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What takes better pictures, people? or cameras?

On today’s blog I would like to talk to you about cameras. I constantly get questions on what camera should I get or is this one better then that one. So before I get into some detail about cameras I just want you all to know my opinion on what camera really works best. The best camera is just like a lens, it’s the one you have! Cameras don’t take pictures people take pictures so anybody who says my camera doesn’t take good pictures either has a broken camera or should get some lessons. Now a top of the line camera may have better picture quality but it can’t take better pictures then what you already take.

So first off let’s talk about the big debate, who makes a better camera Nikon or Canon?Canon-vs.-Nikon-Full Well the correct answer would be Nikon and this is why! people ask me what camera is better all the time and I say it’s what feels right in your hands. Is Nikon really a better camera….. I will always say yes :) but the true answer is they are all the same. One point of the year Canon comes out with a better camera and then at another point in the year Nikon catches up or surpasses them. This will keep on going back and fourth forever to help retain there current customers. Lately other manufactures have stepped up to the bar like Sony, Pentax, Olympus or Fuji. So when you are looking for a new camera don’t overlook these names as sometimes they can offer some functions better then Nikon or Canon.

Z_nikon-d7100_front-600Lets talk about some of the different types of cameras you can buy. The most common DSLR on the market for an average user would be a dx camera. A dx camera would be a Nikon D5200 or a D7100 or for Canon it would be a T5i or a 60d. A dx sensor is what would be called a crop sensor, crop sensors are smaller sensors then a regular 35mm sensor, in Nikon’s case they are 1.5x smaller. This is where a crop factor comes into play. So let’s give you an example of what your effective focal length would be with a Nikon dx with a 1.5 crop factor.Z-7d2-front If you had a lens on a dx body that is let’s say a 18-105 well in all reality the real focal length would be 27mm to 160mm. So your all sitting there thinking why would they call the lens a 18-105?? Well the lens is what it is and it can’t change but the crop factor or size of the camera sensor makes the difference. The advantage of a crop sensor is that magnification that allows extra distance to your lens. Many people like it for wildlife because that 400mm lens just turned into a 600mm lens and with today’s large 24 megapixel sensors that’s a ton of information to work with. But on the down side if you wanted something like a super wide angle then you loose out cause a 12mm lens would be a 18mm. So you have to take the good with the bad.

Canon_5260A002_EOS_5D_Mark_III_847545Next would be a fx camera or otherwise known as a full frame camera. Full frame cameras have large sensors that can capture much more information than a dx for editing purposes. It use to be that full frame cameras had much bigger sensors then dx bodies but the dx bodies are slowly catching up. Some full frame cameras range from 24 to 50 megapixels now. So lets explain why you would need this big of a sensor. Basically the larger the sensor the larger the file size for your picture, this will allow you to blow pictures up to larger sizes without loosing quality in your images. Another thing about shooting full frame is you have to use FX or full frame lenses.Nikon_D610_Camera The reason for this is the quality of glass needed to provide a crisp clear image. Now a downfall could be to some that a fx lens are usually going to cost you close to 1000 dollars or higher in some cases. All the extra costs for fx should be greatly justified before spending that extra money. Now as far as focal length it is a 1-1 system. Meaning there is no crop factor so a 18-105 lens is what the true focal distance will be. Again this will help being able to shoot with wide angles but now that 400mm lens is nothing more then a 400mm lens :( So we have a big trade off to deal with.

A77iiLast I would like to talk about a newer technology system called mirrorless. Mirrorless cameras are becoming very popular right now and seem to be coming out at great prices. DSLRs use the same design as the 35mm film cameras of days gone by. A mirror inside the camera body reflects the light coming in through the lens up to a prism (or additional mirrors) and into the viewfinder for you to preview your shot. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, a shutter opens and the light falls onto the image sensor, which captures the final image. In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, which captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen. Eliminating this mirror allows for these camera’s to produce faster shutter speeds of up to 10-12 frames per second.k3 Now that sounds all fine and peachy but this new technology has come with some flaws. Tracking subjects coming straight at you or a bird in flight that is flying up and down seems to be an issue for this camera. Many mirrorless cameras are working on a predictive tracking to help photographers follow these subjects and seems to get better with each model that comes out.

