August 29, 2014, 04:23:59 PM

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Topics - mackguyver

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1
EOS Bodies / The Perfect Sensor
« on: Today at 01:00:49 PM »
So, let's fast forward 10+ years to where we have achieved the perfect sensor.  It can do the following:

-Record nearly infinite numbers of photons and scale to whatever pixels you want
-Expose and record every detail in any light over 0.01 LUX
-Record in 256-bits with DR surpassing anything our own eyes can even see
-Correct any and all optical defects in any and all lenses

So...if I had this sensor, you know what I would be?
BORED.

Why?  Because photos would look just like real life and be limited only by our own eyes. 

Photos are an interpretation of reality, not reality.  Light and shadows give photos depth and meaning, which is why so many HDR photos are just dull and flat.  The limitations of film are why so many film photos are better than most digital photos in all regards other than sharpness. 

The unconstrained mind is not creative.

-Jack Handy
(these are my Deep Thoughts for the week)

2
Canon General / Gear Realities
« on: August 14, 2014, 01:54:33 PM »
As someone who has had the great fortune to make good money and acquire a fairly extensive set of pro cameras & lenses, I thought I'd offer my personal insight into the age old question/fear of whether gear matters and if so, how much.   I have used and upgraded lots of gear over the last 6 years or so since getting back into (D)SLR photography, so here are my thoughts.

The following discussion assumes good or maybe even great technique.  This is a critically-important assumption as technique matters far more than equipment.  The best gear in poor hands will always yield poor results, but that's a matter for another post, so we'll just go with the assumption for now.  What follows is my personal opinion from where gear is least helpful to most helpful.

General Photography
Generally, a Rebel body with a kit lens will deliver excellent photos of most general subjects.  Even in low light, the IS & STM work quite well unless the subject is moving. In good light, even sports and other difficult subjects can be captured with lenses like the 55-250 if the photographer has good instincts in terms of when to press the shutter.

Portraiture
The first step up in terms of gear helping is probably portraiture.  The kit lenses are slow in terms of aperture making it harder to get that great shallow DOF style.  Here, camera bodies matter very little other than to direct your lens choice, generally 50-85mm for crop, 85-135 for full frame.  An aperture of f/1.2 to 2.8 is best and will give you a big step up from the kit lens.  Standard EF primes work very well, though you don't need a fast lens if you shoot in a studio as you'll typically be at f/8-f/11 for most shots.  What you save on cameras & lenses can easily be spent on lighting gear, but that's another topic.  Just know that reflectors and diffusers used outdoors can acheive excellent results for very little money.  The model/subject and your connection with them and their poses is the most important factor in getting great shots.

Landscape
The next step up is landscape photography.  There are now a number of excellent wide and ultra-wide angle lenses for crop bodies, so the advantage of full frame in that regard is fading.  Better bodies and equipment give you two real-world advantages - better durability and weather sealing for outdoor use, and better shadows in low light.  If you don't hike to far away or rugged places or shoot before or after sunset in windy conditions where you need ISO 1600 to hold up in big prints, a Rebel body and one of the newer Canon or Sigma ultrawide zooms will serve you well.  If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the winning landscape photos from major contests in the last few years.  Most have been shot with crop sensors.  One other thing worth mentioning are Tilt-shift lenses.  While they are by no means necessary and won't revolutionize your work, they can give you unique shots and better control over DOF.  They aren't easy to use, aren't weather sealed, and are all expensive manual focus primes, so these are best used once you've mastered landscape photography.

Macro
From there, I suppose macro photography is the next place where lenses and cameras make a difference. Macro shots are a bit misleading, though, as many of the zooms with short minimum focus distances work very well for close-up shots.  What I'm talking about here is 0.5x (1:2) to 1x (1:1) and beyond.  A true macro lens will make a huge difference here as you can get much closer, but focus tubes can work quite well with many lenses at a much lower cost.  The 25mm tube and the old 24-70L took excellent photos and I used it a lot before I got a macro lens.  One you start macro, you'll also realize that you're likely to need a lot of light.  That means getting a macro flash, or a body that does well above ISO 1600, or both.  I took lots of great photos without them, but trying to shoot a small flower in light wind at ISO800 is a serious exercise in patience.  If you shoot still subjects indoors, there's no need to worry about, but for moving subjects or low light, it's important.  Finally, focus rails and software like Helicon Focus can allow you to "focus stack" shots giving you much greater creative freedom, but again, it's not necessary.

