All posts by Wayne Rasku

My New Canon EF-S 60mm Macro

I do believe that it’s love at first snap!

This is one of the first shots I took with this new macro lens.
This is one of the first shots I took with this new macro lens.

My Very First EF-S Lens

I have been wanting a Canon ef-s 60mm macro lens for quite some time. I just needed a good excuse to get it, and, of course, I needed the cash. Well, this week the stars were all lined up perfectly, and this afternoon, the lens was delivered before I arrived home.

Made this video about the EF-S 60mm lens with the grandkids.. such fun!

It is actually my very first EF-S lens at any focal length. This kind of lens is only for DSLR cameras that are not full frame. They are referenced as “crop sensor” or APS-C sensor cameras. The reason I have not purchased one before is that I intended to eventually get a full frame camera. However, I am totally satisfied with my Rebels. And I am not going pro anytime soon. EF-S lenses also work on other Canon models, such as 60D, 70D, and 7D, which are really powerful, darn near professional cameras.

When I wrote this post, I had only taken about 15 shots, but every one was totally acceptable with respect to quality and sharpness. It could be photography heaven LOL

Most of the pictures I shot were very close up, but here is one where I stepped back a couple of feet..
tickseed flowers with Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens
Not bad, right?

Value For Bucks

In my humble opinion, this lens is pretty darn good. It costs about $350, which is an excellent price for an honest-to-goodness macro lens.

One of the most important things to check when looking for a lens is what others think about it. In the case of the Canon EF-S 60mm macro, it has a 4.8 star rating. That is an awesome rating.

(If you are interested in purchasing, please use the link to Amazon. Amazon is a trusted online seller, and it will help me to keep doing what I love to do – take more pictures and maintain my website.)

Photography Tips for Beginners – Shooting in Manual Mode

Photography Tips for Beginners - don't speak geekCan Someone Explain Manual Mode in Plain English?

I think we take things for granted at times, and it usually happens in the area where we are most comfortable.

For instance, if you love to cook, it’s easy to talk about cooking and use the jargon of the cooking world.

Or, if you are really good at tennis, your language reflects your knowledge.

But what happens if you meet someone who knows very little about your area of comfort? She knows nothing about the meaning of 15-Love or Deuce (in tennis), or he can’t comprehend what you mean when you talk about letting your dough rest (cooking terms).

That’s where I’m coming from in this article. I’m assuming you are looking for a novice’s explanation of some of the most common photography tips you read about from lots of different sources.

To be honest, I was inspired to do this when I read an article at ourfifthhouse.com. It is now on my personal recommended reading list when I feel myself getting too geeky with my photography lingo.

Not so long ago, I posted an article about “5 Photography Tips For Digital SLR Photography Beginners.” They are 5 really good ideas.

However, I was thinking that there are a few more photography tips for beginners that did not make it into the article.

The ideas represented in this article are meant to give you some added incentive to “go deeper” than just using your DSLR as a point and shoot camera. By the way, I actually did recommend using your camera like a point and shoot model in the previous article, but you should not stay on Auto by any means.

It’s true, your DSLR has been created in a way that will make your shots better simply because of the larger sensor (physically larger, not “megapixels larger”). But you really do need to get more creative and adventurous with your photography to get better.

Getting more creative may lead you to some really horrible shots at first, but stick with it and you will get better. Trust me. I know this is true, because I was there myself.

OK, so here is my first photo tip:

Set the mode dial to ManualShoot manual.

You read it right! Set your mode dial to the big M. When you do, expect the worst, but don’t allow discouragement. Look at it as an adventure.

One hint as you start on this adventure is to move the mode dial to P and partially press the shutter button. Look at the settings the camera would select as you focus on your chosen subject. This will give you a starting point when you move to Manual.

**note: Don’t do this for the first time at a major event. Do it when you can afford to make mistakes.

Once you have set your mode dial, take a big breath.. you are now in the adventure zone – total control. From here, there are three things to adjust, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO (don’t freak, read on for the explanation). These three things control how your picture will look.

large and small aperturesAperture means the size of the lens opening, and it is also referred to as f-stop. As you select a lower number, the opening of the lens gets bigger. Higher numbers mean the opening gets smaller. Keep in mind that the way the numbers work seems backwards.. don’t worry, you will get used to this.

