Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another full year of photography - My 2016 year end slideshow

It is hard to believe that yet another year has come and gone. Back in 2011, I started the tradition of doing a year end slideshow to highlight my favorite images from the last 12 months.

This is always a fun thing for me to do, since it gives me a chance to look back and appreciate the people, places and experiences from the year. It also provides me the opportunity to share my favorites with all of you.

2016 started with our photo tour on safari in Tanzania, which provided a bunch of really cool images of the wildlife in Africa. And, of course, it was an Olympic year, so there are a plethora of photos from the Games in Rio. All of that, with a lot of great photo moments in between. And I am really happy to have all these put together in a short ProShow video for all of you. (BTW - if you want to use ProShow for yourself, you can use the code "JEFF20" to get 20% off).

You can click on the image below to watch the video.


I look forward to 2017 with photo tours to Africa, Cuba, New York, Australia, Uganda, Alaska and Japan. Even though this coming year is not an Olympic year, these trips should yield a lot of diverse photos from around the world. And...if you are interested in joining me on any of these trips to capture amazing photos of your own, check out the photo tour page on jeffable.com.

I wish all of you a happy new year. I hope that 2017 brings you health, happiness, and amazing photos!!

Jeff

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The California Coastline - Lighthouse, Harbor Seals and Big Waves

Yesterday, I drove to the coast with my wife, my son and his girlfriend. While they were looking for agates and sea shells on the beach, I was out walking around with my Canon 5D Mark III looking for some photo opportunities.

I thought I would share a handful of images here with all of you.

(Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/1600 sec)
Initially we drove to Capitola and Santa Cruz, but really just stopped there for some lunch and then headed north on the always amazing Highway 1. After a 20 minute drive, we came up on Pigeon Point Lighthouse. I saw all the mustard plant which was blooming early this year an asked if we could stop for a minute. I took put on my Canon 24-105mm lens and got down low to the yellow flowers to have them fill the bottom of my frame. Even though the sky was not as pretty as I would have liked, it still made a nice shot.


Once the others were on the beach and happily doing their searching for treasure, I walked along a path to see what I could find. Out in the distance, I saw a grouping of Harbor Seals. Luckily, before starting this walk, I had switched to the Canon 28-300mm lens. I zoomed all the way to 300mm and got this shot.


There were some good size waves coming in, so I waited for a good swell and shot this photo. I purposely framed the shot to have the rock off center and the wave centered.


I wanted to get closer to the harbor seals, so I climbed along the rocks (very carefully since they are wet and sharp) to get a closer look. I saw this one pup and loved the way he was laying there, the same way that my dog, Cooper, rests his head on anything.


I got close to this grouping of seals and framed this shot to include them and the incoming waves. I wanted to hike in even closer, but noticed that the seals were starting to get spooked by me, and I backed off. I really did not want to interrupt them in their environment.


After backing off the seals, I noticed that a larger set of waves were coming in. I framed this shot with the seals off center, and waited for a big wave to crash against this large rock. I fired off numerous shots, and picked this one with the most dramatic action of the water.


I saw this one seagull hanging out. Normally I would not photograph this, but I liked the way that the white bird was framed by all the dark rocks.


And then it was back to the harbor seals who were still sunning themselves in the last couple hours of the day.


I walked back to the beach where my family was hanging out. I saw this formation in the rock and loved the tree shaped pattern, filled with the multicolored rock. Just another photographic day on the coast of Northern California. :)

Tomorrow we are going to spend some time in San Francisco with the family, and of course, I will have the camera in hand for any photo opportunities. Not a bad way to end 2016, with the whole family together once again.

Till then...

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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.
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

I heard you all - There is a new look to the blog now!!!

After 8 years of making you all read the blog with white text on a black background, I have finally taken the time to revamp the blog and give it a fresh new look. Now your eyes will bleed a little less!

No more of this...


With the growth of the blog and the increased readership, that has equated to countless more people telling me how much they disliked the old look of the blog. Now you will find the text easier to read, and there is even a new blog header at the top of the page.

