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Photofocus Episode 79

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about prime lenses for landscape photography:

Question One – Prime Lens for Landscape Photography

Bill Kubiac from Quincy, Michigan writes: In a couple of months I will taking a photo trip to the canyon and arches areas of Utah. The only prime lens I have is a 50 f1.8 and I am looking for a good choice for a prime lens for landscapes

Joe: My first suggestion would be to get a zoom lens. I like to use a 16-35mm f2.8 on my full-frame Canon. I like the zooms because you can then tweak it in camera rather than doing it later in Photoshop. If you have a crop sensor camera, then my favorite lens is the Tamron 10-24mm. My wife shoots with Olympus and she likes the 7-14mm wide angle lens.

Scott: I have no problems with zoom lenses as long as they are the higher end zooms. Primes typically tend to do a better job of controlling things like flare, ghosting, etc. I would look at something like and rent some lenses. For the area where you are going I would lean towards a super wide lens. You may want some longer focal length lenses to shoot some detail. I really like the new 21mm Leica lens for the M9.

Question Two – Web Hosting

Mike Carano writes: Hoping you guys can direct me to whomever you feel is a good web hosting service.

Joe: I host with GoDaddy because they have good customer support and they are cheap.

Scott: Even though I have my own server, I have gone to 100% WordPress sites and a SmugMug Pro account.

Question Three – Capturing Interesting Photos at a Triathlon

Miguel Ortiz writes My wife participates in various triathlon events during the year and as she gets better the event gets longer and longer. I take my camera and shoot around while she is in the event, but I’m starting to get repetitive results and not as interesting. Any advise on how to capture more interesting photos from a spectator areas in these type of endurance events (swimming, cycling and running)?

Scott: Try to position yourself at the key places where there is action. For example at the changing or transition place. The start line and the finish line are also great places. Wear some clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet and try to get in the water and shoot at eye level.

Joe: I like to get a low perspective. Check out the work of my friend Cliff Lawson who takes some great swimming photos. You’ll also want to try to work with some long lenses so that your subject fills the frame.

Question Four – Leica M9

Allen Edelman from New York: I have heard you discussing the Leica M9 – would love to hear more about what attracted you to it.

Joe: There is simplicity of use with the Leica that takes you back to the joy of photography. They are also excellent cameras that are very well built.

Scott: Many people associate these cameras with street photography but I never use mine for that. I saw some prints that had this 3D quality to them and they were shot with the Leica M9. The Leica glass gives you this look that is special. On a range finder camera you can also set the hyperfocal distance on the lens.

Question Five – Bringing Out a Person’s Real Character in a Photograph

AJ Finch Tunbridge Wells, UK writes: I want to take studio portraits which bring out a person’s real character, not just what they look like on the outside. I want to show the real person, to reach beneath the surface. In particular, I want to use my work to find and portray each person’s inner beauty – to show them as special and valuable and beautiful. Any advice?

Joe: I would get them into the studio and first have them take their own picture with a remote. By removing yourself from the imaging making process you can make them feel more relaxed.

Scott: The first I would say is that you need to budget a lot more time with people before you shoot so you can really talk to them and get to know them. Another way to do this is to give them more comfortable surroundings. Another thing I’ll do is to tell them I’m just testing the lights and the photos I’m taking won’t count which often results in more relaxed photos.

Question Six – Smaller Apertures

Ken Blacksburg, VA Writes: I am having trouble seeing the difference between f/8 or f/12 and smaller apertures like f/22. Why does anyone stop down further? How do you select your f-stop?

Scott: This happens when people don’t carefully exam their images. If your camera has a depth of field preview button, learn how to use it. If you squint and close your eyes a bit you can see what is in focus and what isn’t. The other thing could be the camera to subject distance. If the subject fills the frame, you won’t see a big difference between f/8 and f/11. Many people stop down thinking incorrectly that their images will be sharper. The sweet spot is usually somewhere in the middle. If was doing some intense macro work then I might go to a smaller aperture. I select my f-stop based upon what the shutter speed needs to be. I tend to shoot fairly wide open because I like the background to just blur and for my subject to pop out against it.

Joe: Look at the out of focus area when it’s wide open and watch what comes in and out of focus.

Question Seven – Setting White Balance with a Gray Card

Jorge from Madrid, Spain writes: I am looking for basic tips on white balance with a gray card. I am afraid I am overdoing it. How can I get the image color as close as possible?

Joe: If it looks good you got it. For White Balance you should be using a white card and not the gray card.

Scott: Make sure the card is in close proximity to your subject. As long as I don’t move or the subject doesn’t move you should get a good white balance. I don’t like to use Auto White Balance because each image will be different. Try to set a custom white balance.

