The weather finally broke so at 05:15 Sharon and I were at Mono Lake with the new 800f5.6 AFS on my shoulder. I had my typical setup, Gitzo 5562GTS, Wimberley WH-200 with Moose Cam (Contour, with the only change being shooting with the D800 as my D4 and half of my gear is in for their annual CLA at Nikon. I was happy as a pig in clam shit to be out shooting critters! It was a brisk morning but not even a stitch of wind with clear skies. With the dirt still wet from the “storm” that went through, I figured the critters would be out and busy, making up for the days of snow, hail and rain. We walked and walked, looked and looked, nothing! Seriously?!
Carrying the rig over my shoulder as I always have, I swear it felt a little lighter than with the 600AFS but I know that’s because the 800mm rig is slightly better balanced on my shoulder. With time to kill, I started to check simple things like, how close can I get with the 800mm and focus on a critter? Manually focusing, I can be 18′ away from a subject and have it sharp. This is not how close it focuses with autofocus, but manually which is what I do most of the time when up close. At this distance at f/5.6, the DOF is bloddy narrow as I discovered when the first Violet-green Swallow appeared. Now being the middle of May, there should be a bucket load at the Tufas but all we had was this one. So as the sun came over the horizon, I had it in my sights and started to shoot. I was way too far away but it was the first bird we’d seen this morning so I wasn’t waiting. I wanted to photograph some critters in the worst way!
OK, I got a little closer, made some more clicks and then it flew off. Bastard! So there we stood, in the gorgeous light with no one to play with. So we kept walkin, lookin, checking all the normal haunts for swallows but with none in the air, I was feeling a little low. Then we came across some Canadian Geese with goslings! Goslings already, pretty big ones no less. While cute and all, shooting them with the 800mm seemed, well, a little anticlimactic after waiting three days to shoot so we just watched them as they strolled by. It was a gorgeous morning at Mono Lake though, looked like I should have been after landscapes rather than critters. We continued walking….
About 45min after sunrise and the nip disappeared from the air, I started to hear the swallows but didn’t see any. Then one came in from high above and landed. I now had two and then, lucky for me, a female showed up! Yeap, being spring and all, soon we had male swallows coming from everywhere to woo the one female and I could finally go to work. The swallows perch on the Tufas for brief periods as they do flight displays, fight with each other, all those male things they do in spring to get the attention of the female. The 800AFS had zero problems focusing from perch to perch as the swallows moved about. The AF speed is great and when the opportunity afforded itself, I would walk in slowly to get as close as I could to continue shooting. Only once did I walk too close that I couldn’t focus. That doesn’t count all the times the swallows landed so close I couldn’t focus no matter what. And was the Moose Cam on all of this time? It was running, I just haven’t edited it to post.
Sharon then saw another group of swallows on another set of Tufas so we wandered over to them. This is where I struck gold and had a male land on a Tufa right in front of me after taking a bath. For five or six minutes it groomed its feathers while calling to the other swallows flying by. On top of the Wimberley, the 800mm was real easy and fast to swing around to keep up with the action. You must be wondering if I was chimping all this time to see the results? Nope, didn’t check them until getting back to the office a short time ago and could see them on the 24HD Cintiq. That’s when I was blown away by the spooky sharpness of the 800AFS! I mean, this is one very sharp lens! It is also very obvious that the DOF at MFD is nothin, not even from the tip of the bill to the back of the eye on the swallow. Well, with these images in the can and the light getting hard, we started walking back towards the truck.
We spent time where we normally see Least Chipmunks but they didn’t want to play. Looked for the cottontail rabbits, none to be found. We kept walking back up the path. As were strolling up looking about, I heard the distinctive twitter (song not social media) of a Green-tailed Towhee. A second later saw it singing from the top of a big Tufa. While not a great perch, I walked to it. Then a female flew up from below it and they were off flying through the sage. I was just about to move on when the male came back and perched on a much better, smaller Tufa. I made a couple of clicks and moved closer. Made a couple of more clicks and then it sang! Those are the shots I love to get in spring.
