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Tech Data: 2007.
© 2007 KenRockwell.com

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Introduction

This describes how I made my 2007 Route 66 and Death Valley 2007 photos.

Last year I used my Nikon D200. The realities of life are such that I haven't gotten around to publishing those yet.

This year I used my Canon 5D because I wanted to play with my new Canon 14mm f/2.8L ultra-ultra wide angle lens.

Ultra-ultra wide angle lenses are very difficult to use properly, so I wanted to practice. On a workshop my attention is given to the students, so I didn't bring my view camera or much other gear which would have distracted me. I was playing between instructing.

No, fair readers, I haven't switched camera brands. I'm amazed at how some people think that you're only allowed to use one brand of camera. I use both all the time, and since my Canon gear is new to me, I spend more time talking about it lately since readers asked me to look into Canon. As you can see at my baby Ryan Rockwell's website, I prefer my Nikon D40 for family shots, and I'll be ordering a Nikon D3X or full-frame camera the day it's announced.

Today the Nikon digital system can't go as wide as Canon, and I was playing with w - i - d - e this trip. My 12-24mm Nikkor only goes as wide as a 20mm lens on full-frame in actual use (try it), a completely different world than my 14mm on a full-frame camera.

I've got Nikon and Canon in my bag, just like I have more than one brand of car and more than one brand of bicycle in my garage. I use different ones for different things. Some people were starting to think that I was on Nikon's promotional payroll (I'm not on anyone's payroll), another reason I decided to start to talk about Canon.

Camera

I shot all of this on my Canon 5D full-frame digital camera.

As a full-frame camera, all lenses give the same angle of view as they do on a 35mm film camera.

Most other digital cameras would require much shorter lenses to give the same angle of view. For instance, the 14mm ultra-ultra wide lens on a 5D gives the same angle of view as a nonexistent 9mm lens would on a Nikon.

See Crop Factor for more about focal length conversion factors for other cameras.

Lenses

Most of the Route 66 shots were made with my exotic Canon 14mm f/2.8L ultra-ultra wide angle lens. There is no equivalent for use on any Nikon digital camera, and no other direct way to get a lens this wide with anything other than Canon's full-frame cameras.

I also used my Canon 15mm Fisheye and my Canon 17-40mm f/4L. I used an excellent borrowed Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM along Route 66.

Metering and Exposure Mode

I always use the default evaluative metering mode.

I use the Program (P) exposure mode with most lenses, set with the dial on the top left of my 5D. Usually I'd click the top dial (near the shutter release) a few clicks left to use smaller apertures for my 14mm lens. This is called "Program Shift."

The 5D forgets this "program shift" every time the meter shuts off, so I'd have to keep clicking my top dial three clicks left.

Since the 5D's program shift keeps canceling itself whenever the meter turns off, with my wide lenses I tend to use the Av (aperture-priority) mode, which lets me chose my favorite aperture while the 5D chooses the shutter speed.

I usually shoot my 14mm at f/11, its sharpest aperture, and my 15mm fisheye at f/8.

Once or twice I'd use the Manual (M) mode if I needed to lock down a specific exposure for different compositions.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation controls a photo's brightness.

Most shots were made at -2/3 stop exposure compensation. I set this by turning the power switch one click past ON and spinning the big wheel.

I looked at the RGB histograms and the LCD of my 5D to determine the correct exposure. My 5D's histograms and LCD are crummy compared even to my cheapest Nikons, so it's a bit of a crap shoot.

You have to activate RGB histograms in the 5D at Menu > Histogram > RGB. Sadly this is not the default. The default is only a useless black-and-white histogram!

See also How to Use a Histogram and Color Histograms.

Correct Exposure compensation will vary depending on your taste and the subject. I used values anywhere from +1/3 to -1-2/3 stops.

Digital Settings and Film

I didn't shoot any film. Instead of choosing a film to get the look I prefer, I get the vivid colors I demand by setting my camera accordingly

File Format

Everything was shot on Normal JPG (the staircase icon), the setting below Fine JPG (the quarter circle icon). I hate wasting time and money with RAW; I never use CR2.

ISO

Most were shot at ISO 50, which is shown as "L" when you set it on the 5D. You have to activate the ability to get ISO 50 and ISO 3,200 under Menu > Custom Functions > Custom Function 08 (ISO expansion) 1:On. Otherwise, ISO 100 looks the same anyway. I used higher ISOs as the light faded.

