Yeap, big light comes to WRP as we move into some new, very exciting projects. What you see pictured is the Profoto Acute 2 2400W/s 2 Head Pro Value Pack Kit (90-260V) w/FREE Additional Head, the Profoto Softbox RF 3×4′, and the Profoto Softbox RF 2×3′, 2 Avenger A2030D 9.8′ C-Stand Grip Arm Kit (Chrome-plated) and 2 PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver.
If you want to see a quick sample of the lighting, here’s the product shot of the Nikon 800mm shot using the set up you see in the video.
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.
I’ve had the 80-400AFS for just over a week now and have about 4000 images captured by it. I am impressed so much so, I’ve added it to my camera bag. Last week I shot Lesser Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River with it proving to myself it works great with wildlife. This weekend shooting in AZ, got to use it was aircraft and it performed beautifully! I mean, I really, really like it!
What you see here is a Hummelbird shot with D4 connected to the 80-400VR3. The Hummelbird is a homemade airplane, a one of kind powered by a VW engine with a handcarved prop. There is no way I could ever fit in it but I watched it fly around the field a lot and it really gets going. This particular shot is literally the first aircraft I shot with the 80-400AFS and as you can see, it’s sharp baby! Why did I shoot it backlit? I just love the pilot and his shadow in the canopy. I just wish I had seen it sooner to get the Hummelbird on approach rather than it leaving the field.
At a stimulating 20 degrees in the blind, my fingers are barely functioning right now outside the warmth of my gloves. But I’ve just gotta share the magnificent flyin tonight on the Platte River, NE. The Lesser Sandhill Cranes are simply the most amazing critter in migration as they seem to celebrate every moment in the air and on the ground together. Shooting with the D800 and the 80-400VR3 (which did a FANTASTIC job!), we had about 20min of thousands of cranes coming in as the sun set. Shooting in Cloudy at -1, I pumped the colors up a tad but what you see is what we saw about a hour ago. Now, we’re locked in the blind until about 10am tomorrow and the temps seem to be dropping and the wet chill settles in. That’s OK though, I love going to sleep in the warm sleeping bag listening to the cranes sing outside. mtc…
B&H got into my hands the new 80-400AFS just prior to my leaving (again) and I’m so glad they did! I was always a fan of the original 80-400, the sharpness, not its focusing speed. The flexibility this lens with its focal length range demanded that I get the new one and test it. So on my drive around MN today, I gave it a quick, initial test drive and first opinion is, damn, schweet!
The lens is not inexpensive but I think you more than get your money’s worth. The one big issue with the original was its focusing speed and that was the first thing I wanted to test drive. In MN, it wasn’t hard to find something moving by really fast. There isn’t an inch of snow here without sled tracks! Well, shooting with the D4, the 80-400 had NO problem locking on, staying locked on and delivering sharp images frame after frame. Now this is not a conclusive test of its focusing speed, but I know that old 80-400 couldn’t even have done this subject. I have more speed tests coming but my results so far encourage me to push the limits further. (both photos taken at 400mm, f5.6)
When it comes to the lens itself, it’s quite the lens, more than I was expecting! Its ALL metal housing while heavy feels great. The best part is when mounted on the D4, the 80-400 is perfectly bounced. I really like that! The tripod collar is a winner and like the original 80-400 or 300f4, you can rotate it 40 degrees and remove it. The shade, well I’m not really thrilled by it but that’s a little nit. The zoom is smooth but I don’t think from first testing, it’s a true zoom. Its minimum focusing distance is good, not great.
The reason though why I acquired the 80-400AFS was for wildlife & aviation photography. Yes, I have the 200-400VR2 and it’s not leaving my bag. But this lens which is 1/3 the price and who knows what fraction the size, it a great option for lots of photographers! You could have this one lens and cover a WHOLE lot of subjects and that’s why I’m shooting it. As more unfolds, I’ll post but I am very impressed by the 80-400 so far!