The look is new but the content will remain the same, I promise.

I welcome your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment here on the blog to let me know how you feel about the new look.

I have been working with a web designer as well and the Jeff Cable Photography web site has been cleaned up quite a bit!


The web site is still on a black background, but that may change at some point. Since the web site is more about the images than the text, I have decided to keep with the same scheme for now.

I hope you all like the new look here on the blog - and happy holidays!!!!!!

Jeff

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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 or send my monthly newsletter.
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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.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MagMod flash modifiers - My new favorite inexpensive camera accessory and a great gift for yourself!

One of the most common questions I get from people is about flash modifiers. I get all kinds of emails, Facebook messages and blog comments on this subject. As you all know, I like to keep it simple, and yes, I even shoot with an on-camera flash. But most of the time, I am modifying the flash with some type of diffuser.

In the past I was using Gary Fong diffusers, but never really liked them much. It was really difficult to put them on my flash units and they were not very customizable. I would often find that the tops of the diffusers would come off and get lost. In October of this year, I was speaking at the Photo Plus trade show in New York City, and came across the booth for MagMod, and what I saw looked really interesting. I was excited to get a couple of units to try out for myself.

The MagMod diffusers seemed to work a lot like the units I had been using, with a white dome up over the end of the flash, but the attachment method was light years easier and the ability to customize the diffusers was really unique.

Everything is done with magnets. This is ingenious and so easy to work with compared to the old way I was working.

I usually carry 4 or 5 Canon 600 EX-RT flash units with me in my ThinkTank roller bag. I attached a couple of the MagGrips to two of my flashes, which are the two units typically attached to my camera's hot shoes.

MagGrip attached to my flash


When I get to an indoor venue, I just reach into the same rolling bag and grab two of the MagMod MagSphere domes and snap them magnetically to the MagGrips.

MagSpehere magnetically attached to the MagGrip on my flash

For someone who has never dealt with modifiers, this might seem like a trivial issue, but the attachment process is so important for us photographers who rely on these things for countless indoor events. I showed my daughter (who sometimes second shoots for me) the new modifiers and she was said "Finally - I can attach these myself and not have to rely on you to do this for me!"


This photo of a saxophone player was taken with the MagSphere on my on-camera flash, at a holiday party last weekend. I really like the even light (not overly harsh) that is on the musician.

MagMod makes a bunch of other magnetic attachments, but I see myself relying on the following:

* MagGrip for the attachment to the flash - $24.95
* MagSphere as my diffuser of choice - $49.95

They also make a couple of other magnetic attachments, like the MagBounce and the MagSnoot, but I have not played with those yet. The MagBounce may work really well, but the overly large white rubbery piece looks a little too large to put on my flash without drawing too much attention to myself when shooting.

Earlier I talked about customizing the light. What I am talking about is the ability to put a color gel on the flash (even in tandem with the diffuser) or adding grids and other light shapers.

And I also have started using the following for changing the lighting:


MagGel Holder (for holding colored Gels)




MagMod Standard Gel Set - $24.95 (which has CTO Gels and some other colors)


MagMod Creative Gel Set - $24.95 (which has bright primary colors)

Because the MagGel holder uses the same magnetic system, I can choose to pop this onto either of my two flashes, which have the MagGrips on them. to hold the colored Gels. I can even sandwich them in between the flash and the MagSphere diffuser. How cool is that?

I have yet to play with the MagGrid2, but plan on doing so soon. They actually have a KIT with the MagGrip, MagGrid2, MagGel2 Slot and Standard Gels in one for a lower price of $89.95.

I used to avoid using Gels and Grids since they were such a pain to attach to my flash units. I tried custom solutions and even tried the old rubber band on the flash trick to hold colored Gels. I am writing this now for you all because I am totally sold on this new solution and it is a really reasonable price. Time to put this on your last minute holiday gift list for yourself! A camera gift idea for less than $100. :)

If you are looking for a really great flash diffuser, I think I just found one for you!


