Category Archives: Workshops

Introduction to photography

intro to phtography, landscape photography, long exposure phtography, Chris Pepper
I would like to welcome you to my introductory to photography workshop. We will be spending two days in class helping you get ready for the outside world of photography for 2016.
In this class we will be covering many points to make sure you feel comfortable with a camera in your hands. Let’s face it many people at one point have bought a camera that is beyond there skill level. Using these cameras in the basic program mode can result in poor photos with less then 90% utilization of the rest of the cameras functions. So lets take your photography to the next level.

My goal is to make sure all participants are ready to go out on their own with full knowledge of basic fundamentals to take great pictures. Here are some of the topics I will be covering in this workshop. First we will learn about what steps we need to think about when we take a picture. Basic rules of composition, how to read light, what is aperture, shutter speed and ISO. What lens should I use for this type of application. focus points, metering and white balance. And most importantly what are all these buttons for on my camera?

Once we put it all together I can then start teaching you on day two how we take these pictures you all want to take. Through a series of steps you will take pictures indoors that will allow you to understand why the camera is working the way it does. Once you understand these practices we will learn how to manipulate the camera into taking pictures the way we want it to by creative techniques.

Why take this course with me? I have been teaching on average 5-10 students per month entry level photography for the last 5 years. I have a high repeat clientele base as I’m a personable guy that likes to have fun while teaching. Many people have taken photography courses and have gone out with me on a basic 4 hour workshop and have claimed I taught them more in 4 hours then they learned in 6 months, and they now understand whats going on.

So let’s take your photography to the next level by learning in a stress free environment, with practical teachings so you can understand just how easy photography can be!

Our workshop will take place in Kitchener on Saturday January 23rd 9am-4pm and Sunday January 24th from 9am to 1pm
Cost: $99.00 plus HST (111.87)
Payment options are PayPal, E transfer or mailed check no later then 1 week prior to workshop.

What you should bring.
-Camera and lenses
-notebook or laptop for taking notes
-one small personal item on day 2 to take a picture of (Item should be no bigger then 6 inches) no live animals please :)
-creative mind
-positive attitude

I look forward to seeing you there!!

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How come I never got that picture?

Hello everybody!

It has been quite a while since I have wrote a blog on here so I figured it was time to spark things up again. Today I wanted to talk about what the average photographer will miss while they are at a travel destination. While we were out running a workshop this summer in Nova Scotia we were crossing the ferry coming back from a whale watching tour. I noticed the sun was on a very low angle and if we could find something fast to photograph we would be rewarded with a fireball sky over the Bay of Fundy. It just so happened that there was a light house right out on the point across the straight from us. So we stopped the car and waited for the magic to happen. Now this is what I mean by how people can miss a picture that is right in front of them. This is an image of what caught my eye.

Chris Pepper,photography workshops, Canadian photography workshops

So you can see that we were quite a distance from our subject. The landscape looked nice but it needed something more to help the image along. Hmmmm I thought to myself what can we do here?? Because of the time of the day the tide was rising and the flow of water was quite fast. The clouds were moving a little bit to the right so I thought hey lets tell the clients to try out there ND filters. So I helped everybody get set up and we started to take a few pictures. The results turned out just awesome I though, the motion was captured as to be expected and it gave the image a totally different look.

Chirs Pepper, long exposure, Northof49photography, canadain photography workshops

So reviewing the image above, I cropped out a bit of the sky to just keep in the colour and remove some of the blue. I kept the foreground as I thought the motion captured from the water helped give a sense of movement in the image. After helping the clients out with there images I had another idea! I told the clients we should put on a larger lens so we could isolate the lighthouse and frame it on our left. This way we could try to make the image look more appealing with proper rules of composition. Now do remember that rules are meant to be broken! So here was our first image we took with our larger lenses.

Chris Pepper, North of 49 photography, Boars island lighthouse, Canadain photography workshops, Nova Scotia,

This image was taken @ 420mm, you can now see that the sun is nothing more then a fireball behind our subject (the light house) and the shadow on the rocks has now become a complete silhouette due to exposing for the sky. Isolation from the telephoto lens has created a completely new perspective of this scene now. It removed a large body of water and a large portion sky to keep us right on target to what we were looking to achieve. Now I wont say I like this image more than the others, but it is a completely different look that I’m sure many people would never have captured. Last I wanted to add another edit of the same crop with my telephoto but in black and white.

Chris Pepper, North of 49 photography, Lighthouse photography workshop, Nova Scotia

Although I do like the black and white image as it offers a balance of dark blacks and light whites. But in all honesty do you think it tells a story the way the colour pictures do? I think when you size it up to the photo above it totally lots its oomph.

So let’s wrap up today on a note about perspective. Most photographers that are beginning have lots to learn in the means of being creative. Let’s face it, there are those who have a huge creative side to themselves and pic up a camera and never skip a beat. Then there is the other half of the people that think photography would be a fun hobby. These people buy a camera and struggle because they only take pictures and don’t make pictures. This blog is a classic example of how 4 pictures can look so different but yet be taken from the exact same location. And when I say location I mean my tripod never moved from the same spot. I used 3 different focal lengths, 3 different edits and one long exposure. While your out photographing the rest of the summer try to step back and think outside of the box. Nobody can ridicule you for trying something new, being creative is what makes us all different. If you are a landscape photographer and you are trying to to get noticed you really need to sit back and think what will make my picture look totally different then everybody else?

