Category Archives: Product reviews and testing

10 Items you might be missing in your camera bag

Many people have had that moment when they get out to the field and realize they either forgot something or wished they would of brought something. So today I’m offering my top 10 ten list of what I make sure to keep in my bag to be prepared. Sometimes we run in to the unexpected out there and nothing ruins your day more than having to leave because you forgot something or you are forced to leave.

#10 A plastic bag Think of all the reasons why or how you can use a plastic bag. Let me share a few from my past experiences. One time I was out along a river in the winter and the snow was not that deep but it was super cold out. I managed to be standing on a shelf of ice and guess what……. Yep my foot broke through the ice. Most people in -15c would likely call it a day at this point. Well not me, it was a sunny day and I was out of the wind so I took my shoe and sock off and dried off my foot. Then I hobbled over to a tree ringed my sock out and hung it up to air dry in the sun. I then reached into my camera bag and guess what I used on my foot?? A plastic bag, then I put my shoe back on and although it was a little damp and cold my foot was dry. By the time I moved on my sock was semi dry and I just slipped it on over my plastic bag. See I’m not just a pretty face after all 😉 You can also use a bag to put clothes in if it get’s to warm or wrap your camera in if it rains or even to wrap around your camera if its super cold. This way when you bring your camera inside your house you can let it adjust to the climate and you wont get moisture spots on your sensor.

#9 Spare batteries Now batteries will add some extra weight to your pack but you wont be mad about that extra weight when you need one. I always have 4 camera batteries, a pack of double AA and a pack of AAA in my bag as well. I have a spare battery grip insert for my camera that if my camera batteries die I can always switch over to double A batteries. Or for my external flash as we all have experienced batteries go dead with them. Plus if it happens that a friends battery dies you always look like the hero.

#8 Pills Now what kind of fun is it to go out photographing stuff without pills. I’m just kidding by the way! I’m most likely the last person you will see to take a pill as I have tried to avoid them my whole life. But there will always be that moment where you will be in the middle of nowhere and think “dam I wish I had something for that” So let me list off a few things I have just encase a friend or myself needs something. And don’t laugh because my brother say’s I’m a walking drug store. I have Ibuprofen if somebody has a headache or hurts themselves. I have Advil cold and flu cause you just never know when a colds gonna kick you in the A**. I keep Reactine for people who suffer from allergies like myself and just can’t stop sneezing and snorting because you fell into a big weed patch. I have Tums for those days when lunch is just not sitting well and you have a little heartburn. I have Pepto bismol tablets because as the commercial says upset stomach diarrhea! You just never know when your traveling if you will pick up a bug or eat something a little off. Better to be bunged up like an older person who ate too much cheese then to be running off like a Kenyan in the Boston marathon looking for a bathroom.

#7 Spare memory cards There is nothing like getting out to a shoot and realizing you have half of a card full of pictures you forgot to upload. I have seen people missing “the moment” so many times because they are siting there deleting bad photos to make room for some keepers. Let me tell you, if you ever hear the words come out of my mouth that I have no more cards to use then I have been shooting a tone! I carry 2×64 gig cards, 2×32 gig cards and 2×16 gig cards. I don’t like to run out of space if I don’t have to. And again you sure look like the hero when you say to your friend “here use this one I don’t mind” So it’s always better to error on the side of caution with extra cards.

#6 Multipurpose tool We have all had a moment or will have more moments where something comes loose on our gear and we could use a tool to tighten something. Or that moment when you could of used a knife to cut something or open something up. Don’t be the idiot standing there trying to improvise with some random item from your pocket. Be the man or handy lady that makes Macgyver proud that you had the tool for the job.

#5 Camera remote Don’t try to fool yourself that you can take long exposures without a remote. Just avoid the possibility of camera shake and care about the end quality of your images. Most cameras have a budget model of remote that has a hold feature for bulb mode. At the most it will be 30-40 dollars for a low end remote that will make you look more professional at your hobby or carrier.

#4 Micro fiber cloth Lint free cloths are a great way to help clean any unwanted dust or water spots off of your lens. As long as you keep them clean they will work wonders for you. Try to find something to keep you cloth in as putting it in your pant pocket is usually a lint disaster for a cloth. A plastic bag or a pouch always keeps your cloth free from the elements.

#3 Spare camera Now some people may not be able to afford a spare camera. But if you are traveling or you are a professional photographer 2 cameras is a must. You have way to much to loose if something goes wrong with your camera. One you will look like an idiot in front of your client if your are portraying yourself as a professional. Or if you plan to travel to a destination to take pictures and something happens you will be so upset that your lost that picture of a moment in time. Even if you have a small point and shoot it’s better then not having a second camera at all.

