David Fraser Photography: Blog https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog en-us (C) David E. Fraser info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:31:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:31:00 GMT https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u710388660-o812208974-50.jpg David Fraser Photography: Blog https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog 80 120 I'm an Artist: I Don't Need Rules! https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/12/norulesforthisartist I’m an Artist; I Don't Need Rules!

Following my morning ritual, I awakened a couple days ago, brewed my cup of coffee and reached for my iPad to catch up on the world. Among the myriads of notifications was one from a friend and fellow photographer. He called my attention to another example of an issue we had jointly decried for the past few years. It was a case where a social media content creator had made some claims about lighting for photography that were not just erroneous from a photographer’s perspective, they violated every principle of physics that essentially explains how light travels and how obstacles in the path of light ultimately impacts its distribution. I watched the video the content creator had shared and was at first bemused as to why he was sharing such information. Then I became troubled as I read comments from many of the creator’s followers. Invariably, they amounted to, “You’re amazing. Thank you for teaching us.”

D810

There have been many occasions when I raised questions about claims by content creators. Notice, I said “content creators” and not specifically photographers. Many in fact have little or no photography experience but have been lured by the potential for monetizing YouTube videos and Instagram posts. In fact, they may even purchase the most expensive video recording/editing gear and create glitzy productions that are long on visual entertainment, but short on substantive content. Many of the creators do not take criticism well, and often deflect legitimate challenges by saying, “Photography is an art. I don’t need rules.”

Art or Science? 

It is here that the academic in me makes his way to the fore. Among the courses I teach is research methods. Whether I am teaching quantitative (statistical) methods or qualitative (interpretive) methods, I make a point of helping graduate students distinguishing between artistic processes and scientific processes, as well as the type of writing typically associated with each approach. I summarize these with the following points:

1. Art focuses on variable styles while science focuses on precision
2. Art typically focuses on creativity while science takes an ordered approach
3. Art tends to be evolutionary while science tends to be normative 
4. Art tends to be highly subjective while science tends to be empirical

Of course, these are generalizations that emerged over time and have been validated. Are they relevant to photography? Some would argue that in an era where the exposure and even the depth of field of an image can be displayed with relative accuracy in an electronic viewfinder, no one needs to understand the science of exposure, and certainly not the mathematics behind F-stops. I would argue that if one is welling to cede one’s creativity to computational photography, then perhaps the science of photography  - the normative aspects of shutter speed, ISO, and f-stops, as well as the inverse square law that focuses on how light changes based on distance - is all but dispensable. But if one is interested in knowing why and how to create specific photography art, then the art and science are irrevocably bound together. To claim that being an artist exempts one from understanding the science behind the art is absurd. After all, what is art today, may not be art tomorrow. 

Populism or Peer Validation? 

Beware! Here comes that academic again. Populism generally refers to persons, primarily politicians, who appeal to ordinary people by leading them to see themselves as victims of the elite. But in the broader sense it refers to any appeal aimed at ordinary people. That is a growing trend I’ve seen among many content creators who talk about photography. Yes, there are some who take the opposite tact, identifying themselves as the elite of photography. I’ll leave those for another article. In this case, I am referring to those who know little about the art or the science of photography and decry those who insist that the science is important. 

Several years ago, someone contacted me asking what would be a “good starter camera.” The person had no photography experience or education, but saw the opportunity for making money in their local market. At that time, I recommended a used Nikon D7000 as a good choice. Within a week of its acquisition, the new photographer had set up a website and began charging clients for the service. It was a veritable disaster. I often received calls asking how to fix errors that had been made or how to molify disgruntled clients. Amidst all of this, the new photographer had a growing number of social media followers who all rang the bell of populism saying, “Ignore those who don’t appreciate your talent. They’re just jealous. Your work is amazing.” 

I’ve seen this among many social media content creators. They listen to those with equal inexperience and equal lack of understanding of photography, and are persuaded that they need to learn no more. There is no real peer evaluation. And the cycle goes on. Take a look at the number of photographers who offer paid workshops and you’ll notice a disturbing trend. They perpetuate many of the inaccuracies they learned along the way. They are perhaps talented. They often have the ability to be highly creative. But many also lack a basic understanding of the technical elements of lighting and photography, often masking their inadequacies with Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. 

What’s a New Photographer to Do? 

I willingly admit that I find little practicality  in spending 4-5 years earning a degree in photography. Many institutions offer a Master of Fine Art (MFA) degree for holders of undergraduate degrees in just about any subject area. There may be some benefits to such a degree in specific artistic disciplines, but if one’s sole purpose is to become a photographer, that is not a necessary route. There are a number of shorter education programs for photographers. Professional Photographers of America, for example, offers shorter certification programs that are structured to cover the theory as well as the practice. In essence you learn the science and you develop YOUR art. You build your portfolio to reflect both your understanding of the theory and your own artistic taste. 

Social media platforms can provide some education, but much of it is woefully lacking. You have to carefully select reputable instructors, not just popular bloggers and YouTube content creators. For many of them, it’s strictly a business. Your education is not primary. 

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what type of photographer you want to be. Do you want to be an artist without proper understanding of the science behind your art? Or would you prefer to be an adaptive artist who evolves as the industry changes because you have a fundamental understanding of the science as well? It’s your choice. 

I recommend you also read by blog article about online photography reviews. It’s a good supplement to this one. 

** Note: Throughout the post I’ve shared a few images I’ve shot. I know they have little to do with the actual subject of the post. But we photographers seize every opportunity to share our work. 

About Me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly 20 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion, portraiture, and lifestyle. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. You may follow me on Instagram: @davidfraser.photography. 


 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Art artist Certification Education exposure f-stop lighting Photography Science SocialMedia technical YouTube https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/12/norulesforthisartist Tue, 03 Dec 2019 19:22:11 GMT
Thinking of Buying a New Camera? Be Wary of those Online Reviews! https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/11/newcamerabuyer-beware Thinking of Buying a New Camera? Be Wary of those Online Reviews!

With the 2019 holiday season in full swing, and as we begin to scan our favorite web and/or brick and mortar retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, many photography amateurs and enthusiasts are looking for the best deals on cameras. But with so many from which to choose, the question I get most often is, “What’s the best camera for me to buy?” Invariably, I ask a number of questions before recommending a few good choices. After all, there is no one best camera for everyone and every photography circumstance. 

Why is it Complicated? 

For someone who is not a professional photographer, I think conversations about crop sensor vs full-frame sensor, ISO range, and number of focusing points quickly become pedantic, and result in more confusion than resolution (no pun intended). For sure, these are important specifications for those of us who engage in photography as a business, ranging from the weekend warrior to the full time professional. But for the casual shooter, it may be a bit much. 

Apart from asking a trusted source, many amateur and enthusiast photographers check camera reviews on blogs and platforms like YouTube. These are often good sources, although such reviews often fail to include important caveats such as being sponsored by a particular camera manufacturer, or the fact that the reviewers are not photographers at all. Either of these represent an issue of credibility from my perspective. Would you find me credible if I were to write a glowing review of a mobile phone because the manufacturer paid me to do it? Similarly, would you trust me to write a critical review of that phone, based only on the specifications I’ve read, even though I never touched it? I would think not. Yet, that represents the status quo in many (not all) online reviews, particularly on social media platforms. 

But there is another critical issue I’ve discovered. As few as 5 years ago, there was perhaps a marked distinction (for the most part) between cameras manufactured for still shots and cameras manufactured for video recording. But that distinction is virtually gone now. Most digital SLRS (DSLRs) and modern mirrorless cameras handle stills and video well. Manufacturers like Sony have their Alpha line that generally do well with both. Yet, Sony has created certain variants in the line that focus more effectively on video. The lower resolution A7III, for example, is said to produce better quality video than the higher resolution A7rIII (and arguably the newer A7rIV). Such is the case with Nikon’s new Z mount mirrorless cameras. The lower resolution Z6 is said to be better at handling video that its higher resolution counterpart, the Z7. 

The Real Issue

So why is this even a concern? Simple. If you were to do a search for reviews of these cameras on YouTube, you will quickly realize that the majority of the reviews appear to focus on videography, and barely deal with still photography. If your interest is still photography, you’ll have to tip through the tulips like Tiny Tim to find the occasional full evaluation of the newer cameras that actually address how they perform with still photography. Although I dabble in videos, I am primarily a still photographer. I am not in the business of making YouTube videos for monetization. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with that business at all. But it’s not my business as a still photographer. I am in the business of capturing portraits and shooting still lifestyle and fashion images. When I evaluate a camera, my interest is in its suitability for my work. And in reality, such reviews that focus on still photography are becoming a rarity. 

If you’re in the market for a new camera, and want a camera that handles both still images and video well; or if your focus is primarily on still images, and want to be sure of the camera’s capability in this regard, be wary of those reviews that evaluate every camera as if the user wants to do nothing more than make YouTube videos. You may miss some good opportunities and you may be disappointed with the wrong choice. 

A Final Note

On a final note, I should be transparent in stating I am currently a Nikon shooter who uses the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 for still images and occasional video. But there are other brands I would recommend, including Sony and Canon. There are additional good brands out there based on what I've read and seen, but I am not in the business of recommending cameras I have never tried. That, in my view, is disingenuous. There are excellent DSLRs on sale this season, and there are some fine mirrorless bodies (which I tend to favor) available too. If you’re in the market, check out those reviews, but be on the lookout for the issues I’ve raised here. Additionally, ask a trusted friend who is a photographer. Their experience may be helpful to you. Depending on where you are, you may be able to rent one of the cameras you’re considering for 3-14 days at a modest price. That will give you an opportunity to try it out before buying. 

Happy Holidays to you, and good luck as you shop for that new camera. 

 

** Note: Throughout the post I’ve shared a few images I’ve shot recently. I know they have little to do with the actual subject of the post. But we photographers seize every opportunity to share our work. All have been shot with either my Nikon Z6 or Nikon Z7. 

About Me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly 20 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion, portraiture, and lifestyle. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. You may follow me on Instagram: @davidfraser.photography. 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) beware Black buy camera Canon DSLR Friday holiday mirrorless new Nikon Olympus photography reviews Sony https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/11/newcamerabuyer-beware Thu, 28 Nov 2019 19:02:56 GMT
My Move to Nikon Mirrorless: I Never Saw It Coming! https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/5/mymovetonikonmirrorless My Move to Nikon Mirrorless: I Never Saw it Coming!

I suspect you’re a very busy person, and not likely to spend much of your valuable time reading another article about a photographer who transitioned to shooting with mirrorless cameras. But I do hope that after reading the introductory paragraph that follows, you will delve into the article and see what brought me to this point in my photography. 

