Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Les Gorges du Pont du Diable - Photos from a cool gorge in France

Not too long ago, my wife and I were staying with friends in Switzerland, and decided to make a day trip into France to check out the Les Gorges du Pont du Diable. Our friend had heard about this gorge and we decided that it would be fun to check out. Our friend warned us that it might take many hours to drive around Lake Geneva. But, heck, we were in no hurry and looked forward to seeing the area. So off we went, heading north along Lake Geneva (past Montreux) and into France. It was a small road which ran alongside the lake, but we had some beautiful views like the one below.

If you drive around Lake Geneva, you will see many more vineyards on the Swiss side, than you will on the French side. I was not expecting that!

After 3 hours of driving and stopping to take photos, we came to the gorge. You pay at the top, by the parking area, and then you start a fairly long walk down through the trees until you get to the opening of the gorge.

This was one of the first views from the entry to the gorge. I looked up and loved this view of the trees through the rocks. (Photographer's note: Luckily the trees covered enough of the space to neutralize the light coming through. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to expose the shot for both the dark rocks and the bright sky.)

It was a good hike down to the lower levels of the gorge. Here you can see the pathway that goes along one side of the crevice.

The years of flowing water have polished the rocks.

I like this photo because the people on the walking path give you a sense of scale for this large scene.

The color of the water was aquamarine, surrounded by green moss and red leaves.

I zoomed in to highlight the small red leaves on the smooth rocks.

After leaving the gorge, we continued our drive along the river, heading back towards Lake Geneva. We had overcast skies which were perfect for capturing the river at a slow shutter speed. So I convinced my wife to let me stop and shoot some images of the river. While setting up for the shot, I saw these kayakers coming through a gap. I quickly changed my settings to freeze the action and shot some photos of them.

And here is the photo taken with a 1/2 second shutter speed. I framed this shot to show the changing colors on the far tree, with the flowing water going around the mossy rocks.  It had just started sprinkling when I took this shot, so I had less ambient light and no harsh shadows.

All in all, it was another fun day of exploring in this amazing area.

(All the photos here were taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 28-300mm lens)

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Join me in Africa to photograph a Safari!

You may have seen my announcement on Facebook earlier today, but in case you missed that, I want to share this big news with all of you.

For the last 5 years I have had so many people ask me to do a workshop. But with everything going on, I just did not have the time to take this on. And if you know me, you know that I am very passionate about photography, but not the best travel planner (just ask my wife). But then I started talking to the amazing people at M&M Photo Tours about partnering with them, and everything fell into place. 

M&M Photo Tours has a long history of putting together amazing photo tours. They have done this trip many times and they know the best places to stay, the best times and places to shoot. In other words, they have the contacts and experience to do what I could never pull off.

For many years people have asked me what my dream trip would be, and I have always answered "An African Safari". If you have been thinking the same thing, maybe we can make that dream trip come true together. Here is what I am looking forward to:

* Day after day of photographing amazing wildlife
* Photography instruction - sharing my knowledge with all of you
* Editing instruction - sharing my tips for fast workflow and retouching
* Meeting new people and sharing our passion for photography
* Seeing new places and wildlife
* Having fun

So many people have asked me to do a workshop, and now I am so happy to share this news with you. You may have seen me teach online or we may have communicated through Facebook or email, since I work hard to share my photo knowledge without holding back. Now we may be able to meet in person and share the same passion.

The trip will be from Jan 11th to the 25th in 2016 and includes everything including all airfare, lodging, safari, guides, instruction...

You can find out more about this trip here.

Come join me for this once in a lifetime experience!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting credentialed for the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro

There are 541 days until the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, and today I found out that I will definitely be fully credentialed to shoot for Team USA once again.

Since this will be my 5th time going to the Olympics, it was not as much of a surprise as in years past, but the elation of seeing that email from the U.S. Olympic Committee was almost the same as the first time I got the confirmation.

If you read the blog regularly, you know that I have a real passion for photography, and I really appreciate the opportunities that this art has brought to my life. I get to travel to amazing places and see historic events, and I will never take this lightly.