So what camera sounds the best to you? Is it a crop sensor camera that allows you an increased focal distance with a small price tag. Or would it be a full frame camera that can allow you to blow those amazing images up to life size pictures. Or how about the new mirrorless technology that has a good price tag and seem to be the possible way of the future? What ever you decide remember what I said in the beginning, camera’s don’t take pictures, people do. If you ever have a question about a camera please feel free to ask as I have held many in my hands over the years.
Thanks for reading today’s blog and good luck on your next purchase!

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Looking through quality glass

Today I wanted to speak to you about what makes a good lens.dpsocialnet_24-105 When most people start out in photography they are attracted to that great kit lens price. The common thing I hear is why should I buy this camera for let’s say 1800 when I can buy this camera and two lenses for 1799. Well for the average person I can’t really see any issue with that but for a more serious photographer it may be an issue. Let me break things down for you a little for what makes a good lens and what makes a great lens.

14-24-D3R_5629-600When professional photographers are looking for a new lens 9 times out of 10 they are looking for something with an aperture of F1.4 to F2.8 the reason for this is the quality of glass. Having a aperture like this usually makes the lens bigger and heavier then a lens of the same focal distance of a aperture of say F3.5 to F5.6 The reason for this is the quality of glass they use the thickness of the glass they use and the amount of glass they use. All these combined together can make one sharp lens!

Removing-the-rubber-gasket-from-the-Nikon-70-300mm-VR-lensWeather sealing can make a big difference on a lens as well. Most high end lenses come with a dust ring at the bottom of the lens to keep dust and dirt out from between the body and lens. This in turn will help keep dust off your sensor when shooting in dirty or harsh environments. Other types of weather sealing can be on the body of the lens it’s self, some have tight o-rings under the aperture and focal rings to keep the water out so you can shoot in the direct rain.

Now let’s talk about the honest truth of what makes a good lens. The best lens you can have is the one you have on your camera!. Dealing with what you have is the key to making a good picture. Sometimes even the best lenses have a fault in some types of light so don’t think there is a perfect lens. Most people go out and buy a lens for a specific purpose but forget it can be used for many other types of photography.sigma_120-300os2 Like an example would be a telephoto lens, most people would use one for sports or wildlife and forget that it to can make a great landscape lens. Now the personalities between a wide angle and a telephoto for landscape are huge but sometimes it’s all about the perspective. A telephoto lens will compress a image creating less depth to give it a different look. Sometimes images that work well can be a pano of a mountain range over a valley from a distance. This will still allow you to capture the valley but compress it so the mountain will pop more in a image.

When I first started out with photography I was all about getting myself a wide angle lens. Once I had one in my hands I thought look out world I’m going to photograph some of the best landscapes now. Well I got that lens out there and snapped away and after a while I realized that I actually hate this lens. Well hate my be a strong word but I can tell you its a word quite close. Now my reason for disliking this lens is for the fact of how much depth a wide angle can really give you. Two factors come into play for me to like a wide angle picture. One is the foreground has to be wild enough for me to hold my eye. Having a boring foreground will just wash your image right out. Another thing I need is a crazy looking sky, something that’s busy to keep my eye looking around the picture. Basically I only use my wide angle for very close up pictures of a building or when I’m in a tight area and need that wide to capture the sides of something. Other places I find a wind angle comes in handy is while shooting inside an abandoned building.

571_24-70mm_f28_horizontal-smMy go to lens for the last while with landscapes tends to be a 24-70. Keep in mind I do shoot full frame so 16mm on a dx body camera would be close to 24mm with a crop factor. This lens allows me to shoot wide and zoom into a landscape so I can see what can be cropped out and just how much the perspective can change. So what is the best lens for you? My best answer is the one you can be most creative with! Creativity is what sets off one photographer to another so if you just go out and take pictures be prepared to be classed in with everybody else who just takes pictures.

