Almost in the Goal Picture
This one is going in. You are looking at a soccer ball about to enter the goal. And she is loving every minute of it.
200mm f/2.0 1/1600s ISO 200
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.
The Backyard Lion
Mikayla (she's 13) decided to make a lion costume. After a week of diligent designing, a run to the craft store, lots of cutting and plenty of sewing, she had a very impressive made-from-scratch full lion costume complete with a stuffed tail that had a curve at the end of it. She created the best lion costume she possibly could and my goal was to capture the fruition of her effort the best I could, creating a memory to cherish for a lifetime.
She finished the costume just in time to wear it Trick-or-Treating. For those unfamiliar with this tradition, the kids spend an evening walking around town wearing costumes and people hand out candy from their front doors. Well in advance, I requested time for a photo session with Mikayla wearing the costume, but ... kids in their most photogenic moments seem to be completed (hair, makeup, etc.) just in time to ... leave for their big event.
I requested 15 minutes notice prior to the photo op (I know, I ask for a lot), got 10 minutes and scrambled to finalize my decision on what the short photo session was going to look like. The amount of remaining daylight was the biggest question I had prior to this moment. It seemed logical that a lion should be outdoors, so I was hoping for some light remaining in the sky and with at least some ambient light, outdoors was the final location selection.
While the leaves were just beyond their peak fall colors, they were still clinging to the trees and had a still-nice color that was indicative of the autumn season. A location that could incorporate this color in the background was the next decision.
I knew that I wanted a blurred background, that I had plenty of working distance available and that I wanted subject framing ranging from environmental to tight headshots. I went with the 200mm focal length as it would work well for those requirements and I went with the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS lens to maximize the background blur (and to get put the most available light possible onto the sensor).
Lions are known for their nasty predator look and for their roar. Mikayla was acting the part, but since she is a very sweet girl, the nasty-mean lion look made her naturally smile big soon afterward. I still find it a little unsettling to look at the pictures of her roaring, but definitely like the smiles that came afterward. And I like some of the little smiles that came between the two extremes, as seen here.
As planned, I captured a wide variety of poses and subject framing (in the 10 minutes of shooting time I was given). I liked many, but ... her crimped hair acting as the lion's mane "stood out" for me. So, I chose to share a moderately tightly-framed portrait with you.
The mechanics of taking pictures turned out to be an easy part of this series of images, with the ambient light working especially well. I've received a lot of positive comments from friends, with "Those are great photos!" being very common. The subject was of course largely responsible for these responses, but the ability of this lens to strongly blur the fall-colored background, making the subject pop, was another strong contributor to them. This lens, though not inexpensive, can do the same for photos of your own family, or for those for your clients.
The next time you have portraits planned for fall capture, look for trees that can provide a colorful background to your image. The color of the fall foliage should be complementary to your subject's clothing and the colorful trees should not steal the show from the primary subject, but especially when blurred, fall foliage can add a beautiful natural color to portrait backgrounds.
200mm f/2.0 1/160s ISO 320
Low-Cost Model Picture
But definitely high end in my eyes! As I mentioned in the Canon EF 200mm F/2.0 L IS USM Lens review, my model budget was modest on this day ($1.00). The model acted as her own stylist to save funds. I think she did a very unique job. Lighting is ambient just under a patio roof with a reflector for fill.
200mm f/2.0 1/60s ISO 125
Sweet Light Horse Picture
A Quarter Horse is rim-lit by the setting sun - which gives a very warm color to the picture. Called "sweet light". This lens is handholdable at much lower shutter speeds, but horses are never still when grazing. The higher shutter speed was necessary to stop the action.
200mm f/2.0 1/250s ISO 200
Pretty Girl Picture
This pretty girl was captured in a naturally-lit room (lots of windows and skylights).
200mm f/2.0 1/200s ISO 100
Stand in the Corner
When shooting track sports with multiple laps involved, the participants will often get into a line and, especially at the beginning of the race, will be bunched tightly together. If the participant in first place is your primary subject, you can generally get a clear front-on shot from anywhere on the track. But, if you are shooting a second place participant or beyond and want a front-on shot, minimally the person in first place has great potential to block that shot.