Architecture
This is another specialty area where normal equipment can be used, but specialized equipment can make a big difference in your work.  Full frame bodies aren't need for low light, but they allow you to use fisheye lenses and wide angles with complete freedom, but lenses like the Sigma 8-16 and third-party fisheyes can work with crop cameras.  The exception are tilt shift lenses, which will give your work a professional edge.  The TS-E 17 & 24 are able to straighten lines, give you better DOF and overcome issues that leveling the camera & cropping the photo simply can't overcome.  If you can't afford this stuff, don't give up, though.  A crop camera and a ultra-wide zoom + standard kit zoom will get you started and can generate excellent results in most situations if you take the time to learn how to use them and how to shoot architecture.

Event Photography
If you shoot weddings or other events, you will need to invest in better equipment.  Fast lenses, especially f/2.8 zooms and flashes are very helpful to have.  You will also need to have a back up camera, lens, and flash in case your main gear fails and to use for quick moments when you can't change lenses.  More durable bodies and lenses are good to have as your gear will take a knocking.  For some events, having a high end body with a fast frame rate and high ISO capabilities is also necessary if your subjects move quickly or the lighting is poor.

Sports & Wildlife Photography
As I said in the beginning, in good light, with good reflexes (and pre-focus) even the lowliest gear can capture great sports photos in the right hands.  Think about the great sports photos before autofocus and digital...

Unfortunately, if you're serious about shooting fast-moving subjects (athletes, birds, animals, etc.) a camera with a 6+ FPS frame rate is going to be very useful.  If you're getting paid, I would say it's mandatory unless you have incredible reflexes and anticipation skills.  That doesn't mean you'll be holding down the shutter the whole game/time, but in quick bursts to catch the peak moment and using AI Servo mode to track the subject(s).

If you want to shoot those same subjects in low light or very low light, plan on getting a high end pro body (5DIII or 1D X).  The same goes for lens choices.  Athletes and wildlife are very sensitive about having cameras in their face, so telephoto lenses are needed for most shots, and lenses with a f/2 to f/4 aperture will help stop motion and allow good AF in low light.

Finally, I won't cover astrophotography or many other genres where specialized gear is essential.  I think that's obvious :)

Summary
So in summary, the answer is - it depends.  A good photographer can take good photos with any gear (see the DigitalRev series for proof), but gear does help some or a lot depending on what you shoot.

3
Photography Technique / Questions about Shooting the Supermoon
« on: August 08, 2014, 01:13:09 PM »
The biggest perigee moon of the year is happening this weekend and I'm planning to shoot it.  I've taken some simple shots of the moon in the past, but this time I'd like to do it right.  My plan is to incorporate the silhouetted  branches of a longleaf pine (the subject of an ongoing project of mine) in front of the moon.  I realize I need to be way back from the moon to get them even remotely close to the same focal plane (within the lens, not the universe!), but I have some questions:

1. Roughly how far from the tree do I need to be, assuming I'm shooting at 300 (for a wider shoot) or 600mm (300 f/2..8 IS II + 2xIII)?

2. Forgive my extreme ignorance on the subject, but I assume the so-called moon illusion that makes it appear larger near the horizon is just a psychological phenomenon, not something visible in-camera, right?

3. How much does humidity degrade this type of shot? It looks like it will be somewhere between 65-85% , which is actually a bit low for this time of year. 