If you want to learn more about how to be creative with your lens come join me on one of my composition classes. click here for composition classes for 2015

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Is wireless the option for you?

Today’s Blog I would like to talk about remotes.

Many people get to that level of photography where a remote is required to help achieve a crisp clear picture with no camera shake. So lets talk about why you would need a remote first! So if you read all the pro blogs and reviews and tips about shooting landscapes you will noticed people always talk about avoiding camera shake. First step as we have talked about in the past few blogs was the need for a good tripod and head. This creates a solid foundation or platform to get a nice sharp picture! Next is to avoid and/or eliminate any camera shake or movement. This can be prevented by a few different methods that we will go over. First is a function that your camera is likely equipped with and that would be the mirror up function. Mirror up basically provides exactly how it sounds, it keeps the mirror up in a fixed position so your sensor is wide open. This eliminates the slap of the shutter while taking your picture. If you don’t have a mirror up option on your camera turning on your live view will do the same thing. Next step would be to go but yourself a remote! Remotes allow a hands free approach to the body of the camera, this again help eliminate camera shake.

1009843So first lets talk about a wired remote. Wired remotes have always been my go to style of remote cause they are very reliable. You basically plug them into a port on the side of your camera and start clicking away by pressing a button. One recommendation I will give you is to make sure you have or buy a remote with a hold position. Once you get into the world of long exposures you will need to use a setting called bulb. Bulb function basically allows you to take a picture for the desired amount of seconds with the remote in the hold position. Once you have achieved the time you were looking for you just click the remote off of the hold position. And Boom now you have taken a long exposure in bulb mode. Most cameras have settings that can achieve shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds but anything after that you will need a hold type remote. A con to owning a wired remote can be the fact that you have a cable that is your life line. Cables remind me of a young girl talking on a corded telephone, they get twisted in your finger or stretched, kinked, twisted or bent. Or my all time favorite is dropped in the water! More then likely all this abuse one day will lead to cord failure and leave you stranded with a broken remote. Now here is another reason I have found a corded remote to be a down fall. If you are doing some light painting and standing away from your camera this can be a problem as a remote chord is only so long. So sometimes you have to bring a dummy or let’s be more political correct “a friend” to help press the remote for you.

nkmll3Ok so next would be to talk about a wireless remote. Wireless remotes tend to be a pain in the but when it comes to needing it to work during that “in the moment” time. Here is how most wireless remotes work. Some of them are brand specific meaning a proprietary remote for your camera ie. Canon, Nikon etc etc these remotes don’t require you to plug something into your camera port for a remote. Aftermarket have attachment pieces that need to be plugged into the port on the body of the camera and the remote triggers this piece to actuate your shutter. So why am I against wireless remotes? Is it because I don’t know a bunch of dummies? Or cause I like it when my cable breaks? No its because you have to many factors for the average consumer to work around. First the biggest problem is that the battery will inevitably die when you need it the most. Wireless remotes all need a battery in the remote body and guess what when your not using that remote guess whats happening to your battery? You got it, that thing is slowly dieing in your camera bag when its not in use. Now keeping a spare battery in your bag could always be an option but remember large amounts of heat or extreme cold will always kill your battery. Another issue you will come across is that the more your battery dies the less range that fancy remote will have for you. Until inevitably you are standing right beside your camera pointing that remote 2 inches away so it will work. Another issue you may come across will be that sometimes I have found different frequencies can effect the distance you can stand from your camera. Now it’s not all bad with a wireless remote as you can have fun and be away from your camera while taking pictures. Having your hands basically free to adjust people for a pictures or to get the attention of your dog or cat. These are all advantages that a wireless remote may have.

