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Photo magazine of the year! Issue 32 • May 2014 £5.25 • www.nphotomag.com

8 free

VIDEOS SLR SKILLS TO TRY

macro Wildlife Landscapes Travel Effects traits Lenses after dark action editing Por

Nikon

D4 s

verdict

dream kit

learn to shoot...

Speed demon

People at work

Is the D4s Nikon’s best-ever SLR? p86

Which lens?

Business portraits that show service with a smile p8

Super wide

The weight of my kit bag? It’s about 20kg! I always carry everything I own. I want to keep my options open

Eight lenses that can squeeze everything in p90 MAY 2014

PRINTED IN THE UK

Sandra Bartocha, Nature photographer p76

Make a splash!

Mouthwatering images from fellow Nikon shooters p20 & p56

Change your head

Six tripod heads that give geared control or are perfect for panoramas p106

Pimp your Nikon!

Customise your shots & harness the power of Picture Controls p66

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ways to GET even more OUT OF N-PHOTO

Welcome to issue 32 of…

1 Online… Catch up with Nikon news, get inspired & learn new skills

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ABOUT THE COVER

Title Heather Photographer Sandra Bartocha Home Potsdam, Germany Camera D700 Lens Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR Exposure 1/400sec at f/4.5, ISO 200 Description The image is taken in the vast heath land of the Brandenburg region in Germany. The morning dew still clung on the Calluna vulgaris and the rising sun lit up the scene very beautifully. I used a macro lens with a wide aperture to minimise the depth of field, and looked for a balanced composition. Website www.bartocha-photography.com

www.nphotomag.com

■ With all the excitement over the new the Nikon D4s (see p86), it would be easy to overlook another more controversial Nikon news item. Nikon also has a new imageediting tool, Capture NX-D. This is available as a free beta for anyone to try at http://beta.nikonimglib.com, and will eventually replace Nikon Capture NX2. The bad news is that the new program is much less powerful. It can carry out RAW conversions in the same way, but doesn’t have the control points, masks and multiple adjustment steps that make Nikon Capture NX2 so powerful. In fact, NX-D looks remarkably similar to a program called SilkyPix, which is used by a number of camera makers as a free bundled RAW converter. Is Nikon swapping to a generic software tool rather than developing its own? At the very least, we would want to see the software faithfully reproducing the Picture Controls and white balance settings we’re used to from Nikon D-SLRs. Capture NX-D will be free, but that won’t be much consolation to Capture NX2 fans, so we look forward to seeing if extra features will follow in the finished version. You can find out more in our new Capture NX-D series, starting this month on page 70. Rod Lawton concludes that it has much more in common with the Nikon ViewNX 2 program currently supplied free with all Nikon D-SLRs, but download the program for yourself, and let Nikon know what you think!

Chris George, Editor chris@nphotomag.com

NIKON CREATIVE SKILLS APP ■ Our new app for the iPad and iPhone brings you 30 of our

favourite techniques videos from the N-Photo archive. It is many of the many specials you can buy in the store you’ll find within the free N-Photo app. Download this at http://goo.gl/eCJXj


Issue 32

For more contents listings go to page 5

May 2014

20

90

Cover feature

Big Test

We’ve rounded up eight DX wide-angle zooms to see which one gives you the biggest and best view on an APS-C-format Nikon

Nikon Skills 42 Spring into action 45 Fisheye fun 46 Be selective about colour 48 Hide and tweet 50 Light things naturally 52 Apply digital makeup 54 Know your NEFs!

26 Nikopedia 66

Six blooming lovely tips for taking photographs of cheery spring flowers

Give an image extra impact and colour by adding ‘cosmetics’ in Photoshop

Does your Nikon shoot 12-bit or 14-bit NEFs? What difference does it make?

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May 2014

Nice job! This issue’s Apprentice gets a masterclass in workplace portraiture

The latest inspirational images from photographers around the world

Missed an issue of N-Photo? Get it in digital form for any gadget you own

Use Lightroom to selectively remove colours, leaving a couple for impact

Techniques for using light from a window to illuminate your portrait shots

Cover feature

Cover feature

Have fun shooting a portrait from an insect’s ground-level perspective

How to conceal yourself and your camera, and get great shots of garden birds

Essentials The Apprentice 8 Lightbox 20 38 Back issues 56 Over to You The N-Photo interview 76 113 Next issue 114 My Best Shot

66

Cover feature

Nikon know-how

Explore Picture Controls, discovering how they’re applied to images, and when you’re most likely to need them

70 Nikon software

Discover Capture NX-D, Nikon’s latest software designed especially for processing and adjusting your RAW files

72 Ask Chris

Your questions answered, from shooting jewellery without a light tent to using a field scope instead of a telephoto lens

Three photo stories packed with brilliant shots, plus all your rants and raves

Cover feature

Innovative nature photographer Sandra Bartocha discusses her work

The good stuff doesn’t end with this issue – here’s something to look forward to Denis Thorpe shares his muchimitated shot of the Ribblehead Viaduct

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expert HANDS-ON video guideS When you see this button use this web link… http://bit.ly/NPhoto32 to view our online videos

76

Cover feature Discover the innovative nature photography of Sandra Bartocha

86

Test Team Nikon D4 86 Cover feature

s

Nikon’s flagship camera has been upgraded. We give it a thorough test with help from three professional photographers

Big Test 90 102 New Gear 105 Pro Picks Mini Test 106

01

Six blooming lovely tips for shooting cheery spring flowers

02

03

Selectively remove colour from an image using Lightroom

04

Set up a hide and capture the shy charm of garden birds

05

Use natural light from a window to light your portrait shots

06

07

08

Use your fisheye to shoot a portrait from a bug’s perspective

105 107

Cover feature

Apply digital makeup and add colour in Photoshop

Eight DX-format ultra-wide lenses put to the test – FX ones next month All the latest goodies, from a supersoft continuous ring light to storage options

Chef-turned-food-photographer Francesco Tonelli reveals his essential kit

Cover feature

Six geared heads for shooting precise panoramas, time-lapses, and more

www.nphotomag.com

104 Are you shooting 12- or 14-bit NEFs? Discover the difference

Discover Nikon’s new RAW file processing software, Capture NX-D

May 2014

5


This issue’s Apprentice photographs hotel staff (page 8) – what workers would the team shoot?

Print 23,929 Digital 6,767 The ABC combined print, digital and digital publication circulation for Jan-Dec 2013 is

30,696

A member of the Audited Bureau of Circulations

Chris George Editor | D800 & D200

Miriam McDonald Operations Editor | D3100

This month’s Apprentice learns some tricks for photographing people at work. I love shooting markets, so I can capture the stallholders with all their wares.

It’s fantastic to shoot farmers – on both arable and livestock farms. You’ve got scope for portraits, macros, landscape images… it’s all there!

Roddy Llewellyn Art Editor | D90

Rod Lawton Technique Editor | D300s

I would like to shoot miners, having grown up in Yorkshire. There’s a good, earthy quality and a sense of camaraderie in photos of them.

I’d like to photograph a blacksmith because all that red-hot iron and sparks would make some great shots. I might stand back a bit with a longer lens, though!

Angela Nicholson Head of Testing | D7100

Siân Lewis Staff Writer | D3100

chris.george@futurenet.com

richard.llewellyn@futurenet.com

angela.nicholson@futurenet.com

I’d love to photograph a tattoo artist at work. Their premises always look so colourful. I’d shoot in colour with a view to producing monochrome images.

miriam.mcdonald@futurenet.com

rod.lawton@futurenet.com

sian.lewis@futurenet.com

I’d love to shoot in a bike workshop. There’d be great opportunities for shots of mechanics’ hands as they’re busy repairing bits of kit.

This issue’s special contributors… Denis Thorpe

■ Guardian

photographer Denis didn’t just shoot the Ribblehead Viaduct, he captured a political mood. Page 114

Kerry Hendry

■ Kerry specialises in photographing people, and teaches this issue’s Apprentice to take workplace portraits. Page 8

Joe Reale

■ Balloons full of coloured water have plenty of photographic potential. See how Joe used them on page 22

Francesco Tonelli

■ As a trained chef, Francesco really knows cooking. He shows us the tasty kit he uses to take his food images. Page 105

Brandon Yoshizawa

■ Panoramas are Brandon’s passion – and in the western US, he’s found lots of amazing vistas to shoot. Page 58

Keith Wilson

■ Keith interviewed pro Sandra Bartocha about her unusual, impressionistic photography. Page 76

James Paterson

■ James strips colours from an image in Lightroom, and adds extra colours to another in Photoshop. Pages 46 & 52

Matthew Richards

■ Matthew’s got so many wide-angle lenses to review, he’s had to split them into two groups. See his DX picks on page 90

Our contributors Ben Andrews, Sandra Bartocha, Simon Boucher-Harris, Ross Campbell, Ian Evenden, Matthew Horwood, Ali Jennings, Meg Johnson, Piotr Kohl, Karen Lewis, Mika Linho, Andy McLaughlin, Mike McNally, Aga Tomaszek, Polly Thomas, Mark Upfield, Roger Voller, John Wilhelm Special thanks to… Dan Gardener @ Woven Films, Jessica Bateman, Hywel Couch, Hollie Latham, The Art Pad, Aspire Photography Training, Ellenborough Park Hotel www.ellenboroughpark.com, St Fagan’s Museum, Painswick Rococo Gardens

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N-Photo Magazine, Future Publishing 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW www.nphotomag.com Editorial mail@nphotomag.com +44 (0)1225 442244 Subscriptions and back issues +44 (0)1604 251 045 Or go to www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/nphoto Chris George Editor Rod Lawton Technique Editor Roddy Llewellyn Art Editor Miriam McDonald Operations Editor Siân Lewis Staff Writer Angela Nicholson Head of Testing Ali Jennings Imaging Lab Manager Jeff Meyer Web Editor Video production Dan Burden, Alun Pughe, Dan Read, Trevor Witt Advertising Sasha McGregor Advertising Sales Manager 01225 788186 sasha.mcgregor@futurenet.com Matt Bailey Senior Sales Executive 01225 732345 matt.bailey@futurenet.com Penny Stokes Senior Advertising Manager 01225 442244 penny.stokes@futurenet.com Management Matthew Pierce Head of Photography Nial Ferguson Managing Director Paul Newman Senior Editor Steve Gotobed Group Art Director Circulation and marketing Samantha Book Marketing Manager Alex Geary Marketing Executive Philippa Newman Group Marketing Manager Dan Foley Trade Marketing Manager James Ryan Direct Marketing Executive Mark Constance Production Manager Tom Dennis Digital Product Editor Regina Erak Senior Licensing & Syndication Manager If you would like to purchase images featured in N-Photo, email mediastore@futurenet.com

Future produces high-quality multimedia products which reach our audiences online, on mobile and in print. Future attracts over 50 million consumers to its brands every month across five core sectors: Technology, Entertainment, Music, Creative and Sports & Auto. We export and license our publications to 90 countries around the world. Future plc is a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR). www.futureplc.com

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Printed in the UK by William Gibbons and Sons Ltd, on behalf of Future. Distributed by Seymour Distribution Ltd, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1A 9PT. Tel 020 7429 4000. Printed in England. All information contained in this magazine is for informational purposes only and is, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of going to press. Future Publishing Limited cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies that occur. Readers are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers direct with regard to pricing.

N-Photo is an independent publication and is not in any way authorised, affiliated, nor sponsored by Nikon. All the opinions expressed herein are those of the magazine and not that of Nikon. Nikon, NIKKOR and all associated trademarks are the property of Nikon Corporation. All submissions to N-Photo magazine are made on the basis of a licence to publish the submission in N-Photo magazine, its licensed editions worldwide and photography-related websites. Any material submitted is sent at the owner’s risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future Publishing Limited nor its agents shall be liable for loss or damage. © Future Publishing Limited 2014. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.

We are committed to only using magazine paper which is derived from well managed, certified forestry and chlorine-free manufacture. Future Publishing and its paper suppliers have been independently certified in accordance with the rules of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).

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THE

Each issue we pair an N-Photo reader with a top Nikon pro for a one-on-one masterclass. This is the story of their day together‌ 8

May 2014


Business portraits

Name Kerry Hendry Cameras Nikon D800 & D600 ■ Kerry is based in the Cotswolds, where she combines running her own PR company with her work as a professional photographer. She specialises in shooting portraits of people and horses, and runs regular courses on shooting business portraits for Aspire (www. aspirephotographytraining.co.uk). You can find out more about Kerry’s varied work online at www.lovetheimage.co.uk

Name Ross Campbell Camera Nikon D300s ■ Ross is from Callander in Scotland, and started getting serious about his photography about three years ago. He used to work on the railways as a signalman, but now works as an Operations Manager for Siemens as part of team that builds signalling systems. He photographs most things, from badminton to local wildlife, and frequently ends up the nominated photographer at social events. Ross is disappointed with the ‘keep rate’ of his portraits, so wrote into us for help.

May 2014

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THE

APPRENTICE

Hot Shot #01

OUR APPRENTICE says… For my day learning to shoot business portraits, N-Photo had arranged for me to spend a day at the beautiful Ellenborough Park Hotel, which overlooks the famous Cheltenham racecourse. Kerry presented me with a long list of staff who we would try to photograph in the day, and our first stop was the spa and a portrait session with receptionist Jody. Kerry showed me how you need to take control of the scene, shifting things around to make the welcome desk look more visually appealing. Moving the candle, towel and orchid into the picture worked a treat for my first workout of the day!

EXPOSURE 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO720 LENS Nikon 50mm f/1.4

EXPOSURE 1/200 sec, f/4.8, ISO2200 LENS Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6

THE PRO’S KILLER KIT #01 Lastolite trigrip Kerry says… Some form of reflector is an essential piece of kit for any serious portrait photographer. The ability to bounce back natural light into the darker side of a face gives you much more control of the light indoors and out. I love the TriGrip as it has a handle so you can angle it more precisely than standard circular designs – and at a push you can use it without the need for an assistant. It comes in three sizes and four colour variations, I use the standard 75cm model (£60, $70) with a silver finish on one side and a golden ‘Sunfire’ finish on the other.

OUR APPRENTICE says… It was now time to go into the main part of the hotel to photograph one of the hotel reception team. Rather than photograph Jess at her desk, Kerry asked her to move into one of the sitting rooms next door to take advantage of the beautiful lighting from an overhead skylight. Using the gold reflector was a revelation. It allowed us to bounce light into Jess’ eyes in a way that makes her smile come alive. Using my 50mm standard prime, I used a wide aperture of f/2.8 to ensure the background was defocused, creating a feeling of depth that makes Jess stand out from her surroundings.

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Business portraits

TECHNIQUE ASSESSMENT

Is Ross all set up to do the business?

After a coffee in the spectacular Great Hall at Ellenborough Park it was time to get down to business and start taking pictures of the hotel staff. As the morning progressed, Kerry offered Ross some advice as to the best SLR settings for him to use for his environmental portraits…

Spot fixing

Kerry says… I recommend shooting in aperture-priority mode for shooting portraits indoors, and using spot metering. Spot metering ensures that I get the exposure right for the faces without the camera being distracted by dark backgrounds.

Manual sensitivity

Kerry says… Ross has been used to shooting in Auto ISO, but I told him that for dark interiors it is much better to set ISO manually. We need to push up the sensitivity to match the lighting levels in different rooms, but it is good to keep control over this so that the ISO goes no higher than it really needs to be.

Start with nought

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Hot Shot #02

Kerry says… The spot meter won’t get the exposure right for every set-up, so you need to use exposure compensation to tweak the brightness once you have taken your test shot. But Ross does need to remember to check that he sets the compensation back to zero for each new set-up.

the pro’s kit

Kerry uses two full-frame Nikon D-SLRs for her portrait work – the D800 and the D600 – and she has not had any problem with either since she bought them. With these she uses the following lenses and accessories: ■ Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ■ Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II ■ Nikon 50mm f/1.4 ■ Nikon Speedlight SB-800 ■ Rogue FlashBender ■ Giottos tripod

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OUR APPRENTICE says… Any hotel is judged by the quality of its bedrooms, so our session with the housekeeping team was going to be crucial for showing the luxury that Ellenborough Park has to offer. We managed to get access to one of the suites, which are named after winners of prestigious Cheltenham horse races. The original plan was to shoot the four-poster bed, but when we explored the Istabraq Suite it was obvious that it was the incredible bathroom that was the real highlight of this bedroom. So we asked Rachel to arrange things on the impressive free-standing bath – the golden colour from the toiletry bottles adding a lovely splash of colour to the mainly black-and-white scene.

Role play

Kerry explains that although you can move things around and ask people to do things to suit your pictures, your set-ups have to be credible. You need to show the hotel employees working, not relaxing as if they were guests!

Hot Shot #03

Contrast control

Getting the exposure right when shooting interiors is always a problem. To avoid problems with contrast, Ross tried to frame up his shot so that he excluded the bright window frame. But with so much white in this bathroom scene, he needed to check the histogram carefully to ensure that he had set just enough exposure compensation for his portrait of Rachel.

THE PRO’S KILLER KIT #02 ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket Kerry says… I used to have a much more solid case to store my memory cards in, but I love how light and compact the Pixel Pocket Rocket is. This version (£12.99, $16.75) stores nine SD cards and, as the name suggests, fits easily into your pocket. A great aspect of the design is that it has a clip and lead, so you can attach it to a bag or belt while it’s in your pocket. This means you can’t accidentally drop the case and lose all the pictures you have taken that day. Other versions are available for different combinations and types of memory cards.

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EXPOSURE 1/40 sec, f/1.4, ISO320 LENS Nikon 50mm f/1.4


Business portraits

pro portfolio

KERRY’s Portrait picks Kerry Hendry tells us the story behind some of her favourite images in her business portrait portfolio…

Flour power

This image is all about the passion and the expert skills of the artisan baker. Using motion blur in a low light environment adds a creative twist and helped to relax a shy subject.

Bloomin’ marvellous

Here I used an interesting background to add a splash of colour and context. A fairly shallow depth of field drops the flowers in the foreground out of focus, leading the eye in to the subject.

The axe man’s tale

I love putting together collections of images, such as in this simple triptych. The detail shots are so important; a creative mix of images is a very effective means of storytelling.

www.nphotomag.com

May 2014

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THE

APPRENTICE OUR APPRENTICE says…

THE PRO’S KILLER KIT #03 Rogue FlashBender Kerry says… I try to use natural light whenever possible, but when you are shooting a wedding or doing a commercial photography job you have to allow for the fact that sometimes there simply won’t be enough light on location, so to get the shots your client wants you’ll need to use flash. I always carry a Nikon SB-800 flashgun, but I use this strap-on reflector so that I can shape the light to make it more natural. Mine is part of the Rogue Small Soft Box kit (£39/$50), which also includes a diffusion panel that converts the FlashBender into a mini softbox.

Restaurant kitchens are busy, and not usually the most photogenic places in which to take pictures. This is the classic approach: shooting the chef putting the finishing touches to a plate as he passes it to the waiting staff. The difficulty with this shot was to get the light balanced between the plate and the face of our chef – and to ensure his head could be seen clearly through the shelves. Once I had my shot, I had the arduous job of eating the lamb...

Good enough to eat

This could be the most difficult job of the day! Here, Kerry and Ross pick the dish that chef will cook and show off in his portrait. Slowroasted lamb with creamed savoy cabbage and minted boulangère potatoes sounds the mouth-watering choice.

Heading off at the pass

Ben plates up and displays the finished dish for Ross to shoot at the Brasserie pass.

EXPERT INSIGHT How to decide on when to go grey

Good enough to eat?

Kerry looks over her student’s work to see how he has coped in the heat of the kitchen. The bright lights make getting a satisfactory exposure a real challenge!

Yes, Chef!

For an alternative view of the dish, Ross moved in closer for a detail shot that just showed Ben’s hand making a small adjustment to the plating of his dish.

Best in colour?

The decision to go mono, or not, is often made for stylistic reasons, or by client needs. Here the colour of the wine and of the bottles behind the bar mean RGB seems an obvious choice…

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Or better in black-and-white?

But in indoor settings, you often need to take the lighting into account. Here the mixture of light sources creates issues with colour casts which disappear if you take the mono route.


Wildlife photography masterclass

Hot Shot #04

EXPOSURE 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO200 LENS Nikon 50mm f/1.4

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May 2014

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THE

APPRENTICE

OUR APPRENTICE says… Great service is a team effort, and Kerry had asked if we could get a group of hotel staff together for a team photo outside the entrance of the hotel. Our fixer for the day, marketing assistant Ben Butler, got his chance to be centre stage for my favourite shot from this session, as he stands by the stone porch flanked by two liveried porters. I am amazed that I’ve got a shot with all three smiling so naturally. The shot really says they provide a warm welcome!

Crowd control

Group shots help convey the idea of the whole team of people that is there on hand to make every guest’s stay as luxurious as possible.

The long view

Heading outdoors to the main entrance, Kerry and Ross had much more space to work in, allowing them to switch to using telephoto zooms.

EXPERT ADVICE The devil is in the details Kerry says… If you shoot portraits for businesses like shops or hotels, your client will want detail they can use small in brochures or online. I usually shoot these still life images with very shallow depth of field. Here are three such shots taken by Ross during his day at Ellenborough Park.

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EXPOSURE 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO200 LENS Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G

May 2014

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Business portraits

Expert insight Blinking marvellous!

Hot Shot #05 www.nphotomag.com

As a general rule you want to avoid a machine-gun approach to shooting – the more pictures you have, the more time you spend in front of a computer editing them afterwards, sorting out essentially identical shots. However, with shots of people it usually pays to shoot more pictures than you need as expressions can change significantly between images, and some expressions will look much better than others! Blinking can be a particular issue, and some people are more prone than others to closing their eyes at exactly the wrong moment. One technique that Kerry uses successfully to avoid issues with blinking is to get the person to close their eyes while she counts down “Three, two, one… open” – and takes the shot just after saying “open”. This technique also works with group shots, and cuts down the number of safety shots you need to fire off.

May 2014

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the final assessment…

Put the boot in!

Kerry checks the composition for our Boot Room portrait. The secret was to find a shooting position with enough light for the portrait, but that showed the shelves of footwear in the background. Moving a few pairs to the foreground creates the leading line for the shot.

■ A day at a five-star country retreat is usually meant to be a relaxing affair, but Ross and Kerry had a full-on timetable of shoots with the hotel personnel to finish before it was, at last, time to chill out in the Ellenborough Park bar. As they mulled over their day, Kerry perused Ross’s shots and picked out her favourites – and chose this charming portrait of the Senior Porter as her overall Shot of the Day

Taking the high ground

Ross and Kerry stand on the conveniently-placed benches to get a more elevated view of the subject.

OUR APPRENTICE says… Shooting in early spring, we had our work cut out to make the most of the natural light inside the hotel. Our last stop of the afternoon was the Ellenborough Park’s Boot Room, where guests can come and borrow outdoor footwear and clothing from the Dubarry range. Our model for this portrait was one of the porters, and after finding where the best light was for the shot, we then accessorised the foreground, moving a row of Dubarry Knee High Leather Boots onto a window ledge in front of him. By this stage I was learning that to get really good portraits of people, you need to take charge and get your sitters and the objects around them in the right place. I look forward to trying all my new skills out on friends and colleagues when I get home to Scotland!

OUR PRO’S verdict We started off at the Ellenborough Park Hotel by covering all the basic techniques and settings required to shoot in varied locations and lighting situations. Ross was soon helping to direct the shoots with the members of hotel staff, and he was capturing some really great images. Putting people at ease is an essential skill and Ross was a natural. In this final shot in the Boot Room, I think Ross has really captured the essence of this beautiful five-star country house hotel – a really lovely portrait.

