Aerial Photo Shoot over Port Elizabeth

June 22, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It is a long time ago that I last flew in a light aircraft.  So to be commissioned to take aerial photographs of a property in Port Elizabeth was really exciting.

The arrangements were made with Mr John Huddlestone (aircraft owner) and Mr Mitchell Hill (pilot) and we were all set.  We decided on using the Skyranger (see ) due to it's slow speed as well as the ability to remove the door.  The weather prediction was accurate (for once) and we had a beautiful calm day.

The Two Seat Skyranger with Owner and PilotJohn Huddlestone (L) and Mitchell Hill (R)

After completing the commissioned shoot we flew out to Swartkops River Mouth and then back along the coast to Cape Recife.  From there we flew over the Soccer Stadium and a few other landmarks before heading back to the airport.

Some sample images:
Baakens ValleySettlers Park and the Baakens River Cape Recife Coastline and Lighthouse, South AfricaCape Recife Coastline and Lighthouse, South AfricaAerial view of the lighthouse and beach at Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth Arial View of Soccer Stadium and LakeAerial View of Soccer Stadium and LakeAerial view of the soccer stadium and lake in Port Elizabeth, South Africa Swartkops River MouthAerial view of the Swartkops River Mouth and Estuary

Some tips for aerial photography:

  • Plan the shoot - have everything ready before takeoff.  It is very difficult to change memory cards etc while flying and opportunities will be missed if you are fiddling with your camera.
  • Use a high shutter speed - this will help eliminate the effects of vibration from the aircraft.
  • Use a relatively small aperture to get a good depth of field. f11 or f16 should be fine
  • Choose a calm day when it is clear or when the cloud cover is even and overhead.
  • Fly when the sun is directly overhead unless the dramatic effect of long shadows is a requirement.
  • Choose an aircraft where the window or door can be open. You don't want to shoot through glass or perspex that will degrade image quality



Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM Lens Review

May 17, 2015  •  7 Comments

The long anticipated replacement to the original Canon 100-400 L lens finally became available towards the end of 2014.  This is about 15 years after the launch of the original 100-400 lens!  Is the new version a worthy successor to the original?  And how does it compare to the competition?

This mini review of the new Canon 100-400 L IS II is not technically inclined but based on real life usage.  There are no charts etc. Only my personal experience and comments as well as sample images.   I will also compare the new Canon 100-400 L IS II to the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD.

First Impression
Quality!!!  Handling this lens immediately gives one the impression of excellent build quality.  The lens has no "play" when zoomed, the lens hood attaches is a positive way, the buttons all feel solid and Canon supply a very nice protective case.  The lens hood also has a opening which allows one to adjust a polarising filter without removing the hood - simple but neat feature.  The lens is also weather sealed.

Compared to the Tamron 150-600mm it is considerably smaller and easier to carry.  The trade-off is the maximum zoom of 400mm which is perhaps too short for some situations when photographing birds or small wildlife.  However, I find it easy to use for long periods of time without getting overly tired.  Also it fits into my Lowepro Flipside 400 camera bag without a problem. 

The IS works extremely well.  Hand held at 400mm and 1/100th second produces consistently sharp images. At this shutter speed the only blur is because of subject movement.

I prefer the new twist action to zoom over the old push pull method.  Not that I ever minded the push pull action.  Some will also argue that twist action is better because it doesn't suck dust into the lens.

Closest Focusing Distance (perhaps the best feature of the lens!)
The lens can focus at a closest distance of about 0,98m (98cm).  This is compared to 1,8m for the original Canon 100-400 and 2,7m for the Tamron 150-600mm.  This ability to focus so close opens up a lot of new opportunities. The lens almost operates as a macro lens when focused at it's closest.  The image below was shot in a small aviary.  I was just over a meter away from the small quail.  With the original Canon 100-400 or the Tamron 150-600 I would not have been able to get this shot due to limited space in the aviary.  Also, getting closer to the subject means the frame is better filled and less cropping is necessary.  And depth of field gets narrower as one gets closer to the subject - the result is beautiful blurred backgrounds.

Blue Quail BirdBlue Quail Birdf5.6, 1/250th sec, 300mm

Field Usage
After one month and about 500 shots later I can only say I like almost everything about this lens.  Image quality is brilliant, handling is excellent,  the IS works extremely well and Bokeh is beautiful.

Below are some sample images taken with the Canon 100-400 IS L MkII.  These images were shot in RAW have been processed in Lightroom - mainly to boost the contrast a little.

