Category Archives: B&H Photo/Video

Air Shows with my 60D

Recently I wrote about using my Olympus E-M5 at an air show, and I mentioned that I would share my thoughts about using my Canon 60D in another post.  Well, here it is!

I’ve been using Canon DSLR’s at air shows for many years now.  Starting with my Canon XT, then my 40D, and now my 60D.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve used that XT, but going back through my photos I see that the results were mixed, in other words – not that good.  Some of it was due to the XT being very slow.  Slow to focus and a slow frame rate (3 fps approx.).  Most of it was due to my lack of skill or technique.  It was easy to fix the “slow” camera part, I bought the 40D.  The 40D was superior in every way compared to the XT.  And to be fair, I went back to my archives of 40D air show photos, and they were indeed better.  At least most of them.

How do I know they are better?  Good question!  I have a very bad habit of keeping almost all of my photos, good and bad.  Unless they are very, very bad, I tend to keep them.  This may seem like a silly waste of hard drive space, but I actually do go back to them and try to learn what went wrong.  In almost all instances, the fault was with me.  Poor technique.  If I could consistently follow a plane in the air and pan smoothly while firing off a few frames, I’d usually nail a couple of them.  If I was off by just a little, the camera wouldn’t focus where I thought it should and I would miss the shot.  Then it would hunt back and forth trying to lock on.

Fast forward.  The 40D has been replaced with the 60D.  I’ve been to many air shows and other aviation related events and practiced.  My results have been improving and overall I’m pleased, both with my equipment and my technique.  The 60D is perfectly capable of air show photography, within it’s limitations (and mine).

What limitations?  Another good question!  I’ve shot alongside some very talented photographers, and some high dollar equipment.  Hopefully this doesn’t come across as gear envy because I certainly don’t mean it that way.  But being a guy that likes gear (yes, I still do believe that it’s the photographer that makes the photo), I can’t help but notice some of the differences.  It doesn’t really matter what the other guy is using (usually a high dollar Canon or Nikon), I can just tell that they may not have the same limitations with their equipment as I do with mine.  I’m ok with the limitations and try to work within them (just like I do when I use my E-M5).

The Canon 60D isn’t quite obsolete yet.  It is still being sold in many camera stores such as B&H and Adorama.  It is however, at least a few years old now and a generation behind in technology.  Does that mean it can’t be used anymore and it’s time to upgrade?  I’d have to say no!  While the processor and sensor aren’t the latest and greatest, I find the image quality to be more than acceptable.  The 60D has a great auto focus system (phase detection) and in AI Servo mode, does a very good job of tracking a subject.  There aren’t as many focus points available as in the newer models, but I tend to keep mine on the center points anyway.  I’d say the biggest limitation is the frame rate (fps).  The 60D tops out at 5.5 fps.  For fast action photography, that’s on the slow side.  In fact, when the action is really heavy, I’ve missed some shots during peak times because it happened in-between frames.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen.  Knowing this and working with this particular limitation means that I need to anticipate the action a little more, and time my shots better.

I’ve been told that my 60D is more of a landscape camera than an action camera.  That may or may not be true.  I’ve used it for Little League games, auto racing, and yes, landscapes.  I think of it more as a very versatile tool, able to be used for more than just special situations.  The same thing goes for one of my main lenses, a Tamron 200-500.  I love the reach of this very large lens, but it is also slow.  It takes it a while to lock focus, especially if it starts hunting back and forth.  Sometimes I’ll switch it to manual and dial it in just to get it back in the game.  Is there a remedy for this?  Probably not with this lens.  I think I’m going to rent a Canon “L” lens for the next air show.  I actually had an “L” lens in the past and there is a difference.  The “L” lens is quiet and lighting fast in comparison to my Tamron.

To sum it up, I’d like to say that both my Canon 60D and my Olympus E-M5 may not be the best tools available for what I am using them for, but they aren’t the worst either.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, like all cameras.  To be successful you need to know your equipment and work within its limitations.  If you’re wondering what you may be missing by not having the latest and greatest, then consider renting.  If you can afford to chase technology or want the latest/greatest, then by all means go for it!  For me at least, I’m going to work with what I have.

Here are some of the results from my last air show using my 60D at the LA County Air Show.

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

Sensor Cleaning

Sensor cleaning is not something to get excited about.  It’s kind of like having to go to the dentist for a toothache.  Unfortunately it’s just one of those things that needs to be done from time to time.

For me, it’s my Canon 60D that needed the attention.  I’ve been noticing some annoying spots on many of my pictures, especially those that have clear, blue sky in them.  Pesky spots that need to be either cropped out or cloned out.  A real pain in the neck!

