If your camera had teeth, they’d be chattering right now. When the days grow shorter and colder and you’ve got Jack Frost nipping at your extremeties, you might be tempted to stay in, make some hot cocoa, and save the photography for warmer weather. Don’t; you’re missing a lot of photo opportunities!
Keep your batteries toasty: You might keep your AA’s in the fridge so they don’t drain as quickly. Your camera battery, similarly, won’t perform at its best when it’s cold. Keep your camera warm the best you can; failing that, keep a spare battery in an inside pocket. If your battery’s showing a faster-than-usual rate of drain, switch it for your warmer backup.
Use a polarizing filter if you have one. The bright light caused by the angle of the sun, and by the glare reflected off the snow. Since you may find yourself stopping the lens down to f/22 or thereabouts (which isn’t where your lens is at its sharpest), the polarizer lets you lose a couple of stops of light. In dim light, this can be a drawback, but when it’s very bright, it can be a godsend.
As with other times, fill flash can be helpful when the light is hinky.
Pay attention to your white balance; snow and bright light can wreak havoc on metering and white balance.
Be aware that plastic — whether in camera bodies or in lenses — behaves much differently in the cold than it would at “normal” temperatures. It loses flexibility and can become brittle. A bump or ding that might leave a small mark under normal circumstances can lead to cracks and chips in cold weather.
Watch out for moisture. Bring a large Ziploc bag (large enough for your camera and lens) and bag the camera before you’re inside. Similar to leaving a glass of iced tea on a table during a summer day, bringing a camera indoors from cold weather can lead to condensation in and around your gear. Bagging it first means bagging colder, drier air with your camera; the bag will fog, but hopefully your camera won’t.
Purchased any electronics lately? Hang onto those silica gel packets; they’re useful for removing airborne moisture.
It should go without saying that your first priority should be keeping yourself warm and safe. Bundle up, keep gloves handy, and have fun!
Okay, I admit it. I love photography. But there are times that you just have to put down the camera, and try something else out for a change.
There can be any number of reasons to do this. First of all, while a passion can be a stimulating thing, it can also be draining if it’s your only outlet. One of the surest ways I’ve found to break a block is by getting the heck away from what’s got you blocked, even if only for a little bit. If you’re a photographer, this might mean taking some time to write, cook, sing (well or badly, it makes no difference) or do any number of other things. One of the surest ways to get something done, to paraphrase Robert Benchley, is to pretend you’re supposed to be doing something else (I once cured a case of writers’ block by convincing myself I was supposed to be learning Spanish, for instance).
Second, your photography doesn’t — or shouldn’t — exist in a vacuum. Inspiration isn’t purely a visual thing, even when you’re working primarily in a visual medium. After all, think of how many visuals work because they’re not purely self-referential. They draw on cues taken from design, music, literature, sculpture, or any number of other media. Being grounded in other disciplines and interests means never having a shortage of inspirations or subject matter.
Finally, it’s not just for your own sanity, but also for the sake of the others in your life as well. If you’re lucky, your friends, family, spouse, et. al., understand how important photography is to you. However, if your every conversation circles back to technique and gear, people will get tired of it — and perhaps, of you — pretty quickly.
So. What about you? What other interests have you cultivated, and how have they intersected with your photography?
Photographer Eve Arnold (O.B.E.) passed in London on January 4, aged 99. A member of Magnum since 1957, she was known for her portraits of celebrities, first ladies, and the like, in addition to location work in China, South Africa, and Afghanistan.
PMA @CES is next week, likely bringing with it a whole raft of new product announcements and speculation (since some of the products won’t see store shelves for a while yet). That doesn’t mean it’s been quiet, however. The first week of the new year’s started off with a bang. A day early, even; 4/3 Rumors announced on December 31 that SLRmagic would be first out of the gate with the 50mm f/0.95 Cine M-mount lens for Leica. They also hastened to reassure readers that the supply shortages you’re seeing of the Olympus EP-3 do not mean that the camera will be discontinued… they’re simply having difficulties keeping up with demand.
According to CanonRumors, meantime, the next camera in the venerable G line won’t be a G13. It’ll be a G1X, with a beefed-up feature set and an $800 price tag to match.