The Cliffs Notes Version 

As of March 2019, I transitioned to using Nikon Z cameras on a full time basis for my photography. I own the 45.7MP Nikon Z7, as well as its lower resolution, 24.5MP sibling, the Nikon Z6. My Nikon D850, which was my primary workhorse since early 2018, following years of using the Nikon D810, D800, and D700, now occupies space in another photographer’s bag. Similarly, my Nikon D500, which I once argued was a backup camera like no other I had previously owned, has also taken its place in another photographer’s bag. Today I shoot on a full-time basis with Nikon mirrorless bodies. I have no regrets. In fact, I relish the rich new opportunities that came with moving to the mirrorless platform. But had you asked me a year ago if I would shoot with mirrorless cameras, I would have said, “not likely.” Actually, I’m being being a bit demure. I would have likely said, “hell no.” What has the experience been, and how has my photography changed? Read on if you’d like to find out. 

The Rest of the Story

In mid-January 2019, I wrote about the photography industry as it transitioned from “Film to DSLR to Mirrorless” cameras. I wrote then about my own resistance as the industry shifted away from film to DSLRs. And of course, the move to mirrorless met with equal resistance, if not a measure of scorn. 

Many photographers with whom I’m acquainted had not simply moved to shooting with mirrorless bodies. They had in most cases, abandoned Nikon, Canon, Olympus and other platforms largely in favor of Sony’s market leading Alpha mirrorless system. I would hear them use terms such as “game changer” to describe their experience. Yet I thought of the mirrorless cameras as the latest fad which would ultimately fade in oblivion. In some ways, I felt affirmed as hardcore DSLR bloggers trumpeted the D850 as the best DSLR on the market. They also declared the D500 an out-of-the-ordinary crop sensor, often comparing it favorably with Nikon’s flagship D5. 

My relationship with Nikon has always been a bit of love/hate one. I’ve been shooting with their cameras for several years, and always wished they would do a bit more in terms of firmware updates and some of the more advanced functionalities those very mirrorless cameras I disdained were offering. But each time I had to replace a Nikon body, if I thought about changing systems, I would quickly dismiss it, telling myself that my investment in Nikon F-mount lenses and other Nikon accessories made changing systems a virtual impracticality. 

First Came the Z6

Then it happened. Nikon announced the full-frame mirrorless Z mount cameras. As you’re likely aware, the Z7 was released first. And even though I was a tad curious, I dismissed it since I had only recently purchased my amazing Nikon D850. But it was only a matter of months before Nikon released the lower resolution and lower cost Z6. Given the availability of the FTZ adapter to adapt my F-mount lenses for the Z6, I thought I would “give it a try.” But I was clear in my mind, it would play only a backup role - yes, a subordinate role - to my venerable D850, my real camera. So, in January 2019, I bought the Nikon Z6 and added the native Z 24-70 f/4S lens. But given the rousing chorus of voices who declared the Z 50mm f/1.8S one of the best 50mm lenses on the market, I added that as well. 

I shot a few projects with the Z6, but always kept the D850 close by. It was my failsafe. In fact, I shoot official portraits for government officials in my area at the beginning of each calendar year. And this year, with fear and trepidation, I decided to push the envelope. I shot the portraits with the Z6, tethered to my computer using Capture One Pro. I kept expecting something to go wrong. But in reality, the D850 was not needed. 

Carnival 2019 Costume | Nikon Z6

In February I traveled, as I do each year, to the Eastern Caribbean’s Trinidad & Tobago to photograph Carnival 2019. Photographing carnival requires quite a bit of dexterity in handling a camera, since masqueraders are constantly moving. As an accredited carnival photographer, there was some expectation that my images would be of decent quality. I was faced with a dilemma. Should I trust the Z6, or should I use the D850? The latter, like the former, had never been used for shooting carnival. But it falls in line with the D810, D800, and D700, which I had used several times to shoot carnival events. 

I tried the Z6 one day, but still had not learned the settings very well. I struggled a bit, but with a little effort, I began using it with consistent results. After using the Z6, I attempted to use the D850, but felt it was heavier than I recalled, and that something was missing. As simple as it may seem, the Electronic View Finder (EVF) was just amazing. It was the thing I missed the most when I shot with the D850 again. Ultimately, I shot carnival in its entirety with the Nikon Z6. 

Masquerader | Nikon Z6

Then Came the Z7

When I returned to the US in March 2019, I began working with clients in studio and on-location, and found that I had become accustomed to several things about the Z6 that were not available on my Nikon D850. The EVF was one. The other was the ability to have live view active on the camera’s LCD while shooting tethered to my computer. (For years I had longed for my DSLRs to do that). Then there was Nikon’s new approach to WiFi. I could actually shoot, save files to the XQD card, and have them transfer via WiFi to my computer in the background. And like that, it struck me. There was no going back. I wasn’t buying a Sony Alpha, but I understood why Sony shooters relished their cameras. I pushed the button, and bought the Nikon Z7. It would become my high resolution main body. I also added the Z 35mm f/1.8S lens. 

Model at Borges Ranch | Nikon Z7

I am a working photographer, not a collector. My gear must serve a professional purpose, and achieve my desired imaging needs. I could see clearly how the Z system made a difference in addressing needs I have had for some time. 

The transition has not been perfect, however. The D850 and D500 had an autofocus system that was, in my view, superior in every way to the Z6 and Z7. In fact, it was not until Nikon’s firmware 2.0, released on May 16, 2019, that I was fully satisfied with the autofocusing of these mirrorless bodies. Sony users speak about Eye Autofocus as a boon for their photography. And they should. Their platform, from what I’ve heard, has the industry best. Nikon introduced it with firmware 2.0. And it is an amazing feature. With it, I lock focus even when shooting at wide apertures, with eyes always tack sharp. That makes my Z6 and Z7 nothing short of amazing. While the D850 is a superb camera, I would not surrender my Z7 to take a D850. Moreover, I am able to use my Nikon F-mount lenses without any issue as I build my Z-mount collection. 

Would I do It Again? 

Are there compromises I had to make? Yes. The last time I owned a camera that utilized a single memory card, was several years ago when I used a Nikon D700. So from time to time, I am still a little ill-at-ease over the single card in the Z6 and Z7. But the background transfers/backup ease my angst. Battery life on the Z cameras is certainly not as good as on the DSLRs. However, I have been able to shoot about 800+ images before needing to change a battery. 

Is the mirrorless platform suitable for all photographers? Perhaps not. I cannot say whether or not it will work for your type of photography. For me, as a portrait, fashion, and lifestyle photographer, these two cameras are quite useful and a simple joy to shoot. 

If you’re considering making the move to mirrorless, whether it’s Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, or Nikon, understand that everything new has a learning curve. If possible rent the body and a couple lenses first. I didn’t see this coming, but I’m glad I seized the moment, albeit reluctantly, to embrace mirrorless. 

** Note: All images throughout this article have been shot with the Nikon Z6 or Nikon Z7. 

About Me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for almost 20 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion, portraiture, and lifestyle. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. You may follow me on Instagram: @davidfraser.photography. 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) change DSLR film mirrorless Nikon Photography technology Z6 Z7 Z-Mount https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/5/mymovetonikonmirrorless Sat, 25 May 2019 22:17:00 GMT
Film to DSLRs to Mirrorless Cameras: Change is Never Easy https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/1/film-to-dslrs-to-mirrorless-noeasychange Film to DSLRs to Mirrorless Cameras: Change is Never Easy

by David E. Fraser 

I’ve always been fascinated with photography. I do recall as a child picking up an old inoperable camera, taking it to my elementary school, and “photographing” my friends. Of course, back then, my pretense was shielded from discovery by the fact that I could not open the camera to show them the film. That would have resulted in exposure and loss of the images. I do not recall how I managed to extricate myself from the resulting situation, and explain to my eager classmates as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, why I could not provide them with any photos. 

Over the course of time, I owned a number of inexpensive 110mm film cameras. However, I purchased my first 35mm film camera in the mid 1980s. It was not a single lex reflex camera (SLR), but a Kodak VR35-K12, one that marked Kodak’s reentry into the 35mm film market, after an almost 2-decade absence. 

I had been visiting San Francisco, California, and eagerly anticipating my first ferry trip to the famed Alcatraz island prison. I wanted images that were “better” than those that could be produced by the smaller film cameras I had been using. And though automation in the VR35-K12 was fairly limited by today’s standards, the presence of features such as autofocus, programmed auto exposure, and a motor drive, were noteworthy for point and shoot cameras that were its contemporaries. 

It was almost a decade later (mid-1990s) that I purchased by first SLR. By that time, I had outgrown the point and shoot cameras, and was ready for a camera with changeable lenses. The Minolta Maxxum was certainly a great choice, although in retrospect, it was far beyond my photographic capabilities. But with my ever growing passion for photography, I learned how to create beautiful images with the complex new gear. 

My entry into the the world of 35mm SLR photography was relatively short lived. In some ways, my own fascination with emergent technologies was to blame. In other ways, the changing economics of developing film as I shot more and more images, was also to blame. By 2001-2002, the talk in my circles was about digital cameras. But I recall some of the influential photographers (at least influential in my mind) saying, “Real photographers shoot film.” And in every sense of the word, I considered myself a “real photographer,” if only at best an aspiring one. I refused to look seriously at the digital cameras coming onto the market at that time, although I did purchase a small Canon digital point and shoot - a purchase that appeased my technological curiosity, but one I hid from the other “real photographers” in my circle. 

But something changed dramatically in late 2003. I had heard that Canon was planning to release a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera with a price point that may work well for entering the DSLR market. I bought one. Yes, I actually felt that I was cheating in some inexplicable way. But I bought one. With a whopping 6.3MP sensor, and an EF-S 18-55 kit lens, my new EOS Digital Rebel was exciting to me. 

There really was no turning back. Three years later, I switched to a Nikon D70, then ultimately switched back to Canon with the release of the industry changing Canon 5D. The 5D would accompany me on a couple international trips, and was the tool I used to capture some of my most memorable images. But in my heart, I had become attached to Nikon. So when in 2008 Nikon introduced the D700 - its full-frame answer to Canon’s 5D - I moved back to the Nikon ranks. 

Fast forward to late 2018. My primary body for most of my work was the Nikon D850, and my backup body for casual shooting was the Nikon D500. The latter was the first APS-C sensor camera I had owned in almost a decade. The fact that it was marginally smaller than the D850 mattered when I wanted to travel a little lighter than usual. In fact, I found myself wanting to achieve quality photography with lighter and smaller gear. 

