Photo Tips and Stories (Page 7) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Saturday, December 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your dinner was late this evening.

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

Of course, it was.

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


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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Focus bracketing solves this problem.

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Frame Rate is Fast

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

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

3. The EVF is Excellent with Lack of Blackout

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

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

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

5. The Grip is Adequately-Sized and Comfortable

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

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

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

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

7. The Controls are Intuitive and Customizable

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

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

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

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

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

Get your Canon EOS R5:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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Post Date: 7/4/2020 10:48:20 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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