Any advice you might have is appreciated :)

4
Post Processing / My Basic & Practical Back-Up Strategy
« on: August 07, 2014, 03:51:23 PM »
Here's an overview of my rather basic back up strategy that I recently discussed with another member over PM.  I used to manage datacenter projects for a major financial company so I'm well aware of more sophisticated storage/backup tools & technologies, but after trying a number of other methods like DVDs (too small), Blu-rays (too expensive for Dual-layer), and online back up services (not practical given my 1.5MBps upload speeds), I have come up with my own strategy that's pretty simple and quite practical

The key to my strategy is a focus on my preserving best work (as rated during import/edit) and accepting that I could lose some of the other files that are really just outtakes from each shoot.

1. Import & Edit: When I import my photos, I rate them and then process them.  I also delete the blurry and obviously bad photos to save drive space.

2. Output: The final photos are output in TIFF and 100% quality JPEGs, and sometimes as PSD files for composites or sophisticated edits. 

3. Upload: I upload the JPEGs to my website where they are stored as 100% JPEGs in the Amazon Cloud

4. Local Backup: I copy the CR2, TIFF, and JPEG files to a portable hard drive that goes into a fire safe. 

5. Offsite Backup: Every so often, I copy it to another drive that I take to a safety deposit box.  Every year or so, I buy a new hard drive, usually doubling my capacity. 

6. Local Storage: When I get the new hard drive, I copy all of the photos to it, and then store the old drive in the bank.  This allows me to have some protection for all of my photos, and really good protection for my best work.

By only saving the RAW files, and final edits of my best work, I can get away with using small portable drives (WD Passports) for years, while keeping all of my work at my fingertips on the local drives that are backed up less frequently.

I have considered NAS and other tools, but I don't like the idea of storing everything locally on my network and have heard negative stories of people who thought their RAID would save them, but didn't when two or more drives failed at once.  It doesn't seem like home Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems have reached the level of commercial Storage Array Network (SAN) devices, at least without spending a lot of money.  That said, I have 3 hard drives in my machine at the moment, two of which are just for photos.  Also, I don't do video.

It's not bulletproof, but it's worked well for me a number of years and I have found that Western Digital drives (and the former HGST drives, now owned by WD) are the most reliable.

I welcome the onslaught of inevitable techno-debates over this post ;D

5
Post Processing / My RAW Processing Workflow
« on: August 07, 2014, 11:28:19 AM »
Here's a rundown of the primary adjustments (tool-agnostic) that I make to most photos - in order and why I make them.  It's a bit of a re-post, so I'm going to add lots of other detail and insights on each step.  Please keep in mind that this is how I do it, but it may not be the best way to process your images.  With that said, please feel free to ask me questions or critique my methods:

Notes on Post-Processing (PP)

(A) Do as much as you can in RAW as it's "non-destructive",  Any adjustments made after this step will slowly (16-bit PSD or TIFF) or quickly (8-bit / JPEG) begin to rob the image of resolution and create banded skies, etc.  Once your histogram looks like a comb instead of a rolling hill, you've overdone it.

(B) Working with RAW makes me think of my days as a (analog film) movie projectionist. Each time I started the projector, I would stand there and focus the lens.  I would turn the knob until the image was clearly out-of-focus, and then turn it the other way until it was out-of-focus again, then make smaller turns until I got perfect focus.  This is the way I try to adjust my photos.  Too much of any one adjustment is bad, but not enough makes the photo appear lifeless and flat as well.  The idea is to find the balance between the two, with an eye to underdoing it vs. overdoing it, which is all too easy to do.

(C) A calibrated monitor (D6500 for most purposes or D5000 for commercial printing) is nearly essential to editing.  It's well worth the price of even the cheapest calibration tools from XRite, Colovision, and others to get accurate color and brightness.  Also, do the processing in a dim room with no reflections on the screen for best results.

(D) The steps below assume the use of a lens correction module from DxO or PhotoShop/LR Adobe Camera RAW.  The only exception to the use of the automated tools is usually the use vignetting.  I often find myself turning the vignetting correction with some types of photos (portraits or close ups) as the natural vignetting can add a nice look and focus to the photo.  I'm not a fan of adding vignettes, but the natural ones can look nice.

