David Cardinal's blog

Making fine-tuning your autofocus a cinch with Datacolor’s SpyderLensCal

Before using the LensCal, I found tweaking the AF on my camera & lens combos (by setting the camera to adjust its AF +/- for each lens in its fine tuning menu) such a hassle that I usually just sent suspect lenses back to Nikon for calibration. That’s expensive and time consuming, so I decided to give the LensCal a try. We used it on both of my recent Texas trips and Alaska trips, with great results. Several participants found at least one lens combo that needed tweaking, and the ones that didn’t gained some extra confidence that their AF was focusing properly. I was excited enough to write an article for Datacolor on the topic, where you can learn how to do it yourself!.

Pro Tip: Setting the scene with a flight shot

_djc1740When we usually think of flight shots we think of birds against a gorgeous blue sky. Sure, those are classic, but showing a bird’s environment can be even more dramatic. In the case of Horned Puffins, which live in the cold seas off Alaska, the snow-covered mountains ringing the coast make a great backdrop. Unfortunately, with the traditional background-isolating technique of wide-open aperture, any mountains caught in the frame would be blurred beyond recognition. Fortunately we had plenty of opportunities to capture colorful horned and tufted puffins in flight on our recent Alaska bear and puffin photo safari. Read more »

The Eyes Have It

_djc0509If there was one thing I could impress upon wildlife photographers, it is the importance of eyes. As humans, we are programmed to key in on eyes, whether they are human or animal. Sharp, interesting, focused eyes can make a photo. Bears clamming is no longer unusual, but bears clamming and looking up enough for a good view of their eyes, is. Here the eyes are tack sharp, and are clearly focused on a subject of interest to the bear (in this case another bear, which might prove an ally or rival in its clamming project). Read more »

Nikon D4 vs. Nikon D800: How much resolution is enough?

_djc9483Despite cranking up the resolution of digital cameras from 1-2MP to 15-25MP, there is still plenty of discussion about each new milestone in high-resolution digital photography. While I’m the first to applaud the nearly unbelievable resolving power of the 36MP Nikon D800, I think a lot of photographers think they need much more resolution than they do. I had a really graphic example of what a truly clean 16MP image can resolve yesterday when out photographing Alaskan Brown Bears on my photo safari…. Read more »

Wildlife photography: Eye level matters

_djc8687Once we reach the age of about twelve, it stops becoming fun for most of us to drop down to the ground and pop back up. So there needs to be a good reason to get down low and haul ourselves back up – especially with a lot of photo gear. Shooting at eye level is one very good reason. We relate much better to animals at our own level. This goes for every critter, from birds to elephants, but is most important for mammals, and especially large predators. Lions, leopards, and bears just don’t look as imposing if we are staring down at them…