A really good question that comes in a lot, especially this time of year is “What gloves do you use? Back in the day, I would haunt every outdoor store I ventured by and gleaned the glove display trying to find the glove that kept my hands warm and permited me to shoot. Then our sons got into xcross skiing and I found the Swix gloves and fell in love. From past experience, I bought 3 pairs which until this last fall lasted me for 9yrs. Went to try and find them and found they were discontinued. The closet thing I found was B, Swix Cross Gloves. This was after I found the A, Pearl Izumi Elite Gel Bike Gloves. Now I like these gloves but in the beginning, they were stiff as a board. They have a special material on the top to cut the wind and that works but after four months of shooting, they are just starting to break in. These are the gloves I always have in my jacket and take care of the majority of my shooting. When going to extremes like when the air temp hovers around zero of lower, I turn to ice climber gloves. These seem to change every other day, they are updated and outdated almost monthly. The pair I got last year are now gone, the closest are the C, Sierra Designs Enforcer Gloves. They do look bulky but I found them to work really well. They keep the digits warm, permit basic operation and ability to push some buttons. You can push all the buttons on the D3 for example except the button inside the Selector. You cannot run a video camera with them. If you click on all the links, you’ll see they take you to REI. I have found them to have a great selection that varies a little from town to town. These are what I’ve found work for me, perhaps one will be right for you.
My favorite though are ones my family gave me years ago for ultimate in cold weather protection. These gloves mittens I love to shoot with! Actually, they are custom made trapper mittens that are strictly for cold weather use.
How cold? Well, at 12degrees my hands were almost uncomfortably warm, not perspiring but almost too much warmth. Working in places like Yellowstone or the Arctic in the winter, these mittens are so perfect. Yeah, I can squeeze off the shutter, no, can’t work any other feature on the body. No, can’t buy these at REI. They are a two layer mitten, a heavy wool removable liner and outer Beaver fur. I just can’t wait to get out in the cold and put them to use! Thanks family!
The more and more I use and play with the Coolpix P7800, the more I really like it! The image quality for such a simple capture device is simply amazing. And it’s so much fun to shoot with, I went and got WU-1A Wireless unit. It’s a small unit, I mean small and it runs off the batter of the P7800 so it’s not got a huge range. But when using with the Nikon WMU App, you can remotely fire and if you wish, upload images to your smart device.
Neither the WU-1A nor the app are meant to be or are as sophisticated as say the Cam Ranger for the D4, nor are they the same price. How could you make great use of this simple technology? You could place it as a remote on a bird feeder to get them use to a camera while at the same time spying on who is coming in. You could set up the P7800 behind you and take BTS, project in progress photos. You could even place it in the cockpit of a plane and do remote pilot photos. And if you’ve never done remote work before, here’s a great, simple way to start.
Set up of the app is no more than making sure the WU-1a is active, turn on your wireless (I’m using the iPhone 5) on your smart device and select the WU-1a network and than tap the app. You will see right through the lens on your smart device and there is a button to fire the camera. It’s really just that simple and fun.
I’ve become pretty obsessed with capturing video of all our aviation flights. Making them better and better, more and more unique is all part of the program. This means pushing the given to the custom. Here’s what I’ve got going currently. The main cameras (yes, more than one at a time) is the GoPro Hero3 silver. It’s straight off the shelf, using its wireless and the GoPro App on the iPhone for set up. When it comes to starting and stopping the camera, I still do it manually at the camera.
When it comes to attaching it to external surfaces of an aircraft, I’m using the NFlightcam Billet Mount (the red part unscrews so can be attached to hot shoe ballhead, sweet) and has the “Bright” Aviator Lens Kit. The Billet Mount works GREAT! A talk with the pilot comes first, discussing with them where I would like to place it and verifying that’s flight worthy. The Lens Kit is NO WAY dark enough to slow the shutter speed to remove the slap, slap, slap look of the props. I bought addition Neutral Density Material that I cut and have now mounted inside the lens port of the Hero. I had to purchase the GoPro Standard Housing Lens Replacement Kit for the tool to remove the screws to insert the neutral density gel. And that’s how the Missing Man video was shot.
I have had A LOT of emails asking, why the 58f1.4AFS, Why f1.4? These are BOTH very valid questions and bring up the concept and implementation of DoF in our visual communicating. Depth of Field is one of our more powerful tools in arranging elements, commonly summed up as composition. Smacking the viewer between the eyes with the subject in part is done with the lack of, or the abundance of focus around that subject. And this degree of sharpness can be manipulated further with focal length and camera distance to the subject and distance between the subject and the background. In this pursuit, there are many lenses like the 24f1.4AFS all the way up to 200f2AFS that really make the most of the lack of DoF. In the animated Gif above, you can see with the new 58f1.4FS, when 8 feet away from the trunk with lichen (the focus point), how it visually “pops” when shot at f/1.4 compared to f/16 (as much as the 58mm closes down). It’s that focal length and that f/stop, f/1.4 that I personally like. I’ve tired the 35f1.4AFS and 85f1.4AFS and while they are sweet lenses, blazing sharp, the focal length doesn’t work for my style of photography. 58mm does and that’s why 58f1.4AFS for me. Hope this helps folks understand a little more about their own lens selection.