All of a sudden, as mirrorless cameras began to proliferate in the photography landscape, I was tempted by their diminutive size. And believe it or not, notwithstanding my understanding of the technology, there was that little voice in my head saying, “Real photographers shoot with DSLRs.” It was an echo of long held beliefs perpetuated almost two decades earlier by those who considered themselves photography purists. And I, without making a deliberate effort to do so, had bought into the idea. So I resisted the mirrorless cameras, citing all the drawbacks of using them. Of course, I secretly desired some of what they offered, but I found more reason to resist. 

Then Nikon changed the game. They introduced their Z7 and Z6 mirrorless cameras. They had some of the same shortcomings of other mirrorless cameras, but because they had been manufactured by Nikon - a brand I have been using for many years - I at least entertained the idea of having one. I was not prepared to walk away from my D850, so at the beginning of January 2019, I settled on the Z6 as my backup camera. 

Today, my primary body is still the D850 - an amazing DSLR. But my Z6, which I have only had for a short time is the backup. Now here’s the interesting part. I’m not so sure about those labels - primary and backup. I find myself wanting to shoot more and more with the Z6 in part because of features like in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and the electronic viewfinder (EVF). IBIS is a game changer for low light photography and videography. The EVF, which I was sure I would hate, has brought a great perspective to how I frame and view images. Beyond such features, the Z6 has remarkable color reproduction even though it has lower pixel density than the Z7, and the D850. 

I am still not settled on the future yet. But I am NOT ruling out the possibility of shooting exclusively with mirrorless cameras. The hesitation has nothing to do with the technology (except for Nikon’s single memory card in the Z7/Z6). It has to do with the inherent challenges of implementing any change. Familiarity brings comfort. We are at ease with what we know. The transition from film SLRs to DSLRs was challenging for me, and continues to be challenging for the few who refuse to relinquish what they deem the gold standard - film. And now the idea of transitioning from DSLRs to mirrorless represents a new challenge for many. 

Another aspect of my professional life is being a university academic who teaches organizational theory and organizational change. One of my classes covers how we roll out technological change in organizations. I often say to my students, “those who object to change do not necessarily do so to be malicious. Typically, they are beneficiaries of the status quo.” In other words, people benefit from what they know by being called “experts,” “experienced,” “knowledgeable,” etc. Change requires relearning and rethinking what we know. Whether we are speaking of institutional change or change in the photography industry, the principles are the same. Film SLRs, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras are merely tools that reflect technological evolution. They are neither good nor bad. They are merely tools. 

I have chosen, with many moments of trepidation, to embrace change knowing full well that it’s never easy. 

The sample images below feature model/stylist, Sparkle. My thanks to her for being a willing subject for my first test shoot of the Nikon Z6. You may follow her on Instagram or visit her website

About me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly almost 20 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion, portraiture, and lifestyle. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. 

 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) change DSLR film mirrorless Nikon Photography technology Z6 Z7 https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2019/1/film-to-dslrs-to-mirrorless-noeasychange Wed, 16 Jan 2019 20:24:18 GMT
Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens - A Portrait/Fashion Photographer’s Perspective https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2017/11/tamron45mmReview Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens - A Portrait/Fashion Photographer’s Perspective 

by David E. Fraser 

The Lens

Apart from a few 58mm normal lens commercially available today, most lens manufacturers produce 50mm variants with apertures typically as large as f/1.4 or f/1.8. Along comes Tamron, who breaks with convention, and produces the SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD. A part of its Super Performance (SP) line of lenses, it still falls within the range (40mm-58mm) of what is typically considered a normal lens. 

The Cameras

The lens was evaluated on a Nikon D810, a full-frame 35mm equivalent, and on a Nikon D500, considered Nikon’s premiere APS-C (crop sensor) camera. Both tests were conducted outdoors in variable lighting conditions. Given the fact that lenses tend to perform with satisfactory sharpness at smaller apertures, the test focused on larger apertures that ranged from f/2 - f/2.8. The subject was lit with either a Profoto B1 modified with either a silver medium (41”) deep reflective umbrella, or Profoto B2 modified with a Wescott Rapid Box 24” beauty dish. 

The Scope  

This is not a technical review conducted in a laboratory setting. Rather, it provides one photographer’s perspective on using the Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens on two specific Nikon camera bodies. Determinations about sharpness, autofocus responsiveness, color saturation, etc. are based primarily on observation of the raw files in Phase One’s Capture One Pro 10. All images were shot in NEF raw, imported into Capture One, then assessed using the application’s focus mask overlay and other visual indicators. This is not a comparative review, where the SP 45mm is evaluated point by point with other lenses such as the Sigma Art. Although I own that lens, and have owned other 50mm lenses, the idea is to evaluate this lens on its own merit, and determine what it can deliver. 

The Photographer

I am David Fraser, a San Francisco Bay Area portrait and fashion photographer. I have been a photographer shooting with Canon and Nikon cameras for approximately 16 years. Most of my work falls into the general categories of portraiture and fashion. The majority of what I do includes modeling portfolios, beauty shots, and lifestyle portraits. I shoot in studio as well as on location. And as with all other photographers, I am constantly evolving and learning.

Testing on the D810

On the Nikon D810, fully open at f/1.8, I was able to produce some sharp images. However, in spite of the effectiveness of Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC), the narrow focal plain meant much of the subject could be out of focus, though the focus point was sharp. I stopped down to f/2, and though I lost a 1/2 stop of light, there was no noticeable difference in the rendering of the out-of-focus areas. All images were sharp, and there was no noticeable front or back focusing. 

There were however two issues apparent when shooting on the D810. Vignetting was apparent at the wider apertures. It was not to an extent where it was distracting, but it was noticeable and corrected in post processing. The more significant issue was chromatic aberration. This color fringing was quite noticeable at the wider apertures, and required removal in post-processing. Utilizing Capture One Pro, I was able to quickly remove it. 

Testing on the D500

On the D500, focusing was noticeably faster than on the D810. I believe this has to do with the massively improved autofocus engine in the newer D500. However, in an effort to explore a different aperture, I shot at f/2.8. This is a one stop variation from images shot with the D810. As expected, the depth of field was greater on the APS-C sensor camera. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the vignetting was all but gone. 

The same was not true of the chromatic aberration. As on the D810, it is noticeably visible, and had to be removed in post processing. In fact, from my perspective, it was more apparent on the D500 images than on the D810 images. I assume there is a technical reason for this given the different size sensors. Again, utilizing Capture One Pro, I was able to remove the chromatic aberration. Fortunately, as on the D810, there was no noticeable front or back focusing. 

Final Thoughts

Most of my work leads me to utilize longer focal lengths when I shoot. In fact, my go-to lens is Nikon’s venerable 70-200 f/2.8 FL, paired with a full-frame body. Although my bag also contains an 85mm prime, I use it only occasionally, generally preferring the compression I can achieve with longer focal lengths. 

The 50mm focal range is also one I use infrequently. But on the occasions that I do, I tend to stop the aperture down to f/2.0 or f/2.8 at the widest end. Even then, the narrowness of the focal plain is often a concern. As I began testing the Tamron, I imagined I would have to do the same, as I have previously done with my 50mm lens. However, I was struck that at f/2, the lens performed extremely well, locking focus, and doing so quite quickly. Moreover, I was quite surprised at how well it created a soft background, especially on the full-frame camera. Though the depth of field was greater on the APS-C body, the quality of the image did not otherwise suffer. 

When all is said and done, the only significant concern I had about the Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD was the chromatic aberration (fringes of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image) visible in images shot wider than f/4. It was noticeable, and required removal in post processing. Vignetting, although noticeable, was modest, and was easily eliminated in post as well. Otherwise, the lens performed very well. The images we’re sharp. Focus was precise. Color and contrast were beautiful. In fact, I found myself wanting to utilize the new shorter focal length more. 

While I am not sure there is much practicality in arbitrarily assigning some sort of numeric score to the lens, I can say unequivocally that I highly recommend it. In fact, I was so satisfied with it, that it has taken a permanent place in my bag, with the understanding that I have to be on the lookout for chromatic aberration/color fringing at the wider apertures. 

Note: My appreciation to model/stylist, Sparkle Ifill, who assisted me in testing the lens. She is my sidekick, who helps make photography a delight. 

David 

Additional D810 & Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Pics 

Additional D500 & Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Pics 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) 45mm d500 d810 nikon normal photography prime professional tamron vc https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2017/11/tamron45mmReview Mon, 27 Nov 2017 23:19:08 GMT
Nikon Software: It's Consistently Bad, If Nothing Else (The Story of SnapBridge) https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2016/8/nikonsnapbridgesoftware Nikon Software: It's Consistently Bad, If Nothing Else (The Story of SnapBridge)

Nikon SnapBridgeSnapBridge is Nikon's new and much touted software that connects its newest cameras to smart devices. Image courtesy of Nikon.

I've been a Nikon shooter for over a decade. In the past, a third party produced much of the software that shipped with Nikon cameras. Over the past couple years, the company has taken on its own software design and development, resulting in a truly sad state of affairs.  

Nikon consistently produces the most aesthetically unpleasing and marginally functional software I've ever used. Capture NX-D, its flagship raw converter does amazing conversion of Nikon raw files. But that's as far as it goes. Moving from one image to another, or actually moving the sliders to make adjustments to those raw files will drive a person to a psychiatric consult. View NX-i, its newest image browser/asset manager, would benefit from a name change - Crash NX-i. Of course, with designs that hearken back to Windows shareware from a decade ago, Nikon's applications cannot even be redeemed by an attractive appearance. They look bad, and work poorly. 

Now, I have tested every new version of both of these applications so I can properly advise fellow photographers who are Nikon shooters and desire low-cost applications for raw conversion and image management. But within the last year, I have steered people clear of the torture chamber Nikon has created by bundling these two applications together for download. After all, I do regard the UN Convention on cruel and excessive punishment. I just can't do that to a fellow photographer. 

So why am I bringing it up now? Nikon released the D500 to much fanfare. And I must admit, the camera is everything they said it would be. It's a veritable dream APS-C body. Then they announced the D3400. It also shows great promise in moving the entry point of Nikon DSLRs to the right. But what interesting point of commonalty do these two cameras share? They both use Nikon's new SnapBridge.

Nikon D500The Nikon D500 is the company's new flagship APS-C (DX) camera, often discussed as the baby sibling to the D5. It retails for US$2,000.

