editorial photographer Susan Seubert and the Canon L Series 50mm 1.2 USM lens

This year, I broke down and purchased a Canon 50mm 1.2 L series USM lens.  It is spectacular for portrait work because of its amazing bokeh.  There is a lot of chatter out there about the spectacular price difference between the 1.2 and the Canon 1.4.  I also own a Canon 50mm 2.5 macro which is instrumental for me for shooting details of things from food to flowers but for portraits, the 1.2 can’t be beat.  Here are two examples.  One is a portrait of my husband, which I dropped into a film frame for effect – I’ve long been lugging around an analogue Hasselblad with a beautiful 80mm lens, which I’ve used for years as my primary portrait lens. It’s also fantastic combined with a few extension tubes. However, now that I’m moving into an almost exclusively digital workflow, I had to find a lens that I was happy enough with to leave my Hasselblad behind when going on assignment.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love working with film, but the practical side of my business has forced my hand on this one.  I’ve been taking the d65 wokrshop every other year to keep current on the latest digital workflow which has led me to adopt working almost exclusively in Adobe’s Lightroom.  That software combined with the Canon 5D Mark II’s and lenses I work with give me a great way to process thousands of images in a relatively short period of time, without sacrificing any amount of quality. (This year’s processed tally is almost to 13,000 client delivered images).  My digital library is now more organized than ever – I can find any image with just a few clicks of the mouse.  I hope you find this information useful!

Portrait shot with the Canon L series 1.2 50mm USM lens, dropped into a Hasselblad film frame using Photoshop CS5

my cat, photographed on the couch using the Canon L series 1.2 USM lens, processed using Adobe's Camera Raw and Photoshop CS5

travel photographer Susan Seubert about the importance of an assistant

Greetings!  As National Geographic Traveler is publishing the story I photographed about Barbados in the January/February 2011 issue of the magazine, I thought this would be a good time to write about the importance of having an extra set of hands around on a shoot.  These days, editorial budgets are very tight, so sometimes the job won’t allow for one but in certain instances, having a partner on a shoot is indispensable.  The other caveat is that often times I’m asked to also shoot video and collect audio, making my work at least three times as complicated as it was pre-multimedia.  That said, I always like to rise to a challenge, so I tried being a one man band for the first day of this assignment and realized, quickly, that it would be impossible for me to do a good job in Barbados flying solo.  Enter: fixer.  I am blessed with a partner in life that not only has an MFA in photography, but also can get himself halfway around the globe in 24 hours or less.  He was with me the morning of the shoot with the horses and took a couple of stills of me in the water.  I was just perusing some of the images and realized that he illustrated precisely why – under certain circumstances – it is necessary to have someone watching your back.  Barbados is as safe of a place as one can get in the Caribbean, but add thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment left unattended on a beach and voila, it’s like finding cash sitting around on the ground.  Anyone would be tempted to walk off with my carbon fiber Gitzo fitted with a heavy-duty Manfrotto head and, set atop it like a crown jewel, a Canon 5D Mark II with a pristine 24-105mm lens with lens hood, a 77mm polarizing filter and a nice Crumpler strap.  Not to mention my favorite accessory – a three-way hot shoe level.  It was enough of a bummer to not have a water housing to work with, but that didn’t stop me from walking into the water up to just above waist deep, to get as close as I could to the horses.  Lost in my enthusiasm, I simply left the other camera with aforementioned accessories, sitting behind me on the beach.  As I look at the photo of me in the water, I can tell that I was drawn in by the dawn swiftly changing to daylight, as is evidenced by the light on my white shirt.  These men and their horses were just then becoming well lit and I only had a few minutes before the magic of that morning dawn would turn into the white-hot Caribbean day.  In hindsight it was a bad decision and without my fixer there, would have most likely been a great loss.  But he stood on the beach, watching the gear so I could get the shot.  For that moment, I will be forever grateful to him.

walking into the water, leaving camera equipment on the beach...

water housing? I don't need no stinking water housing...

