Canon EOS R5 Catches Comet NEOWISE
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.
200mm f/2.0 585s ISO 1250
The Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500mm Lens Meet a Huge Alaska Yukon Moose
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.
118mm f/4.5 1/500s ISO 1600
7 Reasons Why the Canon EOS R5 is My Ultimate Wildlife Camera — Bull Elk in RMNP
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 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:
600mm f/4.0 1/2000s ISO 250
Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500mm Lens Capture a Chillin' Bull Moose
I can attest to the sleeping qualities of the tundra. In general, I avoid photographing wildlife from a downward angle, and unless obstructions such as tall grass are present, you will often find me photographing wildlife from a squatted or seated position. However, when the subject is lying down on the ground, it can be especially challenging to get down to their level. In this case, I was flat out, lying down on the tundra alongside this huge bull moose. With the tundra under me, I have seldom had such a comfortable shooting position — a very welcomed restful position after hiking the miles necessary to get to this location.
Shooting handheld, taking advantage of the excellent image stabilization this camera and lens provide, gave me the ability to get into unique positions very quickly on this adventure.
159mm f/5.0 1/125s ISO 320
Canon EOS R5 Focus Stacking at the Somesville Bridge and Selectmen's Building
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.
24mm f/11.0 1/10s ISO 100
2.5 Seconds, 70mm, No Tripod, Cadillac Mountain Moonrise
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.
70mm f/8.0 2.5s ISO 100
Wide Aspect Ratio Cadillac Mountain Sunnrise, Acadia National Park
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.
15mm f/16.0 1/4s ISO 100
Canon EOS R5 Catches Portrait of a Huge Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
600mm f/4.0 1/640s ISO 400
Sunrise behind the Alaska Range, Denali National Park
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.
118mm f/8.0 1/25s ISO 200
Hypothetically Speaking: Let's Say You Visit Your Daughter at College.
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.
95mm f/4.0 1/100s ISO 1250
When the Conditions are Unusual, Embrace the Opportunity, Bull Elk in RMNP
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.
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.
600mm f/4.0 1/1600s ISO 400
Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens Catches Little Green Heron in Hunting Pose
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.
800mm f/11.0 1/250s ISO 5000
A Beast Emerges, Massive Bull Moose, Alaska
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.
159mm f/5.0 1/500s ISO 2500
Elk Bugling in the Smoke, Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
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.
300mm f/8.0 1/500s ISO 125
The Canon EOS R5 Takes on Extreme Dynamic Range During Intense Denali NP Sunset
Direct sun on snow delivers an extremely bright subject. Evergreen trees in the shade are an extremely dark subject. This scene provided both.
While an overhead sun is a bit brighter than a setting sun, this a very intense sunset scene. Bracketing exposures for potential HDR use is the safe way to photograph such a scene, but I was shooting handheld with the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens and relied on the Canon EOS R5's capabilities to capture all of the brightness levels in this scene in a single exposure.
When photographing landscape at sunrise and sunset, the red channel is usually the one to watch. The light is strongly warm-toned, and the directly lit portion of the scene will push the red channel high on the histogram.
In Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), this image's exposure was reduced by 1 stop, bringing the red channel in the brightest pixels to at or just below 255, with detail remaining in this channel. The foreground was then processed at a brighter setting and combined in Photoshop.
The setting sun hitting the tops of the Alaska Range and the clouds whisping over it in Denali National Park was breathtaking. Or, maybe I was just holding my breath too much while shooting furiously.
223mm f/8.0 1/40s ISO 200
When the Sun Rises Below You, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
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.
70mm f/8.0 1/50s ISO 100
Finding Order in the Chaos, Rocky Mountain National Park
There are many scenes that are beautiful to view, but not all are photogenic. On this snowy morning in Rocky Mountain National Park, there was plenty of beauty visible (after the storm subsided). However, I was experiencing a common landscape photography challenge. From a composition perspective, the beauty was lacking the order my eye sought to create an attractive image.
Upon entering a small clearing, I found what I was looking for. The trees had adequate light to grow tightly together, and there was balance in the form of tree size.
When hiking, I typically carry the gear in a backpack, and the MindShift Gear BackLight 18L was the choice for this hike. Because it takes time and effort to access a backpack's contents, I find myself passing up photo opportunities of marginally attractive scenes. The potential reward vs. time and effort required ratio is not high enough. Carrying a camera and lens in a toploader case keeps a camera and lens well protected while significantly increasing accessibility. The Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, my favorite landscape camera and lens combination, were chosen for the toploader case.
Most scenes offer a variety of compositions. Spending time working the scene, assessing the various camera position and focal length combinations, typically leads to the best images.
