Canon R3 — Flying Birds in Low Light

Someone recently asked me to test the Canon R3 in low light. Little did I know I’d find myself in overcast, dreary, drizzly, windy, and cold conditions all weekend. What a test!

All of the following photos were taken with the Canon R3 in Case 2 Auto Focus, High-Speed burst, and Whole Area Auto Focus. The camera is still set-up as it came out of the box otherwise.

Camera Settings: Shutter Priority, 1/6400th second, ISO Auto, f10, over-exposed by +1 because it was so overcast. (The exposure compensation was based on a test shot using the histogram and the exposure simulation in the viewfinder.)

All photos have been processed in Adobe Camera Raw. Settings: Texture +20, Vibrance +20, Saturation +20, Shadows +35-40, Noise Reduction 16. No other hocus-pocus or magic.

Merlin in Flight From a Boat

This is a screen capture of 18 frames I got of a merlin flying across the bow of a boat. The boat is in motion, I’m moving, and the merlin is flying, of course.
First image in the series at 100% crop. Process details above.
16th image in the series. at 100% crop

Notice that the R3 acquired focus on the merlin in flight and then held the focus until the bird was out of my sight. That’s exactly what I expect of a camera at this level. No hesitating and no delay.

All of the above are are ISO 16,000 with Adobe Camera Raw’s Noise Reduction at 16.

Northern Shoveler’s in Flight

Back on land but in the same weather conditions. Cold, overcast, drizzly, and windy. I wasn’t dressed for the weather so only stayed at this location for 10 minutes. Ducks were taking flight in front of me and flying to the right. I took 219 photos in that 10 minutes. Same settings and processing as above.

Screen capture of some of the images that follow unprocessed.

I realized at this point that the Canon R3 was going to acquire focus and not let go even on these flying ducks. For the next 10-minutes, I photographed any duck that flew by. Reminder that I am pivoting to the right on each duck that flies by.

ISO 8000 on this series. I captured 22 frames of this female as she flew by.

Female northern shoveler in flight. ISO 4000 and cropped to 100%
Northern shoveler coming right at me. The Canon R3 with the 100-500mm RF lens acquired focus.
Northern shoveler male in flight with ISO 5000.
Above is a tricky situation for some cameras. Single bird flying in front of a busy background. Another camera might focus on the background since the large zone auto focus is set.
The Canon R3 found the northern shoveler.
The image above enlarged to 100%.

I am totally impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R3. The camera never lost focus on a flying bird. I shot for a total of three hours on this day and never was I disappointed in the performance of the Canon R3.

For users of the Canon EOS 1-D x — The R3 is equal to and better. Canon has given us an amazing camera.

Questions or comments? What me to test something else on the R3? Post below.

Canon R3 — Birds in Flight

I always loved my Canon D1X for the way it locked on to birds in flight. The camera did its job and I had to make sure everything else was in sync to get the photo.

The Canon R3 appears to be meeting those same standards. My test today involved birds flying around a neighborhood lake so not the most dramatic species for photos. Good test subjects, though. Take a look.

Great egret in flight. 1/1600 shutter at ISO 800.
Double-crested cormorant at 1/1600 shutter speed and ISO 2000

In both instances, the R3 didn’t hesitate. It locked on to the bird and held focus while I tracked the subject with the camera. The focus confirmation stayed on the screen. The camera never lost focus or tried to hunt.

Very impressive so far. I’ll try smaller birds next.

Questions or comments please post below. Thanks for reading.

Canon R3 — Shutter Speed of 1/64,000

Day 2 with the Canon R3 and I went to a nearby lake to photograph birds in flight. Someone nearby was flying a drone so I took a picture of it. The drone flew over to me and hovered. Photo Opportunity!!

The Canon R3 locked on to the drone without much problem. This photo is 1/1600 shutter with ISO 400. Notice the propellers are blurred.
I changed the shutter speed to 1/12,800. Yes, there’s a shutter speed faster than 1/8000 now! Notice the propellers are nearly stopped. ISO 4000 for those interested.
I rotated the shutter speed dial to 1/64000. Yes, we have that now! ISO is 20,000 at this point. A bit of noise reduction was needed but not much. Notice that the propeller blades are frozen at this point.

Shutter speeds range from 1/64000 to 30″ seconds on the R3. Life just got a lot more interesting.

Canon R3 — First Look

Canon R3

After a long wait I finally got my Canon R3. I’ve used the Canon R5 and R6 for the past two years. Use the “search” feature here to read my reviews of those cameras.

