Spider Holster Ambassador

Posted November 21st, 2017 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

Spider Holster Gear

SpiderClip

I’d like to point you to a piece of gear that makes my photography easier. About six months ago I started using a new strap and holster system for working in the studio made by Spider Holster. In fact, I like their equipment so much that I’ve decided to join the Spider Ambassador team.

The Spider Holster system is a camera holster that uses a mounting plate on the camera that clips into a specially designed hip belt. It is an excellent ergonomic solution that puts all the weight of your camera comfortably on your hips. For my purposes, I use the Spider system in the studio for photographing models, shooting still life (products), or teaching live photography workshops.

montage

The system is made out of stainless steel and hardened aluminum. The holster has a two-position lock that is exceptionally secure. I’ve never had it fail and I move around a lot in the studio! My previous life was working as a mechanical engineer, so I always appreciate the skill required to design and produce a top quality product.

 

Top 5 Reasons

Here are my top five reasons why I use and recommend the Spider Holster:

1. Works great in studio. It flows with my movement and allows me to stand on step stools or crouch down low to the ground. The fact that the Spider Holster holds the camera low on the hip means that it is totally out of the way.

2. Allows me to keep my hands free to work with the model and the props and the lighting equipment.

3. Rock solid. I have complete trust in the gear and don’t have to use any mental energy fumbling around with the attachment system.

4. Interfaces easily with my tethering equipment. I use Tether Tools gear in my own studio work and when I do live classes with CreativeLive.

5. The Spider Holster works with my standard Arca Swiss plates so I can quickly switch between hand-held and tripod photography.

Since I’m an ambassador, they gave me a discount code to pass onto my readers. Simply use this code when ordering to receive 20% off any purchases from their website – https://spiderholster.com/ .

Discount Code – HAGEN20

Here’s the gear I personally recommend

SpiderPro Single Camera System

Single

TheSpiderPro single camera system.

SpiderPro Dual Camera System

dual

The SpiderPro Dual camera system.

Spider Pro Large Lens Pouch

Large

Spider Holster Large Lens Pouch.

Ambassador Information

spidertilt

Check out more ambassador information at these links:

Spider Ambassadors

Mike’s Ambassador Page

Other Spider Holster shooters I recommend:

David McKay
Sue Bryce
Lindsay Adler
Jared Platt





Setting Up a Portable Location Studio

Posted March 16th, 2015 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

This week I’m shooting about 250 portraits for Harbor Covenant Church. I’ll share more of the results of the photo shoot in a future blog post, but in the meantime, I wanted to show how I set up the studio with this time-lapse video. My goal for the photo shoot is to produce a bright white background for each of the portraits. To do this, I used a white muslin backdrop and lit it with four slave flashes in umbrellas. These background flashes are set to produce about 1.0 to 1.5 stops more light than the Profoto D1 monolights I’m using for the people in the foreground.

 

I’m triggering everything optically, which is another way to say that all the flashes are set to fire when they see a flash pulse from the main camera. For the Profoto D1 monolights, I’ve set them to trigger using the IR mode. For the Nikon flashes, they are all set to trigger in SU-4 mode. On my Nikon D800 camera, I’m triggering everything with a Nikon SB-700 flash set to manual output so that when it fires, everything else fires. All slave flashes are set for manual output and I metered everything using my trusty old Sekonic L-358 (no longer sold).

Location studio portraits

Some of the early shots from the location studio. Nice white backgrounds and lots of happy people!

Here’s all the gear I used to create the location studio.

Profoto D1 Monolights

Tether Tools Aero Tether Table for 15″ MacBook Pro

Gitzo GT3542L Mountaineer Carbon Fiber Tripod

Manfrotto and Creative Light light stands

Creative Light Back Light Stand

Nikon SB-910

Nikon SB-900

Nikon SB-700

Impact Background Studio Stand

White muslin backdrop 10’x24′

Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ Retina

Adobe Lightroom 5

Location studio

An overview of the on-location studio I set up at Harbor Covenant Church using six flashes to produce a white background.





Nikon D800 Initial Impressions from the Studio and Outdoors

Posted March 23rd, 2012 by   |  Photography, Technology  |  Permalink

The Nikon D800 has arrived and it is a beauty! I’ve been shooting with the camera today and thought I’d put together a quick video and some sample images showing some of today’s first pictures from the studio and the outdoors. Here’s a direct link to the video if it isn’t showing up in your browser: Mike Hagen’s Nikon D800 Initial Impressions

Nikon D800 Initial Impressions from Mike Hagen on Vimeo.

The 36MP sensor is truly incredible and the files are massive. Working with these D800 photos will require little bit of patience as well as some more RAM!

My initial impression of the images from the D800 is that they are rich and full of life. They are filled with more detail than I’ve ever seen from a Nikon camera and I am thoroughly impressed with everything I’ve seen. Below are some sample images with a few links to full-size jpgs for you to download and work with yourself. I processed each of the images for this blog post in Nikon Capture NX2 on a MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM.