Fuji appears to be revamping most of its camera line. DPReveiw has information on a pile of cameras announced January 5, and MirrorlessRumors has quite a bit on the upcoming X Pro 1, Fuji’s interchangeable lens compact; LeicaRumors reports that Fuji will be making an M mount adapter for the camera, allowing use of Leica lenses on it.
As we reported earlier in the week, Nikon’s finally gotten around to announcing the reboot of its flagship full-frame SLR. The D4 boasts some serious specs, the details of which you can find on Nikonrumors, as well as Nikon‘s own website. EOSHD has an interesting rundown on the camera’s video capabilities (some of which, I must admit, were gibberish to me, but to the average EOSHD reader, to whom video is a mainstay, I’m sure they were quite sensible).
Finally, PetaPixel mentions that Kodak’s stock is in danger of being delisted as they prepare to file for bankruptcy.
At midnight EST tonight — about half an hour from now — Nikon is expected to finally unveil its new flagship model, the full-frame D4. It replaces the venerable D3 series (D3, D3x and D3s). With authority. A few highlights:
16MP full-frame sensor (this is good news)
51-point AF system with 15 cross points
10 FPS burst shooting
1080p HD video-capture at either 24 or 30fps/720p video capture at 60fps
MELVILLE, N.Y. (Jan 5, 2012) – The new Nikon D4 digital SLR builds upon the legacy of the proven Nikon flagship D-SLRs before it, engineered to give today’s professional multimedia photographers a new apex of speed and accuracy with unparalleled image quality, low-light capability and Full HD video. The Nikon D4 hosts a multitude of advanced new features and useful functions that deliver speedy performance and amazing image quality for when missing the shot is not an option.
Every aspect of the new Nikon D4 D-SLR has been designed to emphasize rapid response and seamless operation to help professional photographers consistently capture incredible content. Nikon’s proven 51-point AF System has been further enhanced for maximum speed in a variety of challenging shooting situations, even at 10 frames per second (fps). Considered the new Nikon flagship, the D4 renders supreme image quality, a feat accomplished with a new 16.2-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, coupled with the latest generation of Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processing engine to help produce images and videos with stunning clarity and color. Photographers are also able to shoot in even the most challenging environments and lighting conditions with the assistance of Nikon’s new 91,000-pixel 3D color matrix meter and a broad ISO range from 100 to a staggering 204,800 for low-light capture like never before. The Nikon D4 is engineered for the modern professional and incorporates never before seen HD-SLR video features for those who also need to capture multimedia content from the field.
“Speed without accuracy is irrelevant,” said Bo Kajiwara, director of marketing, Nikon Inc. “The status of a Nikon flagship camera is not given lightly; this next generation of Nikon’s most professional body exceeds the needs of a wide variety of both still and multimedia professionals that rely on Nikon to make their living. Besides overall performance and burst speed, the D4 provides Nikon’s most advanced AF system to date, as well as enhanced workflow speed to give professionals the edge in the field.”
Velocity Meets Versatility
Speed is a necessity for today’s multimedia photographer as milliseconds matter when the action commences. Whether an assignment relies on fast processing power, burst rate, write speed, enhanced workflow or even streamlined camera controls, the D4 is the epitome of professional-caliber photographic horsepower. Ready to shoot in approximately 0.012 seconds, the new Nikon D4 can capture full resolution JPEG or RAW files at up to 10 fps with full AF / AE or up to 11 fps with AF / AE locked. Immediately before image capture, the camera interprets data from the AF sensor, including subject color as detected on the 91,000-pixel RGB sensor, to deliver consistently tack-sharp focus frame after frame. Whether a photographer is shooting a full-court fast break under gymnasium lighting or the downhill slalom in the bright sun and frigid temperatures, the D4 will instill the confidence with consistently great results.
