– New Videos – Getting Low and Profoto AirTTL Review
– Stuff I Like This Month
– October GOAL Assignment: Create Drama With Every Day Subjects
– Nikon D750 and D810 Setup Guides
– Nikon D750 Initial Impressions and Mini Review
– Digital Tidbits: OWC ThunderBay IV
– Workshop and Business Updates
I’ve been traveling quite extensively over the last two months with trips to Iceland and the Galapagos. These two adventures were chock-full of photo opportunities and the participants were full of energy. Our days were long as we tried to shoot from sunup to sundown and we killed billions of pixels in the process. Some of us even took one or two good pictures. It is truly inspiring to travel with a group of photographers who are passionate about their pursuit of great images.
There were lots of great stories from these trips such as photographing 10,000 northern gannets in Iceland to watching a 10-minute-old sea lion take its first steps in the Galapagos. One of my favorite stories though was on our last day in the Galapagos. Our expedition yacht had just entered an area called North Seymour and a few of us were on the top deck watching for wildlife and photo opportunities. We knew that sharks were common in the area and after a few minutes we started spotting hammerhead sharks swimming along the surface.
Eager with anticipation, seven of us brave souls jumped into the water with our snorkel gear, GoPros and underwater cameras to track down some sharks. During our dive, we swam with 5 to 6 white tipped reef sharks and were able to film a few of them hunting for food in the 20’ deep water. The quality of our videos left something to be desired, but the experience was thrilling and we will all be talking about it for years to come.
I love traveling with adventurous people and can’t wait to get back into the field with some more. In fact, I already have trips to these destinations posted for next year:
Iceland in Winter – February 2015
Iceland in Summer – July 2015
Galapagos Photo Adventure – September 2015
Check out our six-part video series on gear designed for getting low to the ground and a video review of the Profoto AirTTL system for Nikon. You’ll find these videos on our Mike Hagen YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/MikeHagenPhoto/).
Here are the links to all the products we tested and reviewed for the Getting Low series and the Profoto AirTTL for Nikon system:
New Videos – Getting Low and Profoto AirTTL Review
Stuff I Like This Month
October GOAL Assignment: Create Drama With Every Day Subjects
Nikon D750 and D810 Setup Guides
Nikon D750 Initial Impressions and Mini Review
Digital Tidbits: OWC ThunderBay IV
Workshop and Business Updates
1. MIT has made its journalism and photography courses available free online. Link: MIT Photography and Journalism Courses
2. For a glimpse into what makes for great advertising photography, check out Stockland Martel’s blog here: http://stocklandmartelblog.com. Even though most of you may never shoot for a big advertising campaign, it is still good to see what the best of the best looks like.
3. Feature Shoot showcases all genres of work from up-and-coming photographers and established photographers. It is a great site to gather ideas and see what some of the new ideas are in this industry. www.featureshoot.com.
4. Adobe has just released a brand new update to their Creative Cloud with extensive support for mobile apps. Essentially, Adobe is working very hard at integrating the desktop experience with the mobile and tablet experience. They have extended to power of Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and Illustrator onto mobile devices, effectively allowing users to draw, sketch, manipulate and create from tablets and phones. Cool stuff. Here’s a link for more information: Adobe CC Mobile
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment this month is to take an every-day subject and work the scene to turn it into something dramatic. One of the most common excuses photographers make is they feel they aren’t able make great photos because they don’t live in a scenic or famous area. Like most excuses, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. You can almost always make dramatic photographs in any location; you just have to work harder.
What I want you to do for this month’s GOAL assignment is to walk around your town finding things that are somewhat normal and average; things like bridges, cars, flowers, buildings, baseball diamonds, trees and people. Once you settle on a subject, work the scene until you find a way to make it appear dramatic.
Here are five techniques for making every-day subjects appear more dramatic:
1. Shoot with a super wide-angle lens and get close.
2. Shoot from a low position. A lower perspective makes the subject appear imposing and larger than reality.
3. Include the sun in the frame with a clear sky. Bonus tip: shoot f/16 or f/22 so that sun renders as a sun star.
4. Convert the image to black-and-white. Black and white photography can help an image appear more dramatic and is one of my favorite tools for making my photos have impact.
5. Include big white puffy clouds in the sky. Add a polarizer to improve the contrast. If you don’t own a polarizer, then use software to increase the clarity of the image so the clouds really pop.
