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Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds

 

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Wednesday
Sep302015

Eagles Galore in Alaska with Christopher Dodds

Adult American Bald Eagle REGAL (Hailiaeetus leucocephalus, Pygarge a tete blanche, BAEA) Kachemak Bay (near Homer), Alaska ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1D mark III, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM (version 1) @ 210mm  Hand Held ISO 250, f/7.1 @ 1/250s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

It's not too late to join me, Canon Canada Northern Explorer of Light and X-rite Photo coloratti, Christopher Dodds, for the premier Bald Eagle photography photo tour:

March 7-11, 2016 (5 full Days)

ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!

March 12-16, 2016 (5 full Days)

ONLY 1 SPOT LEFT!

March 17-21, 2016 (5 full Days) 

ONLY 1 SPOT LEFT!

 

Based in Kachemak Bay, near Homer, AK, this is where all of my famous Eagle images were made. This is your chance to make a truly awesome portfolio of Eagle images; dramatic flight shots, dynamic portraits and there is truly no prettier place than this for Eagles in their environment with mountains as the background. Get more information about my Bald Eagles Galore Workshop HERE.

Kudos:

I’ve long been wary about joining a workshop with a “big name” pro.  I’ve heard (and witnessed) a litany of workshop horrors, ranging from egomaniac leaders to unwieldy, unhappy groups.  Plus, as a professional photographer, I did not think that I would learn much from a workshop.  Indeed, I teach photography and postproduction.

Chris Dodds’ Eagles Galore workshop changed my mind.   Although he is a supremely talented photographer, Chris is approachable and friendly, and he works tirelessly to make sure that everyone in the group has a fantastic experience.  He limits the workshops to a small, manageable size.  And, in spite of my I’m-a-professional-and-don’t-need-help attitude, I am a better photographer for having joined the workshop. After spending a week with Chris, my flight photography is materially improved. (Chris is an expert on the nuances of servo autofocus, for example.)  Chris also taught several useful post-production techniques that I now use routinely in my workflow.

The true measure of any photo trip, however, is the photos.  Chris’ stated goal is for every workshop participant to go home with images that Chris would be proud to call his own. He means it.  The eagle photography was fantastic.  I came home with several dozen “portfolio grade” images, plus thousands of strong shots. Indeed, the single biggest complaint from my fellow workshop participants is the number of eagle shots that they had to sort through when they got home.

I’ve already registered for another workshop with Chris.

Andrew Kelley Denver, Colorado USA

Tuesday
Sep222015

Jacques-Andre Dupont Guest Blog Kudos

Northern Gannet LOVERS (Morus Bassanus, Fou de Bassan, NOGA) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright and courtesy ©Jacques-Andre Dupont All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 7D mark II, 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS II (@263mm). ISO 800, F5.6 @ 1/5,000s Manual mode.

I received a wonderful letter from J.A. (Jacques-Andre) Dupont; a wonderful person, and great photographer. As an educator and workshop/safari leader, I love sharing what I've learned during my workshops and it truly is wonderful to see a workshop participant improve their skills and learn how to reliably create awesome images filled with visual impact during a workshop/safari. Congratulations, J.A., much continued success. Many thanks for your wonderful letter. - Christopher Dodds.

Without further ado, here's J.A. Dupont:

This is a testament to my The butterfly photo effect or how my Chris Dodds workshops started things for me:
 
Dear Chris,
 
I wanted to write you a few words to tell you the story of how meeting you created a true butterfly effect for me.
 
I have been on two workshops so far with you.  Last year we did the Atlantic Puffin on beautiful Mingan Islands. And this year we did the Northern Gannet on the world renowned Bonaventure Island.
 
Both workshops were outstanding in many waysI learned quite a lot on a technical level.  But I believe that your workshops helped me do much more…  In a way, you helped me open my (photo) eyes.  You have showed me how to look at the birds, understand their behaviour and in a way use my images to bring them to life. You have helped me understand light in a new way, so the animals are almost as beautiful as in real life.   And you help me dig deeper within the tools that I brought with me; and of course I mean my Canon DSLR and my trusted L series lenses.
 
Both workshops were also amazing because you helped us discover amazing sights for wildlife photography and animals that are highly photogenic.
 