Happy shooting and thanks for taking the time to read my blog today!

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Behind the scenes of what goes on in the Raptors in Flight Workshop

Today’s blog is on behind the scenes of the Raptors in flight workshop.Raptors in flight workshop, photography workshops, photographing bald eagles, photographing golden eagles, photographing owls, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, Chris Pepper Photography, Chris Pepper People have many questions when they contact me about this workshop, so I wanted to help clarify some information for you. First thing is who is this workshop designed for? This workshop is designed for anybody and everybody with all different skill levels. There is no need to be a superstar photographer to attend this workshop. You don’t need a big fancy 600mm lens or have to ware camo clothes to attend, but if you know me I will likely have some type of camo on. :) So let’s take a little walk through on how to be prepared for the Raptors in flight workshop. 1 month before we start our workshop I will send all the attendees my first email.Birds in flight workshop, photographing raptors, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, photographing owls, photographing eagles, photographing hawks, Chris Pepper Photography, Chris Pepper This email will contain some tips and tricks to settings and how to photograph birds in flight. As well some encouragement to get out and practice before we meet up so you feel somewhat comfortable once we attend. I also encourage people to contact me if they are having any troubles with there practice sessions so we can work out as many bugs before hand if possible. 1 week prior I will again contact all the attendees to make sure they have all there gear ready with a list of what to bring and how to dress for the occasion. I like to make sure everybody is prepared as much as possible once we get out to our location.

The morning of our workshop I will be on location waiting for your arrival 30 minutes before our session starts. During this time we can relax and get to meet each other and go over some details about our day together. I will walk you over to the fields we will be photographing in to show you some great spots to shoot from and explain the direction of the raptors flight paths and what way the sun will be coming from. Together throughout the day we will work out what ever bugs you may be having. My attendance is to make sure you are having fun and getting all the shots you desire. During our shoot we also have the chance to ask our falconer (James) any questions we would like to about the raptors we will be photographing. This will also help you with identifying raptors out in our local fields by learning colours and feather patterns, or just the characteristics of the flight that these raptors have. Some of the raptors we could be photographing are the Harris’ Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, Broad-winged hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Golden Eagle and Bald Eagle. Static birds could include an Eurasian Eagle Owl, Swainson’s Hawk, Peregrine, Aplomado Falcon, Great Grey Owl and a Snowy Owl. Because all of these raptors fly a little different we will be working on your placement to ensure you get different angles and backgrounds for the shots you want.Raptors in flight workshop, Chris pepper photography, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, During these periods when we move around we can work on placement according to what lens size you are working with. If you want to use a wide angle and be feet away from a Bald Eagle coming straight at you that can be arranged. If you would like a Great Horned Owl to fly right over top of you that can be done to. It’s all about being creative and using the lens you have with these well trained raptors. Raptors in flight workshop, Ontario photography workshops, canadian photography workshops, North of 49 photography, Chris Pepper Photography, As well throughout the day we will be bringing out some birds that are for just static shots. We will place them in environment type settings to give you the most natural setting pictures possible. This also allows people who are struggling with some flight pictures to take there time and get a proper compositional static photo to make a big canvass of one day.

Everybody I would like you to meet James,James James is our falconer that will be working with us all day. During our selection period for finding a falconer his resume stood out with his many years of experience and extensive devotion to his raptors. Besides providing these photography workshops for us he is very involved in the raptor industry. James owns one of the largest captive breeding projects in the world. He has over 200 captive-bred birds at his facility. He regularly breeds over 15 different species each year. Many are endangered species and some of their offspring are sent back into the wild through organized release projects around the world. All of his birds that he use for our workshops are captive-bred. So on top of working with his breeding project James also is involved in caring for sick and injured birds of prey that have come from wild populations. They work very closely with veterinarians to assess injuries and try, if at all possible, to return the birds back to the wild. He typically takes in over 50 birds per year into his rehab program. Most people would think that sounds like a full time job on it’s own but he still does more. James and his crew use trained Birds of Prey to scare and remove unwanted bird species from a pre-determined place. This is accomplished by relying on the natural predator-prey relationship that exists between raptors and other bird species. This natural bird control method is environmentally friendly in that it does not rely upon killing the pest species; instead it relies on scare tactics, which is more effective as the pest species learns to avoid the given area. This Bird Control Method is applied at landfill sites, airports and industrial sites.

As we wrap up our day together we will go over any questions anybody may still have for myself or James. During this time we can talk briefly on some tips for editing so your new pictures can pop off the computer at you. I also encourage people to contact me if they are having any editing issues as I would be happy to help you. So there you have it this is my behind the scenes of the Raptors in Flight workshop.

It would be great if you could join us for my next May 16th workshop as I still have some spots available for both AM or PM classes.
Half day workshops are 149 plus HST and full day workshops are 249 plus HST

For more information please Email me at

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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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