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Posts Tagged ‘Canon EF lens’

Yes, I did promise the next post would be about histograms, and it will. But, first … my favorite shots from last weekend’s USCA Southeast Regional Championship. Conditions were not great for photos, though the overcast did provide for even lighting. Most of the images were shot in aperture priority at ISO 3200, f/5.6 with the camera choosing the shutter speed. Camera was Canon EOS 5D Mark iii, with EF 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens. My goals were to shoot a variety of images, including some angles I had not gotten before, as well as some of the people at the event.  Hope to have the post on histograms up this week.  Until then, enjoy the highlights from the SE Regionals and happy shooting!

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Striking a balance so both the dog and the field are properly exposed is a continuing challenge for Schutzhund photographers. While this topic has been explored in earlier posts, one aspect that has yet to be discussed in any great degree is contrast. What is contrast and is it friend or foe to Schutzhund photography? The Digital Photography School blog has a very good post about contrast and explains the concept very simply:

  • Contrast: The difference between dark and light
  • High Contrast: An extreme difference between dark and light
  • Low Contrast: A gradual or lesser difference between dark and light
  • Colour Contrast: Tonal differences, as well as Saturation levels, of colours
  • High Key: Mostly light including whites
  • Low Key: Mostly darks including blacks
  • No Contrast: Is a Whiteout in the Antarctic and very dangerous. Best advice is return to Base Station.

I really like that definition for “No Contrast”, having just been to Antarctica and photographed floating ice (see images below). These images show how different floating ice can look in different lighting conditions and contexts.

In Antarctica as on the Schutzhund field, it is important to remember that white reflects while black absorbs light. Schutzhund fields often are very bright and reflect light, while dark sable and black dogs absorb light. On cloudy days, when everything seems murky, dark sable and black dogs can turn out very muddy and blobs – again they are absorbing available light, which on these days isn’t very much. There is not enough light to provide contrast. Photographers love light overcast, which tends to neutralize the very bright sunlight and provide more even lighting.

Reflective light may play games with color balance, such as a bright blue sky may add more blue to the picture. This was certainly true in Antarctica, where some photos seemed too cool and needed to be warmed up with respect to white balance, in other words remove some of the blue (see Images 5, 6, 8 and 9, which show before and after adjustments). In other photos, in order to get the rest of the photo properly exposed, I elected to let part of the floating ice be very white and reflective (see Images 1, 2, 4 and 10). While it would be nice to have toned some of this down, it is – in fact – pretty close to what we saw.

It is easy to assume that ice and snow are all white, but in actuality ice has a myriad of colors, especially glacial ice, which has many shades of blue, some of which seem to glow!  Also, ice and snow pick up debris and sometimes have penguins and seals handing out. Images 7, 11, 12 and 13 are good examples.

I really like Image 3 as it offers an excellent balance and a lot of detail. It was taken later when the sun was low, providing a very colorful sky and soft light on the ice berg. The sea was dark, which offered a nice contrast.

Going back to the Digital Photography School blog post, here are a few practical tips for “getting the most contrast in a scene”:

  • Shoot with the narrowest aperture possible for light conditions
  • Shoot with the fastest shutter speed possible for light conditions

Also, use your camera’s exposure compensation, adding dark to dark and light to light to help with getting proper exposure. Some photographers also rely heavily on histograms. The next post will take a more in-depth look at histograms and will be up in early March, following the Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Association annual trial on February 23 and 24.

Until then – Happy Shooting!

Floating Ice 1

Floating Ice 1

Floating Ice 2

Floating Ice 2

Floating Ice 3

Floating Ice 3

Floating Ice 4

Floating Ice 4

Floating Ice 5

Floating Ice 5

Floating ice 6

Floating ice 6

Floating Ice 7

Floating Ice 7

Floating Ice 8

Floating Ice 8

Floating Ice 9

Floating Ice 9

Floating Ice 10

Floating Ice 10

Floating Ice 11

Floating Ice 11

Floating Ice 12

Floating Ice 12

Floating Ice-13

Floating Ice 13

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In earlier posts, a lot has been wrotten about the various elements that go into creating exciting photos of Schutzhund dogs. One element that has not been covered is lenses. We all have our favorite lenses, and which lens we use often is dictated by whether we can up close to the action or are relegated to the sidelines, such as in a trial. I am presently reading a very informative and fun book about pet photography, called Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide for Modern Pet Photography, by Jamie Pflughoet. I recommend it – easy to read and a lot of very helpful information.

