Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II Lens Captures Senior Track Picture
Brianna, my high school senior, has had a very successful high school track career from multiple perspectives including having her name on three school records. This success did not come without a huge effort on her part, and we had discussed shooting a more-formal senior picture highlighting her passion for mid-distance running. Track season became busy and I shot many images of her competing, but time got away from us and suddenly we had only one evening remaining before she had to turn in her uniform.
The weather forecast for that evening called for scattered showers and we were watching the radar very closely. I was packed and ready, and we decided to go for it. After determining the ideal location on the track to shoot at, I began unpacking.
I had three Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites and a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter to control them with. Two Speedlites were mounted on background light stands (small, light and simple) with Justin Clamps used to hold the Speedlites to the poles at any height I wanted. The third Speedlite was mounted to a weighted light stand with a 60" reversed/shoot-through umbrella mounted to a Manfrotto umbrella adapter.
I first mounted the umbrella to the stand and almost immediately a light rain began to fall. I quickly put Brianna, who feared that her hair and makeup would be ruined, under the Photogenic "umbrella". The rain mostly passed within 10 minutes or so and we went to work.
The two flashes on background light stands were set to group B and used as rim lights, placed to the side or slightly behind the subject as composition allowed. The shoot-through umbrella's flash was set to group A and used as the main light. Ambient light (for the entire background) was controlled through a manually-set camera exposure. The flashes were in E-TTL mode and +/- exposure for the two groups was controlled by the ST-E3-RT's Group mode.
While this may all sound complicated, it was not. Setup was very simple and I was able to quickly and easily adjust/balance the ambient, main and background light levels from the camera. While the rain stayed away for much of the two hours we were shooting, it did not fully stay away. Fortunately, this entire kit, including the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens, was weather-sealed and we were able to make many great images in this time.
I had planned this shoot for an evening so that the flashes would be able to overpower the ambient light levels, though I had hoped for a bit more light than we had. The aperture was wide and the ISO was moving up by the end of the evening. Still, the shoot was a big success for us.
Even selecting this particular image from the many shots of just this pose was difficult. With lighting dialed in, I had Brianna repetitively start from specific position on the track and take one big stride with her left knee and right arm (with the baton) forward. I timed the shutter release (a short shutter lag is extremely useful in this situation) for a near-top-of-stride subject position that coincided with the lighting setup. The composition was arranged to take advantage of the lines on the track.
With a wireless flash system and a little effort, we created the images we had envisioned.
30mm f/4.0 1/100s ISO 400
Canon Speedlite Selfie
Well, self-lit at least. The above image shows 6 Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash units lighting themselves. The flashes were triggered from a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR (love this camera). I used a Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens set to 57mm. ISO 100, f/11 and 1/200.
The six flash units are in their included shoe stands and the heads are directed at -7 degrees (slightly downward). The flashes are sitting on a black back-painted glass desk surface. I am standing on a stool with my feet just under the glass table top.
You would not believe how well this setup lights up dust and other imperfections in the glass. I microfiber-cloth-dusted immediately before and a couple of times during this shoot. The angled light across the black surface makes the dust glow. Photoshop's Dust and Scratches noise filter quickly removed most of the problem. I used the history brush to restore details that were removed with the dust (including the flash names).
57mm f/11.0 1/200s ISO 100
Large Dark Fishing Spider
I know – sorry about the creepy subject. Sometimes these situations just fall into my lap. My wife, using her unmistakable slightly panicked voice, called me to our finished basement to eradicate this little monster. Upon arrival on the scene, I decided that the 3.25" (82.5mm) dark fishing spider would make a great subject.
As I said in the review, the Sigma 18-35 has been a great lens to have available for around-the-house use. I grabbed it, a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlight, a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3 RT and a small softbox and returned to the scene of the home invasion. As I gathered the gear, my stress level was being increased as my wife learned that I had left the hairy creature alive and unattended.
Fortunately, the spider remained findable. Since the carpet was not the background I wanted, I slid a piece of printer paper under it. That was of course much easier to say than to do. I grabbed and arranged two white (to not introduce a reflected color) plastic storage containers to hold the downward-directed softbox above the spider.
