Reno Skyline at dusk, NV.

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.

 Crop Image for Nikon D800e

Crop of the Nikon D800e

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!


Tags: buildings city dusk lights long exposure nevada outdoors reno scenics skyline tourist destination travel urban winter

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Looking down the Chicago River at the Chicago skyline and Trump Tower at night in Chicago, IL.

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 is reflected at dusk in the Cloud Gate sculpture informally known as The Bean in Millennium Park in Chicago, IL.

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 sits in front of the Chicago skyline at night in Chicago, IL.

A sculpture in front of the Adler Planetarium frames the Chicago skyline

A person takes a picture of their reflection at night underneath the Cloud Gate sculpture informally known as The Bean in Millennium Park in Chicago, IL.

A person takes a picture of their reflection at night underneath The Bean in Millennium Park

The Chicago skyline is reflected at dusk in the Cloud Gate sculpture informally known as The Bean in Millennium Park in Chicago, IL.

The Chicago skyline is reflected in The Bean in Millennium Park

Tags: chicago chicago river city cityscape cloud gate clouds illinois lights night photography reflection sculpture skyline the bean travel trump tower usa

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San Francisco Bay Bridge Panorama


Usually at this time of year I am already extremely busy shooting all of my winter photography projects in Lake Tahoe.  However, Mother Nature hasn’t delivered the goods yet.  Lake Tahoe is about to have one of the driest Decembers on record and the forecast looks dismal.  Everyone in town (including myself) is going stir crazy.

With everything on hold, I decided to get out of town and create some new work for my fine art and stock portfolio.  I hadn’t shot any city scenes in awhile and decided that I would point my lens towards Reno, Sacramento and San Francisco.

My first shoot was in Reno.  I didn’t have any images of Reno in my portfolio so I thought shooting an overview of the skyline was a good place to start.  I drove down in the early afternoon to scout a good location to frame the city.  Within a few hours I found a great vantage point on the top of a hill.  The sun wasn’t going to set for another couple hours so I used the rest of the time to scout several locations in the city that I would photograph after I had captured the skyline shot.  Everything was shaping up great.

Reno, Nevada skyline

The Reno skyline at dusk

After finding several other good shooting locations in the city I drove back out to the hillside location I scouted earlier.  The sun was just setting and the buildings were starting to light up. 

Dusk is one of my favorite times to photograph city scenes.  There is still enough ambient light to give the sky a nice tone and maintain some detail throughout the scene.  Additionally, the vantage point I picked was great but it was also a good distance away from the city itself.  The longest lens I carry is a Nikon 70-200 2.8mm.  The workaround I use a lot when I want to get a little closer to something is simply shoot with my Nikon D7000 instead of my Nikon D3s.  The cropped sensor on the D7000 immediately turns my 70-200mm lens into a 105-300mm giving me the extra reach I need.

Reno, Nevada skyline detail

A detail of the Reno skyline

After about a half an hour of shooting I knew I had what I needed.  I quickly packed up my gear and drove back to the downtown area to capture a few more scenes.  My main goal was to get a good shot of the famous Reno Arch.  I knew that a good shot of the arch would have a lot of salability, especially in stock.   I worked the scene down at the arch for awhile and got what I was looking for.  I drove back up to Lake Tahoe confident my time was well spent and that I had some great shots in the bag.

The famous Reno Arch at dark, Nevada

The famous Reno Arch

The next day my fiancée and I drove down to wine country where she had some business to take care of.  Over the next several days I used my time to scout and shoot different versions of the San Francisco skyline and bridges.

So much of photography, especially landscape and travel photography, is all about scouting.  I definitely spend a lot more time scouting locations than I do shooting them.  I usually scout everything during the middle of the day when the scenes are less interesting and the light isn’t as dramatic.  Then when all of the elements line up I know exactly where I need to be to make a great image.  A lot of my creative process is all about pre-visualization and scouting is a huge part of that.

The first shot I was after was a panorama of the San Francisco skyline with the Bay Bridge.  The easiest place to shoot that scene is from Treasure Island, which sits just across from the city and is easily accessible by car.  The only downside to shooting from Treasure Island is that I have never felt like the scene is very dynamic.  In my mind, the best place to shoot the scene was from the top of a hill on adjoining Yerba Buena Island.

