Getting a new camera?

Why should you get a new camera?  Besides, because you want one, what are the logical reasons for getting a new or “better” camera?

You have to ask yourself some questions.  Have I reached the limits of my current camera? Are you not able to get the shots you imagine because of the camera or your technique?  New cameras can compensate for some technique flaws, but not all.

  • Newer cameras are faster some taking 10-20 frames per second, but if your timing is off and you don’t know your subject, faster doesn’t matter.
  • Newer cameras can take photos with less noise, if you set the proper or correct “creative exposure” to capture the scene in it’s best light.
  • Newer camera have more megapixels, but will create just as noisy of an image, if you don’t set the proper creative exposure to capture the scene in it’s best light.
  • Newer cameras have better dynamic range, if you set the proper creative exposure to capture the scene in it’s best light.
  • Newer cameras or lenses have better image stabilization to help keep the camera from shaking, but if you don’t hold your breath or hold your camera properly camera blur impact even the best of photographers if they get lazy.

Getting proper or creative exposure comes with practice, so does holding the camera still, and taking advantage of all the features of newer cameras.    So back to my original question… the logical and simple reasons for needing a new computer, I mean camera.

  • You take hundreds of thousands of photos and your camera wears out completely.  I know pieces can be repaired and replaced, but the chance of failure increases with use, just as much as it increases with the lack of use or proper maintenance, and could fail just when you needed.  So replacing the camera before it fails, may be necessary if you really use your camera often.
  • Cameras and lenses abilities to focus are electrical driven with motors and other things.  Just like a vacuum cleaner or a laptop they need to be replaced or tuned up.
  • The best reason, would be that your creative goals out weigh your camera\lens combination’s abilities to capture the images you imagine.  The abilities to function  in extreme conditions regarding the light, or lack of it, environmental conditions or subject matter.   The speed of your subject, size, distance to subject, diminished light sources or the locations can greatly determine the abilities of the camera\lens required to capture the image.

I always wanted a Full Frame professional camera.  But none of the logical reasons made making the purchase of a Full Frame camera required to make quite that expensive of a camera purchase.   I could capture images of great or even good enough quality of what I wanted with the crop sensor cameras I had.  I bought really fast lenses that allowed me to capture images in low light with good quality.   So what made the difference for me?  What requirement did the crop camera or a 7D Mark II not meet, that prompted me to move to a Full Frame camera?

Night games of high school football for my Son’s Senior season were the reason I needed to move to Full Frame.  And I’m glad I did make the move.  Doing so enabled taking pics of volleyball in the gym as well as to expand other creative areas of my photography.

Do you need an expensive camera to capture great images.  As usual, that depends.  A sunny day on a baseball or soccer field, no you don’t.   Consumer cameras with basic kit lenses will take great images during normal daylight if properly exposed geared towards the strengths inherent to them.      ISO 100, f/8 and auto shutter speed fast enough to stop motions enough to make good images and you can hardly go wrong and it all comes down to composition and technique.    In fact, capturing memorable photos almost always comes down to composition and technique… even with a great camera.

20170831 football game 3 loss 20177824
Last Football game with 5DM3, son receiving the kick off, ISO 2500 no problem, but I wanted even cleaner backgrounds, so I sold the 5DM3 and bought a 5DM4.
20170818 Cole Football Game 1 20172973
Son’s first touchdown of the Senior season, with the 5DM3
20170822 Volleyball Game 1 20174544
One of the first Volleyball games with the 5DM3

 

20171110 Foodball Game 2 2017 1143
My son lined up for a kick off.
20171110 Foodball Game 2 2017 1497
My son blocking a pass… look at that 5DM4 background.  This was taken handheld.  Going handheld allowed me to get closer, safer without a monopod to get in the way of a rapid retreat.  
20171110 Foodball Game 2 2017 0760
My son going in for a touchdown, leaving the defense in the dust . 