King Vulturef10, 1/250th sec, 400mm African Elephant MaleAfrican Elephant Malef6.3, 1/800th sec, 312mm

Green Tree Iguanaf9, 1/160th sec, 241mm Plains Zebra Grazing on Green GrassPlains Zebra Grazing on Green Grassf5.6, 1/300th sec, 300mm African Elephant HerdAfrican Elephant Herdf6.5, 1/800th sec, 400mm


Controlled Test and Comparison
The images below were shot on a tripod with IS (or VC) off.  The camera used was a Canon 5DMkIII and picture style was set to "Standard".  The images have been resized to 800 x 600 pixels and a little bit of sharpening applied.

The 100% crops are all exactly as they were shot and processed by the camera.  Exposure was manually controlled. Identical exposures were used for each lens.

All images at 400mm zoom unless stated otherwise.


Left:  Canon f5.6, 1/1000th sec, 400mm        Right:  Tamron f5.6,  1/1000th sec,  400mm
Left: Canon f5.6 Right: Tamron f5.6

Canon 100% Crop from above image, f5.6
Canon 100% Crop, f5,6

Tamron 100% crop from above image, f5.6
Tamron 100% Crop, f5.6


Left:  Canon f8, 1/500th sec, 400mm        Right:  Tamron f8,  1/500th sec,  400mm
Left: Canon f8 Right: Tamron f8

Canon 100% Crop from above image, f8

Canon 100% Crop, f8

Tamron 100% crop from above image, f8
Tamron 100% crop, f8


Left:  Canon f11, 1/500th sec, 400mm        Right:  Tamron f11,  1/500th sec,  400mm
Left: Canon f11 Right: Tamron f11 Canon 100% Crop from above image, f11
Canon 100% Crop, f11 Tamron 100% crop from above image, f11
Tamron 100% crop, f11 Obsevation

  • The Canon lens produced brighter images at all f stops.  Shadow detail was also more detailed.
  • The Tamron lens is not as sharp as the Canon lens.  (There may be a front focussing adjustment for the Tamron but never-the-less the Canon is sharper, especially wider open at f5.6)
  • Both lenses produce excellent results but I think a discerning pro would definitely choose the Canon over the Tamron.
Image Quality
Excellent IS
Accurate Focusing and Speed
Smooth Bokeh
Size and Mass
400mm maximum can be a bit short for some wildlife and sport situations
Don't forget you can see my complete portfolio at Shutterstock or Dreamstime.  I hope to have lots of images taken with my new Canon 100-400 MkII uploaded there very soon!
Disclaimer:    I have not been compensated for this review and my conclusions were not influenced in any way.  The opinions stated here are my own.  I have tried to be as balanced and objective as possible in this review.


I had the opportunity to test the AI server focus mode and panning on IS mode 2.  The subject was fast moving karts on a local race track.

The AI server focus was almost flawless!  I am very impressed with how accurate it is.  Panning was not as successful but this is mainly due to my lack of technique, not a fault of the lens.  However, I still managed a few panning keepers as well.

Panning Mode 2ISO100, f16, 1/250th sec AI Server FocusISO800, f8, 1/5000th sec

I can confidently recommend this lens as a superb sports and wildlife lens as well as very good for portraits and even semi-macro shots.

Chroma Key (Green Screen) Portraits

March 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Chroma Key (or green screen photography) is a simple way of shooting a subject and then replacing the background from another image.

There are three main things to remember when shooting green screen:-

  • Light the green screen as evenly as possible and if using a cloth make sure that there are no wrinkles
  • Leave at least 2 metres between the subject and the green screen.  This will help avoid "green" light spilling back onto the subject.
  • You will need software that can extract the subject (or remove the background).  I use PhotoKey 6.  It is intuitive and does an excellent job.

Click on the slide show below to see the effect a different background can make!  Notice how even the strands of hair are perfectly extracted and seamlessly fit over the new background.  The whole process of extracting and replacing the background takes about 3 mins or less in PhotoKey 6!!!

Puppy Shoot

December 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I have been wanting to photograph a puppy for a long time.  The photography part I can manage but to get someone to agree to loan a puppy for an hour or two was very difficult.

Anyway, I finally found a pet shop with puppies that would let me take a puppy from the shop for an hour or two. 

The shoot was fairly simple and I had my friend Anne as the assistant and dog handler.  Below is the lighting setup.  The "studio" was the lounge of my house. 

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Review

August 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Monday, 3 February 2014

I dumped my trusty Canon 100-400L lens for the new Tamron 150-600mm.  Talk about taking chances!  Anyway, after much deliberating I jumped in the deep end and placed my order.  My Tamron arrived two days later and I nervously opened the box and unpacked it.

First Impressions
The lens is very well built - no play in the zoom.  And I like the matte black finish. The lens is noticeably longer and heavier than the Canon 100-400L.
Also immediately noticeable is how large the front element is compared to the Canon 100-400mm.  Filters are going to be VERY expensive for this lens...  but then, I NEVER use a filter on my long zoom except once in a blue moon I way want to attach a polarizer.  And my personal experience is that UV or Skylight filters usually degrades image quality.

