Archive for Nikon

Nikon D750 First Impressions

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , on December 15, 2014 by chamimage
Mural

Mural

I have had my Nikon D750 for about a week now. Long enough to read the important stuff in the manual. The first thing I noticed was the size of the camera. When I ordered the D750 I expected the same D300/D700 chassis as previous cameras of this line had. This camera is much smaller and lighter. I was pleasantly surprised. Holding it in one hand is very easy. I just now grabbed my D4 to look at something and what a shock to hold that monster after a week with the D750!

The second thing I noticed is how quiet the shutter is. I am used to the snap of the D3 and D4 that is anything but subtle. Just what a wildlife photographer needs, a loud rifle shot every time you trigger the shutter. The D750 whispers. I still haven’t gotten used to it. Since I had hoped to use this camera to do more street photography I am very pleased that it doesn’t announce to all that I am snapping photographs.

On the subject of stealth. I walked around town with this camera and it got hardly any attention at all. My D4 draws people like a magnet. Big pro camera – people get curious. Little camera – meh. I like meh.

I bought this camera with the memory of carrying my D3 around Guanajuato, Mexico and Florence, Italy all day and having such pain in my shoulders it hurt to just think about putting the camera bag around my neck the next morning. I will be able to forget I have this camera with me.

So far I have not found anything this camera can’t do (it’s only been a week, give it time). The noise is a bit more than the D4 at the same ISO. I did find that it does not have a 10 pin connector so I can’t use my shutter release cable. You can buy a different cable that plugs into a USB type port in the side of the camera, or you can get a wireless remote. I bought the wireless remote after finding out the D750 has an infrared receiver on the back of the camera and you no longer have to fire the wireless remote from in front of the camera. I also learned that unlike the MC-30 cord that costs $64.95 (I bought a Chinese remote for $20 instead for my D4 after a energy bar melted chocolate into my MC-30 recently. You can still use the MC-30 if you want about 100 frames before the button finally comes back up.) The wireless remote was $13 – for the Nikon brand! Generics were $10. Unfortunately to use the same wireless remote on my D4 I think I would need a $99 receiver. I’ll meed two remotes when I bring both cameras. Fortunately the wireless remote is unbelievably tiny. I bet I lose a bunch of them.

The D750 has two card slots and both take SD cards. No XQD slot! Yeah! I guess now that SD cards have so much memory Nikon has decided why waste space with CF cards? I have only used SD cards in point and shoot cameras before so it is a bit to wrap my mind around, not having a CF card. The card slots are in the right side of the camera behind a hinged door that opens by sliding it sideways until it springs open. It seems like it might open too easily and spring open unexpectedly at inconvenient times and get broken, but it hasn’t happened yet. Strange that they put Fort Know security into opening the D4 card slot door, but make this door so easily opened.

The files from the D750 are 24 megapixel so I can envision maybe needing the second card in Africa where I have made one thousand images in a morning before. But I am never going to be a fat enough shooter to fill two 64 gig cards before downloading. Perhaps if I have a computer failure and can’t download it will come in very very handy. We did have a lightning strike take out some computers in camp in Africa on the last trip. I stopped leaving the computer plugged in while I was out.

I haven’t worked on enough files to get a feel for color and exposure biases with this camera. So far I just know that ISO 800 resulted a more noise than I had hoped for.

The D750 has gone retro and put the mode dial (for P/A/S/M; it is now a dial) piggyback on top of the release mode dial (S/CL/CH; Q/Mup,etc) that has always been there. ISO and white balance are now assigned to the buttons to the left of the LCD screen. Pushing the ISO or white balance button brings up a menu on the LCD. One small gripe I have is that it takes a while for the menu to appear on the screen. Of course I just tried to time it and for the first time all week the menus came up instantly. I am going to be using the back LCD to make ISO and white balance adjustments, among others, a whole lot more with this camera.

Oh what an LCD screen it is! Nikon’s first articulating LCD screen in a DSLR, I believe. No more crawling on my belly in the mud! Just pop that screen 90 degrees and hold the camera on the ground and use Live View to focus and frame your shot. So very cool. Hand held macro shooters will be in heaven. People who shoot video of their small children or pets will be in heaven.

