Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thank goodness - we have sports to photograph again!

It is crazy to think that it has been well over a year since I photographed any sports, but of course, with the pandemic all sports have been shut down for that long. At least, that is the case here in California. But now things are starting to open up a little and I could finally get out and shoot local sports and get warmed up for the upcoming Olympic Games. Just like the athletes themselves, us photographers have to get back into practice as well, honing our skills and trying new gear.

I have had many people ask me how the new Canon R6 works when shooting sports, and up until now I really did not have a good answer for them. But I recently photographed a field hockey game here in my home town and gave the Canon R6 a try. 


I mounted the Canon R6 to my Canon 200-400mm lens and used a Gitzo monopod to support the weight of all that. I put the camera into aperture priority mode and set the ISO to 320 which gave me plenty of shutter speed to freeze the action. 


My absolute favorite feature of the new Canon mirrorless cameras is the eye detection and I rely on that for all my portraits and event photography. I started with the camera in eye detection mode but quickly found that it was not reliable locking onto my intended subject. There were times when the intended subject would face away from the camera for an extended period of time (and the camera then searches for another face) or it would lock onto another athlete that was not my primary subject.  With all of this said, I did not take this as a fault of the camera, but the wrong mode for shooting this type of sport where people are constantly changing directions. So...I changed the camera to IO Servo focus mode using only the center point. 

I am VERY curious to see if this changes with the upcoming Canon R3. I will keep you posted when I can share that information with you.


Once I was back in center point focus I found it much easier to lock focus on my subject. I was shooting in the Electronic 1st-curtain mode at a fast frame rate and the camera worked flawlessly.


After shooting the field hockey game for over an hour I felt totally comfortable using the Canon R6. The controls were easy to get to, and making slight changes to the camera settings (ISO, aperture...) really thoughtless.


To really put the autofocus to test, I decided to shoot through the goal net, to see if the camera would lock onto the subject and not be "distracted" by the net. and sure enough, it did a great job.


I am a pretty trusting guy huh? People often ask me how heavy this setup is, so I let our friend Lauren give it a try. 

Next up was a chance to photograph baseball at another local high school. This time around I decided to shoot with my Canon 1DX MKIII. It is not because the Canon R6 did not perform well, there were three things that I used based my decision on:

1. I figured that, since I was not using the eye detection mode and this camera that the Canon 1DX MKIII would focus even faster in center point Servo mode.

2. The Canon 1DX MKIII captures to CFexpress cards which are much faster for buffer clear and downloading (although I never really had any lag with the R6). 

3. I had not used the bigger camera in a while and I kinda missed it. :)


Even though I had a lot of sunlight, when photographing the batters, I set the camera to an ISO of 400 and an aperture at f/4, which gave me a shutter speed close to 1/4000 sec. 


This really fast shutter speed helped me get the ball sharp without too much motion blur. 


I took a lot of photos of the kids at bat, but found the background a bit distracting, and I also had a ton of photos of them swinging and it was time to capture something else.


I really have not photographed a lot of baseball, so I found the biggest challenge not the camera, but predicting the play and capturing the best action.



Like I do with any sport, I try to capture images of every athlete. At this time, I was focusing specifically on the catcher.


It was late in the afternoon and I saw the sunlight hitting the pitcher straight into his face. I got down low on the ground and shot this photo of him mid pitch.


Using the fast shutter speed, I was able to catch moments like these...




I saw this guy on second base, and looking like he was going to steal a base. I focused on the third baseman and hoped he would run. He did, and I was ready for the shot. As he approached third base, he flipped around to try and avoid the tag and I got this awkward photo. As you can tell, he was safe, since the ball got away from the infielder. 


I decided to take a selfie of me in action. This is how I look best (in shadow).


As many of you know, I will be shooting a lot of water polo at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, so it was great to finally get some practice shooting this sport. 


Obviously, the backgrounds at the Olympics will be better than shooting at a local high school, but the action is still great.


Once again, I chose to use the Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 200-400mm lens. This particular lens lets me shoot from 200mm all the way to 560mm (using the built-in teleconverter) and is really ideal for this sport. 


The next time I shoot water polo, I am planning on using the Canon mirrorless camera since most of the athletes are facing me, and the face tracking may doing really well.