We’ve just published new setup guides for the Nikon D750 and D810 cameras. These guides are designed to help you setup your cameras for different scenarios such as portraits, sports, wildlife, travel, landscapes and point & shoot. Download a free copy of the PDF or order your own laminated copy today. Here are the links:
Nikon’s new D750 is marketed as a sports camera and a filmmaker’s tool, but I’ve found it to be a great all-around camera that will serve most shooters very well. I purchased the D750 last week and so far I’ve found it to be a superb camera system. There is so much to like, that I am officially giving it one of my highest camera recommendations ever. I like the articulating monitor screen. I like the autofocus system. I like the new menu design. I like the ergonomics. I even like the built-in WiFi features. No camera is perfect however (I don’t want to always sound like a Nikon fanboy), so I’ll detail a few failures at the end of the article.
Over the last few days, I’ve been shooting with the camera in a variety of locations such as along the waterfront, a cross-country meet, macros, nature, wildlife, a soccer game and a football game. In all situations, the camera performed exceedingly well and produced beautiful images. I’ve been basing my assessment of the image quality primarily on JPEG files because Adobe and Phase One Capture One Pro 8 have not yet updated their software to allow for conversion of the Nikon RAW files. Right now, the only software out there that will convert the D750 RAW files is Nikon Capture NX-D.
I have looked at a few of the RAW images in Nikon Capture NX-D and found them to be very sharp with beautiful color just like you’d expect. However, I don’t like using NX-D because the program is very buggy and crashes regularly. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Nikon stopped supporting their flagship software Nikon Capture NX 2 last summer. It won’t be too long until Adobe and Phase One update their software packages for the Nikon D750, in fact, Adobe Labs has already posted their release candidate for Camera RAW 8.7 here: RC Camera RAW 8.7.
The metering system incorporates a brand-new light meter for Nikon called highlight priority metering. The D750 has four light meters now: Matrix Metering, Center Weighted Metering, Spot Metering and Highlight Priority Metering. This latest light meter works by analyzing all areas of the scene for the brightest pixels, then exposes so that the final image doesn’t blowout any highlights.
I took quite a few photos to compare the highlight priority meter versus the traditional matrix meter and found that highlight priority really does work. You do however need to keep in mind that by protecting the highlights, you will most likely block up the shadows as well. This means that you’ll probably have to spend some time in post processing pulling out shadow detail. This new metering mode is best if you are trying to preserve highlights in subjects like bridal dresses or white flowers.
The bracketing system on the D750 is improved from the other Nikon prosumer camera systems like D7000 and D600. The new bracketing system allows up to nine frames of bracketing just like Nikon’s professional DSLR cameras (D810, D4s). Also, the bracketing system allows one, two or three stops between bracketed frames.
Practically, what this means for me is that I can set up the camera for 5 frames of bracketing and 2 stops between each frame (5F 2.0) and capture the same dynamic range as a typical 9 frame sequence at 1 stop between each frame lie I’d have to shoot on some of the other Nikon models. This means I’m capturing fewer frames in the field, which means longer battery life and less memory storage requirements.
Ergonomically, the camera is much improved and I find that I like holding it over my other Nikon cameras such as the D800 and D600. The handgrip is just perfect and feels great when the camera is attached to small lenses or big lenses. I think the reason why it feels so good is the camera body is actually thinner than the D600/D800 and therefore allows a deeper recess for your fingertips on the right hand.
In order to accomplish the thinner body, Nikon decreased the size of the top LCD panel. The smaller LCD means that there is less information displayed on the screen, so Nikon transferred some of this to the back LCD panel. For example, on previous cameras like the Nikon D610, if I was going to change the white balance or image quality, I would push the WB or Qual buttons and rotate the main command dial while looking at the readout on the top LCD panel. On the D750 however, Nikon has moved the WB and Qual readouts to the back monitor screen. This is not necessarily a bad thing but will require users to get into a new habit when adjusting the camera.
The new articulated monitor on the back of the camera is very nice and I know that I will be using it extensively in my photography. It is designed to articulate up and down and is most useful for low angle photography and for video work. The screen is bright and contrasty it is usable in the bright sunlight.
