Are You Familiar With Your Q Button?
On newer Canon dSLRs, there’s a button on the back, labeled “Q.” Pressing it brings up an editable display on the rear LCD. Nikon labels it’s the button either INFO or “i.” Newer dSLRs from other manufacturers all offer some variation of this control. Until recently, I’d ignored the button because it didn’t fit my workflow. I knew what it did but I never made the effort to retrain myself.
Recently, I began playing with the Q (Quick Control) and found that it has benefit in certain situations. The primary reason for using the Q button is when setting up for a completely different shoot. For example, I grabbed my Canon 7D to photograph a huge dove sitting atop my neighbor’s flag pole. It was so big, I first mistook it for a hawk. The camera was still set up from the day before when I was photographing products in a studio. With a press of the Q button, I could see all the important settings in one place (60D screen used for illustration, right.) Before the Q button, my fingers were trained to automatically run through all the knobs, dials, switches and menus, checking for the correct settings. Now, in one glance, on one screen, I can check all my critical settings. Better still, I can adjust all my important settings with the same three or four controls. This is a huge time savings when I have just moments for a “grab” shot.
So, when do I NOT use the Q button? When I’m in the middle of a series or sequence, I still find it faster and easier to dial in adjustments by watching the display along the bottom of the VF (viewfinder) viewfinder. For example, as I’m shooting a scene, I may decide to add or subtract EC (exposure compensation.) This is much more convenient to do via the back dial and the ELI (exposure level indicator) along the bottom of the VF.
Birds in the News
The hummingbird is back with a new clutch of eggs! Last Thursday, as we were leaving for a quick trip to check on the Arizona house, we noticed the hummingbird is back with a new clutch of eggs. Based on what I’ve read and heard, this new pair of eggs has a better chance. The first pair was quite likely a “dry run,” as it were. I imagine humans wouldn’t be quite so fecund if they had to mate while one was flying upside down!
In Wickenburg, we found a dove sitting on a nest in a backyard light fixture. Since we won’t be returning to Wickenburg until July, the chicks will probably have fledged by then. All in all, it’s been a pretty good last few days.
AOL and Yahoo! E-mail Users
I’m having a terrible time with AOL and Yahoo!. Both e-mail services seem to arbitrarily block my Monday Morning Tips as spam. It doesn’t help that some readers forget they subscribed and mark my e-mails as spam.
To combat this, I’m recommending all readers open a G-Mail or other free e-mail service. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) usually offers multiple e-mail accounts so you can set up a second account for newsletters. For example, Cox allows up to 7 e-mail accounts per account. Check with your ISP for details.
Another idea I’m considering is offering cheap e-mail accounts through my web site. That would give you an e-mail address like “firstname.lastname@example.org.” If that’s something that might appeal to you, post a comment here.
Persistence Pays Off
Butch has taken a bunch of classes with me over the past year. Like many people, he just wanted photos of his grandkids and dog, nothing too strenuous or complex, or so he thought. He bought a Nikon D90, an assortment of lenses and jumped into the deep end. In the beginning, his effors were so painful, I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I really thought.
One thing about Butch is that he’s persistent. He never took offense when, after realizing he had a skin like a rhino, I started critiquing his photos as I would any student. I could essentially tell him his latest attempt sucked as long as I also added why it sucked so badly. He took all my critiques in stride.
Last week, he sent me a photo that knocked my socks off. It’s not perfect but it was head-and-shoulders above anything he had previously sent me. The one thing that really made this photo “pop” was his use of fill flash. Notice how the sun was almost directly overhead. Without fill, the sax player’s eyes would have been lost in the shadow cast by his eye brow. With fill, he has that ever important catchlight to highlight the intensity in his eyes. Combined with the puffed cheeks and furrowed forehead, this is a “decisive moment” in this guy’s day. He’s in the groove and Butch captured that moment.
There are four little things I’d edit in this photo. See if you can spot the four issues and leave a comment below. Otherwise, this is a major milestone for Butch and I applaud his persistence. More
What Do All Those Numbers and Letters Mean?
Each time I teach a class, I’m reminded that photography, like most disciplines, has its own strange jargon, acronyms and codes. This article hopes to be the “secret decoder ring” for Canon lenses.
Let’s take a typical Canon lens like the venerable EF28-135/3.5-5.6IS USM. EF stands for Electro-Focus, Canon’s trademarked term for an electronically controlled lens focusing system. The EF is usually left off unless it it the EF-S, a version designed specifically for Canon’s crop sensor line of entry level to mid-range digital cameras (all Digital Rebel variations and xxD series and 7D). EF-S lenses cannot be used on the 1D, 1Ds or 5D. Nikon uses DX to identify its lenses for crop-sensor digital bodies.
Next, the numbers 28-135 indicate the focal length range of the lens ON A FULL FRAME BODY. On a crop frame bodies such as all Digital Rebels and xxD/7D series, these numbers are multiplied by 1.6 to get the true field of view. Therefore, on a Canon Digital Rebel T1i or 7D, the actual field of view range is 28×1.6=44.8mm to 135×1.6=216mm. In 35mm photography, a 50mm lens is considered “normal” in that it closely matches the field of view of a human eye. So, the 28-135 ranges from just about normal to nearly 5x normal. For Nikon crop frame bodies, use 1.5 as the crop factor.
The Lust in My Heart Has Been Fulfilled
To paraphrase Jimmy Carter, “I’ve looked on a lot of camera bodies with lust. I’ve committed camera adultery in my heart many times….” Ever since I learned about Nikon’s Commander Mode for wireless remote flash control, I’ve had flashes of lust and envy. I wanted the same in my Canon bodies without paying an extra $250 for a single purpose Canon ST-E2 Transmitter (below left & middle). The Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord (OCSC, below right) was a limited option, especially when trying to handhold at slow shutter speed while holding the flash in the left hand.
When the Canon 7D was announced, that was the one feature that jumped off the spec sheet at me. The 7D had a wireless remote control mode. Being cheap, I waited until 7D prices came down and initial reports from early adopters were in. Well, I can honestly say, Canon’s integrated wireless remote is a wonderful technology that puts my camera lust under control for the moment. The advanced AF system also helps.
Freezing Fred’s Beak
This week’s MMT (posted on Saturday, 1/2) had blurred images of Fred’s beak (shoebill stork) as he chatters (calls). I was curious to know how much of the blur was due to slow shutter speed versus hand-holding so I went back on Sunday. Now, granted, this wasn’t a rigorous scientific test but I was able to confirm that Fred’s beak can be frozen with a faster shutter speed. On the blurred images, I was using 1/1000 second and this time, I used 1/2000 second. I’d like to have taken some at slower speeds but Fred chattered 3 times in 3 hours. The first and third times, he chattered for about 5 seconds so I got a few shots. The second time, he chattered only for 2 seconds which wasn’t long enough for me to get shots. Overall, in 3 hours, I fired off 150+ frames and got 3 usable photos. Another issue is that Fred rapidly blinks his nictitating eyelid while chattering. I managed to capture many images of him with weird “Night of the Living Dead” eyes as in the first photo (below).