  • Larger opening (smaller number like f/4) = more light
  • Smaller opening (larger number like f/11) = less light

(aperture illustration is from Wikimedia Commons)

Shutter Speed is how fast the camera’s shutter opens and closes. This is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds. For instance, the fastest shutter speed on a Canon Rebel is 1/4000 of a second. The higher the number, the more light will get into the camera. (When looking at fractions, the higher the number on the bottom, the faster the shutter speed. So 1/500 is a faster shutter speed than 1/50.)

ISO has something to do with Light Sensitivity of your camera’s sensor. Think about it as an acronym for Is the Sun On (credit ourfifthhouse.com for this idea). As you change the ISO, you change the way your camera is affected by the available light.

Under normal, sunny conditions, you want to set your ISO to its lowest point. On most cameras that is 100. When there is less light, change your ISO to a higher number.

Why change the ISO at all? When there is less light, your settings have to change to compensate and get enough light into the camera to record a well exposed picture. And, if you are trying to hold your camera rather than have it steadied on a tripod, your shutter speed must be fast enough so that the image is not blurred by your own movement. Being able to increase the ISO will also allow you to increase the shutter speed.

Now you can start practicing! Check the picture in the LCD after each shot. As you play with the settings, really pay attention to what happens to your image. When you change one setting, you will probably have to change another setting to compensate for the amount of light.

Here are a few ways to experiment with the Manual Mode:

  • Change the Aperture value to see what happens, and pay particular attention to how much of the picture is in focus. Wider lens openings create blurry backgrounds while smaller openings put more of the picture in focus.
  • Change the shutter speed to see how much you can slow it down before you can no longer hold your camera steady enough for a sharp photo. Also try to figure out how fast your shutter has to operate to stop action.
  • Test the ISO in dark areas to see how high you can go before you pictures start to get grainy.

By the way, as you shoot in Manual Mode, you will be learning more about exposure than you ever thought you could.  Come back and post a comment about your experience.

Happy Shooting!

Macro Photography Tips – Using a Canon Rebel

I am big into macro photography. It’s what got me hooked on photography in the first place.

I will never forget the picture. In fact, it’s still on the wall of my office. It’s nothing spectacular to anyone else, but to me, it’s very special. It is the hook that wouldn’t let go. And even though it was taken with a simple little 3-megapixel Olympus point and shoot camera, I felt like a pro when I saw it in print.

First digital photo

This photo is not a true “macro photo,” by definition. However, it is somewhat close up, and I had the camera on the macro setting. What captured my attention was the colors and the texture.

I have now graduated to a more sophisticated camera, a Canon Rebel. In fact I have more than one Rebel (you know this if you have read some of my other posts).

Here is a photo I took early this morning using the photography tip outlined below:

Macro photo using Canon Rebel T3i
Click on the photo to see some awesome detail.

The key to the photography tip I am about to share with you is that it can be done with any Canon Rebel newer than a T2i. That means if you have a T3i, T4i, T5i, T3, or SL1, you can do this. There may be other cameras that have the Live View feature I discuss in this article, but I am not sure which ones do, so I am limited to the Rebel lineup in my recommendations for a camera.

Here is a brief outline of the technique:

  1. Set your camera on a tripod – absolutely necessary for this to work well.
  2. Choose the aperture (Av) setting on the top mode dial.
  3. Use the top dial to choose an aperture – for macro, a higher number like f/9.0 or f/22 is usually the right choice rather than a lower number (in the video, I used f/9.0)
  4. Find the little switch on your lens and move it off AF (auto focus) to Manual focus
  5. Change your Drive Mode to Self-timer, either 2 seconds or 10 seconds.
  6. Activate “Live View”
  7. Use the focus ring on your lens to get the focus as close as possible.
  8. Press the zoom button once or twice to enlarge the Live View preview by 5x or 10x respectively.
  9. Fine tune the focus using the focus ring on your lens while the digital zoom is at 5x or 10x.
  10. Press the shutter button and wait for the timer to record your image.