Workflow Steps for RAW Processing

1. Cropping (as needed) - I usually begin by cropping so the photo I'm working on is exactly the framing I want

Additional Thoughts: Like most people, I try to get this right in camera, but sometimes there's an errant leaf or something to clip.  I also find myself using the rule of thirds, golden ratio, or other guides like having the subject look out of the frame and balancing the elements in the frame.    

2. White balance - fix this first as it affects exposure and colors

Additional Thoughts: For interiors or mixed lighting, I often take a white balance card - usually the ColorChecker Passport, but even a sheet of paper will do so I have a reference in post.  For nature shots, getting WB correct is often quite difficult because there are no neutral settings.  I will typically start with Daylight, Shade, or Cloudy and play with the sliders until I achieve the WB I like.  For pre- and post-sunrise shots, it can be extremely high, going into the 9000s, but once the sun comes up, Daylight generally gives the best/closest results.  I like to leave a bit of the golden color vs. going neutral, but that's just a matter of personal preference.

3. Global Contrast - again, this affects other adjustments - I typically add a touch to most shots, but more if there's flare, fog, or other things that have reduced contrast, unless that's the look I want to achieve.

Additional Thoughts: Back to the focus knob analogy, it's best to play with this one until you get a good balance. I always watch the shadows when I adjust this as it's easy to "crush" the blacks a bit if the contrast is too high.

4. Exposure - I expose the right for everything but studio lit stuff, so I usually bump down the midtones a bit with the exposure setting, or if there are no true blacks or whites, I adjust for the midtone level I want to achieve.

Additional Thoughts: It occurs to me that this is probably my least used adjustment because the control is too coarse for my tastes, i.e. it affects way too much of the image if used for anything other than minor adjustments.

5. Black & white points - usually with curves tool.  I make sure to adjust with the over- or under-exposure shown so I don't go too far.  If the shot is high or low key, I'm careful about doing too much or too little at either end.  If the shot has no blacks or whites, I generally skip this step.

Additional Thoughts: For photos with good contrast, I'll often skip steps 3 & 4 and go straight to these adjustments as they will generally yield the best results for exposure and contrast.

6. Color - using HSL- if there is a color cast left after WB adjustments, I correct it here.

Additional Thoughts: Sometimes you have a green or blue color cast from fluorescent lighting that you can't seem to get out with WB alone.  Knocking the saturation down for that shade will help with the color cast. The same thing can be used with mixed lighting as well, though that may require layer masks in PhotoShop, which is down the road from this step.

7. Vibrancy - with most lenses, I leave this alone or just add a touch, but some of my older lenses seemed to need a slight bump.  If the light was flat or the High ISO robbed the color, I'll add it here.

Additional Thoughts: To clarify - with most of the Canon EF primes, color saturation is excellent, but some of the older zooms like the 24-70 f/2.8, I found the colors needed a bit of a boost.  Shooting at high ISO (above 1600 or 3200 on most bodies) also robs the image of some of its richness the higher you go, so vibrancy helps add that back.  Watch out with skies and greys as it adds a lot of blue and will quickly turn your sky an odd shade of blue/purple or turn a great blue heron's gray feathers rather blue.

8. Saturation - using HSL - If there's a specific color I want to emphasize (yellow flowers in a landscape, perhaps) or reduce (say reds in skintones), I'll use the HSL slider to add or reduce saturation for that specific color

Additional Thoughts: This is sort of like the exposure slider - it's a rather coarse adjusment.  It works well

9. Local contrast - I'll typically add some local contrast to most shots, but will reduce it for portraits - this affects sharpness

Additional Thoughts: For fine detail like blades of grass, bricks in a building, hair, feathers, etc. this is a very useful adjustment, but watch out for moire and overly harsh transitions.  It's a good idea to adjust this at 50% magnification which is close to what it will look like if printed.

10. Sharpness - this is usually my final global adjustment and I will tweak it depending on how sharp the focus/lens is, how high of ISO I used, and the subject matter.

