This journal documents my experiences with a Canon 50D, my first DSLR camera, purchased on Oct. 16, 2008. It is a showcase for my photography, includes comments about the camera's usability, with suggestions for improvement and discusses photography-related topics.

50D Firmware Update 1.0.7

Sat Aug 01 17:14:43 2009

Canon has released firmware version 1.0.7 for the 50D which fixes some magenta colour issues in certain shooting styles (I haven't noticed this) and some i18n menus.

Tue Aug 04 23:50:15 2009: Updated to 1.0.7.

Friday Foto: Red Sky at Dawn


Sat Aug 01 18:28:17 2009

EF 24-105mm at 24mm, f/8, contrast adjusted for the sky portion and some distracting power-lines removed.

FromFriday Foto

I followed the advice about predicting red skies in the morning and took this photograph (1 of 2) at 5:59AM on Friday, July 17 and promptly went back to bed.

Update Sun Aug 02 09:55:24 2009: David adds :

The "high clouds" [referred to in the advice] are called cirrus. According to my sailing instructors, a sky full of cirrus clouds generally means a weather system is going to arrive in the next day or so.

LED Lighting


Sat Aug 01 21:22:56 2009

An introduction to studio lighting using LEDs.

Studio Shots


Sun Aug 02 00:02:32 2009

50mm/1.4 at f/4, 1/25s, ISO400, hand-held, +2 exposure bias, spot metering.

50mm, f/5.6, 3/10s, ISO100, exposure bias +1.3, spot metering, manually focused.

During the past few days, I have been doing some indoor photography with the 50mm/1.4 lens— specifically, close-up of products with blown hilights. I set up an IKEA stool next to my balcony window, moved the curtains out of the way and placed the lychee fruit on the stool. On the first day, I shot hand-held and found that I needed an ISO higher than 100 to get shutter speeds faster than 1/50s. 12 photographs over various f-stops and different compositions took about a half hour to photograph.

The following day, I borrowed my Dad's tripod to be able to use ISO 100 and slower shutter speeds. I used LiveView to manually focus the lens at 5x magnification. I re-arranged the fruit in different compositions and found that the better compositions were those with the bright, red strawberries placed at the rule-of-thirds intersection, and in sharp focus. The photographs with the foreground strawberry in focus, rather than the ones in the background, looked the best.

My photography "studio" setup.

Sun Aug 02 23:16:29 2009: Added link to IKEA Benjamin stool.

David Rams: Playboy Photographer


Sun Aug 02 18:27:17 2009

You'll be sitting at lunch with a model and she's topless and you're just talking about... nothing, movies, or whatever.

Searching for information about the new scifi TV series, Defying Gravity, I stumbled across an article in the Toronto Star, about David Rams, a photographer for Playboy. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he has been photographing for the magazine since 1994.

Sun Aug 02 21:15:43 2009: In general, I would place Playboy photography in the same genre as product advertising— lacking all artistic sensibilites, without room to experiment or innovate, while pretending to be glamour photography. The women are either unnaturally beautiful (and unattainable) or unnaturally average looking (yet unapproachable) to the average male. Next to meeting one of them, the dream is to photograph them despite being completely clueless about photography.

I am reminded of some dialog by the Photographer in Blow Up: "But even with beautiful girls, you look at them and that's that. I'm stuck with them all day long."

Camera Projector


Tue Aug 04 08:55:22 2009

This morning, David emailed me with news that Nikon has introduced the S1000pj, a camera with a built-in projector (a feature I had wished for). Projecting photos onto a wall is so much better than having people huddling over the camera LCD. (Ideally, you want the projection to be image stabilized if you're going to do an impromptu show on the street at night; I doubt the images are shade-viewable at 10 lumens).

Tue Aug 04 14:14:07 2009: Link to video.

InCase Camera Bags


Thu Aug 06 21:48:55 2009

Incase has introduced two new camera bags; both bags are too small to be useful for "pro" cameras with extended grips. Perhaps the sling pack might be able to cope with cameras with removable grips. I am quite happy with the Canon-branded Tamrac bag which was thoughtfully designed for various situations.

Friday Foto: Sunset


Fri Aug 07 14:03:15 2009

Macworld Cover From Start to Finish


Fri Aug 07 16:31:56 2009

Peter Belanger demonstrates how a Macworld cover is photographed, photoshopped and then composited together in a timelapse video.

I am surprised with the effort put into the lighting and photography, despite the lenghty photoshop session that follows. The photography session is proof of the importance of my photography mantra, "Lighting is everything." It looks like 6 lights were used to light the two iPhones.