The Advanced Multi-Cam 3500 AF autofocus system is the next generation of Nikon’s proven 51-point AF system. The fully customizable system offers users the ability to capture fast moving subjects and track focus with precision or select a single AF point with pinpoint accuracy. The Nikon D4 D-SLR aligns 15 cross-type sensors in the center to detect contrast data in both vertical and horizontal planes. In addition to detecting each AF-NIKKOR lens with an aperture of f/5.6 or lower, the camera also utilizes nine cross-type sensors that are fully functional when using compatible NIKKOR lenses and TC14E or TC17E teleconverters or a single cross-type sensor when using compatible NIKKOR lenses and the TC20E teleconverter with an aperture value up to f/8, which is a great advantage to those shooting sports and wildlife. For maximum versatility in situations such as photographing nature from afar or competition from the sidelines, photographers are also able to select multiple AF modes, including normal, wide area, face tracking and subject tracking, to best suit the scene.
The Nikon D4 D-SLR also employs a new 91,000-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix metering system that meticulously analyzes each scene and recognizes factors such as color and brightness with unprecedented precision. This data is then interpreted and compared against D4’s on-board database to implement various settings, resulting in vibrant images with faithful color reproduction and balanced exposure. In addition, this new AF sensor now has the ability to detect up to 16 human faces with startling accuracy, even when shooting through the optical viewfinder, allowing for correct exposure even when the subject is backlit. Additionally, to capture every brief moment from a bouquet toss to a photo finish under nearly any condition, the 51 focus points deliver fast and accurate detection down to a -2 EV with every AF-NIKKOR lens.
All of this image data is funneled through a 16 bit pipeline and are written to dual card slots which have been optimized for the latest UDMA-7 Compact Flash™ cards, as well as the new XQD™ memory card. The D4 is the first professional camera to harness the capabilities of this new durable and compact format, which offers blazing fast write times and extended capacity essential for multimedia professionals shooting stills and video.
Image Quality That Hits the Mark
The heart of the new D4 is the Nikon-developed 16.2-megapixel FX-format (36.0 x 23.9mm) CMOS sensor that provides amazing image quality, brilliant dynamic range and vivid colors in nearly any lighting condition. By achieving the optimal balance of resolution and sensor size, professional photographers will realize exceptionally sharp, clean and well saturated images throughout the entire ISO range.
Like the D3 and D3s before it, the Nikon D4 retains Nikon’s status as the sovereign of low-light capture ability, with a native ISO range from 100 to 12,800 ISO, expandable from 50 (Lo-1) to an incredible yet usable 204,800 (Hi-4). From a candlelit first dance to nocturnal wildlife, the large 7.3µ pixel size absorbs the maximum amount of light to excel in any situation. Additionally, the sensor’s construction features a gapless micro-lens structure and anti-reflective coating which further contributes to images that retain natural depth and tones with smooth color gradation. For ultimate versatility, photographers can also take advantage of the camera’s extreme high ISO ability while recording video.
Another factor contributing to the camera’s rapid performance and stellar image quality is Nikon’s new EXPEED 3 image processing engine that helps professionals create images with amazing resolution, color and dynamic range in both still images and video. From image processing to transfer, the new engine is capable of processing massive amounts of data, exacting optimal color, perfect tonality and minimized noise throughout the frame.
There are also a variety of shooting options available to help capture the highest quality images and video. In addition to standard NEF (RAW) files, the D4 is also capable of shooting smaller compressed RAW files to ease storage and speed up workflow. Users are also able to capture even more dynamic range with the in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) function that merges consecutive exposures. For deep contrast and further tonality, Active D-Lighting can also be activated during shooting for balanced exposures even in backlit scenes. Additionally, the camera features a dedicated button for quick access to Nikon’s Picture Controls, allowing users to quickly select one of six presets.
Professional Multimedia Features
The Nikon D4 D-SLR is engineered with innovative new features for the multimedia professional that needs the small form factor, low-light ability and NIKKOR lens versatility that only an HD-SLR can offer. The new features add functionality for those professionals looking for the best possible experience to capture a moment in Full HD 1080p video at various frame rates, providing footage that is more than suitable for broadcast.
Full HD video recording – Users have the choice of various resolutions and frame rates, including 1080p 30/24fps and 60 fps at 720p. By utilizing the B-Frame data compression method, users can record H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC format video with unmatched integrity for up to 20 minutes per clip. This format also allows for more accurate video data to be transferred requiring less memory capacity. The sensor reads image data at astoundingly fast rates, which results in less instances of rolling shutter distortion.
