Photo Tips and Stories (Page 21) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Thursday, March 2, 2017

We recently spoke with a high-level Canon representative about the benefits of using image stabilization when high shutter speeds are being utilized to stop fast action. While the information below should not be considered official Canon guidelines, they do represent the experiences of a person who has had a substantial amount of experience with Canon lenses and their IS systems.

Question: Is there a shutter speed above which image stabilization should be turned off? Should IS be turned off when shooting action under bright light with short shutter speeds, perhaps 1/1600 – 1/2500 using a 400 f/2.8L IS II or 600 f/4L IS II, as the benefits of stabilization may be reduced substantially?

Answer:

It's definitely true that there's a point, as shutter speeds get progressively faster, that the shake-prevention qualities of Image Stabilization really have little or no added effect. In other words, if you take a 600mm f/4L IS lens, mount it on a monopod (definitely NOT a totally stable platform, obviously!), and shoot at 1/8000th of a second, it's absolutely arguable that I.S. has no direct benefit in terms of minimizing camera shake. I think we can agree that with or without I.S., most users could get consistently shake-free pictures with that monopod-mounted 600 at 1/8000th of a second.

Turning I.S. off in situations like that (maybe not at 1/8000th, but perhaps at 1/2000th or thereabouts) will save a small amount of camera battery power... probably a minor consideration to most users, but perhaps a bit more relevant to someone working with a camera like an EOS Rebel or the new EOS 77D, which have smaller batteries with less capacity than, say, an EOS-1D X Mark II. Definitely a potential consideration for anyone shooting with a mirrorless camera like an EOS M5, which *always* have less battery life per charge, since they use more power-hungry LCD monitors or electronic viewfinders.

For sports, action, wildlife and so on, keep in mind the potential benefits of a more stable image in your viewfinder. Even if your shutter speed pretty much precludes any problems with camera shake, if I.S. is active and set to Mode 1 or Mode 2, you see a steadier, more stable view in your finder when working on a monopod or a gimbal-type tripod mount. This can be beneficial in a number of ways, from subtle benefits in frame-to-frame composition when following moving subjects, to being able to keep an AF point solidly upon a detailed area of a moving subject.

For those who consider the effect of visible stabilization during shooting to be an annoyance (for instance, it may seem to delay rapid lens movements to follow a moving subject), there is Mode 3 on lenses like the 400/2.8 II or 600/4 II. This is a specialized I.S. mode that does provide the shake-prevention effects, but ONLY when the shutter button is **fully** depressed, and a shot is actually being taken. Otherwise, at all other times, the effect of I.S. is disabled, although stabilization detection is continually taking place between shots, and the lens's moveable stabilization optical elements are held in a non-locked, "ready" position. In other words, in Mode 3, you don't SEE the effect of stabilization, but it still is there when you actually shoot each picture.

Here's one that never gets discussed among sports, action and wildlife shooters, but which our engineers HAVE said is a benefit of Image Stabilization, even at the fastest shutter speeds. Because Canon's I.S. is optical, if you do have your stabilization set to Mode 1 or 2, where it's continually active, the viewfinder isn't the only place where a steady, stabilized image is seen. The FOCUSING SYSTEM also gets the same benefit of a clean, steady and stabilized look at the subject, too. This matters, especially during fast, high-speed sequences, and even more so if/when you're shooting subjects that are (a) moving aggressively, and (b) may not have tons of detail, contrast and texture to them. The AF point or points being used must see some detail, and during a fast, AI Servo AF sequence, have less than 1/10th of a second in cameras like an EOS 7D Mark II, or certainly an EOS-1D X model, to read the subject between each frame. By using I.S., regardless of how fast the actual shutter speed is, the AF system gets a cleaner, steadier look at the subject during that interval between each frame, and is more likely to be able to read subject detail and provide continuous AF where most or all frames in a sequence are sharp (in terms of FOCUS).

I know there's a body of thought out there among some sports shooters that since they're already at fast shutter speeds, I.S. isn't needed, but they should contemplate what I just said. And, there's a body of thought that I.S. being active can slow down AF... I've directly asked our leading engineers that, and been told emphatically that this is NOT true, regardless of anecdotal "evidence" some shooters may feel they've experienced.

Bottom line, my basic suggestion would be to leave it on, unless you absolutely have deliberate reasons for not doing so. Consider the above points; remember the potential impact of Mode 2 (panning mode, so to speak) and Mode 3 (stabilization, but without visible effects in the viewfinder); and we do still suggest turning I.S. off if you know you'll be mounted to a completely rigid, locked-down position.

Question: Extending your engineering discussion … I understand the benefit of IS to the AF system. What about when the subject is moving rapidly and IS is trying to hold the image still? It seems to me that the AF system would be better having the exact subject framing present at the moment it is making its decision. And, isn’t the addition of Mode 3 supporting this concept?

Answer:

Like I said, if you have distinct reasons for shutting I.S. off, go for it. But, in the VAST majority of action-type situations, especially with human-subjects (football and similar sports), the likelihood the movement would be SO sudden that what I.S. projects into the viewfinder and the subject's actual composition at the same time or an instant later would be extremely different is probably pretty slim. At least, in my experience. Might be a little different for someone photographing small birds in flight with a big lens, from relatively close distances.

