ACR Auto – Great Finishing / Teaching Tool!

combined screen capture from Adobe Camera Raw

I love and depend on ACR, Adobe Camera Raw, for finishing my Raw files. Great new tool “hidden’ inside I think you should know about. You might know that if you hold down Shift and click on the White and/or Black Slider handle (the triangle), ACR will set your White Point / Black Point. Now, if you hold down the Shift Key, you will see “Auto” appear the first six sliders (as above). Double click on a slider handle (triangle) and ACR will Auto set that slider to what it thinks is right. This is a great tool to help teach you some simple bounds. For example, using this for Highlights and Shadows, yes, you will see it “fix” your image. Just as important you will start to teach yourself some limits for using these sliders for the finish you want without “corrupting” pixel quality. I highly recommend you check it out!

The Superb Z1.4x

Many have asked me if the Z 1.4x is “worth the price?” Oh hell yeah is always my reply! At the moment, we only have one lens we can use it with, the Z70-200f2.8 but man, what a killer combo. I’ve photographed landscapes, aircraft, wildlife and yes, even macros with it and love it. I love it much much more than the F mount equivalent setup. Does it work with F Mount or FTZ Adapter – no. Does it vignette – no! Does it slow AF operation – not in the slightest! Does decrease sharpness – not even! Do I highly, highly recommend it – OH YES!

Two Heads Better Than One?

Zenelli CarbonZX & Arca Swiss B2

It’s a common question of late, “What head do you use for your long lens?” With all the options available these days, it’s a great question. Personally, I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice but there is most definitely a better or worse answer for YOUR photography! These heads are not inexpensive and support some of our most precious gear giving it the stability needed for our storytelling. Selection should not be taken lightly and definitely not on the cheap! All to often I’ve had to help a photographer who “heard” that this light tripod and/or head was the way to go as we pick their gear up off the ground. Let’s be practical for just a moment here. Going on the cheap when you attaching thousands of dollars of gear to a tripod/head makes no sense folks. Buy the best you can afford and do it right, the first and last time. This brings me to the two heads pictured above.

These are the best heads as far as I am concerned for my long lens photography, the best! Long lens for me is the Nikkor 800mm and the Nikkor 180-400VR (not like the 500PF or Z70-200, I use smaller heads for those lenses). The Zenelli CarbonZX is a physically light weight but incredibly stable and flexible long lens gimbal head. You can buy this brand new and you’ll never need another. The Arca Swiss B2 is an old studio rational-ball head made for 8×10 cameras (no longer available new). It weighs three times that of the Zenilli but is rock steady. Both of these heads are a solid platform for the big glass while providing free movement to follow any subject (both being outfitted with RRS Quick Release Clamps). They are never locked tight but when I take my hand off my gear, it stays where I left it. They are the key to the sharpness in my images. Why, if they do the same thing do I have two? See the size comparison of the two above, when I’m working in a more confined space say like a blind, I prefer the B2. If working space around the tripod is not limited, the Zenelli for sure. It’s that simple for me and my long lens photography.

The Z14-24f2.8 – It’s Not Your Father’s 14-24!

I shot for a long time with the 15f3.5, nearly a decade. Then I moved up to the 14f2.8 and when it came out with the Nikon D3, the 14-24AFS. I love wide angles so much, a pro looking at my images way back when said, “I can see images in your images!” You might wonder why then I waited so long to add the Z14-24f2.8 to my kit. Now that I own one, I’m wondering the same thing! It was in part because I wanted one and didn’t need one. I have the Z14-30 which is a delightful lens doing a really good job with still and video (and easily accepts filters!). Then I had this trip to Bryce coming up where, looking through past images from Bryce I saw I had shot a lot with the 14-24AFS and that got me to thinking. Luckily, I have a great friend who has the Z14-24f2.8 who was kind enough to loan his to me for my trip. Well, I now own the Z14-24f2.8 and here’s why.     

I was told by another Z14-24f2.8 owner that the lens didn’t flare. I’ve shot wide angles forever and know every trick to minimize flare but never had one that didn’t want to flare. Dang if my friend was right, the Z14-24f2.8 does not flare! There are no little green goblins floating around in this image even those the sun is right there. So not only does the Z14-24f2.8 not want to flare, it creates a gorgeous star burst at f/22!

I had to ask Harry if I could get this close to take his portrait with Z14-24f2.8 but I needed to see if being less than ten inches away at 14f/2.8 what the Z14-24f2.8 would do. Besides being really sharp, it didn’t make the nose grow or chin extend. I can’t say it’s distortion free but compared to any ultra wide I’ve shot, it doesn’t distort the face when up close and personal! Since that’s how I like to use 14mm, it was important to me. Just look at all the rest of the story that’s there but softly out of focus … gorgeous!

Above is a two image pano shot handheld with the Z14-24f2.8 at 14mm. While the lens is not reported as rectilinear, it’s straight line rendition is bloody impressive. Look at the lines at the right and left edge of the image as well as those dead center. There is no lean to them!   

Most importantly though is the Z14-24f2.8 is bloody sharp! Yeah, it’s smaller and lighters than the 14-24AFS (one reason I stopped carrying it) and it can accept filters (Nikon Polarizer and Breakthrough 10x ND via shade adapter for example) but the image quality, it rocked my photography. That was it for me, just after 24hrs of shooting with my friends lens, I ordered my own and I love it. I highly recommend you do like I did and borrow / rent one prior to buying as it’s more than the delightful Z14-30. But I’ve gotta warn ya you’ll love the Z14-24f2.8 as it’s not your fathers 14-24AFS! 

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