Reno Skyline - Nikon D800e, Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 lens - ISO 100 f/8 6 seconds
The Nikon D800e is my newest camera and it is a game changer. The resolution is absolutely incredible and is comparable to a much more expensive medium format body. Image quality and resolution was not available at this price point until now. For photographers looking to make extremely large prints and shoot high end commercial work this is the camera for you. That said, if you don’t plan on using the files for those purposes I would recommend saving some cash, getting a camera with less resolution and putting that money into lenses or some other purchase you have been holding back on. The files are much larger than most people have worked with in the past and you need a computer that can keep up as well.
Also, if you are considering this camera for purchase do your homework on the D800 vs the D800e. The D800e differs from the D800 in that it lacks the anti-aliasing filter found on all DSLRs. By removing the filter your images will be slightly sharper. The negative effect this has on images is the possibility of color moiré appearing. Moiré can be dealt with in a number of ways but it is worth researching the subject thoroughly before you commit to buying the D800e. For me the benefits outweigh the negatives, hence why I chose the D800e.
For my test of the D800e I took it up to photograph some stock of the Reno skyline near my home in Lake Tahoe. Arriving just before dusk I set up my shot and waited for the city lights to turn on. Once the light was right I knocked off a couple frames. When I reviewed them I was blown away. Hitting the zoom button I scrutinized the smallest areas of each image and the detail was astounding! Below is a 100% crop of the image above. Detail and sharpness of this quality has never been available in a DSLR, until now.
The detail in the files is pretty insane. Wow!
For me I will now shoot all of my landscape and commercial work (that doesn’t require a high shutter speed) with the D800e until Nikon raises the bar again on their next generation of cameras (yet to be released). I am also really excited to start playing around with the video features on the D800e. One of the video features I’m most excited about is the ability to monitor sound directly through the camera. That is going to make collecting and monitoring good sound a much easier task in the field.
As with any new gizmo, the camera is only as good and creative as its operator. Always remember to make sure you understand the technical aspects of photography but not rely on them solely. Creativity will always be king in the photo world no matter what fancy gadgets come out. However, if you can combine your creativity with a tool like the D800e the results will be astounding! Happy shooting!
Looking down the Chicago River at the Trump Tower
This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Windy City for a family wedding. My wife and I spent the weekend enjoying the festivities and hanging out with family and friends. On Monday my wife had a business meeting scheduled in the city, giving me a free day to explore and photograph. There were numerous shooting possibilities available, but with limited time I really had to narrow down a good “hit list.”
As with all of my photography, I believe scouting locations (if you can) is one of the most important aspects of creating compelling imagery. Personally, I like to scout in the middle of the day when the light is less than pleasing so I can really take my time coming up with good possible angles and compositions. This was the approach I took on this trip to Chicago and it paid off.
Over the weekend in between wedding festivities, armed with only my phone for a camera, my wife and I visited several of the locations I was interested in photographing. They included: The Cloud Gate Sculpture (known informally as “The Bean”) in Millennium Park, several skyline views from the Adler Planetarium, and different views of downtown along the Chicago River. Since it was my first time photographing Chicago I wanted to start with what I felt were the defining shots of the city. After taking a look at the locations, I decided that everything should be shot from several hours before sunset into the night to achieve the imagery I was looking for.
I took a leisurely day early Monday and in the late afternoon hopped a cab down to The Bean in Millennium Park to kick things off. After shooting The Bean I walked all over downtown for about five hours until I was satisfied with the results.
The shot I was the most excited about was of the Cloud Gate Sculpture in Millennium Park. I don’t normally shoot landscapes or cityscapes with a fisheye lens but I had an idea with The Bean that I wanted to explore. I thought it would be interesting to bend the city around The Bean using a fisheye complimenting the effect that The Bean is so well known for. I figured since The Bean has been bending the Chicago skyline for so long, perhaps it was time to return the favor.
Below is my favorite frame from the shoot.
The Chicago skyline bends around The Bean at night in Millennium Park
Here are a few more of my favorite frames from my night shoot in the city. Thanks Chicago, I’ll be back!
A sculpture in front of the Adler Planetarium frames the Chicago skyline
A person takes a picture of their reflection at night underneath The Bean in Millennium Park
The Chicago skyline is reflected in The Bean in Millennium Park
Over the summer I had the pleasure of working with my good friend and colleague Trevor Clark on a spectacular project in the Yukon Territory in Northern Canada. Our assignment was to create a short film highlighting the unbelievable mountain biking in and around the city of Whitehorse, YK. Our client, H and I Adventures (based in Scotland), offers mountain bike tours all over the world to destinations such as Nepal, Ecuador, Mexico and Spain. They are adding the Yukon to their unbelievable list of destinations and needed a short film to tell their story. We had 10 days to scout and shoot the project.