#2 Camera and lens cleaning kit There is nothing more of a pain then to look at your picture in your viewfinder and see a bunch of spots on your image. I always carry a sensor cleaning kit with me that is above and beyond the norm. Here is what I keep in my kit, Arctic Butterfly for clearing unwanted dust, a Quasar loupe which is a magnify glass with lights on it to see more than the naked eye, Giotto’s rocket air blower again used to remove dust. last sensor cleaning tool are swabs from Visibledust, remember to make sure you buy the right size swabs for your camera sensor size.

#1 Tape No matter the case a man can temporarily repair anything with enough tape. Plus you have an option to choose your weapon, duct tape, electrical tape, gaffers tape or all of the above. Many times we may damage something out in the field and need a quick repair. For all of us with large strong hands tiny pieces of plastic can be easily broken by accident. There are many reasons for tape and if you don’t have it in your bag you will never learn how to be creative with it.

So there you have it, this is my top 10 list of items you should keep in your camera bag. Now I’m sure most of you will think I don’t need all of that as it will just create extra weight. But when something happens out in the field just remember my face saying “I told you so!”
Have a great weekend everybody and enjoy the sun and warmer weather we are due for.

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The new Sigma 150-600 Sport Review

Today’s blog is about the new Sigma 150-600 Sport.Sigma-150-600mm-DG-OS-HSM I must admit for the past 4 years now I have switched over some of my lenses to sigma and it has not been a disappointing decision. My first purchase was the sigma 120-400 lens and for me it was all about the cost for focal length. This lens did more then I expected for the price I paid and still to this day wish I had it as a back up for how light of a lens it was. Selling my 120-400 to buy the 120-300 f2.8 sport was another great decision to stay faithful to the sigma line up. This lens continues to blow me away with sharp optics and a fast HSM to keep up with moving subjects. Now before I bought this lens I kept reading reviews before it come to the market about why would you buy a lens that has to come with a docking station to tune your lens. It should be perfect quality right out of the box and never need to be adjusted. So I got to try out the lens for a weekend before I bought it and without docking it I had great out of the box pictures. Over the first month of owning my lens, two firmware updates come out for it I thought oh no now whats wrong with my lens. No nothing was wrong with it, Sigma found through a series of testings different ways to optimize different functions of my lens. With each update my lens kept getting better and better, different Af speeds that I can customize and have a switch on my lens that I can change on the fly. Better sharpness at certain increments through out the whole focal length! Most people don’t realize that zoom lenses tend to have best optical quality from the first 1/4 to the last 3/4 of the lens.sigma docking station Before or after these area’s most lenses tend to be a little soft. Well after a few tweaks on my dock station I have not a worry about any part of the range on my lens. Now this docking station cost me something like 75 dollars? So really was it worth it? Every dam penny I say!! Here is another reason why I like it that steps a little above and beyond.

Most people go to the camera store with big piles of cash bz1125-cashor a never never card ( that’s what my Mom called a credit card :) ) and expect to buy a top of the line lens for their camera and think it’s going to create great pictures. And I will admit for the most part you will get great results, but that camera and lens are not perfectly matched and here is why. I read this once and it made perfect sense as to why you never have a perfect match. Let’s say you are the camera and your vision is not 100 % at birth. lets say if 0 was perfect and you had 98% vision at birth your new score was -5 and then you got bumped around and knocked a few times by your older stronger but not better looking brother. With a few years on the old body now your at a -10 and you decide I need a new set of glasses, so you buy a new lens to put on your body and this lens was made so good that it’s optics were +5 so even better then perfect. You put that lens on your body and holy cow I can see again. The optical quality is amazing!! But in all reality you don’t have a perfect vision because a 0 body and a 0 lens makes 100% optics. I once read that a brand new camera and body can be out of match by approximately 10% right out of the factory. So when you are dealing with a game of inches, centimeters and millimeters to getting the quality you expect for that 1 in a million picture your about to take I would hope your gear is at 100%lens align So basically we can fix this issue in camera with an alignment tool set at a certain distance with a certain aperture to achieve a 100% match with your lens and body. Now there is a big downfall here to having a zoom lens. When you make this adjustment in camera you can only make one adjustment, so for fixed focal lenses or prime lenses ie. 100mm, 200mm, 300mm ect this will be just fine but if you buy a zoom lens you have to make a few attempts at different focal distances and average out your adjustment. Well for me that’s not good enough, I want perfect all the way through. So with the docking station I can adjust my lens to do exactly what I want at different increments through my focal range. Now that skeptical piece of equipment called a docking station just made my day for 75 dollars!!

