Tag Archives: Canon

low angle desert bloom copyright Aloha Lavina

Three Things to Love about the Canon 60D

That the 5DMkII’s mirror came loose is a blessing.

The 60D this week proved to me that it is a great tool for travel photography. I had traveled with the 60D before, to Bhutan in the wintertime, and I noticed that it suffered a bit from condensation that happened when it was very cold outside—the viewfinder fogged up, and the photos came out with their very own involuntary blurring, which made focusing a challenge. The camera also feels very light in the hands. For someone used to the hefty Nikon D3 combined with the weight of a 24-70mm f/2.8 Nano lens, I didn’t feel that the 60D was a solid machine in my hands.

But for the past two weeks in California, I’ve been using the 60D every day, and it has proven to be a great camera. Three things I have come to love about the 60D are its weight (yes!), the vari-angle LCD screen, and its compatibility with Canon’s EF lenses.

Since this assignment requires me to bring three lenses, I’ve come to appreciate the lighter weight of the 60D. Roaming the countryside from sunup to sundown, the camera sits well in my favorite Crumpler 6 Billion Dollar Home with the 50mm f/1.2, the 16-35mm f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8. Also always in my bag are an Epson P-7000, extra camera batteries, a notebook, passport, iPod, a polarizing filter in its case, a screw-on ND filter in its case. Usually, the bag would bulge because with the rest of the inventory, I had to pack in the D3, and the bulk of its grip would hit into my hip constantly; the weight of course made my shoulder ache. With the 60D, the bag felt slim, kept its shape, and didn’t have the bulging it usually experienced. I’ve been walking with this sling bag every day for at least 12 hours, I rarely put it down even when making long exposure sunset shots, and my shoulders are fine. The weight of the 60D is definitely a plus for an itinerant photographer.

slow shutter in June Lakes California copyright Aloha Lavina

June Lake area, California. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The vari-angle LCD screen is something I dismissed the first time I used the 60D, but it has become the best part of the camera for me. You can flip the LCD screen so that the LCD is tucked into the camera back to protect it when traveling. When you need to use it to compose, it swivels out and flips 180 degrees. It really makes those low, low angles possible to compose in without putting out your back! I enjoyed this feature a lot since I didn’t have to lie down on the cold ground in Yosemite to make low angle shots.

low angle desert bloom copyright Aloha Lavina

Low angle shots will always be fun with the 60D. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

I also found the screen useful for an efficient composition workflow. I composed with the screen and looked at it while adjusting the tripod head, angle, and making decisions about orientation in the image. A great feature is the horizon helper—the horizon bar on the screen shows up green when it’s straight, so you don’t have to guess, especially if you’ve got horizon tilt bias, which I seem to have. After the adjustments, I just switch the camera back to the ‘info’ mode which displays all my settings on one screen, focus through the viewfinder, and then trigger the camera with the remote.

Bodie, California copyright Aloha Lavina

Low angle shot in Bodie, California. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The third advantage of using a 60D is its compatibility with the lenses I use with the 5DMkII. The EF lenses I brought on this trip were bought because of their exemplary quality. These lenses are superb products, and if used well, focus accurately and produce sharp images with vibrant color. They are versatile and fast, useful for small-aperture landscapes as well as low-light portraiture. I don’t own a lot of Canon lenses, and these lenses do a wide range of work. So for the lenses to fit the 60D is definitely a plus for the camera.

Honestly, I think the 60D is going to be a mainstay in my bag. And it won’t just be a backup camera. It will be a valued tool that will not only help me make images, but help me travel well.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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Girls on bikes, Hoi An Vietnam.

Keep Your Camera in Motion

Spice up your travel photography tip # 3: Learn how to capture motion

If you’re looking to spice up your travel photography, you can keep your camera moving!

I kid you not. Most of us who are new to travel photography or photography might think that the only way to get a good photo is to keep absolutely still when taking it. Yes, this is a general rule. Holding the camera steady when taking a photo is one of the essential skills a developing photographer needs to master. There are even breathing techniques we use to make sure our images come out sharp.

It’s also a general rule that we have to keep our shutter speed inversely proportional to the focal length of our lens to make a sharp photo. That means if your focal length is 50mm, you have to make sure your shutter speed is 1/50s or faster.

These two rules are good to know and keep in mind. But sometimes, you have to break the rules to be creative and have some fun. Here’s how breaking these two rules in photography can help you capture motion  and spice up your travel photos.

Girls on bikes, Hoi An Vietnam.

