Adam Jones Inspirational Story

My introduction to photography began on my honeymoon 40 years ago in Hawaii.  My brother loaned me his 35mm film camera to capture landscapes in Hawaii, and I was hooked.  Jacques Cousteau’s underwater films were a great influence on my early career that began with underwater photography. Over the years my interest in the outdoors has grown much broader and I’m thrilled with all the great outdoors has to film and explore.  It’s a tremendous blessing to make a good living as a full time nature/wildlife photographer for the last 25 years.

Great Fountain Geyser at sunset, Yellowstone N.P. on our Canon Destination Workshop. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, ISO 100, EOS EF16-35 F4 at 20mm, F13, 1/40th sec.

For a little perspective, my first cameras 40 years ago were film based, and limited to 36 exposures. Film had to be mechanically advanced by a hand lever on top of the camera.  Not very fast, but it did make you slow down and think more about each of the precious few images a roll of film offered.  Exposures were completely manual too, and color slide film required perfect exposures, or the processed film went straight into a large garbage can next to my light table.  Understanding exposure was one of the toughest challenges early on, however, it did compel photographers of that era to understand how exposure meters worked, and to get the exposure right in the camera nearly every time.  During location workshops I find that many digital photographers really don’t understand what is going on with their camera’s metering system and how to get perfect exposures.  More on that subject in a Tips & Techniques article.  Just for the last bit of perspective, all focusing was done manually through the viewfinder:  not a problem for landscapes, but manual focus made wildlife photography considerably more challenging.  Sometimes I wanted to cry over the missed opportunities, when manual focus was not spot on.  Modern autofocus systems today are simply amazing and increase the odds of tack sharp images tremendously in action sequences.

Cincinnati skyline at dusk from atop the Roebling Bridge. This was a combination of 5 images, stitched together to create this panoramic view. Each of the 5 sections is a three shot HDR blended together with Photoshop. First capture at zero compensation, 2nd exposure at +plus two stops, and the final exposure at -2 stops. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 200 ISO, EF24-105 F4 at F16, 50mm, 1 sec. at zero compensation for base exposure.

Leap forward to today and we are in the glory days of digital photography.  Do I miss shooting with film?  Not really, the advantages of modern digital photography blow away what we could do with film cameras.  For me there has never been a more exciting time to be involved with photography.  The amazing advances in metering, autofocus, low light, high ISO has revolutionized what any photographer can accomplish today.  In many ways, it has never been easier to capture stunning images in all kinds of situations we had no hope of capturing in the past.  The camera innovations and digital revolution pioneered in many ways by Canon, has revitalized my enthusiasm for taking more photographs anywhere around the world.  It has never been more fun and rewarding!

My use of Canon equipment began in 1990 with an EOS 5 featuring an innovative Eye-Controlled Autofocus, equipped with a superb EF 400F 2.8 telephoto lens for wildlife photography primarily in Africa.  Canon introduced their first digital camera in July 1995, with a whopping 1.3 Megapixel sensor and a price tag of 12,000 euro.  At the time, I was providing images to the major stock agencies, and these early digital cameras were not sufficient for agency requirements.  In 2002 things really got exciting, Canon released the first full frame digital camera, the EOS-1Ds.  The 11.1 Megapixel, full frame sensor now offered the resolution we needed, higher ISO, and much better dynamic range.  I was fortunate enough to shoot with one of the earliest models, and it was obvious film was history, it was time to fully embrace all that digital photography offered.  One look at the clean noiseless files from the EOS -1Ds, and I immediately sold all my medium format film gear, and never looked back.  Now one system provided exactly what I needed for all types of shooting in one extensive 35mm format system:  High resolution files that rivaled medium format and cameras responsive enough for wildlife action. What a relief, all the 35mm gear fits in one camera bag that doesn’t weigh more that I do! 

Wallace’s Flying Frog, Shot with EOS Canon 5D Mark IV, 400 ISO EF50mm F2.5 compact macro lens, at F22, 1/250th sec. with MR-14 EXII Speedlight Flash. This image was also made during a Frog/Reptile macro Canon Destination workshop in south Florida. I used F22 to maximize the shallow depth of field in most macro photography.

The internet and digital photography has certainly had a negative effect on the stock photography business, especially for those depending entirely on stock sales.  Just as photography has evolved, pro photographers have been evolved and diversified.  Since 2002, I’ve fully embraced digital photography and honestly believe it is the most exciting time ever to be involved in photography.

The advent of the digital revolution closed some doors, but opened up many opportunities.  I’ve had nature images featured in nearly all the prestigious nature/wildlife publications, and had numerous national ad campaigns featuring my work, however, one of my most rewarding accomplishments is being invited to be a Canon “Explorer of Light” for the last 10 years.  It is truly satisfying and humbling to be part of such a talented team of world-class professional photographers who enjoy sharing their passion and enthusiasm with others.  Canon’s commitment to education has afforded me numerous opportunities to speak around the U.S. to large conventions, camera clubs, and lead Canon sponsored Destination Workshops to beautiful locations.  It is truly rewarding to work with amateur photo enthusiasts and to see them improve and leave the workshop even more excited about photography.  Like many others, I’ve diversified into photo workshops and lectures.  I meet so many interesting people from different backgrounds and we get to share our passion for photography in beautiful natural locations, what could be better?  I’ve never been the loaner type, its more fun to share the natural world through photography, with others that appreciate the beauty and majesty that abounds.

