" Canon "

So you are going to shoot Canon…

Christmas is right around the corner and we thought we would put together three new blog articles this week.  One each about the brand choices you make when you decide to get something more than a Point and Shoot camera.  On Friday, Cory is going to cover mirrorless cameras as he is the Sony shooter among us.  Wednesday, Ben is going to tackle Nikon and today I’m going to tackle Canon.

First off, are any of these three camera bands better than the other.  Yes.  And No.  That’s not the answer I’m supposed to give right?  Like Apple versus Android, Mac versus PC, or Ford versus Dodge, I’m supposed to defend Canon to the death, right?  If you come to these three articles expecting that then you are going to be sadly disappointed.  To be sure, Canon gets a lot of things right, but so does Nikon and so does Sony.  You’ll certainly hear Ben and Cory extol their virtues later in the week.

So if they each have their good points, how did I end up with Canon?  A friend of mine had one of the Canon EOS Rebel film cameras in high school and I got to use it when we were working on yearbook together.  So when it came time to get my first DSLR I naturally gravitated toward the Canon.   When that first DSLR died in 2011, I could have switched to a different system at that point.  Well, mirrorless really wasn’t that big of a thing back then.  Photography is a very expensive hobby.  I already had a couple of lenses and a flash….and I guess I could have made the switch at that point.  But I wasn’t ready for that kind of financial hit.  To be honest, I really can’t understand how people like Cory can go from Canon to Olympus and then to Sony.  But then again I’m no where near the photographer Cory is.  So when he says that the Olympus and Sony are giving him more than he could get elsewhere, who am I to judge?

Now that all the preliminaries are out of the way and you either are already a Canon shooter or are soon to be one.  Where do you start?  I’m going to assume that if you really are a pro photographer and are in the market for the Canon 1D line of cameras there’s no reason for you to be reading this article at this point.  You really have three choices…..the entry line is the Canon T6.  You can get a nice basic kit for under $600 that comes with an 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm lens.  If you are just starting out, this isn’t really a bad choice but you are going to run into the limitations of the camera pretty quickly.  The next step up from that is the Canon 80D for double the price of the T6(I bought my camera several years ago, the 60D I have is equivalent to the 80D that is out now).  What do you get for the step up?  The 18-135mm lens that comes with the basic kit is much better than the 18-55 in the T6 kit I mentioned above for one.  The body on the 80D is weather sealed so if you get caught in a bit of the elements you are more protected (though the camera is not water-proof and you won’t be taking it underwater anytime soon).  The next big step up to the 80D is in the number of images the 80D can get at a time.  The T6 can only get you 3 frames per second while the 80D is more than double that at 7 frames per second.  This is a great feature when you are trying to get a lot of shots (like say on the Kilimanjaro Safari) or tracking fast action shots.  
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If you have money to burn, you can always give the Canon 5D mk IV a shot.  At almost triple the price over the 80D you the 24-70mm f/4L lens, a larger LCD screen, even more megapixels, and a ton of video capability.  If you aren’t going to be shooting video the 5D Mk IV is probably not the camera to get your first time out.

If you already have a kit set up and are looking for your next lens purchase in the Canon line, a lot of that depends on the kind of shooting you like to do.  Getting the Nifty-fifty for just over $100 is the no brainer.  Yes you most likely have this focal length already covered but the f/1.8 is what you are really looking for.  If you want to get shots on dark rides or in shows like Festival of the Lion King like the shot below you need a lens with a faster (lower) aperture number.  Canon also offers a Canon 50mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.2L.  I’ve never shot with the f/1.2L (although Cory has), but the f/1.4 is a great lens.  The only question you have to ask yourself is it better enough to spend the additional $200.  I’m quite shocked actually that the f/1.4 lens is down to $300.  When I first looked at the lens a few years ago it was over $400 which was hard to justify.  But at $300 the extra low-light capability is extremely tempting.  If you like shooting in low light situations, the 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 is a must.

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Another great lens is the Canon 70-200 IS IIf/2.8 lens.  I don’t own this one but I’ve rented it twice.  I love this lens and if I had the funds (if anybody reading this wants to get it for me for Christmas, I won’t say no).  The lens is huge and weighs a ton.  You might think that it’s kind of long for theme park photography but 200mm is quite fun for parades and close up shots of the animals on the safari.

