See the Light! I try to see the Light where ever I may be. Sometimes the light is visible to the naked eye, as when we turn on a light in a dark room. Other times, the light may be a hidden light source that radiates through a person.
My photography is about seeing the Light, and yet 90% of what I shoot is athletes. Light, whether its source is internal or external, is what makes an excellent photograph. When both the internal and external sources of light are of exceptional character, the resulting photograph will be memorable!
Having just received the camera, I took it out of the box and used one of my 7D batteries to get it setup before taking any pictures. To do so, I accepted the date / time settings, checked the firmware, then attached it to my computer for accurate date & time settings that would be in sync with my other cameras, then methodically went through all of the available settings through EOS Utility software. Once that was completed, I did the same thing with the camera’s menu system. Determining your optimal setup will go a lot faster if you take the time to read the manual (you will also understand the limitations and possibilities of the camera much better!) There are so many variables that you can adjust, and most are straightforward, but some of the naming conventions need more explanation than can fit on a 3” LCD screen. Others are complex, like the AF Cases, and need detailed explanation and experimentation to figure out what they do. That being said, Canon has produced an excellent PDF guide to all of the AF menu settings for the EOS 1DX, which is identical in this regard to the 5D.
In an ideal world, I would like to be able to use EOS Utility to set ALL of the camera functions and menus via my computer, not just the few currently allowed. This would give the distinct advantage of being able to spell out the advantages and differences that each setting makes -- and how they affect other settings -- while you are making them. As the menus grow more and more complex, this really should be on the table for a camera at this price point.
Viola! The camera is ready to use. Well, actually it is pretty much ready to use out of the box. But now, it is set up the way that I think I want it. An hour later, I’m off to a basketball game to test things out. I’ll be shooting with my trusty old 7D and my brand spankin new 5Diii. Original plan was to use the 17-40 on the 5 and the 70-200 on the 7D. That plan quickly changed when I realized just how wide that would render my frame! So I switched things up and put the 70-200 on my full frame 5D and the 17-40 on my 7D, essentially rendering it a 24-70. Having used that for a game, I can see why it was so popular with sports shooters on full frame or 1.3 bodies … it really does hit a sweet spot under the basket, and I may just keep using this setup for a while!
The 70-200 felt comfortable and responsive on the 5D, but it was difficult giving up that little extra reach I have enjoyed with this lens on my 7D. Due to the layout of the gym that I am shooting in, I am extremely close to the base-line, and doubt that I practically gained much on the wide end, but time will tell.
Shooting tonight was not my typical night out. I was testing a new camera and trying a new technique (back button focus) while using a new lighting setup. Lots of variables, and lots of potential for things to go wrong. My first impressions:
As I start looking through my images in Lightroom, I am absolutely stunned. Shell-shocked. Flabbergasted. The list of adjectives could go on. There is simply no comparison of these images to those that came out of any digital camera I have previously owned. I knew to expect better subject/background separation because of the full frame body, but I was not expecting the superior file quality in absolutely every respect to be this dramatic. A love affair is beginning! Let me count the ways:
There is great truth in the saying that you should invest in quality glass rather than chasing camera bodies. The Lens will make or break your image no matter the black box it is attached to. Quality lenses will be a requirement when using a camera of this quality. It will show the weaknesses of inferior lenses, and I am glad I have the “L” glass for this camera simply to keep up with its resolving power. That being said, there does come a point when the camera body itself makes a difference. Going from a crop body to a full frame body makes a huge difference in your lens performance, especially in the out of focus areas that make a picture pop in just the same way as stepping up from a Kodak Instamatic to a 35mm to a 4x5 camera did in the film days. It makes a great deal of difference in pixel density and pitch and all kinds of technical ways that I am not qualified to talk about but influence the quality of the output file. You’ll notice smoother gradations in color changes, better detail bright whites, less noise in the shadows, and faithful color representation throughout. In short, you finally will capture what you saw through the lens. What I can say without reservation is that stepping up this far makes a difference in the pictures that you are able to capture.
Be forewarned that processing the RAW files from this camera will require a fast computer and lots of hard drive space. The provided software will yield optimal results in processing, but Lightroom 4 (ACR 7.3) does a pretty good job at rendering them as well. This camera is for the serious photographer who is willing to invest not just the money to buy it, but also the time to learn to use it properly, and appreciate the results it helps produce even if others cannot see the difference.
