A Sort of Progress

141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_8909-3

A lot of things didn’t go right during my most recent opportunity to photograph dance, but the better images show improvement in exposure. For years, I was so committed to recovering shadow detail that I consistently overexposed dance images. Now I’m trying harder to make peace with the shadows, and I’m finding some success. Still a lot of variables to control, but this is going to help. I shot using matrix metering and -.7 exposure compensation, but I still had to bring down the highlights quite a bit in Lightroom. Usually, there was detail to be recovered in the highlights, so -.7 might be a good safe compromise in this situation.141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9170 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9234 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9307 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9385 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9553 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9636 141211-Nordhoff DanceDSC_9639

1 Comment

Filed under Dance and Theater

Just Like Starting Over

141026-Bolsa ChicaDSC_0641-5

Nikon D7100, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17eII

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m working with new software (Lightroom) and a new camera (Nikon D7100). Yesterday it occurred to me that I’m really working with three new cameras, because I’ve only had the Fujifilm X100s for slightly over a year, and the Nikon D610 for less than a year. I have not learned how to operate any of these cameras as comprehensively as I did my old Nikon D300, but I look forward to digging deeper.

Since the D7100 is newest and purpose-purchased for wildlife, I’ve taken it to Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve to learn how it works, and here is the main thing I have discovered: I need to start using a tripod or monopod, because 24 megapixels exaggerates my lack of steadiness when using the equivalent of a 510mm lens (200mm + 1.7x teleconverter on 1.5x cropped sensor = 510mm). I’ve gotten some sharp images, but a pretty low keeper rate so far. I’m not sure if I’m mis-focusing or shaking, but I’m working on it.

A Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica. Also a very small part of the frame, because even 510mm equivalent is no replacement for actual proximity.

A Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica. Also a very small part of the frame, because even 510mm equivalent is no replacement for actual proximity. This is when 24 megapixels really helps me.

Nikon D7100, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17eII.

Nikon D7100, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17eII.

Nikon D7100, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17eII.

Nikon D7100, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17eII.

High resolution really helps when I cannot get close.

High resolution really helps when I cannot get close.

Here is the full frame from which the above image was cropped.

Here is the full frame from which the above image was cropped.

Usually I fret that I have too much gear, but yesterday I had the opportunity to use all three cameras. I took a long walk with the FujiFilm X100s and got a couple of grab shots, used the D7100 for some backyard colors, and brought out the D610 when my son wanted a picture under a very complex lighting scenario.

I had set the X100s to full auto as a walk-around camera. When I stopped for a beer, I liked this scene and simply pressed the button. No muss, no fuss.

I had set the X100s to full auto as a walk-around camera. When I stopped for a beer, I liked this scene and simply pressed the button. No muss, no fuss. And yes, the X100s has been used more in bars than any other location. Since I haven’t been going out much, the X100s has gotten little use in recent months.

Here's the sort of serendipitous scene that reminds me to carry a camera. I fired the X100s from the hip while walking by.

Here’s the sort of serendipitous scene that reminds me to carry a camera. I fired the X100s from the hip while walking by. I love the fact that I can carry this lightweight, large sensor camera around my neck.

In the late afternoon, I stepped into the backyard with the D7100 and 105 f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor to see what I could see. What I saw were interesting colors...

In the late afternoon, I stepped into the backyard with the D7100 and 105 f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor to see what I could see. What I saw were interesting colors. This is surely one of my favorite lenses, and delivers beautiful results on both camera bodies.

The Dancers. Nikon D7100, 105 f/2.8 Micro.

The Dancers. Nikon D7100, 105 f/2.8 Micro.

John had read an article about how the metrosexual was not being replaced by the "Lumbersexual," and as he was working with a chainsaw in our front yard, he decided a photo was in order. The sun had gone down, so I grabbed the D610 and 85mm f/1.4. Even using the built-in flash with this backlit scene, the foreground was dark, but with lots of recovery latitude.

My son read an article about how the metrosexual was being supplanted by the “Lumbersexual,” and as he was working with a chainsaw in our front yard, he decided a photo was in order. The sun had gone down, so I grabbed the D610 and 85mm f/1.4. Even using the built-in flash with this backlit scene, the foreground was dark, but with lots of recovery latitude. All hail big sensors!

A lot of angst goes into each camera or software decision for me, but every piece of new gear also gets me to play and experiment like I did as a youngster, and that stimulates learning. I’m also somewhat amazed at how different my images look when processed through Lightroom rather than Aperture, which I used for years. I’m still not sure if the look is better, but it is very, very different. Guess I’ll just have to play more to learn more.

