01 January 2021

Thoughts on planning / atmospheric conditions for photographers

Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers: Notes on planning and application for the serious photographer
Earlier this morning I posted about a question of any 'Photoshop' applied in one of my in-flight images - with the intention of asking if the image was manipulated in any way.

Read: Bird in Flight image photoshopped or not?

As a photographer I am a little concerned that people would think like that, but nevertheless see it as a compliment - especially where the photographer planned for achieving specific results.

For my own birds in flight photography around Woodbridge Island, Cape Town I look at two environmental variables very seriously: (i) available morning light and (ii) atmospheric conditions (wind / sun / clouds et al) before going out for a session.

My 'check' for best value photography is seen in the attached image: for the absolute best conditions this is what I look / plan for (when I look out the window). So its quite possible that some people may think Photoshop played any role in the outcome of certain images.

Unfortunately, days like this on the image is far and few between. I wait it out and when the going is good, I get going. It doesn't mean we don't should around here in any other conditions.

It is also important to note that the serious photographer should be able to shoot in many different light conditions. Light is probably our biggest advantage, but without appropriate light, the challenges will increase thinking and planning (without rushing out to purchase higher-quality equipment).

We all use different levels of post-processing . I believe the serious photographer will (only) attempt to improve the well-planned shot in terms of slight adjustment(s) in the exposure and / or the composition, without altering the original 'naturalness' of the image.

Image created with Canon EOS 700D / Canon EF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens (on Manfrotto Compact tripod) from Arnhem Milnerton towards the main bridge at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town.

Source>>  Woodbridge Island Photography

Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography View

Taking advantage of good natural light

Birds in Flight Photography. Grey heron in early morning light... 

The heron was captured with an (almost) entry-level Canon EOS 700D and 1st generation EF 70-300mm lens at Woodbridge Island.

Taking advantage of good light
Grey Heron in Flight over the Milnerton Lagoon, Woodbridge Island

Its not always about having the fastest camera / (longest) lens combination, for me, at the time, the quality of light was the most important criteria. A fast shutter speed came in handy as well. This is a JPG image straight out of camera with minimal cropping (if any).

The image was captured on an typical African summer's morning, but still very early in the morning (less than an hour after sun rise). Seeing a grey heron so close was really unexpected, but with its relatively slow flight speed I had enough time to adjust the zoom for an almost full frame capture.

The small aperture used / and the fact that the bird was so close to the background did not provide for any background blur in the image, but at least the f/9.5 aperture provided for a relativity sharp subject.

Canon Camera / Lens / EXIF Data
  • Canon EOS 700D
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens
  • ISO 1600
  • Aperture f/9.5
  • Shutter Speed 1/2000s
  • Focal length: 190mm
  • Lens IS turned off

More about Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography

Canon Speedlite Flash Training Milnerton

Canon Speedlite Flash Training Classes Cape Town
Canon Speedlite Flash Training Objectives
  • Learn how to effectively setup and manage your Canon Speedlite and / or built-in pop-up flash
  • Identify different light sources and how to balance flash and ambient light
  • Master the difference between E-TTL (II) and Manual flash modes - when to use which flash mode
  • Hands-on demonstration on how to effectively use bounce flash
  • Learn how to use your Speedlite outside for close-up nature photography
  • Understand and configure optical and wireless flash - this will be Speedlite dependent)

Training Facilitation
Canon Speedlite Flash Training classes are facilitated in Milnerton, Cape Town.

Cost per Delegate: R1 900-00. Two Sessions (25% discount if you've attended any of my previous workshops).

Accommodation for Photographers
Vernon Chalmers photography training is facilitated from a self-catering apartment in Arnhem, Milnerton (opposite Woodbridge Island) with an option for local and international photographers to overnight during the various training sessions. Optional accommodation will be calculated at reduced rates into the Photography Training Proposal / Invoicing. More Information

Photography Gift Training Voucher
Canon Speedlite Flash training is available as a Birthday / Christmas Gift training voucher option with a one year validity period. It could also form part of general Canon camera training option as well. More information

Method of PaymentPayment Options>>

What to bring
Canon EOS DSLR body / lens and any Canon Speedlite EX E-TTL flash (or just a Canon EOS DSLR body with a built-in flash).

Canon Speedlite Flash Training /  Workshops Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D @ 70mm / Canon 430 EX II (Bounced)
Photographers new to Canon Flash also welcome to attend
You don't necessarily have to own a Canon Speedlite flash for attending this training. Many of the flash technologies in Canon Speedlite flashes are also embedded in the pop-up / built-in flash on any APS-C Canon EOS DSLR (i.e. E-TTL / Manual Modes / Flash Exposure).

The pop-up / built-in flash settings are accessible and controlled via the flash control settings in the red menu section of most of the latest Canon EOS DSLR bodies.

The understanding and management of Canon flash properties are the same and the private training / workshop will provide a good opportunity for new photographers to learn how to apply ETT-L (II) / Manual Flash Modes for application in low light photography and / or other (indoor / outdoor) creative exposures.