So you've arrived at your Christmas Vacation. A time to relax, take a break from all of the craziness of the last couple weeks. No ball games to worry about, the work is almost done for the year. Of course, being a photographer, I scouted the place when I got here. The deer are photographer friendly, and some may even pose for you.
And then the snow comes. My plans for soaking in the hot tub have been interupted. (I still soaked every night after shooting all day) Actually, I was rather ecstatic that I could get a few days of exercise without having to pay my physical therapist! Doing therapy this way is a whole lot more fun than visiting an office, and for those who have been following my recovery, this pushed my limits to the extreme, and gave me confidence that the recovery is doing what it is supposed to. Every muscle in my body got a workout!
But I digress ... I decided to avoid the food and beverage snaps I saw my breakfast buffet companions sharing. The slopes wouldn't open for three more days, so no photos from the slopes or sauna, just simple landscapes. What do you see when it is 20 degrees and snowing with a strong wind trying to blow you over every step of the way? I pretty much tried to stick with patterns and simple compositions, attempting to reduce each scene down to its essential elements. ... There was a cluster of trees I had spotted the night before that could tell the story of winter very well by themselves.
As I said, patterns stick out this time of year
But then came along another view:
I think it's the first image that I have taken that shouts BLIZARD! This was taken at mid-day, with snow flying in the 30 MPH breeze. And you can feel the cold - heck, I just shivered uploading the image! Now, all I had to do was get the car back to the road .... it only took two hours to go 50 feet.
Then as I explored, I was reminded that life goes on, even when the temperatures fall and modern conveniences are most appreciated. I wished that my insulation was as good as the cattle's, but as you can see, most of them are smart enough to stay close to home .... unlike thier photographer of the day!
The National Widelife Refuge is an essential part to Canaan Valley, and while I did see a flock flying overhead, I didn't spot any of the smaller birds while I was here
The trees which will soon bloom and bear fruit again are barren
and down the road, water continues to flow over Blackwater Falls
But make no mistake, the road to get there is not easy to travel
I guess putting it simply, winter photography is no picnic, but well worth the effort!
So get out there and shoot this winter, bring home some pictures you'll be proud to hang on your wall and be able to brag to your friends ... "Yeah, I did that!"
How do you incorporate ideas into your photography? Photography is a visual means of communications, and many of us want that communication to be quite literal. We like pictures of our smiling children playing with thier young canine friends. I recently took on an assignment to photograph a "part of the whole," and used a piece of history do so.
With the theme "Parts of the Whole" in mind, what do you see?
When the image was presented, some thought perhaps the tombstone was only part of the whole cemetary. That was about as far as the assembled group managed to see the theme. Allow me to explain why I selected this image:
Parts of the Whole echoes through this image both literally and figuratively, and may well be an insight into the collective imagination of our country. The literal display of parts includes the obscured tombstone: you cannot see the entire thing, nor can you see the entire name or even dates of birth and death. Even the flag that blocks the details can only be partially seen because it is curled over upon itself. The back - side light is only partially visible ... notice the prominence of shadows in this image echoing the tombstone's symbolism of death. Of course, it is only a very small part of this cemetary, much as the Private is only a small part of the entire army he was fighting for. All of these literal elements are right in front of your eyes.
But the literal interpretation is only the beginning. The image was taken at Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond, Virginia. On my recent visit there, I was impressed with how dearly the citizens there hold on to thier Civil War memories and heritage. Yes, this to me that it not be made into a moody presentation, that would obscure the vividness of the the conflict that is so real to the people of this region. To them, it is not something that happened in the distant past, but a very present reality that continues to shape who they are.
How is it that this young soldier, killed in battle 150 years ago is still so magnificently cared for? Certainly this young man's life was more than "soldier." The lawn is meticulously mowed, the flag carefully placed, and the marker looks as though it could have been planted this year. We can say what we want about "those southerners who hold on to the idea of the War of Northern aggresssion," but they do honor thier dead. They do remember thier past. "Remembering Our Past" was the title that I assigned to this photograph. Speaking figuratively, this photo convicts each of us of our own prejudices, whether positive or negative. That flag itself is a strong emotional component no matter which side of the idea it represents we might find ourselves. Even the Confederate flag denotes a part of the whole, for though for a time our nation was divided, all who lived under that flag both before and after lived under another standard, the Stars and Stripes. We tend to hold on to and treasure selected parts of our memory, both individually and collectively. Some who have seen this photo were moved to tears when they recalled distant relatives lost in the Civil War long ago or even in recent conflicts around the globe. It brings into consciousness the sacrafice that young men have been willing to make for thier country, which in itself is part of our whole history.
