Author Archives: Bruce Carmody

A Christmas Wish List

Jolly old St. Nicholas
Lean your ear this way

Christmas is just around the corner, and sure, we’re busy shopping for loved ones, but perhaps, just perhaps, we’re also thinking about what new photographic toy we’d love to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

We asked the PACN Board of Directors to tell us 2 items from their Christmas Wish List. First, we said, if money was no object, what would you like Santa to bring you. Then we said, “Okay, be reasonable now. What do you think Santa might bring you. Here are the answers we received.

Scott Powers, our organizer of image evaluation nights said:
“As my photography skills have progressed this year, I’ve realized that landscape photography is what I like best. To help me get even better, a new Canon 16-35mm f4 L series lens would be really nice. Those panoramic views would be within my reach. But if Santa can’t bring me a new lens, then a graduated neutral density filter complete with holder would really help to make those contrasty photos look fabulous in 2020!”

Jim Spurgeon, our Co-chair, shared the following:
“I would love to find an Olympus M. Zuiko 12-100mm F4.0 IS Pro zoom lens under the tree. But that’s a bit pricey. I think there’s a good chance of finding an Wacom Intuos Graphics Drawing tablet which comes in at about $80.00.”

Bruce Carmody, our webmaster who is only getting around on crutches these days, said:
“I probably own more lenses than any one person should have. Yet there is still one more that I sometimes covet. That’s the Canon MP-65 f2.8 Macro Lens. Yes, I already own two macro lenses, but the MP-65 is capable of magnifying an object up to 5 times life size. Imagine the detail that becomes possible! But there is the price – $1500 for a new copy and about $900 for a good used copy. And then, it’s a very specialized lens that can be tricky to use I hear. At 5-times life size, every little vibration shows and the lens would have to be so close to the subject that lighting could become an issue. So maybe I’ll just rent one some day, just to see if I like it, and instead, I’ll ask Santa for a $40 Lightbox so I can practise some still life images while waiting to be free of these darned crutches!”

Competitions Chair, Steve Ansell, who obviously no longer believes in Santa said:
“I swore I would never buy any more camera equipment, so a wish list seems a bit self-defeating, but here goes.

Over the top items:
Brand new 70-200 f 2.8 ED FL VR . Cost, $3700
Nikon D5. It’s too heavy to use but it is very high on the cool scale. Cost, $8500.

Within reach:
Repair my Sigma 8-14 zoom. Again. Cost, zero.
Used Nikon 70-200 f 2.8 VR. Because it’s built like a tank. Cost unknown.

Treasurer Ann White replied:
“To add to my wish list: a tilt/shift lens approx. price ? Don’t know but they say if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it! Santa says “stop asking!”
Second ask, a trip to the north to see the glaciers before they are gone completely.”

Wendy Holden, our Co-chair, in the true spirit of giving, wants nothing for herself, but shared a few ideas of reasonably priced items that you might consider for the photographer on your Christmas list.
“Christmas is only a few days away so if you’re still looking for that special gift for your favourite photographer or are finishing your note to Santa here are some fun ideas.

Light Pad: Great for backlighting images like flowers or other translucent items and only $20-50 dollars depending on screen size

Crystal Photography Ball: Make images special with inverted images just like working with water drops. Can make an ordinary image something extraordinary.

Photo Paper: Special paper textures can add that extra element to your special image and who doesn’t need that extra incentive to get that print up on the wall.”

We hope that Santa is good to all our photography friends out there!

Merry Christmas!

AI Comes to Speed Lights

Artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere these days. Photography is no exception. A number of software programs, including those from Topaz and Adobe boast of using AI to help simplify and speed up your photo editing. But now AI is entering the world of hardware, most recently with a new speed light from Canon, the 470EX-AI.

A few months back I purchased a Canon 5D Mark IV, upgrading from my very old Mark II version. Part of the incentive from Canon was that I would receive a free speed light. Enter the 470EX-AI. 

Now I really didn’t think that I needed another speed light; I already owned 3 so why did I need another? I even asked the dealer if I might trade the speed light for something more useful to me. No luck. So, I came home with my new camera and a new speed light which sat for a long while still in its box on my desk.

But, finally curiosity got the best of me and I began to play with my 470EX-AI. The flash features an auto bounce mode. Now I’ve used bounce flash for years whenever I am shooting with flash indoors. Ceilings and walls can easily become giant soft boxes eliminating the “deer in the headlights” effect that you get from direct flash. And I know from my high school days, angle of incidence equals angle of reflection, so I would point my flash at the ceiling at an angle to create an isosceles triangle between camera and subject. And generally it worked. But this new artificial intelligence built into the 470EX-AI is teaching this old dog some new tricks.

Image taken with direct, on-camera flash. Note the harsh shadows behind the head and sleeves

The flash has 3 settings. First you can turn off the AI-Bounce feature entirely and use it just as you would any other flash. Then there’s the fully automatic mode. When set to this position, a touch of a button on the back of the flash causes it to fire two quick flashes: one straight up to measure the distance to the ceiling and one directly ahead to measure the distance to your subject. Then it calculates the “perfect bounce angle” to generate an image with no harsh shadows. And you know what? It’s right most of the time! I’ll admit that I was blown away by the results. What’s more the flash often didn’t choose a spot on the ceiling mid-way between camera and subject. Often, especially when the subject was quite close, the flash pointed behind me and the results were great.

Image with full automatic bounce. Note the shadows are much reduced even though the doll was very close to the background.

But here’s the real magic! If I decide to change the camera orientation from landscape to portrait, I simply double tap the shutter button and the flash head rotates to maintain the same flash angle.

There is also a semi-automatic setting, in which I choose the bounce angle and set it by pushing a button on the flash head. Now, if I change my position relative to the subject or the subject moves, double-tapping the shutter button will cause the flash head to move to maintain the bounce angle that I chose. I can’t wait to try this with my grandchildren who never sit still.

Camera rotated to portrait mode. Double tap of shutter button and flash head rotates to keep the same relative position.

Apart from the AI Bounce features, the 470EX-Ai looks much like any other speed light, allowing the user to choose between  ETTL and manual, add or subtract flash compensation and most other custom functions that we have come to expect.

Now I am not trying to get people to run out and buy a new speed light in order to have AI Bounce at their disposal, but If you need a new flash, and are a Canon shooter, this one might be worth considering. At this time, only Canon offers a speed light with AI, but, if this catches on, I expect we’ll see other makers put their own versions on the market. And I have no doubt we’ll see other new products boasting of artificial intelligence. I, for one, will be less skeptical in future when such products reach the market. I’m not about to quit using off-camera flash when I can, but for those occasions when it’s easiest to work with an on-camera flash, I think I’ll keep my 470EX-AI.

Bruce Carmody