Fourth of July 2014

Fireworks Wort Hotel
Fireworks Wort Hotel

The Fourth of July, 2014, in Jackson Hole was a pleasant evening. The storm that blew through earlier in the day cleared out the air and made for perfect fireworks conditions.

Click on the picture at the right. It was taken from the Jackson Indian Arts Museum across the street from the Wort Hotel.

This is a single exposure, no Photoshop involved. Judicious use of exposure time, off-camera strobe, a Nikon D800, and a Nikon 35mm f/2D lens.

Happy Fourth America.

Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014

Jackson Hole Juggernauts

JH Juggernauts
JH Juggernauts

As a photographic sponsor of the Jackson Hole Juggernauts Roller Derby, I was out last night photographing them. They had a bout with the Magic City Rollers at the Snow King events arena. Although the home team lost, it was still a very good bout and enjoyable. Up to the 18 minute mark, the teams were tied, trading points and position back and forth. Then, out of nowhere, the Magic City Rollers rocketed past the Juggernauts and created an overwhelming deficit.

The sport of roller derby has come a long way since the 1970’s, when players bashed themselves up. Now, the rules are heavily enforced, get checks, no elbows, fists or otherwise. They really keep it interesting. Yes, there were many knock-downs. Many intentional. But I never see it as something where the players are trying to hurt each other, just take the opposing player out of play.

Turtle defense #1200
Turtle defense #1200

I had a lot of fun photographing this event, as this was the first time I was able to use my D800 to see how it would do in a sports situation with my Nikon 180mm f/2.8. The camera is not intended to be used for sports, as its repeat frame rate comes in at a paultry 4fps. But that’s not my shooting style. Instead of blasting away, I shoot selective shots, just like when I was shooting surfing. I have no desire to edit 3000 photos at the end of the night. I’d rather come back with a more useful 300. Granted, I can’t get the sequence shots that a D4s would give me, but that’s okay. The resolution advantage that the D800 gives me makes me happy. Besides, I’d be tempted to blast away with a D4s.

Stay down
Stay down

One of the things I did with this event was I was able to use my Nikon SB-800 Speedlights to light up the arena. I was blown away how much better they made the photos. The clarity popped right up. With the combination of the Pocketwizards and Speedlights, I was able to light up most of the rink without issue. Since I was running on 1/4 power, I was able to shoot at ISO 1250 and achieve a nice balance between the ugly green/yellow lighting of the arena and the nice polish of the flash. Once I got the 3rd light set up, I was having a good old time. I couldn’t believe how much better the shots were. It was like shooting in a professional arena with their huge lights. I would have prefered my strobes to be high on the ceiling, but that’s okay. I like the drama the shadows add.

Going for the knockout
Going for the knockout

There was another photographer there from Utah last night. He was using on-camera flash, but the light fall-off from his vantage point was so bad that the rest of the arena looked dark. In my class, I talk about how to achieve a nicer balance. If he would have boosted his ISO to 1600, he could have achieved a good balance between his on-camera flash and the arena lighting. Granted, the on-camera flash would have still been unflattering, but at least his shots wouldn’t look like they were shot in a cave. If you’re reading this, I have a DVD available for sale that would help you out!

I’ll have to try some rear-sync stopped motion at the next bout. That should give some even more interesting shots!

Storm over the Tetons

Jackson Lake Lodge view
Jackson Lake Lodge view

After attending Thomas Mangelsen’s talk at the Willow Turnout just south of Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, I decided to head over to the lodge for lunch. As I had all of my camera gear with me, I could not resist taking some photographs with the tourists.

These shots were taken way too late in the day, though they still show the beauty of the location. If you click on the picture, you will receive a scaled down version of the 46MP (megapixel) panoramic photo. This image was stitched together from my Nikon D800 shot with a Nikon 85mm f1.4D lens at f11 and 1/320 of a second.

All of the technical superlatives aside, this was a great day for shooting because there was a storm roiling over the mountains and made for much more interesting shots than we’ve had in the last week.

A few flakes of snow fell as Manglesen was giving his talk in conjunction with the Grand Teton Park Association. He was the first photography speaker they’ve had at the location. Normally they’ll have writers or painters, but I was told they were finally able to coax one of the local famous photographers to share some of their stories. I also saw Loren &  Barbara of the Teton Photo Group as well as Roger of Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris at the talk.

D800 dreamyAlso, while I was enjoying my ham and cheese sandwich, my favorite after my return from Antarctica, I shot a time-lapse of the clouds rolling across the mountains. While the camera was clicking away, a lady walked up to the camera and tried to look through the viewfinder. I asked her to be careful and not touch the camera. She said she didn’t and continued on. As I had the D800’s viewfinder cover shielded, there was nothing to see except a flap of plastic. But she sure tried. Once I process the time-lapse, I’ll find out if anything went awry.

I love shooting time-lapse videos on the D800. I’m able to use my manual focus lenses with their manual control aperture rings, eliminating the annoying flicker that normal G lenses suffer from. I’ll have to re-post my article on how to eliminate flicker from time-lapse shots without using software. As the D800 has a built-in intervalometer, I don’t have to worry about having another annoying cable floating around. Granted, I can only shoot 1000 shots with the built-in version, but I’ve rarely had the need for more.

As I’m writing this, I’m sure I’ll find a need for it. But at 30 frames per second (fps), a 1000 frame sequence gives me 33 seconds of 1080p HD video. That’s more than enough for editing videos unless I’m going to do something exotic. That exotic might justify the expense of a fancy intervalometer and a time-lapse rail from Milapse’s Dynamic Perception group. We talked years ago when he was figuring this out and he’s got it down to a science now. Their products are highly recommended.

