Not sure what it is, but if there is one piece of camera gear that is misunderstood, it has to be the 16Fish. The Nikon 16f2.8AF is a lens I count on all the time for many, many different types of photography. Many think of a 16Fish and this lens the bends the world and it can, but is doesn’t have to. Here’s shot coming back from a project where the project was to take a portrait using the 16Fish (you’ll see the final image later this year). And this shot taken with the D800 flying back from the project in the rear of the A36 was also taken with the 16Fish as well. When we talked about shooting with the 16Fish this weekend at Short Lens Course (GREAT group BTW, loved having you!) and then I made a shot with a participants Canon Fish, I could see on faces I had opened some minds which is why I wanted to blog about again today. Check out the video below but it comes with a warning, it might cost you money! On a side note, this is a 5 image, hand held during a bumpy ride over Owens Valley, HDR finished just with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2.
I’m constantly asked about the easiest way to take ultra wide images and when I answer 16Fish, the question is repeated to see if I didn’t understand the question. The 16Fish when shot with the horizon line running right through the viewfinder captures a 180degree view with just one click. No stitching, no tricks, one click pano! Now if you point the lens up or point the lens down, you get what you see above. But even these clicks can be run through a number of programs and the Fish is gone and an ultra wide pano is born. This is why I tell folks the easiest is done with the 16Fish and one click.
I’m a little behind in getting this video out, OK, I’m four months behind but at least I didn’t forget. The 16Fish is such a damn fun lens to shoot that I’m surprised when at times it can be the only tool to make the shot. For example, making this shot from the backseat of the T6 was only possible with the 16Fish.
It’s 180 degrees uncorrected coverage is just amazing! You might think such a lens more gimmick then tool, but it’s gorgeously sharp. One of more common uses of the 16Fish is for the landscape. This is a great lens for that purpose. With that in mind, here’s a little video on using the 16Fish.
This is simply one hell of a fun lens! Does it serve a purpose? The original fisheye lenses were made for scientific research and pipeline construction inspection, hardly what I use it for. When I grab for the 16Fish, it’s because typicaly I have a scene that is so wide that I need the 180 degree coverage of the 16Fish to get the shot. At the same time, the scene in front of me must be one where there is no straight lines because the 16Fish will not render them straight. When you’re in the cockpit of a plane for example, you want the whole thing and some of the outside world, this is your only lens of choice. If you search the site, you’ll find a number of examples where I had fun shooting with the 16Fish.
The entire gang from our Yosemite Adventure wanted the shot of the tree over the rock. I said Olmstead Point was the place to go. Once there, they said, “Where’s the tree?” so i turned and pointed up, up the mountain. And before you could say Half Dome (which we shot at sunrise), up the hill we went. Two folks unknown to me until we got down, had sever fear of heights. But when it comes to getting the photo, even that didn’t stop them from climbing to the top as well. I went up with minimal gear, D4, 18-35AFS & 16Fish knowing two things, I wanted the big vista and was shooting B&W (also, I was going up so less was more!). In the background is Clouds Rest & Half Dome, so this is the lang of big vistas and B&W! The dome behind Olmstead Point itself is a picture rich area so we shot all the way up and all the way down. With the sun just coming over the horizon, it offered us many great opportunities, this is just one of them.
This dome is polished smooth from the same glacier creating Yosemite Valley. The pines that find a crack to germinate and grow all have great character. This is one of the larger ones so the combination of it and granite, well make for a photo. So with the 18-35AFS attached shooting at 18mm, I bent down and took the shot. It’s truly one of those, “I was here shots” at best. Boring! I knew that there was a photo here, had to get it out. What was it lacking? First was the sun, it wasn’t helping. Close the lens down to f/22 and then move so it was just peaking through the tree, we’d get the starburst. OK, with that I can change position and use the shadow as a line for the eye to move through the frame. To do that, I need to go wider so the 16Fish replaced the 18-35. OK, making some improvement but we can do better. OK, gotta nice boulder, small but it works. Lay on the granite face, get close to the boulder in the left corner (knowing I was going to light it in post) and move so the sun was peaking through the tree and wham, a photo was born. There are those times when you know there is a photo but the first click just doesn’t work. Those are the times when you gotta dig down and ask yourself what’s not working and do the dance. Because your heart knows a photo exists, you’re in there somewhere.
