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.

Rembrandt Lighting

lighting technique cinema

Thu Oct 01 18:39:53 2009

I had not heard of the term Rembrandt Lighting until today. It is a lighting technique used for portraits.

I wish I had known about the technique before I took a couple of photographs of my boss for his Facebook profile page. The photographs were to replace his iPhone self-portrait, which made him look like a serial killer. The entire shoot took less than 5 minutes.

50mm f/1.4, Av, f/2.2, 1/80s, ISO1600, Spot metering

50mm f/1.4, Av, f/1.4, 1/80s, ISO1600, +1/3EV, Spot metering, WB: Flourescent (properly cropped, I prefer this one)

I will re-shoot with Rembrandt Lighting if I have another chance.

If you're wondering why I shot portraits in Landscape mode, it's because I didn't have my grip installed on the camera; I have been shooting "light" since the summer hiatus.

Fri Oct 02 08:20:58 2009: A note on the lighting setup: I switched off all the overhead lights and used the ambient light from an adjacent room to light the subject. Since the image was going to be reduced to a postage-stamp sized thumbnail, I didn't care about sharpness, or noise. The important thing was contrast between the subject and the background.

Friday Foto: Tower and Dome


Fri Oct 02 08:56:00 2009

CN Tower and Skydome seen from the Gardiner Expressway off-ramp, Aug. 2004.
Canon S-60 in Program mode.

FromFriday Foto: Downtown

A Bearable Lightness


Sat Oct 03 09:02:43 2009

I recently fell ill for a few days with an unpleasant cold and was bed-ridden for some of those days. When I was well enough to return to work I still had remnants of the illness which manifested itself as an overall fatigue which made it difficult to carry all my photographic gear (camera, 50mm, 24-105mm, battery grip, charger, etc.) as I am accustomed to do in the Canon-branded Tamrac bag. So, my solution was to carry "the bare necessities"— I detached the battery grip and carried the camera (in my messenger bag) with my lightest lens, the 50mm, attached.

I don't know whether it was the summer hiatus from shooting, seeing the city in a narrower-than-usual prespective, or a combination of the two, but I have had several photographs (many more then usual) that were "keepers", despite my skills being rusty. It might also be because I am shooting at twilight on the way home.

I have also had an epiphany about the usefulness of small, lightweight cameras with large (APS-C or FF) sensors and interchangeable lenses, like the Micro 4/3, the Sigma DP and the Leica. In some respects, I do miss having my S-series camera with me when outdoors (see the last Friday Foto) because of its great wideangle lens.

So, I am considering getting the 28mm f/1.8 USM lens for landscape work and my 50mm is great for portraits and for macro closeups. Both lenses are light enough to carry in my pocket thus giving me a "normal 50" and a close-up lens with the 1.6x crop factor.

The other wideangle lenses don't interest me because they are not USM, have some sort of optical defect (20mm/2.8) and lack full-time-manual focusing. The L lenses are not under consideration because of the size and weight.

I am also considering the EF-S 10-22mm lens; I haven't decided.

DIY Lighting

gear lighting

Sat Oct 03 19:53:19 2009

The Department hosts the annual Student Awards Night in a very dimly lit room which makes it very difficult to take good photographs. I don't do this shoot and I leave it to my boss who uses his Canon DSLR (a couple of generations old) and a 70-200/2.8 lens. As you can see from last year's album the photographs need more light. They accurately depict the lighting conditions in the room rather than showing the subjects properly exposed.

So, this year, I am searching for some inexpensive lighting rig that can be used to augment the light in the room and properly expose the subjects. Since this is done once a year, we can't justify professional grade lighting rigs. I found a DIY lighting site with some promising suggestions.

Victoria's Secret Model Tryouts

photos lighting

Sun Oct 04 13:01:20 2009

The NY Daily News has a photo montage of yesterday's Victoria's Secret model tryouts in NY (I found it after reading coverage about the Letterman affair). The last photograph in the series shows how the lighting (for video) was done— softbox bouncing off the ceiling. I would guess the photographer is using a Nikon with an f/2.8 lens, probably the 24-70; the photography is excellent.

