First up - my Canon 60D with 70-200mm L lens. The 60D is a great combination of features, speed, and image quality and is my workhorse. Both of the occasions were outdoors, and with plenty of mid-day sunlight. My 70-200 L lens is the F4 model. For it's size it's light, and it will lock on focus very quickly. Compared to my Tamron 70-200 F2.8 the L lens is much easier to spend a couple of hours with. If you haven't used a larger lens like the Tamron 70-200 2.8 you'd be surprised at how the weight will begin to fatigue you after a while. I needed the lighter weight of the Canon L lens to chase around the grand kids that day.
In this image you can see how nicely the background is blurred, but the subject is in focus. This is an example of a shallow depth of field. To get this effect I did a couple of things. First, I used a large aperture (small number), in this case F4. The further increase the effect, I stood back from my subject and zoomed in to 200mm. The result is a very shallow depth of field, or in other words, a very limited area both in front of and behind the subject that is in focus.
I really like this shot. You can see how much fun this kid is having. And the background is in focus just enough to know that he's on a bike path near the water.
Both of the images above were made with just the available light, no flash. The sky was slightly overcast otherwise I would have had trouble with deep shadows across faces and very flat contrasty light. I suppose that if I had carried my flash that day I could have tried to use it for fill, meaning to soften the shadows. For the portrait, I instead looked for a nice evenly shaded spot and positioned my subject with her back to the brightest part of the sky (it was still somewhat overcast). I was also careful to make sure there were no streaks of sunlight sneaking in to cause problems. The only thing I would have used flash for here would have been to add a catch-light to the eyes.
I had an opportunity to go up to our local mountains the other day, and I needed to travel lite. But, I also wanted good image quality. My Sony NEX3 met those requirements nicely. I've talked about it before, but I'll mention a couple of features that I really like again. Size and quality are first. The physical size of the camera is perfect (at least for me) when I want to travel lite. While it's a little larger than most point and shoot camera's, it's small enough for me to take on extended hikes or when I just want something smaller than my larger DSLR. Second is image quality. The sensor in this camera is an APS-C, the same size as the one in my DSLR. The quality of the images are great, and to my eye better than what I could get out of the smaller point and shoot camera. Here are a few images from my quick trip to the mountains near Lake Arrowhead.
You can see in this photo that I was not making this image during the golden hour. It was just about mid-day, with the sun almost straight overhead. But I wanted to take a few pictures so I started looking around. That's when I noticed how the leaves of this little oak tree were glowing, back lit by that mid-day sunlight. Such a contrast from the darker greens of the rest of the foliage in shade. Just to have a little fun, I positioned myself so the sun would peek between the branches of an overhead pine tree. I kicked the aperture to F16 to create the star burst.
Here is a closer look at the wonderfully back lit oak leaves. They really pop against the blue sky background.
I liked this scene because of all of the texture, and 2 interesting groups of trees. With the harsh mid-day sun there was quite a bit of contrast. I switched the NEX3 to HDR mode, and it quickly took multiple shots and combined them to bring out detail in the shadow and highlights. I took the in-camera HDR image, and combined it with the original single exposure as metered by the camera. Using Photomatix I created this image. Personally, I really like this method because it allows me to make photos all day. While I could easily have gotten carried away with the HDR, I tried to keep it realistic. If you decide to try HDR yourself be sure to do what works for you! If you share your work online, there's bound to be a critic out there that doesn't care for one of your images. That's ok, to each his own. Just be sure that you are pleased and don't worry about the critics.
That's it for now! Happy shooting!
** Thanks again Andy!!