I’m in Alaska with griz of course. It’s fall which means on the road. Sharon and I left home two weeks ago and won’t see it again until Thanksgiving. We are very fortunate to be able to see so much of our grand planet and share what we find with you! Currently, we’re up in magnificent Alaska working with one of my favorite critters, grizzly bears. Since you’re not able to be here with me, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on planning my 10 days here with you.
There are two very important factors in planning to photograph griz the way I do, one if photographing griz’s story and the other is the Cessna 207. You have to have the right gear to make the photo but you can’t bring the kitchen sink because of the 207. You need that lens and body but you’ve gotta think of useful load and CG (center of gravity). The 207 might take off from your basic runway, but it will be putting down on a dirt strip, commonly called a beach. So with those two very important factors in mind, this is the gear I have with me:
What’s the logic in this selection? The 800mm, there is no logic, I just wanna to shoot with it more. Now it might afford me the opportunity to get the up close and personal shot that does come along at times, but it won’t be my primary lens. My primary lens is the 80-400 that will be a on second body hanging from my shoulder (800mm always with me on a tripod). Using the Vulture Strap, I can easily have it with me all the time. The 18-35 is for landscapes and general shots and the 16Fish is for the flight to and from the lodge and perhaps the big landscape if it might present itself. The flash is for portraits of folks and interior lodge shots. And other than charger, cords and cleaning kit, that’s all the gear I have along. For me, that is going real light but for this trip and for me, it’s all I need. The last piece of must have equipment are hip boots! You walk a lot and often in mud, creeks and marsh and hip boots make that all possible. Often, I’ll take a knee and shoot low, hip boots are great because they keep your pants from getting wet. So, that’s the basics and where I’m at. There will be, as you imagine, a whole lot more coming but for now, you’re up to day where I’m at.
As little as possible! Seriously, when you walk 6+ miles each day, too much gear just kills so this is where less is more! At the same time, I need to have the tools for the known and unknown, for the given and the imagination. With that in mind, you’re probably going to think I have everything but the kitchen sink. I’d have that but I’ll be in a tent. Here ya go:
- D4 (3x 1 rented from Borrowlenses.com)
- GoPro Hero3 (2x)
- Lexar 128GB 1000x CF (6)
- Lexar 32GB & 64GB microSD (6, at least until I loose them darn small things)
You might be wondering why I have both the 200-400VR and 80-400VR3. There are a number of reasons, the first being I can put teleconverters on the 200-400 and easily work. Next, the 80-400 is a dust pump (dust pump is an old term (cause I’m old) that dates back to old Vivitar Series 1 zooms. it refers to external zooming lenses) and when it comes to carrying a heavy lens vs. some post dust removal time, I’m torn which to take. Why are the bags and straps listed? They are essential to make it to the event and than through the entire event. In the heat and humidity, carrying a lot of gear will beat you down (and one can only eat so much ice cream). This is of course the list of the main gear, there is as you might imagine a ton of support gear. Spare batteries for everything along with chargers. Mounts for the GoPro & Contours and app on the iPhone & iPad. And all of this has been cleaned, tested and gone through this week before being backed to go. Hope this helps if you’re going. And if you want some shooting ideas, give this 10 Tips – Putting Action into Your Stills a gander. It might help as well.
When Warren Pietsch asks standing next to his Waco at his airport, you grab your camera and go!
Winner of the 2005 “Bill Barber Showmanship Award” asks this, of course you say yes!