Additional Thoughts: As I said in step 9, there's an old desktop publishing trick of adjusting sharpnes at 50% magnification.  This is very close to how the sharpness will appear when it's printed.  I'm not sure how Retina et al displays affect this, but it really does work.

11. Local edits - dust spots from the sensor, red eye, blemishes, etc.  I try to do as much work with global changes during raw conversion and I prefer to do as much in camera as possible, but Photoshop is great for layer blends, retouching, masking, and much more if that's what I need.

Additional Thoughts: this will be the subject of future posts...but PhotoShop is my prime tool, with Topaz Labs Remask and Nik being the primary plug-ins that I use.

6
Business of Photography/Videography / What was the first photo you sold?
« on: August 01, 2014, 04:20:19 PM »
I was digging through my old photos and found my first sale, so I thought it would be interesting to see what other people's first paid pictures looked like.  In my case, I no longer shoot fashion, but it was an interesting genre.  I sold this photo to the clothing designer for $100 and a 8x10 print to the model for $40, if I remember correctly. 


7
Canon General / What is your Least Used Piece of Gear?
« on: July 31, 2014, 10:17:04 AM »
Okay, one more -

What is your least used piece of gear, or pieces of gear?

Mine: my 430EX and 580EXIII Speedlites.  I love natural light and use my Lastolite reflectors/diffusers or Einsteins most of the time I need to add or modify light.

8
Canon General / What do you Splurge on?
« on: July 31, 2014, 10:12:03 AM »
As promised, the counter-thread:

What do you splurge on - not just a little, but a lot.  Things that you know you could do with lesser versions of, but either you have to have the best, or you just love the item so much you have to have it.

My list:

1. L lenses - I just love 'em

2. 1D- and 5-series bodies - tough full frame bodies - gotta have 'em

3. The 50L - related to #1 and the 50 f/1.4 is nearly as good, but I love the build quality, f/1.2 aperture, and taking portraits with the lens

4. B+W Kaesemann XS-Pro circular polarizer - I have a 82mm of this and can't really tell much difference between it and my 77mm Hoya HD C-PL that costs half as much, but it's one of the best, so why not...or maybe why did I spend so much on a C-PL?

5. RRS support gear - many cheaper ballheads are as good or better than my BH-55 and a generic camera plate would probably be reasonable, but custom-fitting RRS gear is sweet

9
Canon General / What do you Cheap Out on?
« on: July 28, 2014, 10:09:10 PM »
I'm not posting much as my air conditioning has been out for 5 days and it was 100F here in Florida today.  Only 92F in the house at least >:(

On to the thread: All of us cheap out on some of our gear - whether it's memory cards, camera bodies, or other stuff. 

What do you cheap out on?

I'll start:

1, Tripod legs - my carbon fiber dreams have been shattered (2x) so I stick with my scratched & dented Manfrotto 055XPROB aluminum legs

2. Intervalometer - I had the Canon release (only) and it sucks, so I bought the Vello intervalometer and it works perfectly for $30

3. Travel tripod - I don't travel a ton, so I bought the aluminum MeFoto Roadtrip Travel Kit and love the little thing.

4. ND Filters - I bought the Tiffen 82mm ND set and so far, so good

Of course I'll follow this up with a what do splurge on thread...

10
Canon General / Canon at Photokina
« on: July 25, 2014, 01:54:31 PM »
I just saw this in my Twitter feed -- looks like Canon is getting ready!

Could that be a 7D II in the photo?  It has a locking mode dial...

