The Zoo is Always Good

My calendar was fairly clear yesterday, so I wanted to go out and make some images with my Nikon 300mm f/2.8 prime lens. I decided to head to Woodland Park Zoo. While I was at it, I purchased a year’s pass for $49. If you think about it, that’s a great deal. I can pick up my camera and go anytime the urge hits. The Zoo is a great place to shoot. Not only are there amazing animals, but there’s also a bounty of people ripe for street photography. This was my time to shoot the animals. It was an extremely warm day for the Northwest, so the animals weren’t too active. This, too, became an exercise in patience. I spent about 3 hours at the Zoo, mostly watching the bears and lions sleep. But, I did get a few shots that I really like. Now that I have the pass, I can go at the drop of a hat and try different times of day, framing, exhibits and camera/lens combos.

Jason Isbell with Damien Jurado at The Moore

Damien Jurado, a humble, sincere singer/songwriter from Seattle, opened for Jason Isbell last night at The Moore Theatre. Jason Isbell, if you don’t know him, is an outstanding songwriter from Alabama who begain as a member of the Drive-by Truckers. His music is firmly grounded in the Muscle Shoals tradition. If you haven’t heard him, you should definitely check out his music.


Flashes of Hope 2015

Flashes of Hope is a non-profit organization that enlists photographers around the country to create a black & white portrait of kids with life threatening illnesses. This year, I participated in two shoots one week apart at Camp Korey, a Paul Newman supported camp in Carnation. It’s an incredible experience to photograph these brave kids. This was my second year to work with this great organization.


Six Reasons Why I Won’t Be Buying the New Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 VR Lens (PART II)

nikon_af_s_nikkor_24_70mm_f_2_8e_1438671107000_1175033My previous post was simply my reasoning as to why I personally won’t be buying this lens (at least as of now).  That said, if when it comes out and it seems to be kissed by the hands of God, I might be convinced to make the upgrade.  With the information I have now, I won’t be making a pre-order as I don’t think it will make my images any better than the ones I create with my current 24-70.

Some say that the current lens is over 10 years old and, therefore, can’t hold up to the newer 36mp sensors.  That could be a valid point, but, again for me, I don’t see any issues with this lens.  I’ve used it on every camera since the D50 including the d90, D7000, D7100, D800, and my current cameras.  I’ve never had an issue with this lens.  On my D810, the images look crisp and the bokeh is sweet.  Again, the new lens could surprise me.  But…. let’s face it…. it might turn out to be less sharp, or have worse bokeh.  I can happen.

Now, let’s look at the facts that we do have:

  • Both have maximum aperture of f/22.
  • Both have minimum focus of 1.25 feet.
  • Current version has 15 elements in 11 groups.  New one has 20 elements in 16 groups.  This could be good or bad depending on the glass and configuration.  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • Both have 9 rounded diaphragm blades.
  • The new lens has image stabilization.  I personally don’t feel that I need it.  If you have a consumer level camera or shaky hands, the extra stops that come with VR could be a benefit.  On the other hand, you can pick up the fantastic 24-120 f/4 and only lose one stop of light but pick it back up with the VR plus save $1400.  With that money, you could pick up one or two f/1.8 lenses for when you need extra speed.
  • 77mm front thread vs. 82mm.  For me, that means another $200-500 for new filters.  A B+W polarizer is $200-230 for an 82mm filter.
  • 1.98 pounds vs. 2.35 pounds.  Not a huge deal, but with everybody going to mirrorless to shed the weight, this could be an issue for some.

Of course, all this is speculation.  The lens could come out in August or September and be a downgrade… who knows.  It’s Nikon afterall.  If, on the other hand, it comes out and appears that it will help me make better images, then I’m in.  All I’m saying is that, for now, I won’t be ordering this lens as it may not be a big enough get for my needs.