My assessment of this scenario was that a level camera, keeping the trees straight, was optimal. While I liked just the trees in the frame, adding a base to the image (the ground) seemed best (and the R5's resolution makes changing one's mind later an easy option). A standing position at 35mm gave me the level camera with a bit of the foreground inclusion I was seeking.
I love symmetry in photography. While natural forest is not typically symmetrical, this scene yielded rather well in this regard. The size and shape of the trees are similar on each side of the central gap.
I waited a long time to share this image (along with a Merry Christmas message) — until winter. However, this image was captured in the summer. Sharing a snowy picture in the summer seemed wrong.
35mm f/8.0 1/125s ISO 100
Canon EOS R5 and RF 70-200mm F4 L IS Lens Running with the Big Dogs
Let me introduce you to "Nala," my oldest daughter's year-old goldendoodle. I was looking for a subject to challenge the new Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens for the review, and Nala happily volunteered. She maintained a great spirit for 25 minutes until the session ended abruptly when another dog arrived.
Not long ago, capturing an eye-sharp image of a big dog in a great pose while running (bouncing) full speed toward and close to the camera was extremely challenging. With the Canon EOS R5's incredible animal eye AF combined with the 20 fps frame rate and the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens in front of it, the biggest challenge of this shoot was deciding which of the 1,400+ images on the ProGrade Digital 325GB CFexpress 2.0 Cobalt Memory Card to keep.
Bright white snow is a strong auto-exposure influencer, typically causing the camera to underexpose images. With bright white snow filling greatly differing percentages of the frame during each dog pass, exposure compensation was not optimal. Thus, my most frequently used exposure mode, manual, was the ideal choice.
This shoot's goal was to challenge the camera and lens AF system, so the shallow depth of field provided by a wide-open aperture was best, providing little margin for error. The wide-open aperture in combination with the longest focal length provided the strongest background blur possible, making the subject stand out.
Next, the shutter speed was selected, with freezing motion the goal. I opted for 1/1250-1/1600, choices that proved marginally short enough for this fast dog in some instances.
ISO was the last image brightness factor to be applied. As a rule, snow in the sun should be nearly blown-out white. To determine the optimal brightness, the histogram is the proper tool. The ISO setting was increased until the brightest pixels were registering nearly against histogram graph's right side. Note that the blinkies will likely show before color channel capacities are reached. Use the histogram.
This day was cloudy, and cloudy skies often bring brightness changes. Thus, the histogram required monitoring for ISO adjustment needs.
With the R5 in face and eye detection mode and animal eye AF selected, the remaining job was to keep the dog in the frame while holding down the shutter release as my daughter repeatedly positioned and ran Nala toward the camera.
With the R5 and a good lens, getting the perfect action shots is (often) only a small challenge.
200mm f/4.0 1/1250s ISO 250
Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens and The Lone Oak Tree in the Snow
A few months ago, I noticed a large oak tree standing alone at the top of a field in the countryside not far from home. I made a mental note of the interesting tree, keeping that photo opportunity in the pocket for later application.
Right after a recent snowstorm and during the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review seemed like the perfect timing to photograph this lone tree. The snow minimalized the scene's details, and the lens was a perfect choice to capture it. I pulled the SUV into a snowbank to get out of traffic (there was little on this country road), turned off the vehicle (eliminating the vibration), and photographed the tree until I couldn't think of any more compositions to try and adding any more insurance shots seemed complete overkill.
This scene was filled with bright subjects. At most, changes in lighting through the thick clouds happened slowly. Thus, a manual exposure that pushed the histogram graph to the right edge proved perfect. In this image, ISO 100 provides low noise, f/8 yielded adequate depth of field, and 1/160 with image stabilization activated made getting sharp elbow-rested photos easy.
The focal lengths in the 70-200mm range are among my most used for landscape photography. These focal lengths provide angles of view that make good compositions easy to find. While parked along this road, I used all of these focal lengths, with the tree filling various percentages of the frame, ranging from the 70mm result shared here to the tree nearly filling the frame. An example of the 70-200mm focal length range using this tree is shared in the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review.
I shoot a lot of action and other images where timing is critical to get the perfect shot, with a stress-induced adrenaline rush typically accompanying the moment. A nice change for this image was that I had as much time as I cared to take. The tree was not moving, the snow was not melting, and the clouds were unchanging.
At the longer focal lengths, not much time was needed to get the good compositions. At the wider focal lengths, there was considerably more freedom to position the tree in the minimalistic scene within the frame. My favorite tree position at 70mm is shared here, but I also like the tree toward the upper left, and the tree centered at the bottom in a vertical orientation also looks great (at my wife's request, I ordered a metal print of that image this morning).
