Why the DSLR is Here to Stay for Many Years to Come

Very recently F-Stoppers published a short article titled ‘Why the World’s Best Photographers are sticking with DSLR’s‘. Whilst I find the articles title to be nothing more than a poorly veiled ‘click bait’ effort; the nuts and bolts of the article are both accurate and profound (and I find myself in full agreement with the articles conclusions based on my own experience in the field). The article is well worth five minutes of your time if you want to understand why the DSLR is still the weapon of choice for a great many professional photographers, why photographers (myself included) still choose a DSLR for our serious photography and why the DSLR is going to be around for many years to come (as a matter of supplementary evidence Canon has stated several times in recent weeks it is not finished with EF lens development!) You can read the full article over at F-Stoppers HERE.

 

Great Ocean Road & Van Diemens Land Workshop Departure

My new workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) has quickly rolled around and tomorrow morning my co-leader Phillip and I will be getting underway on our two week adventure with our small group of participants. This is the first of two sold out back-to-back workshops and I am really looking forward to getting underway. These workshops are primarily landscape based and as such my choice of lenses is quite different to the usual long lens wildlife work I have specialised in over recent years. I will still be shooting with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII as my main camera, but have substituted my long telephoto lenses for my wide angle tilt shift lenses (and will very much enjoy the reduction in weight!). I am also packing my Sachtler tripod and a selection of neutral density and graduated ND Filters. The addition of the 1.4 Teleconverter is specifically for the 24mm TSE lens as I frequently find a need for a 35mm TSE in my landscape work. If time permits I will try and post a few updates from the field. See you along the Great Ocean Road and in the wilds of Tasmania!

  • Canon EOS 1DX MKII Camera Body

  • Canon 17mm F4L TSE Lens

  • Canon 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE Lens

  • Canon 1.4 TC MKIII

  • Canon 24-70mm F4L IS Lens

  • Canon 100-400mm F4-5.6L MKII Lens

 

Photo of the Month May 2019 – Reindeer Sketch

The photograph of the month for May 2019 is from my recent Svalbard Snow Mobile Expedition (Read the Trip Report). One of the greatest joys for me of photography in the Arctic in winter is the monochromatic colour palette (along with the driving snow). The combination of a muted monochromatic palette with fresh wind blown snow on the fur of the Reindeer (with its perfect antlers) is highly evocative. This is a very simple, yet very elegant photograph that tells a great story about the environment the animal lives in.

Svalbard Winter Ship 2019 Expedition Report

In March and early April of 2019 I lead my annual winter expedition by ship in the Svalbard archipelago in search of wildlife and frozen landscapes. As I have written recently before, Winter has become my favourite time of year to visit Svalbard.  The low angle of sun, snow and ice covered landscape draped with stunning ethereal light make for wonderful photographic opportunities and unlimited potential. Of course, winter also brings with it an increased chance in inclement weather which can present a different set of challenges to summer expeditions when the weather is typically more stable. For those that are willing to brave the elements of a winter trip the rewards can be truly outstanding.

Unlike my snowmobile expeditions (Read the Trip Report), the 2019 ship expedition proved a challenging year for weather with repeated days of high winds and often poor visibility. Strong winds over the entire archipelago prevented us from heading to the edge of the permanent pack ice north of Spitzbergen. Instead, we made the decision to search many of the fjord systems still partially frozen with sea ice. We played cat and mouse with the high winds, seeking shelter in the fjords wherever possible.  This strategy proved fruitful with some great landscape opportunities that we might otherwise have missed. We also had some really great wildlife encounters whilst we sheltered from the weather.

This year we encountered just two Polar Bears during the expedition. Thankfully, both encounters proved extremely profitable with fantastic photographs of both the  bear in front of one of Svalbard’s many glacier fronts as well as the playful teenage bear that put on a wonderful show for us on our last full day of the expedition. As I have frequently lamented – its not the number of bears one encounters during an expedition; its the chance for a ‘photo-friendly’ bear encounter that really counts. I would trade ten bear sightings for one good ‘photo bear’. This year we had two wonderful bears and all aboard made fantastic photographs.