This image was made during my annual Winter Wildlife Workshop in Montana, where we stage a horse roundup with as many as 50 horses. Image was shot with an EOS Canon 5D Mark IV, ISO 1600, EF 100-400 IS II zoom lens, at 400mm, F10, 1/1300th sec. hand held as the horses ran towards our cameras in AI servo for tracking moving subjects.

So why is digital so exciting today?  Well for one, we have ISO’s we never dreamed of only a few years ago.  It’s not uncommon to capture wildlife at ISO’s above 2000, and the images still look better than scans from the finest grained Fuji Velvia .  Add in noise reduction software like DXO Optics Pro 11, and you have grain-less high ISO images at shutter speeds perfect for fast moving wildlife or sports.  The extra high ISO extends our ability to film earlier in the morning and later into the evening.   Even high-resolution cameras today have a decent capture rate of at least 5-6 frames per second.  Drop back a bit on the resolution and you can have 10-14 frames per second, which is truly amazing when capturing fast moving action. You can capture action you don’t even see with your eyes!  Over the years, Canon has steadily upgraded their lenses as digital sensors have improved.  One of my favorite inexpensive combinations is the new EOS 100-400 f4.55.6L IS II USM and the EOS 7D Mark II.  The new EOS 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS II USM is truly an amazing zoom lens that every wildlife/nature photographer should own, it simply is that good in every way.  I’m shocked how sharp it is at all apertures, lightning fast accurate autofocus, amazing close focus, and IS to boot.  This combination of zoom lens and camera body has become my go to wildlife setup.  It is lightweight enough for easy hand holding, responsive, and affordable, all while delivering professional quality images. 

This image was also made during my annual Winter Wildlife Workshop in Montana. After concentrating on the horses for quite some time, we have the cowboys make numerous runs through the snow for our cameras. Shot with an EOS 5D Mark IV, ISO 1600, EF100-400 IS II zoom lens, at 265mm, F8, 1/1000th sec. hand held. Used AI servo tracking for the moving subjects. I was very pleased with how well the camera autofocused through the falling snow!

Aside from all the options we now have in post processing raw images, there are several in camera capabilities that still excite me when considering what can be accomplished.  The first is auto exposure bracketing, where multiple exposures are captured in rapid succession of the same scene from a tripod.  The varying exposures do require post processing. Blending 3-5 different exposures into one image yield vastly better highlight and shadow detail than can be captured in a single image.  HDR had opened up a whole new exciting world where capturing detail in the extreme shadows and highlights is now possible.   Thank goodness I no longer have to use graduated neutral density filters to tame the contrast.  Landscapes are a prime example, especially at sunrise and sunset when the auto-bracketing feature is very useful.  My favorite landscape setup is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the EF 24-70 F2.8 lens.  This zoom is extremely sharp at all focal lengths and apertures, making it superbly versatile in the field.  The new EOS 5D Mark IV is a leap forward for EOS 5D cameras in terms of resolution (30mp) and dynamic range.  The EOS 5D Mark IV really breaks new ground in being able to pull out lots of shadow information in post processing.  I also find the autofocus on the EOS 4D Mark IV to be superb.  So good in fact, that I shot my last Winter Wildlife workshop at Triple D entirely on the EOS 5D Mark IV paired with a EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS II USM, with stunning results.  I’ve never been a fan of cropping, but the new high res sensor provides plenty of resolution, even after cropping.

Currently my gear includes the following for most general location shooting: EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS 7D Mark II, EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS II USM, EF 24-70 F2.8 II USM, 16-35 F4 IS USM, 15mm f2.8 fisheye, Extension Tubes, 1.4x & 2x teleconverters.  With these lenses and accessories, I can capture 90% of what is needed on most shoots.  I add a EF 500mm f/4L IS USM or EF 600mmf/4L IS II USM lens when wildlife is the primary goal, and a 180mm f/3.5L  Macro USM lens for close-up subjects. 

The low light capability of modern digital cameras is simply amazing. Cityscapes, night scenes in nature revealed in clear detail like never before.  In fact, it is hard to take a bad night shot.  For cityscapes at night, I typically use 100 ISO and shoot from a tripod.  On cityscapes consider capturing multiple exposures for blending when the dynamic range is huge, and even combining multiple images with multiple exposures into dramatic  panoramic with inexpensive software.

You can use very long exposures if needed with very little to no noise, depending on the camera model.   With much higher ISO, and fast lenses, star filled skies are another great adventure worth exploring.

Let me encourage you to get out and about with whatever camera you have, it is so exciting and fun today.  Don’t get hung up reading those nitpicking camera reviews on line, most are meaningless.  Remember, some of the greatest photographers of our time, used equipment that is primitive by today’s standards, and they made terrific artistic images.  The gear today is way more capable than we are, so lets get out there and enjoy the art and craft of digital photography.  Never forget that you are the most important ingredient in the world of photography, not the gear!


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