Saturday, July 5, 2008

Photo of a girl in a wesuit in the fog

Canon 5D camera, Canon 200mm f2.8 lens, ISO 100, shooting mode of Av, exposure compensation of +2/3, Shutter-speed of 1/4000 (selected by the camera), White balance set to cloudy, picture style of 'standard'.

I was the Oregon Coast recently and I shot this photo of girl walking on the beach. The hot sun was causing the water in the sand to evaporate and create fog that hung on the beach. It made for a pretty neat photo.

The 200mm focal length 'pulls-in' the background. I shot at f2.8 to get maximum background blur, but I think this shot would have worked using any aperture. I used the +2/3 exposure compensation because the camera wanted to make the image too dark.

Here's one more shot from the same day:

Canon 5D camera, Canon 200mm f2.8 lens, ISO 100, shooting mode of Av, exposure compensation of +2/3, Shutter-speed of 1/2500 (selected by the camera), White balance set to cloudy, picture style of 'standard'.

On this shot, I think that shooting the 200mm lens @ f2.8 gives the picture an sublime quality. The 'misty' image is 100% natural, this image never made a visit to Photoshop.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Breaking the rules: shooting into the Sun

There exists a number of common 'rules' we are supposed to follow to make photographs, one of these rules is shoot with the sun at your back. And while I normally follow this rule, you can also create great photos by breaking this rule. Here are some of my favorite photos shooting directly into the sun:

Camera: Canon 5D, Lens: Canon 24-85, ISO: 100, Focal length: 28mm, Shooting Mode: Av, Aperture: F8, Shutter-speed: 1/400, white balance: sunny, picture style: Landscape.

Camera: Canon 5D, Lens: Canon 24 f2.8, ISO: 100, Shooting Mode: Manual, Aperture: F10, Shutter-speed: 1/320, white balance: sunny, picture style: Faithful.

Camera: Canon 10D, Lens: Sigma 70-200 f2.8, ISO 100, Focal length: 200 mm, Shooting Mode: Tv, Aperture: F9.5, Shutter-speed: 1/500, white balance: auto.

The 'trick' I use when shooting into the sun is to 'meter' off the blue sky (point the camera at the blue sky and then press the '*' button--this 'locks' the exposure), and then recompose. The camera then meters for the 'blue sky' so when you shoot into the sun you still get 'blue sky'. Alternatively, you could meter off the blue sky - see what parameters the camera choose, switch the manual and then use those same parameters. You'll have the experiment a little to get the results you want.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An emotionally compelling photograph (for me)

One of my favorite subjects to photographs is 'my friends at play'.

Here a shot I took yesterday of my friend Maureen windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge.

Shot settings:
  • Canon 5D camera
  • Canon 400 f5.6 L Lens: So the windsurfer was big enough in the frame & to pull in the background.
  • ISO 200: To ensure a fast enough shutter-speed to freeze the action.
  • Shooting Mode of 'aperture priority': I wanted to specify the widest aperture the lens supported and let the camera select the correct shutter-speed.
  • Aperture f5.6: The widest aperture this lens supports--to give me a 'blurry background'. This lens (400 f5.6) is sharp 'wide-open', many lenses are not sharp 'wide-open.'
  • Exposure compensation (EC) set to 0: The camera metered it 'just right'
  • shutter-speed 1/1250th of a second: Selected by the camera. I did set ISO to 200, to ensure I got a fast shutter-speed (ISO 100 would have given me a shutter-speed of 1/600th of a second--at 1/600 I might have gotten some 'motion blur' or blur from 'camera movement'.)
  • Picture style of 'standard': This gives me a nice 'punchy' image without a whole lot of post-processing.
  • White balance set to 5900 degrees Kelvin when the RAW file was processed to JPEG: The 'sunny' white balance I used when shooting looked a little 'cold' to me back at my computer, so I set white balance via 'color temperature' when I processed the file (white balance 'color temp' is a 'slider' in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP.)) Being able to 'tweak' white-balance in post-processing is a nice benefit to shooting in RAW.
  • Focus mode set to AI Servo: So I could 'track' my subject and release the shutter when I wanted to take a photo.
  • Tripod with ball-head: To keep the camera stable when shooting. The ball-head allows me to freely move the camera, while still having the camera stabilized by the tripod.
  • Location the photo was taken: Arlington, Oregon, USA (Columbia River Gorge)

I really love this shot. The elements that make this photo good, in my opinion, are:
  • The beautiful scene
  • The very nice colors. The contrast between the green water and the tan hills.
  • The subject in focus, with the slightly blurry background (making the sailor 'pop' a little.)
  • The hills in the background 'filling the frame'
  • An uncluttered background (remember to 'watch the background' -- it matters.)
  • The subject is in the bottom third of the photo (following the 'rule of thirds')
  • No other windsurfers in the frame to clutter the photo
For me, this is also 'emotionally compelling' photo. It reminds me of a spectacular day of windsurfing at a beautiful location with good friends. I can look at this photo and I am reminded of great day of sailing.

