Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Long before plunging into digital photography, one very good photographer with years of excellent work explained to me his reason to drop film and buy a Nikon D200 this way: "No grain." I was still thinking about the amazing sharpness of my Leicas and some of my Nikons (especially the AF ED 80-200 I have), and decided that if grain was a problem, sharpness was overrated.
Above are some old images, made with my Nikon F5 and my AF-S 24-120 VR on Kodak tungsten film ISO 160, in December 2007, in Chicago, in the midst of a hellish winter. These images show (gasp!) grain. In fact, the grain here is just gorgeous... and makes me wonder about the reasons, the legitimate reasons why I fell in love with sharpness.And now, one that stands out, at least to me:
In this photograph of the Dearborn Bridge in Chicago, there was a lot of grain in the lower right corner before I tinkered with it. While I was initially annoyed about it, suddently I realized that this precise aspect drew me to certain images: grain, like the painter's strokes, is not a problem here, not something to eschew, but the artist's "signature", the proof that we're not looking at nature itself, but at something that represents a particular subjectivity.
Pretty nice, huh? Grain, as opposed to what others term "coldness" or "impure perfection", separates two different media. Digital gives us a perfect image, but film is still a personal choice. Since this film has a slow ISO (just 160), what would the photos be like with, say, a typical B&W ISO 400? Grain galore... Does it mean "imperfection" or is it just an interpretive view?
What do you think now?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
I can report that the D700 worked wonders in very low temperatures. The manual shows that the camera can work at 32°F, but then, any given camera can perform at this temperature. The fact that this one, just like other Nikon bodies, can work flawlessly at something like 12°F really means the world to me. Nice it is to add that the battery didn't lose significant amounts of power here: it left the house and came back at the exact same level. Granted, it was not a long walk... after all, I am not insensitive to cold!
Other findings: forget about perfect WB. That's not a thing with this camera alone. It's a problem with digital. I recall some of the playful shots I made with a small Lumix under different light conditions and they showed a peculiar color cast. Just in case, readers recently converted to digital (like me) expect a magical rendition of color under challenging lighting conditions... rest assured that it won't happen. Digital sensors ain't that smart.
More to come as I make a little more time.
Monday, December 1, 2008
These girls were roasting and selling nuts at the Krist Kindl Market in Chicago. While I saw one of them completely in the dark (and wondered what the lens saw to lock focus on her), the fact that I had Active D-Lighting on helped a lot. Their faces are visible... and they're smiling.
Another vendor at the Krist Kindl Markt in Chicago IL. With Active D-Lighting on and the camera on P&S mode (more on that later), it's not too bad. Problem: the color cast is simply part of the image. There's no way I can fix this without altering the white balance completely.
This one was different. The lens wasn't completely extended to the longest, and the window was letting in a fairly strong bit of sun, so I used my built-in flash here. No D-Lighting trick was necessary, as the photograph looks good on my screen and in print.
These two girls looked friendly enough to say yes to my request to photograph them. Since I was in a bit of a hurry, I focused on the one on the right, and compensated the exposure by opening it two thirds (the D700 has the Easy-Exposure feature on). That will explain the blown highlights behind them.
Portraiture does not need to be with long lenses only, and this zoom just proves that. Of course, there's the operator's skill at play here... but that's enough for another day, when we deal with urban 'scapes. In the meanwhile, I will keep using long lenses for anything but portraiture, and wide-angles for people shots. Why not?
Friday, November 28, 2008
In fact, I wonder what is it I did when I didn't have this lens... As noticeable above, while not a macro, it's remarkably close. The photo above was taken in a store at Hinsdale, IL, at a focal length of 70mm, and not quite close to the subject (farther than one foot), wide open. Yet the detail is amazing.
Of course, if to the quality of the lens we add the miracle of D-Lighting (which saved this duck from looking quite gloomy), this is some winning duo. I cannot recall the exact focal length at which this photograph was made, but it was not 70mm. Light at my in-laws's home, where this shot was taken, was natural, coming in from a window.
