Destination Weddings

Engagement Sessions

Hamilton High School Senior Portrait Chandler Arizona

Senior Portraits

Photography Education

Commercial Photography

Fine Grain, No Color Noise, Almost Perfect Auto Exposure… Mark IV

Think snap shot.  Think completely auto exposure.  Not 3200 ISO, not 6400 ISO, but 12,800 ISO.  Here’s what I would expect:

First, this shot is a problematic one for an auto exposure.  It is 100% back lit and as a result, most cameras are fooled into believing that the brighter light is the primary exposure, so the face (the only truly important element in this photo) would be underexposed.  But without any forethought or exposure compensation, the Canon Mark IV nailed the exposure.  The face was exposed perfectly and the highlight on the side of the face didn’t even blow out, and this was a JPG, not a RAW.  I would anticipate even more latitude from a RAW shot.  My first auto exposure expereince with the camera was a very good one.  The camera made all the right decisions and maintained information in every important highlight and every important shadow.  We’ll see how it performs over time, but this was a problematic situation and it got it right.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that at ISO 12800, I was able to shoot an indoor photo with a small 40 watt lamp as a back light with no other lighting and get a nice little snap shot.  1/80 sec shutter speed (fast enough for a 50mm lens) and f2.5.  Any other camera in my bag can’t get that done at those settings.

Second, at an extreamly high ISO, bulky grain structures that would soften the photograph and disrupt the thin lines of an eye-lash or other fine details.  Thus making a sharp focus look soft.  But the Canon Mark IV has a pretty fine grain structure at 12,800 ISO.  Notice in the detail below, the eyelashes are indeed sharp and do not look fuzzy like they might on a 5D Mark II at 6400 ISO.  This is due to what appears to be a much finer grain structure, which describes these fine details far more accurately.


I would also expect major color noise.  In fact, my 5D Mark II at 6400 ISO is always turned to balck and white.  They look nice, but color is problematic.  In fact, as you can see, I initially turned the photo to black and white to avoid color noise.  But again, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of color noise.  You will recall yesterday’s post, I was impressed with the color noise of the lower ISO settings.  Now I am really impressed.  Using the default color noise suppression settings in Lightroom of 25,  I got absolutely no color noise at 12800 ISO.  This means that I can use this camera at every ISO setting in color or black and white.


I have to admit, I am thrilled so far with the camera.  The lack of color noise and the fine grain structure at even the very highest ISO settings is just short of miraculous.  I’ll be tracking a bunch of moving children with auto focus tomorrow.  We’ll see how it reacts to that rigorous test.  For that matter, we’ll see how I react to that rigorous test…

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown – Canon Mark IV

I looked around my home tonight and still can’t bring myself to take down the Christmas decor.  It will stay up for at least another week.  So I thought I would record my favorite decorations and Christmas elements before we pack them up for the year.  This Charlie Brown Christmas Tree is a recent addition, but one of my very favorites.  I shot it tonight in available light, with just the general can lights on.  As you can see in the info detail later in this post, it is shot a very comfortable 1/250 of a second because I have my 50mm 1.2 and an ISO of 3200.  On my 5D mark II, this ISO is a bit noisy, but just fine in Black and White and on my Mark III was completely impossible.  But the Mark IV does a create job with the grain structure and the color noise is non-existent.  Now, keep in mind, I am using this practically, I am not trying to be a scientist here, but rather a practical user.  I am shooting RAW and using Lightroom to produce the final jpg you are seeing.  I have added a vignette and adjusted the color to suite my taste and I have used the noise reduction in Lightroom, but nothing heroic has been done to the image.  Basic Lightroom noise reduction has produced a file that I would be completely happy showing my clients.  The grain looks good and the color noise is great for such a high ISO.  Tomorrow, I will pump up the ISO even more and see how it fairs at 6400 and 12800 ISO.

In the detail crop you can see all of the basic setting for this Mark IV exposure and see the grain structure and look into the monochromatic background, that is where you should see the color noise, but without heroic noise reduction plug-ins (just normal Adobe Lightroom – Camera RAW color noise reduction) the file is fantastic for such a high ISO.  And I am so thrilled with Canon’s grain structure, both here on the Mark IV and on the 5D mark II.  Both feel so much like film, that I almost prefer shooting at a higher ISO to give my images a bit more depth and texture to them.  We’ve become so sterilized with digital that we almost can’t imagine a world without smooth continuous tones.  That’s why film shooters always “feel” so different.  They have grain, even in the lower ISOs.

Grain is beautiful!  Say it again and again!  Never grow tired of that mantra.


Testing the New Canon Mark IV

Folks, that’s a Canon Mark IV on my table! Canon has sent me one to evaluate. So, I will be posting photos and reviews of my experiences over the next six weeks. If you are thinking about getting a Mark IV or just curious, tell me what you want to know and I will test it out.

