New Video on Lynda.com

I’m excited to be working with Lynda.com, an incredible resource for online training. I have always respected them for their professional and high quality training videos. I’m proud to be a part of the team and I look forward to creating more content. First up is a short course on Photographing Waterfalls. I had the opportunity to work with a very talented film crew who made me feel at ease and helped me to do what I love: share my passion for photography. I hope you enjoy it and continue to watch the series. Lynda.com has a great offer of a free 7 day trial. After you watch my waterfall video I encourage you to explore the site to see all the possibilities. I learned most of my Photoshop skills from the great instructors at Lynda.com.

Photographing a Waterfall

Get 7 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

"Wild Gorge"

“Wild Gorge”


The Fuji X-T1: It’s a Winner

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In a previous blog post this week I mentioned the Sony A7R was a huge disappointment. The Fuji X-T1 is the opposite. It has been a joy to use and I hope it will become a regular component of my gear system. The Fuji mirrorless system has been around for a few years now, but it seemed to be targeted more towards street shooters than landscape photographers like myself. With the release of a weather sealed body – the X-T1, a true wide-angle zoom – the Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4, and more weather sealed lenses coming before the end of year, Fuji has expanded their potential base and I definitely took notice. They even have a super telephoto lenses coming in 2015 to expand the base to sports and wildlife shooters as well. Take a look at the lens roadmap:

 

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What you are essentially seeing is a complete system. By the time you add the weather sealed lenses and the super telephoto zoom lens, the questions is, what can’t you shoot with this system? This is the opposite of the Sony full-frame mirrorless situation. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Sony to get up to speed. Not only does Fuji have a great collection of glass, they are universally highly rated. Fuji knows how to make lenses. Take the time to read reviews for any of these lenses and you will extremely impressed.

It’s not a perfect first party solution, there a few minor holes. A fisheye lens is missing, and while it’s a niche product, there is a third-party solution via Samyang. They make an excellent 8mm f/2.8 fisheye lens for the Fuji X system. Another nice lens that’s missing is any sort of tilt shift lens. I’m a huge tilt shift lens user, and rely heaving on my Canon 17mm TS-E and Canon 24mm TS-E.

Fortunately, I found workaround for the Fuji system. Kipon makes a tilt shift adapter for the Fuji X series of cameras for $280 that allows you to use Nikon manual focus lenses. I have paired it with the Nikon 18mm f/3.5 (best found on eBay) and Nikon 35mm f/2 to have tilt shift lenses on my Fuji X-T1.

The EVF on the Fuji X-T1 is a step above all the other mirrorless bodies I have used. It’s gorgeous. I especially love it for reviewing images in the field. I rely heavily on my Hoodman Loupe to view images on the LCD of my Canon 6D, but with the EVF for reviewing images I no longer have to carry the loupe. As if the camera system wasn’t light enough, I’m able to leave even more gear behind.

The controls take some getting used it, and I’m still working on it being a natural workflow for me in the field. Back button focus is there, but it’s not ideal. Once you back button focus you don’t have to focus again. Until… you review your image. The focus resets and you must refocus all over again. This should easily be fixed via firmware – please make it happen Fuji! All pro bodies need back button focus!

I’m going to end the blog post for now… plenty more to discuss with the camera but the Palouse is calling! Time to break out the XF 55-200mm for long lens landscapes!

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Fuji X-T1 – We need an L-Bracket!

I have been thoroughly enjoying my new Fuji X-T1. Before I write a blog post detailing my experience, I would like to make a plea to a company to make an L-Bracket for this camera. There are L-Brackets for the X-T1 in the market, but none allow for the attachment of a remote shutter. As a landscape photographer, I live on a tripod and shoot all my images with a remote shooter. This makes the L-Bracket worthless to me if it doesn’t allow enough room to attach the remote shutter to the camera body.

