Canon 5D Mark II

DVD in the Making: Shooting HD Videos with the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D

Juan Pons and I just wrapped up day one of our shoot for our upcoming DVD: Canon DSLR Video Master Class. We'll be sharing our best tips, tricks and techniques for shooting HD videos with the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at our lighting set up for the intro segment: The Westcott Spider TD5 light kit positioned for shadowless lighting.

Westcott's Dave Piazza is coming here to Croton with more cool lighting accessories on Thursday to shoot a segment on lighting for video - indoors and out.

Quick tip on lighting: The larger the light, the softer the light; the closer the light, the softer the light.

Click here to see our world famous (ha ha) Christmas cheetah movie. Just an example of the kind of super-sharp videos we'll be showing in our DVD. Yes! We will have more action in our other vidoes :-)

Explore the light,

Quick Digital Imaging Tip 34/101: Focus Carefully

This is tip #34 of 101 digital imaging tips I plan to post here over the next few months. Stay tuned.

Today's tip: Focus Carefully

Just because you have an auto focus camera, even if it has a 45 auto focus point system, that does not mean that the camera always knows where to focus.

Use the AF focus points in your camera carefully and make sure that the most important part of the scene is in focus.

When it comes to a person (or an animal) the main focus point is usually the eyes.

Don’t overlook the importance of the Focus Lock feature on your camera, which lets you lock in the focus on a particular part of the scene, after which you can recompose the scene and take the picture. Setting individual focus points can be advantageous, too.

Careful focus is especially important when photographing people (and animals) with telephoto lenses set at wide apertures and when there are foreground elements in the scene - as illustrated by this photograph I took of a Huli Wigman in Papua New Guinea.

Explore the light,


P.S. The catch light in the man's eyes were created by our guide holding a reflector. When possible and appropriate, I try to add catch light to a subject's eyes. You can also add catch light with a flash, or by having the subject look toward the direction of light.

Quick Digital Imaging Tip 7/101: Shoot At an Angle and Create a Sense of Depth in Your Images

This is #7 of 101 digital imaging tips I plan to post here over the next few months. Stay tuned.

Today's tip (from Thailand): Shoot at an angle and create a sense of depth in your images.

These two HDR images (Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro), which I made today Chiang Mai, Thailand (after a 36-hour door-to-door trip from NY), have a good sense of depth because I shot at angle angle – and because everything in the scene is in focus.

To get max depth-of-field: use a wide-angle lens, set a small aperture and focus one-third into the scene.

My gear for these shots: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 14mm lens. See all my gear here.

For more info and discounts on HDR imaging programs, click here.

Planning a trip to Thailand (and Cambodia and Laos - next stops on our photo tour), work with one of the best tour operators I know: Travel Link.

Our guide in Thailand is a wealth of info: Mr. Mike, a.k.a. Crocodile Mike:

As Capt. Jack always says, "Don't ya just love it."

Explore the light – and enjoy the Pad Thai :-)

P.S. The band in the hotel is playing a Lady Gaga song.....

HD SLR Video: Getting Started with a Basic Setup

In talking with my friend and HD SLR innovator, Vincent LaForet, he offered some good advice for those just getting into HD SLR video: Keep it Simple.

Well, I am just getting into HD SLR video, and I took his advice.

Here is my simple (starter) setup for images and sound - and why I use this stuff:

Rode VideoMic - Camera Mounted Shotgun Microphone. The sound quality is very good and I only have one thing to worry about (as opposed to a transmitter/receiver lapel mic set up). Also, the mic plugs directly into the camera (or an accessory recorder). Because it's not wireless, there is no chance for interference, which I have experienced even with a very good transmitter/receiver mic setup - even when I turn off my iPhone. :-)

If you use an on-camera mic, be sure to turn off the IS and AF features on your camera. Those tiny sounds will be picked up big time.

Want more professional sound? Check out the Zoom recorder. That's the recorder I use for my DPE on-site interviews.

Induro CT 214 Tripod. Steady as a rock and supports the longest lens I use for video: 70-200mm f/4.

If you plan to use longer lenses or other accessories, you probably want a heavier tripod.

Manfrotto 501HDV Fluid Video Head - Supports up to 13.2 lbs (6kg). Lets me move the camera in any directly smoothly and easily. As a bonus, the handle makes me feel like a pro. :-)

A fluid head is an essential accessory for steady shooting.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera Kit with Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF Lens. I like to travel light. This lens is very versatile for people and scenic shots. What's more, at the wide settings, I can hand-hold the setup.

Another favorite lens of mine is the 17-40mm. I shoot more wide-angle stuff than tele stuff.

Lexar 32GB Professional UDMA 600x CompactFlash Card. Reliable and plenty of space for shooting several segments.

Don't leave home without plenty of memory cards (and batteries).

For more HD SLR video/sound information, check out the Digital Photo Experience. Juan Pons posts some good stuff there, as does Art Howard. We also have a interview with Vincent on the site!

Explore the light,

A Week of Storytelling: Day 7 – Take Behind-The-Scenes Shots

Photograph © Rick Sammon.
All rights reserved. Canon 5D Mark II. Canon 15mm lens.

It’s Day 7 of Storytelling Week here on my blog - the last day of this project. Each day, I shared a photography tip illustrated with one of my favorite photographs that I took this past April at the Sister’s Meal Festival in the province of Guizhou in southwest China.

The idea of this weeklong project: When you go to an event, on the other side of the world or the other side of town, try to “tell the whole story” with your pictures.

Today’s tip: Take behind-the-scenes shots.

This is not my favorite photograph from the Sister’s Meal Festival, but it sure does tell part of the story: If you go, you’ll have dozens of photographers trying to take the same shot, even if you have taken the time to set-up your own shot.

Take behind-the-scenes photographs. Not only will they help to bring back memories of the event, but they will help you share your entire experience with others.

Want more travel photo info? My current app, 24/7 Photo Buffet, offers dozens of photo tips for photographers on the go – even HDR photographers.

Explore the light,

P.S. Shoot me an email if you are interested in joining my 2011 China workshops. I will have some guest pros leading some workshops, too. Email me: Rick Sammon at