The above picture was captured at the 18-35's minimum focus distance. I released the spider outside as the carpet would have needed cleaning if I had squished it as requested. My wife swears that the same spider was back on the window, though outside this time.
Note that the EOS 60D has an integrated Speedlite transmitter and could possibly have fire the remote flash without the ST-E3-RT attached. But, the softbox can get in the way of the transmitter's light, preventing the remote flash from functioning. Radio-fired wireless flash is awesome.
35mm f/8.0 1/160s ISO 100
12mm Environmental Portrait and The Making of My First Selfie
I'm not focused on me, can be accused of under-marketing myself and until very recently, I had never taken a selfie (at least not one shared beyond the immediate family). Of course, when the request for a portrait came in, I didn't want to under-deliver on the effort and set out to have some fun, creating my first selfie. Since the task turned into a major project, I thought I would share some of the undertaking.
I know, I gave away the focal length choice in the title and right away some of you are thinking that I've lost my mind. The 12mm focal length, and anything close to it, is not going to create a pleasing portrait perspective, right? Not necessarily. Perspective is created by distance and, if you are far enough away from the subject, any rectilinear focal length can work (I'll save the fisheye discussion for another day). The 12mm angle of view includes a lot of environment in the frame at that adequate distance, and that was my goal for this shot.
I should mention that human subjects tend to look best closer to the center of an ultra-wide angle frame, avoiding the stretched look that can be present in the corners. Keeping the camera level (both pitch and yaw) also helps keep perspectives looking reasonable in this image, though you can still find some stretching closer to the borders. For example, the white lens on the left appears somewhat wide.
I stopped short of making this image into an I Spy photo, but there are lots of (hopefully) interesting items in this photo. Some are easy to see and some are more obscure (such as the Multicart R12RT loaded with camera backpacks). Overall, I tried to keep the image borders free of lines, fully containing most items in the frame. I also attempted to position the closest lenses so that the hoods were directly aligned with the camera with the hood lines mostly clear of intersecting lines, making them stand out, including the one in my hand.
After "decorating" my workspace (my wife's reference to what I was doing), I positioned the camera for the composition I was envisioning. Then, I started pulling out Speedlites.
For the main light, I opted for a Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash with a Photogenic Eclipse 60" Umbrella positioned mostly above the camera. This setup provided a soft light over the entire foreground. To reduce the remaining shadows, a second 600EX-RT, with the wide angle diffuser down, was directed into a 30" umbrella positioned behind the camera. This flash was below the first umbrella and acted as a fill light. Note that it is a good idea to use the camera's eyepiece shade/shutter when firing a flash into the back of the camera (especially if using E-TTL metering).
I added a third 600EX-RT on a backlight stand behind me with the unmodified flash firing directly toward the camera. This light provided some rim lighting that helped to separate me from the background and lit up the middle layer of the image including some strong reflections.
The last Speedlite, a Canon 430EX III-RT, with its wide angle diffuser down, was placed on the floor deep into the studio. This flash's job was to keep the background from going dark.
While I ended up selecting this image for use, I also photographed with other camera positions and lighting variations. One change that I liked was moving the background-most flash under the desk and aimed at the left wall seen in this image. This added a pop of brightness that created some stronger lines in that area of the photo.
The Canon EOS 5Ds R was tripod-mounted and the tripod was placed immediately against the edge of the desk and triggered via a Canon RC-6 wireless remote. See it on the desk in front of me? I would press the release button, put the release on the desk and grab the lens in time for the 2 second self-timer trip the shutter.
I photographed this image in three exposures. The primary f/11 exposure was selected to keep the cloudy sky properly exposed (this exposure happened to be convenient for the overall image) with the flash output, controlled by a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT, adjusted to balance the overall image.
A second exposure utilized a more-diffraction-softened f/16 aperture for keeping the closest subjects in better focus and the third exposure was 4 seconds, necessary to capture the image on the monitor. The three images were composited in Photoshop.
Note that ISO 200 was used to increase battery life in the flashes (18 AA batteries in use, I used two sets).
