Canon R5 — First Impression

Canon R5 photo taken at 1/40 of a second shutter speed, f/4, ISO 1600, hand held. See below for 100% enlargement.

A RAW file that is a whooping 51MB to 54MB! That’s huge.

Let Me Concentrate on the Body:

On/Off switch is on the top left. Perfect placement for left thumb activation.

View finder is incredibly bright.

With meter balanced, I love that the viewfinder lightens and darkens as the camera is pointed at lighter and darker areas.

If you are too close to focus on your subject, there are tiny, thin orange lines along each corner of the viewfinder. Those lines turn white when the subject is close enough to focus on.

Focus indicator boxes are blue in Servo and green when the camera is set to One Shot. I don’t often shoot in One Shot but this is a nice visual reminder for those who move between the two auto focus modes.

The icons for front dial or back dial are visible through the viewfinder. These are visible as well on the back of the camera if using live view.

M-Fn button on the top right front just like in the 5D Mark IV. Push the M-Fn button, and you can quickly change ISO, white balance, drive, focus, or exposure compensation. Click the M-Fn button with the tip of your finger, lean the finger over, and rotate the quick dial on the front. Simple to change often used items. All this can be seen through the viewfinder without taking your eye off the subject.

M-Fn button and other controls on the top of the Canon R5.

ISO is also adjustable with the back Quick Control Dial 2. I loved the ISO button on the 5D Mark IV and the 1DX. It was so easy to access. The adjustment via the Quick Control Dial 2 looks just as easy. Remember, we can also change ISO with M-Fn button.

Menu layout is exactly the same as we’ve seen on Canon cameras from the Rebel to the 5D Mark IV to the D1X. There are 30 menu items plus the green My Menu favorite.

Multi-controller button (little toggle joy stick) on the back is like the one on other Canon cameras. Lots of functions depending on what you’re doing with the camera. Convenient for my thumb on the back of the camera.

The rear focus button is right next to the multi-controller. Ergonomically, this is the right position for my hand.

The top display panel has basic information when shooting. Mode, battery level, f/stop, ISO, shutter speed, ISO are all there on top. Press the Illumination Button, though, and lots of icons appear. One glance and I can see AF mode, drive mode, white balance, release mode, meter mode, picture style, and recording card. Icons, of course, because the space is small but everything I need to know when shooting.

There’s a new “Control Ring” on the front of RF lenses. Rotate it and nothing happens. Rotate it while holding the shutter button half-way down and I can change the exposure compensation. Of course, the Control Ring is customizable.

Control ring on the front of the 24-105mm RF lens

The INFO button on the back of the camera has moved to the right of the rear display screen. Easy to access with your right thumb. Press the INFO button once for classic display screen, press again for live-view screen, press again for live-view with icons, press again for live-view with level and histogram, press again for uncluttered clean screen for live-view.

Classic display screen that’s familiar to those using Canon Rebel, 7D, 5D, and 1D models.

In one of those live-view screens, press the Q button and all the common icons show on the back of the camera for easy changing.

Live view screen with icons accessible by the Q button.

Touch screen on the back of the camera is activated with the Q button, too.

Video is activated with the touch of a button. Push the red button with your shutter finger and video is on. This is a great improvement over the twist lever and push on the Canon 1Dx and the Canon 5D Mark IV.

The R5 has in-body image stabilization. We’ve seen this in other mirrorless cameras but it’s a first most Canon cameras. This means we can hand-hold the camera and shot at lower shutter speeds. See below — I enlarge the file to 100% using 1/40th of a second shutter speed and ISO 1600.

100% enlargement at ISO 1600 and 1/40 shutter speed hand held. Should be grainy and blurry but it’s not.

Thanks to Hunt’s Photo & Video for getting this camera and lens to me. I know equipment is in short supply so my sincere thanks.

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower takes place in 2020 between July 17 and August 24th. The peak numbers of meteors can be seen August 11-13th as the earth moves through the debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet. It’s possible to see up to 50 meteors an hour during the Perseids.

Personally, I’ve been jinxed by cloud cover, bright skies, etc., during this meteor shower but I’m going out one more time to watch and photograph.