The addition of Mode 3 *might* bring some benefits if and when you feel this difference in what you see vs. what you shoot is happening, but it's not the sole reason for its existence.

Most of the time, I'm very comfortable to suggest using I.S. Mode 1 or 2, even at fast shutter speeds, and with nearly all moving subjects. But I repeat, if for whatever reasons you feel it's hindering your ability to compose in real time, either switching to Mode 3, or turning I.S. off completely, remain options as well.

So, there you have it. Even when using shutter speeds fast enough to negate camera shake, leaving image stabilization "On" is generally a good idea. If nothing else, it's providing a stable viewfinder scene for you and the AF system, allowing for easier tracking of moving subjects.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 3/2/2017 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Image via greatamericaneclipse.com

In just a few short months, the United States will be treated to a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, an event which hasn't been witnessed by the citizens of the US mainland in 38 years.

In other words, mark your calendars and start planning / preparing for your solar eclipse viewing now.

On August 21, assuming fair weather and an unobstructed view of the sky, those residing in or traveling to the pathway above will enjoy an experience of a lifetime (click to download a larger image).

Due to the fact that the total eclipse pathway will traverse the central part of the US from the Northwest to the Southeast, a large percentage of the US population lives within a day's travel to a total eclipse viewing point.

Of course, finding a hotel in one of the larger cities placed along the total eclipse pathway will be more challenging as the August event draws near, so start making your reservations now to avoid accommodation issues.

You'll likely also want to stock up on your solar eclipse viewing/photography supplies. With that in mind, B&H has created a special Solar Eclipse 2017 page with gear specific the rare event.

The Canon Digital Learning Center has been publishing articles on the upcoming event and will continue add more articles in the months ahead. Here's what they have posted so far:

If you miss the opportunity to see and/or photograph the August 21 solar eclipse, you'll have to wait another seven years for the next opportunity to roll around (April 8, 2024). Our advice is to try and view this rare event from a total eclipse vantage point if you can; assuming clear conditions, you will never forget the awe-inspiring scene.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 3/1/2017 6:23:14 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Put a large specimen of one of my favorite animals in front of my favorite tree trunks in front of my favorite leaves and ... an image I like is shaping up nicely. The leaves are from Idaho maples in the peak of their fall color. The tree trunks are aspens and their white color makes most images look better. Of course, a large bull elk makes practically any photo look good.
 
What is the easiest way to create panorama image? Crop a wide aspect ratio from a single image. While successfully capturing multiple images and seamlessly stitching them together can create a higher resolution image, it is easier just to use a wider angle lens and crop them to the desired aspect ratio. Using the cropping method also avoids issues with subjects in motion (waves, clouds, people, animals, etc.). Especially if a very resolution camera is used (one of the 5D Mark IV's upgrades was resolution), there can still be plenty of resolution for large output remaining after cropping.
 
In the example shared here, the "wider angle lens" was due to a focal length limitation at the time of capture. I was stalking the elk, didn't have an extender with me and the bull was walking towards the woods (the moment was not going to last). The cropping technique is often useful in helping to mentally justify the result.
 
I'll save the argument as to whether or not the angle of view from a 600mm lens covers a wide enough view of an area to qualify for the definition of "panorama" for another day, but the wide aspect ratio is at least in the spirit of these images.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1000s
ISO 800
5772 x 2574px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/28/2017 7:03:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The snow line usually marks the elevation above which there is snow, often forming snow-capped mountains. On this morning, the snow line was below the mountain top.
 
I had just spent two hours in the tractor cab taking care of snow removal duties and was then able to concentrate on capturing some fresh snow images. My studio overlooks a valley and a small mountain ridge. The snow came with a strong wind from the opposite side of that ridge and above the ground line, the windswept trees remained bare while the lower elevation trees, protected by the mountain, were heavily snow-laden. The snow/no-snow line was strong and I was drawn to the contrast.
 
The mountain was roughly 1,500 yards (1,500m) away and I could see over a mile (1.6 km) of it in width. This meant that the primary interest for me was strongly horizontal. I could photograph using a wide angle focal length and crop the top and bottom off to get just the strong line of bare trees over the snow line, I could capture multiple frames at a longer focal length to later stitch into a panoramic image or I could go with a telephoto focal length and frame tightly. I chose the telephoto lens option and began isolating specific areas of mountain.
 
My lens choice was the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens and mounted it to the being-reviewed Canon EOS M5 via the EF-EOS M Adapter.
 
The storm was clearing and periodically, the sun was shining through breaks in the clouds. The areas of snow in the direct sunlight became especially bright and the partial illumination created additional interest within the already interesting scene. When available, the partially lit portions of the scene were my focus.
 
Often, photographing scenes this far away results in details being strongly affected by heat waves, but on this crisp, clear morning, the M5 behind the 100-400 L II delivered very sharp image quality, even at this distance. Notice that photographing subjects from very long distances always results in a compressed look with less perception of depth (trees farther away appear similarly-sized as closer trees). This attribute can be good or bad depending on the scene, how the composition comes together and the viewer's taste.
 