It’s gorgeous with all sorts of wildlife
Sure, a little air to air with a 16Fish sounds like bigtime fun!
As if the whole experience hasn’t been totally amazing already!
More fun than one can ever imagine or express!
Photography has afforded me more amazing opportunities like this than one could ever expect in a lifetime. While being in North Dakota for the 4th was planned, being with friends was planned, all the great flying was not. All I had on the flight was a D4 / 16Fish, and that’s all I needed besides the good friends. In the wide open, private space that being in this country makes possible, this kind of flying can be enjoyed and with great pilots and friends, shared. It seemed only fitting on the 4th to have such a meeting with freedom!
Have I ever told you, I really hate bald skies! But what is one to do when you have bald skies? Gotta make lemonade as I see it. So with all the annual hoopla over the “big moon” I thought I would make the sun into the moon. How? Shoot right at it, closing the aperture all the way down and underexpose. Then went to a landscape that would support that “moon” like feel leaving the viewer asking, “Is it the moon or the sun?” Shooting with the D4 with 16Fish attached, I did just that. Then in the DD, I used ACR to “straighten” out the Fish. The only real thought given to the image was the landscape, (Horseshoe Lake during the drought), the shoreline and placement of the sun. Won’t go on my wall but was fun and being about getting skunked behind the camera beats anything else I can think of!
To say we lucked into great clouds during our K&M Adventure SD is an understatement. The trick was not finding the clouds but rather, what to put with them. That’s where visiting a location over and over again really pays big dividends. I’ve been to Custer dozens of times so when the afternoon thunderheads piled up, I knew where I wanted to go. What I didn’t know that the 16Fish would be the lens that would be the funniest to shot with. Kevin first got it out and I peaked through his lens and then grabbed mine. I then played with the peaks and valleys to make the designs that would go with the shapes of the clouds. It was so much fun taking the D4 and just pointing and blasting with the great light and shapes!
Visual depth, there are many ways to obtain it in our photographs. The way I typically do it is with a strong foreground, middleground and background. I’ve talked about this a lot over the years. The other method I use which for some reason I’ve not seemed to mention is optical visual depth. While in Monument Valley this past week with our K&M Adventures, it dawned on me while we were photographing North Window that this was a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
The top photo was taken with a 70-200VR2 at 200mm. This is more or less the classic shot of North Window. You have way off in the distance a couple of mesas and by clipping a little bit of the window on the right and left, the eye can stop there while the imagination goes off into the distance to see those mesas. The reference point in the foreground permits the mind’s eye to slip into the background and creates the illusion of visual depth. Why illusion? What are you using to look at these photos? A computer monitor. It don’t get no flatter!
The bottom image was taken with a 16Fish and part of a lesson of fisheye panos. Here, we used the road to lead the eye back into the frame. We use the tree on the left to “hide” a little bit of rock so the eye continues down that road. While you see the North Window way off in the background, it is no longer the subject. Both images have visual depth and while both pointed at the same formation, they both have a different subject (we had a long discussion in the van about What’s the Subject). They both have very different visual depth even though they both have visual depth.
This lead to a conversation whether just because you have visual depth, do you have a photography? Does including that mean you have a good or great photograph? In all realities, there is no answer to these questions. I saw photos with visual depth that sucked. I saw photos with no visual depth that were stunning. I know personally when working a landscape, I find it very important for the viewer to be able to “fall into the landscape” in my photograph. I want them to feel as if there were standing next to me taking in that grand view. That requires a strong visual depth at the very least as a starting point in the photographic experience.
I’m the son of a rock hound. I grew up with a museum quality collection in my own home that caught my imagination from the very start. Rocks a gazillion years old, fragile ones, hard as rock ones, expensive ones, out of this world as in meteorite ones, fossil ones and even uncut gem ones, (even played with a moon rock). To this day I can still remember going through the drawers of rocks bug-eyed! The one thing that really fascinated me is looking at the collection under different light sources, seeing a whole new world revealed by simply changing the light. Is it any wonder, I shoot rocks?!