Please note: the picture will be captured at full size (the way it looks before you press the 5x or 10x zoom button). It will not be the image you see in the zoom window. This has confused some folks who think that “what you see is what you get.” The zoom feature is merely to allow you to fine-tune your focus.

This video explains the whole process..

Sample shots from the Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography

Canon Rebel T3i - Macro Photography with Sigma 105mm lens
Sunflower image taken with a Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography with Sigma 105mm lens
Canon Rebel T3i - Macro Photography with Kit Lens
Sunflower image taken with a Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography with Kit Lens

Notice in the photos above that one of them was taken with a true macro lens and the other was taken with the kit lens. It is obvious that a macro lens is far better than the kit lens, although, I must admit that the newer STM kit lens is much better than the older one.

There is, however, an option for transforming your normal lens, including the kit lens, into a macro-type lens. It involves lens accessories.

  1. First, you can use extension tubes. These come in a variety of packages, but if you get Fotodiox tubes, they are less than $15. The problem is that they do not allow the camera to auto-focus, but since you are following the advice above, you will be using manual focus anyway, so go for it!

canon rebel t3i macro filters
Close-Up Macro Filter Set
for kit lens (58mm)

  1. Second, you can get some very inexpensive lens filters that will transform your normal non-macro lens into a close-up lens. Just make sure you get the right size so that it will screw onto the lens you plan to use. The Rebel T3i Kit lens takes a 58mm filter.

There is still another option. Recently, I posted a “macro photography tips” article about how you can capture macro images without a macro lens; you simply reverse your regular lens. This is the cheapest method for close ups.

Hopefully, these macro photography tips will give you something to think about next time you shoot.

New Garden Photos – Dahlia Flower Photography

I love taking pictures of flowers, especially in my own yard. Flower photography has risen to the top as my favorite thing to photograph. I have been waiting for my first Dahlia to bloom (and I mean EVER – I never knew there was such a flower), and today I received the reward for my patience.

There are actually dahlia clubs and societies. I have several varieties planted around my yard. Our friends who own a nursery in Montana introduced us to these amazing flowers. Maybe I will be joining one of those societies someday. (LOL – I’m not really a “society” kind of guy.)

Pink Dahlia with Canon T3iThe method I used for this shot is not exactly a beginner’s photography technique, but it is not too difficult. I will try to explain the method so you can try it with your camera.

I took this in manual mode so that I could darken the background. I also used a new softbox attachment for my speedlite flash so I could close the aperture (larger number = closed more). When you don’t have enough light to illuminate the entire area, the flash will lighten the flower. I really like the way it turned out.

So, here is the setting info:

  • Canon Rebel T3i
  • Tamron 28-75mm lens for Canon
  • Manual Mode
  • Aperture: f/9.0
  • Shutter Speed: 1/200
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Canon Speedlite 320 with a Fotodiox 6″ x 8″ softbox
  • Flash at full strength
  • Hand-held

You can do the same thing without the Speedlite. Just set your Rebel on Manual and choose a shutter speed of 1/200. This is the “sync” speed of your Rebel, meaning that when you are using a flash, the shutter speed can’t go any faster than 1/200.

Choose an aperture that is a fairly high number. This will close the aperture and darken the background while the flash lights the subject. If there is a bright sun, this may not work as well, but you can try using something to shade the subject if there is too much light.

Yellow dahlia - flower photography techniques
The next bloom will undoubtedly be yellow.

Flower photography with flash for dark backgroundHere is another example of the same method. (These are not dahlias)

  • Manual Mode
  • Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens @ 28mm
  • F/9.0
  • 1/200 sec
  • ISO 100
  • Canon Speedlite 320ex with Fotodiox 6″ x 8″ softbox
Dahlia with Canon SL1
This is the same flower as shown above, only 2 days later. Glorious!

If you have any questions about the method or explanation, please feel free to leave a comment.

My New Canon Rebel SL1

Taken with Canon Rebel SL1 and Kit lens
Lizzy the cat. I took this inside, hand-held at ISO 400, using Aperture Mode. Shutter speed was only 1/13 sec, but the Image Stabilization of the lens allowed for a sharp photo.

