Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp

Pointing to Everest

Recently I spent a month trekking in the Everest region of Nepal with Kim Bannister of Kamzang. Kim and her partner Lhapka provided first class service, expert guidance and helped us tremendously with some of the obstacles of the trek, expected and unexpected. I can’t recommend her highly enough and I will be back for another trek in the Indian Himalyas in the not too distant future.

This wasn’t a photography trip, it was for the experience of traveling and hiking with my girlfriend in an incredible region. Landscape photography is an all-encompassing pursuit that takes a great deal of research, often quite a bit of gear, and many hours for scouting and executing fine art images. It is incredibly difficult to achieve unless the sole purpose of the trip is designed around the pursuit of creating fine art images. So I leave the heavy camera equipment gear at home and hit the road with a point in shoot with a large sensor, the Ricoh GR, and an iPhone 5s.

The Ricoh GR is fitted with an APS-C sized sensor and enables me to print large any image that may come from the camera. It’s small size comes with a trade-off though, as it has a fixed focal length of 24mm.

The iPhone 5s doesn’t provide me with images for print, or anything of financial value to me or my company, but it tells stories like no other camera can through the use of fantastic apps. I know Sony has started an app store and it’s in its infancy, but it would be incredible to have a DSLR system with the Apple App Store ecosystem. I used my fair share of HDR Pro, the best HDR software I’ve ever used, and it happens in camera, but the app that really shined was DMD Panorama.

What makes DMD Panorama different from your standard panorama app is the ability to play back your image in a cinematic style. The Hymalayas are filled with incredible 360 degree views. What better way to tell the story than with DMD Panorama? You can share the images in a standard format or share a link to view the cinematic effect. After showing the group how the app works, we had people ditching their point and shoots and spinning in circles with their iPhones.

Here is a sample of some of the standard panos taken with the app. Click on each image for a larger view. To see what the panos look like in movie mode, check out this example.

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A Super Bowl To Remember

I’m back in Seattle after a whirlwind trip to New York City to witness the Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl 48! It was a life-lister experience that I didn’t know was even a possibility up until two weeks ago. After the dramatic finish to the 49ers game, I wandered over to my computer and said to my girlfriend, “should we go to the Super Bowl?” It’s not something I thought I would ever say and yet I found myself saying it in that moment! It was a chance to see history, to see the Seahawks win their first championship. I loved the matchup and felt strongly that the Seahawks were a far superior team than the Broncos and a victory was the most likely outcome. I envisioned a possible blowout, but not THAT big of a blowout.

We traded in miles for flights, my family donated hotel points for lodging and a friend had a relative looking to sell tickets at a good price. Everything lined up perfectly and we found ourselves on a flight to JFK on Friday the 31st!

We connected through San Francisco and it was great walking through SFO decked out in Seahawks gear. Some not so happy Niner fans!

SFO

The highlight of the flight was doing the SEA – HAWK chant with all the other twelves. Seahawk fans converged on NYC from all over. Walking in Manhattan on the day before the game it was clear who was going to have the home field advantage.

The day of the game involved taking a train from Penn Station to Secaucus, NJ for a transfer to Metlife Stadium. It wasn’t easy getting to the stadium or getting home, but when we finally arrived it was time for a pic.

metlife

Our seats were in the upper deck, but the view turned out to be great. We could clearly see all the numbers of the players and most of the exciting plays happened in our end zone. We had great views of the safety, Harvin’s kick return, Kearse’s TD and Baldwin’s TD. Here was our view:

seats

The hawk leading the players onto the field, the national anthem and the Black Hawks overhead made for an intense intro. I was able to watch a replay of the game and the television broadcast didn’t come close to doing the helicopters justice. From our vantage point high in the stadium, the Black Hawks came from behind us, and as they flew overhead with cargo doors open, you could see soldiers in the helicopters looking back at us. It was incredible!

The first play from scrimmage was a 12th man victory as the Broncos were completely unprepared to deal with the noise. After the safety and a 2-0 lead, we never looked back! It was amazing to feel like you are a part of the game, and you could have an influence on something so significant for your city and the entire Pacific Northwest! There was so much to celebrate during the game: turnovers, big hits, touchdowns, it just kept coming and we kept celebrating with unbridled passion and joy! There wasn’t a single snap Peyton Manning took that we didn’t make as much noise as possible. The entire experience was completely enthralling and joyous!

The halftime show was a chance to recover and rejuvenate for Seahawk fans and for the Bronco fans, they were too stunned to do much of anything. After the show was over, we got back on our feet and I noticed Harvin back to receive the opening kickoff. Percy was my MVP pick before the game and I knew this was his moment. I’ll never forget watching Percy run straight towards us, making incredible cuts and showing his unrivaled speed. That was truly the dagger and the game was over. We did it and did it emphatically. With the exception of a lone Denver score, we enjoyed each moment until the final snap.