While the geology lessons I learned in the process are long forgotten, the light on the rock lessons seems to have stuck. I mean, a rock is a rock is a rock until you light it and then, it can be just about anything your imagination says it is in your photograph! Rocks have a couple of properties I like to exploit in my photographs. There is place, time, shape and texture. These concepts are not unique to just rock photography. But what’s cool about practicing on rocks is they have all the time in the world for you to get it right!
Rocks come in lots of sizes, from those you can place on your desk and light with a flashlight to big ass ones. My favorite Big Ass Rock is Mt McKinley up in AK. We have sat on the slope ten miles away just watching it and the weather it creates for hours at a time. When it comes to photographing it, my favorite lenses are long ones, 600VR or 200-400VR2. Why so long? I want to give that big ass rock place, I want to say in one click without any caption, it’s big! The trick then is not just the lens, but light and atmosphere. If you’ve ever been to Denali Nat’l Park, then you know that just seeing McKinley can be a real trick so you click when you see it because, you can see it. Getting picky might not be an option but that’s just rock photography for you!
On the flip side is a favorite rock of mine I call Split Ass Rock. When I first blogged this photo back in 2001 it got attention more because I was photographed with the brand new, nobody had D1x. Then the laughter about my name for it made it pretty well known. I still get emails asking where is Split Ass Rock in Acadia Nat’l Park on the shore of Jordan Pond? When we took DLWS participants to shoot at the pond, I was asked where the rock was and when I pointed at it, you should have seen the disappointment in folk’s faces. That’s because the rock is so damn small. By getting down in the pond, shooting with a 14-24AFS just a few inches away though, you’d never know it was small. This is just one method of setting place and time in a photo.
One thing I remember so vividly from the drawers of rocks in my mom’s collection was the texture. Each rock / mineral was unique in its texture and weight. When we’d move the black light around, you’d see not only those features but different colors as well. That’s probably why when I’m out rock shooting, I walk around rocks looking. As you walk around, the first thing you’ll notice the pattern of light changes and that either brings our or hides texture and shape (a play of highlights and shadows). A real simple exercise, find a rock and light it with a flashlight and then do a 360 around it. What makes that rock unique will come out at some point and be hidden at another. It’s all a matter of light.
I did a workshop a few years back with my good friend RC. We were at a local lake shooting when I noticed some folks shooting rocks sticking out of the water at edge of the shore. In my typical style, I just made one comment about the photograph. Dry Rocks Suck and walked away. The photographer took their foot and splashed water on the rocks and low and behold, they didn’t suck no more! This is why I often have a bucket with me, to bring life to them rocks when they are in water with water. The colors, shape, texture that pops is better than any Photoshop pluggin can produce!
Now admitting in public I shoot rocks does sound, bad. Teaching folks to shoot rocks, sounds like I’ve lost my marbles (a form of rock humor). But I have seen many a shooter of rocks totally baffled by something that never moves and is older than dirt. I think it is because we are visually trying to bring life to something that doesn’t live. What does move is the light and that’s where the challenge lies. Next comes the fact that rocks aren’t often alone, they tend to keep company with other rocks. Most photographers not wanting to hurt the rocks feelings so they include them all in the photo. But you know what they say about company, too many rocks is a crowd! I mean, how many rocks do you need in a photograph to say, it’s a rock?!
Whether alone or in a pile, rocks talk about our earth probably better than any other element because they are something everyone can relate to. The trick then photographically, is to make the uncommon photograph out of the common subject. Perhaps if you tackle this problem with this one element thinking of place, time, shape and texture using just light to speak of these attributes, you might not only come up with some cool rock photos, but improve your overall photography just by understanding light a little bit better. Don’t feel silly giving this a try either. Just remember who suggested it to you. My name is Moose, I shoot rocks!
