Camera gear is always something that you can find a better and more expensive version of. However, you really feel like an amateur when you go up against the TV guys. There were a few camera locations I passed by when shooting at Ridge. They were using these huge Canon zoom lenses. They would be a bit of a nuisance to carry around and cost more than I care to think about but you still feel a little envious.
My main cameras have two card slots. One is a CFast and the other is Compact Flash. I use the CFast all the time but the Compact Flash is a handy backup. Occasionally, if I have the camera on with the CFast out of the slot, the camera reverts to the second slot and, if I don’t notice, it continues to use it when I next shoot. This isn’t a particular problem except when it comes to downloading. I have USB3 card readers for both CFast and Compact Flash. However, the speed of card technology has moved on dramatically. When I download the Compact Flash cards and import to Lightroom, I am reminded of just how slow they are. I used to do this all the time but, once I started using CFast, I got used to the better speed and now, when I revert to the old tech, it feels positively glacial!
Walking through the streets of Vancouver one weekend, we came up to an intersection. There was a Porsche sitting on a trailer with two people in it. It quickly became apparent that they were doing some filming. The woman was an actor and the man was filming here. There was a vehicle pulling the trailer with some of the production staff sitting on it. Initially I was focused on what they were doing but then I started to look around.
The whole convoy was all related to the filming. There was a motorcycle escort supporting them and other vehicles from the production team. Everything on the street was controlled. You often feel when watching street scenes that they are filming in an open environment but a lot of the time it is totally controlled. Only us and the other pedestrians could be considered random variables in the whole process. The light stayed red for a while with the cameraman trying a variety of positions and then the lights changed and the whole ground headed off to the next block. We went on our way too.
These shots are from a few years ago. I had the privilege to spend a day with the late Alan Purwin during the filming for one of the Transformers movies in Chicago. I got to fly with them on some of the shoot but I also was on the ground when they went off on part of the filming. I put myself directly ahead of the Astar when they took off and Alan buzzed me. I noticed when going through the images that the cameraman was tracking me with the stabilized mount on the nose as they flew over the top.
Being late to the party is something that I make a habit of. You could also be more optimistic and say that I am not an early adopter. A number of friends and colleagues have added a mirrorless body to their collection of gear and I have followed suit. I am perfectly happy with the performance of my SLRs. This was to add something rather than replace something. The primary interest was in size and convenience. There are times when lugging the heavy bodies around is just inconvenient.
I went with an EOS M6. I did consider going with a different manufacturer but using other equipment I already have was one factor. Another was that this camera gave me an option I was quite keen on. It has a screen for use while shooting but it also has an optional viewfinder to slot into the hot shoe. This was discounted to only $11 when I bought the camera. I like a viewfinder hit am okay with a screen. Nancy, on the other hand, does not like screens so the viewfinder can be brought along if required and will make her happier to use the camera.
So far my experience with it has been very good. Image quality has been fine, the controls are good and let me make adjustments without needing to enter menus. The flippy screen is really handy and the kit lens fits plenty of needs. The app that works with it is also pretty handy which gives a few options I wish the SLR could match! The time lapse functionality is good too. I have not tested it fully with my range of lenses and will do so at some point. However, for what I bought it for, it is doing the trick nicely.
One of the things that I was glad to get when I last changed camera bodies was the ability to have exposure compensation while shooting in manual mode. You might wonder why this is a useful thing to have but I was shooting a couple of time recently when it was useful. Sadly, the first time I didn’t think to use it. The second I did though. This is the result of shooting in dark conditions when the light levels are changing quite a bit.
The problem in the first case was that I was shooting in aperture priority mode. The light was low, so I went to auto ISO to allow it to adjust. The camera looks to get a shutter speed that is related to the focal length of the lens you are using. I was shooting a landing aircraft and, when I was out at the full length of the zoom, it kept shutter reasonably high. However, as the plane got closer and I zoomed out, the camera dropped the shutter speed down which meant the panning resulted in a lower keeper rate. I should have foreseen this and I was annoyed with myself.
The next time, I thought through the issue a bit better. A gray sky meant that I needed to have some positive exposure compensation. I went to manual mode, set the shutter speed and aperture that I wanted but included the exposure compensation. Then I set auto ISO. Now I had the ISO adjusting to get the combination I wanted while including exposure comp. On my old bodies, this was not possible. The result was the exposure I wanted with ISO adjusting throughout the sequence. When conditions are not great and changing quickly, this is an approach I can highly recommend.
On previous trips to Red Flag I have taken pictures of the departing B-1Bs as they fly overhead. The burners are really impressive and definitely worth getting a shot of from below. However, having done this a few times, I wanted to try something different. The fighter get out of burner very quickly after they get airborne. They are in mil power for ages before they get to you on the centerline. I wanted to see what you could get from the side a lot closer in so Paul agreed to try something different.
We ended up shooting a lot of side on stuff of departures for the night launch. Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate just how dark it is at Nellis at night. We had a good moon so we were hopeful that there might be some residual light. It turns out that this is not the case. Even close in, the fighters are out of burner. The tankers and the E-7 went out and I got some shots but they were a struggle, event making use of the best high ISO capabilities of the cameras. The B-1s did show up okay but I still didn’t do as well as I thought I should have.