Check back here for new photos daily (yes I will be posting at least one photo shot by the Mark IV here on a daily basis and I will tell you a bit about my experience with it.  I have now taken it out of the box and started charging the battery.  I will tell you one thing, the buttons feel very sturdy.  The multi-controler (the joy stick kind of button on the back) has a very nice gasget on it and feels about as sturdy as I have ever felt on any Canon cameras thus far.  I was never thrilled with the Mark III’s multi-controler button.

So, if you are interested in the Mark IV, send me a note here or on my email and let me know what you would like to see from the camera and I will try to put it into my to do list.


Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to everyone.  It’s Christmas morning and time to relax and enjoy family.  There need to be more days like this.

And for those of you who don’t like in Phoenix, Arizona.  This was taken just a few days ago.

We love our weather. 48 degree, cold winter mornings… not too bad.

 0027-Christmas Card 2009

My Interview on the Pat McMohan Show

I was interviewed recently on the Pat McMohan Show on AZ TV Channel 13. It was a fun interview. Pat is a humorous man. We talked about simple ways to make your photos better. Many times it is the simplest things that make a photograph great, and it is usually not the quality of the camera…

Heading Down to the TV Station

I will be interviewed today (Wednesday the 2nd of Dec) on the Pat McMahon show.  We’ll be talking about becoming a better photographer.  The interview is live at 9 AM today on AZ TV 13 MST.

A Beautiful Small Wedding at the Phoenician

We shot a very small wedding at the Phoenician today in Scottsdale, Arizona.  It was an elopement, so there were a total of six people there.  Me and my assistant, the officiant and the coordinator.  I love small weddings, and this was definitely the smallest wedding I have ever shot, and I have shot some small weddings.  I love the intimate feel of so few people.  It was very casual and very fun.




The Phoenician has a remarkable wine cellar where the bride and groom had their dinner after the wedding.  It is a fantastic room for a small intimate dinner.  I suppose that this was one of the first times it was used for a wedding though.


Paige (from the Phoenician) and I had a first today.  We got to sign the marriage license.  It was an honor to be so involved at the wedding.  It’s not every day that you get to do that.



Chelsea’s Senior Portraits in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona

This is my most recent Senior Portrait session in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.  It was a fun morning with Chelsea and her family.  She changed outfits about four or five times and we got a lot of great shots in her different sports outfits as well as the letterman jacket and some cute dress shots and casual wear.  Working in a downtown city setting is perfect for getting a wide variety of backdrops without having to spend the time to travel from place to place.  Every kind of backdrop is available to you just by turning around.  Plus, as an added bonus, the light is beautiful open shade for a much longer time in the canyons of the city walls.  One can shoot well past the “sweet light” deadline in the morning and when things get too bright on one street, there is always another street around the corner with completely different lighting conditions.

Enjoy the slideshow from this senior portrait session below:

Here are a few of my favorite images from the senior portrait session.

There is nothing like an early morning in the city with no traffic, the sun’s indirect glow and beautiful open shade. I would prefer to shoot in the city any day of the week.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

Simplicity of design in a photo is very important to me.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

The dress is perfect for the color treatment on the photograph.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

When Chelsea told me she plays tennis, I immediately saw this in my head. We found a court, paid for an hour and dumped practice balls all over the court. The key to the photo was the angle of attack though. The balls are very important to the image and needed to be grouped together, so I had to get comfortable on the ground. I lay down on the job an awful lot.Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

Downtown is always a great place for graffiti. I sometimes wonder when I will be contacted by the graffiti artist for copyright infringements. I imagine the artist will want to stay anonymous.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

There aren’t any lakes in the city for wake boarding. So, we had to find ourselves a flat spot with lots of blue sky. We tried a spot in the fields south of town, but were kicked of by an awfully rude reservation officer, so we moved up the road a mile to the edge of the reservation and took our shot there. Same sky, and it turns out that the tribe doesn’t own the sky, so it was ok for us to photograph it. What a relief.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

The family came along and everyone had a letterman’s jacket, so we took a shot. I thought it turned out great.
Senior portrait in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

For more examples of senior portraits, go to

Miami Was the Last Stop on the List

Miami, FL was the last stop on the list.  I am finished with the Lightroom Workflow Workshop Tour for the year, if you wanted to attend, but couldn’t, don’t worry, I will be scheduling more of them in the spring.  First on the list is Los Angeles.  So keep checking back to get signed up for that workshop.

I’m coming home!

New Orleans Lightroom Workflow Workshop

Lecturing at Pictage Partner Conference in New Orleans

Lecturing at Pictage Partner Conference in New Orleans

For those of you attending the Pictage Partner Conference in  New Orleans on November 3-5, come one day early and sign up for the Lightroom Workflow Workshop (monday, November 2nd from 9 am to 5 pm).  We are holing the workshop in the same hotel as the Pictage Conference, so it couldn’t be more convenient.

I am also speaking at the Pictage Conference at 10 am on Wednesday the 4th on the photographer’s eye.  Come listen.  I promise to entertain!