Get the Missing Manual for Light

Get the Missing Manual for Light

 With autumn upon us, daylight hours are fewer and further between. I don’t stop shooting (later sunrises mean I can actually drag myself out of bed at a better hour), but I do take more time to catch up on my reading. Accordingly, I spend some time to put together a list of the best photography books that I want to go through each year and will bring you reviews of the ones I liked the most. My (virtual) bookshelf is full of titles I’ve read or plan to read for reviewing or for personal edification. Some, like Brian Smith’s book on portraiture, which I reviewed earlier this week, are for personal edification and review. Some, like Light, Science, and Magic, are on there because the subject matter is of interest. And some are on there because I’ll read even an obituary by one of these authors. Authors like Joe McNally, for example, whose books like Sketching Light and The Moment it Clicks make for fantastic and entertaining reading. Others write books so chock full of information that they become indispensable reference material that I find myself going to pretty often. My friend Syl Arena is an author and teacher who falls into the latter category, and his latest book, Lighting for Digital Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is something that I think should be more appropriately titled “Light: The Missing Manual”. This is Syl’s second book; the first, The Speedliter’s Handbook, is now considered to be a sort of bible for Canon Speedlites. It is easily THE definitive book on Canon’s small flashes, and Syl has carved out...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

This is the conclusion of a 5-part series on an experimental switch from Canon to Nikon. Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Part IV: In which I return to Canon for a spell I guess the big question on everyone’s mind is, “Did you switch or not?” Well, read on, gentle reader. I’ve been a Canon user for the majority of my life. Starting at age 8 with a tiny Canon film point-and-shoot, then to an AE-1 Program, then an A2 film body, followed by a G3 P&S, a Rebel XTi, a 7D and then a 5D Mark II, I’ve owned Canon gear all my life. The Glass I love Canon gear. The glass is varied and plentiful, from a crazy 1:5 Macro  (the MP-E 65mm) to a swift, fast, yet affordable 400mm f/5.6 lens for wildlife, to a fantastic 135mm f/2 portrait lens, Canon has glass for practically every occasion. Nikon, on the other hand, kind of falls behind in terms of having glass that I really do need/use from time to time. The lack of a solid 400mm-range lightweight telephoto is a real bummer, as is the lack of an ultra-wide-angle (17mm) tilt-shift lens. Speaking of the tilt-shift lenses, Nikon really does need to update their PC-E lenses to match Canon’s 17mm and 24mm lenses. The current 24mm PC-E lens from Nikon doesn’t do independent rotation...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

This is Part III of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. In this part, I’m going to focus on just one thing: Nikon’s external flash system. CLS, you’re pretty cool Nikon’s CLS, or Creative Lighting System, is pretty well-known for its simplicity and reliability. On the Canon side, I’m used to working in ratios to set exposure between groups. This is a tad… unwieldy, to say the least. For example, if I want three groups for my external speedlites, I have to jump through some… convolutions. First, I have to have my friend Syl Arena’s book, The Speedliter’s Handbook handy, because Canon’s manual doesn’t really do even a halfway decent job of explaining this.  I have to set the ratio for my first two groups (A and B), then go into the master speedlite’s menu to set FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) for my third light. Uh… wha? For a better explanation, go to page 144 of Syl’s Speedliter’s Handbook. With Nikon, on the other hand, you get this: This is if you’re using the on-board camera to control your remote speedlights (which are in two other groups, A and B). But you can, of course, control external speedlights with a master on-camera. Here’s what that...
The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part 0.5

The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part 0.5

This is a quick ‘n dirty post that’s part of my “Switch” series. Part 1 of the series can be found here. I was in the studio, working on a quick lighting test. The subject was a violin positioned on a tall chair, and I was moving in and out, shooting the whole thing, then switching to some detail work. I had two SB-910′s on stands, with gels and, occasionally, a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe on one of them. The shot you see below was taken with the D800 I currently have for testing, with a Nikon 105mm f/2.8G Micro lens. The SB-910 shining on it has the aforementioned Lastolite softbox on it, as well as a chocolate gel. There is absolutely no post-production on the shot. I am really, really liking the tones coming off that Nikon. They are, in a word, luscious. What blew me away was when I zoomed in at 100% to look at the object in focus, the second knob from the left. Click on the image below to embiggen; the smaller size won’t show you what I’m talking about. Wow. I mean, yeah, I’m going to have to repeat this experiment with a Canon 5D Mark III and the famed 100mm f/2.8L macro as well, but, well, wow. I’ve always known that this would a rough experiment. I knew I’d have my preconceptions challenged. I guess I was hoping it wouldn’t be this...
The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part I