70mm f/8.0 1/160s ISO 100
Bedded Bull Bugling, Rocky Mountain National Park
More precisely, a big beautiful bedded bull elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Stay with an elk long enough, and it will bed down, and a stationary subject is easier to photograph than a moving one.
However, once bedded, obstructions (such as grass or trees) are often an issue. This cooperative bull opted to bed in a meadow with short grass, meaning that foreground obstructions were not an issue.
The background can typically be counted on to present a challenge, and distractions are among the most frequently encountered issues.
In this image, the first background distraction avoidance strategy was to blur it away. The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens rises to that challenge. The bokeh capability of many ultra-wide aperture lenses is raved about, but the 600mm f/4 combination is unsurpassed for diffusely blurring the background. The 600mm f/4 combination smooths the strong contrasting background lines, such as trees, that would otherwise catch the viewer's eye, distracting from the subject.
The big in-the-field challenge is aligning the subject within the background. Once it is bedded down, you know where the animal will be for at least a short time — usually long enough time to allow perfecting of the composition. In this scenario, the goal was to avoid strong lines and color differences intersecting the animal's body and antlers.
I love a low shooting position when photographing elk (and most animals). While this image was captured from a low position, the position was high enough for the elk's back to remain below the brush behind it.
For many, it is all about the antlers. The camera position that placed the rack between the background trees also worked well for the animal.
A sleeping animal is usually not too exciting (unless it is a baby). Fortunately, during the rut, bull elk make use of their downtime. When bugling (one of my favorite sounds), elk raise their heads which lowers their antlers for my also-favorite elk body position.
600mm f/4.0 1/320s ISO 200
Giant Bull Moose Environmental Portrait, Alaska
Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500 Lens Create Giant Bull Moose Environmental Portrait, Alaska When the subject is in a great environment, incorporating that environment into the portrait is usually the priority. While I love tightly-framed wildlife portraits, capturing a great environmental portrait is a more significant challenge.
Of course, with that set of antlers in the frame it is difficult to take a bad picture.
Right, the 1/200 shutter speed is a relatively long exposure for photographing close wildlife. The beast paused (he was watching a cow) long enough for me to roll the shutter speed down to this setting. With auto ISO selected in manual exposure mode, the camera then chose a very low noise ISO setting despite the dark light levels.
100mm f/4.5 1/200s ISO 500
Bull Elk Intently Watching Herd, Rocky Mountain National Park
A bull elk with an incredible set of antlers intently watches his herd of cows in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Strongly blurring the background while keeping an animal this large comfortably in the frame requires a long focal length and wide aperture. The 600mm and f/4 combination is unsurpassed for meeting that challenge. In this case, it was the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens getting that job done.
Behind the lens was the Canon EOS R5.
While the pose shown in this image does not appear to be an AF challenge, this bull was constantly in motion. The elk moving in all directions meant that the required AF point was continuously changing. Chasing the animal's eye with a focus point used to be a considerable challenge — and stress. With the R5's game-changing animal eye AF performing incredibly well, the person behind the camera can better enjoy following the animal in the frame.
As I've said many times before, low shooting positions work great for photographing elk (and most other animals). This scenario permitting going low and a few quick leg lock twists on the Robus RCM-439 Carbon Fiber Monopod placed me there. This position pushed the bright grasses lower in the frame, with the dark blurred evergreens creating an excellent background for the elk's head and antlers.
Elk in Rut and More, Rocky Mountain National Park Workshop 2021 Special Offer
Be at my hotel near the Denver airport in the morning on Sat, 9/25/2021, or meet me at the house in Estes Park late in the afternoon, and you can join me a day early for a soft start to this transportation-provided workshop! There is only one opening remaining for this year. Contact me for more information.
600mm f/4.0 1/1600s ISO 800
Run and Gun with the Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500, Incoming Bull Moose, Alaska
A large bull moose is a good animal to run out of the path of.
This image is brought to your by the R5's incredible AF system paired with the versatile RF 100-500's outstanding image quality. This camera and lens combination is perfect for the quick catch-the-shot and get-out-of-the-way moments.
200mm f/5.0 1/500s ISO 200
4 Minutes of a Lightning-Spewing Thunderstorm, Badlands National Park
With air-to-ground lightning strikes averaging under 10-seconds apart, this thunderstorm was awesome.
After dark, lightning becomes easy to photograph. Mount the camera to a tripod, frame a composition that includes the location with the most frequent lightning, focus to a long distance, set the aperture and ISO to control the lightning and overall image brightness, and then open the shutter long enough to catch at least one strike. Easy is to use 30-second exposures controlled by the camera (the strategy implemented for this example), but the Bulb setting controlled with a remote release enables the exposure timing to be adjusted as desired. For example, lock the remote release button down until there is a strike or the time duration exceeds the tolerance for long exposure noise.
