Photo Tips and Stories (Page 5) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Saturday, January 22, 2022

The name of this forest fire came from its origin, but "Troublesome" was an understatement. If there could be any consolation, the fire's destruction provided unique photo opportunities.

Once again, a telephoto lens, the excellent Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens in this case, got the call for a landscape scene. The long focal length permitted a small section of the forest to be isolated. The bright curved lines of the blown and burnt tree trunks stood out in contrast to the charred forest floor.


A larger version of this image is available here.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
451mm  f/8.0  1/60s
ISO 160
8192 x 5572px
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Post Date: 1/22/2022 8:56:37 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A heavenly light directs the eye to a pair of bighorn sheep ewes standing guard over a bedded lamb on top of this Badlands National Park ridge.

I was photographing the large thunderhead moving in when these bighorn sheep showed up. Then the cloud opened just wide enough to put a spotlight on the sheep.

I love it when wildlife photography and landscape photography combine.


A larger version of this image is available here.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
135mm  f/11.0  1/250s
ISO 100
8192 x 5464px
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Post Date: 1/19/2022 9:57:56 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Hummingbirds are fascinating, and a worthy challenge to photograph.

I was looking for elk (in Rocky Mountain National Park), but this broad-tailed hummingbird was consistently landing on the same branch, and spending a few moments waiting for that to happen resulted in some nice images.

Hummingbirds are tiny, and despite getting relatively close with the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens mounted, I was still focal length limited. As I said in the just shared mountain bluebird image, a high pixel density imaging sensor can save the day when deep cropping is required. The Sony Alpha 1's 50 MP resolution provided a good enough final image resolution.


A larger version of this image is available here.

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Post Date: 1/17/2022 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, January 17, 2022

The mountain bluebird is one of my favorite birds, and like many of my favorite birds, the color of this one is spectacular.

While this bird is relatively common in Rocky Mountain National Park, getting a good photo of one remains challenging. This morning, I was searching for elk when a bluebird landed in front of me, sitting long enough for a few photos.

Despite having the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens mounted, I was focal length limited, and getting closer would have frightened the bird. A high pixel density imaging sensor can save the day when deep cropping is required. In this case, the Sony Alpha 1's 50 MP resolution provided a good enough final image resolution.


A larger version of this image is available here.

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Post Date: 1/17/2022 6:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, January 9, 2022

I spent most of a day trying to stay far enough away from this buck to keep it in the frame. What a great problem to deal with.

Finding the ideal clearings in the woods was an even more significant challenge. Foreground obstructions, background distractions, and mottled light problems were high on the day's list of photography challenges.

Challenge reducing was the impressive performance of the Canon EOS R3 and RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens, immediately snapping focus on the eye I was looking at, capturing the ideal moments in time. Being able to position a focus point anywhere in the entire frame instantly is incredible.

This buck was in the woods, and the woods are full of distracting lines. As is often the case, the Canon RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens blurred the background distractions away. Few lenses, primarily only the 400 f/2.8 and 800mm f/5.6 options, can compete with 600mm f/4 background blur.

As mentioned, foreground obstructions were on the challenge list this day, and a downside to using the 600mm focal length in the woods is finding a clear path to the subject. The key is to predict where the animal will go (or where you most want it to go) and be in position when it arrives.

We typically want wildlife subjects to appear large. Especially when photographing whitetail deer, I frequently shoot from close to the ground as long as the surroundings provide a good line of sight. This camera position increases the likelihood of a catchlight in the animal's eye, adding life to the animal.


A larger version of this image is available here.

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Post Date: 1/9/2022 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 24, 2021

My family and I wish you a very Merry Christmas! As always, we hope that your Christmas season is filled with great meaning, great memories, and of course, great images.

Our Christmas tree represents a huge amount of work (primarily for my girls), and the results of their effort deserve preserving in a high quality image. After photographing the annual Christmas tree in the same location for 25 years, I have a few go-to shots dialed in.

An ultra-wide-angle focal length usually gets the selection. In addition to fitting the tree and surrounding space in the frame, this angle of view makes the room appear big, creating a more dramatic look.