For the next ten minutes I was able to work the towhee, getting closer and refining the background. The 800mm focal length has always been my favorite because of the ease of manipulating the background, in this case grabbing rabbit brush way off in the distance just getting its spring green. Now as my good friend Kevin pointed out this morning, the 600AFS with 1.4x gets you to the same place and this is true. Well, not too long that female reappeared and my subject jetted off through the sage in hot pursuit once again. So ended my first outing with the new 800AFS lens. Sitting now at my desk looking at the results, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Nikon did an amazing job with this lens! This morning’s shoot was just with the 800mm itself, I didn’t attach any teleconverters to it. I will in due time but for now, I want to learn just what the lens will do on its own. mtc.
The video is almost a year old, amazing how times flys. Also how sometimes gear comes and go and sometimes stays the same. It’s a two hour video and it covers my thoughts about gear purtty darn well. You got the time, I think there might be something in there for you.
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 Narvik Gloves. This was after I found the A, Mountain Biker 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, Grandoe Logan 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 family had secured for me the ultimate in cold weather,gloves mittens for xmas many years ago which 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 will be 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!
Yeap…save money on the Nikon D600 until the 24th! And be sure to tune in tomorrow..big NEWS to announce!
77mm Filter adptr
Back in August, I told your about the new Hitech filter system. The lack of water in the Sierra kept me from really doing much with their Big Stopper. Well on our K&M Adventure, ME, I had plenty of water so pulled out the Big Stopper. Attached to the D4 and 18AF, I went out as far as I could on the rocks safely and started to shoot. First, you manually focus and lock that in place with gaffers tape. Then it’s finding the exposure. I ended up shooting at 120sec, f/8 using the MC-36 as a timer. I have to tell you, I wasn’t thrilled with what I was seeing on the LCD.
My bud Kevin was shooting next to me and on his LCD, we saw a normal color with his Big Stopper. On my, looked like I was shooting in moonlight. Everything was blue. No matter, I kept on shooting figuring I could deal with the color cast in post. That is what I did, in ACR, simply took the Color Balance tool and clicked on the lighthouse to get the color you see here. What I do like is the blur to the clouds the long exposure. While the Hitech Big Stopper does have the color cast, I don’t hesitate using it just know on the camera’s LCD, the moon will be out.
Kinda stuck in Boston so went for a walk this evening with the D600. It’s been a rainy, drizzly day so finally just before beer time we went for a stroll. I took the D600 with a 24f1.4 attached just for fun and to get use to it. There was no light but I shot anyways. The first thing I noticed was it’s a great feeling camera! And when you shoot with it, it has the old time, F3 clunk when it fires. I like that. What you see here is a HDR, 3 image HDR. Ya, while Nikon gave the D600 the ability to disconnect the camera and flash exposure comp, they only gave it a 3 image bracketing system. That aside, my initial, (repeat initial) feeling is a really like the D600 files. The 14bit Nef is 31MB of gorgeous info. So it’s like all photography, the ying and the yang and so far, the pros out definitely out weighing the cons.
I travel a lot, I like to shoot a lot, so combining the two in only natural. Carrying a camera body on your shoulder while trucking through the airport gets old really fast. Pulling it out of the MP-1 or Think Tank when in the air never works. Like this last flight from WA, the scene out the window was fleeting and having the D4/50f1.4 right there when I want to shoot was a must to get the shot.
Earlier this year I switched briefcases to Think Tank’s Disguise 60 v2.0 and I’m so glad I did! It normally takes the D4, 50 & 24f1.4, MacBook Pro Retina, 5 hard drives, cords, iPad, headphones, book, cables and a whole lot more and still easily slips under the seat. In flight, getting out the body and lens, a snap. This system not only makes it easy to shoot while traveling, it actually frees up space in the other bag/case to take more video gear which is a growing issue. Tons of protection, easy to pack and carry, no-brainer!
Well, I’ve been shooting with the D800 for over a month which includes the new Epson Finish Strong ad campaign and the photo above of the P-51D Mustang “Precious Metal.” Many have been asking me what I think of the camera so thought I should give you my two cents worth. The files are gorgeous, there is simply no way around it! They are also freakin huge! Since I process much of my aviation and landscape photography while on the road working, I am incredibly thankful I’ve switched to the MacBook Pro Retina. I don’t know how folks are working a 5 image HDR taken with the D800 without such speed! It could be just me, but when you have a dust speck on your sensor, with the D800 is looks like a bomb crater! I suspect it’s the resolution of the sensor but a dust spot when you shoot closed down is simply massive! But when it comes to creating 24×30 prints, the D800 is simply spectacular producing better files than my beloved D3x. The increase speed in FPS and buffer dump is a joy, lemme tell you. I really like that.
