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Photofocus Episode 67

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about concern over subjects being camera aware:

Question One – Concern Over Subjects Being Camera Aware

Brian Breslin from Little Rock Arkansa asks: How much concern should I have about my subjects being “camera aware?” Was this something that people like Bresson worried about?

Vincent: Bresson is considered the father of street photography and photojournalism and he was obsessed with not being noticed when shooting. I think that is very important when you are trying to be a photojournlist that you don’t become part of the story.

Scott: For our audience I just want to make the distinction that in photojournalism this is a big deal but obviously if you’re a photographer working in a portrait studio this wouldn’t be the case.

Question Two – Maintaining Focus Lock

I am trying to get good video with my DSLR of my 11 year old son competing in Snowboarding rail jams. I have to pack all my gear up the mountain in the snow to get a close up perspective. I would love to know how Vincent would set up a 5d Mark II for a very basic shoot with camera, 50 mm 1.4, and tripod. My biggest challenge is keeping focus lock through the entire section I am trying to shoot, basically- moving towards me from 100 ft away, continuing downhill and getting as close as 15-20′ away and continuing downhill away from me to 100′ away. Thanks From the snow covered mountains of Idaho. Bond

Vincent: The easiest thing to do will be to add more depth of field but if he wants to get that blown out background, I would setup marks. You can take sticks or make note of any landmarks and then match those up with little pieces of tape on your lens. If you want to get fancy, the main piece of equipment that Bond should get would be a good follow-focus mechanism. I use most of the high-end follow-focus devices but I have also worked with some of the Red Rock Micro products and found them to be very good.

Scott: I would definitely recommend getting a follow focus device along with a whip which will help with pulling focus.

Question Three – Megapixels

I saw a post on Photofocus about megapixels. How many megapixels do we really need to make a decent 8×10? Jane Lawson from Oklahoma City

Vincent: I think as long as you have 3+ MP you’ll be fine. There is value in going higher but it really depends on how much of a pixel peeper you are.

Scott: I did a post on this recently on Photofocus called Stop the Pixel Madness. I think we have enough Megapixels today. I want to see bigger sensors.

Question Four – Advantages of DNG

Is there any advantage to converting RAW images into DNG format other than the the space saved by not having to store the Sidecar that RAW automatically generates? Actually I don’t have a space issue because I always keep at least 6TB of external free space on hand. Ray Craft

Vincent: I don’t use the DNG format except when I’m shooting with my Leica which shoots DNG natively.

Scott: I first started to use the DNG format because I was tired of losing the sidecar files but now that I’m using Aperture it solves the problem for me. When it first came out, DNG was not the open platform that everyone professed it to be and was completely controlled by Adobe. The other issue I have is that every DNG converter will not result in a 100% transfer from RAW to DNG.

Question Five – Hyperfocal Distance and Manual Focusing

I currently have a Nikon D5000 and a Sigma 10-20mm lens for landscapes. Would you recommend going into manual focus to get the sharpest photos or would it make life easier sticking to autofocus? Hyperfocal distances are all new to me so I do not have a full understanding of how they all work. Any tips and advice would be much appreciated. Dave (United Kingdom)

Vincent: For landscape photography I almost always recommend shooting manual. I use the LiveView feature on the 5D Mark II to zoom in an check my focus when I’m shooting landscapes. In terms of the Hyperfocal distance, it refers to the amount that will be in focus in front of and behind your subject based upon your Aperture. There are plenty of great articles online that explain Hyperfocal distance. I also use a great application on my iPhone called pCam which gives us those calculations.

Scott: Unfortunately most of the lenses you buy today make it impossible to use some of the tricks we used to use back in the day to help figure out the hyperfocal distance.

Question Six – Camera LCD vs. Computer Monitor

Oliver, Sally and Robert all asked the same question this week. Why do the images on my camera’s LCD not match what I see on my computer monitor?

Vincent: The number one most likely reason is because the monitor on your computer is not calibrated. The first thing I do with every computer is to calibrate the monitor using a color calibration device like the Xrite, Colormunki, Spyder, etc. You might also be using a piece of software that might be applying a correction to your image automatically.

Scott: Remember that what you’re seeing on the back of your camera LCD is a JPEG so if you’re shooting RAW that is just what your camera thinks you want the RAW to look like but obviously the first thing you want to do is calibrate you monitor.

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Question Seven – Lens Suggestion for Bird Photography

What is the minimum zoom or telephoto lens you would use at Bosque del Apache? I had my first chance to go there in January, bringing a 70-300mm on D700. I got a few nice shots, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t pull some of those birds in a little closer. I guess Im looking for discussion since I can’t afford one of those Sigma guys you have. Larry Borreson Baltimore, MD.

Scott: Minimum would be the longest one I could find. You want to get as much lens as you can afford when you’re trying to photograph birds. I’d like to say that 400 is a good flight lens but 500 or 600 would be a good minimum. I would suggest looking into renting it for a couple of days rather than buying it.

Vincent: If you rent it, you could even get them to send it directly to your hotel.