Full manual control of exposure – Shutter speed, aperture and ISO can be changed while recording to adapt to lighting and alter depth of field for professional cinematic results that help realize a creative vision.
Uncompressed output: simultaneous Live View – By using the camera’s HDMI port instead of the CF or XQD card, users can stream an uncompressed full HD signal directly out of the camera. This footage can be ported into an LCD display or appropriate external recording device or routed through a monitor and then to the recording device, eliminating the need for multiple connections.
Audio recording for professionals – The Nikon D4 features a stereo headphone jack for accurate monitoring of audio levels while recording. Output can be adjusted in up to 30 steps for precise audio adjustment. The D4 offers high-fidelity audio recording control with audio levels that can be set and monitored on the camera’s LCD screen. The microphone connected via the stereo mic jack can also be adjusted with up to 20 steps of sensitivity for accurate sound reproduction.
Multi-area Mode Full HD Video: FX/DX, and 2.7x crop mode at 1080p video modes – Whether shooting for depth of field in FX format mode, or looking for the extra 1.5X telephoto benefits of DX mode, the high resolution sensor of the D4 allows videographers to retain full 1080P HD resolution no matter what mode they choose. With the 2.7x crop, users can experience ultra-telephoto benefits in full HD resolution all at 16:9 aspect ratio.
Simultaneous live view output without display / simultaneous monitor – Shooters have the option to send the display signal directly to an attached monitor via the HDMI port. This signal can be viewed on the camera’s LCD screen and external monitor simultaneously. Additionally, the image data display can be cleared from the screen, to remove distracting data or when feeding a live signal.
Full-time AF – In addition to manual focus, four autofocus modes are available, including normal, wide area, face detection and subject tracking, which uses fast contrast detect AF to accurately focus while recording video and in live view.
New LCD screen – The large high resolution 3.2-inch LCD screen is 921K dots, and includes auto brightness adjustment. Users can also zoom in up to 46x to check critical HD focus.
Time lapse shooting – This new feature combines a selected frame rate and “shooting interval” in a dedicated time lapse photography menu. Playback can be achieved with a wide variety of speeds from 24x to 36,000x while producing a fully finished movie file output for faster multimedia workflows.
Remote shutter operation – Using dedicated Movie Custom Settings, recording can be set to be engaged by the shutter release button -users can now use a variety of remote accessories to trigger video recording.
NIKKOR lens compatibility – The highest caliber optics are vital to creating HD images and Nikon is the world leader in optics manufacturing with a legacy spanning more than 75 years. Nikon has a vast NIKKOR lens system, with more than 50 lenses with a variety of focal lengths and features, including VR II vibration reduction.
Professional Construction, Superior Operability
The reputation and respect bestowed upon a Nikon D-Series flagship camera is earned from those who use it; therefore the chassis of the Nikon D4 is machined from magnesium alloy for maximum durability and reliability. The body of the camera is sealed and gasketed for resistance to dirt and moisture, as well as electromagnetic interference. Photographers are able to easily compose through the bright optical viewfinder, which offers 100% frame coverage. The shutter has been tested to withstand 400,000 cycles for maximum durability, while sensor cleaning is employed by vibrating the OLPF. The self diagnostic shutter unit also encompasses a mirror balancer to minimize the residual “bounce” to enhance AF and extend viewing time. What’s more, the viewfinder is coated with a new thermal shield finish which works to resist overheating during prolonged use, enhancing overall reliability. Users can easily compose on the camera’s wide, bright and scratch resistant 921,000-dot high resolution 3.2-inch LCD screen.
The overall controls and operability of the camera has also been engineered with a renewed emphasis on speed and functionality. During critical moments, users will appreciate refined button layouts with renewed ergonomics, such as a quick AF mode selector placed near the lens mount for fast access on the fly. A new joystick style sub-selector is also placed on the camera’s rear for AF point and option selection, while vertical controls have been enhanced for improved operability. Finally, to continue the D4’s moniker of the best tool for just about any condition, key control buttons on the back of the camera can all be illuminated, making the camera simple to operate in complete darkness.