Yeap, I’ve got a new Coolpix, the P7800 and it’s really cool! I have the 7000 and just updated to the 7800. Why? There are a couple of reasons, the first being the built in variable zoom going from 28-200m which permits me a little more flexibility than a fixed 28mm (but I love the small size of the Coolpix A still) along with a max f2! It also has the built in viewfinder which really helps me as well. And tested here, it has excellent low light noise quality. I’ve just started to shoot with it but I really like it so far. Mtc.
The D610 is just a fun camera to use! And while fun is an important reason why we own our gear, there has to be that technical reason as well. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan on the D600 and the D610 is supposed to be the D600 with its issues resolved. Well, I’m of the opinion it’s a bit more than that. I have no insider info, just my experience shooting with the D610 this past week compared to my shooting with the D600 prior. It’s just a better experience with files just a tad sweeter. No, don’t have resolution charts or side by side comparisons, just the experience of looking at images giving me the belief the D610 does a tad better job of taking and producing images. Here’s a couple of examples that have me thinking this. This first one as it appears, is a sunset shot looking to the west with the sun below the horizon and the lights on in the hangar. I’m shooting with the 50f1.4AFS (being repl as of today with the 58f1.4AFS) and not having a tripod and being tired, raised the ISO to 800 and went click. Simple, clean results, just a tad nicer than the D600 (field smoke always makes for great colors!).
Went to the Houston Space Center and dragged the D610 around though I was shooting with the Coolpix A most of the time. Finally, at the end of the tour I pulled the D610 out and shot with it. I was looking for just a detail shot to zoom on in post to see what the D610 would deliver. Again, I was shooting at ISO 800 with the 18-35AFS handheld. You can see for yourself the 200% crop and what the D610 delivers. That’s simply a clean file with lots of detail.
I need the D610 for those times when I need to blend. The D4 is just not a “blend in” body but the D610 sure is! I have so much faith in it, I instantly put it to work on a project. At the end of the evening of the 40′s hangar party, after I’d taken the portraits, I was still looking for a way to get higher to shoot down on the festivities. That’s when I thought of “Betty’s Dream.” A couple of seconds later we were inside and through the hatch shooting. I took up the D610 / 18-35AFS and made the clicks real fast (I love the slightly faster FPS of the D610). I realize many would love to see the side by sides, charts and the rest but that’s just now how I go through a piece of gear. I take it in the field and use it where it will either fail or pass and in my book, the D610 more than passes. It delivers what I need to deliver to my clients and I feel it does it better than the D600.
And in case you can’t picture popping through the hatch of a B-25, here’s Jake going up for the shot after I got down. The trick is, DON’T pull on anything red inside the cockpit!
It had been a GREAT day! By 8:30 we’d already put in seventeen hours and thousands of clicks, but that was the point of volunteering. There was a huge 40′s party in the Texas Flying Legends Museum hangar for the WWII vets and their family including a great 40′s band, dancers, Patton look alike, surrounded by the P-51D “Cripes A Mighty” and B-25 “Betty’s Dream.”. “Betty’s Dream” was partially pulled into the hangar and even a gorgeous LaSalle drove up delivering some of the reinactors who were guests, parking under its wing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and than started to work all the activities. It was a target rich photographic opportunity. But being a control freak, I wanted more than just the grab shot under hangar lighting. Then it dawned on me … the Rapid Boxes!
The folks (all friends) were great and open to anything. So I asked the couple in the top image (who came in the LaSalle), Miles & Kim if they’d be up for their portraits being made with the car. I described to them briefly what I wanted to do and when they saw me point out of the hangar into the darkness, I got the strangest look. I just said, “trust me.” Jake ran to the truck, got the Rapid Box lighting kit duffle I had with us and we set up the lights. In literally just minutes, we had the Westcott Rapid Box Octa/ SB-910 / PocketWizard FlexTT5 and Westcott Strip Box / SB-910 / PocketWizard FlexTT5 on Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stands set up (both flashes connected to SD-9s all powered with Eneloop AA batteries). The speed in which we had it all set up even impressed the guests. It sure impressed me!