I would also guess a 99% attrition rate from the first round to the last. Some of the women should not have bothered showing up; perhaps they've never looked at a Victoria's Secret catalog.

"Contacts" Volume 1

technique dvd

Mon Oct 05 00:02:18 2009

I was reading a post on "The Photographer's Series" DVDs, profiling famous photographers and their technique, which mentioned the "Contacts" series of DVDs, which the university library happens to have. (I surprised that the library has them— I have such low expectations of our library— on the other hand we do have one of the best photojournalism programs in the country).

The first volume of "Contacts", is subtitled, "The world's greatest photographers reveal the secrets behind their images. Volume 1, The great tradition of photojournalism" and profiles Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein, Raymond Depardon, Mario Giacomelli, Josef Koudelka, Robert Doisneau, Edouard Boubat, Elliott Erwitt, Marc Riboud, Leonard Freed, Helmut Newton, Don McCullin.

Portfolio: Erik Lunsford


Mon Oct 05 23:15:51 2009

Erik Lunsford is a photojournalist for the St Louis Post-Dispatch. He is a Canonista who knows his lighting and takes beautiful photographs.

Zoom Blur

photo technique

Tue Oct 06 00:05:15 2009

Zoom Blur is the name given to the technique of zooming the camera (in or out) while the shutter is open, thus giving the illusion of motion— the center of the photograph is in focus while the edges are streaked.

I tried this out yesterday morning (overcast) as the train was pulling in to Port Credit station. The zoom blur photos are certainly more alive than the usual train-frozen-on-the-track photos taken at 1/4000s by a point-and-shoot.

24-105/4L in shutter priority, 1/15s, ISO100, low-speed continuous, spot metering, WB: Cloudy.
(L-R) focal lengths: 47mm, 80mm, 95mm.

The sequence of photos above, is from two different sets of photographs from a total of 5 photographs (two were deleted). I zoomed the lens to 105 and zoomed out to 24 in 3 seconds as the train approached. I recomposed and re-shot after each zoom sequence. I initially had the camera in high-speed continuous but it was too fast.

Point and shoot users can fake zoom blur with a Photoshop plugin and enough time.

Nobel Prize in Physics for the Foundation of Digital Photography


Tue Oct 06 13:11:39 2009

Willard Boyle, co-inventor of the CCD in 1969 with George Smith at Bell Labs, was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Update Fri Oct 16 00:12:59 2009: There is dispute.

R.I.P.: Irving Penn


Wed Oct 07 18:54:35 2009

Irving Penn, famous for his fashion photography, passed away this morning. (If I recall correctly) he pioneered the look of photographing the subject "trapped" in a corner.

Update Mon Oct 12 10:18:09 2009: The New Yorker magazine has a rememberance and a slideshow.

Friday Foto: Black-eyed Susan with Ladybug


Fri Oct 09 12:38:11 2009

50mm/1.4 Av @ f/4, -1EV, spot metering, WB: Sunny. About two hours of Photoshop work to brighten the dark center of the flower and other touch-ups

From Friday Foto

Norman Rockwell


Sun Oct 11 09:53:08 2009

Vanity Fair has an article, Norman Rockwell's American Dream, on the elaborate photo-shoots that Norman Rockwell undertook as studies for his paintings.

50D Odd Behaviour (But Not Really)


Sun Oct 11 16:21:14 2009

My camera began behaving oddly in Aperture Priority mode today when I began photographing thanksgiving dinner— the mirror would flip-up but wouldn't return; but the picture would turn out OK. I switched to Program mode— same thing. But it worked fine in the preset modes— even in C2 mode which was pre-programmed to take "snapshots" in Aperture Priority mode.