The thought had crossed my mind of sending my 60D to Canon for a “Professional” cleaning.  Researching this option discouraged me.  Seems there are lot of people complaining that either their camera came back just as dirty or sometimes even worse than when it was sent in.

My browsing led me to B&H, one of my favorite online camera shops.  I found the Sensor KlearLoupe Kit by Lenspen.  This little kit came with a lighted loupe for really seeing what is stuck to my sensor, and a nice articulating cleaning pen for reaching in and wiping away the dust.  It also came with a nice Hurricane Blower.

LensPen SensorKlear Loupe

Following the included instructions, I put the 60D into manual sensor cleaning mode, locking up the mirror so I had a clear, unobstructed view of the sensor. The loupe rests against the body of camera, and there is an adjustment for height. Once I got it dialed in, I could clearly see the little bits of dust on the sensor.

LensPen SensorKlear Loupe

The instructions mention trying to use the blower to remove the dust. That didn’t work ,so I put the loupe back on and started to use the pen. I could see that I was removing the little dust specks, but when I put the lens back on and took a test shot, I could see some dust had appeared again. It took several more attempts to get ride of the dust. I was pleased about that, but discovered something else. There is some dust stuck to the bottom of the prism. I can see it through the viewfinder, but it doesn’t affect the pictures.

LensPen SensorKlear Loupe

Cleaning the mirror or prism isn’t recommended. For now, I’m going to leave it and do some more research. It’s not really a problem that affects image quality, but it still bugs me! There may be a part 2 to this post if I’m able to find anything helpful about this.

That’s it for now.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

So You Got A New Camera…Now What?

You got a fancy new camera for Christmas, great!  You’re ready to step up from your old Point & Shoot (P&S), right?  Maybe you’ve even taken pictures with your new rig, and the frustrating part is that the photos may not seem much better than what you were able to do with that little P&S.

All of those settings can seem intimidating at first.  Having an understanding of what they do can really improve your photography.  However, in the end, the camera is just a tool.  The real image is created by you, your vision, how you see the world.  That doesn’t mean that the camera is completely unimportant, it definitely has a role to play.  Learning how to use it properly allows you to focus on your image and gets the camera out of the way.

There’s all kinds of well meaning advice out there, including this post.  I’m not going to say that my way is the only way or the best.  It’s taken me many years of learning, trying, and making mistakes to get when I am.  And where I am is on the path of learning, trying, and making mistakes!  That’s one of the things I love about photography, there is so much to learn, and it never gets old, at least for me.

So where do you start?  Read the manual, take a class, trail and error, all of the above?  Yes, all of the above!  Here is my advice – take it with a grain of salt because your results may vary from mine:

RTFM (read the &%$#ing manual).  This is a good place to start.  Learn where everything is on your camera.  Make it second nature so that when you’re busy making that image, you aren’t fumbling with nobs and dials.

Take a class.  There are plenty of on-line courses that you can pay for, and a lot of free information too.  Years ago in my film camera days, I took a course with the New York Institute of Photography.  Click on the link and check it out.  It wasn’t cheap, but I got a lot out of it, and proudly display my diploma!

Another good website offering on-line courses is BetterPhoto.com  I know some folks that have taken their courses, and watched as their photography went from snapshots to great-shots!

I mentioned free information and here are a couple of places for you to go for that:

B&H Photo/Video – The equipment Superstore!  They also have some great free information.  Click on this link and you’ll find a great article on “Getting the Most From Your New DSLR”.

Adorama – The next equipment Superstore (and where I get most of my stuff).  Adorama has a great learning center.  I’ve really enjoyed their video presentations on all subjects related to photography.  Click on this link to their “Beginner” series of information.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Keep it simple.  Determine not only what to include in your image, but what not to include.  Be sure to look up, back, and down.  Many photographers only photograph the obvious.
  • If you want your work to stand out from the crowd, don’t be afraid to try something different (low or high point of view, unique angle, etc…).
  • There are times when it’s ok to just have fun and take snapshots!
  • There are many forms of photography.  Find a couple that really interest you and learn all about them.  Examples – portraits, pets, black & white, landscapes, babies, HDR, and many more.  Once you find your niche, dig in and have fun!

My final piece of advice – don’t be afraid to push that shutter button!  You have to practice, and the wonderful thing about digital photography is there’s no extra cost for developing your photos.  Take your camera with you wherever you go, and take pictures.  Look them over, even the bad ones.  You can learn a lot from your mistakes.

I’ll leave you with this quote, “A true work of art is the creation of love, love for the subject first and for the medium second”.
~ Elliot Porter

Got questions?  Don’t be afraid to post them here and I’ll do my best to answer!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!