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Photofocus Episode 58

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about tips for going to Africa for photography on a budget:

Question One – Tips for Going to Africa

I am hoping to go to Africa on a wildlife safari. I can’t afford to go on one of the commercial tours. Can you recommend a few good locations or any other tips? Ellen DeNovo from Toronto, Canada

Kevin: I have been to Africa and one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced was when we went to see the silverback gorillas. One thing I’d recommend is hiring a local guide and not trying to go it on your own. Often you can hire local guides for a lot less than you’d pay to go on one of the larger commercial tours but do your research. There are many local tour companies as well but many book up early since they only take a limited number of people on each of the tours due to various restrictions. As a result you should try to book as far ahead as possible.

Scott: Definitely for safety I would recommend working with a local guide.

Question Two – Ansel Adam’s Layered Perspective

How did Ansel Adams get the “layer” like perspective in so many of his landscape shots? Was it his wide angle lens? Anita Hudson from Detroit, MI

Scott: He would often use a wide angle lens and put his subject close to the lens to create that depth. He designed his photographs and had things the foreground, mid ground and background for you to look at which adds interest and depth.

Kevin: A lot of it has to do with how he composed his images to create that depth.

Scott: I did my masters thesis on Ansel Adams and learned that he would go to extreme lengths documenting locations, lighting, etc to work on his compositions. He would scout locations without his camera and even built his own system using cardboard cutouts for the different sizes of negatives he was using and used them to frame his shots. While the wide angle lens will help, most of Adam’s success came from how he composed his photographs.

PMA 2011

Mark your calendar and plan to attend PMA 2011 September 6th – 11th in Las Vegas. It’s being opened up to the public for the first time and we’re planning to do a live Photofocus during the event.

Question Three – Is Image Stabilization Worth It?

When shooting handheld – do IS lenses really make a difference? Is the IS version of a lens usually worth the money? Ed Ellis from Phoenix, AZ

Kevin: I shoot handheld most of the time so I think the VR or IS lenses are definitely worth it.If you shoot mainly on a tripod, they actually suggest turning off the image stabilization so I would say if that is how you spend the majority of your time, then having that feature may not be as important for you.

Scott: Some of the older IS or VR lenses weren’t very good but the new ones that are available today are definitely worth the price. They do tend to be heavier so you might lose a stop hand-holding the lens but you gain 2 or 3 with the image stabilization so it’s a worthwhile trade-off. In my limited experience, I’ve found that cameras that have in-camera image stabilization, it isn’t as good as having it built-in to the lens.

Question Four – Selling Nature & Travel Photography

What is the best way to sell your nature/travel photography work? Ive had many wonderful opportunities to travel around different countries and have taken lots of photos that I would love to be able to publicize and sell. Deserie from Toronto, ON.

Kevin: I don’t have a lot of experience selling this type of photography but I’m sure some of the same principles of selling wedding photography would apply.

Scott: One of the first things to do is to take a look at what your potential customers are buying. If you are trying to sell your work to travel guide companies like Fodors for example, take a look at the images they are using and see how your work compares. Nature and travel photography is one of the most competitive photography markets so you have to have a lot of patience and be prepared for a lot of rejection. You also need to have a story or an angle that makes what you do different. Finally you have to be brutally persistent as there are millions of people trying to do the same thing. Check out where we are dedicated to talking about selling your photography.

Question Five – Tripod Problems

After having bought a couple of tripods, I’m still looking for one that wouldn’t let me down. My camera still moves on my latest heavy-duty Manfrotto a bit, thus compromising the sharpness of my shots. The head is about the sturdiest and heaviest you can get and my camera is securely attached to it, and the loads are within acceptable levels, so I think the problem lies with the tripod. Petri from Finland

Kevin: I own a few tripods but I don’t shoot with them very often so I’m not sure what the best tripod is. I doubt that it could be the tripod. Perhaps it’s some wiggle on the head or something else?

Scott: It could be a slow shutter speed or perhaps a stray camera strap flopping around. The mirror could be causing some vibration so you might try locking the mirror up. You can try renting tripods if they are available in their area to see if it actually is the tripod and not something else.

