Rodney Campbell's Blog

Nikon D750 – Impressions…

by on Sep.15, 2014, under Life, Photography

Thanks to Nikon Australia I’ve had the chance to play with the new Nikon D750 full frame D-SLR a couple of times now so I thought I’d post up a few quick impressions from a Nikon D600 users perspective.

The numbering system D7XX and it’s capabilities appear to put it squarely inbetween the existing D6XX and D8XX Nikon FX lines – however having used it a couple of times now I’d say it’s much more like the D6XX than the pro style D8XX.

First up the camera is very familiar to me – the controls and layout are pretty much as the “prosumer” Nikon bodies like the D6XX and D7XXX series cameras. It’s also a lot more similar in size to those two lines than the D8XX.

So what new features do I like on the D750 compared to the D600:

– the updated 3.2″ articulating LCD screen is pretty nice and I could see times when this would be useful. Especially when down low on the tripod or when shooting video (which I don’t do a lot of but when I do) – especially handheld). I’m a little uneasy with it sticking out more and not having a protective screen however

– the new AF module (similar to the 51 point AF from the D810) is a fantastic addition – no more do the AF points only cover the tiny crop sensor area (tightly bundled only in the centre of the frame). We now get a proper full frame AF spread – personally I wish they were even wider spread but…

– you can now finally do the one button press 100% zoom (press the OK button) and it instantly zooms either the live view (or playback image). It even zooms to the focus point if single point focus is used (which is what I use)

– the body is noticeably smaller (the thickness of the body) – it has about the same height and width – it subtly feels lighter in the hand

– I also like the new small LCD display on the top of the D750 – it’s wider and slimmer (to cater for the new slimmer body) but the main displays (e.g. Aperture/Shutter) have much larger digits and it’s much easier to read (for people like me with failing eyes)

What don’t I like:

– the D750 STILL doesn’t have the viewfinder blind (found on all the pro bodies) – for me this is probably my biggest bugbear. However I still don’t want to move up to the control layout or size/weight of the D8XX series

– they’ve moved (as in swapped the positions of) the buttons down the left side of the camera AGAIN! (e.g. the “+” and “-“/ISO buttons) (the info button also moved but I don’t care so much about that)

What else:

– the D750 is Nikons first D-SLR with built in WiFi capability – which should be a plus, but it still uses the same horrendous Nikon WMU app which I’ve not had a lot of joy with (using the WU-1b wireless dongle on my D600) – why Nikon doesn’t just open the API for their cameras and let real software people write decent applications for their gear…

– one stop expanded ISO (to 51,200) – how usable this will be time will tell

– what you can’t necessarily see but is an upgrade to the 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor (as seen in the pro bodies like the D8XX and D4/s)

– has a Quiet Continuous mode

– the ports and doors down the left side have moved around – the remote release connector is behind a small door at the bottom on the D600 and is at the top of the bank on the D750 – what this will mean in a practical sense I’m not sure yet. I leave an L-Bracket on my D600 all the time (I’m not even sure my D600 L-Bracket will fit the D750 – I suspect not) and shoot lots of vertical shots and usually with a programmable intervalometer remote attached. Now with the remote port closer to the middle of the camera rather than at the bottom it may make it much more difficult to mount the camera (on the L-Bracket) vertically on the tripod/Arca clamp with the remote cable in place. If this doesn’t work hopefully the Nikon WiFi solution is then up to scratch – but I’m not holding my breath

– the battery door on the bottom of the camera has changed orientation – along the body rather than across at the handgrip end. The practical upshot of this is it may mean the L-Bracket for the D750 will have to be shorter so as to not block the battery door which may lead to other compromises

– still has the 1/4000 max shutter speed limitation (which to be honest has only been a problem for me a couple of times in many tens of thousands of frames on the D600)

– also has the same 1/200 flash sync speed as the D6XX

I tried the camera with a few lenses including the 14-24/2.8 (seemed quite front heavy with this but it is a very big and heavy fronted lens) and the 70-200/4 (this felt awesome on camera – a nice light pairing – and has me now lusting after this lens :))

Conclusion:

Would I upgrade – I’m tempted but at this stage probably not. The D600 is still an epic camera and I’m not sure the upgrade for me is strong enough to warrant the expense (given I’m mostly a landscape shooter).

I’ll probably wait and see how it fares for real in a few months and wait for any early teething problems if they exist to be sorted. I’d need to wait till Kirk or RRS release an L-Bracket for it anyway. I’d also like to see how the wifi/remote capabilities really work and if I still have to use the wired remote port how that pans out with the L-Bracket (along with the battery door) and mounting vertically on the tripod.

