This journal documents my experiences with a Canon 50D, my first DSLR camera, purchased on Oct. 16, 2008. It has some of my photographs taken with the 50D, comments about the camera's usability and suggestions for improvement. It also has links to photography-related sites which I found interesting.
My first digicam was the S30. I chose the Canon brand after playing with a Canon EOS SLR camera (belonging to a faculty member in the department). What amazed me about that camera was that Canon developed technology that tracked your eye and focused the lens wherever you looked (ECF, eye-controlled focusing). My most recent camera was the Canon S60, which is in need repair.

Moon Shot

photo • low light

Mon Dec 01 13:58:20 2008

The Moon. Shutter Priority 1/640s, f/1.4 [1 of 15]

A few weeks ago, just before bed, I happened to take a look outside my window, just before getting into bed when I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon was out— I just had to take some pictures.

Before getting dressed, I checked my journal entry where I recorded the camera settings for the last lunar eclipse I had photographed. I then got dressed and hopped out onto the balcony with my 50D and began photographing the moon. I leaned the camera on the balcony railing for stability, but because of the distance and my 50mm lens, even the slightest vibration like the shutter clicking added jitter to the photograph.

As I was coming back in, I bumped the base of the camera on the sliding door quite severely (if it had been a piece of wood, it would have nicked the wood). Once inside, I carefully checked the body of camera for a dent or a paint bruise— nothing, not even a scratch— phew!.

Update Wed Dec 03 15:54:47 2008: I was re-reading the manual last night and I realize I should have changed the metering mode from Evaluative to Center-Weighted as the subject I am photographing is in the center, and surrounded by blackness.

Update Sat Dec 06 20:17:04 2008: I was taking some night photographs of the freshly fallen snow and playing with the metering modes, I found that Partial Metering produced better exposed photographs (at -2/3 EV).

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

photos • super models

Wed Dec 03 13:54:49 2008

There are charms made only for distant admiration.
—Samuel Johnson

My guess is that Canon cameras were used to photograph the 2008 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Note that the site is in Russian, but that doesn't really matter as the subject matter is universal.

Portfolio: Ernst Haas


Fri Dec 05 08:48:28 2008

Superb black and white photography and portraits of celebrities (including Einstein) by Ernst Haas.

His behind-the-scenes photographs on the set of The Misfits are the last memorials to Marilyn Monroe's career.

Other than the first photograph in the series, I can't say I was impressed with his photographs of Audrey Hepburn's wedding; the photos have a distant, rather than intimate quality to them.

His colour photography is breathtaking in framing (see "Locksmith's Sign" in the New York series), composition and contrasts— he makes photography look so easy.

"canon" vs. "nikon"


Fri Dec 05 14:07:41 2008

Using Google Insight for Search, I tried "canon" and "nikon". The results are similar to the search for "ipod" and "zune" (except that the search volume is 60% greater for "ipod")— Nikon is the Zune of photography. Seasonal peaks for all four terms are also similar (peaking in December).

"Full Metal" Nikon


Sat Dec 06 20:05:48 2008

I was watching Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and I noticed that the "Stars and Stripes" journalists and photographers used Nikon cameras.

There are about three scenes where the photographer is shown in either a closeup or medium shot where the Nikon camera logo is clearly visible. The equipment of the film camera crew interviewing them is also featured prominently— in one interview, the Arriflex logo on the camera is clearly visible.

Update Sun Dec 07 10:53:29 2008: According to an IMDB cinema goof, "The chrome Nikon FTN that is stolen from Rasterman would NEVER have been used in VietNam. First, the FTN metering head would be useless in a dirty humid environment like that. Second a reflective chrome body would never be used in a war situation as it could give away the photographer's position. Third, a noisy SLR like a Nikon F would also never be used for the same reason."

1980s Japanophobia


Sun Dec 07 00:03:59 2008

Eric pointed me to this entry in Philip Greenspun's blog praising Canon and Japanese philosophy (zen?) in general, after fearing and loathing the Rising Sun in the early 80s.

One question that still remains is whether Japanese cars (kaizen?) killed the U.S. auto industry or whether it committed suicide (not so much seppuku as ju-monji giri) with the U.S. consumer standing by as the kaishakunin?

My Google Rank; Avril Lavigne is a Rebel

Wed Dec 10 04:07:47 2008

This journal ranks 185th (18th page) out of more than 4M results for the search terms, 'canon 50d'.