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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 or send my monthly newsletter.
_________________________________________________________________________________
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.
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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photographing senior portraits and doing it in a unique "glittery" way!

I love taking senior portraits, since I am working with energetic young people who allow me to photograph them to show off their personalities. I make sure that we have at least a couple of hours together, so that we can take photos in numerous locations and with some wardrobe changes. This amount of time also gives me the freedom to try out new techniques.

A while back, I took senior portraits of the beautiful and lovely Sydney.


We started by taking photos at a nearby winery, which is one of my favorite locations in the area. I love the rustic old wood and the patchwork of stone. Since we met late in the afternoon, the sun had already dropped behind a nearby hillside and we had flat light. This was great, since we did not have to worry about harsh shadows on Sydney, or patches of bright sunlight and shade in the background.


My wife brought along some of her favorite props, and we shot this photo for Sydney's thank you cards.


After shooting at the winery for a little while, we decided to move to a park in my home town. As we were walking around, looking for good spots to shoot, I saw sunlight coming through some local trees. I asked Sydney to stand by this tree and move back until the sunlight hit the back of her hair. I used my Canon 1Dx Mark II with an on camera Canon 600 EX-RT flash turned down by one stop. The small amount of flash helps to fill her with some light and also adds some catch light to her eyes.


My wife went back into her stash of props and put together this grouping of scrabble pieces. I zoomed the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 II lens to capture this photo of just her shoes and the scrabble pieces.


Even though the light was dropping quick, I had Sydney sit down at the base of this tree to get a more relaxed pose. I had my wife hold another Canon 600 EX-RT flash to my left to get more directional light on our subject.


I saw the sunset starting to go dark behind Sydney, and was taking photos of her on the grass when my wife grabbed a pen and wrote on the bottoms of her shoes. Great idea!

We were just finishing up, when I thought of another idea. Ever time I shoot photos, I try to do something unique. Seeing the sunset in the background, behind the park, I thought it would be cool to get an action shot. I wanted to get a shot of Sydney jumping in the air. I had her go to a spot with a good background, and then I moved back to frame her correctly. I set my flash to high speed synch and changed the camera settings to ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/500 sec. The problem was...it was so dark that I could not lock in focus on my subject. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and handed it to Sydney's mom.


I asked her mom to go right over to her face to give me enough light to get a focus point. Since I use back button focus for most of my photography, once I achieved a good focus point on my subject's face, I was good to go.


Using manual mode, I metered the Canon 1DX Mark II for the sunset and chose to increase the shutter speed to darken the background a bit. I then had my wife go behind Sydney and point one Canon 600 EX-RT flash right at her back. I used the on camera 600 EX-RT to trigger both flashes at the same time. Since my shutter speed was 1/500 sec, I had both flashes set for high speed sync mode. The on-camera flash lit Sydney perfectly, while the flash in the background back-lit Sydney and helped to separate her from the background.

Soon after this shot, we were out of light and we decided to stop shooting for the evening. We wanted to do some photos of Sydney using a backdrop, but had to wait a while to set up a second time to shoot.


I was off traveling for a couple of weeks and then we met up for the second shoot. This time, we met at our house and I shot some photos of Sydney in our backyard....


...and in our front yard. As you will notice from the last couple of photos, my goal was to find a nice foreground and background that would compliment, not compete with, Sydney. The photo in the backyard has very neutral light, while this photo has a little more directional light coming from the sunlight. I got down low to the bush and angled the lens up, bringing the colorful leaves of the plum tree behind her head. I shot at f/2.8 to make sure that my foreground and background were nicely out of focus while Sydney was tack sharp.

And then it was time to try our "studio shots".



For the shoot, I set up one of my black Lastolite reversible backdrops in the backyard. This time I used one Canon 600 EX-RT flash on a Manfrotto light stand and the Canon ST-E3 RT transmitter on camera.  I had Sydney sit down on a wood stool and I shot some photos of her. I wanted to get some nice photos of her, but also wanted to test my lighting for our upcoming "prop" shot.