Among the guidance she offers is an excellent description of a variety of lenses to achieve different looks. Admittedly, not all of us can afford to have a whole arsenal of lenses, but it is helpful to know what’s out there, especially if you’re interested in going for a particular look or feel.

f/1.2 and f/1.4 Shallow Depth of Field Primes: These lenses provide that very attractive soft, blurry background, called bokeh. The advantage is the subject really pops out of the photo. These lenses are not practical for moving targets, such as Schutzhund dogs at work, but are useful for shooting portraits.

Wide-Angle: These lenses can provide whimsical looks, such as big noses, but they also can offer a wide scene, such as the entire Schutzhund field.

Mid-Range Zoom: Many photographers uses these lenses, including the ever popular 70-200 mm. As Jaime notes: “Every lens has a sweet spot in terms of aperture (where it has the best sharpness, clarity and contrast). Find out where yours is, use it with your mid-range zoom.”

Macro: With these lenses, you can capture details, such as paws, tails, eyebrows and whiskers. The trick, of course, is getting the Schutzhund dog to stand still long enough to get the shot. Personally, I don’t think Macro lenses have much place in Schutzhund photography, but I could be convinced otherwise.

Telephoto: These lenses are used for serious zooming, such as the 100 – 400 mm lenses or higher, that you commonly see at Schutzhund trials. They are great for getting up close to the action that may be happening some distance away. From experience, however, my Canon 100 – 400 IM USM lens has a tendency to focus on the brightest spot in the field, which usually is not the dog. In this instance, try to shoot from an angle where the background, such as bleachers, is not significantly brighter than the dog and handler. Also, lighting conditions from one side of the field to the other can vary. On the other hand, without telephoto or zoom lenses, getting shot is less likely. A trade off to be sure.

So, what do I use? I rely heavily of two lenses: The Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM lens and the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L II USM telephoto zoom. They are both very reliable and produce excellent results. I also really like the EF 100-400 L IS USM telephoto lens, but as noted above, in my experience, it does have some limitations for Schutzhund photography. Let me know what your favorite lenses are and why!

My apologies for not having photos to illustrate these lenses, but I am with my family these next couple of weeks attending to a serious family illness. I hope to post again in a couple of weeks, but if not, please be patient as a new post will be coming soon.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Happy Shooting!

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So, are you intrigued? What do penguins and Schutzhund (IPO) dogs have in common. Quite simply, they both can be tricky critters to photograph as they move fast and sometimes in unanticipated ways. While on our trip to Antarctica, I was thrilled (on the inside, of course) when experienced National Geographic photographers grumbled that photographing penguins swimming is very difficult, much to their annoyance. I think they much preferred photographing the ice, as ice moves at a glacier pace, if you’ll pardon the pun. More about ice in a future post.

Their advice for photographing penguins confirmed my own approach to Schutzhund dogs. First, you must understand and learn their behaviors. And, then you must learn to anticipate. As with Schutzhund dogs, penguins are often the darkest part of the image, especially if they are hanging out on an ice berg or snowy area. At times, they are on rocky beaches, which offered welcome contrasts. So, like Schutzhund dogs, choices must be made as to whether to expose for the penguins or the background. We were blessed with marvelous weather – clear, sunny and very little wind. Temps were in the 30s. Simply lovely by Antarctica standards. Days were 23 hours long!

Penguins on land are funny – really – they’ll make you laugh at their antics and awkward ways of moving and stealing each other’s rocks, used to feather their nests. Even penguins look down and watch where they are walking in the rocky, icy, snowy landscape that is Antarctica. And, sometimes, they slip and lose their footing. Photographing penguins on land is more about capturing their expressions and funny behaviors.