When it comes to shooting the D800, I still need that additional bulk of the grip. I keep taking it off as I shoot more and more with the D800 to see if I can take advantage of its smaller size. But it simply is a no go, my hands need that greater mass to hold onto. Now comparing the MB-D12 to that knock off a “fan” sent me, well I don’t have any kind words. Been shooting with the knock off for a month and it is already “fading.” It has become so loose that I can’t shoot with it attached to the D800 on a tripod at slow shutter speeds. I’ve tightened screws a couple of times with one now stripped out. While the knock off might be less money, I simply can’t afford it crapping out on me during a shoot. I have to admit I am shocked that within a month it is already showing the effects of constant use. I’m going to keep using it until it does fall apart because I want that photograph. I do carry the MB-D12 though with me waiting for that day. And if it’s a shoot for a client, I switch to the MD-d12.
When it comes to recommendations for you, well I don’t think you can go wrong with the D800 but in all honesty, it might just be more camera than you need. You must consider the file size because when you do an HDR with it, you instantly have possibly 1GB of files open and possibly that much to file for just ONE image! My D600 should be delivered today and I’m very excited to run it through its paces, I have the feeling that might just be the camera. As for me, the D4 with its Custom Setting e4 is my workhorse, go to camera for nearly all my own photography.
Amazingly, only one person has asked me this question why, after 27yrs, I made the switch. Of course, buying one MacBook Pro hardly switches the office over which is still all Window machines. Personally, I’ve not had a problem with or ever regretted being on a Window machine. In fact, those who know me know I make the Windows machine sing, producing an incredible amount of work. Nope, the reason for the switch is real simple.
I need notebooks that are very small, light and fast. Photoshop and Word is the same on either platform, so that wasn’t the issue. With a huge increase in my travel coming up and with the extra junk I have to have with me to capture video, I had to find an answer to the additional “stuff and weight” issue video brings and the new MacBook Pro was it. It’s a gorgeous traveling computer. Have I found it difficult to move from Win to Mac? Not in the least being a control freak, I have both platforms set up basically the same. Photoshop Actions work on the Mac just like on Win7. Have I found the increase in speed and the loss of weight? Oh baby, the Retina freakin rips like no computer I’ve worked on. Is the display to die for? It is gorgeous but is the same in the 7lbs Dell m6500 I have, but it is faster and much, much, much smaller. I’ve had a great few days setting up, learning and customizing and as I get to road test my results, I’ll be sharing them with you. I can tell you one thing for sure, the MacBook Pro is more than worth its price and we’ll have more in the office soon!
I’ve had a number of folks email and ask if I’ve found a remote method for starting video capture with the D4 / D800. What I do is use the Pocket Wizard III and it works great! Is there something special you have to do to make this work? The only trick is on the D4 / D800, set Custom Setting g4 to Record movies. When you do that, when the D4/D800 is in Movie Mode (lever on the back of the camera) the shutter release starts and stop the video recording. With this, you partially depress the Test Button on the Pocket Wizard, the camera will focus, depress fully and the recording begins. To stop, depress the Test button again. I have added CS g4 to My Menu because I use it so much. Hope that helps.
This is GREAT gear folks and it might just solve a problem that we share. Great filters, affordable and instock. Here are the links to them:
77mm Filter adptr
4×4 Master Kit
I can’t recommend these enough to you!
I am a filter nut, always looking for a great filter to solve my problems. The problem is, I go through a lot of them not finding ones I like. I really love to use split grad neutral density filters, it’s a leftover from film days. The problem has been that for digital, I’ve had to carry the Lee .9 4×6 but as you might know, finding them is like finding ghosts. At the same time, they are a pain to carry. Well, Schneider now has a .9 (that’s 3 stops) split grad neutral density soft edge 77mm and it’s gorgeous!
Here’s kinda of a classic use of a split grad. These photos have no processing, Jpegs out of the D800. The subject is the dwarf pine on the knoll. The top image is straight, the bottom is with the Schneider 77mm .9 split grad. In the top image, the white clouds put the eye up and away from the pine. At the same time, the exposure is down for those white clouds so the spot of light on the knoll is darker. With the Schneider split grad attached, the clouds at the top of the frame are now held back so the brightness of the light on the knoll pops out.