I haven’t challenged the autofocus with birds in flight yet. That will have to wait until this weekend when I will mate this camera up with the 600 mm lens for the first time. In theory that will take some strain off of my shoulders when carrying my rig on the tripod, but with the superior high ISO performance of the D4 it will still have to remain the main big lens wildlife body.

I was pleasantly surprised when I put my non-CPU 24 mm prime lens on the D750 and told it what the lens was the camera recognized the aperture setting on the lens. On this lens, anyway, you can’t set the lens on f/22 and use the sub-command dial to set the aperture, you have to use the aperture ring. The manual suggests otherwise so apparently with other non-CPU lenses that might be different.

This camera has a built-in flash. I only use built-in flash as a commander unit and I have a commander unit for the D4, anyway, but for getting the accessory flash off of the camera without having to buy a commander unit this is a blessing for most people. I can use it to trigger my macro flashes without having to worry about the commander unit battery going dead, as it likes to do on a regular basis. Changing batteries in the dark is not fun.

When I first got the camera I decided the longest period of time known to man is the time between un-boxing your new camera and when the battery is finally charged and you can finally check your new camera out. While waiting for the battery to charge I couldn’t get the camera to manually focus. I tried adjusting the diopter. Everything was still blurry. I had major worry. As soon as the battery went in it focused like a champ. Not sure what that is all about, but I tell you because I know you will do the same thing.

So far this is looking like one beautiful little camera body. At $2,300 it is expensive, but cheaper than the Df. I think the light weight, quiet shutter and the articulating LCD screen are going to prove to be impressive and useful in the months to come.

Salem Building

Salem Building

 

 

Nikon Capture NX-D beta

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2014 by chamimage
Nikon Capture NX-D

Nikon Capture NX-D

I have been toying around with the new beta version of Nikon Capture NX-D.

Nikon Capture is the program Nikon provides to work on and convert Nikon RAW files. It will only read RAW files in Nikon’s NEF and NRW  formats, jpeg files and tiff files. Unfortunately, Capture does not show PSD files so cannot be used as a browser to find a psd file and open it.

Previous versions included NX-1 and NX-2. The two previous versions were a collaboration with NIK and they included NIK’s control point technology for selective editing. Nikon has gone a completely different approach with NX-D and no longer has control points or any other selective editing option, at least in the beta version.

On the plus side, the browser has been laid out in a much more user-friendly and familiar way. The new look is impressive. It is a browser and the layout is much like what is found in Lightroom or Bridge, very familiar. It generates jpegs faster than Bridge (who doesn’t? Really Adobe, that is the best you can do? Little Breeze systems and Photo Mechanic with a millionth of your budget have no problem generating jpegs fast), but you can overwhelm it and freeze it up if you go from one end of the film strip at the bottom to the other end too fast. Hopefully that will improve with the final release this fall.

The jpegs it generates are gorgeous. Flipping back and forth between Capture and Lightroom with the same image shows a clear advantage to Capture. Jpegs and TIFF files are equal in the two programs.

Which leads me to what I use Nikon Capture for. Mainly I want to convert RAW files with it. I want all of those beautiful colors that Nikon intended for that image to have. I do very minimal work in Capture, just global exposure, contrast, Picture Control settings, and Active D-lighting, which is Nikon’s way of handling highlights and shadows. Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw have come a long way with their camera profiles for Nikon files, but they can’t match the colors you will get converting RAW files in Capture NX. I had been very lazy lately, just using Lightroom for all my basic editing and RAW file conversion. Then I ran across a problem I haven’t seen for a while. I worked on a file in Photoshop for thirty minutes before discovering there were color shifts in the gray of the clouds. Greens and magentas that didn’t belong there. They will also crop up in shadows from time to time as well. I had to start all over with a file converted in Capture NX to get rid of the color shift.

