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Photofocus Episode 12

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting off with a question about lens hood shadows.

Question One – Lens Hood Shadows

Steve Crane from Capetown writes: I came across the perfect subject for a wide lens but the foreground was in deep shade so I needed to use fill flash. I discovered that the lens hood on my camera masked out a lot of the flash and removed it. If had a flash gun with me I could have removed it and gotten the flash above the lens but since I’m stuck with the built-in flash on my Canon 30D I get the shadow. Are there any other options or tricks I could have used to get the shot without the annoying shadow from the lens hood?

Scott: There is no super special trick other than getting an external flash that you can get off the camera. On a wide lens, they can be so wide that they can block the fill flash even if you take the lens hood off the lens. I have seen some people try to hold a sheet of white paper at an extreme angle and hope that some of the bounce will fill back in the area that the lens hood is blocking but in my experience it doesn’t fill in the shadows.

Question Two – Advice for new 50mm Lens User

joerodericks on Twitter writes: I just ordered my first fast lens – a 50mm f1.4 on a 1.5 crop sensor. Can you offer any tips or tricks to someone who is new to potentially very shallow depth of field?

Rick: Focus very carefully. The beauty of this lens is that it has shallow depth of field allowing you to be very creative. Check your focus very carefully by zooming into your shot to ensure that you have it in focus.

Scott: Start out shooting at f1.8 or f2.0 and work your way down to f1.4. First of all, the lens will be a touch better at f1.8 or f2.0 and that’s still very fast. Get used to seeing what your background is like when shooting wide open like that.

Question ThreeShooting Around Water

Gareth from the UK writes: I know you get asked this question a lot but I’m thinking about upgrading my 400D. I do a lot of marine photography; action shots of people sailing from an inflatable boat which isn’t the driest place on earth. I was wondering if I’d be better off going for the 50D or the 5D Mark II. Is one more sealed than the other?

Rick: I’m sure the 5D Mark II is sealed better than the lower end cameras but you also have to think about the lens. The higher-end L series lenses are sealed better than the low end lenses so you want the lens sealed and the camera sealed. However, even with all this sealing stuff, you want to be very careful around the water – especially around salt water and salt water spray. I would bring a lint free cloth and wipe your camera down after the shoot. I would also be very careful cleaning the lens with a micro fibre cloth and maybe some liquid. Also, use your camera strap.

Question Four – Setting White Balance

Matt Michand via email writes: I’ve always wondered when setting a white balance, do I need to set it based upon where I’m standing or upon where my subject is? For example, if I’m in the shade and my subject is in harsh light.

Scott: That’s an easy answer. You want to base it upon where your subject is. If the subject is in harsh light, then that is the light you’ll set the white balance for.

Question Five – Book Publishing

Eric Smith writes: You have both published a number of books concerning photography. I was wondering how that process works? Do you approach a publisher? Do you self-publish? How financially rewarding can this be? Also do you have any thoughts on calendars or posters?

Scott: The financially rewarding part is generally not that rewarding. Most photography books sell just a few thousand copies so you’re not going to get rich just doing the books. However, the books can be an important part of an overall marketing strategy that can reward you well.

Rick: I agree. You’re not going to become a millionaire by writing a photography book but there’s nothing like a book as a calling card. Books have opened a lot of doors for me. When I’m doing a book I think internationally. A lot of my books are translated into other languages. I have also done calendars and note cards. Also, if you want to do the most beautiful coffee table book ever produced, you’ll make a lot less than if you do a how-to book. If you want to make more money writing books – write children’s books. Think of a series. As far as self publishing, you can publish on something like and you might make a few dollars. has something they call Book Surge where they’ll help you setup a book for around $400 and then you can sell it on Amazon. I’ve learned a long time ago though to not spend your own money on your hobby. Look for a real publisher.

Scott: If you’re not known, you’ll have to approach a publisher with a book proposal. When you’re at Rick’s stage – they come to you. For me books are just a part of an overall strategy and for the credibility that comes with them.

Question Six – Old Flash Units with a New DSLR

Keith Maki from Port Huron Michigan asks: I have a Canon 40D purchased within the last year. From my older Canon Rebel 35mm, I have a couple of lenses and a Speedlite 220 flash unit. I heard that the older flash units may harm the newer digital cameras. Is this true and if so, is there a safe way to use the older equipment with the newer stuff?