The Canon R3 was advertised as a mirrorless equivalent to the Canon D1X. The D1 line and particularly the D1X have been my preferred camera for over 15 years.

This first review of the Canon R3 is with minimal set-up. I took the camera out of the box and set the following menu items: (1) date and time, (2) copyright, (3) Raw, (4) animal eye focus, (5) AF Servo AF Case 2, and (5) High speed release. That’s it! The bare minimum for this first test run.

There’s a northern mockingbird in this bush. The Canon R3 locked onto the eye and held focus despite all the tangle of brush in front of the bird. No coaxing on my part. The camera did all the work.
Ruby-crowned kinglet is a hyper-active little bird that never sits still. The Canon R3 found the eye and stayed with the bird as long as I could keep the bird in the frame.
Uncropped image of a white-throated sparrow in the brush. The Canon R3 found the eye and stayed with the bird. This is an easy one because the sparrow wasn’t very active. The Canon R3 didn’t get distracted by any of the round leaves nearby as we’ve seen with the R5 or R6.
There weren’t a lot of flying birds during my test run. The wind was blowing hard and erratic. A few black vultures flew across, though. I raised the Canon R3 and the camera immediately found the bird. No hunting or hesitation. The Canon R3 stayed with the bird as long as I could keep it in the frame.

The Canon R3 works like the Canon D1X! I feel that I finally have a D1X back in my hands but with all the bells-and-whistles of a mirrorless camera.

The Canon R3 is a big camera so it has a different feel in the hand. I’ll write about that in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

I’ve been asked to compare noise between the R5 and R3. I’ll do that comparison in another post. Keep watch for that one.

The Canon R3 has Eye Control. This is a new feature where the camera uses my eye to determine where to focus in the frame. Can’t wait to explore that feature!

INITIAL IMPRESSION:

  • The Canon R3 looks and feels like a D1X
  • Minimal set-up is needed to get this camera up and running. Yea!!
  • Precise auto focus that allows us to photograph birds deep in the brush with Animal Eye activated.
  • Birds in flight are tracked on par with the D1X.
  • Exposure Simulation allows us to over or under exposure to get the picture right in the camera. This is expected in today’s mirrorless cameras.

Stay tuned as I work with the Canon R3.

Ask questions below or suggest items that you’d like to see tested. Thanks for reading!

Why Am I Playing With Lights?

Illustration of Additive Color

We learn when we play. We know that from childhood. Kids play and figure out new things. Kids play a game of kickball in the street and learn management skills, communication skills, dexterity, and lots more.

So as a nature photographer, why would I play with colored lights? It’s fun and I might learn something.

There’s this thing in the world called Additive Color. When you shine a colored light on something, the color of the object is altered. You’ve seen this in a stadium watching our favorite band. The different colored spotlights coming from different directions create interesting effects. You’ve seen the same thing at a stage play or opera. Gels are put on the spots to change a scene from dawn to sunset.

We’re taught in grade school that when all the colors are added together we get white. Well, I tried coloring with all the crayons and never got white. That’s because crayons or paint have pigments and subtractive color happens. Mix a lot of colors of paint together and you eventually get black or maybe “yulk.” Pigment doesn’t work the same as light.

Project a blue beam of light over a red beam of light and we get magenta where there’s overlap. Project green beam of light over a red beam of light and we get yellow where there’s overlap. Project that same green beam of light over blue and we get cyan.

Notice that my example uses Red, Green, and Blue. That’s RGB color — one of the choices of a photograph’s color space. You know RGB color from your computer or the back of your camera.

Additive Color is used in portrait photography but not often in nature photography.

Background (Skip ahead if you’re not interested)– I’m a “mentor” to a photography group with some really advanced photographers. There are four “mentors” and we give the photographers assignments at the beginning of the year. That’s 12 total assignments for the year. My January 2022 assignment was “Additive Color.” I didn’t give any explanation or help. Just two words. One of the photographers, James Woody, created a photograph for the assignment of red, green, and blue lights pointing at a crystal ball. You might know that I love crystal ball photography so I had to try my hand at recreating James’s photo.

This is the photo James Woody created.
My photo of a crystal ball with
red light from the left, green light in the middle, and blue light on the right.
Just the blue and green lights.
Notice the flaw from the crystal ball in the left shadow.
Different camera angle.
Another camera angle.

Thanks to James Woody for the inspiration for these photos. Visit James’ website to get some inspiration of your own. www.jrwoodyphotography.com

Camera Equipment Insurance

In Costa Rica, I think you mentioned something about “camera insurance”. Can you please let me know if I should and where I should get insurance for my camera gear?