There has been a lot of hand wringing about how Capture NX-D does not allow any selective editing. It is not a stand alone product that will let you do it all in one program. I have never used one program alone for processing my files so it is less of an issue for me. I rarely used the Control Points in Capture NX2. I do now have Capture NX-D, Lightroom, and Photoshop all open at the same time, but I like the Capture NX-D RAW conversions so much better than what Adobe can do it is worth it for me.

There are a few nitpicky things I hope they change before the final version comes out. There is no zoom or hand tool so to zoom to 100% you need to use a keyboard shortcut or go into the Image drop down menu. The same with sizing the image to fit your screen. I hate that. If you zoom a horizontally oriented image and then fit it to screen, your next vertical image will not fit to screen. Argh!

There is no longer the Double Threshold check box above the histogram on previous versions of Capture NX that allowed you to adjust both your white point and black point. You have to, again, use a keyboard shortcut or drop down menu to adjust white point and then go back and do the black point. There are no white point and black point eyedroppers in the toolbox above as before, but  they are in the levels and curves tool below on the right column.

There is a way to batch process and there is a way to paste your setting changes to other images, so if you have five images from the same set-up you can adjust one image and paste those setting to the others. You can even save recipes to your hard drive if you create something wild and wacky you might want to use again.

My workflow for RAW files has now become 1.) Edit globally in Capture NX-D for exposure, white balance, contrast, and Active D-lighting to bring back any errant blown out whites or blocked up blacks. 2.) Convert RAW file to a tiff in Capture NX-D. 3.) Make further minor changes in Lightroom to white point, black point, gradient tool, etc. 4.) Open in Photoshop for application of NIK filters (they can be put on a layer and painted in or out on a layer mask in Photoshop), levels and curves (again, layer masked), dust spotting (I always forget to do it in Lightroom so do it in ACR as a filter {in CC version of PS only}), rarely color correction or saturation. 5.) Save psd file with layers intact, save flattened large jpeg for stock agency upload, save small jpeg for web.

I am hoping Nikon users will try Capture NX-D beta out and comment to Nikon on what they would like changed so we can get some changes made. When Capture NX-D is released this fall it needs to be the best it can be because Nikon will then no longer support updates for Capture NX 2 so as soon as we get into the next generation of cameras Capture NX2 will not have a camera profile for them.

Malheur Trip

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2013 by chamimage
Corral

Corral

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge does not give up its secrets easily, and last week was no exception. Like any wildlife location, you need to spend some time when you first arrive to do some scouting and network with locals to find out what is happening in the refuge. No matter how may times you’ve been to a place, every year is different, every day is different.

This year I went to Malheur (which means sorrow or misfortune, in French) a week earlier than usual due to the vagaries of my call schedule. I discovered that a week later than usual might have been a better choice. The migratory birds, such as the western tanagers and Bullock’s orioles,  had not arrived yet.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

The first thing I noticed on arrival was that the white-faced ibis were not in the ranch pastures as they had always been in the past. I soon found that they were in the refuge in abundance, but due to low water levels they were dispersed to other areas with more standing water. I got some flight shots of them and the above image from the OO Ranch pond, but they were mostly inaccessible this year for photography. They even changed their roost location so the flight corridor in the evening was different.

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Baby

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Baby

I decided I would need to work the subjects I found a lot harder and not flit from here to there in an ADD fashion. That meant spending a lot of time with the babies on the grounds at the refuge headquarters. There are two adult Great Horned owls in this place so this was the only baby rabbit left of the litter, though I did find momma. Interestingly, she jumped up on a low rock fence for a while, but not long enough for me to get a photo other than of her butt right before she hopped back down again.

Ground Squirrle Baby

Ground Squirrel Baby

When the baby rabbit took a nap I turned to the ubiquitous baby ground squirrels. They did have brothers and sisters to play with and it was good comic relief to stop and watch them wrestle for a while. Like meercats, they are infinitely cutest when they stand on two legs.