Images that are strongly composed rarely settle for the literal interpretation that we want to first assign to them. The author wants us to see more, ususally something about ourselves or about an important cause. The next time that you encounter a piece of art that you cannot understand, stop. Try to understand the image in light of the things you do know about it: What is the Title, What is the theme? What is the apparent subject matter? What is the author trying to say? Then step back and let it sink in. Allow the cognitive functioning that God gifted you with to churn about and see where that takes you. You might just be stunned by what the photographer, the painter, or the sculptor is saying. And if you are really lucky, you might learn something about yourself in the process!
As college students are preparing for thier final exams, I thought this would be a good time to look back and review myself. I took advantage of a home-bound day to go through some old images. and boy was I surprised!
When you actually stop to take a look at the pictures, it is actually pretty easy to see the progress (or lack thereof!) that you have made. The evidence is right in front of you! I had a lot of opportunities to shoot back in 2006, so I got out that year's collection. What amazed me was the amount of images that I had decided back then might one day be worth another look. I ended up deleting almost 1/3 of the pictures that I had kept! Some were poorly focused, others simply lacked focus; some were so far off on exposure that they were not even worth thinking about salvaging. Composition was poor in many, and the list of photographic errors of the bunch was just too long to enumerate! If I was really honest, many of the ones I saved were more memories than photographs.
Here are a few of the ones that I deleted today:
Like I said, I am embarrassed that I even kept these! Even with that, not everything I shot back then was a disaster. There were certainly more than a few shots that I got to see again for the first time and am am glad that I kept:
Why do I admit this publicly? Well, its a lot like the exams our students are taking. We cram in so much stuff that it really does not have time to sink in and make a difference at first. Even though I "knew" what makes a good exposure and composition, I had not mastered the technicalities of making it happen consistently. I really had not developed my own eye or way of seeing. If I was really honest, very few of my images from back then were very compelling. Most were just a guy with a camera exploring. That is not to say that they were snapshots -- far from it! Some succeeded, some were mistakes; some were very horrible mistakes. But it is through this trial and error process that we learn our photographic vision and skill. Just like in the moral life though, I am not advocating that you go out and try to make mistakes -- plenty will come your way!
But you cannot sit around and just wait for photographic skill to pop into your head. You have to try things. Some will fail, some will succeed. And when you undertake these projects, you will not know which is going to be which until you have tried. And if you then take the time to look back and see your journey, you will learn even more.
One of the most helpful things you can do is to hang out with other like minded people. We do it all the time in our clubs and churches and it seems to work well there. So too with photography. Hang out with photographers who can help you learn. Join a camera club. Participate ina workshop. Ask the opinions of people who will give you honest feedback. They will help you to improve far more than browsing some internet sites. And chances are, you'll have a lot more fun!
I got to shoot the VHS Boys Varsity team photos today, and what a great experience! First, hats off to what looks to be an awesome team this year. They have some good leaders back and have added a little size up front. Play smart, and you'll be on a roll!
For the shoot today, we had to take the standard picture that you see in every basketball program you have ever picked up. Not very exciting, but necessary for the upcoming tourneys.
Then we moved on to make some great pictures of these young athletes. I used a processing technique to give them a gritty edge that will be needed for the team poster. All it takes is a few mouse clicks, and Spencer looks 10 years older!
Dante gave me this look on the very first click of the shuttter!
These guys made it so easy, all that was missing was the sweat. I can't wait to see the poster! Check this year's team out at http://seethelightimages.com/p94538862
Eventually, you get to the point where Walmart and Ritz simply cannot match the quality you expect in your photographic prints. The quandry then is what to do? The first step I took was to go to an online photographic lab. They allow you to upload your photos and will promptly ship them back to you. Prices and quality will vary greatly, but there are many great labs available. I have used MPIX (http://www.mpix.com/) for my mail order printing needs for many years with great success.
If you have a special photo that you need printed to hang in a musem, or are a wedding photographer that does not want to mess with the details of printing, I reccomnend going to PPS (http://www.photoproduction.com/) in South Charleston if you are in the neighborhood. Clayton and his associates will take very good care of you. It is what I do when I need to make a print larger than my printer can handle, and where I used to go for all of my fine art printing needs. There are many other high end printers out there, but I believe in supporting local businesses when I can.