SnapBridge is the software that loads onto Android and iOS smart devices (more on that later), providing a low power (Bluetooth 4.0) connection, and transferring small jpegs of the images captured to the smart devices. The concept is a brilliant one. And quite frankly, it’s a nice option for a modern DSLR. But for the D500, SnapBridge is more than a good option. It is essential for it to be activated to use the camera’s built in WiFi or Bluetooth. Those options are grayed out in the camera menu unless SnapBridge is turned on in camera and paired with a smart device that has the SnapBridge app installed. 

Well, as of the time of writing (August 22, 2016) Nikon has not availed SnapBridge to iOS users. I suppose their promise to have it late August is still valid, since there are yet 9 days remaining in the month. This means Nikon’s US$2,000 DSLR, with built in WiFi and Bluetooth, has functionality neither for WiFi nor Bluetooth, if you’re an iOS user. 

Android users have been fortunate. Well, “fortunate” is perhaps a strong word. SnapBridge has been available in the Google Play store since April 2016. The most recent update was done on August 17. The application currently has over 400 reviews. More than 1/2 gave it a rating of 1 out of a possible 5 stars. About 90 gave it 5 out of a possible 5 stars. But even among those with the high star ratings, there are comments such as “It doesn’t work with my phone, but it’s a good start.” Go figure! 

One comment essentially encapsulates the sentiments of the vast majority of the posters, who in aggregate rated the software 2.3 stars out of a possible 5 stars:

No practical purpose (Galaxy S7 + D500) Sounds good but... (1) Bluetooth transfer speeds may see you phone and camera communicating for hours after use even transftering [sic] at 2Mp.(2) Live view photography allows taking and viewing only. Exposure, ISO and aperture have to be changed at the camera. (3) Share pictures from app does not work as 'File format is not supported'. (4) When viewing pics transferred to phone you often can't scroll down the pics to view them. THIS APP NEEDS A TON OF WORK AND BETTER USE OF WIFI CONNECTION INSTEAD OF BLUETOOTH.

Google Play StoreAndroid users are apparently not very fond of SnapBridge. Many claims it does not deliver what was promised.

It’s really the story of Nikon and software. The company is notoriously bad at it. And while one can argue that there are many alternatives to be had out there, SnapBridge is more than just software. It is essential to achieve 100% of the promised functionality of one (and possibly more) of its newest cameras. Bad software (and non-existent software for iOS users) has essentially hobbled the capabilities of a $2,000 camera - capabilities readily available in much cheaper Nikon cameras. 

Is it a case where engineering skills simply do not rise to the level of basic competence? Or is it perhaps a case where ambitious creativity and engineering acumen at Nikon simply cannot be consolidated into production of a single functional software product? Whatever the cause, Nikon seems woefully incapable of doing better. I love my Nikon hardware. I would not easily give up my D810 or my new D500. But Nikon’s software is an embarrassment. And now it has crossed over into hobbling the hardware. 

What’s the next chapter, Nikon? 

Nikon D500 MenuConnecting to a smart device with SnapBridge installed is required to use WiFi or Bluetooth. No other application works.

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Android Bad D500 DSLR Google Nikon NikonPhotography Photography Play PoorSoftware SnapBridge Software iOS https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2016/8/nikonsnapbridgesoftware Mon, 22 Aug 2016 18:56:20 GMT
EyeFi mobiPRO WiFi SD Card: A Preliminary Review https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/12/eyefimobipro-review Perhaps you’re familiar with Eyefi SD cards. They initially filled a niche market where they added wireless capabilities to cameras, allowing them to connect with Mobile Smart Connected Devices (a term coined by IDC Research that generally includes smartphones, tablets, e-Readers etc.). With the wireless connection users could immediately add high quality JPEGs from their cameras to websites, social media, and more. 

Eyefi cards have evolved due in no small part to the fact that camera manufacturers began adding WiFi radios to point and shoot cameras, then most recently to mainstream DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. Sony’s Alpha series, for example, have wireless capabilities built in. The Canon 6D also has wireless capabilities, as does the Nikon D750. But manufacturers have been somewhat disinclined to add WiFi to their professional bodies. Thus, the Canon 5D Mark III or the Nikon D800/810 do not contain WiFi radios. Nikon offers a dongle at roughly US$500. Ridiculous!

So Eyefi, Toshiba, Transcend, and a few other smaller manufacturers have ramped up their design and production of these cards. In many ways, Eyefi produces the most sophisticated of the cards and has the best developed software. Transcend is considered barely usable in some circles, while Toshiba, with their Flash Air WiFi SD cards, is considered a serious contender. I have tested the Toshiba card, but found it unappealing due to complexity in configuration, poor software (or rather no software), requirement of a PC to initialize it, etc. 

I opted to the 32GB Eyefi mobiPRO delivered to me a couple days ago. It is packaged with a USB SD card reader thereby expanding it’s utility to devices that may not accommodate an SD card, but has a USB port. The Eyefi cards are the most costly of the three bands I’ve mentioned, but based upon what I’ve seen so far, they are also the most advanced, and most reliable. The model I tested retails for US$80. Setup was a breeze. And unlike the need to use a third-party app like Shuttersnitch when using the Toshiba brand, Eyefi produces its own well-designed app for iOS and Android devices. The apps are available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. 

To be clear these cards are meant to provide on location wireless tethering and/or transferring files to Smart Connected Devices on the go. Accordingly, while they are capable of transferring raw files to the mobile devices, there isn’t much utility in doing so. Some Android devices are capable of editing raw files in Adobe’s DNG format. iOS devices will read raw files, but cannot edit them. They render such files as JPEGs. When shooting in the studio, or on location where I can use my laptop, I always shoot tethered to Capture One Pro. In such cases, the uncompressed 80 MB NEF raw files from the Nikon D810 or D800 transfer from camera to software (using USB 3.0) in about 3 seconds. The 30 MB lossless compressed NEF raw files from the Nikon D750 transfer in about 2 seconds. Using WiFi to transfer these large images would take an eternity. The cards are best used to transfer JPEGs for review. Similarly, though videos may also be transferred from camera to mobile device, the patience of Job is going to be required. 

The Eyefi card essentially saves a JPEG version of the corresponding raw file. In that way, it’s like any other SD card. That JPEG is transferred to your iOS or Android device. For the Nikon D810, the basic JPEG is approximately 3.2 MB, and transfers in about three seconds. The D750 basic JPEG is a hair faster. Either way, the purpose is merely to be able to visualize what has been shot in terms of exposure etc. After using the built in WiFi of the D750 for a couple on location shoots, I decided to explore adding it to the D810 as well. 

What I did not anticipate was that the Eyefi card is a bit more robust than the built in WiFi radio in the D750 when the camera is within 10 feet or so of the mobile device. But for both cameras, moving beyond approximately 10 feet of the camera resulted in a slowdown of the image transfer. 

WiFi is by no means a fast solution. And using the Eyefi card is not meant to provide the photographer with a way to test color fidelity etc. But it certainly helps with showing the exposure (particularly for those who do not use a light meter). And more importantly, it allows those who are part of the shoot to see the work on a larger screen. The raw files are still saved to your primary card, or can even be saved on the eyefi card alongside the JPEGs. 

The Eyefi mobiPRO comes with one year of Eyefi Cloud. The image files can be uploaded and stored in the cloud for future viewing or transfer to other devices. I don’t have much use for the cloud feature, but I am so far satisfied that this is a good wireless tethering solution, using an iOS or Android tablet, on location. I plan to update this information after a more extended period of usage. 

About me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly 15 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion and portraiture. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County. 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Android tether DSLR SD eyefi iOS tether mobi mobipro on location photography tether wifi wireless tethering https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/12/eyefimobipro-review Sun, 13 Dec 2015 21:44:55 GMT
Nikon D750: Thoughts From a Fashion & Portrait Photographer (Updated) https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/12/fraser-nikond750-review Summary

When shooting primarily fashion and fashion portraiture, the Nikon D750 is mostly good, occasionally bad, but never ugly. I think it is a fine mid-range, general purpose camera that many photographers, including wedding and perhaps some sports photographers, would appreciate. 

Here are a couple of my favorite images shot with the D750. 

Background

Anyone considering a purchase of Nikon’s newest full-frame Digital SLR, the D750, will find no shortage of reviews on photography blogs, vendor websites, and in professional publications. Many of the reviews take a highly technical approach, while others focus on utility for specific contexts. Regardless of the approach undertaken by the respective authors of the reviews, there appears to be a general consensus that the D750 is by and large a very good general use camera for photography enthusiasts and professionals. 

Among the greatest strengths often mentioned in reviews are the following:

1. Excellent low-light capability (good ISO range and limited noise when shooting in low light settings)
2. Remarkable focusing system that’s similar to its much more expensive sibling, the D4s
3. Diminutive size and light weight make it ideal for extended usage
4. Generally good image quality with images that are relatively sharp out of camera
5. Price, Price, Price - As far as full frame cameras go, the price point is good

The apparent shortcomings of the D750 are also mentioned in several of the reviews:

1. A redesigned hotshoe that creates failure of several mainstream triggers and speedlights 
2. Serious issues with moire when shooting at some angles, even with the best lenses
3. Shading issues in some parts of images - a matter Nikon has attempted to address
4. Artificial limitations on how the built-in WiFi can be used
5. Buttons have shared functions (unlike its larger siblings) creating some ergonomic issues 

My Context

I have been shooting fashion and portraiture for well over a decade. Several years ago, I made the transition from Canon to Nikon. My last Canon body was the original 5D. Since then, my cameras have included the D300/300s (crop sensor), D700 (my primary bodies for several years), the D610 (a very short lived stint), and the D800 and D810 (my current primary bodies). Today, I shoot with the D810 for most fashion projects. My decision to add the D750 as a backup body was in part precipitated by my desire for a smaller form factor and slightly lower pixel density than the D810. I was clear when purchasing the D750 that it was not going to be my primary camera for shooting fashion. 

Once the camera arrived, however, I thought it would be appropriate to determine if it could  in fact be more than my backup. I shot exclusively with it for about 3 weeks in studio, on location, and in varied light settings to have a rounded perspective on its capabilities. But to be clear, I am not a wedding photographer or landscape photographer. While I occasionally shoot weddings and landscapes, those are not my primary interest. Rather, my focus is on fashion and fashion portraiture. Yet, I imagine my thoughts would have some relevance for other shooting contexts/genres as well.

Here are a couple more of my favorite images shot with the D750

What I Like About the D750 

Dynamic Range: Since I shoot primarily fashion, I do most of my work with strobes. Of course, depending on what look the client or I wish to achieve, I use a light meter to create specific ratios of ambient vs light from the strobes. Precision lighting is important to me. But with the D750, I’ve been tempted to do some fashion portraiture with ambient light only. It functions extremely well in most low light situations. And given its dynamic range, recovery of highlights and shadows in Adobe Lightroom, Capture One Pro, and DxO Optics Pro is all but a breeze. 