Rick: I’ve actually never heard about this problem.

Scott: I do think that it has something to do with the power levels. I don’t know the answer on how you get around it but I do know that there is a way around it because I’ve heard it talked about over on David Hobby’s site. My guess is that an older Speedlite from Canon probably won’t be a problem. It’s mostly the 3rd party flashes that seem to have this issue. You could also contact Canon directly. If anyone does know the answer to this, send us an email at [email protected].

NOTE We have an updated link that may address this issue.

Question Seven – Using a Canon ST-E2 Wireless Transmitter Outdoors

Shane Murphy from Ireland writes: My question is in relation to off-camera flash. I recently invested in the Canon ST-E2 off-camera flash transmitter and I love it. I use it indoors with my two Speedlites and can get some great effects. I’ve also tried some outdoor stuff with off-camera flash but I found that sometimes the flashes don’t fire. I’ve made sure that they transmitter and Speedlites have fully charged batteries but I think that it’s when I try to shoot in sunny conditions that the Speedlites can’t pick up the signal from the ST-E2. Do you have any tips on how to ensure that the Speedlites fire in sunny conditions?

Scott: My tip is that you get a PocketWizard. It’s similar to those who use the Nikon gear.

Rick: Because they are infrared, they don’t work in bright sunlight. If you’re going to shoot outside, you’ll need to use the PocketWizards.

Question Eight – Meaning of MM on Lenses

Drew says: I’m fairly new to the SLR scene and I’m wondering what the mm means on lenses? I have an Olympus E520 with a 14-40mm lens and a 42-150mm lens. What is that mm thing all about?

Rick: Well, originally it was the focal length of the lens. Important to note that the the closer you are to the subject, the less you’ll get in focus.

Scott: The millimeters indicate the distance from the film plane to the central focal point of the lens. You don’t have to worry so much about the scientific meaning but the photography meaning goes along the lines of the smaller the number, the wider the angle. The larger the number, the more telephoto the angle. With the E520 there is a crop factor of 1.5 meaning your effective focal lengths would be 28-80mm and 84 – 300mm.

Question Nine – Lens Fog

Tommy B Horton writes: I live in Florida and the high heat and humidity causes my lenses to fog on the exterior when I’m going from inside air-conditioning to the outdoors. The problem corrects itself once the temperature of the equipment is equal to the outside temperature which usually takes about 15 – 30 minutes. Are there any tricks to mitigating this problem?

Rick: I do this a lot. I put my camera in the bag and leave it outside for about 15-20 mins before I have to head out so the camera can get acclimated to this intense humidity. If you think there is going to be any chance of fogging, don’t change lenses because once your mirror and sensor fogs up inside it may take a little longer than 15-30 minutes before you can shoot.

Scott: I just get these big waterproof plastic bags that boaters use and put my gear in there. If I’m in extreme conditions I have on occasion left my gear in my truck but normally I like to have all my gear with me and will only leave it in situations where I can park nearby and keep an eye on it. Another friend of mine collects those little silica gel packs and puts them in his bag to help reduce the moisture.

Question Ten – Camera Captures More Than Meets the Viewfinder

Michael Daniels writes: I’ve noticed as I’ve become more careful about framing my subject that my Canon 50D captures just slightly more than what’s in my viewfinder. This is really annoying. I didn’t seem to experience this problem with my Nikon D70. Is this a function of the 1.6 image sensor on the Canon or is there a way to correct this disparity?

Scott: The problem was there on your D70, you just didn’t notice it. There is a difference between a full-frame viewfinder and a 93% viewfinder which is probably what you have on the 50D. That is what you pay for when you buy one of the pro bodies like the 5D Mark II or the Nikon D3. You get to 100% of what is going on. When you buy the less expensive cameras, they don’t make a 100% view finder so what you’re seeing through the view finder isn’t what the camera is capturing. You have to learn to approximately how much outside the frame is going to be included and factor that in when you’re shooting.

Rick: I can’t really add anything to that but I would like to compliment Michael on noticing that. He must have a good eye to have picked that out.

