Friday, April 02, 2021

My Interview With Acclaimed Wildlife Photographer Kevin Dooley, the New Canon R5 In My Life, and High ISO Tricks!

Good Morning Everybody,

I can't believe it, it looks like Winter is behind us and the first few signs of Spring have been looking mighty nice. I know the weather has been pretty crazy this winter in several parts of the country.  Here in KY we only see a few inches of snow a year and it clears out in about a day or two. 

This is what we woke up to on a cold February morning not too long ago - about 15 inches of snow on our back deck - the most in over 13 years for our neck of the woods!  Anyway, all was good - it sure looked beautiful!  LaDawn and I took a drive through one of the local parks and enjoyed the beauty of the surrounds and watching the kids playing and sledding to their heart's content.

But now, back to business. I've got a few very cool things to share with you today, the most important is my interview with my good friend and acclaimed wildlife photographer, Kevin Dooley. Here we go...

And Now Acclaimed Wildlife Photographer, Kevin Dooley

As you know from reading my posts these last few years, at Kevin's invitation, he and I have been leading photo safaris to Africa and beyond since 2018. Kevin's photography is absolutely amazing!  And because of that, he has been encouraged to write a book. 

The good news, it was just published a few months ago.  It's entitled Wild Faces in Wild Places [link]. This photography table/art book does not only appeal to photographers but with Kevin's inspiring short stories about his experiences as a wildlife photographer and safari guide, it is unique in that it also offers great messages about how to live a positive life. It is a great buy and a good read.

I asked Kevin if he would mind sharing his images and some of the stories behind his wonderful images with me and our DigitalProTalk readers. He happily obliged.  Below is our conversation.

Want to join Kevin and me on an upcoming African Safari - we've got two coming up in 2022. Details below.

Join LaDawn and Me In Africa Safari Coming Up In 2022

As you may or may not know, we were scheduled to participate in 3 safaris in 2020. COVID 19 kind of changed things up a bit for us as Africa went into lockdown canceling our final two safaris last year.  We thought rescheduling for 2021 would solve the problem for us but as you know, not all is back to normal yet.  That being said we rescheduled again for 2022. Of the two rescheduled safaris, one is completely sold out but we still have a few spaces in the second one shown below - I hope you can join us. For LaDawn and I, it has been a life-changing adventure and one you will NEVER forget!

Here are the Safari dates and trip info [links]:

May 3 -12, 2022: The Best of South Africa With Kevin and David Photographing the Big Five!

This is an experience of a lifetime photographing in the exotic bush! There are only 3-4 openings left as this is a very small group safari with lots of hands-on photography and cultural experiences.

To register
Call Tricia or Kevin at 505-345-6302 or 505-401-2988
or email them at 

You can get a great idea of what this safari is like by checking out my YouTube video below of last year's adventure at the same location. The video is a great overview of what our 2022 experience will be like.  Heck, even if you can't join us, enjoy the images, experiences, and excitement of our 2020 adventures.

As we get closer to dates, I'll post even more details.

I Have a New Canon R5 In My Life!

WOW! What a surprise for me this Christmas when LaDawn, to my astonishment, gifted me Canon's new exciting R5 camera.  This is Canon's 45-megapixel masterpiece that has been getting all the "RAVE" reviews everywhere across the internet and YouTube.  

Unfortunately, we haven't been doing too much traveling so far this year so I really haven't been able to run this beast through all its paces yet. 

I do have a few favorite features though.  As you know, I'm a High ISO "nut" so I had to try it out at its highest ISO of 102,400! Uhhh.... skip that setting - way too noisy.  Below is a quick sample I made on Christmas morning of LaDawn's dining room centerpiece - just way too noisy, I think.

Even ISO 51,200 doesn't look all that great either. Below is a sample I made just the other day of our back deck in the late evening - even with the Lightroom tweaks, the image still lacks detail especially in the darker area of the image.  

DAZNOTE:  But... you can get a fabulous result at ISO 51,200 by utilizing this one little trick which I'll describe in the next Canon R5 section below.

At ISO 25,600, things begin looking better. Below is an image of one of our "Christmas carolers" which I think looks pretty good.

Next up is a photo of LaDawn's youngest, super cute grandson, Mikah, at ISO 16,000 which I think looks much better.

And finally here is a Christmas morning photo of LaDawn at ISO 6400 which looks great even at that high ISO.