That is unless you are in the corner. As the racers break into the corner, visibility of the next person in line becomes momentarily clear for a front-on shot or shots. Yes, you can often get a clear side view on the straights, but the corners are better for a clear front-on shot. Also, passing happens most frequently on the straights, meaning that even the side view is more likely to be obstructed.
While this advice applies to multiple sports (including motorsports if safety permits), I most frequently use this strategy for shooting distance running on the track. I most frequently choose the first corner, just past the start/finish line (so that I can photograph the finish of the race as well), on condition that the background and lighting are good. In this indoor venue, access to turn 1 was not available and a wall of windows would have created a blown white background or silhouetted subjects, so I opted for turn 3. In this corner, a second wall of windows provided a great broad, shaded light source.
Taking a very low-to-the-ground position helps keep the runners looking large/grand and often aids in keeping the background relatively clear of distractions by positioning ground-based distractions below the subject's head. Using a wide aperture telephoto lens at max aperture on a full frame body also helps create a strong distraction-eliminating background blur.
Those of us in the northern hemisphere are in the dead of winter as I post this photo. Motorsports are mostly in hibernation and track and field events are indoors. Indoors usually means very low and potentially spectrum-starved light and, in the case for this track venue, mixed light sources were present.
Mixed light sources often mean white balance trouble. By positioning near the wall of windows, the outdoor shade light source became primary on the subject. While auto white balance keeps getting better in-camera and I nearly always use this setting while shooting, the key to easy white balance for this image was the neutral colored number label on the runner. Selecting the custom white balance eyedropper and clicking on the white part of this label brought the subject into nearly ideal color balance with a very slight warming being the only additional post processing color change I made.
It is a race and that means participants are going fast. This means that the duration of the into-the-corner visibility is going to be very short and this is where a great sports camera and lens combination is going to make a big difference in your results. A great AF system is needed to quickly lock onto the just-exposed subject and track them into the corner and a fast frame rate increases the odds of catching the perfect subject position. In this case, I was anticipating the shot. I positioned the camera (on a monopod), leveled using the electronic level in the viewfinder, pre-focused the lens to the expected need and then tracked the runner. As soon as the view opened, I pressed the shutter release and relied on AI Servo AF tracking and the fast frame rate to capture the ideal shot.
The Canon EOS-1D X is an awesome sports camera choice and the EF 200mm f/2L IS is an equally impressive lens for the task. This combination rocks for indoor sports action and that the 1D X Mark II promises to bring us a significant upgrade ... I can't wait!
Hopefully you were not told to "Stand in the corner!" very often during childhood, but ... I'm telling you to do this today. Take your great sports camera and lens and go find a corner to stand in!
200mm f/2.0 1/1250s ISO 2000
Cantering Black Horse Picture
Do you know how hard it is to properly expose a black horse with a rider wearing a white helmet under full sun? I think I need to replace either the helmet or the horse.
200mm f/2.0 1/2500s ISO 100
The Big Kick Picture
The ball leaves the foot of a young lady putting everything she has into the big kick. A 1.4x extender was used for this shot.
280mm f/2.8 1/3200s ISO 125
Dog in Headlock Picture
Want to make a kid smile? Give them an animal. I mostly shot Brittany, but grabbed a shot of the dog as well.
200mm f/2.0 1/250s ISO 100
Fight for the Ball 3
Two girls fight for the ball in this soccer action shot. Even with a 2x extender attached, the lens still delivers a wide f/4 aperture.
400mm f/4.0 1/1600s ISO 400
A young violinist performs on stage. You typically have no control over the lighting at events such as this (flash is typically not allowed), so a wide aperture is great insurance of good image quality.
200mm f/2.0 1/160s ISO 640
Portrait of a Young Lady 3
A pleasant smile, soft lighting and a smooth background.
200mm f/2.0 1/160s ISO 100
After Sunset Soccer Picture
Having an f/2 aperture at this focal length is simply great to have for low light action. Of course, the amazing image quality and fast AF that come with this lens are excellent to have as well.
