Saturday, January 23, 2010

First UW shots with Canon MKIV

I've been in Cayman this week shooting a catalog for Subgear (a new product line from those who brought us Scubapro). As it was a comercial shoot, I couldn't experiment with new gear too much, but as the first two days of the project were ultra-productive, I felt I could spare some time to try out my new camera on the final shoot day. So, just yesterday I got around to shooting with my Canon MKIV in my Seacam MKIII housing. Prior to that I'd been shooting my 5DMKII.

A few first impressions on MKIV:

1. Holy crap ... AF is so nice. Very fast and accurate, even in low contrast subjects like black wetsuits. Focus acquisition is brilliant. Having shot my 5DII in similar conditions the 2 previous days, the improvement is striking.
2. Studying the files, I very much like what I see. I assume a the full frame sensor will always have resolution advantages over a cropped sensor, all else being equal. The extra real estate on the sensor is meaningful. No surprise there, but the MKIV with it's 1.3 crop fares quite well in comparison.
3. The combination of my 1DsMKIII at full frame and MKIV with cropped sensor and 10 frames per second, in same housing, is very compelling for me.
4. MKIV hits color quite well also. The topside stuff I shot in auto white balance is spot on, no slider controls necessary in Lightroom.
5. The 16-35II isn't as wide as I'd like at the wide end for photographing divers, but becomes a better fish portrait lens at 35mm. I expect I'll use it quite a bit in the Maldives in 2 weeks since I'm not shooting people much.
6. The big advantage is the AF focus. For UW use, it is quite fast and accurate. Can't remember any searching at all, but I only shot wide on this project. Still, I expect it to be stellar with 100mm macro as well.
7. And finally, while I haven't tested extensively, the 14mm II looks like it gains new life with the cropped sensor. Quite impressive. (Superdome and PVL20) The performance of the 14mm II as a wide prime with excellent depth of field, nice corners, and sharp focus is very, very promising. More on that after the Maldives trip.

The few product shots with MKIV are herein sized too small to see meaningful resolution judgment. They are extremely nice files though, very impressive in full res.

Note that the Seacam housing for the MKIII accepts the MKIV, and that should be the same for all existing MKIII housings. Seacam will make a MKIV housing as well, as will many others given the quality of this camera and the higher resolution 1DsMKIV we assume to be coming as well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Story Behind the Shot - Tiger Eats Video

I was off West End Grand Bahama, at Tiger Beach. For three days we’d had nothing but lemon sharks and were starting to despair, for our objective was to photograph a tiger shark. On the afternoon of our final shoot day this big tiger came in, full of attitude. The lemons were very deferential, but the tiger moved slowly, never with any implied threat. But, then he took great interest in our videographer. Maybe it was something about an electrical impulse given off by the camera, or maybe a noise when the tape was running. At any rate, she took several very close passes at the cameraman, and on this one the tiger shark actually opened its mouth, grabbed the video camera and swam away with it.

The shark didn’t eat it, and in fact spat it out a short distance away. But, the tape was running the whole time and gave us some pretty good chuckles back on the boat reviewing that particular footage!

To see the whole episode on YouTube, visit:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SEACAM on Location - David Ellis Shoots for Medtronic

This was a big week for our SEACAM rental housings to be out on location. We had rented a housing for a Canon 5DMKII to a Hollywood feature film crew shooting a movie about Navy Seals, actually with Navy Seals. The photo team had to rendezvous with a submarine off Key West. Interestingly, given all to action sequences necessary, the mobility and video image quality of the 5DMKII is sufficient to shoot a feature film. Incredible really.

At the same time, lifestyle shooter David Ellis had booked our SEACAM housing for the Canon 1DsMKIII for an ad campaign he was shooting in a pool in Miami Beach for medical equipment manufacturer Medtronic. David is a very experienced topside shooter, but when the job called for over/unders in the pool, he knew he had to rent the gear and figured he might as well rent some equipment expertise as well. So I went on location with him to make sure everything was set up properly and operating with precision. After all, once the talent and assistants and wardrobe and location are all booked, and the clients and art director flies in from out of town; shoot day is not the time to to suffer any distractions or impediments to success!

David did a great job, and have no doubt this will be a very strong ad campaign. The swivel 45-degree viewfinder allowed him to keep his head out of the water and better communicate with his models, and the variable power and quick recycle of the SEAFLASH 150 made for a very useful fill light as the models were shaded by the scrim.

BTW ... I shot all these production stills with my newest camera, a Canon EOS 1DMKIV. Beautiful camera, with incredible color rendition. This is the first time I never played with the color sliders in Lightroom at all. Normally I make tweaks to every file every time. This was auto-white balance and really pretty amazing. None of these shots are adjusted for color.

I'll have to do a lot more testing with various subjects before the MKIV becomes as second nature as some of my other Canon bodies, but as the ergonomics are so similar to my MKIII bodies, I'm sure the migration will be quick and painless.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Orange Bowl Swim Classic_2010

January 3 was a very cold day, by Key Largo standards. It was mid-50s but bright sunshine as I photographed another of our annual Orange Bowl swim meets.

Hosted by the Jacobs Aquatic Center, the same pool where I swim for exercise most mornings, the OBSC brought in about a dozen teams, including powerhouse University of Michigan, coached by our friend Mike Bottom.

Andy Newman of Stuart Newman PR was there shooting topside, and both of us were tasked to get some images that Andy would then upload to the Associated Press to get publicity for the event. My personal challenge was to shoot the event differently than I'd done before, without actually interfering with the swimmers as they competed.

Most of the swimming shots done with Canon 1DMKIII, chosen for the 10-frame-per-second motor drive capability. I used my Seacam housing with swivel-45 viewfinder so that I could easily compose the over/unders. Most were shot with Canon 15mm fisheye lens. The motion blurs were with 1DsMKIII for high res.