DAZNOTE: Many times when I'm shooting in the "nose bleed" section of the high ISO range, I'll shoot the image as a JPEG and take advantage of the camera's "in-camera" noise reduction capabilities. Then I can "double-dip" in Lightroom if I want to tweak the image a bit more. 

So all said, I do like the much higher ISO capabilities of the Canon R5 and would feel totally comfortable shooting at ISO 12,800, and on the rare occasion, I would even push things to ISO 25,600. 
A Few More Points on the Canon R5

High ISO Trick: OK, so you ask, "What this new little trick of yours for shooting at ISO 51,200 and getting great results."  Well, let me tell you.  It's a little-known fact that if you shoot in HDR, you can really reduce the noise of your image. And, there folks, is the secret of getting wonderful images at super high ISO's. 

Check out the image below. It was taken just about 3 weeks ago when we visited friends in San Jose del Cabo, MX. Yes, LaDawn and I, armed (literally) with on second COVID 19 vaccine, jumped on a Delta jet (with the middle seats blocked) and headed south - our first international trip in over a year!

The photo was above taken at ISO 51,200!

Everyone had already turned in for the evening and I was just relaxing on the portico when the thought hit me about using the HDR capabilities of the Canon R5 to reduce image noise at high ISOs. What happening here is that when the camera combines the three images, we get the benefit of something called "Noise Stacking" which reduces the noise in the final image. 

The image may be slightly less sharp but that's easily fixed with a sharpness tweak in Photoshop or Lightroom. The image looks pretty amazing for ISO 51,200, doesn't it!  You can find a quite fascinating discussion of noise stacking right here [link].

Animal Eye Focus:  Another feature I absolutely love about the camera is its focusing capabilities. The "people eye focus" and "animal eye focus" are amazing!  I'm going to spend a little time here on the latter.

One of our favorite things to do when we visit Cabo is to walk the bird estuary. Last year I did a fascinating Mavic Mini flyover video of it which really shows off the natural beauty of the area - you can find it 
right here [link].  The natural beauty is a joy to see and the "bird" action is always fun to watch.

While visiting the estuary this year the pelicans were going "crazy" diving for the fish in the stream.  I loved shooting them taking off having just splashed the water for liftoff.

Check out these next two images. the first is a slightly cropped image of one of the pelicans having just taken off.

Then I cropped the same image quite close so you can see just how sharp the focus is on the pelican's eye - like I said, amazing!

The images of the pelicans were all taken with my favorite safari lens, the Sigma 100-400mm F5.6-6.3 DG OS HSM/C lens [link] zoomed nearly all the way out at 315mm, shot wide open at F6.3 at 1/3200 sec. at ISO 500. The Sigma lens is tack sharp all the way through its range with super quick focusing as well.  It's a great wildlife lens! 

There's a lot more I could say about the camera but I'll save that for future posts here at DigitalProTalk. So, stay tuned.

Wait... There's More - Ever Higher ISO's!

Just as I was wrapping up this post this morning, I once again began thinking about the great noise reduction decrease I got when shooting in HDR mode as I described above. I began to "fantasize" about shooting at ISO 102,400 or, maybe even ISO 204,800, near a quarter-million ISO!!!  

I ran a couple of quick tests this morning and discovered that when shooting in HDR mode the highest ISO possible with the camera was ISO 51,200 - bummer. 

OK, I shifted gears.  If I shoot in Manual mode and underexpose the image one stop then adjust as necessary in Photoshop or Lightroom I should be able to hit the ISO equivalent of 102,400.  And if I do the same and underexpose by two stops I should be able to theoretically, of course, hit ISO 204,800! 

What you see here are the first fruits of that effort. I underexposed the image by 2 stops but only had to increase the image exposure in ACR by 1.5 stops to get what I was looking for exposure-wise. That means this image was taken at approximately ISO 150,000! I think there are some possibilities here and I want to do a little more research on this somewhat crazy idea. I'm going to spend the next few days working on this so, stay tuned. 

Hey Gang, 

That's going to be it for me today. I hope you enjoyed my interview with Kevin and all his great images. I also hope you enjoyed the Canon R5 observations, especially the high ISO discussion. And finally, maybe we will see you on safari with us in Africa next year.  Stay safe and I'll look forward to seeing ya' soon. Continue to stay safe!

Adios,  David

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