There seems to be an outstanding ultra-wide angle lens choice introduced each year, and I seldom capture the tree photo with a lens previously used for that task. The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens captured the Christmas 2020 tree, the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens captured the 2019 tree, and, going a bit narrower for a different look, the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM Lens took in the 2018 tree.

Which lens got the call for 2021? The impressive Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens.

At this time of the year, I know that I need to take pictures bracketing 5:15 PM by a few minutes to have deep blue sky color showing through the windows with the exposure balanced for the Christmas lights inside. No, I can't remember this time from year to year, but a calendar item reminds me (and EXIF information from the prior year's photos can be referenced).

F/16 images from any current digital camera, and especially from cameras with ultra-high pixel density, show a slight softness due to diffraction. However, I like the starburst effect that narrow apertures, such as f/16, create from point light sources, such as the candles in the windows.

Yes, compositing pictures taken with different apertures, f/8 and f/22 for example, could provide larger starbursts and sharper images, with still adequate depth of field. However, the points on the star rotate as the aperture is changed. This means that each entire starburst must be carefully contained to only one of the images during compositing in order to avoid misalignment.

Getting technical: if in-camera focus shift correction is combining with focus breathing, one image may be slightly magnified relative to the other, further complicating the compositing process.

Using f/16 with a little extra sharpening keeps the process simple — and the results are still very nice.

With only the tree and other decorative lights on, the exposure needs to be long — 30 seconds at ISO 160. The exposure duration means that only a few images can be captured during the perfect deep blue sky time.

Long exposures also mean that the tree ornaments must be still to avoid motion blur, and the floor vibrates when walked on, making the ornaments swing. One person walking across the room at the wrong time could eliminate one or two exposures from that short period. Thus, the photo day is (usually) selected for when I am home alone at 5:15 PM.

Setup starts about 30 minutes prior to the optimal shooting time. Due to lack of space for this composition, some furniture was moved out of the camera position. The LED thermostat light is blocked with sticky notes, oOttoman wheel tracks in the carpet are pressed out, etc.

The vertical lines in the windows (or sometimes a wall unit) on the right side of the frame look best when running parallel to the edge of the frame. Thus, a camera position leveled for both tilt and roll is usually selected. In this case, the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens especially impresses with its lack of geometric distortion (no correction was applied to this image), rendering the window frame straight.

I am fortunate to have a range of tripods to work with, and holding the Sony Alpha a7R IV and FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens combination steady indoors is not a support challenge. However, when shooting on carpet, I prefer a tripod with some weight (or spikes) to press into the carpet fibers, decreasing movement. The Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Mk2 Tripod and BH-55 Ball Head handled this job nicely.

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/24/2021 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The top of a mountain in Acadia National Park is a great location to take in a sunset. Better still is to extend that sunset photography opportunity into night sky photography.

It is hard to make a bad composition of the milky way, but adding an interesting foreground usually improves nightscapes. My eye is naturally drawn to mountain peak markers, and the Bald Peak marker was available.

The next step in composing this image was determining the ideal balance of the marker with the milky way, and the camera position illustrated here seemed optimal of the accessible shot locations.

The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens is one of the best nightscape lenses ever made. While the ultra-wide f/1.4 aperture is one of this lens's key nightscape advantages, the 24mm f/1.4 depth of field is shallow, too shallow to keep this sign and milky way sharp. Thus, this capture required an image focused on the peak marker and another focused on the stars.

Post-processing the two image stack was simple. The images were layered into a Photoshop file, and a layer mask was added to the top layer. Painting the mask black reveals that portion of the layer below, the peak marker and rocks in this case.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/22/2021 9:31:18 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 19, 2021

When multiple animals are in the frame, the composition challenge increases considerably, and the juxtaposition becomes critical to a good image.

Spending enough time in the right remote places aids in that good juxtaposition happening.

This day brought a blue sky background scenario. The camera's exposure was set to push the blue channel barely against the right edge of the histogram, retaining the brightest blue details.

During post-processing, I wanted the animals to be brighter than the original exposure provided. Therefore, taking advantage of the Canon EOS R5's exposure latitude, the same RAW file was processed at the initial exposure and again at brighter settings.

The two files were layered in Photoshop with a layer mask separating the animals and ground from the sky. The sky adjustment contained in a masked layer permits full control of the sky brightness in the final image. The result shared here has just enough blue dialed in to not be white.

