Seasonal Inspiration: Autumn


Different seasons offer many opportunities to photograph the world around you, but my favorite time of year both personally and photographically is autumn!  Something about a chill in the morning air, the colors of the leaves and even the misty fog that is prevalent this time of year makes for some truly breathtaking scenes.

Perhaps one of my favorite images I’ve ever seen from Autumn comes from some of the footage from a movie in the 80’s called The Dead Poet’s Society.  There’s a scene with a bagpiper playing his end of the day tune as birds take to the air, and the notes float across the lake.  The footage comes from Vermont, at a boy’s prep school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find scenes worthy of a shutter click in your own neck of the woods.

Time is drawing nigh for photo gathering too as the autumnal equinox just happened on Sunday.  The day marks the time of year when the equator of the Earth aligns with the center of the sun.  In the Spring, the tilt is toward the sun and in the fall, the Earth tilts away from the sun.  Both the spring and fall solstice (another term for the equinox) events indicate 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.  From this point forward (until Spring anyway), the days will start getting shorter and the nights start getting longer.  This means sunset will happen earlier and earlier every day.

As we get less light, a chemical reaction happens in the leaves of trees, causing the chlorophyll to break down.  The chillier air also has an impact on some varieties of trees.  The best trees (in my opinion) to shoot for fall foliage are Maple trees, beech, dogwoods, and Hickory because the leaf colors are the bright orange and red ones that contrast very nicely against the still blue skies (when it’s not raining).

Here’s some sample shots from my own repertoire to give you some inspiration.  For this year, I am going to try and visit the Amish country of Ohio around the Hocking Hills area.  Other options include Chataqua NY (there’s an awesome lake there that would be quite idyllic!).  What plans do you have for shooting Fall foliage?  Any places you’ve been to where you’ve gotten nice results?  Sound off in the comments with your own fall foliage itineraries!

How Fast Can You Shoot?

Whole Lotta Shaking

Whole Lotta Shaking

On initial glance from the title, one might think this blog is segueing into a dialog from the Top Shot show over on the History Channel (very cool show btw), but I’m actually referring to the notion of speed often associated with shooting digital.  Sports shooters, action shooters and the like often will get the fastest cameras, the fastest cards they can get, with the fastest processors, and go to all sorts of degrees to eliminate bottlenecks in their capacity to shoot fast and on the go.  To an extent, their efforts are justified, but how fast does your card need to be?

As you may recall on Monday, I talked about how the real meaning of memory in media cards.  We talked about Megapixels and Megabytes, and I gave some real world number ranges for what you could expect a media card to handle.  So, today, we’re going to follow up on that topic of discussion and take a look at speed ratings for cards.  As always, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye, primarily because there are lots of numbers bandied about when speaking about card transfer rates.  Before we wade hip dip into this, one brief note here is to give serious props to Rob Galbraith for compiling a pretty extensive database on his website of data transfer rates for a whole slew of cards with a whole slew of cameras.  If you really want to dig into the minutia of how fast cards really are, be sure to check it out!  Just one note though, that this database has not been updated since 2008 so cameras made since then will not be found with any reliable information.

With that in mind, today it’s probably more helpful to walk through the various points that can contribute to data transfer rates for cards.  The natural first stopping point is in the camera itself, in what is commonly known as fps, or “Frames Per Second”.

Frames Per Second

Quite simply this refers to the number of actuations a given shutter in a camera can cycle through in exactly one second.  As indicated above, the abbreviation for this is typically fps, and is easily culled from the spec sheet for pretty much any camera on the market today.  For those of you that want to see a compilation though, here you are (I should note that I grabbed all this data from the vendor websites on claimed fps for the highest resolution image settings.  If you set your file size to sRaw, or jpg and add compression, your max frame rate may increase…:

Vendor Camera FPS Vendor Camera FPS
Canon 1D Mark IV 10 Nikon D3S 9
Canon 1D Mark III 10 Nikon D300S 8
Canon 7D 8 Nikon D7000 6
Canon 50D 6.3 Nikon D3X 5
Canon 60D 5.3 Nikon D700 5
Canon 1Ds Mark III 5.0 Nikon D90 4.5
Canon 5D Mark II 3.9 Nikon D5100 4
Canon T3i 3.7 Nikon D5000 4
Canon T2i 3.7 Nikon D3100 3
Canon XSi 3.5 Nikon D3000 3.0
Canon T1i 3.4
Canon T3 3
Canon XS 3


The bottom line here though is that with most DSLR’s on the market, if you expect more than 10 fps, that’s probably not going to happen (assuming also you are shooting continuous and on the highest resolution setting.)

So, even the camera you have can cause bottlenecks in write speeds…if your camera can’t write data that fast, it really doesn’t matter how fast your card can write data if it doesn’t have the data to write.  Now granted, each camera will have different MP counts so the Canon 5D (for instance) will of course have a slower fps rate because it’s a larger file, and it’s a full frame camera, so will naturally be slower than the 7D by comparison simply because it has to be.  So what we really need to be measuring is the amount of data that is being transferred per second (see now why I did that article first? 🙂 )  So, we’ve reached the second point of bottleneck now in talking about transfer speeds and that’s the buffer.


