28 February 2009

Focussing screens - more than standard

All the EOS cameras feature a ground glass focussing screen. It's the translucent surface you see when you look through the viewfinder. We've explained before the importance of correctly setting the dioptre correction so that the screen is correctly viewed by the photographer. An increasing number of the EOS cameras allow you to change the focussing screen and it's something worth doing if your style of photography suits something more than standard.

The standard focussing screen fitted to your EOS is designed to give a bright clear image in a wide range of conditions and with a wide range of lenses. The maximum aperture of a lens determines how bright the screen can be, with lenses that have f/5.6 apertures giving a darker - harder to see - screen than lenses with faster apertures like f/1.4. The standard focussing screen has a special ground glass surface that effectively amplifies the light so even the slower f/5.6 lenses give a reasonably bright viewfinder.

Grid screen 
The first alternative screen is the grid screen, this one has a set of fine lines etched on it's surface making a grid pattern. These lines can help you with composition and also to keep horizons level and stop you composing with buildings falling over. In some cases they are used for technical purposes too. Brightness and viewfinder performance wise these screens are based on the standard ones so work well with all lenses.

Super precision matte - 'manual focus' screen
The first of the specialist screens is the super precision matte screen, sometimes called the 'manual focus' screen. This one has a different ground surface and as a result shows an almost real view of the actual depth of field that a lens and aperture combination will produce. The standard screen tends to show images with too much depth of field. The downside of this screen is that it gets darker quite a lot faster so Canon recommends it for f/2.8 aperture or faster lenses - exactly the ones you may be doing critical manual focus with.

Changing the focussing screen is quite simple, you remove the lens and release a small catch in the top of the mirror box, the screen drops down and using the tool supplied with each accessory focussing screen you lift out the existing one and replace with the alternates. Don't ever touch or try to clean the surface of the focussing screen, you'll end up buying a new one, but at around twenty to thirty pounds they are not expensive. When you change the focussing screen you need to set the appropriate custom function in the camera, this tells the exposure metering about the characteristics of the screen in use and tailors the metering system appropriately.

All EOS-1D models can have the focussing screen changed, as can EOS 5D, EOS 5D Mark II and also EOS 40D and EOS 50D. Some third parties provide screens and instructions for other models though you may invalidate your warranty if you fit them yourself.

Generally Ec-'X' screens are for EOS-1D models, Ed-'X' for EOS 5D, Ef-'X' for EOS 40D / EOS 50D and Eg-'X' for EOS 5D Mark II.

'X' indicates the type of screen, D = grid screen, S = super precision matte, A = standard screen.

In the case of the EOS-1D models there's a much more extensive range of focussing screens available including microprism and split image screens.

EOS 40D/ 50DEOS 5D Mark II


27 February 2009

5D II Movies

For some, this may seem obvious. For others, it'll be a confusion then a hassle if they get it wrong. Which group do you fit in?

When you're shooting movies and stills with the EOS 5D Mark II, there is something you really need to remember. It's obvious once you've been told, but easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. 

So there you are at a wedding. You're shooting a lovely portrait shot of the bride walking down the aisle. Mmmm you think, a bit of movie would be nice for the DVD. You enter Live View mode. You start shooting movie. You grab the odd still image as well. All's going great. 

You get home and download the images and movies. You start sorting out the movie clips and...... bugger ........ yep, you shot the movies in portrait mode and now you need to turn your screen on it's side .... or bin the file. 

Yep, that's it folks, if you're shooting movies remember that turning an HDTV on it's edge is really not conducive to the health of your back or your tv so make sure you only shoot in a landscape format or you'll be throwing away footage left, right and centre. 


26 February 2009

It's over... just for another year!

Well that's it, it's all over. Focus on imaging 2009 has been and gone. If you missed it, you'll have to wait another year for it to come around again. 

We'll compile a longer post about Focus at some point shortly, but so far our favourite things from the show were:
New PocketWizards..... mmmmmmm I can't wait
The discounts on recently discontinued Elinchrom flash heads at The Flash Centre
The speed with which EOS 5D Mark II cameras seemed to be flying over the Jacobs counter
Picking up a California sunbounce at a very good price
The seminars on the Canon stand - very interesting stuff
The lack of crowds this year making it easier to move around
Bumping into old friends we've not seen for a year

What we didn't like were:
The stupid questions some of the guys on the Canon stand had to put up with
The people carrying cameras around - seriously, what are you going to take pictures of?
The people carrying cameras around their neck with no lens on. See above.


25 February 2009

Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin shoots the Oscars stars

There's a stunning set of new images on the magnum blog shot by Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin. Sent to shoot the stars at the Oscars these pictures feature eight of the film industry stars; Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella and Kat Dennings in striking raw portraiture away from the glitz and glamour.

See the set of 16 images on the Magnum blog, and also as a multimedia set with more images on the New York Times website with audio commentary by Lynn Hirschberg. I really like the very natural flow to the set, but especially the one of Kat Dennings on the phone to her mother in the NY Times set. Maybe it's the fact that the caption says she's on the phone to her mother that makes this one my favourite, but maybe it's the normality of the scene?


24 February 2009

Focus...have you been?

We've been up at Focus today having a look around, hence the lack of a post so sorry for that... Did you miss us?!
Anyway, have you been yet? It seems busier than expected given the financial situation, but not as busy as last year.
There were some good deals to be had as well and we managed to get a short hands on look at those new Pocket Wizards as well! Yes, they're as sexy in real life, but a bit bigger than expected! They're certainly on our shopping list for the near future.

Canon have a large presence again, in fact it seems to be the biggest and the busiest stand around. They have a whole booth of EOS 5D Mark II cameras as well as the rest of the range and a lens bar with all the large white lenses arranged. There are also some really interesting free seminars being given upstairs, so if you're going tomorrow, check them out early as they book up quick.
I wouldn't expect too many last day deals on Canon kit this year. Most places seem to be running low on stock so they won't be discounting as heavily at a guess.

Anyway, have you been? If so, what did you think? Did you buy anything?


23 February 2009

Depth of field in movies

One of the best things about the EOS 5D Mark II movie function is that it shoots on the full-frame sensor and therefore you get really shallow depth of field. Great.....except when you want lots in focus.
As far as I can tell, photography is all about problem solving and so it was the other day. I was trying to take a short movie clip of myself (yes, I am that vain) and needed to make sure I was in focus. I had a couple of attempts and it wasn't working out as the depth of field was just too shallow - any time I moved, I moved out of the plane of focus and it was ruined. So how to get around it?
With no control over aperture, there is not much you can do, but one thing will help - your knowledge of depth of field in relation to focus distance.
Initially I was using a EF35mm f/1.4L USM lens and DofF was very shallow. I switched lenses to the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM and moved the camera and tripod further back. This had two effects:
1. The lens only has an f/4 maximum aperture so instantly more depth of field as the lens couldn't open as wide
2. By increasing my camera to subject distance, I increased the depth of field

Bingo! Enough depth of field for me to move around while staying in the plane of focus.