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We did it!

celebrate

The Seahawks are a team in every sense of the word. They play with passion, for each other and for the love of the game. They are an inspiration and I’m so thankful to have been there to witness history!

All my pics are taken with the iPhone 5s, my camera of choice for documenting events. I’m also a huge fan of DMD Panorama, and here is a view from our seats:

New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford - NJ, United States

And a giant 48 statue outside the stadium:

48


The Sony A7r is Looking Strong for Landscape Photography

pSNYNA-ILCE7R~B_main_v786

I’m about to leave for Nepal to go trekking for a month and won’t be blogging about the new camera until I return. It will hopefully be waiting for me when I arrive home!

I’ve been scouring the internet for details to the most important questions for landscape photographers. With the help of Michael Bolognesi and Achim Sieger we’ve accumulated some important facts.

As the camera is a huge draw for Canon landscape photographers (Nikon users have the stellar sensor in the D800), the big question is how does the camera perform with Canon glass, most specifically, the Canon 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses? A Dutch magazine reports that the tilt shift lenses work perfectly on the A7r with the Metabones Mark III adapter. The magazine article can be found here:

http://www.pf.nl/19555/hands-on-sony-alpha-7r-metabones-adapter-eos-lenzen/

The Metabones Adapter Mark III can be purchased here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983747-REG/metabones_mb_ef_e_bm3_canon_ef_to_e_mount_nex.html

In addition, an L-Bracket for the Mark III adapter will hopefully be in the works from:

http://hejnarphoto.com/ebay/products/metabones2%20spacer.html

Achim is working with him to see if it’s possible. Using the L-Bracket with the Metabones adapter would be fantastic option.

Reports of the Canon 17-40mm f/4L IS and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II are coming in as well, and both can be used with the camera.

Another reason other than tilt shift lenses that Canon landscape photographers have not made the jump to the Nikon D800 is the nearly unusable live view of the D800. It has a green tint screen, does not give an accurate representation of the image, makes manual focus extremely challenging due to interpolation, and has trouble focusing in many situations. The Canon Mark III is the polar opposite with phenomenal live view. So what does the Sony A7r bring to the table in regards to live view? Achim shared with me this article from Matt Kloskowski discussing live view on the A7r:

http://www.mattk.com/2013/11/01/my-two-favorite-features-on-the-new-sony-a7r/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=my-two-favorite-features-on-the-new-sony-a7r

Matt is a fan and provides confidence that the live view will deliver. He discusses focus peaking as well which should be standard on all DSLRs, yet is missing from the Mark III and D800. Matt also mentions diffraction reduction, which could be a fantastic feature but will need to be put to the test when the camera arrives.

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to make an argument for Nikon shooters out there. If you own the D800 or D800E or are in the market for one, why would this camera interest you? Here are 5 points to consider:

1) It’s half the weight

2) It has competent live view (and since landscape photographers use live view almost exclusively, this feature cannot be understated)

3) It can still be used with your excellent Nikon glass via an adapter!

4) It would make an excellent backup body. Same great image quality, less weight!

5) It’s more affordable (if you are debating between purchasing the two cameras)

Is the image quality better than the D800E? According to JPEG results the answer is yes, but the real test is RAW so that is yet to be seen. Want to see the A7r paired with the incredible Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G wide angle lens? Check out Gordon Laing’s review where he tests the camera with the Nikon lens: http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Sony_Alpha_A7r/index.shtml
Exciting times ahead!


“The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer” eBook released

The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photography

by Justin Reznick

The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape PhotographerWelcome to my eBook, The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer. As I look back on three consecutive months of teaching workshops and leading tours, I noticed a reoccurring theme, and one that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. Landscape photographers, especially those new to the craft, do not have the right gear. This begs the question: what is the right gear? That’s the journey this eBook will take you on with 115 pages of comprehensive gear recommendations for landscape photographers. In addition to my advice, included in the book are interviews with some of the top landscape photographers in the field, sharing their gear secrets. Whether you are a beginner looking to put together a kit, or a veteran curious to see recommendations on the latest and greatest gear, this book covers it all! Enjoy the journey!

Add to Cart


The New Sony A7r for Landscape Photographers

Sony A7r size compared to the Nikon D800E

Sony A7r size compared to the Nikon D800E

Last night Sony introduced the A7r, a full-frame mirrorless camera with a 36.4 megapixel sensor. In this blog post I am going to breakdown my thoughts on the camera as it pertains to landscape photography.

