Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles in Maui (Photos and Video)

I am back from Hawaii after spending 10 days of vacation time on the island of Maui. I was able to slow down, spend time with family and friends, read, and step away from the technology a little bit. Heck, there were even two days when I left the condo without my camera or iPhone (partly to be totally involved with the others and partly to prove to them that I could do it!)

But there were still times when I could not help myself and had to capture some photos to fill my creative soul. Most of my photos were taken underwater on this trip, with my wife, daughter and I using a combination of a Canon underwater point-and-shoot camera and a GoPro Hero 4.

But on our first full day on the island, I took the Canon 5D Mark IV (with the Canon 100-400mm lens) down to the water and took photos and video of this Green sea turtle making his way back into the ocean. You can see the video of this and more at the end of this blog.

But as I mentioned, most of my photos were taken underwater when we were swimming with the turtles. And there were a lot of turtles to be seen, as we were staying in a condo that was 100 feet from shores of turtle cove.

I preferred to photograph the sea turtles when they were close to the surface, for two reasons. First and foremost, the light is better near the surface which yielded better images, and secondly, I liked the reflection of the turtles on the surface of the water.

Sometimes when the turtles would dive down, I would take a deep breath and follow them down to get shots of them nearer the ocean floor.

While swimming, I saw these rays of sunlight coming from the water's surface and loved how it framed the two turtles.

Oh wait - before I go on I need to tell all of you about the editing process for these photos.

Are you ready for this?

This is the original photo of what you just saw above. When you take photos or video underwater, the cameras have a hard time determining the proper color levels. You will need to edit those photos to bring back the contrast and color. Each of the underwater photos that you see in this blog have been retouched in Adobe Photoshop CC. I adjusted the white balance, contrast, shadows and highlights to make the images appear closer to what I saw when snorkeling. What a huge difference, huh?

I had fun following the turtles as they swam from one location to another.

Like photographing any subject, I enjoyed the challenge of capturing photos of the turtles from different angles. For this shot, I was floating in place and saw this turtle swimming right towards me.

The turtles come up for air periodically, so it is not hard to get photos like this of them by the surface.

It took a couple of tries, but I managed to get this photo half above water and half underwater, which gives you a perfect example of how the turtles come up to breath.

This shot is a little different, because the turtle was swimming in shallow water, with both the ocean's bottom and the water's surface in the same image.

After they would come up for air, they would swim down deep and park themselves under the rocks and coral.

My wife and daughter was hanging around this turtle and watching it intensely. I was so busy trying to get steady video with the camera, that I did not notice what intrigued them. This turtle was missing it's front right flipper, but still managed to swim around as well as any of the others. We nicknamed this one "Nubby". We looked for this turtle a couple of days later, but could not find him again.

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that I took video footage both above the water and below. You can click on the image below to watch my short 2 1/2 minute video compilation. I hope you like it!

Now the relaxation is over and I am back to the real world. During these three weeks I will be capturing 3 Bar Mitzvahs, 2 NHL games, one vow renewal, one adoption ceremony, and preparing camera gear and clothing for the Winter Olympics.

From this point on, it is full speed ahead (which I know how to handle better than the slow island pace anyways).

Get ready folks - we are almost to the start of another Olympics! :)

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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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

From the shorelines of Maui - photos and video from the coast and blowhole on the west side of the island

For the last week, I have been on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands with my wife, daughter and good friends. The timing is great since this gives me a little down time before taking off for the month long work at the Olympic Games.

We have been to Maui many times, but it is always nice to come back and enjoy the warm weather, especially when most of the U.S. is in freezing weather.

I have posted some images on social media, and people have been saying things like "you must be taking tons of photos there in Hawaii". But the truth is, as much as I would like to be shooting more, I am trying to use this time to hang with the group, play cards, snorkel and not focus on photography.

But if you know me, and most of you do, I still have to get my fix. So I have been using the GoPro camera when snorkeling and even taken the Canon 5D Mark IV camera out for a couple of photo excursions. I only brought two lenses with me, the Canon 24-105mm and the Canon 100-400mm.

So for this blog post, I am going to share with you some of my favorite images taken along the coastline of Maui during this past week.

This first image may look like a photo taken at night, but it was actually a photo taken just before sunrise on our first morning on Maui. I was up early (due to the 2 hour time change) and was planning on taking some sunrise photos. But before the sunrise, I saw the setting super moon and focused on that instead.

I was excited to get a shot of the moon setting over the island of Molokai, mixed with the colors of the upcoming sunrise.

