Tuesday, December 12, 2017

She thought I was there to photograph holiday photos (but it was really a wedding proposal)!

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from our good friend's son. Dan told me that he was going to propose to his girlfriend, Brittney, and wanted to know if I could photograph this for him. As I do for all of our friends. I told him that I would be more than happy to volunteer my time for this momentous occasion.

Dan picked the location (at an estate near our home) and told Brittney that he was having me take holiday photos for them.

For this shoot, I went with just my Canon 1D X MK II, Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II lens, and one Canon 600EX-RT flash.

(Canon 1D X MK II, Canon 70-200 2.8 lens at 168mm, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/250 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash on camera at -1)

My wife (who was not going to miss this for the world) and I arrived and saw a great spot for holiday photos. A tree had dropped a bunch of it's yellow leaves on the grass and I wanted to start there. I had Dan, Brittney and her son Jayden, sit down on the grass. As you can see, I got down low to the grass to include the grass and leaves in the foreground. I took this photo at f/3.5 to focus on the three of them, and diffuse the estate in the background.

(Canon 1D X MK IICanon 70-200 2.8 lens at 95mm, ISO 1000, f/5, 1/500 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash in high speed sync mode)
Keeping with the holiday theme, we had them play around with the leaves as I continued taking photos.  Knowing that there would be a lot of motion, I changed the camera settings to get a higher shutter speed. And...knowing that the shutter speed would be too fast for the flash sync speed, I changed the flash to high speed sync mode.

After they played around for a little bit (which also gave Jayden a break from posing), I had them sit down in the grass again, but this time I faced the other direction to get the tree with fall colors in the background.

(Canon 1D X MK IICanon 70-200 2.8 lens at 120mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/320 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash on camera at -1)
My wife asked the three of them to stand up and walk away from us, towards the tree. I changed the camera to IO Servo focus, moved the focus point lower to stay on Jayden and fired away as they walked.

Keeping the same settings, we had them turn around and walk back towards us. They provided the extra fun for Jayden as I continued capturing photos of this awesome family to be.

It was about 20 minutes before sunset, and Dan and I wanted to make sure to get photos of the surprise before we lost our sunlight. Just as we had planned, I suggested that we get some photos of just Dan and Brittney, while Dan's sister and friends watched Jayden.  I took some nice portraits of them and then...

Dan dropped to one knee and broke out the ring. As you can see, Brittney was totally surprised!

(Canon 1D X MK IICanon 70-200 2.8 lens at 140mm, ISO 500, f/4, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash on camera at -1)
This is probably my favorite photo with Dan on one knee (beaming with excitement) and Brittney overwhelmed by the moment. At this moment I was even crying a little behind my camera. It was so special to capture these photos for them, and overwhelming to see this unfolding in front of me.

The first time she put the ring on and saw it on her hand.

It really does not get any better than this. I walked up a little closer and captured this loving gaze between Dan and Brittney.

(Canon 1D X MK IICanon 70-200 2.8 lens at 170mm, ISO 500, f/4, 1/160 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash on camera at -1)
After the proposal, I had Dan and Brittney sit back down on the grass, but this time, I just let them talk. I did not want them posing at this time. I wanted them to have their own time with me capturing them exactly as they are.

Since I was lying down in the grass and the flash was very low to the ground, it threw a little too much light on the grass. For these three photos, I did a graduated filter in Adobe Photoshop to darken the grass in the foreground.

After a couple of minutes of them having their own time, I did ask them to look up at me for one posed shot.

(Canon 1D X MK IICanon 70-200 2.8 lens at 100mm, ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/250 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash on camera at -1)

One of the last photos was this one, with Brittney's showing us her new ring. At the last second, Dan lifted his hand and pointed at it too. I loved that!

As I have said numerous times before, it is moments like this that reaffirm why I love being a photographer. Not only do I get to give these two nice images for them to keep forever (and I did send them all these retouched images within two hours of taking them), but I get to be a part of life changing moments like this one.

