A Tribute to a Lens – Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L (Podcast 471)

A Tribute to a Lens – Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L (Podcast 471)

This week we continue with our tribute to a lens series, with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. Once again, I’m going to share 10 photos made with this lens over the last six years, with some commentary on why I found this glass to be so very special.

To give you a bit of background before we start, I feel that I need to give an honorable mention to this lens’ two predecessors. When I bought my first digital SLR camera back in 2001, the line I used to my wife to get spousal approval to buy such an expensive piece of kit, was that I already had lenses. I just needed to buy the body and I was set.

At the time I owned a 24mm prime lens, a 35-105mm zoom and a 100-300mm zoom lens. The 24mm was actually pretty good, but the 35-105 and 100-300 were absolutely crap lenses, and I was only able to see this when I started shooting digital. Even at 3 megapixels I quickly saw that these lenses weren’t up to scratch, and also, because my D30 was a crop factor camera, even my widest 24mm lens was only the equivalent of a 38mm focal length, so I needed something wider, and with good image quality.

To the delight of the camera manufacturers, I’m sure this is what happened with a lot of people, but I turned my sites to the L series lenses, which had until that point been strictly for pro use. Hobbyists just didn’t seem to buy L lenses, but when digital camera along and showed us the flaws in regular lenses, people started looking at L lenses, whether they were pros or not, and at the time, I definitely was not.

With my promise of spending no more money still fresh on my lips, I decided to pass over the new 16-35mm lens that had just been released, and went for the cheaper 17-35mm f/2.8L lens, which had been released five years earlier. If you’ve been following this podcast for any length of time, you’ll probably have already guessed that this was a mistake on my part. The original 16-35mm seriously played on my mind.

I should give myself some credit as I was able to hold off for four years, but in 2005 I finally broke down and replaced the 17-35mm with the original 16-35mm, but that turned out to be another mistake, as Canon replaced the original 16-35mm with the Mark II just 18 months later, and the image quality was significantly better, so I ended up replacing it again, with the lens that we’re paying tribute to today.

I didn’t want to jump into this without first mentioning these two lenses though, as they played a big part in my development as a photographer. Having the ability to go so wide, way before I bought the 14mm prime lens that we looked at last week, and being able to zoom in this ultra-wide range was liberating. Of course, progress continues and I’m now finding myself liberated again by the incredible new 11-24mm f/4 lens that we also looked at recently, and this is why I have just sold my 16-35mm Mark II lens and 14mm lens, and why we are paying tribute to them today.

So, let’s jump in and start to look at our ten photos from the 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. We’ll go through these in chronological order, and this first photo was made in 2009, a few years after I bought the new Mark II version of this lens, in the Oirase Mountain Stream area. Shot at 24mm, it was the middle of the zoom range, but I have always really enjoyed being able to zoom in and out to get what I consider the ideal framing for any particular scene.

Oirase Choushi Ootaki (Big Falls)

Oirase Choushi Outaki (Big Falls)

As I mentioned last week, I don’t subscribe to the popular zoom with your feet mantra. There is a track that runs along the valley side at this location, and it’s about a meter wide. If I moved forward, I’ll fall off the edge, and to move backwards I’d have to start boring into the rock behind me. Sure, if it was a 24mm prime lens, I’d have been fine, but with image quality as good as it is with modern zooms, I just find the ability liberating.

Stick on Arid Riverbed

Stick on Arid Riverbed

Once again, I’ve tried to select images that not only show what the 16-35mm lens enables us to do, but that also played a part in my history as a photographer.

This next image was shot in Miradores de Darwin in Patagonia, at the end of my first voyage to Antarctica. We’d come back to Argentina from the peninsula, and spent a few days photographing in the area before the end of the tour.

In this image, I used the wide angle to accentuate the cracked riverbed foreground by getting down very low, and included the dried twigs as additional elements of interest.

The middle ground is punctuated by the dark patches around other dried plants, and I placed the valley side along the top edge, and the black and white conversion helped me to bring out some texture and detail from what was otherwise a slightly uneventful sky.

I remember feeling so fortunate to be in this place having just given up my day job to pursue photography full time. I have always loved to travel, and this was really very much a dream come true, to be in a place that carries Darwin’s name on my way back from Antarctica, one of my bucket list locations.

One of the things I love about wide angle lenses is how they distort reality. In this next photo of the giant Gundam statue in Odaiba here in Tokyo is a good example of this. By zooming out to 17mm, and getting in close to the statue, I made the feet look huge, and enhanced the look of the size of this sci-fi spectacle. This actually moves and blows smoke etc. so it isn’t really a statue, but the movements are limited, so it isn’t really a robot either. It’s pretty cool either way.