So when you are purchasing your first or next remote think about the pros and cons of each and weigh your options.P-CTRL-1__81523_zoom Remotes can very in price so do your homework before hand so your not shocked when you hear the price of that fancy remote at the camera store. Speaking of fancy remotes there are many out there that can do more then just be an extended shutter button. Some can adjust aperture, shutter speed, focus stack, up to 45 picture bracketing or time lapse. Obviously the more they do the more they cost but some people just like to spend money on gizmos like I do :)

Enjoy your weekend everybody and thanks for reading today’s blog!

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What makes your head turn?

On today’s Blog we talk about what makes your head turn.

A tripod is always a great start to a sturdy work foundation for your end product. But what allows the creative part is the head that you place on top of the tripod that counts. Again many people in the beginning stages of photography like to keep the cost down so they buy inexpensive parts like the head. Well let’s put this into a easy term so you can understand what a head is and does. The tripod is like your body, it supports your weight and carries you throughout the day. But the head is just like your head or neck except it can’t think hehe ­čśë It’s purpose is to move in all directions to allow your eyes to see more.

Many different styles of heads are out there for you to use for photography, it’s just what one is Best for your application?. Let’s talk about what we have to choose from and give some pros and cons from what I have found in the field. We have Ball heads, 2 way heads, 3 way heads and Gimbal heads. All of these serve a different purpose but I guess in the end can somewhat be used for the same thing “taking pictures”.

46387131_0First lets talk about Ball heads, Ball heads can be used in many applications for photography but for the most part they are a great easy to use weapon for shooting landscapes. My go to head for landscapes has been a Ball head for quite a while now as I love just how easy it is to move around in every direction 360 degrees. Ball heads come in many forms for there adjustment or locking mechanism, from geared to hydrostatic to a simple locking lever. I use a Sirui K30x and just love it!!. It has three knobs to adjust different parts. One is to adjust the pan feature so the base moves around 360 degrees which is a great choice for doing panoramic photography. Second is the locking gear for the ball head, now the ball head can move 360 degrees as well as up and down 180 degrees. This allows a huge range for your choice of positioning. The second knob also has an adjustment screw for how much tension can be put on the ball head when its loose. Now some people may think well why is this even a selling feature? To me its a big deal cause it helps insure me that if I have a heavy lens on my tripod and I loosen that adjustment knob if I don’t have a good hold on my camera its not going to slam down onto my tripod leg (Always think about tomorrow not today!) Third knob is for the Arca-swiss plate that holds my camera to the head. Again it keeps tension on the side of the plate to help keep it locked into place. One added piece about Sirui is they have a little button you need to press to allow the plate to slide off the head. Let me tell you that this is a big feature on this head cause if you forget to lock you plate in the camera will not slide out of the grooved holder and hit the ground.

Picture 064Next I will talk about 2 way and three way heads. Basically a two way and a three way head will almost do the same thing as a ball head but can be a little more limited in a portrait position due to the arms getting in the way on some models. I shot with a 3 way for a year and although I got use to it after time, I still felt it was a cluster to always be turning one knob or another to change your positioning. A two way is the same but with one or1019202 two knobs or leavers for adjustment. Most companies sell a two way for a inexpensive price but I find the quality is usually lacking in the design somehow. In my opinion these were once the tripod head that cornered the market for years for photographers. The design was created more for video applications and is very basic but over time the three way design took the more advanced approach for photographers.

682023 As for Gimbal heads well I have a bias opinion about them. Working as an instructor for North of 49 Photography I am sponsored by a company called Jobu. Jobu has provided us with all there models of gimbal heads to promote the use and help get them in the hands of other people. But the perks are I get to keep one :) Yay me! The main use of a gimbal head is for large lenses to rest on for sports, wildlife or possibly landscape photography. So let’s talk about how it works, on the base of the head it has a knob that can control the side to side movement. This allows the hole unit to be rotated 360 degrees. At the top of the arm you will see another knob, this one is used for the arm. The arm is attached to the base plate of the head making it work in a motion just like a swing would. And last is the knurled knob to remove the base plate that’s attached to your lens.1544347_10153724224450301_2029136590_n Most large lenses 300mm to 800mm can be hand held but only for a short period of time. That’s why the gimbal was created to allow people comfort while using a large lens. All large lenses have a arm or collar that is attached to the lens, this is what you would put the base plate on, not the camera. This arm will have an adjusting screw that clamps around the body of the lens. Basically once you attach the lens to the gimbal head you would loosen this adjusting screw to aid in your side to side movement. Now you have free flowing movement to follow and track your moving subject. Also this allows you to use lower shutter speeds in some cases due to the stability.