So in a nutshell, I believe I am a better photographer because of you.
 
And because of these two amazing photo trips and your guidance, I got to live quite a rushing experience in the last few weeks.
 
It all started after I put my gannet pictures on National Geographic web site.
 
Just a few days after I uploaded them online, things started to move in a new way for me.
 
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปIt started by two of my pictures making the cut by being selected in the Daily Dozen section of National Geographic web site.
 
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/6491757/
 
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/6516046/
 
Then it went on turbo gear.  The next four things all happened within 48 hours
 
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปI was contacted by a National Geograhic photo editor who offered to do a feature on my series of gannet photos as well as an interview with me. See the interview HERE.

๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปNational Geographic Senior Photo Editor also contacted me because she wanted one of my photos to be Photo of the Day on National Geographic (as photo of the day you get to be published on all Nat Geo social media platforms and you are on the first page of the web site… I received 21 000 likes on facebook just from being on their Facebook page). See the National Geographic Photo of the Day HERE.

๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปA 500PX editor contacted me because a Spanish magazine wanted to licence one of the photos for a feature (yet to be published). See my 500px portfolio HERE.

๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปAnd finally Solent News, a UK News and Photo agency contacted me to represent me and sell my pictures. After we agreed, my gannet pictures were published within a few days in the London’s Daily Telegraph. See the Daily Telegraph image HERE.

๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปAnd in the paper version:

๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปThis same agency is now selling other of my photos.
 
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปAnd to top this tsunami of photography love, I was published last week in Canadian Geographic Special Collector Edition Best Wildlife Photography with a Cedar Waxwing photo. 
 
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปAnd then last week I received an email and learned that three of my Gannets Photos were selected by Canadian Geographic as finalists in this year Wildlife Photography of the Year Photo Competition!
 
So this long email, is just my way of saying thank you. I feel very lucky to have been taught by you and this will not be the last time!
 
Best,

Jacques-Andre Dupont Montreal Canada

 

 

Tuesday
Sep152015

Upload Landscape and Portrait images to Instagram 

Well, it's finally happened! I have opened an Instagram account! I resisted for a very long time, because I felt working within the square was too restricive for my imagery. Now that Instagram lets you upload Landscape and Portrait images, this platform is much more appealing to me. If you would like to read how to post non-square images, go head and click on this link to the Instagram blog post announcing the change.

Do click on the link below and follow me and I'll follow you back:

https://instagram.com/chrisdoddsphoto/

 

Instagram

Tuesday
Aug252015

Disaster proof digital storage ioSafe 1513+ Mini Review


I am sure it no surprise to you that I have a huge image archive. I am constantly making back-up copies of the master hard drive array and storing them in various off-site locations to ensure that my images are safe from accidental deletion, virus infection, hardware failure, fire, flood, robbery and anything else that may wipe out my valuable files; they are my life’s work and I would be a fool to think they could survive without extreme attention and care. Constant vigilance and attention still gives me nightmares; there are so many things that can go wrong. I could accidentally copy or mislabel the wrong drive or accidentally erase every single image I have ever created. Sure, there are plenty of “Cloud storage” solutions that offer unlimited storage in several redundant geographic locations, but I would need much more bandwidth than my current “small town” high-speed internet provider delivers, not to mention how long it would take to upload my entire archive at about 16TB. I just can’t imagine the time it might take to upload a card of fresh RAW images from a trip; it’s just not a practical solution for most photographers today.

Way back in January, my friends at ioSafe sent me a ioSafe 1513+. The ioSafe is a fireproof and waterproof housing that somewhat resembles a real safe (the kind you might buy for your valuables), and inside it houses five hard drives; mine came with five Western Digital 4TB Red hard drives. But it is not just a housing, or enclosure, it’s a full-blown NAS (Network Attached Storage). Although ioSafe built their hardware “from the ground up” and spared no expense building a product that can withstand 1550โ„‰ or 843โ„ƒ for up to 30 minutes, and can then be submerged in up to ten feet or 3.5 meters of water for three days (yes, even after it’s been torched!), they partnered with Synology to provide their already proven hardware and software architecture; the award winning Synology DSM (Disk Station Manager).

