Moody Milford Magic | Dusk Milford Sound, Fiordland New Zealand

New Zealand Photo | Dusk Mitre Peak , Milford Sound dusk, Fiordland National Park

Long exposure of Mitre Peak , Milford Sound at dusk, Fiordland National Park New Zealand. Photography by Todd Sisson

This is a long exposure made during dusk a few years back in Milford Sound.

This was one of our images pulled for inclusion in a little photo article on environmental graffiti a couple of weeks back – and I figured I would keep the recent Fiordland theme rolling (you’ll have to go back through my posts for the rest – go on, don’t be slothful – it’s only a mouse click…. :-)

Also, if any of you Pressers want to get SPAMMED* by me in your inbox once or twice a month you should sign up for our mailing list:  http://eepurl.com/k_zeT

* I am clinically proven to be too doggoned lazy to be a spammer…..

Cheers – Todd

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Wednesday’s Free iPad Wallpaper | Pouakai Ridge Sunrise, Mt Taranaki New Zealand

Photos of New Zealand Landscapes | Red Sunrise Pouakai Ridge Taranaki

Red sky and sunstar over New Zealand alpine tussocks from Pouakai Ridge at sunrise – Mt Egmont National Park.

Welcome to Wednesday and August (WTF???).

A little respite from South Island scenery this week, this image was made from the Pouakai Ridge on the Northern flank of Mt Taranaki.  Sarah & I hiked up in the dark on the previous evening – fortunately the sun broke through, as it would have been a lot of effort for a photo of fog & mist shrouded tusssocks….

As always, this is available as a [free iPad wallpaper] Password = freewallpaper

Tech Detritus:  Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (@17mm) f/16 ISO100.  Edited using Adobe Photoshop CS6 on 15″ Apple MacBook Pro and Apple Cinema Display.

Have a great week – feel free to follow my blog!

Cheers – Todd

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Nikon D800e vs Canon 5dmkii Landscape Photography Comparison [UPDATED]

canon 5d mark2 v nikon D800e landscape photography comparison test

Which is better for landscape photography – the Nikon D800e or the Canon 5dmkii?  Thinking of upgrading from the Canon 5dmkii to the Nikon D800e?  Who knows?  Hopefully I will have the answers for you by the end of this test shoot! 

UPDATED 25 JULY: NOW WITH DYNAMIC RANGE COMPARISONS

[UPDATE BEGINS] When I first wrote this review I figured that the big story between the Canon 5d markii and the Nikon D800e was the headline grabbing resolution shootout.  Well, the resolution battle was indeed interesting, but not quite as blood-spattered and gory as I was hoping to be honest.  The D800e certainly out resolves the 5dii but it only matters once huge enlargements are made (important to me).

After shooting with the Nikon D800e for a while it became starkly apparent that it’s most usable great leap forward for landscape photography was actually it’s dynamic range performance.  The D800e is so good in this respect that I actually found myself penning (on my keyboard? :) another article entitled Are ND Filters Dead? – where I revealed the Nikon D800’s almost disconcerting ability to create terrific looking landscape images out of RAW files that would be little more than train-wreckage on other DSLR camera bodies. 

However, I am well aware that a placebo effect kicks in with new cameras – you find results that verify your preconceptions.  Maybe my trusty Canon 5d mkii would have been equally capable of rescuing highlights and opening up shadows as the D800. I decided, once again, to channel my newly discovered testing nerd personality and pit the Nikon D800e vs the Canon 5dmkii in a dynamic range fight club – here’s what I found:

Test Details: Both cameras were shot on aperture priority -1EV and they selected identical shooting settings of f/8, 1/250th @ ISO 100.  I then ran both RAW files through Lightroom 4 at identical synced settings – shadows +100 and exposure +.85.  I tested the shadow performance rather than highlight recovery, because I tend to actively avoid clipping highlights when photographing. I prefer blocked out shadows to blown highlights.

This is what we got with the Nikon D800e (another stunning test shot :-) :

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

And this is the Canon 5d mkii:

Canon 5d Markii Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

Look about the same to you?