 

 

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The Full Frame adventure begins 5D Mark III

I picked up a slightly used 5D Mark III on 5-30-2017 and sold it on 9-5-2017.  After having a Rebel XT, T2I, 7D and 7D M2 which are all 1.6x crop sensor cameras, I decided I wanted to get a full frame camera to take sports photos at night and in the gym.  I also wanted it for portrait work someday, but mostly for the low light ability and reduced noise at higher ISOs on the football field for my son’s senior year.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made regarding photography for me.  (Buying my 300mm F 2.8 was the best decision I ever made, also for working in challenging light and for sports, but that is a different story.)

Why does a Full Frame camera have less noise in the images? Physics.   Larger sensors with larger pixels means more light hits the sensor or each pixel on the sensor, which means a full frame sensor can gather more data per pixel, render images with improved dynamic range with less existing light.

Does that mean a Full Frame Camera is best for you?  Not at all, and it is not always best for me either.  I will not be giving up my 7D Mark II with over 230,000 actuations on it any time soon, or until the 7D Mark III comes out if it is even faster with better image quality.

So why was the 5D Mark III a great camera for me, and why did I sell it only three months later?  Well it is easier to say why I sold it.  The buffer for sports shooting was why I sold it.    At only about 6 frames per/sec the buffer would fill up before I hit ten seconds and I would miss shots.  After 20-30 shots shooting JPG, yes practically holding down the shutter, I was hosed and had to wait for a few seconds for the buffer to clear, or shoot in slow bursts timing for key moments.    If I shot RAW files… it would freeze up after three seconds or less and have to wait for the computer to write the images to the memory card.

Was the full buffer all bad?  No, shooting in bursts and focusing on key moments is a great skill to practice and a skill that should be developed.  But when your son playing football his Senior year, runs over half the football field, stiff arming defenders, and spinning away from tackles, that buffer was unacceptable.  I wanted my 6 frames a second, or more, of the entire length of the run.  After the third game, the 5D mark II had reached it’s limits that did not meet my needs, which is the only time I would buy a new camera.   I wanted them sharp, well exposed, minimal noise, and I did not to miss a moment.

But the 5D Mark III was an incredible camera and I captured some wonderful images with it as I got to know it’s limits and mine using it.   These are in order from the last one taken to images on the first day I had the 5Dm3.

20170905 Volleyball 20179412
Last Volley Ball game with the 5DM3 –  Gym lights are very challenging.
20170831 football game 3 loss 20177824
Last Football game with 5DM3, son receiving the kick off, ISO 2500 no problem even with the limited lighting on the high school football fields.  some like this one were pretty bad. But you can see the sweat and water from the wet field flying off of him.  
20170822 Volleyball Game 1 20174544
One of the first Volleyball games.  Marywhit had a great serve!  
20170818 Cole Football Game 1 20172973
Son’s first touchdown of the Senior season, captured with the 5DM3.  Yeah Baby!  lol
20170813 Magnolia Gardens 20172450
Owl taking a bath… iso 2000 or so
20170716BOTANY BAY 5D 20177307
Flutterby and flowers with the 5Dm3 on a cloudy day
20170715BOTANY BAY 5D 20176875
Painted Bunting with 5Dm3
20170709Donnely 5D 20176676-Edit
Macro bee with the 5DM3
20170709Donnely 5D 20176125
Pair of skimmers with 5Dm3
20170708Donnely 5D 20175632-Edit
Egret coming in for a landing with a high key lighting situation. 5Dm3 handled it perfectly as I wanted it to and without the noise in the shadows on this challenging shot.
20170704Donnely 5D 20174647
5Dm3 with 300 f 2.8 with a 2x converter…or at 600mm hand held.
20170704Donnely 5D 20174559
Skimmer going by and I was really wishing I had a larger buffer that day!
201706105D Trophy Lakes 20172987
practicing panning at 1/250 of a sec at Trophy Lakes 
201706105D Trophy Lakes 20172750
Got down to 1/50 of a second panning with the 300 f 2.8 and the 5DM3 hand held and still one of my favorite panning shots to date! Skier is going behind the boat at about 34 mph. 
201706095D Trophy Lakes 20172009-Edit
nice splash with the 5Dm3 doing some panning practice
201706085D backyard 20171296
Backyard friend looking good… and the only shot likely taken on the tripod out the back door.
201706025D Wahine 20170002
Surf pics at the folly beach wahine classic
201706025D Wahine 20179276
folly beach wahine classic
201706025D Wahine 20179204
folly beach wahine classic surfers and birds… that is a good day.
201705315D TEST8915-Edit
Another day another owl with the 5Dm3
201705315D TEST8442-Edit
Little Flower action with the 5Dm3
201705315D TEST8423
Landscape test when first getting to know the 5Dm3 at Magnolia Gardens

