Thursday, 22 January 2009

How to Shoot Men in Lycra ( Tips for Shooting a Bike Race)

I have been spending my time over the last week covering the Tour Down Under. It is an amazing event and has been superbly organised. Everything has gone like clock work so far and we're talking about one of those Swiss Precision time pieces here. Covering the event is gruelling and I'm just taking photos, don't know how hard it must be for those actually in the race!



In the past I have I have done my fair share of Mountain Biking photography but this is my first time coving a road race and boy is it different. I have learnt a lot since Sunday and I thought I would share a few tips with those of you who are in Adelaide and are thinking of heading out to capture the event or lookinag at trying you hand at shooting some road racing.

  1. Drive the course before hand and do it in the reverse direction. This is so you can scout any good locations looking in the direction you will be shooting
  2. Use multiple bodies if you can. I have been using 3 bodies every day. One remote , one on a long lens and one intermediate or wide lens. This is crucial has you will not have time to change lenses as the wizz past. And bot do they fly, even up hill!
  3. Use the longest lens you have. This is great for creating out of focus backgrounds to make your subject pop and for compressing perspective to make the peloton bunch up. I have been using the 200-400 and took the 600 for a spin today.
  4. Use a wide lens to incorporate the scenery it can also draw the viewer into the frame if you can get close enough to the riders.
  5. Check, Check and Check again, all your settings on the camera as you don't have time to chimp you images.
  6. Have the sun on your back. The race is held either side of noon for most events, the worst possible light for us photogs. Having the sun at you back will mean the rides faces are in the sun avoiding back lit images.
  7. Use fast shutter speeds. I have been shooting aperture priority around f4 at 400ISO to get nice fast shutter speeds around 1/1000 of a second. Freezes the sweat falling from their brow (I love that shot!)
  8. Try some slow shutter speeds too. I have had sucess (and a load of duds) with shutter speeds as low as 1/80 of a second. With good panning technique you get some graet images showing loads of movement giving a different feel to the mornormal 'static' shots.
  9. Use a little fill flash. Don't fire your flash at full ppower into the eyes of a rider going into a corner at 60kph but a little judicious flash use can work wonders
  10. Wear a hat and carry a drink but don't drink too much as there is no time to stop for a pee!

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

D3 and D700 firmware updates

Nikon have posted updates for both the D3 and D700 camera. Nothing ground breaking here just some update, minor fixes and a spelling correction (?!?) Still nice to see they are still working on sorting us out when they can. More details after the jump...



D3

The following improvements have been made in version 2.01

  • Geodetic information is now displayed in ViewNX Ver. 1.2.0 or later and Capture NX 2 Ver. 2.1.0 or later for images captured with the GPS Unit GP-1 mounted on the camera.
  • Autofocus-response performance in focus mode C (Continuous-servo AF mode) with relatively dark subjects has been increased.
  • When the AF-ON button is pressed, the monitor turns off and a focus point can now be selected using the multi selector.
  • Photo information displayed in full-frame playback has been modified as follows:
    HI-, LO- has been changed to Hi, Lo
    WARM TONE has been changed to WARM FILTER
    COLOR CUSTOM has been changed to COLOR BALANCE
  • Manamah, displayed in the Time zone options for the World time item in the setup menu, has been changed to Manama.
  • An issue that, in extremely rare cases, resulted in noticeable black dots in images captured with Long exp. NR in the shooting menu set to On has been resolved.
  • When the Speedlight SB-800 was mounted on the camera with flash mode set to Distance-priority manual (GN) mode, and then the exposure meters were reactivated or the camera was turned on, the distance information displayed on the SB-800 changed. This issue has been resolved.
  • An issue that, in some rare cases, caused images captured with the following lenses to be under-exposed, has been resolved.
    AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
    AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED
D700

The following improvements have been made in version 1.01

  • When Custom Setting a4 Focus tracking with lock-on was set to Off in Continuous-servo AF, the lens drive moved gradually without achieving focus. This issue has been resolved.
  • When the Speedlight SB-800 was mounted on the camera with flash mode set to Distance-priority manual (GN) mode, and then the exposure meters were reactivated or the camera was turned on, the distance information displayed on the SB-800 changed. This issue has been resolved.
  • When the Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10 was mounted on the camera and an EN-EL3e battery inserted in the camera but no batteries inserted in the MB-D10, and SB-900 flash mode set to TTL auto flash mode, the flash mode changed to A mode when the exposure meters turned off or were reactivated, or the camera was turned off or on. This issue has been resolved. (This issue has also been resolved with SB-900 firmware Ver. 5.02.)
  • An issue that, in extremely rare cases, resulted in noticeable black dots in images captured with Long exp. NR in the shooting menu set to On has been resolved.
  • Manamah, displayed in the Time zone options for the World time item in the setup menu, has been changed to Manama.
You can download the updates from here

And before you ask Manama is the capitol of Bahrain.

