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.
If you’re like me, you don’t think they make any difference. We’re wrong! My good friend Brad text not to long ago asking me is I had had any issues shooting the Lexar 1000x in the D4. I said I hadn’t. He went on the tell me he just did for a shoot. When I saw him last, I asked how it all turned out. He said he sent his card to Lexar who returned all his images recovered and a new card. I asked if they said what had happened? They said it was the old firewire reader he used. I couldn’t understand how that could be. I do remember all the USB3 firmware updates for readers but never thought much about it. Doing some research in the matter, I can to learn that the reader does make a difference. In simple layman terms, the only way I can understand it, there is a controller in the reader and a controller in the card. They have to handshake many times during the transfer process and if you’re using an old or cheap controller (reader) with a new, fast controller (card), than it is more than likely they will at some point have an issue handshaking so files get scrambled on the upload. The bottomline, if you’re running new, fast cards, best have USB3 fast readers! I’m running the Lexar USB3 & XQD readers and knock on wood, never had an issue. And that’s your reader trivia for the day.
Another XQD card…why? One of the off beat “things” about the D4 is its two form factor card slots, one being the comfortable CF and the other, brand new XQD. Why? Why mess with what we know works? The bottomline is speed, the CF has reached just about the fastest it’s going to get (1000x). And as we all know, photographers want speed! Another big issue are the pins that the CF cards connect to inside the camera body. If you’re not a company like Nikon or Lexar that sees all the problems bent pins brings, you wouldn’t undertand it’s a design that has seen its day. This among a bunch of other reasons is why XQD is here. Bigger in size of SD, smaller than CF, no pins with potential incredible speed, the new form factor was incorporated into the D4. And there must be more coming because now Lexar has introduced their 1100x XQD card. I am often asked if I use the XQD slot. You bet! On the D4, it is the video slot and for stills, it’s the overflow slot. Is the Lexar 1100x really faster than the Sony 1000x? It is by a heartbeat so why buy it? Lexar stands behind their product! I’ve had so many folks tell me their card went corrupt and they sent it back to Lexar who recovered the images and returned a new card. That’s just pretty damn impressive and why I use Lexar. The new XQD does a great job, been shooting it for a month, retiring the Sony that came with the D4.
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.
I’ve had the 70-200f4 VR3 for a few days now. I’ve had just a couple of opportunities to squirrel around with it as I’m deep in writing my next book. Now many faithful 70-200f2.8 owners have chimed in they are happy with their f2.8 and that’s great, that’s not why I’m talking about this lens though. This lens does a number of things the f/2.8 does not do: focuses much closer, closes down to f/32, weighs nearly 2lbs less and costs less (but comes without tripod collar). Two of these features are important to me, MFD and f/32. They solve very specific photographic issues I have. Some have asked what about the f/4 & f/2.8, don’t you need the speed? I would ask, how many owners of the f/2.8 shoot at f/2.8? Most don’t because either they read they shouldn’t or they think they need to close down for DOF yet paid a lot of money for that f/2.8. Acquiring gear has to solve two major issues in my camera bag, do something very important any other piece of gear can’t and gear lust. So far in my limited shooting, the 70-200VR3 does both so I’m happy.
This kinda odd ball list of “stuff” are little things I depend on that I rarely mention. Hope it helps get your stocking filled this season!
The D4 firmware I’v been waiting for is out (thanks Adam!). It takes care of a number of thing (see below) but the most important is the “chatter” you occasionally got shooting with the 200-400. You can download it here!
Modifications enabled with firmware, release date July 4, 2012
An issue that caused the camera to freeze when attempting to format a memory card (setup menu>Format memory card) while the camera was connected to a network in HTTP server mode has been resolved.
Format memory card can now be added to My Menu.
Gamut for Adobe RGB images displayed in the camera’s monitor has been changed. This enables more vivid display of images.
The stability of network connections when the FTP upload option is selected has been increased.
When recording movies using a lens with an aperture ring in [P] or [S] exposure mode, and Aperture ring selected for Custom Setting f10: Customize command dials>Aperture setting, the minimum aperture was applied. This issue has been resolved.
When a still image captured during movie recording with 1920 ×1080; 30 fps; crop, 1920 × 1080; 25 fps; crop, or 1920 × 1080; 24 fps; crop selected for Movie settings>Frame size/frame rate and Live frame grab selected for Custom Setting g4: Assign shutter button was displayed in Capture NX 2 or ViewNX 2, the position of the focus point displayed differed from actual recording position. This issue has been resolved.
