My annual trip to Alaska in late July to early August usually means big skies and great light, schools of salmon in the rivers and creeks and coastal brown bears, lots of cubs, and almost unlimited photo opportunities. This year we were treated to two full weeks of sun and clouds without a single rain shower. These are some of my favorite moments of the trip with some technical notes and stories behind the images.
On a recent trip to Alaska I brought along a lens on loan from Sigma, the 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS MACRO HSM lens. Apparently this lens a very popular lens in the super zoom multi-purpose category but the question is, how would do on a wildlife shoot? When I was packing for my trip I remember thinking that I didn’t know how the lens would perform but at least the lens is so tiny it wouldn’t take up a lot of room in my bag.
Honestly it was my first time using this lens, or any type of super zoom lens, so I didn’t have a clue of what to expect but as the first series of images popped on the screen I was pleasantly surprised but when I zoomed in to see the sharpness at 100% the feeling changed to one of mild shock!
When all the elements fall info place during a photo session you can find yourself a lot more than just a couple of high quality single images but instead can find that you have captured a series of images that illustrates some really interesting action. Combining multiple images into a single action sequence image can give you a creative eye opening image that can really surprise viewers.
Over the last weekend a huge swell focused giant waves on California triggering a high surf advisory and I had my Sigma 50-500mm to document some of the action. By the end of the weekend the awe inspiring power of this swell took its toll with lots of snapped surfboard leashes, broken surfboards and injured surfers (one had to be taken away by ambulance), my friend Jim broke his foot on Sunday dropping into a huge wave!
At my local beach in south Los Angeles the waves break close to shore so my Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM works very very well to document the action in the water here. Prime lenses are much harder to shoot with at beach breaks especially when the surf is large.
Over the last few months I have been testing the newest version of the Sigma’s 120-300 f/2.8. I have nothing but good experiences with the older version of this lens so I have been looking forward to working with this lens over the winter and spring at home in Southern California. So far my experiences have changed my view of this lens, the newest version of the 120-300 f/2.8. The previous version was good. I found that this latest version has quick and accurate autofocus; the image quality is superb and the focal range excellent for nature photography.
The Sigma 105mm F2.8 Macro EX DG OS HSM lens has become one of my favorite lenses for macro photography in the field. So what makes me reach for this lens when Sigma offers five macro lenses when I own all of them? The answer is balance- the 105mm lens is really good at everything and one of the best in terms image quality. This lens can give you the sharpest results possible with an excellent balance of size, weight, working distance at a very high value per dollar price.
One of the most important rules for macro flash photography is balance. For natural looking macro images you have to balance the ambient light and flash output. When the flash and ambient light are balanced the use of flash will not even be apparent to the viewer.
The problem is that with flash output overpowering the natural light in background it will underexpose and go dark, in some cases like the image below, it can underexpose to the point that is appears black.
Photographing in the field in contrasty harsh light is something every photographer has to deal with. This is a technique that I use for those difficult high contrast situations. For a more natural looking image you need to take control of the light to handle the light and dark tones in a high contrast image.
It is important to understand the problem with high contrast scenes. Exposing for the light tones will cause the darker tones to underexpose and exposing for the darks will result in blown out highlights.
The Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is one of my favorite lenses of all time. My copy has been there by my side shooting in rain, snow, freezing low temps, scorching high temps and more delivering the sharp images I need month after month.
One of the biggest challenges with macro photography is working with a limited depth of field or DOF. When I am shooting macro I am always trying to make sure the subject and elements in the frame appear sharp by adjusting the aperture and making sure the important elements in image fall on the plane of focus by adjusting my angle of view. But there is another important element that has a huge effect on DOF that most people don’t even know about, how a different sensor format can and will effect the depth of field in your image. Moving to a smaller sensor format at the same apparent magnification will give you lots more DOF to work with in your macro images.