Bull

Bull

On the way out to OO Ranch I got behind a herd of about twenty bulls. I imagine these must be rodeo stock. I’m not sure why else one ranch would have so many bulls. There were actually about forty altogether, with just twenty on the road. This guy was the big daddy. I wasn’t going anywhere until they decided to clear the road. When they did the herd broke up at a Y intersection and this guy became clearly upset about it. It’s not a pretty sight when this guy gets upset and about the time I took this image I was thinking seriously about backing WAY back away from him. I would not want to be the bull rider that is stepped on by him. It was amazing to see how close these bulls were and how they banded together. There was a little friendly horn to horn pushing going on, but there was  no question who the dominant bull was.

Corral B&W

Corral B&W

Unlike most of my past visits to Malheur, it remained a bit hard to scare up much to point a camera at in terms of wildlife, though I did see five different Great Horned Owls, including a nest, and three different burrowing owls. Of course, if you count mosquitos and ticks then there was no end of wildlife sightings and interactions. Even after I got home there were tick sightings.

The last two days I decided to use the sweet soft light of the morning to try out my new Nikon 50 mm F/1.4 lens. I was very impressed with it. I bought it for just the kind of narrow depth of field shots as the one above and the one at the top of this post, as well as for interiors of churches and museums when I travel to Europe. I had planned on shooting the long barn at the P Ranch with my new lens, as well, but my experience with ticks on a short hike the day before softened my enthusiasm for walking around in tall grass.

One of the highlights of the trip was to see a bobcat at the base of Steens Mountain. The reason I have no photo to share is that I had last photographed a burrowing owl in mid day sun at ISO 100 and so when the bobcat presented himself later in the day after clouds had formed ISO 100 gave me shutter speed of 1/100th of a second – panning with a 600 mm lens and 1.7x teleconverter on a running bobcat. The resulting blurs weren’t even interesting. I try to remember to reset my camera settings when conditions change, just in case a bobcat might jump out of the sage brush in front of me, but I’m not always successful.

The Boat House

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by chamimage

Lake Louise Boat House

This photograph was taken on a very cold morning at Lake Louise last month. It is really the first image I have processed from the Nikon D4 that I noticed a significant improvement in resolution. Until this photograph I really couldn’t tell you whether I had used the D3 or D4 other than the D4 images are physically larger when viewed at 100%. But the trees behind the boat house definiteley have much more detail than the D3 could have done.

I like it. Maybe once I sell my D300 I should consider a D600 with 24 MP.

It looks like I was the only one there that morning. It was still early so the crowds were just crowds and not huge crowds yet, they had just not ventured down the snowy, icy path to the closed for the season boat house yet.

They waited until I went down there to take pictures of the canoes and then they all came and stood in my way.

Moraine Lake Canoe

It was a good thing I went over and  photographed this canoe at Moraine Lake when I did because as I was finishing up with it the crew was starting to pack up all of the boats for the season. It was October 1st. It snowed very shortly afterward and was frozen solid at Moraine Lake after that so, yeah, the season for canoeing was pretty much over.

Banff

Posted in Natural History, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by chamimage

Emerald Lake_Yoho

Things I learned in Banff last week:

1. The Canadian Rockies are still beautiful. It had been 14 years since I had visited.

2. You really do need to keep shooting photographs to keep in practice. I made a whole bunch of stupid mistakes the first couple of days.

3. The new Nikon D4 has, for some reason, turned the exposure meter in the viewfinder upside down as opposed to the previous six Nikon cameras I have owned. I have been shooting long enough that I usually dial in exposure compensation without looking in the viewfinder so this caused some problems. After an embarrassingly long time I finally found the sub menu that turned the exposure meter readout back right-side up. THEN the main command dial dialed the exposure the wrong direction so I had to go back in and find a sub menu that let me reverse that as well.

4. I use the function button on the front of the camera for the virtual horizon so I don’t have to purchase ($35) and use one of those hot shoe bubbles that I always manage to break off. The virtual horizon in my brand new, extremely expensive Nikon D4 does not work. Neither does the multi-selector on the back of the camera you use to go back through images (chimp). Okay, it sort of works. Press it three times it might finally back up one image, or two images at one time. Or not. Not stuff that is worth sending the camera in to Nikon repair and never see it again for a month, but irksome in a brand new camera. The important stuff all works.