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If you have all that then you might want to look at a tripod.  I have the MeFoto Roadtrip which has since been replaced by the MeFoto Roadtrip Air.  A tripod is a must if you plan on taking fireworks shots.  Since the camera is going to be open longer you need something that will keep the lens steady.  I reviewed the MeFoto Roadtrip here. I’m hoping to hear back from someone from MeFoto about getting a review unit for the Air to see how the new model compares.  The Roadtrip is still available on Amazon, so you can always go with the original model I have.  The new model is half the weight of the original Roadtrip which is a big plus.  But the maximum drops from 17 pounds to 13.2lbs and the maximum height is 4 inches shorter at 61″.  The weight probably isn’t an issue.  My Canon 60D and even a big lens like the 70-200 would still be ok, but I’m not sure I like the idea of the shorter height.  I’m tall (at 6’3″) and when you are trying to shoot over crowds out in front of Cinderella Castle for Wishes every inch on your tripod counts.

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If you (or the person you are buying for) has the camera and lenses covered there are a lot of smaller gifts you can get that are must haves in any camera bag.  I’ll make this quick as this article is already getting quite long.

  • There are tons of places where tripods aren’t allowed (thankfully Walt Disney World isn’t one of them, but Tokyo Disneyland is) or times where you don’t want to bring your tripod into the park.  Thankfully there are garbage cans and other flat surfaces throughout the park and there’s the Green Pod to support your camera.
  • This was probably the best $7 I’ve ever spent on photography.  Yes most modern cameras have a built in electronic level, but this little hot shoe mount level is a great little addition.
  • If you want to shoot fireworks, you’ll probably want to use an ND filter.  They come in different sizes for different lens.  We always recommend getting the largest ND Filter available.  Then you can get a set of step-up / step-down rings like these ones.  Now your ND filter (and any other filter you get) can fit on any one of your lenses.

The links you see in the article above are Amazon affiliate links.   You don’t pay anything extra for the gear I talk about but the site gets a small commission to keep things running.  I look forward to reading Ben and Cory’s pieces later this week.

 

Working in Layers – Symphony in the Stars Edition

I have had Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud for Photographers for a little over two years now.  For me, the $9.99 per month ($7.99 from this Amazon link) is a bargain.  A buddy of mine is a 3D artist and has always been my go-to resource for getting help in Photoshop, but back when I was using Photoshop Elements (a program I was getting every year for the latest features) I would always stumble into something where Rob would try explaining something to me only to find that those commands / feature wasn’t available in Elements.

I know I’ve said it here before but I’ll say it again and a thousand times more.  I wish I wrote stuff down while I was in the parks or followed a checklist.  I knew exactly what shot I wanted to get of Symphony of the Stars.  I knew that the lights along the Hollywood Boulevard would be dimmed during the fireworks, so I was going to need a “plate” image when the lights were still on.  I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I was still too dumb the first time I shot the fireworks to shoot a bracket of the image you see above.  What in the world was I thinking?  I was set up in my spot (just before the Sunset Boulevard intersection) thirty minutes before the show started and had plenty of time.  I just completely spaced it out.  Anyway, I was able to get a decent plate image (shown below).

Plate

I brought the raw image into Photoshop and made all of the adjustments I wanted.  Then I shot the fireworks as normal.  Remember when you are shooting a plate like this, you need to keep the camera in exactly the same spot without moving.  This is a concept I can completely understand.  But do you see those really tall, really skinny trees lining Hollywood Boulevard?  Those things are going to move on you, and sometimes they are going to move too much for this kind of merge technique to work.  It was pretty windy that night so they moved a lot on me.  Luckily there were several shots that things worked out ok.

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So the above image is one of the fireworks shots.  Again, I opened it up in Photoshop and made all of my adjustments.  Then I selected Layer -> Duplicate Layer and told Photoshop to add it to the original image as a new layer.  And when you look at the combined image, initially it looks EXACTLY the image above.  But wait, there’s more Photoshop trickery to be had!   To get the image at the top of the post you have to change the blend mode for the layers.  There are a lot of choices, but what we want is Lighten.

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And Bam!  You get the image like the one at the top of the article or this other one here below.  I wish I had shot a bracket for my plate (and then I could merge it into an HDR image).  But such is life, maybe next time.

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Lights, Motors, Action!