I’m a push-over when it comes to new equipment, and if it’s a new Rebel.. well, shucks, as my Mother-in-law said more than once, “If you don’t have it, you need it.”

I totally agree, especially when Canon releases brand new technology at the beginner level. I have been a fan since Canon released the first Rebel.

This Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is not a remake of any camera, it is a new species. Lighter and smaller than any digital SLR on the market, it actually feels like a toy when you first pick it up. But it is not a toy by any stretch of the imagination. It has given me some really nice image quality so far.

And the new Kit Lens is pretty good, too. I like it lots better than the old 18-55mm kit lens. This one is built especially to handle the video function without a lot of focusing noise. If you have used a Canon DSLR for video, you know what it’s like.

This video is really short and sweet, but it pretty much shows the best of the new Rebel.

flowers taken with Rebel SL1
image taken at ISO 1600 has been cropped to view at 100%
flowers taken with Rebel SL1
image taken at ISO 6400 has been cropped to view at 100%

So, the image sensor and processor are the same as in the last 3 Rebels, 18 megapixels, so the image quality is expected to be the same, and I can vouch for that.. in the few pictures I have had the opportunity to take, I find no problem with quality. In fact, the quality seems better than my other Rebels with the old kit lens.

I have bumped the ISO up to 6400 just to see how that looks. I would not use it at that setting unless absolutely necessary, but the quality is OK considering the past models at that setting. There is some noise, but you have to look really close to see it.

The biggest negative for me is the lack of a swivel LCD screen. I have really gotten dependent on that feature with my T3i and T4i.

Over all, I would guess that the new Rebel will be a success. It packs a lot of punch for its size.

You can find a much more in-depth review about my new camera if you CLICK HERE.

Buy your Canon Rebel SL1 at one of these online stores:

Adorama Amazon Best Buy Canon USA
Adorama store logo amazon logo Best Buy logo Canon logo

Reverse Lens Macro Photography

Reverse Lens Macro is the really cheap way to get started with actual Macro Photography

This will be quick. You will discover how to take an actual macro shot with your kit lens (or any lens for that matter). It will work with any digital SLR camera, but I will be using a Canon Rebel T3i. Note that with a T3i you can use Live View in your LCD panel.

Make sure you read the whole article or watch the video all the way through to find out how you can greatly improve the quality of your reverse lens shots.T3i - kit lens - macro setting

The picture on the right was taken with my Canon T3i and the Kit Lens. The camera was set on the Macro setting on the mode dial (the setting is the one that looks like a tulip flower). This is not a true macro photo, even though it was taken on the right setting. The Kit Lens just is not capable of taking a true macro.

Macro image with kit lens reversedI disconnected the lens and turned it around, holding it tightly against the lens opening and took this next shot. You can see a major difference in how much of the frame is filled with the flower. Now, this is a macro photograph.

So this can be done with any lens you have in your camera bag. The most common lens for reverse macro photography is the 50mm f1.8, but the kit lens works almost as well.

The down side is that you can’t adjust the aperture, which means there is very little depth of field (the picture will have an area in focus, but just a few millimeters in front or behind that focus area is blurry.

But, Fear not! Just watch the video and pay attention to the second half to find out how you can increase the depth of field.

I also recommend that you get a Reversal Ring for you camera. They are very cheap and they will allow you much more control and accuracy, since you don’t have to hold the lens and camera together and keep them steady at the same time.

Watch the video. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

FYI, I learned this from Ben Long at Lynda.com. In fact, I have learned so much over the years, that I highly recommend Lynda. I recommend Lynda to YOU. Try it at no cost – Get 7 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

Of course, I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below, and let me know if there is anything you would like me to talk about on the blog.

Cheers!

Spring Is A Great Time For Flower Photographery

Flower Photography Is Easy In The Spring
(here are a few tips that I have found helpful)

change perspective
This daffodil is growing in my front yard.

The first sign of spring for me is the daffodils.

Tip #1: Always have your camera handy.

I will never forget my first trip to visit the area where I now live. It was during Spring Break – April. I had to stop and take pictures of the daffodils by the side of the road even before we reached our destination. They were beautiful. I still love them.