This video is an especially important step for Trevor and I as we plan to work together a lot more in the future. We also had the pleasure of working with our friend and up-and-comer Tommy Penick on the back end for the edit. Tommy has a big future ahead of him and did an amazing job constructing the piece from a monumental amount of footage.
We would like to thank:
Sylvain Turcotte and Marsha Cameron of Boreale Mountain Biking – for showing us all of their secret stashes and unbelievable backyard that they call home
Lowepro - for their support and giving us the just-now-released Rover Pro bags that made carrying 50 pounds of video gear on a mountain bike as comfortable as it can be
Canyon Florey - for the use of a prototype of his ultra-lite camera crane that added a whole new level of production to the project
Northern Lights above our camp at Yurtville - Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
I have always wanted to explore the Yukon Territory in Northern Canada. The Yukon is about the same size as California but only contains 34,000 people. From abundant wildlife to dramatic landscapes to the Northern Lights, it is a photographer’s paradise. Several months ago I was lucky enough to receive an assignment that would take me into the heart of this amazing landscape.
One thing I didn’t know existed in the Yukon was world-class mountain biking. My assignment was to team up with my good friend and fellow Novus Select photographer Trevor Clark for a 10 day video project documenting the lesser known mountain bike trails throughout the territory.
As Trevor and I began planning our trip, the first thing on both of our minds was how we were going to carry all of the photography and video equipment while logging long days on mountain bikes in extremely remote locations.
We let the good folks over at Lowepro know about our dilemma and a couple days later received the not-yet-released Rover Pro 45L AW and the Rover Pro 35L AW. As soon as we saw the packs it was clear that they were going to be absolutely perfect.
The larger Rover Pro 45L AW that I carried
I carried the larger Rover Pro 45L AW and Trevor took the Rover Pro 35L AW. Before leaving, we laid out all the photo and video gear we would be carrying (about 50 pounds apiece) to see if we could get everything in the packs. Not only did we have no problem getting the gear to fit, but there was room to spare for the necessary outdoor gear we would require.
Here is the breakdown.
Camera/video gear that went into my pack (the Rover Pro 45L AW):
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Tokina 12-24mm f/4
Nikon TC-14E-II Teleconverter
Genius 8 stop ND filter
Nikon Circular Polarizing Filter
Dynamic Perception Stage One Motorized Slider/Dolly System
2 Flashpoint Carbon Tripods
2 Go Pro Cameras and Mounts
Zacuto Z Finder Loop
Manfrotto 55 Mag Photo-Movie Head
Sennheiser MKE 400 External Mic
San Disk Extreme Cards
LowePro Memory Wallet 20
Two Liter Camelbak Bladder
2 Tahoe Trail Bars
First Ascent down jacket
REI Event Rain Shell
Spare Inner Tube
Innertube Patch Kit
Water Purification Tablets
All of this gear made for a heavy load but thankfully Lowepro took this into consideration and equipped the bag with a trampoline-style suspension system that performed beautifully. Having 50+ pounds strapped to my back during rough 3,500 foot mountain bike descents was a true testament to this bag’s capability. The bag handled all of the weight with ease and the pack always felt snug on my back.
Aside from the way the pack fit, one of the things I really loved about the Rover Pro was the ability to access all of my camera gear from the front hatch. This meant not having to unpack and repack all of my outdoor gear every time I wanted to set up a shot. That, in conjunction with the customizable modular compartment system, created key timesaving elements that allowed me to move faster and maximize my shooting.
The Rover Pro was an essential part of our Yukon mountain bike film project. It carried all of our gear comfortably and reliably. In the end it did what a great bag is supposed to do – let us focus on making killer content!
Make sure and check out Trevor Clark’s review on his Rover Pro 35L AW on his blog and take a spin through his website to enjoy all of his fantastic work!
For the full skinny and specs on the new Rover Pro visit the Lowepro website. They hit the ball out of the park with this one.
Stay tuned for our short film on our incredible experiences mountain biking in the Yukon. Coming soon!
Watching the sunrise from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA.
It is almost the middle of January in Lake Tahoe and by now I should have a ton of new ski and snowboard images under my belt. Unfortunately this season Mother Nature has other plans. We are currently experiencing one of the driest winter seasons on record and it looks like it is going to last at least another week. It feels more like May than January. There is no snow on the mountains and to sum it up in a word is “depressing.”
To curb my overwhelming desire to bundle up and cram myself into my refrigerator with a few cold ones and pray for winter, I grabbed my fiancée and we headed down to the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley National Park to brighten our mood.
