Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘telephoto’:

The “Other” Competitors at the U.S. Open

Early 80s Nikon ad (scanned by Esox lucius @ MFLenses.com)

When Canon first decided to get really competitive in high-end SLR cameras and lenses, a field totally dominated by Nikon and long before the digital era, some marketing genius realized that those white barrels on long lenses would stand out both on television and to the crowds at sporting events. And that helps sell gear.

I know that there are those who maintain it’s all about the fact that white reflects, rather than absorbs, heat and that this better protects some of Canon’s lens elements.

I prefer to see it as a way to literally improve Canon’s visibility in the pro photographic marketplace. And it worked. The lenses were (and are) great, and after a while it seemed that there was a sea of white telephotos and the occasional Nikon interloper at the Super Bowl, the World Series, etc. It’s no secret or accident that Nikon did a great job of matching or beating the competition (I’m a Nikon shooter for a full 50 years), and I still find myself taking a quick survey whenever TV coverage provides a view of the still photo corral at a major event.

Canon L lenses at the 2013 US Open

That was the case during the semis of the U.S. Open this week in New York. Late in the match, there was about a ten-second cutaway when the announcers were calling attention to the fact that all photographic eyes were on Djkovic just before the victory that would put him in the finals. With always-helpful TiVo, I froze the scene and did a quick and totally unscientific lens count — at that moment, at least, the results were 7-5 in Canon’s favor. Of course, had CBS’s camera panned a bit left or right, the numbers might easily have been reversed.

The only point here is that competition is healthy on and off the court.

President Obama Returns to Martha’s Vineyard, and I Check My ‘Priorities’

Two days ago, the President returned to a Martha’s Vineyard golf course very near our home, so I had the chance (away from the rest of the press) to make a new image of Mr. Obama at play. After the expected full inspection by the Secret Service ahead of the President’s arrival, there was  a wait of about 15 minutes while he played the previous hole.

There are things you can control, and particularly with the President of the U.S., even more things you can’t. Instead of playing to the 8th green where I was, the President and his foursome skipped the hole and went straight to the adjacent 9th tee, after driving his cart over to say hello. He was friendly enough in his greeting,  but said he was running late (if you’re the President, I guess you can play the just holes you want).

President Obama driving a golf cart

I had already mounted the latest version of Nikon’s tack-sharp and very fine 70-200mm f/2.8ED on my D300, figuring that would cover his short game and putting. And here comes today’s photo lesson —

What shooting mode to use? First of all, there was plenty of light, even though the subject matter was largely back-lit. I wanted a bit of depth-of-field, but since the picture was all about Mr. Obama, what’s far more important was a fast shutter speed. That dictated going to Aperture-Priority set at f/4. With the VR turned on, I ended up with a shutter speed of 1/640, which guaranteed  a sharp image.

Martha's Vineyard Gazette front page Obama in golf cart

It always makes me crazy that there are so many people who buy a fine camera and great optics, whether an SLR or a point-and-shoot, and then just leave it in AUTO mode. And yet, it’s what I see all the time, even with friends and family — they eagerly seek my advice on what to buy, and then leave in AUTO until they’re ready to buy a new camera. Here’s my point: you definitely will never learn all the options and gimmicks your new camera offers, but please, at least learn how, when, and why to use the various shooting modes.

It was all over in just a few seconds and eight frames (I’m not a fan of high-speed motor drive shooting.) Then, on the 9th tee, he was a good bit farther away, but I took a couple of more shots and caught the President in the midst of the classic Obama fist-bump with one of  his partners. That picture, appearing inside the paper and cropped a bit, was just a bit of pure lucky timing.

Obama fist bumping one of his golf partners

The President leaves the Island this evening, a day early. Now I and the rest of the Gazette staff are turning our full attention to something just as unpredictable as covering Mr. Obama: tracking Hurricane Irene.

Building a Canon 500mm Prime Lens

Unless you’re independently wealthy, at some point you’ve probably felt a little discouraged over the cost of a great lens. But have you really thought about all the time and effort that goes into making one? Take a look at these three videos to learn what goes into a Canon 500mm f/4L prime lens. It won’t make it any easier to afford, but it might take some of the sting away.

Wildlife Photography on the Gulf Coast

The Steadybag Junior supporting a 300mm lens

A couple of weeks ago, I took a phone call from Charles Stutts in Louisiana, a shooter who does a lot of long-lens bird and wildlife photography. Even when you’re using a heavy-duty tripod, once focal lengths get beyond 300mm, it’s good to have some additional lens support, and Charles had decided to order some of our Steadybags.

It was a quiet time of the day here, and we got into a long conversation about his work. Charles frequently uses Nikon’s very fine 200-400mm f/4 zoom, frequently with a Nikon extender. So shooting on a D300, what he ends up with can be more like an 800mm. I was interested in seeing his images, so he pointed me to a YouTube video he posted in 2008. It’s a lovely slide show of the wildlife from Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, titled ‘Jefferson Lakes and Rip Van Winkle Gardens’:

While we talked, I pulled up his video and saw that Charles, while not a professional photographer in the sense of earning his living by taking pictures, knows very well how to make great images. The irony in all this is that just a few days later, recent events in the Gulf of Mexico had put the birds–as well as all wildlife and vegetation along the Gulf Coast–in great peril (to say nothing of the economic harm to many thousands of workers and their families.) Coincidentally, Lake Peigneur itself was the victim of an oil rig disaster some 30 years ago.

So in light of what’s happening right now in Louisiana, you might well enjoy taking a few minutes to appreciate at his fine images of some newly-endangered species.