Well take a gander at this 100% crop from the two cameras side by side (Canon 5d mkii on left and Nikon D800e on right)

100% Detail Comparison

Dynamic Range Shadows Test 100% Detail Comparison.
Left Image: -Canon 5d mkii after lightroom adjustments
Right Image: Nikon D800e after Adobe Lightroom 4 adjustments.

Now I remember why I never felt inclined to toss away my Singh Ray ND grad filters while I was shooting with the Canon 5d markii (or any other Nikon DSLR for that matter).  Compare the dark fence rails –  crazy colour noise and criss-cross patterns emerge on the Canon while the D800e looks like it could be pumped up another stop or two.  Wood patterns emerge from the murk on the D800 that are almost destroyed by colour noise on the Canon.

Compare the midtones on the leaves – the same story repeats itself.  Once again, it is not that the Canon 5d mkii is doing a bad job (noise reduction would tidy this up a bit) – it is that the D800e is doing a freakishly good job.  Not only does the Nikon D800/e deliver a significant bump in resolution it does so while re-writing the DSLR book on noise control and Dynamic Range – I didn’t think that pixels crammed this close together could do this.

For what it matters I personally proclaim the Nikon D800 to be the world’s best (and best value) landscape photography DSLR.  

[UPDATE ENDS]

Please take the time to read the rest of this report and view the image quality and resolution comparisons.

VIEW THE IMAGE QUALITY COMPARISONS>>>>>

READ: ARE ND FILTERS DEAD – D800 DYNAMIC RANGE LANDSCAPE EXAMPLES>>>

Are ND Grad Filters Dead? A D800e Dynamic Range Landscape Field Test

New Zealand Photos | Milford Sound Clearing Storm over Mitre Peak

Clearing Storm, Milford Sound, New Zealand. This is one of my most successful images – made with the Nikon D2X and a 3 stop Singh Ray Grad filter.

It would be no over-statement to say that I have built my landscape photography career on the back of Singh Ray ND grad filters.  Almost all of my best selling images have been made using a grad.

Being a hair-shirted Luddite at heart (and pre-disposed to leisure time) I have eschewed hours chained to the computer blending exposures and mastering HDR by instead using Singh Ray Grads to get the bulk of my exposure work done in-camera.

I have no particular love of ND Grad filters – they are, after all, just a pricey piece of acrylic – but I do LOVE the results that Grads impart on my photography.  This love of results has always had me going all ‘Charlton Heston’  “you can pry my [Grads] from my cold dead hands” whenever the topic of surrendering my filters to the forces of progress has been raised.

Well, my hands are still warm and seemingly very much alive, yet I feel my grip rapidly loosening, particularly after this morning’s Nikon D800e test shoot.

I have been getting quite a few queries via the interwebz ( ‘z’ is surely the edgiest of letters) as to whether ND grads were still required for use with the D800.  My gut feeling was yes but I had been seeing some very thought-provoking results coming from the D800e – particularly once I upgraded to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 .  The combination of the D800e’s capacious dynamic range Lightroom 4’s revolutionary tonality enhancements (particularly shadow/highlights) seemed to be delivering a vastly extended DR.

This morning I saw a sunrise forming and promptly abandoned Sarah during the hellish pre-school circus in order to perform a meaningful DR test between my Singh Ray ND Grads and the D800e’s naked sensor.

About The Test:

  • Nikon D800E on tripod
  • Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D at 17mm, f/8
  • Aperture Priority
  • Daylight WB
  • ISO 100
  • f/8
  • Singh-Ray 3-stop soft edge grad
  • The scene is exactly the kind of situation where I ALWAYS use an ND grad – reasonably flat horizon with huge tonal range and plenty of colour to capture.

The Results:

Nikon-D800e-Dynamic-Range-ND-on-samples-699px

With Singh Ray 3-stop Graduated ND filter. The ND grad did it’s job well here – just a little highlight recovery in LR4 and we have the basis of a workable exposure. Note the smudgy flare in the vineyard just below the sun – this is one of the drawbacks of ND filters, especially once they gather a few scratches.

Nikon-D800e-Dynamic-Range-ND-off-naked-699px

Naked D800e Image, matrix metering -1 EV. Straight from the camera the no-Grad image looks pretty underwhelming – the sky is properly exposed but the foreground is underexposed. Can a quick trip through Lightroom 4 get this image looking as good as the Singh-ray shot above?