Make safety a priority. Photographing lightning from a safe distance (far away) is advised. Locations with long distance visibility are advantaged in this regard, and the flat midwest prairie gets impressive thunderstorms.
Along with this storm came wind, wind strong enough create significant camera vibrations with even a sturdy tripod and strong enough to put a significant amount of dirt in the air. The solution to this issue was to drop down into the canyon a bit. The difference in wind speed 25 yards (25 m) down from rim was substantial and a solution to the problem.
Right, the title says four minutes, but a 30-second shutter speed was in use. This image is a four-minute exposure created by blending eight 30 second exposures using the "Lighten" layer blending option in Photoshop. This blending option is simple to use, allowing the lightning strikes from the layers below to show through.
70mm f/2.8 30s ISO 200
A Gnarly Mountain Sunset Silhouette in Badlands National Park
You don't leave when the sun sets, do you? Usually, the best show is yet to come when the fiery ball goes below the horizon.
With primarily flat ground outside of Badlands National Park, the sun is not blocked by tall nearby mountains when the sun is at a low angle. This scenario bodes extremely well for sunrise and sunset sky color, creating an above-average percentage of great opportunities, especially during the storm season.
Sunrises and sunsets can be seen nearly anywhere, and they are often beautiful — highly photogenic. But, having a great foreground can give sunrise and sunset images an additional positive element, and when you are somewhere special, make your images show that place.
My least favorite foreground element is a power line. My most favorite foreground element is a glassy reflective lake or pond. However, a mountain with character ranks just behind that favorite. So when it became apparent that the skies would light up after sundown this evening, I headed for such a mountain.
Upon arrival on the scene, the first task was to set up a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 15-35 mounted with an also interesting close foreground. With exposure duration bracketing established for later HDR compositing, getting the time of day bracketed was the remaining key for this camera's capture. Pressing the shutter release frequently (using the 2-second self-timer) took care of the latter goal.
As this scene's primary intrigue seemed to be the incredible sunset color fronted by the gnarly character of the Badlands mountain, a panorama capture was calling me. The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens mounted on another R5 was the perfect option.
The first task was to establish a manual exposure. The scene brightness varied significantly throughout the proposed pano, promising a range of auto exposures that would increase the stitching challenge later. This manual exposure was established by pushing the red channel, much brighter than the green or blue, against the right side of the histogram.
After autofocusing on the mountains (I depend on the R5's excellent AF accuracy), the AF/MF switch was moved into the MF position. Having all images focused at the exact same distance eliminates any focus breathing issues for panorama stitching.
The image captures ensued. The camera was rotated from left to right, capturing vertically orientated images with at least 1/3 scene overlap between frames (more like 50% overlap, which was overkill). The frames were captured in quick succession to reduce cloud movement and sky brightness change between the frames. The viewfinder grid was used to keep the images vertically aligned. Upon pressing the shutter release, the height of the horizontal grid line was noted against the background and maintained as the camera was panned.
When quickly capturing frames handheld, it is easy to rush the shots and end up with blurry images. Ensure that the camera is still for each gentle press of the shutter release (with a slight lag to the release of the press — a follow-through of sorts) to ensure sharp images. A tripod works best for this task, but that support was under the RF 15-35 mentioned above, and there was not enough capacity to bring two tripods on this trip (my preference). The RF 100-500 and R5 coordinated IS were not stressed by the 1/100 second shutter speed and delivered a 100% sharp image rate.
I mentioned that the exposure was established to protect the red channel. That exposure provided a dark foreground. While the foreground needed to stay dark for a natural balance, making foreground details slightly visible seemed a good idea. Taking advantage of the R5's dynamic range, the original frames were processed brighter. Note that the brighter foreground is much easier to see in a larger version and with a darker background.
Photoshop's Photomerge feature with "Reposition" selected created the pano from 16 source images. Unfortunately, that PS feature created a slightly different resulting image from the brighter-processed source files than from the darker ones. Creating 16 HDR images to use for the stitching source seemed too much work (and likely prone to additional differences), so the foreground pano was manually position-adjusted where it did not properly align. A small area of the sky was processed slightly darker and blended into position. The final images measure over 300 megapixels. For improved display on devices, the image was cropped on the right side, with a sense of balance used to establish where the right side should be.
100mm f/5.6 1/100s ISO 100
A Walk in the Garden with the Canon RF 100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens
If you plant it, they will come. Coneflowers, butterflies, and the Canon RF 100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens go together beautifully.
This eastern tiger swallowtail was moving from flower to flower, rotating in a circle on each. Getting to the flower and in position before the rotation was complete was the key to capturing a pleasing angle.
Hanging out in the garden with the Canon RF 100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens is quite fun.
100mm f/2.8 1/640s ISO 100