Congratulations to Dan and Brittney (and Jayden too)!!!!

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Memory cards past, present and future - What you need to know about the different card formats

A couple of months ago, I asked all of you to email me with ideas for future blog posts. One of the suggestions that came up numerous times was the request for me to explain all the different memory card formats.

I guess that my 12 years in the industry, marketing memory cards for Lexar, makes me slightly more knowledgable than most photographers about this subject. With that in mind, I am writing this blog post to explain the many different memory card formats, including those from the past, current card formats and what might be the card of the future.



The SmartMedia card goes way back, This was the first memory card I ever used in my first digital point and shoot cameras. The card was paper thin and rather remarkable in it's day. The capacities ranged from 2MB all the way up to 128MB. At the time, that was huge. Today, the larger cards would barely store one image from the current digital cameras on the market. I remember using 4MB and 16MB cards that were produced by Toshiba. It wasn't until I visited Tokyo that I was able to find 128MB SmartMedia cards. These cards are long gone, but still hold a special place in my heart.

xD-Picture Card

The xD card format is another old card format and was proprietary, and only used by, Olympus and Fujifilm. This card ranged from 16MB to 2GB and was designed as a competitor to the SD card format. Ultimately over time, the SD card format won the battle and xD was phased out.

MultiMediaCard (MMC)

This memory card was very confusing from the outset. The format looked almost exactly like SD cards (without the locking tab), even though they were different. Most camera companies opted not to use MMC as their card format, although there were a few cameras which did rely on this form factor.


Before the advent of the microSD card, this was the memory card designed for small products (like cell phones and MP3 players). miniSD was around for a couple of years and then gave way to the more popular microSD card.

Memory Stick

The Memory Stick format was designed by Sony back in 1998 and used almost exclusively by them for their digital cameras, video cameras and gaming devices. Sony used MemoryStick products exclusively until 2010 when they gave up on the form factor and moved most of their products to SD cards. There were numerous types of Memory Stick formats through the 12 years, including Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, and Memory Stick Micro (otherwise known as M2). The Memory Stick Micro cards were designed for smaller devices, much like the miniSD cards of today.


CompactFlash (CF)

Th CompactFlash card has been around for a long time (since 1994) and is still a very popular card format for DSLR cameras. Canon and Nikon continue to announce CompactFlash (CF) based cameras, and have been using CF cards in their higher-end cameras since the late 1990s. There have been different iterations of the CF card, including Type I and Type II (which were different thickness) and even different speeds (CF 2.0, CF 3.0, CF 4.0, UDMA). Even though this is still a current form factor, you will start to see the end of CF in the years to come. The technology is now older and the maximum card capacity (512GB) and maximum speed (1066x) has been reached. The CF hosts (cameras, card readers...) use pins to connect to the card and they can bend if the card is inserted incorrectly. There is also the problem of particles enter the holes on the CF card connector. Newer cards do not use this antiquated connection and use more reliable connectors.  Both Canon and Nikon have continued making cameras with the CF card slots, mainly because of the popularity of the card and the fact that so many photographers still have a large investment in their CF cards. Many photographers, myself included, like the larger size of the CF cards, making them harder to lose or misplace. But, with that said, I was not happy that Canon included a CF card slot in the newer 5D Mark IV. I would have preferred to see a newer faster technology used.

Secure Digital (SD)

Secure Digital cards (more commonly called SD cards) have been around for almost 20 years and is the most common memory card format for digital cameras. These cards were designed with a locking tab which could be moved to turn the card into a read only device. There have been many variations of SD cards over the years (capacity specs called SDHC and SDXC and speed specs like UHS-I, UHS-II and recently UHS-III) helping the technology advance in both capacities and speeds. I remember having a 4GB SD card on my desk at Lexar and everyone commenting on how amazing that capacity was. The truth is, the card was a 512MB card with a fake label on it (for a photo shoot talking about what might come). Now SD cards exceed the speeds of CF cards (2000x) and have reached capacities of 512GB. More than 10 years ago, the SD Association came out with Speed Class Ratings (Class 2, 4, 6 10...) which I have always hated. These class ratings did nothing but confuse customers. These cards are small in size (which the camera manufacturers like) and have continued to keep current with capacities and speeds. SD cards are used in many of today's cameras, including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji and others.