Sydney's mom had seen a photo of someone blowing glitter towards the camera and wanted to know if I could shoot a photo with her daughter like this. I loved the challenge and was excited to give it a try. This photo was one of our first and did not have the effect I was looking for. I knew that we would need more glitter to make this look really cool.


This time I poured a whole bunch of glitter into Sydney's hands and told her to blow really hard. As you can see, the effect was pretty good, but her expression was not right. I suggested that on the next try, she blow really hard but try to do so while keeping her eyes open. Not easy! The problem was that the glitter was blowing back into her eyes. It was also getting all over her, which meant that we had to try and clean her up after every take.

On top of all of those challenges, I also noticed that the glitter was not lit enough, so I put a second Canon 600 EX-RT flash behind Sydney and pointing at an angle towards me, to backlight the sparkles.


We had been saving the blue and gold glitter for the final take, since it was her school colors. I decided to go for broke on this last photo. I poured all of the glitter into her hands for one last "take it or leave it" shot!

And it paid off.


We had Sydney move her hands a little farther from her face (to avoid having the glitter blow back into her eyes) and I counted her down. With one big breath, she was able to disperse the glitter but also keep her eyes wide open. Voila!


We looked at the LCD on the back of the camera and knew that we got the shot. Then it was time to relax and have some fun. I handed her a Jeff Cable Photography hat and we took this shot for some shameless self promotion.

There are times when these types of experiments work and times when they don't. But this one went really well with Sydney happy to get some really cool senior portraits and me happy to have tried something new and achieving a really cool result. I hope that this inspires you to go out and try to shoot something fun and unique.

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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 or send my monthly newsletter.
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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.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why you should not delete images on your memory card using your camera - and other memory card tips!

As many of you know, I have been writing this blog for 8 years now, and I also spent many years of my life as Director of Marketing at Lexar dealing with the ins and outs of the memory card business. And in all that time, I have never written a blog about the do's and don'ts of memory cards. Now that I have left Lexar and not on that side of the business any more, I feel that I can write this objective piece for you without any conflict of interest.

And if you are taking digital photos on a memory card (and you probably are), YOU WILL WANT TO READ THIS!

First, let me explain the memory card in simple terms for you. 

Most people look at a memory card as a piece of plastic or metal, and they don't think much about them. But inside those covers, there is a LOT of intelligence. There is flash memory, a controller and much more. The quality of that memory and controller often determines the speed and quality of your card.


Your memory card has something called a File Allocation Table, otherwise known as a FAT Table. Think of your memory card as a book and the FAT Table as a Table of Contents. When you format a memory card, you are not actually erasing the card, you are just clearing the FAT Table. So...you have removed the Table of Contents, but the chapters of the book still remain. Yep, all the images will remain on your card until you shoot more and overwrite them. This is why you can use a program like Lexar's Image Rescue, SanDisk's Rescue Pro or other data recovery software to recover images from a card even after it is formatted. 

And now for the tips, which I am going to write in the order of importance:

1. DO NOT erase images from your memory card in your camera! Clarification: What I mean by this is: Do not go through your photos and delete them one by one using your camera. I see people (including professional photographers) doing this all the time and it is a REALLY bad idea. Your camera is awesome at taking photos, but it is not very smart at managing the data on your memory card. Deleting individual images from the card using your camera is a great way to scramble the FAT Table. DON'T DO IT! And heck, memory cards have gotten so inexpensive and large, that you should not have to delete images to save space. Just pop in a new card and keep shooting. Once you have downloaded to your computer, and backed up the images THEN format your card to use it again.

2. Format your memory cards in your camera, not on your computer. I have seen countless web sites which tell people to format their memory cards on your computer. This is just bad information! You want to format the cards in the camera. And you should do this on the camera your are shooting with. I am currently shooting with the Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark III, and I format the card in the camera I am using. You are reading this correctly...I do not format in one Canon camera and move it to another. Will they work? Yes, they will. But it could cause issues down the road. Speaking of this, it is not a good idea to pull a memory card out of one camera model and putting it into another without formatting. I have seen people shooting with a Canon camera, pull the card out and start using it in a Nikon camera. They like to be formatted a certain way and each manufacturer does it their own way.

