Archive for Tilt Shift lenses

What’s in my F-Stop Bag? (a landscape photographer’s bag of goodies)

Posted in Camera Review, Filter, Good News, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Videos, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at

One of the most common questions I get is about what gear I use and why. Of course, it does not matter too much about the gear. I get the same kind of photos whether I use my Canon G11, Canon Rebel or Canon 1ds Mark III; the only difference is in the quality of the files and the ergonomics and speed of the camera; the Mark III files can be enlarged to a greater size and is the fastest camera I own.

I have numerous other cameras and I use the one that offers the controls and features that I need based on what I want to shoot. I might use a Holga for mid-day ‘arty’ snaps in the city, the Canon Rebel for backpack trips, the Mark III for action, or a camera phone for everyday happy snaps. There is no perfect camera, just as long as you have one with you!

The same thing goes for camera bags and backpacks. I have numerous bags each one designed to do a different job. I use a different bag when I am biking, hiking or car touring. But over the last month or so I have standardized my  ‘landscape’ photo system into one bag that I am loving whether I use it for car-based shooting, short hikes or overnight back-country trips. My new bag of choice if the F-Stop Sartori EXP. This bag is the big gun of the F-Stop line and is touted as their ‘expedition bag’. For me it’s not too big but definitely can handle a lot of gear from my full landscape kit’ to everything I need for a couple of nights in the back-country.

What I like best about F-Stop bags is that they are convertible and you can put as much or as little camera gear in the packs as you need simply by swapping out the ICU’s (internal camera units). I use a small ICU for backpacking and take my Rebel and one or two lenses; the rest of the pack is filled with essential back-country camping gear. For everyday use I use a large ICU in the Sartori to hold my complete landscape photography kit with room left over for essential snacks, clothes and other useful items necessary for short hikes and messing around in nature close to the road.

If you want to see more neat features and other reviews of F-Stop bags check out these links: F-Stop Bags – High and Dry and Ben Horton’s Review.

For me F-stop bags are the most comfortable and well-designed packs for the active outdoor and nature photographer. I highly recommend them. The only complaint I have about F-stop packs are that they are designed for people with average to longish backs. Most women and shorter guys (under 5’6″) may find the shoulder straps and belt system too long to sit properly on the body. Samantha found this out the hard way when she tried to steal my F-Stop bag only to discover that even for a taller woman like her (5’7″) the strap system is too long. Sam also tried out a Loka and a Tipola pack and tested it on other woman and all the F-Stop packs had the same short-coming — the torso of the bag was too long for most women.

So… F-Stop needs to make some packs in smaller versions for the torsally challenged photographer! Or, at least make a series of packs with an adjustable harness. For me I am happy because all the F-stop bags fit me perfectly (and so I got to keep all the bags Sam tried to steal!). Seriously though,  if you are short or a woman I would hesitate at his point to order an F-Stop bag. But for all you average-backed and long-backed dudes, you’ll likely love this or any of the F-stop packs. For now this a guy’s dream outdoor and nature pack (the perfect purse for the rugged boy in us all!).

Note: F-stop is one of my sponsors; I get to tell it like it is and F-stop in no way influenced this review. I love the packs, Samantha wants to love them but they just don’t fit most women.

UPDATE: Good news, I just heard back from F-Stop and the good news is they plan to release a short torso version of the Loka pack this fall! Also the F-stop packs have really filled a niche and everyone loves them so supplies are a bit short at the moment because the bags sold even more briskly than anticipated!

To learn more about the Sartori Pack and to see every piece of camera gear I use for landscape photography watch the video below:

(warning, in the video I called my cable release a ‘polarizer’ — the mind is the first thing to go — always wear a helmet, the brain is a delicate organ!)

A list of the camera gear harmed in the making of this video:

Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Canon 24mm TS-E Mark II

Canon 17mm TS-E

Canon 45mm TS-E

Canon 90mm TS-E

Sigma 120-400mm lens

Cokin Z-Pro Filter Holder

Singh-Ray Filters

The Lee Big Stopper

F-stop bags

If you are in the USA and buy from B+H Photo you are supporting this blog with tiny bits of coffee money (I might even buy an occasional beer on special days!). If you are in Canada please buy from The Camera Store simply because they are the best store in the country!

Darwin at the Columbia Icefield with an F-Stop Sartori EXP pack


The Weekly Photo – June 6 – Tilt Shift Magic

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, eBooks, Good News, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by Darwin

©Darwin Wiggett

The photo above was taken on the Spring Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies. I shot this image at sunset at the Kootenay Plains Reflecting Pools (my unofficial name for the place – click on the photo to see it larger). I used a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens for three distinct advantages:


First, I used the shift feature to correct the perspective in the scene. With a normal 24mm lens the camera would be pointed down to take in the foreground deer skeleton and the trees in the background would distort and look like they are falling into the frame – yech! With the shift feature on the 24 TS-E lens, I simply leveled the camera back so that it was parallel to the trees and then shifted the lens down to take in the deer skeleton. The result are straight trees in the background with no distortion.

