Nature Notes

July 2, 2010

How to photograph fireworks

Filed under: Equipment,Landscape,Photography Tips — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 10:31 am

How to photograph fireworks

I have made a few half hearted previous attempts to photograph fireworks, but with the arrival of Canada Day, I decided to sort out some good methods. Here is what I found:

Scope out your best place to shoot ahead of time. Arrive while there is still enough light to see, make sure there are no obstructions and that you have a nicely composed view to frame your shot.

Use a tripod, you need to have a rock solid base to eliminate camera shake.This is especially true when using long exposures.

Use a remote shutter. Although you can get by without it, it will make life much easier. Not only does it reduce camera shake, but it lets you work from a comfortable position, perhaps sitting on your comfy chair.

Camera settings. You want to look at long exposures times in order to get long colorful light streamers, anywhere from 6 to 10 seconds. You also want to keep the background dark to set them off. If you shoot in Bulb mode, you will be able to easily control the length of the shot. Open your shutter at the beginning of the fireworks explosion and close it when the trails begin to fade. A good depth of field and low ISO will give you clean focused shots, as well as keeping the background dark. I started with f/11 and ISO100 and was prepared to adjust from there but found that suited.

How to photograph fireworks

I think I have the general idea now and next time perhaps I can get some more creative shots. Following is my favorite fireworks image from Trey Ratcliff  (Stuck in Customs)

Trey Ratcliff (Stuck in Customs)

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May 7, 2010

Trinity Commons

Filed under: Cityscape,Equipment,Toronto — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 6:00 am

Trinity Commons

Trinity Commons

Trinity College in Toronto is a federated college of the University of Toronto which includes an Anglican Divinity school. This is the central commons area of the main building.

I had rented a Canon 14mm f/2.8 lens for the weekend and it found it to be very interesting to use on architectural subjects.In particular, it seemed very sharp to the corners and did not suffer from a lot of barrel distortion.

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April 7, 2009

Canon 5D2 movies with 1400mm of glass

Filed under: Equipment,Video — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 7:00 am

One of the criticisms of the Canon 5D2 I hear is that you should just get a regular camcorder if you want to make movies.

This overlooks the fact that you can’t get a setup to use long telephoto lenses except without a huge budget. For example the cost of a Red camera body ($17,500), 300mm lens ($5,950),Red LCD ($1,7900)…well you get the picture.

This video uses a 500mm lens with stacked 1.4 and 2X Teleconverters,….1400mm in all. After 10 seconds I did a 50% crop in Sony Vegas, giving an effective 2800mm of lens.

The footage may be a bit soft but it had a lot of air to shoot through and is therefore not unexpected.

This is to me, the strongest point in favor of this camera body, the ability to make movies with a wide assortment of lens, not just telephoto, but wide angle, fish-eye, macro, and tilt/shift.

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January 2, 2009

Canon 5D Mark II: First video efforts

Filed under: Equipment,Waterfalls — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 8:33 pm


Webster’s Falls, Ontario, Canada
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

I have loved the Canon 5D, and when I saw the specs for the Mark II version, I decided it was the upgrade I was looking for. I was especially interested in the ability to make video, and to use my lens lineup doing so.

The video above is a series of clips from the Canon 5D Mark II. I used Canon 24-70mm and 17-24mm lens. I wanted to try some basic zooms, pans, etc. The lack of smoothness is from the user and the tripod head rather than the camera operation. The initial test shot I took showed the results would have a heavy blue cast, not unexpected with shots of snow. I preset the White Balance at 6000Deg.K and this turned out to be a good choice. I set the exposure at +2/3 by eying it in on Liveview.

Webster’s Falls is Ontario’s second largest waterfall, after Niagara. It is a gem and worth a visit in any season.

Waterfalls can be dangerous places, especially in winter. Be careful!


American Black Duck
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

This video of American Black Ducks is the earliest of my efforts, with the 500mm lens on a tripod with a Sidekick mount. I found that the heavy lens made moving with the subject less smooth than I would like. Hopefully this will improve. I had been concerned about the ease of moving back and forth from video to still, but, once the video had been enabled, it turned out to be a simple manner. After going to Liveview by pressing the otherwise useless Direct Print button, it was just a matter of pressing the Set button to start or stop recording. At any time I could fully press the shutter if I wished to take a still image. I feel the focus needs improving, certainly user error.


Common Goldeneye pair
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

The last video is of a pair of Common Goldeneye and was shot with the 500mm and a 1.4 TC. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it stood up. The first of the two clips shows a pair in display and a couple of times another female approaches them. Due to the light conditions, I set the exposure at plus1+ 1/3. The exposure adjustments are easy in Liveview.

The videos come out of camera in the MOV format and had a jerkiness when played that was unacceptable. Happily this disappeared when I converted them to WMV format.

Check back as I will post some impressions on other aspects of the 5D Mark II shortly.


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