At the risk of sounding corny I must admit that I really cannot find fault with this lens. Any further attempt at "reviewing" it would sound sycophantic. Despite its bulk (which is severe), it's a lens to have and keep. With my AF-S 24-85 G I used to sense a bit of a warm tone through the viewfinder whenever I used the lens in my F100 and my F5. The AF-S 24-120 VR was excessively dim in the film bodies, and even in the D700. The Sigma AF 24-70 was heavy and noisy, but this one? It's perfect! Even if the zoom turns in the opposite direction of the Sigma's, the adaptation process is relatively easy. And the fact that the zoom does not change its size in noticeable form (the protrusion always stays under the hood) makes it even better. But one thing should be noted: this lens is conspicuous. It has a nice design, but it is not discrete. My theory is that professional cameras and lenses need not to be discrete because they were designed for professional image takers, who are going to be conspicuous thanks to their cameras. If the camera (and its user) can be spotted a mile away, why bother making the lens small or light?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
So, the reason I posted them is that, in the end, all got the benefit of the D-lighting exposure remedy built in the menus of the camera. While you can have Active D-Lighting on, D-Lighting alone only comes up when you click the OK button twice while viewing a photograph in the monitor. Then, you see a choice of your photo as is, next to another one, modified with High, Normal or Low D-Lighting. It seems to be a "smart fix" that corrects shadows (in a histogram, it probably moves the midtone slider a bit, without altering the other two). My coffee mug did get some additional, judicious light, while the bottle didn't. Ben, however, got a bit of the filter treatment... but the truth is that the shot pretty much looks the same as when I looked at it first.
BTW, I'm still learning, and not blaming the camera for my mistakes. In any event, I had to realize, philosophically, that digital is not any better than film in terms of rendering an image the way we see it. Colors will change, light will have an effect, no matter what we do with WB, but in the end, the good thing about digital is... that is different.
And that's the news for today... Of course, without mentioning that my newest zoom (a financial suicide, but then, life is short) may be here on Monday, Nov. 25.
Be back soon!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
It's amazing how personal a camera can be. In the few days I've had it (just a week from today) and I'm still in awe. This one is quite complex.
However, at least I managed to figure out which functions I like to use, check out or control often enough, so I transferred to "My Menu" already. I want to have control over the photographs (Picture Control), the energy level (Battery control and order), and Image Extension (to pick between using FX and DX). Other things I changed from day one were the annoying buzz (turned off), the focus-assist light (off) and the on-demand grid lines in the viewfinder (turned on).
Now... if I only could figure out how to "warm" some of the high ISO shots I've taken under tungsten light with Auto WB...
Sunday, November 16, 2008
These photographs were taken in Galena, IL, with my Nikon D700 and my AF-S 24-120 G lens, just on November 15th, 2008. It was a cool, gray day, so I set the picture mode to vivid and the ISO at 400 for outdoors, while indoors was at ISO 3200.
Friday, November 14, 2008
First, our youngest cat, Mimí, looking up (AF-S 24-120 VR). Then, the headless gargoyle from NIU (w/ Sigma AF 24-70 f2.8) and last, one of my first shots with this camera: my home street lamp (same Sigma lens).
First, I downloaded the images from my card with the aid of a card reader (Lexar, firewire connection). Then, after Nikon View opened immediately, I renamed them and transferred to a folder of mine. Once copied onto my computer, I opened Photoshop Elements and re-saved them as Photoshop JPEGs.
Is that how I should treat RAW files? Does ViewNX just open them and turns them into TIFFs or something?
Sure, I hear so much about the wonders of RAW files... but I still feel kinda reluctant about using them. Then, why did I get this camera? Heck, time to try. Hopefully, next time I update this blog I'll have Capture in my hard disk.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
As Ellis Vener said in his own blog about the D700, it's a nice packaging job. Here's the second image...
Let's see how this camera works with my telephotos...More news later!
BTW, does anybody know about tutorials to understand Nikon's software?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
- The body, heavy already, feels pretty much like my Nikon F100
- The battery came partially charged. It was easy to get it to work.
- Menus and options are remarkably LESS complicated than I expected
- Photographers used to the layout and controls of Nikon AF film cameras won't find this one any different from the F100 or the F5.
- Buttons, controls, dials... are remarkably smooth
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I've been swamped with busy work; I may be a professor, but I've chosen to study German and I'm on sabbatical, so today, to think of something else and not about the impending arrival of my new camera, I went all into my work. For a good part of the morning, worked on an essay for publication, and this evening (after going to see a play in campus), I just finished my presentation for my German class... on Leica cameras.
I may read another part of the Nikon D700 manual I downloaded some time ago, but then, there's a book I should read, and I haven't even started with it. Seems that I got more "entertainment" than I can handle. If things keep going this way, I'm not going to have time to enjoy my new camera, especially since we have a friend coming to visit on Friday. In fact, it was because of his visit (and our consequent trip to Galena, IL) that I decided to pull the trigger on my Nikon D700. In short, Galena will be "the maiden voyage" for my digital behemoth.
In the meanwhile, I'll keep working, and when I update this blog, I'll throw in some Nikon shots of yore...