Basic things to know and keep in mind:

  1. The meteors come from the NE but you’ll capture longer streaks if the camera is positioned a bit more toward the west.
  2. The moon comes up a bit after midnight during the peak so it will light the sky and foreground. Use that to your advantage.
  3. Camera setting are important. Get things right.
    • Camera in the Manual Mode
    • Wide-open aperture so f/2.8 or f/1.4
    • Shutter speed set so you get pinpoint stars based on your lens. The formula is 500/(mm of lens x crop factor). Remembering basic arithmetic, that would be 500/16 for a 10mm lens on a camera with a 1.6 cropped sensor or 31 seconds. I know your eyes just glazed over, I’m sorry, but if you do that wrong you’ll be 80 seconds. Same formula for a 14mm lens on a full-frame sensor camera would be 500/14=35 seconds. Do a test, though. I use 20 seconds with my 14mm lens so the stars at the edge of the frame don’t streak. There’s an example below so you can see what I mean.
    • ISO in the 800, 1600, or 2000 range. Take test shots and monitor. Once the moon rises in the sky, you might need to lower the ISO.
    • Camera on a sturdy tripod.
    • Focus on infinity. Canon lenses focus on infinity when the tiny white lines on the barrel of the lens are aligned. Nikon and other lenses focus on infinity when the line is aligned with the middle of the infinity symbol. Test this during the day to see if it hold true for your lens. Test again at night by enlarging one of your photos to make sure the stars are tightly focused.
    • Shutter release in the locked position will take photo after photo for hours. Your reflexes are not fast enough to catch the meteors. Let the shutter release do the work for you. Delete the photos that don’t have a meteor.
    • Turn off long-exposure noise reduction.
    • Make sure your batteries are charged and you have several batteries.
    • Make sure your memory card is clean when you start because you’re going to take a lot of photos during the night.
  4. Remember to have your reading glasses if you need them to set your camera.
  5. Remember to have a head lamp or flashlight. A red filter is good for your eyes but it’s hard to remove that red light from your photo if needed. I use a regular flashlight that’s not super bright.
  6. Bring a chair so you can sit down and relax.

Nice, bright meteor overhead but the camera wasn’t focused. Jinxed!!
Two meteors in the pre-dawn sky with the Milky Way.
Nice pinpoint stars in the sky with a tiny meteor at upper center. Light from nearby towns on the horizon.
Meteor from the Perseid shower in the pre-dawn sky. Notice that the stars toward the edge of the frame are nice and sharp.
Comparison of two images. Left shows streaked stars toward the edge of the frame. Shutter speed was too slow. Right shows nice pinpoint stars along the edge of the frame. Shutter speed was right for the lens.

Good luck and have fun!

Adobe 2020

Adobe updates Photoshop, Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and Lightroom periodically. Most of the time the updates are small and occasionally they are big and monumental.

We got a big update recently with Adobe Bridge 2020 and Camera Raw 12.3. It’s always fun to see what new, major changes are under the hood.

I was processing photos today and thought I’d see if Adobe’s HDR had been improved when compared with Aurora from Skylum or Nik’s HDR.

Over the years, Adobe’s HDR hasn’t been very good compared with Nik’s or Aurora. Adobe Camera Raw 12.3 is almost where it needs to be but still not quite.

Here’s my test:

Noto, Sicily, Italy, photographed with the sky and highlights perfectly exposed. The shadows were brought out with the shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw 12.3.
Noto, Sicily; Italy. Same scene but a blend of seven images. The images were photographed at 3-stops under, 2-stops under, 1-stop under, perfectly exposed, 1-stop over, 2-stops over, and 3-stops over exposed. The images were blended in NIK Efex Pro 2 HDR software.
Noto, Sicily; Italy. The same seven images are above. The images were blended in Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2017 software.

I like the RAW image but also like the Nik HDR image.

What do you think?

Super Macro During the Time of Covid

Nature does not stop during this time of Covid-19. I was self-isolating and working in my garden when a monarch butterfly flew by me and laid eggs on a nearby milkweed plant. The eggs were so small that it was hard to show them of my husband and my neighbor.

My husband, Gary Clark, decided to write about monarch butterflies for his weekly Nature column in the Houston Chronicle. I provide the photos for his articles so that meant I needed to take a picture of the extremely tiny monarch eggs.

Plan 1 —

I started the process of photographing the monarch egg by bringing the pot with milkweed inside.

For my first try, I used a 70-200mm lens with a Movo reversing adapter. This allows you to put your lens on backwards and shoot through the end of the lens that usually attaches to the camera.