The only problem with shooting from Yerba Buena is that all of the good locations are technically off limits to the public.  Luckily things like that don’t usually stop me from doing what I need to do.  I spent some time on the island prior to sunset finding a good place to set up my shot.  After coming up with some good options I went back over to Treasure Island to wait for the light to get good.  I didn’t want to hang out at the locations I scouted on Yerba Buena and draw attention to myself possibly getting me kicked out before I could get my shots.

The sun set and I quickly drove back over to Yerba Buena and began shooting.  The scene was spectacular!  I shot well into the darkness using a variety of lenses and shutter speeds to get different effects.  I shot some of the scenes using a low ISO and slow shutter speed to get the cars streaking across the Bay Bridge.  I also shot some of the scenes using a very high ISO (up to 4000) to freeze the cars on the bridge giving the shots a different feel.  The capability of the Nikon D3s to produce unbelievable files at such high ISOs has never ceased to amaze me.  In fact, I don’t even consider 4000 to be that high of an ISO any more.  In the last year I have had several photos published that were shot at a whopping 12,800 ISO!

Cars pass over the Bay Bridge at night headed towards the San Francisco skyline, CA.

The San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at night from Yerba Buena Island

With all of the shots in the bag from Yerba Buena I went back over to Treasure Island and captured a few more scenes.  There is a new sculpture on the island that is lit up at night that makes for an excellent subject.

The San Francisco skyline at night from Treasure Island, California

The San Francisco skyline at night from Treasure Island

A sculpture of a woman on Treasure Island illiminated at night in San Francisco, CA

An amazing sculpture on Treasure Island illuminated at night

The next day my efforts were concentrated on the Golden Gate Bridge.  I had shot the Golden Gate once before from the Marin Headlands with great results.  I wanted to mix things up a bit though.  I really wanted to create an image of the Golden Gate that was colorful and moody.  I also didn’t want to shoot the bridge from any of the “classic” locations over on the Marin Headlands.  It is easy to get great shots of the bridge and the city from the Marin Headlands but all of the locations are overshot and you would be hard pressed to come away with anything original. 

After driving around for awhile I found a great location with a different perspective at the Presidio Yacht Club.  Not only did the location have a great view but I also noticed that the tide was starting to go out. 

Low tide was going to coincide perfectly with dusk which gave me a great tool at my disposal for creating the kind of image I was looking for.  I knew the exposed rocks at low tide would make great foreground subjects with excellent texture.  The moving water around the rocks during a long exposure would add to the mystic feel that I was going for.

The Golden Gate Bridge is illuminated at dusk in San Francisco, CA.

The Golden Gate Bridge

As it began to get dark and the bridge began to light up, I crept down on the slippery rocks and set up my shot.  I took some quick tests and after a few adjustments I was happy with the composition.  The only thing I didn’t like was how dark the foreground was compared to the bridge and the sky.  To correct this problem I used a 2 stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter.  I adjusted my exposure accordingly and was extremely happy with the result.  I stayed down on the rocks and took shot after shot to ensure I had what I was looking for.  The motion of the waves hitting the rocks created a slightly different effect with each exposure and I wanted to make sure that I had the best possible version of the image.  After about 30 or so shots I knew I had what I was looking for.  Ironically, when I processed all of the images the first shot in the batch was my favorite.

The next day I joined back up with my fiancée and we began our drive back to Lake Tahoe.  We didn’t leave until later in the afternoon so we could stop in Sacramento and photograph the famous Tower Bridge on our way home.  It worked out perfectly.  We hit the bridge at just the right time and I had the chance to take some general overview shots of the bridge as well as get a little more creative.  It was a wonderful end to a great couple days of shooting.

Cars pass under the famous Tower Bridge at night in downtown Sacramento, CA.

Cars pass over the famous Tower Bridge in Sacramento at dusk

Now, back in my office in Lake Tahoe, everything is processed and submitted to the agency I shot for, Aurora Photos.  Ultimately I was able to put about forty new images into the market.  On top of that I have several new shots that will be sold as limited edition fine art prints.  I would call that a productive week!