I am really curious to see how eye tracking would work in situations like this, where an eye is barely visible and also behind a lot of splashing water. Stay tuned!

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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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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Out of Chicago conference this weekend

This weekend is the Out of Chicago Live! conference and I will doing a brand new presentation on Sunday at 2pm (noon here on the West Coast). I was on a conference call with the conference organizers last month and we were talking about potential topics. One of the organizers threw out the idea of comparing my Olympic photography to my wildlife photography and how the one helps me capture the other. I loved the idea and have created a presentation along those lines.

Before that presentation, I will also be doing some photo critiques.

If you want to be a part of this, and have a whole weekend of photography inspiration, check out the following website and sign up.

https://www.outofchicago.com/

I hope to see you 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. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Senior portraits in San Francisco - Adding and subtracting light

Last Thursday I was up in San Francisco to take senior portraits for Hannah. The last time I photographed her was when she was 13, and she has grown up a lot since those days. She asked me if we could do the photo shoot in the city and using the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Knowing the area really well, I was happy to take her portraits there, but also well aware of the challenges that awaited us. The weather at this location is always unpredictable, and the lighting can be really difficult for portraits.

The day before the shoot, I told them that I was coming up with a plan A, plan B, and plan C in case things were not cooperating with us. I even woke up at 4:30am thinking about the challenges of this shoot.

I thought I would take you all through my photo shoot to tell you what I did to get the shots. Let's get started...

First of all, here is the equipment I used:

* Canon R6 camera

* Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens

* Canon RF 24-105mm lens

* Canon 600 EX-RT flashes (2) and Canon ST-ET-RT transmitter

* Pro Grade Digital memory cards

* Powerex AA rechargeable batteries

* MagShoe and MagRing


We arrived in San Francisco around 3:30pm and headed straight to the Lands End area of the city. The sun was still pretty high in the sky, so there were very few places to place Hannah without having harsh sunlight in her face. I found this one location we had a good clear view of the bridge in the background, but also where she would be shaded by a tree. I set the camera to expose for the background (ISO 400, f/20, 1/250 sec) and then asked Hannah's mother if she would hold a couple of remote flash units to my right to light her daughter. 


After fighting the light for a little bit to get the above shot, I decided that our next location would be the Legion of Honor museum, which was 2 minutes from our first location. 


Due to the pandemic, the museum was closed, but I still used the columns of the building exterior and the shade to get some nice portraits.  


Since we were in a shaded area, the light was much easier to control. I took these photos at ISO 100, f/4.5 with a shutter speed of 1/160 sec. 



We were walking back towards the parking lot when I saw this wall, also overlooking the bridge. A portion of the wall was in shadow, so I decided to try some portraits here. To try something different, I asked Hannah to hop up on the wall, and I asked her mother to hold the flashes to my left.


Our next stop was over to some really cool tiled stairs (which were also 2 minutes away). We timed it perfectly, since the sun was low enough to not spill any light on the stairs, but still backlight Hannah's hair. Now I just needed to add light to Hannah.


Her mom was being a good sport, being my VAL (Voice activated Lightstand). As you can see here, I mounted two Canon 600 EX-RT flashes to a Magmod mount. I also added two CTO gels to help match the color of the sunlight. This mounting system made it easier for her to hold the lights. 


After taking a bunch of portraits on the stairs, we climbed to the top of the staircase and I had Hannah sit against this tiled wall for some more photos. I sat on the same ledge and took photos of her straight on. 


Then I stood on the ledge, asked her to look up at me, and took some photos looking down at her. All of the above images were taken with the Canon R6 and the Canon 70-200mm lens.


Our next stop was down to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, at Fort Point. This is one of my favorite photo locations in San Francisco. I decided to shoot these images with the wider Canon RF24-105mm lens to include more of the background.


Hannah decided to change into a dress for these photos. I posted one of these photos on my social media and people were commenting on how lucky we were to have the golden sunlight on her face. But as you probably guessed, this was not the sun, this was the two gelled flash units that her mother was holding to my left.


You may be wondering why I was using two remote flash units instead of one. The answer is this: I knew that I would be competing with the ambient daylight, and needed to add a fair amount of light on Hannah to bring her out of the shadows.


 Without those two flash units firing, the image would look like this. Not nearly as pleasing is it?