I have all L lenses for my Canon cameras.  Picked most of them up used, but I love to shoot with them.  And the 5Dm3 just loved every piece of glass I owned.  The Auto focus was a challenge to get used to, since it was slower than I was used to with the 7Dm2. Most of the dials and switches were very close to the 7Dm2, so learning how to configured the manual setting at anytime without looking, or even in the dark when I picked it up before sunrise was very easy.

In the three months I had the 5Dm3 I put about 16,000 shots on it and besides the buffer filling up and the slower focus with less focus points, it was a workhorse and helped me to have a great three months.    Also helped me to slow down, and focus on technique again and gave the 7Dm2 a rest after working so very hard for me since purchased.  (Still works like a champ.  The 7Dm2 being faster at everything, had me a little spoiled with the speed of focus and 12 frames a second.   And it was a great way to get into shooting Full Frame and appreciating the differences.  If I was a wedding photographer, two of those would have been all I ever needed.

Well the Camera (5DM3) did not meet all of my needs.  And the 5D Mark IV has an unlimited JPG buffer at 7 frames/second, and since I shoot most sports in JPG format I felt it would be a great fit.  (It was and that will be another post.) I did consider the 1DXm2, but at over $5,000 and me taking photos for fun, it was a little hard to sell even to myself.  It is a full frame and shoots 14 frames a second and I could really have used that a few times in the last three months, but for the price and image quality of the 5Dm4, it ended up being a great fit.

Check out more of my work at My web site www.carymcdonald.com and through Black Friday images are on sale.  All purchases go to help pay for the cameras and future camera gear and all support is appreciated.

 

Wow! I have been bad about blogging, but I have been out shooting pics!

I have a lot to share about the last year and will be putting up some more posts very soon about what I learned and what I captured. I was also captured by friends and a selfie to start with at the beach at sunrise in the first pic on Bulls Island, Magnolia Gardens,  Bear Island, Folly Beach (a lot) always with a camera and on a mission.  And was fortunate to be with lots of great photographers all year.

ME ag magnolia
At Magnolia Gardens walking down the dike by the boat with Guenter Weber
in the marsh
In my nemesis taking photos of skimmers in July. Kathy Hare

 

me at the beach again again again again
At the Wahine Classic – Matt FotoMatt Drobnik
me taking photos of skiing
At Trophy Lakes withJim Killian
me at the beach
Hurricane swell at almost sunrise with Kathy Hare 
me at the beach again
At Folly Beach Washout with Trey Hopkins 
me at the beach again again
At Folly again, pic by Wade Spees from the Post and Courier
me at the beach again again again
At Folly Beach with Jim Hasapis

I went full frame with two camera purchases, one was for only a few months.  Picked up a new camera bag that holds more gear at the same time making shoots a little more flexible without having to go home, or back to the car, which holds both cameras.

Had some wonderful opportunities to shoot some spectacular events along with some new sports, including nature at its finest with epic surfing conditions for three weekends in a row, a world class ski event called the Malibu Open and my son’s senior year football season.  (He did excellent and came out of it healthy! I could not be happier.)  All in the last three months and my shoulder hurts pretty much all the time right now, and I don’t care.

Expanded my skills to include what I thought turned out to be some great group portrait work trying to take some memorable team photos of my son’s high school teams, for the fall season, which included, of course, his football team photo that came out almost exactly the way I planned out of the camera.  And taking lots of photos of the rest of the seniors that have been a part of our lives that we have watched grow up for the last 14 years along with our youngest son.

