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EOS for Capturing the Hostility of Nature


Shooting without haste with the camera secured on a tripod - EOS has given a whole new definition to landscape photography. With the IS feature and high ISO speed, handheld shots of the ever-changing nature can now be captured. In this article, let us take a look at some landscape photos made possible by the digital technologies of the EOS system.

The expression of nature changes drastically with the slightest changes in the strength of the wind and the angle of the sun. Even scenes that you see every day will never look exactly the same at two different moments. For example, you can find beauty in the hostility of nature when a gust of strong wind blows across a field that you would otherwise tend to overlook. In other words, adverse weather conditions that make your shoot challenging provide the best opportunity for capturing expressions of nature that you do not normally encounter. This is why I always feel excited and would go out on a shoot with my camera when a storm is about to come, so I can discover unprecedented expressions in the theory of landscape photography.

The standard style of landscape photography is to make use of a tripod and set the ISO speed to ISO 100 or lower. However, this standard is not applicable if you want to capture the hostility of the natural world. For example, the subject would turn out dark if the sun is hidden behind a thick cloud, and using a high-sensitivity film in this case to raise the shutter speed would cause the image to turn out grainy. The result you get will be a far cry from the true beauty of nature. While it is difficult to make use of a tripod under harsh weather conditions. When there is a snowstorm, for example, you will have difficulty even finding a place to set up the tripod. The legs would sink deeply into the snow even if snow shoes were used, and the photo opportunity as well as the inspiration you get from the scenery would be long gone by the time you are done setting up.

EOS defies the conventional view with handheld shots

Many photographers want to capture handheld shots without relying on the tripod, while maintaining a smooth gradation at the same time. These were two conflicting desires in the past. However, such a dilemma is now resolved, thanks to the digital technologies offered by the EOS system.

Of course, there remain some worries when you are taking a handheld shot, such as whether it is possible to reproduce a soft contrast and colours comparable to that on a fine day when you select a high ISO speed setting, whether camera shake will occur, and whether noise will appear in the resulting data. Nevertheless, the first step is to give it a challenge.

With this in mind, I tried capturing the morning sun that showed up in the dark sky after the rain at ISO 1600 with my EOS 5D Mark II, and I was able to reproduce the strong contrast of the sunlight. The high image quality that surpassed my expectations swept my worries away. Also, by using the "Highlight tone priority" mode, "blowout" was non-existent even though the shoot took place in a snowstorm, and I was able to express the gradation of the soft colours as well as the smooth texture of the snow. I was convinced that by combining the IS feature on the EF lenses with a high ISO speed, I would no longer miss out on the decisive moments. Ever since then, I began to engage actively in handheld photography.

There are three lenses that I always carry with me: the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which I use mainly, together with a wide-angle prime and a telephoto zoom. What I like about the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM is that the IS feature is effective even at the wide-angle end of 24mm, and it is capable of handling changes in the surrounding environment speedily.

Photo : Araki Noriyuki
EOS-1Ds Mark III /EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 1/40 sec.)/ ISO 3200

A handheld shot of fire on a burning field that was closing in. It was impossible to use a tripod under such a situation. I needed to take a quick shot and leave before I got trapped in the fire.

Yet another advantage of handheld shots is that without the need to carry heavy and bulky equipment such as the tripod, it is much easier to avert the dangers of nature. For example, a tripod could not be used to capture the fire on a burning field that was closing in, so I quickly took a handheld shot and left to avoid getting trapped in the fire. In another instance, I was photographing the coast of an island in the midst of a raging rainstorm when I almost got myself caught in a debris flow. I was lucky to have escaped, thanks to the small amount of equipment I was carrying.

Despite the rapidly-changing weather conditions at the site, the EOS system provides reassuring support for me to concentrate on the shoot with its stable depictive performance and the IS feature. It gives me the mental allowance to take a closer look at the expressions of the natural world, as well as the courage to face its hostility.