Then microSD format is a variation of the SD card format, but much smaller. These cards are commonly used in compact devices like mobile phones, action cameras and drones where size is a commodity. microSD cards have become the standard for compact sized electronics in the last 10 years. The largest capacity microSD at the time of this blog post is 400GB, which is astounding. It is hard to believe that companies can cram that much NAND memory into a card so small that it can be swallowed.


XQD cards are one of the newer card formats introduced about 5 years ago. The card specs come from the CompactFlash Association, with this card being one of the replacement options for the now aging CF card. The XQD card is larger than SD cards and smaller than CF cards (falling somewhere in the middle of the two in size) and offers some real advantages over the older standard. Not only are there no pins which can be bent, but the cards can read and write data faster (up to 1000MB per sec) and reach a theoretical limitation of 2 terabytes in capacity. Currently, the XQD cards are mainly being used in Nikon's higher-end cameras and some other video cameras from Sony. The format has not become widespread at this point, and I do not expect it to do so. (See below to see why I believe this to be true.)


Another card format coming out of the CompactFlash Association is the CFast card. Even though this card starts with the letters CF, and the size is almost identical to CF cards, it is not compatible with CompactFlash based cameras. This is another new card format (like XQD) which offers very fast data transfer rates (up to 600MB per sec) and larger capacities. And also like the XQD cards, there are no pins which can be bent on these cards. Canon was one of the first camera companies to adopt the CFast cards, first in their XC10 video camera and later in their top-of-the-line Canon 1D X Mark II. Other companies, like Blackmagic Design have adopted the technology for their video cameras. I currently use the CFast cards in my 1D X Mark II cameras, both for fast buffer clearing, but more for blazing fast downloads to my computers.


Even though the XQD and CFast cards are newer types of memory cards, I think that their days may be numbered. There is a new card format coming which I think might be the future for high-end cameras. This new card format is called...


Just like the XQD and CFast formats, CFexpress is a standard proposed by the CompactFlash Association. And like all the predecessors, this card format promises even faster data transfers (anywhere from 2000MB to 8000MB per sec) and larger memory capacities. These newer cards use something called a PCIe 3.0 interface to achieve crazy fast speeds. And what is really intriguing about these cards is that they are the same size as today's XQD cards. This means that Nikon could, by changing their camera firmware, allow all their XQD cameras to utilize CFexpress cards. As of today, there are no cameras on the market which use CFexpress. As a Canon photographer, I would love to see Canon and other camera companies adopt this same technology to once again give all of us a common form factor to invest in. Well...it would not be one common form factor since SD is a standard today, but it would be a future standard for higher-end cameras, offering huge bumps in speed and capacity.

Hopefully this helps all of you who are interested the past, present of and future of memory cards. And thank you to all of you who wrote in and suggested the article.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Costa Rica - The last couple of days in the rain forest photographing SO much wildlife!

Most of what we photograph during my photo tours in Costa Rica are animals in the wild. But on a couple of the days, I take the group to locations where we can photograph some of the wildlife in a more controlled environments. On one of these controlled days, we visited a sanctuary where animals are rescued and rehabilitated. And since I have been to this sanctuary before, I had a good feeling we would be spending time with my friend Sweetie.

Sweetie is a Spider monkey who was rescued when she was just a baby. She has lived in the sanctuary for her entire life and is very used to people. This allows us the opportunity to photograph her with ease.

And she is a total ham and loves people and the camera.

We took a 30 minute boat ride to the sanctuary, since it is the only way to get there. There are no roads to this part of Costa Rica, We arrived on the beach, and just like my last visit, Sweetie was on the beach waiting for us.