The menu system in the D750 has some nice updates over previous Nikon cameras. Nikon created a new menu group on the D750 called the Movie Shooting Menu. In previous cameras, Nikon always combined the video settings with the still photo settings, making it somewhat difficult to locate settings specific to video. Now that they have separated out the video settings from the photo settings, it is much easier to configure the camera. The new menu system makes it easier to understand what specifically you’re adjusting. I know lots of previous users would get confused about things like Picture Control, file naming and white balance, never fully understanding if the settings for their photos would also impact their settings for video. Now it is clear what impacts photo capture and what impacts video capture.
The autofocus system on the Nikon D750 is excellent. Its 51-point system has been directly imported from the professional D4s and D810 cameras. As such, it incorporates 15-cross-type sensors and 3D Color Matrix Metering III with the 91,000-pixel RGB sensor to accurately track objects in motion. I used the system to track cross-country runners, soccer players and football players and found it to work exceedingly well.
I’ve been using the new group area autofocus for much of my photography and found this new mode to be very accurate for tracking objects in motion. I think users of the D750 will gravitate to group area AF for their bird, wildlife and individual sports photography. Photographers used to Nikon’s traditional dynamic autofocus modes (i.e. d-9, d-21, d-51) will find the same settings available on the D750 and I found the d-21 setting to excel in group sporting events like soccer and football.
In general, I had actually no problems with the focus system in low light, bright sunlight, or fast action. I can’t wait to put the AF system to the test with some high-end birding and wildlife photography in Africa next month.
The camera’s 24-megapixel sensor is excellent. I’ve found dynamic range to be similar to the D800/D810 sensor and the high ISO performance is very good. The D750 has a native ISO range from 100 to 12,800. Like most modern digital SLR cameras, you’ll notice noise at ISO 6400 and above, but the files are imminently useful and are very easy to clean up with software such as Lightroom or Nik Dfine 2.
The smaller 24MP file size compared to the Nikon D810 36MP sensor means that the D750 can shoot at frame rates up to 6.5 frames per second. This is great for sports photography and bird photography and is at the higher end of the Nikon camera system for fastest frame rate. You’ll need to move up to the Nikon D4s at 11 frames per second to beat this frame rate.
The buffer size is approximately 13 frames when shooting 14-bit Lossless Compressed RAW files and 30 frames when shooting JPG Fine Large files. I primarily shoot RAW, so 13 frames results in about 2 second photo bursts at 6.5 frames per second. In the real world, this is at the lower end of acceptable. Numerous times when shooting sports and action over the last week I ran out of buffer and missed shots. For example, while photographing a football game, I was shooting the running back as he dove into the end zone. Then, he jumped up to celebrate with his teammates and I missed the entire celebration because the buffer was full.
The truth is, that if you want ultimate performance for sports photography, you’ll need to upgrade to the D4s.
Another improvement Nikon built into the D750 is the ability to capture up to 9999 photos in a row during a time-lapse sequence. This may not seem like a big deal, but I frequently find myself limited by the older Nikon cameras’ maximum of 999 shots in a row for time-lapses. In fact, just two weeks ago in the Galapagos Islands, I created a number of time-lapse sequences with my D800 where the camera ended shooting far too soon and I wish I had more shots available to me. This new capability is a boon for film makers and is a welcome addition to the camera.
A somewhat obscure feature of the Nikon D750 is the new capability of the depth of field preview in live view mode. What this feature does is opens the lens to maximum aperture so that you can easily see the focus plane. Often times in live view mode, it can be difficult to determine the actual focus point, so this new tool allows you better achieve critical focus in your images.
To activate the feature, you have to be in live view mode, then you’ll need to press the depth of field preview button. At this point, the camera opens up the lens to maximum aperture (i.e. f/1.8), which shows you the focus plane by blurring out everything else outside of the focus plane. I used this a number of times while shooting macro photos my garden better see what part of the subject my camera was focused on.
In my mind, there are three things that I think Nikon could do better on the D750. The first one is they did not include an AF-ON button on the back of the camera. For those people who use back button focus we’ll have to reprogram the AE-L/AF-L button to do the same thing. The D750 would be the perfect camera body to employ the AF-ON button since they are marketing it as a sports and action camera. It has been many years since Nikon has included an AF-ON button in a prosumer DSLR, with the last one being the Nikon D300s.