Maui, Hawaii editorial photographer Susan Seubert on the 5D Mark 2 in low light

Last night we were having dinner in Maui on Ka’anapali beach on the lanai as the waxing crescent moon was setting in the twilight… it was astonishingly beautiful so I grabbed my 5D Mark II and the 70-200 f2.8 IS USM lens and took a few snapshots of the moon and Venus.  I could not believe how pretty the image turned out.  If I had tried to shoot this on film, it wouldn’t have been possible, I don’t think.  (and I still love film!) I processed the RAW file in Adobe’s Lightroom with just a little noise reduction and the image just sings.  In fact, I could see more with the digital file than I could with my naked eye.

the waxing crescent moon setting at Ka'anapali Beach, Maui, HI

Attention Canon 5D users: KNOWN MIRROR ISSUE

If you have a Canon 5D camera, Canon has announced on their web site that there is a known issue with the mirror.

“We have discovered that, in rare instances, the main mirror of some EOS 5D Digital SLR cameras may detach due to deterioration in the strength of the adhesive.”

In a previous post, I talked about how my mirror came off in the middle of a shoot.  Assuming that I simply have bad luck with digital cameras, I shrugged it off and shipped the 5D off to the Canon factory repair center as soon as I returned home.  I decided to do a little bit of googling about the issue and up popped the site from Canon, with their mea culpa.  They will fix the issue, free of charge, including shipping.  Call the 1-800 number on the web page listed below for service.

Click on the screen shot to be directed to Canon’s support page and good luck!

Screen shot of Canon's Support Page for the 5D Mirror issue

Canon 5D Mirror Falls Out

Just another day at the office when… what the… suddenly the camera jams and given my history with Canon bodies I just figured, well, the 5D is fried… AGAIN.  But no, not just fried:  the mirror had come off of it’s plate and cracked in two.  Nice.

I haven’t contacted Canon yet – of course the body is out of warranty, and, again, of course, I was in the middle of nowhere when it failed so no pro replacement available.  Sigh.  Have a backup, of course, but I’m so tired of cameras falling apart.

Here’s the picture.  More to come…

Canon 5D mirror falls out

Portland Photographer Susan Seubert shoots with an iPhone

Sometimes it’s just fun to mess around with new(er) technology.  I was one of the legions of photographers who loved to use an SX-70 Polaroid camera to make images.  Now I am able to use an iPhone application to make those kinds of images.  The application I use is called Polarize and it allows one to preview the effect before one saves it.  Although I miss the tactile quality that the Polaroid offers, making photos with an iPhone can be equally rewarding.  I still use a small instant camera that a friend brought to me from Japan : it’s a Fuji equivalent of a Polaroid and spits out business card sized prints. This morning I was taking some photos in the beautiful morning light with the iPhone.   Here are a few of my favorites from the last couple of months.  Enjoy!

my cat, Steiglitz (sic)

The tree outside my hotel room in Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of the American Indian

Maui Photographer Susan Seubert, enjoying the whales

On mornings like this one, the surface of the ocean is glassy, the winds have died down and the sun is still behind the West Maui Mountains but is, from this vantage point on Ka’anapali Beach, lighting up the island of Lana’i in such a way that every valley on the windward side is placed in high relief.  On the horizon, an approaching storm front is gray and foreboding, but there’s a calm here at the ocean’s edge that betrays the oncoming weather.  The smooth waters reveal what appears to be holes in the ocean surface where whale spume appears like steam vents.  Just beyond the reef point, a mother humpback whale boosts her newborn calf out of the water, apparently teaching it how to breach.  This is the sort of morning that calms my heart and makes me so very grateful to be here, now.

maui morning

This photo was taken much later this morning, after the trade winds had picked up.  I took it from a stand up paddle board, about 50 yards off shore.  I was using a Canon Poweshot SD1000 Digital Elph in a water housing.  The combination of swell and wind didn’t allow for much picture taking, but I got a good view of a pod of breaching whales and a very nice run-in with a very large turtle. 🙂