Second,  I  also used the shift feature to give me a wider field of view than a 24mm lens can give. In a single frame I could just get the skeleton and the tops of the mountain in the scene, nothing more. I wanted more sky than the 24mm lens could take in, so I shifted the lens up and took a second photo which was easily merged into a wider rectangle using Photo Merge in Photoshop CS5.

Finally, I used the tilt feature for enhanced depth-of-field. With tilt I got everything sharply focused from near to far by tilting into the plane of focus (see scheimpflug rule). Tilt can give you depth-of-filed from inches from the lens to infinity – very cool!

If you don’t know the advantages and creative power of Tilt Shift lenses for landscape photography and if you want to try out and learn how to use Tilt Shift lenses (Canon or Nikon) then be sure to come out to a seminar and field workshop by Samantha and I entitled: The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers where we will demystify these powerful tools and show how they can be used in an easy to understand way. This hands on session is limited to 15 spots and we’ll have lenses on hand or bring your own lenses. The session is held in Calgary, June 11 1-4PM – see this link or email or call 403-234-9935 for more information.

Speaking of Samantha, she has just published an article for those unsure of using Social Media in photography – To Tweet or not to Tweet – check it out to see if you are a tweeter or not. So far I haven’t taken the plunge into the the twittery world….

And those of you who are fans of eBooks and like to promote the ones you find useful to friends and colleagues we are happy to announce that both Visual Wilderness (VW) and How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies (HTPTCR) websites now offer affiliate programs so that you get a percentage of any referrals you make. Help us spread the word and get paid and buy new camera goodies!

VW Affliate Program

HTPTCR Affliate Program

Finally, Here is one more sample of how to use the shift feature on Tilt Shift lenses to create megapixel wide scenes:

I took these three photos below with the lens shifted up, in the center position and then shifted down. In Photoshop all three images overlapped perfectly and Photo Merge in Photoshop CS5 aligned them perfectly into the final image (the fourth one below – from the Kootenay Plains Reflecting Pool – click to see the photo larger).

Lens shifted up

Center image - no shift

Lens shifted down

Final Image

Upcoming Camera Store Seminars

Posted in Art of Photography, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by Darwin

Samantha and I are doing three seminars for The Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta. Below are the dates and the topics we are covering – click on the titles for more information:

The Complete Photo – Sat April 16, 1-3 PM

In this 2-hour seminar, Darwin and Samantha will show you how they approach a scene, distill the scene to the essence of the subject matter, and finally edit and process the resulting images. Darwin and Samantha will explain how to develop your personal style and creativity and will explain how to determine what images are worth keeping. Learn how personal vision affects how they choose their subject and how they portray and present that subject to their viewers.

Basic & Advanced Filters for Creative Digital Nature Photography – May 28, 2011, 1:30-3:30 PM

Think there’s no place for filters with digital nature photography? Think again! Discover which four filters are an essential component of every nature shooter’s photographic arsenal.

Capitalize on the benefits of filters and learn how to create evocative imagery while saving time in post-production. You will also find out which filters deliver effects that can’t be replicated in software no matter how talented you are behind the computer. Learn advanced techniques using multiple filters and add polish to your in-camera captures. And finally, learn how to build a filter system that will grow with you, no matter what gear you use.

There will be filters and filter systems on hand for you test out for yourself. Come and see why filters are critical tools even in the age of HDR and complex software processing.

The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers – June 11, 1-4 PM

Discover why Tilt-Shift Lenses are the hottest lenses in nature and landscape photography. With Tilt-Shift lenses, dSLR photographers gain all the advantages of lens movements so important in large format landscape photography. Learn the benefits of tilting for precise control over depth-of-field and shifting for awesome perspective correction. See how Tilt-Shift lenses can open up the world of panoramic and stitched image photography without need for specialized accessories. Darwin and Samantha explore how Tilt-Shift lenses can be used creatively in the quest for the perfect nature photograph. Spend one hour in the classroom learning the theory and practical applications and two hours in the streets of Calgary exploring the use of Tilt-Shift lenses in real word scenarios. A limited number of Canon and Nikon Tilt-Shift lenses will be on hand to try out. Sign up early; space is limited.


