Tag Archives: 1-DX

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling Release

Itty Bitty

Part of a video I captured while photographing a release of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings is included in this National Parks Traveler article. I’ll be writing a much longer article for the Traveler in the coming weeks.  Click on the photo to be taken to the article and video.
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Filed under 1DX, 5DS, Canon, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Uncategorized

Happy New Year, London – It’s 2016!

Happy New Year From London

My last post described my New Year’s Eve experience in London.  This post shows you the results.  The fireworks display lasted around 11 minutes. I used my Canon 1DX and 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, set the ISO to 5000, shutter to 1/50 of a second, aperture was f/4 and I just left it at that for these photos.  I had to use some noiseware (Imagenomic) reduction software during the editing phase.

Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year Longon 2-15-2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016

Some of these images bring to mind an abstract painting.  All of these images bring to mind an incredible event.

 

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Filed under 1DX, Canon, Canon Lens, holiday, London, New Year, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, Uncategorized, Vacation

A (Unscientific) Review of the Sigma 50-500mm at the 500mm Focal Length

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-winged teal (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

As of late, I’ve been suffering a little cabin fever on the weekends. I want to do something photographically (other than edit archived images), but don’t know what. My part of southeast Texas is not the most photogenic for landscape imagery, but it is definitely a treasure trove for bird photography; Brazos Bend State Park, a number of wildlife refuges including Brazoria and Aransas NWRs, the wetlands parallel to the Gulf Coast and Padre Island National Seashore are all within a 30-minute to 4-hour drive away.

I go out to the nearby state park and Brazoria NWR often, but the birds tend to be skittish and are generally too distant for the reach of my Canon 100-400mm lens, thus requiring some degree of image cropping during the editing stage. After seeing others with their big honkin’ primes out at these places, I always suffer a little angst over the fact that I don’t own a super-telephoto, myself. So for yucks and giggles, I reserved a number of super-telephoto lenses with Lensrentals.com to try out over the next couple of months: The Sigma 50-500mm, Tamron’s new 150-600mm lens, Canon’s 800mm prime and I even decided to try out (for the fun of it) the Nikon D800 camera and Nikkor 600mm lens.

This particular post is about my thoughts (with samples) of the Sigma 50-500mm lens at its longest focal length (because I only want the long length for birds – I’m not interested in any of the shorter focal lengths since I already own that aforementioned Canon 100-400mm which I love…well, except for that damned push-pull zoom mechanism).

This is a TOTALLY unscientific review. Everything written here is my opinion only. I’m going to try not to be much of a “pixel-peeper”, either, but I do have high standards that I expect from my full-frame Canons and a good lens.

The photos in this post are relatively low-res;  if you want to see a higher-res shot, just click on the photo and it will take you to that image that I’ve uploaded to my photography website.

My thoughts:

A Canon 1DX and this lens are a little bit heavier for my small hands than my 1DX and 100-400. But then I had no intention of hand-holding this lens as I planned on attaching it to the Wimberley gimbal tripod head I recently won off of eBay (saved myself $200 and it works like a charm).

Canon and Sigma

The Sigma 50-500 at it’s 500mm length, attached to my Canon 1DX on a Wimberley gimbal head and Induro tripod legs

I like Sigma’s focus ring (unlike that stupid push-pull of the Canon 100-400 – what the hell was this company thinking at the time it did that??).

I also like the easy lock switch (My Canon 100-400 has a ring that you have to turn to get the lens to lock at a certain focal length – to get it to stay locked, you need to make sure that ring is turned clockwise as tight as possible).

I’d read in other reviews of this lens that one needed to set the f-stop to at least 8 for optimal sharpness. So all of my images taken at Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge were between f8 and f10. Because the weekend has been warm but cloudy and overcast with some rain (and a little bit of sun here and there), and to offset the small amount of light getting in through the aperture because of the f-stop settings, the ISO ranged between 400 to 2000 depending upon the outdoor lighting conditions at any particular moment.

Goldfinch

A goldfinch (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Sigma’s OS (analogous to Canon’s IS and Nikon’s VR – image stabilization) is really odd and I don’t like it at all. It was as if the lens took on a life of its own whenever I switched from non-OS to OS. I’d look through the viewfinder and try to focus on a subject only to have the lens actually jump to a slightly different point in the composition. I had to keep moving the lens back to where I wanted the center focal point to be and then quickly snapping the shutter button. I don’t have that issue with my Canon 100-400 or 70-200. As a result, I only snapped a few shots with the OS turned on.

I captured a few images from my car window (cars make good blinds). I did this because had I gotten out of the car (heck, had I even opened the car door), my subject would have flown away. With my 100-400 lens, I don’t need a bean bag for stabilization and it’s easy to hand-hold. With this Sigma lens, I wished I had a bean bag. I’d anticipated this issue, though, so I used a pillow I’d brought from home on which I rested the camera and Sigma lens for stabilization. The bean bag is going to be a near-future purchase.