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Warriewood Sand, Rocks and Swirl…

by on Sep.12, 2014, under Life, Photography

Continuing the morning session with the Focus crew at Warriewood beach

When I’d first arrived at the rocks at the edge of the southern end of the beach I spied these four rocks isolated on the sand just at the edge of the water right near the end of the beach and knew I could do something with them

Four

Four

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 3 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

I wanted to get some shots in the can first on the rock shelf (since the tide was rising and it would soon be underwater) and I was hoping the water would rise a little more and start swirling around these rocks

So the previous post covers my shots on the jagged rock shelf and when I was done there I moved back to these rocks on the beach

It was just past 6:20AM and still a few minutes till sunrise so I continued with some vertical compositions (I’ve been doing a lot of these lately). I stuck with the Formatt-Hitech 0.9 Reverse Grad stacked with the Heliopan CPL for all the shots

I thought I’d turn my attention in this post to some of my thinking behind the scenes creating the images so you can see what I was on my mind when I was out there taking the images

The real trick with seascape images like this is:

Setting up a nice composition to start with

Here I’m trying to layer the scene with the deep orangy yellow sand covering the bottom of the frame surrounding my chosen rocks. Then the swirling white water from the rising tide and waves followed by the rocky shelf and ocean in the midground and finally the horizon and sky in the distance

I’m looking for a relatively simple scene so I’m excluding everything I can that doesn’t add to what I want. Since it’s those rocks in the sand which are my heroes I want to allow ample space around them (and ideally with something consistent – like this nice contrasting sand). Notice also how I’ve made sure the rocks don’t merge (i.e. there’s no overlapping (you can see them all individually) and they also don’t overlap with other objects in the frame. I’ve also taken care to not have them run into or get close to the edge of the frame (i.e. there’s space around them) which also allowed for the water swirls around them in some frames

Timing the shots

In this regard I’m probably referring both to the exact moment the shot is taken and also how long the exposure goes for

I find with these sorts of shots at the ocean on the rocks with waves rushing in and out I like to wait till the wave has already crashed in and the water starts to pull out (and is sometimes competing with the next wave coming in) before starting the shot (so I’m actually capturing the water flowing back out rather than in). Note that with the second shot just below however I’ve not done this and I’m capturing the movement of the wave coming in (so both can work and you’ll need to choose based on whats happening in front of you)

Exposure time wise for these types of images I like to use shutter speeds in the range of 1/2 to 3 seconds depending on the movement of the water (and sometimes a little shorter or longer can work too)

With most of these shots I’ve both upped the ISO a bit to 200 and opened the aperture to f/8 to shorten the shutter (2 stops) to get it in the ballpark for me

Just about on sunrise (6:25AM) – somewhere out there behind that very thick band of cloud right on the horizon…

Sea Shawl

Sea Shawl

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1.60 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Warrie Woosh

Warrie Woosh

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1.60 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Figured since all I was taking was vertical shots I should flip the camera around on the L-Bracket and try a horizontal as well – I’m not sold on it but here it is

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 4 sec at f/11, ISO 200

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Grey Morning @ Warriewood…

by on Sep.09, 2014, under Life, Photography

Joined the Focus crew at Warriewood on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for a morning session on the rocks

Warriewood Jags

Warriewood Jags

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 65 sec at f/11, ISO 100

We were planning to head around the rocks at the northern end of the beach but high tide had cut off the access. Some decided to drive around to the other side but the rest of us opted to stay and head to the southern end of the beach instead

I’d seen some shots from fellow Sydney photographer Mike Hankey from the weekend before – some lovely green covered rocks – but that was low tide and most of the rock shelf was under water today unfortunately

Another pretty grey Sydney morning again – we’ve had a LOT of rain over the past two months and it feels like it’s never going to end

Back to Warriewood – I decided to first setup on this jagged shelf at the edge of the sand whilst the tide was still rising so I could make use of it before it was completely submerged

All simply with the Formatt-Hitech 0.9 Reverse Grad stacked with the Heliopan CPL for some pre dawn long exposures and all with a touch of light painting on the foreground rocks and moss to try and bring them out a little in the darkness

This first 6:05AM (twenty (20) minutes before sunrise) is the first frame taken this morning and a lazy 133 second exposure – luck must be on my side – the long exposure guess was pretty much spot on

Jagged Mysteries

Jagged Mysteries

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 133.00 sec at f/11, ISO 100

up top is the second shot of the day at 6:10AM

and below is the third shot of the day at 6:13AM

Mystic Flows

Mystic Flows

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 62.00 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Hmmm – three shots taken and three keepers – perhaps my work is now done… nah…

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Australian Life Competition Finalist…

by on Sep.06, 2014, under Life, Photography

I’m psyched to be able to tell you that my photograph of sunrise over Chris Anderson’s 1000 Surfboard Graveyard at Garie beach in the Royal National Park south of Sydney has been shortlisted as a finalist in the City of Sydney’s prestigious Art & About “Australian Life” photographic competition

For those of you who can make it to Hyde Park in the Sydney CBD between 19 September to 12 October 2014 you can see the work displayed in large scale format in Hyde Park North for the entire festival period!