200mm f/2.0 1/1250s ISO 400
The Sun Sets on a Palomino Quarter Horse
A palomino Quarter Horse finds his dinner as the sun sets. The setting sun provides a beautiful warm light.
200mm f/2.0 1/400s ISO 200
Indian Hyacinths at Sunset
When creating this much background blur, it doesn't matter what the background really is - just the shape and colors of it.
200mm f/2.8 1/80s ISO 100
Indoor Track Sample Picture
The Canon EF 200mm f/2 IS lens is an ideal indoor sports lens. Especially for indoor track.
200mm f/2.0 1/1250s ISO 500
A 200mm lens on a 1.6x body works very well for the smallest size youth soccer fields.
200mm f/2.0 1/2000s ISO 100
Weeds at Sunset
A setting sun can make even the weeds attractive. The shallow depth of field of course helps greatly.
200mm f/2.0 1/640s ISO 160
The Canon EF 200mm f/2 L IS USM Lens is great for capturing stage performances. The wide aperture allows action-stopping shutter speeds in low light using reasonably low ISO settings. And, since the photographer seldom has control over the background at these events, the shallow depth of field allows the background distractions to melt away.
200mm f/2.0 1/200s ISO 500
The Joy of Soccer Picture
The fun is written on the face of this little girl as she heads for the goal.
200mm f/2.0 1/2000s ISO 400
Indoor Soccer Picture
Gotta love 10 frames per second. If you do your job right, the biggest challenge becomes selecting the shot you like best. ISO 8000 and a wide open aperture yielded a barely-fast-enough shutter speed of 1/500 in this very dark venue.
200mm f/2.0 1/500s ISO 8000
Golden Retriever Looking Intently
A Golden Retriever peers intently into the distance. Combine a long focal length and wide aperture with a subject sufficiently separated from the background and the results is an isolated subject in focus.
400mm f/4.0 1/320s ISO 100
Checking Off Milestones: My Oldest Daughter, Brianna, is Getting Married Today
Mostly, this post is to let you share in our excitement and that sentence probably caught your attention with many thoughts potentially entering your mind.
Perhaps for those of you following this site from the early days, it is hard to believe that she is that old. Yes, the years really do fly by (every year goes by faster). This image was captured in 2003, the year TDP showed up on the web:
And now, my baby has become a beautiful young lady.
While the girls are taking care of many of the wedding's fine details, I am also involved. One of the requests of me was to assemble a set of pictures suitable for use in a slide show. While gathering those, many great memories were brought back and, as you probably guessed, I had a solid selection to choose from.
While on that topic, heed my advice: now is when you need to spend time with your kids and of course, make them feel special by photographing them constantly (and giving them that reason why). Only photographs (and videos) can keep them that age forever. Capture your times together and all of the special moments. Grandparents, you are included here – you get to photograph the grandkids when that generation shows up (I look forward to that day).
Answering another common question: yes, we love the incoming son and look forward to him being an official part of the family (he's been hanging around for years already). With him and his great family joining our lives, all of the parent wish list boxes are being checked here.
I know, the first question you really wanted answered was "Are you photographing the wedding?" Well, the official answer is no – there are hired photographers for the event. But ... I just might have (a few cases of) gear stashed somewhere handy. You know – just in case!
Then came the "Oh, can you just set up a camera to video the wedding?"
In what seems a blink of an eye, the kid is grown and moving on with her life. Fortunately, she is not moving too far. And, we have plenty of pictures to look back on.
The lead image for this post is a recent one, commemorating college graduation. It was a cloudy day and light green spring colors were still on some of the trees. I positioned Brianna under the shade of a tall tree to gain some direction to the ultra-soft cloud-diffused light and aligned with a distant tree of interest in the background. At 200mm, the f/2 aperture turns the tree into an interesting blur of color and Brianna pops from the background. Due to the color of the background, my eyes struggled to properly recognize the right color balance this image but, in the end, I opted to use the black cap and gown for a custom white balance.
The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens is a killer portrait lens and it has captured some of my favorite portraits of the kids. This is not an inexpensive lens, but the results can be priceless.
The girls are due home from their hair appointments at any time – gotta go!
200mm f/2.0 1/500s ISO 100