Thursday, June 10, 2021

Tokyo Olympics: The story changes every day

The last blog post talked about the challenges of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and since then I have heard from many of you. Most people seem to be hoping that the Olympics can go on, and do so in a safe fashion. Other people are scared that this could become the next big super spreader event, and feel that having these Games is irresponsible. 

I still hope that the Olympics happen and that the athletes get a chance to show their skills that they have practiced for the last 5 years. With that said, I also want to make sure that all the visitors and the Japanese people stay safe and healthy.

In the last week, many things have occurred in regards to the Olympic planning:

It appears that the Olympics will indeed happen. The Olympics machine is rolling ahead and I honestly don't see any way that it will stop.  

Just today I got an email from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking for me to provide my vaccination status to them. This is the first time that the IOC has asked this question of the media, and it is about time. I am happy that they are collecting this data. I wish that they would just require vaccination for anyone setting foot in the Olympic park. Remember, there are more than 11,000 athletes and many more support staff. In total, there will likely be 80,000 people who will be traveling to Japan for the Games.

Japan has doubled their vaccination rate from 2% to 4% (19.4 million doses given) in the last few weeks.

The city of Tokyo started closing roads this week, and final preparations are under way.

We have been asked to download a smartphone app which will be required to be turned on when we enter the country. This app will track our locations at all time (mostly for contact tracing purposes).

We are expecting another version of the media playbook in the coming week, which will undoubtedly answer some questions and raise more.

This past week on the Kelly Clarkson show, she interviewed USA Water Polo goal tender, Ashleigh Johnson, in advance of the upcoming Olympics. They featured many of my images of Ashleigh and the team in their piece. You can check it out here or by clicking on the image below.


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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, June 3, 2021

Even more questions about the Summer Olympics in Tokyo

We are now only 50 days away from Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the uncertainty continues. Just like many of you, I am reading numerous news reports saying that the Olympics will be cancelled, but at the same time I am now getting multiple emails per day from Tokyo confirming that everything is a go. 

At this point, until I get on a plane and head to Tokyo with my credentials in hand, I will not be 100% certain of anything. But, with so little time remaining, I can not imagine that the IOC would pull the plug on the Games. Putting on the Olympics is a monumental task with tens of thousands of people involved. And athletes all over the world are training and competing to have their one shot at making their mark in the sports world. Being so late in the game, it seems almost impossible to stop it.

This morning, there is news that 10,000 Olympic volunteers have chosen to opt out of their jobs due to Covid concerns. Sure, there are more than 80,000 volunteers signed up, but this is still a significant number. We rely on those volunteers for so much throughout the 3 weeks that we are in their country.

I am tracking the vaccination and Covid rates in Japan on a daily basis, and the good news is that the country is trending in the right direction. The big questions are: How many more Japanese people will be vaccinated in 50 days? Are they going to concentrate the vaccinations to the Tokyo area and the people directly involved with the Olympics? And will the Japanese people feel more comfortable having us in their country at that time?


I have been to Japan before and have always found the people to be friendly, helpful and very respectful. But I still wonder how I will be received when I am there to cover the Olympic Games, and obviously someone who is not from Japan.

I recently heard from my friends at Canon USA that they will not be sending any of their people to the Olympics this year. This was sad to hear on many levels. These people are friends of mine whom I was looking forward to seeing over there, and they are incredibly helpful to me during the stressful days. I have no doubt that the Canon Japan people will take care of me as well, but it just isn't the same as having a friendly and familiar face behind the counter. If you are wondering why Canon USA is not sending anyone to Japan, the reason is that those people would be required to quarantine in a small hotel room for 14 days. And when they say quarantine, they mean no leaving the room for any reason, not even to walk down the hallway. Canon would have to have a separate staff of people to bring food to those employees at their door. I know for a fact that I could not hole up in a tiny room for 2 weeks without going stir crazy. This is a lot to ask of anyone.

Even NBC is scaling back how many people they are sending to the Games. Pierre McGuire (Sports Analyst and commentator for NBC) and I have worked many Olympics together. I was watching the NHL playoffs the other day and he was doing the broadcasting. I texted him and asked him if he is going to Tokyo, assuming that he would be there. To my surprise (and his), NBC is not sending him to cover Water Polo, instead choosing to do the commentating from Connecticut. Another friendly face I will not see in Tokyo.

Well...I guess I will sign off for now and reply to all the emails from the Tokyo Organizing Committee regarding transportation, housing, and activity plans. 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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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tokyo Olympics or no Tokyo Olympics - that is the question!

We are about 10 weeks out from the start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the question I keep getting from everyone is "Will the Tokyo Olympics happen or not?"

And just like everything that we have been dealing with over the last 16 months, there is nothing that is 100% certain during these times. For the last month, I have received countless email messages from the Tokyo Organizing Committee signaling that everything is a "go". There have been messages regarding housing, entry protocol, Covid testing, social restrictions and more. Covid cases have been pretty low in the country, but just the other day, the president of the IOC cancelled his trip to Japan due to a surge in Covid 19 cases. I also read that only 2% of the Japanese population has been vaccinated. I hope that this changes quickly so that the Games can go on. 

Last week the IOC released the second version of the media playbook which gives us more details of what we are likely to be dealing with if everything goes as planned. And as I see it, all of these new Covid restrictions are going to make an already challenging month even tougher. But would I opt out? Heck no!



I think that the most challenging aspects of the new guidelines are:

* We are either going to be required to use press buses only, or highly encouraged to do so. This could restrict my movement from one venue to another.

* Access to venues may be restricted, and so my normal freedom to move from one sport to another may be limited.

* Due to physical distancing between photographers at the venues, there will be a significant reduction in capacities for us, so it may be difficult to photograph the most popular events. 

* I will likely have to create a 14 day activity plan in advance of the Olympics and make reservations to be in certain venues. This is very difficult since I don't always know how much time I will have day-to-day. It has not been uncommon at past Olympics to squeeze in some unplanned shooting when I finished a contractual shoot early. And sometimes the opposite happened, when I planned on shooting a certain sport only to realize that I didn't have time to fit that in the schedule. 

* Shooting with a mask on is not only uncomfortable,  I find that it fogs up my eye-piece.

Along with periodic Covid testing, anyone going to the Olympics will be required to have a smart phone with them, with a special app called COCOA (which stands for Contact Confirming Application). This will help the officials know our whereabout for contact tracing purposes. 

I have been fully vaccinated and feel confident that I could go to the Olympics, do my job and it would be safe for myself and the people of Japan. Now it is another waiting game to determine if this really happens or not. Stay tuned!


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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
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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. 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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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!


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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. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

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!
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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. 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, 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.







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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. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

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.


__________________________________________________________________________
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. 

__________________________________________________________________________