D800 + ND = Magenta cast

Images taken with heavy ND filters will occasionally show a strong magenta cast.  Almost all ND filters transmit some infrared wavelengths, and this IR light is one of the primary causes of the magenta cast.  At the same time, some digital camera sensors are more sensitive to IR than others, and in my experience the Nikon D800/D800E twins fall into this group.  However, for most situations there is a simple solution.

My favorite ND filter is the 7-stop Tiffen IRND 2.1 (which I think is an excellent bargain in terms of ND filters).  But even this filter, with has some IR control as part of its design, can result in magenta contamination.  Here’s a frame taken at the edge of a waterfall using this filter and my D800E, with the lens pointing almost straight down.  The resulting image is a worst case example.

 

The solution I’ve found:  close the camera’s eyepiece shutter.  No matter if mirror lockup is used, or the timer delay, or whatever…close the eyepiece shutter.  Under any circumstance, the D800/D800E cameras are very sensitive to light coming through the eyepiece, so closing the eyepiece whenever shooting from a tripod is a good idea.  In the above example, the eyepiece is open and positioned toward the sky.  Here’s another shot, same situation as the previous image, but with the eyepiece shutter closed.  Big difference.

 

Oldies

I’ve got an external hard drive I rarely access.  On that drive are files from years ago, some film scans dating back to the days of Photoshop 3, and images taken with a number of my earliest digital cameras.  A couple of days ago I was searching for an old photo, and ended up looking at those files.  I thought you might like to see some “ancient history,” a couple of images taken in 2004.

 

Wheat fields and elevator, Whitman County, Washington.
Nikon D100, Nikon 500mm lens.

Arctic tundra and frost, Denali National Park, Alaska.
Kodak SLR/n camera.

The Kodak SLR/n was a “high-megapixel” camera (13.5 megapixels) based on a modified Nikon N80 film camera body.  Not a very user friendly camera, it took Nikon lenses and was produced for only 15 months, from February 2004 until the end of May 2005.  Focal length metadata was not recorded by the camera, so I can only guess that this was shot with a Nikon 105mm macro.  Kodak also offered a version with a Canon lens mount, the SLR/c, although the body was based on a Sigma design.

Lightroom 5: Visualize Spots

Lightroom 5 introduced an extremely useful feature called Visualize Spots.  However, during my recent workshops I’ve discovered that quite a number of Lightroom users are not aware of it.  Visualize Spots does exactly as its name suggests; it shows you all the dust spots on your image, including many that you might otherwise miss.

In the Develop module, make sure the Toolbar is visible below the image (tap the T key to toggle the toolbar on or off), and set your image view at 100%, or 1:1.

Navigate to the upper left corner of the image (hold down the spacebar, and drag the image), then activate the Spot Tool.  The Visualize Spots checkbox now appears on the Toolbar, at the bottom left.

The image changes to black and while, and all those dust bunnies show up.  Move the Visualize Spots slider to increase or decrease the sensitivity, and start spotting.

Page Down (PC: PgDn; Mac: Function + down arrow) moves the image down by exactly one screen view.  When the bottom of the image is reached, do Page Down again, and the screen image moves over and up to the top.  Keep doing Page Down, until you’ve covered the entire image.  This Page Down trick means you’ll never miss any section of the image.

Nikon D800 Action

I read this question time after time on Web forums:  “Can the Nikon D800 be used for wildlife photography?”  Well, why not?  Here are two full frame images taken last week during a short stop I made at Bosque del Apache.  Both images: D800E, Nikon 600mm, ISO400, early morning light.   FYI, I don’t have the extra battery pack for the camera so the motor drive rate is 4 frames/second.   Anyone else remember when 4 frames/second would have been considered pretty amazing?  Remember winding film with your thumb?

 

 

 

 

Frost

Here at my house we had great hoarfrost overnight.   I went out to photograph — I found these along a rural fenceline — but after about one hour it started to rain.  So much for the frost…but I made good use of that one hour.  Nikon D800E and 200mm Micro – a killer closeup combo.

 

 

 

 

FILE NAMES

When it comes to image file names, there seems to be two opposing schools.  There is one group of photographers who are happy with the file names created by the camera, and, at the opposite extreme, another group that wants to include all information possible in the file name.  The first group has files with names such as DSC8531.nef, while the second group might have an image named Eddie_in_his_pirate_costume_2013Halloween5375.jpg (and yes, that is a actual file name I saw last week, and which prompted this blog post).

I would suggest a middle ground, a simple file naming convention that precludes ever having two files with the same name (a potential problem for the first group), while eliminating the incredibly lengthy and unwieldy file names of the second group.

I rename my files by the date the image was taken (metadata automatically recorded by your camera, so long as you set the clock in your camera to the correct local time).  My convention is YYMMDD + the filename and number created by the camera.  Nikon allows setting a three digit filename in Shooting Menu > File Naming, so I set my Nikon D4 camera as D4N.  Then I made and saved a file renaming template in Lightroom (and a similar template in Downloader Pro, which I use when I have hundreds of files to download).

By using the template, a file from my D4 downloads along the lines of 131206_D4N_2764.nef.  By using YYMMDD all my files will automatically be in chronological order, and unless I shoot more than 10,000 images in one day with that particular camera, I’ll never have the problem of duplicate file names.