So let’s do a quick re cap on why we need a good head for our tripod. The head allows a range of motion for our camera, this motion is imperative to getting the proper angle of your view. Another key element is the size of the head that matters the most. Almost every model of head comes in different sizes and the reason for that is supporting weight. If you put a 20lb lens and camera on a 15lb supporting weight head you are likely to find the unit will have complete failure one day or ware out a lot faster then expected. Again think about lugging this head around on your tripod for trips or hiking. The key is to having something that is light weight but yet being able to provide the job or task as needed. If you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask as I will always give you my honest answer. Below are some links to the gear I use, thanks for reading today’s blog!

Working from the ground up

On today’s Blog I would like to talk about tripods.

Sirui M3204 M Series Tripod LegsTripods for photographers can be one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment they own. Most people when they are starting out decide that spending over 200 dollars on a tripod is expensive. Well I would have to admit that this is a very true point for most cases and you will realize fast you made a big mistake. In the profession of photography mistakes can lead to very poor financial and/or business decisions. So let’s go over why you should spend a few more dollars then you expected to on that tripod.

For most of us the big issue is the cost of what we are willing to pay as aProducts10137-1300x1300-418683 beginner. Knowing very little about photography at this time of purchase can be overwhelming. Like really you want me to spend 500 dollars on just a tripod and I can’t even put my camera on it until I buy a head?? “Go pound salt buddy!” What’s the difference between this 99 dollar tripod and that 500 dollar one? They both have 3 legs? The 99 dollar one has a head already attached? No brainier here I will spend my hard earned money on this the 99 dollar one! Wrong!
You grab that camera you just spent a thousand dollars on or even more and go out hunting for that great scene to capture. During this time you have some issues trying to set up your camera as the legs are a little wonky and the head wont really stay still or falls forward cause the weight of the camera is to heavy for it. Then you think I must be doing this wrong but I will learn as I go.

Manfrotto-MT190XPRO4-Tripod-Compared-to-MT190CVPRO4Let’s go over a few more scenarios of what you are about to encounter. So your photography starts to advance now and you decide I’m getting better so lets try all this creative stuff people do with filters. So you buy yourself a 10 stop filter or something of that nature and again it likely cost more then your tripod. You take this filter down to the lake so you can get that great glass look like everybody gets. You set your tripod up and the filter on your lens and your camera starts slowly moving down or to the side and you don’t realize it until you get a few pictures into your session. As I would do, just prop it back up and keep going. You start to feel the wind pick up and realize wow I can see the thin legs on my tripod shaking in the wind. Oh well lets keep on shooting! You get back to check out your images and you realize not only did I get this cool glass effect but all my pictures are blurry I wonder why?. If you think that’s bad the most famous that I see on almost every workshop I teach would be the plastic plate that clips into your tripod keeps loosening off your camera. Or even worse and yes I have seen this happen at least 10 times now, the piece that retains that plate loosens off and your camera hits the ground. Now lets think about your camera and lens, what are these pieces made of? A camera is made up circuitry components with a sensitive sensor and a precision aligned mirror. Your tough weather proof lens that is indestructible so they say is made up of concave and convex pieces of precision placed and crafted glass. So tell me something, what are the odds of a camera and lens dropping on the ground and not having any consequences what so ever?

