|An in-camera composite of nine images of different roses in order to compose a design-oriented image. Canon EOS 5D Mark III set to 1⁄350 sec. and ƒ/8, ISO 400, Canon EF 100mm macro|
Many Images, One Frame
Q I have one of the new Canon cameras that allows multiple captures on a single frame. How can I use this feature in a creative way?
Via the Internet
A The multiple-exposure capability is featured on recent Canon cameras (the EOS 5D Mark III and the EOS-1D X) and on many Nikon and Pentax bodies. The idea is to allow the photographer to take a series of digital captures (maximum nine for Canon, 10 for Nikon) on the same frame. This isn't a new idea; professional film cameras had this capability decades ago. Before this feature was added to DSLRs, we were limited to taking a number of separate captures on separate frames, then compositing them into a single image in the computer with post-capture processing. Now we have the advantage of experimenting with multiple-exposure imaging in real time; we can view the result on the camera's LCD screen immediately, make adjustments and do it all over again in the field until we get it right. With film, the process required the photographer to calculate the exposure of each capture with a view toward achieving correct overall exposure in the composite. In today's DSLRs with multiple-exposure capability, the camera makes these adjustments based upon variables the photographer has preselected.
My favorite application of this feature is a tried-and-true technique I often used with film. With the camera mounted on a tripod, I take my first exposure focused sharply on the subject and then take a second out-of-focus exposure. In the resulting image, the subject is sharply rendered, but has a subtle, softening halo around it. It's an especially beautiful effect with portraits and flowers. The amount of "unfocus" is an experimental thing that can be seen on the back of the camera and adjusted for subsequent captures; you can view each composite between captures—that is, as it's building.
Another interesting option is the ability to compile various disparate elements into a single composition by recalling an image on the CF card and layering additional captures on the frame, such as adding a big fake moon to a landscape. From a tripod, multiple photographs of a waterfall could be captured at a fast shutter speed to smooth the rendering of the water without losing detail. Multiple individual flowers can be photographed on the same frame to create a design element. Just from these few ideas, it should be apparent that the multiple-exposure capability is a strong creative tool—but also one that will further exacerbate the suspicion with which all digital nature photography is viewed.
Q When capturing panoramas, some photographers orient their cameras in the vertical and others in the horizontal position. Is there an advantage to one position over the other?
Via the Internet
A The decision to capture a panorama with the camera in the horizontal or vertical position is an example of the benefits of "previsualization," where concepts applied at capture expand a photographer's options for interpretation of a subject.
When the eventual goal is to generate a large print, a horizontal panorama of a wide subject or scene (think vast landscape) should be captured in vertical segments to maximize the vertical pixel count (the height of the finished image) and the overall size of the file. Conversely, a vertical panorama of a tall, narrow subject or scene (e.g., a tree) should be captured in horizontal segments.
The exception to this "rule" is when capture speed is of the essence. If the subjects are in motion, you need to move fast. So a panoramic capture of a wide row of zebras at a water hole would be most quickly covered with a series of horizontal captures, while a vertical orientation would be most efficient for a panorama of a giraffe.
In circumstances where I'm concerned about losing my subjects or their pleasing composition because they're capable of movement, I often photograph from both orientations, getting the most efficient perspective first, and following, if I have the chance, with the higher-quality capture.
Silent All The Time
Q Recent Canon cameras have a Silent Mode. Knowing that this mode improves the sharpness of higher-magnification images in Live View, should I just leave it on all the time?
Fort Worth, Texas
A Silent Shooting Mode is an important function available on a number of Canon DSLRs. It's normally used to minimize the noise of the cycling camera mechanism in circumstances such as wedding services, sensitive wildlife and surveillance. When used in conjunction with Live View to accomplish high-magnification photography (macro or telephoto), Silent Mode minimizes vibration by operating the shutter in front of the sensor electronically rather than mechanically. Live View already has locked up the mirror, so essentially no vibrations are generated by the camera in this mode.
When Silent Mode is activated, capture speed is reduced (from six to three frames per second in the 5D Mark III, for example) because the shutter takes longer to cycle. For this reason, when exiting Live View, the photographer should disable Silent Mode in the camera's menu.
Camera Dynamic Range
Q I read recently that the new DSLRs have a higher dynamic range than previous digital cameras. Does this mean that I don't need to use HDR techniques anymore?
Los Angeles, California
A Dynamic range is the ability of a camera, or a scanner, to capture both highlights and shadows at the same time. Ideally, the dynamic range of a camera's sensor will exceed the dynamic range of the scene being photographed, resulting in an image that maintains detail within both very bright and very dark areas. The structure of the camera's sensor and its operating system software drive the overall capability of the sensor to capture detail, and these two aspects of digital camera design have improved dramatically with recent issues: the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EOS-1D X and Nikon D800 and D800E.
It's interesting to me that the high dynamic range (HDR) software, either for single or multiple composited captures, raised photographers' expectations for rendition of detailed highlights and shadows to an extent never possible before the advent of digital photography. By shooting three or more exposures of a subject (generally, two stops overexposed, normally exposed and two stops underexposed) and compositing the three images in HDR software, we've achieved extreme dynamic range in our photography, and some of us will never be satisfied again with anything less.
But my tests with the Canon EOS-1D X and Canon EOS 5D Mark III show a greatly expanded dynamic range that gives improved results for single captures, while offering much more detail when postprocessed in a RAW converter software or with Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6 to bring back information that seems to be lost in the highlights and the shadows. This means you may not need to use multiple-image HDR as much to capture a contrasty scene; as always, the camera histogram will guide you. In extreme situations, you'll still get better results with three separate exposures composited in out-of-camera software.
Two Great Winter Breaks
I'm teaching at two venerable celebrations of nature photography in February and March of 2013, sponsored by great nature organizations in fabulous locations for photography—one in the Northwest and one in the Southeast.
34th Winter Wings Festival, Klamath Falls, Oregon (February 14-17). This is the nation's longest-running bird festival, and it features a terrific gathering of photographers and birders and an exciting array of instructors and field opportunities. Thanks to sponsorship from Canon USA, I'm key-noting the festival this year and also offering a specialty seminar and a small field workshop. Register early at www.WinterWingsFest.org.
18th Nature Photography Summit & Trade Show, Jacksonville, Florida (February 28-March 3). You won't want to miss the North American Photography Association's great lineup of top nature photographers and field opportunities in one of Florida's best regions for bird photography. Go to www.NaturePhotographySummit.com for details.
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For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.