The Power of Gundam!

The Power of Gundam!

The next photo represents another milestone in my own photography career, as I shot this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge during my first visit to the US after incorporating Martin Bailey Photography, to run my sort of semi-world tour, of Pixels 2 Pigment workshops. This is a great memory shot as well, as I was spending valuable time with friend Jack Andrys in this popular but iconic location.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

I also recall receiving a silk wallet from my brother when I was a kid, with an illustration of the Golden Gate Bridge on the front. My brother had just joined the army and was traveling the world. I remember being a little bit envious, but mostly very proud of my big brother.

I mentioned earlier that the 17-35mm lens that I initially bought was my first Canon L lens, but since those early years of digital, I’ve really learned to value the weatherproofing of Canon L glass. I’m not one for mollycoddling my gear, and I have in fact had moisture inside my 16-35mm lens a few times, but in general, I allow it to get wet when necessary, and fewer places on the planet will put your gear to the test as much as Antarctica. We quite often find ourselves being splashed with sea spray, which doesn’t do gear much good, but generally a wipe with a damp cloth when you get back to your cabin is enough to keep things working well.

This photograph is from Cierva Cove, as we sailed around the cove in our Zodiac. This was during my fourth expedition down there, and third in a row in 2012. Again, this photo is very special to me, not just because I love the photo, but it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be leading this life. Here I opened up the lens to 16mm, to really accentuate the foreground water and monolithic icebergs.

Monumental Icebergs

Monumental Icebergs

I do like using wide angle lenses in places like the Tokyo International Forum building too, as we see in this next image. I included this image not only because I like it, but I am finding more and more that I enjoy images like this more when I’m able to include a human figure. As a nature photographer, I often wait quite a while to get a scene with no people in it, but quite often this is just what an image needs to really give it some context, as I believe was the case with this image.

Salaryman

Salaryman

The human figures in this next image are so small that you can hardly make them out, but then I didn’t need them here, in this photograph from my first Iceland Tour. Again, a testament to the weatherproofing of this lens, the spray from the waterfall here was literally pounding down on me as I shot this. I was literally rotating the camera towards me, away from the mist, for long enough to wipe the front of the lens clean, and then covering it with a cloth as I rotated the camera back around to face the scene, then I’d get one shot having whipped the cloth away, before the mist covered the front of the lens again.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

I actually generally recommend using an air blower to remove droplets of water from lenses in the field, but when you are being constantly spritzed you have to wipe the lens with a cloth, which quickly becomes soaked through, but it’s workable to get the shot. The people by the way are the tiny dots along the ridge at the top right, to give you an idea of the scale of this amazing place.

Still in Iceland, but on my second tour there last year now, when I shot this side angle of the Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. We do kind of a bonus day on the first day as people make their way into town, and go for a walk to the church and a few other locations in town. Reykjavik is a beautiful place, and this church, actually the third highest structure in Iceland, stands proud at the top of the hill behind the main street.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

I love the design of this architecture, with it being made up of pillars like the basalt columns that we see over at Vik during the tour. I thought this was a fun angle too, although it was not that wide, as I’d zoomed in to 35mm for this one. Still, I thought it worked well with the columns leading down towards the camera and out the right side of the frame.

In this next photograph, we go back to the Oirase Mountain Stream here in Japan, to the same waterfall, Choushi Outaki, that we looked at in the first photograph today. That photo was more about the beautiful lush greens of course, but this one is from last October when the fall color was painting the valley gold.

Choushi Outaki Waterfall

Choushi Outaki Waterfall

This is from a slightly higher perspective than the first shot, and I zoomed out to 17mm for this one, to include more of the fall foliage, which is obviously more important for this photograph. I’m always in awe of waterfalls. They pour millions of tons of water continuously, year in year out, and there’s just so much power in them, yet they are so beautiful.

I also really like the cyclic nature of our photography. There is just over five years between these two photographs, and in many ways I feel my photography has changed and hopefully improved in that time, but I had to chuckle to myself when I checked the EXIF data and saw that I shot both image with a 0.8 second shutter speed, so I’ve been pretty consistent on how I approach photographs like this too. 🙂

The last photo that we’ll look at today is a little bit sad in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s of a seven old boats, shot during my Hokkaido Landscape Tour in January this year, and these boats all had holes in their hulls or for some other reason had been left here in what I called the boat graveyard. It also saddens me somewhat that this tour was probably one of the last times that I would really, really use the 16-35mm until I sold it this month. I’m happy though that it was able to join me on this adventure, as we had a pretty amazing time together.

Boat Graveyard #2

Boat Graveyard #2

I know I’m a big softy when it comes to this stuff, and that’s fine. I’d rather think of my gear in this way. We go through a lot of experiences together, and that in many ways helps to bond us together like old buddies, until the time comes to cut the cord and move on of course.