While the circular polarizer filter was not making a noticeable effect, I had it mounted in case blue sky opened up and I note its use for those questioning the exposure settings.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
182mm  f/5.6  1/500s
ISO 100
6000 x 4000px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/22/2017 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Crossing Place Trail in Middle Caicos leads along some spectacular coastline. "Trail", however, is a rather generous term for much of what is encountered here, especially west of Blowing Hole. Very sharp rocks (the ironshore formation limestone you see in the foreground in this image) and thick brush (with occasional very-deep holes beneath) take the place of anything resembling a trail.
 
The Turks and Caicos Islands have the world's 3rd largest reef system protecting it, but along this trail, the reef comes close to shore. This means that, on a normal day, waves hit the coast hard. And, on a windy day, things become rather spectacular along this section of the trail.
 
The winds on this day (like the entire 9 days of this trip) were sustained at just over 30 mph and gusts were reaching 50+ mph. The waves were crashing into the cliffs and blowing up in dramatic fashion, easily visible from the causeway over a mile away.
 
Upon arriving at this location, I determined that I could safely approach the cliff and I did so cautiously. I didn't take a rain cover for the camera or a rain coat for me on this trip, but ... after thinking about the situation for a while and watching my daughter figure out how to cover her camera with extra clothes and a hat for a lens flap, I couldn't resist the opportunity. The waves were too beautiful and mesmerizing to leave uncaptured.
 
What I had was the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L's rain cover and the plastic bags I always store in the backpack. The large garbage bag, with three holes torn into it, went over me (it was cool out and with the wind, I was cold) and a 2-gallon clear heavy plastic food storage bag nicely wrapped around the camera with the lens directed through the opening. I held the bag tightly around the lens hood and could see the viewfinder through the bag reasonably well – well enough. The front of the lens was not protected aside of the hood, but holding the camera downward under my body during times when spray was hitting (most of the time), kept it dry. I had a dry microfiber cloth readily available for cleaning the lens when my timing was not stellar.
 
When a wave was timed to hit while there was little or no sea spray in the air, I would quickly move the camera into position and shoot an image (or burst of images) as the wave crashed and violently blew upward. I was learning the Sony a7R II camera's capabilities, but ... this scenario proved challenging and my sharp image percentage was not as strong as I had hoped. Still, I made some nice images.
 
With the quick-shooting tactic, getting the camera perfectly level (or even close to that) proved challenging (it proves challenging to me on a good day) and this shot was a bit tilted. The horizon over an ocean makes any tilt obvious and this one needed repaired. However, simply rotating the image was going to result in more of the scene being cropped out that I was happy with. I could have used a wider focal length to shoot with (the Sony a7R II has plenty of resolution), but ... I was already using that tactic. This wave was simply bigger than I had anticipated.
 
How did I fix the tilt? I used the Lasso Tool in Photoshop to select and area above and below the horizon where the non-splashing water is meeting sky (on the right side of the frame), being careful to draw through areas lacking details. I then copied the selection (CTRL-C) and pasted it into a new layer (CTRL-V). I pressed CTRL-T (Free Transform) and rotated the copied waterline until it was level. Using a layer mask with a soft brush, I hid the borders of the copied layer and smoothed out anything that appeared out of place in the result. The image was effectively leveled and I didn't have to crop off any of the splash.
 
Being in the wave zone of a rough sea is not safe and in addition to watching for photogenic waves approaching, I was constantly watching for trouble. Twice I successfully ran to drier ground when monster waves hit directly in front of me, but twice I had very large waves splash completely over me, sending buckets of water pouring from myself and the bags (enough to make a water cooler dumped over a winning football coach appear like a Dixie cup). The described bag technique, while not optimum, kept the gear (and most of my shirt) dry and allowed me to capture some fun pics.
 
Big waves are fascinating – I could spend hours watching them.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
31mm  f/9.0  1/200s
ISO 200
7952 x 5304px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/19/2017 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, February 13, 2017

by Sean Setters

Over the Valentine's day holiday this year, the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers in the US will spend roughly $2 billion on floral arrangements. As such, I think it's safe to say that many of our site visitors will be purchasing flowers very soon (or have already done so) to show appreciation for a special loved one on this special occasion.

Unfortunately, unless a potted plant is gifted, the floral arrangement will not likely look as pristine and beautiful in the days/weeks following February 14th as the effects of time takes its toll on each once-vibrant petal. Yes, you may put a preservative in the water to stretch the life of your floral gift as long as possible, but ... that solution is not nearly as long-lasting as another available to you.

Your camera holds the easy solution for extending the practical life of your floral gift. By using your camera, you can capture the fleeting beauty of your loved one's flower arrangements and immortalize your thoughtfulness in the form of a print. A print represents the physical manifestation of a memory – in this case, a very good one – that can pay heartwarming dividends year-round.

You can employ your DSLR and a general purpose lens, a large window (or strobes) and a collapsible/muslin background to create a traditional still life photo of your bouquet. Otherwise, you can attach your macro lens to commemorate the beauty of a single flower. The possibilities are endless, and your loved one will likely enjoy displaying their new sentimental print on a prominent wall.

Make plans now to photograph the flowers you are going to give (if they will not remain available to you) or have already given. Pick out your favorite (or a few of them) and get those prints on order for the second wave of gifting.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/13/2017 12:25:30 PM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The first thing you reach for when a rainbow shows up is of course a camera, but ... what is the first lens you reach for? Probably one with wide angle focal lengths, enabling you to get as much of the rainbow in the frame as possible. That is often a great choice, but ... what if the landscape does not support a wide angle composition?
 