It's that second one that people forget. While everyone is busy using aperture to control depth of field, they forget that actually the most over-riding function of depth of field is the focus distance, or camera to subject distance.
Get further away from your subject and wham! more depth of field. Conversely, if you want less depth of field, get closer in to your subject and suddenly you're in blur city.


21 February 2009

Stop taking pictures without 'film' in your camera

Canon DSLR cameras ship from the factory setup for simple demonstration at the photo retailer. Probably a carry over from when the internet photo dealer didn't exist and touch and try before buying cameras in store was popular!

'don't get mad, get even - make sure that camera can't fool you again and set it to only take pictures when it's got a memory card in'
The trouble is that the cameras are designed by default for taking pictures without a memory card being fitted. So you take the new camera home - or the delivery driver finally brings it to you - and the camera is still in shop demo mode. So batteries charged and loaded off you go for a shoot; forty** pictures later you realise that it would be really nice to review your first shots so you can post your - my first shots with my new EOS gallery. Now you find that you didn't load a memory card so you have no shots.

Press the MENU button, scroll or move down the first menu to find the Shoot without CF/SD or memory card option and set it to OFF. Now you will see messages on the camera that there's no card in the camera a lot, but you cannot take pictures without having loaded some digital 'film'.

** Traditionally in the days of film camera you would get around 40 shots before you realised the no film or mis-loaded film issue as you tended to get used to around 36 shots on a roll and if the film hadn't run out then usually it wasn't loaded.


20 February 2009

Back to basics, A-DEP mode

IMG_0005-blabContinuing the the series of articles on the different shooting modes available on many EOS cameras it's time to look at one of the modes in the creative shooting section of the mode dial; A-DEP

Canon divides the mode dial on the EOS xxD, EOS xxxD and EOS xxxxD series models in to the basic zone and the creative zone. Modes in the creative zone are typically P, Tv, Av, M, A-DEP, Bulb and also the C modes. Choosing a creative zone mode gets you the full range of options, and you will even find that more menu tabs display than when using the basic zone modes.

A-DEP mode is designed to automatically choose the optimum settings to deliver an image with all the subjects covered by the AF points being in focus. A-DEP is one of the most automated and clever modes. First thing you notice is that the camera will always select all the AF points, you can't choose your preferred centre AF point for example. Then the camera looks at each focus point in turn to determine the closest subject and the furthest. Factoring in information about the lens then the camera calculates the required focus distance and the aperture to give sufficient depth of field to allow the closest subject and furthest to be in focus. Often the calculation throws up some surprises as to how little you need to close the aperture for a given depth of field and also that the lens never seems to need to be set to infinity. Remember the camera knows about the 1/3 in front of the AF point and 2/3 behind that is the usual for depth of field calculations.

Some photographers think of A-DEP as a kind of aperture priority mode, though in fact it's not just choosing the aperture and hoping (or knowing) the end result, it's using knowledge of the lens and the focus points to give you the precise results. Often used for landscape work with subjects in the foreground and the scene stretching in to the background A-DEP is equally useful for taking frame-filling portraits ensuring that only the main subject covered by the AF points is sharply focussed.

Like many of the creative modes you get to choose from a wide range of settings including:
  • Metering pattern
  • Picture Style
  • Colour profile
  • White balance including white balance shift & bracketing
  • Auto exposure bracketing
  • Exposure compensation
  • Flash exposure compensation
  • Drive mode selection
  • Flash usage - though if you use flash the camera works like it's in Program (P) mode
  • Image quality / image type
  • ISO speed setting
  • AE lock / FE lock
  • AF lock
AF mode is set to one-shot with all the AF points active. So the key here is to make sure the AF points cover the correct parts of the scene you want in focus. 

Blinking aperture or shutter speed settings in the viewfinder indicate troubles
If the shutter speed in the viewfinder shows a blinking 30s then the subject is took dark and you need to change the ISO to a higher setting - to avoid an underexposed shot. Similarly if it shows 8000 blinking then you have too bright a scene and need to drop the ISO or use a neutral density [ND] filter to avoid an overexposed shot. 
If the aperture blinks this indicates that the exposure level is correct but that the camera couldn't achieve the needed depth of field, usually you need to use a wider angle lens or move further back from the closest subject.


19 February 2009

RAW support added to the PowerShot SX1 IS

A tiny bit of news, but valuable for those who use Canon's Digital Photo Professional software for processing their RAW images.

With the announcement of the PowerShot SX1 IS for the USA market yesterday Canon also announced that they are making a firmware update to add RAW image support to the camera for the exisiting customers. Let's not forget that the PowerShot SX1 IS already has a Canon CMOS sensor and full HD video capture; RAW is a nice addition for free. The new firmware will be available to download from Canon's BeBit site http://web.canon.jp/imaging/BeBit-e.html from mid-March, and there will also be an updated version of Digital Photo Professional to work with the RAW images. This now means that photographers who mostly use EOS cameras can also work with the RAW images from the PowerShot G10 and (soon) the PowerShot SX1 IS. Maybe this helps your choice of compact camera, because it seems like there's no new Canon DSLR going to be announced for PMA, the first time since 2001.


18 February 2009

New products from Canon

Another day with two posts in quick succession!

And here they are. As usual, Canon have launched a veritable avalanche of new products today... but surprisingly no new digital SLR among them.

Of interest to us, and probably you guys and girls too, are two new tilt-and-shift lenses: TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II. The 24mm lens is an update to the current TS-E 24mm and the 17mm lens is all new - and is the widest angle TS-E lens available for 35mm SLR cameras - all you landscape and architectural photographers get your credit cards ready now.... a 17mm tilt-and-shift? Now that's cool. And it's another L-lens TS-E.

The TS-E 24mm lens looks interesting too - with ± 8.5° Tilt and ±12mm Shift it has the largest range of lens movements available for a tilt and shift lens on a 35mm camera. It looks like Canon may have increased the image circle size to allow this but we'll know more when more detailed specifications appear.

Both lenses also feature the SWC - Subwavelength structure coating - found on the EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens released last year. This SWC helps minimise reflection, flare and ghosting off the lens element, working in the same way as the surface of a moth's eye does to reduce reflection.

Press release below:
United Kingdom / Republic of Ireland, 18 February, 2009: Canon today announces the launch of two new tilt and shift lenses, the TS-E24mm f/3.5L.

At 17mm, the TS-E 17mm f/4L has the widest view angle of any tilt and shift lens currently available; coupled with outstanding image quality across the whole frame, it is an ideal choice for architectural or landscape photography. Building on the success of its predecessor, the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, like the TS-E 17mm f/4L, now includes Canon’s sub-wavelength structure coating (SWC). Canon’s patented lens coating is specifically designed to minimise ghosting and flare caused by internal reflections to help deliver crisp, clear images.