The first set of images below were taken with the Nikon D800 at ISO 200. Check out the 100% crop to assess the quality for yourself. At ISO 200, the Nikon D800 produces beautiful detail and amazing colors. As you would expect, the camera is flawless at this ISO setting. Click here for a full-resolution jpg.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 200.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 200.

100% crop of image at ISO 200 and f/16.

100% crop of image at ISO 200 and f/16.

Next, I increased the Nikon D800 ISO to 6400 in an attempt to see how well the camera performed at this sensitivity value. For this image, I turned off in-camera noise reduction to set the camera up for a worst-case scenario. As you can see in the cropped image, the colors are still saturated while still maintaining usable detail in the tulips. I’m exceedingly impressed with the camera at ISO 6400. Click here to download a full resolution ISO 6400 image to your computer.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 6400.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 6400.

100% crop of image at ISO 6400.

100% crop of image at ISO 6400.

As the next series of images below show, I cranked up the ISO to 12,800 and 25,600 to see how the D800 would perform at its highest ISO settings. Obviously, the image quality breaks down rapidly, but these files are imminently useable with some noise reduction in post processing. I wouldn’t be afraid to use these ISO values if I had to get photos in near darkness.

Click here to download the high resolution ISO 12,800 image.

Click here to download the high resolution ISO 25,600 image.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800.

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

My next tests were to take the camera outdoors to see how it would do in the bright sunlight. One of my goals was to see how the camera would perform in a very high contrast situation on white cherry blossom flowers. I also wanted to see how well images might look after significant cropping. You can see the uncropped and cropped version directly below. The D800 does a great job of holding detail on the flower petals while also preserving detail in the shadows. With the D800’s 36 megapixel files, I was able to crop the image fairly tightly and still come away with a photo I could easily print at 8″x10″ or larger. Verdict? I’m impressed.

Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Here's a cropped version of the same cherry blossom photo. Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Here's a cropped version of the same cherry blossom photo. Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

The next test was to work with my red barn to see how the camera would do with shadow and highlight detail on a physical building. The first image here was taken with no changes to the file. In other words, you see exactly what the camera recorded. The second image I added a bit of shadow/highlight recovery in Nikon Capture NX2. Again, the D800 does a wonderful job of preserving information in both the highlights and shadows.

Red barn in high contrast lighting. No post-processing. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting. No post-processing. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting with shadow/highlight fix in Capture NX2. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting with shadow/highlight fix in Capture NX2. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

My final shot of this initial is of some green leafs with morning dew. I could see some fine detail on the stems of the leaves and wanted to see how the D800 would render these small hairs. The first image here is the uncropped image and the second is a 100% crop. Looking at the cropped image, it is truly amazing to see how much information the D800 collects. We’ve entered a new world of photography with the Nikon D800 and I can’t wait to see what other fantastic images I’ll create with this camera. In fact, I can’t wait to do some black and white landscape work as well as some studio portraiture to really see what this camera has to offer.

Leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

Leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

100% crop of leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

100% crop of leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

One final note: DxOMark just published the results from the Nikon D800 and they gave it the the best rating for any camera they’ve ever tested. How’s that for image quality! Click this for a direct link the DxOMark stats. Quoting from DxOMark’s website:

Friday March 23 2012

The Nikon D4 spent only a few days in the top spot for DxOMark sensor results before being dethroned by the Nikon D800, which is a complete success in every sensor-related respect:

  • Overall score: 1st (95)
    With its 4-point lead, the Nikon D800 has become the new sensor of reference — and with an unmatched quality-to-price ratio to boot: among the 8 top cameras, it is by far the least expensive (with an announced price of less than 3000 $).
  • Studio: tied for 3rd (25.3 bits)
    These results are living up to our expectations. Certain people openly wondered if the D800’s results would be comparable to those for medium-format cameras, and this certainly doesn’t contradict this idea.
  • Landscape: 1st (14.4 EV)
    Here also we expected the D800 to do well, and once again we were not disappointed. (This really wasn’t a surprise, given the results for the Nikon D7000.)
  • Sport (Low-Light ISO): 3rd (2853)
    Despite its smaller pixels, the D800 comes up with the same score as the D4, whereas the D3x lost several precious points with respect to the D3s.





The Nikon D800 is Here

Posted February 7th, 2012 by   |  Photography, Technology  |  Permalink

d800_announce

After a long wait, the new Nikon D800 is here. The camera has quite an impressive resume and will be a boon for photographers who need super-high resolution in a moderately-sized body. All of the initial reports from photographers who shot the D800 advertising campaign are glowing. They are all fawning over the amazing resolution and massive file sizes.

Keep in mind that this camera is not for everyone. If you shoot sports or action, then I don’t recommend this as your main body since it “only” shoots at 4 frames per second. Also, if you are looking for a camera to record snap shots from your vacation or cruise, then it probably isn’t the right choice either because of the massive file size of each image. However, if you are a dedicated landscape or studio/advertising photographer, then it should definitely be at the top of your list. The D800’s 36 MP sensor will create files that open at over 200 MB each in Photoshop!

