Newsletter of E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer and www.EJPhoto.com
All contents ©2006 E.J. Peiker
(Vol 4 , Issue 4)
Welcome to the quarterly update from E.J. Peiker Nature Photography. In this quarterly email publication, I will keep you all posted on upcoming workshops including the DuckShop Series as well as sharing some photos and experiences with you. I will also give you brief impressions on any new equipment that I get the opportunity to use and any other general information in the world of digital nature photography. Please feel free to forward this along to other photographers and interested parties. If you would like to be added or deleted to the mailing list or if you would like copies of past issues, just send me an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After years of wanting to go to this otherworldly and oft photographed location, I finally got my opportunity to photograph Mono Lake for 5 days in mid September. The water level is now at its highest level since Los Angeles started diverting water in the 1940’s and only 5 feet from its target level due to limiting the amount that LA is allowed to divert and a record snow fall/snow melt winter in 2005/2006. While this makes some of the classic Mono Lake shots no longer possible, it also opens up new photographic compositions different from those we have been seeing for over 50 years. I was blessed with some great light during this trip and clear skies at night which allowed me to perfect my star trail techniques. Look for an article on star trails photography in an upcoming issue of NatureScapes’ monthly on-line articles. I also found that the Canon 45mm tilt and shift lens is becoming a workhorse for me. As many of you know, I prefer to use somewhat longer focal lengths in landscape photography than many as I often prefer the more normal perspective of a “normal” focal length in the 35mm to 70mm range over the expanded perspective of a super wide angle lens. The problem with this is that depth of field is much more challenging with longer focal lengths. This is where my 45mm and 90mm Tilt Shift lenses come in. I used the 45mm on at least half of the photographs I took on this trip as well as my forays into the eastern part of Yosemite National Park.
Clearing up Depth of Field Misconceptions
While on the subject of maximizing Depth of Field (DOF), quite often a photographer hears or sees written the following fallacy: Depth of Field extends one third in front of the critical focus point and 2/3 behind. What they don’t tell you is that this is only true as the far end of focus gets close to infinity focus. Practically speaking, if the subject is more than 4 times the minimum focus distance of the lens, it has approximately 1/3 of it total depth of field in front of the plane of critical focus and 2/3 behind. Therefore, if photographing a close subject near the minimum focus point of the lens and you want to maximize the front to back depth of field, focus halfway between the front and the back of the area that you want to keep sharp. If on the other hand the subject is some distance away, focusing 1/3 of the way in from the closest point to the farthest point will render maximum depth of field. To prove the point, here are some calculations using a 500mm lens near minimum focus. With the lens set at 20 feet and f/32 then using the DOF formulas, the DOF extends from 19.6 feet to 20.4 feet - so focusing halfway in will put more of the subject in focus than 1/3 of the way in. On the other hand if you were 250 feet away then the DOF would extend from 193 feet to 353 feet so focusing in 1/3 of the way would be much more accurate.