Right along with the blooming of the daffodils comes the willow tree buds. It is truly amazing how one day there are a few tiny buds and the next day, the tree is practically covered with leaves. The color of the first leaves is quite different than later when the tree has settled into full leaf. It is more of a bright, lime green.. very refreshing.

I am trying to notice now the chronological order of spring blooms. As of today, April 6, SpringFlowers-abundanthere is what I have blooming around me:

  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinths
  • Bartlett pear trees
  • Cherry trees – all varieties
  • Poppies
  • Tulips
  • Creeping phlox
  • Azaleas (just starting)

I will update as more flowers and trees awaken.

Shoot earlyTip #2 – Get Out Early

They are called “the Golden Hours” for a very good reason. Your so-called ability as a photographer is sometimes no more than knowing and following through on what you know. Every nature photographer will tell you that the best hours for flower photography are early or late, but I prefer early.

I love the dew drops that form just before dawn. And the light is so different than when the sun makes its way high into the sky.

Set your alarm clock if you must, but get out early.

Tip #3 – Change Your Perspective

Even though the flowers look fantastic, a normal picture as you stand in front will just get mild appreciation, and you will be disappointed most of the time. With flower photography, or any other type of photography, you need to really practice the concept of thinking about the final image as you shoot, not after it’s too late and you are looking at the images on your computer. Here are a few ideas to change your perspective.

  • Get down on the level with your subject.
  • Get under the subject and shoot up.
  • Shoot through the foliage to capture the glint of sunlight.
  • Change your position to add or eliminate from the background.

Shoot macroTip #4 – Shoot Macro (close-ups)

The details of flowers never cease to WOW me. Shoot a single blossom or even part of a flower. Make sure you steady your camera for this, possibly using a tripod or your camera bag as a tripod.

Tip #5 – Use Aperture Priority

This is a bit more techy, but it will pay off in spades. I usually go for a large aperture. Large apertures are the smaller numbers, like f/2.8 or f/4.

Using large apertures will give that nice blurry background that you desire. It sets the flower off as the star of your image.

I have written more about the subject of flower photography, especially Spring flowers at Squidoo. Here is the link: Photography Tips For Spring Flowers.

Boyscouts Would Make Good Bird Photographers

Their motto is “Be prepared.”

pileated woodpecker
This is the Pileated Woodpecker – about 15 inches tall. Woody Woodpecker was modeled after this magnificent bird.

One of the most important tips I could give any beginner or would-be digital SLR photographer is to always be ready. Always have your camera with settings that will allow a quick photo when the opportunity arises.

Wondering why I am giving this advice right now? I was hoping you would ask 🙂

This past weekend was a monumental one in my life as a photographer. I captured the picture of my dreams!

It’s the Pileated Woodpecker pictured here.

And here’s how I got this amazing bird picture:

I have been getting ready for this photo for almost 7 years. Oh, it’s not like I have been consciously thinking about and preparing every day for that long. Nope, it’s just that I have done my due diligence to lure birds to my camera with purpose and diligence.

bird photography- downy woodpecker
My feeder has given me many great shots of birds that look very natural.

I started with a bird feeder years ago. Then I got this idea that if I had a bird feeder that looked like a bird’s natural habitat, the images I got would be so much better. I found an branch on one of the trees in my yard, and I did some tree surgery, cutting it off at just the right spot so I could fashion some holes for bird food that had branches near them for the birds to perch on.

The project took me several hours, and I actually had to start over after botching it the first time. But in the end, I had a “natural” bird feeder.

I have taken many a bird photograph over the past 6+ years from the comfort of my back deck and my kitchen window.

It was a great day when I realized I did not have to go out in the cold for these pictures. I could take them through the kitchen window. The birds didn’t like me on the deck, but they could care less if I am inside looking out. Sometimes they come right up to the window and pose, or at least they look as if they are posing.

I usually keep my camera loaded and nearby.. like a boyscout, I am ready.

However, when the pileated woodpecker showed up on my suet feeder, I was so excited I froze. I could not bring myself to move and reach for the camera. It was there for only a few seconds before it flew off into the distant trees.

I was only a little disappointed that I did not get that picture. The feeder was not positioned well for a good shot. So I took the time to reload the feeder and reposition it so that I could get the best shot possible.

