Time-lapse Workshops and The Solar Eclipse

This is going to be incredibly quick BUT it's a big deal. This August's Solar Eclipse will be transversing across Grand Teton National Park!!! O. M. G. It is going to be spectacular and you'll have one of my favorite/ the most amazing landscapes to capture at the exact same time. I will be with Ron Risman, one of the best time lapse photographers in the USA co-instructing for a week while students from around the world will work with us to capture one of the most amazing things anyone will ever see in their entire lives. Where are you going to be? With us for an entire week of hands on learning? Photographing with friends somewhere else? Either way, go somewhere you can see this eclipse because the best time is always right now... definitely not in a few years. 

Here's the info:

Join myself and award winning cinematographer Ron Risman for a 5-Day, 6-Night Grand Teton Photography & Dark-Sky Timelapse Workshop from August 18-24! This workshop takes place during a new moon (amazing dark skies) and we'll be there to capture the TOTAL Solar Eclipse on August 21st. This is the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1978, and there's no better place to view it than the area around Jackson, WY.

 

Checkout using this special discount code "JTB200" and save $200 on registration for the workshop. 
http://www.TimelapseGrandTeton.com

Milky Way of Grand Teton National Park

Only Natural Lighting in US National Parks

Big Bend National Park Milky Way

The National Parks have set expectations on no additive light/ low level lighting/ light painting for night photography and this has always been a rule in every national park, but it was consistently overlooked by many photographers creating night time imagery. Respecting the very places we love to visit, love to create art of, and decreasing the impact we have on these areas matters more to me than having dramatic lighting or interest from publishers or gaining future clients whom want to re-create that kind of art they've seen in these area. As such, I've decided that every future workshop in any national park will be geared towards natural lighting only set ups. Simply, it's the best thing for every person wanting to enjoy the incredible night skies in our National Parks if there is no additional light pollution. It's for the good of the wildlife that we are conserving with The National Parks. Lastly, lighting can be compensated for with technique and timing which when educated on will lead enthusiasts and professionals alike to be a better photographer and artist.

How Much Does The Think Tank Photo Airport Security V2.0 Hold?

Ever wonder if that new bag will hold all your gear? If you have a bit of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), then that may be one of your biggest concerns. Let's see what can fit into the Think Tank Airport Security V2.0, shall we?

 The Think Tank Airport Security V2.0

The Think Tank Airport Security V2.0

I've used this bag through a multitude of airports and on trips throughout the USA the past few years. It's also my go to storage bag because I know where everything is and can quickly grab what I need, or take out what I don't, and go. So how much really fits into this bag? Lets find out. 

 All packed and ready to go.

All packed and ready to go.

Doesn't look like too much is in there, huh? I use some unique packing methods to squeeze every last bit of space out of this bag. It actually has 3 gripped bodies, 4 flashes, 2 triggers, 8 "L" lenses (2 white telephotos), a 1.4x teleconverter, 32 AA batteries, 11 Canon batteries, and a few other extras in my kit. 

 What's hiding under those flashes?

What's hiding under those flashes?

Pulling everything out makes it very obvious this bag is filled to the max! The best part is that there is still room for movement and shifting so if the bag is dropped or handled roughly, the contents should still be ok without any damage. 

 Everything pulled out from the internal storage of the Think Tank Airport V2.0.

Everything pulled out from the internal storage of the Think Tank Airport V2.0.

Think Tank is really a great company and their products center on the pro working photographer who needs the best to protect his/her professional level kit. It also fits those who have a lot of glass and lenses that they want to travel with. Think Tank also just released an update to this bag, the Think Tank Airport V3.0 and I'm sure they've refined this classic to be even better!

What's In My Bag?

First off: Click HERE

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What's in the bag!? I actually have several bags so you will never see me carry every lens and piece of gear I own at once, but I'll show you the lenses, cameras, and tripod I use.

