Archive for the ‘Photo equipment’ Category

Having made several long-distance train trips in the last few years it is great to have the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers. A sampling include Anthony, pictured above, who chatted with me on the platform in Albany, on his way to see family in NYC and then fly home to South Africa. My Swiss friend Jürg, whom I rode with from St. Louis to Austin, had crossed the Atlantic by freighter and was en route to Guatemala. Michelle, a retired nurse, was making the 80+ hour trip from Maine to San Jose to care for her 98 year-old mother. What do these folk have in common? I guess nothing more than an aversion to flying and, like me, a sense that being connected in the moment (as opposed to being ensconced in the virtual world of mobile phones, tablets and computers) has worth. As a grizzled traveler on a train from Chicago to Seattle once told me, ” I like the train, where else can you greet a friend, meet a friend, and make a friend.”

Train photo tip, take advantage of periodic “smoke breaks” to get off the train and mingle, everyone has a story to share and they are rarely opposed to being photographed. I find using my little point and shoot Lecia D-Lux7, as opposed to phone camera, adds a bit of “authority” to my impromptu portrait sessions, it is just as quick to use, and although far from the quality of a full-frame digital camera, it is hard to top for train candids.


Punchy Profile

Posted: August 24, 2017 in Cameras, Lenses, Photo equipment, Photography

Shameless grandchild show-off. I just had the urge to make a picture of Walter and decided to isolate the cheeky chum with my Nikkor 180mm f2.8 wide open and D610 camera. Super simple set-up with a Nikon SB800 flash through a soft box, 12 quick frames and bingo!

Round Spring
Round Spring in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a great place for snapshots… But it reminds me why I am not a “scenic/nature” photographer. First, you have to really work hard to create a picture that is not just another postcard snap. Second, you have to be up early (above is 7am with the temperture about -2 celsius) and dress appropriately (I had no gloves – d’oh). Third, you have to haul a lot of gear- tripods, flash, filters, etc. I love the idea but I have to work my strength — stick with human scenery.

Gear Gear Gear = ZZZ

Posted: September 27, 2015 in Cameras, Lenses, Photo equipment

Nikon 1 -- Edwin
I can hear heads thumping… Please, just show me pictures, don’t be a boor and bore me with gear talk. That disclaimer out-of-the-way — GEAR!!!

On one of his Dover beach strolls Paul met fellow photographer, Edwin (pictured above), who is enamored with the Nikon One system of little mirrorless cameras. This picture reminded me of the days when photojournalists would routinely be draped with three or four camera bodies — each with a different lens.  These are commonly refered to as “primes” now.  (I am a pre-zoom guy and it was rare to see a zoom carried by a professional photographer in the 1970-1980s).

My last kit in the newspaper days consisted of three Leica R bodies with five lenses at hand – 19, 35, 90, 180, 400. and as need arose a Lecia M4 with 50mm.

But now, as I have explained in earlier articles, Paul and I shoot with DSLRs and zooms.  He opts for APS-C cameras, primarily lightweight Nikon D5X00 series, with “super zooms” for convenience i.e. 10-24, 18-200, 55-300. He arguments these with a 35mm f 1.8 Nikkor “prime.’  I go with a combo of Nikon D610 and D300 and seven Nikkor lenses from 16- 300.

Edwin with the Nikon One system has an “off-the shelf” Nikkor range from 18- 810 with the current stash of about 15 lenses — sounds gear yummy — but rather limited with only three primes and mostly consumer-grade medium range zooms. One caveat for legacy Nikon users — there is the FT1 mount adapter, that supports autofocus and vibration reduction, for 80+ Nikon lenses (with a 2.7x crop factor).

Anyway — warned you this was tedious — Paul wondered about image Quality aka IQ of this system compared to the mirrorless competition – Sony, Panasonic, et al.  Pixel peepers can look this up at dxomark. We daydreamed that it would be fun in a dorkie kind of way to drape oursleves with four Nikon One bodies with  6.7-13mm, 70-300mm, 32mm f/1.2, 18.5mm f/1.8 lenses. Prepared for any photo-j exigency.

The conclusion was that we have to “keep it real man” and think in terms of the plane of focus behind the camera. If you don’t have a vision (and know your audience) all the gear and pixels in the world will still produce a head-thumping snooze.

Mantis religiosa

The eyes are the window to the soul… or some such gimcrack-ie.  Nonetheless, standard photo advice is to get the focus on the eyes and add catchlight if it adds depth. This little wonder (Mantis religiosa aka praying mantis) was walking up my stair rail and striking a pose. Caught the image with AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D and Nikon D610.

Channel Fling

Posted: August 24, 2015 in Cameras, Lenses, Photo equipment

1 jumper sam cox _0028-1400
Paul is back in the UK and practicing his craft(y) ways. He captured this fearless channel jumper in Dover using a $30 add-on fish eye lens. Oh, but the water is cold.