Especially if you find rainbows intriguing (where else can you find the entire visible spectrum separated and displayed brilliantly?), you will, over time, likely accumulate many average rainbow photos. These will have a narrow arc of color running through the image with whatever scene happens to be in front of you at the time, including houses, streets, power lines, etc. The rainbows always look great, but eventually ... something more is needed for the image to be worth keeping. With plenty of average rainbow images on my hard drives, I now often keep driving, working, etc. while admiring a rainbow as a so-so landscape is no longer a good enough supporting background.
 
Especially when facing a rainbow with a just-average landscape surrounding it (or, when there is a partial rainbow), consider grabbing a telephoto lens to photograph it. With a narrower angle of view than wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses can make great images with a less scenic background available, allowing the rainbow's beauty to be isolated from less-desirable surroundings. If the sun is high enough, a short telephoto focal length (70mm in that example) can even keep some of the arc in the frame. Zooming in to 150mm permits more surroundings to be excluded (an entire town in that case).
 
For the image I'm sharing here, I zoomed to the longest focal length I had available. A benefit of that 400mm focal length was that the amazing colors of the rainbow filled a much higher percentage of the frame than a wide angle focal length would have provided. It also made the sheets of rain more prominent within the rainbow.
 
Yes, an even longer focal length would have filled an even higher percentage of the frame with color and 600mm through 800mm focal lengths should also be considered for rainbow capturing at times. But, as mentioned, I didn't have a longer lens available. However, a benefit from having 50 megapixels of resolution is that this image can be cropped considerably and still retain very high quality, a result that can still be output to a large size. While I contemplated cropping (and still may create that variation), I decided to share this one as-captured with additional elements supporting the color. I like the ocean providing a base and context for the storm and the shading variations to the sides of the rainbow help indicate the heavy storm's presence.
 
The heavy, dense rainstorm approaching over the Atlantic was a welcomed sight on this afternoon (from an imaging perspective at least). The direct sunlight reaching the storm created an intense display of color that lasted long enough to ... allow me to create more images than I needed. I admit to capturing some wide angle images of this scene with the lens I was already using prior to reaching for one of my favorite telephoto zoom lenses. After installing and adjusting a circular polarizer filter, I captured a variety of images, including both camera orientations, a variety of focal lengths and sometimes with clouds passing in front of the rainbow worked into the compositions.
 
This rainbow image was captured in North Caicos, but aside from the water color, it could have been over any large body of water. I mentioned that wind was an issue on this entire trip and, with a storm approaching, the wind was especially strong while photographing this rainbow. With the sun at my back and the wind in my face, I left the lens hood in the pack. The filter was completely shaded by the lens and large hoods become a source of vibration in the wind. I sat on the ground with my elbows on my knees, my left hand holding tightly over the lens mounted to a retracted Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Carbon Fiber Tripod. With the camera's eyepiece pressed against my eyebrow, the setup was completely locked down and my sharp image rate was nearly 100%.
 
Rainbows are made possible by the right weather conditions and ... the weather can be unpredictable. But, when your next rainbow shows up, consider chasing it with your telephoto lens.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/8/2017 9:58:37 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, February 3, 2017

I recently shared an image showing an Incoming Storm Over Dragon Cay. That image came with a promise. My promise was to share the loved-by-everyone landscape photography element that a back-lit rainstorm holds promise for. A back-lit storm, once passed, becomes front-lit and that is the recipe for a rainbow, the referred-to strongly-desired element.
 
As soon as the rain stopped, I left my cave shelter (going out into the high winds) and there was the rainbow, complete with supernumerary bands (a stacker rainbow) and a slight second/double rainbow. I found a vantage point offering a photogenic view looking away from the sun (as that the requirement for the rainbow to be visible). I mounted a circular polarizer filter to the excellent Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, framed the scene, rotated the filter to get the brightest rainbow and captured a series of images.
 
It was a great feeling to have confidence that some solid keepers were on the memory card as I drove back to the villa for second breakfast. I saw at least one rainbow on every day of this trip, saw several of them on most days and was able to capture some of them in nice photos.
 
Of course, seeing many rainbows means that there were many storms. Planning enough days at a location can be the key to successful outdoor photography – just to make sure that you get some storms worth photographing. Of course, one can never spend enough time at some locations.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/3/2017 9:53:25 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, January 29, 2017

Storms on the horizon and mostly cloudy overhead. That is what I saw when I stepped out of the Middle Caicos villa well before sunrise. While I admit that going back to bed seemed like a good (and justifiable) option, I knew that storms could bring desired drama and resisted that urge. While a sky completely covered in rainstorm was not of interest to me on this morning, I saw enough breaks in the clouds to give hope for some dramatic skies and I stayed with the plan.
 
Mudjin Harbor is my favorite location in the causeway-connected North and Middle Caicos islands (Turks and Caicos Islands are just north of Haiti and Dominican Republic). The cliffs and beaches in this location are stunning and the color of the water is among the best anywhere. The close-to-shore reef system brings entertainment in terms of waves and many small ironshore formation limestone rock islands dot the landscape, including Dragon Cay (Dragon Island) as seen here.
 