Autofocus: Simply put, the autofocus on the Nikon D750 is outstanding. In circumstances where my D810 hunts to lock in the focus, the D750 finds it quickly, allowing me to capture sharp, in-focus images 99% of the time. As you could imagine, it’s a photographer’s dream come true, particularly for a $2,000 non-professional body. 

Built-in WiFi: I am also fond of the fact that the D750 has built-in WiFi. When shooting on location, tethering has always been problematic. I’ve tried a number of wired solutions that often fell short. With the built in WiFi, I am able to use a delightful iOS app called Shuttersnitch to wirelessly tether to my iPad when shooting on location. WiFi is a great utility in such cases, and being able to wirelessly tether to my iPad Air, and transfer JPEGs copies of my raw files is very useful for getting feedback from stylists, models, and assistants. 

Tilting Screen: The adjustable LCD on the back of the D750 is simply delightful when using LiveView and shooting at lower angles. Not having to lie on the ground in contorted positions like the twenty-something year old photographers are apt to do, is a God send. Placing the camera low for those cinematic fashion shots and simply looking down to the tilted screen is a good thing. 

Size and Weight: While I have always enjoyed the heft of the larger bodies like my D800 and D810 (sometimes with an added battery grip), I was surprised how much I learned to appreciate the smaller size and light weight of the D750. I shot with it for several hours and didn’t feel the strain I am accustomed to feeling after a full day of shooting. 

What I Do Not Like About the D750

Moire: I was unpleasantly surprised that for a camera with an anti-aliasing filter, moire on the D750 can be horrible. I photographed an elected official recently. He was wearing, as you will notice in the image below, a patterned suit.  Yet, as you can see, it is quite visible. Even with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, the moire was very apparent. And it was not easy to remove in post processing. This image is the result of much effort to fix the moire problem. This is a veritable “no no” for fashion photography, and is one of the reasons the D750 is a backup body, not a primary one for me. 

Shutter Speed: The fastest shutter speed at which one can shoot the D750 is 1/4000. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this as a minor issue. The difference between 1/4000 and 1/8000 (the latter being typical of professional bodies) is one full stop. In practical terms, a shutter speed of 1/4000 lets in twice as much light as 1/8000. When shooting fashion in direct sunlight and relying on high speed sync, that one stop makes a significant difference. Since I shoot fashion on location, often in bright sunlight, this issue is significant enough where the D750 could not be my primary body. 

Eyecup: It’s amazing how easy it is for the eyecup on the D750 to simply slide off and disappear. Sometimes, simply placing the camera in the bag causes the eyecup to slide out. This has occurred often enough to be an irritant. I understand that Nikon did not want to put the more expensive fixed eyecup of the professional bodies in this camera, but they certainly could have done better. Ultimately, this does not affect image quality, and falls more in the realm of what irritates. 

Missing/Shared Buttons: Given the smaller size of the D750 body, in comparison with the larger bodies, some compromises in terms of number of buttons were apparently made. There is not, for example, a dedicated AF-ON button on the rear of the camera. Of course, one could (as I have done) remapped the AE-L/AE-F button for back button focusing. Other functions like ISO and White Balance do not have dedicated buttons either. In the world of professional photographer, dedicated buttons help with ergonomics and easy work flow. With these functions sharing buttons with other functions, more time and a little more effort is required to make changes. Again, one can remap buttons. But this is a compromise. For this reason also, I would not make the D750 a primary body for shooting fashion. 

Final Thoughts

I have no regrets about adding the D750 to my bag. I purchased it with a clear understanding of the limitations in my shooting context. The fact is, I still enjoy using it, particularly for general portraiture. I think it renders skin tones well, an provide images that the average client would enjoy. For shooting primarily fashion and fashion related portraiture, the Nikon D750 is mostly good, occasionally bad, but never ugly. I think it is a fine mid-range, general purpose camera that many photographers, including wedding and perhaps some sports photographers, would appreciate. 

 

** UPDATE - December 27, 2015 **

 

The decision to do a brief update on my thoughts about the Nikon D750 was precipitated by the realization that my initial writeup did not reflect a couple specific emergent issues with which I became familiar after extended field use (8 weeks). The issues are specifically related to exposure and white balance. An important caveat to add here is that these are not likely to be of concern if shooting with two D750 bodies, or with one of the crop sensor bodies like the D7200. Specifically it relates to differences that become readily apparent if, like me, you shoot with the high megapixel Nikon bodies - the D810 and the D800. 

The Issue with Exposure

It is not uncommon for different cameras to have slight variations in exposure, even when shooting in manual mode. Exposure accuracy is important to me. So apart from the TTL metering I sometimes use when shooting with the Profoto B1 system, I depend on an incident meter to ensure accuracy. I have, for example, metered a scene for 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 100 in the studio. While my Nikon D810 rendered the image perfectly at those settings, my colleague’s Canon EOS 5Ds was somewhat underexposed. Of course, the meter can be calibrated to accommodate the variations in the two systems. 

What surprised me, however, is that the D750 would often render the images 2/3 to 1 full stop under what the D810 would render at the same metered setting. My surprise is not that there is a variation, but that it is so significant, and that it comes from the same manufacturer. For me as a fashion shooter, what this means is that I cannot mix shots from the two cameras in the same project without looking out for the exposure variations. When combined with the next issue, it is even more important. 

The Issue with White Balance

Cameras, particularly the modern DSLRs, are built based on certain standards. International Standards Organization (ISO) settings, borrowed from the days of film, are uniform. ISO 200 doubles the exposure of ISO 100. Similarly, ISO 1600 doubles the exposure of ISO 800. White balance is also standards based, and is measured in kelvins. For example, 5500 (+ or - 500) is typically considered daylight. Ultimately, when shooting in raw format, this isn’t terribly important, as white balance could easily be adjusted in post processing. Generally speaking, I shoot most images at about 5000 kelvins, and make adjustments in post processing. 

During a recent project, I decided to shoot some of the images wth the D750. Since I was tethered to Capture One Pro 9 on a MacBook Pro, I was able to see immediately how the images appeared. I wasn’t terribly concerned about the bluish hue, even though at 5000 kelvins, the images should have appeared warmer. I simply said I would make the adjustment in post processing. 

Once I was back at my main cataloging and editing machine, I looked at the images in Capture One Pro and in Adobe Lightroom. Once I adjusted - by the numbers - the white balance was woefully off. I compared images shot with the D810 at the very same settings, including white balance, made similar adjustments, and the color correction was on point. Of course I use only color calibrated displays to ensure accuracy. 

Perhaps it’s My Copy

I assumed for a moment that perhaps there is some sort of calibration issue with my copy. But I recently spoke with a friend and colleague who is a wedding photographer on the Eastern Caribbean island of Tobago. Like me, he recently purchased a D750. However, his primary body is a D800. He wrote an early morning message to me a couple days ago expressing concern that something may be off with his D750. He had not noticed the white balance issue in his shooting setting, but he was concerned that there was a significant difference in exposure when he shot with his D750 and D800. He lamented that all manual settings on both cameras were the same. All lighting was the same.  It was so significant that he could not utilize his regular batch editing processes, since that would leave many of the wedding images noticeably underexposed. 

What Does It All Mean? 

In my previous thoughts about the D750, I indicated that it is a very good general use camera. And friends who are wedding photographers laud its low-light capabilities. For me however, it could not be a primary body for the type of shooting I do. If you use two camera bodies, I suspect 2 copies of the D750 would work fine for the typical shooter. From all indications the exposure and white balance are similar on the D7200 as well. If, like me, your primary body is a D810 or D800, the D750 can only function as an adequate backup camera if the two cameras are not used interchangeably for a single critical commercial or fashion project. Of course, you can always go through a collection, isolate the images produced by each camera, and adjust them separately. In a busy workflow environment that is simply a time consuming effort that may not be worthwhile. 

My recommendation is that if you shoot fashion and commercial work, two D810 bodies would be a better direction to take than one D810 and one D750. Both cameras are good, but in the interest of consistency, I recommend going with the two higher pixel bodies. If you have more basic production needs, where the high pixel count is overkill, then two D750 bodies will certainly do the job.

Here are a few more of my favorite images shot with the  D750 Images 

About me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly 15 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion and portraiture. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County. 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) D750 DSLR David Fashion Fraser Moire Nikon PhotoSophistry Photography Portraiture Review https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/12/fraser-nikond750-review Thu, 10 Dec 2015 03:08:41 GMT
It's Not Your Ordinary Flash: What I Like About the Phottix Mitros+ https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/6/phottixmitrosplus Phottix Mitros+: Not Your Ordinary Flash

For a very long time, I have had an aversion to speedlights. I certainly know how to use them, but never appreciated some of their constraints. For example, unless using an external battery pack, they are notorious for their inconsistent power output, particularly as the batteries lose their charge. Additionally, the recycle time on speedlights would vary significantly as the battery power drained, resulting in inconsistent output when shooting in fast-paced situations. Moreover, speedlights are often too weak to use with larger modifiers (unless you add multiple speedlights) or too harsh to use without modifiers. For the most part, I found them tolerable with small softboxes or reflective umbrellas. 

As a long time Nikon shooter, I have always kept two of the manufacturer’s most powerful speedlights for those rare occasions when circumstances required that I use one or two. The SB910 has been a staple in my bag for some time. But the contents of my bag and my attitude towards speedlights changed recently after a chance encounter with the Phottix Mitros+, one of the most versatile speedlights I have used. 

To be clear, I was not in the market for speedlights. However, while I continue to use primarily Paul C. Buff’s Einsteins in the studio, I wanted to explore a different light setup for my on-location shooting. After research, I purchased a pair of the Phottix Indra500 TTL. If I were to describe my experience with the Indra in a single word, it would be phenomenal. With its built in Odin receiver, powerful high speed sync capabilities, and powerful battery packs, it has taken its place in my on-location photography from the beach to urban settings. But since my purpose here is not to discuss the Indra, I will simply say it is the most satisfying lighting purchase I’ve made in years. 

Phottix Mitros+Phottix Mitros+ Speedlight for Canon, Nikon, or Sony

While shopping for accessories for the Indra500 from B&H Photo (not a paid endorsement), the Phottix Mitros+ came up in a recommended list. Out of sheer curiosity I began to read the specifications. And was I in for a surprise when I read this. 

