A WHOLE bunch of folks have been asking me about video of late, shooting with the “On the Go” video cameras. Well in response I went shooting and testing with WingMan HD, GoPro Hero and Contour+. For a long time, the GoPro has been my go to for my video on the go camera. It simply works and works well. I was just introduced to the Wingman and while I really like its features and on screen programming, it has two issues for me. The video quality (all 3 shoot 1080p) just isn’t as good as the GoPro. While the housing for the Wingman permits easy operation of the camera, you have to remove it entirely from the suction cup stand to open the housing to turn the camera on. That’s lame! Both of these are priced in the $200 range which make them very easy to own.
Then there’s the Contour+ which I really like! While it’s up in the $400 range, it’s video quality is a tad better then the GoPro (all my tests were done using the housings which might count for some of the issues in quality). What I really like about the Contour+ is it works Bluetooth with the iPhone so I can see what it is capturing and change settings remotely. When the camera is remotely attached and being used, I can emphasize how important that is to me! I have a lot more to share about the Contour+ but wanted to get this preliminary info out as folks have been asking for it. I know this is by all means all that are available, it’s just what I could test at this time.
Just getting back to the office after a day of travel after a GREAT K&M Adventure in SD (thanks gang for joining us!) While I have a whole bunch of images yet to post from the Adventure, wanted to just take a moment to pass along something I learned about the D4 this past week. This is the Interior of Sanfords Grub & Bar in Rapid City. It’s a eatery I go to every time I head to the Blackhills so took the gang there, twice. Stopped there to eat on the way to the airport and nearly everyone took their cameras in this time because as you can see, it’s a colorful place to say the least. It has lots of local color plus a whole bunch of lights. Indoors, lots of charm and color, screams HDR, donja think?
I like this bottom frame the best, I just like how the leading lines go with the color. The way I like to use HDR is not the “Elvis on Velvet because I can’t make a picture any other way of a boring scene rather then walk on by method,” but rather to compress exposure. Inside like at Sanfords, you have the bright lights and the dark shadows, seems like a natural for HDR to pull the information from both extremes. But what I learned about the D4 this past week is, HDR unless in real extreme conditions, you doen’t need to do HDR to make the image work. The D4 can do it in one click! You’re looking at two examples of what I mean right here. These are just 1 image clicks taken with the D4 and 24f1.4AFS handheld! As I’ll discuss in the upcoming BT Journal, the D4 has what I feel is a 6stop dynamic range and that makes all the difference in the world to me. Just to screw with you a little, I used Glamor Glow from Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to give this that “HDR” look, but these are simple, 1 image clicks processed in ACR. I’ll post a video this week to talk about this more. But to me, this is huge as it makes life simpler and photography funnier. That’s one thing I learned this past week.
Top shot is f/8, bottom is f/32…other then seeing “more” info in the waves (which to me are now distracting), the Willets behind the front one that I focused on are still not sharp. They are NOWHERE close to sharp. I’m getting weird emails and comments telling me folks still are not getting it. When you have a long lens and you’re physically close to a subject, I don’t care what you want to throw in the mix, you simply don’t have any DOF. So..then..use the minimum DOF as a tool and tell the story.
HDSLR video is here and one thing you can’t miss is the focus. Until we have video viewing through the viewfinder, we have to use the LCD. If you’re going to use the LCD and LiveView, then you simply gotta have a Zacuto ZFinderPro!
Note: just received an email from someone who did not put eyepiece cap back in place and while walking and sun hit Zacuto and burnt hole in LCD!
Depth of Field (DOF) seems to truly mystify photographers, probably you just can’t see it with the naked eye or in the viewfinder. But it’s there and it effects every image, every story you’re trying to tell. When you go low to the ground like I did with this Piping Plover, the DOF effect is even more pronounced. This is because DOF is a FLAT PLANE that is ALWAYS parallel with the film plane (digital cameras have a film plane!). When you’re photographing a subject that is parallel to the film plane, with the right background you can see radically just how little DOF you have. In this case, you can clearly see the very narrow band of DOF that is running through the Plover from edge to edge of the frame. Now shooting with a 600VR w/converter connecting to a D4 the DOF working with the narrow angle of view is perhaps 20mm being only 18′ away from the subject. Now if I closed the lens down to f/64 with this combo, my DOF might increase to 60mm. That ain’t much and that’s the whole idea of going down low. I want the small plover to visually pop. Does that help?