In the Bag
“Why did you go that way?” Damn good question for lots that I have pursued with a camera over time. The Cockpit Panos we’ve posted seem to be the cause of a lot of work time spent lost goofin with them. At the same time, questions keep coming in with this being the latest. Why? The answer was pretty simple when you look at my early cockpit portraits. OK, light is OK and the clouds so so but then what? You really can’t get a feel for the cockpit since you don’t feel like you’re sitting in it. You can really read any of the instruments. It’s, just there! Thought shot with the same 16Fish, you the viewer don’t really get much an experience from it and that’s the whole idea.
Both of these are hand held HDRs, 5 image captures taken at f/2.8 because I was too lazy to get a tripod. That’s because I knew that the end results would be what you see here. What you’re seeing here is the Lone Star Flight Museum’s DC-3, a gorgeous plane you see on the airshow circuit. You’ve got the main cabin and the cockpit here. As the viewer of the image, how are you to get a feel for this romantic period in flight from these photos? (Can you imagine getting our carry-ons on this plane?) It was parked in a hangar when I made these clicks and there sure is a lot more PS craft then camera craft in these couple of images. Since that’s not my style and they really don’t convey the whole experience, I had to find a better what of communicating that experience. That’s how I went looking for what we now call our cockpit panos.
Our Cockpit Panos have become quite popular. We posted two new ones over the weekend, once from a Stinson V-77 Gullwing and another from Super Corsair #74. I really love the “steering wheels” in the Gullwing and truly appreciate the history in #74. I’ve been flooded with one question, “How did I light these cockpits?” It’s all done with one SB-900. Prior to actually making the pano, I determine the lighting for the entire cockpit using just the one flash. Why just one flash? Since I’m using a 16Fish, any type of lighting system would be seen in the frame. At the same time, most cockpits don’t have a whole bunch of space for much more then one flash. Some have asked for a behind the scene video which would be a great idea. That’s if I had a recipe to offer you but at this time I don’t. My original post lists what I suggest you can use to get started if this intrigues you. I was surprised how many emails I received asking about the gear used to create these. That’s listed below again. Thanks for all the love notes. Don’t fret, there are a lot more coming!
For better or worse, my whole photographic career has been based on taking the viewer into a world I am so damn fortunate to explore with my camera. The last 6 months my son Brent & I took this quest to a whole new level. VR Panos are not new, I surely didn’t invent them but when I got this idea I sure did feel like I had. The goal was real simple, put YOU in the cockpit of an aircraft! You walk around an airshow, a museum and typically you’re staring up at the plane. Those that you get to walk through have huge lines and the vast majority of the time, it’s just to see the cockpit. So the question hit me, how can I as a photographer bring that cockpit experience to you? In the beginning, I wish I hadn’t asked that question of myself.
When it comes to wacky stuff, I’m very fortunate to have the perfect expert to ask, Russell Brown. He never fails to amaze me because while he had done one VR Pano, he said he was by no means an expert but he knew who is. He sent me to Scott Highton, a very smart and very generous photographer who literally wrote the book on the topic. Scott was incredibly kind and encouraged me to go for it and provided a couple of ideas so I went for it. His book really laid out the path, the challenge was to follow it. It started in a Cessna 172RG one weekend in Wichita with my shooting bud Kevin. It actually turned out which was encouraging enough to continue.
What you see above is a screen capture of a finished VR Pano of a T-50 Bamboo Bomber. I’ve now posted a number of our cockpit panos on my Warbirdimages.com site for your enjoyment. What you’re seeing on the site (requires Qtime 7.0 or higher) are the low res versions. What we deliver to clients is a 155MB .mov and what you’re seeing is about a 5MB version.
The creation of these panos the first time out seems worse then pulling teeth. The first one took hours to photograph and then over 26hrs to assemble (we’ve got both down to a little bit less time now). That’s because 136 images are required (they way we do it) to create the Pano. I shoot with a D3x so you can zoom in and read the smallest print in the High Res version. It’s all shot with a 16fish, yeap, this is a Fisheye photo and it’s assembled in a program called PTGui (not making that name up, really).