ISO 125, 1/25s @ 22mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Slowing down shutter speed to a value lower than the inverse of your focal length and moving the camera from one side to another can result in images that show motion. Let’s break it down into details of what we have to do to make these kinds of shots.

First, set the camera to Shutter Priority. This is S Mode on a Nikon and Tv mode on a Canon. Then, set ISO to the lowest possible. I used ISO 200 on the Nikon and ISO 100 on the Canon.

Try to shoot motion in the times of day when there is less light, like early morning or late afternoon. Using these techniques when there is a lot of light results in overly overexposed images, which will not work.


Bali market, Indonesia

ISO 200, 1/15s @ 24mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The shutter speed that can allow us to keep sharp a walking person is at about 1/15s. If your focal length is 24mm, like what I was using for the photo of the man in the Balinese market, this shutter speed is much slower than what I require to take a sharp photo. But what I did to make the man sharp against the moving-like-a-blur market was to focus on him when he was walking initially outside of my frame, and then following him while keeping the shutter release depressed. I pressed the shutter release just as the man walked into the frame I had decided beforehand. This technique blurs the background and everything else but keeps the man sharp, making this photo that captures motion in the bustling market.

This technique of moving the camera from one side to the other is called panning. Panning can also be used for faster objects, such as the people on bikes in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hoi An Vietnam bicycle banana seller

ISO 100, 1/30s @ 17mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Capturing motion is simple and fun, and the resulting images spice up your travel photography. Why not try it today?

Up next: Spice up your travel photography by eating lots of colors, right here on Imagine That!

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Playing with Monochrome Picture Mode
Don’t Put Away Your Camera Away After Sunset
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
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11 Ways to Build a Better Photo

Two women walk down an alley in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Playing with Monochrome Picture Mode

Spice up your travel photography tip # 2: Play with Monochrome Picture Mode

Sometimes, I get too serious.

I mean, walking around in a place I haven’t been, enthralled by all the new things I see, I sometimes forget that the best thing to do with my camera is play. That’s right, play: that state of experimental joy that feels good in itself because it’s relaxed and holds no pressure.

Walking around in Hoi An in the middle of the day, it is hot. The shadows are sharp, the light is harsh. The common response is, put the camera away, have a superb Vietnamese coffee, and practice portraits by people watching, take a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room until the light softens and turns a warmer color in the late afternoon.

Or, keep walking with the camera on Monochrome Picture Mode and make some monochrome images.

I decided to play with this feature of the 7D and learned some new things.

Shoot in RAW + JPG

Ducks on a motorbike, Hoi An Vietnam.

Ducks on a motorbike at the market, Hoi An Vietnam. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Most dSLRs now allow you to choose both RAW and JPG as the output files when you shoot. RAW isn’t really a picture file per se; it’s a composite of all the information the camera gets when you take a photo. So if you choose Monochrome Picture Mode and shoot in RAW, you’re still taking all the good stuff from the scene you captured even though the image shows up monochromatic in your LCD display. Shooting the extra JPG file gives you a ‘true’ monochrome image, processed in camera.

Play with Exposure Compensation

Shooting JPGs will allow you to hone your skills in shooting black and whites. The fun part of shooting black and white is getting to use and learn about exposure compensation. This is the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ calibration line you see on the top display of the camera. Plus on a Canon means you compensate by ‘adding’ more light or overexpose, and minus on a Canon means you compensate by ‘subtracting’ light or underexposing. What do these pluses and minuses do? They actually allow you to make images darker (minus) or brighter (plus). (And you can use exposure compensation even when you shoot in color.)

Make Subjective Exposures


Two women walk down an alley in Hoi An, Vietnam.

One of my faves from Hoi An is from playtime with Monochrome Pic Mode. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Black and whites need pronounced blacks and glowing whites, so you can use exposure compensation to make what I call a subjective exposure—an image that looks like what I have in mind. This means you can underexpose or overexpose to taste, and play with the amount of light you let in the camera when you capture the image.

Playing with the Monochrome Picture Mode on your camera while traveling can help you have fun and learn something new about controlling how you make images.

Up next: Spice up your travel photography by shooting motion, right here on Imagine That!

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Don’t Put Away Your Camera Away After Sunset
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Let the Shadows Speak
All You Need is a Window
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo


Photo Equipment Part 2: What’s in the Bag

Some people take photos because they travel.

I travel so I can take photos.

One of the very first times I traveled with equipment, I brought more than I needed, or I brought the wrong lens, or I ran out of storage and had to shoot Inle Lake in Myanmar with basic JPG (which is not entirely a bad thing, but shooting RAW would have been better).

As I traveled more, I learned which equipment works for me, and now I often pack only what is really essential on a photography trip.

