Camera Advice – Beware

I am sure that I have written this camera advice before but I guess it is time again.

I have had a couple people come in with camera issues in the past two months.  One person actually sent his camera and lens back to Canon (3 times) as they were not working correctly and Canon could not fix it and another person was just plain frustrated and ready to give up.

What had happened?

Both people either took a course or listened on-line to a “Expert” tell them how they should be shooting. They then made changes to their cameras following this advice and did not understand why they did it or how to undo the changes.

One person was told that “on the lens you should NEVER use the AF setting”, unfortunately they never explained that if you use the MF setting you need to manually focus the lens.  He was getting all out of focus pictures (okay a couple were in focus just by the fact that if your lens is set to 20′ sometime your subject will be at 20′). This was an easy fix (put lens back on AF) but I had to argue with him for 20 minutes that it would make his pictures better.  Once done he was so happy but confused how a “professional” would mislead him, I had to tell him that it was one person’s preference on how to shoot a specific situation and he only got a part of the information.

The second person was told that he should change a number of his custom settings, SO he did!  I understand why the teacher said to do that (again it was for a specific shooting situation and was not to be used for ALL photography), but with a novice photographer all he did was to confuse him, the changes were made and he could not get the camera back to the correct settings.  After changing the custom settings he was not able to get his camera to correctly focus or to get an exposure close to what it should be.  He sent his lens and camera back to Canon 3 times and each time was told it was fine (it was as long as you knew that it was no longer focusing using the shutter button, that the mirror lock up was on and a number of other changes were made).  In his case I reset of all the camera settings and he was back to having a great camera and lens.

PLEASE – before you make any changes to your camera, lens, or menus make a note of the changes (what and how) and if it doesn’t make it better set it back.  If someone tells you to make changes make sure that you understand why before you do so.

Some more work with a Full (or almost full moon)

I have been having a lot of fun these past few months shooting some work with full moons, or as it has been – almost a full moon.  In the past when I have wanted to shoot with the full moon more often than not I never knew when it was going to appear, or where on the horizon, and sky, it would be till it was too late. 

Then I got my hands on The Photographer’s Ephemeris ( and it has helped a lot with my planning of shoots, not only for the full moon but to know what stage the moon is in and where it is in the sky so I can shoot without the moon.  The other thing that I did was to add a calendar on my tablet to let me know the stages of the moon.  Using the two of these tools it has made shooting a lot easier.


The only problem that I have been having is that every full moon for the past several months it has been nice before the moon is full but then the day it is to be full and the days after it has been cloudy.  REALLY frustrating for trying to plan some shoots.  Add to that the light winds that we have been having and long exposures have not been fun.  The shoot shown below I had to shoot in RAW and then really add sharpening to take away from the shake of the camera and tripod because of the wind.

Moon & well
Moon & Well
Moon, Well & City Lights
Moon, Well & City Lights

Or if you want a picture without the moon and need to know that the moon will not be in the picture this is great as well.  Nothing like taking a picture with part of the moon in the picture and you did not want it there.

Oil Well
Oil Well

The other thing that I like about the programs that I am using is that I can locate the rising moon a week or more before and know exactly where the moon was going to rise.  I was always finding out too late that the moon was rising above a great landmark and I was not able to be there to catch it. A number of times I was driving home and watching the moon rise and would have loved to do a picture of the moon with something in front of it like the windmill picture below.  On my list still is to do a picture with the moon and a elevator and the moon and the reflection in a lake (one that is not frozen or with waves)

Rising Moon
Rising Moon

Depth of field

Depth of field is one area that I find people always are asking about so here are a couple pictures to help understand it a little better.

The lower/smaller the aperture

Smaller the number that you use, the shorter/narrower the depth of field.  So in the first picture I shot this using an aperture of f5.6.  Notice how the subject (the fence & wire) are sharp and the background is out of focus? Great to blur the background and to focus a viewers attention on a model or a bride.

f5.6 Narrow depth of field

In this picture I stood in the same spot but I changed the aperture to F10.  Notice how everything is in focus? This is good for groups of people or subjects that are not lined up in a perfect row. This can also cause the picture to look confusing as you do not know what the subject is. If not sure try a wide and a narrow.

F10 Wider depth of field

Using a short/narrow depth of field allows the photographer to separate the subject from the background. In a busy scene like the above images, this allows you to see the subject better. You are not be bothered by the busy background.  If you really want the effect to be dramatic then you need to get a lens that goes down to F1.8 or F2. That way you will really see the effect.


Having your focus a little off with a short depth of field will show in your subject being out of focus.  A longer depth of field can cover for bad focusing, a short depth of field will show bad focusing. As mentioned before if in doubt try both.

White Balance – What is it??

All digital cameras have the ability to adjust the White Balance. Unfortunately this is one of those areas that people adjust then forget what they did. Or worse yet where it was set when they started. Like all changes that you do to your camera you should always write down the setting that the camera was at to begin with. That way if you get lost, confused or interrupted then you know how to get back to the start.

