Tag Archives: 5d

Australia – what worked and what didn’t?

FBJ Photo Gear Australia 2008-800pix text

In August I wrote a post about my gear for a photo trip just before leaving for Australia on a 5 week photo trip. This is the story of what worked and what didn’t work in The Kimberley and Kakadu National Park in Australia.

Click the Keep reading link below for the full detailed story of what worked and what didn’t!

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Canon 5D Mk II – my new travelmate

On Wednesday September 17th I and my Canon 5D roamed the Australian outback covered in red dust oblivious to the fact that Canon chose this day to announce the long awaited Canon 5D Mk II.

Canon 5D Mk II. Photo copyright Canon.

The Canon 5D needs little introduction being one of the best digital SLRs ever produced and my camera of choice for more than 2½ years. I looked at the 1Ds Mk III and it’s 21 megapixel but I feel it is far too big and heavy to be a perfect landscape camera for me. I don’t need the vertical grip and want something that can fit in a backpack while exploring the outback. So I waited patiently (not an easy task) and the Canon 5D Mk II is the perfect camera for me. Some of the features I really look forward to:

  • 21.1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS DIGIC 4 sensor with 14-bit A/D conversion (16,384 colors/each of 3 primary color).
    If this was the only new feature I would still upgrade! 21 megapixel will be brilliant for landscapes especially in those situation where I can’t stitch shots.
  • Live view. I used to question this feature but it will actually be very handy in spots where I can’t see the viewfinder: shooting from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, shooting aboriginal art on the ceiling of caves at Hawk Dreaming with the camera almost on the ground shooting straight up.
  • Sensor cleaning system. I hope this works really well, the outback is not kind to the 5D sensor and the amount of dust that gets on it is incredible. I constantly have to use my Arctic Butterfly.
  • Full HD Video capture at 1920 x 1080. I am not into shooting video at all but this will still be fun to play with.

I pre-ordered and paid deposit yesterday at Photografica in Copenhagen to ensure my new travelmate gets here asap. Full review to come!

My gear for a photo trip

EDIT July 2010: This article is rather old and much equipment has been updated. I shall write a new blog post soon

I always travel light. There’s no point in travelling to the finest landscapes in the world only to be weighed down by so much gear I can’t be bothered to hike that extra kilometer or stay out that extra hour. I once managed to go to Australia checking in only 12 kilos of luggage (no laptop and a lot less photo gear though).

Leaving for Australia tomorrow I am presently packing my gear and I am getting fairly good at it, I know exactly what setup I need. This is what I’m bringing (well this and a t-shirt or two). Click to see large:

FBJ Photo Gear Australia 2008-800pix text

I have my trusty Canon EOS 5D as main camera of course and an old EOS 20D as backup camera (in case my 5D gets eaten by a Kimberley crocodile). I only take 3 lenses, Canon 17-40 f/4.0 L, 24-105mm f/4.0 L and 70-200mm f/4.0 L. All reasonably lightweight L lenses compared to the f/2.8 versions. My Gitzo carbon fibre tripod is only 1,2 kilos with ballhead.

I bring about 40 gigs of compact flash cards, and don’t erase CF cards until I have at least 3 copies. My trusty Asus V6V slim lightweight laptop still works great, I use an external WD drive for backup and I also burn copies of image files to blank DVDs – Murphy Law is universal! In the field where I can’t bring my laptop I backup to a Hyperdrive Colorspace. The Arctic Butterfly keeps my sensors clean and Ipod Touch and Sennheiser headphones keeps my ears grooving! My Moleskine notebooks keeps my brilliant (cough) observations – and everything fits in the build-as-tank and very comfortable Kata R103 laptop+camera backpack that fits as carry-on. Kata makes security gear for special forces and now also camera gear so of course I use their gear. It’ll serve as protection from the crocs I will be battling soon!

It is lightweight and I am happy travelling with this configuration; I know it works great day in and out for months. I will get the Canon 5D mkII when it’s out and a new laptop someday; but for now this is great a travel setup!

Me and digital sensors – we love the red colours of dusk!

Dusk for me has the best colours of any time of the day. Next time you witness a sunset, please stay for another 20 minutes. All of a sudden when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon you will be treated to the very finest colours of nature, the clouds will light up like on fire very briefly and all is well with the world.

It’s close to magic and one of the awesome features of digital sensors – they’re extremely good at picking up the red light of dusk and actually better at it than the human eye. I don’t fully understand how but I know that the brain is probably overcompensating in adjusting the white balance of what the eyes see – perhaps because the light level is so low. So my brain sees the scene as too blue but I just keep shooting because I know the sensor in my Canon 5D will pick up all the red that my brain seems to filter out. When you open the raw file you can see how saturated the red channel is, it’s amazing. You have to underexpose or you’ll blow out that red channel with all that lovely colour information!