At this resolution, it is not especially easy to recognize the dragon lying in the water, but the rightmost large rock is shaped like a horn-nosed dragon head with its body (including shoulders and hips) flowing to the left and followed by its tail. A goal for this trip was to capture some images that included this fun land formation in them and having a nearby villa was part of the plan implementation.
 
A big attraction of Mudjun Harbor is a pair of caves and one of the caves faces the beast. A great and popular compositional technique is to frame a subject within its surroundings and one of my favorite natural frames is the opening of a cave. In addition to making a good frame, this particular cave offered a couple of additional benefits on this morning.
 
First, the sustained wind speed was just over 30 mph and gusts were reaching 50+ mph. That is fierce enough to blow a camera and tripod over and strong enough to make it difficult to even stand up, let alone frame and capture a sharp image. It is strong enough to make a painful whistle across one's ears and strong enough to blow salt water deep inland (causing, minimally, front lens element clarity issues). I was able to get deep enough into this cave to essentially eliminate the wind factor.
 
You can see the other issue approaching in this image. A small-but-significant rainstorm is close and on direct course for my position. The cave offered shelter from the rain and allowed me to photograph continuously as it approached and hit.
 
The word "cave" is often used to describe a dark venue and though these cave walls were brighter than many, they were quite dark and the backlit clouds were much brighter. This scenario means that an HDR technique was required. Two images with different exposures were manually (painstakingly in this case) blended in Photoshop to achieve the result seen here.
 
Obviously, this rainstorm was back-lit by the sun and direct sunlight on rain holds promise for another highly valued, loved-by-everyone landscape photography element that I'll share later.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/29/2017 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, January 25, 2017

While in flight with the sun directly above/behind me and a solid cloud structure below/in front of me, beautiful concentric circular rainbows, called "glory", were visible. I had the Canon EOS M5 and EF-M 15-45mm Lens ready.
 
Read the Aerial Photography from a Commercial Airplane to learn more about taking full photographical advantage of your flights.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Gear Used
 
Camera and Lens Settings
45mm  f/7.1  1/400s
ISO 100
6000 x 4000px
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Post Date: 1/25/2017 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, January 20, 2017

by Sean Setters

Photography gear, typically speaking, is expensive. As such, we as photographers often entertain the idea of purchasing inexpensive camera accessories in lieu of adding the brand name equivalent to our kits.

But should we? Is it safe/reliable to buy cheap camera accessories? In some cases, the answer is "yes." When considering the purchase of a cheap camera accessory, here are the questions I ask myself:

1. How substantial is the savings opportunity?
Of course the biggest allure in purchasing cheap accessories is the cost savings realized over purchasing the brand name item. But just how much are you saving? Can you replace the inexpensive alternative more than once while still saving money in the long run compared to the brand name product? If so, the cheaper alternative may prove to be a good investment.

2. How complex is the item?
You're more likely to have issues with inexpensive accessories that contain electronics (especially those that must communicate with your camera) or lens elements (which require tight manufacturing and assembly tolerances). Lens hoods, for instance, are relatively simple to create. In most cases, they're simply a molded piece of plastic. However, that doesn't stop name brand camera manufacturers from charging an arm and a leg for them. A cheap knock-off hood may not have internal flocking or a fancy filter access window, but they'll typically do the job. I say "typically" because there is a moderately wide range of qualities of design and production for the manufacturers filling this low-cost market space. And that brings me to my next question...

3. Is the item made by a relatively well known brand? In-house brands, like Vello (from B&H) and Flashpoint (Adorama) offer budget-priced accessories that a major retailer will stand behind. This means that if you are dissatisfied with your purchase, you can likely return the item without financial consequence. These brands are usually slightly more expensive than unheard of brands, but often provide the best value-per-dollar from a security/reliability perspective.

4. How important are the item's benefits to your kit?
If you are going to rely on your accessory day in and day out, or you have clients whom depend on you to deliver images without fail, then the reliability of a name brand accessory may outweigh the benefit in cost savings realized by going with a cheaper alternative. Of course, brand name accessories can fail too, but... the brand name manufacturer has a reputation and [very valuable] brand to protect, so they will typically produce the highest quality products.

A Prime Example

Recently the eyecup on my now 8 year-old Canon EOS 7D broke (seen above). The item isn't necessarily vital to the operation of my camera, but I wanted to replace it.

In this case, I had three plausible options:

  1. Canon Eyecup Eg (direct replacement) for $16.95 + shipping
  2. Vello EPC-EG Eyepiece (B&H's in-house brand) for $14.95 with free shipping
  3. (2) Eggsnow Eyepiece Eyecups EG (completely unknown brand from Amazon) for $8.99 with free prime shipping
Ultimately, I chose to go with the third option for the following reasons:

  • The cost savings was substantial, especially since I received two items instead of one.
  • The eyecup is a simple product to make and therefore quality differences should be minimal.
  • If the eyecup fails, it won't have a big impact on my photography until I can find another replacement (in this case, an identical item shipped).

Upon receipt of the Amazon acquired eyecups, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they seem to be identical to the Canon eyecup aside from the model branding.