Darla

I’m a member of North American Nature Photography Association.  That organization offers equipment insurance through Rand Insurance.  The people at Rand are super easy to work with.  I’ve really liked my dealings with them.  I filed a claim once and had my replacement money in a couple of days.  The folks at Rand knew exactly what lens I was talking about and no need to explain its value. 

NANPA also offers travel insurance and health insurance. Lots of other member benefits including vendor discounts, field trips, webinars, online meetings, and much more. Being part of the organization is well worth your investment.

Photographing Birds with Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM

One of my participants, Mark Doing, on the November photo tour to Costa Rica asked if I’d like to use his Canon RF 800mm f/11 lens. This is a relatively new lens in the Canon RF line-up so I jumped at the chance.

Baltimore oriole photographed with the Canon RF 800mm lens. Uncropped

Above shows an image taken with the Canon RF 800mm lens. Notice the detail in the shadows and the sharpness around the bird’s eye.

Above is a comparison of an image photographed at the same time with the higher priced Canon RF 100-500mm lens. Notice the detail in the shadows and the sharpness around the bird’s eye.

Canon advertises this lens as its “first compact and lightweight 800mm super telephoto lens in the RF lineup.” The lens has image stabilization that provides up “to 4 stops of shake correction” for nice hand-held images. The lens also takes the RF 1.4x teleconverter. That would be 1120mm!

The lens does not focus close like the RF 100-500mm. It only focuses to 19.69ft, which is pretty far away.

The lens is 13.85-inches long with the lens hood. Yet, it only weighs 2.77-pounds. Cost $899.

As a comparison, the RF 100-500mm lens focuses to 3.94-feet, extends to 11.71-inches, and weighs 3-pounds. Cost $2799.

I’d love to work with this lens for a longer time. My short experience with it, though, tells me that this is a quality lens. The price is nice, too.

Bokeh between the Canon RF 800mm and the Canon RF 100-500mm? Look below. Pretty sweet with both lenses.

Have you used the Canon RF 800mm? Opinion and comments below would be nice. Thanks for reading.

Firmware Updates: Easy but Tricky

Years ago I remember my friend Nolan Braud telling me that updating the camera’s firmware was not as easy as it seemed. Nolan wrote instructions and it still wasn’t easy.

Today I updated my firmware and remembered Nolan’s words. Yep! It’s still not easy. Here are some instructions that might help.

Go to your camera’s website and navigate to the firmware page. Canon lists firmware on the page for each piece of equipment. Click “download” when you find the firmware. Then open your computer’s download site and double-click on the firmware package to open it.

On our computer, double-click on the firmware download and you get two files like you see above. The RF029110.afu is the firmware update for my lens. The “update-procedure-pdf” folder contains instructions in various languages.
Plug a card reader into your computer. Put a SD card into the card reader. Copy that .afu file to the SD card. Eject the card reader and put the card in your camera.

Glitch #1 — I found the .afu file would not copy to a CFExpress card. The .afu file copies without any problem to a SD card.

Glitch #2 — the card needs to be formatted for your camera. It doesn’t matter if there are pictures on the card. The card doesn’t need to be empty.

Put the card containing the firmware into your camera. Navigate to the Firmware screen. Click OK or Set or tap to open that menu item.
If all is going well, you’ll see the firmware files on the card. Select the one you want to use.
The camera shows that 1.0.8 is currently in use and we’re moving to 1.1.0. Click OK. (FYI, I’m updating the lens firmware in the photo above.)
Then you get a screen showing that the firmware is updating. Don’t push any buttons at this point. Let the camera do its work.
Be patient. Let the camera work.
Be patient. The process takes four or five minutes at max.
You see this screen when the process is finished.

Instructions from Canon say to update firmware for the camera with no lens on the camera body. I put a body cap on the camera body during this process.

Instructions from Canon say to update the firmware for the LENS with the lens attached. That’s what’s showing in the illustrations for this post.

Was it easy to update your firmware? Problems or tricky situations with other camera brands? Post below. I’d love to hear from you.

This is a screen capture to illustrate Mark’s comment below. Mark wrote that the download file “mounted like a drive” when double-clicked. You’ll see in the photo (above) that the file does look like a mounted hard drive. Slightly different icon on my Mac but similar to the G external drive below in the photo.