It was only 4 hours later I realized that I had enabled mirror-lockup last night whilst photographing the half-moon from the balcony. Argh! It would have been nice if there was an indicator in the Quick Screen for MLU.

Aside: Next Friday marks the first anniversary of my camera purchase. To celebrate one year of the 50D, beginning Tuesday (Monday is a holiday), there will be one photo a day all next week, until Friday.

Diffraction Limited Aperture


Mon Oct 12 22:30:40 2009

I was reading the 1D reviews on "The Digital Picture" website and noticed that the 50D has a DLA of 7.6:

DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture) is the result of a mathematical formula that approximates the aperture where diffraction begins to visibly affect image sharpness at the pixel level. Diffraction at the DLA is only barely visible when viewed at full-size (100%, 1 pixel = 1 pixel) on a display or output to a very large print. As sensor pixel density increases, the narrowest aperture we can use to get perfectly pixel sharp images gets wider.

DLA does not mean that narrower apertures cannot be used. And in fact, higher resolution sensors generally continue to deliver more detail well beyond the DLA - until the "Diffraction Cutoff Frequency" is reached (a much narrower aperture).

I shoot my landscapes at f/8. I should shoot at a lower aperture and see if the difference sharpness is noticeable. (I doubt it).

Canon Rumours reported a new Zeiss wide angle lens (Zeiss doesn't support Canon AF and is therefore useless for me as I need autofocus). The related discussion on that post about Canon's wide angle offerings is interesting and has convinced me that none of the non-L lenses are worth getting. The complaints about the 28/1.8 mirror those in the review by "The Digital Picture"; I was basing my interest in getting it because Ken Rockwell approved of it.

Tue Oct 13 06:21:21 2009: On the other hand, since I am using a crop sensor, does the edge softness of the 28/1.8 really affect me? Is Ken Rockwell really a philistine for saying the lens is OK?

David replies:

On the other hand, since I am using a crop sensor, does the edge softness of the 28/1.8 really affect me?

Probably not. The cropping makes it so that only the light traveling through the centre of the lens gets to the sensor. It could become an issue if you ever upgrade to full frame though.

Is Ken Rockwell really a philistine for saying the lens is OK?

It's about trade-offs. It is okay, but if you want bloody awesome, you'll have to pay an extra $1,000+ for the 24mm L lens.

There's also the Sigma 30/1.4.

Tuesday Foto: Breakfast at Tim Hortons


Tue Oct 13 12:35:14 2009

Late breakfast at Tim Hortons. The first in a study of restaurant patrons seen from the outside. Inspired by Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks".

From Friday Foto: Downtown

This photograph has appeared previously in my journal, however it was not circulated on my Friday Foto mailing-list or Picasa album.

Wednesday Foto: Lakeview Pizzeria


Wed Oct 14 12:22:50 2009

This photograph (one of three taken from different angles) is a crop of the original taken from across a 4 lane highway. Since I was shooting with my 50mm, there was no way to frame it exactly to my liking without standing in the middle of the road (on a dark, rainy night).

This photo works because of the light reflected on the wet ground. Not as sharp as I would have liked, but then I was also holding my umbrella.

"Unlearning A Reflex"


Wed Oct 14 19:01:02 2009

Great post on how technology (high ISO) has helped improve photographs taken outside, at night, and how photographers have adapted to take advantage of those improvements.

My pizzeria photo, above, was taken in aperture priority mode at f/2.8, White Balance set to cloudy and everything else on auto. Either the picture was exposed properly (which it was) or it wasn't (like some others). I'm not in a situation where I have to get the shot. If it's blurred, I just delete it and try again another day— no worries— one of the advantages of doing "it for fun".

Thursday Foto: Commerce Place


Thu Oct 15 12:57:30 2009

Both headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce with the TD Centre reflected. I don't know if I should have corrected for perspective in post production.