Sat Aug 08 22:00:41 2009: David responds:

> "Lighting is everything."

"Lighting" or "light"?

The former implies (when I personally hear it) that there's an active component from the photographer's part (e.g., "studio lighting"), or the framing of the subject.

IMHO, the latter gives the connotation of the essence of what you're trying to capture.

Bryan Peterson also makes a good argument that, while essential, it isn't everything (p.95 of Understanding Exposure):

As far as I'm concerned, the light is the best possible frosting you can put on the cake, but it has never been--and never will be--the cake.

"Lighting is everything", has a better ring to it, but it means the same thing as "Light is everything". The mantra is a reminder that if the light is not right, not to take the shot. You have to start with good light; the rest is up to the camera and photographer.

I have not taken any outdoor photographs in the last two months (since June 21) because the summer light is too harsh and the golden hour happens when I'm on the train. As a rule, I take my outdoor photographs in "good" light— before 11AM and after 4PM.

A corollary to this rule is to know the limitations of your camera (by reading the manual) and that taking photographs that exceed these limitations come with consequences:

The average consumer seems to believe that their point-and-shoot should be able to take pictures similar to those of a professional SLR in all light conditions; they are genuinely surprised and disappointed when their camera fails to perform to their expectations.

PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5


Mon Aug 10 13:05:38 2009

A couple of great videos explaining how to use the PocketWizard flash remote triggers. The second video illustrates how the first and second curtains work.

I can't say I like the photo results, though. The light on the model looks artificial. I can only imagine using this setup indoors in poor light and specifically during the annual student awards ceremony which is held in a poorly-lit hall.

Light Show

Mon Aug 10 15:52:27 2009

24-105 at 24mm 100ISO, f/8, partial metering, bulb mode 20s manual exposure and focus. (The drops of water are on the window, not on the lens.)

24-105 at 24mm 100ISO, f/5.6, partial metering, bulb mode 16s manual exposure.

Since the 50D does not have an intervalometer, I spent about an hour at my window manually performing 20-30 second exposures in bulb mode (meaning the the shutter stays open for as long as the shutter-button is pressed) during the spectacular thunder storm last night. The camera was resting on the window sill, angled upwards with the bottom front of the lens leaning against the window pane. I took about 150 photos in total, 7 photos captured lighting, one was over-exposed (I should have released the button right after the strike).

This is the first time I have photographed lightning.



Tue Aug 11 12:37:04 2009

Gary "The Gadget Guy" Hershorn, a Reuters photographer, explains (video) how the Mifi wireless pocket router helps photographers get their photos to the Photodesk quickly.

My Moo Cards Arrived!


Wed Aug 12 00:02:54 2009

First impressions— the photos with faces look grainy; landscapes look fantastic; dark colours look muted; photos with bright colours look fantastic; sunset photos look fantastic; my famous lady-bug photo also looks fantastic.

Update Fri Aug 14 14:17:36 2009: Photos...

My Moo business cards. A selection of photos (L), the presentation box (M) and the size relative to my hand (R).

Friday Foto: Pine cones


Fri Aug 14 18:18:22 2009

Taken on a drizzly day with the camera/lens malfunctioning due to the humidity, which is why the focus looks odd. Not much thought to composition as I was trying to avoid a bright green piece of chewing gum in the bottom right corner. price Graphs


Sun Aug 16 13:11:09 2009 now has graphs of the prices (both Canadian and U.S) of various camera bodies and lenses. Looking at the prices of some of Canon's best lenses: 24-70/2.8L, 70-200/2.8L IS and my 24-105/4L, it looks like it's cheaper to buy in the January-March period with the exception of the 24-105 which shot-up in price rather bizzarely in the U.S., this past January. The general trend based on these samples, seems to be that the prices of lenses are going up while the prices of bodies are dropping.

Rumours say that there is a Canon lens announcement due on Tuesday.

Google Insights


Tue Aug 18 09:16:43 2009

I was playing with Google Insights this morning and here are the results for four camera brands:

The only surprise is that Olympus was more popular than Nikon in 2004-2006.

The Canon spike for this October/November should be higher than Google predicts as Canon typically releases a new/updated pro DSLR before every Olympics.

Flickr Cameras


Tue Aug 18 17:28:43 2009

Flickr, the popular photo site for dilettantes, has a graph of popular cameras showing that the iPhone usage is approaching Canon's Rebel XTi.