Here’s another example everything the same with the results the same. There are a couple of reasons why I love this filter and recommend it over all the others I’ve tried. First, the neutral density material in this filter is gorgeous rendering no funky color tint. It’s glass and spectacular and in brass mount that is smooth as silk. And ya, you’re paying for all the quality. But you must be asking, “Why bother, I can do that in post?” True, you can but here is why I use them. First, clouds often “burn up” so you loose detail. If it’s lost in the capture, you can’t get it back in post. That’s why I wanted a .9/3 stop because .6/2 stop just isn’t enough for digital. Next, this was shot with the D800, that’s one big ass file. You start adding to that file in post and you have a massive file! When you can get it in capture, you have a smoother gradiant, smaller fill and cleaner highlights. Now I’m testing some other really cool filters I’ll be telling you about shortly, but I’m really excited about this new find!
I’ve spent the last few weeks with the new Nikon 24-85VR Lens. It’s a really compact zoom with a really nice range. Keeping with that spirit, I took the MB-D12 off the D800 and went shooting with it. alot! I really like the zoom range of 24 to 85mm, the VR was attractive because I could make use of that in my aviation. I wasn’t really concerned with its “slow” aperture because I wasn’t buying it for that speed. I really wanted it to work because it has a greater range then the 24-70AFS in a smaller package with VR. So Sharon & I got on our MtnBikes and went for a ride.
I think the lens does an excellent job. I was very pleased to see the lack of vignetting and its sharpness. I think the lens is better than the 24-120VR but not as good as the 24-70AFS. Like the 24-120VR, the lens expands and contracts with zooming, something you don’t have with the 24-70AFS. So while I like the lens, it does not replace the 24-70AFS so I won’t be adding it to me camera bag. But if you’re looking for an expensive, compact zoom in this range, the lens will serve you well.
On a side note, while Sharon & I were riding our bikes, we came across this old guy. With the pot belly of a campground bear, it was just strolling through the forest between campsites looking for a pic-a-nic basket. He was upset with the guy with the camera (me) when I wouldn’t let him get anything. Don’t think it hurt his physique any, I’m sure it scored after I left. It was taken at the 85mm end of the 24-85VR
Remotes are a part of my photography, have been since the very beginning. So when PocketWizard announced their new PocketWizard III, I was very excited to get my hands on them. The biggie is if you know PocketWizard, you’ll notice that there is no Pre-Focus cable attached. Just a standard 3.5mm to 10pin cable (not included). That’s now part of the unit! What I really like is the smaller size, greater range, WakeUp/AF operation with a half push of the Test button and camera firing with full depression. They work with other PocketWizards like the Flex (but not TTL). A unit can be set to transmit, receive, Relay, very versatile. They have 32 channels and 4 groups, and for someone like me, damn simple to use. Be it for camera or flash remotes, I can’t recommend these enough to you!
This highly specialized piece of gear makes a world of difference in recording sound with the D4/ D800. The DXA-SLR Pro is a phantom power source needed with a number of different mics. You have the same two options I had when delving into this thing, you can either go and learn all your can on the subject or just trust someone and dive in. I trusted my good friend Scott and dove in. Darn if he wasn’t right, this thing rocks!
Protection of your images, especially when on the road is essential. I’ve gone through my fair number of external hard drives in my search for the right one. ioSafe produces a series of hard drives that are the ultimate hard drive protection! The ones I have latched on to and really, really love are the ioSafe 500GB Rugged Portable. Just how rugged are they? How about you can drive your vehicle on them, being able to withstand 5000lbs? Or being dropped from 20′ or being immersed up to 30′ up to 3days? What about data recovery service up to $5000 included in the price even if the damage is your fault? I saved the best part for last. They are sexy!
A couple of the nice things about the ioSafe is it is USB3 and comes with a nice, thick, long cable not going to break in the first month. I have two, one my primary and the other my backup for my digital files while I travel. And if you’re looking for other secure storage, check out their IoSafe 2TB Solo which is fire and waterproof. I do not have them yet but they are on my bucket list. That fire and waterproof feature for someone who lives in a forest is mighty attractive! With the speed and security the Portables are providing me, I’m excited by the possibility!