from my most recent studio session to see how many flashes were used and why.

Portrait with Front Bokeh Battery Powered LED Lights Nov 2017

In the shot above, I only used two flashes, but a total of three light sources were employed. The main light was provided by a shoe-mount flash which was boomed above the subject and diffused by a 24" gridded softbox. Another shoe-mount flash was fired through a 43" collapsible umbrella positioned below the boomed softbox and provided fill light (the two flashes producing a traditional clamshell lighting setup). With the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens mounted to a tripod, I used my free hand to dangle a string of battery powered LED lights in front of the lens to create the bokeh effect.

Brittney Headshot 5 (with Lightblaster)

In this shot, I used two studio strobes slightly behind the subject, both diffused by gridded strip boxes to accentuate the subject's hair and provide separation from the black background. For the main light, I used a shoe-mount flash firing through a Light Blaster (with 35mm transparent slide installed) to create the pattern on her face. So for this particular setup, that's two rim/hair/separation/kicker lights (take your pick on the terminology, but for the rest of this post, I'll use the term "rim") and one main light for a total of three lights. In post-processing, I used Topaz Impression to make the photo look like a painting.

Now let's take a look at a more traditional headshot.

Brittney Headshot 1

This shot required the most lights of the setups we tried. Like the first image, I used a clamshell lighting setup with two flashes located above and below the subject (the same modifiers were used). But as in the preceding shot, I used the two monolights, diffused by strip boxes, to provide rim lighting on both sides of the subject. All told, that's four flashes used. Aside from lighting, I used a fan camera right to create movement in the subject's hair.

So is four the magic number? I don't think so, because I can think of a couple of situations where you I may want one or two more flashes based on the last setup.

For instance, if I had wanted to create a similar headshot to the one directly above but on a darker background (possibly black or gray) I could have used another flash to create a color gradient spotlight behind the subject (using a colored gel and grid modifier). Otherwise, if I had wanted the background to be completely white, with a nice, even coverage, at least two flashes would likely be required to achieve a clean white background.

So, with that in mind, I think a studio lighting kit with at least six flashes would be ideal, allowing for a very wide range of portrait styles to be captured. With six flashes, you'd have:

(1) main light
(1) fill light
(2) rim lights
(2) special use/background lights

If you have a reflector or two handy, then you could likely get by slightly fewer flashes, with the compromise being that reflectors are not nearly as versatile as flashes. But keep in mind, the actual flashes are only one part of a lighting kit. As you add additional flashes, you'll also likely need to add more light stands, umbrella swivels, light modifiers, radio receivers (if not a built-in feature of the flashes), etc. to support use of any flashes added to your kit.

Are there any circumstances that would warrant more than six flashes? Absolutely. But with six flashes (and the corresponding gear) in your kit, accomplishing your creative portraiture goals will rarely be inhibited.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/1/2017 9:30:02 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, November 26, 2017

A baby animal photo elicits an "Awwwww" response more frequently than perhaps any other subject. And for a good reason of course – baby animals are just sooooo cute.
I find whitetailed deer fawns to be among the cutest baby animals and when a tame fawn became a photo opportunity, I of course made full use of it. While tame is extremely helpful for photographing a wildlife subject, tame does not mean that subject is easy to photograph.
Unless feeding, fawns are mostly in constant motion. That is, until they lay down. Newborn fawns spend a significant amount of time lying down, but finding them doing so can be very challenging as they usually pick a hidden location. That means getting a clear photograph of them in this position remains challenging.
Fortunately, this particular location choice gave me a window of opportunity.
My lens choice was the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The reason I chose this lens, aside from its excellent overall performance, was for the focal length range combined with the wide aperture. The fawn was in dark woods (heavy tree canopy) and there were plenty of obstructions that I needed to be in front of. Having the focal length range gave me the ability to adjust framing as desired, allowing me to fit the entire fawn in the frame, while keeping the obscuring brush behind me.
The f/4 aperture is the widest available in a zoom lens of this range and I made full use of that feature on this day. The fawn was still moving its head enough to warrant the 1/400 sec. shutter speed and a proper exposure at f/4 needed ISO 5000.
When the right opportunity occurs, it only takes a short period of time with the right subject to get a card full of great images. When that happens, I become challenged to select one or a few favorites to share. And, that was the case with this fawn. I finally decided to share this one because I liked the overall body position and because the eye is so prominent. Hopefully, the adorable little fawn invoked an "Awwww" from you.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 11/26/2017 6:45:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, November 16, 2017

by Sean Setters

While washing dishes a few days ago, I noticed that the camellia bush just outside the window was blooming. Having never photographed camellia blooms, and with several freely available, I clipped my favorite from the bush, placed it in a small cup of water and brought it into the studio.

As luck would have it, I already had a couple of monolights with gridded strip boxes set up from a previous flower shot (a tulip), so I simply placed the camellia cutting on a posing stool between them. I grabbed my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens, affixed it to my tripod-mounted 5D Mark III and framed the scene to include the entire stamen group set against the petals.

As with many of my flower shots, I opted for a focus stacking technique which would allow me to capture a precise DOF (depth-of-field) which included the entire group of stamens. The focus stacking technique works especially well in situations such as these because the closer you get to an object (to increase magnification), the shallower the DOF at a given aperture. By shooting many incrementally focused images, you can later choose exactly which images to include in your focus stack, thereby selecting the precise DOF you want after the fact. When capturing images for a focus stack, the aperture you choose doesn't necessarily increase (or decrease) the DOF in your final image (the number of shots used for the focus stack ); however, the aperture you choose will affect your margin for error when incrementing focus (with wider apertures allowing for less room for error) and will affect the transition to out-of-focus elements (blur) at the beginning and end of your focus stack.

Camera settings for the individual shots were f/8, 1/160 sec and ISO 100, and I manually rotated the focus ring (very slightly) for each exposure. The image you see above was compiled from 22 individual images using Helicon Focus with final edits made in Adobe Photoshop CC.

A larger version of the image can be seen on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 11/16/2017 10:20:35 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
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