A few additional cheap accessory options I've had pleasant results with from B&H, Amazon or Adorama include:

  • Lens Hoods
  • Lens Caps (front and rear)
  • Body Caps
  • Extension Tubes
  • Tripod Rings
  • Arca-style Quick Release Plates and Clamps
  • Intervalometers, Wireless & Wired Camera Triggers

The Bottom Line

Sometimes the bottom line on your financial statement is more important than any potential risks a third party (especially non-vital) accessory presents. Other times, the potential risks simply aren't worth chancing. Of course, the differentiation will largely depend on one's particular priorities and preferences.

What do you think? Are there other cheap accessory items that you consider relatively safe investments? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/20/2017 10:23:14 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, January 19, 2017

Schwabachers Landing in Grand Teton National Park is a huge favorite location for photographers, especially in the fall. There is good reason for this of course. The Grand Teton range is incredible from many vantage points, but with several beaver ponds making reflections possible, Schwabachers Landing offers twice as many mountain peaks in images captured here.
 
I captured many composition variations here, but in this simple example, I wanted to emphasize the distant mountains and the 53mm focal length was effective at keeping them large in the frame. Though wide angle focal lengths also created nice compositions here, the mountain peaks were rendered small and much less significant.
 
The angle of the mid-September morning light is rather flat on this mountain range, but I think that the color of the trees more than offsets this time-of-the-year deficiency.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
53mm  f/8.0  1/160s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/19/2017 10:01:44 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, January 12, 2017

Have you ever wondered how this site's product images are created? If so, you'll want to check out our most recent addition to the Photography Tips page:

Canon EF 16 35mm f 2.8L III USM Lens/Canon EF 16 35mm f 2.8L III USM Lens Comparison

The Ideal, Simple, General Purpose Product Photography Setup (How this Site's Product Images are Captured)
In it, you'll get a behind-the-scenes look at Bryan's product photography setup, details on the gear he utilizes to create the classic, white background product imagery found throughout the site and a few tips for creating your own product images.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/12/2017 7:52:58 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Obviously, there is one less tree on the ranch.
 
While I mostly used the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens on this elk photo trip, there were times when I was really glad to have the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens readily available. In this case, thanks to the zoom range afforded by this lens, I was able to capture both full-body images and close-ups in rapid succession.
 
This huge rutting bull rocky mountain elk was in the bottom of a valley that had long been in the shade from the setting sun. He was intently tearing up this tree, which meant that I needed a fast shutter speed to stop the motion. My choice of 1/1000 was certainly not overkill, but I wanted to keep the noise levels down as much as possible. The 5D IV's ISO 5000 looks good enough that choosing an even faster shutter speed would have been a non-issue.
 
With the upward head angle, it was almost as if I was lighting the 8x7 bull with a huge softbox in the studio.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
371mm  f/5.6  1/1000s
ISO 5000
6720 x 4480px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/4/2017 8:41:32 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 3, 2017

by Sean Setters

Some photography and general purpose accessories are so useful, so vital and/or so inexpensive that they're worth having in every single camera bag you own.

The first thing you're probably thinking is, "Why wouldn't I simply remove all the items in one bag and put them in another?" And while this practice does work in theory, unfortunately it does not work as well in practice. That's because the purpose of having different camera bags is because they serve different functions. As such, we may not (or simply cannot) put the exact same items in similar places in another bag. That means that it's too easy to miss something when transferring items unless you are diligent enough to use a checklist every time you switch bags. However, using a checklist and transferring items also takes time which may leave you rushed if the perfect photo opportunity is fleeting.

For these reasons, I prefer to keep duplicates of the most useful accessories in each of my main camera bags (2 backpacks and 2 messenger bags). To be considered for this list, the gear must meet the guidelines outlined in the first sentence of this post.

1. Memory Card(s)

It's a pretty simple concept – without a way to store images, the best camera & lens in the world are not going to help you capture the moment. Memory cards are an essential part of the digital imaging process (unless you are tethering, and even then, many DSLRs require a memory card).

Memory card capacities have increased substantially over the years with the result of the previous high-to-mid-range capacity cards dropping in price. And when it comes to a backup memory card, you don't necessarily need the highest capacity, highest performance card on the planet. You just need something that will cover your temporary needs in case of an emergency.

2. Microfiber Cloth

Few tools in the photography arsenal are as inexpensive as they are invaluable, but that would be an apt description of microfiber cloths. They're so inexpensive that they're often given away for free with various purchases, yet I can never seem to have enough of them. Be sure to keep at least one in every camera bag and/or lens case; you'll be glad you did.

3. Filter Wrenches

I'm a big fan of buying filters which fit my largest diameter lenses and using step-up rings to allow those larger filters to be used on lenses featuring a smaller front filter diameter. However, filters have a way of [seemingly] becoming glued to step up rings. It's difficult for me to imagine how many times I've needed a filter wrench to aid in separating a filter stuck to a step-up ring or a filter stuck to another filter. A circular polarizer stuck to anything can be especially difficult to remove as there is very little gripping surface to work with. In those cases, a set of filter wrenches can really save the day.