This is magic from 1 year ago in Copenhagen (actually only got around to stitching this panorama a few days ago, how lazy am I!). Click to see large:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

I haven’t added much saturation, with this sort of dusk light and these sort of clouds (quite rare) everything lights up like crazy for just a few minutes! As you can tell, this is also a stitched panorama with moving elements – birds and water. It is shot handheld, stitched in PTgui and with a bit of clean up in Photoshop it is actually possible to do stitched panoramas (read more about them in my post here) with moving elements as long as the changes between each shot are not too drastic.

It will be fairly close to dark at dusk especially in Winter so you may need your tripod or lenses with image stabilizer. But remember next time at sunset, don’t go, stay another 20 minutes and be prepared! It’s magic and then it’s gone again!

Shooting Cropped Panoramas

It is no secret that I love the panorama format, I’ve mentioned this in countless posts. Read this one for why I love the wide format. I don’t own an actual panorama camera like a 6x17cm Linhof or 2x35mm Hasselblad x-pan so I shoot panoramas in two ways with my Canon 5D. The first way is to use an ultrawide lens, compose the photo as a panorama and then crop the top and bottom of the raw file in post production. The second way is digital stitching, shoot several photos and stitch them in programs like PTgui. This post focuses on cropped panoramas, the next post will focus on stitching.

Cropped panoramas

It’s simple as…just crop your photo so the width to height ratio is at least 2:1 and you have a wide panorama shot! If you want a good result there’s a bit more to it though. Have a look at these panoramas from Sydney and Perth (click to see large):

Click to see large size on my gallery!

A sunset panorama view of the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge and a ferry.

Click to see large size on my gallery!

A late afternoon view of Kings Park, gum trees, bicycle and person on the left, the skyline of Perth in the top right 1/3 and long shadows leading your eye into the shot.

Both shots are shot very wide with my 17-40mm L f/4.0 lens (which is super wide on a full frame Canon 5D) and then cropped as I developed the raw file. The next two screenshots from Rawshooter Premium shows you the full photos with the crop mask in place:

sydney-blog-crop-pano

perth-blog-crop-pano

Notice how the Sydney shot needs almost every bit of the 17mm wide view to get everything in frame. Also notice how much dead space I have in the top and bottom of the shots? That’s intentional of course, I composed with a cropped pano in mind so the full shots are boring compositions with far too much dead space and the horizon dead in the middle – which leads us to:

Composing the cropped panoramas

Here is what I do:

  • Shoot at around 17mm on my full frame Canon 5D so I can get a very wide shot (equivalent to around 10mm on a crop DSLR camera)
  • Look through the viewfinder and visualize the 3:2 image as a cropped panorama at least 2:1 wide – this is the hard part, you have to compose the shot inside a panorama rectangle you don’t have in your viewfinder, only in your head.
  • Stick the horizon straight in the middle of the viewfinder (the actual viewfinder, not your imaginary pano viewfinder). I’m cropping the shot anyway later and having the horizon in the middle of the original shot greatly reduces the barrel distortion at 17mm.
  • Make sure you get plenty of dead space top and bottom of the shot and look carefully in all corners of your viewfinder to make sure you have your panorama composition inside your imaginary panorama viewfinder.
  • Shoot 4-5 slightly different versions to make sure you have one useable for cropping.

The hard part is visualising your panorama composition inside a 3:2 viewfinder, sometimes I use my hands to form a pano viewfinder (film director style) and sometimes I wonder if I should carry a piece of cardboard cutout as a pano viewfinder. If anyone owns an old Panavision viewfinder they’d love to sell me get in touch! 😀

Cropping the photo in post production

This is the good part about shooting cropped panos, it opens possibilities in post productions. You might not end up with what you imagined when you shot it (you might not even remember what you imagined) but you have lot’s of options since your shot has so much dead space. Remember to crop this dead space though and crop it tight, you want to create a photo with an exciting panorama composition that creates visual tension for your viewer.

Conclusion

I find this method of shooting cropped panos works very well after some practice. If you intend to sell these cropped files or print them at large sizes you need lots of pixels though since you’re cropping away so many of the pixels. I have 13 megapixels of high quality in my Canon 5D and that’s alright, poster prints at 100dpi at 120cm wide  look great. I could use more though and some day I might invest in the new Canon 1Ds MkIII camera with it’s amazing 21 megapixel full frame sensor.

Next time I’ll talk about stitched panoramas but until then, if you like panoramas as much as me – get out there and practice shooting cropped panos, it’s great fun!