I’m back.  Sorry for being away so long.  My day job has been super crazy busy for the past few months but things are finally starting to slow down and I can get back to posting here.  Congrats to the Instagram account for passing 6,000 followers this week!

When it came time to plan out my Spring Break trip this past year, there were two things I really wanted to experience and both of them were at Hollywood Studios (I know, right?).  I’ll get to the other one in a later post, but the first thing I wanted to make sure I saw was Lights, Motors, Action!   I knew that LMA was going to be closing at the beginning of April and I realized I had skipped it the last time I was in the park.

When attractions close at Disneyland or Walt Disney World there is usually a groundswell of support online.  The usual discussions of starting a “Save This Attraction” campaign kicks in.  These discussions are trivial I know – since the powers that be have already slated the ride / show / park area to die and there is no stay of execution coming from the Governor’s Mansion.  But I was surprised that there really wasn’t much of a show of support for LMA.  In fact there were quite a few derisive comments as LMA was going down for the count.  Their were fans though, and I was among them.

 

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Stuntmen always fascinate me.  They do these incredible tricks and even set themselves on fire.

I usually don’t like to tell people they’re wrong, but I’m sorry they were.  It’s true the Hollywood Studios we have now is nothing of what the original mission of the Studios was to be (a working production studio), but with the closure of LMA, there is now only one attraction that tries to live up to that spirit.  Lights, Motors, Action! was at its very core, EXACTLY what the studios was meant to be.  I know, we still have a stunt show with Indiana Jones, but I will always think that LMA was a better show than Indiana Jones is.

You may recall I wrote here that I was upset that I didn’t have any good shots of the Osborne Lights before they closed. I didn’t want that situation to repeat itself with LMA so I made sure that I got some good action shots.  I actually misfired on the finale shot (shown above) when we attended the show the first time.  I had preset the camera up, focused on the right spot but I didn’t have the shutter speed dialed in and the shot ends up far too blurry.  I’m not sure what I was thinking.  When I looked at the back of the camera I knew I had blown it and was actually pretty down on myself about it.  As much as I like the show, I was in the parks with my family and I didn’t think we were going to be getting back to the Studios for another attempt at the shot.  Luckily I was wrong.

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Blown!  Worst attempt at the final ever.  Way to mess up the shutter speed.  Feel the blur.

Thankfully my family wanted to do a second day over at the Studios, so I was going to get a second shot at the show.  There was supposed to be a downpour during the late LMA show and it was predicted to rain the next day (LMA’s final performance day).  Since I’m not a local, I had no idea if LMA ran during the rain or not.  So I was determined to get the shot right this time.

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Flying through a wall of fire.

To get the shot you see at the top of this article I switched my Canon over to sport mode so I could get a lot of shots in a short period of time (the Canon 60D can hit 5.3fps).  Since I had seen the show a couple of days before the timing of it was better in my head and I could get the shot focused before the action (and switched the camera over to manual focus when I was ready).  I can’t emphasize this enough.  With shows like this that are repeating, having watched the show before is a big help for timing your shots and knowing where the action is going to be.  The shot you see at the top of the article still isn’t perfect.  The better shot would have been the first attempt where I blew the shutter speed.

As a side note, I would have thought the pyrotechnics during LMA were more precisely timed.  But take a look at the image just above this paragraph.  It looks like the pyros went off early as the car is jumping through a wall of flames.  I actually like the way that shot turned out a lot.  I wish the camera would have had a higher frame rate so I could have gotten a couple of frames before and after the above shot.

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Many of the crew were doing their last performances and took an extra bow at the end.

 

Well, it’s been closed for a month now.  The bulldozers and cranes have already started (if not finished) demolishing the stadium and the sets.  We have Toy Story Land coming in its place.  I’ve seen what a Toy Story Land can look like (having been to Hong Kong Disneyland) and I’m excited to see what the Florida version will be like.  But I’ll miss Lights, Motors, Action!

I’ll have another article on Wednesday, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll share the other thing I wanted to do at the Studios on Friday. All depends if I can get the shot edited in time.

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Nik is now free

Back in 2012, Google bought NIK Software and the photography community wondered what Google would do with their new found acquisition.  Well, they made the bold step of making it free as of this week.  Normally $150, this is a great deal.  Snap it up now and give it a whirl.

I’ll post some more details on using the software in the coming weeks, but I thought I would post an image that I edited with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.  The image was taken at Hong Kong Disneyland.