11
Canon General / What's Would You Keep? [The anti-G.A.S. thread]
« on: July 10, 2014, 09:14:57 AM »
If you had to sell or give away most of your gear and were only able to keep a few items that you own, what would it be?  The idea is to think about what gear is most essential and how little gear you could live with and instead of thinking about what to buy (G.A.S.), think about what to keep. I'll start things off:

1 body + 1 lens: 1D X + 50 f/1.2 24-70 f/2.8II
1 body + 2 lenses: 1D X + 24-70 f/2.8II + 70-200 f/2.8IS II
1 body + 3 lenses: 1D X + 16-35 f/4IS + 24-70 f/2.8II + 70-200 f/2.8IS II
1 body + 3 lenses + 1 accessory: 1D X + 16-35 f/4IS + 24-70 f/2.8II + 70-200 f/2.8IS II + 1.4x III
1 body + 4 lenses + 1 accessory: 1D X + 16-35 f/4IS + 24-70 f/2.8II + 70-200 f/2.8IS II + 300 f/2.8IS II +1.4x III
2 bodies + 4 lenses + 1 accessory: 1D X + 5DIII + 16-35 f/4IS + 24-70 f/2.8II + 70-200 f/2.8IS II + 300 f/2.8IS II +1.4x III

12
Animal Kingdom / American Alligators
« on: July 07, 2014, 04:34:24 PM »
Work is pretty slow today, so I thought I'd start another thread - this time of some of my favorite neighbors here in Florida - American Alligators or gators as we call them around here.







An unhappy mother swimming towards me


The joys of an 800mm lens - this CPS loaner let me more safely photograph (them for a week)


This big guy is supposedly over 14 feet (4.25M) according to the refuge officials:






Florida beaches can't all be white sand and friendly locals


9 foot mother keeping a watchful eye on her young


A ten footer taking a swim in the Gulf of Mexico about 20-30 feet from an oblivious fisherman


My coolest encounter - he's roughly 11 feet long and paid me absolutely no attention

13
Lenses / Canon EF 16-35 F/4L IS - Mackguyver's Review
« on: July 07, 2014, 10:18:41 AM »
Given the interest in this lens and the limitations on my time, I'll go ahead and start posting the various pieces of my review here, starting with the infamous brick wall tests.  Since everyone seems most interested in the performance at f/11 and f/16, I'll get started with that.  I shot the other apertures and some real-world stuff, and will post those in the coming days.

Photos in this gallery compare the 16-35 f/4 IS to:

1. TS-E 17/f4 at 16/17mm
2. TS-E 24 f/4 II, 24 f/1.4 II, and 24-70 f/2.8 II at 24mm
3. 24-70 f/2.8 II at 24mm at 35mm

http://www.ianandersonphotography.com/Other-Work/Samples/18380171_8wZhRL#!i=1416492110&k=BxP74wb
(starting with photo labelled "2014-07-04 14...")

Notes:
1. All photos are JPEG (max quality) screen captures of side-by-side comparisons in PS CC 2014 of TIFF files processed in DxO 9.5 using the "No Corrections" setting
2. The files and are labeled (typo and all :)) with the lens model, focal length & aperture as shown in the subwindow in PS
3. Photos are shown in the following order - (1) full frame, (2) center @100%, (3) top-left corner @100%, and (4) bottom-right corner @100%.  The top-left is darker, bottom-right is brighter showing more CA.
4. Click on the "O" or "Original" size at the top of the screen to see / save & download the photos at full size.
5. Camera settings - 5DIII, Av, ISO 100, tripod, cable release

Bonus: the gallery also contains an informal (read: personal) comparison of the EF 14 f/2.8 II, 24 f/1.4 II, & Sigma 12-24 f/4.5-5.6 II I did a few years ago.

Feel free to ask questions (and complain about my technique, etc :P) about these boring photos and stay tuned for more.

14
Canon EF Zoom Lenses / Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
« on: July 05, 2014, 01:46:44 PM »
It looks like we need to start a thread for this new lens.  Here are a couple from my first outing - this is the Florida Capitol (Historic & New) in Tallahassee:

Not much distortion at 24mm, as others have reported:


More distortion (not corrected) at 16mm, still a little vignetting at f/16:


Excellent flare resistance - compare to TS-E 17 f/4L below:


COMPARISON IMAGE from TS-E 17 f/4L:


15
Lenses / Photozone Review of the 16-35mm f/4L IS
« on: July 04, 2014, 02:05:56 PM »
It looks like they just posted their review:
http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/877-canon_1635_4is

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