This page points to all recent articles published on dslrbodies.com, sansmirror.com, gearophile.com, and filmbodies.com, and is updated as new articles appear (most recent on top). For articles from previous months, check the Articles Index Archive.
Okay, it took entirely too long, but the 2nd Edition of my D600 Guide is now available for sale as an eBook, and includes the D610. The good news about the delay is that I was able to make an entire complete pass through the document and get all the references to other Nikon products completely up-to-date, as well as catch a couple typos and style issues I didn’t catch in the first full edit. Those that bought the 1st Edition in the last 45 days should have already received a link to update your copy. Those who purchased the book prior to that will be receiving two emails, the first to accept being on my D600 eBook Mailing List, then followed by a low cost update offer from their original version to those that agree to be on the list. My apologies for the delays. Complex PDF files can be troublesome, but I think I’ve got all the latest kinks worked out now (short answer: don’t use an Adobe product ;~). Next up, and soon, will be the D7100 book. Other DSLR books should follow in somewhat quick series soon thereafter.
In other news, I’m busy locking down the details on the Botswana Photo Safari that I and my assistant Tony Medici will be conducting next year. We’ve got a couple of new wrinkles, with a high emphasis on providing as much safari time as possible. If you’re interested in the very best safari option for the dollar and haven’t already signed up to be on the Workshop Email list, you should consider doing so now.
Latest Articles (May 26, 2015):
Another Thom Q&A I tend to get duplicative questions about Nikon gear via email and this site’s contact form. From time to time I’ve created articles to disseminate my responses to such questions more broadly. This is one of those articles. PF, E, Sport VR, DX, D400, sensors, mirrorless, it’s all covered. Warning: long article. Article on dslrbodies.com
May 21, 2015
How Tight is Tight? Ricoh owners have been wondering recently whether a new GR is coming down the pike. (Coolpix A owners might be thinking similarly, will there be a Coolpix B?) That got me to thinking about the state of the camera industry again. Simply put: is there enough volume in speciality cameras to make a strong profit any more? Article on dslrbodies.com
Odd Nikon D750 Firmware Update. Nikon today released version C1.02 firmware for the D750 DSLR, with the only change comment being “camera operation is now more reliable.” Article on dslrbodies.com
Nikon Updates V2 Firmware. A fix for a problem with Eye-Fi cards when recording video. Article on sansmirror.com
May 19, 2015
The Upward Ladder. If we assume for a moment that we have the best current sensor technology available to us, what size sensor do we put it in our cameras? Curiously, that’s a problem that the camera makers are starting to have. Article on dslrbodies.com.
Current Mirrorless Lens Availability. Updated From time to time I like to update site readers on what lenses are available in the various mounts. For current mirrorless owners, it’ll give you an idea of how your system stacks up against the others, plus remind you of what you’ve got available. Article on sansmirror.com.
Nikon 1 Repairs Outsourced in US. As of June 1st, all Nikon 1 products sent by dealers for repair will apparently be serviced only by United Camera, in Illinois. Article on sansmirror.com.
Samsung Updates NX1 Firmware. Samsung made a second large set of improvements to the NX1 firmware with the release of version 1.3. Most of the changes were to autofocus and video. Article on sansmirror.com.
May 18, 2015
Replacement Camera Syndrome. Two years ago I wrote about Last Camera Syndrome. That’s where you exit the constant cycle of upgrading your camera and just use what you’ve got, because it’s good enough for your needs. But what happens if you need to replace that “last camera”? Article on dslrbodies.com.
When is a DSLR Not a DSLR? Fujifilm and Panasonic today both introduced US$800, DSLR-like, mirrorless cameras. Both are following similar strategies. Article on sansmirror.com
Panasonic Restarts the G Series with the G7. The G series cameras looked to be dormant even when the G6 appeared. Panasonic themselves indicated that they weren’t sure that they would continue this DSLR-like line, especially given that they had another DSLR-like line that was well received in the GH. Article on sansmirror.com. Data page for the Panasonic G7.
Fujifilm Introduces the X-T10 Camera. Fujifilm today introduced a smaller and lower-cost version of it’s X-T1 camera, the new X-T10. Still styled to look like the old Fujica bodies, the new X-T1 is a bit more like the old ST-701 with a blunted pentaprism. Article on sansmirror.com. Data page for the Fujifilm X-T10. Data page for the Fujifilm 90mm f/2 lens.
May 14, 2015
Nikon Fiscal 2015 Results. Nikon today (May 14, 2015) announced their full fiscal year results for the period of April 2014 through March 2015. As expected, the news was basically one of decline. Article on dslrbodies.com.
May 11, 2015
Where We’re Headed. Having tinkered with my bag contents a lot lately, I’ve come to a conclusion about DSLRs: they’re now only most useful as specialty cameras. Article on dslrbodies.com.
Fujifilm Updates the X-T1. Fujifilm today announced a firmware update for the X-T1 that won’t be available until next month. Article on sansmirror.com.