By the way, if you didn’t notice this already, this last photograph is up for grabs in our current Fine Art Print giveaway, so if you’d like to be in with a chance of receiving a copy of this on Breathing Color’s amazing Pura Smooth fine art media at 17×24″, visit our giveaway page at mbp.ac/giveaway.

You know, our gear comes and goes, and I know that I get too sentimental about this stuff, but I really do like to pay tribute to the tools that enable our craft and art to be what it is. Yes, it’s only gear, and it’s not all about the gear, but with photography being such a technical pursuit, it can’t be ignored either. Neither can we ignore the fact that sometimes we have to put our gear through a lot, and if you select well, it will bear the strain, and deliver the goods, assuming that we are doing what we need to do behind the camera of course. It’s a partnership, after all. Neither of us can do much without the other.


Show Notes

Fine Art Print Giveaway: https://mbp.ac/giveaway

Hokkaido Landscape Photograph Adventure 2016: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Technique – Shooting Through Glass (Podcast 121)

Technique – Shooting Through Glass (Podcast 121)

Today I’m going to talk a little about shooting through glass. This has been brought up a few times, and I have actually spoken about this in other Podcasts, like the ones from Chester Zoo in the UK and in my Podcasts in September 2007 when I shot a few images from a plane on my way back from India, but it probably isn’t easy to see where tips related to this are, so I thought I’d do a quick Podcast today on just this, having shot a nice nightscape through glass recently. Before we get on to that, I’d like to read out a reader’s mail.

I recently received a mail via my contact form from another Martin, which I’d like to read out for two reasons. The first reason is because it’s just a really nice mail. Although I get many nice mails from you kind folk out there, the second reason I want to read this one out in particular is because Martin seemed to end an invalid email, and I haven’t been able to reply and say thanks. I always reply to email, and would hate for Martin to think that I had ignored his. Anyway, here’s what he says. “Martin, thanks for your fantastic podcasts!  I GREATLY appreciate the time and energy you put into this.  I’ve recently moved to Shanghai for work and one of the best side benefits has been a rejuvenation of my interest in photography.  My rekindled interest comes as a result of a desire to capture the strong culture that I find here in China.  That’s how I’ve found my way here – to your MBP podcasts and this site.  My Saturday morning routine now consists of a cup of coffee and listening to your most recent podcast before heading out to take try to capture the scenes.  Your shots are a great inspiration to me because I find them to be a wonderful representation of the world around you without being overly processed with unrealistic colors.  All the best to you and thank you again.”

Well, thanks very much for your mail Martin. I really appreciate it. I always find it a kick to hear that the work I am doing here on these podcasts being appreciated and helping people out, but also it’s great to hear actually how you listen to the Podcast. This adds another dimension that is really such a thrill. Thanks very much once again.

I’d hate to have not been able to reply to you, so I hope you don’t mind my reading your message out today. This has also prompted me to put a message on the thank you page after sending me a message via the Contact form page to remind people that if they don’t receive a CC of the mail, the chances are the mail address had problems. If you don’t receive a copy, please try again and double check the mail address you used. Now let’s spend a relatively short time to discuss how to shoot through glass.

So, as I say, today I’m just going to talk relatively briefly about shooting through glass. Let’s start by taking a look at the Nightscape I mentioned that I shot last weekend, which is image number 1679. This was shot from the 39th floor of the Ebisu Garden Place Tower not far from my apartment in Tokyo. I was there to get dinner with my other half, and noticed that the rain that had just stopped was giving a nice hazy effect on the distant buildings in the Shinjuku area, and the still low cloud was reflecting the light from the city, so thought it would make a nice shot. I had my 85mm F1.2L lens on the camera, and the other lens I had with me was the 16-35mm F2.8L lens. I shot with the wide angle after the meal as well, but really find that this one we’re looking at now is my favourite.

Ebisu to Shinjuku

Ebisu to Shinjuku

I’ll get into the other considerations when shooting through glass in a moment, but something I wanted to mention before moving on is that I used the LiveView feature on the 1Ds to set the exposure of the scene, which is something I’ve not really been able to do until now, having never owned a LiveView camera before. There is a setting on the camera though to show the results of the exposure on the LCD, and not correct it automatically. This means that if your exposure settings will result in a dark image, the LCD will be dark, and if it is too light, the LCD will be too bright too. This is actually really quite useful. I ended up just selecting my aperture and shutter while viewing the LCD, and went with those settings without the need for a reshoot, even having looked at the histogram. I just thought this and the LiveView itself for that matter, was really useful, especially when you are not able to view through the viewfinder any way, as I was here.