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Question Six – Using Time Machine with Aperture Libraries

I was wondering if you had info on whether Aperture 3 and Time Machine under SnowLeopard are fully compatible, or if Time Machine should still be set to exclude Aperture libraries? Neal Lippman

Kevin: I’m not a big fan of Time Machine and I use Lightroom so I don’t think Neal will like my answers ;) I store all of my catalogs on a Drobo which is then backed up using Super Duper nightly backups.

Scott: I’m not a fan of Time Machine either. It’s fine for basic backup but not for things like Aperture. I also use Super Duper and for Aperture I recommend using the Vault.

Question Seven – UDMA Card Support

Do all cameras support the UDMA and similar fast memory card specs? Angel Herrera from Los Angeles

Scott: No, not all cameras support UDMA cards. You should check with the camera manufacturer to see what their specs are if you are planning to use UDMA cards with a specific camera. UDMA cards are very useful when shooting video in particular.

Kevin: I think it’s the case that UDMA cards might work in the camera but that the camera manufacturer hasn’t tested and officially approved their use in a particular body. If the card or the camera fails, you likely won’t be able to make any type of warranty claim if you’re shooting with cards that aren’t approved.

Question Eight – Suggestions for a Wide Angle Lens

I am looking for an ultra wide lens – I see a range of about 10-44 mm. I am open to a fixed or zoom lens, but is there a specific number or range I should look at for an all-around lens? Jeff Fasceski

Kevin: The widest I shoot with is a 10.5 Fisheye lens and I also like the 14mm – 24mm. I prefer the wider end of things. I look for dramatic compositions in my photos so I like shooting wide.

Scott: Wide angle lenses are great. If you are doing any architectural photography you need to invest in a rectal-linear corrected lens. I’m not a big fan of zooms so I like fixed focal length lenses.

Question Nine – Subtractive Lighting

I’ve heard you use the term “subtractive lighting.” Can you explain subtractive lighting? Mandy Mason London, UK

Scott: Dean Collins was the guy who I learned a lot from about lighting. He did a demonstration at high noon in the dead of August by placing his subjects under an eave or a tree. They were basically covered by an upside-down L and faced them towards the open sky which becomes your main light. That is a version of subtractive lighting.

Kevin: Another way to think about it, is if you had fairly flat light, you could move somebody against something dark or add a black reflector on one side to shape the light and add depth.

Sponsor – White House Custom Color

Question Ten – Entering Photography Contests

I would like to join a photo contest but when I read the terms of the contest, I was greatly discouraged and decided not to proceed. I didn’t like that the sponsor would have the complete rights to my photo. I mean, I am afraid that there might come a time when I can benefit from the sales of said photo (or, who knows, it might be displayed in a gallery somewhere, somehow) and I could not benefit from it anymore because of the restriction as stated in the paragraph above. Gary Coronado from Princeton, NJ

Scott: You are right to read all of the terms of the contest. While you will still own the copyright to your image, if you ever wanted to offer an exclusive license to someone buying your image, you won’t be able to if you’ve entered it into a contest and granted rights to whoever is running the contest. You should also look at the reputation of the company running the contest before deciding what to do.

Kevin: Often these companies aren’t out to do you wrong but their contracts can sometimes be lazy.

Question Eleven – Sending Your Camera in For Repair

My camera needs to be repaired. Should I take it to a third party repair shop or an authorized Canon factory service center? L. K. Johnson from Baltimore, MG

Kevin: I always prefer to send it to Nikon when I need work done. In the past I’ve taken old cameras to a local camera dealer and haven’t had the best results with that.

Scott: I think you want to go with the manufacturer where possible unless you live in a place where there is a very well-known camera repair shop that everyone goes to and recommends.

Question Twelve – Using the Color Checker Passport for Landscape Photography

Does something like the Color Checker Passport work for landscape photography? How? The mountain can’t hold the card for me when I start taking pictures. Scot Thomas from Silverdale, WA

Scott: Yes, these type of devices work well. Just try to find light that matches the light that is falling on the mountain, stand in the same place with the Color Checker or gray card, and take your shot. The light should be the same.