Tripod: 3 Legged Thing - Dave 

I honestly love this tripod. They are a mid-cost brand that's an incredible value when priced against the competition. I've been belligerently terrible to this tripod and it just keeps going along like I've never dropped, kicked, smashed, or accidentally thrown it about. Works perfect and the head can hold more than 20 lbs., easy. It also is a 4 section tripod so I get the height and the compact package all in one. Oh, and it turns into a monopod, too. 

Camera Bodies: Canon 5D Mark III, 6D, 7D Mark II

I'm a Canon guy (honestly not because of their bodies) and I use some of Canon's higher end equipment. Currently, I'm using the 5D Mark III as my main full frame body. The AF is great and it's built like a tank which matters to me. I'm pretty hard on my gear not because I don't care about it but because I drop stuff. I'm a klutz and I prefer my tools being able to take me having an accident or three. I also go to places that aren't the best for cameras where salt spray and sand may effect lesser cameras. I use the Canon 6D for most of my astrophotography work. I really love this baby brother of the 5D3. It is better than the 5D3 at high ISO and is lighter which is always a plus when traveling. The center AF point is better than the 5D3. Lastly, I also own the 7D Mark II. It's an incredible camera and has the AF of the top of the line 1DX at a fraction of the cost. The 7D2 is a crop sensor camera that produces some great images and Canon made the sensor a good stop better than the previous generation. I love this camera for shooting wildlife with it's 1.6x crop, and it's pretty darn good for astrophotography. The thing people don't realize about the camera is it's really good for video and the face recognition auto AF is really, really good!! Okay, maybe I like the bodies.

Lenses: Canon Zooms EF 8-15 f/4L, EF 24-105 f/4L IS, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II, EF 1.4x III Teleconverter

What can I say about Canon glass. It's amazing and is still within the average person's reach price wise compared to other top of the line lenses. The 8-15L is a great fisheye that I can use on a full frame or crop sensor camera. Canon really created a great lens when they developed that optic. It's also weather resistant which matters. The 24-105L is the kit lens that comes with Canon's semi-professional bodies and it's a great piece of glass. Many people give it a bad rap because it's not the best lens there is at any specific thing, but it's really good for a lot of different scenarios. It's not only incredibly sharp when stopped down, but is also a macro lens as well. I've taken some of my favorite landscapes with that lens, and the only people I hear ever fault it are those who want a f/2.8 or faster lens for every piece of glass they own. When I'm traveling, a 2.8 zoom is an anvil in a bag and isn't needed, because I'll take a better tool for the job and still be lighter with the extra lens. The other people just need a f/2.8 because they feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they pick it up even if the best way to shoot your subject is at f/8... not wide open all the time. Speaking of fast zooms, the Canon 70-200L IS II is a fantastically sharp lens that weighs enough to give me a workout every time I use it. If I didn't shoot weddings and portraits, I probably would get rid of it though. The compression is great and the lens is Canon's sharpest zoom but other lenses do better except in fast paced, low light environments where you need to get closer to your subject but aren't allowed to. I believe in having the best tool for the job, especially if you're getting paid for it, and it's the best tool for very specific scenarios. The 100-400L IS II is the new kid on the block and I love the lens. It's my favorite zoom and I actually hated my previous telephoto because I never used it. I use this lens as much as I can now and the compression and sharpness is nearly prime level. If I add the 1.4x III and the 7D2, you have a hand holdable telephoto lens that has an equivalent focal length of 896mm AND still has auto focus! For a wildlife photographer that doesn't have 10k for a 400 or 600 prime, it's the best bang for the buck and won't break your back carrying it. All of Canon's zooms listed here are sealed and weather resistant with a front filter attached. If you don't like filters, we can't be friends. I'm kidding... kinda. I have filters on the front of most of my lenses because I'm usually shooting in rain, sand, salt, or booze filled areas and it keeps that stuff out of my lens. (A weather sealed lens isn't officially weather resistant until the filter is on and mounted on the camera.) Filters also make me not care about lens caps. I just drop the glass back into my bag and if I need to clean the lens I wipe the filter off on whatever and keep shooting. When I want to sell the lens, I still get top dollar because everyone is crazy about scratches on the front element, even if it doesn't effect the image quality. I do purchase top level filters from Hoya, because they are incredibly tough and scratch resistant and I see zero image compromises when using them. 