May 8, 2015
Olympus: “Large Degree of Failure." In Olympus’ fiscal year-end report, the headline on the Imaging Division overall presentation was, in Olympus’ own words: "Large degree of failure to meet target for mirrorless camera net sales.” Also brief info on Sony fiscal results. Article on sansmirror.com.
May 7, 2015
What Camera Changes are Coming? The rumor of a new flash technology from Canon (E-TTL III) coupled with the sales decline in DSLRs gave me a bit of an Aha! moment recently. Article on dslrbodies.com.
May 5, 2015
May Software Updates. Apple Raw Compatibility Updated, but only for Yosemite users. Article on dslrbodies.com. Reminder: this is a live article that updates from time to time during the month as new software and updates appear.
Is Copyright Working for You? Several of the professional groups I belong to are Copyright advocates for their members, and they attempt to not only let us know when something has changed or been decided by courts that affects our Copyright, they also tend to work towards making Copyright work better for us in the future. Article on dslrbodies.com.
May 4, 2015
Gray Market is Changing People’s Views. There’s another way to look at gray market product here in the US: how much are you willing to pay for NikonUSA customer service and support? Article on dslrbodies.com.
Previous articles can be found in the Articles Index.
Thom's Monthly Teaching Point — Seeing O’Hare Again
Since I didn’t supply a Teaching Point last month, I thought I’d write a slightly more involved one this month.
Long-term readers of this site know that I fly through the Chicago O’Hare airport a lot, and that when I have a long-enough layover there, I’ll spend time exploring the underground connector between Terminal B and C in the United portion of the airport. My goal is always the same: find new photos I haven’t seen before. Given that I’ve been doing this for decades now, you’d think that I’d have run out of things to photograph by now. But that’s my first point this month: photography is both temporal and experiential.
Places are never exactly the same each time you return to them. Indeed, that’s a bit of the theme of this month’s main photo (above). But how did I get to that shot?
By foot, mainly.
That was sarcasm for all you Sheldons out there. Some think I’m a bit of a Sheldon, so it’s also a statement of fact ;~). (If you have no idea what I’m writing about here, I’ll just say Big Bang Theory and leave it at that.)
So let’s be literal. As I came down the escalator into the connector I already had my LX-100 out and was looking for something “new” that struck me. Since the key element of the art installation there is the neon lights over the moving walkways, they tend to be the thing you focus on first. But I’ve looked at that neon quite a bit at this point, so I almost immediately start with the opposite these days: what’s there that isn’t the neon lights that are so famous and so photographed?
This trip I was almost immediately struck by something: the “framing” I was seeing at the edge looking down the corridor was basically 1:1 aspect ratio. Nice thing about the LX-100, I just flipped the switch to 1:1 and took the shot. Actually, I took several shots, as I needed to center the camera as much as I could in the implied 1:1 space and level it, otherwise I’d get perspective distortion on the horizontal and vertical edges. Here’s what I ended up with:
From a compositional sense, I still had problems with this, as it feels a bit like a right-handed image to me (closed on the right, open on the left). Without any real reason for the eye to go left, I don’t think it’s strong enough. I could, I suppose, brighten the passengers entering the walkway at left, or wait for a very interesting traveler to arrive there. Some of you who’ve been there will say, “but wait for the neon lights to come on!” Yes, true. It is a little stronger with the neon lights glowing, but remember, I was looking for a shot that wasn’t about the neon. I’ve got hundreds, probably thousands of shots with the neon, and some very good ones.
Which brings me to a second point: what I’m doing here is challenging myself to go behind the obvious shots. Go beyond the shots I know that are there. Go beyond the shots I’ve done before. I’m trying to stretch what I can do in that space and look at it more creatively and differently than I’ve done before. Many of you ask me “how do you keep from taking the same shot over and over?” That’s especially a problem for landscape photographers. Hey, Half Dome has been photographed a few times ;~). Even by me.
The way you find the shots that others don’t get is to stretch yourself. Here’s an idea: hold you hand up so you can’t see the neon (or main thing in the space you’re photographing). Now what do you see? I actually have an extended structure that I use in these situations that I’ll eventually get around to documenting (in my usual excess). But there are plenty of little tricks you can use: hide the obvious, move around, look behind you, don’t stay at eye level, put something (or wait for something to come) into the scene, or change your aspect ratio, just to name a few.
A lot of photographers restrict themselves arbitrarily by resisting using their imagination. Photography is about reality, isn’t it? No, it is not. Photography is about interpretation of a place and moment due to the decisions you make (what camera to use, where to point it, which lens is mounted, what aperture is used, what shutter speed, what filtration, and a huge list of other things that you’re making decisions about). They’re your decisions, not reality’s decisions! So why not take control of them and claim ownership of them?
