Monday, November 17, 2014

Can the Canon 7d Mark II See in the Dark?

Brody watches the snow fall - Canon 7d Mark II - ISO 16,000

I've never used a camera that has had the ability to create a usable image above ISO 3200.  At ISO 16,000, the 7d mark II can take a picture in light that is so dim that autofocus is nearly impossible. Brody lies on our front lawn in the pitch dark, watching the first snow flakes of the season flutter down.

In the picture below, taken at the Columbus Zoo, I couldn't even tell what I was looking at.  Brody said he saw an owl- but it didn't look quite right in the dark to me.  After a look at the interpretive sign next to the cage, I realized this shadowy figure was a tawny frogmouth, a notcurnal dweller of forests in Australia.  I could barely make out the outline of the bird, let alone see any coloring or pattern.  I wasn't even sure if I had my focus correct- it was that dark.  At ISO 16,000 the 7d Mark II made an image that blew my own vision away.


Tawny Frogmouth - Canon 7d Mark II - ISO 16,000

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Canon 7d Mark II High ISO Performance

On Veterans Day, I was able to take the new 7d mark II out for a spin at Blendon Woods Metropark.  Overall, I am extremely impressed with the clean images it produces at high ISO.  I would absolutely have no problems shooting at ISO 3200 when needed.  The first image of the female cardinal and the last image of the white-throated sparrow were both shot at ISO 3200.  Since Lightroom does not support raw files from this new camera, all of these images were processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional using default settings for noise reduction.  After converting to jpeg, I adjusted contrast and sharpness with Photoshop CC 2014.  The bottom line? The 7d Mark II is an awesome wildlife camera.

Canon 7d Mark II, ISO 3200, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4x Sigma EX DG teleconverter

Canon 7d Mark II, ISO 1600,  EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Canon 7d Mark II, ISO 1600,  EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Canon 7d Mark II, ISO 3200,  EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why I'm Looking Forward to the Canon 7D Mark II

I pre-ordered the Canon 7D mark II about an hour after it was announced- here's what I'm looking forward to:

1.  Ability to consistently use ISO 1600.

With the current 7d, ISO 800 is about the highest I'm willing to go when I'm photographing birds. Using the relatively slow 100-400 f5.6L, I'll be able to bump my ISO up one more stop to 1600.  This equates to better real world image quality in less noise at ISO 1600, plus the ability to use a shutter speed twice as fast.  1/250 becomes 1/500; 1/500 becomes 1/1000 when compared to the 7d.  In practice, that makes a huge difference in capturing a blurry image of something in motion vs. stopping the action with a fast shutter speed.

2.  Autofocus capability using the Canon 100-400 5.6L  and the Sigma 1.4 teleconverter.

Being a thrifty photographer, I snatched up a sigma teleconverter for about $100 via Craig's List a few winters ago.  My original plan was to use this only with my Sigma 180 f3.5 for macro work.  It's a great match with the telephoto macro, giving me consistently sharp images.  But for curiosity's sake, I started experimenting by pairing it with the 100-400L.  This combination won't autofocus on the 7D. Yes, there are ways to fool the system into making this combination work, but it is still a clumsy solution.  I used the 1.4 converter and the 100-400 by focusing manually, but this almost always resulted in front or back focus.  The camera's live view, contrast-detect based focus did autofocus, but once again, this was a clumsy, slow way to photograph birds.  Ultimately, I never determined if the 1.4 TC- 100-400 combination was capable of creating a sharp imag  because I could not determine if the blurry images were a result of missed manual focus or unsharp optics.

The new 7d mark II WILL autofocus with lens-teleconverter combinations that result in an f8 equivalent aperture or wider.  I'm hoping that I'll get much better results and more keepers. Yes, autofocus will be limited to the central point only (and surrounding points if using AF-point expansion), but that is better than nothing.