Adobe 2022 Updates for Lightroom and Photoshop Users

October 2022 gave us the annual grande-sized upgrade to our Adobe products. When I logged on to my Adobe Cloud and clicked the Update tab on the left, I saw that my Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw, Bridge, and Lightroom all had updates.

The annual updates are historically big. Adobe sends the little stuff throughout the year and then WHAM! we get hit with the big stuff in October.

Warning! Update when you have time to review the changes. I wouldn’t suggest you push the Update tab when you have a big photo deadline looming. Things you use everyday might get moved, renamed, or combined. Yet, we also get some great new tools.

Here are the big things I really like in the 2022 Update

Bridge has a Workflow tab at the top. You can save workflows that you do on a regular basis. For example, your camera club wants monthly submissions at a specific ppi and size on the longest side of the photo. You can now do that workflow once and save it as a preset. Learn how to build a workflow by clicking the Learn More tab at the bottom of the Workflow screen. Or click this Workflow Builder tutorial from Adobe.

Bridge users who’ve attended my classes might notice that Bridge looks a bit different the first time you open it. Don’t freak out! Click the “Workspace 1” tab at the top. That’s the workspace I helped you build and it’s still there.

Adobe Camera Raw has changes too! Double-click a RAW file in Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw opens automatically. (Readers learned how to do this in my classes and via my YouTube videos.)

Lightroom’s Develop Module and Adobe Camera Raw do the same things so I’ll introduce all the new features together.

Masking has combined the old adjustment brush, radial filter, and graduated filter.

The tools behind this tab are HUGE! You can now click Select Subject and the software creates a mask around the subject. It does a pretty good job, too. Hover your cursor over the subject and you’ll see sliders on the right. Now you can process just for the subject.

Click Select Sky and the sky is selected. Hover your cursor over the sky and sliders appear. Now you can process just the sky.

Play around and you’ll see that you can enlarge, shrink, or fine-tune the mask.

Luminance Range allows you to only select a luminance range. Color Range allows you to select just certain colors. Then you can adjust that color only. Anyone for a bit more yellow in autumn leaves? A bit more turquoise in a cormorant’s eye?

Want to only adjust the shadows to change their tone? Here’s your way to do it.

Lightroom Users! This is a game changer for you. You now have layers.

Layers Resisters! This is a way for you to start using layers without having to really know all the technicals of Photoshop layers.

Adobe offers a great tutorial when you click on the Masking icon the first time. Read the instructions — they are super simple — and learn how to use this great new too.

Photoshop has some great new tools, too.

The toolbar now has Object Selection Tool. Click the icon and then watch the little circular arrows at the top. When the arrows stop turning, you know the software has selected an object. Nudge the software along if nothing happens by clicking on one of the subjects in the photo.

Once an object is selected, click the Adjustments palette on the right. Choose one type of Adjustment and a layer mask appears. (If you don’t see either of these, click Windows and be sure Layer is checked.) Those of you who know layers will find yourself right at home at this stage.

Another new thing is called Harmonization. Sometimes when we work with different photos in layers, we get colors that don’t really go together. This is especially true when we’re working with Textures.

This is a good example of two photos stacked into a layer that aren’t exactly in color harmony.

Harmonization to the Rescue!

Click Filters>Neural Filters>Harmonization. A new pop-out panel will appear. (Click the download button to download the filter the first time.)

Wait, wait, wait!!! The process bar at the bottom of the photo shows you the software is working.

Notice the tiny blue bar under the big photo. The software is still working so be patient.

Once Harmonization is finished working, you can use the sliders to fine tune the color harmony. Click OK and a new layer is created in your layer stack. Now you can go in the layer masks, use black or white brushes, and clean-up the image.

Landscape Mixer is another interesting Neural Filter. Open a landscape photo in Photoshop. Click Filter>Neural Filters>Landscape Mixer. The Landscape Mixer shows up. (Click the Download button to get the filter the first time.)

Open an image in Photoshop, click Filter>Neural Filters>Landscape Mixer to get this screen.

Notice you have sliders for Sunset, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I’ll move the Winter slider almost all the way to the right. Wait, wait, wait and watch the blue bar move slowly along its path.

The end product is Casa Grande in Big Bend National Park in the snow at twilight! The trees are green but that’s a minor problem. Notice that there are other option to choose from. I’ve given an extreme example but I can see how this tool might be useful to some photographers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief overview. Adobe has given us some nice new tools. The tutorials provided by Adobe are simple and easy to understand. Update your software when you have some time to play. We’ve got a lot of new toys tools.

Comments? Did I miss any new features that you like? Post below.

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