Question Eight – Lens Adaptors for 3rd Party Lenses

I read some good reviews about Zeiss lenses and think of giving those a try. I am not brand obsessed, using both Canon and Nikon cameras. I was thinking of getting a Zeiss lens with Nikon mount and then an adaptor to mount the ZF lens to a Canon body, so I can use the lens on both cameras. Any thoughts on using adaptors to make lenses fit for an opposite system (Canon lenses on Nikon cameras, Nikon lenses on Canon)? Therefore one could buy into lenses from one manufacturer and just switch bodies. Of course one would loose the auto-focus and I assume vibration reduction or image stabilisation as well, but I guess one can get used to it. Thanks for your help and thanks for maintaining such a fantastic show. Kind regards Rene from Melbourne, Australia

Vincent: I love the Zeiss lenses however you do lose autofocus if you go with them. I use the CPs. The only issue with adaptors is that may not get as solid of a lock with them but I’ve personally had not problems so I would be fine with using them.

Scott: I’m not a big fan of converters.I love the new Zeiss lenses but if you can find somewhere to rent them you can try them that way. I find when you shoot the Zeiss lenses wide open, they have this special quality about them. The question is, are you at the place in your career where you can make use of that.

Question Nine – Photography Education

Jim Hoffman asks: If you didn’t go to photo or art school, what is the best way to get the education you need?

Vincent: I learned by going out into the streets and practicing. I looked at as many magazines, newspapers, and now website as I could and looked for mentors. There is no substitute for practice, practice, practice. There is a benefit of going to art or photo school but don’t worry about it. Learn about it from other people.

Scott: There are tons of workshops that they can go to that are affordable. There are also tons of blogs and websites out there today. I wanted to go to school for photography but wanted to go to Brooks and couldn’t afford it.

Question Ten – Workflow for Applying Noise and Sharpening Filters

Not that there is a perfect workflow, but which is the recommended direction for applying noise and sharpening filters? Since each negates, to a certain extent, the other (sharpening will accentuate noise while removing noise will soften any sharpening that was applied), is there some commonly accepted wisdom as to which is the most effective order of the two filters to be applied? Thanks Sam Wiedermann from Jerusalem, Israel

Vincent: There is software out there that does both. I mostly use it on video now with products like Neat Image and De-Noiser. Check out Red Giant software who do a good job of taking care of this. As for stills, I used to use Noise Ninja. Personally I would sharpen first and then I actually add some noise later to hide pixelation. On large prints I will sharpen last.

Scott: I’m a big fan of Nik Dfine and in my workflow I like to sharpen last.

Question Eleven – Favorite Photography Places

Sam Miller – Paris, France I am an American living in France and I love the photo opportunities here. I was curious which places you and your guest host might find favorite either in the USA or the world?

Vincent: I love Paris. Versailles is one of my favorite places in France. Any street in Paris, Mon Montre, Sacre Coeur, Champes de Elyse, and the George V. Tunnel are a few of my favorite places in Paris. I also love Hawaii. I’m a huge fan of China, Italy, the Alps.Pretty much anywhere.

Scott: The American Southwest offers some of the finest landscape photography in the world. I love Italy and the Tuscan country side. I also love Spain. There is a tiny French territory comprised of two islands called St. Pierre and Miquelon that I really love.

Question Twelve – First Steps When Learning Photography

If I was given a task to teach someone about photography, a person who knew nothing of the technical side but just had a great enthusiasm for photography and great imagery, what would be the first thing to teach them? Sam Whittaker

Vincent: Never lose the magic of photography by getting too engrossed with technique. If you just want to get started, put it on full auto and focus on framing and light. Then learn the basics.

Scott: Photography is all about light so learn how to see good light. Spend a lot of time looking at published pictures.

Question Thirteen – HDR Software Advice

Whilst I will be purchasing the entire NIK collection in March (when Silver Efex Pro 2 is released) anyway; is it worth also having the PhotoMatix Pro or perhaps even HDR Express or HDR Expose from Unified Colour (which seem to be getting good reviews). Have you tried the Unified Colour Products, if yes, how do they compare to PhotoMatix/NIK. Chris Boynton United Kingdom

Scott: I have tried all of them and participated in the Beta of Nik’s new HDR product. If you’re new to HDR it is my favourite way to go. If you’re serious about your HDR photography like Trey Ratcliffe, then Photomatix Pro gives you more control.

Vincent: I’m still not a big fan of HDR so if I do any, I normally use layers in Photoshop.

Question Fourteen – Low-Light Noise with a 5D

I always wondered: in Vince’s well received first 5D video (Reverie) the images look so clean. My experience with shooting in low light situations with the 5d is that dark areas have high amounts of noise. Were the images cleaned up in post to disguise these imperfections in the recording or am i just doing something wrong? Paul-Anton Gerlitz

Vincent: The first three months Reverie was out there it was actually the RAW files straight out of the camera and people thought I was lying so we actually put RAW clips online to quiet them down. The one that you see today has been color corrected but no noise reduction has been applied. On the Nocturne video we used a product called Neat Image in After Effects. In general, just avoid getting yourself into trouble in the first place and know the limits of your camera. With the 5D Mark II, stick to multiples of 160. You’ll actually find that 1250 ISO looks better than 800 ISO.

Question Fifteen – Base Plate for the 7D

I am looking to get a new baseplate for my 7D. One that is sturdy and won’t move when I am racking focus. Does the Red Rock Micro baseplate do a good job of this or should I look into a cage? Rob Ruscher

Vincent: The number one base plate I would recommend is made by Really Right Stuff. I use cages all the time for a variety of reasons including the fact that they are really solid. Unless you start to use really strong focusing motors then I don’t think you need to go to a full cage for stability.

Scott: What you want to look for is an Arca Swiss tongue and groove style of plate and there are many manufacturers of them. As for cages it’s less about stabilization but more about being able to attach accessories such as microphones, monitors, etc.

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.

Vincent Laforet is at

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