Nikon has also made enhancements to overall workflow, adding options to streamline the process and maximize shooting time. Users are now able to automatically generate IPTC data for their images and image sets, making organizing and chronicling images easier for both the photographers and their editors. A wired Ethernet port is also utilized so that a user can shoot tethered and transfer images easily and quickly to clients. Nikon has also introduced the new WT-5A wireless file transmitter, to transmit via FTP server or computer. The device can be set to transfer either automatically or manually selected images. This device also allows for remote operation of the camera using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2 software. A mobile application is also in development to control the camera using this accessory, which will include the ability to trigger the shutter and record video, making this a must-have remote accessory for many professionals.
Price and Availability
The Nikon D4 will be available in late February 2012 for the suggested retail price of $5999.95.*
To see the new D4 D-SLR and other new Nikon products, visit Nikon at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at booth # 11039 from January 10-13th, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV.
Maybe because of my choice of subject matter (much of it inanimate) or my choice of gear (camera, lenses, and not much else) I wonder sometimes if I’m somehow “cheating” at photography, especially when I look at work by other photographers whose work clearly involves backdrops, complicated lighting setups, staging, makeup, an assload of post-production, and God only knows how much else. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?
Or maybe not. I got to thinking recently about Marcel Duchamp, the artist and provocateur whose “Readymades” (like Fountain, the repurposed urinal pictured above, plus other works that incorporated things like bicycle wheels and bottle racks), and decided it probably wasn’t worth the worry. There’s a long tradition of using found objects in art (collage and montage are two good examples), allowing “found” detritus to express itself as art by recontextualizing itself. What Duchamp did, in my opinion, was to take this a step further.
Where Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (a.k.a. Large Glass) at least nodded in the direction of figurative art, the Readymades are simultaneously found art, meta-art (art about art, if you will), and a poke in the eye at the avant garde of the time. Rather than creating an art object from whole cloth, if you will, Duchamp seems to argue that artistic intent creates its own context, and its own objects. Put in simpler terms: Why’s this art? Because I said so.
Like Duchamp, Brian McCarty is less concerned with defining art than with simply making it. And like Duchamp, rather than creating art objects, McCarty’s art springs from the recontextualization of mass-produced objects. Like Duchamp’s urinal, McCarty’s objects aren’t from the hand of an artisan or craftsman; they’re manufactured, and their artistic value comes first from the frame in which they’re placed (Fountain caused quite a stir in the context of the 1917 Armory Show, and McCarty’s photos are as likely to figure in galleries as magazine pages), and second from the artist’s intent.
Let me clarify what I mean by that second point. These objects — a urinal, an injection-molded plastic rabbit, or any other mass-produced object you’d care to mention — aren’t what we’d generally look at as “art” in their own right. They’re commonplace to the point of banality.¹ We pass by these things daily, without giving them as much as a second thought. What’s shared between Duchamp and McCarty² is a willingness to put a frame around the banal, and to assert that it’s worthy of consideration in its own right; the object can be more than what it was designed for, and can in some sense transcend its purpose. In contrast to Warhol, who we’ve discussed elsewhere, neither Duchamp nor McCarty draw quotation marks around what they’re depicting; Duchamp, especially, has irony to spare, but there’s not the same sense of distance in his work that there would be in Warhol’s.
Let’s bring this back down to Earth for a minute, and circle back to where we started. Your photography doesn’t need a studio, a thousand-dollar lighting setup, and a cast of thousands. As long as you’ve got a camera and eyes to see, you’re set. You’re not cheating if you’re taking shots of classic cars, faded signs, or Tinkertoys; you are, whether you realize it or not, working in a tradition that dates back nearly a century. As was written about Duchamp’s piece when it first appeared: Whether Mr Mutt [Duchamp had signed the piece “R. Mutt”] made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object. Sometimes it’s not up to you to make the art so much as to find it, frame it, and share it.
There’s no shortage of debates in photography circles. Choose a subject – whether it’s one camera over another, color versus black and white, available light versus speedlights, or any number of other contentious subjects* — and there’s likely to be a wide difference of opinion. One such subject of debate is whether to shoot in RAW or in JPEG.
