Zoom in on Peoria: A rough Demo of the Canon EOS 70D digital Zoom

I recently purchased a new Canon EOS 70D, and, not being a huge reader of instructions and manuals, owned it for more a couple of months before I even realized that the camera possessed a Digital Zoom function that can be used during video operation.

Being a recent contributor to several stock video sites, I set about exploring this function to see how valuable it might be in producing some stock clips.

Below is a rough video I put together to demonstrate the resolution and magnification a user might expect when using the digital zoom

Canon EOS 70D was equipped with a Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L zoom lens and mounted on a raining across the Illinois River from downtown Peoria, Illinois.

The green signs in the video can be seen just to the right of the church spires in the upper right of the still image at the top of this article. SO, as you can see, the digital zoom does give you quite a large magnification!

Unlike digital zooms on other cameras I have tried out, the
Canon70D will output the video at full 1080 resolution. Of course, being a digital zoom, the image has been "ressed-up" to create this resolution. Still I like the results and feel that they could be useful in a stock video application where the video was intended for low-res web use.

This zoom could be a useful tool when the photographer finds himself severely under-lensed when presented with an otherwise great video clip opportunity, or when he or she is forced to travel with limited gear, when there is not enough room to pack a long lens.

Anyone, for those of you who were wondering about the actual, real world results obtainable from the
Canon EOS 70D digital zoom, I offer the above video with apologies for the shakiness. Will post more, better clips soon!


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On Liking Long Lenses

Way back in 1977, when I bought my first “good” 35mm camera, I mae sure that I bought a 3 lens kit which included a 135mm telephoto lens. Even back then I vaguely know that, at least in my mind, longer is better!

It wasn’t long after that camera kit purchase that I found myself in a Sears at the mall across the street from Daytona International Speedway buying a 2x teleconverter to push my maximum length up to 270mm. And soon after that I was anxiously awaiting the delivery of my catalog-ordered Spiratone 400mm super-telephoto pre-set lens (remember those all you old-timers out there?).

Still, that wasn’t long enough. Through the years I delighted in attaching Canon’s 2x extenders to their 500 and 600mm telephoto lenses. And, of course, the D-series Canon EOS digital camera bodies haven’t hurt with their 1.6x magnification factor. I was also equally thrilled to discover that the Canon 7D and D60 bodies come with a “640 crop” video mode which delivers a low -res video at about 7x the lens’s focal length (see my video of the moon shot in this mode below)

Moon over Florida with the Canon 60D from Brian Cleary on Vimeo.

So what is that has drawn me to these longer and longer lenses overt he course of my career?

1) They get you up close to things that your not supposed be up close to (see the Space Shuttle launch above)

2) They reveal details of subjects that are too far away to other wise be seen (as in my moon video)

3) I’ve always LOVED the way the make setting and rising suns and moons become huger than life! (egret photo below)

4) In sports photography you can shoot unobtrusive candids without walking right up to your subject and sticking a camera in his face (NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, below)

5) I love the way that distance is compressed and subjects are “mashed together” when employing a super-long lens! (Motorcycles, below)

6) When the action is too far away, it brings it right up to your fingertips. (another motorcycle pic, below)

In short, I guess the telephoto lens really suits my style, being a basically shy person, I can shoot with a longer lens while employing a “fly on the wall” technique to get close to my subjects without getting “too close”, if that makes any sense. I really love my long lenses.

On the other hand, come back soon to find out why I couldn’t live without the wide lenses in my camera bag either!


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Practice Makes Perfect

iPhone Photography by Brian Cleary - Images by Brian Cleary
Practice makes perfect , so they say, and that axiom is as true in photography as it is in any other endeavor. But it's not always practical to carry around a lot of photo and editing gear to practice your craft. I've found, however, that my iPhone camera, a photo editing apps and one cool web site helps to keep my eye and editing skills sharp no matter where I am.

The "Best Camera" iPhone app is my newest discovery. The idea is to snap a photo with your iPhone, perform some basic editing and upload it to the "Best Camera" site, where it will be instantly available for online viewing and judging.

Armed with the fixed-focal length iPhone, you are forced to work with the equipment you have at hand. Knowing what basic editing tools you have available to you helps you to pre-visualize your final photo. It is often surprising what photos perform well in the online voting and what photos do not. This can also be an interesting barometer for current popular photo tastes, which may in some way help you when it comes time to look for stock photo ideas and come up with self-assignments.

I find the phot-taking, editing and uploading an interesting pastime when waiting for airplanes, sightseeing in unfamiliar cities and just hanging with the family on the weekend.

You can also vie and rate other photog's work on the "Best Camera" web site. It is really surprising what the iPhone camera can do in the holds on a creative person.

I've also experimented with a variety of 3rd party photo editing apps available at the iPhone app store.

So jump on the app store and search "best camera" and "photography", load your iPhone with apps and start shooting.

