Tag Archives: Equipment

Not loving affair with Nikon D800

I have been using range finder cameras as my main camera for over 20 years. I would say I am in a relationship with Leica. They are often assertive and frustrating, but when I treat the camera well and carefully feed good light the camera gives me stunning beautiful images. You know I mean…this is truly a relationship.

On the other hand, Nikon D800 is job partner.  It is reliable and covenient, but I don’t expect the “surprise” which I found in images from Leica. So I often take Leica. I use D800 for mostly for event photography or when I am lazy.

Having said that, I have decided to taking D800 to Lake O’Hara trip in this fall. The reason is the shutter of my Leica M9 has become unreliable after 160,000 actuations.  This is known issue of Leica M9. Lake O’Hara is considered to be backcountry so if something happens to a camera, I cannot get a spare camera easily.

So I took my D800 for a hiking to lake Agnes as a trial. Also I got a Cotton carrier camera system so I tested the Cotton carrier system well. Here is my new look.

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Cotton Carrier is quite confortable.  It is nice on my neck. I put 3 more lenses in a shoulder bag, but it was not heavy unexpectedly.  Now I gave a “go sign” to myself to take Nikon system to Lake O’Hara.  Another good thing about the Cotton system is a Arcaswiss tripod plate is coming with the kit. So I can put the camera on my panorama head as well. This is handy for landscape photographers.

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Modifying Nikon PC 24mm lens

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought an Nikon PC 24mm lens. This lens allows movements of shift and tilt; however, Nikon PC lenses have a problem especially for landscape photographers. When I shift a lens vertically, the lens can tilt only horizontally.

_DSC6792

Landscape photographers use tilt and shift lens to avoid conversing lines which is seen when a camera is pointed up. Also landscape photographers like hyperfocal distance, images on focus from foreground to infinity. Tilt allows increasing the depth of field without closing down aperture. So it is more practical to set the movement of tilt and shift on the same axis.

So I had to modify the lens. Here is steps

1) Unscrew four screws on top of squire block of the lens. Micro screw did not work because screws were quite tight. I bought a screwdriver with large grip. _DSC6798

2) Lift the top CAREFULLY since the top and lens body are connected with electronic cables. _DSC6805

3) Rotate the top 90 degrees clockwise and screw the four screws back. _DSC6809

4) Movements of the shift and tilt are the same axis.

_DSC6812

I you want to try, please do it at your own risk.

 

 

Revisiting Pyramid Lake in Jasper

This place is a super popular location for photographers and I meet some photographer whenever I visited this location. In early October, I don’t have to wake up 6 am to catch sunrise, but, for this location, I have be there by 6:30 to set up a tripod to get a good spot, otherwise it’s been taken.

The reason I kept trying this scene is I have not gotten the image I expect. Last year, it was raining, and this year, it was cloudy. I want to capture beautiful morning glow reflecting on the foggy lake. Well, I have to wait until next year. Having said that, I can still do something in cloudy morning. I knew the sun would come out and the light would hit the mountain so I stayed longer even after another photographer left. I set my infrared camera and filters. I waited for the moment. This is the shot I got.

Pyramid Lake - Infrared

Please click the image for the larger size. I tried a little different composition I usually do; everything line up on center from bottom to top.

Talking about tripod, I bought a new tripod, Gitzo 3541XLS, which is super tall. I can literally make a tent with this tripod. The newer version, 3542 was just released so I got this tripod for bargain price at the Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta. This is great investment since it allows me to raise view point much higher. That makes huge difference in composition. Please check my old blog about disadvantage of lower tripods as well.

Related post: Gallery show at Mount Royal University – Size matters, but be gentle (man)

Longer than usual – LEE Big Stopper

This time is a kind of the sequel from the last post.  I always take my smart-phone to back county. Not for phone calls obviously, because it is handy when I use LEE – Big Stopper filter. Big Stopper is 10 stop neutral density filter. 3 or 4 steps are commonly used to slow down shutter speed. But it is 10 stops; you can achieve minutes of exposure time! Here is the easy calculation for exposure time.

  • 10 stops is the tenth power of 2 = 1024.
  • So “Exposure time (sec) without Big Stopper” x 1024 = Exposure time with Big stopper.

For example, You have 1/125 of shutter speed before setting up Big Stopper, the final one will be (1/125)x1024=8.192 (sec). When you have 2 sec of shutter speed initially, you will have 2(sec) x 1024=2048(sec), 2048(sec)/60=34.13(min). Savvy! Now I set a timer and read an eBook. That is why I need a smart-phone all the time for the calculation, timer and eBook. One tip is, when you shoot with auto-exposure and Big Stopper is attached to a lens, you may need to compensate exposure to +1.5 to 2.0.

Melancholic - Bow Lake, Alberta

This photo was posted in my last blog post. The Bow lake in Alberta looks really calm in this picture. But in reality, the day was pretty windy and  it looked like the picture below. The 45 sec of exposure totally calmed waves on the lake. Big Stopper adds a tinge of cyan; this may be problematic for some photographers. But I like the cool tone, which often adds ethereal feel to the image.

Here is other examples, shutter speed 30 sec and the bottom one is 3 min.