Nikon D800 firmware update

AF-ON
AF-ON

A new firmware update is available for the Nikon D800/e. You can go to

This link

scroll down to D800 or D800e, to download firmware 1.10.

One of the major updates to the camera is the ability to do trap focus. What is trap focus you ask? It’s the “special mode” using the focus as the activation method for shutter release. When you activate menu option A4 and select AF-ON only, you will force the shutter release to only trip the shutter but not activate the auto focus. When the menu option is set to Shutter/AF-ON, the shutter release will both activate the focus system and trip the shutter release.

With A4 set to AF-ON only, the back AF-ON button is the only button on the camera that will activate the focus system. This is very handy when you want to completely decouple shutter release vs the focus system.

Why would you do this? Lets say you are waiting for an object to come into focus and, for whatever reason, you don’t want to refocus the camera. When you have the AF-ON only option selected, you can hold the shutter release down  and wait for the subject to come into focus. Once the object is in focus, the shutter release will trip and you will have your shot.

This acts like a “trap”, where you are waiting for something to spring your shutter release. It’s possible to use a cable release and lock the shutter release and walk away, waiting for something to trip the shutter. It’s a somewhat esoteric use, but it can be handy. This option is also great for sports shooters.

One thing I found about this action is that the response of the camera seems to be a little slow. If I pass through the focus area too quickly, the camera won’t lock and fire. This can  be attributed to the option selection in A3, Focus tracking with lock-on. I have my camera set to normal, so it waits a little while before refocusing and shooting. When I select 1 (Short), the camera responds more quickly for trap focus. Not much more, but a little bit.

This mode requires some experimentation but can be very handy for sports and action shots. It’s well worth playing with to have in your arsenal for your D800 and D800e shooting arsenal.

Added private lessons

DSC03347smI’ve added private photography lessons to my offering of courses after several requests during today’s Teton Photography Symposium.

We had an excellent turnout for the talk, even though the Snow King Hill Climb was taking place at the same time. There are some very dedicated photographers in the valley. The group was enjoyable and we received very good feedback on topics for future classes. There were a stunning 13 different ideas for photography classes. If someone has a suggestion, please let me know and I’ll pitch it to the Jackson Hole Art Association.

With private photography lessons, you can learn in a comfortable, private setting at your own pace. If you don’t understand something, I will review whatever is confusing you. There is no threat of feeling foolish in front of a class full of students. I am patient and remember when I was struggling with my camera, too!

Thank you to everyone who attended the Teton Photography Group March 2014 symposium!

Drying out soaked lenses

Very wet Nikon 50mm lens
Very wet Nikon 50mm lens

During the Snow King Pond Skim contest, my Nikon 50mm f1.8 received a thorough soaking. My D800 stood up to the water perfectly, except that a little bit of water was in the microphone port, so the sound was muffled.

The perpetrator
The perpetrator

The skier who did the soaking was quite skilled, as he was able to drown myself, the people standing around me, and the two babies sleeping a few feet behind me. At least they were sleeping before they received a face full of 40 degree water. We were standing in the splash zone, so it was fair that we were wet. It was something you have to accept while standing there.

I searched around to find the best technique for drying out the lens quickly and effectively. Most people said to put the lens in a Zip Lock bag with some rice and wait a few weeks. As I need this lens, I need something a little bit quicker. So I thought to put the lens in a bag and leave it in the sun. That sounded great, but a winter storm hit yesterday, so I couldn’t do anything but watch snow fall.

Lens drying setup
Lens drying setup

So, I figured out to use a candle warmer, a mug, some rice, and the lens. The candle warmer gets too hot and would melt the lens. That’s bad. And I needed a desiccant to draw the water out with. With a mug acting as a heat conductor, and the rice acting as an insulator, I found a way to very quickly suck huge amounts of water out of the lens. The one trick was to leave the lens face down rather than F mount side down. I didn’t want water drawing through the body of the lens.

After 2 days, the water that was sloshing around inside of the lens is gone. Now there are only a couple of water spots inside of the front element. Not too bad for a complete drenching. This technique saved me from having to purchase a new lens. All I have to do is figure out how to remove the lens front mount and clean the front element. That’ll be another blog posting once I figure out how to do it properly.

Portrait of a maltese

Mandy to maltese
Mandy to maltese

While I had all of my models bail today, I had to come up with something for posing. Granted, this little model wasn’t exactly going to be strutting down the runway, but she’ll be in the heart of her owner. Making portraits is enjoyable, but it does take a lot of work to make a good image of someone. Or, in this case, something, if a dog can be called that.

The toughest thing about this little maltese Mandy was that, for some reason, she liked to look away once the camera came out. She would only give me flirtatious looks for a second or two that I had to capitalize on.

Sometimes when shooting portraits, it is like that. You only get a second or two to make the shot, then you have to wait a long time to make the next one. And, sometimes, that shot never comes back. That is what’s both frustrating and satisfying about lighting and photographing people or animals. It’s the one split second you get with them where they allow you to try and capture their essence. I want to define them by their image, creating a lasting impression.

At least with people taking a portrait, there is the chance they might be cooperative, as they’re likely with me as a photographer because they want to be there. It’s not like I’m photographing someone at a Congressional hearing who has no desire to be in the hot seat. But with animals, if they don’t want to work with you, it takes a lot of effort and great patience to exact out a shot that might just work for their owner.

The nice thing about this little dog was, though she was a little shy about being photographed, she gave me a couple of opportunities to make the shot. She didn’t growl or make things difficult at all. It seemed like she accepted her fate to sit on the leather cushion and gave me what I needed when she wanted.

Pet photography is just like that some times.