Lenses: Canon Primes EF 24 f/1.4L II, EF 50 f/1.2L, EF 85 f/1.2L II

The reason why I chose the Canon system in the first place was because of their glass. 1.2 optics make my inner fan boy geek out, and these lenses let me shoot the majority of some of the most amazing and stressful jobs I have; weddings. The 24L II is the lens that is always on my 2nd camera. It sits and waits for the perfect moment and then it strikes to create amazing images. I use the lens to establish the scene for a wedding album or to give more awe and excitement while showcasing the subject in the scene. I love grandiose chapels where the architecture adds to the couple during their vows. The other great thing about a 24mm lens is that you can crop a little and it's now a 35mm lens. People complain about distortion with the width of the lens so just keep people in the center of the frame. Also, what if you want to maximize your DOF with a group portrait in a tight area? The 24L II to the rescue, put them in the middle and even at f/2 most eyes will be tack sharp. The 50L is probably the most underrated lens behind the 24-105L. It's because of two things: people have an issue with the focus of the lens which I've never seen. These same people usually don't understand aperture and the relationship with Depth Of Field that it has and expect f/1.2 to be tack sharp because it's an L series lens. What this person doesn't understand is the point in the image where the focus is sharp is so small that they can't find it. Focus on an eyelash wide open and that is the only part of the subjects body that's sharp... and its only 3 eyelashes. This lens can create the most ethereal images and is the lens I could shoot nearly an entire wedding with. It sits right in that perfect spot where it's not wide but not telephoto and doesn't distort people or faces much. It feels just right in so many scenarios and you can shoot the darkest receptions with it if need be. Lastly, the cannon ball, aka the 85L II is for many a dream lens. It has the reputation of being the premier portrait lens that has auto focus, and that reputation is well earned. You just can't get the same look in images that you can with the 85L II. People turn 3D on your monitor and in print with this lens. Backgrounds melt away and people simply pop with the separation the lens can create. It can be slow to focus, but that depends on who you are shooting and with what camera. The reason I bought a 5D3 was because of this lens. I wanted to get sharp focus away from the center of the frame and when shooting at a wide aperture, you need accurate AF points. Focus and recompose just won't work with this lens unless it's stopped down, and what's the fun in that? Really, if you want a certain look, shooting wide open or close to it will help create that dreamy portrait with the 85L II.

Non-Canon Lenses: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 AS UMC, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC

I'll keep this short and sweet, I love Rokinon lenses. Okay, done... Maybe I'll expand a little bit on the Rokinons and the Tokina. First off the Tokina lens is awesome for astro images with the 7D Mark II and with the built in intervalometer, this is my go to set up for creating time-lapses. The Tokina 11-16 is also a constant f/2.8 and is super sharp, I may add. The Rokinon lenses are better than any of my Canon lenses when it comes to coma. Coma is when a pin point of light doesn't look like a pin point. It usually elongates and this gets worse as you go towards the corners of the image. The 14, 24, and 35mm Rokinon primes have this very well controlled due to an aspherical element included in their construction. What this means is that you get a really sharp, better than L series performing lens, for a fraction of the cost. Pay less money and get a really sharp and better looking image, H-E double hockey sticks YA! The only down side is that they are full manual lenses so that's why they are great for night photography but not so good for events and weddings. Specifically, the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 is my favorite of the three. I can create single images that are really clean because of the wider aperture, I can still get a really wide image using a panorama technique that you create in post, and it's in that perfect spot for a landscape lens. I really like Rokinon lenses for regular daytime landscapes as well. They are seriously sharp!

Flashes: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter

I have four of the 600s and two transmitters. I always have redundancy for big jobs... and weddings are pretty big. They are really easy to set up and help me get light on my subjects quickly all while being able to take a drop or two or three. Did I mention I'm a klutz and I drop things. They live up to the quality that Canon produces and I've had zero problems with them. 