I also learned more editing skills in Lightroom and Photoshop this year.  Many of the above were on my years to do list.  A few were surprises that really made my year an epic year for photography for me, and going to be hard to top next year, but I’m sure I will.

I found some subjects that I want to take photos of a lot more of next year (waterskiing) and try to focus on a little more.     I think I see some travel is very likely next year to achieve those goals as well.

This past weekend, I did a complete overhaul of my website and looked back on a wonderful year and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it is really fitting how thankful I am for the year I had.

Below is the link to my updated website and I will try to get to writing more posts more often.  Take a look at the updated website and thanks for the purchases and support.

www.carymcdonald.com

Built in Camera settings on the Canon 7D Mark ii with Sunflowers

When using a Canon Camera, it has a few built in JPEG or JPG image processing options, that can be set to tell the camera how to process the RAW image file at the time of capture.  It uses these settings in combination with the White Balance selected,  and saves the file as a JPEG, in camera and drops all the extra information and compresses the file after getting rid of the excess baggage that all the other presets save into the RAW file.  This JPEG creation process also is a lossy compression image option.  The process of creating the JPEG file drops detail and adds compression artifacts that need to be repaired to have an image that is captured as a JPEG look as good as a RAW image file.

When shooting some sporting events,  I’ll shoot JPEG to make editing the images after the event easier.  If the weather and light is constant, then applying the knowledge of how each preset can impact the JPEG process, letting the camera’s software process the image, saves time when processing the images after the event.    If I shoot JPEG,   I like the finishing touches that  Topaz’s Dejpeg 4 and Topaz’s DeNoise 6 provide as additional tools in combination with Lightroom CC.  They help refine the images, or clean them up, to get the final image quality that I would want for a print or to display on a really large detailed monitor.  If you are not a photographer, you may not even notice the improvements.  

If you elect to shoot JPEG, knowing how each setting impacts the final image really helps you to determine which setting to use.  Changing them later in Lightroom, is possible, but it can degrade the quality of the final output.  When the original  JPEG file was created, in camera, it dropped all the other information captured in the RAW file that would have been used to support the other White Balance Settings optimally, for example.  And that could have been used for other settings.

If you shoot RAW, you can take some RAW files and look at how each of the settings would have impacted the final images in Lightroom yourself.  But if you don’t have access to Lightroom CC, below is the same image capture today in RAW, but exported multiple times, only changing the settings that the camera would use to help create the JPEG file, based on how the camera was configured at the time of capturing the image.  Some of the differences are very subtle and some are easily noticeable.

Since RAW files do contain all the image details and data captured at the time the file was created, pushing the limits of editing images created in difficult light or even with the exposure slightly off can be addressed without the loss of image quality.  Try to brighten a really dark JPEG file, and the noise can make it look pretty rough, but with RAW,  lightening a file by a F-Stop or two, is usually not an issue.

20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard
Camera Standard As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraPortrait
Camera Portrait – As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraNeutral
Camera Neutral – As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraMonochrome
Camera Monochrome – As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraLandscape
Camera Landscape – As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraFaithful
Camera Faithful – As Shot WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-AdobeStandard
Adobe Standard – As Shot SB

The rest of the images below all are shown with the Camera Standard, but I chose each of the Preconfigured White Balance settings.  White Balance is set based off the Temperature of the light and a Tint setting and deserves a whole article someday, maybe.  If I get around to it.

20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Auto_TEMP4050Tint+30
Camera Standard – Auto WB Temp 4050 Tint +30
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Flash
Camera Standard – Flash WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Flourescent
Camera Standard – Flourescent WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Tungsten
Camera Standard – Tungsten WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Shade
Camera Standard – Shade WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_Cloudy
Camera Standard – Cloudy WB
20160626- 2016 - Donnelley WMA-CameraStandard_DaylightWB
Camera Standard – daylight WB

Maybe you never shoot an image in RAW, or take the time to learn all of the default camera settings and how they impact your shots.   But knowing a few of the more important ones, and how they impact your final images may help to save a life time of memories in a more vibrant light.