I ordered the Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for the Fuji X-T1 and waited for over a month until it finally came out. I assumed they would either leave enough room for the shutter or copy their design they used for the Sony A7R. The RRS L-Bracket for the Sony A7R is brilliant.  Take a look at the wing-screw design which allows you to add room to the L-Bracket thus providing the ability to add a remote shutter. When you are not using a remote shutter, the L-Bracket can be made to go flush against your camera. Brilliant! I used this on my Sony A7R and loved it. I’m sad to say that Really Right Stuff did not incorporate this design choice for their Fuji L-Bracket. I called and asked why and their response was that they anticipated the Sony A7R to be a popular camera and the Fuji X-T1 to not be. And they were wrong. Why not offer the superior design to both brands? Charge more for the Fuji L-Bracket. Customers will pay.

thmb-rrsweb-6-BA7-LSet-btmExt-Sony-A7-L-plate-8BIT-1 thmb-rrsweb-5-BA7-LSet-btm-Sony-A7-L-plate-8BIT-1

 

 

With no plans to change, they suggested I order the Cable Relief Spacer. I did just that. When it arrived I setup the camera with the L-Bracket and the spacer. I could not imagine a more clunky setup. For $200 I had a makeshift clunky L-Bracket. No thanks.

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The workaround solution is to use the Arca Swiss Universal L-Bracket:

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It works just fine, but is a little large for the smaller mirrorless cameras. I hope Really Right Stuff will reconsider and make a proper L-Bracket. In time meantime, if anyone has a solution I would love to hear about it!

 


The Sony A7R for Landscape Photography – The Verdict

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In a nutshell, I don’t care for the camera and I’ve sold my kit. The obvious issue is a lack of lenses. I knew that getting into it of course, but thought the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 would be a good start, followed by the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 out now and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 out in the fall. That’s a great lightweight full-frame kit! This is keeping in mind that the two primes already released are not relevant for landscape photography. Guess what, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 is not a good lens. Not even an acceptable lens in my opinion. That throws the holy trinity of lenses out the window and where do we go from here? The Metabones adapter turned out to be a pain in the butt. Supposedly you had to add flock paper in order to reduce the glare in the adapter and improve contrast. OK, did that. Now the flock paper is in the scene! I would take a picture and have flock paper in the lower left. I would remove the lens and reapply the paper. Not fun. The Sony is clunky with the adapter. You lose a great deal of the lightweight factor and it doesn’t pair well with the larger Canon glass. Then there’s the light leak issue. Supposedly it’s common in most cameras but I followed recommendations and added a hair tie around the adapter. Next we have the vibration issue. At certain shutter speeds you get blurry images? How this got past Sony quality control is beyond me. Other issues include poor battery life, lossy RAW compression, poor UI, unusable EVF in low light and the feel factor. This can’t be measured but only assessed in the field when you are using a camera. It either feels right or it doesn’t. In the case of the Sony A7R it doesn’t feel right. My Canon 6D feels perfect in the hands with incredible UI and live view performance.

Sony will keep throwing darts at the wall trying to get it right and they just may. This is clearly a first generation camera and I anticipate the second version is right around the corner. They are doing a great job of innovating, but sometimes at the cost of perfecting what’s current. In addition, they are pushing out cameras that don’t have a cohesive system. The full-frame mirrorless family, the Sony A7, A7R and now A7S are years away from having a flushed out lens collection. While the image quality may be better than my current Canon setup, it comes at too great a cost of usability and options.

My next mission, especially for the next edition of my Gear Guide, was to tackle the Fuji X system. With the release of the weather sealed XT-1 and the Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4, I decided it was worth the plunge to explore the system for landscape photography. I will write a more detailed blog post with the results, but first impressions are the opposite of the Sony. The camera has great feel factor, an incredible selection of lenses, and solid UI. If you are looking for a quality lightweight landscape kit, the Fuji X-T1 is the way to go!

 

 


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!

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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:

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The Sony A7r is Looking Strong for Landscape Photography

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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!


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