New Products to Make Life Easier
As always I am on the lookout for products that make photography easier or better and put them to the test in real world field situations. Here are a couple of things that I have integrated into my photography recently that just make things better:
Compact NP-3 Battery Charger
Finally after all of these years, someone has introduced a lightweight compact size charger for travel with your EOS 1 series of cameras. No longer do you need to carry the large, bulky and overweight canon charger when you travel. The NatureScapes store now has a product from Singapore that is small and super light compared to the Canon charger and does a fantastic job. Don’t throw your canon charger away though because every few charge cycles you will want to do a battery refresh which is only available via the Canon charger. But this can be done at home between photo shoots. Check out http://www.naturescapes.net/store/product.php?productid=185&cat=0&page=1&featured for this superb product
Really Right Stuff Panorama Slider and Panorama Base
For years I have been doing stitched panoramas with the camera mounted on a tripod and ballhead. To get decent alignment between the multiple photos that make up the panorama you have to painstakingly level the tripod (some get help from leveling heads to accomplish this more quickly but the bubble levels on these are generally not precise enough for critical leveling). In addition to this problem, if you have a foreground object close to the camera and an landscape in the distance, there is a perspective shift in the foreground object relative to the landscape in the distance (even with a tilt/shift lens). All of this conspires to make some panoramas, especially ones with a prominent foreground element, very difficult to take in a way that they will stitch together without introducing curvature and other distortions to the panorama. In order to solve this problem, the axis of rotation for the camera and lens as you pan needs to be aligned to the nodal point of the lens. Without a lengthy technical explanation, this is the point in the lens where all lines converge on a single point prior to inverting the image for transmission to the film or sensor plane. To do this, the camera/lens has to be able to slide back on the tripod head. You determine exactly how much by sliding back until the relative position of an object close to the lens and one far away no longer changes when panning the camera side to side. Really Right Stuff has the premiere panorama accessories for your tripod head in the world. I recently acquired their second generation panorama slider and the panorama panning base. These items replace the standard tripod mounting base (yes my beloved clamp is gone on my BH-55 head but my BH-40 retains the clamp). You can then figure out the nodal point for the lenses that you are most likely to use prior to going in the field. Note the index number from the slider and write them down (make sure you take readings from various focal lengths of your zooms). I have put a sticker on the slider with at the proper values for my various lenses and at major focal length values (24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 85mm, 105mm for my 24-105mm zoom for example). One thing I have learned doing this exercise is that most Canon lenses have their nodal point just behind the front element – this information can be useful if in a hurry. To learn more visit http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/pano/index.html
Apple iPod Nano 8GB
While not strictly a photographic product (although you can store photos on it) the new iPOD Nano has become a constant companion when I am shooting. The 2nd generation Nano is a dramatic improvement over the very popular original Nano. With double the capacity at 8GB of flash memory and the same $250 retail price as the old 4GB model it is a better value and now can hold enough music to not here a song twice on a week shoot. The biggest improvement is that Apple went from a very scratch prone polymer surface to an all anodized aluminum scratch resistant case that is also much more rugged. The Nano keeps me entertained during my 45 minute star trail photos and on flights to and from my photo destinations. It is playing in my ears as I am typing this on a US Airways flight.
Profiling Adobe Camera Raw for Your Camera
Over the last year I have moved my entire RAW camera file workflow from other conversion tools to the powerful Adobe Camera Raw/Bridge/Photoshop integrated set of applications. This provides me a one stop integrated workflow that is simply much faster and more convenient than any other workflow for my needs and work style. Adobe Camera Raw as configured after install leaves many wanting more though from a color and contrast standpoint – many give up on it with out exploring its true capabilities. After literally having worked for hundreds of hours in ACR now, I have figured out how to configure this tool to give you results as good, if not better than any other solution. In addition to setting up the ACR application properly and integrating it properly into Bridge, getting the right colors can be a bit challenging. Enter camera profiles. Camera Raw has the seemingly innocuous but very powerful Calibrate tab but setting this tab up to render colors absolutely correctly is not straight forward and requires some tools that most photographers do not have. I have developed my own custom profiles for most Canon DSLRs utilizing Gretag Macbeth color technology and a sophisticated profiling technology which takes about 2 hours of compute time with the exclusive use of a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Hyperthreaded microprocessor running at 100% utilization (nothing else can be run on the computer while this is running). During this time, the processor is analyzing trillions (really!) of possible combinations of calibration values. When done, the computer returns the exact values for the seven ACR input variables in the calibration tab. I am now making these profiles along with tips for how to set-up ACR properly available for $15 per camera. Note that this does not take the place of proper white balance, white level, black level, contrast, and brightness adjustments but it will give you correct and repeatable color values from your camera. Please see http://www.ejphoto.com/acr_order_page.htm for more information.
DuckShops – 1 Late Opening
Due to a cancellation I have one late opening for the Wood DuckShop to be held in December. If interested please click here - http://www.ejphoto.com/duckshop_NM.htm
I want to thank all of you that have signed up for this year and also those who have taken the DuckShop workshops in the past. A special thanks to the several of you that have been multiple time attendees.
© 2006 - E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer.
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