I posted a week ago a shoot with Black Skimmers and the D4. I’ve heard from a few folks in regards wondering if I determined what the problem was with the D4. This could be because since the D4 is new, folks are looking for issues, even Nikon has posted one of them. In my particular case, I wasn’t getting the results I thought I should. As if mentioned at the end of this post, I didn’t know if the problem was pilot error, camera error or combination of both. Since then I have found the answer and it was pilot error because the pilot, that would be me, didn’t read the instruction book thoroughly enough to see that Nikon has created a new feature for focusing in low light with subjects that have low contrast. What is that feature you ask? You can either read the IB like I did or get the upcoming BT Journal which explains it all. But when it comes to AF operation, the D4 is delivering for me better performance then the D3 family so I’m quite happy with it. And as for all the reported problems with the D4, knock on wood, I’ve not experienced any that other shooters have reported.
I thought after a few emails and a phone I’d better explain my post of yesterday, What’s Your Favorite D4 Feature in a little depth (just to avoid more emails). The D4 is new in my camera bag, it is an expensive tool and like any tool, I wanna know what it can do. If part of that D4 price tag is paying for a 10fps, 72 file buffer, I wanna know if nothing else if I’m getting my monies worth. Yeah, I can sit in my office and hold down the hammer and see it work, but that’s not good enough for me. So when I had the opportunity last week to blast away as each B-25 took off for the Doolittle Reunion, I thought it was the perfect field test for this system. The combination of the D4 having to autofocus, fire and write over and over again was a great stress for the system and proved to me, it works. You get MORE then your monies worth as far as I’m concerned in this system.
Just so we are clear though, I was testing the system, this is not my shooting style! Like I’ve written many times before, I shoot in “sniper” mode. That is taking one shot and getting it right. Does this mean that I never lean on the hammer? Hell no, at times I do it just because if nothing else it sounds great! But it’s not a method I use to get the shot the vast majority of the time. The biggest reason is because when you shoot astroblast, you have a ton of images to edit when you’re done. I don’t like making more work for myself. But I wasn’t about to have a product advertising it can perform like this and not test it. It was kinda ironic to me that that very same night after satisfying myself the system works, I actually needed it in an air to air shoot. Knowledge to me is confidence and when you’re working for a client, confidence in yourself and your gear can make all the difference in getting the shot. And that’s what photography is all about!
Ever since I started shooting, I’ve been a basement shooter. I didn’t buy high ASA films and the vast majority of the time I don’t crank up the ISO in digital. It’s a matter of quality and craftsmanship. I have been pounded by folks asking about the D4, high ISO and noise performance and didn’t intend to really do any testing there since, well, I don’t raise the ISO. This past week I broke with my norm and raised the ISO. It started with the morning launch that started long before the sun rose. I figured I had nothing to loose since I couldn’t shoot otherwise so raised the ISO to 3200 and shot. And I have to admit, I really liked the results. I continued to play with raised ISO all week when using it as a tool made sense like shooting in the USAF Museum in Dayton (great place!). These were taken at ISO1600 and when I really zoom in I can see noise but I made a 24×30 and know the average person wouldn’t see it. More importantly, it didn’t zap the sharpness which is important to me. So while I’ll still shoot in the basement, I might use higher ISOs more often now that I’ve tried it and like it.
The specs say there is less so many were concerned the new “greener” D4 battery just wouldn’t deliver. This past week I pounded the D4 bigtime with the biggest day being nearly 98GB of capture, still & vid combined. I mentioned I rented two batteries to CYA only to never use them. The D4 battery never went dead on me after a day’s use delivering the same performance I was use to with the D3. So with shooting and chimping and AF operation, the new battery didn’t let me down.