Canon Speedlite flash provides various on and off-camera opportunities for improving / manipulating light(ing) conditions, but the fundamental flash and ambient light principles are the same.

All standard Canon exposure modes [Program (P) / Aperture Priority (Av) / Shutter Priority (Tv) / Manual (M) Modes] will be referenced throughout the training sessions with regard to Speedlite flash / ambient light(ing) strategies ito:
  • ISO
  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed

Canon Speedlite Workshop / Private Training Learning Areas

Session 1 
  • Introduction to Flash Photography 
  • Canon Flash / Canon Speedlites
  • Light(ing) Considerations 
  • Camera Exposure Settings 
  • On-camera / Speedlite Settings 
  • Balancing Flash and Ambient Light
  • Guidance / Demonstrations (during presentation) 

Session 2 
  • Flash Exposure Modes (E-TTL / Manual)
  • Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) Control (E-TTL Mode)
  • Flash Exposure Bracketing (FEB)
  • Flash Power Settings (Manual Mode)
  • When to use High Speed Sync (HSS) Flash 
  • Using Speedlites with Modifiers
  • Off-Camera / Wireless (Master / Slave) Flash 
  • Macro Ring Lite Flash
  • Guidance / Demonstrations (during presentation) 

Canon Speedlites referenced during the workshop

  • Canon Speedlite 90EX
  • Canon Speedlite 270EX II
  • Canon Speedlite 320 EX 
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX II
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX II
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT
  • Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (II)
  • Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II
  • Canon Macro Ring Lite MT-24EX

Compatible Canon EOS Bodies for Wireless Flash Control*

  • Canon EOS 600D 
  • Canon EOS 650D / EOS 700D / EOS 800D
  • Canon EOS 750D / EOS 760D / EOS 77D
  • Canon EOS 60D / EOS 70D 
  • Canon EOS 80D 
  • Canon EOS 7D 
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
* Canon Full Frame bodies does not have built-in pop-up flash units and therefore requires an external flash / wireless transmitter with built-in wireless (master) control i.e Canon Speedlite 580EX II or Canon Speedlite Wireless Transmitter ST-E2.

Contact Me for more information

Canon Speedlite Flash Examples (with Canon EOS 6D / EOS 70D)

(Click to Enlarge)
Canon Speedlite Flash Training /  Workshops Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D / 100mm Macro Lens / Canon 430 EX II Speedlite Flash (Bounced)

Canon Speedlite Flash Training /  Workshops Cape Town
Canon EOS 70D / 100mm Macro Lens / Canon 430EX II Speedlite Flash with Diffuser

 Small butterfly with Canon Speedlite Flash
 Small butterfly with Canon EOS 6D / EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens

Food Photography with Canon EOS 6D / 100mm Macro lens and Ring Lite MR-14EX II flash

Canon EOS 6D  / Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens / Canon 430EX III-RT Speedlite Flash with Diffuser
Canon EOS 6D  / 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens / Canon 430EX III-RT Speedlite Flash with Diffuser

Photography Private Training Courses Cape Town
  • Introduction to Photography / Canon Cameras More 
  • Canon EOS Autofocus / AI Servo Master Class More
  • Birds in Flight Photography Workshop More
  • Canon Speedlite / Ring Lite Flash Photography Workshop More
  • Macro / Close-Up Photography Workshop More
  • Landscape / Long Exposure Photography Workshop More
  • Digital Workflow / Lightroom Post-Processing Workshop More

Overpowering the midday sun with Speedlite Flash

Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
All three sample images were captured between 12:00 – 13:00 on a bright sunny day earlier in the week. We generally shoot flowers and insects in softer morning light, but this is not always possible for the photographer.

Butterfly and small flowers were captured with my Canon EOS 6D / EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens with a Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT flash (with its proprietary white plastic Stofen-like diffuser covering the flash head).

For overpowering the strong sun light I selected the fastest sync speed of the Canon EOS 6D (1/180s) and small(er) apertures (f/11 - f/16) for providing a relativity dark ambient exposure.

Using High-Speed Sinc (HSS) will provide an even darker ambient exposure. Most Canon DSLRs (and Canon E-TTL / E-TTL II Speedlite flashes) will have HSS for the built-in flash and / or external Speedlite flash.

Speedlite flash head was tilted slightly upwards (for minimising direct flash light on the subjects). Speedlite was used in E-TTL mode.

Camera Exposure Settings
Av Mode: f/11 - f/16 / ISO 400 / 1/180s - the highest shutter flash sync speed not using HSS (on the EOS 6D, some cameras like the EOS 70D / 7D Mark II, HSS is 1/250s).