Of course I didn't shoot chemical film, but I set the look I prefer in the camera. I love Fuji Velvia. I pump up the saturation of my 5D to give the look I want directly in my 5D.

Color

Most of the images are exactly as they came from my 5D. I rarely had to tweak any contrast or exposure afterwards, and never had to play with the excellent color.

I get the wild colors I do in-camera by changing settings under Menu > Picture Style > (select User Defined 1, 2 or 3 with the big spinner knob) > (press Jump button) > and using settings of:

Sharpness (really sharpening, not sharpness): +3 (default).

Contrast: 0, the default, or rarely -4 if the subject contrast was extreme.

Saturation: +3, sometimes +4 if things were getting boring.

Color Tone: 0 (default). Don't touch this!

You can check this quickly when shooting (LCD off) by pressing the INFO button. You'll see Picture Style indicated as a set of four digits, one for each of the above. I'm usually at 3, 0, 3, 0 for the above settings.

White Balance

I almost always shot on Auto, the default.

See my pages on Setting White Balance.

White Balance Shift

This is set at Menu > WB SHIFT/BKT.

It lefts you alter the color balance of all shots, regardless of the WB setting.

I prefer a warmer look, so I leave mine set at A2/0. This means I've added a little bit of amber bias. I leave the green/magenta adjustment alone.

Development

Development, just like with film, is what I do to the camera files before I show them.

Fast Downloading from Camera

I copied all the files into my Mac using the Finder. I don't use any software.

I used the newest SanDisk Extreme IV cards and Firewire reader, so I could transfer each day's shooting, about 2GB, in only 60 seconds to my 3-year-old 12" Apple iBook. I can't believe that others on this workshop still used primitive systems that took all night to transfer their files into their computers.

Sorting (or Digital Asset Management if you prefer)

I use iView to see, sort and dump what I shot. I've been using iView for years, and have no need for anything different like Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, Apple Aperture or other sorting programs. They all do the same thing.

Post Production

The shots from all but the 70-300mm lens were sweetened in DxO Optics Pro, which removes any minor optical aberrations and does a great job of rectifying crappy lighting.

Any sensor dust specks were easily blotted out with Photoshop CS2's Spot Healing Brush.

I reduced the images to a generous 768 pixels wide to fit your browser window.

After resizing, they were sharpened for the web with Photoshop CS2's Smart Sharpen filter, at usually 100%, 0.2 pixel radius and the "Lens Blur" option. These are custom settings; they are not the defaults which suck.

I marked them "© KenRockwell.com" as explained at Adding Your Copyright Notice. You don't need to mark them to protect them; today the © symbol is merely a formality. I brand my images so it's obvious when someone purloins them. There is a separate law making it a criminal offense to remove or obliterate a © notice from an image. See copyright.gov, Title 17, § 506 (d), USC. I also mail in and pay for registration to let me collect the big bucks each time I catch someone using my images.

I created all the gallery pages by hand in Macromedia's Dreamweaver.

Tripod

I don't use tripods. Tripods went obsolete with the introduction of digital SLR cameras back in 1999. See Digital Killed My Tripod.

The excellent high ISO performance of digital SLRs, along with Image Stabilization, renders tripods redundant.

In daylight tripods reduce sharpness with digital camera! Due to diffraction, digital SLR lenses are sharpest at about f/8. Stopping down further, as people tend to do if they're lugging a tripod in daylight and as we had to do with larger format film cameras, reduces sharpness in most photos.

Only stop down below f/8 to f/11 if you have tested it and really need it for depth-of-field. Stopping down to f/16 of f/22 will guarantee you a softer shot than one made at the correct aperture. Try it and see for yourself.

I made many shots of the Green Motel without a tripod. When I discovered that someone in our group had brought mine over by accident, thinking it was someone else's, I did reshoot my favorite shot with the tripod at a lower ISO, a smaller aperture and a much longer exposure. At internet size there isn't any visible difference.

I do occasionally use a tripod, but only for very dark night shots, none of which I made during this outing.

Of course I could have lugged around a tripod and used ISO 50 instead of ISO 400 for my indoor shots. I would have gotten an invisible amount of less noise (grain), but having to lug around a tripod would have slowed me and my creative process. I wouldn't have had the time to make many of the photos that I did. Making good photos at ISO 400 is far better than missing shots having to lug around a tripod.

PLUG

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

 

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