A couple of days ago, my wife, daughter and I went for a walk along the Kaanapali coastline and I did bring the Canon 5D Mark IV and 24-105mm lens for that walk. It is a beautiful coastline and I am glad that I had the camera with me.

On our walk back, I saw a family of four trying to get a family portrait with their iPhone. I took some shots for them and then offered to do a better photo with my camera. We ended up talking to them for a while and made some new friends. I retouched their photo and sent it to them later this afternoon. If it wasn't for me having my camera, we would never have met these nice people.

And that evening I stepped out to get another couple of sunset photos. For these, I used my Gitzo travel tripod to keep the camera still during the long exposure shots.

Yesterday we drove around the island looking for a good beach for the kids and us to boogie board or snorkel. Since we were back home in the late afternoon, I did break away for a little photography excursion to get some photos of the blowhole, located about 20 minutes north of where we are staying. Ethan, the son of our good friends asked if he could come along, and I was happy to have someone to share the fun with.

During our 20 minute car ride together, I told Ethan about my plan to photograph the blowhole. I had never actually seen one before, but figured that as slow shutter speed would be the best way to capture the action in the water spout.  I put on my Tiffen Circular Polarizing filter to help mitigate the glare off the wet rocks, but also to help kill some of the ambient light. Using the Gitzo travel tripod once again, with the Acratech ballhead, I started with a shutter speed of 1/5 second, and you can see the results in this first photo.

And...of course, one of the great lessons in photography is to look all around when shooting to see if there are other good shots. And in doing so, I saw this heart shaped hole in the rock behind me, and reframed to get shots in this direction. To get a little more motion in the water, I changed the camera settings of my Canon 5D Mark IV to get a 1 second exposure.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm lens, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/2 sec)

Then I was back to photographing the blowhole, moving around to get different angles.

I would shoot numerous frames in different positions, since the amount of water coming from the spout would vary, yielding very different results. You can see the slight differences in the two photos above.

The hard part was keeping all that water spray off of my lens (filter). I would have to clean the front of the lens after almost every shot.

There are a lot of warnings in the area, reminding people of the dangers of getting too close to the blowhole and water's edge. These surface becomes very slippery and the area is covered with very sharp volcanic rocks. But that did not stop these people from getting a photo very close to the blowhole. I took this photo to show you the scale of the spout (to the right of the people).

(Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm lens, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/13 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash at -2))
After taking all the landscape shots I wanted, I set up the tripod to get a shot of Ethan and I. For this photo, I used the same setup as before (camera, filter, tripod) but also added a Canon 600EX-RT flash to light us. I put the camera in 10 second timer mode and carefully ran into the scene for the photo.

While down by the blowhole, I also decided to step away from the DSLR setup and break out my iPhone X to take a slow motion video. It is pretty impressive how well iPhone camera does in this situation.  Check out the video by clicking on the image above or here.

Aloha from the Hawaiian islands!

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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.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My 2017 year end review video - I hope you enjoy it!

As is now tradition at the end of each year, I have created and posted my 2017 year end video. This video shows my favorite images from the year, including photos from Tanzania, Costa Rica, Australia, New York, California and events I have captured along the way.

I created the video using Photodex ProShow Web.

I hope that you enjoy watching the video and that you have an amazing 2018.

To watch the video, you can click on the image above, or click HERE.

Happy New Year!

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, December 28, 2017

I finally took our OWN family portrait! How I took the shot with just my camera, lens, tripod and phone.

Today was a special day for the Cable family. We actually had both kids in town and had the whole family together for once. Since I have been taking all of our friend's family portraits for the holidays, I figured that it was about time that we get one of our own family.

I mentioned this yesterday and my daughter suggested that, with the Olympics coming up and us having all this USA clothing, we use this as a theme. I loved the idea and so this is what we did.

But it was just us, and even though I have some photographer friends in the area, I did not want to bother them to take the photo. I was trying to figure out the best way to take the photo, when I remembered that the Canon 5D Mark IV has WiFi and can be mounted on my Gitzo Mountaineer tripod and easily triggered from my iPhone X. Because the Canon CameraConnect application (which is free) allows me to make changes to the aperture, ISO, shutter speed and more, I was able to determine the proper settings while in the posing for the shot.

And one feature of the app that REALLY helped, was being able to see what was in the viewfinder. I can't tell you how many times I have tried using a wireless trigger only to find out that the composition was not good. With the CameraConnect app I could look at the live image on the screen, and move us around before hitting the shutter release button.

