E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer


Newsletter of E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer and www.EJPhoto.com

All contents ©2006 E.J. Peiker


Summer 2006

(Vol  4 , Issue 3)


Welcome to the quarterly update from E.J. Peiker Nature Photography.  In this quarterly email publication, I will keep you all posted on upcoming workshops including the DuckShop Series as well as sharing some photos and experiences with you.  I will also give you brief impressions on any new equipment that I get the opportunity to use and any other general information in the world of digital nature photography.  Please feel free to forward this along to other photographers and interested parties.  If you would like to be added or deleted to the mailing list or if you would like copies of past issues, just send me an email message at ejpeiker@cox.net. 


2006-2007 DuckShopTM Schedule


The 2006 and 2007 Winter DuckShop schedule is now set and I am taking registrants as of June 10, 2006.  I have four exciting workshops planned including two of the classic DuckShops that I have been holding for several years in Phoenix.  These will be held in February as to maximize our opportunity to photograph the ever popular Ruddy Duck in breeding plumage with its bright blue bill.  In January, the Exotic DuckShopTM returns where about 20 different species of captive and wild waterfowl from around the world can be photographed in an area about 30 miles west of Phoenix.  A first ever focus on Wood Ducks weekend will be held with close-up opportunities of Wood Ducks as well as learning about North America’s most colorful Duck species, how to best photograph it and how to utilize Photoshop to really display the full range of colors in these beautiful animals.  Details and registration instructions can be found here: www.ejphoto.com/Duckshops.htm


 Time and Trouble Saving Tips and Tricks

 Making good use of A-DEP mode

 With the newer Canon cameras, Canon did away with the very convenient DEP mode.  This mode allowed you to focus on two different points in the scene such as the closest item and the horizon and the camera would then calculate shutter speed and aperture to assure adequate DOF throughout the picture.  This became an important addition for the nature photographer using lenses that don’t have very accurate distance scales to set the hyperfocal distance with such as modern autofocus wide angles and zooms.  Canon claims insufficient room in the firmware to keep this function – it was a poor choice of features to abandon in my opinion.  On the EOS 20D and EOS 30D we have an exposure mode setting called A-DEP which can overcome this problem by tricking the camera.  The normal use of this mode is for the camera to automatically determine an aperture and shutter speed setting that allows everything under the autofocus sensor array to be in focus at the same time.  The problem with this is that areas below or above the AF sensor array are not assured to be in focus.  We can trick the camera into calculating the right aperture and shutter speed for sharpness throughout the entire frame as long as your shot will be a horizontal composition.  Here’s how you do it...  Compose your horizontal shot and lock down the tripod.  Now put the camera in A-DEP mode and set the camera on the tripod in vertical mode (you are using an L-bracket I hope).  Do not recompose, just hit the AF/shutter button.  The camera will find the correct focus setting to keep everything within the bounds of the AF sensor array in focus.  Now note the exposure values.  Turn off AF on the lens prior to doing anything else on the camera (this is key).  Dial in the exposure values in manual mode and turn the camera back to horizontal being careful; not to manually adjust the lenses focus setting and shoot.  This works because the AF sensor array in the 20D and 30D is taller in vertical mode than the frame is high in horizontal mode thereby assuring with 100% certainty, that everything in the frame will be sharp as long as you have enough light to allow the camera to calculate a valid aperture and shutter speed.


Frustrated with Mirror Lock-up – C-mode to the Rescue

 For many years now, one of the top complaints about the Canon system is that switching the camera to Mirror Lock-up mode via Custom Function 12 is slow, tedious, and requires way too many button pushes sometimes resulting in missing a shot.  This is especially a problem when shooting with MLU enabled and some action such as wildlife coming into the frame suddenly occurs.  These shots are almost always missed because it takes several seconds and numerous button punches and dial rotations to disable mirror lock-up.  Owners of the full frame EOS 5D can rejoice as there is a solution to this dilemma hidden in this camera.  On the exposure mode dial, there is a new C-mode.  C stands for Custom.  This dial position can be fully programmed.  Simply set-up the camera for a base exposure such as 1/100 at f/11 and ISO 100 (or whatever you want) or what ever automatic shooting mode you prefer (P, Av, Tv).  Now set whatever focus mode and drive mode you want and then enable mirror lockup via custom function 12.  Now hit the menu button and scroll down to Register Camera Settings and hit the set button in the middle of the control dial.  The C position on the camera has now been set-up with those predetermined settings.  At this point you can turn MLU back off and continue using the camera as you always would.  From now on, the camera will switch to MLU instantly (as well as the other settings that were present on the camera when you registered the camera settings) with a simple turn of the dial to C.  This allows you to quickly go between normal shooting and mirror lock-up.  Any other combination of settings can also be registered – this is not for MLU only but is a simple trick to enable MLU in a single turn of the dial.