This summer, I got a great deal on an incredible printer (Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mk II). After the rebates, the price of my wide format printer was free! Now that can be a dangerous thing for a photographer! Why? Well, since getting my printer, I have been experimenting, learning the differences in papers and what the different settings will do. The cost of paper and ink will add up! OK ... I know that I am not most people when it comes to photography; most people will simply use thier home printer to crank out a bunch of small prints and be very happy with the results. Of course, most people would not be spending $500 on a printer either, but like I said, I am not most people, and most who read this blog know that!! Come to think of it, if you have read this far, you aren't like most people either!
At this point, I have to confess that I am still very new to printing photographs, and there is much to learn. But I also believe that the process of getting here is similar to that of most photographers. As you grow in this craft, you learn that the more control you have over each step of the process, the better the end result. First, its a point and shoot where we learn to press the shutter button, then we learn the details of exposure and composition. After that we move on to developing our pictures and posting them for others to see. Finally, we delve into the art of print making, matting, and framing.
It is an art, and I know people who have earned advanced academic degrees in this one discipline. I am not there yet! But, here is a short list of the things that I have learned about printing over the last couple months:
If you are interested in learning more about the art of fine art printing, I suggest the Rocky Nook book "Fine Art Printing for Photographers." It is a couple years old (2008), but presents excellent and detailed information that is timeless. The other book I mentioned is Bruce Frazier and Jeff Schewe's "Real World Image Sharpening." both are excellent resources that will guide you to making the most out of the already excellent photographs you have waiting to be put to paper!
The boys at Valley gave a good run this fall, and all of us are proud of you! It was my pleasure to cover the teams once again and record some memories for many of you. They were carried in the newspaper, some may show up in the yearbook, and thanks to the parents who buy prints to support me in this endeavor. We were all treated to some great memories thanks to your efforts:
From the first snap of the game
you certainly brought us excitement all season long!
Thanks for the memories guys!
Each game has its own gallery and can be found online at http://seethelightimages.com/f125014417
Thanks to Paul, I was able to use the most amazing lens the other night for football. I am talking about Canon's 400 mm f 2.8 monster. 11 of the 15 photos I submitted to the paper this week were from that lens!
To be sure, there are certain limitations to using this beast. It is heavy to lug around and and does not offer any zooming capabilities. That means that you do not move around following the action in the same way as with my usual arsenal. BUT, these design limitations also bring out the strengths that this lens gives the sports or wildlife photographer. My venue was a very darkly lit HS football field (ISO 3200, 2.8, 1/250th in the bright areas, ISO 6400, 2.8 1/320 in the dimmer places for you photo geeks).
There are a couple downsides to using this lens:
What made this lens such a joy to use?
You really only notice these things when you can actually compare the results you get with inferior equipment. I usually use a 100-400 mm lens that is pretty good, but much slower than the EF400 2.8. Now I know what my pictures would look like if I had the better gear .....
I guess its time to win the lottery!
The other day, I got to shoot soccer ... specifically, a U8 league team! Most of the time these days, my photographic time is tied up with the older kids. You see the updates quite often are in the middle school, High School, or college level sports pages on my website. But every now and then I get an invitation to cover something a little different. This time it was 2nd grade girls playing soccer, and boy was it fun!
The girls were having the time of thier lives. Everyone on the team got to play about the same amount of time. Some were focused and competitive, others just playing in the mud. It was so refreshing to see the sheer joy on a little girl's face when she scored a goal or did some other amazing feat. It was also a pleasure (at least in the game I was shooting) to see parents that were supportive rather than critical of thier kids and coaches.
As they get older, we see more and more parents living vicariously through thier children and grandchildren, unable to accept defeat, and being very poor sports. Some days, I wonder whether I am at a school event or a longshoremen's gathering. It was downright refreshing to see coaches laughing with the girls rather than yelling at them; teaching rather than ridiculing. It brought back my own memories of Little League when we got to go out for ice cram after the game no matter what the score was. I stand in admiration of those adults who give up thier time to be with a bunch of kids that they may or may not have been familiar with prior to thier current gathering. These adults set a model of service to the children that will not be forgotten, and if they do thier jobs well, will teach them how to win no matter what the scoreboard says.
I have added a link to the VHS page on Maxpreps (CBS Sports High School coverage site) so that you can easily check the upcomingf schedule for Valley High School! Just click the link on the top of the page to get there!