Reversing the lens allows you to focus close and get higher magnification.

In this photo you see a flash on the left, flower pot with the milkweed, an artifical background held in place with a Wimberley plamp, milkweed held in place with another Wimberley plamp, and the camera lens.

The egg is not big enough and focusing is hard so I have to try something different.

Plan 2 —

I leave the Wimberley plamps in place and the flash in place.

I change the lens to a Canon 24-105mm lens. This is not a “high magnification” lens but I’m going to make it one.

I add a 12mm extension tube and a Canon 500D close-up lens. This is a filter and not a lens. It goes on the front of the lens and allows you to focus super close.

Here’s an blog post I wrote about this combination.

Monarch eggs with Canon 24-105mm lens with 12mm extension tube to allow me to focus closer. A Canon 500D close-up filter is added to the front of the lens to allow me to get even closer.

Plan 3 — The egg is not as big as I want. I can see the ridges on the egg but I want to get closer.

I contact Camera Lens Rental and order the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens.

This is not your ordinary macro lens. It’s a speciality lens that will photograph from 1:1 life size to 5-times life size.

1:1 life size means the subject is the same size in life as it is on a full-frame sensor.

5-times life size means the subject is five times as big on a full-frame sensor as it is in real life.

Depth-of-field is super narrow even at f/16. A focusing rail in needed to ensure the subject is in focus. (Note: One more thing to buy.)

Same monarch egg at 5x life size. Not cropped.
Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens, 250 shutter, f/16, ISO 400, three flashes at -2.3 powers

The photo above is what I had in mind when I started this project. I just needed the right equipment to capture my vision.

Final equipment list for one monarch egg: Canon 5D Mark IV, MeFoto Globetrotter tripod, Neewer Pro 4 Way Focusing Rail Slider, Canon MP-E 65mm lens, two light stands, three Wimberley plamps, two Canon 220 mini flashes, one Canon ST-R2 Speedlight transmitter.

Thanks to the folks at Camera Lens Rental for getting the lens to me so fast and for being open in the Covid-19 lock-down.

Do I Need to Learn Photoshop?

Photoshop came first from Adobe.
Everything that any creative person needed in one place.

The Photoshop program is becoming less and less needed.  At one time, all the tools were in Photoshop.  

Then Adobe made Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and moved Photoshop’s photography tools into sliders.  We had everything we needed to process our photos in one place.  Adobe gave us Bridge as a “light table” where we could layout all our photos and work with them.

Then Adobe made Elements and put photography tools into sliders.  

Then Lightroom came along from Adobe

Then Adobe made Lightroom and put those same photography tools into sliders.  Lightroom took the Bridge concept to a new level.  Lightroom’s Library is a database so you can layout lots of photos from different folders onto a “light table” and work with them.

Lightroom’s Library is super-powerful and super-complicated.  I recommend the Scott Kelby book to learn and understand Library.  Life gets complicated when you update computers, work on two external hard drives, merge or split catalogues, etc.  Sometimes you have to call in an expert because the Library is a mess.

Thanks to Adobe we have three programs to process our photos.  

·         Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw, 

·         Elements, or 

·         Lightroom.  

The one you choose is up to you.  Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom do exactly the same thing when it comes to processing.  The difference is interface.  

Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw lets you file your photos the way you want.  

Lightroom files your photos for you and you need to understand what it’s doing.  Hence the need for Scott Kelby’s book, lots of online videos, The Lightroom Queen, etc.  I tell people on my workshops “I will not help you find your lost photos in Lightroom.  I will help you process your photos in Lightroom.”  If you use Lightroom, take time to understand the Library feature.  In my experience, this happens in only 25% of Lightroom users.  

Personally, I find the Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw combination easier to use.  I copy my pictures from my card to a folder under My Pictures, open Bridge, go to that folder, start processing.  Simple and easy.  The 25% who understand Lightroom’s Library say the same thing about Lightroom.  (The Lightroom versus Adobe Camera Raw argument is amazing among photographers.  More powerful than Mac vs. PC or Canon vs. Nikon.)

But what about Photoshop?  Photoshop has Layers and we still occasionally need layers.  There are still photographers who use layers to make vignettes even though we have a slider for vignette in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw.  There are still photographers who use Layers to open shadows despite the great shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.  