The second thing that I think they messed up on is not including touchscreen capability for the back LCD panel. Lots of cameras these days use touchscreens to access the menu system and navigate your photographs, so I think it is time for Nikon to integrate touch panels on their higher end cameras. Canon, Fuji, Samsung all do this, and I wish Nikon would as well.
Third, the buffer should be bigger. If Nikon is marketing the camera as a sports camera, then we should really be able to shoot more than 13 images (2 seconds) before the buffer fills up. That said, it is a very capable sports camera and photographers will need to time their shooting to better coincide with the peak of action.
So now for the question that everybody is asking: should you buy the camera? Yes. I like it and I recommend it, but I have a few suggestions for you if you already own other cameras.
If you’re a current owner of the Nikon D600 or D610 and primarily shoot travel, portraits, or wildlife, then it doesn’t make any sense to upgrade to the Nikon D750. The cameras are too similar in terms of file size image quality to upgrade. On the other hand, if you own these cameras and are looking for improved autofocusing and frame rate for your sports photography or wildlife photography, then it makes perfect sense to upgrade to the Nikon D750.
If you already own a professional camera body such as the D800, D810, or D4s, then D750 will make a great backup camera. I would not hesitate for one moment to use the D750 along with any of these other high-end Nikon camera bodies.
If you are a Nikon D7100 or Nikon D5300 owner and are looking for an excuse to go full frame, then the D750 is the perfect camera to do that. Its fast response, big file size, and speedy autofocus are truly a joy to use. Also, the D750 is not that much bigger than the D7100 so will fit nicely into your existing camera bags.
In all, I give the Nikon D750 two big thumbs up. I’d give it three thumbs up if I could. Highly Recommended.
Since going fully digital with my photography in 2004, I’ve found that I double my data storage needs approximately every 18 to 24 months. My most recent data storage solution was the OWC Mercury Elite Pro RAID system. I had two of these configured with 12 TB of disk drives in a RAID 5 setup that yielded 9TB of total storage space. One was used as my primary working drive and the other was my on-site backup drive.
Last month, I maxed out the space on those Mercury Elite Pro drives and found myself ready to purchase a new setup. In preparation for this, I’ve spent the last few months researching disk drives, NAS (network attached storage) drives and RAID drives from all the major players in this industry such as Synology, Lacie, Western Digital, Dell, Qnap, Buffalo Tech, OWC and Drobo.
After much research, I settled on the OWC ThunderBay IV system. I’ve been using OWC drives for many years now and have found them to be excellent. The defining feature of the new ThunderBay IV is that it uses the Intel Thunderbolt 2 connection for incredibly fast data transfer speeds. Macintosh computers began using Thunderbolt connections in 2011 and now a number of Windows-based computers are adopting the Thunderbolt standard as well. Anyone who’s ever used Thunderbolt knows about the speed, reliability and expandability of the system. Thunderbolt allows the user to daisy chain together multiple drives, monitors and peripherals while still maintaining up to 1,342 MB/second transfer speeds.
I configured my newest ThunderBay with four 6TB drives, for a maximum capacity of 24 TB. The drives can be configured as JBOD (just a bunch of disks) or you can use a software RAID to use the ThunderBay as a single volume RAID 0, RAID 1 or RAID 5. I am pretty adamant about using multiple storage systems to back up all my photographs. In fact, if you’ve read my book (Thousands of Images, Now What?) or have been to any of my workshops then you know that I always have my data backed up to three independent systems: a primary drive, an on-site backup drive and an off-site backup drive. My approach with the ThunderBay is still the same. I am using this as my primary drive and now use my older Mercury Elite Pros as my on-site and off-site backups.
Because I am employing the use of multiple backup drives, I don’t worry about having a lot of data on a single disk drive like the ThunderBay IV. As such, I have configured the ThunderBay as a RAID 0 volume for ultimate speed. RAID 0 uses a data striping protocol that greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to transfer data from disk drive to computer. This scenario doesn’t provide any redundancy for disk failure like a RAID 1 or RAID 5 would, but it does provide the ultimate in data transfer speed. I find I need the speed because of the very large image files from large Nikon D800 panoramas and HDR merges. Also, the added speed that RAID 0 provides is necessary for HD and 4K video editing.