We went over to the Palace of Fine Arts and took some photos there, but the light was a little too flat and I was feeling underwhelmed. 


Our last portrait location was Baker Beach. This is the location that Hannah had requested in the months prior to our shoot. We got their at 6pm, knowing that the sunset was at 6:15pm and we would have golden hour light. Hannah was a good sport because it was REALLY cold at the beach. She was able to withstand the frigid temperature and pose for me a couple more times. For this shot, I asked her to look out towards the sunset and think about her future life as a college student. 

We were just about to pack it up and call it a day when I saw this post and asked Hannah to lean against it. The golden hour light was so perfect that I just had to get one more photo to highlight her eyes. I set the camera to f/7.1 so that Hannah's eyes would in perfect focus but also allow the bridge to be visible in the background. It I had taken this photo at f/2.8 or f/4, the bridge would have been so out of focus that it might not have been recognizable. It was the perfect last shot of the day.


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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. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

You can now purchase Jeff Cable images through Etsy

It has taken me WAY too long to make my prints available to purchase, but the time has finally come. After many years of procrastination, I created a store on Etsy so that I can share my favorite printed images with you all. So far I have uploaded 53 photos to the gallery, and will be adding more soon. 

You can get to the store location HERE or at the following link:

www.etsy.com/shop/JeffCablePhotography

All of the printed images have a starting price of just $25 and can be ordered from 4x6 to 24x36 in size.

If you have seen any images here on the blog or on my site which are not on the Etsy site, and wish to purchase them, you can send me an email and I will add them for you. 


I offer all the images signed or unsigned for the same price. 

I hope you enjoy the new gallery and purchase some images for yourself, family or friends.







__________________________________________________________________________
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. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Why mobile phone photography is great for professional photographers

You probably read the title of this blog post and thought "Is Jeff implying that mobile phone cameras are good cameras for professionals to use?" But that is not what I am talking about here. Even though cell phone cameras have gotten very good, and some may argue that the image quality has gotten good enough for most people, they are not the right tools for us professional photographers. I have heard a lot of people question whether or not these cameras are bad for us professionals, since people are taking all their own photos. But I believe that all the images captured from those pocket devices is actually helping us professionals. And here is why:

Photography has become more important to people

It wasn't that long ago that the vast majority of people walked around without a camera in their possession. And just in the last 10 years all of that has changed dramatically. Now, in most westernized civilizations, almost everyone over the age of 10 years old seems to have a camera with them 24/7. We are now taking more photos in a single day than the first 100 years of photography combined! Those images (and videos) are being posted and shared on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and countless other social media sites. This means that people are thinking visually more than ever before. Photos are now even more important to the way we communicate.

Quantity does not mean quality - but they DO want quality

I believe that, even though there are millions of photos being taken every day, the average person has had their photo quality expectations lowered. For those of us capturing photos with high quality cameras and lenses, we know that mobile phone images can't compare to the "real cameras" we use on a daily basis. The low light images are grainy and the small lenses just can't deliver image quality of dedicated cameras and good glass. For this reason, people have gotten used to seeing their portraits in selfie mode, with narrow depth of field, and taken with wide angle lenses which are not very flattering. 

I say all of this because I photograph a lot of teenagers and young adults, and am always intrigued when they see their portraits on the back of my camera. They are totally surprised to see how good they look, with narrow depth of field and lenses that flatter people. Sure, it is not all about the optics, it is also the skills of the photographer knowing the best settings, light and locations. But I truly believe that the "low bar" set by everyday mobile photography is helping us professionals shine in comparison.




Mobile phones lenses are not flattering

As I just mentioned,  most cell phone cameras are wide angle which does not flatter most people. When I take portraits, I usually opt for a good zoom lens, like the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens which really compliments my subject. I zoom in tight to accentuate the depth of field, keeping my subject in perfect focus while blurring everything else. And when photographing at long focal lengths, this helps slim people which is always a good thing. Since people are so used to seeing themselves through the wide lens of a cell phone camera, they appreciate our more flattering lenses.

No depth of field

Sure, most of the new mobile phones offer some sort of "portrait mode" which simulates narrow depth of field, but even with this feature, the image quality still does not compare to the real thing. And the rest of the time, people are photographing with cameras that default to keeping everything in focus. This is great when photographing landscapes, but not so great for photographing people and events. I can't tell you how many times I have shown people their portraits on the back of my camera and had them amazed at the selective focus (which really draws the viewer to the subject).