Next month spring fashion tips! A lucky reader heads to Liverpool for a day’s shoot in the studio with the legendary Bruce Smith to learn the secrets of editorial fashion

ON SALE 8 MAY 2014

Would you like to be our next apprentice? Do you want to take your photography to the next level and learn first-hand from a top-flight pro? If you’d like a chance of being our next N-Photo Apprentice, let us know what you’d like help shooting and your full contact details. Email mail@nphotomag.com, with ‘Apprentice’ as the subject line, or fill in this form…

Name.............................................................................................................. ………………….. Address................................................................................................................................. Tel no...................................................................................................................................... Email...................................................................................................................................... Camera................................................................................................................................. I’d like help shooting........................................................................................................

Return this form to… The Apprentice, N-Photo Magazine, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW, United Kingdom

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May 2014

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Mountain biking masterclass

EXPOSURE 1/15 sec, f/4, ISO500 LENS Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

SHOT OF THE DAY May 2014


Be inspired by five pages of stunning images from fellow Nikon users

01 Bar-tailed Godwit Mika Linho, Finland I really love taking photos where a soft bokeh background emphasises the beauty of birds. To get the best background you need to be at eye-level with the bird. When photographing waders this usually means lying in the wet sand or mud for long periods of time, but you need to go the extra mile for the best photos! You have to be super-patient too, as the bird comes to you if it wants to, not the other way around.

Nikon D700, Nikon AF-S 500mm f/4 VR, Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x teleconverter, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO400

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LIGHTBOX

Inspirational images

02 A closer look Joe Reale, USA

I really wanted to experiment with balloons and coloured water, so we set this shot up in a studio and lit it with four strobes firing as fast as 1/26000 sec. It took some experimenting with the angles and distance to get the light to illuminate the coloured liquid without blurring the edge of the model’s hair.

Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8ED, 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO100

03 Business girl

John Wilhelm, Switzerland

This is a portrait of my oldest daughter. She put on a pair of glasses from a fancy dress costume my wife had, and I thought she looked so silly that I had to take a picture with my favourite Sigma 35mm lens. I thought the final photo was missing something, so I found an image of myself in a suit and Photoshopped it over her dress.

Nikon D600, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM, 1/40 sec, f/3.2, ISO100

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Inspirational images

04 Breathless

Simon Boucher-Harris, Guernsey

For this shot I lit model Nikki Hafter using an Elinchrom Quadra with an octabox. The camera was to her left and there was diffused window light falling from the right. I deliberately left half of her face out of shot to add an element of mystery to the portrait, and the light gave a really soft, evocative look to the final shot, which suits Nikki’s white-blonde hair.

Nikon D800, Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF, 1/100 sec, f/1.8, ISO200

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LIGHTBOX


LIGHTBOX

Inspirational images

05 Bearded Reedling Mika Linho, Finland

There are very few photos of Bearded Reedlings in flight because they live in dense reed beds. I find that the best way to get those flight photos of these funny little birds is to wait for the moment when they take off into the air. I try to anticipate the movement and take a series of shots with continuous autofocus. It takes a lot of effort to get it right, but it’s worth it.

Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8 VR II, 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO400

06 Infrared

Piotr Kohl, Poland

I often drive across Lower Silesia hunting for interesting shots. During one of the tours I noticed a beautiful little road lined with trees. I didn’t want to waste time and wait for the ‘golden hour’, so for this shot I decided to use my infrared camera, which loves the strong sun. I use a Nikon D80 which I had converted to infrared – I love the otherworldly feel it lends to landscape shots.

Nikon D80 (IR converted), Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO100

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A whole pack of fantastic tricks and techniques for sharpening up your SLR skills, all provided in tasty bite-sized chunks… hatever you like to take pictures of, we’ve got a tip that will help you get even better results somewhere in the next 12 pages. While we all benefit from long, in-depth sessions learning new skills or photographing different subjects, sometimes you just need a little nudge to get a bit more out of something you’re already enjoying. From more memorable travel shots to personality-packed portraits to tidying up your images in the digital darkroom, we’re sharing our favourite tricks for a wealth of popular topics, things that work for us and will work for you. But if you’ve got a great tip you think we’ve missed, write in and tell us all about it – your fellow Nikon users are waiting to hear it!

Image: Sandra Bartocha

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What subjects are COVERED IN THIS FEATURE?

WILDLIFE

TRAVEL

LANDSCAPES

PORTRAITS

ACTION

LENSES

EDITING

EFFECTS

MACRO

AFTER DARK www.nphotomag.com


83 Nikon SLR tips to try!

01

Don’t be tempted to frame up portraits so the subject’s head is slap-bang in the centre of the frame. Shots look more dramatic if they are off-centre. Don’t worry about the rule of thirds, any visible diagonal shift will do the job.

03

travel tip try a dutch tilt

effects tip sparkler patterns

portrait tip away from centre

02

Take a long exposure of a mate twirling a sparkler after dark outside. Use a manual exposure of about 10 secs at f/11 at ISO100. Circle patterns work well, but you can draw pictures or write words. A bare-bulb torch works almost as well.

Lens tip go wide on the street

It is tempting to keep your distance when photographing candid shots of buskers and market stallholders, but you will often get stronger compositions if you get in closer and use a wide-angle lens setting rather than a telephoto one. By getting nearer the perspective changes, making your subject look bigger, and showing more of the setting, creating a more threedimensional view. The background will tend to be more in focus, but this can be subdued by converting to monochrome.

04

This is a trick that you should use sparingly, but it can be particularly be effective when shooting tall structures that tower above you. Rather than try to get the building straight in your shot, angle the camera by around 45 degrees – a trick known in the movie business as a ‘Dutch tilt’. The building will fill the frame better and look more dramatic.

travel tip Take a tripod?

effects tip lo-fi starburst

05

Shooting into the sun creates flare exposure issues. Make a virtue of this by underexposing the scene by a couple of stops to create a strong silhouette. If you use a small aperture of around f/22 the sun turns into a star.

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06

Do you pack a tripod on a trip? For city breaks, the ability to take shots after dark can mean you can maximise your photo opportunities during a short time away. However, you can get decent shots of bright neons with a handheld SLR.

After dark tip Don’t stay out late!

editing tip Try an hdr portrait

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HDR (high dynamic range) imaging is used for landscapes and buildings combining several exposures of a high-contrast scene to reveal detail in shadows and highlights you wouldn’t normally see. It’s also great for gritty portraits!

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The best time for night pictures of city buildings and traffic trails is just after it gets dark, as the sky will be have some colour rather than appearing totally black. For car trail shots use an exposure of around 30 secs at f/11 at ISO100.

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special feature

Action tip Freeze it with flash

WILDLIFE TIP Longer is better

Travel tip Holiday reading

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09

With most wildlife, the longer the lens, the better! On safari, aim for an effective focal length (efl) that is 500mm or longer. If using a DX SLR bear in mind the 1.5x crop factor, so a Nikon 80-400mm would be ace (efl: 120-600mm).

Research your holiday location as much as possible. On a short visit, it is easy to miss an event that would be great for pictures. Weekly markets provide rich pickings, but you do need to know what time they happen, and where.

Effects Tip ZOom bursts

effects tip Going for grain

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Zoom bursts create impressive explosions of pattern and colour from the must mundane of subjects. Use A mode to get a shutter speed of around 1/15 sec. Zoom out smoothly and fire the shutter just as you start zooming.

A flashgun is not just for use after dark – it can give your shots a lift in daylight too. It is particularly useful for sports where you can get close to the action with a wide-angle lens, such as skateboarding and cycling. The pop of flash lights up the subject, brightening up the colours and making them stand out from the background.

Lens tip Watch the space

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Wide lenses allow you to fit a whole scene into the one frame, but they often leave you lots of empty space in the bottom of the picture. You need to hunt out an angle that lets you fill the foreground with something that’s not boring!

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Even your built-in pop-up flash can be used effectively in this way, but you get more power and control with a hotshoestyle flashgun. An advantage of this is that the flash can be placed to the side of the subject to create more theatrical sidelighting. The short duration of the flash also helps freeze the movement.

landscape tip Splash of colour

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Wild flowers have short seasons, so keep a watch out so as not to miss out when species such as bluebells or lupins appear. They make a great foreground for a landscape, but you can also zoom in to fill the frame with splashes of colour.

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A burst of flash is as brief as 1/40,000 sec if you are close to the subject. This becomes the effective shutter speed (regardless of the speed on the SLR) if used in darkness. Ideal for freezing motion.

After dark tip Shoot for the moon

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To get a full moon to fill the frame, you would need a focal length of around 2000mm, so just use the longest lens you have and crop it. The moon is brighter than you think, giving a typical exposure of 1/500 sec at f/8 at ISO400.

Landscape tip A sense of scale

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You can spend ages waiting for people to get out of the way for a clear view of a scene. But some views benefit from having the odd person in the shot as a well-positioned figure gives a clear sense of scale to the surroundings.

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83 Nikon SLR tips to try!

travel tip Plan for the golden hours

Effects tip blacklight Blues

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UV lighting is used in night clubs to create an eerie glow, but can be used for photography too. The specialist ‘blacklight’ tubes are not very bright, so the model must keep still for several seconds (or you can make use of movement blur).

Image: Alamy

Macro tip big blow-up

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On an average family holiday, balancing the demands of your family with your wish to shoot great travel pictures can be a struggle. One solution is to put your camera away during the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky and there are plenty of things to do with your companions. Instead, plan to

take pictures at first light before everyone is up, so you can get back to join them for breakfast. You usually get the best light just after dawn, as the low sun creates warm-coloured light, and creates better shadows. Spend the rest of the day looking for places you can pop back to the next morning. Sunset is also a great time to take pictures, and

wildlife tip Open wide

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Pictures of animals and birds usually look best if you restrict depth of field as much as you can. A long lens is a good start, but you need to use this at or very near its maximum aperture to ensure the backdrop is as blurred as possible

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again you can plan your day so that you can be taking the shots you want to take while others are getting ready to go out for the evening. If you are on a day trip, make sure you are in the best place when the sun begins to fall: head for a place with a high vantage point that will give you the most options for pictures of the setting sun.

Lens tip Squeeze in tight

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A long lens can be as useful in the city as a wide-angle one. A telephoto lets you shoot landmarks from a distance, giving a perspective that squeezes buildings at different distances to make them look closer together.

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Focus needs to be precise with macro subjects. It pays to switch to manual focus, and use the zoom facility in Live View to blow up on the LCD the area you want to focus on. With a tripod, you can then focus manually with precision.

Portrait tips basic boudoir

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Keep lighting simple for boudoir. Just use a light from a window, and control this using blinds or curtains. A white sheet creates a natural reflector, but you can add a gold reflector to warm up the skin tones.

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special feature LENS TIP mind the gap

LANDSCAPE TIP find furrows

wildlife tip Which mode? 27

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Learn how close each of your lenses will focus. The minimum focus distance varies from zoom to zoom. You get the maximum magnification if you zoom right in. A good average is 1:4 (quarter life size); on some it can be 1:2 (half life size).

The orderly way in which fields are planted means that you can use the patterns of the furrows in your pictures. Find a viewpoint where the lines create strong diagonals, and use a telephoto to squeeze many rows into the frame.

TRAVEL TIP Mass market appeal

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Mushrooms appear on lawns and in woods after a wet spell. For best shots lie down on the ground, so that the lens is level with the fungus. Some tripods have legs that splay right out, or reversible centre columns, to get this low.

Which exposure mode you use is often just a matter of personal taste. You can, after all, use your Nikon’s P, A, S or M modes and get exactly the same result in your images. For wildlife, you frequently want to restrict the depth of field as much as possible to avoid distracting backgrounds and to keep the shutter speed

Portrait tip Shameless selfie

high. For this reason aperturepriority (A) mode is best starting point – you can then use exposure compensation to change the brightness to suit. A more professional approach is to use manual (M) mode. You need to be more on the ball with this, but it has the advantage that exposure compensation is that much faster to implement.

Action Tip try to keep up!

Image: Alamy

Macro tip fun with fungi

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Look for piles of identical objects in shops and markets, and zoom in to isolate the pattern. Sidelight is best!

travel tip stained glass

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This is a great tip for taking a self-portrait with the difference. Use a wide-angle lens to take pictures of your own legs or hands against a plain background (a beach, or blue sky, say). Convert to mono to create a Bill Brandt tribute!

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It is harder to focus on moving subjects the more you zoom in, and also if they are heading straight towards you. Set autofocus to Continuous (AF-C), so your SLR can predict where the subject will be when the picture is taken.

The great churches of the world tempt you in with their grand architecture, but frequently it is the stained glass windows which are the best things to photograph. They are often bright enough that you don’t need to worry about not being able to use a tripod. To avoid problems with contrast, don’t frame up your shot so that you include large areas of the walls, as the windows will be overexposed or the wall will be featureless black. Zoom in so the window fills the frame.

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83 Nikon SLR tips to try!

editing tip spin your own gold

travel tip Find the angle

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Image: Alamy

The challenge of a new location is that you don’t have the local knowledge, so you need to work harder to find the interesting vantage points. One strategy is to keep a constant look out for elevated shooting positions, which will give you a bird’s-eye view of the scene. Look for buildings with balconies or windows that you might be able to get access to, and keep asking yourself if there is any way you could get higher and give you a new perspective on the place you are visiting.

Macro tip Use a light tent

Image: Alamy

Getting even lighting with indoor close-ups can be hard at the best of times, but it’s particularly tricky if you are shooting something shiny as this will reflect any light source you use to illuminate the scene. A great solution is to use a light tent, which is surrounds the subject with white translucent fabric. This then diffuses the light source outside the tent. Tents can drain the colour from metal objects, but you can correct this in post production.

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You need some luck to get a spectacular sunset shot; even if you are in the right place and the right time, the atmospheric conditions do not always play ball. But if you take the right shot, you can add the sunset (or improve it) in Photoshop. For convincing results you need a backlit scene which is close to being a silhouette. You can then add a Graduate Fill Adjustment Layer which varies in colour through shades of orange, with this set to the Color blend mode.

Wildlife tip Keep the speed up

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For shots of birds in flight you will usually require a much faster shutter speed than you imagine. With the long telephoto lens you need to use, a speed of 1/2000 sec is typical. You will therefore need a wide aperture and a fast ISO.

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Portrait tip show sensitivity

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At gigs, the lighting on stage will change regularly so you need to keep checking and changing exposure. Keep adjusting the ISO to ensure that you can get a shutter speed of 1/125 sec or faster to avoid any subject blur.

Effects tip Lose your balance

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White Balance is an essential tool for ensuring your shots look the right colour. But you can go mad and get the settings wildly wrong. There’s no need for Photoshop, you can do this in-camera with manual White Balance settings.

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special feature travel tips Maximise depth

Macro tip Telephoto power

EDITING TIP the softest skin 41

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To maximise depth of field, use a wide lens, set a small aperture like f/22, and then focus on a point that is about a third of the way into the frame. If you are including the horizon in the shot, focus at the ‘hyperfocal distance’.

Telephoto lenses provide an alternative to the macro way of shooting flowers. As you are much further away from the bloom, you pack more of the neighbouring blooms into the frame while also making them more out of focus.

Portrait tip Come on down!

Portrait tip sunkissed look

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A great tip for late on sunny afternoon is to shoot portraits with the sun directly behind the subject’s head. You get a glow around the subject created by the rimlighting. Use spot metering to help get the right exposure.

Photoshop gets a bad press because of some publications and advertising agencies using it in a heavyhanded way on pictures of models and celebrities. But rather than seeing it as a something bad, it is better to think of image retouching as a digital form of traditional make-up. Digital photography

After dark tip PUSH ISO to the max

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Don’t be scared of the ISO dial! The higher the ISO, the more noise you get – but this is often not as bad as you think, particularly with recent Nikons. And the advantage is that you can shoot sharp shots at night without a tripod.

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can reveal details in the skin that few of us want to show, and Photoshop allows us to reduce the appearance of spots and wrinkles, like using a good foundation or concealer. A good starting point is to move the clarity slider to the left in Camera Raw or in Lightroom. Used carefully, this gently smooths the surface of the skin.

Landscape tip Build up density

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The classic way to shoot seascapes and lakes is to use a really long shutter speed to turn moving water into a flat, milky surface. You need a solid tripod and an ND (neutral density) filter to get a shutter speed that’s over 20 seconds long.

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Shots of kids look stronger if you get the SLR down to their eye level. The younger they are, the lower you need to go!

Editing tip Think mono early

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Without a lot of experience taking monochrome photographs, it’s hard to previsualise which shots are going to work best in black-and-white. Use the Monochrome Picture Control (see page 66) so you can see if you’ll be successful straight away; use a NEF+JPEG image quality setting so you retain full editing control over the image in case you want to tweak it later in post-production.

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83 Nikon SLR tips to try! Travel TIP make lunch pay!

macro tip Go with the glow

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Many plants can look great photographed with the light behind them as they are translucent. Shooting towards the sun therefore shows the colour of petals and leaves in a brighter way, while revealing some of the internal structure. Plants with hairs and animals with fur also benefit from slight backlighting, as the spines glow, creating a halo-like appearance. Try to frame the subject against a darker background, so that the hairs stand out more obviously.

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The local food can say as much about a country or city as its architecture. When eating out, take time to take pictures of the dishes on the menu. Select the ones that will make the best shots, and shoot them against a plain backdrop.

macro tip Flat out quality

Wildlife tip face up to fish

Editing tip Tilt/shift effect

Image: Alamy

Travel tip Take off the UV!

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When travelling, it may be sensible to protect your lens with a UV or skylight filter. Be sure to unscrew it when shooting long exposures of cityscapes as the extra layer of glass can cause unsightly ghost images of the bright lights.

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When shooting a flat surface head on, there is no need to close down the aperture for depth of field purposes. However, do close down a couple of stops – a lens typically gives its best resolution at around f/8.

Macro tip what’s on the menu?

52

If you’re ever stuck for what to photograph, or the weather is too awful to get outdoors, turn to your kitchen for inspiration. Raw ingredients can make great subjects, particularly when snapped up close with a macro lens.

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50

To shoot fish in aquaria, you need to minimise reflections on the glass. The easiest way to do this is push the lens right up so it touches the tank, and shoot straight on. Be patient and wait for the fish to come to your part of the tank.

travel tip in-flight activities

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Get your holiday pictures started early by taking your Nikon on the plane as hand baggage and getting a window seat. With luck, you’ll get great aerial views of your destination. Push the lens as close to the window as you can as you shoot.

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For a ‘toy town’ effect, find an aerial shot of a street or city. Open the shot in Photoshop. Copy the Background layer, and apply Gaussian blur. Add a mask and paint in black to reveal sharp areas in the original below.

Lens tip Can you save with close-ups?

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There are several low-cost solutions for shooting extreme close-ups, such as extension tubes and filter-like close-up lenses. However, these do not give stepless adjustment of magnification, so a macro lens is much easier to use.

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special feature Macro tip go big with bokeh

lens tip use compression

Wildlife Tip park practice 56

Perspective is dependent on your distance from the subject, and as telephotos are used further away from a subject than wide-angles they provide a different perspective – making things at different distances looks closer together.

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Make a virtue of the fact that there’s little depth of field with extreme close-ups. Arrange the scene so some areas are much more out of focus than others, but ensure one key area is pin-sharp. It is a popular style for shooting food.

Portrait tip Lie in wait

Effects tip set steel on fire!

55

Shooting animals in the wild often means hours of waiting for the briefest of encounters, so you need to have your SLR skills honed to perfection if you are not going to waste the few opportunities you get to take great pictures. But how do you get the hang of photographing creatures

quickly? The answer is to visit nearby parks, game reserves and zoos. The animals there will be more used to humans, and they’re in confined areas, but you can still learn many of the techniques you will need just as well as in the wild. The focusing and framing techniques you need will be very similar.

lens tip Zoom in for detail

60

Less is more! If you struggle to find pictures, you are probably looking too wide. Zoom in and hunt the scene with a telephoto setting. This will reveal patterns and textures you don’t usually see, and cut out the clutter.

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58

This fiery effect involves putting fine wire wool in a metal whisk, attaching this to a chain, then setting the wool alight and spinning the chain. You need a brave volunteer, a tripod, and an exposure of about 15 secs at f/11 at ISO100.

landscape tip Lines to lead you

59

One way to get great street portraits is to find a suitable foreground and background, and wait for the right person to enter the frame.

effects tip the wheel deal

61

Look out for features that you can use to create a path that leads the viewer’s eye through your image of a scene. An actual path (as above) works well, but rivers, fences and lines of trees can perform this compositional trick just as well.

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With their sleek lines and bright colours, cars should be easy to shoot. In practice, you need to take care. First, find a location to show the vehicle off in. Shoot when the car is not in direct sun to avoid reflections, and angle the car in the frame for a dynamic composition.

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83 Nikon SLR tips to try! macro tip cloak it in velvet

Editing tip build your own reality 64

If you want to shoot powerful close-ups indoors you need a simple, non-distracting backdrop. A length of black velvet is ideal, as unlike other materials this will not reflect any light, giving you a really deep black background.

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Your Nikon will allow you to combine two or more exposures in the same frame, but you get much more creative control if you combine your images in Photoshop, not least because you will be able to access each element on its own, and combine it with other pictures you have shot in the

past, or will shoot in the future. The large, detailed moon in this picture, for instance, was shot at a completely different time and location from the tranquil lakeside landscape. For this type of compositing work you need a program like Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CC that allows you to

action tip Wait for the breaks

66

Fast motion in low light can create difficulties if you don’t want artisticallyblurred impressions of the action. A solution is to shoot at moments where things are more stationary, letting the poses suggest the movement.

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put each of the individual elements on different layers. That way they can be individually adjusted so that everything works together in the final picture. In this shot, the moon image appears twice in separate layers; the second is to form the reflection, so is shown at a lower opacity and is flipped vertically.

Travel tip Clearing the crowds

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Irritated by all the crowds at a famous landmark? Pack a high-density ND filter and a tripod, then you can use a really long exposure which will make even the slow-moving tourists disappear from their picturesque surroundings.

Image: Alamy

after dark tip double up exposure

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For long exposures at night you often need two exposures as the sky will undoubtedly need a different exposure to the land. Use a solid tripod and a locked head, so the two shots can be combined easily with a mask in Photoshop.

Portrait tip A bit of flash on the side

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Shoot portraits with your flashgun to one side of the subject. Use a TTL flash cord or a wireless trigger set. To keep things simple, set the flash to manual power and adjust the output to suit. Set the camera to underexpose to darken the background.

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special feature Effects tip Add gels to flash

Macro tip Even lighting

Action Tip Patience with panning 72

69

Give party pictures a spooky look by putting a blue gel over your flash. Gels are coloured pieces of cellophane, available in kits for photographers, but a blue chocolate wrapper will do! They work on your pop-up flash too.

When shooting flat subjects you need to have the light as even as possible across the surface you are photographing. Put lamps either side of the camera at 45 degrees to the surface of the subject for shadowless lighting.

after dark tip Sunset silhouette Image: Alamy

Editing tip turn blue sky black

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Don’t just convert shots taken on dull days to black-and-white. The approach works well with blue skies too. You can define the shade of grey of any particular colour, so you can turn the sky a deep black to contrast against white clouds.

With fast-moving subjects, and particularly if they are close to the camera, it is impossible to freeze the movement using a fast shutter speed alone. You therefore need to track the subject smoothly as it moves across your field of view, using a technique known as panning. You can turn panning into a more artistic

macro tip find semi-shade

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Want sunsets with stronger colours straight out of camera? Switch White Balance to the Shade option.

