David Cardinal's blog

Remembering America on Memorial Day

pl_nicholsonviaduct_0065When we first climbed the hill to the cemetery it was to get a good view of a famous nearby bridge – the Nicholson Viaduct – built nearly a century ago and representing a breakthrough in reinforced concrete construction.

Does your camera really need Scene modes–like the Food mode on the Nikon Coolpix S9300?

Racks of ribs on the smoker using the Nikon Coolpix S9300 Food modeOkay, as a professional photographer I’m supposed to be addicted to Raw files, massive workflow, and eschew the many scene modes on my cameras. However, sometimes, when I’m shooting JPEGs on a points and shoot those modes can be a really handy shortcut and allow effects that can’t be equaled by post-processing JPEGs after the fact. And when I review cameras, the modes are definitely fair game, as they get used a lot. Well, I’m also a foodie, so I was intrigued by the new “Food” mode on the Nikon Coolpix S9300. Given the millions of pictures of restaurant and home-cooked meals posted to Facebook daily, the Food mode would seem to have a natural market. So I had to dig in and see what it actually does. At the same time I figured I should review the Scene Modes on the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS that I’m also reviewing. The process made me rethink my natural aversion to the proliferation of Scene modes – at least for point and shoots… Read more »

How much telephoto do you need? Get ready for a Super-zoom Smack Down!

The tiny Canon SX260 and Nikon S9300 nearly disappear compared to the Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000 rigs with their tripods. So it is tempting to wonder how much serious telephoto work can be done with a pint-size super-zoom. We'll find out and let you know!The idea of a point and shoot that can take great telephoto images is really appealing. But over the years I’ve been underwhelmed by their performance. I’m a much bigger fan of no compromise models like the Canon S100, which offer excellent images over a limited zoom range than of the super-zooms I’ve reviews, like the Canon SX240. But kind words about the new Canon PowerShot SX260 HS by my friend and former editor Michael Miller convinced me to take another look. The Canon PowerShot SX260 competes directly with the new Nikon Coolpix S9300, so I decided to do a real hands-on field test of both of them. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we’ve decided to go all the way, pitting the SX260 and S9300 (unfairly) against a Nikon D7000 paired with the Sigma DSLR super-zoom lens the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-f/6.3 HSM lens, and against the full-frame Nikon D700 with Nikon’s flagship 200-400mm f/4 VR pro lens. So for the next month here at Cardinal Photo we’ll be shooting with all four cameras and taking careful notes… Read more »

Bird photo blinds: Studios or Habitats?

This Summer Tanager was photographed in a tree along the Guadalupe River, without using a blind or artificial perch of any type.Having just returned from two weeks of really fun and very productive photography on some of the best private ranches in south Texas, I’ve had a lot of time to think and rethink about the design of the bird blinds we used, and some of the others we saw in use. In this case I’m not talking about the physical blind structures where we, the photographers, sit. That part of the blinds has continued to evolve for the better over the six plus years I’ve been shooting there. They are more comfortable and better positioned than ever. No, in this case I’m talking about the part of the blind where the real action is, the “stage” where birds and mammals hopefully appear and are photographed… Read more »

Using Iris Blur in Photoshop CS6 to direct attention

djc_6713cOne of the niftiest new filters in Photoshop’s bag of tricks is the Iris Blur filter. It mimics the behavior of limited depth of field by blurring the image outside a customizable “iris” shape. As usual, Photoshop provides plenty of options for controlling the radius of the non-blurred area (both an inner “hot spot” and outer "total effect” area), the shape of the iris, and the amount of focusing you want within the iris. Unlike using a wide-open aperture on your camera to blur the background, Photoshop doesn’t “know” which objects are close or far, so you need to craft the shape of the iris yourself. Fortunately Photoshop also lets you add multiple different iris blurs to create effects that would not be possible with a camera… Read more »