For more about file organization see my October 1, 2012, blog piece on File Storage.

Cottonwoods

I really enjoy photographing autumn color.  In the mixed hardwoods of the eastern US, the beech/maple/oak forest, the trees present a wash of color, even a painterly effect.  Not so on the high plains and prairies.  Here the autumn color is that of the cottonwood trees, which line every local water source.  In contrast to the mixed reds and oranges of the eastern autumn, cottonwoods show only one color: yellow gold.  But be out photographing when the trees hit peak color, and the intensity is overwhelming.  Here are a couple of shots from two weeks ago in central Montana.  No, I wasn’t intentionally there to photograph the cottonwoods, in fact I was just passing through the region headed elsewhere, but who could resist?

 

 

Elephants

As some of you may know, the trip mentioned in my last blog post was to Botswana.  I’ll say right here, Botswana is a great wildlife photography destination (the very first subject I photographed was a leopard, not a bad way to start!).  Toward the end of the trip I had the opportunity to spend one afternoon in a “bunker blind” at an elephant waterhole.

 

 

 

 

PACKING

For me, 2013 has been a long-distance travel year.  A “short hop” this year has meant at least five or six hours in the air.  I’m really tired of the longer flights, but right now I’m in the midst of packing for another long flight.

Besides all the usual camera, clothes, and computer stuff, what do I take?  Here’s a list of some odds and ends, in no particular order:

  • A three-outlet electrical jack.  Even notice that most hotel rooms only have two outlets, one of which is generally located somewhere inaccessible under the bed?
  • If I’m traveling internationally, I carry a 120/220 volt power strip with a built–in surge protector and USB ports, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B8B9ERK?psc=1.   Added to this are several of the necessary electrical plug adapters.
  • A short roll of electrical tape.  I also have multiple strips of gaffers tape stuck on the inside flaps of my camera pack.
  • A tube of super glue.
  • Brightly colored elastic hair bands (not for my use, since I’m really shy of hair on top, a subject which we don’t need to discuss).  These are a cheap and easy way to wrap cables and cords, and the bright colors help me find those cables when I drop some in a dimly lit room.
  • A small tool kit: a selection of allen wrenches (hex keys), small screwdrivers, plus an extra rubber ring that goes around the eyepiece on my camera (anyone else ever lose one of these?).
  • A couple of large rubber bands, great for getting a grip on stuck filters.
  • A Leatherman “Micra” tool.
  • About 15 feet of lightweight parachute cord.
  • Several binder clips, used to clamp things together.
  • A couple of mini-carabiners.
  • Several trash compactor bags, much stronger that standard plastic garbage bags.

I keep PDF versions of my camera manuals on both my smartphone and my Kindle.  I also have a flash card wallet filled with older cards that are now too small capacity for my day-to-day use.  This lives in my wheeled duffel, along with an extra card reader.  Not that I’m paranoid, but I imagine being at some remote location and losing my flash cards, or having my card reader die.  I would be saying words that most people would not want to hear.

 

RUN A TEST

I was recently in a photographic situation where high ISO was required.  I was shooting with a group, and I was asked as to the highest usable ISO.  My answer:  it  depends on several factors.

  1. Every camera has different high ISO liabilities.  What does your camera do?
  2. How much noise is acceptable to you?
  3. What are you going to do with your images?  Downsizing a file removes noise, so you can get away with a lot if all you’re going to do with the image is posting it to the Web.  Making large prints, however, is another matter.

I suggested that everyone run one simple test.  Mount the camera on a tripod, and shoot the exact same scene, changing the ISO by one stop between frames.  Since ISO values work in straight numerical doubles, this means simply doubling the ISO number every time: 400, 800, 1600, 3200, etc.  Open the resulting images, and decide for yourself what is acceptable. It doesn’t matter in the least what you actually photograph, as this is only a test.  Subject matter is no big deal.  You just need to know how far you can push the ISO and still get acceptable results.

Easy, right?  The next day we were, as expected, in the same situation where higher ISOs were needed.  I asked the group how many of them had run my suggested test, since we had known exactly what we were going to be photographing on the new day.  The answer: no one, none, nobody.

Folks, you gotta take some responsibility here.  You really need to run some tests, and testing some basic concepts is not difficult to do.  Just shoot some comparison frames.  Test IS/VR on and off, at both fast and slow shutter speeds.  Test for the lowest shutter speed you can handhold and get acceptable results.  Test long exposure noise reduction on and off.  Test TTL fill flash settings.  Don’t believe anything you read on the Web — including what I say — until you’re tested with your equipment, and your reasons for photographing, and your criteria for what is “good.”

An ISO test is so simple.  And once you’re shot those frames, you now have them to use in testing noise reduction methods.  Lightroom noise reduction only?  Noise reduction software (since free trial versions are available)?

Like I said, it doesn’t matter what you photograph.  Here’s a 1:1 crop from a shot I took in my garage.  Great image, huh?  But it would work fine as an ISO test.  And speaking of which, just what ISO was used?  Hint:  the camera was my Nikon D4.

 

1:1 crop of ISO test photo.