The 49th and 50th State

 This spring, I focused my photography on our 49th and 50th state – Alaska and Hawaii.  May led me to the beautiful island of Maui where I photographed every corner of the island by circumnavigating both the entire east side and west side as well as spending time in the saddle of the valley isle.  For the land bound photographer, Maui is primarily a landscape destination as there is very little wildlife and only limited, but interesting, birdlife on this island.  In the water, Maui offers one of the United States’ best diving and underwater photography opportunities but I did not focus on that this trip.  The landscapes of Maui can be breathtaking.  From the 10,000+ foot heights of barren Haleakala at dawn with the rare Silversword plant hanging on for life, to the lush and mystical rainforests of the middle elevations, and the diverse regions of the coastal areas, Maui is a treasure for landscape photographers.  Any time of year is good for photography but late winter and spring are among my favorites.  During late winter, one can take excursions off of the island and see Humpback whales and their calves.  In spring, everything is in bloom and the island is its most colorful.  Some areas not to be missed include a sunrise at Haleakala, an early morning drive on the road to Hana to photograph the numerous waterfalls and rugged coast, a traverse around the west isle which has some excellent coastal scenery and tide pools, and the Iao Valley with its flowing streams and sharp spires of land.  A helicopter tour of Maui, while not as dramatic as Kauai or the Island of Hawaii is worthwhile and will offer you views of areas not possible to otherwise see or get to.  Unfortunately no Helicopter company offers a door free experience like what is available on Kauai or Hawaii so wearing all black for flight shooting is very important on Maui.  If visiting Maui, be prepared with Winter clothes for the top of Haleakala (wind-chill was 17 degrees when I was there) and rain gear for the interior and eastern regions.  I did get the opportunity to photograph some birds including Chukar, Hawaiian Stilt, Red-crested Cardinal, and Koloa (Hawaiian Duck).  My equipment for this trip was an EOS 1Ds Mark 2 with 24-105mm f/4L IS lens and 70-200 f/4L lens, an EOS 1D Mark IIn with 300mm f/2.8L and teleconverters.  A Gitzo 1297 Basalt tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 was the camera support system.

 In early June, I took my first cruise and chose one that stopped at 4 Alaskan ports for full days plus spent significant time in Prince William Sound and its tributaries.  While the weather was awful for most of the trip, there were still plenty of photographic opportunities.  The Misty Fjords National Monument just east of Ketchikan has instantly become one of my favorite spots in all of North America.  A floatplane ride from Ketchikan to the Fjords with landings on some of the pristine lakes is not to be missed.  The scenery and scale of the fjords are indescribable.  If visiting this area, I highly recommend Island Wings as your method of getting there for the personal touch and attention and staying away from the mass market float plane operators that the Cruise lines offer as you will be the only plane in your very own fjord and lake.  Bald Eagles are everywhere in Ketchikan and it is possible to get Homer like shots without baiting or fighting the masses for close-up Bald Eagle photos – but be prepared for rain – it’s the wettest spot in north America.  The Mendenhall Glacier is another spectacular stop.  Just outside of Juneau, you can get there on the $6 Bus (that’s what its called) again staying away from the mass market cruise operated coach lines where you are on their schedule, not your own.  Many trails with fantastic views can be found in this area.  In Skagway, I highly recommend taking a ride on the very scenic White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  This train ride takes you on an old steam narrow gauge train from Skagway up into the Yukon.  Along the way, besides phenomenal scenery, Caribou, Mountain Goat, Black Bear, and Dall Sheep can be spotted.  Sitka is a charming old Russian city and Alaska’s original capital.  On a clear day, it is probably one of the most stunningly scenic little towns on earth with its very own Mt. Fuji like mountain but unfortunately it was not clear enough during my visit.  This is a great place to see Sea Otter, Whale, and Steller Sea Lion if you book one of the Wildlife Quest boat tours.  Allen’s Marine ran a tight ship and provided an excellent experience that was conducive to photography while being extremely respectful to the habitat and daily lives of these animals.  The Glaciers and mountains of Prince William Sound and College Fjord are difficult to describe in their scale and majesty.  While I was not really expecting many photographic opportunities while on board the ship, I was surprised by the stunning scenery all around and that it was possible to get good photos even while cruising at 20 knots.  Keep the shutter speeds relatively up and you can even find foreground objects such as ice bergs, boats, islets, etc.  Don’t use a tripod on a ship as any vibrations will transmit right through.  Use image stabilized lenses if possible and hand hold.  I found ISO 200-400 worked in most situations.  My equipment for this journey was a full frame EOS 5D with a 24-105 f/4L IS lens attached and an EOS 30D with a 70-200 f/2.8L IS lens attached.  I also carried teleconverters to get more reach for wildlife.

© 2006 - E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer. 

Home Page

Back to Quack Archive