Aspen Grove

5. One of the reasons I went to Banff was to try to shoot a calendar photo of an elk. I failed. One reason is because elk are getting to be scarce in Banff. They have had to bring elk up from Yellowstone to maintain the breeding capacity. Not sure why. Wolf haters blame wolves, but they have always had wolves in Banff. The wolves did come into town and kill the tame local elk, which they weren’t really supposed to do. Of course they shot them for fear of the big bad wolf. These elk are as far north as elk can survive so it could be that heavier snow fall has simply made it impossible for them to survive winter. They don’t have a National Elk Reserve to migrate to in winter like the Yellowstone elk do.

6. Another reason I didn’t get a calendar photo of an elk is because the backgrounds are awful in Banff. Banff is woodsy, compared to Yellowstone, and there are either bushes and branches right behind the elk or there is a sloping road cut bank right behind the elk. The elk don’t spend much time in meadows in Banff.

Rocky Mountain Elk Bull

7. Bull elk frolic in meadows. I photographed a relatively small bull elk for about an hour one evening as he grazed along. At the end of the hour he inexplicably ran off. “Was it something I said?” I asked. I walked around some trees, expecting he would come out the other side into a large meadow. He did. He walked for a while and then he broke into a run again…and he frolicked. I have seen caribou in Alaska run around all of a sudden in response to a Bot fly up their nose so I can’t discount that as a possible explanation. Looked like play to me, dancing sideways and throwing his antlers around. The bull elk in Banff all seemed relatively good-natured in comparison with the Yellowstone bulls that savage cars and fight endlessly. Even when the largest herd of cows got spread out and was split in half by a competing bull one morning there was no battle. The two bulls just walked uphill side by side as though they were defining an imaginary boundary line and then one went one direction and the other the other direction and that was it. Near Lake Louise, where there are seemingly no cow elk, I saw six bulls feeding together as they do, but not during the autumn rut.

Frolicking Bull Elk

8. It is always a thrill to see a wild wolf. I didn’t get great shots, but I got to photograph them. The wolves are doing a bit better in Banff than they were twenty years ago. They are run over by cars all too frequently. A major highway bisects Banff. It has fences along it and wildlife overpasses and underpasses to minimize the carnage, but one female wolf got hit despite the fence and others got hit when a tree fell on the fence and it took forever to get it fixed. There is no fence along the Bow Valley Parkway and if you do the speed limit (60 km/hr or 45 mph) you will be constantly tailgated by speeders. Constantly. Even in town there is a Welcome to Banff sign followed by a sign warning that there have been way too many bear, wolf, cougar, and deer deaths along this road. They continue to use salt on icy roads instead of magnesium so the bighorn sheep are crucified when they go on the road to lick the salt. They can afford to build fences and wildlife overpasses, but not to use magnesium on icy roads?

Wild Timber Wolf

9. Water from the Bow River, which originates in the Bow Glacier above, you guessed it, Bow Lake in Banff, flows all the way to Lake Huron. Water from the Athabasca River, originating in the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper flows all of the way to the Arctic Ocean and down the Frazier River to the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Bow River

10. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 8th. I got a two-fer this year.

Happy Halloween from the Bow Valley Parkway

Topsy Turvy World

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by chamimage

Cloud Reflection

I had forgotten about this photograph until this week. I was reading “Simply Photographs”, a National Geographic book that is supposed to be simply photographs by National Geo photographers, but is actually fairly verbose. I don’t mind the writing since it is by Annie Griffiths, who turns out to be a failry good writer. As always happens, a photo of a reflection in water reminded me of this photograph and I had to go find it and look at it and re-work it in Photoshop to see if it was as good as I remembered it.

This was taken in September, 1999 at Kepple Lake in Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Spokane, Washington. I would have been using a Nikon N90s then. I shot it on Velvia slide film. That camera fell off of a tripod with a 500 mm lens on it in Glacier National Park one summer day and ended up with a bent frame.  I got excited about the moose across the road and tightened the wrong knob on the ball head. Funny that the camera worked fine until I took it out in the frigid cold of Wyoming in March to photograph a sage grouse lek. I guess the cold contracted the metal and the camera wouldn’t advance the film reliably any longer. It would suddenly rewind in mid roll due to the tension on the film. Young photographers that have never shot anything but digital haven’t a clue what all of that means.