The RF 100-500 has proven an outstanding choice for run and gun wildlife photography.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/11.0  1/400s
ISO 1000
8192 x 5836px
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Post Date: 12/19/2021 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The warm early morning sunlight breaks through a small hole in the clouds at Monument Cove.

As is typical with landscape photography, being at the right place at the right time was the key to this image capture. While it is easy to control the when and the where, timing the clouds is a bigger challenge, one that often involves going home without the targeted image.

When photographing a large body of water, wave action is another image quality factor involving timing. Every wave is different, and the brightness caused by air in the water changes as the wave approaches, breaks, crashes, and recedes.

This image was captured at 28mm, well within the comfortable range of angles of view provided by the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. When creating a composition, determine the elements that are helpful to an image and frame to include only those.

On this day, the sky was extremely bright and not especially photogenic. Therefore, I chose a downward camera angle combined with a focal length long enough to include only a small amount of sky, just enough to fit the ocean horizon.

As you likely guessed, I pressed the shutter release many times while this window of light availed itself. This image made the cut for the wave position and the shadow of a small cloud creating uneven lighting on the far edge of the boulder beach. The latter helps the monument to garner more attention.


A larger version of this image is available here.

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Post Date: 12/15/2021 12:07:30 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Photographing animals from or below their level is often preferred, which means a level or tilted upward camera. However, when the scenario is right, the perspective from an elevated point of view can be excellent.

In this case, a large bull elk was defending his harem of cows in a large meadow. Getting lower was not an option, but the lush grasses and their curving seed plumes create a nice background.

The R5 put a lot of good images on the card during this bull's defensive stand. Still, the leg separation and differentiating body position especially led to this image getting selected for sharing.

As usual, the 600mm f/4 background blur makes the animal and its impressive antlers stand out.


A larger version of this image is available here.
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Post Date: 12/14/2021 9:04:13 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, December 13, 2021

Do you enjoy photographing details? Telephoto zoom lenses are quite adept at this task.

The trees on the top of the mountain range that makes up Shenandoah National Park are loaded with light-colored lichen. I find this look highly attractive, but finding order within the chaos is the big challenge for photographing this subject.

In this case, a tree with red berries stood out among the oak trunks lining the edge of a clearing.

Not everything in a scene needs to be included in the frame. The small berries added a pop of color. Zooming in to nearly fill the frame with the berry tree excluded much of the forest surrounding it and created an interesting pattern of trunks entering the frame.

The Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM Lens was made for times like this.

This small, light, and affordable lens was ready for use, mounted to a Canon EOS R5 in a toploader case on the seat behind me. This lens's relatively narrow max aperture was wider than needed for this landscape image, and the lens's image stabilization system meant a tripod was not required, despite the strong wind pushing me around.


A larger version of this image is available here.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
325mm  f/11.0  1/125s
ISO 100
7894 x 5264px
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Post Date: 12/13/2021 10:01:10 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 12, 2021

As I shared in The Sony a1 and FE 35mm GM Lens Capture the Exit image, the time allocated to this shoot was very short. To speed the shoot, three cameras with prime lenses mounted were in the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L. The Canon EOS R5 and RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens got the call for this scenario.

Noteworthy is that this image was captured handheld at "Civil End". If you are unfamiliar with this term, estimate it to be about 30 minutes after sunset. It was dark.

Utilizing the R5's IBIS kept what was not blowing in the wind sharp, despite the awkward and unsteady near-ground level shooting position.

Need a clean background for your portrait subject's head? The sky often works well for this.

Want to make your athletic subjects appear large? Using a low camera position often works well for this.

Merge the two concepts, and this image is the result.

The Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens's ultra-wide aperture had a big role in making this image possible, and that feature held complete responsibility for the strong background blur. Despite the incredibly wide aperture in use, the background remains recognizable at this subject distance.

When the background is supporting the subject, being recognizable can be advantageous. When a high percentage of the image area is background, the importance of what is in the background is elevated, becoming critical to the overall image. Spend the time to search out supporting backgrounds for your engineered images.