Camera Spray


Fri Aug 21 10:53:34 2009

In last Sunday's NY Times Week in Review an article by Jeffrey Gettleman about Mrs. Clinton's trip to Africa mentioned some new terms:

These trips have their own lingo, I learned, as part of the traveling press corps assigned to chronicle every speech, handshake and hug. "Bi-lats" are bilateral meetings. "Meet-n-greets" are visits to American embassies. "Camera sprays" are essentially photo opportunities, usually staged and no questions allowed, and "spray" can be used as a noun, as in, "there’s a camera spray at 2 p.m. with President X" or as a verb— "come on guys, time to spray the lunch." The secret service on her plane refer to their M-4 assault rifles as their "sticks." The secretary of state is called "the package."

Friday Foto: Wet Bird


Fri Aug 21 12:38:15 2009



Sun Aug 23 15:33:34 2009

Does the context in which a photograph was taken, matter in the appreciation of a photograph?

Does the viewer enjoy a photograph more if he learns that the photographer climbed a mountain for an entire month to photograph a particular vista? Does the enjoyment change if a robotic helicopter, which took months to build, was used to photograph the same vista (assuming both photographs look virtually identical)? Does it matter that a photographer wasn't phisically "there" to take the photograph— satellite photography or Hubble telescope?

Does a photograph acquired purely by accident (photographer was in the right place at the right time or the camera was set incorrectly) have the same artistic merit as a meticulously planned and executed photograph?

I haven't decided.

New Canon Cameras: S90, G11


Sun Aug 23 15:54:34 2009

Last week, Canon announced some new gear including two prosumer class cameras, the S90 successor to the S60 and the G11, successor to the G10.

The most significant aspect of the G11 camera is that the (Sony) sensor has fewer megapixels than the G10— Canon has dropped out of the megapixel race and is concentrating on image quality. The G-class is popular with pro photographers who don't like to carry their DSLRs on vacation.

The most significant aspect of the S90 is the f/2.0 aperture making it a fantastic indoor camera not requiring flash. Would I recommend it? Yes! Would I buy it? No!

After having used two S-class cameras since 2002, the S30 and the S60, I would say that both cameras are much too fragile to handle a 2' drop while closed (the S60 was encased in a bubble-wrap bag) without requiring major servicing— one of the internal switches came loose in the the S30 (it wouldn't turn on) and the IR filter came loose in the S60 (it works fine except that there is a purple fringe at the top of photographs and half of the video image has a purplish tinge to it.

My 50D is quite rugged in comparison, though I have yet to drop it.

Rumours of a Canon 7D (it will sit between the 50D and the 5D2) are rampant. Lens rebates for Canada begin in September.

Apple Camera


Mon Aug 24 07:52:12 2009

In September, Apple will likely announce an updated iPod Touch with a built-in camera, similar to that in the iPhone 3Gs. I will likely be buying that iPod model to replace my Sony Clié SJ33 from 2003.

I found a good review comparing the quality of the photographs of the original iPhone camera and the 3Gs camera. The image quality and colours are striking as is the spot-metering of the focus-area, something I wish the 50D had (metering is always center-based and the exposure has to be locked (with the "*" button) before re-composing the shot).

Friday Foto: Sunflower with Bee 01


Fri Aug 28 11:09:38 2009

50/1.4 at f/2.8, 1/25s, ISO100, spot metering. I didn't realize how difficult it was to properly expose a sunflower— there is at least a full stop difference between the dark center and the petals. Shadows and hilights and mid-tone contrast adjusted with Photoshop.

FromFriday Foto

I find that I "forget" how to take photographs properly if I don't use the camera for extended periods (more than a week). I need to adopt a ritual and practice it so I don't forget important things— check the shutter speed before the shot; check the histogram after.

Last Saturday was the first time I used the camera after a two month hiatus and I had a difficult time photographing the sunflower. It didn't help that it was an overcast morning and the sunflower was drooping down, away from the light.

I took a total of 13 photos and two (maybe three) were usable but could have been much better. I regret not using a higher ISO and a deeper depth-of-field to get the center of the flower in better focus.

Canon 7D


Mon Aug 31 16:02:31 2009

The Canon 7Dcamera is expected to be announced tomorrow along with some new lenses.

Tue Sep 01 08:04:50 2009: Linked to Canon press release. Things I like about the new camera: new focusing system, new viewfinder with LCD overlay, electronic level. Canon also announced three new lenses, one EF and two EF-S; the 100mm/2.8L Macro has the new hybrid image stabilizer system.

After reading my 50D manual seven times, things I didn't know or had forgotten: AI Servo tracking initiated by focusing with the center AF point (the 7D allows any AF point) and selecting the center point for precise focusing when using f/2.8 or larger apertures.

Update Tue Sep 01 12:12:51 2009: 7D preview from

luis fernandes / / Aug 2009 Canon 50D Journal