Glamorous Job

I am fortunate to have a brother in the field of Canon Photography to talk with at work, and to exchange equipment when the need arises… The plan today was to test out the 1.4x lens extension he had loaned me for the weekend. When I looked out the window at first light as I was pouring my first cup of coffee I noticed what a pretty morning was shaping up in the beautiful light of sunrise. So I swigged down my coffee and grabbed the camera and the 1.4x. Then it was out the door with Big Dog but much to my surprise, in that 15 minutes a heavy bank of fog had rolled in and I could barely see my hand in front of my face! Needless to say a 200mm lens and a 1.4x extension are not much good when your field of view is only 10 feet 😦 But Big Dog was not about to be deterred from his walk by a little fog so into the pea soup we went.

Swimsuit model at sunset

I mentioned my friend at work, well this week we were comparing our experiences with portrait photography back in the day and I ran across this one from a photoshoot from the days of film. I still remember going through the prints the next day after receiving them back from the lab. I was at my favorite coffee shop sorting out my favorites when a guy went by and asked me if I was a photographer which led to a short conversation about the business. He commented what a cool job it must be to take pictures of beautiful girls and how glamorous it must be. Of course the story is long, but I just smiled and agreed.

The next day however was a completely different matter… Earlier in the week I had received a call from a lady in Iowa who was in charge of a jewelry show that was going to be conducted in the convention center in Denver. The assignment was to shoot portraits of each one of the approximately 150 event participants. She informed me that there was going to be a backdrop provided with the name of the show on a sign above that I was supposed to include in each picture. She told me to be sure to bring extra lighting. How much I wondered? She didn’t know, but I was definitely going to need extra lighting.

So I showed up early at the event center to be sure to find a parking place and get set up in time. I had no idea what I was in for, trying to imagine what I could possibly need all the lighting for that I had packed just in case. Well I found a parking place in the parking garage which appeared to be free… Grabbed my three Bogen light stands with umbrellas and soft boxes, three flash heads in their suitcase style carrying cases, two cameras complete with portable flash and battery packs and headed for the stairs.

Well the stairs were not that easy to find, but I made my way down to the lower floor of the parking garage when I noticed a pay kiosk. I had no idea how to run the damn thing, didn’t remember my exact parking stall number, or even if the kiosk on the bottom floor was applicable to the parking place on my floor. I looked around a bit to see if there was someone in charge and saw no one. In fact I saw no one at all, at the convention center on Broadway Avenue in the middle of Denver. It was like a ghost town 😦 I wondered if I even had the right day, what if I had already missed it, maybe the Rapture had occurred and I was the only one “Left Behind?” ????

The exit I took had me out on foot on Broadway Avenue, still not a soul to be found. I had no idea how to get to the room where the show was so I just kept walking, carrying my light stands, two cameras, three flash heads and God only knows what else. I walked and walked and walked looking for some kind of sign, some kind of door to go in, or even a person who might know… and I was getting more and more tired carrying all that gear. Finally I was sweating profusely and I could only go a few feet at a time before having to put all the gear down to rest. I thought I was going to die, I remember thinking to myself, “So this is how it ends, right here on Broadway Avenue…”.

Well, after walking all the way around the entire building I finally found a bunch of people and a door… This has to be it and lucky for me it was and I found the lady in charge with no trouble. After surveying the situation I quickly ascertained that the three light stands, umbrellas and flash heads were completely unnecessary. One camera with an off camera flash would be just fine. I could have made that walk with 10 pounds of gear instead of 75. Grrrrr…

So I completed the shots of all 150 or so people without a hitch. Except one lady who could not smile. I took six shots of her, each time her smile resembling more the look of terror that one might experience while witnessing a train wreck or car accident. Finally I gave up said “next”. Finally the job was complete and I told the lady I was done. She informed me she wanted the pictures the next day and gave me a bunch of Fedex account stuff. Well Fedex was a long and difficult trip for me so I offered to just get them developed in time to return to her before the end of the day. The pictures turned out fabulously and I made it back in time to give them to her before she left. She flipped through every one of them without saying a word… that is right up until the moment when the previously mentioned severely traumatized woman’s image came into view. She said, “Wow, she looks scared!”. Then through the rest of the images and without a word and she handed me my check and said “Thanks.”. That’s it, no more feed back from my day in hell. I remembered the guy from the coffee shop the previous day and thought to myself, “Yeah, some glamorous job 😦 “.