Q&A: Why is “knowing where to stand” so important to getting a sharp image?

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”– Ansel Adams

This is one of my favorite photography quotes by Ansel Adams, but you have to take into account that he was a master landscape photographer. One of my favorite images of him is the iconic image of him on top of his car to capture an image.   So when he said knowing where to stand, he was really talking about perspective.   Moving yourself and your camera to have a unique view or finding the most flattering angles for a flattering image of your subject with a visually appealing composition. But also about the phase angle of light to provide contrast and detail in your images.

For sharper or more detailed images, knowing the phase angle of light and when a polarizer would be beneficial will make your images sharper and contain micro shadows that provide detail.  Again, I’m not going to get technical about it, but learning how a polarizer works will help you know where to stand or when to put one on your lens.  When shooting a living moving subject, I usually choose to leave off the polarizer filter.  Reaching out towards the end of your lens to your subject might scare it off before being able to make the best use of it.

All of the images below were from an outing on Tuesday Nov. 24,  2015. I started out at the bridge and went to Magnolia Gardens.  Almost everyday I go out to shoot, I have a rough plan or idea of what I’m going to practice.  I know which lens I’m going to take with me when I leave the car and try to stay on task, but try to be flexible enough to see what is around and adapt also.  It was initially a very cold morning and frost was on the ground when I left the house and I didn’t think any birds would be out early.

My goal for the morning was “eyeballing creative and balanced exposures” for some landscape shots.    I was not going out to capture anything specific, but wanted to get some images without using the back of my screen or my histogram until I was done shooting at the location.  Before leaving a location, I will look at the images to see how I did on the exposures and see if need to try again.

Why do I do this?  If you “know” what the exposure should be approximately as you are walking up evaluate a shot,  getting the camera setup the way you want it is much faster with less trial and error.  So knowing where to stand becomes the hard part, and the exposure settings become second nature.

If you go out taking photos often, you will find that those special moments where the light, location and subjects are just right to create a unique and spectacular image are few and far between.  Anything you can do to practice or be ready for those moments helps.

Recognizing those moments is one challenge and then being ready to take advantage of those fleetingly changing elements as efficiently and effectively as possible is another challenge that practicing and pushing yourself helps accomplish.

After my 2nd location of getting some trees and moss “eyeballing” exposures, I walked up towards my third spot.  This thirds spot was a softball. I believe could almost shoot this location blindfolded I’ve been there so often, but as I was walking up I saw a immature  little blue heron(Bert) that had been there a few times the last few weeks.   If you follow me on facebook you would have seen some of the previous shots of Bert the last two weeks.  I spent so much time with him, I gave him a name.  lol  When I saw him, I turned around and “ran” back to the car, all the while thinking about what I wanted to capture when I returned.

I had my 17-40 L lens on which is my goto landscape lens and knew I wanted more length.  My previous visits with Bert, I had on my 300mm L IS f/4  lens, but a few times, I was able to get too close for the 300mm to have a DOF that I wanted.  At 10 feet from your subject at 300mm at F/8 that is just over one inch DOF.   (F/8 is where I start with my 300mm f/4 lens for the best quality image, corner to corner and I’ll blog about it later.)

I was planning to be closer  than 15 feet and wanted a deeper DOF,   so I grabbed my 70-200 f/2.8 L lens.  It does not have IS, but is one of my favorite lens when trying to be creative.  Also at 200mm at 10 feet, it has a 3 inch DOF at f/8 or  6 inches at 20 feet or at 100 mm 6 inches DOF at 10 feet.

As I headed back to Bert, I also knew that I wanted to get as low as possible  to smooth the background and get the light reflected from the water at the strongest point possible.  Also the lower you go as you get close the closer you can get before the bird feels threatened. Also you have to approach silently as possible.   Getting any animal at eye level or just below is a great angle for wildlife.  This is a wild bird, so it is going to go where the food is and it feels comfortable.

