This journal documents my experiences with a Canon 50D, my first DSLR camera, purchased on Oct. 16, 2008. The camera was end-of-lined by Canon in July 2010 and the 60D was announced.

I Finally Found An Use For AI Focus


Thu 02 Jun 2011 08:48:03 AM EDT

The 50D has three focusing modes— One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo. I have mostly used One Shot because buildings and landscapes tend to not move. When shooting "Passing Fancy" subjects, I would take three pictures (the camera is also in High-Speed Drive mode) and usually one of the three photos would be in focus as the camera only focusses once in One Shot mode.

To improve on this I tried using AI Servo mode where the camera continuously auto-focuses at the selected focus point (I use the center point exclusively). This technique worked for "Passing Fancy" shots however, it failed when I did a focus-and-recompose shot because the camera would re-focus at the center again; I had to re-take the shot after switching the camera back to One Shot.

Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to try AI Focus which only starts to track focus on a stationary subject, if it moves, and not when the camera moves as in a focus-and-recompose shot (how does the camera know this?).

The explanation for AI Focus in the 50D manual is quite clear about how the mode works, but it doesn't give a practical example where it could be applied.

A Photo of a Photowalk


Thu 02 Jun 2011 02:19:23 PM EDT

From Pfoto 2011

Photographed this group at the Berczy park fountain on my way to Union, yesterday. Again, it's not surprising that the women outnumber the men and that they all have M4/3 cameras rather than the enormous DSLRs men tend to favour.

Update: none of the photographers are using proper camera handling technique— their elbows are sticking out and not helping in stabilizing the camera; the ones using the electronic VF are the worst offenders. And it wouldn't hurt to dress properly; if you can afford to buy a $1,000 camera, you can afford to look presentable.

Friday Foto: Water Droplets


Fri 03 Jun 2011 12:55:33 PM EDT

From Friday Foto

I achieved this hyper-real look of water droplets on plants by reducing the red and blue channels and boosting the green. I also over-sharpened one of the photographs.

Portrait Shoot

photos technique

Thu 09 Jun 2011 06:12:23 PM EDT

I had my first portrait shoot today (and I forgot to photograph the lighting setup; hopefully I will remember the next time) and I learned quite a few things. Update Thu 16 Jun 2011 03:01:21 PM EDT: photos of the lighting setup.

I installed the grip on the 50D, since I was going to be holding the camera in the portrait orientation. I decided to used the 24mm f/1.4L lens since it's the best lens I have (and yes, I know it's not a portrait lens). I shot at f/2.2 - f/3.2 ISO400, keeping my shutter-speed around 1/30s; white-balance set to flourescent; exposure compensation -2/3EV for caucasians and 0EV for darker-skinned people.

I used two 1500K flourescent lights on stands (standard lighting kit from Henrys); one with an umbrella just behind the subject, to partially light the subject and the background. The second light, without the umbrella, was behind me and extended fully to shine downwards on the subject.

The photographs were taken in front of a large pillar giving a uniform gradation of light from light to dark. The subjects were seated about two feet in front of the pillar (in hindsight, it shold have been a bit more as I was often trying to avoid getting their shadow falling on the pillar, in the frame).

I metered on the subject's lips (mostly) and focused on their eyes and recomposed.

It definitely helps to have an assistant to help position the lights, while you, as the photographer, look at the subject from the shooting location.

It would probably have been a good idea to use a tripod thus allowing the camera and the subject to always remain in fixed position relative to each other thus giving uniform sized portraits. I am slightly worried whether I would be able to duplicate the conditions exactly when I repeat the shoot.

I had the most difficulty metering for a proper exposure for the darker skinned people because the high contrast; correctly changing the exposure compensation between successive subjects and trying to keep the lights from reflecting off the subject's glasses.

Friday Foto: What Alice Saw


Fri 10 Jun 2011 12:19:00 PM EDT

This photograph of mushrooms (Coprinus micaceus) was taken in the parkette adjacent St. James Cathedral. The droplet of water on the tip of the blade of grass was pure chance. I used the 50mm lens for this shot, with the camera lying on the grass.

From Friday Foto

The colour of the grass was enhanced using the method outlined last week (boosting the green channel) but the mushrooms had to be isolated so their colour would not fade when the red channel was reduced. I also dodged shsdows in the upper part of the tall mushroom to bring out the striations.

I identified these edible mushrooms using George Barron's page about lawn mushrooms. He is on the faculty at the University of Guelph and the author of "Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada".

Passing Fancy No. 21


Sat 11 Jun 2011 10:48:46 PM EDT

From Passing Fancy

Yes, those are daggers shooting from her eyes. Her right hand is moving up to shield her face; I found it very odd. I'm guessing she's a model based on her flawless skin and great hair and body.

Fuji X100 as a Backup Wedding Camera

gear technique

Mon 13 Jun 2011 09:03:11 AM EDT

Neil van Niekirk used a Fuji X100 to shoot backup at a wedding as an experiment.

The quality of the photos is very good. I am surprised at the high ISO used, but also at how noise-free those images are. Also impressive is the dynamic range of the photos.

Photographer At Work: Portrait Lighting Setup


Thu 16 Jun 2011 02:55:58 PM EDT

These photos show the portrait lighting setup I used for the CUE photo shoot from two different angles. The photos were taken by Daniel (my lighting assistant) with his HTC Desire Android phone and post-processed in Photoshop Elements by me. I removed the chair in the background of the first image because it was too distracting.

Friday Foto: Tulips after a Rainshower


Fri 17 Jun 2011 09:50:55 AM EDT

From Friday Foto

Continuing with the theme of raindrops, this final photograph in the series is of a tulip bed in Berczy Park just after a rainshower.

I'm not completely pleased with the exposure in this photo as it's slightly over-exposed and I can't seem to fix it.

In terms of post-production, I replaced a strip of light-brown sidewalk in the top-left corner background and sharpened the foreground tulip. I also didn't unsharp mask this photo because when I tired it, I found the softer look was more pleasing.

"Shit PhotoJournalists Like"

technique humour

Sun 19 Jun 2011 10:52:02 AM EDT

In the same vein as "Shit my Father Says" (which I've only heard of), this blog uses vulgarity and irreverence to make its point.

What is surprising is that it includes two women, one of which is rather cute.

Olympus XZ-1 Field Report from Serious Compacts

Mon 20 Jun 2011 02:15:53 PM EDT

A field report of the Olympus XZ-1. Lots of landscape pics, but no portraits, unless you include the cat. The colours look good. f/1.8 to a maximum of f/2.5 is quite amazing for a compact.

Leica X1 vs. Fuji X100


Tue 21 Jun 2011 11:36:26 PM EDT

Alex Koloskov compares the X1 and the X100.

Every so often, when my shoulder hurts from lugging around the 50D with the 24L, I regret not buying the X100. And then I read statements like this:

To test how good the focus is, I was trying to shoot our 3 and 5 year old kids at play. Unfortunately, the delay between the time Iíve pressed a shutter release and picture was taken was too long for both the Fuji and Leica. Almost no in-focus images were made. Usually, the target moved out of focus by the time the camera decided to compose a shot.

Then I don't regret it because I know I would have been disappointed with this camera for street photography and candid shots of kids.

luis fernandes / June 2011 Canon 50D Journal