Last week, I decided to take the plunge and flip my 5D Mark II cameras with 5D Mark III bodies. The other thing I had been drooling over was the Canon 70 – 200mm f2.8 L II IS lens, so added that to my shopping cart. Today, after shooting less than 100 images on my 5D Mark III, I was stopped in my tracks by an Error 70 message. It persisted even though I changed lenses – the error message was still displayed with both the 24-105mm F4 L Series IS USM and the brand new 70-200. The forums suggest that this is a problem with the CF card, but I formatted this card in the 5D Mark III prior to shooting anything. Since I had this problem with the 5D Mark II, and Canon ended up replacing the motherboard, I’m not convinced that this is simply a write problem with the CF card. Right now, the plan is to exchange the camera for a new body. We shall see… I’ll keep you updated.
We have a summer resident female rufous hummingbird that often visits the feeders and plants that we place for them on our deck. As their migratory season comes to an end, which sadly means we’re entering into the early throes of autumn here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I might test out my Canon 7D with the 70-300mm that I’ve been using on assignment lately. I bitterly complained about the auto-focus when I first purchased the camera and, as usual, it was trial by fire. I knew that I needed to have a higher fps than my Canon 5D Mark II cameras, so I decided to go with the 7D. Now that I’ve been shooting it for a while, (and after reading a bit of the manual :-), I am now really loving the autofocus system and, although the camera is noisy at the higher ISO’s, it’s still pretty darn good. The other night we were out on the deck and the female rufous came by to check out the salvia and other flowers. She hung around long enough for me to get a few snaps. These were all made at iso 6400 shooting in aperture priority. I processed them in Adobe’s Lightroom using some capture sharpening and luminance noise reduction and I must say I’m impressed. The focus is tack sharp, the shutter speed was fast enough to stop most of the movement and the colors look beautiful. I do enjoy birdwatching and although it’s only a simple hobby that I do at home, it’s fun to use this as an opportunity to practice outside of assignment work. I hope you enjoy these little snapshots of the wee bird.
I have gotten tons of traffic to my previous blog post about my experience with the Canon 24-105mm lens problem. Basically, if you get an Error 01 message on your camera and you’re shooting with a 24-105, it is the lens, not the camera. I now have two of these lenses that I travel with: one new one and the old one which has been serviced. It seems like there is no rhyme or reason to the failure, it happens spontaneously and without notice, leaving whoever is shooting with that lens stranded. Canon has been very responsive to all of my problems – their CPS program is top notch. But it is indeed irritating to be on location and have equipment failure. On the other hand, I’ve had my fair share of purely mechanical failures before the popularity of shooting digital. My Hasselblad has fallen apart more times than I care to think, but because it’s mechanical and the problem is usually due to normal wear and tear that a professional would bestow upon heavily used equipment. This issue with the Canon 24-105mm lens is vexing, but I haven’t been notified of a recall. If I am, I’ll be sure to post about it and if I get any insight from Canon as to why this problem seems so prevalent, I will share whatever information I can. All I can say is that if you are going to get the lens repaired, send the body in to a Canon Factory Service Center with it and have everything inspected and cleaned at the same time. If you are a serious pro shooter, apply for the CPS program. The technicians know their stuff and do a great job with repairs and cleaning. Happy Shooting!
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!
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.
It is with great pleasure to announce that a story I shot about Barbados for National Geographic Traveler Magazine last summer is being published in the January/February 2011 issue of the magazine. This morning I woke up to the photo gallery which is now online and am anxiously awaiting for the printed issue to arrive in the mail. Photographing in Barbados was a marvelous experience as the Bajan people are wonderful. Throughout the country people were welcoming and eager to help which makes my job as a travel photographer an absolute pleasure. The biggest challenge was finding my way around the island. All roads do conspire to eventually get you where you need to be, but often in a more circuitous route than one might initially plan. It was a thrill to drive on the left, which I haven’t done for quite a while, along with the fact that once you leave the main area surrounding Bridgetown, the roads turn into one lane passages filled with anything from herds of sheep to giant trucks barreling along at break-neck speeds. The most memorable experience was photographing the thoroughbred horses having a bath in the ocean at dawn. After a tip from a local, I decided that it was worth getting up at 3:30 to drive to the water’s edge where, twice a week, the groomers bring the race-horses into the ocean for a bath and a swim. It was completely dark when we arrived at the parking lot, and all I could here was the “ker-plock, ker-plock” of horses’ hooves on the pavement. Then, out of the darkness a man and a horse appeared under the streetlamp by the beach, and off they would go into the water. It took a while for it to get light, but the water was so warm and the air so still, that for two hours, I went chest deep into the water with my camera and stood as close as I could photograph to the groomers as they washed and talked. It was so beautiful to see these horses enjoying the water, the men talking to each other in the heavy Bajan dialect, and then watch them as they would hang onto the hind haunches as the horses swam out to sea for a bit and then back to shore. Some of the animals didn’t want to get out and would protest by pulling at their reins or lying down. I had to be very careful as one swift kick from these lovely creatures would have sent me directly to the hospital! The sky turned pink, then blue, then gradually the flow of horses slowed and stopped. It was 7:30am and I had already been shooting for three hours. Marvelous.
This was also the first shoot I’ve done for traveler that was fully digital. I took my Rolliflex and a Holga, but time didn’t permit the use of either of these cameras, so I shot everything on two Canon 5D Mark II cameras, and a host of lenses including my new favorite, a 50mm 1.2 for portraits and low light. I also shot a bit of video and took some audio. I’ll post one of my pieces in January, so stay tuned!
Because I’ve never been known to be a sports photographer, the call from the photo editor at the sports desk of the New York Times was unexpected, as was the assignment: to shoot a portrait of long distance runner Chris Solinsky at the Nike campus. He has created quite a stir in the running community by being the first non-African to beat the 26 minute record in the 10,000 meter event. When I arrived Chris looked like he just got off the bus from the Midwest, dressed in a Hurley t-shirt and shorts. Not until Nike outfitted him in running attire that I could finally see why he is so newsworthy. We tried a number of poses, but without putting him in a line-up of other runners, whom he would no doubt dwarf, how was I to visually communicate his stature? The photo that ran in the article was the one that showed off his musculature. He’s in a push up position and I’m lying on the ground in front of him, with the camera looking straight at him. You can see the blood rushing to his face as he stayed in this pose for a couple of minutes, which also made the muscles in his arms and shoulders tighten and expand. It seemed to be the portrait that the editors thought to be most successful, as it’s the picture that ran with the story, which can be read here.