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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ask The Pros!

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Q. Is photography as fun as people say it is?

A. Katrina,
Absolutely! I get to travel to some of the most breathtaking places the world has to offer and see and capture images of extraordinary wildlife, landscapes and plants. The travels create tall tales that can be told to anyone willing to listen in any bar in any part of the world. I get to meet people from all walks of life and interact with them about a common passion that many people never get to feel, and I get to witness what Mother Nature provides every morning and every evening. With that said, there’s an incredible amount of work involved in becoming a professional photographer, and even more to stay in the eyes of your clients. However, if photography is what you truly love to do, then it’s not really work at all. It’s like waking up as a kid, and getting ready to go out and play with your friends—every day for the rest of your life.
—Jay Goodrich

Q. I was wondering if you knew of anything to protect my Canon Rebel XSi while outside in a storm from rain and maybe dirt or hail? Is there anything that would provide me flexibility and wouldn’t get in the way too much? Thanks!
—Nathan Edmiston

A. Nathan,
If you’re trying to shoot in heavy-rain conditions, only an underwater housing could really protect the camera sufficiently. There’s still going to be rainwater on the housing in front of your lens causing distortion, so I don’t know how well this would work. My strategy is simple, put the camera in my weatherproof backpack and wait it out. For intermittent showers, I carry a couple of motel shower caps that I quickly put on the lens to protect it. Exposing a camera to hail and a lot of blowing dirt is just not a good idea. My Canon EOS Mark III has a very tight construction to prevent water and dirt from entering. If shooting in this type of weather is important to you, you might consider one of those bodies.
—Tom Till

Q. I am off to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone this fall! Which two lenses would be best?
—Arthur Sullivan

A. Arthur,
Twenty years ago, I heard well-respected pro Boyd Norton answer a similar question. "If you can only carry three lenses" he said, "go for impact. Bring a 16mm fisheye, a 500mm telephoto and a 50mm macro." Fast-forward through 20 years of zoom-lens improvements, and my answer is slightly different. I’d bring my Canon 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II, my Canon 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS and my Canon 50mm ƒ/2.5 compact macro. If forced to drop one, I’d reluctantly lose the 50mm macro, although it weighs only 10 ounces. Bear in mind I’m primarily a landscape shooter, and my lens choices reflect that fact. Photographing Yellowstone’s abundant wildlife probably will call for the longest telephoto you own. At Mt. Rushmore, you’ll probably put a variety of focal lengths to work: wider lenses for establishing shots, longer lenses for details.
—Glenn Randall

The view out of the tent from 20,000 feet on Aconcagua in Argentina. The temperature was -35° F and didn’t seem to hinder the camera at all.
Q. I'm looking for information or recomendations on cameras and equipment that can handle below-freezing or below-zero temperatures.
—James Chilcote

A. James,
In my experience shooting ice climbing, skiing and mountaineering in frigid conditions, all the way down to -40° F, I’ve found that modern digital SLRs do quite well, especially the pro models. When the temps are above 0º F, you’ll have no problems with most D-SLRs, save for the batteries not lasting as long as normal. Keep a spare battery with you in a warm pocket and trade them out every half-hour or so. The main problems you’ll run into below 0° F are keeping the batteries warm and the LCD from freezing, which can happen.

To overcome these issues, I usually tape a chemical hand warmer over the battery compartment—either on the bottom of the camera or on the grip. I try to keep it as far away from the back of the camera as possible since heat will increase the amount of noise produced by your imaging sensor. In super-cold environments (e.g., -20º and below), this is less of a concern. To keep the LCD from freezing, I occasionally warm it up by holding a hand warmer on the LCD. I don’t tape it onto the LCD because it would start to heat up the CMOS or CCD sensor. I’d also suggest going with one of the top-tier cameras from any manufacturer because they have better weather sealing, which should help in the cold.
—Michael Clark

Q. What would be the downside of using stacked circular polarizers for a poor man’s variable neutral-density filter? To my eye, it looks like it would work great! Any thoughts before I invest?
—George N. Koerber

A. George,
Yes, stacking the polarizers will work, but at a significant loss of clarity. The more layers of glass and coated surfaces you shoot through, the greater the degradation of the image. Whatever time and expense you’ve put into selecting a high-quality lens will be undone by this action. Your expensive lens is only as good as the glass you place in front of it. The variable neutral-density filters available today are very thin and of very high optical quality—hence, the high cost. A less expensive option is to buy two reasonably priced neutral-density filters (I suggest a 3-stop and a 5-stop) and use them one at a time. In a pinch, you could stack these two, but you’ll likely lose some quality.
—George Lepp


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