The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part I

This is Part I of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… “I’m going to check out a bunch of Nikon gear and go shoot with it for four weeks. Then I’ll write a series of articles about it.” I grinned at Jim Goldstein, BorrowLenses.com’s VP of marketing, and my nominal boss. He stared back at me, first with a blank expression, then with a knowing glint in his eye. “You’re looking to switch, aren’t you?” he asked. “And you want to use this idea for a series to test the waters on the other side, dontcha?” He kinda had me there. I’d been eyeing that D800 ever since it was announced, and was eager to give it a try. More importantly, I really was thinking of switching sides. Two of my idols, David Hobby and Joe McNally, both shoot Nikon. Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) for their external flashes is world-renowned, and is a traditional area of strength for that brand. As someone who uses lighting a lot these days, I had seen what all the fuss was about and wanted to put it through its paces for my own shoots. “Well, no, I’m not looking to switch,” I told Jim. “But if it happens as a result of my experiment, well…” Jim’s a good sport, and we both agreed that it would be worth it to see what a Canon shooter with an open mind would feel about moving wholesale to Nikon gear. So,...
Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a series on using Tilt-Shift or Perspective-Control lenses. In this part, we look at the “Shift” functionality of these unique lenses. Part 2, which covers the “Tilt” functionality of these lenses, can be found here. Anyone who’s ever shot a building or any other structure from the bottom looking up knows that the bottom-up perspective makes it look like the vertical lines of the building are all converging towards the top. This problem is exaggerated with wider-angle lenses, making many of these lenses unsuitable for certain types of architectural photography, where not having those distortions is key. While the latest version of Photoshop does include an “Adaptive Wide Angle” filter to help correct these distortions, a lot of photographers prefer to get things right in-camera, leading to less image manipulation in post. For that reason, both Canon and Nikon, as well as third-party manufacturers like Schneider-Kreuznach, have come out with a range of lenses that address that specific problem. The box below outlines the list of tilt-shift lenses BorrowLenses.com has in our inventory. Canon  TS-E Lenses Nikon PC-E lenses Schneider-Kreuznach TS lenses Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift Nikon 45mm f/2.8D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-E Tilt-Shift Schneider PC Tilt-Shift Super-Angulon 50mm f/2.8 Lens For Canon Schneider 90mm f/4.5 Tilt-Shift Lens for Canon Schneider PC Tilt-Shift Super-Angulon 50mm f/2.8 Lens For Nikon Schneider 90mm f/4.5 Tilt-Shift Lens for Nikon Take a look at the image below. Here, I’m using a 17mm...
Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Canon’s 1Dx and 600mm f/4L IS II lens have been two of the most sought after (and repeatedly delayed) items in their inventory for the past year or so. Now, Canon is finally shipping them with some regularity, and we took this opportunity to put this new combo through its paces. I love photographing birds. A few years ago, I started with a Canon 100-400mm lens and a Rebel XTi, and shot from the comfort of my car. Eventually, I moved up to a Canon 1D Mark IV and a 600mm f/4, or a 500mm f/4 lens. The 1D MKIV/600mm combo became a favorite, and I managed to capture some really cool images with it that are part of my Natural History portfolio. Of course, since then, Canon has introduced its successor to the 1D MKIV and the 600mm f/4. The 1Dx takes over where the 1D MKIV left off, introducing a bigger sensor and better high-ISO performance, among other things, whereas the new 600mm Mark II comes in at slightly shorter and much lighter than its predecessor. I took this combo out for a spin to see if it would match up to my old favorites. As with my previous reviews, I focus more on the shooting experience out in the field, rather than lab tests and results. Handling Canon 1Dx The first thing I do with a new camera is go through the settings to customize it to my specifications. The Canon 1Dx’s menu system is a lot like the 5D Mark III’s, which itself borrows a few things I loved from the 7D, such as the...
Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Vincent Laforet is a filmmaker and photographer that belongs in any reasonable list of Notable Storytellers. Long before he became one of the pioneers (some, including me, would say he is the pioneer) of making films with video-capable DSLRs, he was a staff photographer for the New York Times – and a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer at that.

Get Your Gear On With the Canon 1Dx

Get Your Gear On With the Canon 1Dx

We’ve been waiting for this bit of kit for a long, long time. The 1Dx is finally here, and we run through a bunch of the features of Canon’s flagship body. This full-frame camera is set to replace the 1D mkiV and the 1Ds mk III. We show off the high frame-rate, some AF features, compare ISO settings and give a general rundown of this exciting new professional DSLR. The 1Dx is available for rent now at http://www.borrowlenses.com/product/Canon_EOS_1D_X_Digital_SLR “Bullet-Time Backflip” sequence...