Lol… oh well, I’m sure it was nothing that a green chili burrito and a couple of beers could not cure at the Brewery Bar, my favorite Denver watering hole. Actually about a month later I received an email from the lady with a formal thank you for all the beautiful pictures. Apparently they were a big hit and I have to say it made me feel a lot better about the whole affair πŸ™‚

High Tech Photography Considerations

My time here in Cripple Creek has led me to reevaluate some fundamental rules I have used to get good images since my early film days with my manual focus Minolta X-700. Over the last decade and four Canon digital camera models, my circumstances and technology have changed considerably. The specific fundamental rule I am thinking of is the shutter speed versus focal length rule of thumb for sharp pictures, “minimum hand held shutter speed equals 1/focal length”. So, if you are shooting all the way zoomed in with a 200mm lens, your minimum shutter speed would be a 200th of a second.

The rule of thumb held true with my first digital camera, the original Canon 1D and my consumer grade 300mm Canon lens. That camera was only a 4.5 mp CCD sensor version, creating a native 300ppi image of around 5″ x 8″, pretty similar to the 35mm film versions of old. That guideline continued to hold through my 10D and then my 10mp 40D, although in the meantime I had purchased my amazing Canon 70-200 F4L lens with four stop F4L image stabilization technology.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Then came the 20mp Canon 70D camera body… However, Woodland Park is in a valley, everything I wanted to photograph was nearby and life was good. Even Pikes Peak was practically in my back yard, usually requiring no more than 100mm of focal length. However, the move to Cripple Creek has changed things considerably, at least for local photography projects. The Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peak mountain ranges are 60 to 100 miles away and I almost always shoot them fully zoomed at 200mm in the faint early morning light. As a stock photographer I review all images at 100% in Photoshop and I am starting to notice some disappointing results. So recently I have been conducting some focal length versus shutter speed tests, only to raise more questions than I have been able to answer.

After a good amount of research it has come to my attention that our high tech improvements have brought about the need for some changes in my shot planning. For starters, my 70D has a 1.6 crop factor. In other words, the sensor is only .6 the size of a full frame 35mm camera and that has to be taken into consideration, changing the shutter speed calculation to 1/focal length * crop factor. My 200 mm lens is now the equivalent of a 320mm lens, reducing the minimum shutter speed to 1/320. Of course the four stop IS can be taken into consideration, although I’m not sure I can count on always being able to reduce my shutter speed by four stops.

Also requiring consideration with the latest generation of cameras is the incredibly small pixel size required to fit 20 million of them on a sensor, not to mention what it takes to accommodate 50 million pixels that some of the more expensive models might be sporting! Such tremendous resolution not only shows the finest image details, it also reveals the most minute flaws and camera motion. I was not able to come up with a new and infallible rule of thumb, however I did learn enough to know that my old assumptions are out the window with yesterday’s technology. I also learned that it will be a good idea to lug my Manfrotto along a lot more often, and to make sure to keep my shutter speeds up when I am required to hand hold my camera during important projects. My new unofficial aspiration is going to be to try to shoot with 1/400th or maybe even 1/500th of a second when I am shooting at 200mm focal length. Of course that is not always going to happen, especially when I am shooting wildlife early in the morning. However I will be paying a lot closer to my ISO values during those shoots. Definitely don’t want any more of those 1/30th speeds!

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway πŸ™‚ For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.

Creative Cloud

Just bought a new laptop, kind of a low end Lenovo but it’s pretty fast, easy to set up and runs Photoshop very well.Β  Was too lazy to look for my old Photoshop CS2 disk and have been meaning to try out Lightroom and Photoshop CC for Photographers so I decided this was as good a time as any. I downloaded the trial version and was a bit disappointed that it was only a 7 day trial. I really could have used a month but it didn’t take long to see the advantage of the upgrade. The whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance sliders in the Bridge corrections are worth the $9.99 per month investment alone. The clarity and vibrance sliders do in easy steps what I have previously had to do manually or with clumsy action scripts to create a colorful image that really pops. It has been a bit of a challenge to find everything on a UI that has been changing for ten years without my notice, but I am very pleased with the new functionality and will be licensing a copy in the next couple of days. Fiddled a bit with Lightroom… I like the obvious capability that it presents, but it is going to take some time to get proficient enough to comment on it and seven days is just not enough. Right now I will content to use the new controls available in Bridge, particularly some interesting chromatic aberration correction tools.

Hiking buddies on Mount Massive ColoradoMeanwhile I haven’t been doing a lot of shooting.. I have recently added Adobe Stock to my list of agencies that I sell from and have been very encouraged with the results. So much so that I decided to go back through my backup disks and upload the best of my old RF stuff. I started with my oldest images, the ones taken with my original Canon EOS 1D, and worked forward. Today I just uploaded the last of 2016… at least the ones that I had already prepared for other agencies. When I get my new Photoshop subscription, I may choose to go back and process additional images, along with shooting new ones.