Extras: Lee Filter System

I have a large assortment of Lee Filters from their Little Stopper and Big Stopper all the way through several Hard and Soft Graduated Neutral Density Filters, regular ND filters and their 105mm Landscape Polarizer. If you want quality filters, smooth water, and long exposures pick up the Lee system. It's pretty darn good. 

How do I hold this stuff: Black Rapid Strap Sport, Double Black Rapid Strap

Black Rapid makes some good things that hold cameras. They are way better than the strap that came with your camera. Give them a shot if you're sick of having a perpetual neck ache.

That's it! I'll be doing a post about what bags I use to hold all this stuff soon. If you want to learn about gear, photography, landscapes, astrophotography, and photographer education just subscribe below. If you got through everything, thanks for reading!!

 

The Rules of Astrophotography #1

"Smokey, this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules." - The Big Lebowski

One quick tip about shooting astrophotography images like the one above is to use the rule of 500, which I will explain. Shooting wide angle astronomical images is exciting and fun and there are a multitude of ways to create an image with the Milky Way and stars, but one of the very first steps is learning what settings will work.

First off, the earth is rotating pretty darn fast. As you know, if you try to use a long shutter for something that is moving across the field of view, it will streak. The earth is moving but from our perspective, we see the sky move across our field of view. Well, how do we keep the stars from looking like streaks and more like pin points of light? You need keep your shutter open long enough to let light in to your sensor, but short enough that this movement is minimized. This is the rule of 500: 500/your lens in mm. For a crop sensor camera, this will be 500/(mm *crop factor). This will give you the length of time your shutter can be open without noticeable star trails or movement in your sky. This number should always be rounded conservatively as well. An example would be 500/24mm = 20.83 seconds which would be rounded conservatively to 20 seconds. Another example for a crop sensor camera would be 500/ (14mm * 1.6 crop factor) = 22.32 which would be rounded conservatively to 22 seconds.

This rule is just an easy way to make sure that you get the max benefits of using a longer shutter speed and getting sharp star points at the same time. There is always another thought process or way of doing things and I personally use the rule of 500 (and not the rule of 600) because I print my images and prefer them to be large pieces of art work. If you are looking for more light and don't think you will print ever then the rule of 600 may work for you. Rule of 600 is same as 500 in the arithmetic.

Next week I will be going through my checklist of what I look for before I head out to shoot the Milky Way. If you have a question, please add a comment and I'll try to answer it. Also, sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date on my posts and tours! I give tips every week on astrophotography, lighting, posing, education, and why traveling is the best thing you can do for your photography ( and for yourself ).

 

What Equipment Do I Need To Shoot The Milky Way?

There are a bunch of things that go into shooting the Milky Way from the location, to the weather, the time of year, the equipment, and just plain luck. What equipment do you need to shoot the Milky Way? Honestly, just about any modern DSLR will work really darn well. Being able to capture images at 3200 ISO is a minimum for me and is easily achieved with today's DSLRs The second piece of equipment you want to have is a lens that has an aperture of f/2.8 or faster and 35mm (or on a crop camera  24mm) or wider. Some photographers swear by wide zoom lenses but I really enjoy primes for most of my work. I'll add why in a moment. Lastly, having a great tripod is the last piece of the puzzle you will need. You want a sturdy tripod that you can depend on. Some people may look at the price of some mid level tripods with an uneasy eye, but it's worth the investment.

The equipment I use isn't the most top of the line. It's very reasonably priced and is actually better than more expensive cameras and glass. Crazy, right!? I'm personally a Canon guy. My current setup is a Canon 6D. I own a 5D Mark III but the high ISO capabilities are not as good as the 6D. I've taken this camera everywhere and have been absolutely terrible to it, and it just keeps plugging away. It's a great piece of kit and performs flawlessly for night time shooting. If you are looking at purchasing a capable camera that won't break the bank, you can't go wrong with a Canon 6D.