I haven't done much outdoor shooting because the weather has been wet and miserable which, in turn, makes me miserable. I did do an indoor ISO study which I have to report on.

It seems Avril Lavine is marketing the Canon Rebel Xsi and one of the Elph line that comes in pink. I never thought of her or her fans as DSLR users. Perhaps Canon sees an untapped photography market in the skater crowd which prefer video cameras to record their antics.

Wed Dec 10 22:48:12 2008: David comments:

First off, she's attractive, so if she appears on television there's a good chance male audiences will stick around to see what things are about.

Second, given that many people have labelled her as "punk" (which she rejects incidentally), is it any surprise that they're using her for a product called "Rebel"? Remember that Agassi was the first spokesmen for the Rebel line, and he had quite a reputation for language.



Thu Dec 11 22:21:05 2008

David sent me to Sandy Huffaker Jr.'s blog where he describes being on the scene and photographing the recent F-18 crash. The New York Times carried some of his photographs.

If he had only run outside with his camera the first time, he would have had a shot of the pilot parachuting down. And he broke one of my rules— always wear the neckstrap when shooting/holding/carrying the camera— he accidently dropped his camera and destroyed his 16-35mm (L!) lens. The other reason I wear my neckstrap is to alleviate hand fatigue due to the camera's weight.

Flickr to the Rescue


Fri Dec 12 17:14:55 2008

A pilot project begun by the Library of Congress allowing Flickr users to tag and comment on 3,000 historic photographs in the Library's collection, has been a great success and will continue.

It's ironic that Flickr staff have been laid off by Yahoo.

Update Sun Dec 21 13:59:27 2008: Here is the blog entry of the Commons designer, George Oats, being fired. I'm sure google will scoop her up as they need good designers.

BCE Place Galleria


Fri Dec 12 19:48:34 2008

Christmas decorations at the Bay street entrance of the BCE Place Galleria. In Program mode, handheld, -1/3EV, f/2, WB: Tung, 1/60s, 400 ISO. [1 of 4]

This photograph was taken on Dec. 3rd, on my walk home, one block north of Union Station. I didn't take any photographs during the walk because it was cold and windy.

ISO Study


Sat Dec 13 13:41:22 2008

100% crops of photos an IKEA lamp taken at 800, 1600 and 3200 ISO settings. While there is no noticeable sensor noise at 400 ISO, at 3200 ISO, the noise is obvious, especially when comparing against images with a smaller ISO. [3 of 8]

Namef-stopISOShutterSize (MB)
IMG_9696f/5 400 1/45 2.96
IMG_9697f/5 800 1/85 3.51
IMG_9699f/6.3 1600 1/8 3.83
IMG_9702f/11 3200 1/6 4.32

The table above shows the camera settings for some of the photos taken. An increasing ISO, delivers faster shutter speeds, larger f-stops, more "noise", and increased file size— which I didn't expect, but which makes sense. The sensor noise is quite apparent at ISO 3200 (when viewing full-screen on my Mac, and even when looking closely at the third thumbnail, above) and any photographs with large expanses of uniform colours will look disappointing, as will portraits.

The 50D is quite an improvement over my S60 at ISO 400 giving noiseless low-light photographs.

Update Sun Dec 14 00:04:59 2008: David suggests another study:

Did you try taking pictures with a 'medium' setting (8 MP) for JPEGs?

The entire sensor is still being used, but since every pixel isn't saved to the final JPEG, the processor can take the "extra" values and use them to extrapolate the image and perhaps gloss over some of the artifacts.

The 8 MP potentially looks cleaner, but the obvious trade off is that you have fewer to do crops with. At 8 MP you can print up to an 8"x11" at 300 ppi (or 16x12 @ 200 ppi).

He also collected 3200 ISO 50D photos posted to Flickr. What is immediately noticeable is the lack of sensor noise. I picked one at random (the baby Belah picture) and looked at the properties— even though it was taken at 3200 ISO, I think it didn't have to be; looking at the shutter speed, and f-stop, it could have been taken handheld at 800 or even 640 ISO. Meaning, that there was plenty of light available to obscure sensor noise.

Massey Hall


Sun Dec 14 10:00:08 2008

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
—"Paint it Black"

Massey Hall entrance. To get the three doors in the frame, I had to stand across the street, right against Fran's restaurant (whose neon sign is reflected in the right-most window). The brightness of the black and white image has been reduced to make the doors look black.