Canon was the first company to offer 35mm camera users a combined tilt and shift lens, With 36 years experience in this field, Canon has now added a new unique functionality to the TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, allowing users to rotate the direction of the tilt and shift independently of each other. This affords greater control over the focal plane, replicating the movements of a large format view camera. Canon’s revolutionary tilt and shift revolving mechanism is particularly useful when shooting product shots from a perspective where specific framing and focal plane is required.

The new lenses, influenced by feedback from professional photographers, have been created to produce the best image quality with high resolution, high contrast and low distortion. The use of high-precision asphercial front elements keeps distortion, common in wide angle lenses, to an absolute minimum, even at the edges of the frame. The TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II also feature multiple UD elements to reduce chromatic aberration and optimised focus mechanisms.

Canon today has also introduced a new range (52mm to 72mm) of versatile, multi-functional PL-C B polarizing filters to help reduce reflections from glass or water or darken blue skies. The PL-C B’s, which are now available in 52mm, 58mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm filter thread sizes, also allows the lens cap to be attached to the lens to prevent damage to the filter if left attached when not in use.

Key features of the TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II include:
Tilt and shift lenses compatible with all Canon EOS cameras Ultra Wide 17mm / wide 24mm focal length, ideal for architecture and landscapes High precision lens elements for low distortion and high resolution to the edge of the image ± 6.5° Tilt and ±12mm Shift (TS-E 17mm f/4L) ± 8.5° Tilt and ±12mm Shift (TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II)
Tilt and shift mechanism rotates +/-90° allowing shift in any direction
Tilt mechanism rotates +/-90° allowing tilt in any direction relative to the shift
Aspherical and UD lens elements minimise chromatic aberration Sub-wavelength structure and super-spectra coatings minimise ghosting and flare
Circular aperture for creative, blurred highlights
TS-E 17mm f/4L has a floating internal focus mechanism delivers high image quality throughout focus range.

Pricing and Availability:
The TS-E 17mm f/4L is available from May 2009 priced at £2749.99 / €3049.99
RRP inc. VAT.

The TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II is available from May 2009 priced at £2399.99 /
€2659.99 RRP inc. VAT.

PowerShot: There is one other product that might be of interest as well (along with lots that are less likely to appeal to all of us in a professional capacity! ) Canon have announced their first waterproof digital camera, the PowerShot D10. It's waterproof to 10m, shockproof enough to withstand a drop from 1.22m onto a hard surface and freeze-proof to -10°C. It features a 12.1 Megapixel sensor, 3.0x optical zoom and DIGIC 4 processor for high image quality. I can't wait to get my paws on this and see how it performs - it could become the ultimate carry-anywhere camera for when your SLR camera is back at home....
Priced at £379.00 it'll be available at the end of April 2009.


98... 99... 100 posts

A startling milestone for the blabpictures blog we've hit 100 posts, since starting blabpictures in November 2008.

It's been a time for a lot of photographers starting to learn and feel the pain of video making with the EOS 5D Mark II, and for us to learn the delights of getting contribution to the blog from the readers and photographers. Thank you indeed to our six featured togs on Tuesdays since January, we look forward to many more in the future. Leave comments if you want to be here.

Creating this blog, we set out to give lots of expert tips, and indeed 23% of our posts have had the EOS Expert tip label on them. We've covered flash, metering, AF, WiFi and exposure modes with much more to come.

As the photo industry annual launch pad, PMA nears it can't be long until Canon shows it's hand and products that will have us all reaching for our wallets - either to stop the credit cards leaving or to let them have free rein.

Here's to the next 100 posts on blabpictures, join us on the journey and don't forget to tell your friends and fellow photographers about blabpictures.


17 February 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Joe Fox

Joe Fox
I suppose it all started for me back in 1981. I was 11 years of age and living in the lower Falls Road in Belfast. Things in that area were as probably as dark and as dangerous as they could be in the Summer of 1981 during the midst of the Hunger Strikes and all that entailed. My parents had luckily enough enrolled me in a scheme called the euro children, where kids were shipped off to live with families across Europe for a month each summer. I went to stay with a family in Geneva, funnily enough, no one wanted to live where I did. The night before I left my aunt arrived up at the door (no mean feat with the barricades and army cordons and gun battles on the streets (no I’m not making this up)) with a 35mm compact camera and 3 rolls of 24 film. ‘You cant go to Switzerland and not take photos of it’.
That was it, mountains, chocolates, cuckoo clocks the whole 9 yards. Hooked. I spent almost every last penny my parents gave me on films in the local supermarket.
10 years later I bought my first SLR (Praktica BX20) and the first shots I took with it were interrailing, I bought it with my ‘graduation money’, as I couldn’t go to Europe for a month and not take pictures – sound familiar. 10 years to the day I took a photo of the mer de glace in Chamonix as I had as a kid. I’d worked part time in the bookies that my dad was manager in from 11 years of age (I know its illegal) to 19 and every summer holidays. I blew everything I’d saved on that trip and left home carrying everything I owned.
I spent most of the next 8 odd years as an engineer, just taking photos of the places I’d been, no intention of doing weddings, taking photos of my nephews etc etc.
Then through family and health circumstances I had a career break and really couldn’t face going back to working for someone else again…
…I tempted and did very little whilst I decided what I wanted out of life and what I wanted to do with the rest of my time. I got a phone call one day from a mate of a mate asking if I wanted to help out photographing in a Santa Grotto seeing as I was handy with a camera, had bugger all else to do and they were stuck….
…the rest is history (and I’d still no intention of doing weddings). Oh and I blew every penny I had saved up as an Engineer to set up a photography business and more with the help of Mr Visa and the local small business agency. I thought I’d give it six months to see how it went. I’m still giving it six months…

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
I remember buying my Alfa, I test drove one, I test drove another, decided that I wouldn’t live more than 2 months driving a 2.5 V6 and ended up picking the engine and spec that I wanted. I spent about a half hour going over things with the salesman on the phone. Yes rear spoiler and not the pram handle one, yes sports pack, yes this, no that.
All done and dusted when the said.
‘Sorry Joe, I have to ask but what colour do you want’
‘No. You really don’t have to ask’
The salesman then laughed and then said ‘Great, you are one of us’.
Normally in Northern Ireland that means you are either a Protestant or a Catholic but he really meant petrolhead or such like.
He went on to say that anyone who orders an Alfa in any colour other than Alfa Red is either a dick or has no soul or more likely both.

