Shutter – It’s all about speed

Posted on Apr 21, 2014 in improve your photography | 0 comments

Shutter speed is measured in fractions.  The higher the fraction the faster the fins open and close inside the camera.  This speed is what limits the amount of time light is allowed to enter the camera for exposing the image.

Selecting a high shutter speed freezes action, while a slower one creates a blur to your image.  Knowing which speed you want / need will make a big impact on your images final results.

The general rule is that shutter speed should be set a minimum of the lens length you are using to avoid motion blurring from hand holding.  If you are using a crop sensor camera be sure to include this additional measurement.

Using the following Canon crop 1.6 – Nikon 1.5

50MM on a cropped Canon = 80MM effective focal length
50MM on a cropped Nikon = 75MM effective focal length

So using this formula the lowest you would want to hand hold a 50MM lens would be between 75-80th of a second.  This is what I like to call a neutral position.  From this point you know where to start if you need to speed up or slow down depending on your subject.



Shutter speed is a part of the exposure triangle along with ISO and aperture each of which I previously discussed in other posts.  Watch for the upcoming entry explaining how these three work together in creating your images perfectly.exposure triange



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Is the 300mm 4.0 is my dream lens?

Posted on Apr 17, 2014 in Insights | 0 comments

Cardinal taking wing

Cardinal taking wing

Having started out with the wonderful gift of a super zoom about 5 years ago as we prepared for a lifetime trip to Nova Scotia Bird Island my love of bird photography sky rocketed.  I’ve always loved heading outdoors to capture both the big and the so tiny creatures that are around us.

When hubby first bought my Sigma 150-500 I was in 7th heaven, but now after those 5 years I wanted more.  My desire to have crisper images and a lens/camera combo that I could hand hold became very important to me.  That is where the 300mm 4.0 IS with the 1.4 extender comes in.  Even though the extender does make you loose a stop and it slows down the auto-focus slightly I am very impressed on my first day out.

I visited to favorite areas in Sarnia, the Bluewater Bridge and Canatara Park.  The Bridge had a few Ring-bills that were flying around.  These gave me the opportunity to test the lens stabilizer and focus for tracking.  It was great.  I had about an 80% keeper rate with bright skies.  After working there I headed to Canatara Park were birds frequent all year long.  We get some great migrants!  This is a wonderful place to do tests because is has dark deep shadowy areas.  I don’t use my flash for fill in my photos, instead I take what available light I can get.

From what I shot today I am very impressed that I made the right call.  I produced images that are better than I got from the Sigma and I was comfortable holding the lens for more than 2 hours walking.  With my health making it difficult to lift any weight it made my day to know that I can manage this combo.

Birds in flight with the Panning Stabilizer was wonderful.  Overall would I recommend this set up to others – DEFINITELY!  I’m looking forward to using it at the upcoming workshop at the Raptor Conservatory on May 3rd.

Oh and I get the added reach using my 7D.  Even better.  Can’t wait to get out again!

Little snake waking up

Little snake waking up


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Who’s your sweet ISO?

Posted on Apr 17, 2014 in improve your photography | 0 comments

As photographers we know that what creates our photos is the light we capture while developing our images.  In the film days it was easy.  You visited the store select the right film (rated as “speeds”) , popped it in and off you went.  Things really are not that much different now.  An ISO will always be an ISO.  The sensitivity to light remains the same except that instead of sending it to “negatively” expose an image we are sending it through a processor.

When digital came along it was tough for many to understand that you could now change the ISO all within the same session.  Something we could never do in the film days.


For those who are just starting out or have always set your camera to an Auto function that controls the ISO function the following is for you.

ISO is the measurement of light sensitivity provided to the film (processor) in exposing the image.  Many newer cameras can go beyond the standards of 100 – 800 ISO ranges with the use of available custom settings found somewhere in your menus.

So just were do you start when talking about light sensitivity?  The simplest method I found was this.

Condition:  bright sunny day or well lit indoors I know I only need a bit of light to produce my image so a suitable would be within the range of ISO 50-100
Condition: outdoors on an overcast or cloudy day I know I need to add in more light so ISO 200
Condition: dim lighting or shadow/darker area with little light I know I need even more light so a range of ISO 400-800
Condition: indoors or nighttime photos I know I need the most I can get so anything ISO 1600 and up

The one issue that digital images have when working with high ISOs is the effect of noise or sometimes also referred to as grain.  This can not be changed.  The best way to reduce this problem can be to introduce more light aka a flash or use a tripod so you can lower the shutter speed.


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What the F-stop?

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 in improve your photography | 0 comments

The term F-stop seems to confuse more people than any other term used in photography.

So what is an F-stop?

The term refers to the aperture or the amount of light you are allowing to come into the camera to process your image.  You control the amount of light by opening up or closing down the fins that make up the shutter.

When thinking of the inside of the lens remember that it is the free movement of fins that open and close each time you press the shutter button.  The amount of fin that filling the opening before you press the shutter button is f-stop measurement.  The lesser the amount of fin visible is the lower f-stop and vice versa.


A f-stop of 2.8 a common measurement has a wide opening that allows for a lot of light to come into the camera sensor.  This is a highly sought after aperture since it allows photographers to work in lower light.

Common consumer lenses begin at 3.5 and have a range up to 6.3 on zooms.  These lenses are suitable for bright outdoors with lots of contrast to the images.  When there is too much light being brought into the camera you have the ability to step-down (close) the fins to reduce the impact of that source of light.  This gives you a higher f-stop.  A general rule is f-16 is for bright sunlight on a clear day.