Kananaskis big sky

Lastly, I should be honest and share my inspiration of the long exposure. Please check out amazing, Michael Levin. Since I saw his works 2 years ago, they have been big influence on my images.

Need your help (3) – Color or B&W – Bow Lake

Eventually, I have decided to put my images to Flickr and 500px. So I can share “okay” images which are not good enough to put in my web-site. So I need your kind help now! Please let me hear your opinion about which you like better between the 2 images below. I cannot select one for the portfolio in my website. Top one is color obviously; the unique part of this shot technically is shutter speed is fairly long, about 3 min achieved by Lee Big Stopper filter. The other one is Infrared B&W, one of my  photography styles. Please click the images for the larger views.

 

A melancholic snail 1

Melancholic – Bow lake – color

A melancholic snail 2

Melancholic – Bow lake – B&W

I will talk about the LEE big stopper filter some time.

Jeff Cruz – instant art Exhibition

The biggest news this week among  photographers must be announcement of D800 by Nikon. Although I usually do not pay attention to new products, this time I read an article from truly beginning to the end. Now I really want this 36 megapixel camera. But wait a minute… think about what I CANNOT do with my rangefinder camera. Do I need auto focus? IF I start wedding or event  photography, I may need autofocus …or I can do a job with a rangefinder camera. I don’t know at this point. I know dynamic range of my camera is not as wide as current Nikon or Canon DSLRs. But can I overcome the limitation by some photographic techniques?…yes, I can. I use HDR, flash and grad filters even though they are really difficult to use with rangefinder cameras. Unless I become an aerial photographer or a sports photographer, the narrow dynamic range is not a problem. I found that catalog specifications tend to go out by themselves and photographers (especially male) are easily tricked by those numbers. But I believe knowing limitations of the camera comes first. When photographic expressions expand, I need  to think about new system. I guess this right way to go. (Well, still I want D800E. Used Nikon PC 85mm has been in a showcase at the Camera store…Devil’s whisper)

Actually, I am not supposed to write about such a thing. I should talk about my fellow photographer, Jeff Cruz. He will h ave one-man exhibition at Resolution Local Art Gallery in Calgary, AB from February 14th to March 4th. The special about this show is all images are taken by iPhone. “The best camera is the one in your hand”; achieving creative works with whatever camera you have now. It does not need to be D700 or 5D mark II. Jeff is going to prove it.

When I met Jeff first time was at Stampede Western Photo galeery 2011. Although he is a professional commercial and editorial photographer, he exhibited beautiful landscapes at the Stampede show. Actually, He started taking pictures with plastic toy camera from a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper, so iPhone may have been already part of his DNA. Anyway, the opening reception of Jeff Cruz’s Instant art show will be Feb 17th Thursday from 5pm. I am going to see this nice guy as well as great photographer.

Gallery show at Mount Royal University – Size matters, but be gentle (man)

One fantastic thing at the Stampede western photo gallery is I met so many amazing photographers and people. Also I was kindly offered another exhibition at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. I had to add 2 more images for the exhibition so I checked my website and I found the photo below was highly viewed. However, I am not 100% satisfied by the result of the image.

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Woodman 4×5, Fujinon 90mm, Velvia 100F, Click the photo for larger version.

What is wrong with this photo? Actually I wanted to have more space between rocks and the summit of the mountain reflecting on the lake. I had known the problem but this was only I could achieve with my TRIPOD. There are reasons why professional photographers carry a giant tripod. My tripod extends as tall as my height, but in this case, I was standing on the rocks and some part of tripod legs were submerged in the water. So the camera position was much lower than I expected. And what was worse,  I was shooting with my 4×5 view camera so I could not extend a center pole since it may have caused camera shake blur. For a lot of times in nature photography, a tripod which is as tall as your height is not high enough. Furthermore, after people become more serious on photography,
they tend to upgrade to heavy cameras and lenses. Then an extended center pole will result in blur images. Now selection of tripod is getting narrow. So which model I am looking for ….after some research…Gitzo systematic series is only option for my purpose due to their lightness and durability. (I would not go with ones made in Taiwan.) I hope I can sell some of my photos and I can scratch off one item in my “to purchase” list.

One more anecdote about this photo. The location in the photo is a kind of Mecca for photographers in Jasper, Alberta. I woke up early morning not to miss sunrise. When I arrived at the location, a lady had already started photographing. She set up a flagship model of camera on a huge tripod. I was mad since I had to give up the location. I left her with a parting shots, “you must
be professional”. After I took pictures around the area I came back to the location. The lady was still there with her husband, shooting photos. I tried talking to her and actually, they were really nice people. They were professional photographers from near Edmonton, and she told me how hard nowadays being full time photographers in photographic industry. When they were leaving they gave me their business card. It says “Outdoor photography Canada Contributing Editor”. I know this magazine! I subscribe to the magazine!! They were Lealie & Mark Degner. I felt embarrassed by my attitude before. I, being as a nature photographer, cannot control conditions of the locations,….so just be happy! Who knows how amazing people they are. Next day, I woke up really early again, and I tried the same location again. While I was waiting for sunrise, a car arrived at the location and a guy took off from the car. It was still dark outside, but I heard voice, said “shxt!”