The use of the long 400mm focal length lens was key to:
  • Make the subject (the sailor) large enough in the frame (so she isn't a 'speck')
  • Pull in the hills in the background (with a 100mm focal length you would get lots of sky.)
Here's another photo from the day. I like the first photo better, but this one has a little more 'action' - so others may prefer this one:

(similar 'shot settings' to the previous photo.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Review of Canon Rebel XSi (XSi vs. XTi vs. 40D)

Phil Askey over at DPReview has recently posted his review of the new Canon Digital Rebel XSi. This is a very comprehensive review and includes a detailed comparison between the Rebel XTi and the Rebel XSi.

You can read the entire review here. If you want to skip to Phil's conclusions, go here.

As of 5/31/08, here are the current prices on the Rebel XTi, XSi & 40D on Amazon:
  • Canon Rebel XTi body only $599
  • Canon Rebel XTi with 18-55 kit lens $689
  • Canon Rebel XSi body only $799
  • Canon Rebel XSi with 18-55 image stabilized kit lens $849
  • Canon 40D body only $954 (price includes Canon $200 instant rebate)
  • Canon 40D with 28-135 image stabilized lens $1129 (price includes Canon $200 instant rebate)
In all cases, I'd also recommend getting the body with the kit-lens. For a more detailed post regarding lenses for your first Canon DSLR, go here.

Reasons to buy the XSi over the XTi?
  • You're buying 1 year newer technology
  • Bigger Screen
  • Much better high ISO performance (ISO 800/1600) (100% usable). This enables indoor flash-free photography (best done with a prime lens: Example 50mm f1.8 $80)
  • 12 MP vs. 10 MP
  • Faster overall operation
So, the Rebel XSi offers some very nice improvements over the Rebel XTi, but it's also $160 more. Your decision.

If you're really thinking of the XSi, you should also give serious consideration to the 40D. With the current Canon $200 instant rebate on the 40D, it's now only $140 more than the Rebel XSi. (when comparing body-only prices.) The 40D has a very similar feature-set to the Rebel XSi, but gives you:
  • A much beefier build-quality: Magnesium alloy body (vs. Rebel XSi plastic body)
  • Much beefier and more comfortable grip
  • Can shoot at 6.5 frames per second (vs. 3.5 frames per second on the XSi). This is great for shooting sports.
So, the 40D has a number of nice advantages over the XSI, but it's about $140 more (camera coby only). Your decision.

You can see current prices and purchase the Rebel XTi/Rebel XSi/40D on this page on Amazon. Please support this blog by clicking through these links when purchasing your Canon DSLR. You pay the same price as normal, but I get a tiny commission from Amazon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Point-and-shoot vs. DSLR

This is one the questions I get asked all the time -- why don't I just buy one of these 7+ megapixel digital point and shoots? Well, this is an option, and the digital point and shoots do have the following benefits:
  • small
  • easy to carry
  • some models have very good image quality at ISO 100 (example: Canon PowerShot G9)
  • some models do have good creative controls (example: Canon PowerShot G9)
The negatives to the digital point and shoots are:
  • really slow auto-focus (since the digital point and shoot uses the same sensor for both auto-focus and image-capture, auto-focus is really slow.) This is big cause of missed shots--it drives me crazy.
  • most have mediocre to poor image quality above ISO 100. On my point-and-shoot, anything about ISO 100 is all mushy and noisy.
  • no (or limited) ability to use different lenses.
The big advantages of the DSLR over the digital point and shoot are:
  • Lighting-fast auto-focus (the DSLR has 1 sensor for image capture and a separate dedicated auto-focus sensor)
  • Most new DSLR models have excellent image quality up to ISO 800 (in some cases even ISO 1600.) This enables me to 1) get more shots using natural light vs. having to resort to using the flash 2) do a better job of shooting indoor sports.
  • Ability to use different lenses for different situations (wide angle, telephoto, macro, fish-eye, prime lenses, etc.)
  • Superior image quality due to the much larger sensor (Rebel XTi sensor size = 328 sq mm vs. PowerShot G9 sensor size of 38 sqmm). Read those numbers again. The quality difference between point-and-shoot vs. DSLR at ISO 400 to 1600 is HUGE. There are tons of photos I take where ISO 400-1600 is required to get the shot.
If you will always be photographing static subjects at ISO 100, don't need to print at sizes bigger than 14 x 11, and the integrated zoom lens that comes with the point-and-shoot meets all your needs, a high quality digital point and shoot like the Canon PowerShot G9 is an option. But, if you want to shoot moving subjects and value the flexibility of being able to shoot at higher ISO's and still get excellent image quality, you'll want a DSLR. The digital SLR also allows you to fundamentally change your camera by allow you to change lenses. In addition, the Canon Rebel XTi with a kit lens (about $675) is very similar in price to the Canon PowerShot G9 ($479.)

The DSLR has a 'full auto' mode, so you can still use your DSLR like a 'point-and-shoot' if you want.

For me, it's not an 'either/or'. I have both. But I try and use my 5D whenever I can because it gives me far superior photos to my little point-and-shoot. Then again, if I'm going on a bike ride I take the 'point-and-shoot' because 1) it's smaller and lighter 2) I wouldn't be heart-broken if I broke the $200 point and shoot.

Compare prices on the Canon XTi, XSi & 40D at Amazon here. Support this site by clicking through these links when you buy your Canon DSLR.