Hawk

A hawk on a fencepost at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – taken from my car window

I had pretty much figured this lens just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’d read too many reviews about Sigma’s inconsistent QC issues, but I figured Lensrentals would have tested the lenses before putting them out for rent (and this lens was inexpensive to rent for a few days).  Nonetheless, I would magnify the view of an image on my camera LCD and what I saw caused me some consternation. So imagine my total (and very pleasant) surprise when I got home and saw the day’s photos after they’d been downloaded to my computer. Ok, some of the shots were a little grainy because of the high ISO, but at an f-stop of at least 8, and on a tripod, my images turned out quite nice! Moral of this story: don’t base your judgment solely by what you see on your camera’s magnified LCD screen.

Conclusion:

I know I only had this Sigma 50-500mm for a couple of days.  So, this review is not in-depth.  That being said, I totally agree with the comment of  one of my Facebook Fans:

This lens will never take the place of a Canon or Nikon prime, but it’s definitely an affordable substitute.

Migrating Geese

Migrating geese making a stopover at Cross Trails Pond, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Next weekend (hopefully), I’ll see how the newly-released Tamron 150-600mm measures up.

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, Parks, Photography, Sigma lens, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

A Wedding In Galveston – The Bride Getting Ready

Taking A Break

Judging by the room Josh and Maegan had, I’d say the San Luis Resort penthouse suites are – well –  sweet 😉

I entered with all of my gear, set it out of the way of the ladies in the room, and began picking up cups and plates off of the coffee table and moving chairs and other things around the room to make space for forthcoming photo ops. I decided there would be no need for any flash as the ambient light from the balcony windows mixed nicely with the interior shadows. The bride finally returned from the salon and the photography process began.  And this, folks is where the art of photography really comes into play when capturing the beauty of the Bride and her Ladies.

Bridesmaids On The Couch

Bride and Bridesmaids Robes

I first saw Maegan in her little “Bride” robe when she waltzed down to the salon for her hair appointment. She told me the bridesmaids and matron of honor each had robes as well only they were in the bride’s color (aqua) with white embroidery writing on the backs.

Showing Bella The Locket

I’ve noticed this about the “getting ready” sessions I have photographed prior to the actual wedding ceremony: they are all very relaxed and intimate, with hugs and fun chatter and quiet excitement of the ceremony to come. Talk centers around family. In the image above, Nana was showing her granddaughter the locket that will someday belong to her.

When you are hired to photograph a wedding, it’s so very important to get to know the couple prior to the Big Day.   Why?  Because having the couple  feel comfortable with you and your style is worth so much in terms of the kinds of photographs you can achieve on their behalf.  When everybody feels comfortable around you, then they tend to not feel so self-conscious and worried about having a camera around them on a constant basis.  They relax in your presence and the photographs you capture reveal the love, affection, and emotion of the day.

Bride

Getting a photo of the wedding dress is almost a de rigeur photo nowadays.  And Maegan was cracking me up.  Pretty much everything she wore said “Bride”, from her robe to her tank top.

That quiet excitement began to build as the bride was helped into her gown and finishing touches were applied.

In The Wedding Dress

I made use of my 70-200mm, 50mm, and 24-70mm lenses for these images. All of them hand-held. No flash. In all of the photos with people (excepting the reception images), I added a touch of Imagenomic’s Portraiture. It’s all about looking good for the wedding, you know.

If you are in a situation where you can utilize side-lighting, then by all means do so, as it is fantastic for portraits.

Buttoning Her Dress

Putting On The Wedding Jewelry

Bride and Bridesmaids

Portrait of Happy

If you are in a situation where you can utilize backlighting for the bride, then this is another one of those “by all means do so” moments.

Maegan-Wedding Dress-Window

Maegan-Wedding Dress-Window

Bella And Maegan At Window

Yes, the backlit bride and her dress are clichéd shots that all photographers get, but nobody can argue they aren’t beautiful images and every backlit bride image is different from wedding to wedding, so it’s not *quite* the same thing as photographing a landscape that everybody else with a camera has captured.

Standing At The Window

Bella And Maegan At Window

Portrait Of The Bride VIGNETTE

I also made use of black & white with some of the photos. Weddings, IMO, were made for monochrome. In some cases, I noticed the black & white images bringing out more dress detail than in the color images.

Next post: Posed Shots – The Bride, Groom, The Bridesmaids, The Bridal Party

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A Wedding In Galveston – The Groom and His Men

Groomsmen Sitting & Standing

The Groom and His Men.   The groom, Josh,  is second from the left, sitting down beside his Best Man.