4. Weather Protection

Even if your gear bag is full of L-series lenses and professional bodies which feature a good degree of weather sealing, it's always a good idea keep some type of weather protection on-hand for those times when torrential rain is on the horizon or wind gusts are blanketing your location with fine dust/sand. One of my personal favorite rain sleeves is the OP/TECH USA 8" Small Rain Sleeve. It's perfect for a (gripped or non-gripped) DSLR with small to medium-sized lenses. It's inexpensive and easy to pack insurance that's hard not to justify adding to every camera bag you own.

5. Small Rocket Blower

Have you ever zoomed in on one of your landscape images only to find a dark spot in the middle of your clear, blue sky? If so, a Small Rocket Blower could have likely saved you the trouble of removing the blemish(es) in post processing. The Rocket Blower is also handy for removing fine dust from cameras, lenses and lens elements.

6. Small Flashlight

If you photograph any type of nighttime scene (cityscapes, astrophotography, etc), then you'll need some type of light source for finding your gear (or your way) in the dark. While a smartphone can work in a pinch, it's often best to have a small, dedicated AAA flashlight in your camera bag ready for when you need it.

7. Camera/Lens Plate & Allen Wrenches

Additional tools that you may find useful on occasion include camera/lens plates and the corresponding Allen wrenches. For instance, when using a gimbal stabilizer or otherwise mounting your camera in a way where reduced weight is a priority, you may want to remove the camera's battery grip and L-bracket (if applicable) and substitute a standard camera plate for affixing to your platform. And to do that, you'll also need the corresponding filter wrench(es). I typically keep a Multi Bicycle Tool in my main camera bag and a couple of my most-used Allen wrenches in all of my camera bags. They take up very little room and can definitely come in handy when tripod and/or plate adjustments are required.

8. Garbage Bag

Bryan eloquently detailed the value of keeping garbage bags in your camera bag in his article, "The 1 Cheap Accessory that should be in All of Your Camera Bags". Garbage bags are cheap, versatile and easily accessible. If you don't add anything else from this list to your camera bag(s), there's simply no excuse for neglecting to one of these.

9. Pen and Notepad

While a smartphone may be the ultimate Swiss Army knife of gadgets, its need for constant power to make use of the device means that there's still room for tried and true analog tools in your kit, especially when they take up little space and are so easy to stow away in a pocket. A small notepad and pen are perfect examples. I personally prefer the reliability and versatility afforded by the Fisher Space Pen and Rite in the Rain Tactical 3x5 Notebook, a combination that allows for usage in extreme environments (including rain) where I am much less likely to prefer using my smartphone.

10. Business Cards

Have you ever struck up a conversation with a total stranger just because you were spotted photographing with a "nice camera?" One of the best ways to convert a complete stranger into a photography client is to have a business card at your fingertips when the conversation is initiated.

11. Photographers' Rights Reference Material

Police, security personnel or even everyday citizens may have the best intentions, but they may also prove a little overzealous if they decide they do not like you photographing a particular scene. A little education goes a long way, and keeping some sort of reference material in your gear bag can be advantageous in any confrontation where the law is clearly on your side. Print out the relevant information and keep a folded copy in a camera bag's pocket; hopefully you'll never need it, but you'll likely appreciate it if and when you do.

So that's our 11 small, inexpensive things you should consider adding to all of your camera bags. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/3/2017 9:07:06 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, December 31, 2016

On this day in Shenandoah National Park, white-tailed deer and more specifically, fawns, were my primary target. However, I knew that sunsets from the Big Meadows area were often beautiful and therefore, I coordinated my efforts to be in position to photograph the sky should it blow up in color. And on this evening, it did.
 
I only had the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with a EOS 5Ds R behind it and a Gitzo monopod under it. Fortunately, that ended up being an ideal setup. With the brilliantly colored sky being relatively small in scale, the telephoto focal lengths allowed me to get a frame full of color.
 
I photographed this scene through and after sunset, but liked this image, with the last bit of sun still shining over the distant mountain, the best. With a great sky, interesting and colorful images can be made with little or no content other than just the sky in the frame. In this situation, I liked how the mountain in shadow gave the image a base in addition to adding some needed framing below setting sun.
 
The colorful sky found just before, during and just after sunrises and sunsets help to create some of the best landscape images possible. But, there is one post processing adjustment that can give these images some extra "pop" and that adjustment is saturation. Find the saturation slider in your image processing tool, slide it to the right and watch your image come alive.
 
But, don't move it too far to the right. Use caution in the amount of saturation you add as this adjustment can easily be (and often is) overdone. Add the desired life to the image without creating a garish overdone look that screams "I ADDED TOO MUCH SATURATION!" I like to come back to a processed image the next day to see if I still agree with my original decision. Sometimes, I change my mind months later.
 
The sky was so amazingly colored on this evening that I only adjusted the saturation setting for this image to "1" (in Canon's Digital Photo Pro software).


It seemed fitting to post a sunset image on New Year's Eve, the sunset of another year. My family and I wish you and yours a Happy New Year and hope that your 2017 is a blessed one!

 
Camera and Lens Settings
377mm  f/5.6  1/1250s
ISO 100
7460 x 4973px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/31/2016 7:55:46 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 29, 2016

While actively reviewing a lens, I generally have it mounted and ready to capture any appropriate subject that comes available. On this day, it was a raccoon that provided the entertainment and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Contemporary was fortunately the mounted lens.
 