I feel the same about Ferraris….
..Next stupid question. ;-)

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?
Ok that’s not a stupid question. I’ll come at this from a business angle.
At the minute my answer would be get a proper job! No honestly, I mean it. I had a proper job once ;-)
Times are tough at the minute, very tough in places. Editorial and commissioned rates are being slashed, stock photography rates are being cut, portrait studios are closing all over the place (check ebay if you don’t believe me).
Its easy for people to say don’t do it and be laughed off as not wanting the competition. If I had to start again today I wouldn’t. I haven’t seen a downturn yet as such but Im still getting paid for stuff I shot last year, my weddings were all booked a year or more in advance, I don’t do portraits (well I do but selectively), newspapers are cutting staff and agency fees are sliding. Small businesses have a very high attrition rate at the best of times, when I started I funded the business with 10k of my own money and 5k of a loan, it wasn’t nearly enough!
Its not just photography though, its across the board, I went up to a small village yesterday for some fish and chips and to do one or two stock photos that I new the light and conditions were right for. I know the place very well, my parents used to have a holiday mobile home type thing there for years. I did a wedding there last sept so thought I’d call in and say hello to the people in the hotel, all very nice people. I hadn’t been there since Sept….
…what a shock I had.
3 B+Bs closed, bank closed,2 shops closed, chippie closed, nursing home closed, for sale signs, an entire new development either still as sites or with for sale signs outside.
Just looking at that effect on a small village means little or no portraits, weddings postponed, no commercial work, no Sunday papers etc etc.
I started in this business working for someone else, that’s the best bit of advice I can think of. My boss taught me things I’d never have picked up on my own and gave me work he couldn’t do after I’d set up on my own. A couple of years down the line I was able to reciprocate and help him (and others) out when they were stuck or just needed another pair of hands. Unfortunately I’d say that new opportunities are few and far between but if you get one grab it with both hands. You will learn more from someone with a long track record in the business in the first 2 days than a lifetime of courses or surfing internet forums.
Oh and don’t work for free. You may work for no money with my blessing, but never work for free. If you don’t know the difference, put the camera away and start up again when you do.

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday
tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?
You mean Im not?
After the taxman takes his cut I wouldn’t get out of bed for that sort of money. Ring me when its 25k and we’ll talk.
In all honesty, other than funding a move to do a like for like swap for Nikon kit I wouldn’t spend even half of that on photo equipment.
This time 2 years ago I had a stock sale for a figure not completely off that value. Im afraid I have to admit my first port of call wasn’t one of the well stocked uk photo suppliers, or ebay hong kong or indeed B+H or Adorama (other suppliers may be available in your area ;-)), it was tripadvisor.
By the end of that week Id trips booked to Tunisia and Krakow, had the train to Dublin booked and a couple of nights B+B on the West Coast sorted.
Only then did I buy a 5D for something light to carry on the trips, a smaller bag and a few other wee bits and pieces.
I remember a friend of mine asking what I would do with the 10k, I came up with loads of ideas the vast majority non photo related, he then asked what I would do if someone came in sat down and opened a briefcase with 10k in notes. That’s a different matter. The sensible head comes out, I’d pay off my mortgage (yes I owe that little) in the current climate. In 6 months time 10k sterling might not buy you a cup of coffee the way Mr G Brown is running things.
In all honesty, I’m 40 at the very end of this year, I’ve set aside Jan-Mar next year to do something spectacular with. 10 years ago this week I had a very serious accident which not to sound too melodramatic left me dying by the side of a road in a place very very far from home. I thought if I ever recovered I wouldn’t waste any more time.
I have, I’ve had a couple more warnings since. Life is far too short.
Im 39, I come from the Falls Road in Belfast, average life expectancy there is still very low, not too far off some third world countries. I’ve seen the sun rise over the desert, the sun set over the great rift valley, I’ve swam with sharks, scuba dived, white water rafted, drove over the arctic circle and equator, seen the sun rise on the atlantic and set on the pacific, blah blah blah.
To do it all again, yep 10k would cover some of that nicely thank you very much.

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?
The honest answer is none and everyone. Typical Joe Fox wooly answer but I’ll try and explain…
I don’t really get the whole big name thing, I prefer to admire photos or sets of photos but not one persons work. Its like you cant really say you like everything U2 have ever made as some of the Zooropa stuff was terrible. Some was inspired.
I could name you people I have admiration for but you would never have heard of them. I’ve seen colleagues go out in the rain, go to nativity plays, photograph the umpteenth cheque presentation that week and still come up with the goods. That says more to me than something that has had a budget of 100k, art director, paid models, post production team of 10 etc etc.
A lot of the greats are the same as the rest of us poor mortals and have produced some shite in their time as well. I tend to look at photos more in terms of the circumstances than the actual photos themselves. I teach photography and what some people have to go through just to be able to hold a camera never mind take a picture is inspiring in itself.

I have difficulty showing any photos on the web at all. Primarily the fact that a few of the Agencies I work for have web crawler software that scans the web for copyright infringements and then sends the site owners a big bill. If I put any agency pics up here then I might just get that 10k after all.
But heres a few of the photos I like to talk about at talks and seminars (sorry about the logos)…

Not a great photograph but the circumstances always make me laugh. I’d just spent a year learning to walk again in 2005, 2 months intensive chemo in hospital isolation ward, 3 operations and 10 months physio. And I end up in a riot. Worse than that I end up in the middle of a riot. Between republicans and police (in the photo) and police and loyalists (behind me). I had to get two colleagues to lift me onto a concrete security bollard to get this shot. Think it was on the 300 f4 with my 1D2 (couldn’t carry much else). Im standing 3 feet above the ground in the middle of a riot on a concrete bollard, having been lifted into a position I have no way on earth of getting down from before I thought of asking for help. Im wearing my get me noticed bright red jacket as well. The riots are live on Sky TV and my phone rings in the middle of it all. Its my mother. I ignore the call. It rings again. I ignore it. I get a text message. ‘Get down from there you f**king eejit, you are live on tv and I thought you said you weren’t going out tonight’
Anyway after a couple of hours its reasonably calm and I go home. Next morning the phone rings.
‘Is that Joe’
‘Did you take that photo of the guys rioting in front of the police last night’
‘Err describe it’, they do ‘ Yes’
‘Can I have a copy?’
At this point all sorts of alarm bells ring, due to many many security issues and all sorts of implications.
‘Well that’s my cousin in the front row and it's his birthday next week and he'd love that photo.’

I use this photo quite often in talks and seminars.
What do you see in the photo? (Answer at the end of the post.......)

A wedding picture – what the hell?
Another photo that
makes me laugh. It was the middle of our ‘summer’ last year and it absolutely chucked it down all d
ay and I mean really chucked it down. It was the time that Gloucester and all that flooded, and this was in a stately home on the coast so high winds as well. The Bride and Groom had sooo wanted photos in the flower garden so whilst waiting for their first dance the skies actually cleared about 9 or 10pm just after it got dark. Now I usually take 4 or 5 flashguns with me ‘just in case’ and everybody laughs at me for being such a kit freak but nobody laughed when I dragged the entire bridal party out into the rain soaked gardens in the pitch black and put light stands with flashguns all around the place to light up the flowers etc. Think these were taken at some ridiculous
ly high iso on the 5D to get some of the night sky in it.
Not the greatest picture in the world but certainly one that was a ‘challenge’. We ended up doing all the bridal party shots again in the dark.