Question Thirteen – Workflow for Video

Im wondering how you guys manage the workflow for video? Mainly in terms of where do you store this versus your photographs? Today I import everything into Lightroom and go to work. Lightroom doesn’tt support the managing of videos so I have to remember to get them off the card separately (a lesson I learned the hard way). Currently Ive been just storing the videos in iPhoto but I don’t know that this is the best long term solution. How do you guys do it? Any ideas? Russell Haddock

Kevin: Lightroom 3 does support managing videos so you might want to check that out. You can’t edit them in LR but you can manage and track them just like your photos. I always import my card to the hard drive first and then import it from there into your Library. Then you know you have those videos safely on your hard drive.

Scott: In Aperture you can import and edit video so you may want to check that out.

Question Fourteen – Resolution for Scanning Photos

I am getting a set of reflector discs in a few days. Several friends are having babies soon. Where we live using a flash when taking pictures of babies can get you noosed by uneducated grandmas. I do not have the money for an umbrella an have not seen those kind of items for rent here. Can I use the translucent panel on the reflector disc as a shoot through panel? Could I bounce the flash off it? I think, with this precaution, I might avoid lynching and it would make a nice soft light! I need to check out the panels first but what are your thoughts? Kyle in Taiwan

Scott: I think there would be no problem shooting through any type of translucent material. Make the flash big and close. You can also try bouncing off white cardboard or something similar.

Kevin: I have a 45″ translucent disk and I fire my SB900 through that thing and it creates the most beautiful light.

Question Fifteen – Noise Comparison on Nikon vs. Canon

I often shoot in existing light and need an ISO of 1600 (would like to use 3200). I need to upgrade my Canon 30D which is marginal with noise at 1600. I am trying a friend’s Canon 7D. Considering it packs 14 megapixels into an APS-C sensor, it does quite well with noise but does not seem ideal to me at ISO 1600. My impression from others is that the Nikon D700 would do an even better job with noise with it’s 12 megapixels on a full-sized sensor. In your experience, does the D700 produces noticeably less noise on images shot at 1600 or 3200 compared to the Canon competition? Kevin Miller

Scott: This has a lot to do with sensor size. The D700 has a similar chip to the D3. There is no comparison to anything Canon makes in terms of noise. The thing to look for is the number of megapixels compared to the sensor size. If you have a lot of megapixels on a small sensor, you’ll have more noise in your image.

Kevin: I also shoot with the D3 and love the noise performance. I agree with your stand on mega pixels. I would much rather have a 10 or 12 mp camera with great low light capabilities rather than more megapixels.

Question Sixteen – Exposure Compensation

I often read that the camera sees everything in grays and you have to compensate for this with exposure compensation when photographing subjects that are not totally gray. How does this work with regard to sophisticated cameras of today with their evaluative metering and such? Should you still compensate the exposure recommended by the camera? Sid from Bakersfield, California

Kevin: Some of the new cameras do have improved meters that take color into affect but you still need to use exposure compensation even with the meters being as good as they are. If I didn’t use it, I could probably still get a useable photo.

Scott: I think if you are shooting in difficult situations like back-lit or in the snow, then exposure compensation is still important.

Question Seventeen – Aperture Vaults

I have three Aperture Libraries – should I also have three Aperture Vaults. Ellis Anderson from London UK

Scott: Yes, you should have one Aperture Vault per library.

Question Eighteen – Recommendation for Upgrading a Hard Drive to Work with Video

As a Photographer I am fairly new with working with DSLR video and have recently purchased Adobe Production Premium CS5. I have a New Mac Book Pro (17″ 500GB, 5400rpm, 4GB), and Canon 5DmkII. Since the drive in the Mac is slow I want to get a 7200rpm drive as an external drive for my video editing. What do you suggest? Should I go FW800 or get a USB 3 express card. Are there any 7200rpm drives for USB3? Or should I just upgrade my internal drive to an SSD or 7200rpm drive? James Gates

Kevin: For video, you are going to need a pretty robust hard drive. I keep everything on external drives and I would go with Firewire 800 which should be fast enough for video editing. As for internal drive, I have a 500GB SSD drive which makes the programs run very snappy but they are still quite expensive.

Scott: I have an SSD drive in one of my laptops and they are very fast but I’m not comfortable putting my main stuff on there yet as that technology is still pretty new. A FireWire 800 7200RPM drive is probably fine unless you’re shooting 4-4-4 1080p video.

Wrap Up

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

Kevin Kubota is at or

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