Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Did Nikon omit something important on the D600?

New Header

The observant among you will have noticed that I've replaced the header picture on the blog. For what it's worth, it's a composite of two images I took a couple of weeks ago at Horseshoe Lake. The eagle was about 400 or 500m away, and I reached out with my 400mm lens to capture it.

Blogger doesn't archive the old image, so as I usually do when I replace it, here's the previous image.

Trouble in Paradise

I put the 10-stop ND filter on the 17-35mm lens the other day and re-shot the Trent Waterway shot, hoping for a smoother effect on the water and some motion in the clouds. When I uploaded the images, I was surprised to see this:

See the big ugly line about 1/4 of the way up, and the dark zone around it? Also look at the vignetting! Click on the image to enlarge it

I THINK this is from not covering the viewfinder while shooting the picture. The amount of light leaking in is visible in comparison to the limited light coming in through the filtered lens. The vignetting is surprisingly more than I expected since the filter is not thick and I didn't have a skylight or any other filter mounted on the lens. I was shooting zoomed all the way out to 17mm.

I'm going to go back out today to test my theory... I have a totally opaque cloth to hang over the viewfinder. I'm a bit surprised Nikon didn't include a cover for the viewfinder like they did on the D800 and D3/D4. It couldn't cost them more than a few cents...

Update: I did go out on Monday to test. That's a relief – it was the viewfinder. I opaqued it out with a heavy cloth and the line and vignetting disappeared. I  created the following HDR while I was there:

Technical notes: This shot was blended from three exposures at 3 seconds, 0.8 seconds and 13 seconds, ISO 400, f/16, F=17mm, D600 FX with the 10-stop B&W ND filter on board. The camera was on the tripod and I used the cable release and the 5-second self-timer to stabilize it. There was a heavy cloth over the camera to opaque the viewfinder. I chose the ISO in order to achieve the 3 second nominal exposure so that I could preserve some structure in the fast flowing water. When I merged it in HDR Efex Pro, I used the middle exposure for de-ghosting. Finishing touches were done in Silver Efex Pro with several custom control points. Contact me for a limited-edition print of this image. Click on the image to view it full sized.

It's pretty well documented that if you are shooting long exposures, especially if there's light behind the camera, that you need to block the viewfinder. Normally your eye does that but not if you're using a cable release, or timer, etc. Light leaks in there and somehow gets to the sensor, messing up your image like the example above. On their higher end cameras, Nikon has a built-in switch to block the viewfinder. Even on the D300, they supplied a little slide-in plastic piece to cover the finder. Not so the D600. They should design a rubber eyecup with a slide-in cover, if they're not prepared to build it into the camera.

Damaged Tripod

The day that I shot the "marsh grass" image that I posted a few days ago (and which, by the way was selected by TIF as their cover image for the month of April), I stumbled with my camera mounted on the tripod, legs fully extended. To prevent falling down, I managed to put my full weight on one of the tripod legs. I broke it. Fortunately, the break is at the top of the second leg segment, where it goes inside the top one. The tripod is still fully functional, except that I have to be careful not to pull the segment all the way out, or it will come out (it doesn't stop any more).

I was thinking that if I had been carrying my full-sized Gitzo, it might not have broken. But then it weighs 3 times as much as the 3-Legged Thing carbon fiber. Bad luck, but it could have been worse: I might have dropped the camera or hurt myself in a fall. Lesson: be more careful!

April Fool!

The most successful April Fools jokes are the ones where people actually believe them for a while, until someone comes along and points out it was a joke. At which point they slap themselves in the head and say, "OK, you got me".

I posted a story yesterday (April 1st) about how one of my images was purchased by Arts Canada, and would be hung in the National Gallery in Ottawa (that's our equivalent to the Smithsonian). Not that credible, right? I added that I couldn't reveal the amount they paid, but I'd never have to work again. Then I said that the curator, Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz would be making a press announcement. Not enough clues?

I have to tell you, I got an entirely satisfying number of congratulatory messages from individuals who should have caught it earlier, including at least two with "Dr." in front of their names... on the other hand I got an "I hate you!" from someone I care about who shall remain nameless (lest I get in further hot water). Seems she told a whole bunch of people about it before I told her the truth! This is where the acronym, "ROTFLMAO" is really appropriate!

Thinking about Printing

The more I research the printing game, the more the thought of printing myself is boiling around in my head. I know it means an investment in time and working my way through a learning curve, and it certainly means I'll have to acquire some equipment and make space available (I have the space)... this might be a direction I want to go.

I posted an article yesterday on my technical blog, just expounding on some of my thought process and describing some of the exotic media and mounting options out there. Have a look. AND: if anyone has an Epson 3800 or equivalent that they might want to part with for a reasonable price, please send me an email or get in touch otherwise.

In case you thought it was Spring...

In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, "it ain't over until it's over".

I took this picture yesterday, April 1st and no, it's not a joke. It was bloody cold when I went out to the white water for those ND filter test shots, especially since I had my gloves off most of the time. Although it was only about -4°C, the wind was vicious. No sign of the eagles on Horseshoe Lake either, they were too smart to venture out. This was the view from my dock later in the afternoon. You're looking at the ice road plowed mid-winter by the Red Umbrella Inn to get out to the ice fishing huts. The huts were taken in last week when it LOOKED like spring was here and we ventured into double digit temperatures, Saturday and Sunday were georgeous, then along came Monday.

Technical notes: this was a single exposure, 1/4000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200. I used a masked layer of Topaz adjust on the ice and a masked layer of HDR Efex Pro on the sky, tweaked it in LR and at the last minute, darkened it a stop or more for the dramatic effect.

Until next week...

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