There were numerous times when I noticed that my head was out of the frame or that the flag that my daughter was holding was partially out of the shot.

I set the camera to a 2 second timer so that I could hit the shutter button on the app and then hide the phone and look up before the photo was taken.

I took 17 photos, using the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 70-200 2.8 lens, to make sure we had one with everyone looking good (including the dog who was looking everywhere but the camera). As I usually do, I had my Canon 600 EX-RT flash on the camera and set to -1 stop of flash power.

Once I got home and looked at all the images on my computer, I determined that one photo had the best composition, but that I looked better in another photo. If you look at the partially retouched image below, you will see the original photo of me, with the iPhone clearly visible in my hand). Using Adobe Photoshop CC, I took myself from another photo and cloned it into a separate layer in the main photo. I thought I was done, but then my daughter pointed out that she did not like her pose (and we all agreed). So I then took her from yet another photo and dropped her into a layer of the image.

For both of us, I created a layer mask and painted us into the scene. If you look at the image above you will see my original pose and my daughter as I was halfway done masking her into the image.

The layer masks did the trick and I was all set. Voila, we had our first family photo in a long time!

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 70-200mm lens at 150mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/200 sec, Canon 600 EX-RT flash at -1)

Here is the final photo.

We now have a holiday photo to share with all of you.  We hope you like it.

Happy New Year from the Cable Family!

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, December 21, 2017

Have you ever tried using your camera's auto focus micro adjustments for your lenses?

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a company call Reikan Technology, asking if I would like to try their FoCal software which would assist in fine tuning the microadjustments of my lenses. At that time I had two thoughts going through my head, and they were:

* I have never really used the microadjustments before, so do I need this?
* The software sounds really interesting and if it can painlessly help me fine tune my lenses, I am interested in knowing more.

I have to admit that testing this solution was not too high on my list as I entered the holiday season and am in preparation mode for the upcoming Olympics. But last weekend I had a little free time and decided to give FoCal a try. What I found was quite interesting.

What are micro adjustments?

Let me start by discussing the camera's ability to make micro adjustments to your lenses. Over time, your lens may start to fall out of calibration and your focus may end up being slightly off. I remember having this problem with my Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. My lens was back focusing (which means that it was focusing a little behind my subject) and not tack sharp on the athlete I was trying to capture. Since Canon Professional Services is at every Olympics, I gave them my lens to have them calibrate it (while using one of their loaners in the mean time). But since most of us do not have CPS reps hanging around our homes or studios, we may have to do some of this work ourselves.

Inside most DSLR camera menus, you will find a menu option called "AF Microadjustments" (it si called this on Canon cameras - it may be AF fine-tune on your Nikon camera).  Inside this menu, you can fine tune the focus parameters of each lens that you own. If you have a zoom lens, you can make adjustments to the wide end and the telephoto end of the lens. The goal is to make these micro adjustments so that your lens is giving you the absolute sharpest images you can get.

Do I need to use this software to make micro adjustments to my lens?

Before I talk about the FoCal software, let me first tell you that you can make micro adjustments to your lenses manually. The cheapest and easiest way is to lay a ruler out on your table, put your camera and lens on a tripod, and then, when shooting down the length of the ruler, focus on a specific mark (ie. the 2 inch marker). You take a photo, zoom in on it, and look to make sure that your focal point is tack sharp and not the area directly in front or behind your spot.

How does the FoCal software work and is it better than the manual method? 

First, I installed the software on my desktop Macintosh. After installing the software and reading the instructions, I went to their web site, downloaded their target and printed it on my Canon Pro-1000 printer. Like they recommended, I printed the target on matte paper so that glare would not be an issue. I then set up the software and prepared to connect the camera to the computer via a USB 3.0 cable. It was at this point that I realized that it would be easier to install the software on my Macbook Pro so that I could move the computer around with the camera as I performed the tests. I then installed the same software on my laptop and prepared for the tests. I should mention that the software runs on both Macintosh and Windows machines, and does work with both Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras.

One of the things that FoCal does really well, is give guidance for doing a proper lens test. The software will evaluate the distance between the camera and target, as well as determine if there is enough light to perform a lens calibration with good results. When I first started testing the software, it was in the evening and there was not enough light on the printed target, so I waited until the next morning to give it a proper try.

I started with my Canon 5D Mark IV body and the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II lens. For the first test, I set the lens to it's widest setting (24mm). With the camera and lens mounted solidly on my Gitzo Mountaineer tripod, and aimed at the center of the target I had printed, I then connected the camera to my laptop using a USB 3.0 cable. The software was smart enough to tell me that the target was the incorrect distance from the camera, so I moved it closer. Then the testing began.