Then I waited… for two days.

I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.
I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.

Sunday morning, my patience paid off. The woodpecker flew in from the west and I calmly picked up my camera. It already had my most powerful lens, a Sigma 18-250mm zoom lens, attached with the lens cap off.

I snapped off several good shots, and then, instead of flying into the distant trees, the bird flew up into the tree next to the house, and I was able to get another shot of it there. This one was not quite as sharp as I would like, but it is definitely a more natural looking photo.

So, the “Tip of the Day” is: Be Prepared.

5 Photography Tips For Digital SLR Photography Beginners

chipmunk - photography tips for digital slr beginners
This is one of the first shots I got with my original Canon Rebel

If you are just starting out in Digital SLR photography, this one’s for you!

It’s hard for those of us who write about photography and are familiar with digital SLR cameras to put ourselves in an absolute beginner’s shoes. It’s been awhile since we were there where you are. And for that reason, we take some things for granted that just seem natural to us.

So, in an attempt to think back to the day I got my first Canon Rebel, here are some things that, while normal for me now, were totally foreign at the time.

Digital SLR Photography Beginner’s Tips:

  1. digital slr photography beginner
    Patience is a virtue for digital slr photography beginners

    Read the Manual – This is not meant to be funny or demeaning. Some new camera owners will page through the manual step-by-step, but most of us are so anxious to start taking pictures, we never actually get this done. The manual contains the answers to all the questions, even the ones you don’t know enough to ask. Camera makers take pains to explain every facet of the camera in that manual, so spend some time with it.

  2. Set the Picture Size and Quality – This setting is in the Menu. Nearly every digital SLR has a dedicated button that says “Menu”. Use it to find the area where you can set the size and quality of your photos. Set it to the largest and finest setting. (If you don’t know what RAW is, don’t use that one yet.) Do not make the mistake of setting your camera to a small photo format so you can continue to take pictures on the same storage card for a year. The simplest reason to take pictures at high quality is that you could get some good photos that you would want to decorate the walls of your house or office, and they will have to be high quality in order to get large prints.
  3. Set the mode dial to either P or Auto – These dial settings will let the camera make all the important decisions about choosing the right aperture and shutter speed. Then, as you read through the manual and test how the other features and mode settings work, you can learn and change which dial settings you prefer to use. But using the Automatic camera settings will help you to get the most consistently good images without knowing what an aperture or shutter speed is. (But definitely learn these things because that is how you will really improve the quality of your photos.)
  4. Get a large storage card (or two) – Back in the day, cameras came with a token storage card – one that would allow you to take a few pictures at a good quality and size setting. Now, new cameras require that you buy a storage card separately. Get a good quality card with at least 8GB of storage capacity (32GB is even better). You surely don’t want to be a some important event and run out of space on your camera.
  5. Have Patience – You will not learn everything about digital SLR photography in one afternoon or even one month. So stay calm and stay with it. Also, have patience with each individual picture. Look at the view finder with a critical eye to see if the shot can be improved somehow. Do this, and you will improve the number of “keepers” you get right away.

Bonus Tip – Take tons of shots. They cost nothing. The second or third shot, even if it is exactly the same, may be sharper than the first one or be better in some other way. Just keep shooting. You can always delete identical shots after you have examined them on the computer.

And if you take more blurry shots than you think should be normal, read this article about “The number one reason for blurry shots.”

Also, if you have not already taken advantage of the free e-book, fill in your email address on the right side of the page and download it. It has some excellent hints for improving your photos without spending another dime. And they also qualify as photography tips for digital SLR photography beginners.

 

Spray and Pray – Learn From The Good AND The Bad

How does a beginning Photographer take better pictures?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “spray and pray?” It means that you take tons of pictures and hope one or two will be worthy of keeping.

princess taken with no thought
This is the first shot – no thought given to composition.. just point and shoot.

There was a comment recently on one of the camera forums that basically suggested we go back to film photography. The reason was that it will give the photographer reason to think before shooting.

“Spray and pray” is not a tactic that one would employ when doing film photography. It would be far too expensive and, indeed, a waste of time. Continue reading Spray and Pray – Learn From The Good AND The Bad