At the time of this writing, the maximum capacity of the five drive bay 1513+ is 30TB (five 6TB drives), but capacity can be increased up to 90TB by adding up to two 5 bay ioSafe N513X expansion chassis, and, like the ioSafe 1513+, they are fireproof and waterproof. The abundant ports include USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA and quad gigabit ethernet that can be aggregated for maximum throughput. Read and write speeds are impressive, with 202 MB/sec write and 350 MB/sec read speeds. Read more specs HERE

Once connected to your network, the ioSafe1513+ can be accessed by all of the other computers connected to your network, and if your network is connected to the internet, then it can be accessed from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. No more need to carry a couple of small hard drives full of images in case a photo buyer needs an image while away!

As mentioned, the ioSafe 1513+ runs the award winning Synology DSM or Disk Station Manager, and is powered by a Synology motherboard with 2.13GHz dual-core Atom processor with 2GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 4GB. Synology offers a plethora of apps which can expand it’s operating system so it can be used as a personal cloud, file server, mail server, media server, Apple Time Machine, Video Camera Surveillance Station,  and so much more.

The Synology Disk Station Manager supports these RAID types: Synology Hybrid RAID, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10. Since I am not a huge believer in relying on a RAID solution, I opted to leave my unit as it was configured to operate using the Synology Hybrid RAID.

Weighing-in at roughly 60 pounds, this is a beast, but to keep thieves from walking off with your ioSafe 1513+, there are bolt-down theft prevention solutions available for floor and rack mount, and an integrated Kensington slot.

In conclusion, I am really impressed by the ioSafe 1513+. The build quality and engineering is exactly what I expected from a company that has built it’s reputation around delivering indestructible data storage solutions. The Synology DSM is so easy to use, you don’t need to be a NAS expert to take full advantage of all it has to offer; a huge relief to me, as I went into this knowing almost nothing about what I was getting into. The customer service is free, you get to speak to real people who know their product inside and out and they will take whatever time you need to explain anything that needs explaining to you. The read and write speeds are impressive in practice. I hope I never get to find out if it really is fireproof or waterproof, but have no doubt it will be. The ioSafe 1513+ has been working flawlessly since I first installed it and automatically backs-up to my Synology 1515+ via an app I installed to my DSM dashboard. I still make full back-up copies to external hard drive arrays which are stored off-site, but sleep much better knowing that ioSafe and Synology have my back, and my life’s work is well protected.

Although the ioSafe 1513+ is still a very current and capable solution, I have linked to the new ioSafe 1515+ which has recently replaced the ioSafe 1513+.

Wednesday
May132015

Gannets Galore Bonaventure Island Photo Workshop Update

Northern Gannet SEAWEED IN YOUR FACE (Morus Bassanus, Fou de Bassan, NOGA) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds www.chrisdoddsphoto.com All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 200-400mm F4 L IS USM XT, (@274mm). ISO 1,000, F4.5 @ 1/4,000s Manual. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

Northern Gannets of Bonaventure Island

Gannets Galore

Photo Safari & Expedition

June 5-7, 2015 (3 Days/4 Nights)

Sold Out!

June 8-10, 2015 (3 Days/4 Nights)

Sold Out!

June 11-13, 2015 (3 Days/4 Nights)

Only 2 Spots left!

A spectacle not to be missed! This is, by far, the very best workshop to master your birds in flight technique. I have invested well over a year of my life at this site, so I know the birds and I know the site intimately, and I know the best way to maximize the photographic opportunities in any wind or weather. I know, and work with, the people at the park & in the village, so from having our gear hauled to the colony in an ATV, to getting special access, I have all of the bases covered. I have hosted over one thousand photographers for this adventure and it  truly is my favourite and most productive workshop.