Click here to view my "Best Camera" gallery


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Cool iPhone Panorama Photo app

Was browsing the App store on my iPhone the other day and stumbled across the "Pano" app, which can be used to create wide panoramic photos on your iPhone. You can shoot up to 16 side by side pics in the app, then stitch them together to create a single, wide picture.

It's all fairly automatic: you shoot the photo, then are prompted to either retake or use the picture you've just taken. Once you decide to use a photo it is saved into memory and you are ready to take the next picture in the sequence. About a quarter of the previous photo remains in a transparent form on your iPhone screen as an aide in lining up your next shot. Once all the photos are taken you are given the option to merge all the pics together into a single panorama. Click merge and the app automatically stitches them all together, after which you can either save the image to your camera roll or share it via email.

Lots of fun and a great tool for the iPhone carrying photographer. Check it out at the app store or at the Debacle Software Web Site.


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Cheap Plastic Camera pics - coming full circle

Back in the late 1960's my father bought me a cheap plastic camera. It was a Diana camera that took 127 roll film, and served as my introduction to photography. The great thing about the camera was that you could happily snap away without any worries about shutter speeds and apertures (I had no idea what they even were!) and still end up with a pile of decent photos to study and share.

The grey plastic camera accompanied my everywhere, to Daytona Speedway, to the beach, on vacations and I still have some of the negatives it produced. So on a recent vacation to Sarasota, FL, while making a mandatory stop in a toy store with my wife and kids, I couldn't resist when I spotted a cheap plastic Pop Cam 35mm film camera.

This camera features 4 lenses, each with a different color filter, and snaps four pictures in rapid succession on a single frame of 35mm film, each through a different filter. The intent is to create Warhol-style images with a graphic, poster kind of look. Every frame is not a work of art, for sure, and it takes some though to produce interesting photos. What I like about it is the ability to shoot away without any thought to shutter speed, aperture, focus, etc. Kind of like my childhood efforts with the old Diana.

The little Pop Cam has developed a small cult-type following and even has some dedicated followers on Flickr.

If you find your creativity bogged down in the daily grind of the technical and business side of photography, you might consider picking up a cheap plastic camera and go out to shoot some "just for fun" photos.


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Being prepared for when you're unprepared

Have you ever stumbled across a great photo opp only to find yourself self camera-less and looking at the missed opportunity, trying not to think of the photos your not going to get?

This happened to me last weekend in Kansas City. I was driving to the airport and had a little time to kill. As I drove past a large Cabella's outdoor store, I decided to stop in and browse for a few minutes. The store featured an huge, incredible taxidermy display and I soon found myself wishing my camera was available, but it was packed away and I did not have time to unpack my gear and still get to the airport on time. I did, however, have my little Aptek HD 720 camera in my pocket. Not my first option for high quality documentary photography, but at least I could grab a few pics.

As I walked through the display snapping away, and enjoying the way that the animals were positioned in relation to one another to create a series of real-world looking scenes, I thought that these pictures might be great candidates for a little photoshop session.

While the camera original images from a lower-res point and shoot may not be up to your regular standards, you may be able to produce an interesting picture by tweeking it in the computer. I look at these situations, as a chance to practice my photoshop skills and get a little creative. Start throwing some filters and effects on the images an see what happens. You may be surprised at what you come up with.

Click here to view my "Stuffed Animals" photo gallery


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Accidents Happen: A Crash Course in Racing Photography

An article I wrote several years ago for "Crash and Burn" Magazine:

Racing is a sport just begging to be photographed! It's filled with color, beauty, excitement, action, and emotion. The racing photographer has his hands full just trying to record all the routine things that happen at the racetrack. But what about when things go wrong? Photographs of racing crashes make some of the most spectacular pictures in all of sports photography.
So, how does the photographer improve his chances of getting great crash photos at the track?
Following are ten tricks I've picked up in nearly thirty years of racing photography.

While it's true that a crash can happen at any time or place on a race track, all tracks have their potential trouble spots. On Daytona's 2.5 mile tri-oval it could be coming off of turns 2 or 4. Motorcycles tend to have trouble in Daytona's chicane.
If you're not familiar with a track, check out a course layout map. A tight turn after a long, fast straightaway is a possible trouble-maker, for instance. Also, you could just ask someone who is familiar with the track to point out areas that have the potential for some action.

Once you've picked out that potential trouble spot, pre-focus on a place on the track where you feel the action might occur. Concentrate mainly on that spot, but if trouble happens anywhere nearby, it will be relatively easy to adjust your focus to the offending area.
Also, if you focus temporarily on something close-up, say a bikini-clad race fan, don't forget to reset your focus to your selected area when you're finished shooting that fan.