I also have a photograph of the clock just inside the doors. I happened to be passing by when the roadies for the Smashing Pumpkins were setting up, a few weeks ago, and the three red doors were open.

Portfolio: Heath Korvola


Mon Dec 15 17:41:23 2008

Great photographs with unique framing, suitable for catalogs (outdoor equipment), brochures (travel, publicity) and stock photography. Nearly every picture breaks the rule of thirds.

Don't miss his 'text messages' gallery under 'projects'.

I guessed that his portfolio was shot with a Nikon; I was right. But according to his blog, he's switched and his Canon 5D MkII will be arriving soon.

This is What the 50mm f/1.4 is Best At


Tue Dec 16 18:04:26 2008

This photograph is why I love this camera and the 50mm f/1.4 lens.
You get indoor shots (lit with only a single overhead bulb and back-lit
with daylight through the window) of amazing clarity and tone
in Aperture Priority, 100 ISO and f/1.4. [1 of 6]


I got some prints made today at Blacks on Yonge and Dundas (4x6 cost 10 cents now!) and the photos look amazing! I tried the Fuji InstaPrint kiosk first— the photo-choosing interface is very confusing— but just as I went to print, the kiosk informed me that the printer (in a locked enclosure below) was jammed. So I had to wait in line to let someone know that the printer had jammed. I thought it would be something simple, but the unjamming actually involved replacing "the ribbon" (a roll of CYMK film) that had disintegrated inside the printer. So I cancelled my order and decided to go with the "old fashioned" 1-hour photo. To top it off, they couldn't find my 8x10 print so I had to go back twice.

1600 ISO

During a birthday party this weekend (a very cloudy day, so all the light was from indoor lamps) I had to photograph three kids who had gorged themselves on chocolate cake. I had no choice but to spin the dial to 1600 ISO (handheld 1/20s shutter speeds using A-DEP mode) and I was impressed with the lack of noise in the shots.

I will now have to do a study of high ISO photography in indoor daylight.

Nikon D3 Spotting

I saw a photographer (white haired) with a Nikon D3 (on the strap) with a telephoto lens (I'm guessing 200mm), today at King and Bay photographing a York University picket line. Should have taken my camera today as it was a beautiful sunny day (but with a -10 °C wind-chill)...

"The Decisive Moment"

photos cartier-bresson

Wed Dec 17 00:05:04 2008

Henri Cartier-Bresson's famous book, "The Decisive Moment", with a cover designed by Matisse, is available for viewing in a flash player.

Port Credit Bus Stop


Wed Dec 17 14:22:02 2008

Mississauga Transit bus stop for Route 19 (north to Square One) at Port Credit GO station this morning, while waiting for my train (which was late). 4 image panorama painfully stitched together (it took 15 minutes from the time I began the stitch to the time I had a 1200x733 240K JPEG from the original 102M JPEG).

1600 ISO

photo low light

Thu Dec 18 17:37:23 2008

Last night, on my way home, I took some 1600 ISO pics of Yonge street, looking north from Richmond. This is the best of them all (1200x800 reduced from the original).
Program mode, f/2.8, Partial metering, 1/125s, WB: Cloudy, EV: -1.3 [1 of 8]

1600 ISO gives great handheld shutter speeds (The picture above was taken from the middle of the crosswalk, where there are no lamp-posts to hold your camera against) and no noticeable sensor noise if exposed appropriately. I have a couple underexposed photos taken prior to this one and there is no apparent sensor noise.

However, doing a Auto Smart Fix in Photoshop brings out the details in the dark areas of the photograph, but also makes the sensor noise and grain more evident.

Great Dane


Fri Dec 19 17:43:49 2008

This is a serendipitous picture of the top left corner of a trailer that has been parked for the last few months. I took it right after shooting in the shade, without adjusting the either the exposure or the aperture settings for bright sunlight. SmartFixed in Photoshop Elements. [1 of 1]

The original was completely blown-out, but running it through SmartFix produced a peculiar green shadow under the top rim that complements the red logo. The purple fringing is the chromatic aberration inherent in this lens. The only thing that would make this picture excellent, would have been an interesting cloud formation in the sky.

Update Fri Dec 19 22:34:12 2008: A note on framing: I noticed that rather than framing the shot with the edge of the top of the trailer intersecting with the top-right corner of the photograph (conforming to the rule of thirds), I framed it with the lower horizontal line intersecting with the corner; which gives more metal and less sky.

I only realized I broke the rule of thirds when I added this photo to the banner on this page and the red logo was not framed properly within the banner area.

