Thursday, June 4, 2009

DSLR Sensor Cleaning

I just updated my two year old post on sensor cleaning with my latest process changes. The biggest change is how I scrub the sensor with swabs and links to the equipment that I use to do it.

Arctic Butterfly Sl 700

Sensor Brushes

Type 1 Sensor Swab

Type 2 Sensor Swab

Type 3 Sensor Swab

Eclipse Cleaning Solution


The photo above is from my backpacking trip last October in Sequoia National Park. This photo was taken just after a very large storm at twilight from Crabtree Meadows. Just to the left of that mountain in the center and barely visible is Mt. Whitney. The storm came on suddenly and left a lot of people stranded on Whitney. The next morning we heard and saw a dozen or more helicopters rescuing hikers. Many of them were day hikers that weren't prepared.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Field Guide 101: Landscapes

Mono Lake, California

Copyright © 2009 Chris Bensen. All rights reserved.

One of the most common questions I get and see around the internet is, "what's the most desirable focal length for landscape photography?" If I'm at a show I point out some of my photographs and the focal length that I used showing them that I use all focal lengths and that I tend to use the extremes. I want to get a new perspective to the scene giving the viewer something unique to look at. This does two things, it sets my photography apart from other photographers and it might just give someone a reason to look at my pictures.

Just remember to emphasize what is important about the landscape.

The photo above is stitched from 12 photos at 35mm taken from a very interesting vantage point of Mono Lake in the late fall.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bird Butt

One of the first things as a beginning wildlife photographer you have to learn is how to avoid getting what I call "Bird Butt". Every animal has it and it is difficult to not get it. Animals move away from the photographer, that is their natural instinct. I'd do the same if I were in their position. There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of "Bird Butt" moments you capture.

Anticipate. When I first started getting into wildlife photography I traveled to Yellowstone and I ran into a photographer who gave me a tip, "anticipate the animal, learn how they graze, then set yourself up for a great shot that might happen. That way if you get it you will have gotten a great shot and not a dozen mediocre shots."

Patience. When photographing birds they are very skittish. You need to sit in one place and wait a while. Some achieve great levels of success with blinds and other tools, I just simply get them used to me and don't make any suddent moves. Also using a long lens can help but I like to get some of the animals natural habitat.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shooting RAW + JPEG

I have always shot RAW for the many advantages RAW offers in image quality over JPEG. With the latest release of Aperture 2.0 I have found it very easy to work with large RAW files, but recently I started shooting RAW + JPEG for one simple reason, backup. Now this isn't a great backup mechanism, but any storage device (CD, DVD, Hard Disk or Compact Flash card can fail). This simple stupid backup mechanism should reduce the possibility of completely loosing an image if a sector or two of your Compact Flash (CF) card die. A sector is what holds the data on a storage device. See Wikipedia's defenition of sector for more information here. Dead sectors can occur at any time even with the best memory cards. It does happen less frequently with the best memory cards because only the creme of the crop makes it to be the best memory cards like the Sandisk Extreme IV. I always use the best SanDisk cards I can get, starting with the Ultra II, Extreme III and now the Extreme IV. To date my Extreme IV cards have not had any corrupt sectors but they are also my newest CF cards.

So how does shooting RAW + JPEG avoid loosing an image completely? Well at least in the event of a failure the chances of a failure happening in two sectors is less likely than it happening in one sector. Since the RAW file and the JPEG file are separate files, one sector dieing will not affect the other file.

Of course the best solution is having RAID in the camera like the Nikon D3. The Canon 1D series cameras have a similar two card design but they use a CF card and a SD card requiring the user to have two different types of memory cards in order to utilize both card slots. Lame. I really hope that Canon fixes this in the future.