While this image was captured at ISO 2500, my eyes were not keeping up with the viewfinder brightness increasing relative to the ambient lighting. Therefore, this image required +1 EV of brightness adjustment in post.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
50mm  f/1.2  1/30s
ISO 2500
5464 x 8192px
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Post Date: 12/12/2021 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 10, 2021

Pattern and texture images usually rank among the least liked images I share. Still, I like them — and they are quite useful. Use pattern and texture images for subtle yet beautiful decor. These images are also ideal for backgrounds, including with words and other images over them. For example, this white ice scene would make holly leaves and red berries pop for a Christmas theme.

While hiking up a mountain toward a rockslide to find pikas, I discovered a small iced-over pool of water (welcome to the first day of fall in Alaska). The consistent pattern of ice crystals immediately caught my attention. The friends with me were not interested in interrupting the pika chase for ice crystals, but this ice pattern was one of those photo opportunities I knew I would later regret passing up. So, I quickly captured some handheld images.

With a flat, 2-dimensional subject, any focal length would produce a similar result if the same composition was included, and the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens provides an extensive range to choose from. In this case, the widest available focal length was the easiest to work with, including the easiest to hold steady.

While the creatively blurred ice crystals option was available, keeping everything in focus seemed optimal at the time. With a relatively close subject and a telephoto focal length, the depth of field was limited. Especially since I was working quickly, f/11 seemed the best aperture, providing enough depth of field to forgive any misalignment over the flat surface without going too far deep into the softening effects of diffraction.

The longer I shot, the more I liked what I was shooting. So, I continued to shoot additional images, overshooting to ensure the ideal alignment and pattern was captured in sharp resolution – without motion blur.

After many minutes of this perfection attempt, I hurried to catch up with the others. While I did not have the regret of passing up an opportunity, my first thought in the field was that I regretted not taking the few minutes to set up the RRS TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head that were in the MindShift Gear BackLight 18L. Doing so would have made the alignment easier and would have ensured steadiness.

Fortunately, that concern was needless.

The f/11 aperture at ISO 100 meant that a 1/60 shutter speed was required to push the histogram to the right side of the chart area (white ice is a bright subject). Impressively, the R5 and RF 100-500 combination produced 100% sharp handheld shots in this scenario, despite the somewhat awkward straight down shooting position and unstable footing. Perhaps more impressive is that I managed to sufficiently square the camera over the ice (within the f/11 depth of field) for every shot.


A larger version of this image is available here.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/11.0  1/60s
ISO 100
8192 x 5464px
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Post Date: 12/10/2021 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 5, 2021

Previously, I asked if the weasel was adorable or a vicious killer? Most would rate the other image as considerably more adorable, but on this day, both descriptions accurately described this little predator.

As I said before, the opportunity was a unique one. What started as a glimpse of a weasel hunting in the brush turned into an afternoon of waiting, with some watching and frantic photographing mixed in. Often nocturnal, weasels are seldom seen, and when they do show themselves, getting the fast- and erratically-moving critters in the frame is tremendously challenging, even without accounting for accurate focusing.

On this afternoon, a pair of weasels were raiding ground squirrel nests. Capturing photos of the weasels alone was extremely challenging, and capturing photos of the weasels returning to their underground caches with ground squirrels in their mouths was even more so.

A key to successful wildlife photography is knowing (guessing properly) where the subject is going, and finding an attractive composition it might enter into. I guessed right on this weasel's return path, and the near-ground-level Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens mounted captured the weasel running over a rock with a clean background.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr or here.

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Post Date: 12/5/2021 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 3, 2021

On this trip, I was primarily testing the new EOS R3 with the Canon RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens. However, I had the lightweight, compact, inexpensive Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM Lens on an EOS R5 readily available in a toploader case, handy to pull out when a wider need arose.

Each morning while heading to the favored deer photography locations, I passed an eastern overlook just before sunrise. A high mountain with no substantial mountains to the east that allows visibility of the sun at a very low angle is a great location to see colorful sunrise. Shenandoah National Park is one such location, and the percentage of photogenic sunrises here is quite high.

On this morning, I simply pulled over, set up the Really Right Stuff Ascend Tripod with the integrated head, mounted the RF 100-400 and R5, and took a few pictures before resuming the deer chase.

As illustrated here, the convenience and utility of the RF 100-400mm lens are very high. The long focal lengths can fill the frame with the color of even a compact sunrise show, and a wide aperture is not important in this case.