Now let’s get back on track to the purpose of the blog, the 150-600 Sport. This lens was tested while at a workshop that was put on by Len Silvester and Kevin Pepper(K2) through North of 49 Photography, a great winter experience for photographing snowy owls. First notes of the lens was that the zoom felt a little stiff to me? Well two options come to mind that could effect this and here they are. One the lens come fresh out of the box and I would expect that a new lens would feel a little tight, plus the new water proof seals may of had something to do with it. Second possible reason could be that it was -27 degrees out in the middle of a field shooting snowy owls. Sigma 150-600, sigma 150-600 review, Chris Pepper Photography, snowy owl workshops So is it normally a stiff lens I’m not to sure as I only had 8 hours to use it. Second observation was that the foot or lens mount was a little to small for me to hold with my big hands and gloves on. For people who have normal hands this should not be a problem 😉 To be honest these are the only two complaints I have about this lens, as the rest was a very positive experience. Having this lens to test on a day like that one sure allowed me to put it through the ropes. Like I mentioned it was -27c in the middle of a windy field and this lens trooped thought the whole day with out one hiccup. The Af stayed just as fast from the minute I took it out into the field to when we were done for the day. Testing it at all different apertures between F5.6 and F11 allowed me to track and have a fast enough AF to stop a Snowy owl dead in its flight path.Sigma 150-600, Snowy owl Sigma 150-600, Chris Pepper Photography Another feature I really liked about it was the three different focal limits the lens has. So for people who don’t know what focal limits are I will quickly explain this for you. So for example this lens has a limit of 2.8 meters to 10 meters or 10 meters to infinity or full. Full allows the lens to focus all through the focal distance at any distance, but the advantage to having the other two setting are so the AF system can be super fast when it’s limited. So if your subject is 2.8 – 10 meters away constantly you would want to switch to this feature so the lens could be noticeable faster then on full. Only downfall is if your subject is out of this distance the lens says nope sorry bud I’m gonna relax and wait before that thing comes back into my set focal distance before I can focus again. So the function can suck at times, but for this particular shoot it was awesome! I also flipped around the factory AF speed setting and found the lens had no issues keeping up with the snowys.Sigma 150-600, Snowy Owl Sigma150-600, Photography workshops, Chris Pepper Photogaphy

Final thoughts on this lens sigma 150-600Ok here we go, I thought for the price this lens was valued around a average market value of 2499 It was worth every penny. It provided what I would consider good clear optical quality right out of the box and not adjusted to my camera. If I had the time to dock the sucker and then rip it again I’m sure that would improve as I noticed a big difference with my 120-300 once it was done. The fact that this lens is compatible with a 1.4x teleconverter is incredible with the possible focal distance of 840mm you can achieve with still having your AF at a aperture of F8. I did notice that that creamy bokeh was just not quite there when shooting a subject at a far distance at F6.3 but once the subject was closer to me it seemed to improve. With this lens having a close minimum focal distance it will allow you the best look while shooting subjects close up. Another mention would be some vignetting noticed in my images while processing, this cleared up perfectly once my camera corrections were used in photoshop. All in all this lens is a heavy one, the 150-600 contemporary version is to be the same weight as the Tamron 150-600 but the sport is heavier weighing in at 6.3 pounds. So if you have the arm to hand hold this beast or a tripod to mount it to you will definitely have people looking at you with lens envy. I hope you enjoyed my review on this lens and learned a little bit about calibrating lenses to cameras. My goal is to inform you based on my opinion of what I think about this lens and I would have to say I like it. In my opinion it’s one of the best telephotos compared to the canon 100-400 the nikon 80-400 or the previous sigma 150-500. I think once these lenses are finally released to the public it’s going to be a hot item on the market.

Thanks you reading today’s Blog, I will add a few links at the bottom of the page for your interests. One to Sigma’s page about the 150-600 lens another to a good alignment tool I use, one to BJ photo labs for there price and another link to our snowy owl workshops.

Sigma 150-600 link

lens alignment tool link


Today’s Blog is called RTFM, so if you don’t know what RTFM stands for then pay attention. Read The Fricken Manual or in some cases Fricken can be replace with another word :) So why would I write a Blog called RTFM? Well I have many people that come to my workshops that decide their camera can take pictures for them. Well in a sense a camera can take the picture but you still have to tell it what to do. So today I’m going to tell you what parts of the manual to read and what parts you can skip over. So are you ready???? The first part you can skip over in your manual is …… none of it!! If you don’t know how your camera works how do you expect to use it?