Images post-processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 8.2

Canon Speedlite Flash Resources

Overpowering the sun with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers
Small butterfly with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers

Overpowering the sun with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers
Small flowers with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers

Overpowering the sun with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers
Small butterfly with Canon Speedlite Flash - Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers

Canon Speedlite Flash Training Classes, Milnerton Cape Town View

Canon EOS 6D Bulb Mode / Long Exposure Photography Images

Canon EOS 6D Long Exposure Photography Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D / EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Ultra-Wide Lens : Long Exposure Photography using Bulb (B) Mode

Objective: Demonstrating long exposure photography using the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Ultra-Wide lens (paired with the Full Frame Canon EOS 6D) across the old wooden bridge, Milnerton Lagoon and Otto du Plessis Drive Woodbridge Island bridges, Milnerton Cape Town.

Note: All four images captured in Bulb Mode, on Manfrotto tripod and Canon remote cable release. Post-processing with regard to cropping and lens profile correction were done in Photoshop Lightroom 6.

What is Bulb Mode? (as applied in Long Exposure Photography)
By default a Canon EOS DSLR (most other DSLR's as well) is limited to a maximum of a 30 seconds (displayed as 30″) exposure duration - the actual time that the shutter will remain open in Manual Mode / Aperture Priority (Av) Mode / Shutter Priority (Tv) Mode. 

Bulb Mode allows the shutter to stay open beyond the 30 seconds limitation by either pressing and releasing the shutter button manually or using a variety of remote switches / cable releases - acting as a manual timer. 

Long exposure photography of minutes and up to hours (depending on the photographer's long exposure requirements) are capable with Bulb Mode. All other exposure settings are available in Bulb Mode just like Manual Mode.

Bulb Mode Placement on EOS DSLRs
On enthusiast and professional Canon EOS bodies Bulb Mode is designated as a dedicated "B" for Bulb Mode on the Mode Dial. On entry level Canon EOS bodies Bulb mode is embedded as part of Shutter Priority (Tv.) Mode's shutter timer settings.

Shooting Location
Woodbridge Island / Cape Town

Canon EOS 6D Bulb Mode / Settings / 
  • Bulb Mode
  • ISO 200
  • Aperture: f/16 
  • Shutter Speed (53s - 180s)
  • Manual Focus / Lens IS Off
  • Canon RS-80N3 Cable Remote Switch
  • Manfrotto Tripod 190X MK190X3-3W

(Click To Enlarge)
Woodbridge Island Street Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D Vernon Chalmers Photography Training Copyright
Woodbridge Island Street Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D, Bulb Mode

Woodbridge Island Old Wooden Bridge Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D Vernon Chalmers Photography Training Copyright
Woodbridge Island Wooden Bridge Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D, Bulb Mode

Woodbridge Island Milnerton Lagoon Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D Vernon Chalmers Photography Training Copyright
Woodbridge Island Milnerton Lagoon Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D, Bulb Mode

Milnerton Beach / Lighthouse Long Exposure Photography Canon EOS 6D, Bulb Mode

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips View

Using High-Speed Sync Flash in the Afternoon Sun

Using High-Speed Sync Flash at High Shutter Speed-  with Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
 Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
Overpowering the sun and wind with High-Speed Sync (HSS) Flash

Close-up and macro photography it generally done early morning / or with some cloud cover for reducing harsh light and glare.

But, what do you do if you only have 14:00 in full afternoon sun and the wind is blowing? Suddenly a high shutter speed and using flash is more than a suitable solution.

I went out at 14:00 in the sun for deliberately capturing a yellow (and very bright) flower against most close-up and macro photography principles.

In using a Speedlite (external flash unit) fitted in the camera flash hot shoe and applying the Speedlite's High-Sync Speed (HSS) setting I was able to overcome the maximum sync speed (highest shutter speed of a particular camera when using flash) of the camera I was using - 1/250s on the Canon EOS 70D - by setting the shutter speed to whatever I wanted higher than the 1/250s limitation.

Most entry-level DSLR's are capable of 1/4000s Shutter Speed and enthusiast / professional cameras up to 1/8000s.

Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash
Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash @ 1/8000s Shutter Speed with Speedlite flash

For this image I experimented (handheld) and went up to the maximum (almost unthinkable) shutter speed of 1/8000s of said camera - maybe a stop or two too high of what was actually required, but nevertheless, together with the flash, overpowered the sun and stopped the plucky wind from blurring the flower.

One of the applications of HSS is to be able to use wide apertures with faster shutter speeds for limiting the available ambient light (i.e. sunlight in this case). The faster the shutter speed the more the ambient light limitation. HSS is only available to use with either the camera's pop-up flash or with an external Speedlite flash.

In early morning close-up and macro photography (outside) I will use Aperture Priority Mode at whatever aperture is required (by me) and hardly be bothered with the shutter speed - and most often without flash.

Settings for this experimental image: Manual Mode @ ISO 400 / f/5.6 / 1/8000s with Canon EOS 70D / Speedlite 430EX III-RT with stofen-type plastic diffuser (flash head +- 35% tilted upwards from default position).

Lens used: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens

Speedlite Mode: E-TTL (with no exposure compensation)

Image is uncropped and slightly processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 9.

Using flash is therefore not only for adding light to low ambient light conditions, but also for limiting / overpowering strong sun light.

Butterfly in the afternoon at 1/180s Sync Speed