1 Comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography

Different Camera, New Software, Less Blogging

A rare problem - the birds were TOO CLOSE on this particular day at Bolsa Chica.

A rare problem – the birds were TOO CLOSE on this particular day at Bolsa Chica.

I traded my remaining D7000 for a D7100. Now I have, in effect, two versions of the same camera: the D7100 and D610. Almost identical in operation, but one DX sensor and one FX sensor. With my collection of DX and FX lenses, it’s a very versatile combination.

I’m using the D7100 for wildlife, the D610 for events and portraiture, and the Fujifilm X100s for travel. So far, so good, but it’s obviously cutting into my blogging time. Hopefully I’ll have more to report on the 24 megapixel dynamic duo soon. One thing I’ll be writing about: The buffer on the D7100 really let me down during a pelican feeding frenzy at Bolsa Chica. I’d be tracking the birds toward the water and the shutter would slow and then stop just before they struck. Very frustrating.

At the same time, I switched from Aperture to Lightroom for post-processing. The learning curve is steep for a lazy, disorganized, impatient photographer, but so far I like the results.

A nice family moment at Bolsa Chica. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC1.7

A nice family moment at Bolsa Chica. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

I've been reluctant to use the teleconverter lately, because it degrades image quality, but coupled with the 24 megapixel D7100, it really extends my reach.

I’ve been reluctant to use the teleconverter lately, because it degrades image quality, but coupled with the 24 megapixel D7100, it really extends my reach. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC-17eII teleconverter.

Here is a close-up from the image above. You can see the fishtail and its shadow. I could get used to all these pixels.

Here is a close-up from the image above. You can see the fishtail and its shadow. I could get used to all these pixels. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

The D7100 is no worse than any camera I've owned for birds in flight, and might be the best. I'll need more practice, and look forward to getting it.

The D7100 is no worse than any camera I’ve owned for birds in flight, and might be the best. I’ll need more practice, and look forward to getting it. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

On another note, I took a three-day weekend recently with just the X100s. Here's my shadow in Mt. Shasta, California...

On another note, I took a three-day weekend recently with just the X100s. Here’s my shadow in Mt. Shasta, California…

...and here's Mt. Shasta itself. Fujifilm X100s

…and here’s Mt. Shasta itself. Fujifilm X100s

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation

Finding What Works for Me

DSC_0131 (2)

I may have found a focusing system that really works for me. More info to come…

DSC_0188 (1) DSC_0171 (1) DSC_0153 (1) DSC_0140 DSC_0109 (1)

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography

What I See Versus What I Read

DSC_5244

All of the images in this post were shot with the Nikon D7000 and 70-200 f/2.8, as I try to decide whether to keep the DX camera.

Thom Hogan, whom I trust completely, asks, “Are you FX or DX?” It’s a tough question, and I suspect many Nikon shooters end up with both sensor sizes (if not more). I’ve owned several great DX Nikons: D70, D200, D300, and, currently, D7000. I bought my first FX camera last December; a Nikon D610.

Thom and others point out that the superb image quality of the DX cameras, which feature a smaller sensor than their FX counterparts, should be enough for most users. I’ve certainly been happy with mine. At least, until I got the FX camera. I keep reading that there is not much difference anymore, but my images tell a different story. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography

Conspicuous Composition: Favorites and Challenges from The Year of Square

Most Year of Square images were last-minute, grudging snapshots, but I still tried to make the composition matter.

Most Year of Square images were last-minute, grudging snapshots, but I still tried to make the composition matter.

I have been told there are no right angles in nature, but I don’t believe it. Nature’s basic operating principle is infinite diversity. I’m sure there are right angles out there somewhere.

Still, you’d have to scan the countryside pretty intently to come up with a rectangle that wasn’t man-made. Good luck finding a perfect square in a field of flowers. This, I think, was the biggest lesson of my Year of Square photo-a-day project: a square is an unnatural shape that calls attention to itself.

Hasselblad shooters and others created iconic square images, but we are accustomed to seeing photographs presented as rectangles. I found the square format challenging. All the usual “rules” of composition apply, but under tighter constraints. Three-plus weeks into the project, I produced an image that interested me:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Composition, Motivation

The Last Month of The Year of Square

As the Year of Square draws to a close, I must reflect on what I've learned about photography, and what it means that I take so many pictures in bars.

As the Year of Square draws to a close, I must reflect on what I’ve learned about photography, and what it means that I take so many pictures in bars.

This is the final month of the Year of Square. Thank goodness. Soon I’ll review the 360-ish images and figure out what I’ve learned. I fear it will have something to do with not being good at long-term self-assignments… Z

Leave a comment

Filed under Composition