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Keep Your Powder Dry

Dry In A Drizzle Or A Downpour • Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button? • Noise Reduction: On Or Off? • Waves And Bends • New Endeavors

During one entire rainy week in Denali National Park & Preserve in Alaska, we had sunshine for only half a day. Overcast skies and saturated foliage can offer excellent conditions and texture for your photography, however, as long as you have protection for your gear. Raindrops on water provide a dramatic background to these two loons in a pond, photographed in light rain with a Canon EOS 7D and Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L lens with a 1.4X tele-extender, 1/180 sec. at ƒ/6.7, ISO 320.

Dry In A Drizzle Or A Downpour
Q While I was photographing a cowboy race in San Diego, a very heavy fog with drizzle rolled in. I had to keep the camera under my jacket until the moment to shoot, tuck it back in and run to my next mark for a shot. That got pretty cumbersome and tiresome after a while. What would you recommend for camera rain gear?
A. Kaus
Via the Internet

A Some of the newer professional DSLRs and lenses are very well sealed, and you can work safely with them in damp conditions short of a downpour. Examples of these bodies in Canon’s line would be the 1 series (1D and 1Ds) and the pro D series in Nikon’s line. Beyond the high prices of these robust bodies and lenses, there’s an additional cost in heft and weight. So let me assure you first that you won’t achieve a less cumbersome rainy-day system by spending more money on equipment!

The least expensive way to keep your camera dry is a plastic Ziploc® bag. Cut a hole in the front for the lens, attach it over the front of the lens with a rubber band, and place your hands inside the back opening to operate the camera, being careful not to transfer moisture to the controls. Economy is about the only upside to this system; it rips easily, is cumbersome and annoying, and doesn’t convey a professional approach.

There are a number of products made specifically to cover a variety of DSLR body and lens combinations. I like the Storm Jacket from Vortex Media (, which has a good selection of body/lens and flash attachment covers, running from $36 to $59 in several colors. (If you’re photographing rodeos featuring bulls, I wouldn’t recommend the red one.) Another company offering similar products is Kata (

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?
Q I have a Canon EOS 30D and just recently bought a EOS 7D. I’m primarily a bird photographer. I was curious if using the AI Servo mode when you’re not tracking a moving subject would have a tendency to work against you—it seems the camera would be trying to track when it doesn’t need to, perhaps reacting to vibration or some slight movement. Is it best to take the camera out of AI Servo mode when you’re shooting a stationary subject like a landscape or a portrait?
T. Richey
Via the Internet

A Ideally, you’ll leave the camera in AI Servo mode at all times, so you’ll be ready for anything that happens. The problem with this is that the camera refocuses—and sometimes finds a new, unintended subject to place in sharp focus—whenever you partially depress the shutter button to take the photograph. But there’s a way to set up your EOS 7D (and other Canon DSLRs) to give you better control over autofocus of both moving and stationary subjects. Custom Function 4, Number 1 transfers your autofocus action from the shutter release to the AF-ON button on the back of the camera, conveniently located for thumb activation by right-handed photographers. If the button is pressed, AI Servo is active—perfect for moving subjects.

If you release the AF button, one-shot autofocus is active; the focus is locked at its last position. This works well for setting focus to a stationary subject and reframing. In addition, this function allows you to manually focus at anytime. For me, this custom function, found on nearly all Canon DSLRs, is one of the most useful settings you can make. Nikon has similar capabilities (check your manual).

To set Custom Function 4, Number 1 on your 7D, go to Menu > Custom Functions > C.FnIV > SET > 1 > SET. Scroll to the first option, SET. Choose the center icon, called “Metering start” > SET. Scroll to the next option, SET. Choose the left icon, called “AF” > SET. Touch the shutter button, and the menu will disappear. From this point on, only the rear AF-ON button will control autofocus on your camera.

I’ve been using the EOS 7D extensively to photograph active subjects (sports) and birds because of its smaller sensor, which extends my reach, and its very fast autofocus capability with both moving and fixed subjects. Once you become accustomed to managing the autofocus from the back of the camera, I’m confident you’ll find this to be a very comfortable way to work.

Noise Reduction: On Or Off?
Q Occasionally, I forget to turn on the Long Exposure Noise Reduction function on my DSLR when needed and the camera then reminds me to do it. Should I just leave it activated all the time?
J. Pelton
Via the Internet

A When enabled, the Long Exposure Noise Reduction function is automatically activated on exposures of one second or longer. In this case, the camera compares the noise in your capture to a blank (completely dark) capture and eliminates any aberrations that the sensor itself may have produced. This means that the total exposure and process time will be at least twice as long as the original capture. Keeping this function enabled at all times usually isn’t a problem because it isn’t activated on exposures shorter than one second. One exception I can think of is if you’re creating a time-lapse sequence, where the interval between exposures needs to be less than double the time of each capture.

In cameras with expanded ISO capability, you can control high-ISO luminance and chrominance noise in in-camera processed JPEG captures with the High ISO Speed Noise Reduction on Canon cameras. The camera comes preset at the default “standard,” but you also can set it at either “low,” “strong” or “disabled.” At the “standard” setting, noise is well controlled and there’s no visual loss of sharpness. At the “strong” setting, there’s some softening of detail and you’ll notice that the buffer fills more quickly in continuous capture mode. Since in-camera processing settings don’t apply to RAW images, noise abatement for this format needs to be accomplished in post-capture software, such as Nik Dfine 2, Lightroom 3 and Adobe Camera Raw.

Waves And Bends
Q I’ve been using a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED and the glass carrier with good results, but I have several 6×7 Fujichrome Velvia images with significant “waves” or “bends” that are resulting in Newton’s rings when scanned using the glass carrier. Do you have any suggestions?
C. Briggs
Via the Internet

A I also use the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED, and I’ve experienced the problems you describe when attempting to scan medium-format film. I use a film carrier from Nikon, the FH-869S 120/220 Strip Film Holder, which holds individual frames or strips and actually stretches the film, pulling it taut. I wouldn’t recommend wetting and redrying the film because the chance of damage to the softened emulsion is great and, in my experience, film becomes a sort of dust-magnet as it dries. Nikon has discontinued its film scanners, so you may have trouble finding the film carrier I use. If you need to move on, the newer Epson higher-res flatbed scanners would flatten the film without producing Newton’s rings.

New Endeavors
Kathy and I have joined the photo experts at, Sterling Publishing’s new blog about all things photographic. This high-energy, far-reaching online source has a wide variety of photographic experts and regular correspondents covering the hottest topics in photography today, from copyrights to public access, fashion, travel, conservation and nature, ethics, and reviews of the latest equipment and software. Sterling is the publisher of our newly released book, Wildlife Photography: Stories from the Field (featured in the October issue of Outdoor Photographer), and you’ll find more excerpts from the book among our posts at

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit 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

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.