©Darwin Wiggett

A Quick Lens Test – Canon TS-E 24mm versus Zeiss 21mm

Posted in Photography Gear, TCBlog with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2011 by Darwin

During the November Fire and Ice Tour in 2010, Darren Barclay brought along his Zeiss 21mm f2.8 lens for his Canon camera. Zeiss lenses are legendary and have been touted by many photographers as the best wide angle lenses out there. Of course, I had serious lens lust! The Zeiss 21 mm lens is manual focus  and is available in mounts to fit various brands of cameras. In short, it is a lens that interests any serious landscape shooter. But rather than spend time here doing an extensive review check out Mac Danzig’s blog for his in-depth look at the lens. Also if you are a keen gear-head check out these reviews as well: ephotozine,, photozone. Overall the Zeiss kicks some butt!

But… how does the Zeiss 21mm lens compare to my beloved Canon TS-E 24mm Mark II which a number of sources believe is Canon’s best wide-angle lens? I only had time for one quick test between the two lenses because I simply could not pull the lens out of Darren’s hands!

For this quick test of lens sharpness I used live view at 5x magnification with my Canon EOS-1ds Mark III and manual focus ton each lens  to achieve critical sharpness on a flat plane of small pebbles on a driveway. The camera was level and parallel to the driveway. For each lens, I shot at all apertures (with mirror lock-up). I then compared the shots from each lens for center and corner sharpness.

Both lenses are amazingly tack! And both lenses have the absolute best sharpness at f8. Below is the overall shot of the quick test set-up:

Very exciting test subject! Do you like my boots?

Here are the results of a magnified section of each photo at the center of the frame:


Zeiss 21mm center sharpness at f8

Canon TS-E 24mm II center sharpness at f8


I don’t see any difference. It’s a draw!

Below are the results for edge sharpness. In theory, the Canon should have the advantage here because the image circle of this tilt-shift lens is really big (to cover shift movements). So with the Canon we are not really measuring true ‘edge’ sharpness.


Zeiss 21mm edge sharpness at f8

Not bad for a lens that is at the edge of the image circle. Notice though, the surprising amount of fringing on the highlight edges of the rocks. Hmmm.


Canon Ts-E 24mm edge sharpness (no shift) at f8

Sharpness is much better with the Canon lens and I was pleased to see  little or no fringing. The winner here is clearly the Canon lens.

The Zeiss is a great wide angle lens and if you want a light-weight, sharp and crisp lens – read the other reviews to see why this lens is  still a remarkable performer. But the Canon TS-E 24 is sharper and has less fringing at the edges but it is also heavier and more expensive. The extra price you pay for the Canon lens gives you a giant image circle that when the lens is set to the zero shift position gives remarkable edge performance. Mac Danzig has the same conclusion for the Canon TS-E 17mm lens compared to the Zeiss 21mm lens. But comparing a tilt-shift lens to a straight wide-angle lens is really like comparing a pedal bike to a moped. Plus as anyone who reads this blog knows that I can’t live without the benefits of tilt-shift performance. So my lens envy is all done for the time being. (Samantha is happy about this latter point!).

Some Tidbits on Tilt Shifts

Posted in Inspirations, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by Darwin

Many of you know I am a big fan and user of Tilt Shift lenses where I use shift to help control perspective and to make panorama images. But mostly I use tilt to control depth-of-field independent of aperture. I love being able to use tilt to get subjects in focus from mere inches in front of the lens all the way to infinity (like in the image below). If you want to learn more about why I use tilt shift lenses and how they work go listen to  this podcast with yours truly over at I highly recommend the podcasts at (not because I am interviewed–it must have been a slow week!) but because there are some really high profile photographers interviewed with insightful commentary (e.g. check out this podcast)

Also related to tilt shift lenses but you can do it with regular lenses is a technique that Samantha and I call Sky Stitches. We wrote about this previously in Popular Photography but now the article is on the web over at PhotoRepublik. See if this is a technique that will work for your photos.

And lastly if you missed the video I made showing how I use the shift function on the tilt shift lens to make ‘stitches’ you can see it at this link.

©Darwin Wiggett

Mount William Booth and the North Saskatchewan River at Kootenay Plains, Alberta. Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5L lens.


Weekly Photo – July 23

Posted in Photography Gear, Techniques, Weekly Photo with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2010 by Darwin

©Darwin Wiggett - Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Here is another photo from the Extreme Saskatchewan Tour in June. This photo was taken just as the sun sunk below the horizon. The car was close to a shed and I needed a wide angle lens to get the front of the car totally in the photo. I used my Canon 24mm TSE lens on my Canon EOS-1ds Mark III camera. I placed a Singh-Ray P-sized sprocketed Gold-N-Blue polarizer into the Cokin P-Series Filter Holder on my lens and rotated it to give me the gold-n-blue reflections you see on the on the windshield and the hood. I also tilted the lens into the plane of the car hood to get great depth-of-field. I then chose an aperture of F14 so that I would get a longer exposure time  (8 seconds) so that I would have time to light the headlights of the car with my pocket flashlight. The single exposure was processed in Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS-5. Click on the photo for a larger view.