I purchased my ThunderBay IV and 6TB disk drives from B&H Photo as separate items, and then assembled it all when it arrived. Assembling the unit was very simple and took me just 30 minutes or so. In fact, most of the time was spent just opening the packaging.
Once the four hard drives were installed, I powered up the ThunderBay and connected the Thunderbolt cable to my MacBook Pro. I then initialized each of the four disks and formatted them as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) using Disk Utility. If you are a Windows user, then I recommend formatting your drives as NTFS.
After formatting, the computer sees four independent drives (1, 2, 3, 4). To create a software RAID, go back into Disk Utility and click on the RAID tab. Here, you can choose either RAID 0 or RAID 1. I chose RAID 0 for speed, so I have a total of 24 TB of available space in a RAID 0 enclosure. If you want another type of software RAID, then I suggest buying or installing a third party software RAID program to manage your disks.
Here are direct links to learn more about the OWC ThunderBay 4 or purchase your own:
We keep adding new trips and workshops across the world including our newest adventures Iceland in Winter for 2015. Read below for more information.
Winter in Iceland is an incredible feast for the eyes. Stunning ice formations, glacial caves and icebergs resting on black sand beaches make for an image-maker’s dream. Our tour focuses on Iceland’s most impressive landscapes, waterfalls and natural features. Our goal is to also photograph the aurora borealis and the nighttime sky, so be sure to bring your tripods and wide-angle lenses.
Many people think winter is too cold in Iceland, but the truth is that it is actually warmer there than most of North America. Even if it is a bit chilly in February, it will be worth it!
More information here:
Our 2014 and 2015 trips to Tanzania are going to be better than ever with an optimized travel schedule aimed at allowing us even more time to photograph wildlife in the field. This year’s Tanzanian photo safari is scheduled for November 4 – 15, 2014 and next year’s trip is planned for November 4-15, 2015. Join us for a wildlife photography adventure you’ll never forget.
Here’s the link for more information:
Tanzania Photo Safari
I’ll be working again with photographer Tim Vollmer (http://timvollmer.de) to bring together a beautiful photo tour of the Land of Fire and Ice. Last year’s adventure was epic and I can’t wait to return to the land of fire and ice.
More information here:
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most amazing wildlife sanctuaries on planet earth. Join us as we photograph incredible animals while traveling on our own privately-chartered expedition yacht. This is a trip on just about every photographer’s bucket list.
More information here:
We’ve added new Masters series workshops to the Nikonians Academy schedule to help photographers get the most out of their cameras, software and accessories. Our workshops run in cities all around North America and Europe. We hope to bring them to a city near you very soon. This year’s workshops cover:
• Nikon D600/D610
• Nikon D750
• Nikon D7000/D7100
• Nikon D4/D4s
• Nikon D800/D810/D800E
• Nikon Df
• iTTL Wireless Flash
• Lightroom 5
Sign up for the workshops here:
Our how-to books continue to sell well and are designed to help photographers excel at their craft. More information here: http://visadventures.com/shop/category/photo-books/
– Thousands of Images, Now What?
– The Nikon Creative Lighting System, Using the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910, and R1C1 Flashes
– Nikon Capture NX2, After the Shoot (Out of Print)
If you are looking for information on how to set up your Nikon camera, then check out our Nikon Camera Setup Guides here: http://visadventures.com/shop/category/camera-setup-guides/
Our Visual Adventures website www.VisAdventures.com is the new hub of our business operation. You’ll find links to everything we do including our books, workshops, products, newsletter, blog and photo galleries. For now, our previous website www.outthereimages.com will stay put in its present form, but we won’t be adding new content there.
I frequently put together private trips for groups of photographers who want specialized instruction or guidance. For example, we recently put together a private trip for a small group of people to Tanzania.
If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo trip to a destination, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Our custom photo adventures are for people all around the world on topics ranging from nature photography, landscape photography, urban photography, location portraits, and just about anything else you can imagine. Simply email or call and we’ll give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.
Every month I run private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC, Aperture, Capture NX2, wedding photography, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.
If you have questions about private tutoring or business consulting, call (253) 851-9054 or visit our site here: http://visadventures.com/services/private-travel-tours/ .
Thanks for taking the time to read this month’s newsletter. Feel free to write or contact us if you have questions about our trips or articles.
If you are looking for more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out http://VisAdventures.com/blog/ for regular updates, news, tips and commentary. Also, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.