Light is Everything!

Author Archive

Relaxing Macro

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Every once and while it is just awesome to kick back and relax with some macro photography. So much of the time we’re used to seeing the big, landscape madness photo. But if we slow down and crouch down, the tiny world is an amazing place. I was using my DIY Scrim and Orbis Ring Flash  to control the light and reshape it. It still requires quite a bit of work, but I find it to be super relaxing. It’s kinda like Shaolin Monks when they are at rest:

:cool: My good friend and gardener of the century Carol Tetzlaff had us out at her place to check out the Lilies that were in bloom. The weather was ideal and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Which also meant that the mosquitos had me for their bonanza. It was worth every bite. :)


Wedding Season Heats Up

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In the midst of crazy summer storms, there are cool photos to be had! Next step: tornado in the background. LOL Congrats to Derek & Stephanie!


#Camping2014

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It’s been quite busy as of late! We’ve been campin’ up a storm all over Saskatchewan and most recently Manitoba. Child’s Lake has a really terrific campground, as well as tons of other cool stuff. It’s been my in-law’s campground of choice for years. This year we had great weather but the bugs were heinous verging on horrendous. Lots of water = lots of mosquitos. Our poor children looked like walking mosquito bites, despite slathering them down with all manor of DEET bearing spray known to mankind! :evil: But we always have a good time. Weather was good. There was only one rogue black bear in the campground to worry about so that’s not bad either. :cool:

My favourite shot from the trip was the banner image from this post. I was really wanting a nice sunset image of Child’s Lake. But the sunset was quasi-lackluster. And boats galore were chopping up the lake for some last minute water skiing and tubing. So I had to with them out until it was almost too late. Plus I was getting eaten alive by the winged vampires – despite the army of dragonflies eating them by the metric truck load above my head. I had the Nikon Df on a tripod and made the 13 second exposure with the 24mm AFS f/1.4 lens. That lens is a cracker jack piece of glass! When I’m travelling I only ever bring a prime kit (24, 50, 85), or just my FujiFilm X100s if I want to be truly ultralight. I opted for the Df because I knew I wanted to make this image that required a bit wider of a lens than the X100s has. The super long exposure turned the water into a polished mirror. As the seconds ticked by the haunting call of loons filled the lake. One notch off of paradise I’d reckon. :)


#OxbowGrad2014

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Well Boo ya!  This years grads are all done graduatin’. And what a crazy fun time it was taking photos of all these amazing young people. It’s hard to believe that our kids will one day be wearing the suits and dresses! Another reminder that time truly does fly by far too fast. Anywhos, here’s my quick picks of Oxbow grad shots this year. After a MARATHON editing session today, I got them all done. The kids will have their photos at the start of the week. Just glad the weather cooperated today by being heinously wet and rainy as to dispel any fun things I could have otherwise done. :D Also, I invented a new photo this year. I call it “The Smiling Suit.”

 


The Lion, The Bear, The Fox

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House concerts are becoming our thing as of late. We got to catch The Lion, The Bear, The Fox in the booming megapolis of Grenfell, SK on Friday night. They were good. They could really harmonize well and their songs were really deep and chock full of substance. No fluff here folks. These dudes all came from the school of hard knocks and that is depicted in their music.

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Tatum Duryba of Paper Moon Photography hosted the concert in her photo studio. The cozy venue really makes for a cool concert environment.

And, the Bear played a Gretsch. And that is 100% awesome.

20140620-LBF-002Here’s a YouTube vid of them:

 


#BigLight

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I’ve been a hotshot flash dude forever. I was always blown away by McNally’s use of all things small flash and the amazing possibilities that they open up for making photos. The only bummer is when small flash isn’t enough. And there are 2 key places where that is the case. 1) Outside & 2) Big Groups.

Owning the sun with small flash can be done – but it’s not easy, and they scream at you with all they’re 60ws can muster. They’re just not designed for big light. Portability? Yes. Convenience? Check. But big, bad, photon wielding power? The answer is a big fat Nein! I’ve used them up to now by ganging three of them together in a tri-flash type unit but I couldn’t wring enough juice out of them. I got the shots but just barely. Which is why I concluded that having a monobloc was an essential, must have item to make my outside work 17% easier. :D

I had my mind set on a Paul C. Buff Einstein light. Very excellent product at a very competitive price. But, then I really asked myself honestly, am I going to use all the features on it? Do I need the ultra fast flash duration? The answer was no. So I decided to go with the AB1600. The same power output as the Einstein, but more analogue – which I actually prefer for outside work. Just move the power lever up or down. Easy peasy.