Contemporary dance
Not a lot of people know this but I do an awful lot of contemporary dance photography. Most of it I cant show other than my own website due to copyright restrictions and releases and all that good stuff but I’ve permission to use this one. It was from one of my major clients productions last year, 40s dance, dress, uniform right down to almost 40s style lighting. Some stupid ISO at 1.8 or the like and people dancing around. No flash allowed and no interrupting the performances etc. The dance photography isn’t really about the technicalities of the photography itself, its about capturing the mood, feeling and ‘focus’. In this shot theres two of the dancers who had never danced before, been trained up for 8 weeks and then put into costume and went for it. It sort of sums up the ‘focus’ aspect for me. Those two teenagers are in the 40s, they aren’t just dressed like it. That’s the key to this type of photography, probably more than any else.
It’s a straight shot with just a black and white conversion.

(....Answer from before....
A lot of people say police brutality or some such like, its actually police giving first aid to a reporter who was standing beside me when a blast bomb went off. He took the full force in the leg, I only got a nick to my backpack. It’s a good example of a photo where the text added completely changes the meaning of the photo and a great example of how to be wary of how things are portrayed by various nations media.)

For anyone wanting to see more of Joe's images of his hometown area, there is a youtube video set to music:

Blab: Joe, it's been interesting, informative, humorous and rather inspiring to hear your thoughts on photography. Coming back from a near-death accident to be a successful photographer must have taken time, hard work and dedication. It should be an inspiration to anyone reading that you can do what you want if you put your mind to it.
Oh, and hopefully in 6months you'll be giving it another 6months... :-)


16 February 2009

New Pocket Wizards

It seems Pocket Wizards have been looking on a Radio Poppers with envy and decided they don't want an upstart moving in on their market. So, they have just announced new products for wireless E-TTL II control of Canon flashguns. 

It seems it's a whole new system for radio flash control with units called the MiniTT1 (transmitter) and FlexTT5 (transceiver). 

Currently it's only for Canon users and it allows wireless control up to 8fps. 

From the Pocket Wizard Website: 
The New Shape of Wireless Freedom

The smallest PocketWizard radio ever, the MiniTT1™ Transmitter locks onto the camera’s hot shoe supporting an on-camera flash with its own hot shoe while working with remote PocketWizard units. Remotes can be one or more PocketWizard FlexTT5™ Transceivers connected to Canon E-TTL II flashes or any PocketWizard Receiver for triggering flash or remote cameras.

The MiniTT1 Transmitter is easy to use; just slide in place and begin to shoot. The new PocketWizard ControlTL™ System interprets the complex E-TTL II data being sent through the camera’s hot shoe and digitally transmits it in a reliable radio signal. Change the flash compensation dial on the camera, and those commands pass seamlessly through the system to your remote flash. Adjust your shutter speed, aperture or ISO and the system corrects for those changes. A ratio command set on the flash or command unit passes through the MiniTT1 to set the remotes. PocketWizard ControlTL radio communication allows you to shoot farther, faster, around corners, through walls even at high noon in bright daylight. Now you can deploy a wireless flash system wherever you want, without infrared limitations, in seconds.

Use the MiniTT1 for standard triggering with any PocketWizard Receiver including the FlexTT5, PlusII or MultiMAX. When used this way with a digital camera, you can take advantage of PocketWizard’s HyperSync Technology that allows up to 1/500th of a second camera sync with many camera/strobe set-ups. HyperSync allows you to advance the timing of your flash trigger so that faster then X-sync speeds can be achieved.
Need more speed? Push your ControlTL system beyond 1/500th and go into FP/High-Speed sync mode automatically. No buttons to press or settings to change other then your shutter speed will give you flash sync all the way to 1/8000th.

A new PocketWizard Utility program is provided to support the MiniTT1 via a USB port. The Utility allows you to configure your channel settings, dial in your HyperSync timing, adjust your sleep-mode timers and update your product to the latest firmware.
The PocketWizard MiniTT1 Transmitter is the start of a new era in wireless trigger control.

AVAILABILITY: For Canon, March 1st. For Nikon, Q2, 2009. US & Canadian Markets. Contact your local Distributor for availability in other markets.

From their just posted Instruction Manual:
ControlTL: PocketWizard’s newest firmware platform taps into the camera’s digital communications
to enable an entirely new level of remote flash capabilities through our proven radio system, beginning with remote TTL for Canon E-TTL II flash systems with Slide-n-Shoot Simplicity.
HyperSync - Achieve better than X-sync with many
cameras and flashes – up to 1/500th second.
FP/High-Speed Sync: Need more speed? Push
beyond 1/500th and go into FP/High-Speed sync mode
automatically. No buttons to press or settings to change
other than your shutter speed will give you flash sync
all the way to 1/8000th.
Power Tracking: When working in E-TTL II, you can
change any of your control settings on your flash or
camera and the system adjusts for those changes.
Eight Frames per second: Never before have you
been able to shoot remote E-TTL II at this speed.
Nothing else comes close.
Low Profile Design: The FlexTT5 lies flat to stay out of
the way and uses a flip-up antenna for additional range
when needed. The MiniTT1, with an internal antenna,
weighs in at 2.3 oz. and is the smallest PocketWizard

It seems things are hotting up in the wireless flash world. Hit the comments with your thoughts on it all. 

UPDATE: They've also posted a video on youtube showing some of the features. 


Highlight Tone Priority - ISO range limits

Have you tried Highlight Tone Priority? You know the one, the setting that shifts your dynamic range from the shadows to the highlights giving smoother tonal gradation in the highlight areas. While it's very useful in some situations - anywhere with lots of highlights and not much shadow - it can cause issues when you get to shadow areas as that dynamic range has to come from somewhere - the shadow tones. this could cause more noise in the shadow areas, so use it sparingly. 

Anyway, this post is not about that per se, but about the limitations it puts on your ISO range. We'll show you some examples of images with and without HTP in a future post. 

This list shows you the standard ISO range (with expansion turned on) of the camera and the ISO range once Highlight Tone Priority is turned on. 

EOS-1D Mark III - STD: 50-6400, HTP:ON 200-3200
EOS-1Ds Mark III - STD: 50-3200, HTP:ON 200-1600
EOS 5D Mark II - STD: 50-25,600, HTP:ON 200-6400
EOS 50D - STD: 100-12,600, HTP:ON 200-3200
EOS 40D - STD: 100-3200, HTP:ON 200-1600
EOS 450D - STD: 100-1600, HTP:ON 200-1600

For a quick way to check if you have HTP switched on or not, looked at the information screen - either the top LCD panel for those cameras that have one, or the rear LCD for the EOS 450D. 
On the EOS-1D/1Ds Mark III, EOS 40D and EOS 450D, the ISO speed when HTP is turned on, will show with small zeros eg: 2oo rather than 200. For the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 50D, this has been changed so that it now shows D+ on the top LCD panel. 