From Friday Foto: Downtown

The new building, in the foreground, was designed by I. M. Pei and built in 1973. The old building, 34 stories tall, was built in 1929 and designed by two New York architectural firms: Darling and Pearson, and York and Sawyer. It is designed in the Romanesque Revival style with an outdoor observation deck on the 32nd floor.

Nobel Prize Controversy


Fri Oct 16 00:10:30 2009

No, I'm not referring to Obama's win. There is some dispute about who invented the CCD.

Friday Foto: Flatiron Coupola at Dusk


Fri Oct 16 12:49:43 2009

50mm/1.4, Av f/4, 1/25s (braced on lamppost),ISO 1600, WB: Cloudy

From Friday Foto: Downtown

The photograph reminds me of two glowing eyes with bushy eyebrows looking down on us. Fri Oct 16 23:06:20 2009: Daniel pointed out that if you cover everything below the two semi-circles of the windows, it looks like a face wearing a mask and a conical hat.

One Year with the Canon 50D


Fri Oct 16 22:30:28 2009

To celebrate, I bought a copy of Robert Frank's Looking in: The Americans (the giant version weighing 10lbs, for $90). There are inexpensive softcover and smaller hardcover editions with just the photographs.

Amazon was sold out (it had two or three copies the day the New Yorker article appeared, but was sold out immediately afterwards. I was therefore obliged to visit the local bookstores along the way to work, on foot— Nicholas Hoare's on Front Street didn't have it (the Avenue road store had a copy of the 1958 edition with the Kerouac foreword); Ben McNally's on Bay Street didn't have it (I saw Ben McNally with his trademark silver hair and ponytail). I finally found a copy at Chapter's Indigo in the Eaton Centre and I was in and out thanks to the help of an efficient and helpful sales assistant.

In addition to the photographs, the expanded edition includes the contact sheets of the photographs that weren't used and the uncropped originals. It's still in my messenger bag and I hope to look at it in the daytime. Until then, I will savour the anticipation.

After using this camera for one year, I ask myself, "Do I love this camera?"— the answer: "No". "Do I love the photos this camera takes?"— "Yes" (but that goes for all the Canon cameras I've owned). The most irritating thing about this camera is the user interface— the interface is 99% complete— it's the missing 1% that is infuriating. And it's not for lack of reading the manual, which I have re-read once a month for the past seven months.

To put things in perspective, it took me far less than a year to love my Apple Powerbook laptop; I could live happily with the 1% of the things that infuriated me, because 99% of things were so amazingly well done.

Portfolio: Sante D'Orazio


Sat Oct 17 11:57:57 2009

Photographer of Hollywood stars (mostly female) fashion ads and beautiful models, wearing practically nothing, reclining on sofas and chairs. He photographs equally well in b&w and color.

Note that it's a Flash site. I suggest starting with the Portfolios; there is a self portrait in the third portfolio; the fourth portfolio has a peek at one of the lighting setups.

1Ds3 Features


Sun Oct 18 22:23:53 2009

I downloaded a PDF manual of the 1Ds3 and found some features that I would have liked the 50D to have:

Rumours say the 1D4 will be announced on the 20th. Tue Oct 20 00:27:33 2009: Press release for the "Ultimate Multimedia Imaging Solution".

Portfolio: Vivian Maier


Wed Oct 21 18:52:12 2009

Amazing B&W street photography from Chicago by the late Vivian Maier whose photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s were discovered at an auction.

New photographs every week.

Friday Foto: Runcible Cat


Fri Oct 23 14:02:57 2009

Walking to work one morning, lost in thought, I just happened to look up to see this cat sitting in the tree, a sidewalk-width away from me. I stared at it for perhaps 20 seconds and when it didn't move, I decided to photograph it. I walked across to the other side of the street and with my back to the cat, I quietly took the camera out of the bag, adjusted the settings, turned around, zoomed in and took a picture. A moment later the cat leapt out of the tree and fled.