See the ColorChecker in the foreground? It is serving a dual purpose. The first purpose is to add some color pop that balances with the images on the walls and on the monitor. The second purpose is for an easy custom white balance. While the Canon EOS 5Ds R provided a good auto white balance in-camera, it was extremely simple to select the custom white balance eye dropper and click on a gray square for the ideal white balance.
So, that is the story of my selfie. If you are interested in capturing a selfie of your own, be sure to check out Sean's guide to self-portraits in the site's photography tips.
12mm f/11.0 1/200s ISO 200
Yellow Leaf on Red
The leaves are from a burning bush. Finding good leaf specimens is a challenging task. I hand-selected these and brought them into my studio. If you are familiar with burning bush leaves, you know that they have a strong curl – which makes them very difficult to layer. An overnight book-pressing resolved this problem, but the blemishes remained. Even the most-perfect leaves usually have some imperfections. Spraying the leaves with soft-box-reflecting water drops hides many of these imperfections and the Photoshop clone stamp tool handled the removal of the few remaining spots.
50mm f/16.0 1/160s ISO 100
2010 American Eagle Proof Silver Dollar
The hardest part of capturing this shot was getting the coin to stand on its side at the right rotation. Otherwise, this is a an easy shot.
The coin is a near-perfect, highly-reflective 2010 American Eagle Silver Dollar in proof condition. The background is black velor draped over a box. The coin is sitting on very clean back-painted black glass (my desk). A tiny piece of card stock is under the coin to prevent it from rolling. A Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT in a small softbox was triggered by a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT. The softbox was directed downward onto the coin (I should have moved it back slightly to get an even reflection across the entire top of the coin).
Insure that nothing reflects back onto the coin. Then use a macro-capable lens to capture your shot.
70mm f/16.0 1/200s ISO 100
Northern Red Salamander
This Northern Red Salamander was rescued from the swiming pool (the reason it is so clean). In return for the rescue, it agreed to sit still (momentarily) for me (it was actually warming up).
This picture was extremely easy to take. I opened a new Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter and a new Canon 600EX-RT Transmitter, put batteries in both, powered both on, set the flash to slave mode (press a button), put the flash in an XXS Chimera softbox and mounted it to a lightstand and mounted the ST-E3-RT to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
I placed the subject on a mangrove branch on a black back-painted-glass desk and draped a piece of velour fabric over a box behind it.
This is my favorite of the shots captured in the short time it took the salamander to warm up and be ready for release.
70mm f/11.0 1/200s ISO 100
Six Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites positioned to light up the back of the neighboring flash from an angle creatings a unique image. The flashes are positioned on a black back-painted glass desk.
35mm f/11.0 1/200s ISO 100
Red Maple Leaf
A bed of imperfection-lacking red maple tree leaves is practically unfindable in nature. But, hand-selected leaves brought into a studio environment creates a different story. This image was lit by a single, overhead Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite in a Chimera XXS Softbox and triggered by a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite RF Transmitter. Triggering a softbox-mounted flash using RF instead of light eliminates the line-of-site issue sometimes created by the softbox.
50mm f/16.0 1/160s ISO 100
Spoonful of Candy
The recipe for this image:
Clamp a mellon baller over a clean black back-painted glass surface using a Delta Clamp and add cookie/cake sprinkles to taste.
Tripod-mount a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens attached to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR in manual mode with settings of 1/160, f/16 and ISO 100.
Mount a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter to the 5D III and configure a Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash as a slave.
Attach a Rogue FlashBender Softbox XL to the flash and while handholding the flash and softbox, trigger the image capture using a Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote.
What you get is this image. While the reflection created by the Rogue Softbox is not as smooth as those delivered by more expensive softboxes, the reflection is not bad. One might think that a cloudy sky was the source the reflection.
Overall, I like the bright colors in the otherwise monochrome scene. Images like this are easy to create with the right gear.
150mm f/16.0 1/160s ISO 100
Softly-Lit Many-Petaled Purple Flower
Creating a soft, even light on a close subject such as this one is a challenge that is often best-met by a small softbox positioned just outside of the frame. Creating this light with an on-camera Speedlite is a challenge that is perhaps best-met with a Rogue FlashBender Softbox.