14 February 2009

A silly Saturday tip

There's no such thing as a stupid question. I should know, I've asked my fair share of what some may call stupid questions. the reality is, they're simply questions you don't know the answer to. Either that or you know the answer but think you don't. These are the 'Kicking myself' questions. 

Today's 'kicking myself' question comes courtesy of an email I got the other day asking me why the focus beep had stopped working.

The focus beep indeed. Personally I never use it, but I know several photographers who do. If you want to use the focus beep, you need to know one thing about it - It only works in One Shot AF or AI Focus AF. It will not function in the subject tracking focus mode of AI Servo AF.

So, if your focus beep suddenly stops working, make sure you've not changed AF modes. If you have, that's the reason. 


13 February 2009

Assignment II - TWO

Does Friday the thirteenth mean anything to you, me neither. However Ms. BLAB suggests that Saturday the 14th of February should mean something... probably a mad dash to a card or chocolate shop or florist. To celebrate either of these two special dates in the February calendar and the fact that we had two entries for the last assignment then the assignment topic is:


So now you've seen how it works, shoot something and post it on flickr then send it to the blabpictures group. Please add the tags assignment and two to your images. Since the last competition ran for two weeks we'll let this one do the same so get pictures in by the 26th of February please.


12 February 2009

Wireless flash tip with ST-E2

Wireless flash can be quite a confusing thing. Most people seemingly don't understand how to use one flash properly, let alone two, three or more. But, once mastered, flash opens up creative possibilities the like of which you've never seen before. For proof, just hop over to Strobist and see for yourself. 

Now, there are several ways of controlling wireless flashguns in the Canon system. My personal favourite and the most versatile is to have a Speedlite 580EX II on camera and use it as a non-firing Master controller. But that is an expensive option. Cheaper, and almost as versatile is the ST-E2 Speedlite transmitter. It doesn't have the same range as a Speedlite, but it is discrete and offers most functions you're likely to need in general shooting. It even acts as an AF Assist beam in low light - great if you're a gig photographer working in low light.

One issue with the ST-E2 though is that it doesn't control three groups of flashguns (
A, B and C) only two (A and B).... or does it? Well yes and no. There are two ways of looking at it:

Guide Number / Aperture = Range
Manual flash powers is one. The box to the right shows the basic calculation for flash powers. Simply take the guide number of your flashgun (580EX = 58, 430EX = 43, 220EX 
= 22 etc) and divide it by the aperture setting you want to use. This gives you the range your flash needs to be from the subject. You can then change the flash power manually to alter the guide number. This works because once you set a flash power manually in slave mode, it drops out of being in any group and then just waits for a trigger signal. So if this is method one, what's method 2?

Well, method two has some level of automation. If you use ratio control on the ST-E2, there is no triggering of a Group C flashgun. Try as you might, it won't happen. So what do you do? Take the ratio control off groups A and B and then you can use flash exposure compensation to brighten or darken a group C flashgun that will now fire. So there is now automatic flash exposure control from group A and B (with no ratio control) and also for Group C with Flash exposure lock. Cunning hey?!

Hit the comments with your thoughts....


11 February 2009

Focus on Imaging 22-25/February

Focus on Imaging is the UK's largest photographic trade show and  this year the focus team are celebrating their 20 year anniversary. Focus is a chance for all kinds of photographers to get together, share information, see the latest equipment and maybe pick up a bargain or two.

According to the Focus on Imaging website there were over thirty three thousand visitors last year making it the best attended show ever. Entry is free for professional photographer and costs six pounds for everyone else. Registration online is required or you will have to pay on the day at the show. Don't forget that car parking is eight pounds a day at the Birmingham NEC.

What will we see new from our favourite brand at the fair? As yet all seems to be quiet on the photo front with only the PowerShot A480 having been announced so far this year. Surely Canon won't keep us waiting until the PMA show in early March for new equipment. If you are lost then make a beeline for the Canon stand at L26 - probably the biggest stand in the whole show. You can download the floorplan here, http://www.focus-on-imaging.co.uk/images/Focus-2009-Floorplan.pdf.

If anyone fancies arranging meeting up with any other users, feel free to use the comments here to arrange times and dates!


10 February 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday

Cold Walk HomeToday is Tuesday and since we have a couple of entries in the blabpictures flickr group for the assignment set the other week then it's time for some comments on these 'cold' pictures.

First up is lobsterboy66 with this image of a lone person walking along a snow covered path between  the trees. The first thing that draws you to this picture is it's apparent monochrome nature, but then if you look at a big version the red bag being carried by the person proves the power of red in photos. I now can't start looking at this photo from anywhere else.

The sense of isolation from the person being so small in the frame relative to the avenue of trees is really good use of the scale. The composition using the tree lined avenue draws your eye through the picture and makes sure that you end up at that red bag one way or another. The snow that's been blown on to the sides of the trees still makes you feel as if the biting winter wind is in your face, and also helps the monochrome feeling by reducing the amount of dark elements around  the lone person. I'm not sure if this was taken in the cold weather of last week, but it certainly fits the cold assignment.

blabSecond one in the group is Alex Scott Photography with his tree reaching in to the snowy landscape. The tree is the key to his picture providing connection from the foreground to the back, and also connecting the ground and the sky. Having been outside trying to get some similar pictures I can still remember how cold it is out in the open for a few hours.

I like the sun light reflecting on the snow, and it shows that snow like most reflectors will take on the colour of the light hitting it. In this case the suns rays turn it orange and further back the blue sky cover have rendered it a cold blue tone. The second set of tree branches in the top right corner of the photo add to the picture, echoing the shape and direction of the main graphical element in the picture. I tried to imagine the picture with the top right corner just a patch of blue sky and realised that this composition is indeed much stronger. I also agree with Alex' choice of the slanted horizon, it's enough to convince that it's intentional and thought out without being too much slant.

Have your say, leave comments on this post or why not spread the flickr love and comment on the pictures in their photostreams.


9 February 2009

Mirror fall off on the EOS 5D

With all the focus on the EOS 5D Mark II, it was somewhat of a surprise to see that Canon has just put a note on it's websites about a rarely occurring phenomenon of the main reflex mirror falling off the old EOS 5D cameras. It seems that the adhesive holding the mirror on deteriorates over time.

If your mirror has fallen off you can find out more about the free fix at Canon service centres on the Canon service site.

Has your EOS 5D mirror fallen off, let us know in the comments? 


7 February 2009

Canon Ambassadors free exhibition 7-28 February

Canon USA has been running it's explorers of light program for leading professional photographers for many years. In Europe it's less than a year since the formation of the Canon Ambassadors.