Relationship of Usable ISO to Camera Price


Sun Oct 25 20:25:05 2009

Having just read Luminous Landscape's review of the Canon G11, it occured to me that the price of a camera is directly proportional to the upper limit of usable ISO photographs it produces— a $200 camera will have "usable" photographs up to ISO 200, a $999 camera will have "usable" photographs up to ISO 800; my $1400 50D has "usable" photographs up to ISO 1600.

By "usable" I mean without too much noise; pleasant to look at; acceptable.

Does this relationship still hold with the unreleased Leica X1, which costs $2000?

Portfolio: Taryn Simon


Tue Oct 27 14:22:46 2009

A TED talk given by photographer Taryn Simon.

Exposure Time


Thu Oct 29 09:13:28 2009

An essay excerpted from the book After Photography, by Fred Ritchin.

Berlin Wall Exhibition


Fri Oct 30 09:50:01 2009

Photographs of the Berlin Wall from Ryerson's Black Star collection are being exhibited at the German Consulate in Toronto until Nov. 27. There is a parallel exhibition at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin.

Friday Foto: Raindrops on Roses


Fri Oct 30 12:53:38 2009

Canon S60 in Program Mode with Macro enabled.

From Friday Foto

The Importance of Rituals


Sat Oct 31 14:41:35 2009

While removing his 5D2 with a 24mmL attached, from the camera bag, <tazle> fumbled and dropped both the camera and lens; the camera survived, the lens did not.

The importance of proper rituals is never more evident than when such accidents happen. The ritual for removing a camera must account for dropping the camera and thus must include having the camera secured by an alternate method because ones hands will inevitably fail. When I remove my camera, and it leaves the safety zone of the bag, one had is holding the camera while the other is holding the neck strap just before the strap goes around my neck.

Pro-Optic 8mm Wide-angle Lens


Sat Oct 31 20:09:43 2009

Pro-Optic 8mm f/3.5 available with Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax mounts. I thought the 50mm/8mm field-of-view comparison in the article was well done.

For architectural or landscape photography, I question the benefits of a wide-angle lens when multi-photo panoramas can be easily stitched. For scenes where things are moving however, image-stitching results in ghosts and cut-offs, so wide-angle lenses are the only option.

Update Sun Nov 01 09:28:25 2009: David responds:

For architectural or landscape photography, I question the benefits of a wide-angle lens when multi-photo panoramas can be easily stitched.

The problem arises in resolutions: if you have a 4752x3168 image, and stick another two or three further exposures onto it, then you end up something that's 4752x9000 (wide) or 14000x3168 (tall). This is very awkward to put into a magazine or web page (since it's no longer 3:2).

With a wide angle lens, you get the entire vista, but have the regular 3:2 ratio of an image--instead of 3:6, 9:2, etc.

The stitching is technically easy, it's dealing with the resulting image that can be difficult, though doable.

With regards to an architectural photograph, I prefer a panoramic stitch with parallel lines and a weird aspect ratio, to a wide-angle photograph in the proper aspect ratio but with fish-eye distortion at the edges.

Update Wed Nov 04 22:17:24 2009: Jonathan writes:

If you're willing to sacrifice a little bit of angle, there are rectilinear wide angle lenses— although not usually down to 8mm. There is still obvious distortion but not nearly as eye bending as fish-eye. Here are some samples from the 7-14 mm Panasonic Micro 4/3 wide angle. There is still quite a lot of distortion at the widest setting. At the narrow end, the pictures seem natural.

I also prefer a weird ratio over eye-bending distortion but I find overly wide (or tall) aspect ratios hard to look at. If you have a bit of change and don't mind letting a machine do some work, check out GigaPan. You basically attach your camera to it and let it take all the required shots for large stitches or simple panoramas.

Berlin Wall Exhibition


Fri Oct 30 09:50:01 2009

Photographs of the Berlin Wall from Ryerson's Black Star collection are being exhibited at the German Consulate in Toronto until Nov. 27. There is a parallel exhibition at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin.

luis fernandes / / Oct 2009 Canon 50D Journal