Question Eight – Model Releases for Sporting Events

Neil Simons from Northampton England: I hear you talk about the importance of getting a model release from someone you have shot if you want to sell the images, but what about at sporting events? Like motor bike riders and race car drivers? Do I need to some how seek out these people and ask them to sign a model release?

Scott: I have no idea what the rules are in England and we are not allowed to give legal advice. Typically in the States you would need to have a release if you want to use the images for commercial use. If you’re shooting for news then typically you don’t. If you’re just using them for your portfolio then you should be okay but you should check with a lawyer to find out the rules. Generally my rule is that you need them for everything if you can get them.

Question Nine – Dealing with Lens Fog

Jake from Texas writes: As summer heats up here in Texas, I notice that taking my lenses out of an air conditioned car into the 100+ degree whether makes my lenses fog up instantly. Two questions: does this cause any damage to the lens (assuming it’s new enough to still be sealed properly) and is there a way to avoid this and still use my a/c on hot days where I’m shooting outside?

Scott: Over time it can damage the lens. If it doesn’t dry out properly then the moisture can turn to mold. The best way to do it is to tie a plastic bag around it and super seal it. Then let the condensation form on the bag and not on the lens. At one time I had these great divers bags that I would use. Check your local dive shop to see if they have something. As far as heat goes, read your manual. It will tell you what the operating temperatures are for your lens. There are solvents and other chemicals in your lens and those chemicals can turn to goo if it gets too hot or too cold.

Joe: We don’t have that much humidity here so we don’t have to deal with it too much here in Colorado but I would offer the same advice as Scott.

Question Ten – Distorted Panoramas

Dean Blowers from the UK writes: When trying to make a panorama, the picture is all distorted after elements has done its stuff. I doubt very much it is the software and I am sure it is something I am doing wrong. Can you please share some tips on what I should and should not be doing with the camera.

Joe: Usually when I’ve seen problems with my own photos it was when I wasn’t keeping things level. Try to use a tripod and keep things level.

Scott: It’s also possible that moving subjects can cause the distortion. Things like moving clouds can sometimes introduce some strange results. Also, if you don’t have enough data that can cause distortion. Take many frames and try to go for 33% overlap. Turn the camera on it’s end and shoot them vertical.

Question Eleven – Exposing for the Background and Using Flash

Brandon Edge from Covington, Georgia writes: I’m going to the beach next month and have been tasked with taking family portraits. I’ll be using a Nikon d5000 and an SB600 on camera (if important). I keep hearing/reading to expose for the background and let the flash provide the fill light. Do I use my exposure lock button to get the exposure on the background then recompose on my subject focus and take the picture?

Scott: Use the ITTL built-in to the SB-600. Put your D5000 in Aperture Priority mode. The camera will expose for the background and the flash exposes for the subject. There are a bunch of ways to do it but if you have that flash – TTL is the way to do it.

Joe: Same thing on the Canon – they just call it ETTL.

Question Twelve – Changes to RAW Converters

Randy Hull from Mount Airy, Maryland writes: Why is it necessary for software companies to update their raw converters every time a new camera model is introduced? Isn’t Nikon’s NEF file the same for all Nikon bodies? My guess is it has something to do with the sensor size and the recording of EXIF data. Just wondering what really is being changed.

Joe: It’s basically the name of the camera. The name becomes part of the file name so each time you get a new camera you need a new converter.

Scott: Normally those new converters are updated with new cameras that have been released. The SDK is provided to the companies like Adobe and Apple, etc. Once they collect enough new cameras they will update their RAW converter to include those cameras.

Question Thirteen – Conditioning Batteries

Brian Nemiroff from Washington DC writes: You have mentioned in the past conditioning your batteries. If my charger doesn’t do this for me, how would I go about cycling thru? Just leave the camera on? Is that bad for the camera?

Scott: If you don’t have a conditioner, it is as simple as making sure you run the battery out. Using it all the way up before recharging it is the way to condition it. Some of the newer more modern batteries don’t need to be conditioned.

Question Fourteen – DX & FX Lenses

Brenda J writes: If I purchase a full frame sensor camera body (I currently shoot Nikon) do I need to update all my DX lenses to FX lenses? Con you explain the effect this has on the images recorded. What would you recommend?

Joe: I’m not as familiar with Nikon but with Canon you have EF and EFS lenses. EF lenses can be used on any Canon camera but EFS lenses cannot be used on cameras with full-frame sensors.

Scott: In the Nikon world it’s a similar thing. You can use a DX lens on an FX body but you’ll wind up with these circles of confusion. You’ll have to upgrade your lenses if you’re going to start using a a full-frame camera so I always recommend buying full-frame lenses even if you’re not shooting with a full-frame at the moment.

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.

Joe Farace is at

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