LENS tip Head for high ground

wildlife tip Watch your back!

Image: Alamy

travel tip using ultra-wides

effect if you combine the pan with a slower shutter speed, so that the movement of the camera creates blurred streaks in the background, while keeping the subject relatively sharp. The shutter speed you need will depend on the subject’s speed. For a runner try a speed of 1/15 sec; for a track cyclist or car try 1/125 sec.

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Look out for water when shooting architecture – the reflections are a great way of filling the foreground when using a wide lens. If the water is moving, you can make the reflection stronger by using a long exposure with an ND filter.

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Detail shots of cars make great close-ups. Don’t shoot in bright sun as you will get problems with reflections. Avoid very dull days too, as the colours will be dull too. For best results, shoot on a bright day when the sun is behind a cloud.

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Don’t just shoot buildings with wide lenses – you can find great detail shots and isolate interesting patterns with a telephoto. Dusk is a good time to shoot skyscrapers like these, as the lights in each window add to the pattern.

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Extreme close-ups mean the depth of field is restricted to a few millimetres, but a background can be distracting even if totally out of focus. Watch out for bright, recognisable shapes, and move the camera to eliminate them.

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83 Nikon SLR tips to try! Travel tip Prime time shooting

Image: Alamy

landscape tip When a bit of blur is a good thing

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Image: Alamy

Don’t leave your Nikon in your room in the evening. Take your SLR with a fast lens – a low-cost 50mm f/1.8 is ideal. Shoot nightlife at your widest aperture and a high ISO so you don’t need flash or a tripod. You’ll also get great bokeh!

effects tip Dashboard trails

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For traffic trails with a difference, shoot from a moving car at night as a friend drives slowly along a well-lit road. You will need an exposure of around 30 seconds. Use a tripod, or simply prop up the SLR on the dashboard.

A graduated filter is a boon for practically every landscape you take. The grad does not just darken the sky to stop it blowing out, it also reduces the contrast in the scene and gives you a better exposure for the land or water below the horizon. Coloured grads are not popular in the Photoshop era, but grey ND grads are. They reduce the

After dark tip Switch off AWB for better colour

wildlife tip Set a trigger trap

Image: Alamy

travel Tip Foreground hunting

brightness of the top part of the scene without affecting its hue, hence the ‘neutral’ part of their name. You can get them in various strengths, and with hard or soft graduations. If you buy just one filter, get a soft one, as this allows better for structures protruding above the horizon; a 0.6 soft is a good choice, reducing the contrast by two stops.

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Getting interesting shots of famous cities and landmarks means working at the composition. Hunt out great foregrounds that complement an iconic building, or find angles that give a better background to suit the street scene.

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82

Your Nikon’s AWB (auto White Balance) setting works well in daylight but can end up giving you the wrong colour balance in artificial lighting indoors, and with floodlit buildings. Shots can look too orange, as the colour

temperature is too low for the AWB system to read accurately. You will get a more natural colour if you set the White Balance manually (and using the Kelvin (K) values if your SLR offers these). Alternatively, shoot in RAW and adjust colour in post.

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For dramatic animal shots use a wide-angle lens, not a telephoto. Set the SLR up on a mount and fire the shutter from a distance with a remote trigger. It takes time for them to get used to the camera, but you can lure them with food.

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▪ 101 expert Nikon tips ▪ Nikon D4 reviewed by pros ▪ Travel tripods tested ▪ Documentary masterclass

▪ All about RAW ▪ Nikon D4 pullout ▪ Seascape masterclass ▪ Exposure explained

Got a Kindle Fire or a Nook HD? Just search for N-Photo on the Amazon’s Kindle Newsstand or B&N Nook store

▪ Master black and white ▪ Spice up your food shots ▪ 8 Nikon SLRs compared ▪ 4 still-life lighting set-ups

▪ Shoot seductive portraits ▪ Nikon D3200 reviewed ▪ Better black-and-white ▪ Wide-angle primes tested

▪ Studio portraits ▪ SLR skills for winter ▪ Strobist techniques ▪ Using graduated filters

▪ Joe McNally interview ▪ Fast telephotos on test ▪ Landscape masterclass ▪ 10 strobe skills you need

▪ Get natural zoo shots ▪ Motorsport masterclass ▪ Super-telephotos tested ▪ Nikon’s metering modes

▪ D-SLR crash course ▪ Travel masterclass ▪ Add drama with HDR ▪ Waterfall tips and tricks

▪ Full-frame explained ▪ Nikon D600 review ▪ David Tipling interview ▪ Give shots the x-factor

▪ Exposure made easy ▪ Nikon D800 on test ▪ Marsel van Oosten ▪ Your best-ever bird shots

▪ Landscape masterclass ▪ Tom Jenkins interview ▪ Low-light shooting ▪ Zoom bursts explained

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42

Ingenious recipes for stunning shots 48

46 THis month’s projects…

Welcome to Nikon Skills

PROJECT ONE | CAMERA TECHNIQUES

42 Spring into action

50 Light things naturally

PROJECT two | SPECIAL EFFECTS

PROJECT SIX | CREATIVE PHOTOSHOP

Six blooming lovely tips for taking more effective photographs of spring flowers, singly or en masse

www.nphotomag.com

You don’t need a softbox with these six ways to use natural light from a window to illuminate portrait shots

45 Fisheye fun

52 Apply digital makeup

PROJECT THREE | Digital darkroom

PROJECT SEVEN | SYSTEM SPOTLIGHT

Dust off that neglected fisheye lens, because we’re going to have some fun taking bug’s-eye-view portraits with it!

Cl ic k on th is we b link bit.ly/NPh oto32 for you r vi de o in tr od uc t ion to th is mon th’s Ni kon skill s

PROJECT FIVE | TAKE IT FURTHER

46

Be selective about colour

Use Lightroom to strip unwanted colours from an image one by one

PROJECT FOUR | Gear skills

48 Hide and tweet

Learn how to use a hide, and the best way to set up your Nikon to capture the behaviour of shy garden birds

Have you got a portrait in need of a boost? Try adding extra colour to the subject’s face in post-production

54 Know your NEFs

Not all RAW files are created equal. Discover the difference between 12-and 14bit NEF files, and when to use them

To watch the videos use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32 May 2014

41


Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for stunning shots

Project one camera techniques

the mission

■ To photograph spring flowers at their best

Spring into action for flower photos

time needed ■ 3 hours

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Nikon D-SLR ■ 18-55mm kit lens ■ Macro lens

Use Siân Lewis’ easy tweaks to take wonderful shots of the delicate, sculptural spring flowers popping up in your local parks and gardens Spring has sprung, and there are bright and beautiful blooms popping up everywhere. We’re here to prove that you don’t need an expensive macro lens to get great shots of wild flowers in all their colourful glory, especially if you don’t mind getting a bit muddy! Our six steps to better bloom shots and ideas for floral images will definitely spring-clean your photography. If you’re lucky enough to have a well-looked-after garden then you

Next issue…

won’t have to venture far to find a flower to practise on. Otherwise, stately homes, parks and public gardens will be bursting with colour around now. We headed to the Rococo Gardens in the Cotswolds to shoot their snowdrops and daffodils, and to show you how to brush up your skills ready for the bluebells and poppies that will turn up later in the year. The earlier you can arrive at your location, the better, as sunrise will add a soft warm light to your images,

Don’t panic if the sky is looking overcast – cloudy days are actually better for shooting wild flowers as bright sunlight can lead to harsh shadows and exposure problems

SLR skills you can build on: shooting architectural abstracts

and there will be less wind first thing, which will keep flowers still. Don’t panic if it’s looking overcast, though – cloudy days are actually better for shooting wild flowers as bright sunlight can lead to harsh shadows and exposure problems, especially if you’re shooting white flowers. You don’t need any special kit for this project, but using a tripod will help make sure that your camera and backdrop is perfectly still, and will also mean that you really concentrate on your composition. The down side is that you’re less flexible and it’s harder to get down really low, so it’s worth experimenting with both a tripod and shooting handheld.

Step by step Six ways to shoot flowers

Follow our guide to setting up your camera for the perfect floral finish Spring flowers are delicate little things that can be surprisingly tricky to shoot, but these composition and exposure tips will instantly improve your photos. When you arrive at your location, find some flowers that are growing against a good background – a complementary, simple background like green moss or a tree trunk will make a nice contrast to bright petals, and will also stop anything distracting the eye from the stars of the show.

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01 Go low

Just like children, flowers look best when you photograph them on their level. Get parallel to your subject – you’ll probably have to lie down to line up a good shot, so take a waterproof coat to avoid getting muddy. If you’re struggling to see in your viewfinder, switch to Live View to check your composition.

May 2014

02 Zoom to the max

You don’t actually need a macro lens if you can get in close to your chosen flower. We’re using a standard kit lens to take our shots. However, you will need to zoom in as close to your subject as your lens allows (on our kit lens that’s 55mm) so that we can get a good composition without too much background in shot.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32


How to shoot flowers

QUICK TIP! Ta ke alon g a piece of sti ff ca rdboard - i t’ll work as a wind sh ield on blustery da ys or as a backdrop if you can’t find an unclut tered background

EXPOSURE 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO400 LENS Nikon AF-S DX 85mm f/3.5G ED VR Macro

www.nphotomag.com

March 2014

43


Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for stunning shots

GO MACRO ■ When you’ve mastered the basics of flower photography with your kit lens it’s worth investing in a macro lens so you can capture close-up detail. Focus on a flower head or get creative and crop in on a single petal to create abstract floral images.

QUICK TIP! Be ca re fu l to ch oose perf ec t, unblemish ed flowers, as dama ged pe tals an d other imperf ec tion s will sh ow up in a close-up sh ot

03 Switch to single AF

04 Stay in A

The problem with getting up close and personal with your subject is that your camera’s autofocus may struggle from such a short distance. In the Shooting menu find the single-point AF mode and then use the directional buttons to find the perfect focus point. Focus on the flower’s stamen or the petals closest to you.

A wide aperture, such as f/5.6, will give you a shallow depth of field and knock your background nicely out of focus. Switch your mode dial to aperture-priority (A) mode and adjust the aperture. Your camera will take care of the shutter speed itself, freeing you from having to fiddle much with settings in changeable conditions.

05 Raise the ISO

06 Dial it up

Flowers are light and easily knocked about by a gust of wind, which is always a hazard early in the year. If your chosen specimen won’t stay still, increase your ISO to 800 or even 1600 and pick an aperture that allows you to use a very fast shutter speed (1/1000 or faster) to make sure you freeze your flower perfectly.

If you’re shooting white flowers like these you may have exposure issues. Check your images after every few shots, and if your white blooms are looking rather grey, hold down the Exposure Compensation button on the top of your Nikon and dial up by 1EV for pure white petals. Check your histogram to ensure nothing is blown out.

KEY SKILL Spring things

There are lots more ways to incorporate spring blooms in your shots As beautiful as individual blooms are, large swathes of flowers are also very attractive, and places that are renowned for their spring flower displays usually have carpets of blooms to be seen. Make the most of them by capturing the flowers en masse, or use the features of the location to add extra interest to your images.

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Add architecture If you’re shooting in the grounds of a country estate or there’s a nearby summerhouse, include it in your photo. Buildings like this add a sense of scale and a point of interest to an otherwise simple spring flower shot.

May 2014

Carpets of blooms

Flowers may look pretty close up but they also pack a big punch as a spread of colour. We shot a carpet of early snowdrops, but brightly coloured poppies or bluebells will have even more impact. Frame them using nearby trees and a slice of sky for an attractive composition.

www.nphotomag.com


Project two special effects

Fisheye fun Take a bizarre bug’s-eye-view portrait with a fisheye lens Fisheyes are the mission often used for ■ Have fun using a fisheye to take a surreal portrait

time needed ■ 1 hour

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Nikon D-SLR ■ Fisheye lens ■ Magnifying glass ■ Model ■ Flower bed

Next issue…

Discover the explosive fun of zoom bursts

architectural shots, but they’re also fantastic for creating unique portraits. These ultra-wide-angle lenses take in a lot more of the surroundings than a normal lens, but can also distort subjects. We’re going to show you how to embrace the warped look for bizarre portraits. We headed to the park to take a ‘bug’s-eye-view’ portrait, with our model peering down in wonder at a strange new discovery in the undergrowth. If you’ve got one to hand, a magnifying glass is great for helping add an ‘explorer’ feel to the shot. When you’re using a prime lens like ours, you’ll need to move your Nikon around in search of the perfect angle and get really close to your model’s face. The other key factor is to make sure your subject’s eye is pin-sharp.

Step by step Bugging out You need to get your Nikon down to an insect’s level for this…

01 Set it up

First, find a clump of flowers (or cheat and buy a pot yourself) and position your Nikon so that it’s looking up at your subject through the petals, giving the impression of a very low point of view, just like an insect’s. You’ll probably need to lie down to check the composition if your Nikon doesn’t have a flipout screen. Ask your model to peer down at you through their magnifying glass.

02 Tweak exposure

Focus on the magnifying glass and the eye closest to you. One potential problem with fisheye photos is overexposure, as so much of the sky is in shot. Check your images and dial the exposure down if needed. Shoot in RAW so that you can easily crop away the black borders in postproduction.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32

03 Get creative

There’s no end to the silly shots you can take. Shoot from above and give your subject a huge nose or eyes, or place them further away from you; they won’t be distorted, but the landscape around them will be warped. Add a blue or green cast in-camera or in Photoshop for the look of an extraterrestrial portrait.

May 2014

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Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for stunning shots

Project THREE DIGITAL DARKROOM

the mission ■ Apply selective colour effects in Lightroom

time needed

■ 10 minutes

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Lightroom 4 or 5

Be selective about colour

BEFORE

James Paterson demonstrates how to selectively remove colour in Lightroom Making selective colour effects in Lightroom is a quick and easy task. The key to success is the HSL panel. The eight colour sliders enable you to zero in on different colours in the image. You can adjust the Hue, Luminance or (as in this case) the Saturation to remove any colours you don’t need. The HSL sliders target colour ranges rather than specific areas, so you’ll probably need to mop up any remaining colour. For example, in our image removing saturation in

Next issue…

everything but the reds and oranges almost does the job of leaving the phone box in colour while the rest of the image is in black-and-white. However, there’s still some orange present in the buildings. It’s a quick fix: a few strokes of the Adjustment Brush loaded with -100% saturation is all that’s required. Once that’s been done, we can complete the image by adding a vignette, enhancing the tones and sharpening the details.

The eight sliders enable you to zero in on different colours in the image. You can adjust the Hue, Luminance or the Saturation to remove any colours you don’t need

Get organised – use Lightroom to make a gallery of RAW files

Step by step Remove unwanted colours

What’s black and white and red all over? Your photo, if you follow these six steps!

01 Import and adjust

Drag phonebox_before.dng into the Lightroom Library Module, then hit Import. In the Develop Module, set the sliders in the Basic Panel like this: Temp 5500, Tint +10, Exposure +0.65, Contrast +15, Highlights -17, Shadows +33, Whites +9, Blacks -6, Clarity +80, Vibrance +30, Saturation +10.

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May 2014

02 Reduce saturation

In the Tone Curve Panel, plot a shallow S-shaped curve line to boost colour and contrast. Scroll down to the HSL/Colour/B&W Panel on the right side and click HSL, then click the Saturation tab. Leave the Red and Orange sliders at 0 and drag the other colours to -100%.

AFTER

03 Load the brush

There are still a few orange tones lurking in the background building, so grab the Adjustment Brush from the toolbar at the top right. In the tool options that appear below the toolbar, double-click Effect to reset all the sliders, then set Saturation -100.

To download the start images for this tutorial, visit bit.ly/start-32


Selective colour controls

custom brushes ■ The Adjustment Brush comes with a list of handy presets accessible via the Effect dropdown. Choose from options like Iris Enhance, Skin Softening and Dodge and Burn, or alternatively, create your own custom brushes. You could, for example, make a desaturation brush for your spot colour effects: just select the Adjustment Brush and set Saturation -100%, then click the Effect dropdown, choose ‘Save Current Settings as New Preset’ and give it a name.

Quick Tip! Use the targe t tool a t the top left of the HSL P anel to change colours simply by dragging up or down over areas of your image

04 Remove the colour

Zoom in to the right side, then paint over the remaining colour to remove it. Hit O to toggle on a mask overlay to see where you’ve painted and use the ] and [ keys to change your brush size. If you go wrong, hold Alt and paint to erase parts of the mask.

05 Adjust the Luminance

To the brightness of the black-and-white area, go back to the HSL Panel and click Luminance. Set Yellow +39, Green +45, Blue -50, Purple -15 to lighten the grass and darken the sky. Next, grab the Graduated Filter tool from the toolbar. Double-click Effect to reset all the sliders.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32

06 Finishing touches

Drag a line down from the top and set Highlights -60, then drag a second from the T to the middle and set Clarity +26. Next go to the Effects Panel and drag the Post-Cropping Vignette Amount to -7. Finally, scroll down to the Detail Panel and set Amount 63, Luminance 13.

May 2014

47


Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for creative shots

EXPOSURE 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO800 LENS Nikon AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR

Project four gear skills

Hide and tweet!

Siân Lewis demonstrates how to get great shots of the birds in your back garden with a telephoto lens and the right disguise You don’t need to travel far to garden then it’s even easier to the mission get to grips with wildlife set up the perfect shot. Get started Shoot great pictures of garden birds

time needed ■ Two hours

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Nikon D-SLR ■ Telephoto lens ■ Place to hide

Next issue…

Support your lens! Make a handy bean bag…

48

photography – there’s a world of attractive subjects in your backyard, local park or nature reserve. We’re going to show you how to take fantastic pictures of garden birds, and give you the lowdown on the best gear to invest in if you’re serious about snapping shyer wild animals. We went to the St Fagans National History Museum in Wales, where Blue Tits, Great Tits, Nuthatches and Robins regularly come to feed, but if you’re lucky enough to have your own

now by regularly replenishing a bird table or feeder with seed and water, and after a few weeks you’ll have regular visits from local birds. Make sure your feeder is a few feet away from a plain, natural-coloured background, such as a garden fence or a hedge, to give you a clean backdrop for your shots. Even if birds are used to coming to the feeder you’re planning to photograph, you’ll still need to find somewhere to hide with your Nikon to

Make sure your bird feeder is a few feet away from a plain, natural-coloured background, such as a garden fence or a hedge, to give you a clean backdrop for your shots May 2013

avoid spooking them too much. A garden shed or even a kitchen window will do for this at a pinch. Alternatively, you could invest in a pop-up hide – these can cost as little as £50/$85, making them one of the more affordable pieces of kit for shooting birds. If you aren’t sure which particular bird species visit your garden, there are some great apps you can download that will help you identify them. iBird UK has clear pictures and soundbites of common British bird calls (plenty of which you’ll also see and hear in mainland Europe), or you could try the Sibley guide to the birds of North America if you’re in the United States or Canada.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32


Photographing garden birds QUICK TIP Try se t ting up dead branch es or even a sp ad e near the feed er to gi ve bird s an at trac ti ve perc h to pose on for your camera.

STEP BY STEP Tips for shooting backyard birds Follow our four easy steps to give your bird photography wings

keep it simple 01 Location, location, location

02 Get some great glass

03 Switch to A

04 Perfect composition

Don’t have a garden? Visit somewhere with bird feeders that are regularly topped up and set against a plain background. If there’s a permanent hide you can shoot from, like this hut, even better. Pick a calm, clear day with little wind – an overcast sky is best for avoiding any exposure issues.

You won’t have time to adjust settings between shots, so switch your Nikon to aperture-priority (or ‘A’) mode and pick a wide aperture, such as f/5.6, to knock out the background. Your camera will look after the shutter speed. Increase the ISO to something like ISO800 to keep fluttering wings sharp.

Small, speedy birds are a nightmare to capture without a decent telephoto lens. We used a Nikon 80-400mm f/4 – the longer the zoom you can get, the better for getting great detail. Zoom in as close as you can, as you can always crop in even further in post-production.

If your Nikon’s autofocus is struggling, select single-point AF mode in the Shooting menu and then use the directional buttons to pick the perfect focus point, always aiming to keep your bird’s eye pin-sharp. For a better-looking composition, try positioning your subject off-centre.

covetable KIT Camouflage yourself

05 Hide

Birds have sharp eyes, and all these things will help you go unnoticed

01 Ghillie suit

03 Jacket

A ghillie suit works really effectively. It breaks up your outline, helping you to melt into wooded environments.

If you’re going beyond the garden, camouflage gear is useful. Look for a jacket that’s water- and windproof, but not too bulky.

02 Beanbag

A beanbag is invaluable for any wildlife photographer. Use it to rest a hefty lens on a rock or in a hide while you wait for your subjects.

www.nphotomag.com

■ If you use a long focal length and zoom in on your subject, you’ll reduce the amount of detail visible in the background, ensuring that all the attention is on your feathery subjects.

04 Hat

On chilly mornings a camouflage hat will work with your jacket to keep you hidden as well as keeping your head warm. If you’re after budget-friendly camo gear, you can pickup secondhand kit cheaply at army surplus shops.

There are lots of different designs and sizes of hide available. One including a fold-out chair inside is useful for longer shoots. Pick a model that’s easy to assemble and dissemble and as lightweight and portable as possible.

May 2013

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Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for creative shots

You don’t need a fancy window like this – you can try all these techniques at home

the mission

■ Use windows to light your subjects

time needed ■ 2 hours

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Nikon D-SLR ■ Kit lens or fast ‘portrait’ lens ■ Reflector ■ Tripod (for darker interiors)

Quick tip On Nikon D-SLRs, the spot me tering area is not necessarily in the cen tre of the frame, i t’s actually linked to the focus poin t

Next issue…

How to use & choose an ND grad filter

50

Project five Take it further

Light things naturally Rod Lawton reveals six ways to use light from a window… You don’t need a photo studio to take great portrait pictures. You can get beautiful portrait shots using natural light from a window. The light levels from a window are lower, so you may need to bump up the ISO or use a tripod. The principles are much the same as those for studio photography – it’s all

about the direction of the light and its ‘quality’, or how soft it is as it falls on your subject’s face. We set ourselves a challenge. Could we find six ways to shoot a portrait of our model, Jess, using nothing more than windows?

STEP BY STEP No pane, no gain! Find a suitable window and you can do all this…

01 Window frames

If you’ve got a big, spectacular window like this one, use it! There’s enough room for Jess to stand on the sill and hold the shutters either side. We’ve moved a long way back and used a longer focal length to keep the camera level and prevent converging verticals.

The principles are much the same as those for studio photography – it’s all about the direction of the light and its quality, or how soft it is May 2014

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32


Using window light

02 Bold backlighting

You can move your subject to change the direction of the light. We’ve placed Jess with her back to the window and used our reflector to throw light back into her face. Use spot metering mode to set the exposure for your subject’s face.

05 Raindrops on the glass

You don’t have to be on the same side of the window as your subject. This photograph was shot from outside looking in. It wasn’t raining (for once!), so we filled a cup with water and flicked some drops randomly on the window pane. A cool-toned retro effect applied on the computer later on gave the final image a wistful, reflective mood.

03 Delicate profile

You don’t have to shoot your subjects face-on. For this over-the-shoulder profile, we asked Jess to turn her back to the camera and look to the side, and we found an angle where the light from the window was just glancing off the side of her face and her shoulder.