  • Built-in: Phottix Odin Transmitter and Receiver, and Strato II Receiver
  • Radio transmission is compatible with Odin and Strato II wireless triggering systems up to 328' away
  • Wireless functionality via optical pulses in 4 channels and 3 groups with a range of up to 52.5' indoors
  • Ratio modes from 1:8 to 1:1 and 8:1 are available for firing multiple flash units
  • Optical Slave
  • Nikon-compatible Master/Slave IR Triggering Modes
  • TTL, Manual and Multi Stroboscopic Modes
  • High Speed Sync and Second Curtain Sync
  • A modeling flash setting is available for previewing how your shot will turn out
  • A bounce card and wide-angle diffuser are built into the flash head for convenience
  • Stroboscopic mode fires a series of flashes at a frequency of 1-199 Hz for up to 100 flashes
  • Status LED lights will notify you when the flash is ready to fire
  • Overheating protection will slow the firing time to avoid damage from heat
  • AF-assist light for focusing in poor lighting conditions
  • Memory system for retaining your settings when the flash is powered off
  • 3.5mm sync port for connecting this flash to a larger system
  • USB port for installing firmware updates
  • GN: 58 Nikon-Compatible TTL Flash
  • Flash Zoom: 24-105mm
  • External Battery Port, 3.5mm Sync Port

Three important elements stood out for me. First, the built in Odin receiver means I can use the same trigger (Phottix Odin) I use for the Indra500s. Second, the flash actually contains a sensor that allows it to function as on optical slave. Third, I can plug in the Mitros+ to the same powerful battery packs that power the Indra500. This means the recycle time would be virtually instantaneous, power output would be consistent, and I could use the true modeling flash that actually works like a studio modeling lamp. 

I ordered one of the Mitros+, and within a matter of weeks I ordered a second. These two have taken their place alongside my Indra500s as part of my mobile lighting kit. 

I should caution that this is more a sharing of anecdotes than it is a critical review. There are a number of reviews online for the Mitros+ that highlight its strengths as well as areas of improvement that are need. They also go into great detail about additional specifications. Among the concerns is the fact that it draws heavily on battery power. Without my Indra500’s external battery back, I would probably go through several sets of batteries on a typical shoot. 

NicoleNicole

I have shared two images with this post. The first is a graduation photo of a lovely young woman (Nicole) who once interned in my office. I used one Indra500 as the main light (camera right), a second Indra500 as the fill light (camera left), and a Mitros+ mounted in a Bowens S-Mount adapter along with a 7-inch reflector as the backdrop light.  The second image is of fashion stylist and public health nutritionist, Nicola (www.nicolaifill.com), shot outdoors with a single off camera Mitros+, modified with a small 26” octabox, and triggered with the Phottix Odin. 

NicolaSingle Mitros+ with Octabox

Whether you shoot primarily with speedlights, or would like to add to your existing Canon, Nikon, or Sony speedlights, the Mitros+ can do the job well. Or perhaps like me, you already own strobes that are part of Phottix ecosystem, and would like to expand it. Again, I think the Mitros+ is a great option. I certainly have a brand new perspective on speedlights. 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Mitros Plus Mitros+ Nikon Phottix flash photography radio speedlight speedlite transceiver trigger https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/6/phottixmitrosplus Fri, 12 Jun 2015 20:24:19 GMT
Large Images: Fast Import: Here's How You Do It In Mac OS X https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/5/fastimageimportonmac Large Images, Fast Import: Here’s How You Do It

For many years, Apple’s now discontinued application, Aperture, was my primary raw converter and asset manager. Optimized fairly well for Mac OS X, importing files from storage media was relatively quick and painless. This was true for managed files (those that were stored inside the catalog) as well as referenced files (those stored outside the catalog). When Apple announced Aperture’s discontinuation, it was a disappointment. However, admittedly it was not unexpected. Since then I have had to revisit my workflow on a few occasions, looking for the most efficient way to import, cull, and post-process images. 

I shoot primarily high resolution fashion and portrait images. At the time of writing, my primary body is the Nikon D810. My backup body is its slightly older sibling, the D800. However, if you shoot with any full-frame camera, where 24 megapixels appear to be the baseline standard these days, you would likely have an appreciation for speedier image transfers and a faster workflow. 

Lightroom has been my primary digital asset manager since I discontinued using Aperture. However, I often say I am a raw converter agnostic. As such I use Capture One Pro (currently at version 8.2) for some raw conversion. I also use DxO Optics Pro 10 from time to time. But in my view, Lightroom was and is the best option for asset management. 

It is known in the industry that Lightroom has been really poor in terms of how much time it takes to import and render files. Up until Lightroom CC 2015 / Lightroom 6, the application did not make use of graphics processing units in even high specification machines. In fact, it did not even handle multiple core and RAM appropriation very well. In many ways it was like a cruise ship - packed with features and opportunities, but extremely slow and somewhat clunky on a turn. But it seems much of that has changed since the latest release. 

I decided to test the import speed in Lightroom, but thought it appropriate to look at a couple other options as well. So for this post, in addition to Lightroom, I tested Capture One Pro 8.2, Image Capture for Mac OS X 10.10.3, and basic drag and drop transfer via Mac OS X Finder 10.10.3. To be clear, I have not done any testing for Windows machines, since I am not regular Windows user and do not have a comparable machine to my Mac OS X test machine. 

The test machine is my primary workhorse. The specifications follow:

Mac Pro (Late 2013)
3.5 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 Processor 
64 GB 1866 MHz DDR 3 EEC Memory
Dual AMD FirePro D500 3072 Video Cards/Memory
Apple SM1024F SSD 1 TB Drive
Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10.3

I used a Lexar Professional USB 3.0 dual slot card reader, and transferred 302 D800 NEF uncompressed raw files (approximately 78 MB each) from a Lexar Professional 128 GB SDXC UHS-II card. For Lightroom and Capture One Pro, I created new catalogs. Each application imported the files from the SD card, and copied them to folders on the desktop. I tested the time it took from beginning of the import to end, without considering any additional time needed to render the images. However, as an aside, I did note the approximate render times, since for some that may be of interest. Here are the results, beginning with the fastest to the slowest import. 

Capture One Pro 8.2 (Purchase or subscription from Phase One)

Total Import Time: 01:02 (1 minute 2 seconds)
Average Import Time per File: 0.2 second
(Caveat: Takes additional time to render the previews - approximately 6 minutes for standard previews)

Lightroom CC 2015 / Lightroom 6 (Purchase or subscription from Adobe)

Total Import Time: 01:29 (1 minute 29 seconds)
Average Import Time per File: 0.29
(Caveat: Takes additional time to render previews - approximately 2 minutes for standard previews)

Mac OS X Finder - Drag and Drop (included in Mac OS X)

Total Import Time: 04:18 (4 minutes 18 seconds)
Average Import Time per File: 0.85 second
(Caveat: No delay in image rendering. The raw converter is built into the OS. Thumbnails immediately available)

Image Capture (Included in Mac OS X)

Total Import Time: 04:20 (4 minutes 20 seconds)
Average Import Time per File: 0.86 second
(Caveat: Thumbnails immediately displayed; no built in viewer)

Clearly Capture One Pro does the fastest import of the four applications tested. At a speedy 0.2 second transfer time per 78 MB file, in just a little over one minute all files had been transferred to the desktop. 

Lightroom came in a close second. This is significant inasmuch as it marks a massive improvement over previous versions of the application. At 0.29 second for each file, it transferred all 302 images in a little less than one and one-half minute. The difference in transfer time between Capture One and Lightroom is roughly 0.09 second per image. And while this will ultimately add up if transferring a much larger batch of images, the improvement from Adobe is noteworthy. 

Many photographers prefer to manually transfer their files from flash cards to their computers, then arrange them. For Mac OS X users, Finder (the equivalent of File Explorer in the Windows realm) facilitates that with relative ease. At roughly 0.85 seconds per image, for an aggregate of 4 minutes and 18 seconds to transfer all 302 files, this approach is significantly slower than using Capture One Pro or the newest version of Lightroom. If this approach was a solution to the former sluggishness that marked Lightroom imports, it is imply no longer the case. 

Finally, the Apple utility, Image Capture, averaged 0.86 second per file, taking a total of 4 minutes and 20 seconds to transfer all 302 files. In some ways this is not terrible. But it is significantly slower that the two dedicated asset managers, Capture One Pro and Lightroom. And it is almost a dead heat with drag and drop using Finder. However it offers yet another alternative to Mac OS X users. 

What does all of this mean? For high resolution images with the large files sizes, speed makes a difference. Capture One Pro sits as king of the hill. But Lightroom is right behind after recent improvements made by Adobe. Of course, the other options remain viable, although if the aim is speed, they lag significantly behind. 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Adobe Capture One Pro D800 Lightroom Phase One fast import hi-res high resolution import photography https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/5/fastimageimportonmac Sun, 03 May 2015 19:24:16 GMT
Snapseed by Google: My New Favorite Mobile Editing Solution https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/4/snapseedisawinner Snapseed is a Definite Winner

Like many photographers I've had a serious aversion to using smartphones for photography. But that has certainly changed as phones and their cameras have evolved. Most of my behind the scenes images these days are shot with an iPhone 6+, my current smartphone. The camera, in my view, is extremely good, including hard coded image stabilization and other features once reserved for standalone point and shoot cameras. 

Similarly, I have not been terribly fond of mobile photo editing software. The native Apple solution on iOS devices is rudimentary at best. But until very recently Camera+ was perhaps my favorite. It is still very much a delightful app. And until Google released version 2 of Snapseed for iOS, it was my go to mobile solution. 

I updated to the new version of Snapseed on my iPad Air 2, and two iPhone 6+. At first I tried the app on one phone, and was satisfied with the offering. But the larger screen real estate of the iPad gave me a wow moment. This is the most well thought out mobile photo editing application I've seen in a while. Just what is so out of the ordinary about it? 

1. Layers. Yes, layers.  This is even way ahead of Lightroom Mobile, which in many ways is very much tied to the desktop and can only do basic adjustments. Although, the advantage it offers is that it syncs back to the desktop. 

2. Granular adjustments. You can separately adjust midtones, shadows, highlights, sharpness, film grain, etc. 

3. Masking. You can display a mask as an overlay so brush adjustments can be clearly seen. And yes, you can use brushes to apply specific adjustments. 

4. Dodging and burning. This was simply amazing to me. That a mobile device allows a sophisticated, yet simple approach, to dodging and burning is incredible. You can literally contour the face of a subject in a portrait, or specifically create a dynamic contrast look in any image. 