Australian Life – Boarding

Australian Life - Boarding

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 30 sec at f/11, ISO 110

I remember the morning well – Gerry, Suren and I were headed to Garie for a typical sunrise shoot. Just as we hit the sand we could see a large cluster of faint lights way up at the northern end of the beach. Throwing caution to the wind (we’re thinking perhaps some bizarre cult activity!) we investigated. It wasn’t till we got much closer that we saw it was a huge area of surfboards sticking out of the sand with tiny lights at the base of each

We met Chris Anderson – a young artist on a mission – to collect 1000 broken surfboards to raise awareness about a more sustainable approach to the way we manage waste. He’d been collecting boards for over three years and it just happened that his display for the 1000 Surfboard Graveyard was on the previous night

Of course we knew nothing about this beforehand but in a slice of serendipity it was still there in the pre dawn and became part of our foreground interest in our normal landscape morning ritual

Almost half an hour before sunrise – thick moody clouds were on the horizon but a long exposure with the reverse grad brought out some colour and light

To meet the brief for the Australian Life competition I focused on the theme of surfing. Surfers and surfing have now become embedded as part of Australian culture and my aim was to highlight their passion and sense of adventure

My own childhood is filled with memories of being at the beach and altho I don’t surf, I believe that we seascape/landscape photographers and surfers do share a lot in common (you could probably include rock fishermen as well :))

We’re all incredibly passionate about our chosen recreation and go to great lengths to participate. We’re often found rising early and heading to the ocean before the sun rises and often pushing the envelope to get the results. We see the beauty in the world at this spectacular time of day and get to share in the silence and serenity of the pre dawn. It’s a magical time of day which few people really get to experience. It’s not just the light which is often conducive to photography – it’s the whole feeling of being at one with the forces of nature and contemplating the magic of the world around us… food for the soul…

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Blending Lines…

by on Sep.04, 2014, under Life, Photography

This was actually my first shot at our session at Camp Cove. What’s unusual (at least for me) with this image is that it’s a manual blending of two images

With landscape and seascape images especially on the cusp of the days (sunrise, sunset & twilight) I almost always use some form of graduated neutral density filter to hold down the usually brighter sky to match that of the darker foreground. This is so I can achieve a nicely balanced exposure (or as close as I can get to it) in one shot. I prefer to do as much as I can to get it right out in the field so I have as good a source material as possible and am left with very little to do back in post processing

This was the case here as I used the Lee 0.9 (3 stop) GND for the shot however I was also stacking this with the Lee BigStopper (10 stop ND) to greatly lengthen the exposure time (out to minutes). We were getting a bit of cloud movement in the right sort of direction so we figured some long exposures were in order

Blending Lines

Blending Lines

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 62 sec at f/11, ISO 50

When using heavy ND’s – especially in rapidly changing light (here it’s about 5-10 minutes to sunset) it can be a bit of a guessing game selecting the right bulb mode shutter time to get the right long exposure for the shot. Normally I look at what the exposure would be without the ten stop ND (in Aperture priority mode) then switch to Manual (bulb) mode. I then add the BigStopper and then start the shot and whilst it’s going work out roughly how long I want to shoot for (ten or so stops more). I often add another half to one stop – especially in falling light (sunset)

My first shot of the session (144 seconds) was slightly overexposed for that bright patch of sky right on the horizon and on the water just below (but the foreground rocks were very nicely exposed)

I could straight away see some blinking highlights in the image review, I suspected I might be able to save most of them from the RAW file in post (since the histogram in camera is based off the 8 bit JPEG preview which has less dynamic range than the 14 bit RAW file). However the image was looking a little too bright for what I wanted overall anyway so decided to take another shot

My second take with the same overall settings except that I more than halved the shutter time (62 seconds). This had a much better histogram – almost touching the right side and also having no crushed blacks but pretty much touching the left. The exposure for me for the top two thirds (and the bottom right corner) of the image was just about perfect but that bottom left corner where the green covered rocks and around it in the shadowy darkness was too dark for me

As I mentioned earlier I almost never blend images in photoshop (except for stitched panoramas and star trails) however this was a case where I had a perfectly usable source frame. I likely could have extracted detail from the shadows in that bottom left corner but it’s always better to use well exposed source data than try and rescue underexposure

I opened the two source images as layers in photoshop with the second (better overall exposure as the top layer) and just added a simple layer mask and lightly painted in the better exposure for that bottom left corner (mostly the rocks) from first (overexposed) image I’d taken for a little blending to take effect. I was using a large brush with very low flow and opacity so the blending would appear seamless. Whilst I was there it also allowed me to paint in some of the better exposed shed which sticks up above the horizon into where the grad was covering it, and also slightly lighten up that top left corner which I felt was just a bit too dark

The finished image is above and the two source frames are below

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 144 sec at f/11, ISO 50

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 62 sec at f/11, ISO 50

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