04 Softly does it

If you have direct sunlight coming through the window you’ll get harsh shadows, but a sunless window acts like a giant studio softbox. You can place your subject right by the window to get soft but directional light that’s perfect for portraits.

www.nphotomag.com

06 Distance adds drama

If you move your subject further from the window, your light source effectively gets smaller, producing a more tightly-focussed light. Try this without a reflector for more contrast (above left), or with a reflector for a more balanced look (above right). Reflectors never overpower the main light. We used a Profoto reflector, which is reflective on one side and black on the other. You can use the black side as a light ‘shutter’ to focus the light and increase the contrast.

May 2014

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Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for stunning shots

Project six creative photoshop

Apply digital makeup

BEFORE

Be a digital makeup artist like James Paterson, using Photoshop to enhance your portraits At the risk of stating the obvious, the mission applying makeup is a job best done ■ Add coloured makeup to a face in Photoshop Elements

time needed

■ 20 minutes

Skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ Photoshop Elements 9 or above

Next issue…

Create a surreal montage in Photoshop

before you shoot a portrait. But if that’s not an option, or if you want to try out a different style after the photo has been taken, it is possible to make up your portraits in post-production with a few simple Photoshop skills. Take this image: we chanced across a colourful graffitied wall, which made a perfect backdrop for our portrait. We then added our digital makeup to complement the background colours. In this tutorial we’ll show you a host of digital makeover tricks. Using Layers, Blend Modes and Brushes, we’ll add eye shadow, blusher and lipstick to our portrait. We’ll also retouch the face by softening the skin and boosting the eyes. And while nothing beats the real thing, digital makeup has one advantage over the traditional method: it means we can change the colour or strength of the makeup whenever we like, simply by editing the layer. Here’s how it’s done...

Step by step Because she’s worth it

Use a different layer for each shade of ‘cosmetic’ you apply

01 Choose eye shadow

Open makeup_before.jpg into Photoshop Elements. Go to the Layers Panel, click the Create Adjustment Layer icon and pick Hue/Saturation. Check Colorize, then use the Hue and Saturation sliders to choose a colour for your eye makeup. We’ve gone for a blue with Hue 205, Saturation 56.

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May 2014

02 Paint a mask

AFTER

Hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer mask to black. Grab the Brush tool, set colour to black, and paint over the upper part of the eyes to reveal the blue. To fine-tune the shape, switch to the Smudge tool and push the colour around, then use the Blur tool to blur the edges so that it blends in.

03 Add cheek blusher

Lower the Hue/Saturation layer opacity to about 70%. Add a Solid Colour Adjustment Layer. Pick a colour for the blusher, hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer mask to black, and paint white over the cheeks to reveal the colour. Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 70%.

To download the start images for this tutorial, visit bit.ly/start-32


Digital makeover

Experiment with colours ■ Each colour we’ve added has been done with separate Adjustment Layers. The beauty of using Adjustment Layers is that they give us all the advantages of working with a normal layer, so we can reduce layer opacity to tone the effect down, experiment with different Blend Modes, or use a mask to restrict it to certain areas. What’s more, we can change the colour or tonal settings at any time by doubleclicking the layer thumbnail, so we’re free to choose new colours for our makeup even after we’ve applied it.

Quick TIP! The

Smudge and Blur tools are useful for subtly changing the softness of the mask

04 Apply the lipstick

Add a Solid Colour Adjustment Layer and pick a lipstick colour. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask. Paint white to reveal the colour. Switch to black, hit 3 for 30% brush opacity and paint around the edges to soften. Change the Blend Mode to Linear Light and drop the layer opacity to 20%.

05 Soften the skin

Highlight the background layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl +J to duplicate it. Go to Filter>Other>High Pass. Set Radius to 9px and hit OK. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay, then hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the tones. Alt-click the Add Layer Mask icon, and paint white to reveal the softening effect over the skin.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32

06 Boost the eyes

Add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer. Set Brightness 25, Contrast 30. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask, then paint with white over the irises. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Set Saturation +30, hold Alt and drag the mask thumbnail from the layer below to copy it over.

May 2014

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Nikon skills

Ingenious recipes for creative shots

Project seven system spotlight

Know your NEF files!

Rod Lawton shows how Nikons can create more than one type of NEF All Nikon digital SLRs the mission shoot RAW files, or ■ Get to grips with Nikon NEF files

‘NEF’ files as Nikon calls them. On Nikon’s beginnerorientated D-SLRs a NEF is a NEF, and that’s it. On more advanced models you can choose whether your NEFs are compressed, and you can also pick the ‘bit depth’. The higher the bit depth, the wider the range of tones captured, which can make a difference if you edit your images. Our table shows you which NEF options are available on current Nikon D-SLRs, and the effect this has on the file size.

time needed

■ 15 minutes

skill level

■ Anyone can do it ■ Some tricky aspects ■ Advanced technique

Kit needed

■ D7000 or higher for advanced NEF format options

Bit depth and data

JPEG images store eight bits of data, but NEF files capture much more

01

02

03

8-bit JPEGs store 256 shades per channel. 01 That’s fine, until you start wanting to heavily manipulate your images. 12-bit NEFs capture 4096 shades per 02 channel. This gives much smoother tones. 14-bit NEFs capture 16,384 shades per 03 channel, but you often won’t be able to see any difference next to 12-bit NEFs.

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May 2014

NEF types and file sizes

What effect do bit depth and compression have on your RAW files? Compressed

Lossless compressed

Uncompressed

CAMERA

12-bit

14-bit

12-bit

14-bit

12-bit

14-bit

Nikon D90

10.8MB

Nikon D3100

12.9MB

Nikon D3200

20.4MB

Nikon D3300

19.5MB

Nikon D5000

10.6MB

Nikon D5100

16.4MB

Nikon D5200

24.6MB

Nikon D5300

19.0MB

23.8MB

Nikon D7000

13.6MB

16.7MB

15.5MB

19.4MB

Nikon D7100

20.2MB

24.9MB

22.7MB

28.5MB

Nikon D600/610

20.7MB

25.4MB

23.4MB

29.2MB

Nikon D300s

10.5MB

13.0MB

12.1MB

14.9MB

19.5MB

25.4MB

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To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32


over to you…

s r e tt le r ou y s, e i r o st r Your pho tos, y ou

get £50 for every photo story we publish!

Come on in!

Know your style! It’s all very well to hanker after the latest bit of kit, but there’s no point buying things you won’t need. This issue’s readers all have exactly the right equipment to achieve their photographic aims – and it shows. Why not show us what you’ve achieved with your Nikon setup?

Inside over to you…

56 ��������������������������� Photo stories 62 �����������������������������������������Letters 63 ���������������� I’m a Nikon convert

01 BABY Nikon D600, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO100

Kidding around project info Mission To take

We want your stories, pictures and letters! Send them to: N-Photo Magazine Future Publishing 30 Monmouth Street Bath BA1 2BW Or drop us a line at:

mail@nphotomag.com www.facebook.com/nphotomag www.twitter.com/nphotomag

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May 2014

beau tiful images of children Photographer Craig Richards Age 41 Location Sunderland, UK Kit Nikon D800e, D600 & D90, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Gi tzo GT5531S tripod WEBSITE www.flickr.com/ photos/un tiedshoes_photos

Craig Richards loves creating beautiful images of babies and young children

I’ve always been into photography, right from when I was a child playing with my dad’s film cameras in Zambia. I got hooked on digital when the D90 was released and I now shoot with a D600 and a D800e. Taking pictures gives me a release from the normal dayin-day-out routine. It certainly beats watching TV. I began taking pictures of children by accident. I’d just bought my D600 when my grandson and niece arrived within a month of each other! My partner and I took tons of photos of them, like this shot of my grandson’s feet [4]. Soon we started getting requests for photos from parents, at which

point we invested in studio lighting and new lenses.

Kids in control

I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, but mainly I know that you just have to let shoots with children develop naturally – you’re not always in charge! I’m a bit of a kid myself, so I enjoy making shoots fun for them. If you’re outside it’s best to let kids play naturally: running around, jumping in puddles and kicking leaves all make for great photos. You have to get the shot right first time, though, or you’ll miss capturing the moment, so planning is important too. When I arrive at a location I look at what light is available. I

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Your stories, your photos, your letters

02 BALLOONS Nikon D600, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/60 sec, f/6.3, ISO320 03 CUDDLE Nikon D600, Nikon 85mm f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, f/1.4, ISO560

usually shoot in manual mode with an external flash (normally my SB-910) fired through a Lastolite Ezybox II softbox. Lens-wise I’ll normally use my amazing 85mm f/1.4G on my D800e and alternate with a 50mm, sometimes swapping to my 70-200mm if the kids are playing further away. Photographing newborn babies is extremely gratifying,

often immensely funny and occasionally frustrating. I’ve had crying babies, sleeping babies, and one memorable baby who peed on me! Luckily my partner helps me out a lot. She’s wonderful at creating beautiful setups when we’re photographing tiny babies, and it’s really important to spend time with both the baby and the parents before the shoot. This

If you’re outside it’s best to let kids play naturally: running around, jumping in puddles and kicking leaves all make for great photos

shot [1] is from my first baby studio shoot, with a light to the left and a key light to the right, and this little fellow was an absolute joy to work with. With bigger kids, it’s all about getting creative and having fun. I love this image of siblings [3] shot on an autumn day in our local park. I just played on their interactions to get the shots, although I don’t think he was very impressed with his sister giving him a hug!

Rod’sp s… top t i

for snapping babies

• Ba bies ge t cold easily, so make sure the room is warm enough • Ba bies can’t pose, so have lots of soft props

A favourite shot

One of my favourite photos was taken on the way home from a day at the beach. I’d had the idea for the image in my head for a while so I picked up some colourful balloons and we found the perfect field just as the sun was setting. Coral was cold and tired and not too keen to pose, but in the end she agreed to walk back towards me towing the balloons. She was really pleased with the final shot [2], so it was worth the effort.

04 FEET Nikon D600, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO1800

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May 2014

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over to you…

01 San Francisco and Bay Bridge from Treasure Island Nikon D7000, Nikon 18-200mm AF-S f/3.5-5.6, 20 secs, f/9, ISO100

02 Death Valley Badwater Basin Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 1/5 sec, f/14, ISO100

project info Mission To capture wide views of landscapes and ci tyscapes Photographer Brandon Yoshizawa age 31 Location Torrance, Cali fornia, USA Kit Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6, Nikon 300mm f/4, Benro Travel Angel tripod, B+W circular polariser, three-stop ND filter WEBSITE www.bayphotography.com

Wide-screen world

Brandon Yoshizawa creates panoramas to capture the sprawling vistas and cityscapes of the American west I grew up in Torrance, California and started taking pictures four years ago as a way to document my travels around the world. Being able to capture amazing vistas and city skylines allows me not only to share these views with others, but also to create memories that I will be able to look back on for a lifetime. My first camera was a Panasonic FZ-28. As my love of photography grew, I purchased

a Nikon D7000 and began planning trips around photo opportunities. Getting up early and staying out late to chase the light became the norm. I love the functionality of the D7000, especially the ISO capabilities and dual card slots. It’s light and compact enough not to weigh me down when I am out hiking.

Getting more in a frame

Most of my landscape photos are taken with the Tokina 11-16mm.

Sometimes I still won’t have the field of view that I need to portray the entire scene, so I use panoramic photography to expand what can be seen. For example, the skyline shot of San Francisco [1] was taken from Treasure Island and is a threeshot horizontal stitch of the city and the Bay bridge. With the advanced stitching software available, creating panoramic images is easier than ever but there are still things

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May 2014

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Your stories, your photos, your letters

03

04

04

to remember to ensure that the program can align everything. I scan the entire scene to check the recommended shutter speed and aperture, and if the dynamic range differs greatly I’ll switch to manual mode and choose a middle exposure to meter from. If the dynamic range is too great within each frame, I’ll first bracket shots for exposure, then combine them as a panoramic image, as with the images from Death Valley [2] and Lake Crescent [4]. I level my tripod and camera to avoid distortion and converging verticals that can cause problems with stitching. If shooting handheld, I either

shoot vertical or zoom out so I don’t have to crop out details.

The sign of success

All rules went out the window for the shot taken from behind the Hollywood sign [3]. I had to stand on a stool to be able to see over the fence, balancing my tripod against the fence. I also had to shoot downward. Not being able to level everything and not having a head that can rotate around the nodal point of the lens caused parallax and alignment issues with the sign and created difficulties when stitching, but it was worth it. While I use a circular polariser on most of my landscape shots,

If the dynamic range differs greatly [across a scene] I’ll switch to manual mode and choose a middle exposure to meter from

03 Hollywood Sunset Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 15 secs, f/8, ISO100 04 Lake Crescent Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 1/8 sec, f/11, ISO100 one thing to watch out for with panoramic shots is uneven polarisation, as it will change depending on your angle to the sun. Use it carefully or remove it for panoramic photos. Lastly, I tend to overlap my shots by 30 to 40 per cent to ensure there is enough data to stitch properly. All the photos then get loaded into Photoshop, which does the heavy lifting. I have been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places, and hope to be able to keep capturing them for a long time.

Rod’sp s… top t i

For shooting panoramas

• You can ge t tripod heads specifically for shooting panoramas (see page 106) • Se t your Nikon to manual so the exposure won’t change • Choose a Whi te Balance prese t so tha t won’t alter ei ther • On a dull day, try shooting in mono

To enter your Photo Story, just email a brief synopsis and three of your best JPEG images to mail@nphotomag.com www.nphotomag.com

May 2014

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over to you…

01

project info Mission To discover

and capture hidden gems in the local landscape Photographer Roger Voller age 33 Location P ortsmou th, UK Kit Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, Nikon AF-S 70-300 f/4.5 -5.6G IF-ED VR, cable remote, Manfrot to tripod and ball head, Lee ND gradien t filters, Lowepro bag WEB www.rogervoller photo.com

One tree hill

Roger Voller finds beauty and drama in the lone trees dotted around Hampshire’s South Downs My interest in photography started when I purchased my first D-SLR, a Nikon D3100, in 2011. Suddenly I could treat taking a ‘snapshot’ far more seriously – and get better results. I was a lover of the outdoors with an interest in art, so a passion for landscape photography was inevitable! I live in Hampshire, and at weekends I’ll often venture into the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park.

Popular landscape photography hotspots are not really an attraction for me, because exploring areas off the beaten track fires my curiosity and reveals hidden gems like these lone trees scattered across the downs. Building an intimate relationship with the characteristics of an area

01 OUR GREEN LAND Nikon D5100, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO200 enables me to make a deeper connection with the land, the seasons and the light, which I think is reflected in my images.

A long look

Instead of the classic wideangle landscape lens, I use my telephoto lens. I rely on simple clean compositions to highlight the natural curvature of the rolling downs, and to reinforce the presence of a single, alluring tree, often with the sense of space on one side of the frame. A single tree can also help to create beautiful light and

I avoid composing a frame with any distractions in it, as even something subtle can weaken a good photograph

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May 2014

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03

02 02 LEMON TONIC Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/50 sec, f/9, ISO100 03 PILGRIM’S REST Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/640 sec, f/8, ISO400

Rod’sp s… top t i

shadow, as can be seen in Our Green Land [1]. I avoid composing a frame with any distractions in it, as even something subtle can weaken a good photograph. My Manfrotto tripod allows me to compose the shot accurately, and also avoid soft images from camera shake, especially at 300mm on my telephoto lens.

Catching the light

As I’m a local I can respond to favourable weather forecasts quickly and run out to capture the light, and I can also bide my time to capture particular

subjects at the best time of year; Lemon Tonic [2] for example, was shot in the spring when the bright yellow rapeseed field was in full bloom. Shooting at the right time of year can make a huge difference; I shot the backlit tree in Pilgrim’s Rest [3] when the sun was setting furthest north in June. Backlit images are a challenge to capture, but they produce the most dramatic light and shadow, so it’s worth the effort. My lens hood is critical for reducing flare. Even though shooting digital makes taking a photograph easier than ever before, I still

for Choosing a telephoto lens

relish the discipline of getting it right in-camera. I find that’s the best way to practice, rather than spending hours editing an image, and it enables me to preserve the natural light and colours I witnessed . Receiving two Commendations in the prestigious Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year awards has inspired me to carry on, and advance my landscape photography skills. In the future I would like to master film photography, and take more shots of close-up detail – outdoors, of course!

• Telephoto lenses can be big and heavy, so use a tripod or monopod • I f you’re using a DX-forma t Nikon, the effec tive focal length is multiplied by 1.5 • Optical sta bilisa tion is a massive help if you are shooting handheld • A wide available aperture is useful when you’re shooting in low ligh t condi tions

To enter your Photo Story, just email a brief synopsis and three of your best JPEG images to mail@nphotomag.com www.nphotomag.com

May 2014

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over to you…

YOUR LETTERS

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the mag and all things photographic! So email us at mail@nphotomag.com We reserve the right to edit any queries for clarity or brevity. You can also write to us at N-Photo Magazine, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW William’s Nikon is travelling to far-flung places with him

Soldiering on I am a US Army soldier who is currently deployed overseas. I bought my first Nikon (D3000) camera back around 2010 and have fallen in love with photography. I have been reading N-Photo for about four months now, since my mom has been sending me your publications in care packages. I love the tips and tricks. I now have a D600 with the 24-85mm kit lens, a 70-300mm f/4.5, and my newest lens, a 50mm f/1.8. I take pictures of just about everything, messing around with just about every single setting to learn what they do. Sgt William Fletcher, via email

Chris aims for plenty of smoke in his steam train shots – and he’s really captured it!

Tips for Top train shots Your Apprentice feature on steam trains in issue 30 has prompted me to send you a few more of my own images of railway scenes. As steam photography is now so popular, especially when a trip is due on the main line, I always try to get away from the crowds, otherwise you end up taking the same shots as everyone else. This might involve a long walk to a remote location, or searching for the less obvious angle that others have overlooked. Advance planning is essential, so a good stock of maps is required. Even a few

minutes trawling through Google Earth can often reveal new places to explore. Whenever possible I aim for images that contain plenty of smoke and steam, to give the impression of power and speed. Sometimes there is no alternative but to shoot against the light, in which case converting the image to monochrome can sometimes produce a much more pleasing result, and at the same time evoke a more authentic appearance of a bygone era, especially if you frame tightly to block out modern intrusions or other people Chris Cole, Chippenham, UK

Win a lexar memory card and reader!

Those are great shots, William. You must have some fascinating images from your postings.

Taxing questions

Those are really beautiful images, Chris, the sepia one in particular. Thanks for your tips on taking shots of steam trains – it’s a subject every photographer loves to capture, and they’re sure to inspire other readers.

Write our Star Letter and you’ll win a 16GB 600x SDHC UHS-I memory card and DualSlot USB 3.0 reader from Lexar Professional! See www.lexar.com for details.

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I really enjoyed issue 30’s article on selling photos, but in every article I’ve read on this theme, nobody ever says what needs to be done about the tax man! How selling one photo will affect a person’s tax status? Miroslaw Hendzlik, London As you’re in the UK, the best thing to do is contact the Inland Revenue (www.hmrc. gov.uk) before selling a photo and they can give you specific advice on how it will affect you. Readers outside the UK, contact your own country’s tax authorities for advice.


Your stories, your photos, your letters Think you can take a shot as good? Enter this month’s competition!

You can now keep your copies of N-Photo safe with our bespoke binder (from £9.99). It stores a year’s worth of your favourite magazine! To buy one, visit bit.ly/nphotobinder

top photo! We took a new approach to our photo competition, allowing you to enter via specialist photo competition website Photocrowd, which also enabled you to vote for your favourite pictures. Inspired by Sandra Bartocha’s work, the theme this month was ‘Flowers’. We had 1494 entries, and over 229,000 votes were cast. The Expert Vote winner was Christopher Combe, for his vivid pink flower. The judges loved the way the image had a really strong colour, yet the flower itself seemed wonderfully delicate. Nick Jackson won the

Crowd Vote with his luminous purple lotus – an image which was also a big favourite with the judges. Christopher is the winner of a fantastic Lowepro bag, while Nick will receive a bundle of guides to using Nikon SLRs and Photoshop worth £60. If you’d like to pit your talents against other Nikon users, the theme for next issue’s competition is ‘Tea’. It could be tea cups, portraits of tea drinkers, shots of tea ceremonies or

Waterfalls, volcanic rocks, seascapes, lakes, dramatic sunsets… Iceland really is a photographer’s paradise!

tea plantations, macros of tea leaves, action shots of a slice of lemon falling into tea, a clipper ship… as long as there’s a tea connection, it counts! You can enter online at https:// www.photocrowd. com/c/47-tea and the closing date is 13 April 2014.

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Tweets & posTS…

We asked if you agreed with one pro photographer’s suggestion that for street photography it’s best to shoot without asking permission…

Cast away in Iceland Recently I purchased two ND Kood filters (ND4 and ND8) with the intention of using them on my trip to Iceland (October 2013). I experienced many new and interesting places. The plan was to capture slow shutter speed images of waterfalls. While I did record some pleasing images I was surprised at the level of blue cast caused by the

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filters; I am in the process of attempting to redress this via Photoshop Elements 11. I plan to return to Iceland; this time I will use the in-camera White Balance adjustment and the pre-set via a grey card! Duncan Steward, Frome, UK We find some filters do cause a colour cast, Duncan, but it should be a one-click job to correct in Photoshop.

I shoot in public all the time and I don’t try to hide it by using a telephoto lens. I use a normal one and smile and walk around. People smile back. I have never had one person ask about it except to want to see the photo. Doug Jantz I agree with NOT asking permission. People tend to “pose” when they know you are shooting. Street photography should capture spontaneity. Richard Morse Leah

My first ‘real’ camera was a Praktica MTL 5, and my second a Praktica BC1. Much later I got myself a Canon EOS 350D with all the gear, which I sold. After that got myself a bridge camera for ease of carrying. A friend of mine asked me help him at a wedding and I knew the bridge camera wouldn’t cut, it so I borrowed the groom’s Nikon D3200 and I was sold. It was so easy to use and so light! It felt so good in my hands, too. I purchased one for myself a few days later, and it’s the best camera I have ever owned. I have just purchased a Nikon D5100 for my wife. Terry Belben, Somerset, UK Are you a Nikon convert? Then get in touch with us today at mail@nphotomag.com

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Me & My Nikon

Meg Johnson

MEG’S top tip!

Creative Meg loves hunting out unusual subjects… and getting her hamster to model FACT FILE

occupation Freelance photographer Location Plymou th, UK camera Nikon D3000 WEBSITE www.megsphotos.co.uk

TOP FIVE... speedy tips

01 I f your shot lacks punch, take a step forward and zoom in. 02 Find a differen t perspec tive. For example, focus on a strand of hair instead of the whole face 03 Charge your ba t tery! 04 Go places. A change of scenery can really inspire you. 05 Ge t a tripod. Having one is crucial.

Vinny Vince is my model when I wan t to prac tise macros

Don’t be afraid to try things that scare you. If you give it a go; you might be surprised!

I can’t remember when I realised I loved photography, I’ve been passionate about it for so long! I bought my first D-SLR when I was studying photography and film at university. That was when I realised that I wanted to become a freelance photographer. I still use my first camera, the [1] Nikon D3000. I don’t think I’ll upgrade it any time soon – I’m so fond of it. I’m not a fan of carting about lots of gear. I normally take out my camera in my Lowepro bag, and the one lens that I’ve always got with me is my [2] Nikon 50mm f/1.8D. I love the depth of field it creates and the dream-like feel it gives, plus I’m a sucker for bokeh. When I’m planning on shooting in low light, I take my [3] Jessops Atlantic Alfa 3 Q/R tripod with me. Whatever I’m shooting, I really try to look for interesting angles and new perspectives. For quite a while I worked with a limited space, so I was always looking for details in the blandest of objects, which actually is a fantastic learning tool that forces you to be creative. In the future I’d love to create a photobook of my photography. It takes up so much of my time, why not show it off a little?

