Photography On Location

A good reason to use multiple exposure.

June 20th, 2016

Pullman, Washington. Palouse country.

Pullman, Washington. Palouse country.


I love multiple exposures. I used to figure out equations and exposure times back in the day with film cameras, but now all you do with a Nikon body is go to the shooting menu, choose multiple exposure, set the number of frames and shoot away. The camera figures out the exposure and seamlessly puts the images together. On workshops I often talk about creative effects using multiple exposure such as twisting the camera during a shot to get a really abstract image. But recently someone asked me is there a really good reason to use multiple exposure without creating wild abstract shots. My response; I use multiple exposure when I only have only speedlight to illuminate large scenes.

Take the image at top as an example. This old car just begged to have the interior cab lit using a speedlight. But if the interior was lit, the shot would look better if I used a flash on the exterior as well. Since I only had one speedlight, I did a double exposure. I set up my camera on a tripod, set the camera for a 2 shot multiple exposure, and took the first shot with the speedlight in the cab. Next, I went over and got my speedlight out of the cab and aimed it at the exterior for the second shot in the double exposure. The final image looks like it was lit by two speedlights at once, but really it was one light used twice in a double exposure. I have lit hotel interiors doing 3 and 4 shot multiple exposures, each time moving the speedlight during the multiple exposure. This technique works great on a tripod with static subjects. Moving subject or camera shake will cause ghosting in a multiple exposure. By the way, the new radio controlled SB5000 (with D500) allowed me to place it out of sight in the cab and still trigger it from the camera without any signal issues. Loving the new radio controlled SB5000!

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Nikon SB5000 review

June 3rd, 2016

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.


Speedlights have been critical to my work as long as I have been shooting. The portability and power in such a small light is amazing, and fills a nice lighting niche before bumping up to more powerful studio lights. When Nikon introduced the SU800 in 2005, wireless flash took off. With the SU800 you could control three groups of speedlights wirelessly from the camera. The SU800 relied on an optical signal which required line of sight. This system worked well but limited the distance and placement of the speedlights.

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.


Enter the SB5000. This new speedlight works wirelessly using a radio signal with better range and no line of sight needed. Currently the SB5000 works with a radio signal with the D500 and D5 (the flash does work optically with earlier camera models). I have been waiting for this flash system for a long time; radio signals just work better and the sun doesn’t interfere with the signal.

I just returned from an assignment using the D500 with SB5000, and here are my initial impressions.
-much lighter and smaller flash than the SB910, very similar to the older SB800 in size. Perfect, small is always better
-despite being smaller this flash has more power than the SB910 and faster recycling times
-flash has built-in cooling system to keep the flash from overheating, an issue with some earlier speedlights
-menu system is the best yet; with just a little use it becomes very straightforward
-radio wireless system works great (more on that below) with up to six different groups

When I first started using the SB5000, I realized I had to go back to the manual to learn some new features and icons on the LCD. Most of the new items were related to the wireless system. Also, the controls on this flash are different than older SB910/900s. After I started really using the flash, I came to like the new menu system more than earlier speed lights.

lcd
To set up the SB5000 for radio wireless operation, you need a WR-R10 wireless transmitter. I just bought the WR-R10 Wireless Remote Set which includes an adapter to connect to the 10 pin terminal on your camera and a wireless remote. In order to link up your flash with the WR-R10 the firmware on the transmitter has to be version 3. To check this attach the WR-R10 to your camera, go to the Firmware option in the Set Up menu, and see what the bottom ‘W’ setting is (see photo above). If it says 3 then you are good to go. If not you need to send the transmitter to Nikon to get a firmware upgrade. I just bought a WR-R10 remote set and mine came with version 3 firmware.

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.

Lander, Wyoming. rock climbing in Sinks Canyon.


Pairing the SB5000 with the D500 was fairly straightforward after reading the instruction manual. Here is the good news. Once you get the devices paired, the next time you turn on your flash and camera they automatically link up and are ready to go. You control flash output from the shooting menu on the back of your camera. Initially I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of using a small transmitter attached to the 10 pin terminal on my camera. But the device seems secure even dangling off ropes photographing rock climbers. And it is nice not to have a bigger transmitter unit attached to the hotshot.

After a week of use I’ve decided to buy another SB5000 and sell all my old speedlights. The lighter weight, smaller size, faster recycling, auto cooling and amazing wireless performance of the SB5000 represent a whole new class of speedlight, not just a bump in features. I’m sold.