With the lens and in-body image stabilization, I could have handheld this shot, but strong winds made the tripod an easier choice for composition and steadiness reasons.


A larger version of this image is available on here.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
108mm  f/8.0  1/50s
ISO 100
8192 x 5464px
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Post Date: 12/3/2021 7:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 2, 2021

Patches of red berry bushes in Shenandoah National Park had my attention, and I was spending time near them, hoping that whitetail deer photo opportunities incorporating the berries would show up. A couple of days prior, I photographed a smaller buck eating the berries, but the images were not remarkable.

On this morning, I discovered an impressive 12pt point buck bedded near a berry-favorable area.

Bedded deer can get up at any moment, but they can also stay down for many hours. When it comes to antler size, bigger is almost always better, and I knew that few bigger bucks were in the area. Thus, I committed to hanging with this buck for the long haul.

Not too long after I sat down, there was a solid thump sound behind me. The doe and fawns hanging with the buck immediately got up and walked toward the sound. An apple had fallen from an apple tree, and the deer were going to eat it. Soon after this, the buck got up and began to move away — straight into the berries.

While incorporating the red berries was the goal, the thick berry bush branches were a visibility obstacle.

Traditionally, a camera attempting to autofocus on an eye in the brush led to the camera focusing on the closest branch in the view. In this situation, obtaining a keeper image typically required manual focusing, a challenge when the animal is erratically moving and the depth of field is shallow.

Game-changing is that the Canon EOS R-series camera's animal eye detection can often focus through the brush, creating a high percentage of properly focused images despite obstructions, such as those seen beside this buck's eye. This outstanding feature is one of many reasons to move to one of the latest mirrorless interchangeable lens camera models.

While this animal was not moving especially fast, its head was, and the Canon EOS R3's high frame captured the relatively few moments when the eye was visible in the obstructions.

I'll likely share more images of this buck. We spent the next 5 hours having an adventure together.


A larger version of this image is available on here.

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Post Date: 12/2/2021 8:56:46 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens is an ideal lens choice when compact, light, and wide angles are on the requirements list, and such a lens is a perfect choice for hiking the canyons at Ricketts Glen State Park. The 14-35mm range proved perfect for the photo opportunities available on this hike.

This image was captured below Oneida falls, one of my favorite locations in this park.

At this specific location (and many others), the entire 14-35mm range of focal lengths can create nice images. At 14mm, the foreground falls become prominent, with the background falls appearing diminished in size. At 35mm, the background falls are emphasized, appearing significantly larger in relation to the foreground falls.

In the end, I chose an image captured at 23mm as my favorite.

The usual recipe for waterfall photography was utilized for this image. On a cloudy day, use a Breakthrough circular polarizer filter with a tripod-mounted camera to capture an exposure-bracketed set of f/11 images, including some extras to capture the constantly changing water flow. Additionally, options captured at higher ISO settings provided different amounts of water flow blur to select from.

As usual, the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L was the perfect option for carrying the gear, food, water, layers of clothes, etc. for this day hike.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 11/28/2021 12:01:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, November 25, 2021

When cost, time, and effort are invested into a photography trip, generally only the best-available gear (or something new being reviewed) makes the pack. Milky way and aurora nightscape photography opportunities were on the potential list for a recent trip, and my three favorite night sky lenses were packed specifically for these subjects.

When the milky way is visible, the scene is extremely dark. While the milky way exposures are long, the earth is rotating, creating a form of action photography.

The aurora has varying intensities and can be pulsing and dancing around the frame. If the exposure is too long, the dancing and pulsing aurora turns into a big smear of color. Thus, aurora photography also involves action, an action that is often moving considerably faster than the earth's rotation.

Wide apertures are a big advantage for stopping action, and each of the lenses included in the above list is the widest available at its respective focal length. Just because a lens has a wide aperture does not mean that you want to use that aperture, as many wide aperture lenses are not sharp wide open, becoming considerably sharper as they are stopped down. However, those in the above list are outstanding performers wide open.