1

2

4 3

Fairground Ride My first try – I like the a bstrac t blurred effec t

Sunset I love capturing organic silhoue t tes in warm ligh t

Red I took this down a glass vase. Experimen ting pays off!

want to appear here? Send a brief bio and four jpegs, with the subject line ‘me & my nikon’, to mail@nphotomag.com www.nphotomag.com

May 2014

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66 Nikon Know-How

Nikon’s Picture Controls make it easy to alter colours, contrast and sharpness in your images without having to copy them to a computer first.

70 Nikon Software

We begin our coverage of Nikon’s latest Capture NX-D software with a look at the differences between the new program and Capture NX2.

72 Ask Chris…

AE bracketing, CHA errors, digiscoping and a D-SLR’s diopter control dial are among the subjects addressed by our all-knowing editor.

VIVID

NEUTRAL

MONOCHROME

Nikon Picture Controls change the reproduction of colours and tones in your pictures – you choose a setting to match your subject

nikon know-how

PICTURE CONTROLS EXPLAINED

Discover what Nikon’s Picture Controls do, when to use them, and whether you need them at all…

Picture Controls change the colour rendition, contrast, sharpness, saturation and overall ‘look’ of your pictures to suit different kinds of subject. They are completely optional, though, because there is obviously some crossover with the kinds of adjustments you might make on the computer later on. For example, the Vivid Picture Control increases the image contrast and saturation to make colours really stand out, but you could just as easily use the Standard Picture Control to capture a more neutral image and increase the

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contrast and saturation in a program like Photoshop, where you can be a lot more careful and precise. The same applies to the Monochrome Picture Control. This saves your pictures in black-andwhite, and can even replicate the effect of traditional black-and-white red, yellow or green filters to change the way colours translate into shades of grey. But many black-andwhite fans will prefer to convert their colour images on the computer, where you get much more control over the results. Picture Controls are optional, then, and don’t achieve anything

you couldn’t do yourself using software. But they do have some advantages nonetheless.

Picture Control pros

If you know the ‘look’ you’re going for when you take the picture, selecting the right Picture Control will leave you with less work to do later on the computer. They also act on the RAW data captured by the sensor, so if you’re shooting JPEGs you may get theoretically better quality than if you manually adjust your images later on to get the same look. If you shoot RAW files, though, the situation changes. The camera will

still apply your chosen Picture Control to the image you see on the back of the camera, but the RAW file will contain all the original data, so you can choose a different Picture Control or image effect later. The Monochrome Picture Control is especially useful, even for RAW photographers, because it helps you visualise the scene in shades of grey while you’re shooting, but lets you choose your own conversion settings on the computer. Picture Controls aren’t just for novices. Even experts could find them both more interesting and more useful than they might realise.

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Nikon Know-how Picture controls

PICTURE THIS! WHEN TO USE picture controls Picture Controls are applied directly to JPEG images as they’re saved (if you shoot RAW, see overleaf) STANDARD

NEUTRAL

This is the default Picture Control, offering a balance between contrast, colour rendition and sharpening. Use it for shots in conditions that may be changing all the time.

This is designed to reproduce scenes realistically with no exaggerated colours or contrast. Pictures can look quite flat as a result, but they’re ideal for shots you intend to enhance later.

VIVID

MONOCHROME

This makes your shots sharper, more saturated and higher in contrast. Use it to make colours ‘pop’. In high-contrast lighting, this setting can make shadows a little too dense.

Use this if you want to shoot in black-andwhite and see the effect as you’re taking pictures. It’s useful when you’re just starting out in black-and-white.

PORTRAIT

LANDSCAPE

The Portrait Picture Control softens skin tones and contrast to produce flattering pictures of faces. The soft, less saturated look is well suited to portraits of women, but for shots of men you may want a ‘harder’ look.

Nikon’s Landscape Picture Control emphasises blues and greens, boosting saturation, sharpening and contrast to make outdoor scenes look especially vibrant. The overall effect is very similar to the Vivid option.

Advanced controlS

MANUAL OVERRIDE

Once you’ve chosen your Picture Control, you can add tweaks of your own

01 01 03 04 05 06

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01 Quick Adjust

This slider takes the overall effect of the Picture Control (see diagram above) and makes it stronger or weaker, adjusting all the other sliders (below) in unison.

02 Sharpening

This slider increases the appearance of definition in fine detail. It’s like the sharpening tools in an image editor, though a little cruder.

03 Contrast

This boosts the difference in brightness between the dark and light tones in the picture. More contrast will make images more vibrant, but can make sunlit pictures look harsh.

04 Brightness

A simple adjustment to make your images come out brighter or darker. It’s not meant to correct exposure errors – you should do that with the camera controls!

05 Saturation

This slider controls the strength of the colours in your pictures. It’s good for enhancing dull or subtle colours, but it can be too much for subjects which already have strong, primary colours.

06 Hue

Decreasing Hue gives images a reddish tone, while increasing it adds a greenish-yellow tinge. This isn’t meant to replace White Balance adjustments.

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NIKOPEDIA

The only camera manual you’ll ever need

01 When you take a picture, the camera initially captures a RAW image file which has no particular Picture Control applied.

02 The Picture Control you chose in the menu is now applied to the image, but what happens next depends on whether you’ve set the camera to shoot JPEGs or RAW (NEF) files.

PC 03 If you’re shooting JPEGs, the RAW data is processed in the camera, and the Picture Control is applied irreversibly as the JPEG is saved to the memory card

04 If you’re shooting RAW, the camera saves the RAW data as a NEF file but ‘tags’ it with the Picture Control you chose.

HOW Nikon PICTURE CONTROLS ARE APPLIED If you shoot JPEGs it’s simple, but if you shoot RAW files the system is slightly different Picture Controls are applied as the pictures you take are processed into image files. If you shoot JPEGs, this processing takes place inside the camera. If you shoot RAW (NEF) files, the

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processing is done later on using RAW conversion software on your computer. Nikon software can interpret and apply Picture Controls, but other RAW converters can’t and just ignore them.

05 If you open the RAW file in Nikon ViewNX 2 or Capture NX2, the software will read the Picture Control setting and apply it (though you can choose another).

06 But if you use Adobe Camera Raw or another third-party RAW converter, the Picture Control will be ignored and you’ll just see a generic RAW conversion.

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Nikon Know-how Picture controls Nikon know-how

NIKON’S PICTURE CONTROL UTILITY Launch this tool from ViewNX 2 and you can create, save and import new Picture Controls 01 Stored Picture Controls This panel lists the standard Nikon Picture Controls and all those you’ve created with the utility or imported from a memory card.

04 Custom Curve

01

You can apply a custom curve of your own making to any Picture Control you save.

02 03

06

05 Current image

02 Quick Adjust

Use this slider to emphasise or reduce the overall characteristics of the selected Picture Control.

03 Manual Adjust

05

Your currently selected image is shown here, so you can see the effect of any Picture Control adjustments you apply.

04

06 Import

These sliders reflect the adjustments available on the camera for modifying the Picture Control’s sharpening, saturation, contrast and other properties.

Click this to load a Picture Control from a memory card. The Export, Rename and Delete buttons are only available for Picture Controls you’ve created yourself.

How Picture Controls are transferred...

8GB If you create a Picture Control on a computer, you can save it to a memory card for use on the camera – or import a Picture Control created on the camera.

6 133x Speed

Compact Fla sh

16 GB

Your camera can load Picture Controls saved to a memory card by the Picture Control Utility, or you can create them in-camera and save them.

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STEP BY STEP Create picture controls on your NIKON On the Nikon D5000-series cameras and above you can create, save and transfer new Picture Controls. This is how it’s done

01 Save and edit

Take a look at your Nikon’s Shooting menu. If there’s a ‘Manage Picture Control’ option below ‘Set Picture Control’, you’ll be able to create and save your own. Click the right button on the multi-selector and choose Save/edit on the next screen.

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02 Edit a Picture Control

You can now choose any of the Picture Controls as a starting point and press right on the multi-selector to edit its properties. Here, we’ve chosen the Standard Picture control. We can edit the properties individually or just use the ‘Quick adjust’ slider.

03 Save and name

When you press OK you’ll be prompted to choose a vacant slot (C1C9) to save the new Picture Control. Next, use the on-screen keypad to type in a new name. You use the rear command dial to move the cursor and the multi-selector to pick a character.

®

04 Copy to the card

Click the zoom button to save the new Picture Control. Now you can re-open the ‘Manage Picture Control’ option and this time choose ‘Load/ save’ and ‘Copy to card’. Choose the Picture Control you want to copy, and it’s copied to the memory card.

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NIKOPEDIA

The only camera manual you’ll ever need

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NIKON CAPTURE NX-D

Nikon Capture NX-D

Part 1 Take a first look at Nikon’s new image-editing tool with Rod Lawton

JARGON BUSTER Get to grips with key image editing terms METADATA

This is non-visible text information stored with the file. It includes the standardised EXIF shooting information embedded by all digital cameras.

SIDECAR FILES

Image adjustments can also be stored as metadata, but these are program-specific. It’s better practice to save this data in small ‘sidecar’ files alongside the image rather than embedding it.

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On 25 February, Nikon revealed a brand-new version of its image processing and adjustment software, called Nikon Capture NX-D. (The D4s was the bigger announcement the same day; see page 86 for more on that.) Once Capture NX-D is finished, it will replace Capture NX2, which will be discontinued – so does that mean it’s a direct replacement? Probably not. Nikon Capture NX2 was developed with the help of Nik Software, which designed the innovative control point technology used by Capture NX2 for quick and effective image adjustments. However, Nik Software was taken

over by Google back in September 2012, which has left Capture NX2 high and dry. Nikon has continued to add support for new D-SLRs as they appear, but the software itself has been on borrowed time. Capture NX2 had some powerful editing, masking and selection tools, but the beta version of NX-D has none of these, so it does look like a much simpler tool.

Free for all

Capture NX2 fans will have to migrate to Photoshop or some other image-editing tool for the localised adjustments they used to do in the Nikon software, but it’s not

all bad news. Nikon Capture NX-D will be free, just like Nikon ViewNX 2 is now, and presumably you’ll be able to download and use it even if you own an older camera.

Safer metadata

Capture NX-D also tackles metadata issues caused by existing Nikon applications. First, there’s no mention of the complex and problematic Nikon Transfer tool – older 1.x versions still on users’ machines can corrupt newer NEF files. Also, Capture NX-D uses safer ‘sidecar’ files to store your adjustments rather than writing them directly to the NEF file.

To watch the video use this web link… bit.ly/NPhoto32


The only camera manual you’ll ever need

NIKOPEDIA

HOW IT WORKS The Capture NX-D interface Capture NX-D looks a lot like ViewNX 2 – here are the key features in the new program 01 Folders panel

This panel displays all the folders on your computer and any connected hard disk. Click on a folder to view the images in the main window.

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02 Views

These three buttons control how images are displayed in the main window. You can view thumbnails only, a single image only or both in a combined view.

03 Convert NEFs

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The top toolbar includes a Convert Files button for processing RAW (NEF) files into JPEGs or TIFFs. You can process them singly or in batches.

04 Histogram

The histogram display updates ‘live’ as you make changes to your images, so you can check for clipping or exposure issues as you work.

05 Metadata panel

You can click this tab to view the image metadata (shooting information recorded by the camera, including shutter speed, aperture, ISO and more).

06 RAW settings

These are the main RAW (NEF) adjustments and reflect the settings on the camera, such as White Balance and Picture Control.

07 Adjustments

There are more adjustment panels below, and these include a Levels & Curves panel, shown here, and sharpening, noise reduction and distortion correction tools.

08 Panels

You use these buttons to open whichever of the additional adjustment panels you need (see 07).

09 Thumbnails

This is the Thumbnail view, which you use to browse through the pictures in a folder. It can either be a filmstrip at the bottom of the screen, or you can swap to the thumbnailsonly view (see 02).

10 Preview

The Preview window shows a magnified version of the currently selected image. You can click the Preview button on the top toolbar (see 02) for a larger view, which hides the thumbnails display. This mode is ideal when you’re applying adjustments.

EXPERT TIPS

How to get Capture NX-D Capture NX-D is still in its beta development stage. You can download a copy, for free, from http://beta.nikonimglib. com/ and try it for yourself. Nikon is inviting feedback from users as it continues to develop the final version, so this is your opportunity to have a say in Capture NX-D’s future development! This guide applies to version 0.9.1, and there may be changes to come.

Capture NX-D: what’s the story? Discover how Nikon’s latest software compares to with its existing programs Until now, Nikon has published two separate applications for viewing, sorting and enhancing your images: Nikon ViewNX 2, which is a free program included in the box with all new Nikon D-SLRs, and Nikon Capture NX2, a more powerful image-editing application. We think Capture NX-D has much more in common with ViewNX 2 both in terms of features and even in the way the program is laid out on-screen.

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CAPTURE NX2

Capture NX-D vs Capture NX2

Capture NX2 is not just a RAW converter, it’s also a powerful and sophisticated image-editing tool in its own right, offering masks, interactive control points and the ability to stack multiple adjustments. Capture NX-D offers the RAW conversion tools but falls well short for editing.

VIEW NX2

Capture NX-D vs ViewNX 2

This is a much closer comparison. Capture NX-D and ViewNX 2 even look quite similar. ViewNX 2 is a perfectly good RAW converter for your Nikon D-SLR, but it’s looking a little dated in key areas. Capture NX-D now looks and works more like other RAW converters, but the core functions are similar.

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NIKOPEDIA

The only camera manual you’ll ever need

Ask Chris...

Our resident expert answers your questions and solves your issues. If nobody else can help, ask Chris!

Get in touch… If you’d like Chris to come to the rescue regarding your Nikon-related question, email it to mail@nphotomag.com. Please note that we reserve the right to edit any queries for clarity or brevity. You can also write to us at: N-Photo Magazine, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW, UK

Help! My D70s has started giving me a CHA error…

Albert Ters, via Facebook

You can take three different exposures at the same time, but you can also apply an exposure ‘offset’ as you do it

How do I use the AE bracketing function on my Nikon D5200?

Claire Storey, Harrow

Chris says… First, you need to open the ‘Bracketing/flash’ option on the Custom Setting menu, then set the ‘Auto Bracketing set’ option to AE. This simply tells the camera the type of bracketing you want, and you still have to enable the bracketing option when you shoot. You do this using the interactive display: select the ‘BKT’ option on the screen and choose the bracketing interval. I’d suggest AE1.0 to start with. It’s a good idea to use the continuous shooting mode, too, so that the camera takes all three shots in a sequence. If you don’t, you can easily lose track of where you are in the exposure sequence. As a final touch, you can use the EV compensation button to apply an initial adjustment to the exposure, which is really useful if you suspect your camera is going to under- or over-expose the scene.

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Chris says… The manual calls this a general memory card error, which could mean a problem accessing the card, the camera being unable to create new folder, or the card not being formatted correctly. Firstly, check whether you get the same error with other cards. If you don’t, it suggests a problem with that particular card. If the error happens with other cards, it’s likely the camera’s internal Compact Flash reader is at fault – its array of pins can become bent or corroded. If you’re feeling brave, you could take a look inside your camera. This site has some very detailed instructions: http://bit.ly/D70srepair We can’t take any responsibility for the outcome, but some users report the problem has been fixed by doing this.

Is your D70s showing a CHA error? It could be a problem with the memory card, or with the camera itself

You don’t always need complicated lighting to photograph jewellery – a window and a sheet of paper should do it!

Is there a simple way to shoot jewellery without a light tent? Mel Newberry, Bridgend

Chris says… Light tents are designed to produce a soft, even light without shadows, but there is a low-tech alternative. Move a table as close to a well-lit but sunless window as you can. Cover the table with your chosen background, and position your object. The light from the window will be very soft, but the opposite side of your subject will be in shadow. To fix this, make a home-made reflector. Use a large sheet of white paper or card (A3 paper might be large enough, but A2 would be better) and fold it or bend it around the shadowed side of your subject to bounce the light back.

Can I use a Nikon fieldscope instead of a supertelephoto lens?

Colin Inkster, New Zealand

Chris says…You can: Nikon makes adaptors for this. Scopes may be cheaper than big telephoto lenses, but are still expensive – Nikon’s EDG 85 VR, for example, costs around £3200/$6000, and you’ll need the Nikon FSA-L2 adaptor too. Fieldscopes lack any sort of autofocus. This will likely restrict you to static subjects, and for accuracy you’ll probably need to use Live View to manually focus. Scopes are also made for the eye, not a flat sensor. Our eyes can rove across a frame and allow for softness colour fringes and curvature in a way sensors can’t.

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ASK CHRIS Your questions answered

answers in a flash! Will movie mode wear out my camera shutter?

You can use ‘tethering’ software like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 to control your camera from your computer.

Can I take a shot with my D60 and have it appear straight away on my computer? Dyosephine, via Facebook Chris says… This sounds like ‘tethering’, where the camera is connected to a computer by a cable and is controlled by it. For your D60, you’ll need Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2 software, which costs £136/$180.

Alan Wright, Wigan

Chris says… No, in movie mode the physical shutter stays open, and an ‘electronic’ shutter exposes each frame.

What does the diopter control do on my D3200, and how do I reset it?

Christos Panayides, Cyprus

Chris says… This tiny dial simply controls the focus for the viewfinder eyepiece and has no effect on the image you capture with the camera – it’s there to allow for variations in individuals’ eyesight. Some people are long-sighted, some are short-sighted, and diopter adjustment enables them to bring the viewfinder image into sharp focus even if they’re not

What does the ‘lock’ on my 18-200mm lens do?

Your viewfinder’s diopter dial compensates for human eyesight variations

Dave Johnson, W. Midlands Chris says… This locks the lens in the 18mm position for storage and transport.

wearing their glasses. There is no correct, or default, setting – you simply turn the adjuster until the focus points and the information display underneath the screen are sharpest. Don’t look at the subject you’re photographing, however, because this will go in and out of focus as the lens focuses, and could be misleading.

Can I use a 1.4x TC with my Sigma 150-500mm? Lance Harris, Canada

Chris says… Sigma’s 1.4x teleconverter works, but the maximum aperture will drop to f/7.1-9.1 so AF will be a problem.

HELP ME CHOOSE...

Nikon D5300 vs D7100 Key differences

01 The D5300 has a flip-out

vari-angle screen which makes it easier to shoot at low angles and in confined spaces. The D7100’s screen is fixed.

02 The D5300 has Wi-Fi

networking and GPS built in. These are available on the D7100, but only via plug-in accessories, which will add to the cost.

03 The D7100 is more

advanced in other areas. It uses Nikon’s professional 51-point autofocus module, while the D5300 uses the mid-range 39-point system.

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04 Both cameras can shoot professional quality 1920 x 1080 movies and have external mic sockets, but the D7100 has an audio-out for sound monitoring.

They’re both powerful and versatile cameras, but in different ways, so what are the pros and cons?

Nikon D5300 £679, $897 (with 18-55mm lens)

Nikon D7100 £879, $1297 (with 18-105mm lens)

Launched 2013

24.2 megapixel DX sensor

Launched 2013

ISO 100-12800, expands to 25600

6fps shooting

Arriving soon after the D7100, the D5300 matches its resolution in a smaller, more novicefriendly body.

Nikon dropped the optical low pass filter to produce the joint-sharpest APS-C format sensor on the market.

The D7100 is Nikon’s top DX-format D-SLR, offering advanced features aimed at enthusiasts and experts.

24.1 megapixel DX sensor

The D7100 matches the D5300’s 24MP sensor with no OLPF. This is state-ofthe-art for DX sensors.

05 Both cameras use SD/ SDHC/SDXC memory cards, but the D7100 has dual card slots for extra capacity, separating movies and stills or keeping a rolling backup. 06 The D5300 is smaller and lighter, weighing 530g compared to 765g for the D7100, but the D7100 is weather and dust-resistant with magnesium-alloy top and rear covers.

5fps shooting

The D5300’s 5fps continuous shooting is very good for a camera in the novice sector, but the D7100 is faster.

The D5300’s standard ISO range is 1EV higher than the D7100’s, but the ‘expanded’ limit is the same.

The D7100 can shoot continuously at 6fps at full resolution, and 7fps in its slightly reduced 1.3x crop mode.

May 2014

ISO 100-6400, expands to 25600

The D7100’s Expeed 3 processor means a lower native ISO range than the Expeed 4-equipped D5300..

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May 2014

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CLOSE-UP

The N-Photo interview

It hasn’t taken long for Sandra Bartocha’s unique style to capture the public imagination. Keith Wilson catches up with the innovative photographer raditionally, nature photography has been typified by perfectly exposed, pin-sharp, motionfreezing images that provide an accurate visual record of the subject. Sandra Bartocha has broken with that tradition by breaking the ‘rules’. She uses soft focus, blur, noise and movement to create highly original impressions of the natural world. It is a new conceptual style that is winning awards and a growing global following… It is plants and small creatures rather than more spectacular subjects and places that interest you. Why is this? Well, when I first started I didn’t have money to travel the world and document the most spectacular places, so I started working in my local surroundings in search of interesting subjects. But I’m also a person who gets easily bored by the pure documentary style of photography and by making visual duplicates of subjects. I’ve always tried to challenge myself to create something interesting, and I find a lot of joy in transforming ordinary and simple things into pieces of magic and adding my personal point of view. Why are so many of your nature images shot close to where you live? Because it is a beautiful place! It’s not spectacular. It has a quiet and subtle beauty, one that doesn’t scream, but lasts longer. Some known photographic hot spots are too beautiful for me, and in that sort of location you can easily fall into the trap of purely documenting the scene in front of you. This rarely happens at home. I really have to work my brain and eyes in order to bring home some decent images. So how old were you when you were first hooked by photography, and what triggered it? I have been taking photos for as long as I can remember. My dad was a photojournalist and he always took me on assignments with him, so I got interested in photography from very early on. I loved the way photography documents and secures moments of interest and beauty, and I still do love that about it.

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Blurred trees Nikon D200, Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8 ED-IF, 0.4 sec, f/22, ISO100


CLOSE-UP

BARTOCHA www.nphotomag.com


CLOSE-UP

The N-Photo interview

Umbelifer Nikon F90x, Nikon AF-D 20mm f/2.8, 12mm extension tube, 1/160 sec, f/3.5, Fuji Velvia ISO50 film Dancing moss (Below) Nikon D200, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G ED, 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO100

What type of photographer did you dream of becoming when you graduated from university in Potsdam? Actually, I find pleasure in all kinds of photography, but I have always been most interested in nature photography. However, I didn’t think it was possible to make a living from this particular genre so I started to do all kinds of photo commissions. But my dream has always been to travel and to be involved with nature.

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What exactly was your first big break as a nature photographer? I think two things happened simultaneously. I was asked to participate in the Wild Wonders of Europe project (find out about it at www.wild-wonders.com), and a German national park asked me to photograph for a 20-year anniversary celebration. These were my first paid jobs, and that’s when I started to believe that I could make this into a career. You are very active on Facebook. How did you build up your online following? I still consider my following quite small compared to many other photographers. I started in 2011 because I thought it might be a good marketing tool, but I had no

real clue about what I was doing. Nothing that I did was on purpose. I just uploaded pictures when I wanted to show something new or wanted to share some ideas. And I am editor of a magazine too, so for me Facebook is a great platform to see what is happening in the world of photography and to keep up-to-date. Could you shoot a wedding if you had to? Most professional photographers who we speak to don’t enjoy it! Yes I could, and I really love to do it. I like people and I love creating beautiful, memorable shots. I am happy that I don’t have to do it as a career, though, because that way I can keep the excitement of the moment when I do photograph one.