With the D610 / 18-35AFS in hand (I really like the D610!), I got Jake to stand in for the models, hit the test button on the PocketWizard, took my first shot, looked at the LCD and went to work. I was at f/8, 1/25, underexposing ambient light making the flashes, set at zero (using cs e4 makes this part easy), the main light. The Octa was the main light on the folks and pointed up a tad to slightly light the underneath of the wing of “Betty’s Dream.” The strip light as you can see was to the side and feathered to do a little fill on the folks and than light up the side of the LaSalle (reflections of the lights on the car were minimized by flash placement). No, this wasn’t enough light to really do “Hollywood” lighting, but that’s wasn’t the goal.
The “folks” are all dear friends, president and pilots of the Texas Flying Legends Museum. One is a seating congressman even. The very quick and impromptu “portrait studio” (which was up, used and down in less than ten minutes) was merely an extension of the night’s fun. Like I said, we’d all had already put in a full day. I had minutes with each couple before they went back to the guests. It’s a simple, clean shot capturing the memories of the evening. And if I didn’t have the Rapid Boxes with me, I would have never thought of or attempted such a shoot. A single off camera flash would have looked like crap. The Rapid Boxes produced gorgeous light very quickly making me a hero. Can’t ask more from your gear!
When it comes to working with the folks, this is how I did it. First, my beautiful bride would go get the couple so they were already happy by the time I got them. I told them I wanted them to pose for the period which meant body language you see with the gentleman holding the ladies elbow. I would take one click and than show them the LCD because there were standing in total darkness. I assumed the were wondering just what the heck the photo would look like. Once they saw the LCD, it was all a piece of cake. Ten minutes after we started set up, we were torn down and back at the party with the others. Personally, this kind of flash photography I can get into. It was quick, easy and great light. I simply can’t say enough about the Rapid Boxes. They earned their name and keep this evening!
Oh, and this last portrait, this is very special to us. We had the great fortune to spend three days with three Tuskegee Airman, and one in particular really took a shine to my wife. Alexander Jefferson pictured here was simply a hoot to get to know. I’d already spent the day with him, talking up a storm and telling me a ton of stories. When he got in front of my camera he said, “Moose, get my good side!” And when I asked the trio to squeeze in tighter, Alexander said, “sounds good to me!” He was great and it was an honor to get to know all three and able to call them friends. Amazing what photography has brought to our lives!
My friends at B&H love to pull my chain and nothin does it better than to hand me a new tool when they know I can’t play with it. Last week they put in my hand the CamRanger and I’ve been playing with it every since. This is simply a great tool! Using the iPhone or iPad, Win or Mac & Android, you connect in seriously a heartbeat with the very simple and straight forward UI and you’re operational. You see right through the viewfinder (taping the LiveView) so you shoot stills or video remotely, effortlessly. You can do time lapse, HDR, multiple focus and plain old click photography. It is SO well thought out, there isn’t a thing I would do to improve it. I can’t wait to install it in an aircraft cockpit and remotely shoot. Outstanding!
I easily receive fifty emails a day asking equipment advice. It’s only natural since we tend to go to the older folks seeking advice since in theory, they’ve already found answers with their extra years. Not that I like to think of myself as old, I’m not but I have been doing thing for a while and have accumulated some trivia I can share. But an email today made me laugh out loud, and than made me think. The emailer asked, “where do YOU seek advice?” As many know, I am constantly pushing the envelope and in that process, trying out new gear. Well, who do I ask about that new gear? This is especially true the last couple of years when it comes to video and sound. Well, being the nut case trying something new, I tend to have few peers I can tap for answers. Now this might sound corny to you, but the one source I keep pounding, and I mean pound are my friends at B&H Photo (You know I have a hotline at B&H, the number is to your right, that you can call and “Moose” folks will help you just like I can). Now, I am constantly sending “The Kid” emails asking questions and I know the first response will be something like, “I’ll get right back to you” and he does. That’s because “The Kid” is a kid, a very smart one who goes out and finds the answers I need from either those in B&H or from the manufactures. Now his bating average is about 90% and that works just fine for me. Where do YOU seek advice? There are lots of possibilities but the one thing I want to remind you in the process, keep in mind that it is only, advice. YOU must take that info and put it through YOUR head and YOUR heart to see if it’s the answer for you. Being creatives and storytellers, there are a lot more correct answers than one. It might take time, but finding the right answer for you is very much part of the photographic journey.
For the last week after my post about gear I brought to Oshkosh, I’ve been flooded with two questions. Lemme answer them for everyone. The first question is obvious…why the 200-400VR2 and the 80-200VR3 lenses? There are actually many reason. The first being the 200-400 has been my go to aviation lens from the start, I’m real comfortable with it. Next, being a bigger lens, it has a presence which I saw first hand the days I didn’t carry it but Jake did. Lastly, it just feels good in my hands, really well balance and when throwing it around panning, it works with me perfectly. The 80-400 on the other hand, is physically lighter and when carrying this stuff around from 0500 to 2000, it beats you up. The 80-400 was simply easier to carry all day than the 200-400. In the end, I shot the 200-400 two days and the 80-400 six days. The reason for that was I was photographing a lot of folks, I mean a lot, as in over 1k portraits one day! The other was I was doing air to air shoots and in that dept, there is NO other lens like the 80-400!