Since it was just above freezing, I was covered head to toe and I had on a black hoodie and gloves and the only skin exposed was behind my camera from the bird.  I was able to follow the bird for about 90 minutes total some of that time, standing in the swamp behind a tree and at another point I laided down where I expected the bird to feed as it made its way around the edge of the water.   I set up on where I expected the bird would feed and I would have an optimal view as long as nothing scared the bird away.  I also laid down where I could see into the water and not the reflected area behind it.  I did not need a polarizer in this case, to get the sharpest image.

This was one of those moments that I knew would not likely repeat itself with the same light angles and subject.  I took 600 photos during the 90 minutes following Bert.  500 of those shots were practice, anticipating the birds movements, catching the angles of the eyes, the subtle tilt of the head.  In this situation, I have a goal of 95% of the images to be in focus and on exactly on what I was aiming to be in focus, the eyes or the water droplets flying when eating.  (I’ll blog about my editing process later and my 95% goal.) When I done and I could not hold my arms up or still any longer, it was time for me to go home.

In this case, it was not about standing to get the best image, it was about laying down and getting dirty next to some cypress knees and letting Bert come to me.  I hope you have the chance to get to know your own “Bert”.

At 10 frames a second, there were only 10-20 seconds out of those 90 minutes that I was really looking to capture images of Bert that I thought were worth keeping. They are those moments that keep me going out to take photos every weekend.  But all of them are just as important to learn from.

Can you spot any of the images that I considered keepers?  I included only 4 shots of Bert that I would print.  Please, let me know which ones you think are my keepers are with comments on the images of Bert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sleeping model

Miracle -  My Sleeping model

I’m not a professional photog!  I take pictures of what I want to, when I want to do so.  I like taking pictures of people doing what they love which is usually sports, when I’m not taking pictures of what I love.

I could not imagine being a professional and having my model go to sleep.

2015 Ocean Surf Shop Icebox Open

2015 Ocean Surf Shop Icebox Open – my first Surf contest photos

I’ve wanted to get some more surfing shots for years, besides off the Folly Beach pier at sunrise.  I read on Facebook that at contest was happening at 8:00 a.m.  Water sports and splashing make for great splashes of light when taking pictures.  Small drawback, Washout at Folly Beach is a “south” facing beach for the most part.  I was looking into the sun from 7:00 a.m. until noon. Sunburn to prove it. Thank goodness for some clouds and little bit of fog early in the morning. Very challenging with changing light all day, but great practice.

The surf was like a washer machine leaving foam all over the beach and the wind was cool. But the surfers were eager to put on a show and do their best for the contest and for fun. Buy some prints or posters if you want.

More photos

2015 Ocean Surf Shop - Icebox Open - Surfing

2015 Ocean Surf Shop - Icebox Open - Surfing

2015 Ocean Surf Shop - Icebox Open - Surfing

2015 Ocean Surf Shop - Icebox Open - Surfing

Popcorn and a grain of salt

Macro photography with extension tubes test 2

On my second test with extension tubes I had a good time trying to make the coins a little more original.  Also tried to have some food shots and a few ornaments.  The most fun was the grain of salt on the popcorn.

Top of a Christmas tree ornament taken with a Extension tubes.

Macro photography with extension tubes

I have been thinking about getting some extension tubes for years to try some micro photography.   I finally did and they arrived today. They are great!  (I made a homemade micro lens last year you may remember, by removing the front element off the front of an old lens, but it was not what I was hoping to use.)

Fotodiox Pro Canon EOS Auto Macro Extension Tube Set Kit for Extreme Close-Up with Autofocus and Auto-Exposure

So I got the tubes and threw them on some different lenses and pulled out a few flashes.  The  Christmas tree was there, so I had to try on it.   Also a few coins on the table were easy pickings.  (What would a micro test be without coins? )

I hope to find some more interesting subjects, but this was a good place to start today testing.

Magnification with different lenses
Magnification with different lenses