Air Shows in RBL (Really Bad Light)
Also in this issue:
- The best Sony cameras So Far (video)
- I'll speak to your camera club - for FREE!
- New Facebook Group for Portrait Photographers of all levels
- RX-10 IV ebook coming
- And more...
In the Pipeline
My Sony RX-10 IV arrived earlier today (amazing camera), which means the new ebook is just a couple of months away. I'll also be working on the just-announced Sony A7R III once it ships. Email me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com to be notified when either of these are ready!
Sony A9 and Fujifilm X-100F .epub and .mobi files are finally done. Owners should already have been notified.
Olympus E-M1 II .epub and .mobi files are next; and yes, you'll be automatically notified when they're done.
I'll Speak at your Camera Club - for FREE!!!
You read that right. And I'll go anywhere in the world to do it. Camera clubs love my talks because I often force people to challenge their own long-held beliefs. Have your camera club president contact me for details.
A New Facebook Group for Portrait Photographers
A new FB group centering around portrait photography and lighting has been started by master Portrait Photographer Brian Ramage. All are welcome to join, no matter the skill level. (I've been named an administrator to the group - I'm very proud.) More info here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LearnPortraitPhotography/ Come join us!
The Best Sony Cameras So Far
(Footnote: I should have mentioned the A7S and/or A7S II. This is what happens when you don't use a teleprompter. :-) )
Air Shows in RBL (Really Bad Light)
|Really hard to do. These guys make it look easy!|
It seems that there's a conspiracy against photographers by people who plan air shows. I'm speaking particularly about the Huntington Beach, California air show in my home town. It's a great tourist event, but they always schedule it at the time of day when you have to look into the sun in order to see the planes. Fine if you're a spectator; awful if you plan on using a camera.
So what did I do? Here's a short laundry list of techniques that, taken together, increased my chances of a usable shot.
- A6500 with FE 70-200 f/4 (hey, 11 fps is no slouch!)
- RX-10 II with the built-in 24-200 f/2.8 lens (the RX-10 IV with it's 24-600mm lens would have been ideal here, but mine still had not arrived at that time)
- A77 II with Minolta 100-300mm APO
- Sony A700 (!) because my wife had a hard time seeing through the other cameras' EVFs on such a bright day. So I dusted off this DSLR with an optical viewfinder.
So which one came out with the best results?
Let's start with the RX-10 II. I gave it to one of the grandkids, set it to .jpg only, and enabled Digital Zoom feature, turning it into a 24-800mm lens. Yuk! It could track the planes OK but the results we got from the Digital Zoom feature pretty much validates my recommendation not to use this feature unless you're shooting video. (Click on any image to view it larger.)
|Digital Zoom will essentially crop your image so the subject appears larger within the frame; then it will up-sample it back to 20 MP, making it look worse than a .jpg from 2001. This is from the RX-10 II.|
|The RX-10 II does exceptionally well with its native lens range, though. Moral to the story: Don't use the digital zoom feature.|
The A77 II did a little better with an effective focal length of 450mm, but it had a (relatively) harder time acquiring initial focus.
The worst AF acquisition and tracking performance was the decade-old A700, which is no surprise and serves as a reminder of just how far modern cameras have come. When the planes were far away, they would be positioned between the phase-detect autofocus points and the AF just got confused.
The best AF tracking and best image quality (due to that awesome white Sony lens) was the A6500. Even when the planes were far away, it never got between focus points because there are SO MANY baked-in PDAF points that it was impossible to miss the tiny speck. :-)
|No tiny specs here. Straight-out-of-camera .jpg from the A6500. The planes were literally overhead, making this the only shot where the light was good. 11 fps and AF-C mode was enough to capture the right moment.|
Now then, the bad light. There were a few situations where I had warnings that the planes were coming behind me; for those I could turn around and for a precious few seconds I had good light. That's the A6500 image posted above. The rest I had to shoot RAW and post-process to brighten the shadows (since the planes were backlit, they were ALL shadow).
Here's what the controls looked like:
|Here's the initial RAW file with no adjustments.|
|Step 1: Move the "Shadows" slider to the right, lightening the shadows.|
|Step 3: Back to the "Basic" panel, increased the saturation and vibrance, and moved the blue-yellow slider away from the blue to let the other colors stand out.|
Here's a situation where shooting RAW provides your best hope of having the images pop. Or does it? Just for fun I took the out-of-camera .jpg and applied the same tweaks as outlined above, using Photoshop's RAW camera filter:
Moral: .jpgs are more malleable than you thought. :-)
So now I have shots that are just like 98% of the other competent photographers that were at the event. What can I do to make mine stand out a little bit? One trick I have up my sleeve is to convert it to B&W ("It's more artistic!") but keep a tinge of color. So I de-saturated most, but not all, of the colors.
|Here's the original image.|
After cropping, here's what I did in Lightroom:
|Raise the shadows, and darken the blacks.|
|Played with the curves until it looked "right" to me.|
|Under HSL / Color / B&W, I clicked on "Color" and desaturated only the blue channel|
Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman