My setup was quite heavy:
I had the camera with the blackrapid around my shoulders for easier carrying. The monopod was attached all the time to the foot of the lens. For shooting I adjusted the length of the monopod as necessary. I know that it is an unusual way to use a monopod when you are not staying stationary, but the extra support made shooting easier and reliefed me of the camera weight when taking pictures. To shift the weight a little I sometimes shouldered camera and lens and got hold of the monopod, like one would carry a shovel for example.
All in all I am very satisfied with the day’s image yield. Although I had to take many images you see in the gallery through glass the sharpness is very pleasing and excites me for more trips to the zoo throughout the year (I bought 12-month pass, so that I can go there taking pictures as often as I want).
Some days ago our neighbors invited us to have a cup of coffee. They have a terrarium with a lizard in the living room. Meet Kermit, the Agamid. Kermit is a very sleepy fellow. Most of the day he lies in his cave and snoozes away. He is also very frugal. A few bugs or pieces of vegetable suffice to keep him happy for a long time. But this time Kermit was awake when we visited and he patiently posed for my camera. The first shots were made with the 24-70 mm, but then I got my 105mm macro lens and got close with Kermit. He also accepted that. Look at his scales and the spikes ! You don’t need to travel to Middle-Earth to find Smaug…
Taking pictures of children requires many things. You have to establish a positive connection with them. If they are feeling uncomfortable the pictures won’t be any good. Then it’s patience and of course a little bit of luck to get good shots, because children won’t follow your commands as a professional model would do.
The image you can see above was taken in my studio. The little lady is very happy and has a lot of fun with the buggy I put her into. One has to goof around a lot when dealing with children. This particular child was very excited with me making strange noises behind the camera. If I try to write out my blabbering it could sound like this: “Buggabaggadoodidoodi-blbfrt blbft – agu ! agu ! Ooooooooiiiiiiioooooouuuuu….” This is what caught her attention and made her laugh. Note that every child is different but making strange noises usually works (sometimes even with grown-ups).
The setup I can be seen here:
The left softbox illuminates the child in the cart. The Speedlight and the right softbox illumninate the background. The background flashes are necessary to make the white cloth I use appear completely white. In retrospective I also could have used both studio flashes to illuminate the background and use the Speedlight for the child. This way the background illuminaten would have been more even and spared me some time in Photoshop. This is actually the most intensive part in post processing for me when working on such shots. I spend most of the time on making the white being white. The kinks and wrinkles in the cloth cast shadows and fixing this is what eats up the time.
What I will also try in the future is to use more white cloth and place the model further away from the background. This way the illumination of the model and the background can be separated in a more precise way than with the current setup.
But as you can see above the shot came out very well and it was great fun doing this session. To close this post I will show you another picture from that series.
In a previous post I outlined the importance of backing up your files and how I personally deal with it. Short recap – My main backup system is a Drobo, which is a plug & play RAID system with four harddrives. On the Drobo I have two partitions. One is for Time Machine, which backups all my files from the MacBook Pro. The second partition is for archived files: Files which I do not need to have on the harddrive of the laptop anymore. Since the archive is very big and contains my complete photographic history I am even more cautious with these files. I have a copy of that second Drobo partition on a separate 2 TB external harddrive. This one I keep in a drawer next to my desk. This covers the risk of lightning strike or anything else frying the Drobo. But there is still the risk of fire, theft or a meteor hitting our home. So I have another copy of the archived files. This drive I do not keep at home – it is at a friend’s house and only for updating the archive I collect it from him. So even if a hobby chemist blows up the neighborhood, my archive is still safe at my friend’s home.
Until today I had this second archive on two external harddrives, a 500 GB and 300 GB disc (it grew over time, the discs are quite old (a few years, that is old in computer time)). I wanted to substitute the external harddrives with a more universal solution and this is where I purchased an HDD dock. The idea is quite simple: Plug a “naked” harddrive into the dock and connect the dock via USB to your computer. It works pretty much like a card reader. Plug in the harddrive, copy the files, when you are done eject the hard drive and put it somewhere safe.
I bought an Icy Box dock with USB 3.0, it cost around 33 Euros. Looks stylish, a white plastic and aluminum design, goes well with my notebook. The dock accepts 3.5″ and 2.4″ HDDs, which are simply plugged into the slot of the dock. No tools required.
The harddrive I got with it is a Seagate with 2 TB. On the Macbook I did not need any software, just connect it via USB (unfortunately my notebook is offering only USB 2.0) and off you go. Copying the files took around 7 hours, but since we are talking over 500 GB this is acceptable. The dock frees one from the necessity to install harddrives in a casing and makes handling multiple drives very easy. I read of some users encountering connection problems when copying large volumes of data, but it worked fine with me. I am totally satisfied with the system so far.
To sum it up – the newest purchase did not change my backup strategy, but made fulfilling it easier. An HDD dock is cheap and easy to use. It comes handy when you have to manage multiple drives and one should consider making it part of the backup strategy.
This is the last post for 2012 and it is time to look back. I am owning my D800 for about nine months now and, having had some time to reflect during the Christmas season, I have some thoughts I would like to share with you. The D800 is truly a great camera. The transition from DX to full format brought mainly three things for me. At first the full potential of the focal length can unfold. 24mm really means wide angle ! The focal lengths one is used to shoot with suddenly give you a new perspective. With a portrait or tele lens you can move closer to your subject, with a wide angle lens you can cover an image area unknown until now.
The second major upgrade which came with the transition is the ISO performance. Hell yes, I love it. Images which were rejects at ISO 6.400 with my D300s suddenly are usable ! Even a higher ISO is nothing I am afraid of anymore. There is much noise at ISO 12.800, yes. It’s ISO 12.800 after all. But the images are still in a usable quality. The enhancement of the usable ISO range also broadened the possibilities one has. Suddely you can take pictures in a situation were only dark gloomy light is predominant.
Third issue – storage requirements and processing power. Phew, that sure is kind of annoying. The 36 Megapixels produce raw files >50 Mb (20 images = 1 GB). On the trip to the new townhall Hannover I took around 80 photos, which is 4 GB of storage space. No wonder the 320 GB my Macbook Pro had when I purchased it did not suffice. Now I have a 1 TB harddrive in the notebook, which gives you enough space to work on and not being forced to archive photos every few weeks. But again – it’s only a 5.400 rpm harddrive and my four year old MacbookPro has a lot to chew on those raw files. It takes about 15-20 sec to load the full resolution when zooming into an image in Lightroom. Exporting also takes some time (also around 15-20 sec per image). I wonder how the performance would be affected if I upgraded to SSD drives.
I personally still do not need 36 Megapixels. My D300s has 12 Megapixels and I rarely needed that resolution since I do not make large prints. But with the current lineup the D800 is the camera which matches my personal requirements best. To be frank – only the large image files bother me. Take a D800 with the sensor of the D4 – I would buy it instantly ! And all hope is not lost. A photo magazine in Japan, Impress, has published predictions for 2013. Their bold forecast: A D800-style body with a 16MP-sensor. That is certainly possible but, in my humble opinion, wishful thinking. Such a camera would impact the sales of the D4 (it happened with the D700 and the D3, which shared the same sensor). But who knows what the marketing strategy of Nikon may be. Perhaps the market is saturated with D4s after a while and the release of a D4 sensor in another body would not impact the D4 sales at all. But that is pure speculation…
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 34,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals
Today I made an excursion to the new townhall of Hanover. “New” hereby means that the building was finished in 1913, the old townhall is from the 13th century. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany attended the opening ceremony, jawohl ! The new townhall is an impressive building with a large dome and a huge entrance hall open to the public. The building cost 10 million Marks back then, which was an enormous sum. And the city paid for it in cash, which I find noteworthy in times of towering national debts.
I had some fun with the Samyang 8 mm again and here are the results. I was particularly fond of the spiral staircases which are located in the entrance hall. The spirals and the supporting pillars converge through the distortion of the lens in a way which makes one feel a little high. Na, that came out wrong. What I mean: Everything flows towards one point, the lines are bent and distorted.
Once again I am astonished by the opening angle of this lens. It is nearly 180° totally awesome. A little less awesome is the fact, that one has to shoot at f8 minimum to receive a decently sharp image. But I discussed that earlier in a dedicated post. I had to tweak up the ISO setting to compensate for the small aperture, which is why some images are a little bit grainy. But nevertheless – I am satisfied with the outcome of today’s excursion and hope that you will enjoy the images, too !