If you could use long focal lengths in a relatively small, light and affordable package, this lens is worth considering. With the 600mm focal length and image stabilization, I was able to capture this image handheld from a distance long enough to avoid scaring the critter away.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/7.1  1/200s
ISO 1000
4859 x 3239px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/29/2016 10:55:58 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 25, 2016

An 85mm lens is usually not my first choice for bird photography, but ... I can be an opportunist. When this shot presented itself, I saw the opportunity for demonstrating this lens' minimum focus distance combined with the look of the 85mm focal length and f/1.4 aperture. The shallow depth of field makes the tufted titmouse stand out in an image containing many potentially distracting details.
 
Aligning the edge of the bird within the gold ribbon also aids in isolating the subject and the Christmas-decorated basket "ties" the image into the season.


My family and I wish you a warm, joy-filled and very merry Christmas! We consider you part of our family and hope that your Christmas is filled with great meaning, great memories and, as always, great images And, may all of your camera cases be overflowing.

A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
85mm  f/1.4  1/200s
ISO 200
8688 x 5792px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/25/2016 7:20:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 23, 2016

What would a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens review be without a sample portrait? The problem was that the schedules of my most-potential subjects were crazy and the weather had been mostly not very nice since the lens arrived.
 
When I saw my best opportunity, time was short, it was raining lightly and with the associated heavy cloud cover, outdoor lighting from the massive overhead softbox was very flat. Fortunately, the giant softbox makes lighting easy (and the f/1.4 aperture means that the low light levels were a non-issue). All that was needed was a form of shade to give some direction/shape to the light. I simply had my subject stand at the edge of a porch roof. The white columns and white window trim background was able to be melted away with the aid of the shallow depth of field this lens can produce.
 
The diffusely-blurred and neutrally-colored background does not compete for attention with the primary subject and the red scarf adds just a touch of Christmas color.
 
When capturing portraits with a very shallow depth of field, the closer eye minimally needs to be in focus. If the subject is looking directly at the camera, both eyes can be in focus, but if there is any other head angle, a decision needs to be made and the closer eye should get priority. At this lens' minimum focus distance with the maximum aperture in use, even the eyelashes will not be sharp when ideal eye focus is achieved. Pushing the plane of sharp focus to the closer iris or very slightly farther away will give the best look to the image (shifting focus slightly closer makes the eyelashes sharper, but the more-distant eye becomes even more blurred).
 
The camera height for this portrait was slightly higher than the subject's head angle. This camera angle keeps the subject's mouth (mostly) in focus (another desirable goal) and usually provides an ideal portrait look. Having the subject shift their head toward the camera slightly helps tighten the skin around the jaw line and un-squishes the neck area. At least for female subjects, I often ask for a slight head tip as also seen here.
 
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is an awesome choice for portraiture. It makes a great look easy to capture.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
85mm  f/1.4  1/250s
ISO 100
8688 x 5792px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/23/2016 10:51:53 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, December 17, 2016

Most of the time, images of wildlife approaching are better than those of wildlife going away. The problem is, where the wildlife is going to go is not always predictable. It is much easier to follow wildlife than to stay ahead of it.
 
These incredibly-cute twin white-tailed deer fawns were with their mother and she was meandering through the woods, feeding in a seemingly random manner. I was constantly adjusting my position, trying to be in the right place as they passed through a potentially good scene.
 
When I saw the adorable little fawns headed for a fern-bordered clearing, I immediately saw the potential image and moved into position. I couldn't have requested a better direction, though they came through very fast. With the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in high speed burst mode, I was able to capture a string of images as they came through. The fast frame rate afforded me the opportunity to be quite selective, choosing my favorite body positions. This one stood out to me for the symmetry in the fawns' stride along with their head positions.
 
Photographing in the woods with direct sunlight reaching through the canopy makes lighting very challenging. The giant overhead softbox that a cloudy day creates resolves that problem and this day had been perfect. There was direct sunlight in the early morning, providing great warm lighting in the fields of Big Meadows. As the sun rose and the lighting cooled, cloud cover rolled in and provided great light for photographing in and near the woods all day long. This image was captured at 2:39 PM on a late spring day.
 
But, just because the lighting is good does not mean that the animals will be there. Deer typically feed early and late in the day and finding them mid-day can be challenging. Many photographers don't feel that mid-day is worth their time. Perhaps I'm not that smart, but ... this mother had two hungry little ones to feed and was in need of additional meals. I was out hunting for subjects and our paths crossed.
 
As I've mentioned before, a monopod is faster to setup and adjust than a tripod and the monopod was a key part of my kit on this encounter. Being able to set up fast enabled me to position myself closer to where the fawns currently were, making the ideal position prediction more accurate.
 
Another fawn photography tip I'll share is the timing for fawn photography. You will probably agree that fawns are their cutest just after birth, before they grow very rapidly. But, newborn fawns are not as active as those a week or two old. The newborns stay hidden in their beds a significant percentage of the time, making them harder to photograph. If your time is short and you want your encounter rate increased, consider timing your photography trip for a week or two later than you would for just-born fawns.


A larger version of this image is available on BryanCarnathan.com, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/5.6  1/500s
ISO 2500
5212 x 3474px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 12/17/2016 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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