Layers in Photoshop are needed for a lot of advanced processing.  Merging star trails, for example.  Merging lightning strikes for a more dramatic photo, for example.  Photos with light painting need layers.  We can make a mat for our photos in Layers.  Good stuff happens in Layers and we can only get that in Photoshop.  

At one time, we could only get panoramas with Layers.  Now we have a feature in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw for that.   

I’ll offer a Photoshop Layers class in the coming weeks.  Layers is a powerful tool but has a steep learning curve.  I’m not a master but know how to get what I need – most of the time. 

Check out my class schedule at www.kathyadamsclark.com

Great Costa Rican Adventure

My husband and I have been taking birding/photography groups to Costa Rica since 2004. We’ve used Strabo Tours for each of these as well as a local Costa Rican tour company and our local guide, Willy Alfaro. The same operators and guides for every trip. We change the locations and time of year, and that changes the birds. Each trip is the same but each is different.

Our March 2020 trip was to the northern reaches of Costa Rica. We began in Liberia in the state of Guanacaste and ended in San Jose in the center of the country.

Our first lodge was in the hills of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano. The habitat was officially dry forest but the grounds were lush and filled with birds. Temps were in the 80s but we were plagued by misty rain. This gave us amazing rainbows but made photography a challenge.

Birds on the grounds included crested guan, white-throated magpie-jay, black-headed trogon, Garter trogon, keel-billed toucan, and turquoise-browed motmot. Those were the big, colorful birds. We didn’t overlook social flycatcher, summer tanager, western tanager, and other small but important birds.

We spent two nights at this location, then packed and drove past the Miravalles Volcano to the Rio Celeste. A stop along the way at Celeste Mountain Lodge gave us a chance to eat lunch and photograph birds at the feeders. Yellow-throated euphonia, scarlet-rumped tanagers, palm tanagers, and others gave the group new birds.

Our lodging in this area put the group in an unexpectedly luxurious eco-lodge. My room had a private outdoor terrace, a private outdoor shower on the other end, an indoor shower big enough for a football team, luxurious bathroom, and amazingly comfortable beds.

Bird feeders on the grounds attracted buff-throated saltator, Montezuma oropendola, and others. Overhead, we photographed swallow-tailed kites during a morning walk. After a nice mid-morning hike, we got to photograph the turquoise-colored Rio Celeste.

After two night, we packed-up and drove to the Arenal volcano area. Along the way we stopped at Danaus Nature Center to photograph two-toed sloth, white-nosed coati, boat-billed heron, and other things. The group was not ready to leave but our hotel for the night held lots of photo opportunities.

Arenal Volcano in the La Fortuna region of Costa Rica.

We maximized our time in the Arenal area but packed again to drive to Maquenque Eco-lodge near the Nicaraguan border.

Maquenque is a destination that nearly overwhelmed the group. Feeders near the dining room attracted many birds we’d already photographed but then there were new birds. Brown-headed parrot was the star and a lifer for me. All three honeycreepers — red-legged, green, and sparkling — came into the feeders frequently. Amazon kingfisher, great egret, purple gallinule and northern jacana frequented the property’s marshy pond.

After two nights, the tour headed a bit south to the Sarapiqui area. This is a favorite location for bird photography and our main stop was Dave & Dave’s Nature Park. Dave and Dave (father and son) have built a location where birds land on natural perches to feed on native fruits. The photo opportunities are amazing.

Two visits to Dave & Dave’s gave us a chance to photograph different perching birds plus several hummingbirds. The group was exhausted but still managed to eat amazing TexMex food before heading across the mountains to San Jose.

We gave the group one last stop while driving through the mountains. A small roadside coffee shop has a balcony overlooking a lush tropical valley. Feeders attracted mountain birds including Emerald toucanet, black guan, and a little Tennessee warbler. Hummingbirds feeders let us photograph green hermit, coppery-headed emerald, and violet saberwing.

As we cruised into San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica, the group was happy but a bit anxious. Corona Virus was in the news back in the United States. We’d experienced great bird and wonderful lodges. Our memories will always be enhanced thanks to the 500 or so pictures we took each day.

We’ll do this route again in March 2021. Details are on the Strabo Photo Tour website.

AstroPanel 4.1.0

I got an advertisement the other day for AstroPanel 4. The software was intriguing and the price was right so I clicked the button. The software is a plug-in that works in your Photoshop.