The software took control of the camera and changed many of the settings for the tests. (Note: I was relieved to see that my settings were saved and sent back to the camera at the end of the tests.) It was fun to watch the software firing the camera over and over. Then I would get a dialog box on my Mac as well as a voice prompt telling me how to adjust the microadjustments on the camera.

This process repeated itself 4 or 5 times before I was given the recommended microadjustment for the wide focal range of this lens. I then repeated the process at the telephoto end of the lens (70mm).

When both tests were done, I then moved on to testing my Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens, Canon 100-400mm II lens and Canon 16-35mm III lens. And I did all these tests on my Canon 1D X Mark II and Canon 5D Mark IV cameras.

After testing my Canon 1D X Mark II with the 70-200 2.8mm IS II lens (since this is my most used combination), I decided to take some photos of the target with the microadjustment set to 0 (like it has been forever) and then set to -12 like FoCal suggested.

I then downloaded the images and compared the two photos on my computer to see if the microadjustments helped. If you click on the image below, you will be able to see the larger image and see the difference between the 0 adjustment (left) and the -12 adjustment (right).

You can click on the image to get a full resolution view

Although the differences are subtle, there is definitely a sharper image on the right. And being a picky photographer who wants everything as sharp as possible, this is a good thing.

Does this mean that I don't need to have my camera manufacturer adjust my lenses?

After going through this exhaustive process, I wondered if this would negate the need to have Canon adjust my lenses (which I usually do whenever I am at an event where CPS is present, like the Olympics or when I speak at the Canon facility in Southern California). After talking to some friends of mine who are pretty technical, I have come to a conclusion. This test will definitely help me get sharp images, but it only tests the far ends of the focal length of the lens. In other words, for a lens like my 70-200mm, I am testing the results at 70mm and at 200mm, but everything in between. Canon is able to make physical adjustments in the lens to get me the very best calibration possible. So...for those times when I have may of my lenses at a CPS event, that will still be my preferred method.  But for all those times in between, I think that FoCal will be used to give me peace of mind, knowing that my lenses are giving what I paid for, super sharp images.

Are there any downsides to using the FoCal software?

As I mentioned earlier, I tested many different lenses with the software and then repeated all of them on each camera body. Because most of lenses are zoom lenses, I had to test each of them at their wide and telephoto focal lengths. This took a couple of hours for me to complete. So, it is not a trivial process.

Is the software worth $139?

Honestly, in a world where us photographers are spending a lot of money on cameras, lenses, lighting accessories and so much more, I think that this price is very reasonable for the results I got. I paid a lot of money for these cameras and lenses and did so for a reason -  I want the best images I can get! Using programs like FoCal will give me a little more confidence that my cameras and lenses are working at their optimum performance.

You can purchase the software from B&H photo here. There are different versions of the FoCal software, but I recommend the PRO version since it lets you calibrate lenses beyond 400mm, run extra tests and run and save calibration reports.  And I should mention, as is always the case, I have not been paid by the company to write this blog.

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.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Preparing for the Winter Olympics: Shooting the USA vs Canada Women's Hockey Game

Last night was one of the last exhibition hockey games between the women of Team USA and Team Canada. The game was part of "The Time is Now" tour and the second to last game between these two teams before they (and I) head to Pyeongchang, Korea for the Winter Olympics in 7 weeks. I was lucky that this game was played at the SAP Center in San Jose which is just 15 minutes from my home.

This was another chance for me to get warmed up in preparation for shooting a lot of hockey at the Olympics and spent a little time with my friends from USA Hockey before the mayhem of the Olympics Games.

For this assignment, I went with my trusted Canon 1D X Mark II and the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens. Since I am down at the ice level, this lens is all I need to capture the action. When at the Olympics, I will also have another camera body with a Canon 8-15mm fish eye lens to capture the close-up action on the glass. I may also use a remote camera behind the net with a Canon 24-70mm lens attached.

As the athletes were introduced, I ran up the steps from my glass position to get this overhead shot of the whole team.

Once the National Anthems were completed, I ran back down to the glass. I saw the team huddle together by the goalie and grabbed this shot.

The big difference between shooting here in a NHL rink, is that I can shoot through one of the holes in the glass. At the Olympic games, they do not have holes and we have to shoot through their plexiglass. At the Olympics, I will use the same camera and lens but will also put on a 77mm rubber lens hood. They are very inexpensive and really help to minimize glare and reflections from the glass.