And thanks to ALL who came last night to Calumet for my presentation! You were stacked out the door, standing to listen. Can’t thank you enough for a marvelous finish to my 3 month road trip. And thanks to Lexar for making it all happen!
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!
The geniuses at Think Tank are at it again with their new Glass Limo. what they call “The photo industry’s slimmest profile backpack for carrying “Big Glass.” Capable of carrying a 600f4 or 500f4 with body attached, this beefy case can carry this and much more. I’ve just packed it up for its first trip but it’s not carrying any big glass. As you can see pictured above, you can pack the Glass Limo with a bunch of basic gear. With all the extra padding, you could throw this thing around without fear of damaging gear. This is a bag you must might wanna check out.
At the same time, Think Tank has updated their Cable Management Pouches. I simply can’t live without these things! Cable Management 10 V2.0, 20 V2.0 and 30 V20 feature clear window, wide opening and large capacity. Good stuff protecting and organizing our photographic gear, check ‘er out!
I love the files from the D800! I just had delivered one big ass print from the D800 out of an Epson 11880 and it is spectacular! I know this, I sure don’t want my portrait taken with a D800, I don’t want to see that much detail! With that said, I still prefer the D4 and when given the choice, I will pick up the D600 over the D800. And when folks ask me, I will recommend the D4 first and D600 second and D800 last. With that said, many have pinged me and asked me, “Why don’t you like the D800?”
Scott Kelby wrote a marvelous piece, which, in many ways mirror much of what I think. First, I like the D800, I don’t dislike it. I use it rarely but when I do, it does exactly what it is meant to do, deliver beautiful big ass files. What I have against the D800 is not the camera but the mentality behind why many think they must own the camera.
I was with a D800e owner, helping them at the camera shooting. They had traded up from the D800 to the D800e because they wanted the extra megapixel umph! I didn’t ask why for a couple of days but I sure was curious. Then we were working some files and I watched them struggle getting them uploaded in their computer (took forever), a rather new machine that struggled to create previews and then just doing some simple steps in Photoshop. I finally asked the question I had been biting my tongue about. “What are you going to do with these images” I asked? They looked me square in the eye and said, “They are for the web.” I said really, what are you going to do with the images. “I’m serious.”
I’ve encountered a whole lot of D800 owners who, while they love their files are simply not having fun. Seriously, you do one thing to the file in Photoshop and you nearly have a half gigabyte file on your hands! Focus issues, DOF problems, dust spots, the list goes on and on that are magnified by that big, gorgeous file the D800 produces. You have to be a craftsman when you take the photo with the D800 that will show every goof in all its megapixel glory! This is a camera who’s smallest prints should be 24×30 (hell, that’s almost the native size of the file) yet how many who own the D800 make that size prints?
That brings up the D600, why do I like it so much? It makes gorgeous images as well even if it only has 24mp. Only! It costs less, fits the hand better, has the essential CSe4 (missing in the D800) and seems to go forever on a battery charge. The only gripe I have about the D600 is it only has a 3 frame bracketing and not 5, 7 and 9 frame. And I’m not alone. Just to see if I’m nuts or not (and I am nuts), I’ve put the D600 in a lot of D800 owner’s hands and asked them to shoot it for a day. Almost all have said they liked the camera and even more, liked the increased “speed” in dealing with files in post. I asked if they saw a difference in the image quality. Only looking at the images on their monitor, they 100% said no.
It’s not that I don’t like the D800, I do like it, own it and use it when the job requires it. I don’t like the mentality that more megapixels is better and that just owning it will improve one’s photography. It, like the D4 and D600 and other bodies are tools and in the hand of a craftsman will perform and produce as they should. But just like I said of the D3x for years, the D800 isn’t for everyone. I’m not after changing any body’s minds, don’t even want to convince someone who owns a D800 they made the wrong decision. I just wanted to put it out there my simple thoughts on this wonderful camera. It’s a great camera for the job it was built to do!
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.
A lot of folks have been asking me what I think of the D600. In a nutshell, I really, really, really like it! Had the opportunity to do an air to air with my friends at the Texas Flying Legends Museum. I used the opportunity to shoot with the D600 and it did a great job! The weird thing I’ve yet to figure out is, I have no problem handholding this small body like I do with the D800. While I’m not going to be writing a field report or anything like that, I will simply say, the D600 would be the body I would recommend to folks over the D800. Simple reason, besides the gorgeous files, it has the same “e4″ flash custom setting like the D4
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.