Canon has today opened a free photo exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery in London just off Oxford Street. Open until the end of February, the exhibition features the photographic work of the nine current Ambassadors - portrait and fashion shooter Lorenzio Agius (Orchard by Getty Images), wedding photographer Jeff Ascough, motorsport photographer Frits van Eldik, photojournalists Gary Knight (VII) and Ziv Koren (Polaris Images), wildlife shooters Thorsten Milse and Michael Nichols (National Geographic), documentary photographer Paolo Pellegrin (Magnum Photos), and award-winning photojournalist Brent Stirton (Reportage by Getty Images)

If you do stop by the exhibition it would be great to leave your views in the comments.


6 February 2009

Assignment follow-up

Well, the response to the first assignment has been deafening.....ly silent! We're assuming you're all still frozen and need time to thaw out and process some images, so we'll leave this assignment running for another week, not least because it's still cold here in the UK and the snow is coming again! 

So, another week to get a cold image it is. Let's say Wednesday evening to get something into the blabpictures flickr group


5 February 2009

Canon E-TTL II flash: why you should use Canon lenses

Could your choice of lens can cause instability in the flash metering of your camera?
If you use Canon lenses they talk to your camera body providing all kinds of information to help the camera determine the correct shutter speed to reduce camera shake, the maximum and minimum aperture of the lens and also in many cases the distance to the subject. This communication is Canon's own protocol, and whilst third parties have re-engineered it with some success did they get all the information right?

So how does the lens affect the flash?
Canon's E-TTL II flash metering added the use of distance information to the calculation of the required flash output power where the lens provides distance info. Some older Canon lenses don't provide distance information so the algorithm has to work without this valuable information to retain compatibility. Consider what happens if some third party lenses appear to provide distance information, but actually don't provide it in the way Canon expects it. Could be as simple as Canon lenses tell the distance in meters, Sigma maybe in feet. So Canon lens says subject is 4 meters away, approximately 13 feet. Sigma may say 4 feet away or 1.2 meters! The camera just gets 4. You can guess how this info may make the flash exposure wrong. It could be worse though; what if the Sigma always said the lens was focussed at 4 meters. Sometimes it would be right, sometimes wrong giving inconsistent results. With under exposure, over exposure and correct exposure at different subject distances.

We've heard several times of the two Canon EOS users with the same flash, same camera and different lenses having random flash exposures on the non-Canon brand lenses. What's more swapping lenses moves the problem too.

With exclusively Canon lenses on hand this is a tough one to prove, but we welcome your feedback in the comments.


4 February 2009

Canon lenses that feature distance info

Canon lenses in the bag
The Canon lenses below provide distance information to Canon cameras. According to Canon lens distance info is used by the Canon E-TTL II flash metering algorithm to help with exposure accuracy. The E-TTL II algorithm looks at the brightness of the scene without flash, the brightness of the scene with flash - to see which subjects are flash lit and which are not, and then uses lens distance information to help the calculation be more accurate. However if you use the bounce function on your Speedlite, wireless flash or a macro flash then distance information is not used. You can use a Speedlite with the off camera cord OC-E3 and still have the distance information used.

Fixed focal length lenses
EF 14mm f/2.8 L USM EF 14mm f/2.8 II L
EF 20mm f/2.8 USM EF 24mm f/1.4 L USM
EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
EF 85mm f/1.8 USM EF 100mm f/2 USM
EF 100mm f/2.8 MACRO EF 135mm f/2 L USM
EF 180mm f/3.5 L MACRO USM EF 200mm f/2 L lS USM
EF 200mm f/2.8 L ll USM EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM
EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM
EF 500mm f/4 L IS USM EF 600mm f/4 L IS USM
EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM EF 1200mm f/5.6 USM

Zoom lenses
EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM
EF 17-40mm f/4L USM EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM EF 28-90mm f/4-5.6 llI
EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 ll USM EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6
EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6 USM EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM
EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM
EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM
EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM
EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM

EF-S lenses
EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM EF-S 55-250mm f/4.5-5.6 IS

If you are looking for lenses that work with Canon's Peripheral Illumination Correction function in the latest EOS cameras with DIGIC 4 processors then look here: http://blabpictures.blogspot.com/2008/11/lens-aberration-correction-compatible.html


3 February 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Steve Kaluski ARPS

I first purchased a camera in 1979 and, like a lot of people, I took images of everything and anything. In all honesty I had no real understanding about what I was doing, or what I was looking at!

Then, after a long period of time not doing any photography, in 2002 I decided to take it up again. And so, in 2004 I purchased my first digital camera. This gave me the excuse I needed to invest time, effort and energy in the subject. Since 2005, I have concentrated solely on wildlife, travelling all around the world. My work has appeared in various publications, including photography magazines but also others such as Travel brochures and BBC Wildlife. I am passionate about the natural world.

First up, the only one we ask to everyone:
BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
Well it would have to be Red, no question! It symbolises the passion, pedigree, craftsmanship and the love of Italian racing. A Ferrari that isn't red is like chips without salt, LOL!

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?
Easy, it's the guy that kick started me back into photography with a passion for Wildlife and how to appreciate it, Andy Rouse. I became hooked with a series of TV programmes he did back in 1999 in which he spoke about photography and the love he has for animals in a very stimulating manner that appealed to me hugely. Several years later I met him and have become good friends with him ever since, visiting many worldwide locations with him. If you ever get a chance to work with Andy you
will realise that every time he will put the animals welfare first, irrespective of getting 'that shot'. Have respect for the animal you are photographing, they will have respect for you and you will achieve your image. In addition I also admire Neil McIntyre who I have spent time with, Danny Green and Edwin Kats, all great photographers, but it is the 'simplicity of their images I like best.

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?
I wish!!!! And I guess this is the crunch question! If I had to choose today I would have to say Nikon purely because it does exactly what it says on the tin, and delivers! I have always used Canon equipment and have a small fortune tied up with them and therefore will continue to use it. However like for like, the Nikon bodies now outstrips the Canon and delivers the shots. I have even shots of the same images and settings etc, side by side, and the Nikon always seems to have the edge. The lenses are on par, albeit Canon might have the edge on that. But I now know a lot of pros swopping over to Nikon and they all seem to say it has worked for them.

[BLAB: Not exactly the answer we were expecting but this is the Tuesday 'tog post and what they say goes! While we may be a site aimed at Canon users, we know there are other views out there and there is no one perfect solution for everyone... hit the comments with your thoughts on it]

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?
No contest, 1-2 months in Botswana in May/June. I just love the country, especially the people and the wonderful abundant wildlife. They have adopted a low volume, low impact, policy in the reserves, with limited numbers of guests and therefore limited numbers of vehicles within each concessionary area. With only three vehicles at any one time on a sighting, the clients get the best vantage points and the animals are not pressurised or harassed. In addition the drivers and guides are, in my opinion, some of the best. I have a huge respect for them, especially their knowledge of the animals and birds and their environment. If you ever want to get the best out of your trip, then please do not put pressure on your guides saying, 'I must see lions...' or "I must see a chase or a kill". My experience is that if you just go with the flow and take pleasure in what you do see, then mother nature generally will reward you and you will see a lot more, more than you would otherwise think. And there is as much pleasure in some of the smaller more unusual animals and birds than the big five.

