I’ve been a Canon user ever since my first DSLR and one of the things that always frustrated me is the uselessness of the LCD to evaluate the sharpness of your pictures.
In fact on the back LCD if you try to zoom while reviewing a picture it will quickly becomes pixelated and blurry. No need to tell you my deception when I was trying a friend’s Nikon and noticed the picture was perfect even after a 10x zoom and he could easily check if it was sharp or not.
Some research showed that Nikon uses higher quality LCD’s on their DSLR’s than Canon, and it looked like everyone complaining was associating this problem to the LCD quality. However I have also find out that this is not the truth.
Canon’s LCD is as good as the LCD of a regular laptop so this should be good enough, the real problem is that Canon uses a 2 megapixel image as a review one.
If you have one of the newest Canon bodies with liveview you would notice that the image is pretty clear when this mode is activated even when zoomed in 10x.
So come on Canon all it takes to resolve this problem is a firmware upgrade, nothing more.
Sensor dust is probably one of the worst nightmares of DSLR owners. Manufactures are trying hard to solve this problem with the introduction of “auto sensor cleaning” features in the newest bodies like the Canon EOS 40D or 450D.
Sensor dust will show in pictures as dark spots that will appear constantly at the same place and will be more pronounced at small apertures.
As of today there is no “dust free” solution for DSLR cameras yet, the sensor will accumulate dust over time and you can either learn to live with it or clean it regularly, however some precautions could considerably reduce this problem.
By definition a silhouette picture is an image where a dark foreground is outlined against a lighter background.
This type of photography is usually achieved by placing your subject in a bright scene and let your camera meter for the background e.g. A person at sunset. The resulting image will be a black, usually without details, focal point that is outlined in a well exposed scene.
This is a guest post written by Bud Kunzeli, Bud lives in Alaska and have been shooting Northen lights for years. He was kind enough to write this essay highlighting the most important aspect of Aurora Photography. Bud’s work can be viewed at http://www.pbase.com/santa
There are very few people who have more opportunity to view Northern Lights than those of us living in Central and Northern Alaska. I shoot the lights a lot. I shoot for 6 hours or more some nights. Some nights they are out 5 minutes other nights, 5 hours. Often it’s chilly.
Aurora photography is part photography and often, part cold weather adaptation and survival. Aurora photographers in Alaska have to deal with temperatures down to -50F (-45C) and even colder. I can attest to that, at least. So what do you need to shoot aurora?
Any camera that has a tripod hole and can shoot ISO400 for 15 sec at f2.8 -or equivalent exposure- can do a decent job of taking an aurora photograph. That is a very common exposure. So is ISO800 for 30 seconds at f2.8. Thirty seconds with a 16mm lens will give you very slight star smudges. OK by me, not OK with others, but that’s a ball park exposure for a common aurora as seen from a high latitude.
Obviously a tripod is required. My camera bag has a Canon TC-803N that allows me to automate some shooting if I want star trails or if the exposure goes over 30seconds for any reason. Anyone doing a lot of night photography needs that or the equivalent. Since most of my exposures are 18-30 sec I don’t use it every evening.
Currently I shoot a Canon MKII with a 16-35mm (version I ) lens. It is invariably at f2.8. I haven’t broken down to get a fisheye but I know I should have one. So should you. I set the focus manually to infinity and check it occasionally. Use Daylight as a good starting White Balance. Shoot RAW if you can, and play with it in Adobe Camera Raw or your other favorite editor to fine tune the WB.
I set my camera for a 2 second self timer or I use my remote cord. When it is very cold and difficult to remove my outer mitts even for a short time, the remote becomes invaluable.
I much prefer something in the foreground. A mountain, a tree, a house, almost anything of interest. I rarely just point the lens upward but occasionally that alone is fascinating. If you are lucky to be a in place for a few weeks in the Fall you may get some Aurora with lakes and rivers with water still flowing. That’s always nice as a foreground.
Locally the aurora is most active right around midnight. “Magnetic midnight” can vary on the globe, but locally 10PM to 2AM is prime time. Sometimes even before and after. I’ve shot aurora till dawn.
If you want to know if the aurora is going to be out, then http://www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/ is where you want to go. If you want to know if the aurora IS out (at least in the Fairbanks area), then http://salmon.nict.go.jp/live/aurora_cam/live_aurora_cam_e.html is where to go. That web cam closes down in the summer when the light makes aurora viewing impossible in the Fairbanks area.
The camera, shutter speed, settings and such are not a challenge. Finding nice composition is harder. Still harder is dealing with the cold if you are not used to shooting at -20F. My advice is to come in September or March. Both have darkness and neither is so cold as to be unbearable. You may need to invest in an inexpensive snowsuit or snow pants and some extra upper layers. A very thin pair of polypro gloves worn under some larger warmer gloves is just the ticket. Extra batteries. Extra batteries. Extra batteries. If you know the battery life of 1D MKII, you’ll be impressed to learn I have gone through six of them in one night, shooting less than 50 images. But you can rotate them back in when warm, so if it’s cold, bring hand-warmer chemical heat packs. There’s a tip for ya!
Leave the flashlight at home. And don’t bring a headlamp. Bring two. And don’t get just any headlamp. Get a headlamp that has a red-lamp ability. I use a Petzl, although I don’t use the camo version. I bring a spare – they are critical- and use rechargeable batteries so I always have fresh batteries when I go out, and I bring a spare set for each headlamp.
We are currently at a low point in the aurora cycle, which is an 11 year cycle, but we are headed upward. There is no long term forecast. If you have to plan ahead, just plan for any time in Sept. or March. If you can buy a ticket on Friday and leave Sat then you can watch the weather and aurora forecast together. You CAN get a good idea about potential aurora action in the next few days. To a lesser degree for weeks ahead. If you can come on the spur of the moment when clear skies are combined with a Kp of 4 or more you are virtually guaranteed aurora viewing in the Fairbanks area.
I’ll leave it to Antoine to insert a few images here as he wishes from my web pages at http://www.pbase.com/santa/aurora and http://www.pbase.com/santa/aurora_miscellaneous.
Feel free to drop an email to kuenzli [at] gci.net if you have any questions, and if you decide to make it up this far, holler if you’d like to go out shooting.
below, -20F in a 20mph wind self portrait with self timer and 550EX flash on camera. Note the frozen moustache and the lynx fur laying down in the wind. At -20F and colder, care must be taken when looking through the viewfinder. you must hold your breath completely when looking through the viewfinder or you will frost over the viewfinder and/or LCD and/or the lens itself.
good shooting to you,
I have previously categorized the Neutral Density filter as a “must have filter for any landscape photographer lover. And the reason was that it is one of the rare filters which effect cannot be reproduced in the digital darkroom.
Polarizers would be the other filters fitting that description.