By next week though, I should be starting to shoot anew… with a good seed of probably about a thousand images in my Adobe Stock port once they are all inspected. Not a day goes by that I regret turning in my Exclusive Crown at iStock… There is just way too much enjoyment to be had by having the freedom to submit content elsewhere and especially to be able to make phone posts to my Facebook without having to worry about whether I am violating a contract. The future is looking great again πŸ™‚

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Back Button Focus



It was in the autumn in the high alpine regions of the Colorado Rockies when Mount Evans Road finally opened last year and I was able to make the drive to the summit. I had high hopes of seeing abundant wildlife, based on the reports of my competitors who had made the trip in previous years.

bighorn-sheepI had gotten an early start and made the first toll gate around sunrise, but I was a bit surprised at how long it took me to get up to Summit Lake. I had seen quite a few cars go past while I was paying my fee and I feared that the summit parking lot was going to be full. So I pulled into Summit Lake parking lot and spotted a ranger. I asked him how long it would take me to hike from there to the summit, and whether or not I would see any wildlife. He advised me to just drive the last few miles, that the hike would take hours and rain was coming in. He also told me the bighorns and the mountain goats would be on the summit.

So I jumped back in my truck and headed for the summit, where I parked and gathered up my gear. I looked for the trailhead and was glad to see only 1/4 of a mile to the summit. I looked diligently as I neared the summit for the animals only to be disappointed, nothing in sight. As I rounded a turn in the trail the summit facilities came into view below and much to my surprise, it was surrounded by animals just walking around the parking lot area, right along with the people. Well, there was no way I was going to have come that far without touching the summit plaque, so I just walked a bit further and made sure that m feet were planted on the summit of a 14er. Of course it didn’t count as a climb from only a 1/4 mile away, but I got the feel of 14k feet plus just the same.

Went back down to the facilities where I took about one million pictures of the goats and marmots standing around … the only problem there was making sure there were no people in the background to give away the ridiculous proximity of people and animals. Clouds rolled in and I really wasn’t too keen about driving down the highway in heavy rain, so I packed up and headed back down.

On my way back down I noticed a gathering of vehicles on the side of the road so I looked and saw a huge herd of both bighorns and mountain goats on both sides of the road. They were a bit far off for my 200mm lens, but I thought I’d get a few shots anyway… when again, much to my surprise, a baby bighorn started running towards me. I pushed down the shutter button and held it, getting probably 20 images before the little guy turned aside.

This is where the point of the story comes in… Of course the camera focused the first time I pushed the button and every image after that was out of focus 😦 I wasn’t expecting such action, so I had my Canon 70D on one shot mode. It was after experiencing the disappointment of so many failed images that I got to thinking maybe I should learn back button focus. I had heard that it was the best way to photograph unpredictable sports and wildlife subjects.

So naturally I have managed to procrastinate and delay implementing it for another six months… but for some reason, last night was the night to take the plunge. So I got on the internet and looked up how to do that with m 70D. I found a number of tutorials describing how to accomplish the camera settings and buttons, but nothing about what to actually do when shooting and when to use it!

The first thing I learned is that you have to go into the most obscure custom functions and set the shutter button for exposure only. Having the shutter button focus turned on conflicts with the operation of the back focus button, so you will need to consult your camera manual to determine how to do that.

Once that is done, look for the back focus button. On the newer Canon DSLR’s, it is called AF-On. To operate in back button mode, it is advantageous to put the focus mode in continuous mode, or AI Servo on Canon cameras. With a still subject you then depress the back button to focus and let go of the button. The camera will stay focused at that distance until you click the back button again. You can recompose as many times as you like beforeΒ  focusing again.

Now here’s the really good part. If the subject goes into motion, you can just click the back button and hold it down while continuing to track the subject with the camera. As long as you hold the button down the camera will operate in continuous mode, refocusing constantly while you concentrate on composition and getting the pictures! So with one simple and easy to use button, you can quickly operate the camera in all the focusing modes that you might need. Separating focus and exposure also allows you to get more accurate exposure metering than having both done at the same time with the shutter button. Using the shutter button half push to lock focus and exposure only works if you don’t drastically recompose. With the back button focus, the shutter button activates the exposure on the new composition.

So, as you can see if I had been using the back button for the baby sheep I could have pressed and held while the animal was approaching and I would have had many sharply focused images instead of just one.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items