Question Eleven – Sensor Dust

Steve Wetsill in Madison says: I have a D300 and when I stop down I notice several specks of dust on my images. I’ve never cleaned my sensor to date but I’m thinking I need to learn how to. What products do you recommend to do this? I’m thinking that I need some kind of sensor swab and liquid but there are so many kinds to choose from. Which ones have you found work the best?

Rick: I use a blower to try and blow it off. If that doesn’t work, I use the Arctic Butterfly which is a little brush that you spin around before you put it in the chamber to charge it and then you lightly rub it across the sensor. There are several different swabs and liquids available and the swabs are available in different sizes so be sure to use a large swab on a full-frame sensor and a smaller swab on a crop sensor. Photographic Solutions is the company that supplies us with swabs and the liquid we use called Eclipse.

Scott: I use a very high powered blower that doesn’t use compressed air. I actually use the Lens Pen and when I need to do a wet clean I use Visible Dusts’s products. If you have a full-frame camera, the mirror box is very tight and if you touch the sides with the swab you’re likely to get a fist full of grease so be very careful. Don’t touch the sides of the mirror box. Also, over at Scott Kelby’s site there is a great instructional video by Laurie Excell on cleaning your sensor.

Question Twelve – Getting Great Fall Images

Dennis Oter from Ohio writes: As the fall season approaches, I once again make my annual promise to myself to get some great fall foliage shots. I’m trying to prepare instead of just reacting by scoping out what might be some great locations to try for great landscapes. I want to try my hand at HDR. Can you give some tips on the best time of day, to filter or not to filter? Suggestions or tricks that might make for great fall shots instead of just a picture of colorful leaves.

Scott: Pick a great place. I like the Green Mountains near Vermont or anywhere near Boston. The colors on the East coast are amazing but Vermont is one of those favorite places. Teton National Park is also a great choice. Use a polarizer which helps cut down the reflections on leaves so you can see more of the color of the leaves. Try to think of the great artists and how they recreated scenes with the fall colors. Try to think of a theme that you can have. Try to isolate just a single leaf for example.

Rick: Cut the clutter. A landscape or a seascape still have to have a main subject. Try mixing HDR and panorama photography. Say you have 5 shots for a panorama. Take 3 different exposures for each shot and then merge them with Photomatix. Then combine the 5 photographs together in Photoshop using the merge feature to make a great HDR Panorama shot.

Question Thirteen – Book Suggestion for a New Photographer

Arron writes: I’m still somewhat new to photography. I’m still using a point-and-shoot and I’ve outgrown it but it will have to do for now. Which of your books should be the first for me to look at? I could use two or three.

Rick: I would say the first book I’d recommend would be Exploring the Light: Making the Very Best In-Camera Exposures. Another one is Digital Photography Secrets which comes with a live action DVD of me in action using lighting, reflectors, etc.

Question Fourteen – Cultural Background & Photography

Rick: I’ll have to think about that one. It’s a great question. That would be a great topic for a future blog post and then see what people have to say on it.

Scott: I personally think that it’s impossible for you to be any kind of artist without having some influence from your cultural background. Wherever you grow up, how you grow up, the people you hang out with, your education, all form your culture and I don’t see how they can’t influence your photography in some way.

Rick: I agree and my favorite all time expression is “The camera looks both ways and when we are picturing a subject we are picturing a part of ourselves. I think our pictures are just a reflection of us just like poetry and music and art are revealing about an artist. For example, I don’t have pictures of people in war zones or people in slums. I have pictures of people looking happy and having a good time because that’s the type of person I am so I think our pictures are a reflection of who we are.

Scott: There are certainly generational differences in photography too. These are just part of the quest of coming into our own and breaking the traditions and rules of the past because we want to make our own mark. I think a lot of finding your style comes with age.

The Blog

Maui Photo Festival

There are a still spots left in the Maui Photo Festival so be sure to check that site out if you’re interested. Both Rick and Scott will be teaching at this wonderful workshop on the beautiful island of Maui in Hawaii.

Wrap Up

We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. You can also subscribe to the blog on a Kindle. Email us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.

Show notes by Bruce Clarke