Monday, December 15, 2008

Updated - Quick Hit Monday: Saved On My Photons, But Went Way Over Budget On my Pixels On Saturday; Images From Hi-Def Video: and My Mini Z-Ray

Good Morning Everybody,
This week I'm going to be reporting from Cashiers, North Carolina. LaDawn and I made what we thought would be an approximately 5 1/2 hour drive down to this beautiful area of North Carolina. Turns out that the last two hours of our trip turned into an additional 2 hours of a "white knuckled" journey through the pea soup thick fog, which "socked-in" the Smoky Mountains. We finally arrived safe and sound about eight hours later, got settled into our beautiful home in the woods, and are both looking forward to a relaxing week of book writing and editing.

I’ve got lots of good information for today, so lets get right to it…

Saved On My Photons, But Went Way Over Pixel Budget On Saturday
Wow, what a great photo extravaganza I had this past Saturday. I don't think I mentioned it last week, but as luck would have it I got my hands on my very own Canon 5D Mark II’s on Thursday. I got a chance to lightly breeze through the manual on Friday. Nevertheless, I packed it with me to my Bat Mitzvah shoot on Saturday.

I couldn’t wait to check out the images so between the morning services and the evening party, back at the studio, I loaded up the images and gave him a peek on my computer. I have to say, I was blown away with the images I previewed.

Just for starters, check out this temple pictorial I did early in the morning before the service. Now check out my super close crop of the same image – it’s unbelievably sharp with nary a pixel out of place. It’s amazing what you can see in a 60 Meg Jpeg. Lightroom still hasn't come out with version 2.2 which will recognize the 5D Mark II files so I was shooting most of the day in Raw and large JPEG. My first surprise was finding that I could only shoot about 470 images on the 16-gig card with those settings! Man, I guess were heading to the 64 gig cards down the road, right;~)

One feature I like about the camera is that it'll let me shoot in a smaller RAW file – at SRAW1 I got a file that was equivalent to the RAW file I get for my Canon 40D. So, what I did basically to save card space, was to shoot all the important family photographs and the group photographs in large RAW and large JPEG and the rest of the images at the smaller settings.

It struck me that the bulk of the images captured did not need to be saved as large RAW files, so I decided to set the camera to the medium raw and large JPEG setting. This gave me a lot more images on my 16-gig card.

When I just wanted to grab some quick test candids, images that were more for me to see how the camera was working, I shot in large JPEG mode only. Even though these JPEG's are 10 Megs big, that setting sure freed up some space on my card.

Here's another cool thing about the camera -- it has three custom settings which you can preset different camera settings. What's wonderful about this is the fact that I basically get three separate cameras all rolled into one package. This is very handy when shooting under various lighting conditions and also effective when switching between my various file size settings. I simply registered them into my custom settings and I was able to work quickly for the entire shoot. Very impressive feature.

The other thing my Saturday experience confirmed for me was the absolutely super low noise at the camera’s 6400 ISO setting. When I run Noise Ninja on these 6400 ISO files, the noise index is actually less than the noise index I get with my 800 ISO images out of my 40D! It's just simply amazing the lowlight capabilities of this camera.

That said, I decided to try some higher ISOs when shooting my family groups and some of the other pictorial images I create at my typical Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Instead of setting my camera and ISO 400, were I would be normally on my 40D, on Saturday I kicked it up to ISO 1600, adjusted the light output for my off-camera flash and shot away.

Wow! the results were just gorgeous. I loved how the ambient light was picked up in the background and just added so much more to the overall feel of the images. The fact that I was able to shoot at a much higher shutter speed really made life good, too. Since I never shoot on a tripod -- because tripods slow me down way too much -- the higher ISO and a higher shutter speed gave me a wonderful combination of speed and versatility in carrying out the shoot quickly and efficiently.

At the end of the day I had shot about 56 gigs of data and, because of the high ISOs I was shooting, I barely depleted the batteries at all on our flash units.

I've got a lot more observations on the camera, but this post is running long already so I'll plan to get them formalized a bit better and share them with you here at DigitalProTalk in the upcoming days - all good stuff.

A Few More Quick 5D Mark II Hits
Last week I ran a few resolution tests on the Canon 5D Mark II’s 1920x1080 high def video capture. I have to say that I think there are some possibilities here. I'm looking at 12 inch by 22 inch images we printed in-house and I have to say they look pretty darn good. Now let me say, I'm not recommending that we shoot video in lieu of our regular stills but, I certainly think it opens up some great possibilities for shooting sequences, creating a series of JPEG's from those sequences, and laying out some really cool pages in the client's bridal album. Just food for thought.

The Mini Z-Ray
Last week I mentioned I would share with you the light source I used to create my three-minute portraits from Morgan's Restaurant I posted last week. So here it is tiny, compact, and just the right amount of light for high ISO portrait sessions. You can pick up these little powerful LED lights at any hardware store for under 10 bucks. I thought in a pinch they worked beautifully and let us get some really great images during our very brief shooting session while visiting in Cabo, Mexico. Most of these little LED flashlights balance best with your camera color balance set to "Daylight" - I took the shots at 6000K.

Just remember, it's not about having the most expensive gear, it's always about the light, how to find it and how to use it. The bottom line is this -- size doesn't matter.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. I've got to get pounding away at the keyboard in my "Fortress of Solitude" in the middle of the Smokies and really put a good dent in the book this week. So, don't forget to check in tomorrow for another episode of Technique Tuesday: Shooting the Groom. It's another take on what we did last Tuesday. But this week, I'm giving the groom equal billing.

So until tomorrow have a great one and I'll see you then. -- David


  1. Welcome to beautiful western North Carolina. Hope you have a relaxing and productive visit. I can relate to your driving experience: when our family first came up here 25 years ago from Florida for my scholarship interview at Mars Hill College, my dad looked at the map and saw what he thought would be a pleasant 3-ish hour drive along US 64 from Chattanooga, TN, to Hendersonville, NC, where we were going to stay. About seven hours or so of hairpin turns later, we finally reached our destination, still an hour away from the college and already a couple of hours late for my interview. The main takeaway lesson from that ordeal: in NC, when they put a "Curve Ahead-20mph" sign up, they mean it.

  2. Hi David,

    In the past, I believe you have discussed using a gel on your flash to match ambient light. However, I've noticed that you don't typically do this when shooting church/synagogue portraits. Is there a reason why?

  3. Hello David

    Stop teasing about the book already! Get that sucker on the market -- I'm tired of spending all my money on Kelby's stuff!

    On the "mini Z" -- what color temp did you use? Does it shoot at 2800K or is it a cooler light?

  4. Yea, what's the color temp?

  5. Hey David,
    You can quit with the Jpegs now cos Lightroom 2.2 is available via the Check for Updates menu!