Six Reasons Why I Won’t Be Buying the New Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 VR Lens

  1. I already have the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens.  This lens has been the workhorse of the Nikon line for years.  It is one of the best performing, sharpest lens in the Nikon lineup.  There’s nothing a newer 24-70 is going to give me that will make my photographs better.
  2. Cost.  At $2400, the new lens is at least $500 more than a new copy of the current 24-70.  That’s a ton of money.  Plus, once the new lens gets into the hands of many, there will be a lot of nice, used 24-70’s hitting the market at $1200-1500.  This is a savings of over $1000.
  3. Don’t really need the VR.  The biggest claim to fame on this lens is the addition of vibration reduction which is not available on the current lens.  While this may be a plus for videographers who want the sharpness of this lens with some vibration reduction, it’s not an issue for still photographers.   Firstly, the range of 24-70 can be easily hand held for most.  Now, if you have shaky hands, perhaps the VR will help.  But for most, you can hand hold the original lens to fairly slow shutter speeds.  Yes, the VR claims to give you several stops slower, but with today’s camera bodies, you can raise the ISO high enough to compensate.  With my D4s, I can shoot all day long at ISO 6400 without any loss of detail and get fast shutter speeds in difficult lighting situations such as concerts or dark event spaces.
  4. Size.  The new lens is even bigger and heavier than the current model.  It outweighs the current version by almost 1/2 pound (200 grams).  While this doesn’t seem like a lot, it is when you are working with it for a long period of time.
  5. Filter size.  While the current 24-70 takes standard 77mm filters, the new one takes 82mm filters.  You may say “so what”?  High quality polarizers or ND filters are expensive.  If you’ve already invested hundreds of dollars in 77mm filters, you’d now have to go out and buy new ones to fit this lens.  A good B+W circular polarizer costs over $200.  Add in 2-4 ND filters at $100 each and you’re now adding on another $500 to the cost of buying this lens.
  6. There’s a good chance that sometime down the road, I may want to ditch all my Nikon gear and move into the mirrorless world.  Right now, the mirrorless cameras just aren’t for me (though I do love my Sony a6000).  They just don’t perform the way my D810 and D4s does.  Yet!  As technology gets better, and I get older, I may make the move.  While this is likely 10 years away or more, it is a reality.  Why invest another $2400 to replace a lens that is just as capable as the new one in virtually every way.  I’d rather spend that money on a trip somewhere to make more images.

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One of My Images Gets a Full Page in Popular Photography Magazine

One of my images from Cuba was given a full page in the July 2015 issue of Popular Photography Magazine in an article about the benefits of photography workshops.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the article:  PopPhoto

Think Tank Airport Helipak Review

6-21-2015 11-34-38 AMThink Tank has done it again.  They have filled a need for a lightweight, portable pack to carry the Phantom Quadcopter anywhere and everywhere.  For the past couple of years, I’ve kept my Phantom Vision Quadcopter in a Go Professional hard case.  While it was packed perfectly and safely, the case was extremely heavy and difficult to carry long distances as it only had a handle, like a suitcase without wheels.

What I wanted was a backpack for my drone so that I could take it anywhere I wanted, whether it was through the city or on the trial.  Enter the new Think Tank Airport Helipak.  This bag is almost perfect!

Featuring a lumbar support, adjustable shoulder harness and a removable padded waist belt, I can carry this bag forever without really noticing it is there.  Inside, there’s plenty of space for any Phantom model, or similar sized quadcopters, including plenty of extra batteries, remotes and other accessories.  There’s even room for a professional DSLR and a lens or two.  Pictured here is the bag with my drone, all the accessories, a D810 camera body and a 28-300 lens.  There’s an outside pocket for a 15″ laptop, iPad and other things.   There is also an organizer pocket for a smart phone, wallet, business cards and the like.  And, as if all that wasn’t enought, there is a side pocket for a water bottle as well as small pockets on the shoulder strap for a snack or cell phone.  The interior can be reconfigured as needed.  It is sized for either international or domestic travel. _DSC0918

As with all their bags, Think Tank put a lot of thought into this bag and truly left no stone unturned.  My only quibble is that you have to take the props off in order to stow the aircraft.  I’m sure this is to keep the bag to a reasonable size and remain within airport standards.  A quick visit to the local drone store revealed that most bags and cases require removal of the props.  They even provided rubber protective tips for the rotor threads.  The bag is water resistant and it comes with a full, waterproof cover in case you are caught in a downpour.

As a Phantom 3 owner, I’m very excited about this bag.  It is the absolute perfect solution for taking your quadcopter anywhere you want.  At only $239.75, this bag is an absolute bargain.  Use this link and get a free gift and free shipping when you purchase one.

Thank Tank Airport Helipak

Seeing Cuba: The Book

I’ve just published a book of my images from Cuba.  You can purchase the e-book for only $4.99.