Unfortunately there still isn’t any snow in the forecast.  I haven’t figured out what my next short term project will be to get me through this lull in the weather but trust me, the wheels are turning!  Stay tuned.

Tags: bay bridge california city dusk francisco gate golden how-to nevada night oakland photography reno sacramento san skyline usa

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Tangier, Morocco

Posted By: Rachid | 4 Comments | Permalink
Categories: Travel

I looked out the window of the airplane and watched the Spanish coastline disappear and give way to the Straight of Gibraltar and finally Cap Spartel and the beginning of the African coastline. It had been 11 years since my last trip to Morocco. My father and I were on our way to attend my cousin Kaoutar's wedding in Tangier. It would be a three day traditional Moroccan wedding and I would be around more family members than I could count. Below are a selection of photos from my seven days in Morocco. I wish I could have stayed longer but such is life. Enjoy.

tangier morocco hercules cave jumping boy

"The Mirror of Africa"

The Hercules Cave is located just outside of Tangier just south of Cap Spartel. This is the cave where Hercules himself is mythed to have resided before undertaking his 12 tasks that earned him immortality. The cave outline is the mirror image of the African continent.

cap spartel tangier morocco

"Cap Spartel – The Mediterranean Meets the Atlantic"

This is the "Cap of Africa." It is the exact point where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean meet with the Cap Spartel lighthouse to guide the way.

 boat morocco cap spartel 

A boat passes around Cap Spartel at sunset

 tangier morocco kasba 

"Old Meets New"

The Old Walls of the Tangier Kasbah perched above the Port of Tangier.



 tangier morocco rooftops mediterranean 

"The Rooftops of Tangier"

Tangier has grown considerably in the last 10 years. This is one of the only views left of the city looking down on the Mediterranean that isn't obstructed by large buildings. In fact, to get this shot my cousin and I snuck up to the roof of one of Tangier's five star hotels.

The souq (market) is the center of Moroccan culture. The souq is a virtual maze of shops and cafes that sell absolutely everything you could ever think of. It is a photographer's dream. I could spend months just photographing in the souq. From the wealthy Moroccan family going to get their groceries to the three shadows sitting in the corner smoking kif (a mix of marijuana and tobacco), it is one of the most eclectic places I have ever been.

 souq morocco tangier 

"Olives in the Souq"

 petite souq tangier morocco 

"Entrance to the Petite Souq"

 petite souq tangier morocco 

"Streetside Shopping"

A street side vendor selling everything from hookahs to flip flops and traditional Moroccan mirrors.

 olives petite souq tangier morocco 

Olives are a huge commodity in Morocco. Olive shops line the souq, one after another.

 petite souq shopping tangier morocco 

You don't have to really go around looking for an "organic" label in the souq. You can also bet that all of the fruits and vegtables will cost about a tenth of what you pay in the United States and are of better quality.

 camel toys tangier morocco 

A Moroccan wedding is an experience unto it's own. The elaborate ceremony and dress is absolutely beautiful. It is a three day celebration involving a lot of tradition and protocol. Oh, and the food is really good too.

 moroccan wedding 

 moroccan wedding 

 moroccan wedding 

 moroccan wedding 

Soccer is the life blood of many African countries.

Whether an actual soccer ball or a crushed up can you will always find children playing in the streets and parks.

 moroccan kids playing soccer 

Like much of the world, western ways are descending on traditional cultures and values. Here, McDonalds looks over Tangier and the Mediterranean.

 mcdonalds tangier morocco 

My cousin Mounir sits on the same rooftop overlooking the city.

 tangier morocco skyline 

Islam is as prevalent as ever in Morocco. Although Morocco is very liberal compared to other Arab nations, their religion is very visible in their way of life.

 tangier morocco mosque palm tree 

"The Minaret of Tangier"

This is the largest mosque in Tangier. The balls on top of the mosque are said to be kept in balance by the influence of the planets.

I hope to return to Morocco sooner than later. It is such an amazing place filled with vibrant people. The small size of the country has no bearing on the amount of culture that lies within it's borders. There is a surprise around every corner.

Tags: africa, city morocco, tangier, travel,

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