And for groups, the big light volume is really, really nice. I shot all these photos with the AB1600 in a Photek Softlighter (a giant, reflected & diffused light mod) from f/5 to f/16. I love the studio quality of light it produces and with far faster recycle times than ganging bunch-load of speed lights together. Plus, the affordability of the Paul C. Buff products is a no brainer. I also picked up the Vagabond Mini portable battery for location work. It’s gonna be sweet to own the sun everywhere & always! :cool:


#Dedication

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This past week on June 12 the outdoor classroom at OPHS was dedicated to our dear friend and neighbour Megan Fonstad. She lived to teach, was dedicated to the new school project in Oxbow as well as this outdoor classroom, and her funeral took place at OPHS. The dedication was well attended by family and friends who have not forgotten how awesome Megan was and all that she did for her community and school. Memory Eternal, dear friend!


#Candids

I love off camera flash. The results are always superior to natural lighting. No contest. Ever. :cool: But that said, there is something just awesome about candid shots of kids being kids. No light shapers other than clouds. Fast lenses. Awesome cameras. It’s magical! :D


#2YearsOld

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I’m fairly behind in these photos & post. Like 2 months behind. LOL Oh well, the time truly does fly. But our little FlowerPot Baby is 2. So I was told to get some updated pictures of the little gaffer. So here they are. Just to warn you, she’s ridiculously cute. :D

Here’s the BTS photo geek information about how I made these photos.

First of all, these were all shot in harsh, direct sunlight. Very bright conditions. So the name of the game with harsh light is control followed by redirection. This is where your secret weapon, a collapsible scrim saves the day. I set mine up on  c-stand because it’s basically a huge sail on the windy prairies. This provides a very nice softbox-esque light quality to the subject. The next thing is to make sure you have a contrasting background that won’t blow out as you increase your exposure. No sky. Find some trees or shrubs for better results. So using the scrim, the light is controlled & soft. But if you want more volume of light, you can easily do that by firing a flash through the same panel. It gives your images more pop if you want that look. Although, if you’re shooting at shallow depth of field, you’ll need to use high-speed sync with your flash. I used the scrim alone for some of the shots then additionally redirected some light back in via a flash & umbrella. The light panel scrim gives mucho nice catchlights in the eyes all by itself though. This setup really gives a light and airy look to the photos.  So there you go. Quick and easy portraits in full sun. :cool:

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Arcola Grad 2014

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It’s that time again! Graduation is in the air and excitement abounds! I was covering grad up in the great town of Arcola, SK on Friday of last week. It was the first real day of hot sun we’ve had in all of 2014. Needless to say, I was as red as a ripe hothouse tomato afterwards. :cool: The weather was beautiful though and I was grateful for that. They raise ‘em right up in Arcola, let me tell you. Both Quinn & Julian were gentlemen through and through. They were fun to photograph, had awesome families and gorgeous escorts! There is nothing more that a photographer could ask for. I was totally spoiled. :D

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Magnascope

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Every once in a while all the stars align and things work out. Magnascope had all their equipment in the yard the other day – an extreme rarity – and we were able to get together for a quick photo shoot. Fortunately the weather even cooperated.  Utilizing a front end loader, I was able to get an elevated  point of view from which to take the photos. It was really incredible to see all the trucks lined up in one place! I shot everything HDR to bring out the colour and texture of the sky. It all came together really well! :cool:

 


#Dance2014

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I covered the Oxbow Dance dress rehearsal photos last Friday.  It was pure awesome as it always is. The kids are ridiculously cute! :) Miss Halynne does an absolutely remarkable job getting the kids into recital ready shape. In what must be like herding cats when it comes to the tiny tots, they all do their routines marvellously well! The rehearsal shots were fast and furious. We had an enormous turnout of parents who wanted individual shots of their dancers. I thank everyone for their patience as we proceeded with the photo shoots.  The discs are all burned now and ready to be delivered. Everybody is also getting a copy of their child’s group shot included free of charge.  Free is good! :cool:


Published Internationally

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Woot! Here’s some cool news, I got published in Practical Photography Magazine’s May 2014 edition!  It’s a UK publication so my Canadian peeps won’t be able to pick up a print copy too readily. But you can get electronic versions available on iTunes and Google. I was contacted by them quite some time ago regarding my images I posted here on the blog of photographing the kids’ fiberoptic lamps! Spiffy! :cool:


Crocuses

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The kids wanted to go looking for crocuses yesterday. So did I. :) So we went out back and found a few little bunches. I’m not sure if they are just starting to come up or are nearly done. Normally they’ve come up even through a light snow. But this year the weather has been wonky so say the least. I feel a special attachment to crocuses as they are “Saskatchewan’s Flower” at least anecdotally. ;) I’ve seen more crocuses than tiger-lilies, I’ll put it to you that way. heehehe…..