While the f/1.4 aperture is a clear advantage held by the FE 24 over the other two lenses, f/1.8 is still very wide. Motion blur is caused when subject details cross over pixel wells on the imaging sensor. Because the 24mm focal length magnifies subject details more than the 14mm and 20mm options, a slightly faster shutter speed is required to photograph the same subject at the same distance with an equivalent amount of motion blur. This shutter speed difference offsets some of the aperture difference.

Mostly, I selected between these three prime lenses based on the angle of view they provide.

The day started with a 5:30 AM alarm and a long search for moose. Upon returning late morning, we learned that the northern lights forecast was favorable. However, the weather did not appear to be favorable, with heavy cloud cover promising to block all higher altitude subjects. Still, the National Weather Service hourly forecast showed the skies expected to clear at 2:00 AM at our desired viewing location. That time coincided with the moon setting, yielding darker skies.

After a short nap, a 2-hour drive ensued, heading north for darker skies and a favorable viewing location. Intermittently checking the skies, the clearing began right on schedule. Unfortunately, the aurora was not yet apparent to the eye. Dim northern lights are considerably easier to see in a long exposure image, so cameras were mounted to tripods and put into action. Test images showed a small vertical column forming over Denali, the mountain in the bottom of this image.

Initially, the northern lights were small, muted, and stationary. The 24mm lens made the little show larger in the frame than the other two lens options, and also accentuated Denali in the foreground.

The show progressed, significantly increasing in intensity and motion, with this image requiring only a 4-second exposure at f/1.4 and ISO 2500. Eventually, the 20mm angle of view (sample here) was needed to take it all in, and the 14mm angle of view (sample here) became optimal not long afterward.

We pulled into the driveway at 6:30 AM. Aside from a short nap and a few eyes-closed rests, it was a 25-hour day. As is usually the case, I struggle to remember the details of the exhaustion, but the memory of the dancing northern lights is still clear, and the images will last a lifetime, keeping the memory alive.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 11/25/2021 8:54:03 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The whitetail buck were not cooperating this afternoon, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens and Really Right Stuff Ascend Tripod needed a workout, some clouds were in the sky as sunset approached, and one of my favorite sunset locations was not far away. I did not pause to implement the plan revealed to me, and the show as and after the sun set was superb.

The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens produced very nice image quality — remarkable for the size, weight, and price of the lens.

This image is a slight pano (to add some foreground rock) and HDR processed.

As suggested, a Really Right Stuff Ascend Long Tripod with Integrated Head provided the support for this capture.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
16mm  f/11.0  1/10s
ISO 100
8090 x 5928px
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Post Date: 11/24/2021 8:52:18 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Subjects that move are prime candidates for the use of servo AF, continuous focusing vs. the focus distance locked for one shot. Using servo AF requires a focus point or area continuously positioned on the desired point of focus.

Aside from vehicles, moving subjects usually have eyes, and usually that means the focus point or area must be on the subject's eye, with the subject looking into the frame. Maintaining the focus point or area over the eye of a moving subject while maintaining the ideal composition is often a huge challenge, especially for wildlife photography. An animal turning its head the other direction historically required a significant amount of joystick pressing when using a camera with an adequate number of AF points to competently accomplish the goal, and by the time the focus point was in position at the other side of the frame, the animal would turn its head in the other direction (one of Bryan's Laws of Photography). Add thick gloves, and this challenge increases significantly.

In addition to the joystick, the R3 has a pair of Smart Controllers for positioning the AF point or area. The AF-ON buttons have been enlarged, and a touchpad is built into them. Simply slide a thumb across the button to rapidly position the AF point or area.

With a conventional joystick and AF-ON button design, two thumbs are required to make focus point or area position adjustments while pressing an AF-ON button. In servo mode, the R3's Smart Controllers are functional while the AF-ON button is pressed, and this feature works even with thick gloves on.

In addition to having the ability to focus nearly anywhere in the composition, the latest mirrorless cameras have the ability to identify and track a subject, and more specifically, subject eye detection and tracking have been game-changing. When the eye is identified, the camera tenaciously tracks the eye throughout the entire frame, freeing the photographer to concentrate on composition and image capture timing. Thick gloves are not an issue.

The Canon EOS R3 adds vehicle subjects to its detection capabilities, filling in much of the remaining active subject identification needs.