Join Canon's Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds at the largest Northern Gannet colony in the world. Bonaventure Island, off the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, is home to more than 55,000 nesting pairs of Northern Gannets and it is such a beautiful place that National Geographic Traveler Magazine ranks Gaspé number three tourism destination in the world (Nov./Dec. 2009). You haven’t really seen a Gannet until you see the activity at a breeding colony. Bonaventure Island is perhaps one of the world’s best places to teach avian flight technique. Other photographic opportunities will include all aspects of breeding behavior; courtship display, bowing (territorial display), sky pointing, fencing (two mates clashing their bills together while pointing skyward), mutual preening and copulation. Most of the nests will be occupied and will contain babies at various stages of development. In June, we’ll be feet away from hatching eggs and adults feeding their young on their nests. The workshop is timed to coincide with the annual Caplin run in June, so we should have plenty of opportunities to photograph these magnificent birds diving; sometimes forming huge diving funnels containing thousands of birds. Other photographic possibilities include thousands of nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres, Black Guillemots, Rozorbills, Gulls, Grey Seals and various Whales. Highlights will include a daily four hour adventure on a 24 foot Zodiac Hurricane (weather permitting). We should have ample opportunities to photograph Gannets diving and feeding in large funnels.

More information and sign-up for Gannets Galore Bonaventure Island Photography Workshop HERE

Gannets Galore: A recent trip to the gannet colony on the Gaspe’s Ile Bonaventure with Chris Dodds proved to be all that I could have hoped for.  The colony is large, active and readily accessible, Chris’ familiarity with the birds and how they would react to the frequent changes in weather and wind direction gave us access to some pretty unique shooting opportunities, and his knowledge of the area and personal connections within the local community allowed us to get to the island when construction on the town’s only pier could easily have prevented us from getting there.  This, combined with Chris’ almost unique ability to teach the principles of photography at the simplest and most complex levels, made this a trip that should not be missed.
 
Steve Goodman Denver, Colorado
, USA

Read more TESTIMONIALS HERE

Wednesday
Apr292015

Freeze action for birds in flight photography

American Bald Eagle ICE FISHING from my recent Bald Eagle Photographic Expedition (Hailiaeetus leucocephalus, Pygarge a tete blanche, BAEA) Kachemak Bay (near Homer), Alaska ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 IS II USM @200mm ISO 500, f/5.6 @ 1/4,000s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

Here's a fun one from my recent Bald Eagle Workshop. I have some secret, and out of the way, spots where I head as fast as possible once it snows; the dark, flat water really makes the snowflakes pop. It's not a bad place to be when there is no snow and the light is nice too ;)

Freeze Frame

The image is made with Canon's new 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens and my 1DX. Talk about a sweet and versatile lens! I keep finding myself going on about just how sharp and quick the lens is, that I forget to remind you all that techinique and practice both play a major roll in the final product. In keeping with my mantra; I used a shutter speed of  1/4,000 of a second to be sure to freeze every detail of the Eagle's wings, and any motion I may have made with the lens while following the Eagle's flight path. Like a windmill blade, slow movement of my lens results in a really fast movement at the distance where you are focused. Always ensure you have enough shutter speed to freeze movement and extract every ounce of detail from your images. A good start is 1/3,200 of a second and 1/4,000 or 1/5,000 is even better!

Kudos

I recently returned from Chris’s Eagle Workshop in Homer Alaska. Over the years, I have traveled extensively and can say without hesitating that this was the best trip I’ve ever been on. Chris is a very cordial but no nonsense guy. Everything about the trip was organized to the max. I’ve been photographing wildlife for 35 years and thought I had a pretty good idea about how to do it so I wasn’t expecting to learn a whole lot that was new. Wrong! Over the years, other “professionals” had encouraged me to shoot in aperture priority or auto ISO. When Chris told us he was going to teach us to set our camera exposures manually, I thought that sounded like a lot of unnecessary effort. That notion turned out to be false. If you attend this workshop and don’t already shoot in manual mode, your life will be changed. The exposures of the photos I took are spot on and better than any I have ever achieved.
In addition to the new material I learned, the “eagle shooting” was beyond anything one could ever imagine. It was both action packed and challenging. Our group was only five people and Chris bent over backward to make sure that each of us got the best photos of our lives. Even though I had substantial problems with my equipment, I now have more killer eagle photos than I could have ever hoped for. If you want an informative and fun packed trip, I encourage you to sign up for this or any of Chris’s workshops. I have signed up again for next year’s Eagle Workshop, in spite of my truck load of eagle photos, which I believe tells the whole story.