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About the technique for nabbing these photos. I went out with a collapsible reflector/diffuser to block the harsh sunlight that was pouring in. I had my D800 & 105mm macro for this detail-rich gig. I was shooting at apertures of f/16 or f/32 so I needed more light reach this at ISO 100 and 1/250. I used my Orbis ring flash and SB-900 synced with an SC-29 cord. I basically was able to set the Orbis on edge on the ground, which doubled as a rest, and shoot right through it.  It worked great. :cool: The macro detail that the D800 can capture is really tremendous!  Here’s a 100% crop and the full shot beneath.

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The Looks of Lent

Every year I give up shaving for Lent as a joke. And on every Holy Saturday, I shave off my beard trying to do as many different looks as a I can from the master beard of 45 days. Since 2009, I have been able to grow 18 unique looks.  In the first years I was doing this, I could get loads of different looks, but as time goes on you don’t get as many from each beard. So, I present to you the Looks of Lent 2014. :cool:

"Duck Dynasty" Try out photo (Full Beard).

“Duck Dynasty” Try out photo (Full Beard).

Super Cue (Shaved head).

Super Cue (Shaved head).

"The Balbo".

“The Balbo”.

"Tony Stark" or Iron Man Goatee.

“Tony Stark” or Iron Man Goatee.

"Soul Patch".

“Soul Patch”.

"Clean Cut White Boy". #Respect

“Clean Cut White Boy” #Respect.

 


#LentBeard2014

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Every year, as a joke, I give up shaving for Lent. I follow the ancient fasting rules for real. But for years, much to the chagrin of my wife, family and friends, I grow a Lenten beard. Then I take a bunch of goofy photos in stages as shave it off. My life is small. :cool:  But anyways, this is said beard for 2014.

I thought I would do a little BTS explaining of how I made this image. Here is the studio setup:

20140413-LentBeard2014-002First of all I’m in my garage. I’ve got a grey back drop permanently mounted to the ceiling. I got the idea for that setup from Jay P. Morgan’s vid. Check it out, it’s awesome! I received an old backdrop from a photographer friend who passed away. I painted it “Photo Grey,” a colour you can get at Home Hardware in Canada. But the colour didn’t matter for this shoot as a I changed it for the shot.

It’s helpful to think about lighting and photography in “zones.” They are like layers in photoshop. First of all, we’ll start with the subject. I had the idea for the shoot already conceived. Myself and my glorious Lenten beard right side in the frame, looking camera left. So for the key light, I’ve got a speed light gelled CTO with a Honl grid. Very narrow shaft of hard light. Oppositely, Ive got another SB with a snoot (a flash bender) with cold daylight hard light. This is a classic cross lighting setup adding 3 dimensionality and separation from the background. For the next layer,  for fill and to bring some detail into the beard, I setup my DIY Light Scrim and shot a 1/4 CTO gelled SB through that. It’s acting as a huge reflector and light source at the same time, filling the shadow zone. Once I was happy with that, I went to work on the background. I gelled a LumoPro 180 with a theatrical red gel. The red looked cool but it needed more. Being that this is a Lenten/Good Friday type photo, I decided a cross would be a nice addition. I didn’t really have a big random cross lying around so I quickly made one out of a paint stir stick (from the photo grey background project previously mentioned) and couple pieces of Gaffer tape. Looks legit to me! :) I muddled with the light placement to get the right size and perspective of the cross “shadow” on the background. It’s essentially a spiritual gobo!

So there you have the BTS breakdown. A hard-light portrait, 4 light setup, 2 different zones of light, layered together for key, fill, kicker and background.  I edited the photo in Lightroom 5 and Nik software for the final grading and grunge look. Have a very blessed Holy Week & Easter season!

But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5

 


DIY Light Scrim Upgrade

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I thought long and hard about getting a bigger lighting scrim. They are a super versatile tool from the strobist to the natural light shooter. They can block light, diffuse light, reflect light. In short, they rock the set. They are also ridiculously expensive to purchase commercially. I was searching for a DIY version and found Kevin Kubota’s to be about the best one out there. You can watch the informative YouTube vid here.