Of course, the app is not perfect. In the iOS version, once you've finished editing and save the image, I found the next step a bit unintuitive. A button that says "new image" rather than "open" would be helpful. Additionally, saving the image to Google Drive is not even an option. That is somewhat surprise for a Google product, given Google's push towards integration. The photo can only be saved to the camera roll. There after it must use one of the traditional methods to share - email, message, etc. 

Notwithstanding these minor concerns, whether you're an amateur, enthusiast, or professional photographer who wants to incorporate your mobile devices (iOS and Android), this Google product is a winner. It can be downloaded free from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. You can't go wrong with this one. 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Android Google Snapseed app iOS ipad iphone layers mobile photography software tablet https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/4/snapseedisawinner Fri, 10 Apr 2015 22:05:11 GMT
Apple's Photos App for Mac OS X Released: Is it for You? https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/4/photosappsreleased The Photos App for Mac OS X

With today’s release of OS X Yosemite 10.10.3, Apple’s Photos app for the desktop OS exited beta and was officially released. I have been testing Photos during the beta testing period. I recall every time I turned on the test machine and attempted to do anything substantive with Photos, it quickly resulted in frustration, often leading me to leave the testing alone for several days. In many ways I hoped that once the final release was done, Apple would have redeemed much of the apparent deficiencies for those of us whose photography goes beyond mounting iPhones on a selfie stick and saturating social media with ten different versions of the infamous duck mouth pose. 

Photos App for Mac OS XAutomatic organization by dates is done by the application Organization by date is automatic upon import

Admittedly, I am very disappointed in the entire direction Apple has taken. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Apple’s modus operandi of late has been “make it silly.” There was a time when I knew, as a long time Mac user, that Apple’s apparent focus was “make it simple.” But efforts at simplification give way to being plain silly when core functionality is tossed, and desktop software is made to look, feel, and function like it was created for a phone. To be clear, it’s not the interface alone that is an issue. It’s the limits to what can be done with this first iteration of the application. 

As a professional I do not depend on Apple’s software for managing my photography assets, converting raw images, and doing major retouching. Some time ago, the core of my asset management, raw conversion, and to a lesser degree editing/retouching, was done in Aperture. I began using the software in 2007, and was finally constrained to abandon it almost two years ago. Why? It became unstable as my referenced library grew to about 100,000 images, reflecting years of photographic exploits. Adobe Lightroom became my primary asset manager, while I have drawn on a few applications (DxO Optics Pro, Capture One Pro, etc.) for some of my raw conversion. And ultimately, most of my retouching is done in Adobe Photoshop. 

Photos Editing ScreenThe editing screen is simple, but functional and attractive. Photos editing screen is simple, but functional, and beautiful

One fact that almost all former and current (the few who remain) Aperture users will tell you is, a fundamental strength of Mac OS X is that the raw conversion is systemwide. It is never tied to a specific application. That means, I can user Finder, the Mac OS X file manager, to locate my raw files and view them without opening a third party application. The raw conversion is very good. In fact, I find it similar to what is rendered in Capture One Pro, Phase One’s raw converter and asset manager is is apparently growing in popularity. Both Aperture and iPhoto benefitted from the raw conversion done at the system level. Now that both are being replaced by Photos, one would think that at least the asset management features would be strong. That is simply not the case. Apple’s approach to asset management is that it lumps all images - iPhone images, raw files, etc. - into the application and makes these arbitrary divisions by dates etc. True, the user can create albums. However the albums are at best a poorly implemented version of Lightroom’s collections. The actual image files can only be organized if they are kept outside the Photos library and referenced. 

But Apple clearly has a plan. They would like people to buy lots of iCloud storage and keep all the images in the cloud. Each device can then draw from the cloud. Oh, but the largest plan listed on Apple’s website is 1 terabyte, at a cost of US$20 per month. So clearly, a person with a photography library that is almost 3 terabytes could not utilize Apple’s model. 

iPhoto editing screen was not as feature rich as the one in Photos 

After I stopped using Aperture, I continued to use iPhoto as the means by which I could sync finished images to my iOS devices. Photos will do that without the cloud solution. In that sense it simply does what iPhoto did. But it does not contain many of the advanced features Aperture contained. Since it is only a matter of time before Apple will completely abandon iPhoto and Aperture (they are still marginally functional), I will move my finished images to Photos for synchronization with my mobile devices. But that’s about all the utility it has for me. Does it have nice editing features? Of course. In fact I even tested a few raw images and was satisfied that it can do some good things. Is it enough to use in lieu of one of the professional applications like Lightroom or Capture One Pro? Not in the least bit. 

Let me list a few of the deficits in the application that make it less than useful for professional photographers:

  1. Images cannot be renamed upon import. In fact the import screen is so rudimentary, you have two choices. You may pull the images into the library, or leave them where they are and reference them. That’s it. Once imported you can add a title. But the image cannot be renamed. 
  2. You cannot use a single plugin or external editor with Photos, notwithstanding Apple’s much touted extensibility. So if it cannot be done in Photos, the only choice is to export the image from Photos, work with it in another application, then import it again. While the editing features are fairly good, significant features such as keystone correction and lens correction are missing. 
  3. Culling features such as flags, stars, and color coding are noticeably missing. Well, there is a heart shaped icon to indicate an image is a favorite. It’s the same as what is found in the iOS apps. But that’s the extent to which you can go. 

Overall, Photos is perhaps an improvement for iPhoto users, although the it is easier in my view to manage the images in iPhoto than it is in Photos. As for it being a replacement for Aperture, it is not even a consideration. If you are a professional photographer, or even an enthusiast, I recommend you turn your sights elsewhere. Using Lightroom with Lightroom Mobile is one of the best alternatives in my view. It has far greater utility than Photos.

Adobe Lightroom a far more robust professional application 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Aperture App Apple Lightroom Mac OS Photos Photos App Professional X iOS iPhoto photography https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2015/4/photosappsreleased Thu, 09 Apr 2015 03:28:40 GMT
Why I Backup When I Travel or Shoot on Location: Murphy's Law https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/10/why-i-backup-when-i-travel-murphys-law Why I Backup When I Travel or Shoot on Location: Murphy's Law
 
I'm not one who is given to bouts of paranoia. But I do believe there's some merit to Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Whenever I am shooting untethered, I save each raw file to both cards in the camera. I figure the likelihood of both failing simultaneously is really infinitesimal. And when I am shooting tethered - since the files are typically saved directly to my internal hard drive - I immediately make a backup copy to a portable drive. Now when I travel, particularly overseas, I keep at least two external Thunderbolt drives, each carrying all the images I capture while traveling. And they are never in the same bag. Ok, so maybe that sounds just a tad bit like paranoia. 
 
Lacie Thunderbolt DriveCourtesy of www.gearnuts.com
 
Understand that I have had at least one validated experience with Murphy's Law. I've always trusted Toshiba's Thunderbolt drives. I keep several 2-terabyte ones for travel and on-location backups. Upon completing a shoot in the studio a few months ago, I made a backup to one Toshiba drive. Notwithstanding my cautious handling, I watched as the drive slipped out of my hand and crashed to the faux hardwood floor. It died. Images were gone. Just a few weeks ago, I exited the car and something similar happened. Like Pele, the masterful Brazilian soccer player perhaps better known to the previous generation, my right leg did an amazing block, and the drive was saved from what was destined to be a collision with the concrete driveway. It landed on the lawn. But when I picked it up and took it inside, as it powered up, I could hear the grinding. These are not SSDs after all. They are still old fashioned spindle drives in a plastic case. 
 
As I shared my woes with my IT guy, he said, "You need one of the rugged versions." They're bulkier because they have a protective sleeve around them, and they can practically bounce when they fall. So, I am trying out the Lacie rugged Thunderbolt portable. 
 
Lacie is a good company. I have desktop drives they have produced. Will this ease my paranoia - err, I mean sense of cautiousness about backup up? Probably not. But if the claims are true, at least I can believe that if or rather when I drop one of my portable backups, it may just survive. 
 
So what's the lesson in all of this? I'm not sure there is one beyond Thursday evening bantering of a data backup conscious photographer. But on a serious note, get into the habit of backing up your images regularly. I keep three copies of each in the home studio, and at least one copy offsite. 
 
Happy Thursday!
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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) backup data images lacie photography portable thunderbolt toshiba https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/10/why-i-backup-when-i-travel-murphys-law Thu, 09 Oct 2014 23:13:48 GMT
Instagram: Bane or Blessing for the modern photographer? https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/9/Instagram  
 
Ah, Instagram. How much do I love, I mean hate, I mean tolerate thee! Let me count the ways. I'm definitely a late comer to Instagram. I tried it once a couple years ago, but quickly left it behind, finding the limitations quite annoying. I didn't like that all the photos had to be square. I didn't like that I could only see the photos on a tiny smartphone screen. And I didn't like that much of what was shared on the network seemed useless for anyone who had been on the planet for more than 15 years. My teenage son put it all in perspective for me. He said, "Facebook is for older people. My friends are all on Instagram."
 
 
But something happened. In a brilliant marketing move, retailers began paying attention to that important demographic - teens - and started developing hip Instagram profiles to attract the young with their incessant desire for spending their parents' money on everything from sneakers to T-Shirts. And once Facebook purchased Instagram, and created a way to build an instant following by pulling Facebook friends into Instagram, what was once a niche social network for teens became the hippest social network. 
 
 
Over time, a few things have certainly changed about Instagram. You can now view the posts in a regular desktop web browser. However, you must still post from your smartphone or from some special web plugins for the desktop browser. More importantly, the Instagram demographic has expanded. An August 2014 Business Insider article (http://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-demographics-2013-12) reported, based on information from Facebook/Instagram, that 90% of Instagram’s 150 million users are under the age of 35. Gulp! That makes me a statistical outlier. But what’s interesting is that the majority of the users (number unspecified) are between the age of 18-35, with roughly 68% being female. 
 
What does this mean for me as a photographer? If we are to believe the numbers, it’s an ideal social network for me to reach clients. And in reality, a few clients have seen work I’ve posted on Instagram and have made contact. It’s not remotely as much as Facebook. But I’ve noticed it is becoming more active. And the rate of increase of those who choose to follow me Instagram is higher than on my Facebook page or my personal Facebook profile. 
 
 
The decision to begin using Instagram came with its share of frustrations. I didn’t want to always crop my images to make them square. My early efforts were an embarrassment to say the least. I posted a few partial decapitations, some leg amputations, and other less than attractive cropped images. Then I stumbled onto a few smartphone apps (sample images here) that created a border around the image to fill the square crop, without removing parts of the original image. And when possible, I began using Photoshop to create square crops and filling in the spaces with content aware fill. 
 
