Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and the Empire State Building

Halloween. The clouds rolled in for a spooky night with the Empire State Building dressed up in a costume of light for the occasion.

The View

The reason there have not been many blog posts over the past week is that I was in the process of moving to a new apartment in New York and my main computer was down for much of the time. The move is over, although I am living in a labyrinth of card board boxes and may not fully dig out for another week or so.

One of the side benefits of this move is the view I have of the Empire State Building. I thought it might be interesting to post a series of first impressions of the view. At times they reflect a casual glimpse, at others they are more studied. Here are a few of the first images taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm and 14mm lenses.

A night time interpretation where I wanted to convey an impression of the building as it appears when you just catch a casual glimpse of it while passing through the apartment. 

This image really needs to be seen in a larger scale, but I thought I'd include it anyway.. It was shot through the grid-like pattern of the screen curtain and gives a pointillist view of the night scene.

This photo and the one below were taken with the Fiji 14mm lens just before the day dawned this morning. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nikon D750 - Is this the perfect camera for lifestyle photography?

It's smaller than most full frame DSLR's, has a comfortable 6.5fps frame advance, can see in dim light better than most any camera out there, takes all of the best Nikkor lenses, can autofocus on a black cat in a dark closet, and lists for only $2296.95. What's there not to like?

I began substituting the D750 for my D4 and D810 on lifestyle shoots, and have to say, the more I use it, the more I like it. Time will tell, but I think the D750 may become my primary lifestyle camera. I combine it with a lens kit including the 85mm, 50mm, and 35mm f/1.4 high speed lenses for available light photography, and the 70-200mm and 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms when a fast aperture doesn't matter.

Another thing I like that Nikon is adding to its cameras is a 1.2x crop mode. On the 24.3MP D750 sensor this delivers a 16.7MP image in a perfect 3:2 35mm format. The final image size is almost the 50MB required for traditional stock photography. So, if the image isn't cropped, there is no loss in resolution. I find myself bouncing in and out of the 1.2x crop mode for two reasons. First, the smaller crop means that the 51 focus points cover a much larger percentage of the image area. Second, my 85mm f/1.4 is immediately converted into a 102mm f/1.4 lens, and the 50mm becomes a 60mm f/1.4.

My main studio is set up for daylight shooting, and on some stormy days it can get quite dark. I need to keep my shutter speed high to stop the action of the moving models. On my last shoot I was using an 800 ISO for most of the day.  For the D750 the noise level on anything up to around ISO 1600 isn't even noticeable.

The auto-focus ability of the D750 includes all the improvements in the D810 and D4s and then some.  In 5-point group mode or 3-D auto focus the camera is as good as it gets, even in the dimmest light -- or should I say "especially in the dimmest light".

Although I'm sure wedding photographers will love this camera for the same reasons, this photo was part of a lifestyle shoot done in my studio. It was lit with two 1000w tungsten lamps placed behind a huge scrim with some trees pressed up against it from behind to add the out-of-focus background. 

Lit with direct streaming sunlight and no fill used for the shadow areas. The dynamic range of the D750 is right up there with the top of the Nikon lineup. 

The Nikon D750 camera body can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon   
The Nikon D750 camera with 24-120mm f/4 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hand-hold technique for steadying a long lens

I attended a wedding recently where the wedding photographer, Nichole Haun, used an interesting technique to steady her long, 70-200mm Canon zoom. Back in August I had written a blog post on hand-holding methods for steadying a camera. Nichole's technique was new to me and I asked it she'd mind my passing it along in a blog post. Here are a couple of photos I took of her during the wedding.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Relying on the 5-stop vibration reduction of the Fuji 18-135mm zoom

It was raining last night in New York. The Empire State Building was lit with red, white, and blue, and the spire was enshrouded in a mist that soaked the colors into the night sky. I was feeling lazy and didn't want to set up a tripod so I grabbed the Fuji X-T1 and put the 18-135mm zoom on it because of its 5-stop vibration reduction. I took a series of shots, all around 1/10th to 1/20th of a second, hand held. All of them were sharp. My favorite interpretation is a shot of just the spire lit in blue, reaching up into the black sky, and surrounded by a red glow from the lights below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One lucky shot - It pays to have your camera with you