 

But I made some upgrades in the design. First of all, I found it was a lot cheaper to purchase the grey conduit rather than PVC for the main frame parts. They are the exact same size so you can still use all the same PVC fittings but the conduit is less money. Wee! :cool: Plus, it looks less distracting than white. And secondly, I found that the design for attaching the ripstop nylon to the frame was a bit lacking. If you only used it inside, it would be fine. But I do loads of outdoor work. So I needed a solution that would hold up to a Saskatchewan wind gust. I thought about it and concluded that the best way was to make basically a “fitted sheet.” I got some of the super awesome seamstress church ladies to sew me a 1 inch seam all the way around the outside edge of the material. Then I simply cut the corners off and fished the nylon elastic cord through it, tying it off to make it fit snuggly on the frame. It works like a charm! It goes together super quick and stays there, even in the wind.

You still have to be careful with it because it is basically a giant kite. But it works flawlessly and only costs a fraction of what the commercially available ones do. This is probably the only DIY thing I’ve ever made that I will continue to use on a long term basis because it’s a super slick design and it works fantastic! :D

Check out these vids of Joe McNally using the same kind of product. The results are truly awesome!

 


Palm Sunday 2014

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I’ve been off the hook busy the last couple of weeks! Mainly getting ready for Easter. I haven’t had time to fire a shot! Boo. Hiss. But today, as we celebrated Palm Sunday in Church I decided to throw in my X100s (which has been taking a break since I got the Df) and bring it along. I nabbed the following shot of the Palm Sunday Procession as the kids walked in front of me.

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For the silhouette above, I used a simple 2 speed light setup and cranked all the levels in Lightroom. I love how the image captures the distinctive Palm branch shape. :cool:

And for good measure, because we all love being green, a close up of the palms. I should have taken the photos as soon as we got the branches on Thursday. They withered substantially in a very short period of time! hehheheh. Oh well, there’s always next year.20140413-PalmSunday2014-001

 

So that’s it. Quick blog post. But exciting news will follow in the next little while. Until then, we get ready for Easter! :D

The Triumphal Entry

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13 ESV)


FreyBurn Angus Bull Sale

20140324-FreyBurnSale-015Today was the annual Family Tradition Black Angus Bull Sale! I look forward to it every year, mainly because I really know next to nothing about the cattle industry. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about cattle production as well as how the purebred game works. I love the descriptors that the auctioneers use to sell them. “This bull has a lot of red meat on him.” “He’s got 40cm testicles.” “He’s as square and stout as any bull you’ll see.” It’s great! And everyone does  a fantastic job. It’s really almost more of a family get together than a sale in that everyone socializes after the sale around pie and refreshments. The Frey’s really do know what Saskatchewan hospitality is all about. And, it’s REALLY nice that they have an indoor facility. That wind still is so consarned hornswogglin’ cold!!! :shock: I did nab the shot above of the bulls outside in the viewing pen. It was worth the cold! :D

But I had fun at the sale with my Nikon Df in tow. I used my f/4 zooms which worked very well. I could shoot the ISO up really high and I didn’t even really notice the f/4 aperture limitation. I could still nab good exposure. I used my trusty expo disc to nab the correct white balance too which is helpful. If anything it dials in a bit too much magenta, but it’s an easy fix. Here’s some highlights from the day.


Light Painting out back

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Our weather has finally, FINALLY stopped being nasty/scary/oppressive/cold/miserable. And, we had a clear night! I’ve been dying to try out the Nikon Df’s lowlight awesomeness with the 24mm AF-S 1.4G lens. They work really nice together. I was actually able to shoot at very low ISO (kind of defeating the purpose of the experiment. LOL) :D But I decided to throw a little light painting in for good luck. Just a wee smidgeon of light from my iPod. Cool little accent. The final EXIF stats were: ISO 800 24mm f2.8 20sec. The only reason for this shutter speed was to give me time to get out into the frame.

I give you the “StarScape Selfie” :cool:


German Wirehaired Puppies for Sale

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Truly great hunting dogs are an amazing thing. Ask any gun dog hunter if he had to pick taking his gun or his dog on a hunting trip and he will answer dog every time. Watching dogs course a field looking of game holds some of the fondest memories for me. From my childhood I’ve always been surrounded by gun dogs. But none as good as my brother Ryan’s dog Jade. She’s a pure bread unregistered German Wirehaired pointer. Affectionately known as the “ugly dog” due to their distinctive looks. Everyone knows that the Germans always make good stuff. And this breed has been “assembled” for field performance. Both for birds and tracking of game, these dogs truly define what it is to be a “versatile” dog.  I’ve hunted with Jade several times over the years and she’s absolutely fantastic. Nothing escapes her nose. She locks on point and holds it. Even when she was a pup and we were training her with pigeons, she was a true feather fiend. She retrieves like a dream, is very obedient and loves to work for her handler. :D

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Last year, Ryan got a phone call about another GWP. “Duke” had become the homeless victim of a divorce. My brother took him in and he quickly became a part of the family. Where Jade is full of tenacity, Duke is more laid back. He’s got the affection of a Labrador, always wanting to sit in your lap! That’s why I was really excited when I heard the news that puppies were on there way and are here now. I think the mix of these two dogs is really tremendous and the pups are gorgeous! The litter had 6 puppies all healthy and very uniform. One female is spoken (the dark liver spotted one) for so there are 4 males and 1 female still available at the time of this publication. The pups will be ready to go on March 20th.  If you are interested, you can contact my brother Ryan via his Kijiji Ad. The pups are located in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. You can contact my brother at 1-306-631-6125 or via email for availability and pricing. :cool:  Hunters only please.