I learned a bit about the performance of the cameras. I was shooting at super high ISO settings with the camera wide open. However, as I review the shots, I realize the camera was behaving in a way that I had not anticipated. I was shooting in aperture priority with some negative exposure compensation dialed in. As I look through the shots I see that the camera would start out with a dark shot, gradually boost the exposure and then go dark again. I would review the shots and see one that was looking good but know that the next would be dark.
When shooting in such limited light, the shutter speeds are very low and the number of lost shots is high. Therefore, you can’t afford to have the exposure be bad. I don’t know how many shots I lost since they may not have been sharp anyway but I cut down on my opportunities. In future, I need to have all of the exposures be acceptable in order to maximize my opportunities. Therefore, I think I shall have to go fully manual on everything for these shots. Set ISO up high and then go to manual aperture and shutter speed. I will still lose a lot of shots but at least I can focus on dealing with my handholding technique rather than worrying about how the camera is metering a dark night. It’s not too reasonable to expect the camera to get that right every time. It is a pretty extreme case!
UPDATE: It turns out, the upload process for the profile sends to an address that doesn’t work. While I try to fix this, if you want the profiles to use, you can download them by clicking here.
Within Adobe processing software, there is lens correction functionality built in to the Lightroom Develop module (or Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) that compensates for distortion and vignetting in the lens the image was taken with. Adobe has created a large number of lens profiles but they never created one for the Canon 500mm in its initial version. Adobe also has an online tool for sharing profiles but this does not include one for this lens either. The 600mm had a profile and it was supposedly close so I had been using that for a while. Recently, though, I was shooting with the 1.4x teleconverter fitted and this introduced some new effects which required some manual tweaking to offset.
I still wasn’t happy with the result so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and create some profiles from scratch. Adobe has a tool for creating a lens profile. It involves printing out some grid targets which you then shoot a number of times to cover the whole of the frame. It then calculates the profile. I was shooting at both 500mm and 700mm so I needed a few targets. To make a complete profile it is a good idea to shoot at a variety of focusing distances and with a range of apertures. The tool comes with many targets. Some I could print at home but some of the larger ones I got printed at FedEx and mounted on foam core to make them more rigid. Then it was time to shoot a bunch of very boring shots.
The software is not the most intuitive I have ever worked with but it eventually was clear what I had to do. (Why do some manual writers seem like they have never used the process they are writing about?) I found out how to run the analysis for different charts and distances separately and append the data to the profile as I go. I did need to quit the program periodically because it would run out of memory which seems like an odd bug these days. After much processing and some dropped frames as a result of poor shooting on my part (even on the tripod I got some blur occasionally with very slow shutter speeds) it got a profile out. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course (that is what the actual phrase is for those of you that never get past the pudding part) so I tried the profile out on some recent shots. It works! I was rather delighted. I may shoot a few more samples in good conditions to finish things off but this was a rather happy outcome. Once I have tweaked the profiles sufficiently, I shall upload them to Adobe and anyone can use them.
The update to iOS 10 brought with it the possibility to shoot in RAW on the iPhone. For some reason Apple didn’t bother to incorporate this feature in the base phone app but they did make it available to other camera app developers. Camera+ is one that I use a bit so I figured I would start shooting in RAW via that. Obviously RAW means larger files but, since I download my files to the desktop frequently and tend to clear out the phone, this wasn’t a concern.
First thing I found out was that other apps could see the shots. I had taken a few shots and wanted to upload to Facebook and it turned out there wasn’t a problem doing so. However, the main benefit was anticipated to post processing back on the desktop. With the SLR shots (is there any point to saying DSLR these days?), it is possible to recover a lot from the highlights and shadows. Would the same be possible with the phone? Sort of. You can get a bit more in these areas than would be the case with the JPEG when things are quickly lost. However, the sensor data is still not anywhere close to being as adaptable as it is for an SLR. You get more flexibility to pull the sky back but it is still pretty limited.
Is it worth using? Definitely. While it might not be the post processing experience you will be used to with SLR files, it is certainly better than the JPEGs provide. The increase in file size is hardly an issue these days so I will using it from now on. The camera app doesn’t have the pan and time lapse stuff so easily to hand so the phone’s base app will still get used but, aside from that, it will be my choice. My main gripe now is that they have a random file naming protocol that is a little difficult to get used to. Small problems, eh?
When I changed bodies, I had to update some of my accessories too. My old filter system was fine on a cropped body but with full frame, the filter holder encroached on the corners for the wide angle lenses. I took the opportunity to change my polarizer set up. I used to use a polarizer on my Cokin holder. This was a bit inconvenient when I was using lens hoods. Instead, I decided to get a screw in polarizer. Since most of my lenses have the same filter size, this gives me more flexibility.
I took the polarizer with me on vacation. One place where I made good use of it was in the rain forest. While it was pretty dark in the heavy forest cover, there was moisture everywhere and this meant a lot of reflections and glare. Consequently, I went with the polarizer most of the time. While I was there, though, I decided to do some experimentation by repeating some shots without the polarizer to see how much of a difference it made. You can see the with and without shots here and judge for yourself what a difference it makes.