Since we could go right up to Sweetie, I could even use the Canon 100-400mm lens to take a photo looking down at her.

What a poser!

The reason that these monkeys are called Spider monkeys is due to their extremely long arms and hands. You can really see that in this photo!

We got up close and personal with parrots too.

Even though we had seen numerous sloths in the wild, it was fun to get into a cage with three of the Two-toed sloths and get some tight shots of them.

I almost didn't bother shooting photos in this caged area, since it was so dark. But at the last minute I decided to push the ISO of my Canon 5D Mark IV to 6400 and got this photo (which is one of my favorites from the trip). I am totally amazed out how clean this image is, even at ISO 6400.

No, this is not an old photo from "Gilligan's Island", this is a photo of our group.

After visiting the sanctuary, we went to a botanical garden, which is actually the front and back of a private home. The owners have spent the last 30+ years building and maintaining these amazing gardens.

It was a great place to key in on butterflies, birds and flowers.

I thought that this was a multicolored bamboo, but it is not. It is actually a palm tree. Regardless, it is so cool to see these colors in the trunk of a plant.

We were walking the property when some of our guests spotted this Parrot eating in a tree above us.

That evening we took the hour long boat ride back to the resort for another nice dinner. At dinner, I asked our guides if we could do another tree frog shoot and they readily agreed. These guys are amazing at finding these little gems in the surrounding plants.

When I was in Costa Rica in August (for the trial run of the photo tour) the guides found some tree frogs to shoot, but we did not have great lights. This time around, I was prepared, and brought some little LED lights.  We took turns holding two lights to properly light the frog, while the others took photos. And, as you can see, the photos came out better than we thought they would.

Jose (one of the guides) spotted this tiny snake on one of the nearby plants and asked us if we wanted to photograph it. We were already shooting with our Canon 100mm macro lenses and moved to their plant to get some shots. This snake looks pretty large in the photo, but was really quite small. The body was almost as thin as a worm.

The next day we woke up and headed out for another drive into the rain forest, looking for monkeys and more.

We spotted some White-faced monkeys jumping from one tree to another. I was happy to catch this mid-air shot. (Photographer's note: For these types of shots, it is imperative to use spot metering. I teach this technique during the workshop so that everyone is able to properly catch photos like this on the trip.)

Not far from the White-face monkeys, we came across some Howler monkeys and their babies. I stood right below this one and shot straight up on her and the baby.

Another parent and baby Howler. I loved how the tail of the adult curves through the frame.

It was a good monkey day for us, as we then found a pack of Spider monkeys hanging around (pun intended).

The next day was our last full day on the Osa Peninsula. I woke up early and heard a bunch of Scarlet Macaw outside my room. I could not resist the temptation and decided to get up and photograph these birds once again.

It still amazes me that these birds fly around the resort in the wild.

Walking the property, I even came across another Crocodile who was swimming in the nearby river. I loved the reflection of his mouth in the water and grabbed this shot.

Then we were off to a chocolate plantation for a tour and lunch, followed up by a visit to a new butterfly house.

The butterfly house was still under construction, but they had a couple of species there for us to photograph.

Awesome colors and patterns!

Since Canon is nice enough to loan cameras and lenses to all my workshop attendees, we all had Canon 100mm macro lenses to get in tight on these insects.

The people who run the Interactive Gardens also found a Green Iguana for us to photograph.

This iguana was very cooperative, and let us get nice tight shots of him before he moved on.

Look at the detail in the head of the iguana. The 100mm macro lens is so darned sharp! I had never photographed the green iguana this close before, and was very happy to have these photos for my collection.

The next morning, we all packed up and flew out, heading back to the U.S. for Thanksgiving. It was sad to leave this amazing place, but we all had a great time together, making new friends and getting killer images.

If you are interested in joining me in Costa Rica, check out this web page for more information. We have 4 remaining spots for the trip next August, and then two more trips in 2019 which will be announced soon.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.