Like I always do with a new lens, I live and shoot with it 24/7 and I’m here to tell you, the new Nikon 18-35AFS is blowin my socks off! Shooting on just the D4 today, and it’s performance is simply not what I was expecting. The corner to corner sharpness is gorgeous. Its focusing split, lickity split! But the thing that really blew me away that unlike the 18f2.8AF, you can use a polarizer or screw-in split grad and NO vignetting! Ya, from 18mm to 35mm, no issue! At $750, this lens blows away everything else!
Oh ya baby, B&H came through again, putting the brand new Nikon 18-35AFS in my hands for my Yosemite & Bermuda shoots! I’ve shot a little with it so far and I’m kinda impressed. To be honest with you, more than I thought I would be (that’s because the lens is only $750). I was hesitant to get the lens because of the f/3.5-4.5, being used to my 18AF constant f/2.8 but the corner to corner sharpness so far is impressive. I’ve just begun shooting with it so I’m not ready to say it’s a “gotta have” lens yet, but it’s going in the right direction. My one hesitation right now is the all “composite” lens barrel. That said, the zoom ring is sexy smooth and it attaches to the camera with a solid click. It make the lens weigh a whole lot less than my 18f2.8 but the feel, I’m not so sure. Stay tuned, more to say!
NOTE: Shot all morning with this lens, point blank…I’m blown away by the results! It’s not what I was expecting at all!!!
I love the IoSafe Rugged Portable 1TB Drives as well! You can RUN OVER these things with you vehicle and they still running. They can get wet, frozen, vibrated to pieces and it doesn’t even phase their operation! They run on USB3, wish they updated to Thunderbolt. They are heavier then most external drives but that’s because of their built. Since they are going back and forth from the MacBook to the Win7 machine, I use Folder Sync Pro on the MacBook to backup my images files. These are great drives that for the outdoor photographer, are a must in my book!
I’ve been asked if I really see a difference using the Buffalo 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt. I most definitely do! I have been using them with the MacBook Retina for the last four months. They easily extended the small capacity SSD I have in my MacBook with no sacrafice in performance. I load video onto the Thunderbolt and can edit them in realtime with NO delays in performance in Premiere easily! There is only one little erk I have and that’s not with the drives but using in cross platforms. In simple language, just can’t plug a drive formatted on a Mac into a Win machine and they talk. What I have found that works is format on the Mac to ExFat and then the Win machine will can read the drive. Because of this, I use Folder Sync Pro on the MacBook to backup my images files. The small physically size, the speed with Thunderbolt and ability to use with USB3 on the Win machines makes these great drive!
Ya baby, the new iMac is on my desk and hummin right along! The new Apple 21.5″ iMac Desktop Computer is simply an amazing marvel! Its Retina display, speed, ease of set up an bloody small size has made a believer out of me. For the last four months, the mighty MacBook Retina has been my main business machine and done a great job. I still have a Dell Win7 machine running our digital library but desperately needed a desktop for taking care of everything else. My bud Yechiel at B&H saved my tucus by getting first the MacBook Retina and now the iMac in my hands. And in case you’re not aware of the iMac, the entire computer is integrated into the monitor housing. The keyboard and mouse run on Bluetooth seamlessly. This is the basics of the iMac I got:
2.7GHz Intel Core i5 Quad-Core
8GB of 1600Hz DDR3 RAM
1TB 5400rpm Hard Drive
nVIDIA GeForce GT 640M Graphics (512MB)
21.5″ HD LED-Backlit IPS Display
1920 x 1080 Native Resolution
802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, SDXC Card Reader
720p FaceTime HD Camera, Dual Mics
Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (64-bit)
In the process of now getting it all set up and data migrated over from dead desktop. The one thing that I find inconvenient is all the USB ports are on the back side of the monitor. I simply grabbed a USB ext cable so I have access to one port from where I sit for plugging in a Lexar Jump Drive
. As I use it more and get more software loaded, I’ll post a progress report. In the meantime, it’s back to work finally with both desktops!