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Jeff Widener

Sundew Nikon D70, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G ED, 1/200 sec, f/5, ISO200

What’s your desert island lens? The new Nikon 80-400mm VR does it for me. It’s brilliant. I love the zoom range and the versatility. It’s small and relatively lightweight and it exactly fits my style of working as I can compress scenes, and do macro stuff as well as intimate landscapes. Combined with extension tubes, the possibilities are even greater. f/2.8 or f/8? Clearly f/2.8! I’m not an in-between person. I like extremes. I love working completely open and working the ‘soft’ background. What is the weight of your kit bag for a typical day’s shooting? I always carry everything I own. I choose

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PROFILE A dedicated photographer, Sandra edits an important German photography magazine ■ Born in 1980, Sandra Bartocha read media studies and English at Potsdam University. ■ She is the editor of GDT Forum Naturfotografie, the magazine of the German Association of Wildlife Photographers (GDT), and was vice-president of the

Association from 2007 to 2013. ■ Sandra was a category winner in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 2011 and has also been highly commended and a runner-up on numerous occasions.

■ She is a sought-after speaker at photo festivals in France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia and the UK.

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CLOSE-UP

The N-Photo interview

The lightness of being (TOP) Nikon D700, Nikon AF-S Micro 105mm f/2.8G VR, 1/8000 sec, f/3.3, ISO200 Spider (below left) Nikon D70, Nikon Micro 60mm f/2.8G ED, 1/640 sec, f/4.5, ISO200 Toadstool Nikon D700, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO200

my overall equipment based on my needs in the field, and I want to keep my options open. The weight is around 18-20kg. What was your first Nikon camera? The first one I owned was the Nikon FM2

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– it’s a great piece of metal. I still own it. I have never sold any camera body I have owned. They have all been very important in every stage of me growing as a photographer. Which other models have you owned since and what has been the best thing about each of them? The FM2 was followed by the F90x, then I moved to digital with D70, D200, D700 and now the D800 and D800e. I have loved all the Nikon cameras during the time I have used them and each one brought improvements that I needed, be it the multi-exposure feature of the D200, the full-frame format of the D700 or the 36 megapixels of the D800 cameras.

How many bodies do you currently use? I use two, the D800 and D800e. What’s the most unusual thing in your camera bag? The most unusual thing in my bag doesn’t come from Nikon! It is an old Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2 lens that I use sometimes as it produces very interesting optical effects. Speaking of interesting optical effects, what are your tips for soft focusing, movement and the other creative techniques in your pictures? The core of each of these techniques is the right light and the perfect composition. I always look for these things first. A

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Sandra Bartocha

MIXING THE MEDIA A life-long Nikon user, Sandra’s development as a photographer has followed the evolution of camera technology from film to digital, stills to movie. More of her recent presentations to European photo festivals now include music and movies as well as still images, and she and Werner Bollman are even working with a composer, Torsten Harder, on the presentations for for the LYS project… Do you prefer shooting HD movies or still images nowadays? ■ I definitely prefer shooting stills. But I do also take movies occasionally. I always switch to shooting movies when it comes to scenes that capture moving objects much better than a still image could do, things like swaying barley, moving snow. But I love the power of a great still image. It lasts. Can you really combine the two media successfully? A lot of people say they could manage one or the other, but not do both to a satisfying standard. ■ It depends on your standards, I suppose, and how the movies are being used. I don’t have the intention of being the next great nature film-maker. For me, movie scenes are just an addition to my still life images, a little movement here and there, elegantly woven into a slideshow with stills. I don’t think it is possible to shoot both still images and movies and have perfect and standalone usable results, as the required equipment and way of thinking are quite different.

technique should never be used just for the sake of making something different – it should suit the subject and the idea. For the soft background I always use open aperture and I pay very close attention to the background. It should have elements that complement the main subject without taking too much attention. The background can make or break an image. For movement, I experiment a lot with different exposure times in order to find the perfect rhythm. Your ‘Twilight’ series of landscapes features a lot of noise. What ISO ratings did you use and what was the effect you were going for? In analogue times I always liked the

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Poppies Triple exposure image Nikon F90x, Nikon Micro 60mm f/2.8, 1/250 sec, f/2.8, Fuji Velvia ISO50 film

A technique should never be used just for the sake of making something different – it should suit the subject and the idea… The background can make or break an image Sandra Bartocha Nature photographer

effect created by high ISO films with their extensive film grain. So I tried to work in twilight situations, just me and my camera – back then it was the Nikon D200 – with ISO3200 to achieve a similar sort of effect. Unfortunately, the new digital cameras handle high ISO very differently and don’t produce this even and beautiful noise any more. But you can’t have the best of both worlds, I guess! Another project is Dublin. Why did you choose this city? I just chose it by accident. I liked the feeling and the appearance of the city by night. The typical shop fronts, the light, the rain… German cities have a different vibe from Dublin.

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The N-Photo interview

COMPETITION KUDOS Sandra is a two-time winner of the German Society of Photography 100 Images of the Year contest and a category winner of the 2011 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. She has also served as competition judge. How important are competitions to making a successful career as a photographer? ■ I think it depends on the competition. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is, of course, the one when it comes to nature photography. The images are exhibited throughout the world and the media coverage is amazing; it helps to get you noticed. But I also think it depends on the image you win with – whether it is a special image or one that blends in with the 99 others displayed together. For me, competitions are a fun thing. I don’t take them too seriously. I take part and if I win with an image I like a lot then I’m really happy. They bring some exposure, but they are not the basis of my career plan.

Snowdrops Nikon D700, Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2, 1/50 sec, f/2, ISO200

How many gigabytes of pictures do you shoot a week? Some weeks I don’t shoot anything at all, and sometimes I return home having shot 50Gb of images in one day. Of course, it’s easy to do that now with the Nikon D800, which creates large files. What percentage of the images you take do you delete? I should start to delete images as my server is filling up with material. However, I’m a bit lazy when it comes to deleting. All too often I have found great material long after the trip. Sometimes I need ‘in-between’ images for shows, or images that went wrong to use as part of written tutorials. Many of my images are results of

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spooky forest Nikon D70, Nikon 80-400mm, 2.5 secs, f/29, ISO200

I’m working on a challenging photographic project right now: a long-term project about the north of Europe, called LYS Sandra Bartocha Nature photographer

experimenting with camera techniques, so there are quite a few hit-and-miss images on my memory cards. How important is it to stay on top of image workflow? Do you feel organisation is important for a pro? I think it is very important to have a working system. I’m not deleting images

as I should, but other than that I’m quite organised when it comes to workflow. How do you do it? I use Nikon Transfer to import my images. I add IPTC contact information while importing, and I rename my files. I use a chronological order and sort by years. I do two backups and then start editing by assigning stars and colour-coding images. Images that I want to convert get two stars, the ones I want to keep get one star. Images that have to be combined get different colours, for example, panoramas and HDR images. I then convert the RAW files to TIFF using Nikon View NX2. After that, the usual stuff in Photoshop. I like to have ‘ready-to-use’ TIFF files.

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Jeff Widener

dark forest Nikon D200, Nikon 80-400mm, 1/4 sec, f/5.3, ISO3200

Where do you derive your photographic inspiration? From everywhere: art, music, TV, everyday life. I keep my eyes and ears open. When I like something I always try to think immediately of how I could implement that idea into my own subjects and photography. How did you come up with the idea for ‘Frog and Landscape’? The frogs came to me, or rather to the garden of my parents. One year they were there: everywhere, hundreds of frogs sitting on every possible plant. What has been the most challenging project you have done? I’m working on a challenging project

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right now: a long-term project about the north of Europe. It is called LYS, which is Norwegian for LIGHT. Of course, light is the main ingredient of a photograph and the light is very special in the north so I think it is the perfect title for a photographic project. The project is challenging because we sometimes work under extreme conditions, and because it is very strictly conceptual. My colleague, Werner Bollmann, and I have specific ideas about which mood the pictures shall convey and a certain level of perfection and timelessness they should attain. That makes it very demanding in the field as a lot of great scenes are not fitting into the concept, or the weather doesn’t play along as we wish.

Lily pads (Below left) Nikon D200, Nikon 80-400mm, 1/13 sec, f/13, ISO3200 Poppy field (Below right) Nikon D200, Nikon 80-400mm, 0.6 sec, f/29, ISO3200

The LYS project is nearing completion. What is it about and will we see it as a book or exhibition? We have been working more than two years already in the northern regions of Europe, concentrating on Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. It is a really conceptual approach. It is not about the countries as such, or a special unique national park, it is a personal interpretation

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CLOSE-UP

The N-Photo interview

Frogs (top) Nikon D700, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO200, 2x teleconverter

have experienced beautiful situations on and off the road.

before I started working on this project and I will definitely go up north all my life.

ICE patterns (middle) Nikon D70, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G ED, 1.4 secs, f/29, ISO320

What has been the best thing about shooting Arctic Europe in the winter? The cold, the ice, the snow and the wind. That might sound weird, but being out there surrounded by nothing other than white and really feeling the remoteness and the harsh environment is liberating. The good thing it is that when I’m photographing I don’t notice how cold it is. But the cold temperatures transform landscapes into something magical – almost fairytale-like.

What has been your greatest moment as a photographer? I cannot really remember a single great moment, as there have been so many. Every time I’m outdoors experiencing the elements, seeing the beauty of monumental landscapes in great weather conditions, I’m totally happy. I always think that I’m a lucky person being able to experience these precious moments.

water (Bottom) Nikon D700, Nikon 80-400mm, 1/13 sec, f/36, ISO200

of the typical features of this region: the forests, the coastlines, the tundra and so on. It’s about the essence of these places. We are planning a book and an exhibition and a slideshow together with a great composer, Torsten Harder. So we will have live music on stage too. It is really exciting and so far we have been lucky and

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Will you continue to make journeys to Svalbard, Lofoten and the north? Definitely. I had caught ‘the bug’ long

And the worst? I always feel bad when I have to work under time pressures and the conditions are not right. Last year I was commissioned

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Jeff Widener

Magical forest Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 0.8 sec, f/5.6, ISO200

Every time I’m outdoors experiencing the elements, seeing the beauty of monumental landscapes in great weather conditions, I’m totally happy. I always think that I’m a lucky person Sandra Bartocha Nature photographer

to photograph a certain area in Germany in winter conditions. However, snow is not always guaranteed here. So I drove to that location four times when it had the slightest chance for snow but I wasn’t in luck on any of those occasions. It was like a bad curse! The surrounding area was fairytale white with snow, but the place I had to photograph was still green. Then the winter was over. Fortunately, the

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and at the same time earn enough money from what I do. So, what is the best piece of advice you can give to someone starting as a professional photographer today? Stay passionate and use your imagination.

client opted for some alternative winter landscapes I offered. You’re only 33, what are your photographic ambitions? Well, that is good question. I’d love to develop a more sophisticated style, and dig deep into projects and conceptual photography. I hope I’m able to continue working on exciting self-chosen projects

• You can find out more about Sandra Bartocha’s work and see some of her latest photographs from the Arctic online at www.bartocha-photography.com You can also subscribe to her newsletter (German language only) and find information on the publications she’s been featured in via her website.

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test team

The world’s toughest tests

specifications Sensor 16.2MP FX (36.0x23.9mm) full-frame CMOS sensor Crop factor 1x Memory 1x CF Type 1, 1x XQD Viewfinder Eye-level pentaprism, 100% field of view, 0.7x magnification Video resolution Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24p ISO range ISO100 to 25600 (expandable to ISO50 to 409,600) Autofocus points 51 (15 cross-type) Max burst rate 11fps Buffer capacity 200 (JPEG), 176 (12-bit RAW) LCD screen 3.2-inch, 921k-dot 1/8000 sec–30 secs, bulb Shutter speeds Weight Approx. 1350g (body only) Dimensions 160x156.5x90mm Power supply Li-ion EN-EL18a battery

FULL REVIEW

Nikon D4s

attributed to the move to the newer Expeed 4 processing engine.

Features

Nikon’s fastest D-SLR has got even faster. Angela Nicholson buckles up and takes it for a spin, with the help of three pros

Preview Nikon D4s

£5200, $6500 (body only)

Since its launch in January 2012 the Nikon D4 has been the camera of choice for professional photographers who need the ultimate in speed, lowlight shooting capability and AF performance. It’s also a rugged camera, built to survive heavy use

www.nikon.co.uk

in the type of conditions that news reporters find themselves in on a regular basis. The brand-new D4s is a relatively subtle upgrade to the D4, keeping the same pixel count and looking extremely similar, but possessing a few refinements that can be largely The super-high ISOs available on the D4s have a knock-on effect further down the scale – we shot this at ISO12800 and got impressively good quality

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Top down view

From above, the D4s looks virtually identical to the D4. The control layout is the same, but Nikon has concentrated on subtle reprofiling and new materials in key areas to make the camera better to use. D4 owners should find the differences small but significant.

Nikon has been tight-lipped about the changes made for the D4s’s sensor, but we are told that is new and has an effective pixel count of 16.23 megapixels, while the D4’s count is 16.25 megapixels. The photosites, however, remain the same size. According to Nikon the new sensor and Expeed 4 engine combination results in an approximately 1.5EV improvement in noise performance and this has given the company the confidence to expand the D4s’s native sensitivity setting by 1EV on the D4’s to ISO100-25600. In addition, the expanded range is ISO50-409600. Thanks to the Expeed 4 processor, the D4s has a maximum continuous shooting rate of 11 frames per second. The D4 can manage this speed, but not the accompanied ability to focus and meter between shots. The buffer capacity has also been increased for the D4s, enabling as many as 200 JPEG Fine

The buffer capacity has increased, enabling as many as 200 JPEGs or 176 12-bit NEFs to be captured in a burst www.nphotomag.com


Nikon D4s

Matthew tried the new Group AF mode at an international rugby match, but preferred single-point AF when there were lots of players in the shot

The most significant improvement for me is the focusing speed, which is incredible quality files or an incredible 176 compressed 12-bit RAW files to be captured in a single burst. We found this was possible with a UDMA 7 CompactFlash or XQD card installed. The D4s also has a new mirror mechanism, which has better dampening than the D4’s, to give a more stable image in the viewfinder and shorter blackout between frames. This probably explains why the camera is able to focus when shooting at 11 frames per second. Nikon has improved the autofocus algorithms for the D4s, which uses an Advanced version of the Multi-CAM 3500AF module found in the D4. It also has Group-area AF mode, which will prove helpful when shooting subjects that are comparatively small and close to a high-contrast or distracting background. In addition, Nikon tells us that the D4s processes images differently from the D4 as out-of-focus areas of images are treated differently from

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PRO’s VIEW #1 Matthew horwood SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHER Current SLR: Nikon D3s www.matt-horwood.com

sharp subjects in order to enhance shallow depth of field. Another, rather strange, new feature is the ability to record small four-megapixel, uncompressed 12-bit RAW files. It’s hard to image this being used very often, but perhaps those who shoot exclusively for the internet will welcome it.

Build and handling

While the change to the shape of the memory card bay door suggests that Nikon hasn’t used the same mould for the D4s as it did for the D4, most of the other changes to the design are so subtle as to be almost invisible. That’s no bad thing, however, as the camera remains very comfortable in the hand whether you’re using the horizontal or vertical grip. The two mini-joystick-style selector controls on the back of the camera have a new, firmer, finish and it makes them easier to find and use when wearing gloves or shooting

Mirror, mirror

Not all the improvements in the D4s are obvious. It has a new shutter/ mirror mechanism, for example, with improved damping that produces a more stable viewfinder image and minimal blackout between shots. When you’re shooting at 11 frames per second, this kind of detail makes a big difference.

■ As a D3s user I decided to skip the D4, suspecting Nikon would announce a refined version before too long. The improvements are a little more noticeable for a photographer coming from a D3s. Things like backlit buttons, the relocated vertical AF-ON button and the improved vertical grip are welcome, but the most significant improvement for me is the focusing speed. I was impressed with the D3s, but the D4s is in a different league. It focuses better in conditions the D3s would sometimes struggle in. Also welcome is a fast ethernet port, which will allow me to tether the camera to a laptop.

Matthew says: “Although I didn’t need to shoot at the highest ISOs for rugby, the few test shots I did were impressive.”

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The world’s toughest tests

Peripheral AF is more responsive and the new Group-area AF mode does an great job of keeping a moving subject sharp Performance

PRO’s VIEW #2 Polly Thomas MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHER Current SLR: Nikon D3s www.pollythomas.co.uk ■ The D4s is a beautiful beast. The small improvements are probably the best for how I shoot; little things like the change in placement of the vertical AF-ON button make so much sense and just make life easier. The dynamic range seems to have improved, too. I have far fewer blown highlights, even shooting in a relatively extreme lighting environment such as a live gig. The colour depth also seemed to be a great improvement over the photos I shot at the same gig with my D3s – images were much more vibrant and, again, fewer blown highlights in the red and blue areas, which are the usual victims on concert photography! I didn’t get to test the ridiculous possible ISO levels as it was a well-lit gig, but at ISO1600 the image was still smooth and noise-free.

in the wet. They are also easier to identify when the camera is held to the eye than the rubber-topped controls on the D4. Just like on the D4, the vertical shutter release is a little recessed into the body. While this button is still easy to reach, it makes the front command dial less prominent than the horizontal one and it’s harder to find with your finger. Other controls fall within convenient reach and are as responsive as you’d expect with a professional-standard SLR. Being an SLR, the D4s has an optical viewfinder, and it’s a great one, showing 100% of the scene and being large and bright. As usual, when a DX lens is mounted on the camera, the area outside the automatic cropping is dimmed so it’s easy to compose images. While the 3.2-inch 921,000-dot LCD on the back provides a nice clear view and displays colours accurately, it does suffer from reflections in bright conditions.

Focus facts

The D4s uses the same Multi-CAM 3500 AF sensor as the D4 before it, but improved AF algorithms mean it’s faster than before. All three pros who tested the camera noticed the difference.

High ISO Performance

The D4s’s ISO range is so wide that we had to change the scale of our lab test chart, opposite. But while the quality at the maximum standard setting of ISO25600 is still impressive, the quality drops quickly in the extended Hi settings, and at the ISO409600 maximum, it’s very poor indeed.

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ISO100

ISO25600

ISO409600

The D4’s AF system is no slouch, but the D4s’s raises the game even further. The peripheral AF points seem a little more responsive and the new Group-area AF mode does a great job of keeping a moving subject sharp. However, apart from the number of points involved (five in Group-area AF) it’s a unclear how this differs from the nine-, 21- and 51-point dynamic-area AF modes. While the Matrix metering system copes well with ‘average’ and bright scenes, there is a slight (and understandable) tendency towards overexposure with some scenes that are intrinsically dark in tone. It’s not a major issue and it only seems to occur in those conditions in which a professional photographer might anticipate it. Although a pixel count of 16 million maybe comparatively low by modern standards, especially considering that Nikon is now using 24- and 36-megapixel sensors, the D4s can resolve an impressive level of detail, which is maintained a little better throughout the sensitivity range than the by the D4. There’s also little sign of noise throughout the native sensitivity range, although higher-ISO JPEGs look slightly smoothed at 100% on screen. Of course the burning question that the D4s raises is, what does an ISO409600 image look like? The answer is: pretty terrible. Even at small viewing sizes there is banding visible in the JPEGs, and at close scrutiny they have a cross-hatched pattern. The RAW files look a little better, but there’s still some banding. However, this is not a sensitivity setting for everyday use, it’s designed to be used by pros reporting important events in near darkness. Interestingly, the lab test figures for signal-to-noise ratio indicate the D4s falls short of the D4, but it does produce sharper detail in the midhigh ISO range, which is a trade-off most users would be happy to accept.

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Nikon D4s

lab TEST results…

How does the Nikon D4s compare? RESOLUTION Highest number is best Nikon D4s

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Nikon D4

28 34

Nikon D800

0

5

10

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20

25

30

35

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While it can’t match the D800 for detail resolution, the D4s manages an impressive score which is maintained well throughout the sensitivity range – better than the D4.

Aga liked the colour rendition of the D4s compared to the results from the D4

2.5 5.5 0

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2

3

4

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This score shows the colour rendition of the D4s is not as technically accurate as that of the D4, but images from the D4s do have a more attractive, saturated appearance.

AGA TOMASZEK PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER Current SLR: Nikon D4 www.agatomaszek.com

Aga loves the improved focus on the D4s, but will probably stick with her existing D4 for now

better than on my D4, though I was shooting in natural light – I would like to see how the D4s reacts to an ugly bulb light in a church, but the images were pretty neat in terms of skin tones.

50

Nikon D4s

Nikon D4

Nikon D800

40 30 20 10 0 100

400

1600

6400

25600

102k

409k

SENSITIVITY

The D4s starts off beating the D4 for signal-to-noise ratio, indicating images are cleaner, but it drops off as sensitivity rises – probably a result of the increased detail resolution.

RAW DYNAMIC RANGE Highest values are best

DYNAMIC RANGE (EV)

Nikon D4s

Does the D4s deliver on its promise? The D4s delivers images that are big enough for most purposes without slowing down processing times, hampering continuous shooting rates or filling up cards and hard drives too quickly. Our tests reveal that the D4s builds on the successes of the D4 with an improved autofocus system, better detail reproduction at higher sensitivity values and extended low-light capability. While it can be used for just about every genre of photography you can name, it is unlikely to be the camera of choice for enthusiast or professional landscape photographers, who are probably going to be drawn to a smaller, lighter model with a higher pixel count – for example, the D800e. The forte of the D4s is action and lowlight photography. It’s a great camera, though we can’t help wondering where the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS tagging is. Both are available, but only via external add-ons.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO (DB)

RAW NOISE Highest values are best

The verdict

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4.5

Nikon D4 Nikon D800

PRO’s VIEW #3

■ The D4s’s autofocus feels much more reliable than the D4’s, especially on peripheral AF points. With the D4 I often use the focusand-recompose method because the AF points near the edges are unreliable (or so I find with my model, at least!). I also noticed it focusing more quickly. The D4s feels more comfortable in the hand, very easy to grip, a noticeable ergonomic improvement, and the joystick has definitely been improved – it feels firmer and more accurate. Colours seemed

COLOUR ERROR Closest to zero is best Nikon D4s

Nikon D4

Nikon D800

14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

100

400

1600

6400

25600

102k

409k

SENSITIVITY

Apart from at the highest sensitivity settings, the D4s has a very similar dynamic range to the D4. Both are beaten for tonal range by the D800 at the lowest settings, though.

Features build quality image quality value for money

overall

We say… A great workhorse for pros, the D4s is built to last and will get great shots in conditions where other cameras can’t. The improvements might look modest, but they’re important for pros.

OVERALL BENCHMARK RESULT

The maximum resolution of the D4s is little different to that of the D4 before it, but it does seem to offer a different tradeoff between noise and detail resolution further up the ISO range. Images straight from the camera look pleasing too.

HOW WE TEST… ■ We use a range of industry-standard measurements during our extensive lab tests. Resolution is assessed using a chart based on ISO 12233, while DxO Analyser software is used to measure noise and dynamic range across the sensitivity range (www.dxo.com).

