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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Mekingstudio/Selens Camera Lens Cover Review

As many of you are aware, it is extremely easy to damage a long lens by bumping it while walking or just from banging around in your back pack. I think it only took about a month before I saw my first scratch on my Sigma 150-600 C lens.

I have been at locations where I was forced to shoot through a cut open fence. I have rested my lens on car windows and had them roll down steps, but what options are out there to protect your lens?

There are two main companies out there that are producing neoprene covers for your lens. The first, is LensCoat. LensCoat is a great company, and I actually own their blind. But, I felt like, perhaps the LensCoat was a bit pricey at 100 bucks for a 1,000 dollar lens. That led me on a search on Amazon to find a more inexpensive alternative. After searching for a bit, I came across a neoprene cover made by Mekingstudio. Yes, it is Chinese made, but honestly, for something like this I wasn't convinced that I needed a quality piece of "foam."


Click to view a larger image of the Mekingstudio Lens Cover


The order arrived at my workplace without issue.  Each of the pieces were numbered and are placed on the lens from the lens hood back.  The pieces went on pretty easy once I got the numbers in the right order.  It might take you a bit to figure it all out, but it's not a monumental task or anything.  

I have been using this product on my lens for about 6 months now and it works absolutely fine.  Now, I can rest my lens on a fence or car and not feel like I am scratching the lens.  The padding it provides is minimal, but it is enough to help cushion small blows and keep the lens from sliding around too much when using a bean bag support.  The only real complaint I have is it is hard to find the manual focus ring.  It was hard enough without the cover, but now it is much worse.  I suspect this would be the same no matter what cover I bought.  Perhaps they could add something to the outside of the ring to help find it.  Or, maybe you could even put a piece of Velcro there.


The other problem I found with the cover, is the plastic covering over the lens switches. Because it is so tight to the lens, it makes it a little bit more challenging to switch on image stabilization, for example.  Some may find this useful and not a con. It does protect the switches from water which is also nice.


In conclusion, It is my opinion, that you can't really go wrong with this product.  For only 39 dollars US it is a steal.  Click on the link above and order one today!  


PROS

  • Offers nice rubberized protection (neoprene)
  • Has not slid or fallen off
  • Offers a more comfortable grip when hand holding
  • Lens doesn't slide when using a bean bag support
  • Offers some water protection
CONS
  • Hard to find the manual focus ring (can't blame them totally for this)
  • Camo pattern is not a name brand like RealTree.  If they did that it would cost more, however. 
  • Plastic cover over the switches makes flipping the switches a bit more difficult
I recommend this product. Click here to order yours today!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Are you Putting your Best Foot Forward?



FORSYTH COUNTY, NC -  This is a topic which has the potential to make some of you angry and others take action.  It is a topic that gets to the very core of why we do what we do as nature photographers.  Simply put, "are you putting your best foot forward?"  Are you, as a photographer, showing the world your best work or are you so excited that you got a shot, and posting it as quickly as possible on social media?

I think to answer this question, you have to ask yourself what motivates you.  Here are some possible motivations I have identified:

1.  You want to show others where you have been, and what I have been doing.
2.  You want to attract buyers to buy your photographs.
3.  You want to impress your peers with your stunning photography.
4.  You want a private documentary gallery of images so you can document your travels.


If you answered anything other than #4, you might want to pay particular attention to what I am going to tell you in this article. 

As a more seasoned photographer, I have seen thousands upon thousands of photographs over the years.  I have seen beautiful images by some of the best photographers, and I have seen poor images generated from the very beginner.  I myself have made many many bad images right along side the good ones, but you will never see the failures posted on social media or sent to a potential client.  These images, except for the few I keep for demonstration purposes, are sent to the trash.

I do not care if I got a great action shot of an anhinga spearing a fish or a bald eagle fighting in mid air.  If it doesn't meet my standard guidelines for quality it goes into the trash.  So here are my standard guidelines for culling my images.

1.  Is the photograph sharp (essential)?   
2.  Is the photograph properly exposed (essential)?
3.  Is the lighting in the photograph better than acceptable (mostly essential)?
4.  Does the photograph tell a story or does it have gesture (mostly essential)?
5.  Is this my best work, given the situation?

If I can answer yes to all five of the preceding questions then the photograph is not only a keeper, but is marketable or worthy of posting online.  Now I want to address each of these five questions.

Is the Photograph Sharp?
Sharpness is not subjective.  It can be defined and it is repeatable and is absolutely a must  A sharp photograph is the culmination of focusing the lens and also making sure the shutter speed is set high enough to avoid camera shake (blur).  You should be able to zoom into 100% on your editing software and see a sharp, detailed image.  The only exception to this is when you are using creative blur (advanced technique).

The above image is not sharp at 100% magnification.  It will be rejected by photo editors and stock agencies.


The above image is sharp at 100%.  It has been accepted by publishers and agencies.



Is the Photograph Properly Exposed?
This is mostly subjective, but also takes some work to determine if your image is properly exposed.  In short, the whites should be white, the blacks should be black and the highlights should not be blown out.  You should be able to see detail in both the highlights and the shadows.  Obviously, this is a much larger discussion than a simply blog post can provide, but make sure you have the exposure right!


The above image is underexposed by a full stop. Notice the muddy and lifeless appearance.

Is the Lighting in the Photograph better than Acceptable?
Taking photographs of nature when the sun is directly overhead does not normally flatter a subject.  On animals it produces harsh shadows, making the eyes black holes. It basically increases the contrast to the point that it is hard to see details in the highlights and shadows.  A general rule in wildlife photography is to have the sun at your back.  Another way to look at this, is to point your shadow at the subject.  To do this, shoot between sunrise and plus three hours.  In the afternoon, shoot three hours before sunset to sunset.  This will give you that golden look with flattering highlights in the eyes of animals.   Not only wildlife, but landscapes also take on this beautiful golden glow.


The photo above has beautiful morning light being applied from right over my shoulder.

Does the Photograph Tell a Story or Have Gesture?
There are many times that I take a photograph which has neither gesture nor storytelling attributes and it is true that these kinds of images can sell and gather likes online.  However, I am always looking for images that tell a story or have peak action.  This can mean the difference between a boring portrait and an engaging and exciting photograph.  You don't have to start here, but strive to make this happen.  Strive to find the engaging shot.  Perhaps it is a coyote pouncing on a mouse or a bird fighting with another bird.  Maybe it's look deep into the eyes of a massive black bear that stops us in our tracks.

The above photo has action and gesture.  The bird is running from a crashing wave which helps draw the user into the photograph and tell a story about this birds life.

Is this my Best Work Given the Situation?
This is a question we must all ask ourselves.  If the answer is no, it doesn't necessarily mean the image is no good.  It might just mean that you have to try harder next time.  Look for better angles such as going low or going higher.  Maybe you needed a longer lens to compress and blur the background. Maybe you need to gather inspiration from other photographers. Check out other photographers books, magazines and videos.  This can all help inspire you to making better images.

In conclusion, I ask you to work hard, and get the best images you can. Do not be afraid to throw your image away.  In a few months you will forget about it.  Strive only for the best images and post those.  I promise it will be much more rewarding both from a personal perspective and if you would like, from a business perspective.




I hope you enjoyed this months newsletter.  There is much on the horizon at Matt Cuda Nature Photography.  To be specific, the time has come for the continuation of the Hummingbird Project and the Bluebird projects.  These two projects generally keep me busy from May through June, so expect to see some of those images in next months article.

Now get out there and enjoy nature!


God Bless,

Matt Cuda


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