Ron Brown Colorado USA

Thursday
Dec182014

Snowy Owl Photo Tour Update

Snowy Owl Wings-up (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontrario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon EOS Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm F4 L IS II ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @ 1/3,200s Manual mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Here's one from one of many memorable moments during my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops last season. The outlook for this winter season is simply superb! I currently know where there are more Snowy Owls than I did this time last year. Remarkably, I have had three cancellations due to illness. Each of the three folks have asked me to try to find someone to fill their spot and have agreed to a discount. Be sure to have a look at the workshop and take advantage of $500.00 savings if you book a 2015 owl trip before midnight Dec. 24, 2014. Space is limited, so don't wait too long!

January 12-16, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT

January 26-30, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT

February 2-6, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT

Monday
Nov172014

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM mini-review

My friends at Canon Canada have done it again; another box with a prototype inside arrived, this time it was the new, and much anticipated, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. I have an "MT" sample, which basically means that it is a pre-production sample and I can't share images from this lens. I was granted permission to post a picture of the lens, so here I am in my favourite weather conditions, with the lens on a newly released EOS 7D mark II; truly a killer, and "must have", wildlife imaging combination! (Image courtesy and copyright Julie Morrison - Thank-you!)


Despite the continual debate about it's consistent sharpness, the original Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens was almost always mounted on a second camera body and slung over my shoulder for nearly a decade. The copy I had was consistently sharp and produced many "portfolio" images, which continue to sell for publication and as prints. I see history repeating itself again, as I anticipate having the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens paired with the new Canon EOS 7D mark II slung over my shoulder while out with my tripod-mounted super-telephoto lens and Canon EOS 1DX in the future.

First impressions: The lens features a completely new design with the old push-pull to zoom lens barrel replaced by a much more weather resistant and user friendly turn to zoom variable torque twist ring. The new lens collar features an easy to remove lens foot and the lens is adorned by a new lens hood with a push button lock release and a sliding window to accommodate filter adjustments (mount the window on the bottom of the lens in wet or snowy weather to keep the front element clean and dry). No detail was over-looked by the Canon engineers when redesigning this beast; it even includes an improved pinch-lock style 77mm lens cap.  It is a little heavier than its predecessor, but the improvements to design, image quality and weather sealing are, in my opinion, worth every ounce....and I did get to test the weather sealing while out in the wet snow for an extended shoot as seen in the image above (but let's not tell my friends at Canon what I do to their prototypes - smile).
It's even more of a beast if you install a Canon Extender EF1.4X III between the lens and 1.6X crop factor camera (like the 7D mark II); Yes, it still auto-focuses and offers an effective focal length of 224-896mm! Image quality is still impressive with a Canon Extender EF2X III, but the lens needs to be manually focused at a mind-blowing 1280mm equivalent.

Less apparent new features are the lens now "features one fluorite and one super UD element to help provide impressive contrast and resolution with reduced chromatic aberration across the entire zoom range. Canon’s new Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps significantly reduce backlit flaring and ghosting, while fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens surfaces help lessen smears and fingerprints. A 9-blade circular aperture renders beautiful, soft backgrounds, and a 3 mode (standard, panning and exposure only) Optical Image Stabilizer provides up to 4 steps* of image correction." - Canon product page.

Auto-focus speed and accuracy are impressive, with zippy performance only usually expected in the most expensive optics. I haven't tested the lens for birds in flight yet, but my initial impressions are that AF acquisition time and speed are remarkably good. As I discovered way back in 2011 while testing the Canon EF70-300mmL IS USM, the new optics and coatings improve resolution and contrast, which greatly improve the already impressive new auto-focus systems in the latest Canon cameras. The minimum focusing distance has been reduced to only 3.2 feet (my test unit focuses much closer than that), making it a fantastic walk around lens for details in nature too!

As always, I don't spend my time looking at specifications or MTF charts, but I do closely examine the images and evaluate image quality for my "real life" use; big prints. The results are impressive! While important to note that I have based this mini-review on a pre-production unit, it is unlikely that image quality will change with a production model; It would be hard to make it better.