Take a look at this short video I took of all the pups playing in their whelping pen, as well as the pics. They are wonderful pups who I know without a doubt have metric tonnes of promise, and will be fantastic gun dogs and members of the family.

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The Fretless: In Concert

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We took advantage of another AWESOME local concert at the Stewart’s tonight. The band was “The Fretless“. They rocked the set! They’ve got a sweet celtic influenced stringed folk amazingness, with a little step dance thrown in for good measure. I was dying to try out the Df as a stealthy event camera. It did awesome as I knew it would. The quiet shutter was really nice and not very invasive or distracting to others around. All I brought was a 50mm 1.4 and it proved to be a good fit for the homey event. Zooms will always get you more photos when you’re at a venue as a seated guest, but I wasn’t at the event to be a photographer. So I didn’t care. :cool: I wanted to try out the high ISO madness in the crap difficult lighting situation. It’s actually an insanely difficult situation. There are 4 little halogen spot lights above the fire place that super bright. Then 2 other red floor lamps. That’s it. So you’ve got an overexposed background and a super dim foreground (where the faces are). Very tuff. RAW helps reign the wild pony highlights back in though. I shot from 3200-12,800. Files look great. :D

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The Stewarts have been blessed with more musical talent in one finger than I’ll ever have in my whole body. All of them. They’re all outstanding! We were treated with an impromptu blues performance (hence the cyanotype). Unreal! :)

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Then, as we left to head home, it was snowing like crazy. I snapped a silhouette of my lovely wife who is happy that it’s not -50C anymore and, who was stoked to take advantage of another awesome live band! :D


Nikon Df review video

I finally got my Nikon Df review video online. It sums up those 5 paradoxical things about the camera and offers my thoughts about buying it. I really do love the Df. :D It’s a fantastic all-rounder camera despite it’s flaws. I got to try out my dads old school film lenses on it as well this past weekend. They work great! I was blown away by the old 35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s sharp with no chromatic aberration wide open. Not even one of my modern AF-S Nikon primes can boast that!

This video was my first kick at the cat trying “cinematic filming techniques.” I’m no videographer, that’s for sure, but I had fun putting the montage together. Although, I recorded the outdoor scenes at temperatures between -25 and -50C (no, that’s not a typo) which made it very tricky and somewhat miserable! And I didn’t even freeze to death. Yay! :cool:


The Nikon Df on Assignment

So I’ve been shooting non stop with the Df for the past few days, exposing its weaknesses and revelling in its awesomeness. My original “paradoxical” concerns have all turned out to be true. :| But, it’s all trumped by the joy it is to shoot, its amazing image quality as well its killer good looks :cool: I’ve been doing lots of candid stuff of the kids, low light tests and a had a chance to use it on a shoot. I still primarily used my D800 but I wanted to see how the Df would do. It did fantastic! I had my lighting setup for a corporate headshot. Here’s a BTS shot of the setup, noting that my rim light had already been taken down when I remembered to make this shot. A sheet gaffer taped to the wall (DO NOT USE DUCT TAPE) was my background in a confined office space. Umbrella key, background light and a hair light was the 3 light setup. I tuned it all and shot with the D800 then simply swapped my SU-800 commander to the Df. Other than max shutter speeds being different (1/250 on D800 and 1/200 on the Df), everything operated the same. The metering between both cameras was spot on as well.20140221-untitled-001The other cool thing I wanted to try with the Df is it’s spot white balancing ability in Live View. This is a super rad feature for nailing a white balance. Just pop the camera into live view, switch the White Balance to PRE, hold it, then measure your grey/white surface in the lighting conditions. It’s really, really accurate and pleasing! It’s not really in step with the “pure photography” mantra but I’ll take it nonetheless. It’s slick!

photo-4It was also nice to edit smaller RAW files than the D800 megapretzel madness. I was quite happy with how the Df rendered skin tones and colour. It seems to be a wee notch up from my other Nikons, which is a plus. I look forward to using the camera on assignments in the future! :)20140221-Kori-001

 


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