It was great to see so many fans show up for the exhibition game. (Photographer's note: Most people think that the sole job of the photographer is to capture the game, but in reality our job is to tell the story of the event. That story includes the fans, player reactions, and much more. Next time you are shooting a sporting event, remember to capture photos that tell the story.)

The game started with the American's dominating the Canadians. But since I was positioned to shoot in the defensive side of the ice (pre-determined by Team USA) in the first period, I was looking for big defensive stands. Here is the goalie, Alex Rigsby, making a stop at the beginning of the game.

Using back button focusing, when I saw the Canadian's coming down the ice with the puck, I would prefocus on the Alex in case they shot directly at her. If they did not shoot at the goalie, I would follow the action and focus on the other athletes.

Part of shooting hockey is being lucky, to have the good action on the right side of the rink. In this case, one of the Canadian skaters had a break-away and came right at the USA goalie. But Alex made a great stop and the Canadian skater flew over the goaltender. This made for a great action shot.

Since this same photo position was available for the second period, I decided not to move to my designated spot (also on the defensive side of the rink for period 2). I wanted to be on the offensive side for two periods if possible. And as luck would have it, I was able to capture the sole goal for the women of Team USA. (Photographer's note: There are two things which make this photo a winner. Firstly, you can see the puck crossing the line and in the net, and secondly, you see the reaction of both Brianna Decker (#14) and Lee Stecklein (#2). Without the puck showing, this would not be nearly as strong.)

Right after the previous photo, I grabbed this reaction shot of the ladies celebrating the first goal of the game.

As the ladies got together to celebrate the goal, I quickly reframed to portrait mode to get a vertical shot of this moment.

Oh, and at this point, you may be wondering what my typical camera settings are for games like this.  For this game, I was changing settings a lot just to experiment. I am usually shooting in manual mode, around ISO 1600 at 1/1250 second, but it really depends on the lighting at the rink and the speed of the skaters.

Here is Hannah Brandt (#20) crashing the net, but unfortunately the puck got swept away before she could get the shot off.

Early the second period, the Canadian team scored their first goal. I turned and saw this lady celebrating, and grabbed this shot. I did not submit this to Team USA, but took it for all of you reading the blog, because it tells the story. Yes, there were Canadian fans there too. :)

I love getting shots like this, with all the skaters focusing on the puck in front of them.

Here is a shot of Kendall Coyne (#26) on a break-away, one-on-one against Ann-Renée Desbiens (#35)

The goal tender made a great stop to avoid going down 2 to 1. You can see the puck by her right leg.

The American team went down 2 to 1 in the second period but made a push to try and tie the score. I got this shot of Cayla Barnes( #3) cranking out a big slap shot from the blue line. 

And here is Amanda Kessel (#28), who is the sister of Phil Kessel (two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins) passing the puck towards me.

During the third period, I decided to shoot through the plexiglass and not use the NHL hole. I did this to practice the same technique that I will be using in Korea in February. As you can see, I was still able to get some pretty reasonable results, even though this glass is pretty scratched up and not as clear as Olympic glass.

During one of the breaks, I saw Tony Granato come up behind me. Tony is the coach of Team USA's mens hockey team, but also used to play for the San Jose Sharks. He was about to be interviewed by Jon (the In-Arena Host for the Sharks).  It was fun to get caught up with him on his visit back to the Bay Area.

Then it was back to the action...

Team USA had some good scoring chances in the thirds period but could not manage to get the puck past the Canadian goaltender..

After the game, my daughter (who joined me on this adventure) and I went back to the photo editing room and packed up my gear.

As we were walking below the arena, I had Ali stop to get a photo of her by the San Jose Sharks locker room. Then we went upstairs to get some photos of the athletes who were signing autographs for the fans.

There was a really long line for autographs, but the ladies were extremely friendly and gracious. Here is a young lady getting her photo with Hilary Knight.

As you can tell, everyone was very happy to have a chance to meet the athletes and wish them the best as they head of to Korea.

Even though Team USA did not come away with a win last night, it was a great night. I got to show my daughter what it is like to photograph a hockey game, and give her a taste of what it is like to work with Team USA. I had the chance to see old friends and meet new ones. And it gave me a chance to get warmed up for all the photography that is ahead of me at the Olympics.

I leave for Pyeongchang on February 5th, which is coming up really quickly. And as most of you know, I will be blogging every day from the Games. Get ready everyone, we are almost there!

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.