You should always try to keep your shutter speed up to at least 1/500th of a second, preferably 1/100th of a
second or even faster when possible. Of course, some of racing1s nicest pictures are blurry-background pan shots of speeding race cars, and to make these photos you1ll need to drop your shutter speed way down. That's OK, but don't keep it there too long, and always remember to reset it to 1/500th of a second or higher just as soon as you1re done with the pan shots!
Also, if things get really dark in the late afternoon or under cloudy skies, you might consider going to a film rated at ISO 400, 1000, or even 1600, or pushing the film that1s in your camera so that you don1t have to drop your shutter speed too low. If you're shooting digital media, just crank your ISO up as high as you need to.It's better to have a slightly noisy or grainy properly exposed photo than a badly under-exposed image that cannot be salvaged. Keep in mind that shooting a crash picture at too low a shutter speed is about the same as not shooting it at all!

Always be aware of how many frames you have remaining on you digital media and try to have at least 30 available or, if you're shooting film, try to use 36 exposure rolls of film whenever possible. This simply gives you more frames to work with. Keep an eye on the frame counter, though, and think about changing digital storage cards or loading a fresh roll when you fewer than 20 frames remaining. Otherwise you could easily end up with no pictures left in your camera when the big crash happens right in front of you.
I know one photographer who had a bird1s eye view of Darrell Waltrip's unbelievable barrel roll down Daytona's backstretch a few years ago. Only problem was, when he pressed down his shutter button his camera fired one shot, then ran out of film! Oh well, at least he had a good view of it.

Many cameras have built-in motor- drives these days, and I think that is a great idea. Without a drive you have to move the camera away from
your eye and advance the film manually between pictures and you end up missing too much.
A drive which advances your film
at at least 3 frames per second is a tremendous help in photographing racing crashes. In fact, twice since 1984 I1ve shot an entire 36 exposure roll of film on a single crash with the help of a motordrive.

Don't have a pass to get up by the track where all the pros are shooting? Don't despair. Everyone's got to start somewhere, and sometimes the pictures taken from the grandstands can be better than the ones shot by the pros.
Also, a really nice picture made from the spectator area can open doors for you at the local newspaper or even with a national wire service or
magazine, which could eventually lead to press passes.
My very own first crash picture was shot through a fence at Daytona Speedway and got me on the front page of papers throughout the country when the Associated Press picked up the photo!

Sometimes you might be positioned in a spot where you can1t actually see the cars coming to you. So how can you tell when trouble starts? Listen for it!
The loud BOOM! of a blown tire, or popping of an engine coming undone can mean a crash is coming your way! So can an over-revving engine that results from tires losing traction on the racing surface.
Wear a radio headset or a scanner, as they1ll definitely let you know when there1s trouble on the track and exactly where it is.
Often even a sudden roar or gasp from the crowd will alert you to something going awry on the racetrack.
This was the case during the 1984 Pole Clash at Daytona. I was covering pit road, but didn1t have a radio with me that day. On one lap, as the leaders were exiting turn four and still out of my view, I heard a huge collective gasp go up from the grandstands as the crowd jumped to its feet. The leaders came into view, but one car was missing from the pack. While I was trying to figure out who was no longer in the lead group of cars, Ricky Rudd1s Thunderbird exploded into view, flipping violently end over end and side over side in the grass about 100 feet in front of me. I managed to get my camera up and get a few shots. If not for that strange noise from the crowd, I probably
wouldn1t have known anything was amiss and I1d probably been totally unprepared for the big crash coming my way. I would most likely have missed the whole thing!

Remember, when one car spins, many others often follow suit. Try to shoot a few frames of a spinning car, then take a quick glance up the track to see if any cars following the instigator are also experiencing trouble in his wake (or his spilled oil!) Keep in mind that accidents are more likely to happen when the cars are bunched up right after the start of a race or after a restart following a caution flag, so this is the time to keep your shutter speed high an dyour camera at your eye!

Watch the racers carefully as they pass you lap after lap. A wisp of smoke might be a sign that an engine is about to let go. A wiggling rear end could tell you that a driver is having handling problems or that a tire is going down on his car. A frustrated faster car having problems getting around a slower competitor might lead to his taking a risk he might not otherwise take.
A fast pack of cars running up on a slow pack might mean trouble.
Observing any little detail of the race could help you to anticipate an accident about to happen on the track.

Always try to save a frame or two for after the smoke has cleared, as often great pictures can be made of a driver exiting his crashed race car at the end of the wreck.
While these tips might help you to get good crash and burn photos, there is one other thing to keep in mind. The race track is a dangerous place
where almost anything can happen when things go wrong, so while you1re out there looking for great photos remember to look out for yourself, too!
Keep something sturdy between you and the race cars so you won1t become part of the accident you1re trying to photograph!
Yes, racing is an incredibly fast sport and the keys to your success in getting good track action pictures are anticipation and the ability to keep up with the rapidly unfolding circumstances and react to them quickly. Earlier we compared racing photography to golf, bowling and other sports. I think this comparison can be carried even further. In most of these sports, the more you practice, the better you get. This holds true in motorsports photography as well. Practice is the only way to keep your eye sharp and your reflexes in tune. So pick up your cameras and get out there and practice, practice, practice!


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