Today, I post images primarily on three networks: Facebook, Google+, and of course, Instagram. I’ve grown to appreciate Instagram’s constraints as well as its possibilities. I don’t know that I’m totally at ease with it, but I do understand that as a photographer, I must embrace all avenues for marketing my work and touching base with clients. In fact, I discovered that some clients were beating me to the punch by posting behind the scenes shots and proof images they often acquired through screen captures of my proof galleries, and posting them to Instagram. Now, I often provide them with “Instagram ready” images. They love it, and I’ve learned to live with it. 
 
What has been your experience with Instagram? 
 
 
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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Facebook instagram marketing photographer photography social media social network https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/9/Instagram Sat, 27 Sep 2014 19:11:18 GMT
The Aperture Debacle | How Apple Lost A Photographer's Confidence https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/5/ApertureDebacle My History With Apple
 
My relationship with (what was then) Apple Computers began in 2003. During that year, I purchased my first iPod, and was excited and amazed at the prospect of taking my growing digital music library almost anywhere with me. Of course, it was not a true necessity. In retrospect, my iPod purchase was largely driven by the coolness factor of owning one. 
 
One year later, I gleefully took possession of my first computer from the Cupertino company. It was a PowerBook, the model of Apple’s laptop that would later adopt the Intel architecture and become known as the MacBook Pro. I used the PowerBook largely for presentations and other on-the-go types of activities. But I continued to use a Windows machine as my primary desktop computer. In fact, when it was time in 2006 to purchase a high end desktop computer for photo editing, I chose a $3,000 Dell XPS system (including a 24” flat panel monitor). 
 
But later that year, as Apple began its transition to Intel processors, and as I upgraded my PowerBook to one of the sleek new MacBook Pros, I found myself using the laptop with greater frequency than my rather expensive desktop. Concomitant with my purchase of the new laptop was the beginning of my transition from being a photography enthusiast to doing some professional work. I began enjoying image organization and editing on the Mac so much, I started wishing the interfaces on both of my machines were consistent. 
 
Then I took leap. I shifted my Dell XPS system to my son for gaming. Sufficed to say, he was quite elated about my decision. I bought a Mac Pro (tower), and later a more consumer based iMac. So, by 2007, I had made a complete transition to using Apple computers. There were hiccups here and there. And there were frustrations on occasions when I needed to share workflow with some of my Windows colleagues. But all in all, I felt it was a great decision. The machines were powerful and reliable. And, services like .Mac (a more rudimentary predecessor of iCloud) were very useful for sharing files across multiple machines. Synchronizing calendars, something I missed from my Windows/Microsoft Exchange days, was made easy with .Mac. Further, there was little to no malware to be concerned about. I had simply fallen in love with Apple computers. And I made a point of sharing that with family, friends, and colleagues, urging them to take the leap and buy Apple computers. I became a de facto Apple/Mac evangelist. 
 
My Introduction to Aperture
 
In 2007, as my photography expanded, I began hearing chatter in the professional photography community about Aperture. It was Apple’s digital asset manager that provided a tool for curating, culling, and outputting digital images - especially those shot in raw format. I visited my nearest Apple Store on several occasions just to play with Aperture. It was an amazing, albeit expensive, application. iPhoto came free with my computers. But iPhoto simply did not have the organizational capabilities of Aperture. Admittedly, I was still shooting in jpeg format at the time, but had begun talking with other photographers about the benefits and drawbacks of shooting in raw format. 
 
Finally, on my fourth visit to the Apple Store in early 2008, I was elated to learn that Aperture 2 had been released in February with a $200 price tag, as opposed to the $500 price tag of the previous version. It was an easy decision. I bought it; I hurried home; I installed it. It was no easy task getting my images from iPhoto into Aperture, but I thought I could simply add new images going forward. 
 
Aperture was indeed amazing. The interface was fluid. And everything simply worked - just as Apple had indicated. That was true until Apple released an update that caused my Aperture library to grind to a halt. As I complained, and other photographers complained, Apple moved quickly to provide a fix. They didn’t pretend there wasn’t a problem. Yes, they were a bit secretive, but at least they acknowledged the issues and set about to fix them. 
 
Then came the release of Aperture 3.0 in 2010. With a sizable image library by that time, I quickly ordered the upgrade. Again, there were some significant challenges. Photographer Tony Wu summarized it well and wrote, “Basically, it seems that when some users try to upgrade their existing Aperture Library to be compatible with Aperture 3, the software ties up excessive RAM and ends up going around and around in endless loops unable to execute the upgrade. Your computer "hangs" and Aperture "chews" through your RAM” (http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/problems-i-encountered-with-aperture-3). In my case, the upgrade kept my computer spinning nonstop for about 27 hours. It was incredibly frustrating, but in due course, Apple fixed this as well. Interestingly, even as I encountered such glitches, I held steadfastly to the notion that Apple could do no wrong. Such hiccups notwithstanding, I believed that Aperture, and everything else Cupertino released, must be the very best the world had to offer. 
 
My Current Experience with Aperture
 
As I write, it is now May 2014. Apple has made several incremental updates to Aperture, but the program has not had a major overhaul in over four years. The current version, 3.5.1, was released in November 2013, after Apple updated its Mac OS to version 10.9, known commonly as Mavericks. However, Aperture 3.5.1 apparently retained much of the legacy code, the same four-year old interface, and its much warranted reputation as a resource hog. It offered no new features reflecting developments in the industry, and apparently didn't add much to accommodate the industry shift towards larger and more pixel-dense images coming from most of today's digital SLRs. 
 
On my current generation iMac, with all specifications at maximum, as well as my current generation Retina MacBook Pro, also with all specifications at maximum, Aperture 3.5.1 frequently triggers kernel panics that result in full system freezes and crashes. Bear in mind, the Aperture library of images that I began building in 2008 with Aperture 2.0, now has roughly 80,000 images. And after each crash it took a veritable eternity to rebuild and stabilize the library. 
 
I tried several fixes following recommendations from colleagues and friends, many whom had themselves grown frustrated with Aperture's emergent bugginess and a had developed a sense that Aperture was caught in some kind of time warp where enthusiasts pretended it was perfect software and did everything a photographer could possibly need. I even created a brand new library to make sure there were no legacy projects that were contributing to the problems. It didn't make a difference. 
 
Aperture Library
 
Finally, as we Mac users are wont to do when in our (admitted) arrogance we are not satisfied with something Apple has done, I dispatched an email to Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Apparently that email was forwarded to their corporate relations. And someone actually called and served as a liaison between the Aperture engineers and me. I found it curious, and at times quite infuriating, that they seemed more concerned about reminding me, "We cannot make any representation about the future of Aperture" and "We are making no promises about the outcome." The long and short of it, is that several months into this debacle, they have been unable to fix the crashes. 
 
My Move to Adobe Lightroom 
 
Alas, there were unintended (and unanticipated) consequences to Aperture’s instability. I needed reliability. I needed to be able to load my digital asset manager without opening the system monitor so I can attempt to circumvent crashes as the system resources decreased drastically with every single brush stroke. So, I began to explore alternative digital asset managers. I narrowed it to Capture One Pro and Lightroom. The latter, for many reasons, became the most suitable choice. And while I maintain many of the legacy projects in Aperture, I open it only for occasional access to those images. Adding new images isn’t practical. All new projects are now added to Lightroom. 
 
But there was another unanticipated consequence. I realized that as a passionate Mac user - and a self-appointed evangelist for Apple products - I had ignored the alternatives that existed outside Apple’s walled garden. While I miss the stellar organization and relatively fluid (albeit dated) interface of Aperture, Lightroom (and perhaps other digital asset managers) have advanced far beyond Aperture. I won’t discuss here all the missing features in Aperture. Many Aperture users are apt to dismiss those missing elements by saying, “We can fix that with plugins.” Well, as a high resolution image shooter (raw files sizes of roughly 75 megabytes each), plugins simply create additional large files that gobble valuable store space. They are not solutions. They are patches. I want a solution. And Lightroom, though it has some interface quirks I do not like, is overall a better application. With a growing catalog of high resolution D800 images, I can count on Lightroom's stability on Apple's own operating system. I find it incredible that Lightroom doesn't crash, and provides me with a reliable and feature rich resource that works better on Apple's own OS than Aperture does. 
 
A colleague asked recently why I had left Aperture. I responded, “I didn’t leave Aperture. Aperture forced me to leave.” Crashes, crashes, and more crashes! A hobbyist can perhaps be tolerant of Aperture’s ongoing instability. A professional photographer cannot be as tolerant. Our clients don’t want excuses. They want their images delivered on time. 
 
This experience led me to a new way of thinking about Apple. Their computers are great. Mac OS X is amazing. Don't expect me to look for an alternative OS any time soon.  But I will never put all my proverbial eggs in Apple’s basket again. I am no longer that self appointed Apple evangelist. I have no qualms about pointing those who ask in a different direction from Apple’s products. And how did this come about? Well, four years of waiting for an update to an application that is central to workflow is not acceptable. Crashes after every few adjustments of a slider are untenable. And even if Apple were to update Aperture and fix its persistent bugginess today, I would be reticent about going back to Aperture. When it comes to image management, and in some other ways as well, Apple has forfeited my confidence, and lost an evangelist. 
 
Blogger: David... I am a San Francisco Bay Area professional photographer specializing in portrait and fashion photography
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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) aperture apple digital asset manager editing lightroom photography photos https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2014/5/ApertureDebacle Sun, 11 May 2014 22:43:34 GMT
Carnival 2012 | Port of Spain https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2012/2/carnival2012 Trinidad & Tobago is among the most developed of the Eastern Caribbean nations. It has also emerged as one of the most successful fashion centers in the region, even offering degrees in fashion and design at the Caribbean Academy of Fashion & Design, University of Trinidad & Tobago. Arguably, most people know or are at least acquainted with Trinidad because of its history with the steel pan. Similarly, their carnival is one of the most popular and well attended in the world. 

During the week of February 20, 2012, the carnival season culminates with several days of masquerading. First, there is the kids' carnival celebration. Then on carnival Monday, there is a sort of prequel to carnival Tuesday's big celebration. 

We are on location in Trinidad, and, at the time of writing, we have already captured some fabulous images of the kids' carnival. Because we have media credentials, we are able to capture our images from the main stage at the Savannah, in the heart of Port of Spain. A sample of the exquisite costumes worn by the kids appears below. Visit the the Kids' Carnival gallery for more images. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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info@davidfraserphotography.com (David Fraser Photography) Tobago Trinidad carnival mas https://www.davidfraserphotography.com/blog/2012/2/carnival2012 Sun, 19 Feb 2012 02:16:57 GMT