Penguins hang out in flocks, as there is safety in numbers, but they also are sometimes alone, which makes for a very poignant photo. They fuss at each other, play, walk about, and are very curious. They also create highways in the snow to the water, and if you stand in their way, they’ll just wait for you to move.

Penguins in the water are elegant and fluid; such a joy to watch. I had a lot of fun and success one day photographing penguins swimming. I was on deck, which gave me a birds-eye view. The water is so clear that the penguins showed up very clearly. They dart about, but they also display flock behavior. Not being a birder, I had to watch and learn. They are very, very fast in water and unpredictable, so I tended to frame wider rather than trying to follow on particular penguin. And, I used a fast shutter speed – 1/750 or better – and burst mode. Yes, they are that fast!

On another note,  I asked several of the National Geographic photographers, who also act as guides and skilled zodiac drivers (inflatable rubber boats with outboard motors that got us up close and personal to the ice, penguins and landings), did they compensate for the bright light and white ice / snow. One fellow say he did not use exposure compensation, but tended to shoot in neutral. That, too, was my experience. While some like to over compensate (add light to light), I found that neutral worked very well. I still will try to add light to light when on a Schutzhund field to see if that helps.

We saw, by they way, four species of penguins – Adele (blue eyes), Gentoo (orange beaks), one Emperor, and Chin Strap (have a chin strap). We also saw many whales, including Humpbacks, Minke and Killer Whales. After one day’s shooting of nearly 700 images, I had to ask myself how many images of dorsal fins did I really need – more about that in my next post. Also, an upcoming post will focus on ice, which is really a discussion about exposures and other camera settings for Antarctica and how what I learned can be applied to Schutzhund photography.

Until then – Happy New Year – and thanks for visiting!

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While at the 2012 USCA National German Shepherd Dog Championship in Nashville, Tennessee last weekend (November 2 – 4), I had a perplexing dilemma. Some where along the way I changed the autofocus settings in my new Canon EOS 5D Mark iii and had forgotten about it. This led to some unanticipated results as I tried to sort out what I had done and how to get back to the more familiar autofocus settings I typically use.

Rather than lose the opportunity to photograph several friends who were competing, I elected to shoot in full auto, and worry about sorting things out later, which I am happy to report, I did. I also used a Canon EF 100-400 mm 1:4-5.6 L IS zoom lens. I don’t often use this lens as the focus tends to be soft, and the lens targets the brightest place on the field, which typically is not the dog. On the other hand, I needed the extra zoom power my other lenses do not have. Most of the images were shot with a fairly wide open aperture, which also contributed to the soft focus.

The key point here is if things go awry, don’t panic! Even experienced photographers have bad days. The other key point is to test your equipment before you need it to be sure it is in good working order and if you can, bring duplicate equipment with you. Yes, I should have done this, and I know better, but I was very busy right before we left, and well, you know…(she says with a red face).

As with composing your photographs, your attitude is also very important, especially when you’re having a bad day. Try not to panic but keep your perspective, and use it as an opportunity to experiment or shoot in full auto. The downside to full auto is you may not be able to set the auto focus to a particular focal point or zone or change other exposure settings, such as aperture and shutter speed. On the other hand, the camera is figuring out exposure, so it’s a great opportunity to concentrate on composition.

The images I took are softer in focus as expected, partly due to the lens, the low light in the early morning, long distances between the camera and the action, and likely some camera shake and vibration from standing on bleachers. Even so, the Nationals provided some interesting results, which you can view in the slide show above. Some images are silhouettes, some are good examples of motion blur, some are focused tightly in, while others take a more expansive view of the field. Also, some images have special effects added. The next post will continue the series on perspective, including a more in-depth look at some of these images.

Until then, enjoy the highlights and happy shooting!

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While there is never a dull moment in Schutzhund or one picture that is ever the same as another, Schutzhund photographs can begin to look alike after a while. That is because most Schutzhund photos are taken at eye level; that is, the photographer is standing and shooting parallel to the ground and directly at the dog and/or handler. The advantage to this shooting angle is it puts the subject on equal footing with the viewer. The disadvantage is the images can look like snapshots as well as a thousand other Schutzhund photos.