A negative is that Tamron have not supplied any sort of carry case or protective bag.  Pity.

Initial Testing
Tamron have VC (vibration control) for image stabilization.  I was keen to try it out.  So on my first night with Tamron I took a few shots of the globe on the other side of the room which is lit by a single fluorescent light.
The VC works well but maybe not as good as the Canon, or so I thought.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  It works slightly better than the Canon and I was able to hand hold at shutter speeds as low as 1/250th when zoomed to maximum!

(Note: All images are unedited except for down sampling and re-sizing.  They were shot in Camera jpeg and with Standard Picture Style. Canon 5D MkIII)

Canon 100-400mm - at 400mm F5.6  1/60th - Handheld


Tamron 150-600mm - at 400mm F5.6  1/60th - Handheld
Not much of a difference between these two. The Canon may have a little more contrast but I am not sure.

Here are 100% crops for comparison:



I feel that the Canon wins here due to better contrast, but with a little editing I think the Tamron will match the Canon.  Anyway, pretty good for hand held shots at 1/60th and 400mm!

The advantage that Tamron had was the extra 200mm.  Below is the same globe shot from the same position at 600mm.  The shutter speed was an incredible 1/30th and I still managed to get a reasonable shot.

Compare to the first two images and you quickly get an idea of what the extra 200mm can do!

The next morning I did a more controlled test.  The camera was set to manual for accurate comparison.  The camera was tripod mounted and the timer was used to release the shutter.  No artificial light was used.

I feel the Tamron slightly out performed the Canon in image quality.  Both lenses focused equally fast.  Bokeh was excellent on both lens.

Canon 100-400 at f8, 1/200th sec, ISO100, Tripod Mounted 400mm zoom

Tamron 150-600 at f8, 1/200th sec, ISO100, Tripod Mounted  400mm zoom

And here are crops of the above images:-



To me the Tamron has picked up slightly more detail but image quality for both is superb.

Field Test
In the late afternoon I spent two hours in the nearby Kragga Kamma Game Reserve to really put the lens through it's paces.  I often shoot wildlife and this would be an ideal opportunity to see how the Tamron lens handled as well as get a good idea of the image quality when I got back home.

Strangely I found it difficult to get used to the twist zoom action.  I suppose I have got so acquainted with the push pull action of the Canon that it has became second nature. Anyway, I am sure that this wont be a problem in the future. It is just a matter of getting used to it.
The manual focus ring is on the body side of the lens.  This worried me at first because I thought I may easily bump it on my bean bag but in practice it is not a problem at all.

My setup for wildlife always includes a Speedlight set at -1.  I wondered if the bigger lens hood would interfere with the flash and cause shadows but there was absolutely no problem there.

Well I have to say that in general the lens was a pleasure to use.  It is a bit heavier than the Canon and I would imagine that a small person would notice it more than me.  You certainly can't hang the camera round your neck with this lens attached for too long.  After 10 mins it begins to feel very heavy. I found orientating the tripod collar upwards and using it as a carry handle worked very well.  However, most of my shots for this review were shot from the car with the lens resting on a bean bag.

Focus was quick and accurate.  Every bit as good as the Canon.  I shot some back-lit images as well to see how the lens would handle flare.

Backlit waterbuck - focus is on the right hand side waterbuck's forehead.  f11, 1/160th sec

The image is a bit soft but this I think is due to the slow shutter speed.

100% Crop

Heading back home I felt anxious but confident at the same time.  I was not disappointed!!  The lens performed very well and produced sharp images.  I had no problem in deciding that the Tamron had officially replaced the Canon for me.  The real bonus?  The extra reach!   That extra 200mm makes a big difference.  Of course all the shots I took were on Single Shot and I am yet to try the Servo mode with this lens.  But I could hand hold at 1/250th second and get sharp images so I am sure the Servo mode will work very well.

Overall I am very pleased with this lens so far.  I think Tamron have a real winner!

 Warthog, 1/640th sec, f10, 600mm
 100% crop
Zebra, 1/5000th. f5.6, 300mm
100% crop
These following images have been slightly edited,  mainly a bit of cropping and a small contrast boost. 
Focal Range and Length
Image Quality
Excellent VC (Vibration Control)
Accurate Focusing and Speed
Smooth Bokeh
No carry case
95mm Filters will be expensive
Max aperture at 600mm is f6.3
Don't forget you can see my complete portfolio at Shutterstock or Dreamstime.  I hope to have lots of images taken with my new Tamron uploaded there very soon!
Disclaimer:    I have not been compensated for this review and my conclusions were not influenced in any way.  The opinions stated here are my own.  I have tried to be as balanced and objective as possible in reviewing this lens.


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