Additionally, the R3 has body detection that takes over when the eye disappears. That feature was at times a hinderance with the whitetail buck as I wanted a looking away deer's antlers or head to be in focus vs. the deer's backside. However, the body is sometimes the next-best focus option, such as when an ice skaters spins.

The R3 brings us a very intriguing new method of AF point positioning. What if you could simply look at the subject you wanted to focus on? The R3's Eye Control AF allows the photographer to position the AF point or area at the speed of look. Look at the subject and the AF point is there, with no buttons to press or slide across.

Eye Control AF requires calibration for each user, and the calibrated performance can be individually different. Calibration is fast and easy. Select a menu option, and follow the prompts in the viewfinder that guide the eye to look at a dot in the center of a small circle sequentially positioned in the center and 4 sides of the viewfinder, with the M-Fn button press recording the look for each.

Canon recommends using the calibration process numerous times, including in different lighting and multiple camera orientations, to refine the data the camera has available. The lens in not involved in this process as the Infrared LEDs in the EVF (notice the enlarged viewfinder size surrounding the viewing area) track the eye position without eyeglasses, and a second set of infrared LEDs track eye position with eyeglasses. Separate calibration profiles are accepted, and useful for with and without eyeglasses and contact lenses and for multiple camera users. Profile data can be saved to a memory card for use on other R3 bodies.

Once calibrated, a small target consisting of two concentric circles (by default, configurable) moves around the viewfinder with your gaze. Look at the subject, and that is where the camera will position the indicator, and that is where the camera will focus or initiate subject tracking.

While the Eye Control graphic is needed, it is obvious and a bit annoying to always have over what you are directly looking at. This graphic, in addition to the focus area and subject tracking indicators, starts to create a busy viewfinder.

Using Eye Control involves a short learning curve as focus should be initiated before or after looking around the frame to study the composition.

My first experience with Eye Control was not stellar. After creating many refinements, I found the R3's calibration inaccurate for my eyes. Most of the time, the indicator did not position directly on the subject I was looking at. The experience was disheartening, but Canon shared that this feature would not work optimally for everyone.

On a whim, I deleted the calibration data and started over. The new calibration, even with only a few refinements delivered significantly improved accuracy.

Packing up the R3 along with many lenses in the review queue, I headed to Shenandoah National Park for five days of wildlife (and some landscape) photography. More specifically, the whitetail buck in rut were the primary targeted subject.

This shoot started with the R3 set to servo AF, animal eye detection selected, subject tracking on, and Eye Control AF enabled (by default, pressing the Set button quickly enables or disables this feature). Accurate focusing on the deer meant looking at the deer's eye and half-press the shutter release to initiate focusing. The R3 usually detected the eye and immediately locked tracking on it, tracking it throughout the frame while providing visual feedback in the viewfinder. While Eye Control AF is not always perfect, I was still using this strategy when I packed the camera for the trip home. The R3's AF performance with Eye Control outperformed any focus method I've used prior.

If Eye Control is found not performing well, immediately creating a calibration refinement can improve accuracy. Not too long into the shoot, I realized that the vertical calibration refinement was not yet created. In seconds, calibration refinement was created, and I was back in the game vertically.

When photographing with large telephoto lenses in strong winds, up to 40 MPH / 64 KPH on this trip, keeping even a motionless subject in the frame can be challenging, and keeping a manually selected focus point on the subject's eye becomes extremely challenging. With the R3, I could simply look at the deer's eye, half-press the shutter release, and then concentrate on fully pressing the shutter release when the framing looked right. This strategy works just as well with heavy gloves on (temperatures were as low as the mid-20s / -3 C).

AS mentioned, the R3's subject detection recognizes bodies, and it recognized deer bodies quite well. However, when the buck were facing away (I sometimes like images of animals facing away, looking into their environments), the head or antlers needed to be in focus vs. the closest body area. With the R3, simply looking at the antlers while initiating subject tracking worked very well.

The 10pt whitetail buck shared in this post came in fast and close, offering only seconds to grab the shot. A glance at the eye followed immediately by pressing the shutter release down made the quick capture easy.

Want an R3? Use one of the links on the site (supports us) to order it. As I write this, prepare to wait in line. This outstanding camera will be difficult to find in stock for a long time.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 11/23/2021 8:46:26 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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