The best analogy I have is that the buffer in a camera is very much like the RAM in your computer.  It’s a sort of staging area, where data is stored before it gets actually sent to the processor and then saved to the card. Without the buffer in place, fps rates would drop dramatically because there would be no place for the camera to temporarily hold data before writing.  The buffer is what allows you to keep shooting.  So, this brings up two important questions:

1.  How can you increase the buffer?  (You can’t really…)

2. How can I tell how much of a buffer my camera has?  (As of this writing, I am not sure if this metric is reported consistently by vendors, except when reviewers say “an increased buffer size improves performance”…which is still relatively meaningless.)

Since it’s not something we can really measure, nor change without buying into a whole new camera, here it’s just sufficient to say that this is the second bottleneck point, and is usually where you will run into moments of pause.  Why? Because cards are usually transferring data that fills up the buffer, and at that point the camera can’t take in any more data. When this happens your camera won’t let you take any pictures.

The other factor that comes in to play though ties more to the card itself and not the camera, which is the speed factor.

Speed Class Rating

Media card vendors like Lexar, Sandisk and others like to use terms to define their speed.  Catch words like Extreme, Pro, Extreme Pro, 300x, 600X and all sorts of fancy jargon is used for marketing purposes.  Notice the various cards on the market – the more buzz words, usually the faster the transfer rate claim, and of course, the more expensive the card!  🙂

So, rather than pour over all the various vendor semantics, I figured it’d probably be better to stay on what is a more neutral metric – speed class ratings.  While we could also introduce variances between the CF and the SD format in terms of write speeds, since most devices are moving to the SD format and it’s smaller cousins (mini SD and Micro SD), these are likely the ones we’ll see more often in the future, so the speed class ratings here are most relevant.

To that end, there are 5 different ratings or grades given to SD cards.  These are 2, 4, 6, 10, and 1 respectively.  The last rating (1) is reserved for the SDHC and SDXC card types, and has a special designation as UHS, for Ultra High Speed…while the lower ratings all have transfer rates classified as normal and high speed.  A full chart is viewable on it here.  In a nutshell, the higher the number, the faster the card can transfer data, so keep that in mind as you shop for media.  The ultimate barometer really though is not how fast you need to capture, but more what you need to capture, and as the chart indicates, video needs faster transfer rates than stills, so naturally the higher ratings are intended primarily for videographers.

If you really wanna geek out on data transfer rates, a better place to go for that is the Rob Galbraith database I mentioned upthread.  Again, it’s not been updated since 2008, but the general trends are probably consistent with the current market of vendors we have to choose from.

One final note on data transfer rates…card technologies have changed substantially in recent years, enough that there are now cards referred to as UDMA cards.  While the current generations of cameras from both Canon and Nikon support this mode of reading and writing data to media cards, older cards may not and will read the card at the slower rate. So, if you have an older camera, you may want to check for UDMA compatibility before getting a newer UDMA style card.


So, what’s the takeaway from all this?  Hopefully three things:

1.  Transfer Speeds are not just a function of your media card, fps rates and buffer rates in cameras are factors too.

2.  Paying more for a faster media card might not be needed if you are not shooting video.

3.  If you are shooting video, or need the extra oompfh of speedy cards, make sure you are using the right speed class, and with the best camera you can.  As the old adage says: it’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools…

Happy shooting and we’ll see you tomorrow to wrap our discussion of Media Cards with a look at the various vendors!

LDP#61: Shooting With Photoshop in Mind

Dave Cross Workshops

In the last episode of the LDP Podcast, we talked about shooting with various ideas in mind – shooting from a lighting perspective versus composition.  This go around, we’re mixing it up even more by approaching photography from the perspective of “Shooting with Photoshop in Mind”.  It’s a great topic and one that came to me from one of The Photoshop Guys!.  That’s right, with me on the show is one of the rock stars of the photography/Photoshop world – Mr. Dave Cross!

Dave Cross Workshops

For those of you who might not know who Dave is – he’s one of the original “Photoshop Guys”, and has been teaching Photoshop classes since version 2!  He is currently the Senior Developer, Education and Curriculum for NAPP, a Certified Photoshop Instructor through Cs4, and  Certified Technical Trainer.  With several books under his belt, and a 2009 inductee to the Photoshop Hall of Fame, he is certainly no stranger to the world of Photoshop!

Here’s the nuts and bolts of our discussion, but to get the full schmear, grab the podcast either from here or in iTunes!

Talking Points:  Shooting with Photoshop in Mind

  • What’s the point of Photoshop:  Fixing photos or creating visions?
  • Compositing Photos in Photoshop
  • Story boarding, green screens, extracting – options galore
  • How do you get there from here?
  • Fine Art versus Business
  • Learning Workshops versus Seminars
  • Watching versus Doing
  • HDR:  Art form or a Solution?
  • Links

It was so fun talking to Dave about such a wide variety of subjects and we really hit on quite a bit for only 40 minutes of talk time!  Do check out his web resources there as I think the smaller sized workshop setting he has set up in Tampa will become the trend-setter of things to come.


As a final reminder for the podcast and website a couple things wrap up this week:  The month long Flickr contest series, so do get your photos in for a chance to win Photo Mechanic!  Also ending this weekend is the promotional deal on the Deeper Vision eBook from David DuChemin – 20% off through July 2nd w/ promo code DEEP4.  Have a happy 4th of July, and we’ll see you next month! 🙂