May 27th, 2016
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 if articulates as well), and the best Nikon camera for focus sensor point coverage.
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!
May 26th, 2016
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…
May 24th, 2016
Columbia River Gorge,
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.
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.
May 17th, 2016
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.
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.
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.
May 2nd, 2016
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.
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.
April 28th, 2016
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.
April 26th, 2016
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!
April 18th, 2016
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
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.
April 1st, 2016
If you haven’t heard, Nik software (owned by Google) is now free! I have used Nik for years, and I especially like Nik Silver Efex. It is stunning that the software is free, and this includes the whole package with programs like Color Efex, HDR Efex Pro, Viveza and Dfine among others. This software will work as plugins with both LR and Photoshop, Mac or Windows. This is a deal you can’t pass up.
March 29th, 2016
Fort Collins, CO. portrait at horse tooth
I’m getting ready to head to Patagonia soon, and on this trip I am doing something a little different. Instead of taking a few zooms, I’m taking a lot of prime fixed focal length lenses. Why you ask? My biggest reason is it forces me to ‘zoom my feet’, not zoom my lens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my zoom lenses and practically worship my 14-24mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8, and 70-200mm F2.8. Maybe it is my journalism roots, but I know I will get different images when I am shooting fixed. And one of my favorite lenses is the 35mm F1.4.
Fort Collins, CO. portrait at horse tooth
The 35mm is the classic street photography lens. You have to be close to your subject to get a portrait, but it shows enough of the surrounding scene to add context to the shot. There are some great choices in this lens, in particular the F1.8 and F1.4 version. The 35mm F1.8 version (talking full frame versions, FX) has excellent optical performance (read the numerous reviews online), is really light, and costs about $1000 less than the 1.4 version. But I went for the F1.4 version since this lens is a staple of my portrait work, and the build quality and extra 2/3 stop is important.
One of my favorite uses of this lens is environmental portraiture. Take a look at the image at top. Shooting at F1.4, the rock climber’s eyes are sharp, but there is beautiful blur front and back of the subject. You just can’t get this amazing bokeh with narrower aperture settings. I really like how the clouds rendered as well at F1.4.
Since I am carrying the new 20mm F1.8 to Patagonia, I’ll post a review from there on how well this lens does in the field. Spoiler alert…reviews call this lens the sharpest wide angle Nikon makes!