Here’s the one big issue with this process, I have not figured out a way to teach it. It’s just not cut and dry and every time I do one, I learn something new that makes it just a little bit easier. I can tell you that I use the D3x, 16Fish with The Box shooting 5 image HDR, flash fill and that Brent (not me) assembles the finished pano in PTGui. But after that….yikes! For example the T-50 pano above, the first thing I hope you notice is the lighting on the dash (not bad for a wildlife shooter). That took me about 45min to dial in because between lighting the panel, the seats, not seeing the flash in the windscreen and matching it up to the sunset I knew we’d be placing on the outside, it took some time. Oh yeah, none of the lighting gear doing all of this can be seen in the photograph. Doing that in the tight space of a cockpit (the plane was in its hangar) is just something I can’t provide a recipe for. But I sure can at the very least entertain you with the finished results and at most hopefully encourage you to push your photography a little further. Have fun playing with the panos!
I have been asked what are my favorite images from our recent time in Moab. I really don’t think about my images in that way, I don’t pick favorites. I do have those in which I have a personal attachment to because of the experience in making the image is special to me. That could be from a number of things. The first image was taken along Park Avenue where the recent rains left many puddles. I was shooting with my good friend Chris when I came up to him trying to make this shot. I laid down on the rock to give him a couple of ideas which is when I shot this image. If he wasn’t there working the spot, I know I would have not stopped nor lay down on the rock. Right after, McNally laid down next to me and in usual juvenal fashion, we were stupid there for all to see. That makes this image special to me.
This is another of those laying down images. After walking up into Double Arch, I laid backwards to just stretch my back and I saw this. I put the 16Fish to my eye and liked what I saw. I’m actually looking behind me in this photo. In this thumbnail, you can’t see the folks in the foreground and behind, just clear blue sky. Lots of information, lots of light so the 16Fish and a 9 images HDR handheld was the call for capture.
This photo has a whole lot wrapped up in it. Stormy clouds, long run coming to an end. Color meeting black. I have a lot of images of this nature from around the country in my files. I’ve always entertained doing something with them but I just never seem to have the right ones to tell my story. That’s because I’m still not sure what that story is. That’s the cool thing about photography and life, you might wake up each day with an idea where you want to go but that road you enter, it might take you in a totally different direction. So my “favorites” from the week don’t have anything to do with incredible imagery but the moment that went into the click. Life is a marvelous thing, I always feel fortunate I get to experience with a camera in hand.
This is Double Arch looking back out into the desert and I love this shot! Talk about an amazing view on the world. Shot with the 16Fish, there are a few things that went into making this image. The first is the range of light was huge so I started with a 9 handheld image HDR. I then processed that image in Photomatic Pro and Photoshop. To get the sunburst I did two things, I shot with the lens closed down to f/22 and then moved so the sun was just baring peaking around the rim of the Arch. That makes the biggest and best starburst. Finally, I moved the Fish so the slope on the horizon which was sloping up naturally turn out to look pretty level. That “removes” the visual clue that I was using a Fish. But a Fish was a must to take in the whole Arch. It was simply a grand morning in one gorgeous location!
In all my years of coming to Arches, I’ve never experienced Double Arch at sunrise. This year I decided I was going to and I can tell you, I will do it many times in the future. It did not disappoint! As you might imagine as the sun rises the light get’s hard quickly. So before the sun hit, I made some clicks as I walked up to the Arch. I ventured with just two lenses, the 14-24AFS and 16Fish. The Arch is BIG so WIDE was a must.
When the sun hit, you had many options. I shot it straight and used the shadow as a graphic element. I kinda like this series but I don’t think I worked it to its fullest. I think there is a lot more potential here that another visit requires. But the Arch had much more to offer!