We all love to be told we’re doing things right, and this message from Peter Michael Dedes who joined the recent advanced speedlite workshop is particularly kind.
Tag Archive for: People & portraits
Spot AF first appeared on the Canon EOS 7D camera and has since been included on several other models, including the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X. However, there is still some confusion about how it works and when to use it, that we’ll clear up after the jump…
Choosing five items of kit
As per the ground rules from the previous post, we had agreed on only five items of kit each. Dave and I use a lot of different kit which means all to often the temptation is take too much stuff. Though in recent times I’ve also found myself going minimal on some experimental trips, one camera, one single focal length lens and even restricting myself to a single choice of aperture for the shoot.
Item 1: This was the easy one for me, somewhat simplified as I had an EOS-1D Mark IV on loan so it would be a great camera to take for the day. High ISO performance was my thinking, it would be good for portraits in market areas I thought. Almost as a result of the camera choice I started to think maybe flash wasn’t going to be on my kit list.
Item 2: With a DSLR selected it was sure that at least one more of my five for the day was going to be a lens, surely neither of us would go with a pinhole lens made out of a body cap to sneak an alternative viewpoint? Thinking that London might present both architecture and landscape options along with portraits, candids the first selection was an EF17-40mm f/4L USM. To combat the weight of the EOS-1D Mark IV the light weight and wide-angle zoom was an easy choice, and would cover me for landscapes.
Item 3: The fast focussing compact and lightweight EF85mm f/1.8 USM. It is my oldest lens, having been in my camera bag since before the advent of digital, in fact I think my copy is probably old enough to buy me a pint in the pub. It is a sharp, fast focussing lens that is not too long on the crop sensor cameras, and would help me with low light autofocus due to it’s fast aperture.
Item 4: I thought long and hard about taking a flash since I often use Speedlites or studio flash, but then I’d need some support which would be classed as another item. I couldn’t see me taking a tripod and using it so in the end decided to add another camera! Not another DSLR but the PowerShot S95 in the chance that I would get to use it for candids. With the right setup of the camera it’s a great candid and street photography device, small, unobtrusive, looks less like the paparazzi and more like a tourist. What’s more it has great image quality, and I wanted to see if I would actually use it as I thought.
Item 5: With one final item to choose I thought that I might play a bit with the rules, so I chose to take an EF135mm f/2L USM lens with an appropriate ‘non-counting’ accessory of an EF 1.4x Extender. This sneaky step got me 135mm f/2 and 200mm f/2.8 lenses for only one item of kit. Feeling pleased at my devious playing of the rules I added EF12mm and EF25mm extension tubes since they work great with the 85mm and 135mm lenses.
I put it all in a old and small Lowepro Mini Trekker rucksack and was ready. In fact the space in the bag almost tempted me to put an ‘I forgot that was there’ flash and off-camera cord in. Though in the end I filled the space with a bottle of water.
Quite to my surprise I took a grand total of one hundred and thirty pictures on the walk on the two chosen cameras. I also took a couple of snaps on the iPhone but they don’t count in this challenge. Looking at the days pictures it soon became obvious that landscape and architecture eluded me on the day. I had started with the EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens on the EOS-1D Mark IV but the pictures I shot with it were in my ‘warming up’ phase of the day.
Walking through Leadenhall market I was trying for interesting shots of people when I turned back to see where Dave had got to, and saw this scene over my shoulder. With my 85mm f/1.8 USM fitted to the EOS-1D Mark IV I had the right tool for the job in my hands. What had interested me about this particular lady was the glowing light that she was stood in. There was a shaft of sunlight coming in to the market and hitting her lightly coloured stall top to give a excellent soft light. Some of the other shots I took but didn’t like as much showed that the stall was selling yoga books. She does look almost trance-like in the busy market area. As I walked out of the market I knew that one of my five was in the bag.
We crossed over London Bridge with an idea to head along the river towards the Millennium bridge and maybe South Bank. Dave stopped to set up his gorillapod and started reaching for the filters. I looked to see if anything caught my eye with the boats on the river cutting between bars of light and shade. Did we mention it was very sunny with blue skies in London in February. Dave reached for more filters and I started to look away from the scene, when across the road I saw the landscape distorted and reflected in the building opposite. In Digital Photo Professional I changed the Picture Style to Landscape then boosted saturation and contrast in the image.
At the base of the Millennium Bridge there are some birch trees, these were in the shade when we visited but there were still plenty of people milling around. I decided to try something a bit different, and also try to get at least one of my five using the PowerShot S95. Switched to shutter speed priority, dropped the ISO as low as possible and pan the camera vertically as I’m taking the shot. Even with the zoom at the full 105mm the aperture available was only f/8 so I could get 1/25s shutter speed as the slowest. Four tries and I knew that I would have to pan the camera very fast. I converted the shot in DPP to black and white and boosted the contrast. I think that although this may be my weakest shot it does show how a you can apply all kinds of technique to your photography regardless of the camera you have. A PowerShot S95 costs less than every other one of my five kit items.
I spotted these folks on the bridge looking at the scene down river. It seemed strange since most of the rest of the people were looking up river or towards St. Pauls. However the lady appeared to be giving an interesting description of the scene before them and I thought a candid shot was possible. As I picked the camera up I noticed the gent adjust his spectacles a little and the shot was there. Though I shoot RAW I like to use the different Picture Styles and this was taken with one that is supposed to resemble the look of Kodachrome 25 slide film.
With the light starting to move off the bridge I walked back from the St Pauls end toward the Tate Modern where I’d left Dave sometime earlier. As I walked this guy was sitting on the side of the path doing some drawing of characters, looked like an ornate calligraphy style to me. I kept on walking thinking that with a 200mm f/2.8 lens I would get a good shot from a bit further away. Fitting my ‘sneaky’ 1.4x Extender to the 135mm f/2L USM lens I shot wide open at f/2.8. Even though I originally shot it with the Kodachrome 25 Picture Style when it came to the conversion in DPP I changed to monochrome with an orange filter.
It felt like I had my five shots. Back home viewing the pictures I found that there were quite a lot of details, tight crops, and shadow or reflection shots. It was almost tempting to switch out one of the images here, for another showing St Pauls cathedral reflected on the shiny illustrations that are on the top of the bridge rails. I also was confident that my pictures from the same day and same visual stimuli would be very much different than those taken by Dave.