I am not going to update my cameras until next week as I don't want to take any chances as we have a busy week shooting the Tour Down Under. More to come on that one!

Happy Shooting.
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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

D3x, the results are in...




Well I managed to get my hands on a D3x for a short while and yes it is amazing. The files from that camera blow everything else I have seen away, compared with other DSLRs anyway. Actually the files are comparable with medium format digital backs and surpass both 35mm and 120 film that's for sure. Now I am not going to run an in depth review here. There are plenty of great detailed reviews around, what I am going to tell you is my opinion of the camera as a working photographer specialising in wildlife, nature and adventure sports photography in as few words as possible to help you decide what is best for your photography.

Firstly the D3x is based on the D3 body so its controls are the same, great from a workflow point of view. You can just get on with shooting as you have with the D3, that is if you didn't have to wait for the camera to crunch these huge files! After shooting with the awesomely fast D3 the D3x feels like it runs at glacial speed. A whopping 1.2 frames per second is slow even for my landscape work. I will write that out again so you know it isn't a typo, one point two frames per second! I have the buffer upgrade on both my D3s so it feels like I can shoot at 8 fps for ever but the D3x on the other hand, well you have to wait. This goes for downloading and processing the files too. My desktop machine can handle the files, (a quad core 3GHz machine running 8Gig of RAM) but my notebook (a 2 year old dual processor 2GHz Dell with 4Gig of RAM) well it dies. Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture all struggle keeping up and as I do a lot of processing while out on the road I would have to factor a new laptop into the purchase as well. Speaking of dollars how well does an RRP of $12,000 fit in? Well it is a lot of cash but not too much for such a camera that can holds its own against >$20,000 medium format backs. All the complaints about the D3x costing too much is just crazy. It is worth what people will pay for it and that is what Nikon are asking. I think Jaguars are expensive but I am not complaining I just won't rush out and buy an XJ8...

So Will I grab one? No. Not just yet. As a day to day camera I prefer the speed of the D3 over the file size of the x. The combination of the extra expense and the slower camera does not add up for me and my business. I do have a couple of projects coming up where the extra file size will be awesome but that is in the future and things and opinions do change.


And here is an example of the fantastic files this thing produces. Not my normal thing but check out the single hair in the left of the frame. Thjis is a 100% crop taken from the image below. And Little Miss Stubborn there has very fine hair! Awesome stuff. This is where I think this camera will excel, portraits and studio work where speed (fps) isn't critical.

And where to from here? How about and D700x? that sensor in a slightly smaller package would be awesome and I would drop 10 grand on that in an instant. Read more...

Monday, 12 January 2009

High ISO in Flash Photography

video

It is great to have the option to crank up the ISO when the light is getting low and still get usable images at 800, 1600 and even 3200 ISO the the D3, but have you thought of using higher ISOs when shooting flash? Using higher ISOs allows us to shoot with a smaller aperture to increase depth of field which is a no brainer. But another great advantage is to using higher ISOs to reduce flash recycle times. This is especially important when shooting with small battery powered strobes like Nikon's SB units. This means we need less light for a correct exposure and we can therefore dial down the power of the flash unit. If it takes 1 second to recycle the flash at full power we can shoot at 1 frame per second to get a flash lit exposure. If we up the ISO by 2 stops we can reduce the flash power to 1/4 power allowing us to get more than 4 frames per second. (We get more than 4 frames per second because the flash is recharging as soon as the first frame has been fired.) In the above sequence shot at 1/250 sec f.5.6 at ISO 400 I managed to fire off 11 frames at 8 frames per second before the flashes ran out of juice. And that is without external power packs (SD-8a or SD-9.) Not bad for a strobe that can fit in your pants pocket!

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