Most of my trips last three weeks at most, and the trips I like are the ones where I am constantly on the move. Arrive in Delhi at 9 pm, get into a car at 10 after customs, drive for 9 hours to Bikaner, and shoot all day. That sort of thing. So I do not want a lot of equipment that will be cumbersome or too heavy and prevent me from moving a lot.


Loading boats at Kusumba, Bali. Photo (c) Aloha Lavina.

2007 was the year when I first racked up more than 80,000 miles traveling with my camera, so that was when I found out what I needed. Bare essentials for me on a trip are one DSLR, a wide lens such as the very affordable Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5-5.6, a middle lens which stays on the camera as the default lens, which for the Nikon D3 is the 24-70mm f/2.8 NANO Nikkor, and a long lens, my favorite being the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8. These zoom lenses are fast lenses with the widest aperture zooms come in. I find that using these fast zooms gives me a lot of confidence that while on the move, I am able to get images that are sharp and bursting with color, the way I like my images.

Just last December I was offered an assignment and a sponsorship by Canon, and they sent me a 60D, a new prosumer model with video, and the flexible 18-200mm f/3.5 lens. I found that Canon really produces a blue sky, and that the combination of the camera body and lens were lightweight (great because the trip had a lot of trekking) and flexible. The lens covered all the subjects I needed to shoot—closeup portraits, environmental portraits, landscapes, still life, low light detail, and action shots of black necked cranes and vultures swooping around flapping prayer flags.


I also have the following in my bag:

  • Spare batteries – the new batteries these days boast longer life, up to 1500 shots. For the D3 I find the batteries do last around that long, and that is usually what I shoot on a really good day.
  • Memory cards – I bring up to 48 GB of memory on a weeklong trip because I am a trigger happy girl and can usually fill up to 16 GB easily in a day, shooting RAW.
  • Storage viewer – I bring the EPSON P-5000 or the P-7000 on my travels. The P-5000 has 80 GB of storage and the P-7000 has 160GB of storage.

    The EPSON P-7000 has a 4 inch screen for viewing photos and stores up to 160GB.

    They both have a 4” LCD screen for viewing photos in common camera formats (RAW for both Nikon and Canon, as well as TIFF and JPG). I use this device to back up and store my images and free up the memory cards for the next day. Also, at night I spend time editing my photos, deleting photos that obviously do not work, marking the ones I really like. The EPSON allows you to “star” your favorites) and saving them into a separate folder called “Favorites” to help me get started with processing when I return from the trip).

  • Cleaning equipment – I have a great blower brush and microfiber cloth, and I use them often. When I am indoors, say for lunch or a coffee break, I’ll often clean the camera and lenses I have used so far, before heading out again for more image hunting.
  • Filters – I attach a UV filter to every lens. More than something that will affect my color or image, the UV lens is basically to protect the lens glass. I also bring a polarizing filter (sometimes).
  • Lens hoods – all Nikon lenses come with a lens hood, and I absolutely make it a point to use them. Not only do they block out unwanted light, they also protect the lens from bumps especially in crowded areas.
  • Tripod – I have a Chinese made Benro tripod that I use in places where I might take some landscape shots or long exposures. If the trip is long enough and I do not have a deadline for portraits, I bring the tripod. On most of my trips though, I have to confess, the shots are all captured handheld.
  • A couple of pens and a small notebook – writing equipment is always part of my camera bag. You never know when an image brings with it a story that uses words.


For trips where I have to edit and process photos before returning home, I bring the 15” Macbook pro. I prefer Apple products because they are intuitive to use, and I do not have to calibrate the screen too often.

For post-processing work that I do at home, I use a 27” iMac with 8GB RAM. I need it especially to prepare files that are really really big, like billboards.

I use Adobe Lightroom 3.3 and Adobe Photoshop CS5 to prepare my images for publication. I sometimes use Adobe Illustrator to prepare files for print publications which specify this file requirement.

For storage, I use three different external drives as backups which I clean every year. Clients’ photos in the original RAW format are kept in the external hard drive for a year, and then I delete them and only keep the ones I use for my portfolio.


All things considered, I am pretty happy with the equipment I have, for the work that I do. However, if I had the some dispensable cash to invest in more equipment, I would probably go for the following juicy bits.

1.     14mm f/2.8 lens – this lens is great for tight spaces—markets, temples, festivals. It’s fast and it’s wide enough for travel and street photography.

2.     Macbook 15” i7 core –at the moment I can only run CS4 on my Macbook Pro which is two generations older. With this new, faster MBP, Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 could run without the issue of overheating.