You should also keep in mind that the larger image files will require more computing power. You’ll probably need an upgrade in RAM and potentially CPU processing. That goes with the territory though and has now become par for the course after each new leap forward in camera technology.

Here are some links for Nikon D800 news:
Rob Van Petten
DPReview Article
Rob Galbraith Article
Cliff Mautner
John Wright
Joy Ride Promotion Video shot with D800
Nikon USA website

I ordered mine this morning. You can order your’s today from B&H using our affiliate links:

Nikon D800

Nikon D800E





Are You Ready? Acting Fast and Responding to Your Customer.

Posted September 14th, 2011 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

A pastor friend of mine says that we should always be ready to “preach, pray or die.” These are wise words and I think about them often. The statement implies that no matter where you are, you should always be ready to perform. He tells a story of a young American couple working for an NGO in India. They went to a church service there and the congregation asked them to lead the church in singing songs. Neither of the two Americans had ever led music before, but they just smiled and said yes. They were ready and willing!

Us photographers should also always be ready to give our 100% and produce excellent results at a moment’s notice. Here’s an example that happened to me a couple days ago where someone needed a photo job done ASAP.

On Monday of this week, I received a phone call at 12:30 pm from a friend, calling to see if I could take some head shots for her daughter. They were working with a talent agent to get a modeling job for a new product advertising campaign, and needed some images for her file.

The conversation went like this:

Mother, “Hi Mike, do you have time to take some head shots of my daughter?”

Me, “Of course. When?”

Mother, “Today about 2:45 pm.”

Me, “Umm … ok. I have a little bit of time this afternoon. What are they for?”

Mother, “They are for an advertising job that my daughter is trying out for. We need to create an 8×10 and send it to her agent.”

Me, “How quickly do you need the final images?”

Mother, “The agent needs the head shots by 3:30 pm.”

Me, “Ok. See you at 2:45!”

So, I quickly set up a studio in an open space of my home where we would shoot the images. I decided to use a Lightbox, umbrella, reflector, small diffusion box and a combination of black and white backgrounds. You can see the studio setup below. I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System, so simply set up Nikon SB flashes in each of the light modifiers. The Commander flash was a SB-900 and the remotes were SB-600, SB-700 and SB-800 flashes. I decided to use a Nikon D7000 with Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 for the portraits.

Impromptu studio. Lighting includes Photoflex softbox, Photoflex 42" umbrella, Photoflex reflector, Harbor Digital Design Ultimate Light Box and a bunch of Nikon wireless flashes (SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 and SB-900).

Impromptu studio. Lighting includes Photoflex softbox, Photoflex 42" umbrella, Photoflex reflector, Harbor Digital Design Ultimate Light Box and a bunch of Nikon wireless flashes (SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 and SB-900).

The mother and daughter arrived right at 2:45 pm and we talked quickly about what they needed for the photos. They said they were after simple backgrounds and just needed head shots, not full-body shots. We shot the first group of images with a white background and kept the daughter’s hair down.

Young model and white background.

Young model and white background.

A few minutes later, we changed the backdrop to black and had the daughter put her hair up for a different, more youthful look. In all, we took about 40 shots with the white background and 40 shots with the black background.

Model with black backdrop.

Model with black backdrop.

After shooting 80 pictures, we ran to my computer system to download the RAW files and make quick selections. I used Photo Mechanic for rating/selecting images and we all agreed on one image to send to the agent (we chose the image with her long hair and white background). Next, I brought the picture into Photoshop to quickly retouch her skin and face, then I cropped it as an 8×10 and sent it off via email at exactly 3:30 pm.

Whew! 45 minutes from start to finish. We made it just in time.





Phase One Is Stepping it Up

Posted August 25th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink

If you are like most photographers, you are heavily invested in Adobe software. Many shooters I work with use Adobe Photoshop CS5 or Elements while also using Lightroom 3 for their organizational needs. I use these products as well and have grown to firmly rely on them over the years. However, there are lots of other software manufacturers in the business and each have their niche. Many times another company’s products fit your needs a little better and that’s what I’ve found with Phase One’s software.

phaseoneheader

Phase One has been known for their high-end medium format digital backs for many years, but recently they have been putting quite a bit of effort into their software division. I am a regular user of their digital asset management software called Media Pro 1 and recommend it highly for professional photographers. I also recommend it for photographers who are serious about organizing their photo, video and audio libraries since the program does such a great job of helping you organize your digital life.

Media Pro 1

Media Pro 1

Another of their newer software products is an iPad application that allows you to control your dSLR camera in the studio. Capture Pilot wirelessly interfaces with your computer to control a tethered camera and also provides beautiful photo reviews on the iPad screen.

I’ve written a number of articles on these programs over at the Nikonians.org website. If you are interested in taking your workflow to the next level, give these articles a good read and evaluate for yourself if they make sense.

Media Pro 1 Article: http://www.nikonians.org/resources/reviews/media-pro-commentary

Capture Pilot Article: http://www.nikonians.org/resources/reviews/capture-pilot

Happy software shopping!





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