So let’s go over some important part’s of the manual that you should know and these are the very basics for photography. First will be the mode dials so Shutter speed ISO and Aperture these are very important to understand. If you don’t understand how to use them you will never be able to understand the exposure triangle.exposure-triangle If you don’t know what the exposure triangle is that’s a discussion or blog for another day. But these key dials or buttons are very important so please understand how they work.

White balance is a good one to understand as well. Sure you can shoot in Auto white balance and expect that you can adjust it later in photoshop or lightroom. But you should still make an attempt to adjust it before you shoot as it will bring the tones of the proper colours.white_balance_symbols Or another one to know is how to manually set your white balance with a grey or white card this will ensure your colour balance will be correct under different lights.

Metering seems to be a big one people struggle with, even people who shoot for a long time.index Understanding what metering mode is the right one for you to use in a particular scene can be the difference of coming home with a picture that’s a keeper or one that’s no good because its under or over exposed.

Camera_tips_AF_mode.94_set3AF modes are a very important piece of the puzzle that people struggle with. Each brand of camera has a different name for the AF modes so understand what one is the best for your situation, weather it’s a moving subject or a stationary subject these modes will be different.

AF points are something that people always have trouble with, using the proper amount of AF points can make a big difference between shooting landscape and shooting a fast moving bird in flight.

I really can’t stress enough about how important it is to know your camera and how it works. There are so many hidden tools in your camera to help you in your journey to photography. For example most cameras have a histogram to allow you to view how much your exposure is under or over exposed.histogram_en Or a virtual horizon tool to help make sure your camera is almost level when you take your picture. Or a live view grid to make sure you have a scene set up in proper composition. Take a look in your menus for all these hidden functions to help Aid in your photography.

So I hope after reading this Blog nobody looks at you and says RTFM! Cause the difference between a ok photographer and a good photographer is one that knows every little function and how it works. The rest of it all comes with experience in the field so don’t get to perplexed.

It’s all in the Bag!

On today’s Blog I would like to talk about Camera bags.lowepro-pro-runner-200-aw-dslr-trekking-backpack Over the years I have owned many different types of camera bags and I must admit I will likely own many more. But what really makes a good camera bag? Is it the size? Is it how it feels? Well Camera bags are definitely a preference thing, so let’s go over a few things that will help in your first or next decision on buying a bag.

Most people buy a camera bag for a place to put some gear in so they can take more stuff with them to a destination. Something to think about when buying a bag is what size will be the best for me.lowepro-protactic-450-aw-wearing Are you buying a bag for day trips that you can throw a few lenses in and a couple accessory’s. Or are you looking for a bag that you can take on a plane and travel with. It’s all a fine balance of what really works for all the gear and keeping it small so you don’t have to pay for oversize luggage or so it fit in a overhead compartment. Plus you also don’t want something to big or you will be walking like Quasimoto after your trip. Another thing is do you want a bag that can hold a laptop as well?

So this is how I choose a bag and I recommend you do the same to. I take all my gear to the camera store and say this is what I need to put in a new camera bag.Lowepro-Pro-Trekker-II-AW-Camera-Backpack-Open I want something that is comfortable and offers good support while attached to my back. Remember if you are lugging a ton of gear you need to buy a bag that will spread the weight across your back evenly. You also need to tell them what other acessorys you would like in your bag. They all seem to have different stuff that is included, so see what one suites your needs best. Here are a few options I like to have in my camera bag. I seem to be fond of compartments to keep memory cards in. Memory cards are something that no matter how much I try to be careful with, I will loose. So for me to have one spot with no excuses to stash cards in saves me money in the long run.LWP-APEX-140AW-OPEN Another big seller for me is a bag that includes a holder and straps to put my tripod on. This has worked really well when I was hiking the mountains in BC, Alberta, Washington, Poland and Quebec as it allows you to have both of your hands free on hard trails. Compartments with zippers are a big one too! Nothing like opening your bag to find out all your small acessorys have been rattling around your camera and lenses for your hour + hike. One thing I like about Lowepro is they all come equipped with a rain cover that will tuck away in the bottom of the bag. This has come in handy for me a few times and ironically both were in a rainforest, one out in Bc and another in Jamaica.

tumblr_ksixwdNV191qz7lxdo1_500It’s always a tough call as to what bag will make you happy in the long run. I always like to make sure I have a bag that I can always have room for another lens or two if I decide to buy some later. This way you are not spending the money again on another bag! Larger bags can also make a good place to bring a few beers on a over night camping trip. Well good luck on your next purchase.
Here is a link to help find the right pack for you. click here

I just wanted to thank you all for reading my introduction to equipment blogs. I hope I have helped inform some of you on what to look for when spending money on this expensive hobby! I have been doing some research on what types of blogs I would like to offer you for the future. In doing so I have decided to offer specific product reviews on new and old gear to help keep you all up to date on what’s hot and whats not. I have been talking with a few different companies about reviewing there equipment and they have said yes so I can’t wait to share so more info with you soon. As well I have decided to offer some insight on traveling to specific destinations in the world and some random species spotlights. So I hope you enjoy what I have to offer for you in the future!!