My first goal of the trip was to photograph the Bristlecone Pine trees high in the White Mountains near Bishop, CA. I have photographed the Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park quite extensively, but have never had the opportunity to visit the groves in the White Mountains of California. I wasn’t sure if the road would be open (it usually closes in October after the first snow) but I figured I would give it a shot. Luckily, and completely abnormal for January, the road was good to go.
We got a later start than I wanted to leaving Lake Tahoe and didn’t arrive to the Bristlecone Pine Forest until just after sunset. At first I was upset that I hadn’t given myself time to find some proper compositions but there was still some ambient light left. I did some quick exploring and came up with a few ideas. I knew I would have some moonlight to work with once it got dark and I was counting on using that to make some compelling imagery.
Once the sky was dark enough I began shooting. I shot a few exposures using the available moonlight but after previewing a few, something was missing. I decided to try something new, at least for me. I have shot under moonlight and played around with light-painting quite a bit with great success. I hadn’t however, combined the two. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try!
An ancient Bristlecone Pine tree in the White Mountains, CA
I put together a composition of an impressive gnarled Bristlecone that I really liked. I set the camera to Bulb mode and opened the shutter for 160 seconds. While the shutter was open I used my headlamp to paint the tree from the side for about 45 seconds. I painted the tree from the side to give it some added depth. If I had lit the tree head on it would have given it a flat effect. After the first exposure I checked my preview and was thrilled with the results! I was really pleased with the combination of ambient moonlight and artificial light from my headlamp. The Bristlecone pines are such an oddity in nature to begin with (they are the oldest single living organisms on earth) and I have always wanted to make an image that really conveyed that. I finally felt like I succeeded.
With a winner in the bag, we made our way back down to the valley floor and headed for the Alabama Hills outside of Independence, CA. There, we set up camp.
I awoke early the next morning below the shadow of Mount Whitney and hiked over to Mobius and Lathe Arch to photograph sunrise. Both provide an excellent feature to photograph at sunrise. In the case of both arches it is possible to frame Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous US) and Lone Pine Peak perfectly in the negative space of both arches. As the first rays of light spill over the horizon lighting up the entire Eastern Sierra, it is truly a site to behold.
The Mobius Arch frames Mount Whitney and the Eastern Sierra Nevada at sunrise in the Alabama Hills, CA.
After shooting for about an hour I had everything I needed. We drove down to town, grabbed some breakfast and continued on to Death Valley National Park.
Having photographed in Death Valley before, I had a good idea of what I was looking for. On my previous trip most of my time was concentrated on photographing the famous Racetrack and the Zabriskie Point area. My goal with the limited time I had on this trip was to put my efforts towards creating some fresh imagery of Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the North America) and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Regina (my fiancée) was really excited to do some yoga in a spectacular location and I thought a late afternoon photo shoot in Badwater Basin would be perfect. I could photograph her in a variety of poses in a surreal setting and could then switch gears and photograph some dynamic landscapes once the sun set. We styled her out in some clothing that I liked and off we went.
Regina performing Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
The shoot went better than expected. The white salt surface of Badwater Basin provided the perfect natural reflector (similar to snow) to soften the harsh shadows of the late afternoon light. It balanced the scene out perfectly. The combination of the surreal landscape and yoga made for some great imagery that will surely sell in the commercial stock photography market.
Regina performs the One-Legged Inverted Staff Pose (Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
After the sun set I stayed out on Badwater Basin for another hour composing a variety of landscape images. What a dreamlike place! Absolutely spectacular!
Badwater Basin at sunset
The next morning Regina and I awoke early and made our way over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We arrived early enough to give ourselves time to hike out a good distance on the dunes and scout a location to shoot before the actual sunrise.
We found a few spots we were happy with and began shooting. Early morning and late afternoon are the ideal times to shoot on the sand dunes. When the sun is high overhead it illuminates all sides of the dunes and it doesn’t translate very well photographically. The drama of the shadows at the beginning and end of the day provide the best chance to create dramatic imagery. We shot for over an hour until I was happy with a variety of different scenarios. It was a really fun morning.
Running down the sand dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park
After photographing on the sand dunes it was time to drive home. For two days of shooting I was extremely happy with the results. I was the most pleased with my frame from the Bristlecone Pine Forest. I am excited to use the technique of combining moonlight and artificial light in more photo shoots down the road. There is a lot of possibility for unique imagery using that technique and I’m excited to explore it further.
Once again I sit back in my office in Lake Tahoe getting all of these images out into the market. As much as I enjoyed this trip I would really like to start seeing some snow fall in Lake Tahoe. If any of you readers out there have some free time be sure and wash your car, do a snow dance and PRAY FOR SNOW! Until next time…