Whenever I get a new piece of gear, I pound it to learn it. With lenses, this tends to be a little easier, takes less time. But not is such the case with a camera body and especially one with so many evolutionary changes as the D4. Every time I pick up the iPad Sharon asks, “Back in class” because I’m going back and forth between the D4 IB and the D4 learning all it offers. Flash and in particular flash fill is such an important part of wildlife photography so mastering the D4′s flash ability fast is important to me. The main think is to learn how it’s new and then make that information stick in the ol gray matter so when in the field, dialing in the right numbers is second nature. So, I shoot and shoot!
The metering in the D4 is not like any other Nikon before it, that’s what I’m finding at least. In a nutshell, I think it has a greater dynamic range and is more neutral. At first I felt a bit lost as I retrained thirty years of Aperture Priority / Exp comp mentality to work with this new system. I’m here to tell you, I like it and I like what it does. With learning that comes learning how the meter works with flash and especially Custom Setting e4. I had a marvelous day today in the storm playing with settings and light and seeing the results. The top images of a Cassin’s Finch, the top image is no flash (depressing the Fn button) and the bottom image is flash fill. Body is at 0 Exp Comp and flash is at -2/3. I like not only the gesture in the flash fill image of the Cassin’s but also the light. The bottom image of the Evening Grosbeak, I changed things up by dialing in -2/3 into the camera body. It darkened the background too much for my taste but exactly what I thought it would do with e4. But the flash light exposure wasn’t lowered but remained constant so now you can tell flash was used just like it should be with those settings in the D4. So the D4 did what it was supposed to do, I like that. Do I like the overall light I created with my settings? Not at all but that wasn’t the point!
The interesting thing to me in all of this was the SB-900 was shot zoomed to 200mm. That means no light modifier was used. The light should have been harder but it really isn’t. Is that because of the metering, bounced off the snow or shooting through the falling snow? I don’t have that answer so more testing is required.
Here’s the deal at least in my head. If I just spent $6k to buy a really hot, fast, new computer (after all that’s what the D4 is), turning it all off and shooting in Manual is pretty much like throwing away $6k. I can’t afford to do that. So with a new, revolutionary 91k pixel RGB metering system, I want it to not only work (which is does) but I need to be able to work with it and make it work for my photography. I need to shoot in Aperture Priority so I’m in control of the DOF and the rest of the system do its job so the only thing I concentrate on is the subject. I shot just shy of 1200 captures this week testing and just getting to know the D4 metering and flash in different scenarios so next week I can be all business. I hope this gives you some ideas and direction to take your own photography no matter what camera brand or model you’re shooting with to learn and master it better.
No, these are not the greatest images, that’s not the intent. The D4 has a new Custom Setting, e4 that I wanted to test and get to know it and the weather was perfect for do just that (have a D4 but don’t know about e4…oops…guess you have some testing to do). I started off with that intent but then it was such great shooting, I kinda shunned testing and work and just kept blasting away. What you see here is the very simple but so important use of flash in wildlife photography. The image on the left has flash fill and the right, ambient light exposure. The goal to me is real simple, you don’t know I’m using flash when I’m using flash. Now you might be asking, how did I do that? I thought you might ask that question so in the next posting, I have an answer for you!
The brushes from Visible Dust Kit, they have saved my butt on more then one occasion! I have two kits, one in the office and one in my travel gear and each kit contains 3 brushes. Like just about everyone else on the planet, at some time or another I have got the tips of the brushes under the sensor frame coating the brushes and then the sensor in crap! After cleaning the sensor with swabs, I’m left with a non-useable brush. Now Visible Dust does sell a fluid for cleaning their brushes but beside being $40, it’s simply not easy to use. I wasn’t getting my brushes clean so they were still unusable. And brushes are too expensive to be disposable! I needed a solution in every sense of the word.
So I put up a note on G+ that Jason Odell responded to saying he just uses Dawn dish soap. Well, I got that so I gave it a go and darn if it didn’t work perfectly! So here’s my version of Jason’s technique for cleaning brushes:
- Put a couple of drops of Dawn dish soap in a, clean, one cup container with enough tap water to cover brush heads
- Thoroughly wet the brushes with tap water and then whisk around in the soapy water you just made.