When the 70-200f4 VR3 was announced, I was excited to read the specs. While I have the 70-200f/2.8 VR2, its MFD and f/22 max aperture were two aspects of the lens the new 70-200VR3 improves on. I wanted the 2′ MFD of the 70-200VR3 for photographing nesting birds. I wanted the f/32 for my air to air work. The fact the VR3 model is lighter (by nearly a pound!) and smaller in diameter wasn’t as important, just those two features. Well I’ve had the lens a couple of weeks now, shot a bunch with it and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a sweet lens! It’sharp across the plane, doesn’t have any vignetting, AF is nice and fast. It’s nice its shade is flat so I can go back to setting it down without it falling over. I’m not thrilled it doesn’t come with a tripod collar. And the “carbon” barrel next to the body doesn’t excite the senses but it doesn’t effect operation at all. And you might be asking why I’m not saying anything about the new VR3 technology. Using proper handholding works the best for me. For the task I wanted the tool for, I more than highly recommend it!
What you see here is really a pretty simple click, one I’ve wanted for quite some time (and I’m not done yet). Out our kitchen window is one of our many bird feeders. It is really popular with our Mountain Chickadees. The feeder is no more than perhaps 9″ from the side window/side of the house. The icicles that form are perhaps 2′ from the house and when they form and don’t get too big in diameter, the Chickadees use them as a perch prior to coming into the feeder. In the past, I’ve had to stand in the middle of the kitchen to shoot. That’s really not a good place to be working in any household. The 70-200 VR3 attached to the D4 though worked perfectly! The VR3 was at 200mm and at its MFD and was spot on for shooting right at the window frame! A single SB-900 w/Lumiquest was on a Justin Clamp attached to a post on the outside of the house providing the lighting. A Pocket Wizard was used to control the flash and a Pocket Wizard used to fire the camera (stayed warm by the fire as it snowed outside). So as I sat by the fire writing, I simply watched the icicle and when the Chickadee landed, I pushed the button on the Pocket Wizard. And that’s really the point of having the right tools, making photography not only successful, but fun!
I am still without my desktop computer and it hurts! While the new iMac is finally on the way, for over two months I have been without what was the most important computer to my business. All the data is safe, it’s the ability to multi task to get work done that is the killer. So when my friend Yechiel at B&H said I should try the MacBook Pro Retina, he didn’t know it at the time but he saved my butt! There is no doubt that my Dell m4500 would have worked, it just wouldn’t have saved my butt. I would have limped by with it and that would have really made my 3 month road trip on the business side, hell! The speed of the Retina and its ability to set up quickly with the all of “stuff” that my old desktop functioned with so effortlessly was a treat. Now the Retina is not perfect, Mac is not perfect. I have crashed it, stressed it and when it comes to presenting, it stil sucks. Nothing is perfect but all I know is, that if Yechiel hadn’t put the Retina in my hands when he did, I would be in a world of hurt. Thanks my friend!
Here’s what I have:
MacBook Pro Retina
Buffalo 1TB Thunderbolt x3
ioSafe 1TB USB3
Lexar USB 3 Reader
Master Suite – Photoshop / Bridge CS6 Extended
Photo Mechanic 5
Nikon Capture NX 2
Nikon Camera Control Pro 2.0
Keynote (App Store)
ScreenFlow (App Store)
Folder Sync Pro (App Store)
CyberDuck (App Store)
SuperDuper (App Store)
Disk Doctor (App Store)
When Mr UPS dropped off my box from B&H this week with the new 70-200f4AFS, it also contained the new Nikon 1 V2. I had a fun and interesting time shooting with the J2 mirrorless and while it produced good images, I really didn’t enjoy the platform. So with I opened the V2 box, I went through the actions but didn’t really expect any better an experience. Man, was I BIG TIME wrong! For the last 24hrs now, I can’t put it down and in fact, I’ve totally ignored the 70-200f4 I’m having so much fun with the V2. The image quality is bloody amazing, it’s close focusing outrageous and being able to “see” through the lens and ability to properly handhold, outstanding! I’ll get some images posted this week. I just wanted to mention this cool little camera in case you’re looking for a stocking stuffer. Ya, it’s that small!