Canon EOS-1D MkIII, EF500mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO400
It was a very hot afternoon when we left our location, about 40 degrees. Confidence was high as Park officials and the foresters were talking of good sightings of Tigers that morning. We patrolled our alloted route listening out for any 'alarm calls', nothing! As the hours passed by, doubt began to set in, we were not going to see our Tiger. Talking one last route home we tried a small watering hole, as we turned the bend there she was, quietly walking down the sand track. We stopped, reversed up to the waterhole positioned ourselves and waited. Quietly she approached, hot and dusty, moving within feet of the jeep straight to the water. Crouching down she drank. Not a great picture with her 'bum' to camera but, then within a few minutes she turned and reversed into the cool water to face the camera. A perfect end to the day. After filling my boots with images it was a quick race back before the Park gates closed.

If you would like to know more about Tigers, or would like to help please visit www.21stcenturytiger.org

Canon EOS-1D MkIII, EF500mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO400
Beauty is my favourite Leopard which I met about two years ago in the Okavanga Delta in Botswana. She brought her cubs into camp for us to babysit whilst she went off to hunt. Sadly her parenting skills left a lot to be desired and non of her cubs have survived. I hooked up with Beauty last year and again she was proud to show me her new two week old cub. This shot was taken early morning, we just sat and watched her play and drink until we lost her in the tall grass. We moved the vehicle around, hoping to find her again hidden amidst all the rustling sounds. But as we approached a big old tree I instinctively knew she was going for the tree. So we positioned the jeep,switched off the engine and waited. Then in two leaps there she was high above us, parading around like a fashion model. Fifteen minutes of pure bliss.

Canon EOS-1D MkIII, EF500mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO400 -0.33
I thought this would be an easy assignment, choose three images and write about them. Well the third did prove a problem, but I trust you like my choice.

The reason for choosing this image is because of the bold, vibrant colours of the image. The Saddle-billed stork is a rather ungainly bird standing about five feet high and looks as if its plumage was created by 'paint by numbers' as it appears to be totally out of context with the surroundings and environment. This shot was taken about mid morning as we patrolled the channels in the Jao/Kwetsani area. The stork was feeding in the ever increasing water that was steadily flowing into the Delta. I just love the trail that the left foot makes on the waters surface as the stork walks through the water in a very 'elegant' manner.

BLAB: Thanks for your time and for answering our questions. Some interesting and (possibly for this site controversial!) views and some really stunning pictures. We wish you well with your photography in the future and we'll be keeping an eye out for your images around and about. With images like these it won't be long before you're knocking on the door of some of those names you've mentioned as influences. 

UPDATE: Steve has just provided us with his new website www.untamedimages.co.uk where you can see some more of his work. 


2 February 2009

Cold - is this cold enough for you?

When we decided on the COLD topic for this weeks assignment it was with some early weather info that winter weather was coming, but this is a little bit crazy right now with much of the south east of the UK under several inches of snow and more falling. If you can take the decision to work at home and maybe shoot some COLD pictures that may be the best option.

Don't forget that you need to add your pictures to the BLAB PICTURES group on flickr and add the tags assignment and cold

Exposure metering lock – what the manual doesn’t tell you

Only the evaluative metering pattern locks the exposure when focus is achieved
Canon EOS cameras have a choice of ambient light metering patterns available when you shoot in the creative zone modes; P, Tv, Av, M, A-DEP. Most cameras feature Evaluative, Center-weighted, Partial and Spot metering choices. One of the hidden gems in the Canon engineers’ wisdom is that there are two different approaches to automatic exposure lock that depend on the metering pattern employed. If you use the focus lock and recompose technique in your photography you need to read this.

center-weighted metering patternWith evaluative metering and one-shot AF the camera will lock the exposure reading at the same time as the AF locks. You can prove this yourself, put your camera in one-shot AF and evaluative metering pattern. Then half press the shutter and once the focus is found keep your finger on the shutter and recompose your scene with a significant change of brightness, point the camera skyward for example. You should see that the shutter speed and aperture don’t change. To prove this we set up a test scene and pointed the centre AF point at the 7 in 70-200 on the lens and took a picture, then we repeated the shot and once focus lock was acheived moved the camera to put the centre AF point over the black strap on the edge of the camera. Surprise - or not - both shots have the same exposure settings.

IMG_0931  IMG_0932

Both shots, 1/30s at f/5.6 - autofocus lock while framing with the 70 on lens at the centre AF point, exposure locks with the focus.

spot metering patternIf you are using Spot, Partial or Center-weighted metering, then the camera doesn’t lock the exposure until the shutter is pressed to take the picture. This means if you use focus lock and recompose then once the AF is complete and locked the metering isn’t. If your recomposed shot is significantly different in brightness then you will have the exposure for the recomposed scene not the focus locked scene. This can be a significant difference with spot or partial metering. Imagine you thought you took a spot meter reading from a persons face, focussed and locked the focus on the eyes then recomposed to put the person off centre for composition, except the person is in front of a black background. You just got over exposed skin tones in your picture.

Back to the test scene and partial metering, though spot, partial and center-weighted all exhibit the same behaviour.

IMG_0929  IMG_0930

left image: focus lock on the lens, exposure 1/40s at f/5.6
right image: focus lock on the lens, recompose on the strap, exposure 1/13s at f/5.6

Exposure lockSo how to overcome this? The answer is right under your thumb actually, the button marked with the * symbol is the exposure lock. You may need to make use of this when you use Spot, Partial or Center-weighted metering.

Got an EOS-1D series camera? On these models you can choose to have the spot meter reading point linked to the active AF point. If you use this AF point linked spot metering with automatic AF point selection then you may have less problems since the spot meter is most likely on the main subject of your pictures.

This post all applies to one-shot AF, if you use AI servo AF then there’s no automatic focus lock in any metering mode. Also in Manual exposure mode there's also no exposure lock at any time. Check the function availability table towards the back of your camera instruction book.

In another article we’ll cover custom functions for ‘back button focus’ which also has a bearing on when and how the AF and AE settings are locked; don’t you just love interdependencies.

If you follow our twitter feed you may be expecting flash posts, this is laying the ground for those.


1 February 2009

No blog Sunday - the last one

No blog Sunday, time to go and take some photos. See you Monday.

This has been the line we've used a lot here on Sundays, and by now we think you'll have realised that Sunday is for taking pictures not talking pictures so this is the last nbs - no blog Sunday post.

Good stuff comes to those who wait.