What is white balance?

In years past when you went to buy a roll of film, most film sold was set to a daylight balance. Most photographers didn’t even realize the film they were buying was specifically balanced to take pictures in daylight only. Very few photographers knew that you actually could purchase film that was balanced for incandescent lighting, as well as fluorescent lighting. With digital cameras the manufactures have given each photographer the ability to select what the white balance is set to.

So why is this important?

When you would buy a roll of film that was balanced to daylight it would take great pictures outside on a sunny day. On overcast days the color would be slightly blue, in the shade and the color would actually be even bluer. If you took your film to get developed at a good quality lab they would correct this when printing. So grandma’s white sweater would look the same, or close to the same, color in all the pictures. But then people would take that same roll of daylight balanced film inside. They would take pictures under incandescent light (screw in light bulbs). Or fluorescent lights (the longer type bulbs used in schools, businesses, garages and churches) and the pictures would look horrible. If under fluorescent light the subject would have a sickly green/yellow cast. If under incandescent light the subject would have a yellow/red cast.


So when digital cameras came along the manufactures gave photographers the ability to select the white balance that they wanted. But without knowing what white balance is many photographers are getting pictures that have major color issues. They do not realize it is as easy as changing a setting on the camera.

So what are the choices (please note that some cameras have a lot more choices than what I am listing below and some have less, also all the sample pictures are taken in daylight. If you would select other combination’s for other light sources you would get different results).


Auto white balance (AWB) When the camera is set to auto white balance, the camera will read the color of the light entering the camera and set the white balance accordingly. This is great in changing light conditions such as moving inside from taking pictures outside. Or when you’re taking pictures in a mixed light situation. Works in 90 – 95% of the time.

Auto White Balance setting

Still more

Sunny or Daylight Balance – setting the camera to the sunny setting sets the camera so it will take great pictures when pictures are taken outside under bright sunlight (colors will look correct). The problem with this setting, is that when you move inside and take pictures under artificial light. The images tend to come out either very yellow, or very green depending upon the light source.

Sunny White Balance

Incandescent lights – This setting is designed for taking pictures inside with artificial light cast by the screw in type of light bulb. With this setting the camera adds cyan and blue to the image, It compensates for the yellow cast from a light bulb. If you use this setting outside, under natural sunlight in your images would turn very blue. People would look like Smurfs.

Tungsten White Balance

Fluorescent lights – This setting is designed for taking pictures inside with artificial light cast by a fluorescent bulb. With this setting the camera adds magenta and blue to the image, This compensates for the green cast from the fluorescent light bulb. If you use this setting outside your images would be very purple and red.

Fluorescent White Balance

and more

Cloudy balance – This setting is designed to add a little bit of yellow, and a little bit of red to the images that you take. When you take pictures on a cloudy day the images tend to look a little cold if you had used the daylight balance. If you selected shadow balance the images will look a little warm.

Cloudy White Balance

Shadow balance – the shadow balance is similar to the cloudy balance. It adds red and yellow to the image to compensate for the shade that you are taking the picture in. (Similar look to the above image)

Flash balance – camera manufacturers have added a white balance that sets the camera to the color that the flash. As camera flashes are designed to be close to daylight this setting is close to a daylight balance.

Custom white balance – custom white balance is used by photographers that shoot in the studio. Or use studio lights on location. This setting allows the photographer to set the camera white balance so that the lights make the image look like it was shot during the daytime. Unless you are using studio lights this setting will really not benefit you. It can be used in difficult lighting situations as well but is for the more advanced photographer.

Kelvin – this setting is not on all digital cameras. It tends to show up on the higher end cameras, or cameras that are used by professional photographers. This allows the photographer to actually set the white balance manually. Best if used with a light meter that can read the color of the light, again for the more advanced photographer.

Another GREAT Waterton Workshop

September 25 saw a Waterton Workshop about painting with light. The only thing that I can say is that I have never had such good weather in Waterton.  Started at 7pm and the class was suppose to go till 9pm and we finished well after 10!  The wind was not even a slight breeze. The temperature was in the mid 20’s and the subjects just would not let us finish.  It was so warm after the course at 11pm that many people were out walking, biking and boarding till after midnight.   Made for a great time for all in Waterton but a lot of tired people the next day!

Fire Waterton Workshop
Cameron Falls
Cameron Falls
Lights & Bridge
Lights & Bridge
Painting With Light
Painting With Light

Then on Saturday the winds came up but the temperature was great.  It allowed us to do the old stand by of The Tree & Cameron Falls as well as Jesse’s Falls, Cameron Lake and Red Rock Canyon.  With the early evening Red Rock was lite like I have never seen it, add to that the fact the water was low and it made for a great photo opportunity!

The Tree
The Tree
Getting wet for the picture
Getting wet for the picture at the Waterton Workshop
Getting the picture Waterton Workshop
Getting the picture
Red Rock 1
Red Rock 1
Red Rock 2 Waterton Workshop
Red Rock 2