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D500 first test

May 27th, 2016

ytt
If you have been reading this blog, you know how excited I was about the D500. This camera offers a lot of what makes the D5 great including blazing fast autofocus at 10FPS with a huge buffer, LCD screen with touch controls like your phone (and it articulates as well), and the best Nikon camera for focus sensor point coverage.

camerass
I have been shooting my D500 with my 300mm PF ED with a 1.4x converter, giving me an angle of view of over 600mm. Look at the image above. The D500 with 300mm is on the left, the D810 with 70-200mm is on the right. The D500 with this lens makes an incredible walk around telephoto setup for shooting wildlife and sports. The picture at the top of this post was shot with this set up.

There have been reports of some problems with the D500 freezing up. I have not experienced any problems, and I am using a Sandisk SD card. I have assignments coming up this weekend where I will put this camera through some rough use, so I will report back with those findings. What I see now is the D500 is a durable, solid performer loaded with pro features, and at $2000, a great value for the sports and wildlife photographer. Stay tuned, more on this camera shortly!

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ND exposure calculations

May 26th, 2016

lexp
Here is a quick note about an item that will make your long exposures go smoothly. Download Long Exposure Calculator to your phone (it’s free) and you can figure out those super long shots. Here is how it works. You set your camera to the correct exposure with the setting you want to use. Then you add your 10 stop or 15 stop ND filter. Set your aperture and ND setting in Long Exposure Calculator, and it will tell you the correct exposure time. Better yet, it has a stop watch to count down the seconds while your exposure is happening. Handy free app to have on your phone…

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Nikon 300mm PF ED F4

May 24th, 2016

Columbia River Gorge,  Oregon.

Columbia River Gorge,
Oregon.


Just back from many days on the road, first in Bali, then in Oregon. I mentioned in an earlier post about how much I like the Nikon 300mm F4 PFED. After continued testing, I like it even more. Many reviews mention an issue with VR not working correctly around 1/125 of a second. I specifically shot around this shutter speed and didn’t experience a problem. Perhaps earlier versions of this lens had this issue.

cmop
As mentioned in my earlier post, the reason to love this lens is two fold. First, it is just tack sharp. I look at a lot of lenses for sharpness, both my own and ones I see on workshops. This lens is one of sharpness I’ve used. Second, and what really got my attention, is the size and weight. The image above shows the 24-70mm F2.8 on left, and the 300mm F4 on the right. The 300mm F4 is just slightly longer, but actually weighs a little less (1.6 pounds weight). Using a fixed bright F4 aperture, the lens focuses faster than the super zooms on the market such as the 80-400mm or 200-500mm. When I attach this lens on a D500, I have the equivalent angle of view of 450mm in a very light, compact system. I plan on using this combo for many of my wildlife and sports shoots where using my 500 F4 slows me down due to size and weight.

The 300mm F4 sells for $1996. If you shop the refurbished gear at Nikon USA, you can get the lens for a few hundred dollars cheaper. Bottom line; if you want a light telephoto lens with excellent performance, the 300mm PF ED F4 is the one.

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Hi-Sync shooting in Indonesia

May 17th, 2016

Bali Indonesia

Bali Indonesia


I just returned from a fantastic trip with friends to Bali, Indonesia. Bali is everything it is hyped up to be; peaceful, friendly, exotic, tropical and stunning. I was fascinated with the Balinese people, especial the Balinese dancers. Watching these performances was mesmerizing.

Bali Indonesia

Bali Indonesia


I love to shoot portraits when traveling, and had brought along my Elinchrom ELB400 and 5 foot octabank for interesting subjects. One day we hired a Balinese dancer to photograph, and once again I was reminded the value of being able to shoot at shutter speeds way past the normal sync speed of 1/250. Our dancer was available midday, which meant bright overhead sun. Since I wanted to shoot at 1.4 for these portraits, I knew I needed shutter speeds around 1/1000 and faster.

Bali Indonesia

Bali Indonesia


With the Elinchrom EL-Skyport, HS heads and ELB400, this was not a problem. I simply attached the transmitter and began firing away at 1/000. I only needed about 30 percent power with the ELB400 shooting through the 5 foot octabank to get the correct exposure. Some photographers have asked me why I would shoot in midday light and need fast shutter speeds using Hi-Sync. Time after time I find myself shooting when the opportunity arises such as this dancer shoot. But with Hi-Sync working seamlessly, I know I can always shoot at fast shutter speeds to use wide open apertures in bright daylight.