For this photo, a Canon 600EX-RT was mounted with its head in the forward position. In this position, the attached FlashBender Softbox protruded out over the end of the lens to provide a broad overhead light on the flower, creating nice soft lighting without harsh shadows.
From a compositional standpoint, I positioned the flower so that the lines of the petals would radiate into the picture from a point about 1/3 of the way into the frame from both the bottom and right. The purple color borders/frames the cream/white color.
100mm f/11.0 1/60s ISO 100
Monarch Butterfly and Chrysalis
After spending over a decade trying to establish milkweed plants on our property (what monarch caterpillars eat), healthy plants finally emerged a couple of years ago – in the flower beds next to our house, not close to where we were trying to grow them. While most "weeds" are not welcome in the flower beds, we embraced what we got and allowed them to prosper in place.
This year, milkweed plants started growing randomly throughout the yard, though frequent lawn mowing kept their visibility near nothing. After an especially long period of rain, the yard crop started showing leaves and my observant daughter spotted a monarch laying eggs on them. Prior to the next lawn cutting, she and my wife removed over 40 eggs from the rogue plants.
Most of the eggs were transferred to the being-tolerated flower bed plants and several were raised indoors, which produces perfect specimens for photographic purposes. The ideal time to photograph butterflies is just after they emerge as their wings are in perfect condition and they remain mostly still for a couple of hours. Knowing when that time is coming involves observing the monarch chrysalis color. Newly-formed chrysalises are bright green in color, but they turn very dark just prior to emergence of the butterfly stage.
I saw this opportunity coming and had some gear ready. When your camera is an EOS model with a hot shoe, the set of lighting accessories available, both Canon brand and third party options, is vast. For this image, I used a Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II Flash for a very even light on the subject. With the dual MR-14EX flash tubes configured for equal power, this flash creates a flat light, often void of shadows. When the subject is as vibrantly-colored as this one, flat lighting works quite well.
The background is a piece of orange paper (I tried a variety of colors) being held with a Delta 1 Grip-It Single Arm with 1" Clamp (extremely useful accessory) and lit with a remotely-controlled Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash. Alternatively, I could have used a white paper and gelled the flash to create the desired color.
The background light being positioned behind the foreground light meant that it did not influence the lighting on the subject and the background being far enough behind the foreground meant that the foreground light did not influence the background brightness.
While I didn't expect the Canon EOS R to have any trouble with Canon's Speedlite system (other EOS models don't), it is always nice to have reassurance, especially for a new camera line. Or, maybe this test was just the excuse I needed to spend a couple of hours photographing the monarch.
At macro focus distances, depth of field becomes very shallow.
One of the keys to capturing this image was to align the camera so that the wing was perfectly parallel to the imaging sensor, perpendicular to the center of the lens' image circle.
Still, f/16 was needed to obtain the depth of field necessary to keep almost the entire butterfly sharp.
Rogue FlashBender Illuminates the Beauty of a Pink Rose
Roses are arguably one of the most beautiful flowers on the face of this planet. They don't smell so bad either, which makes working around them even more pleasant. Buy the wife (or yourself) a bouquet of roses and you have days' worth of photo subject for your macro lens (and presumably a happy spouse).
For this image, I attached a Rogue FlashBender softbox to a forward-facing Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite. With this setup, I was free to shoot handheld as I worked on finding pleasing compositions – with deep-reaching soft light following me. This turned out to be my favorite image from this shoot. A nearly centered rose's petals curve outward into and subsequently out of the frame in a balanced manner.
Later, print one of your rose pictures to gain even more return on your small investment.
105mm f/11.0 1/100s ISO 100
Plate of Cookies
The daughters spent all afternoon making an impressive array of cookies. They completed with little time remaining before the guests were due to arrive and I wanted to capture the memory before their art was destroyed/consumed. I mounted a flash and positioned the large plate of cookies beside a white cabinet to use for bounce flash. I selected two cookies to emphasize with the rest of the cookies providing the background.
105mm f/11.0 1/125s ISO 100