50 shades of grey

On today’s blog I would like to talk to you about filters. So for all of you who read the title and thought this was a raunchy sex type post, sorry! Filters for photography have been around forever, over the years techniques have changed a little but the fundamentals of being a creative photographer are still the same. Stepping out into the creative world of filters can be addicting, it is also known to cause lack of sleep, disappearance of extra funds in your bank account, many wasted hours processing photos and the need to travel for that next shot once your hooked. So lets go over some filters that are available for photographers today. First we have a UV or protective filter.3111_filtry-all2 Then we have Polarizer that helps cut down the harsh sun. We also have ND filters that cut out light to create longer exposure times. And of course the old faithful color filters. So let’s talk a little more about these types of filters and what they really do.

Haze filters or UV filters seem to be a great seller for most photography businesses. The average person will buy one of these filters when buying a new lens for the protective value that it adds to the glass of the lens. It also will cut down the glare on water or harsh light in landscapes. So as much as people think they are doing something good for there images they really are degrading some of the image quality. When a lens is designed it is made to what technicians feel is optimal quality, adding that one more piece of glass can have that much effect on your image. Sometimes these filters will add more flare from direct sun or in the nighttime they can add star bursts from specific light sources. This also depends on the type of lens that you install this filter on as well.maxresdefault So the real trade off you have to think about is, do I need to protect my lens? Or will I gamble and remove it so I get a better picture? I will tell you this much that a 20-30 dollar filter is a lot cheaper then to repair or replace a lens, so you decided.

Next we should talk about those polarizer filters and what they can do for you. Polarizers are designed to cut out some of that harsh light so you can get more depth in your clouds and give it that rich blue sky.polarizer-filter-example Or they can also cut down some light to give you a more real look of water, removing the glare and adding deep tones. Some polarizers filters can also be circular, meaning that you can rotate the filter to adjust it properly on your horizon. But be careful when using these filters because if it’s a strong one and you don’t have it aligned properly to your landscape you will have a funny looking line across your image. Best way to tell is to aim it up towards the sky and adjust the filter so you can see the defined line. Another problem people have with these filters is they do not work when facing the sun. You must be facing 90 degrees from the sun. So the easiest way to remember this is to face the sun and what ever direction your shoulders are turned will be the best light for your filter.

filter-in-holderOk so ND filters are a very popular filter on the market right now. When you are looking into buying one I would suggest doing some research in regards to the color cast that can be created by them. So the idea of a ND filter is to cut out the light and trick the camera into thinking it’s darker outside then it really is. What this does is it allows you to get a slower shutter speed to create a long exposure. Some examples would be that soft silty looking water from rivers or waterfalls. Or another example would be that streaked look of the sky that you see in nighttime long exposures. Or one of my favorites would be the look of some rides at the fall fair in the nighttime.fair crop ND or Neutral Density can be fairly expensive and usually require a proprietary holders for that specific type of filter to mount onto your lens. The holder can again increase the total cost of owning one of these setups. Some people would rather purchase a regular screw on type filter instead of the holder style. One thing I should mention is that the lip on a screw on filter should be slim if you are shooting with a wide angle lens or you will catch the lip in your photos.

Many people still ask me if they should get color filters for there DSLR so this is what I tell them.rodenstock-filtry-1000x750 The usual color filters for BW film are not very useful in digital world as these can easily result overexposure in one channel and leave the other channels underexposed and noisy. Putting a strong color filter in front of your lens means that you are using your digital camera inefficiently, as for example in case of red/blue filter, you’re using just 25% of your available pixels and 50% in case of green. However people who shoot black and white photography and do not use editing software these filters can still be of use. Black and White is a balance of dark blacks and white whites so to use a filter to make a channel stronger can result in a more impacting contrast in a photo. For those of you that have editing software this can all be done at your fingertips without filters.

If you would like to learn more about how to use some of these filters please join me on one of my composition workshops. The workshops we will be using filters on will be 50 Point sunrise, Night photography into a sunrise, Golden hour workshop, Fall colors in Paris and the Fall fair. We will work together using your filters to make sure you bring home the pictures you desire.
click here for my 2015 classes

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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 😉 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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