In conclusion, if you are looking for an incredibly versatile wildlife, nature, birds-in-flight, sports and action set-up that won't break your back or bank account, then the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, paired with the new Canon EOS 7D mark II and a Canon Extender EF1.4X III truly are a wildlife photographer's new secret weapon! It's a relatively compact, packable and manageable kit that I won't be caught without!

From the Canon product page:
"The EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens delivers a superb combination of cutting-edge performance, compact construction and brilliant resolving power that’s great for sports and wildlife photography. The lens features one fluorite and one super UD element to help provide impressive contrast and resolution with reduced chromatic aberration across the entire zoom range. Canon’s new Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps significantly reduce backlit flaring and ghosting, while fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens surfaces help lessen smears and fingerprints. A 9-blade circular aperture renders beautiful, soft backgrounds, and a 3 mode (standard, panning and exposure only) Optical Image Stabilizer provides up to 4 steps* of image correction. The new inner focusing AF system helps ensure fast and accurate focus down to 3.2 ft. with a .31x maximum magnification. Usability enhancements include a rotation-type zoom ring with adjustable zoom torque for more precise, customizable zoom performance, a redesigned tripod mount that can be attached and detached without removing the lens from the camera, and an all-new lens hood with a side window that makes it simple to adjust specialty filters-like polarizers-without the need to remove the hood. Ruggedly constructed with advanced dust and water sealing for durability in a range of environments, the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is a stellar performer with refined controls for a wide variety of situations."

 

Tuesday
Oct212014

Canon 7D mark II 1,600 ISO image

Northern Gannet (Morus Bassanus, Fou de Bassan, NOGA) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds www.chrisdoddsphoto.com All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 7D MKII, 200-400mm F4 L IS USM XT, (@400mm). ISO 1,600, F6.3 @ 1/4,000s Manual. "Photograph made with a beta (non-final) sample of Canon EOS 7D Mark II. Image quality may not represent the final output from shipping cameras but is likely to be very close." - fine print courtesy Canon Canada Inc.

Here's a full frame Northern Gannet against a dark background in light fog from my recent short trip to Bonaventure Island. There is a flurry of activity in my inbox and on the internet from folks wanting more high ISO images from the 7D mark II, so I carefully chose this one made while testing the auto focus against the dark background which would make noise more visible. While there is some noise as expected, it certainly performs amazingly well. The level of detail in the white feather is awesome and the 13" x 19" print I made with my Pro 1 printer is fabulous.

Remember to minimize noise with any digital camera by exposing properly in camera and avoiding big crops.

Kudos

A friend I meet on a photography workshop in Alaska mentioned Chris Dodds as one of his favorite photographers. After doing a little research I booked the Ospreys of Lake Blue Cypress workshop with Chris. It was an action packed three days filled with many opportunities to photograph Ospreys nesting and in-flight from a pontoon boat. The workshop was first class and well organized. Chris is a great workshop leader and has a pleasant and easy going personality with unlimited knowledge of camera equipment, technique, post processing tips and nature. I learned so much and had such a good time meeting and photographing with Chris that when I returned home I signed up for my next workshop. Now I am looking forward to seeing him again for the Winter Snowy Owls of Quebec & Ontario workshop. Thanks Chris!

Eloy Castroverde Florida USA

Thursday
Oct162014

Canon 7D mark II hands-on mini review

Northern Gannet (Morus Bassanus, Fou de Bassan, NOGA) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds www.chrisdoddsphoto.com All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 7D MKII, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, (@200mm). ISO 800, F5.6 1/4,000s Manual. "Photograph made with a beta (non-final) sample of Canon EOS 7D Mark II. Image quality may not represent the final output from shipping cameras but is likely to be very close." - fine print courtesy Canon Canada Inc.

Canon EOS 7D mark II review

My friends over at Canon Canada have been keeping me busy testing and trying the newly announced Canon EOS 7D Mark II. I have been busy building a portfolio of images made with the new camera that I will present at various dealer launches of the camera for Canon. In keeping with tradition, I won't list all of the features and specifications which can be found on the Canon 7D Mark II product page found HERE.