It was late afternoon. I was coming out of a movie theater when I saw this scene with the light hitting the Empire State Building and all the vertical lines working together to form a strong, vertical composition. Fortunately, I had the Fuji X-T1 and 18-55mm lens with me and was able to capture this one shot. It's times like this I'm glad I always travel with a camera, and a compact package like a Fuji X-camera and the short zoom offers both the convenience, the quality, and enough versatility for most grab shots. The camera was set to 16:9 crop mode, which helped accentuate the vertical lines in the composition.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Exploring Assateague Island National Seashore with the Fuji X-T1

On my recent trip to photograph in Assateague Island National Seashore and nearby Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge I had two camera outfits with me: the newly released Nikon D750 -- the subject of my last blog post -- and the Fuji X-T1. I used the XT-1 primarily to take photographs for later conversion to platinum prints in my art portfolio. A Fuji X-camera is my favorite for this purpose. I set it to record in both jpg and RAW at the same time. I also set it to record in black and white. This results in a black and white jpg, but a full color RAW leaving the jpg for reference when I process the RAW. One thing I like about the X-T1 is that when it is in this mode it shows a black and white image in the viewfinder so I can see the actual monochrome values, which can even be modified with contrast controls from the Fuji "Q" menu. 

The kit for the X-T1 consisted of the 18-55mm zoom, 55-200mm zoom, and the 14mm lens -- small and compact and a complete relief to carry when I switched over to it from the Nikon kit. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Assateague Island National Seashore photographed with the Nikon D750

Earlier this week I went to photograph in Assateague Island National Seashore and nearby Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to put the new Nikon D750 through its paces to see how well it would do as a travel and landscape camera. I had four lenses in the kit, the Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 zoom, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 zoom, Nikon 24-120mm f/4 zoom, and the Nikon 20mm f/1.8. I have reviewed all of these lenses in addition to the camera and provided links to these reviews by clicking on their names above.

For the long shots of wild life I primarily used the 80-400 zoom, and for most of the landscape shots the 24-120mm.

A 20mm view lit by the setting sun and taken at f/7.1. It is images like this that had be really loving this lens by the time my trip was over. 

A 400mm view of a heron fishing along the wetlands at sunset. 

Wild ponies grazing on Assateague Island photographed at sunset with the Nikon D750 and 80-400mm  lens at 320mm and f/5.6.

This sunset was taken at 24mm with the Nikon 24-120mm lens. 

Sunset photo of a Grey Heron with the 80-400mm lens at 320mm, f/6.3 and ISO 200

Sunset in the wetlands with the 24-120mm zoom at 28mm

Clam left by the receding tide photographed with the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens.

Big dipper over Chincoteague Island taken with a Nikon D750 and 24-120mm lens at f/4, a 15 second exposure with ISO 1600. The glows on the horizon was caused by lighting from towns in the distance.

Vegetation along the seashore taken with the 20mm lens at f/10.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First signs of autumn photographed with the Fuji X-T1

I woke up this morning to a misty, chilly day. The  leaves had begun to turn, and, for the first time, it felt like autumn had finally arrived. I had the Fuji X-T1 with me, plus the short 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms, which is what I used to take the photos below. I kept the apertures wide open to keep the backgrounds out of focus.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Here's lookin' at you kid..."

Some studio shots of champagne done with the Fuji X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8. All were photographed with apertures in a range of f/2.8-f/5.6 depending upon the depth of field needed. The scene was back lit by both window light mixed with a tungsten spot and the color balance was kept on the warm side to enhance the champagne color.

I will be travelling for the next few days and will try to post from the road with my laptop. I am going to Assateague Island in Virginia to photograph the wild ponies -- something I have always wanted to do. I will have both the Nikon D750 and Fuji X-T1 systems with me. Should be interesting.

Did this one at f/2.8 for the bokeh in the bottle highlights.