A great way to add a new dimension to your photography is to change your shooting angle. This next set of posts will explore shooting from different angles.

First up, ask yourself this simple question: How low can you go? By shooting from a low angle, you can enhance the impression of power and motion. As Robert Hirsch in is book, Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age, describes, “An individual figure becomes more heroic and larger than life.” What better impression to convey of a Schutzhund dog?

Also, consider that power is an important concept in Schutzhund training and trials, especially during the protection phase. Try zooming in to give the dog more prominence and the appearance of dominance. Be careful, though, not to have the dog and/or handler appear to be looming, which can take away from the awe and reverence your viewers might feel when studying the image.

The images in the slide show above offer a few examples. Several are of puppies. Photographing them at a low angle helps to make them appear larger than life and really shows off their personalities. The viewer also can see the dog’s potential! The image of the ball pick up puts the viewer right into the action, which can be very exciting, as does the image of the recall. The blind running pictures again put the viewer right into the action, and in one of the images, the dog is looking right down the barrel of the lens. Now that’s a bit intimidating! The other images are more portrait style and just show a different perspective.

The following offers a few tips for achieving good success with low angle shooting:

  • Don’t be afraid to get in close to the action and either kneel or lay down, if you can do so safely and not interfere with the dog and/or handler.
  • Use a beach chair to save the knees.
  • If the Schutzhund field has a hill or sets on top of a rise, position yourself just below the field, and then shoot at eye level. This is how the images of the gray sable puppy were taken. The puppy was actually looking me right in the lens.
  • Consider the background carefully, as well as the sky, as they can provide a dramatic backdrop.
  • If the opportunity presents itself, get creative and try staging a planned shot.

Let me know what you come up with, and as always, happy shooting!

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Recently, I attended the North Myrtle Beach Schutzhund Club trial and experimented with the ideas and tips offered in the Increase the Light or Increase the Shutter Speed post. Unlike high school and professional sports, shooting IPO (Schutzhund) trials under the lights is not at all easy. Most IPO fields simply do not have powerful enough lighting to make the field bright enough for fast action photography. Nevertheless, I decided to experiment.

The images shown in the slide show above were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200 mm IS II USM lens. I also set the camera on aperture priority, which allowed the camera to set the shutter speed. The aperture was set at f 2.8 for all but one photo to allow as much light onto the camera sensor as possible. A wide open aperture setting has the disadvantage of a softer focus. My goal was to try to strike a balance between exposure and focus. as well as use to the light to achieve an interesting look to the images. The ISO was set at a minimum of 1600, but ranged upward to 4000, 6400 and 8000. Most of these photos were shot at an ISO of 4000 or 6400. Shutter speeds varied from 1/640 to 1/3200. Most of the photos were taken at around 1/640 at dusk to 1/1000 to 1/2000 at night.

While I really like the Canon 70-200 mm lens, it does not have a long enough focal length to capture action across the IPO field, especially during a trial when I can’t get up close. That’s true in daylight and especially true at night. The Canon Mark III is a marvelous camera body for action photography. Unless you have a long-range powerful zoom lens, the key regardless of the time of day for shooting trials is to pick which exercises you want to capture and position yourself as close to the action as possible.

For this trial, the hurdle and scaling wall were close to the spectators’ side of the field and under a bright yellow light, so photographing the retrieve exercises was more productive. In this instance, shooting under the lights had the same effect as bright sunlight in that the details of the dogs were lost and they tended to look like blobs, especially the dark sable or black dogs. Belgian Malinois seem to photograph well in any light!

Bottom line: Nighttime shooting under the lights for IPO is best for carefully planned specialty shots, not the general action photography that can be achieved in daylight. It would be fun to try for silhouettes and other mood-type images. A goal for another day!

Please let me know of your experiences shooting at dusk, night or in low-light conditions! Until next time, happy shooting!

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