So what else does an f-stop provide?  It also allows for a Depth of Field or blur of background.  The shallow f-stops are the smaller ones f 1.8 – f 2.8 – f 3.5 – f 4.0 – f 5.6.   These allow for the blurred background/foreground which makes your subject really stand out.  This is what most photographers strive for.

The f-stops that allow for a sharper image for all areas start at f 8.0 depending upon the length of your lens and the distance from your subject to camera.  Higher f-stops are favored by landscape photographers.

background focused - subject to camera far away

background focused – subject to camera far away

background blurred - subject to camer very close

background blurred – subject to camera very close


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Open doors

Posted on Apr 3, 2014 in Insights | Comments Off

We’ve all heard the phrase “When one door closes another one opens”, so how are we supposed to know which open door is the right one for us to go through next.  Since closing up the studio I have thrown myself back into the family computer business where my official title is Accountant/General Manager.  I enjoy the job but sometimes it’s boring.  Sitting in front of a computer working with numbers can be mind numbing.  So I have begun to question “is this the open door I was supposed to take or am I in the wrong place again”?

It’s always tough to know when you’re in the right place.  Some will tell you its a gut feeling.  You’ll get anxious when you walk away from something that’s right, but I think sometimes you get anxious because you’re leaving something behind that wasn’t meant to be yours; it was just comfortable in some way.

A perfect example – I used to carry my camera with me everywhere when I got my Rebel XT.  I have hundreds of folders with images in them.  What I noticed was that the numbers have dropped of significantly over the last 3 years.  And I mean significantly, down to about 20 folders with few images in them.  So I have to question myself – do I really have a passion for photography or was it just a phase I went through.  I’ve heard of other photographers who have had the same problems.

While chatting with a friend I spoke honestly about how I was feeling and that I have all this gear but don’t use it.  I explained that I was considering selling some off soon.  While I don’t want to make the mistake of selling something I’d enjoy later it doesn’t make sense either to hang on to something only for it collect dust in a bag.  So comes my cross-road.  Do I keep the equipment or sell it off?

She reminded me of how I supported her when she was in her down phase.  I encouraged her not to give up.  Now she is happily taking photos of her journey across America.  Her images are stunning.  I’m glad that she found her happy place again.  I am hoping when the warm weather comes back perhaps I will find mine again.  Here’s hoping a little sunshine can bring back my shine.


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Sticking with the 7D

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 in Insights | Comments Off

If you’re a photographer new or old you have probably had gear envy.  It’s not new but it is a disease that can and will drain your bank account.

Every time the big names introduce their new line-ups photographers everywhere jump in and say to themselves “I got to try that out… or worse I’ve got to get one.”

Because I am a Canon user I’ll make my generalities from this point.  When the Mark 5II came out it was fantastic.  As a reasonably priced piece of gear for pros and the full frame features that so many crave it was a quick sell.  I bought one by leasing it.  It was a big investment, but it was also replacing my Rebel XT giving my 30D the back-seat to be used as an alternate.  I loved this thing in the studio, but found it heavy, and slow for my out of studio work.  I love taking photos of wildlife in action, especially small birds and insects.

I’d read every review at the time it (the Mark5 II) shined.  It was the miracle  camera.  But here I was feeling a little ripped-off.  I had to give up a few of my lenses.  The EF-S line up won’t fit a full frame, limiting the longer reach that I had become accustomed to.  Then the 7D came out.  I had gear envy again!  I sold of the Mark5 II.  Plus I was no longer in the studio so keeping it didn’t make sense.  Other photographers to this day shake their head and ask me why would you down-grade?  I didn’t think of it as a down-grade because it featured what I needed.  I needed speed, lighter weight and I wanted my focal reach back.

7d-back-1200When I first got the 7D I’ll admit I HATED it.  It’s menus were so different. There were so many different options in the menu setup with no continuity.  The feel of it was difficult to adjust to.  I simply tucked it away in my bag and pulled out the 30D.  What changed?  Me.  I had to get past the learning curve.  Now that my 7D and I are friends it is my front liner for all my work.  I didn’t think I would ever give it up.

Then came the new models.. 60D, 70D, Mark 5III.  The gear envy was growing.  These were new!  They must be better than my 7D.  It’s getting old!  But reading up on the reviews I was wasn’t enticed enough to make the leap.  My fellow birders still rate the 7D as second best compared to 1D series.  Well I can tell you as my photography has down-graded to hobby I most certainly will not be purchasing a 1D series anytime soon.

While the newer models do have some pretty cool advancements they still don’t match my 7D for all its worth.  So until they come out with something that is affordable and excels my 7D’s features it will remain my stead fast shoot.

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Photographer’s Unite meet up dates

Posted on Mar 22, 2014 in Meet ups | Comments Off

Are you a member of my Facebook Group – Photographers Unite?  If so I invite you to our bi-weekly meetup at my home.  These casual meetings are great way to make friends, learn and explore the craft of photography.  All levels of photography skill are welcome.

Not a member?  That’s OK.  Everyone is welcome all I ask is that you send me a quick note to my email to tell me that you plan on attending.

We meet at 12 and end at 1:30 every other Tuesday starting April 12th.

April 12 & 29
May 13 & 27
June 10 & 24
July – no meet ups
August 5 & 19
September 2 & 16 & 30
October 14 & 28
November 4 & 18 (our 11th meeting is advanced on week in respect for Remembrance Day)
December – no meet ups


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