- Thoroughly rinse out the brushes in tap water until NO soap remains (watch the bubbles).
- Thoroughly rinse out the brushes again but this time use distilled water.
- Shake dry as best you can and then let dry for about 24hrs
You might be wondering about drying. I did grab Sharon’s hairdryer and hit the brushes for a couple of minutes and then let them air dry the rest of the time. Now here’s the most important part, testing the brushes after you’re done. I used a clean mirror and a flashlight to check my brushes and found one not clean so I repeated the process. I now have a clean set of brushes and all it cost was a couple of drops of Dawn and half gallon of distilled water. I want to thank Jason for sharing this great tip!
With the Think Tank videos posted on YouTube, had a number of emails and board postings asking more about my use of it. The video shows how I pack it, but you might wanna also look at the other video, the external parts of the bag as it does into things. But to answer the universal question, 99.9% of the time, it does in the overhead in the plane. There are a couple of times on regional jets (and not everytime), it has to go Ala Cart. Watch the external video to see how I deal with that. When I’m doing aviation work and the longest lens I’m going to use is the 200-400VR2, Think Tank is the way to go. If I’m taking the 600VR, it’s MP-1 time!
With the D4 accepting and one of its slots dedicated to the XQD card, it’s here to stay so finding working solutions is part of the game. While it was cool Nikon provided a card and reader, one reader just isn’t enough for me. I managed to acquire one of the brand new Sony XQD Express Card Reader and I’m here to tell you, it’s not only faster, easier for me to remember to take with me. That’s because it resides in the express slot in my Dell. But it’s so new, Mac and Win machines don’t have the drivers for it already installed. With a little of digging I found the drivers. You can grab the Win Driver here and the Mac Driver here Hope the extra option helps you.
As promised, here are my settings for the D4, top link is a PDf and bottom link is the file you can upload into your D4. Now these settings will change with time and when I think about it, I will update these settings and date the file accordingly. Now, External settings that can be set are as follows:
D4 body Settings
- Metering – Matrix
- AF-C / d21
- Firing mode – CH
- Flash – Slow
Hope this helps you, I know I’ve got more to learn with the D4 but to say I’m impressed is an understatement!
Tighten them 70-200VR2 tripod foot screws! I first posted this warning a couple of years ago, heard from many theirs was loose and then a tragic story of one lens mounted to a tripod falling to the ground because they didn’t tighten their screws. Received an email yesterday asking if I had heard of this problem which jarred my memory. I checked my lens and sure enough, they were loose again. Now many put loctite in these screws holes but I won’t do that because if the lens goes to Nikon for repair (a big if), I don’t want those screws locked in. I do need to remember to check them though and wanted to pass that reminder on to you.
“Pretty Amazing”…that’s what Torey, the biologist I’m working with said when I played back the video of the San Joaquin Kit Fox den we worked last night. “It’s better there then what I’m seeing in person!” That’s what Torey said watching the activity I had shot. In 2hrs, I shot 10GB of 1080/30 vid using just 29% of my battery power and all my skills to pan capturing the activities of 4, 7 week old SJKF pups. You’ll see in the video the pups outside their den in Bakersfield, CA. I shot this using a Rode mic (almost no sound, none to record), GP-1 attached to the D4 and the default D4 movie settings. Now the Auto ISO for the video made me scratch my head when I saw that feature but now that I’ve seen it in action, I think it’s genious. During my time shooting, I saw the ISO change from as low as 1800 to 12800 while the exposure levels stayed consistent. The WB was set to AWB with the light source being this funky combo of parkway, bldg light stuff with a welder in the background working. Focusing was all done manually. What’s here is a 200MB clip, raw and unedited straight from the camera which, getting it uploaded from the field was a feat onto itself. Of course, the stars are one of my favorites, the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox pups. Those how saw my video of them at Photoshop World might notice a HUGE difference in the quality. Compared to the D3s which is what I used last season, sucks compared to the D4! Be sure to click on HD when you watch it! I hope you enjoy!