3. Speaking of formatting, it is a good idea to format your cards after each shoot. Once you have downloaded your card and have the images IN MORE THAN ONE PLACE, you should format that card before it's next use. It keeps things cleaner on the card.


4. Use a good card reader! I can not tell you how many times I have seen professional photographers take a high quality card out of a $10,000 camera and put it into a cheap no-name reader. Ughh, it just kills me. When I was working at Lexar and a customer would call me about a corrupted memory card, one of my first questions I would ask is "What card reader are you using?" Folks, those memory card readers have intelligent controllers inside them, just like the cards! I have seen way more cards corrupted in a reader than in a camera. 

5. Don't fill a card completely. Even though most memory cards are built really well and have all kinds of intelligence in them, it is not a good idea to fill a card completely. One of the reasons that I love shooting with large memory cards, is so that I have tons of head room to shoot a lot of photos and not worry about overfilling the card. FYI, I also have the same mentality with my computer hard drives. I never fill them, because their performance suffers a lot when they are full. I usually fill a hard drive to a maximum of 90% and then start writing to a new one.

6. Don't pull a memory card out of your camera or card reader when data is being written or read from the card. If data is being transferred to / from the card and that process is interrupted, it is quite possible that you will lose some or all of your photos. And don't always trust the red light on your camera to determine is data is being transferred. Before I pull my memory cards, I always wait an extra couple of seconds after the red light on the cameras goes off, signifying that the data is done being written to the card.


7. If you have two card slots in your camera, write your images redundantly to both cards to have more peace of mind. This way, if one card gets corrupted, you can most likely get the images off of the other card. I always do this!

8. Purchase name brand memory cards. As you may have guessed, I use Lexar memory cards in all my cameras, but that is not to say that they are the only good company out there. SanDisk makes a good product as well. There are others too, but make sure that you do not use one of those cards made by a no-named company. Remember, you are trusting your images to the card! And you are going to be using the card over and over, so spending a couple of dollars more to get a better product, in the long term, will not cost you much more. Nothing kills me more than seeing someone shooting with a great camera, expensive lens and a crappy memory card. Yep, this gets to me even more than someone using a crappy reader.

And just for fun, here are some common misconceptions about memory cards:

* If memory cards get dropped in water, the data will be lost forever!

This is not true. Because memory cards are made with solid state memory, it is not uncommon for them to go through the washer and dryer and still be useable. Would I keep using that card after a situation like this? Probably not. But most likely your data will still be on the card and can be recovered. I used to jokingly say to people, "If you put your card through the washer, make to put it in the dryer too!" 

* You must keep your cards in covers.

I hate to tell you this folks, but I have my cards loose in my bags all the time. I do not use the little jewel cases that come with the cards. I do use the ThinkTank Pixel PocketRockets, but also have countless cards thrown in my bags. This has never been an issue.

* (Added) Going through airport X-Ray machines can damage your cards

I have had many people ask me how they should travel with their memory cards, especially at airports. In the old days, the X-Ray machines could damage 1000 speed film, but they pose no threat to the solid state memory cards you own today.



To sum all this up...

After reading this blog post, I hope you have a better understanding of your memory cards and readers and appreciate them a little more. There is so much technology packed into these devices, but they are so small and unassuming that it is easy to take them for granted.

These are simple tips that could save you from a disastrous situation. I hope that these help all of you to keep your memory cards and images safe now and in the future.

In case you are wondering...here are the cards and readers I am currently using:

Lexar Professional 1066x CompactFlash cards
Lexar Professional 3500x CFast cards
Lexar Professional 2000x SD cards
Lexar HR2 Workflow Reader Solution

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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.
__________________________________________________________________________
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.
__________________________________________________________________________