Although Polar Bears were quite thin pickings this year we did have some absolutely superb Walrus encounters on ice flows that more than made up for the lack of bears. Walrus are fantastic to photograph and vastly underrated as a subject. In addition we also had multiple encounters with both white and blue Arctic Fox, Harp Seals, Ivory Gulls and more.

My 2020 expedition to Svalbard in Winter is already almost sold out with just a few places remaining. If you are keen to photograph in this amazing archipelago in the beauty of winter then just drop me an email to express your interest. The remaining places are filled on a first come, first served basis.  If you want to get an idea of what to expect check out the Article – The Art of Polar Bear Photography.

Prepare Yourself for Storage Failure in the Field

Recently I had a very expensive 128 GB SanDisk C-Fast card fail on me in the field in Iceland when I was between Winter workshops. This was the first time in well over a decade of digital photography that I have personally had a card fail in a manner that was completely unrecoverable. I have on several occasions seen other brands of card fail and have several times been able to rescue files from cards that had been accidentally erased by clients in the field (using SanDisk’s excellent Rescue Pro software).  In this case however, the card had become completely corrupt with absolutely nothing recoverable. In fact, inserting the card into the camera would actually cause the camera to refuse to even turn on (same result in different cameras).  Trying to read the card in any computer would simply show either no files, or a drive that would not mount. Trying to run Rescue Pro (or SanDisk’s other ‘clear format’ software) resulted in ‘Drive not available’ errors. In short, my expensive card had become completely corrupt.

Of course, the first thing I did when I had access to the internet was to contact SanDisk (a painful process) and lodge a ticket for a faulty card. I had to supply photographs of the card (front and back), describe the failure in excruciating detail via several emails and provide proof of purchase via a photograph of the original purchase receipt. The entire process was exceptionally painful and longwinded and had the card not been worth around $500 I probably would have just thrown my hands up, thrown the faulty card in the bin and ordered another. Given the cost however, I decided to persevere and see it through to a resolution.

What caused this card to fail so catastrophically I cannot say for certain, although I have my suspicions it was caused by turning the camera on and off very quickly (hint – don’t do this). Irrespective of the cause, what is important to note is that I was not able to recover any of the photographs on this card – zero. To SanDisk’s credit they did replace the card (although it took over a month); although they offered zero viable options to recover any files outside of sending the card at my own significant expense to a third party data recovery company. Had the images on the card been really important to me I would have proceeded down this path; but given there were just a few landscape images I shot between workshops on the card I decided to save the expense and consign any potentially recoverable files to the digital gods. It was made crystal clear by SanDisk as a matter of policy that they take no responsibility for any lost data under any circumstances (interesting policy from a storage company – what exactly do they take any responsibility for then?).

The net result of this card failure was a bunch of lost photographs and a month without a replacement card (no big deal). What the experience taught me above all is the importance of being able to shoot to dual cards simultaneously in the field to avoid this sort of potential tragedy. Shooting to dual cards was something I always did with the previous generation Canon EOS 1DX camera. However, its a practice I subsequently dropped with the release of the Canon EOS 1DX MKII since the cameras frame rate slows down too much when shooting to both the CFast and CF card (and Canon in their wisdom and effort to be backward tech friendly did not give us dual CFast slots). Now, on the eve of the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII I find myself praying that the good people at Canon will PLEASE give us dual CFast slots on the new body when it is announced later this year.

As card storage sizes have continued to increase with every generation released the chance for failure of a card that holds an entire trip or holidays work becomes greater and greater. Imagine loosing your entire next workshops work because you were shooting to one of the huge 512GB+ cards that subsequently critically failed. Cards of this size mean that you could shoot for days (or even weeks) before you had the need to download and empty onto a hard drive. Thats a huge amount of work to be stored on a card that is not backed up and that ‘might’ fail at any time. Something to think about the next time you are preparing to go out and shoot in the field. There just might be method in the madness of shooting either to dual cards where possible, or to multiple smaller cards instead of one gigantic card.