View The ‘Worked’ Image & 100% Crops >>>>

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRii User Review | For Landscape & Nature Photography

Seeing as my Nikon Prime v Zoom review seemed moderately popular earlier this week, I have decided to post my thoughts on the 70-200mm f2.8 VRii here on WordPress – enjoy & share.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.  Cheers – Todd.

I won’t mess about – the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VR II is an incredible weapon for landscape photographers – quite simply, this lens has been a revelation for my long lens landscape photography, particularly when paired with the D800e and D7000.

If you think you need this lens, you need this lens.  Read no further – just buy it.

Nikon 70-200 VRII f/2.8

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII: a landscape photographer’s best friend – assuming you have no human friends…..

Before we start:

I am a landscape & nature photographer – a simple man. I am not a lens designer, lens tester, or nuclear physicist – I don’t know a Bayer pattern from a sewing pattern and I have yet to come across an MTF test chart in the wild (I dread that day – I hear they can be viscious).  The results here are no more than my opinions and observations and are based on exactly zero scientific research.  With that said, I hope that this is of some value to you – enjoy!

Background

I purchased the 70-200 f2.8 VR II in April 2012, in anticipation of receiving a brand spanking new Nikon D800e.  At the time my long lens option was restricted to the surprisingly capable (with caveats) Nikon AF-S 55-200mm f4-5.6G VR IF ED for use on the nikon D7000.  

I had previously owned a nikon 80-200 f2.8 AF-D, a lens that I never came to love.  I may have had a poor sample but the 80-200 f2.8 ‘s weight and poor handling never seemed to be adequately offset by stellar image quality. The 80-200 seemed to suffer from focus accuracy issues out towards infinity.

If truth be known, I actually didn’t want to buy the 70-200 f2.8 VR II thanks to it’s cost and weight.  This was compounded by the fact  that I had been using the Canon 70-200 f4 L IS for over three years.  The Canon lens is spectacular from wide open and incredibly light – if Nikon had built an equivalent f4 lens I would have taken it.  Nikon doesn’t make such a lens and I was pretty much forced into buying the 70-200 f2.8 VR II as my only tele zoom option for the D800e – I am glad that I did.

Technical Specifications

Tech specs deplete my will to live.   After 20 years of photography I am no closer to understanding why I would care about the number of optical elements in a lens design – it either works or it doesn’t.  Hence I present you with no lens cross section diagrams, discussion of lens coatings or tech specs – just practical results and findings. You can find the specs on the B&H product page.

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 In The Field

Field Handling: The 70-200 f/2.8 VRII handled being in this field really well. (Attached to a D800e and clamped down to a Benro Tripod)

But seriously, on to handling. The 70-200 f2.8 VR II weighs in at a relatively hefty 1530g – about 250g more than my old 80-200 f2.8 AF-D.  Now, given that I ditched the 80-200 largely due to it’s weight this should be an issue, but it’s not.

Somehow, somebody did something to something within the design of the 70-200 VR II.  That something that somebody did has made the lens wonderfully balanced to work with – I just don’t notice the weight, and as we will see soon, the results more than compensate for the inconvenience.

When it comes to handling, the lens is terrific.  VR controls are well positioned, manual focus override is a cinch compared to the 80-200 (which involves pushing buttons and turning rings to move from AF to M) – just grab and focus. The zoom ring has a wonderfully positive tension to it and it’s position is excellent for use when hand-holding.

Of course zoom and focus are handled internally on a lens of this calibre so there are no protruding extensions during operation – everything just happens on the inside – all very deep and meaningful.

Build Quality

The 70-200 f2.8 VR II is an exceptional piece of engineering – it is one of those rare cases where you can see and feel where your money went.  The lens housing is reassuringly metallic – I believe that it is constructed of the same magnesium alloy used in Nikon’s pro camera bodies.  Yes, that mottled metallic finish that nikon moulds into it’s plastic products is actually for real this time – nice.   All this metallic heft and bulk leaves you with the impression that, if money were no object, one could happily use the lens to hammer tent pegs while on a photo-safari.

I have yet to test the weather/dust sealing of the lens to extremes. I have never had any issues with weather sealing even on my cheapest Nikkors, so I presume that this will be the case with the 70-200 f2.8 VR II.