I get so many emails and comments on the Facebook page from people who dream to have this opportunity, and I know that I am a lucky person. But the good news is this, unlike other people who travel to the Olympics alone, I get to bring all of you with me (well...virtually).

Just like in years past, I am planning on blogging each day from Rio, sharing my photos and behind the scenes stories with all of you. And I am sure that this Olympics will have a lot of both!

We are still a year and a half from our trip together, but I look forward to sharing this amazing experience with you all once again.

Adeus por enquanto,



If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

With all the new DSLR cameras shooting at high ISOs, is f/4 the new f/2.8?

For the last ten years, I have always leaned towards purchasing high quality lenses that let me shoot at f/2.8 or better. But, as you all know, these lenses tend to cost a lot more than their counterparts which top out at f/4.

Why have I preferred f/2.8 lenses?

Mainly for three reasons:

1. I love shooting at wide apertures to blur the background and give me great selective focus on my subject.

2. Quite often the more expensive f/2.8 lenses have the higher quality glass and yield the best images.

3. These lenses let me shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light situations (dark events and dimly lit sports venues mostly).

The first point still stands, and there is no substitution for a narrow depth of field, especially when shooting portraits. The really "fast" lenses can shoot at apertures like f/1.2 or f/1.4. And  I still love shooting with these lenses at events to separate my subject from everyone else.

The second point is still true in many cases, but there are plenty of excellent lenses that max out at f/4.

But the third point is becoming less relevant, with the advent of newer cameras. The reason is this...the newer cameras now let you shoot at crazy high ISO levels with very little digital noise.

This photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II at ISO 3200 at f/6.3 at 300mm. 
Look at the photo above. This was taken at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. I brought in my Canon 5D Mark II, with a consumer grade Tamron 28-300mm lens (figuring that there was no way they would let me shoot with a big old pro lens). I shot this at f/6.3 all the way out at 300mm. I cranked up the ISO to get me a shutter speed of 1/125 sec.

Lets look at an example from 10 years ago when I was shooting sports indoors. Back then I was using a Canon 20D and would never have pushed the ISO about 800, because the image quality degraded too much. So I would set the camera to ISO 800. I would then mount my Canon 70-200 2.8 lens on the camera and set the aperture to 2.8. But even then I might only achieve a shutter speed of 1/100 second. Yikes! Not nearly fast enough to capture a fast action hockey game. If I were to use a variable aperture lens and shoot at f/5.6 it would be even worse!

Today, I am using cameras like the 1DX, 7D Mark II, or 5D Mark III and I can push the ISO to levels of 10,000 and still get usable images. So having a fast lens is not as necessary.

This photo was taken at ISO 1250 at f/4
I mentioned the advantage of f/2.8 with the narrow depth of field, but sometimes that can work against you. If I am shooting a hockey game at f/2.8, it is likely that the athlete I am focusing on will be in focus but all the other athletes will be out of focus. This is not always ideal. There are times when I want to photograph a group of athletes and have them all in focus. In this case, I would probably want to shoot the photo at f/5.6 or f/8. But if I am indoors and at a low ISO, this would be darned near impossible. With a high ISO, this now becomes possible. we have to have a f/2.8 lens to shoot sports? I don't think so.

As a matter of fact, I really like using the Canon 100-400mm for sports since it is light weight (compared to the really big lenses).

But, my dream lens from Canon is the 200-400mm lens with the built in teladapter. It is f/4 all the way from 200mm to 400mm, and if I switch on the teladapter, I can shoot all the way to 560mm at f/5.6. And, if you read my blog a lot, you know that I love using zoom lenses, so that I have options in how I compose a shot. I used a prototype of this lens at the London Olympics and a shipping version in Sochi, and the image quality was just great!

I have heard people say, I would not use the Canon 24-105mm lens because it is an f/4 lens and not f/2.8, but I have used that lens for years and had excellent results. It is very sharp and has a nice focal range to shoot wide or closer in.

So...if you own a newer DSLR camera, and are looking for a new lens, you might be able to save some money with one of the less expensive lenses and capture good photos even in low light.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post.