I had access to the first generation pre-production unit on Sept. 15, but didn't get my hands on it until I returned from Arizona on Sept. 23. There were rules in place to prevent images from being posted from the pre-production unit; easy to understand that Canon didn't want the critiques to get their hands on images before the firmware and hardware were tweaked enough to properly represent what the camera is capable of. To be crystal clear: I am A Canon Northern Explorer of Light, an ambassador for the brand. I am not under any obligation to mislead you or misrepresent this camera; I am not begging you to purchase through an affiliate link here which will give me any commission.  This is simply my review of this much anticipated camera.

I wanted to put the camera through it's paces at one of the best locations I know;  somewhere there are beautiful birds and lot's of them, somewhere that if the weather is right, there would be non-stop action to photograph. I jumped behind the steering wheel, set my GSP and drove the 14 hours to one of my favourite places: Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) off the southern coast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.

The weather, the Northern Gannets and the new camera performed flawlessly. I was blown-away by the Dual Digic-6 processor driven auto focus system. In low contrast,  cloudy and slightly foggy conditions, shooting white birds against near white backgrounds, the auto-focus was unbeatable. I started with my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, and quickly went through all of the lenses and extender combinations to see if there were limits. Even shooting with a lens+extender combination with a maximum aperture of f/8 (600mm f/4L IS USM II and 2X III extender … yes, 600mm  with doubler =1200mm X 1.6 crop factor= 1920mm), the auto-focus proved it may even be slightly faster/better than the professional Canon 1DX. Throw in 10 frames per second capture rate and no noticeable shutter lag and this truly is a dream camera body for bird photographers and action/sports/press photographers alike.


The BIG Question: how is the noise?


Almost every single time someone on a workshop tells me that their camera is noisy at any given ISO, I can clearly show them they are constantly underexposing their images and correcting their poor  field craft via software after the fact. There are various ways to correct poor exposure mistakes; the most obvious of which is to slide the exposure slider to brighten it. Since digital cameras see and record light like our eyes see it, there is much more detail in the highlights, than the shadows. Underexposing an image limits the data captured at the time of exposure and there is no way to replace that missing information without introducing noise to the image. I see these mistakes mostly amongst photographers using some of the most expensive cameras on the market; they have paid a lot of money for a camera, but are recording about half of the data it is capable of recording had the image been properly exposed to start with.

While discussing the performance of a camera at high ISO, it is important to note that physics dictates that a smaller sensor would have more noise than a larger sensor of the same type. This is of particular importance while comparing the 7D mark II to Canon's flagship professional camera body, the 1DX. The 1DX, in my opinion, remains the very best camera money can buy for high ISO noise preformance; but at a much higher price point.

So, what about the 7D Mark II noise? Simply put: the camera produces amazing results. I used the camera at 200, 400, 800, 1,000, 1,200 and 1,600 ISO without feeling concerned at all. The files are rich and full of detail; images made at 1,600 ISO did show a little noise in the shadows, but there is a tremendous improvement over those same files from the original 7D. I have played around with ISO settings up to 16,000; impressive performance for an APS-C sensor, but I might start to reach for my 1DX if anything above 3,200 ISO is required for the task.

In conclusion

The Canon EOS 7D mark II totally rocks! If you weigh the features, file size and quality against the price, it is a worthy 1DX contender. There is little reason to own a 1DX if you regularly work below 1,600 ISO and the 7D mark II makes an awesome and economical back-up to anyone with a 1DX. I know that I will replace my second 1DX with the lighter 7D mark II. I will be keeping a 1DX in my camera bag, but will likely favour the lighter 7D mark II on most occasions; to be honest, I haven't picked-up my 1DX since getting my hands on the 7D mark II. The 1.6X crop factor was a welcome treat after using full frame cameras for so long; not having to add an extender also meant not loosing a stop from the maximum aperture of the lens I was using, which meant I didn't have to increase my ISO to maintain my desired shutter speed.
I love the weight and feel of the camera, which truly is much more rugged, weatherproof and professional feeling than the original 7D. I will have a hard time using any camera now without all of the information available through it's new viewfinder display; level, shooting mode, settings, file format, etc. are all available without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. Throw in 10 frames per second capture rate and no noticeable shutter lag and this truly is a dream camera body for bird photographers and action/sports/press photographers alike. The GPS and compass is a very welcome addition and the camera, as a whole, represents tremendous value.

Stay tuned for more about the 7D mark II in future posts.