I have always liked this image because it is so disorienting. The sky is actually a reflection in the still waters of a pond, giving the effect of looking down on the sky.

This image cried out for a bit of embellishment. I saved a half dozen different versions of it and liked this one the best. It is a bit over the top for me, and I thought I would probably look at it the next day with fresh eyes and decide it was too overly saturated, but have kept it this way for several days now.

I used a filter called Contrast Color Range from Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 on it. Can’t remember ever using that filter before. Nik Color Efex Pro 4.0 has been announced and I have mine pre-ordered. There is a 15% discount code for it at the bottom of the page on Moose Peterson’s web page at http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/ if anybody is interested. I’m sure Moose won’t mind you stopping by his blog for a while.

Reloading

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by chamimage

Mule Deer Buck

I haven’t gotten much editing done in the past week. I decided to get Photoshop CS5, for reasons I’ll have to go into in another blog. CS5 runs in 64 bit so that got me wondering if I should update my 32 bit Windows Vista to 64 bit windows 7.Then I started wondering if it was worthwhile loading that all onto a three year old computer. I wondered if a new computer had anything more to offer.  Of course you know when you start looking into things like that that you’re going to find something you just can’t live without. Needless to say my new H-P Pavillion rip snorting new computer with Windows 7 arrived a week ago.

Now, you’d think with the new computer and new Photoshop CS5 I’d have gotten right to work on images, but it doesn’t work like that, does it? Just about everything you try to accomplish runs headlong into an incompatibility issue and half day working around it.

The first thing I noticed was that my LaCie external hard drive where I store my images was running extremely S-L-O-W.  LaCie, true to their reputation, has no idea what the problem is and offers no solution. My backup hard drive, a Seagate, had a new driver for the  64 bit Windows 7 and runs like a champ. Today I had to retrieve an older image from my older LaCie hard drive and it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Something to consider when it is time to buy new external hard drives. Seagate has your back. LaCie admitted they hadn’t even tried to run their hard drive on a 64 bit Windows 7  machine.

The image above was the first image I worked in CS5. It was not among the images I had pooled just waiting to be worked in CS5, but it needed to be done for a submission due today. Unfortunately, the image is a slide and I did not have a full sized scan on my hard drive yet. I needed to get my film scanner to play nice with Windows 7. I knew Nikon had abondoned support for their film scanners, though it was not all that long ago we were all shooting film with their cameras and have 10,000 slides sitting in file cabinets. The best they could do was direct me to a couple of third party programs. The best of those cost $500(!), but I was about ready to bite the bullet and buy it when a small miracle occurred. The installation directions for that program mentioned that the Nikon scanner driver had to be installed before installing their program and they were kind enough to describe how to install it. A bit different than I had tried already so I followed their directions and it, of course, didn’t work, BUT, this time Windows offered to try a fix for me in the form of a little pop-up box. I had nothing to lose so clicked on it and VOILA! my scanner now works with the Nikon software. I don’t know how. I’m afraid to ask.

When I started up my new computer it was hard to ignore the fact that the graphics were horrible. I couldn’t read fine print and the thumbnails looked horrible. A trip to Device Manager to update and the video card driver and I was informed that I was running the latest driver, already. Being a doubting Thomas (sorry) I visited the NVIDIA site and found a new driver meant specifically to deal with Windows 7 64 bit. It was dated mid-April. Unlikely that H-P had installed that driver. I downloaded it and VOILA ENCORE!, it looks like a million bucks.

My top issue now, among the many I expect are out there awaiting me, is that my NIK filter plug-ins for Photoshop refuse to show up in Photoshop. I’m off to the NIK site, where no easy solution has been found yet in their FAQs, to contact them with an SOS for help. Maybe by the next post I’ll be ready to actually use Photoshop CS5 and show some examples why it is a must have update.

Bull Elk Sparring