The other question that came flooding in is, what’s a dust pump? This is a very old term from back when I started photography over 30yrs ago, was attached in my crowd to the Vivitar Series 1 zooms. It’s a term for external (as a posed to internal) zoom lenses. The 200-400 is an internal zoom lens, it does not expand or contract when you zoom. The 80-400 is an external zoom, the lens expands and contracts when you zoom. It does not infer that the 80-400 pumps dust onto the sensor any more than any other lens because it doesn’t. Hope this answers your questions.
I often feel that I live in a cave. I was just made aware that Nikon has a list of lenses (scroll down) they recommend being shot with the D800e. The premise of the list is pretty straight forward, the lenses on this list “resolve” to such high quality/standards they make the most of the ultra pixels of the D800e. Having first hand knowledge of Nikon’s standards, that’s one helluva a list to have! It was brought to my attention because I’m told Nikon just added three lenses to this list and it just so happens to be lenses I’ve recently added to my bag. So what has this trivia got to do with anything?
- New: AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
- New:AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
- New:AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
- AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
- AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
- AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II
- AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
- AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G
- AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
- AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
- AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
- AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II
- AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
- AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED
- AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
- PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED
- PC-E Micro NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED
- PC-E Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D
It seems almost hourly I receive an email asking me, “Which lens should I buy?” This is an incredibly valid and important question that for 99.9% of the folks who ask me, I can’t answer. Lens selection is a very personal thing that should be based on personal style, abilities and application. If I don’t know that about a person, my answer to the question is about as worthless as any stranger answering that question. Well, this list helps in one way in answering this question. If you want to be sure the quality you are buying is the best for the buck, then here ya go! And there are some expensive lenses here. At the same time, there are some real sleepers like the 18-35AFS that I’ve been telling you about for months which is not expensive. I can’t recommend emphatically enough to rent (Borrowlenses.com) before you buy and if you want help which to start with, this list is a great place!
I’ve been ranting and raving about the “new” 18-35AFS for a couple of months. It’s just a freakin great lens! But here’s some more proof. DxOMark tests show it’s amazing…they go on to say
“With the price close to the Tokina, this new Nikon’s ‘moderate to slow’ variable aperture, all-plastic construction and lack of an aperture collar may all be viewed as shortcomings. Looking on the up-side, the material choice means the lens weighs just 385g and yet, even after adopting a large 77mm filter size, it somehow retains relatively compact dimensions making it highly portable. As for the optical quality, it’s first class and will no doubt be a good match for the inevitable high-resolution bodies that must surely exist on the drawing boards of Nikon facilities in Tokyo and Sendai.” I’ve had clients marvel at how sharp the prints are coming from the 18-35AFS, I’m totally sold on this baby!
You bet your sweet hinny it’s sharp! But here’s the rub, if your long lens technique is not spot on, the TC-20eIII (2x) will magnify your lack of technique. In another words, you won’t get a sharp image. The 800AFS comes with its own dedicated teleconverter (as did the 600mm back in the 80′s, what we now call the TC-14e) the TC800-25e producing a blistering sharp 1000f7.1. When you add the TC-20EIII to the 800mm you’re at 1600 f/11 and at f/11, AF operation except on bright days with the center AF sensor is not possible. So between the focal length and manually focusing, you’d best have great long lens technique to get that sharp image. On a side note, we tried the TC800-25e on a 600VR2 and it would not attach. We did not try to force it, seemed unwise out on the tundra. This Merlin falcon was shot with the 800 / 2x combo and the 24×30 print looks gorgeous!
The Really Right Stuff LC-A13 80-400 repl collar is now available and is a VAST improvement over the stock collar that comes with the lens. The collar operation is smooth as silk, not quite as tall as the stock collar and more importantly, is much beefier than the stock collar. Unlike the stock collar, you remove the RRS collar by unscrewing the knob and than swinging half of the collar over the barrel. Can’t recommend this enough to you!
The next generation of the Di-GPS is now available and it is by far the best! The Di-GPS Eco is the smallest, lightest, most battery friendly and now MC cord friendly GPS on the planet. I can’t say enough good things about it other than, I wish I had it last week in Churchill where the cable on my GP-1 broke again! You see, there is no cord with the new unit. It slips into the 10 pin socket and goes. And it provides a socket so you can use your cable releases. They have models for cameras like the D4 (pictured) or like the D7100. GPS has come a long way!