Glass... oh, the glorious red rings of Canon lenses. I stick with Canon because of their glass. It's the most important part of a camera system for me. I think it's top notch while providing very consistent and sharp results. My kit is filled with Canon red rings from 8mm all the way to 400mm, but I don't use Canon glass for astrophotography if I can help it. Wanna know why? Because it isn't the best option. Period. I use Canon’s top end glass and love the performance of the lenses for most of my imaging needs, but for astrophotography it just is a poor performer. The reason why: coma. Coma is when pin points of light ( like from stars ) flare or look elongated usually looking like bird wings in the corner of the image. This issue is prominent in some of the most expensive glass, ironically, and even though I love my Canon primes including the 24L II, it just isn’t the best for this type of photography.

Rokinon to the rescue!!! In the USA, Rokinon is the leading company offering Samyang Optics under the Rokinon brand and they are achieving great success creating incredibly sharp optics with very well built lenses at amazing prices. Specifically, I use the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, and Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 for Milky Way and night photography. These lenses have very little coma wide open and are usually a third of the price or even less of their respective Canon L lens counterparts. They also have a faster aperture than the wide angle zooms and cost less. That’s a ton of value for not a ton of money. Did I mention that these Rokinon lenses are fantastically sharp! I exclusively use Rokinon for my astrophotography and couldn’t be happier. Give them a look, you won’t be disappointed.

Lastly, what tripod do I use? Well, there is a small British company that is making a name for itself by going above and beyond in their customer support and creating top of the line equipment without the crazy expensive pricing of some other brands, and they have a cool name. 3 Legged Thing! I use the Dave ( all 3 Legged Thing tripods are named after famous musicians ) and it’s been beat up but still works like the day I got it. Oh, and it’s actually pretty light for being aluminum. They make carbon fiber tripods which are incredibly strong but I opted for aluminum because the weight savings wasn’t much different and I tend to drop/ step on/ trip over everything I own. If aluminum should dent, it still works. Carbon fiber while strong is more rigid and will just break rather than dent. For my adventuring with only one tripod, that matters way more than weight.

What about timers and star trackers and the newest cameras and more expensive lenses and crazy tripods with really expensive … blah blah blahhh? Honestly, they are probably great. They might give you better ISO performance or a sharper image or a more stable mounting for long exposures… but I know my gear works. It's a bit cheaper than the most expensive stuff, and if the worse happens, it’s even more replaceable. The best equipment doesn’t yield the best results, it’s the person behind the lens making the decisions that will create the best outcome and image. Don’t get caught up on buying gear ( which can be fun ) and forgetting that knowledge, education, and PRACTICE  goes further than anything you can buy. Speaking of education and practice, check out my upcoming 2016 workshops HERE.

This is the start of an astrophotography series that I’m creating about what, how, when, where, and why I shoot what I do. If you have any questions, post a comment and I’ll try to answer it. I’ll be doing an astrophotography specific blog post every other week so sign up below to get the latest information and education. Thanks for reading!

Canon 7D Mark II and 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II

7D-Mark-II-100-400L-IS-II

The're here, they're here!! 

I received the new Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II just yesterday and the Canon 7D Mark II today, and after some quick shots with both together, I am incredibly excited for the possibilities that this combination offers. The camera and lens combo is quite simply fantastic!

I currently have been shooting with a Canon 6D and 60D and I have rarely ever felt as if I needed more than what these cameras provide. With the release of the 7D Mark II, I got to thinking about upgrading my crop sensor camera, but was on the fence because I didn't think I needed anything the 7D II offered that was different from my 60D. Then the 100-400L II was announced... and here we are today with both in my possession.

So what really closed the deal on the 7D II that isn't available on my 60D? The ability to center focus at f/8 max aperture... and the new autofocus system. 

I could have purchased a 5D Mark III and received the benefits of being able to autofocus at f/8 max aperture and full frame, BUT the 1.6x multiplication factor for whatever lens is on the 7D II camera will be incredibly useful shooting wildlife this year in Yellowstone National Park. The 7D II also has the top of the line auto focus system of the Canon 1DX now ( the 1DX retails for $6799 compared to the 7D II's $1799 ).

