monvalsm.jpg

Here’s a shot [click on it for a larger view] taken shortly after dawn at Utah’s Monument Valley (which is just an amazing place—almost surreal). I’m using this shot as a perfect example of me not following my own rules, and paying for it later. Here’s what happened:

The night before this was shot, Jeff (scroll down two posts), Dave and I went to this cool little steakhouse about 40 miles from Monument Valley, where they cook the steaks outdoors on a “Swinging Grill” (it literally swings back and forth over a huge open flame to grill your steaks). It was a quirky place, with a live country band playing outdoors, and everybody there had a camera, so we were all taking shots of the band, the grill, and the scene. It was a low light situation, so I had to show off to my Nikon-shooting buddies by changing the ISO on my Canon 5D to ISO 1600 and hand-holding for a half-an-hour of shooting while waiting for our table.

The next morning, at 4:00 am as we’re driving toward Monument Valley, I told the guys, “Hey, don’t forget to change back your camera settings from last night’s low light shooting.” Then I told them about an Acronym I use to help remind me to check my most critical settings. It’s WHIMS, which stands for:

  • W: White Balance
  • H: Hightlight clipping warning
  • I: ISO
  • M: Mode (JPEG or RAW)
  • S: Shooting (Resetting to the right shooting mode for the subject: Aperture Priorty, Shutter Priority, Manual, etc.)

If I remember to check those five things, I’m set, and I reminded them twice during our drive there. Then, when I got to spot where we’d be shooting, it was so beautiful, and I was so excited, I just jumped out and starting shooting. At ISO 1600, at f/4 (the camera settings I used the night before). It wasn’t until about an hour later, after sunrise, that I actually checked my settings and learned that I had been shooting all morning at ISO 1600. My heart sank.

To Canon’s credit—the noise is amazingly low (in fact, I was shocked at how little noise there is), but obviously I would have preferred that it was at ISO 100 (which is the ISO I try to shoot in as much as possible, and since I was shooting on a tripod, ISO 100 would have been ideal).

So, although this is an embarrassing story for me personally, I hope you’ll use it (and my Acronym if it helps), to keep you from making the same mistake I did.

To wrap up: the shot was taken with a Canon 5D, using a 70mm – 200mm lens with Image Stabilization) in Aperture Priority (at least I got that part right), and because of the ISO of 1600, it was shot at 1/8000 of a second. The processing was minimal: In Lightroom I simply increased the Shadow amount (dragging the Shadow slider to the right), and increased the Clarity amount. Then I went over to Photoshop and darked the clouds at the top of the photo a little bit, and ran a Unsharp Mask filter, then saved as a JPEG for the Web.

I had hoped to post some field reports today on some of the equipment I used, but I won’t get one up until Monday. Now, if you kindly scroll to the next comment, for a Friday News Wrap up.