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Compression landscapes; 300mm F4 PF ED

May 2nd, 2016

El Chaten, Argentina. Patagonia

El Chaten, Argentina. Patagonia


Many folks think wide angle when asked about photographing landscapes. True, wide angle lenses can really capture a lot of layers, depth and dimension in a scene. On the other end of the landscape spectrum is using telephoto lenses to photograph landscapes. I was just in two areas which had amazing ‘compression landscapes’, Patagonia and the Smokies. In Patagonia is was a simple matter of aiming your long lens at the stunning red light bathing the peaks. I haven’t seen such spectacular light day after day in a long time. In the Smokies I wanted to capture the classic ‘smoky’ look of the mountains, which also required a long lens. Just remember this; it is very easy to go into a scene with a preconceived notion of what to photograph. Stay aware of the dynamic light and graphic elements that come together for striking images. Sometimes you have to put on your ‘wide angle goggles’, the other time you have to put on your ‘compression glasses’. Compression landscapes are one of my favorites, and allow the photographer to crop down to just the graphics elements in the shot.

Townsend, TN. Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Townsend, TN. Great Smoky Mountain National Park.


Speaking of telephotos, I recently rented a Nikon 300mm F4 PF ED lens for Patagonia. I had seen this lens on some workshops, and was blown away at how small and sharp the lens was. This lens is about the same size as a 24-70mm F2.8; it is so compact it doesn’t even look like a telephoto, especially a 300mm. And this lens is super sharp, with snappy quick autofocus. I was so impressed I came home and immediately bought one. Combined with the D500 (1.5x sensor) using a smaller sensor, the equivalent angle of view is 450mm. This has to be about the most compact DSLR with this kind of reach out there. I’ll post more on this lens shortly.

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Singh-Ray filters 15% off

April 28th, 2016

purpleskysm
I regularly use Singh-Ray filters; polarizers, grad ND filters, ND filters, vari-ND filters. Many of my water and cloud slow motion images wouldn’t be possible without them. Right now Singh-Ray Filters are on sale for 15% off, and you get free shipping. Go to their website for more details.

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Gaffer tape everywhere

April 26th, 2016

gtape
Have you ever been on a shoot and something broke…maybe a headlamp, a camera body part, or even your sunglasses? If you only had a piece of tape to fix it. I solve that problem by always having gaffer tape handy. Gaffer tape is strong, and won’t leave a residue when you remove it. On commercial shoots we have one or two rolls with us all the time. We use g-tape for attaching gels, taping power cords to the floor, and about one hundred other uses. If you don’t want to haul around an entire roll of tape, just take some strips and attach them to your everyday shooting gear. I have pieces on my tripod, lens hoods and speed lights. In a pinch I can peel off a piece when I need it. You can find gaffer tape at your local camera store or any online camera store. Don’t leave home without it!

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Nikon 20mm 1.8 is sharp…really sharp!

April 18th, 2016

Las Torres Del Paine,  Chile. Patagonia

Las Torres Del Paine, Chile. Patagonia


Just back from two weeks in Patagonia helping lead a trip for ANPW; what an amazing place! I first visited the area as a climbing guide 25 years ago, and I have been hooked every since. After starting on day one with 75mph katabatic winds, we enjoyed mild weather, no rain and stunning sunrise and sunsets for the next 10 days.

I wanted to mix things up, so this trip I only used prime lenses, no zooms. Look for an upcoming story at Nikon Learn and Explore on my experiences using only primes. They offer some unique advantages, and they force you to move around a lot, which is a good thing. One lens I wanted to really try out was the Nikon 20mm F1.8. I have always loved this focal length for big landscapes, and let me just sum it up here; this lens is going on all my landscape shooting trips.

Calafate, Argentina. Patagonia

Calafate, Argentina. Patagonia


First, the lens is very small and lightweight. Compared to my 14-24mm, it weighs about 1 1/2 pounds lighter, and is significantly smaller. Another huge benefit compared to the 14-24mm…the 20mm has a 77mm filter size, so I can use all my existing ND and polarizing filters. At around $800, it is a $1000 cheaper. But let’s face it, the 14-24mm is legendary on how sharp it is…I’ve known Canon shooters to buy this lens and use an adapter to shoot with it. But according to DxO results, and what I saw in the field, this is even sharper than the 14-24mm. I’m not saying I don’t love my 14-24mm; it is still my go-to lens for many shoots, and the ability to zoom for shooting adventure sports is critical. But the 20mm is stunning in sharpness.

One last note about the 20mm. Remember using hyperfocal distance when we had a focusing guide on the lens barrel with various aperture settings. I’m happy to report the 20mm has a focusing guide with F16 on the scale, so it is very easy to set the lens for hyperfocal distance at F16. No more guessing what to focus on for the most depth of field.

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