The Digital Journalist
Tech Tips

by Chuck Westfall

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions in July! With no further adieu, here are August's "Tech Tips":

Q: I'm going to be attending RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) in about a month. I ask this to all professionals I know who went there and graduated. Can you give me any advice on RIT and life after RIT, such as getting a job in this competitive photography world? Thanks!

A: It's been a long time since I graduated from RIT, but I've kept in touch with the faculty over the years. They're a great bunch of folks, and I've enjoyed conducting Canon workshops for some of them twice in the fairly recent past. Based on the new curriculum that Professor DuBois has come up with, I am sure that incoming students like you will be kept up to speed on developments in digital imaging technology, without losing sight of the photographic fundamentals that remain important to understand regardless of the type of camera they use.

I've always felt that RIT provided me with an exceptional foundation of technical knowledge that I have found to be particularly useful for a successful career in photography. That knowledge has served me well not only for my work as a photographer, but also for my work with Canon. If you apply yourself while you're at RIT, you'll be able to learn a lot about the craft as well as the technology of imaging, and you'll also have the opportunity to meet many friends and mentors who will be happy to help you. Notice that I say "opportunity," because no one is going to hand you a successful career, or even a college education, on a silver platter. It's your responsibility to be socially interactive, and to treat others the way you'd like to be treated, with dignity and respect.

If you're serious about a career in photography, my best suggestion would be to realize that no matter where you fit in, it's ultimately a business environment of one kind or another. Therefore, it is important to understand at least the basics of business together with the basics of photography. RIT is a great environment for academic learning, but you'll also find that you can learn a lot about the business of photography by working for others during your summer vacations and/or on weekends. RIT has a great program for "summer interns" with various corporations around the USA, and you may be able to come up with some other contacts on your own.

Once you are able to combine some practical on-the-job experience with your academic background, I'm sure you will be able to find a career that you can be proud of. It may turn out to be different than what you expected before you began, but life has a habit of working out like that. Good Luck to you!

Q: I am off on an assignment with an EOS-1Ds Mark II. It is much better on battery life than the 1Ds, which is good, but I am going to an island where there will be no possibility of recharging and I will be there 5 days. I have 3 batteries, so what is the best way to minimize the power consumption so I can maximize my shooting time?

A: Here are a few suggestions that may help:

1. Select a reasonable setting for the 1D Mark II's 'Auto Power Off' function. Because it only takes 0.3 seconds for the camera to "wake up" after powering down, you might want to consider selecting the 1-minute setting. There is no need to shut the camera off completely with the main switch except when you are changing memory cards or when you're done for the day, and the 'Auto Power Off' function will help stretch battery life.

2. While using the camera, avoid the habit of continuously autofocusing and metering the exposure without taking a shot. With a bit of practice, you'll find that you can compose your scenes with minimal power consumption. If you're using a USM lens with a distance scale, you can focus manually to get reasonably close to an accurate distance setting, then just before the shot, tap the AF button briefly to confirm focus or tweak it if necessary. Also, try Custom Function 4-1 or 4-3, which initiates AF from the AE lock button on the back of the camera. This lets you meter from the shutter button without running the focus motor in the lens. It's not just setting the camera for autofocusing from the back button that I'm recommending here. I am also recommending that you cut back as much as possible on autofocusing, period. One of the fastest ways to run down a battery is to continually autofocus without taking a shot. Focus manually whenever possible to cut down on power consumption. You might want to consider replacing the standard all-matte focusing screen with one of the optional screens, like Ec-A (microprism) or Ec-B (split-image).

3. Depending on the type of photography you are doing, it may be possible to shoot single frames rather than continuous bursts. This can save power not only in terms of drain on the motor drive, but also in terms of writing data to the memory card.

4. Use a card reader instead of the camera to download captured images to your personal computer or another storage device.

Q: My EOS 20D in aperture priority mode with manual diaphragm lenses exposes properly at f/2.8 and f/4, begins to overexpose from f/5.6 to f/8, then comes back down around f/11. How can this be possible? Is there a solution besides using an external meter?

A: The EOS 20D focusing screen is optimized for superior brightness at moderate apertures from about f/3.5 and smaller, compared to conventional ground glass designs. This makes the viewfinder image brighter and easier to focus manually at those moderate apertures, but the trade-off is that it passes disproportionately more light to the metering system. When a Canon EF lens is mounted to an EOS camera, a variable exposure compensation factor (a program curve, not just a fixed compensation factor) for this phenomenon is fed through the system in order to provide correct metering for all apertures. However, when using a non-coupled manual diaphragm lens as you describe, no such communication takes place, so the responsibility for exposure compensation reverts to you. It's unnecessary to use an external meter. Instead, you can take a series of test shots at the working aperture(s) you plan to use, then analyze the test photos to determine the most desirable exposure compensation factor for each aperture. The 20D's auto exposure bracketing (AEB) function speeds up the process of taking the test photos, and you can use the Info palette in Photoshop to determine the most accurate exposure. If you can standardize on one or two particular apertures you plan to use (for maximum sharpness, desired depth of field, etc.), it will simplify the calibration process by eliminating the need for tests at other apertures.

Thanks for reading Tech Tips! That's it for now. See you in September!

You are invited to submit questions about photo equipment, imaging technology, or photo industry trends that may have a bearing on your work or interests. I cannot promise to answer everything, but I pledge to do my best to address the issues that concern you. (Please use the e-mail link provided at the end of this article.)

© Chuck Westfall

After earning a degree in Professional Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and accumulating some valuable on-the-job experience during a 10-year stint in commercial photography and photo retail, Chuck Westfall began his corporate career with Canon U.S.A. in 1982 as a Technical Representative. He has steadily advanced through the ranks to achieve his present position as Director of Media & Customer Relationship for the company's Consumer Imaging Group, working out of Canon U.S.A.'s headquarters office in Lake Success, N.Y. Among his many assignments, Chuck Westfall is currently Canon USA's main media spokesman for new camera products. He also provides a unique insider's perspective to financial analysts who follow the company's CIG sales and marketing activities.

Chuck's involvement with digital cameras began in 1994, when he assisted Canon and Kodak engineers in developing the EOS-DCS series of professional SLRs. Since then, his responsibilities have expanded to include participation in the development and launching of many other Camera Division products, including Canon's professional and consumer-oriented digital cameras. Over the last 10 years, Chuck has continued to participate in the design, development, introduction and marketing support of camera products. Most recently, he supervised the launch of a comprehensive on-line and on-site dealer training initiative for the Camera Division.

On the personal side, Chuck married his beautiful wife Ying in 2000 and they have been blessed with a wonderful 2-year old daughter, Anna. As Chuck says, "Bringing up the baby is a blast, and we're enjoying every minute of it."