Though I would love the 5D Mark III, I currently own the full frame 6D, which besides its rudimentary focus system, gives me exceptional photos even when shooting in low light situations. The 5D III also is currently $1000 more than the 7D II and has a slower autofocus system. Lastly, I'll be shooting most wildlife during the day, dawn, and dusk; therefore, I can use a crop sensor camera with negligible image degradation. 

Now how about the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II? This lens is the answer to my biggest issue when I was in Yellowstone last year, more focal length!!

I had the chance to use a 500mm f/4L IS prime from a fellow photographer when I was in Yellowstone and it changed my perspective of "Just get closer." There are many times where the focal length you need is a lot more than what you can comfortably afford. The longer focal length also allows you to safely photograph some very large (or small) and dangerous wild animals. I always prefer to not be charged by a brown bear if I can help it. 

With this 7D Mark II with a 1.4x III extender and the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II, I have an equivalent focal length reaching 896mm at f/8!! That's huge when you can't get closer to the wild animals because of the snow drifts that are between you and them, or when getting closer isn't an option because the animal may think you are a threat and come after you. Lastly, I want animals to act natural, and the added space gives you the buffer you may need for normal behaviors to be observed. 

As of right now my 60D is on the sales page. It's been a fantastic companion and helped me capture some of my favorite photos around the country, but I think the 7D II will be a welcome addition to my photography bag. And if you shoot fast moving people or animals, and have never experienced a world class  focusing system and frame rate, you just might be missing out.

 

 

 

How To Not Become A Photographer

I started my businesses more than a year ago, and it's gone slow. More due to my sometimes perpetual worrying than anything else, and that's more or less why I'm putting out this blog post.

So, you have all this drive and energy to do something that you absolutely love, and you immediately realize that being a business was maybe more than you intended in the first place. It's how I've felt and I'm sure a number of new entrepreneurs have felt that pang of fear with taking on work that is mostly just getting the ball rolling. I basically stopped photographing for a time because I had started a businesses. Funny, right? I put all this effort and thought into this and I basically shrink down and nit pick every little thing so nothing I want to do or need to do gets accomplished. It's appalling how my thought process can run amuck when all you need to focus on is the most immediate next step. 

I'm ok with being a slow poke for a few moments, but this just isn't me and I'm making my choices and instituting the drive with the direction I know I need to go. You don't become a photographer to not create, you become a photographer because you see something beautiful and you want to share. That passion for many people, including me, has led me on some of my most worthwhile adventures and I only crave more. You do photography because like life, light is fleeting and you can capture the moment when the people and places you have in front of you are at their most engaging and beautiful. It's like the universe is giving you a split second to understand the wonder without asking the question,

What I'm doing is starting a new adventure with this in mind! I'll be heading through to some of the most amazing placed in the western USA starting in February with Death Valley National Park. I'll be also taking trips to Yellowstone National Park, Tetons National Park, Arches National Park, The Grand Canyon, and Big Bend National Park. With all that running around I'll still be making photos where ever I go and I hope you will lend me your support by coming back to my blog to view some of the photos I take and to here the stories over the next year! See you soon!!

 

How this started…

How I started in photography: I took a trip. 

 

It wasn't an excursion for the weekend, and it wasn't a couple days camping with some friends. I decided I was bored with just living. I was bored with working 12 hours a day and missing out on my life. The most precious thing we all have is this life. This thing no other being can experience but us as individuals. From this specific view. And I was MISSING OUT!

 

So I quit my job, got rid of my apartment in New York, bought a camera, and left.

 

I traveled for three months. Lived out of my car with a tent and my saxophone and a camera. It was crazy, but I loved every second of it. I stayed on the coasts for most of my journey making headway when I wanted to see The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park. 

 

I also made some cash playing saxophone in New Orleans.

 

I did all of this because I know that life is short, and if you aren't living it for today then you are already half dead. Live a life WORTHY of living.