Flat lighting

Just about anyone who takes photos with their mobile phone is doing so using ambient light or the tiny little flash on the back of their handset. This is very limiting and makes it hard to control lighting like us professionals do with one or more large flash units. So, once again, the general public is used to flatly lit images, with no dramatic lighting!

 

Low light = low quality

Whenever there is a cool event with the moon, I see countless phone shots on social media, and all I see are grainy photos of a white dot in the sky. Sure, they tell a story, but it makes the images that us professionals are taking with long lenses and tripods stand out that much more. 

Everyday user vs trained professional

Ansel Adams used to say that the most important feature of the camera is what is 12 inches behind it. That would be the person taking the photo. Most people who take photos with their phones are not photographers and therefore do not know how to make a great photo, regardless of the equipment used. This means that they are creating images for keepsake (which is great), but probably not the quality that us professionals desire to deliver to our clients. They may not be able to take great photos, but they will likely appreciate the difference when they see professional images.

All of this is not to say that the camera in your phone is a bad thing. Not at all! There is the common saying that "the best camera is the one that is with you" and, like most of you, I love having a camera in my pocket all the time. Just yesterday afternoon I was capturing photos and videos on the ice rink as we played hockey. I chose to to use my iPhone 12 instead of taking my DSLR on the ice. 

I am curious to hear what you all think of this assertion, and I welcome your opinions on this subject. Feel free to comment here on the blog or on social media.


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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. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo - The rumors, the truth and the challenges

A couple of weeks ago there were a lot of news reports that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (yes - it is still called the 2020 Olympics even though they are slated to happen in July of this year), were going to be cancelled. I received a lot of phone calls, emails, and text messages asking for my take on this. It was really strange for me, because at the same time that all of you were seeing the news about a potential cancellation of the Olympic games, I was getting emails from the Tokyo Organizing Committee (TOCOG) about upcoming logistics. 

I told everyone that I thought the Olympics would go on for the following reasons:

* The athletes have trained for many years for this event and it means so much to them.

* With all the new vaccines coming out, hopefully they can have a safe Olympics with minimal impact.

* Even if there are limited people in the stands, the television revenues are far too big to be lost. 

Then, last week, there was news coming from Japan that the Games would be going on as planned. And since then, there has been an onslaught of communication from the IOC, TOCOG and the US Olympics and Paralympic Committee. 

I know that a lot of you follow the blog to see my Olympic images and to read the back stories, and I am happy to say that everything looks good for this summer and next winter. It is weird to sit here and write this blog knowing that in 6 months I will be photographing the Summer Olympics AND at this exact same time next year I will be photographing the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Since the planning for these events are so far out, I am dealing with overlapping processes for both Games at one time. Like so many other things in the last 12 months, this is unprecedented.

Just today I received the first "Playbook for Press" for the Tokyo Olympics. 

This playbook lays out the safety guidelines for the press, from beginning to end. They set forth the protocol for pre-travel to the Games, how things will be handled when on the Olympic grounds, and even protocol for exiting the country. 

The bad news

Photographing the Olympics in normal times is always a challenge and exhausting. From what I am reading, there are going to be a lot more challenges at this Olympics. Here are some of those:

* Traveling from venue to venue will be more restricted, with TOCOG recommending that we use press buses only, and not using any public transportation.

* I may have to make reservations to be in certain venues at set times due to the limited number of press per event.

* It sounds like we will all be COVID tested at regular intervals.

* They stated that the press center and other public facilities will be running at only 50% capacity to allow for social distancing. 

* We need to stay at least 6 feet from all the athletes, which will be challenging during the post game interviews. 

* All attendees (including press) will be asked not to cheer, sing or chant, replaced by simply clapping.

* And of course, it will be the first time I will have to shoot wearing a face mask (or two). 

The good news

It looks like the Olympics will actually happen, which is awesome for the athletes and the viewing public. And...since all of you like to follow along with me on this adventure, I am sure to have some crazy and interesting stories leading up to these Olympics, while at the Games and beyond. Stay tuned!



__________________________________________________________________________
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. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________