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D X- F i t l E N S E S

Wide-angle zooms See the bigger picture with an ultra-wide lens. This month Matthew Richards puts all of the main contenders for DX-format bodies to the test – FX next time! 90

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DX wide-angle zooms

THE CONTENDERS

3

1  Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM £350, $430 2  Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II £370, $500 3  Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM £399, $650 4  Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX £540, $500 5  Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM £550, $700

2

6  Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 PRO DX II £599, $535 7  Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G £640, $780 8  Nikon AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED £840, $1100

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test team

The world’s toughest tests

equipment know-how

Features to look for… Draw up a wish list for your ideal DX ultra-wide zoom

Lens hood

Another advantage of internal focus is that a more effective, petal-shaped hood can be used. This type of hood is supplied with each of the lenses, apart from the Sigma 8-16mm, which has a petal-shaped hood built in.

Front element

With an internal focus system, the front element doesn’t rotate during focusing, which is a bonus when using some types of filter. All the lenses in this test have internal focus systems.

Filter thread

Most ultra-wide lenses have an attachment thread for fitting screw-in filters, but it’s not always the case, so do check.

Focal length

A short minimum focal length is generally more important than the extent of the zoom range when you’re choosing a wide-angle lens.

Autofocus

All lenses in this test group have either ring-type ultrasonic autofocus or electric motors built in, so can autofocus on any Nikon D-SLR body.

Focus distance scale

A focus distance scale is especially useful on ultra-wide lenses for setting the hyperfocal distance (see Jargon Buster, below).

ompared with the natural field of human vision, a standard zoom lens gives a blinkered view. For sweeping landscapes, you’ll often find that you can’t squeeze everything you want into the frame. The situation is worse when you’re shooting cramped interiors, where you can literally have your back against the wall and still not be able to shoehorn much into an image. The solution to the problem is an ultra-wide lens. In this test we’re focusing on DX-format lenses (we’ll cover full-frame-friendly FX ones next month), so the 1.5x crop factor needs to be taken into account. A standard 18-55mm kit lens has an ‘effective’ zoom range of 2782.5mm. 50mm has always been considered a standard focal length for 35mm film cameras and fullframe D-SLRs, with 24mm, 28mm and 35mm being popular wideangle focal lengths, so an 18-55mm DX zoom lens covers the latter two of these options but sometimes it doesn’t stretch wide enough. A

10-20mm lens, for example, has an effective zoom range of 15-30mm, expanding the maximum angle of view to about 110 degrees, compared with about 75 degrees for an 18-55mm. That might not sound a lot extra but in practice the difference is enormous.

C

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jargon buster Hyperfocal distance ■ Useful for maximising depth of field with wide-angles, this is the focus distance at which everything from half the focus distance to infinity will be in focus in the image. It varies with focal length and aperture.

Angle of view ■ Manufacturers typically quote the angle of view on the diagonal, as this is the largest number, but it can also be stated as a horizontal or vertical measurement.

DX or don’t bother!

Using an FX lens on a DX camera is handy when you want to extend your reach. However, the situation is reversed when you’re trying to extend your angle of view. In most cases FX lenses’ longer focal lengths will fail to give you an ultra-wide viewing angle. The fullframe-compatible Sigma 12-24mm is an exception, but you’ll generally need to buy an ultra-wide lens that’s specifically designed for the DX format. Nikon and Tokina both use the ‘DX’ designation, whereas it’s ‘DC’ for Sigma and ‘Di II’ for Tamron. Full-frame lenses from these manufacturers are classified as ‘FX’, ‘DG’ and ‘Di’ respectively. When you buy a lens, it’s worth weighing up the advantages and

disadvantages of zoom and prime optics. Zoom lenses give more versatility, whereas prime lenses often deliver greater sharpness, wider available apertures and lower levels of distortions. Many photographers tend to use ultrawide lenses at or near their shortest focal length to really make the most of their potential. It’s a strange fact, then, that until recently there were no rectilinear ultra-wide prime lenses on the market for Nikon cameras – Samyang’s 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS prime lens should be on sale by the time this issue reaches you. Rectilinear lenses aim to keep distortions to a minimum and, as far as possible, give a natural perspective. Another option is curvilinear or ‘fisheye’ lenses. These give an even greater angle of view, often as much as 180 degrees in both horizontal and vertical planes, but with extreme barrel distortion. They’re very specialised lenses and completely different to rectilinear optics, so we’re not covering them in this group test.

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DX wide-angle zooms

Step by step Safety first

Protect your ultra-wide lens from knocks and scrapes

01 Fit a filter

Objects can be much closer than they appear when looking through the viewfinder with an ultra-wide lens fitted. A UV filter screwed to the front of the lens helps to protect the bulbous front element from accidental knocks.

02 Use a hood

The petal-shaped hoods supplied with most ultra-wide zoom lenses not only help to reduce unwanted light entering the lens and causing flares in photos, but also add an extra level of physical protection for the front element.

10 things to watch out for

There are specific things you need to consider when you’re looking for an ultra-wide lens…

1

How wide?

The lens’s focal length is a good indication of the angle of view it gives, but at any given focal length some lenses may give a slightly larger or smaller viewing angle than others.

2

Difference of millimetres

For ultra-wide lenses, differences of just one or two millimetres in focal length can have a substantial effect on the viewing angle.

3

Aperture alternatives

Constant-aperture lenses, where the widest available aperture remains fixed throughout the zoom range, are often preferable. It’s particularly useful in manual shooting mode.

4

Going deep

Ultra-wide lenses can give an enormous depth of field, helping to keep very close foreground objects and distant horizons simultaneously sharp.

5

Get a perspective

By moving in close to

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foreground objects when using a wide-angle lens, you can really exaggerate perspective effects, giving a dramatic look to images.

6

On the level

7

Portrait orientation

When taking architectural shots, it’s especially important to keep the camera level. Even slight upward or downward tilting with an ultra-wide lens can give the appearance of leaning buildings. When shooting in portrait (upright) orientation, it’s surprisingly easy to end up with your own feet in the shot. Holding the camera at arm’s length and using Live View is a handy solution.

8

Less distortion

At the long end of their zoom ranges, ultra-wide lenses typically give much less distortion than when using a standard zoom at equivalent focal lengths.

9

Filter foibles

Circular polarising filters tend to give poor results with ultra-wide zooms, especially at

03 Tripod mounting

Unlike with longer lenses, when you’re using a wide-angle lens it’s best to mount the camera on a tripod so that the lens is between two of the legs. This avoids tripod feet ending up in the shot, but be careful the tripod doesn’t topple over.

HOW WE do our tests…

Real world meets lab

We combine rigorous lab tests with real-world shooting for the most accurate results possible ■ To test real-world performance, we use all the lenses in wide-ranging lighting conditions on a variety of different camera bodies. We check for good build quality and handling, smooth and precise operation of zoom and focus rings, and test the effectiveness and accuracy of autofocus. We also run a full range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master suite. Photos of test

charts are taken across the range of apertures and focal lengths and analysed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations (colour fringing). A summary of these results is shown towards the end of the group test, but we also take data from a wider range of apertures and zoom settings into consideration. Finally, we combine the lab tests and real-world shooting results to give overall ratings.

their shortest focal lengths. The extreme angle of view results in the strength of the polarising effect varying across the image frame.

10

Well contained

Unlike most telephoto zooms and superzoom lenses, the physical length of ultra-wide zoom lenses changes very little, if at all, throughout the zoom range.

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test team

The world’s toughest tests

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM £350, $430

Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II £370, $500

One of the first independently-made ultra-wide lenses for the DX format, it’s still going strong

This affordable Tamron offering matches the competing Nikon lens for zoom range and aperture

Since its launch in 2005, the Sigma 10-20mm has been a popular option. Despite its budget price, build quality feels robust, and advanced features include ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, with the usual full-time manual override. Handling benefits from the fact that the focus ring doesn’t rotate during autofocus, unlike the similarly priced Tamron 10-24mm lens. The design features three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, aiming to reduce chromatic aberrations, while the minimum focus distance of 24mm is typical for a lens of this zoom range. It’s slightly more compact and lightweight than Sigma’s 10-

This Tamron costs much less than the equivalent Nikon lens yet offers an identical, class-leading 2.4x zoom range. It’s from the SP (Super Performance) line and features low-dispersion and aspherical elements for correcting aberrations, plus multi-coatings on inner surfaces to reduce ghosting and flare. Unlike some earlier Tamron lenses that were subsequently updated, the Nikon-fit edition of this one has always featured an internal autofocus motor, so it can autofocus on any Nikon D-SLR – although the somewhat basic electric motor is a bit sluggish. The manual focus ring is quite large and is positioned

20mm f/3.5 constant-aperture lens, and has a smaller, more typical, 77mm filter thread, rather than 82mm. However, it’s just over an f/stop slower at the long end of the zoom range.

Performance

With its fast autofocus and great image quality, this Sigma delivers very good performance. Levels of sharpness and distortions are very similar to some of the pricier lenses in the group, and better in some cases. As with a number of lenses on test, chromatic aberrations can be noticeable, especially at the short end of the zoom range. Overall, however, the Sigma is outstanding value for money.

Features build quality image quality value for money

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We say… Sophisticated features and good results at a bargain price.

Performance

We found exposure to be more accurate and consistent than when we used previous review samples of this lens, where we’d often have to apply negative exposure compensation. However, sharpness is disappointing towards the edges and corners of the frame, and there’s more noticeable barrel distortion at mid to long zoom settings than with most competing lenses. On balance, the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 is a better budget buy.

Features build quality image quality value for money

overall Sharpness is retained very well, right into the corners of the image frame

towards the front of the lens. It rotates during autofocus, so you have to be careful not to foul its action with your fingers.

overall There’s a lack of sharpness towards the edges and corners of the frame

We say… It has a good zoom range but image quality could be better.

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DX wide-angle zooms

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM £399, $650

Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX £540, $500

A high-spec, constant-aperture lens that’s dropped in price and improved in quality over the last year

Tokina’s recently launched 12-28mm goes further than most at the long end of the zoom range

Some four years newer than Sigma’s 10-20mm variable-aperture lens, this one used to be much more costly. In the UK the price has dropped over the last year to the point where there’s not a great difference between the two. They look almost identical, although the f/3.5 lens has an auto/manual focus switch and a larger, 82mm, filter thread. Build quality is essentially the same, as are the speed and accuracy of the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. Sigma claims a rather wider maximum angle of view for this lens, at 110 degrees compared with the 102 degrees of its 10-20mm f/4-5.6 lens. In our

Bucking the trend of recent ultra-wide DX zoom lenses, this Tokina gives an ‘effective’ zoom range of 18-42mm. As such, the widest angle of view doesn’t hit triple figures, topping out at 99 degrees. The relative lack of width can be noticeable when shooting but, at the long end of the zoom range, it comes that bit closer to giving the perspective of a standard lens. Typical of Tokina lenses, build quality feels reassuringly robust. More unusually, it features a new SD-M (Silent Drive-Module) autofocus system. Autofocus is much quicker and quieter than in most Tokina lenses, although it still lacks full-time manual override. At least the focus ring

tests, however, there was no discernible difference between the two. The constant-aperture design is a bonus, giving slightly more than a full extra f/stop at the long end of the zoom range.

Performance

In the past, we weren’t bowled over by the sharpness of this lens: it wasn’t quite as sharp in tests as Sigma’s own f/4-5.6 optic. However, there was a marked improvement in the new review lens we tested this time, which proved not only sharper than the other Sigma, but also outclassed every other lens in the group. Correction of colour fringing is another impressive aspect of its image quality.

Features build quality image quality value for money

www.nphotomag.com

We say… Improved results and a lower price make this a good buy.

Performance

Along with the modest maximum viewing angle comes well-controlled barrel distortion at 12mm, shrinking to negligible amounts at mid to long zoom settings. Sharpness is respectable, while colour fringing peaks in the middle of the zoom range. In terms of price, it’s much more attractive in the USA than in the UK.

Features build quality image quality value for money

overall Sharpness is much better than with past examples of this lens that we’ve used

doesn’t rotate during autofocus, and the ‘one-touch focus clutch’ mechanism that’s common to many Tokina lenses is retained. This enables a quick and easy push-pull action of the focus ring for switching between autofocus and manual focus.

overall This Tokina can’t squeeze as much into the image as most ultra-wide lenses

We say… Good quality, but the angle of view can be limiting.

May 2014

95


test team

The world’s toughest tests

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM £550, $700

Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 PRO DX II £599, $535

This Sigma offers the widest viewing angle of any DX-format lens, without resorting to fisheye optics

An old favourite that’s been upgraded to make it fully compatible with all Nikon D-SLRs

Straight out of the box, the Sigma 8-16mm looks physically longer than most competing DX lenses. However, the main reason for this is that the petal-shaped lens hood is built into the front of the lens – the slip-over lens cap fits on top of it. The lens hood helps to give full-time protection to the very bulbous front element, but the downside is that there’s no attachment thread for adding filters. Having said that, the two-part lens cap can act as a 72mm filter holder, but you can only use this at the long end of the zoom range, otherwise severe vignetting will occur. Build quality, handling and the speedy, near-silent ultrasonic

Compared with many ultra-wide zoom lenses, the actual zoom range of this Tokina looks unimpressive. It’s certainly lacking at the long end, while not quite matching the short 10mm focal length of other lenses. Even so, its maximum viewing angle is a very useful 104 degrees and, given that many photographers only use this type of lens at or near the shortest focal length, the limited zoom range isn’t a great concern. A major plus point is the relatively fast f/2.8 widest aperture, which remains constant throughout the zoom range. This newer mark II edition of the Nikon-fit lens,

autofocus system are refined and a close match to other Sigma lenses in the group. While it loses out at the long end of the zoom range, the 8mm zoom setting gives an incredible viewing angle of 115 degrees, outstripping the competition by quite a margin. The difference is very noticeable when shooting.

Performance

There’s a slight drop-off in sharpness towards the corners of the image frame, and barrel distortion is quite extreme at the 8mm zoom setting, but that’s only to be expected given the astonishing viewing angle being delivered. Overall performance is very good indeed.

Features build quality image quality value for money

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We say… The best choice if you want to maximise your viewing angle.

Performance

Despite only having an electric AF motor, autofocus is rapid and reasonably quiet. Image quality is good overall, with consistent levels of sharpness throughout the (albeit limited) zoom range. However, colour fringing is a bit on the high side.

Features build quality image quality value for money

overall The extra width of view is clear to see, compared with other lenses in the group

which was launched a couple of years ago, includes an autofocus motor, which was lacking in the original version. This means that autofocus is possible on any Nikon D-SLR, rather than just upmarket bodies like the D7100, D300s and those in Nikon’s fullframe range, each of which has a built-in autofocus motor and drive mechanism.

overall The maximum angle of view is noticeably greater than with the Tokina 12-28mm

We say… A good buy in the States but seems overpriced in the UK.

www.nphotomag.com


DX wide-angle zooms

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G £640, $780

Nikon AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED £840, $1100

The newer of Nikon’s two ultra-wide DX zooms, this one is a less expensive variable-aperture lens

This lens is a real old-timer that still commands an extravagant asking price – but should it?

One of the lightest lenses in the group, second only to the Tamron, this Nikon still has a good standard of build quality, complete with a rubber weather-seal ring around its mounting. This is something that’s matched only by the two Tokina lenses on test. Unlike the older Nikon 12-24mm it lacks a constant-aperture design, but the reduction in aperture at the long end of the zoom range is minimal, being f/4.5 as opposed to f/4. Meanwhile the maximum viewing angle from this newer 10-24mm lens has been increased from 99 degrees to a more impressive 109 degrees. Handling is excellent and, unlike all the independently

Whereas the Nikon 1024mm was launched back in 2009, this lens dates from 2003, preceding even the D70 camera which brought D-SLR photography to the masses. Even relatively ancient lenses can still be extremely good, and you’d certainly have high hopes for this one, given that it’s the most expensive DX-format ultra-wide lens on the market. Features include fast, quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a constant aperture. Even so, it’s a stop slower than the Tokina 11-16mm lens, and is also marginally beaten by the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5. It lacks the weather-seal ring on the mounting plate which is

manufactured lenses in the group, both Nikon lenses have their zoom rings positioned at the forward end. This makes good sense, especially if you usually rely on autofocus, as the zoom ring falls more naturally between fingers and thumb.

Performance

We’ve always been impressed by the Nikon 10-24mm’s sharpness but it’s been caught up or overtaken by some other lenses, most notably the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, which has also dropped in price. The Nikon’s contrast is very good but at the shortest zoom setting barrel distortion is more pronounced than with most lenses.

Features build quality image quality value for money

www.nphotomag.com

We say… It’s a very good lens but no longer looks good value for money.

Performance

Considering its high price, performance from this lens is disappointing. Lab results for sharpness were the poorest in the whole group, and while colour fringing is low at 12mm, it’s worse than average at mid to long zoom settings. Taking everything into account, the Nikon looks overpriced compared with independently made competitors, as well as its own 10-20mm stablemate.

Features build quality image quality value for money

overall Barrel distortion is a tad more noticeable than with some competing lenses

featured on the Nikon 10-20mm and both Tokina lenses. As for handling, there’s nothing to choose between the two Nikons, although the maximum angle of view is reduced in this lens.

overall Good but not great – the level of image quality doesn’t really justify the price

We say… Lacking in maximum angle of view. Also very expensive.

May 2014

97


test team

The world’s toughest tests

Take the wide view

Feel the width… and the quality. Here’s how the lenses performed in our tests

SHARPNESS

Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6

■ Above average for sharpness, this lens is also consistent throughout the zoom range, dropping off a little at the long end. LAB TEST

■ Centre sharpness is pretty good at f/5.6 or narrower, but edges and corners are softer than with any other lens on test.

■ A standout performer for sharpness, the constant-aperture Sigma 10-20mm delivered the best scores in the group. LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 2640

Tokina 12-28mm

■ Good overall, sharpness is most impressive at the long end of the zoom range, and more average at the short end. LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 3473

Centre sharpness at short 2375

Centre sharpness at mid

2770

Centre sharpness at mid

2527

Centre sharpness at mid

3508

Centre sharpness at mid

2551

Centre sharpness at long

2672

Centre sharpness at long

2264

Centre sharpness at long

3692

Centre sharpness at long

2765

f8

FRINGING

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5

LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 2767

f8

■ Colour fringing can be noticeable at 10mm, but it settles down quickly as you start extending the focal length. LAB TEST

f8

■ The Tamron has the most noticeable colour fringing of any lens in the group at the short end of its zoom range. LAB TEST

f8

■ There’s very little colour fringing to be seen in the 10-15mm zoom range and almost none at all at 20mm. LAB TEST

■ Unusually, fringing is most noticeable at mid-zoom settings. It’s rather better controlled at either end of the zoom range. LAB TEST

Fringing at short

1.36

Fringing at short

1.56

Fringing at short

0.32

Fringing at short

0.35

Fringing at mid

0.37

Fringing at mid

0.39

Fringing at mid

0.39

Fringing at mid

1.19

Fringing at long

0.26

Fringing at long

0.29

Fringing at long

0.09

Fringing at long

0.71

f8

DISTORTION

Tamron 10-24mm

f8

■ Barrel distortion is of a typical amount at 10mm but it switches to slight pincushion even at mid zoom settings. LAB TEST

f8

■ Barrel distortion is noticeable throughout the zoom range although, as expected, it’s worst at 10mm. LAB TEST

f8

■ Barrel distortion is average at 10mm, almost nonexistent at mid zoom settings, and there’s a hint of pincushion at 20mm. LAB TEST

■ There’s very little distortion at mid to long zoom settings but barrel distortion is worse than expected at 12mm. LAB TEST

Distortion at short

-3.68

Distortion at short

-3.22

Distortion at short

-3.33

Distortion at short

-3.34

Distortion at mid

0.58

Distortion at mid

-2.86

Distortion at mid

-0.01

Distortion at mid

-0.38

Distortion at long

0.5

Distortion at long

-1.93

Distortion at long

0.24

Distortion at long

-0.07

image quality verdict Despite being the least expensive lens in the group, the Sigma performs very well for image quality.

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May 2014

image quality verdict It’s a little soft around the edges, and is beaten for image quality by the Sigma 10-20mm in most respects.

image quality verdict Compared with other lenses on test, as well as previous samples of this lens, image quality is simply superb.

image quality verdict Delivers very pleasing image quality, but the lack of maximum viewing angle can leave you wanting more.

www.nphotomag.com


DX wide-angle zooms

The tests explained! We test lenses to their limits in three key areas of optical performance – sharpness, colour fringing and distortion

Sigma 8-16mm

■ Sharpness (high scores are better)

Figures are based on the Imatest SFRPlus chart. For an even playing field, centre, mid and edge sharpness was checked for all lenses using the same D7100 body.

Tokina 11-16mm

LAB TEST

Nikon 10-24mm

■ Sharpness is both very good and very consistent throughout the zoom range, even when using the widest aperture. LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 2237

Colour fringing tends to be worst at the corners of the frame. To highlight how fringing effects each lens the Imatest SFRPlus chart was shot using a D7100.

Distortions are a common trait of wide-angled lenses, especially barrel distortion. Each lens was tested at its widest focal length on the D7100.

Nikon 12-24mm

■ Sharpness is excellent at 10mm, even in the corners, although it drops off as you extend through the zoom range. LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 2708

■ Distortion (close to 0 is best)

■ The Nikon 12-24mm produced the lowest scores for sharpness of any lens in the group, throughout the zoom range. LAB TEST

Centre sharpness at short 2666

Centre sharpness at short 2055

Centre sharpness at mid

2692

Centre sharpness at mid

2842

Centre sharpness at mid

2493

Centre sharpness at mid

1736

Centre sharpness at long

2673

Centre sharpness at long

2842

Centre sharpness at long

2387

Centre sharpness at long

2238

f8

f8

LAB TEST

f8

■ There’s more fringing in evidence than from most lenses on test, and it remains an issue throughout the zoom range. LAB TEST

f8

■ There are noticeable amounts of colour fringing at 10mm, but this is reduced at medium to long zoom settings. LAB TEST

■ It’s not as noticeable as with the Nikon 10-20mm at its shortest zoom setting, but worse at mid to long zoom lengths. LAB TEST

Fringing at short

1.3

Fringing at short

1.16

Fringing at short

1.12

Fringing at short

0.5

Fringing at mid

0.13

Fringing at mid

1.44

Fringing at mid

0.46

Fringing at mid

0.63

Fringing at long

0.09

Fringing at long

1.29

Fringing at long

0.26

Fringing at long

0.53

f8

f8

LAB TEST

f8

■ Barrel distortion is slightly worse at 11mm than with some 10mm lenses and it only diminishes slowly as you extend. LAB TEST

f8

■ More barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range than from any other lens on test, except the Sigma 8-16mm. LAB TEST

■ Barrel distortion is quite well controlled at short to mid zoom, switching to slight pincushion at 24mm. LAB TEST

Distortion at short

-5.9

Distortion at short

-3.59

Distortion at short

-4.35

Distortion at short

-3.19

Distortion at mid

-0.71

Distortion at mid

-2.34

Distortion at mid

-0.67

Distortion at mid

-0.87

Distortion at long

0.04

Distortion at long

-1.24

Distortion at long

0.51

Distortion at long

0.57

image quality verdict Images can look spectacular thanks to the exaggerated angle of view. Overall, the quality is very impressive.

www.nphotomag.com

image quality verdict Considering its modest zoom range, distortions are higher than expected but image quality looks crisp overall.

image quality verdict Sharpness and contrast are excellent at short settings but, overall, the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 performs better.

image quality verdict There’s no area in which image quality stands out from the crowd, and levels of sharpness are a bit disappointing.