The sensor is 36.4 megapixels, a fraction larger than the D800E. It has no anti-aliasing filter just like the D800E, resulting in sharper images straight out of the camera. The D800E has the best sensor we have ever seen in a full-frame camera and has become the go to body for many landscape photographers. Canon has lost a lot of shooters to Nikon due to the incredible sensor. We know that Sony made Nikon’s sensor and they have had over a year to make improvements. They also claim to have a processing engine that reduces the effect of diffraction when choosing smaller apertures, a common problem in landscape photography. There is no way to know how the sensor compares currently, but my hope is that it is as good if not slightly better than the D800E. Sony has shown prints made with the A7r and the D800E side by side to some people. The A7r of course beats the D800E, but we should probably wait for an objective test!

The camera is weather sealed. This a nice touch and essential for landscape shooters.

One of the biggest omissions from the announcement was any indication of a wired remote shutter. This drove me nuts about the Sony NEX-7 and I couldn’t fathom why Sony would make such a huge mistake yet again. I watched the reveal of the camera live and was able to send a question to Sony of Australia.

The Question:

“Is there anyway a wired shutter release can be made to use one of the ports? Why make a 36 megapixel camera if it’s not intended for landscape use? No landscape photographer working today uses a camera without a reliable wired shutter release. I really hope there’s a way as I’d love to test this in the field.”

The Answer:

“Hi Justin R – The camera uses the multi-use terminal, there are a lot of options for wired remote control.”

That got me curious! So I began to research multi-use terminal wired remotes for Sony and came across the Sony RM-VPRI

http://store.sony.com/gsi/webstore/WFS/SNYNA-SNYUS-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewProduct-Start;pgid=wXhG8DtITUdSRpnHynMJ2Z2r0000E4_CKBNt?SKU=27-RMVPR1

I then crossed reference that with the Sony A7r and found this link:

http://store.sony.com/-alpha-7r-alpha-7r-interchangeable-lens-camera-zid27-ILCE7R/B/cat-27-catid-All-Alpha-NEX-Cameras

In the specifications it says this:

Remote Commander : Yes, via optional RM-VPR1

I think that’s the answer! Why on Earth this is not being marketed as an accessory to the camera itself is beyond me. If your entire photographic career is spent working from a tripod (which is the case for 99 percent of landscape photographers) than you can understand the significance of the remote. Now that that’s settled (I hope), let’s move on to size.

It is incredibly small. Half the size of a DSLR. The weight savings is going to be tremendous. From reports of early users they say it is extremely comfortable to hold. I will have to see for myself. I found the NEX-7 to be uncomfortable, so I am hoping for an improvement. If weight was a non issue, there is nothing like the feel of a well-built DSLR in your hand. That’s the compromise though, in order to save weight you have to get used to a different feel to the camera.

On to the lens lineup. There is no current wide-angle lens available. They have one on their roadmap to be released in 2014. My guess would be late 2014. There is a 70-200 f/4 scheduled for Spring. That is a must have lens. And a 24-70 f/4 coming in the winter. Not my favorite focal length, but will fill out that range nicely.

One of the huge advantages to mirrorless bodies, is the ability to use a multitude of different lenses from different manufacturers through the use of adapters.

I can use this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983747-REG/metabones_mb_ef_e_bm3_canon_ef_to_e_mount_nex.html/6784/KBID/7355

And all my Canon glass will work. I can throw on my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and there you go, I have a wide-angle lens! Will the flaws of the lens be magnified by using a 36 megapixel sensor? Quite possibly, but looking forward to finding out.

You could also go this route with a Leica M adapter:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983732-REG/metabones_mb_lm_e_bm2_leica_m_to_e_mount_nex.html

And use a high quality prime like this:

http://www.adorama.com/ZI184DS.html#reviews

So there are some workarounds while Sony builds out the new FE (full-frame e-mount) lens lineup. I could carry this camera in my bag with the Canon adapter and use it alongside my Mark III with all the Canon glass. That’s exactly what I’m going to do in the beginning as I test the camera.

The negatives that are highlighted with the camera are not applicable to landscape photography. The autofocus is much better on the A7 (the 24 megapixel version) than the A7r. Doesn’t matter. The camera does not have in camera stabilization. Doesn’t matter. The shutter is loud. Doesn’t matter. Very poor FPS. That does matter a little. When shooting lava, the northern lights, waterfalls, or any moving subject, I like to have a nice burst mode. Not a deal breaker though.

My new eBook, “The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer” comes out next week. Unfortunately, with the camera coming out in December I won’t be able to include it for this edition. For the second edition expect to see plenty of thoughts on the new camera and see if it evolves into a powerful tool for the landscape photographer community!

For links to the most resources on the web for all things Sony A7r, please visit:

http://www.sonyalpharumors.com


The New Smugmug: What’s Missing

I am a Smugmug fan and have been using their service since designing my very first photography website. I run both of my business sites through them:

http://www.justinreznick.com

for fine art prints and

http://www.landscapephototours.com

for my workshops and tours. They have fantastic customer service and an extremely reasonable pricing structure. What they have always lacked is the ability to customize your site without the use of CSS, HTML and Javascript. Through the use of their excellent forum (dgrin.com),  their excellent customer service, and plenty of self-education, I have built my site over the years and I am content with it. There are some further customizations I would like to do here and there and will continue to work to make that happen. I have also used the services of http://www.newskinmedia.com when I needed some customization beyond my abilities.