By the way, I was shooting with ISO 200 and an aperture of F5.6, for 1.3 seconds for this shot. For those that are interested, the two arch shaped lights are the JR Train station in Ebisu, and the Empire State Building look-alike in the distance to the right is the Docomo Tower, a cell phone carrier’s building. I shot another image with Tokyo Tower in from the actual restaraunt window, but I don’t like it as much as this one, so we won’t bother looking at that today. Take a look in my online gallery at martinbaileyphotography.com if you are interested. I’ll drop a link to that image into the show-notes as well, just in case.

Anyway, when photographing through glass, there are three things that I pay attention too. You’ll want to try to find some glass with no reflections on it, especially from inside the room or vehicle that you are in. I find that when shooting from tall buildings like in the image we just looked at, there are often pillars that cast a shadow against the glass, which act as great shades. If there is none, try to find something else to shade yourself with, a little like the big black cloths that large format photographers use. Your coat can be good for this, and it really helps if there is someone with you that can hold the coat against the window and over your head and camera to create a nice dark space for you to work in.

River in Chiba Prefecture

River in Chiba Prefecture

To discuss the next important thing to bear in mind, let’s take a look at another shot, image number 1549 from September, 2007, that I shot from a plane, obviously through the thick glass of the little porthole style window next to my seat. Here I think I mentioned in an earlier Podcast that getting as close to the glass as possible is a must when shooting through glass. If you can get right up close to the glass, and you are using a lens hood, particularly one that is black and non-reflective inside, as most of them are these days, you’ll find that this alone can often create enough darkness between your lens and the glass for you to remove any unwanted reflections. The 70-200mm F2.8L lens has a nice deep hood that gave me enough coverage to shoot this shot even with a fair amount of light hitting the plane window.

Finally, and this is a pretty obvious one, find a patch of glass that is clean. You can get away with a certain amount of dirt, especially if it is not illuminated by the sun or other light sources. Still, even on a relatively dirty window you’ll want to look for an area of the glass that is cleaner than the rest. Note here that the closer to the other side of the glass your subject is the more important this gets, as you will be focusing closer, making the dirt more visible. If you are going to be focusing much further away as I was in this shot, you can often get away with more dirt or marks.

Something to note with plane windows as well is that they often have a plastic cover on the inside, which plays tricks with a PL filter. If you want to play around with the effect, which can be fun, please do give it a try, but you’ll find that you get all kinds of rainbow colours in the plastic as you turn the PL filter.

Note too that for the nightscape that we looked at earlier, I didn’t use a tripod, despite it being a 1.3 second exposure. If you can take a tripod, and have space to set it up, that will work best, but even if I had taken mine, I would not really have been able to set it up, as the window had a large shelf, or platform in front of it. What I did was to kneel down in front of that platform and set my camera down directly on it. That however meant that the camera was facing downwards too much, as the 1Ds has the large battery compartment and vertical grip, much like using one of other bodies with a battery grip on it. What I did here was to take my blower from my camera bag, and put that under the lens to support it.

As you know, these blowers are soft rubber, and so not very stable, so you have no chance of pressing the shutter directly. It would make too much vibration. I even found that setting my camera to a two second timer with mirror lockup, to reduce vibration was not enough. The camera was just not settled in the two seconds that elapsed before the shutter was tripped. To overcome this, I was actually using the 10 second timer. I could have adjusted this to 5 seconds or so probably, but didn’t bother to do that. All of my other cameras until now didn’t have the ability to adjust the length of the long timer anyway, so let’s just think that 10 seconds is better than 2 for these long but somewhat instable exposures.

I should also mention that I have never shot through glass with a flash. I imagine if you got it right up to the glass as well, then it might work, or better still, get it off camera, and light the subject from another place, or maybe use multiple flash units. It’s been discussed on the forum in the past about this and maybe the possibility of actually putting the flash on the other side of the glass when the situation can be controlled, and of course, you are working on the ground floor. I try to steer clear of things I’ve not got first hand with though, so I won’t try to go into this today.

Well, that’s it for today. Before we finish just a quick word from our current sponsors, DxO Labs.

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Remember too that our current Assignment with the theme of Long Exposures closes this coming Sunday on January the 20th, 2008. Voting will then start for two weeks when we’ll find out the winner of this Assignment and also the winner of the accumulated votes prize for the last five assignments. That winner will receive a copy of DxO Optics Pro and the Film Pack from DxO Labs. Of course the Long Exposures winner will also get a Fine Art Print of their choice from my online gallery at martinbaileyphotography.com.

And that’s about it for today. So with that, all that remains to be said is thanks for listening, and you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.


Show Notes

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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