I don't remember conciously framing this picture in this way so I can't say why it's so— perhaps I wanted to show the enormity of the trailer and put more of it in the frame; or perhaps I wanted to show the pedestrian's perspective of this trailer was I walked past it everyday.

I have added it to my list of desktop wallpaper which has so far only included macro photography. Update Wed Dec 24 17:59:32 2008: I have removed it from the rotation because the trailer is too bright for a desktop background.

Ken Rockwell Agrees with Me

usability rivalry canon nikon

Sun Dec 21 12:42:55 2008

One of my irritants is the inability to zoom an image being previewed right after a shot is taken, without first pressing the "Play" button to enter review mode.

I happened to be looking around Ken Rockwell's site after Eric sent me a link to one of his Route 66 photo studies and I happened upon a page where he compares the Nikon D3, 300 and the Canon 5D and I was surprised to read:

The downsides of the 5D are that it's a pain to use. Everything takes a few more button pushes than any of the Nikons. Want the LCD to magnify the shot you just took? You have to press the Play button and wait a moment, while on every Nikon you just press the mag button, instantly.

Clearly the people at Canon who designed the usability of this camera must not be photographers.

I found another irritant while taking photographs at night, when it's difficult to see what exposure mode you're in e.g. Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority: with the rear LCD on, if you switch from one mode to another, the LCD shuts off. I have to keep turning on the LCD, by pressing the joystick, every time I switch modes— again one extra, unnecessary keypress.

I also agree with him that Nikon photographs people better (especially in low light) and Canon photographs landscapes better; my opinion is just based on viewing people's photographs.

Update Sun Dec 21 13:57:11 2008: Canon feature request: I like the idea of having certain camera settings reset to "normal":

Resets are important, because every night I usually wind up my camera to ISO 1,600 and some screwy custom white balance, flash mode and exposure compensation, and every morning I need to set it all back to ISO 100 and normal. With the Canons I need to run down a long checklist of about a dozen things I may have messed with, because I can't use their reset because it resets too much, meaning I would have to go down an even longer checklist to reset the strategic items.

Update Mon Dec 22 10:34:20 2008: David found further evidence that Canon cameras are designed by non-photographers:

You're not the first person to make this observation:

A friend once said to me that Canons are the best cameras available designed by engineers, and that Nikons are the best cameras one can buy designed by photographers. There may well be some truth to this aphorism.

George Oats Should Work for Google

flickr picasa

Sun Dec 21 22:11:51 2008

I think George Oats should send her resume to Google and apply to work on Picasa, which can become the new Flickr.

Snow Illusion


Mon Dec 22 02:52:35 2008

Impressions made in freshly fallen snow and photographed from the right angle trick the brain into believing something that's not really there.

Street Photography


Tue Dec 23 15:14:02 2008

When one speaks of street photography, one typically imagines photographs taken with a 16mm or 24mm lens set at f/8 or f/11— the style that Cartier-Bresson pioneered in Europe. Bruce Gilden is an exception to this style; his street photography is up close and personal. (Update Wed Dec 31 16:32:47 2008: video profile.)

I tried shooting some street photography with my (equivalent) 85mm lens set at f/8 and the results were terrible— the photos looked flat— like they were taken with a point-and-shoot digicam. I also tried some f/1.4 shots, which looked a lot better; they had depth to them.

This photograph was taken right after the "iPod Bliss" photograph (as I walked east from the TTC stop), looking south at Yonge and King (from the north crosswalk). The multi-national flags are from the hotel at 1 King West. The woman on the left was inspiration for a study I did, a few days later, of people and their shadows crossing the street. [1 of 1] (SmartFixed)

Me and My Shadow


Wed Dec 24 12:08:19 2008

North-side intersection at Yonge and King. Note that these are full colour photographs which just happen to look sepia toned. They may be viewed both horizontally and vertically. I was trying to get both the sewer cover and the water cut-off valve in the frame, to add some textural detail to the crosswalk and the road. I adjusted my position during every crossing and the last series of pictures gave the best composition. f/1.4, 100 ISO, aperture priority [3 of 20]

Controlled intersections have the interesting characteristic of being able to be photographed every 30 seconds. This gave me 30 seconds to review my photographs while waiting for the light to change again. I spent about 4 minutes photographing this corner of the intersection.

I think I would have to spend a few hours to get a really interesting photograph; I took one of a man with a cane, but other overlapping shadows spoiled it.