Evidence of build-quality can be found by simply twisting the tripod collar locking nut.  The collar swivels around with a velvety motion and the locking is extremely positive, going from free to locked in about half a turn.

But my favourite example of this build quality is the HB-48 lens hood. To me, it is a thing of great beauty, with a stylish yet manly petal shape and, for want of a better term, it mates beautifully with the lens.  This coupling is consummated audibly when the metal locking mechanism clicks into place.  A better lens hood I have not owned.

Focus Performance

The  70-200 f2.8 VR II is the fastest and most accurate lens that I currently own.   It locks onto subjects rapidly even under dim lighting conditions.

Nikon’s silent wave motor has not always been that silent in my experience but on the 70-200 f2.8 it truly lives up to its name, operation is quiet and fast.

When paired with a relatively high performance body it tracks focus effortlessly – I am no bird or sports photographer, but I am father to two hyperactive kids and this lens just gets the shot when used on the D7000 or D800e.

nikon-70-200-f2.8-140mm-2.8-AFC-Tests

Too Cute To Need A Title: AF-C Performance: Nikon D800e in DX mode (6fps) : f/2.8, 1/5000, ISO 400 at 140mm 35mm equivalent . Sure, the D800 has state-of-the-art AF, but paired with the 70-200mm f2.8 it delivers incredible tracking performance with the press of the AF-start button.

nikon-70-200-f2.8-140mm-2.8-AFC-Tests-100%

AF-C Performance: Nikon D800e in DX mode (6fps) : f/2.8, 1/5000, ISO 400 at 140mm 35mm equivalent – 100% crops – no sharpening applied, focus point set to Indi’s chest. I am too lazy to give you a crop of every shot in this sequence, so here are some loupe screen shots at 100% – I couldn’t cram a loupe onto every shot so you will have to believe me that every shot in this sequence was technically usable. The 70-200 f2.8 VR II delivers stunning AF performance.

Vibration Reduction (VR) Performance

The 70-200 f2.8 VR II is the first top of the range Nikon VR lens that I have owned and I am very, very, impressed by its stabilisation performance.

I have had my reservations about the performance of Nikon’s VR on my first generation 18-200mm VR DX and 16-85 VR DX lenses.  To me it has never seemed that effective.  This impression was only reinforced when I purchased the Canon 24-105 f4 l IS and 70-200 f4 L IS lenses.  The Canon IS system just seemed more aggressive or ‘active’ to me – it may not be the case but that is the way it seems and I have come to rely upon it when shooting handheld – especially with people.

I am happy to report that the VR on the 70-200 f2.8 is stellar, and easily in the same league as the IS on my Canon lenses – probably better in fact, and certainly quieter. Check it out.

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II vr test

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II – VR Effectiveness: 1/30th Second, 200mm. Check out the sharpness in that loupe – and Nikon issued warnings about the D800e not being hand-holdable. Nuts! to that I say – I got two in a row like this at 1/30th at 200mm. VRII works wonders. Did I mention that I am very impressed with the VR on this lens?

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II vr test  copy

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II – VR Effectiveness: 1/10th Second, 200mm. I needed to shoot something that didn’t move to go this slow. 75% of these images at 1/10th were usable. I even managed to get a sharp shot at half a second at 200mm! Did I mention that I am very impressed with the VR on this lens?

CONTINUE TO IMAGE QUALITY TESTS >>>>>

A Space Walk Gone Horribly Wrong?

At first, the interwebs appear to be boundless realm of possibilities and opportunities.

All that boundlessness can sometimes leave you feeling like an astronaut who popped out for smoke and got separated from the space station.  It is lonely place out here on the digital frontier when nobody knows that you exist.

WordPress.com is a whole new world of weirdness for me – I have been banging away in the darkness here for a couple of weeks now and only just received my first likes and comments yesterday – I have no idea how people found me, so I went in search of some answers – I found this:

How to get more page views for your blog.

This is an interesting and informative article – apparently compiled by a bunch of eggheads who know what Regression Analysis is – I had to Wikipedia it  yet I am still in the dark… ;-)

Well worth a read …..is there anybody else out there????

Cheers – Todd