This week Smugmug announced their new site. The customization looks amazing. Kudos to them for creating a simpler interface. But here’s the problem:  if I want to use these features, I have to abandon my site and migrate to the their new system. Unfortunately, I can’t use the customization on my “Legacy” Smugmug account. Yikes. I don’t want a new template or a new design, I just want to make changes using their new, simpler, interface.

Another issue I have, and this is purely subjective, are the new templates. They are 500px and flickr clones. How many images can we display and how large can we fill the screen at one time? It’s information overload. They showed a sampling of sites that were up and running and I didn’t care for any of them. These types of templates work well for photo sharing websites like 500px because, as a viewer, you are looking to find a diamond in the rough. The images are from different people, and you are searching for one to catch your eye. Or you use 500px as a research tool, for example, typing in Iceland in the search bar to see as many images of Iceland as you can in order to help plan a trip. A personal website is something completely different to me. It should be clean and simple, highlighting each and every image of one’s portfolio. Each image should be on your site for a reason and be worth viewing. There should be a level of consistency amongst your work, and, unlike 500px, it’s not about searching for a diamond in the rough, but about enjoying an individual artist’s work. Although I am sure that you can use the customization tools to create a clean site within the new Smugmug, I am compelled to write a critique on the direction of photography websites.

During the release presentation and while reading Smugmug sponsored blog posts, a similar expression was thrown around: “the old Smugmug was ugly”. WOW. It’s not; it really isn’t. It needs some customization love, but the old Smugmug is capable of creating great websites. For those of us who have designed our own Smugmug websites, whether through our own sweat, or hired out for customization, what does the new Smugmug do for us? Take a look at these impressive Smugmug sites, keeping in mind that I’m a landscape photographer and so I’ve selected sites within my field:

http://www.chipphillipsphotography.com

http://www.davidthompsonphotography.com

http://www.ryandyarphotography.com

http://www.dorinbofan.com

There is a theme within these sites: first and foremost they are clean, simple, and highlight each image from the artist. Granted, photography sites have had this look for a few  years now, and maybe the future holds something different. But from a landscape photographer’s perspective, I’m hoping future sites won’t include the information overload templates from the new Smugmug.

If you have not built a site or are just starting out, I highly recommend Smugmug. You will be working with a great company and building a website from scratch with a superior interface. My issue is for the legacy users, not new users. New users are in for a treat. That’s the joy of new tech!

UPDATE: I have just learned that Smugmug is going to force everyone to upgrade but that no timetable was given. I have also heard that advanced Javascript is not allowed. This would destroy many customized sites. I don’t know this as fact, just passing on what I have heard /read. If this is true, it might be time to start looking elsewhere.


The Adobe Creative Cloud – A Solution for Photographers

It’s simple really, don’t subscribe. I love Lightroom and Photoshop. They are a part of my workflow on every image that I create. Fortunately, Lightroom will stay independent of Adobe’s new subscription based model, and I look forward to purchasing and using each new version that is released.

As for Photoshop… plenty has been written on the negative aspects of Adobe’s new delivery method. I need to highlight just a few to make my point.

1) You are looking at an 80 – 100 percent price increase, depending on your normal Photoshop upgrade path. That is unreasonable by any accounts for an extremely expensive product to begin with! It is so sad that Adobe is claiming a cheaper price (with the assumption that you buy the standalone product at full price as opposed to most who upgrade at a reduced price, normally during a promotion).

2) What happens to your files if you no longer want to shoot and process for a couple of years? What happens when you go on a 6 month trip? I put Netflix on hold while I’m out-of-town, can I do the same with Photoshop?

3) Adobe claims regular updates but in reality, there has been very few changes since Photoshop CS4! Each edition has minor revisions. Why would this be any different? Why would I believe that all of sudden Photoshop is going to take off with radical new changes? The program is so robust, it’s extremely difficult to improve.

Photoshop CS6 is a fantastic product. It does everything I want it to do. I plan on using it for years to come. The new Photoshop CC may be tempting in a few years when the feature set grows, but the current upgrades or so minor, I would hesitate to upgrade at this point even if it where a standalone product. I think part of the reason Adobe is going this route is the monopoly they have on the industry. If there was a viable competitor, photographers would flock to it. I hope Google and the talented team at Nik Software are paying attention. If they could come to market in 12 – 18 months with a Photoshop clone (for photographers), price it at $149 – $199, there will be a market for it. If Apple could expand Aperture to have a complex layer and masking system, people would get excited. Adobe needs a competitor and they just left themselves wide open!

 

 


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