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DISTORTION

■ Noticeable barrel distortion is the price you pay for the massive angle of view, but there’s little distortion at the 16mm end.

FRINGING

■ It’s towards the worse end of the scale for fringing at the shortest focal length but performs well at mid to long settings.

SHARPNESS

■ Not as sharp as Sigma’s 10-20mm f/3.5 lens, especially at the short end of the range, but detail still appears very good.

■ Fringing (low scores are better)


test team

The world’s toughest tests

Comparison table HOW THE LENSES COMPARE Name

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G

Contact

Nikon AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Tamron SP AF 1024mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II

www.sigma-imaging-uk.com

www.nikon.co.uk

Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 PRO DX II

www.tamron.co.uk

Tokina AT-X 12-28mm f/4 Pro DX

www.tokinalens.com

street price

£640, $780

£840, $1100

£550, $700

£399, $650

£350, $430

£370, $500

£599, $535

£540, $500

Effective focal length (DX)

15-36mm

18-36mm

12-24mm

15-30mm

15-30mm

15-36mm

16.5-24mm

18-42mm

Min focus distance

24cm

30cm

24cm

24cm

24cm

24cm

30cm

25cm

min aperture

f/22-29

f/22

f/22-29

f/22

f/22-32

f/22-29

f/22

f/22

angle of view (diagonal)

109-61 degrees

99-61 degrees

121-83 degrees

110-71 degrees

102-64 degrees

108-60 degrees

104-84 degrees

99-55 degrees

autofocus motor

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Electric motor

Electric motor

Electric motor (GMR)

internal focus

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

elements/groups

14/9

11/7

15/11

13/10

14/10

12/9

13/11

14/12

diaphragm

7 blades

7 blades

7 blades

7 blades

6 blades

7 blades

9 blades

9 blades

filter size

77mm

77mm

72mm (slip-on)

82mm

77mm

77mm

77mm

77mm

lens hood

Included

Included

Built-in

Included

Included

Included

Included

Included

Min length

87mm

90mm

106mm

88mm

81mm

87mm

89mm

90mm

diameter

83mm

83mm

75mm

87mm

84mm

83mm

84mm

84mm

weight

460g

485g

555g

520g

465g

406g

550g

530g

Features build quality Image quality Value for money OVERALL

The WINNER IS...

Top three runners-up

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM What’s good: Advanced features

Sigma is the surprise winner of the ultra-wide contest this time around Along with raising its game with several highly attractive lens launches over the last year, Sigma has surprised us with the quality of its older 10-20mm f/3.5. We’ve tested this lens in the past and been generally impressed with it, but the newer review sample supplied to us on this occasion outclassed all other competitors in terms of sharpness. Couple this with the fact that the price has dropped considerably over the last year – at least, it has in the UK – and it’s an outright winner. Its sibling Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 is the least expensive lens in the group and continues to be great value. Completing its hat-trick, Sigma also makes the widestangle rectilinear lens for DX-format

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May 2014

cameras, which is another very tempting buy. Of the Nikon lenses, the 10-20mm is the one to go for but it’s pricy compared with the Sigmas and, in our most recent tests, was beaten by the constant-aperture Sigma 1020mm for outright image quality. What’s good: Constant-aperture design, outstanding sharpness, fast ultrasonic autofocus.

What’s bad: The 82mm filter thread is uncommonly large for a DX-format ultra-wide lens. Our verdict: It’s a superb lens that’s also exceptional value for money in the UK.

Overall

and impressive image quality at a rock-bottom price. What’s bad: Not a constantaperture design like the newer Sigma. Our verdict: Quality is excellent given it’s the cheapest DX ultra-wide lens around.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM What’s good: Extraordinarily wide

maximum angle of view for a rectilinear lens.

What’s bad: Filters can only be directly attached when shooting at the long end of the zoom range. Our verdict: This lens is an obvious choice if you want to go as wide as possible.

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G What’s good: Very good overall image quality and handling.

What’s bad: Considerably more expensive than many competing lenses. Our verdict: It’s the top choice for a genuine Nikon DX ultra-wide lens.

www.nphotomag.com


rated & previewed

New gear

The light fits around your lens, and gives constant, directionless illumination

expert opinions on all the latest hot kit

F&V HDR-300

Delivers continuous, attractive, super-soft lighting at an equally attractive price ring light

£175, $199

www.fvlighting.com

From portraits to product shots, soft, shadowless lighting is usually the most flattering. Scout around in any photography shop and you’ll be spoilt for choice with diffusers and softboxes that’ll take the edge off your flashgun’s output, but a ring light can be a better bet. These encircle your Nikon’s lens to minimise directional shadows,

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May 2014

and the HDR-300 has the advantage of being a continuous ring light, so you can use it to shoot both stills and video. The HDR-300’s maximum brightness of 1950 Lux at a distance of one metre translates into enough oomph to effectively illuminate a subject from around three metres before you’ll need to ramp up your Nikon’s sensor sensitivity.

Three hundred individual LEDs emit a beautiful 65-degree beam of 5600K daylight-balanced light that all but eliminates unsightly shadows. They’re all controlled by a single stepless dial, which also acts as the power switch. When it comes to power you can use a mains input, or there’s a mounting plate for a Sony NP-F series rechargeable Li-ion battery pack. The snag is that neither the battery itself nor a mains adaptor is included, though battery and charger kits can be had for less than £20/$30 if you shop around. F&V does throw in a couple of magnetic filters which attach to the light instantly to create a diffused or tungsten-balanced look, plus you get a metal bracket to connect the light to

your Nikon. This works a treat and makes the setup easily portable, although if you’d prefer to fix everything to a tripod or light stand the bracket has mounting points for both. You can adjust the light’s fittings to accommodate various camera and lens sizes, but go for a beefy battery and there won’t be much space between it and your Nikon’s hand grip. Still, selecting a slightly smaller power pack solves this and you should still get up to 90 minutes of light per charge. This extra expense isn’t ideal, but the HDR-300 is still great value, especially considering a ring light flashgun modifier can cost almost as much.


New gear rated

SUPER STORAGE

The unusual triangular shape makes the TriGrip diffuser more stable and easier to manoeuvre, but it folds up into a circular pouch

sTORE AND SHARE YOUR images

Toshiba FlashAir II 32GB £40, $60 www.toshiba-memory.com

Lastolite TriGrip Diffuser

If you want to soften the light, try a collapsible TriGrip diffuser

£60, $70

■ Share photos from your Nikon with this class 10 SD card with Wi-Fi. It’ll connect to PC, Mac and mobile, though transfer speeds are sluggish.

www.lastolite.com

■ You might think there’s little that could improve the hand-held collapsible diffuser. However, Lastolite’s TriGrip range, renown for its odd-shaped reflectors now has a choice of a one-stop or twostop diffuser for softening a light source indoors or out. The triangular shape gives it slightly more rigidity than the usual circular design, yet

it’ll still collapse to a third of its expanded size. The shape also means you get a large, ergonomic hand grip that makes the TriGrip easier and more comfortable to position. What’s more, the Velcro straps incorporated into the handle will mount the diffuser to an optional bracket, which in turn can be mounted to a light stand or tripod.

However you hold it, the TriGrip acts like a softbox in panel form, transforming harsh light from the sun or a studio flash into softer, more flattering illumination. The Standard size we tested is the 75cm (30in) across; Large 120cm (48in) and Mini 45cm (18in) versions are also available.

Transcend Wi-Fi SD Card 16GB £29, $52

www.transcend-info.com

■ This Wi-Fi-enabled SD card boasts a slicker setup than the Toshiba card and it’s marginally faster, with read/write speeds of 20.8MB per second.

FLM LB-25

Keep your panoramas on the level LEVELLING BALL HEAD

£117, $169

In this month’s Mini Test (see page 106) we check out nifty tripod heads that’ll help you shoot stunning panoramas. The trouble is, most are designed to replace your standard ball head but often lack their own levelling ability, leaving you no option but to faff around adjusting your tripod’s legs instead. This simple gadget is a much handier solution. It’s basically a ball head that screws in between your tripod and panoramic head, giving

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https://snapperstuff.com 25 degrees of level adjustment. Unscrew the locking knob and there’s the perfect amount of friction to make those all-important tweaks with ease. Up top are two slots that’ll accept an optional arm attachment designed to house a small spirit level, so you can be absolutely confident your images are horizontal. With a 30 kilogram load limit this head certainly won’t

be the weak link in your setup, yet the unit itself only tips the scales at 250 grams. The FLM LB-25 may not be cheap for such a basic gadget, but it’s very well made and a useful time-saver.

Synology DiskStation DS214play From £277, $375 www.synology.com

■ A NAS – Network Attached Storage – setup is the ultimate in remote photo storage. This drive has SD card and USB interfaces and is easy to use.

May 2014

103


test team

The world’s toughest tests

Nest Traveller NT-6323CK

All the quality you expect from carbon fibre – but at a high price tripod

£300, $499

www.nest-style.com

■ Nest is new to the tripod game, but you’d never guess that given the quality of its NT-6294AK tripod we recently tested. Where those legs were aluminium, these are made from eight-layer carbon fibre, with the uppermost sections being a hefty 32 millimetres in diameter. That all adds up to terrific rigidity and an impressive 20 kilograms load limit, while the included ball head is capable of holding even more weight. The trouble is, the sturdy head and a slightly higher 1.8-metre maximum reach adds weight which even carbon fibre can’t offset, making the NT-6323CK slightly heavier than its aluminium cousin at 2.5 kilograms. You’ll also be hard-pressed to feel any difference in rigidity between the two, yet the cost of carbon makes this 50% more expensive than the NT-6294AK, and that tripod has a nifty monopod conversion feature.

RAM Mount RAM-B-166-202AU Mobile camera support for your Nikon camera mounting system www.ram-mount.co.uk

£38, $39

■ Don’t let a tripod limit your creativity. RAM Mount offers a huge range of camera mounting systems that’ll attach your Nikon to almost anything. This particular model is a suction cup mount, which fixes to smooth surfaces like a car windscreen in a second. There’s a threaded stud on the other end for attaching your camera. It’s made from aluminium, so is durable, though we wouldn’t use it with a heavyweight SLR and lens.

Marumi EXUS Circular Polariser Get a clearer picture with this filter polarising filter

These sturdy legs are capable of supporting an FX-format Nikon and chunky lens, but they’re also pretty weighty

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May 2014

£63-£144, $78-$179

www.kenro.co.uk

■ A polariser is one of the few filters you absolutely need in your bag. It’ll reduce haze and glare to boost colour saturation in a way that’s tough to mimic using software. Marumi’s EXUS range has an anti-static coating to repel dust, dirt and water. Light transmission is increased by 30% over a conventional polariser, and there’s no sign of any colour cast. Thread diameters range from 37 to 82 millimetres. At this price, though, the filters are a serious investment.

www.nphotomag.com


PRO PICKS

FRANCESCO TONELLI

6

Food photographer

Francesco’s clients range from Lea & Perrins to the New York Times 5

1 4

2

You can see Francesco’s work at www.francescotonelli.com

Nikon D800e (£2350, $3300) 1

■ What’s it for? This is my main camera for studio shots. It replaced my Canon 1Ds Mk III about a year and a half ago. When it first came out I did not believe it would do what it promised, but after trying it out I bought two straight away. ■ Plus points Image quality and resolution are stunning, especially when I’m shooting with strobe lights. The price is very reasonable. ■ Minus marks The battery life is very short.

www.nphotomag.com

Really Right Stuff L-Plate (£85, $140) 2

■ What’s it for? It mounts on the bottom and side of the camera (or battery grip) and enables the camera to be placed very securely in either landscape or portrait mode on the tripod head or camera stand. ■ Plus points It works with the Really Right Stuff quick release clamps that I have mounted on my two tripods, camera stand and video tripod, so I can easily switch between setups. ■ Minus marks None that I can think of.

Nikon AF 60mm f/2.8D Micro (£370, $430) 3

■ What’s it for? I use this lens for most of my food photography. It delivers super-sharp images, and it’s extremely versatile – it works really well for images shot from any angle, from extreme close-ups to overheads. ■ Plus points Great price and great quality. It enables me to capture wonderfully detailed close-ups. ■ Minus marks It doesn’t have any!

Nikon PC-E Micro 85mm f/2.8D (£1300, $1800) 4

Profoto ProTungsten Air (£930, $1212) & 6 D1 Air 1000 (£1050, $1750) 5

■ What’s it for? This is my second-most-used lens for studio photography. I use it for most of my threequarter or front-on shots. It’s sharp, it focuses very close and it has a great focal length for food shots. ■ Plus points The tilt-andshift mechanism enables me to precisely control the depth of field, which is absolutely crucial in food photography. ■ Minus marks It’s too long for overhead shots.

■ What are they for? These powerful but easyto-carry monolight strobes do a great job in my studio as well as on location; they are durable and reliable, and they are compatible with all my Profoto light modifiers. ■ Plus points Easily portable, and easily controlled via radio buttons. ■ Minus marks The radio remote does not provide visual feedback of the strobe settings.

May 2014

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test team

The world’s toughest tests

mini test

Panoramic and geared heads It’s simple to create panoramas with the help of these specialist heads

t’s hard to do justice to a spectacular vista in a single shot. Your best bet is to take a panorama, a sequence of shots to be stitched together in postproduction. You could brave it and shoot handheld, making a mental note of visual reference points to help you line up each consecutive shot. However, you’re more likely to get a straighter and more seamless result by using a tripod. Most standard ballheads have a pan base that will keep things level, but a dedicated panoramic head will help you pan at perfect intervals so you’re assured a decent overlap between shots for optimal stitching. More upmarket options offer even more control, such as enabling you to position your Nikon to counteract panorama pitfalls like the parallax effect. Some heads move up and down to create spherical panoramas. If that’s not enough, electronic heads are capable of shooting supersized gigapixel panoramas, or even time-lapse video pans.

I

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR… There’s more to these wide-shooting wonders than meets the eye, so consider all this before you buy…

01 Multiple rows

Some panoramic heads limit you to single-level horizontal motion. Choose one with vertical movement as well to create multi-row panoramas or interactive spherical pans you can move around.

02 Flat out

Does the head have a spirit bubble? Not all do, but one will help you get your shots perfectly horizontal.

03 Correct distortion

Very neat, with no wires or knobs to get caught, the Genie is capable of more than just panoramas

Syrp Genie £800, $890 http://syrp.co.nz Panoramas are just one of many things that this automated box of tricks can capture. The Genie is all about motion control, meaning you can also use it to create stunning time-lapse sequences as it pans. From rush hour cityscapes to celestial star trails, the Genie will capture it with ease. The battery life is approximately seven hours, and the LCD menu display and pre-sets make it easy to use. The device has no external batteries or wires to get tangled in with the rest of your kit. Simply screw it in between your tripod and ball head and away you go. Alternatively, mount the Genie on a slider and a motor in the base will wind it along a rope so you can also create linear as well as panning time-lapses. What’s more, if you don’t have a slider, the Genie will pull itself along on a makeshift dolly such as a skateboard.

The cylindrical 300N at the bottom allows you to set precise panning intervals from five to 90 degrees

Manfrotto MH057A5-LONG £400, $600 www.manfrotto.co.uk Shooting a standard landscape panorama is simple enough, but try capturing a closer vista or an indoor environment and you’ll run into the parallax problem. Merely panning your Nikon around its tripod mounting point can skew perspective and cause nasty stitching artefacts. The answer is to position the camera so that when you pan, closer objects don’t appear to move relative to the background. This perfect position is known as the nodal point, and setting it is easy with this device’s twin-axis sliding rails and precisely-geared dials. The Manfrotto 300N is included as a panning base, and the two work in harmony to help capture perfectly aligned shots for near and far panoramas, albeit at a fairly hefty cost.

Move any camera around an axis and closer objects will appear to move relative to their surroundings. A head with adjustment to counteract this effect will give you better results.

04 Weigh it up

Some fancier heads are serious pieces of kit weighing over three kilograms. Pick a more portable panoramic platform that’ll fit in your kit bag and it’ll open up more spontaneous opportunities.

05 Select software

If your head doesn’t come with software for stitching your shots together, there are plenty of packages available. One of the most comprehensive is Autopano Giga (www.kolor.com).

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Pros… A small and simple gadget that works wonders. Cons… Not for shooting more complex multi-row or spherical panoramas. WE say… The Genie takes panoramic photography to a whole new level.

Pros… Great for precision pans and close-up subjects. Cons… It’s a serious investment and won’t do multi-row or spherical panoramas. WE say… Gives you complete control, but ultimately limited to single-row panoramas.

overall

overall


Panoramic and geared heads w

This extremely sturdy head will support a top-end D-SLR and still remain capable of precise panning

You’ll pay plenty for this geared head, but it’s as tough a piece of kit as you’re ever likely to need

Manfrotto 410 Manfrotto 405 Junior Geared Head Geared Head £160, $260 www.manfrotto.co.uk Geared heads are a great way to capture a panorama, but are also ideal for macro work or any shot requiring complete compositional control. The Manfrotto 410 features three knobs that will wind your Nikon precisely around a 360-degree pan, as well as tilting it vertically and laterally. Each knob has a quick release collar so you can make snap adjustments. Substantial aluminium construction contributes to the head’s meaty 1.22kg bulk, though it is well up to handling a D4s with a serious lens. Down sides? Well you don’t get any nodal point adjustment, so close-range panoramas may not stitch together correctly. You’ll also need to pan precisely as this head can’t be configured to click into place at pre-set intervals.

£350, $460 www.manfrotto.co.uk Few photographers who encounter the Manfrotto 410 geared head will end up wanting something sturdier, but if you do the 405 certainly fits the bill. It’ll support a 7.5kg payload and still allow you to make minute adjustments for the perfect composition. Like the 410 you get three knobs to adjust panning, lateral and linear tilt, plus each control can be instantly disengaged from the gears should you need to make swifter adjustments. The 405 is also noticeably more ergonomic to use that its baby brother, making it a very satisfying piece of kit. The extra outlay over the 410 isn’t so appealing, though, especially as it’s still not an ideal panorama platform. However, if you regularly give your heads a beating, this is the better bet.

You can mount your camera on the Nodal Ninja 3 in portrait or landscape orientation

Nodal Ninja 3 MKII £180, $210 www.red-door.co.uk Even if you shell out big bucks for the Manfrotto MH057A5-LONG pan head combo, you’ll still be limited to single-axis panoramas. The fun of shooting panoramas really begins with 360x180-degree spherical pans, which is where the Nodal Ninja comes in. Thanks to the Ninja 3’s rotating vertical arm you can tilt your Nikon up and down as well as side to side. Use a fisheye or wide-angle lens and you can capture a complete virtual environment from the sky right down to your feet in as little as six shots. Every piece of essential hardware is included in the Starter Package (just add software), and at 475g it’s extremely portable. The only drawback is you’ll need to use a DX-format or smaller Nikon as it won’t support a full-frame camera, but otherwise this is a great-value gizmo.

The most expensive piece of kit on test, the EPIC Pro takes care of pretty much everything for you

GigaPan EPIC Pro £700, $995 www.red-door.co.uk If you thought the D800’s 36-megapixel resolution was high, the EPIC Pro makes it look positively paltry: this is all about creating huge panoramas that run into the gigapixels. Fortunately you won’t have to mess about with dials and sliders to take the hundreds of photos needed to compile such an immense image, as the EPIC Pro is an automated electronic platform and includes the necessary remote shutter release cables. All you need to do to shoot your panorama is set up where you want the pan to start and finish, and program your lens’ field of view. The process is surprisingly quick and you get complementary stitching software thrown in too, but a powerful computer is a must. Once your shots have been stitched together, sit back, zoom in and savour the detail.

Pros… Supreme quality, capable of taking a hefty D-SLR, and a pleasure to use. Cons… With no nodal point adjustment, not ideally suited to close-range panoramas. WE say… An ultra-precise head for more than just panoramas.

Pros… A supremely solid, easy to use precision head. Cons… The extra weight means you need a sturdy set of legs, it’s much pricier than the 410. WE say… It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for with this geared head.

Pros… Compact, easy to use and it won’t break the bank. Cons… It’s simply not large enough to support a full-frame Nikon setup. WE say… The Ninja 3 makes the perfect introduction to panoramic photography.

Pros… Creates stunning results with minimal user input. Cons… Big and bulky; is your tripod up to the job? Also, will you take enough panoramas to justify the cost? WE say… The daddy of automated panorama capture.

overall

overall

overall

overall

www.nphotomag.com

May 2014

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Sneak peek at our JUNE issue

scenic skills

TEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LANDSCAPES

Dan Ballard’s inspirational shooting tips will have you heading for the hills

THE APPRENTICE

STRIKE A POSE!

A lucky reader comes on in leaps and bounds with a masterclass in editorial fashion from pro Bruce Smith

FREE VIDEO DISC! Learn all this in the next set of Nikon Skills… ■ Architectural abstracts ■ Get creative with explosive zoom bursts ■ Fantasy montages in Photoshop ■ Make a bean bag for tripod-free shooting ■ How to choose and use ND grads

Plus all this…

■ We chat with celebrity snapper Richard Young about hanging out with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Liz Taylor ■ Part Two of our test of Nikon-fit superwide lenses – the best FX options ■ Our pick of big stopper ND filters

ISSUE 33 | ON SALE THURSDAY 8 MAY 2014 May 2014

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RIBBLEHEAD VIADUCT March 1986

North Yorkshire • Nikon F2

Denis Thorpe

Born in Nottinghamshire in 1932, Denis Thorpe worked in provincial newspapers before joining the Manchester office of the Daily Mail in 1957. He was named Regional Press Photographer of the Year in 1971 and left the Daily Mail in 1974 to join the Guardian. Many exhibitions and awards followed, including World Press Photo Foundation in 1979 and Ilford Photographer of the Year in 1988. Two retrospective exhibitions of his work have been shown at The Lowry, Salford.

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In the mid-1980s British Rail attempted to close the Settle-Carlisle railway line, sparking a public outcry. The focus of the campaign to save the line was the Ribblehead Viaduct in Yorkshire. British Rail said it was unsafe and too costly to repair. To illustrate what was at stake, Guardian photographer Denis Thorpe travelled to the head of the valley. “I like to shoot into the light,” says Denis. “The first time I thought there might be an enthusiast’s steam train going across the viaduct, I went over there.” Denis took his Nikon F2, motordrive, and 35mm f/2 lens fitted with an orange filter. Denis knew he had only a brief chance to capture the

TAKE TWO… ‘Coronation Street’, Salford, UK, April 1979 Having worked in Greater Manchester since the 1950s, Denis Thorpe was best placed to photograph the demolition of the city’s Victorian back-to-back slums. Denis’s love of backlighting came to the fore as he shot Salford’s Archie Street, which had been immortalised in the opening credits

locomotive as it traversed the 400-metre viaduct’s 24 spans. “I decided I would use the motordrive but not like a burst,” Denis recalls, “just to take individual frames, so it would wind on immediately… There’s only one frame that works and it works beautifully because the smoke from the engine echoes the shape of the hill behind it.”

The reaction

The Guardian published the photo across the width of the

for ITV’s Coronation Street. This was the last frame of the last of five rolls of film he shot that day. It was used as the lead image for the subsequent article published in the Guardian on April 25, 1979.

front page, but it was cropped to form a panoramic image. Denis missed out on the press photography awards at the time, but the public responded strongly to the image. “The Guardian must have sold hundreds and hundreds of copies of it by now,” he says. Eventually, the line was saved, the Ribblehead Viaduct repaired, and the occasional steam locomotive can still be photographed there. Keith Wilson

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Image: © Denis Thorpe

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