Thu Dec 25 10:24:34 2008

David sent me a link to an article on the Wikipedia about visually composing images. I followed several of the external links and I found to have the best collection of articles on the subject.

Here is a list of the ones that had good examples illustrating the concepts:

Flickr is the Slashdot of Photography


Thu Dec 25 15:53:33 2008

If your camera has a built-in flash, it's not a professional camera.

The closest I've ever come to uploading my photos to Flickr, was to create an account (which was so long ago, that I've forgotten both the account name and password) which I never used.

My biggest reason for avoiding Flickr is that the loudmouth amateur is indistinguishable from the consumate professional. Looking at the latest statistics on camera usage, there seems to be a distinct lack of professionals (Canon Rebels are the most popular with the iPhone climbing in popularity) . It would surprise me if most of those photos weren't taken in Full Auto mode. Shooting in full auto, or in one of the presets, it's virtually impossible to take bad photographs unless it's beyond the capabilities of the camera.

Aside: many years ago, on a gray, overcast day, I remember a woman photographing the train with her SLR (it was a silver grey SLR, likely a Canon Rebel) as it pulled into the station and being surprised as the flash popped-up and fired. I remember thinking to myself, why would you need a flash to photograph a train in daylight? (Yes, I agree, I was also ignorant, to a certain extent). How many photographs does one have to take before realizing that flash makes for bad photographs?

The Flickr photographs may be technically competent but most lack any artistic merit. And since most of the people taking these photos have no clue what they are doing, their commentary on other people's photographs is counterproductive to improving the photographer's work; traditionally, one is mentored by a professional photographer. Just because technology allowed such a community to exist, didn't mean it was a good idea. Flickr as a online storage and photo-album is quite reasonable.

Framing in Casino Royale


Fri Dec 26 09:17:15 2008

One of the unfortunate side-effects of knowing various film-making techniques, is that one cannot enjoy a movie the same way an average viewer is able to. It is difficult to become immersed in the action when one is aware of and watching for technique; the first time I watch a movie, I tend to concentrate on how it's lit.

Last night, after reading all those articles on composition, I watched Casino Royale with an eye towards framing. What I realized very quickly, was that every shot in each scene (beginning with the opening scene in black and white) began and ended with the Rule of Thirds framing. Throughout the movie, all the composition techniques— golden triangles, s-curves, diagonals, — were used to great effect.

1.0.3 Firmware Upgrade

Mon Dec 29 21:46:50 2008

I applied the 1.0.3 firmware upgade tonight after my camera crashed with "Err 99" as I was taking a low-light photograph. I was worried that my CF card might have been corrupted in the crash, but everything seemed fine after a cursory glance through the photos. I used a 32MB CF card that came with my S60 camera as the procedure indicates the card should be formatted prior to loading the firmware, though I would think this is not a requirement but rather a suggestion to reduce the number of things that can go wrong.

The instructions for performing the firmware upgrade were clear and concise; the Canon documentation team is to be commended. As a documentation and procedures writer, I can appreciate documentation in different ways than the average consumer is able to.

Photo Blogs

Tue Dec 30 20:40:26 2008

David sent me a link to site that listed a collection of 100 photo blogs from around the web. I am visiting each of those sites in turn and deciding if they are worth subscribing. Here is my list so far:

Photo Tips

landscape • black and white • zone system

Wed Dec 31 15:18:01 2008

Photos tips from a couple of articles found in the Picture Correct blog.

Shadows and Highlights is a brief introduction to black and white photography using the Zone System:

In the Zone System developed by Ansel Adams there are 10 zones or shades from pure white to pure black. If you take a close look at most exposure compensation settings; regardless if your camera is digital or 35mm, most of them only give you a plus or minus range of two f-stops. If the original setting that your camera uses (18% gray) is zone 5 and you can only expose at plus or minus two stops, that only gives you a visual range of five f-stops.

A tip on photographing landscapes from Depth of Field - The Next Generation:

Wherever you focus your lens within a given image, there will be an area that is in focus and other areas that are out of focus. The area that is "in focus" is referred to as the "focal plane". The important thing to remember is that 1/3rd of this focal plane is in front of whatever you focused on, and 2/3rd's of the focal plane is behind whatever you focused on. By deliberately focusing 1/3rd of the way into your landscape shot and using a high number f-stop (like f-16 or f-22) you capture the greatest amount of the photograph in sharp focus.
luis fernandes / / Canon 50D December 2008 Journal / Main Journal Page