Star Trail with my usual processing.
Star trail with AstroPanel processing. This has a feature called “Comet Star Effect” turned on. There appears to be an emphasis on the first star trail in each series.
Star Trail with my usual processing.
Star trail same photos as above with AstroPanel processing. No “Comet Star Effect” turned on.

After a few hours of playing — excuse me, working — I’ve think this is a plug-in worth exploring.

  • Download was quick.
  • Install was pretty simple. There’s a YouTube video in case you get stuck.
  • The user’s manual is a PDF.
  • Instructions are clear and simple.
  • I was up-and-running in less than an hour.

My only negative is that the final photo is delivered as a flattened TIFF. I usually work on individual layers before flattening my star trails. This is my chance to remove a stray light in one frame, for example. With AstroPanel, I’ll need to do that work prior to letting the plug-in do its work.

I suspect there are a lot of other features in this plug-in. Watch this space for updates.

AstroPanel 4

Flower Photography Gadgets

Azaleas are the first major bloom of spring where I live in east Texas. Every year in mid-February the azalea bushes start setting buds and then blooming. Bare, wintery-looking yards suddenly have lovely mounds of pink, white, or red blooms. It’s a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

My neighbor’s backyard is lined with azalea bushes. I can see them from my living room window. For a week, the huge pink flowers have been calling me.

“Come photograph me” they seem to say. “Get out here and photograph us!” they started shouting as the blooms became more profuse. My brain responded with the usual “it’s to cold” and “it’s too windy today.” But those amazing flowers kept calling to me to get out there and photograph them.

Yesterday I grabbed the camera and tripod to head outside. It was breezy so I grabbed some handy gadgets from my friends at Wimberley.

Below are all my gadgets.

F-2 Macro Flash Bracket on camera.

The Macro Flash Bracket is attached to the base plate on the camera. Both are then hooked to the MeFoto Globetrotter tripod.

Wimberley’s P-5 Universal Camera Base Plate is on the camera.

F-2 Macro Flash Bracket

Installed next to the camera. Three adjustable sections allow me to position the flash in almost an position.

Reflector to the rescue

I needed a reflector to get some light under the bloom. PP-200 The Plamp II clamps to my tripod leg and Plamp Clip grips the edge of the reflector.

PP-400 The Ground Plamp (right) and PP-200 The Plamp II (left)

The Plamp is holding the flower in position. The Plamp II (left) is holding a background flower in position.

PP-400 The Ground Plamp stuck in the ground with the spike

PP-210 Plamp Extension Rod was needed to get the bloom into position.

Clips Don’t Squeeze Tender Vegetation

The PP-211 Plamp II Thumbscrew Clips have a groove that secures around the plant stem.

Basic set-up. Camera on tripod. Macro flash bracket (F-2) holding the flash off to the left side. Bloom held in place with The Ground Plamp (PP-400).
Same as above but The Plamp II (PP-200) holds the reflector under the bloom.
Basic set-up with camera on tripod. Macro flash bracket (F-2) holding the flash off to the left side. Bloom held in place with The Ground Plamp (PP-400). The Plamp II (PP-200) is pushing a bloom into the bottom-middle of the frame.

Could I have done the photography without the Wimberley gadgets? Maybe — if it wasn’t windy or if I had an assistant to hold things. But, it was great to be out there alone with my camera and gadgets.

Crystal Ball Photography — Quick Thoughts

Photographing through a crystal ball is a lot of fun. There are some basics that have to be mastered and then you’re free go wild and be creatives.

F/stop makes a difference in the photograph. Here’s the skyline of Houston photographed with f/5.6. Notice that the edges of the crystal ball are soft. Nice bokeh, though.
Same set-up but the f/stop has been changed to f/22. The edges of the crystal ball are sharp and defined. Notice that there’s more detail in the buildings in the background.
We get so caught-up in photographing that we don’t notice distracting lights in the background. The bright white lights in the upper left are caused by car headlights on a nearby road.
Same shot as above but I’m paying more attention to the moving traffic in the background.
The image in the ball has to be in focus. Some lenses or cameras don’t focus well in the dark. You’ll have to manually focus when this happens. Try using one focus point and put that point on something contrasty. Many cameras/lenses need this to help lock focus.

All photographs taken with a Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm lens.