To figure out your options, let’s start by laying out some basic definitions. A RAW file is just that. It’s raw; it’s how your camera’s sensor “saw” what was in front of it, with very little intervention on the camera’s part. These are generally large files, since the camera takes in quite a bit of information once you’ve pressed down the shutter. It’s also undeveloped; it’s up to you to render a final image, sometimes via the camera’s built-in processor and sometimes via an external program like Aperture, Lightroom, GIMP, or Photoshop. A JPEG, on the other hand, isn’t raw; it’s been “cooked” by your camera’s processor, so the development takes place in-camera. The files are much smaller, usually because of compression applied during development, and you have a much smaller degree of control over the final result, absent postprocessing.
The difference between RAW and JPEG isn’t just one of size; it’s about the amount of information the file contains. Since I like analogies, let me give you another one. Let’s imagine that RAW is Macbeth. JPEG, being a compressed version of the RAW file, has much less information. So we’ll call that the Cliff’s Notes of Macbeth. Now let’s say you want to make changes, or crop, that file. Well, if I’m cropping Macbeth, it turns out that I can get rid of quite a bit of it and still have it make some kind of sense. With the Cliff’s Notes, however, I don’t have quite the same degree of freedom; those cuts –those edits and crops – take information away from something that’s already had quite a bit stripped away.
Processing a RAW file, then, “summarizes” based on much more information. The end result can be very close to the original, or can be very small; the point, however, is that you have control over the end result at each step in the process. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s not unlike the difference between developing a roll of film in your own darkroom versus sending it to CVS or Walgreen’s. Sometimes you get lucky sending your film out, but sometimes the results aren’t what you would have chosen, and if you’re particular about how your photos look, that’s not generally something you want to leave to chance.
Yes, RAW takes up quite a bit of memory, and yes, it can be a time-consuming process learning how to get your development workflow where you want it. With that said, it also gives you the kind of control and freedom that JPEG doesn’t always give you. If you want that control, try RAW. If you’re not sure, or if you want backups while you’re getting the hang of your RAW workflow, delve into your camera’s settings; nearly every camera that I’ve seen with the ability to shoot in RAW has an option to shoot JPEGs in tandem with RAW images. Use that, and you’ll always have “backups” of your originals.
There’s an expression in the recording industry: “Fix it in the mix.” Whether the guitar’s a bit off-key, the vocalist can’t decide whether she should be singing on, behind, or in front of the beat, or the drummer’s keeping lousy time, the logic is that you can always fix it later. That’s what ProTools is for, right?
By the same logic, some photographers don’t pay very close attention to things that are just as basic to their craft. After all, who needs to worry if the exposure’s too light or dark, the composition’s careless, or even that the photo’s not about anything in particular? You’ve got Photoshop (Picasa/Picnik/fill-in-the-blank), after all.
Please, for the love of God, don’t take careless photos just ‘cause you can, or just because you’ve got a program on your computer that you think will cover up all manner of ills. To borrow yet another term: Garbage in, garbage out. Yes, you can polish a turd, but all the gleam isn’t going to hide the fact that it’s still a turd.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s take this from another angle for a minute. Let’s say that you’re a beginning photographer. Let’s also assume (and it’s a safe assumption) that if you’re a beginning photographer you’re likely also a beginner at postproduction. Doing any kind of editing on your photos, if you want them to look good, takes time even (or perhaps especially) if you’re experienced. A single photo can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to a few times that, depending on your level of experience and the level of intervention your photo needs. Now contrast that with the amount of time that it takes to actually make a good photo. While there are times (like when you’re waiting for the right light at sunup or sundown) that this can be a time-consuming process, sometimes it’s just a matter of adding another thirty seconds to the 1/125th of a second that it’d take you to get the shot in the first place.
That is to say, paying attention earlier in the process to what’s going on both within the frame and outside it, and then paying attention to your settings before you’re pressed the shutter button, can save you an awful lot of time later. You may decide to do a bit of sharpening, or crop something, or boost the saturation, but not every photo’s going to require the equivalent of major surgery. Taking time for the small stuff early on in your process is bound to save you time later, and also lead to a higher percentage of shots worth keeping straight out of the camera.