Let’s face it: the groomsmen tend to get short shrift when it comes to wedding photography.  The bride gets soooo many more photos; I admit to having captured far more images of the bride than of the groom.  That being said, I did my utmost to get great shots of the guys.

After my hair and makeup photo op session with the bride, her mother, her daughter and the bridesmaids, I grabbed my lighting equipment and hot-footed it down to one of the lower levels of the resort where the guys were getting ready in a small, private club / gameroom.

The entire scene was infused with old-fashioned gentlemen’s club masculinity: the subdued golden lighting, the pool tables, the poker tables, the (unstocked) bar, the leather couches.  All that was missing was the blue cloud of cigar smoke hanging in the air.

All of the images here were taken with the ISO set to between 640 and 2000, even when I used flash.  Two of the scenes I photographed were taken with only the ambient light and no flash.  In hindsight, I was near a number of electrical outlets, so I should have used my 500-watt continuous light with the umbrella instead of the flash, as I would have been able to see the light at all times instead of just after I’d taken the shot.

For the scene at the top of this post, I used my Gary Fong diffuser dome over the flash which was on my 5D Mk III.  I set the ISO to 1250 with a shutter of 1/40 and an aperture of f4.

Groomsmen At The Pool Table

Groomsmen At The Pool Table

For the pool table scenes, I set up the umbrella and flash so the light went through the umbrella onto the guys.  The off-camera flash setup was approximately 45 degrees to my right and at one end of the pool table so that the light was softer and covered the entirety of the groom and groomsmen.  I used the 5D Mk III, set the ISO to 640, the shutter speed to 1/50 and the aperture to f4.

Groomsmen At The Poker Table

For this poker table scene, I turned the umbrella so that the open end faced the men.  The flash bounced off of the umbrella rather than shot through. This produced a stronger light on the guys.  I used the 5D Mk III and set the ISO at 640 with a shutter of 1/50 and an aperture of f4.

Raking In The Winnings

This scene was shot with just the ambient light.  I used the 50mm prime on my Canon 1-DX,  set the ISO to 1000  and the shutter at 1/40 with an aperture of f4.

Groomsmen Toast

For this toast scene, I again used only  ambient light, setting the ISO on the 5D Mk III to 2000 with a shutter of 1/25 and an aperture of f4.

Groomsmen Toast

I used the Gary Fong dome diffuser over my flash for this image, setting the ISO at 1250, shutter at 1/40 and aperture at f4.

The only issue I really needed to watch was getting reflections of all of the guys in the polished coffee table as they toasted the groom. Maybe I didn’t get all of their faces in the reflections, but I at least got their arms with the drinks.  Oh, btw, that liquid was *not* whiskey.  The guys mixed coke and a little water to make it look like whiskey.

Despite the best efforts of my flash, I still worked with Photoshop CS6 to lighten some of the faces.  The photo I most had to work with was the first photo in this post.  The other photos were better in terms of the amount of light and shadow I wanted. Because of the low-light interior, it was necessary to use my Imagenomic Noiseware reduction software to get rid of that graininess inherent with low-light / high ISO imagery.

The bride and groom had created an extremely handy schedule, so I knew exactly where I had to be and when. And, by golly, that schedule worked like a charm for everything! So, after the groomsmen photographs, I checked the time then lugged myself, my cameras, and my lighting equipment up to Maegan and Josh’s 16th floor penthouse suite.

Groomsmen At The Pool Table

Next post: Getting Ready

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A Galveston Wedding – The Big Day: Hairstyling and Makeup

Bride

My day of photography did not start until 10AM, when I met the bride, her mother, her daughter, and bridesmaids down in the resort’s spa for a morning of hairstyling and makeup.

The salon portion of the spa is relatively small – or rather, I should say it’s styling cubicles are relatively small, so one of the things I had to watch out for was accidentally getting in the way of the shot. I photo-bombed myself more than once, I’m afraid.

Working The Photo

Since this was an interior photo op, I increased the ISO to 500. I had my Gary Fong dome diffuser attached to the flash on my 1-DX, but never used it as it would have reflected in the salon’s mirrors.

Bella In The Chair

Hair and makeup sessions make for great ops, despite the above considerations. Make use of the mirrors and their reflections. Frame your compositions at different angles for some variety.

Reflection of Valerie

Bonnie Hair Mirrors Reflections

Valerie's Updo

And try to get images that the ladies would like (i.e. try not to take unflattering straight shots of faces without makeup – if you do happen to get those shots, then make sure you’ve added a little interest or humor to the comp).

Maegan and Bella at Hairdresser

Becoming Beautiful

I was there from 10AM to about 12:30PM. After that, I was off to photograph the groom and his men.

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