You want people to really look at your photos and study them. Appreciate them. Critique them. Challenge them. What you don’t want is for someone to say “oh, yeah, that’s a shot of X.” Worse still, what you really don’t want is for someone to then say “I’ve got one like that, too.”
I’m going to go astray for a moment and say that this even applies to photographs we tend to think of as alike, such as “standard portraits.” The other evening Tony Medici—the second instructor I bring on my workshops—was shooting portraits for a local theatre group that we work with (I do video, Tony does stills). You can tell that Tony has an engineering background: he’s somewhat meticulous at setting things up to exacting standards and getting very repeatable results. Which should be great for head shot portraits, right?
Yes and no. The one thing that I do that I think Tony still doesn’t quite do enough of is try to get the subject to be spontaneous and fully show their personality. Yes, the lighting, angle, focal length, all the technical aspects are basically the same for every portrait taken with his basic set up. It results in great shots of those people. But does it expose their personality? Not unless the photographer gets involved. First, you have to recognize that the subject is just giving you what you asked for, not being themselves. Second, you have to have an interaction with the subject that gets them to stop thinking about all that expensive gear pointed at them and what it is being used for, and instead just being themselves. When their attention is on their interaction with you, they relax and start to reveal their personality more.
The great portraitists will tell you that the angle of the body, the angle of the head, the lack of wrinkles on the clothing (or the face when they smile), whether the eyes are fully open, whether loose hairs are going astray or blocking anything, and a host of other things “need to be right” for the “perfect portrait.” Then you look at their very best work and I’ll bet you that they violated one of their own rules! It’s the portraits that get to the personality of the subject, not the technically correct ones, that really engage us.
I told you I was going astray. But it’s a good astray. Because landscape photographers, architectural documenters, sports shooters, basically any type of photographer tends to build meticulous sets of rules to “get it right.” To me, those rules tend to make them produce somewhat static and stale photographs. Photographs we’ve seen before, and which don’t involve your emotional reaction in any way.
So what did I do next at O’Hare?
I turned around.
And got fixated on the Exit sign:
I have quite a few variations on this, as I was trying to figure out what to include and why. Pity that the neon at the end is white (or is it a pity? this makes for a fairly monotonic image, which emphasizes the lines and patterns). Let’s just take it to black and white:
The interesting thing about this shot is that as abstract as it is, if you’ve ever been there, you’ll immediately recognize it.
One of the things I was playing with was variations on “exit.” If you stand there long enough, you can probably shoot virtually every variation possible, including only people actually exiting the connector, or as I’ve done here, balancing people exiting Terminal B with people exiting the connector. There’s no wrong decision. I only show this particular example to illustrate that “double exit” thing I was thinking about.
But the big thing I learned from the great photographers I’ve worked with over the years is simple: exhaust a possibility and keep moving. Exhaust more possibilities. One of two things is going to happen: (1) you’re going to find a better possibility down the line, or (2) you’re going to verify that you’ve already found the best possibility (today) and can then simply go back to it and work it some more.
And we’re back to this month’s main image: the minute I saw the ladders I knew I wanted to photograph that scene, as I was pretty sure the opportunity was temporal and wouldn’t be there the next time I walk down the connector. That alone compelled me to photograph it. But more importantly, it’s what I said up front: I’m challenging myself to find new images in a fixed place, and the work going on behind the connector’s walls that leaked through the lit panel definitely was new and interesting to me. Thus, once found, I knew I’d photograph it.
I’m always stunned in National Parks. 90% of the photography done in a National Park goes like this: drive to a known spot (or any “turnout”), get out, walk to the edge or platform or whatever, take a photo, go back to your car. Repeat at each turnout or wherever you see another car parked. If you’re hiking, the same thing applies, only you don’t do it with a car ;~).
99% of the other 10% consists of some form of this variation: see someone taking a picture, stop, go to where they were and take a photo. Repeat. Just a word of warning: I’ll often fake taking pictures and point my camera in random directions and ways in National Parks just to be amused by how many people will come over and “take the same shot.” Once they’re gone, I’ll go back to trying to figure out where my shot is and why.
Frankly, I’ve never understood why most people want exactly the same shots as everyone else. Maybe its a socialization thing I don’t understand (remember, I’m an unmarried only child who was a latch-key kid; I get by fine without other people around). Generally, though, the images that we respond to as viewers are things we haven’t seen before, whether it be a place, an expression, a lighting effect, or something else. That means that you have to look for unique, not same.
Find your own O’Hare: a place you can regularly visit that is a fairly restrictive space, but an interesting one to you photographically. Perform the following two exercises each time you go there: (1) take a “better” version of a photo you’ve already taken; and (2) find a photograph you hadn’t seen before and work it. I know photographers who’ve made a living just taking macro shots in their backyard. You don’t need to travel far. You don’t need a place that’s never been seen before. You don’t need better equipment than other photographers.
What you need is an open mind and a bit of exploration. Imagine. Envision. Create.
If you're wondering where the previous Teaching Points went, they're here.