3.  Wide-area, 65-point autofocus system.

While photographing Wood Storks at Huntington Beach State Park this past August, I was disappointed with the number of in focus bird-in-flight shots I brought home.  Of the several hundred images I captured, only a handful were keepers.  I was working with a tricky background, but still, I thought the 7d was up to the task.  The mark II's 65 point system, coupled with the ability to custom tune the AI-servo autofocus for different shooting conditions should result in more successful bird-in-flight images.

4.  I'll have two camera bodies. 

I'm keeping the 7d as a backup- it's still a great camera.  When I'm in the field, a 7d mark II will be attached 100-400 for sudden wildlife opportunities, while the original 7d will be paired with either a 60 mm macro or the ultra-wide 10-22 zoom.

The new camera is scheduled to arrive tomorrow- I'll keep you updated.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Did You Get Any Good Pictures?

Is this a "good" photograph?

Why can't I seem to come up with a good answer to this seemingly simple question?

It seems that more than ever, when I'm out and about with friends or family with a camera, I'm always asked one simple question: "Did you get any good pictures?"

Unfortunately, this question bugs the heck out of me, because I don't quite really know how to answer it.  I think many of the people that ask me this know that I'm a pretty good photographer.  My work has been displayed across Ohio, and I've made a nice supplementary income licensing images via Istock.  Why the heck are people asking me if I got any good pictures?  Yes, it's true that sometimes I come back with images that just didn't work, BUT, when I'm out photographing, I don't click the shutter unless I think what I'm seeing will make a good picture..

I'm not looking to make good pictures- I'm looking to make great photographs.  I desire to create something that will capture one's glance for more than a second or so- I'm looking to produce the best photographs I've ever created. There is a deliberate process that I go through to make these image. I'm not just blindly pointing the camera "hoping" that I get a "good" photograph. And herein lies why this question just simply bugs the heck out of me.

How should I answer this question, I suppose, would be the more appropriate question.  I have come to understand that anyone asking me if I took any good photographs is opening up an opportunity for casual conversation.  I've not been able to recognize this, and instead, I'll give sort of smart ass quip like "always" or a response that will certainly end the conservation- something like: "I'm not really sure until I get back and view the images on the computer.

But as a photographer who is trying to capture the world and share my experiences through photography, I simply need to pounce upon the opportunity to explain what I'm seeing and why it is important.  Instead of scoffing at this question- I need to realize that those asking are generally interested in how I see the world and what I'm photographing.  I need to embrace the question and give answers like - "you know, this is just an incredible place to be, so much is going on here, beautiful light, beautiful people, beautiful photographic subjects, that I just feel compelled to explore and express my experiences with the camera".

It is only that when I begin to embrace the question "did you get any good pictures?" that I will ever become truly successful in sharing my vision with others.


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Sunday, May 4, 2014


Do you ever find yourself in a perfect photographic moment? It often happens along my drive to work. When inspiration struck most recently, I found myself at a red light, able to snap this quick photograph the multiple layers of transportation through north Columbus- Morse road, a major artery, and a south bound Norfolk Southern container train. The motion in the scene would have been perfect for video, and that's where I went first with the iPhone, but the angle of view simply wasn't wide enough. Switching over to a still gave me the perspective I was looking for, and the light was just dark enough to ensure the moving train would be blurred. This shot would be nearly impossible to replicate- I can't just run out into the road and put up a tripod there, and trying to get my car in this exact position between two railroad bridges isn't likely to happen again.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rembering Cooper Stadium

On August 30, Megan, my mom, dad, and brother attended a Columbus Clippers game during their last homestand at the historic Cooper Stadium. Just last week, demolition began to turn this old ball park into a racetrack. According to the Columbus Dispatch, portions of the grandstand will remain. I thought I'd look back at what was once home to baseball in Columbus. -Tom

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Weekend 2014

An fun-filled Easter weekend with the grandparents- including a new toy at their house, a fisher price Ford Mustang.  Weston took about two hours before he got the hang of turning the thing- it has a wide turning radius, and frequent backing up is needed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slate Run Historical Farm

Yesterday's family visit to Slate Run Historical Farm, south of Canal Winchester, Ohio.