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Technical

Joel Santos shoots <br class="br_visual" />Peru with the <br class="br_visual" />EOS 5D Mark III

Joel Santos shoots
Peru with the
EOS 5D Mark III

© Joel Santos

July 2012

Portuguese photographer Joel Santos has just come back from Peru; a land of captivating culture, incredible landscapes and amazing people. His latest assignment brought him closer to not only the country but also to the EOS 5D Mark III DSLR which, he tells CPN Editor David Corfield, is the best camera he has ever used.

Half an hour in the company of travel, portrait and landscape photographer Joel Santos and you want to pack a bag, dig out the passport and jet off to some faraway land in search of pictures. It’s called ‘living the dream’, and here is a man who is doing just that. After studying to become an economist, Santos gave it all up to become a photographer and is now widely published and respected as both a teacher of photography and an author. His enthusiasm for capturing the beauty of the world around him in pictures is highly infectious, and if his bubbly personality can’t charm you, his work most certainly can.

Santos had never been to the country before, although having seen countless images of it from other photographers he had a pretty good idea of what to expect, or so he thought…

© Joel Santos

Traditional Peruvian weaving involves the use of many colours, as this detailed study shows. Shot on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, at a focal length of 45mm. The exposure was 1/100sec at f/7.1, ISO 1600.

“It was one of those trips where I had it planned out in my head and almost imagined what it would be like. When a destination is so hyped, like Peru, often the reality is not as good. But in this case the reality was so much more. Even Machu Picchu, that most iconic of places, was better than I expected,” he reveals.

Santos took the EOS 5D Mark III with him, along with the EOS 7D as a backup. “The 5D Mark III really is the best of both SLRs,” he explains. “The 7D is a really fast camera, with great autofocus and fast motordrive, while the previous 5D Mark II was a quality workhorse. Now, with the 5D Mark III, I have the best of both worlds: faster AF and shooting speed and higher [image] quality!”

Lens choice was an issue, as weight is always a factor in Santos’s travels. “Weight is always on my mind when I go away. I always have to be concerned by the total amount of weight I take, both on a plane and in my backpack. I always take things in pairs – three or four hard drives, two bodies, three chargers, more than enough batteries. But the cameras and lenses are always the biggest weight concern,” he reveals.

“I take three lenses: an EF17-40mm f/4L USM, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM and EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM. People ask me why I don’t use faster f/2.8 lenses, but it’s purely because of the weight issue. Faster lenses, though fantastic, are heavier because there’s more glass. In Peru I had to trek a lot, and you are always acclimatising to the higher altitude, so the less weight you carry the better.”

He is very quick to praise the EF range of lenses, and has chosen his kit carefully. “The lenses are a good mixture of versatility and weight. If I lose one lens the other can overlap. So, if I lose the EF17-40mm I can use the EF24-105mm; and if I lose the EF24-105 I have the EF70-200. You see, I have planned for every problem!” he laughs.

Shooting and workflow

© Joel Santos

Salt pans at the Salinas salt extraction co-operative, Sacred Valley, Peru. Shot on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, at a focal length of 45mm. The exposure was 1/60sec at f/16, ISO 100.

Joel Santos’s work revolves around people and places. “I love to shoot portraits, but when you are travelling you don’t have time to spend long periods composing; you have to be quick,” he explains. “So, for example, one of the things I found really helpful for my portrait work was the faster focusing system on the 5D Mark III. With the 5D Mark II – which was a camera that I truly loved – the focusing system was a little dated. The difference with the Mark III was incredible. With more focusing points on the new model, it was easier to get a sharp picture. Even in low light it didn’t hunt; it really did a good job.”

It’s only when you are actively using a new camera that you truly begin to see its practical improvements and advantages, as Santos soon noticed. “One feature that I really liked on the 7D was, when you shot in a portrait format, you could chose the focus point in relation to the camera orientation. So, in other words, when I shot an upright picture the focus points would be in the top third of the frame where the subject’s eyes would naturally be. This was a really big advantage when you don’t have much time to compose and focus, and I was delighted to find this feature on the 5D Mark III.”

Shooting outside all the time naturally has its risks, not least from the elements, and Santos is scrupulous about keeping his camera equipment clean. “I have microfibre clothes in every pocket and don’t care if I lose them. The equipment must come first!” he laughs.

In his relentless pursuit of weight saving, he leaves his laptop at home and instead lets the camera do as much of the work for him as possible. “The laptop weighs 1kg and, for that weight, I could take more backup drives, which for me is a much better use of weight. Besides, at the end of the day I am so tired that I have no energy to go to the computer. That’s another reason why I love the EOS 5D Mark III, because the screen is nice and big and very sharp; it makes it so much easier to look through the images.”

Santos adds: “With the rating system you can rate the photos and check for fine detail and focus and so on. It’s so easy to edit in-camera thanks to those features. Another feature I really love with the 5D Mark III is you can shoot RAW to the CF card and at the same time low-res JPEGs are stored on the SD card so it makes workflow so much better. It’s a very efficient tool.”

Perfect Peru – and beyond

The whole experience of travelling to Peru has left its mark on Joel Santos. “It was incredible,” he enthuses. “I can’t separate any particular element because everywhere I turned there was a picture. Many people think I am strange because most photographers choose landscapes or people and never really combine the two, but I am different: portraiture fulfils me in a way that landscapes can’t, and the other way around. I love both genres for very different reasons. And coming to Peru tapped into both those subjects.”

The EOS 5D Mark III performed without a hitch for Joel Santos, with quick focusing and accurate colour reproduction. In a country like Peru, that’s important. “Colour is such a part of the culture there, I needed a camera that brought out the best in every scene. My old EOS 5D Mark II was good at doing that,” he remembers. “But the Mark III is even better.”

© Joel Santos

A colourful reflection of Peruvian life. Red and blues always make for strong contrasts. Shot on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, at a focal length of 50mm. The exposure was 1/1250sec at f/9, ISO 400.

Santos explains: “I loved the people and the way they resemble the Latinos. I found a lot in common with the locals – I guess because I am Latin myself. The people of Peru originally came from Asia, and mingled with people they met through crossing the Bering Strait and moving south through the Americas. European culture is in their blood too. It’s an amazing mix.”

Now with his trip behind him and several hard drives full of amazing memories to edit, Joel Santos is being kept busy. But that doesn’t stop him planning future escapes. “I am going to the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic, in August. The islands have that magical thing about them, being the most westerly point of Europe. It’s the best place to make landscapes. And then in late October I am going back to China, to explore some less well-known areas too and try to cover some new ground.”

“I can’t put into words my passion for photography,” Santos concludes. “I burn inside to the point that I would give up everything for it. Just to be able to take photos is so special. My dream comes true every time I pick up my camera. And the EOS 7D and 5D Mark III certainly help makes those dreams a reality.”

Technical

Joel Santos’s equipment:

Cameras:
EOS 5D Mark III
EOS 5D Mark II
EOS 7D
EOS 60D

Lenses:
EF17-40mm f/4L USM
EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Biography: Joel Santos

Joel Santos

Travel, landscape and portrait photographer Joel Santos was born in 1978 in Lisbon, Portugal. He is the author of five best-selling books and is frequently published by photography, travel and corporate magazines all over the world, having featured on more than 30 covers and in hundreds of articles. He teaches photography in all continents and his work has been globally shown in several individual and collective exhibitions. He became a Canon Explorer in mid-2012.



Showcase

Strong eye contact makes for a great portrait, as Joel Santos proves with this colourful study of a young Peruvian. Shot on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, at a focal length of 67mm. The exposure was 1/250sec at f/6.3, ISO 800.