IMG_3420_900px_Border-620x586This is what I would suggest to all of you when looking for that perfect tripod. 1, do I need to travel with this tripod cause weight and size can become a big concern. 2, What will my primary use be for this tripod? Am I just using it for landscapes with small lenses or do I think my wife will let me buy a 600 F4 to put on this one day? Fat chance! 3, Point of view, do I want a tripod that can get me inches off the ground? 4, Do I want to carbon fiber so I don’t have to lug a heavy monster around while hiking hills. 5, Do I want to spend 500 dollars now rather then spending 100-200 dollars now and then spend 500 down the road?

images The tripod to the left and at the top of the page is what I use daily for my world of photography. It’s a Sirui M3204 bought from my local camera store BJ Photo Labs. I bought this tripod for many reasons that catered to lenses and my style of photography. First selling feature is this thing is very strong carbon fiber and is so light to carry around with me. Second is how low it can get to the ground and how high I can put it up to at full extension. Third is a great selling feature to me, one of the legs can screw off and turn into a mono pod within seconds. Fourth is the retractable stainless steel spikes at the bottom of each leg to aid in grip. Fifth is the easy to use twist lock system for the legs to extend and retract. And the last selling feature for me was the price, I got this unit for under 500 tax included. I love this tripod!

Tripods are a personal thing for photographers, kind of like clothes we all like something different. So don’t impulse buy your first or next tripod, ask people what there experiences are. Social media is a powerful tool for consumers so ask around. Search different camera stores or E-bay or Amazon and look at product reviews. Just please make an informed decision rather then some sales guy selling you what makes him the most profit.

Stay tuned for my next blog on heads for tripods

Thanks for viewing today’s Blog!

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Getting ready for spring are you?

After enduring the coldest February on record I think everybody is ready extra early for spring and summer this year. Now that our days are starting to get longer and we have some warm sunny crc3days it won’t be long for all the new growth to start popping through the ground. As we approach this time of year we always get into the habit of spring cleaning. We do this as if it’s a new start to the year or season. Putting away all the winter stuff and getting all our lawn and garden equipment ready is only part of it. For people like us it’s more about getting our cameras outside and taking some pictures again. I have noticed this winter in particular, people have been staying inside due to the very cold temperatures. That’s quite alright as some people are just not built for the winter season and others like myself tend to melt in the summer so it’s a trade off. So let’s meet somewhere in the center like May 16th?

Side profileOn May 16th I will be holding a raptor in flight workshop at the Canadian Raptor conservancy. In hopes for warmer days we will be outside standing in a natural environment with a lush green backdrop. During this day we will be photographing raptors in flight such as the Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Harris Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Broad-winged Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl. Some static birds may include the Great Grey Owl, Snowy Owl, Peregrine Falcon and the Eurasion Eagle Owl.

Our sessions for the AM class will start at 8:30 with a brief instruction for our morning shoot. During the time we are in the field I will be walking around making sure you are all getting the photographs desired. After wearing out a battery and filling up a memory card or two our am session will end at 12 noon. The PM class will begin at 12:30 and as well will have a brief instruction on the afternoon shoot. Help will be provided for afternoon attendees as well to get the desired shots. Our Pm session will end at 4pm before the light falls behind the trees.

During the day we will be offering a mix of raptors throughout the AM and PM. Some birds will be repeated like the Golden and Bald Eagles and a few others but the order of birds will not be Bald Eagle in flightdetermined until the AM of the 16th. The cost for the raptors in flight is 149 plus HST for a half day, people will have the choice to pick a AM class or a PM class. Or the option is there to do both as a full day for 249 plus HST

So don’t miss out as this workshop is going to fill up fast!

For all inquires or enrollment please contact me at chrispepperphotography@gmail.com

 

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We are on the Air!!

Hello fellow photog’s and viewers!

Hanging out in BanffIt’s nice to be back on the air again and posting blogs for my viewers to see. Over the past few weeks I have been spending some time re vamping my site. Switching over to a WordPress site has been a bit of a learning curve but I now have a grip on things. I look forward to keeping you all posted on some product reviews, trip reviews and share some pictures from my recent outings.

Thanks for viewing my blog.

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