PASM Quandary

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Cameras, Photo equipment, Photography


Riding the subway, I was asked by a newbie Nikon user how to adjust the aperture of his lens. I was very impressed that the photographer knew that he had an aperture and I showed him the “A” setting and had to jump off at my subway destination leaving the fledgling with an abbreviated lesson.  I feel compelled to continue the discussion (and needed an excuse to post this cute “chimping pic”). ASPM, MSAP, MASP, PMSA, PSMA (just don’t call it SPAM) is simply a designation for setting your camera to the following:

  • A  Aperture  — you designate the lens opening and the camera will set the shutter
  • S Shutter — you designate the shutter speed and the camera will set the aperture
  • P Program — the camera makes an “educated” guess on the proper setting
  • M Manual — you make all the decisions

So which to use?  I have my cameras set to A 95% of the time. Most often I am concerned with either isolating the subject (lens wide open –  f1.4, f2.0, f2.8) or garnering complete focus from up-close to infinity (lens “stopped” down to f11, f16, f22). Naturally there are a great many other reasons and variables to consider, such as camera movement, optimum f-stop for image quality, etc.  Can’t wait for the next subway question!


I am no nature photographer, but I still love the out-of-doors (or inside the screen doors). While sipping coffee on the veranda, I was happy to see Mr. Hummingbird swoop in for a snack.  Shooting through screen really degrades an image — but if you are outside anywhere near the little birdy — it is birdy be gone. My solution was to put the camera on a tripod just outside the screen door, attach a remote cable and wait. I let the Nikon D610 and the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm do the heavy lifting of auto-focus and exposure while I sipped coffee and pressed the remote.


Bridget, a charming and talented photographer, had a photo exhibit at “Create Space” here in University City and we started comparing notes on what makes a “keeper.”  Bridget’s example was a dance she photographed in Turkey — low light, movement, and muddled colors. She was ready to give it up, but she admits to a weakness — seeing if a bad situation can be salvaged by a black and white conversion. She uses iPhoto (now Photos) to up the contrast and increase the definition. Her experience reminded me of a technique I read about–visualizing by setting your LCD to “monochrome” in playback. This can be easily done (in Nikon land) by going to the “set picture control” menu.  Warning, you will have only a black and white picture if you shoot JPEG.  However, if you shoot RAW, all the camera sensor capture info is still there — in full color or in glorious black and white.

Event Save ala VR

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Cameras, Events, Lenses, Photo equipment, Photography



Part of photographing an event is capturing the speaker at the podium. In the film days this would require some patience and a roll of grainy high-speed film using a fast telephoto lens. Now with the evolution of lenses and cameras it is still a challenge, but it is more manageable.  In these examples from the recent MOSEIA annual conference, I was able to sit in the middle of the auditorium (not pestering the speakers too much) and with my Nikkor 70-300 VR zoom get nice animated snaps of the esteemed speakers. VR is an interesting technology — the lens whirs at some crazy high rpm with little gyros that stabilize the lens movement (or maybe there are little squirrels that race around a circular cage inside the lens barrel). I can take advantage of the 300 mm focal length, I don’t have to have a heavy, expensive f2.8 lens and I can keep my distance.  This, combined with a moderately high ISO in my Nikon D610, gets me the shot.  You can see though that you are limited to stabilizing the lens, not freezing the subject — I am shooting at 1/60 second at f5.6 — too slow for stop-action.

NO NO NO, I am not talking about my totally innocent U-City Loop neighbor who was sweet enough to pose on the spur of an (intoxicated) late-night moment, but poor Johnny who can’t resist a bargain.  In this case I am shooting with a new used (err, pre-owned) Nikon D300 and a new pre-owned AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens that I could not refuse. Damn, if you can wait six years the greatest technology can be yours for a song. Now, can I wait for the uber sweet AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR? BTW, that is ISO 4500 @ 1/8 sec @ f3.8 @ 18mm.

eagle   eagle   IMG_6768

So you have a DSLR and you want to make pictures of birdies?  Ummm — best be prepared to spend a bundle on a 500mm lens and/or get a new Zen sense of patience. On a recent visit to Clarksville Missouri we watched as the “birders” watched and waited and waited and waited for the wild eagles, which winter near the Mississippi River, to entertain them. Of course, if you aren’t picky, you can get your avian snaps at the zoo or — where I got this close-up — at the World Bird Sanctuary.
World Bird Sanctuary

Beets me?

Posted: December 30, 2014 in Food, Photo equipment, Photography, University City

I saw this beet on the cutting board and thought, that kinda looks like a mouse — seems Willow had the same feline feeling.
Gotta say it is nice to have a Nikon with a Micro-Nikkor in the kitchen when needed.

As many photographers have heard, Nikon had some problems with the D600 camera body. Many owners complained that they were seeing spots. The sensor was a problem in collecting dirt/oil/dust and repairs were not always sucessful. John had this problem with his camera and sent it in for cleaning… unfortunately he did not anticipate an upcoming road trip and was going to be sans-camera for a travel foray — ARRRAGGHH. However, the Nikon Gods shined down on him and have over-night-aired a new D610 for his trouble.  Yes, a new-in-the-box camera to replace the D600.  This is the Nikon we all bowed down to in the 1970s as the standard-of-the-industry. Regardless of fault (or in lieu of suing) thanks Nikon for showing you are still first class.

Having the latest equipment is a great thing — state-of-the art. But if you are headed to an area rife with crime or are lax about watching your gear when on the road you can save some nigthmares by downsizing for your trip. Either pack the new three-thousand-dollar D810 that any thief would be happy with or cruise the used marketplace and get a lose-able 10 megapixel Nikon dx body with a beat-up 18-55mm Nikkor for $100 bucks. Just saying…