Midnight in the Garden: D800 & travel tripod
The Nordic gloaming is a hushed and lovely time. Apart from the massive quantity of biting insects, which are extremely keen on tripod shooting with shutter delay and live view focussing - because it means you stand still for long enough for them to get their teeth (or probosci?) into you. Bastards. Throw in a bit of bracketing and they're having a banquet al fresco.
These bugs also love a lake -and so do I. Very late light reflected in still water is so nice to work with.
One thing I particularly welcome after the move from Medium Format is that the D800 is quite happy on a lighter tripod with a less 'serious' head and with no cable/remote release. At least, in these still shooting conditions. Anywhere windy or slippery would be different.
These shots were all made at shutter speeds of between 0.4 seconds and 1/20th (have you noticed how promiscuous cameras and EXIF are with mixing decimals and fractions?) and with the 70-200VRII with VR off. All this perched on a Giottos Vitruvian Carbon Fibre tripod (which is a bit fiddly but weighs almost nothing) with its own built-in ballhead.
I can tell you that:
a) the 70-200VRII is a long, heavy lens and
b) if I had tried this with a Phase One DF body and a similar sized lens, I would have needed a Sherman tank as a shooting base and about an hour of mirror lockup. OK, not quite; but a Gitzo 3 series CF with Arca Cube would have been about right and MUP with a ten second delay mandatory. With the setup I used for these shots, the built in 3 second delay setting was long enough. And one of these shots was taken from a floating wooden walkway, with me swatting mosquitos away like a man possessed, whilst another had the tripod feet sinking into moss.
c) for travel use, this bit is key: the Vitruvian and ball head together weigh less than half what my Gitzo and Arca combo weigh. And the Vitruvian has a centre column (tut tut: totally verboten in MF land) that can be extracted, strapped to one of the legs, and used on its own as a monopod. Neat.
The huge mirrors and IMHO rather basic design of current Phase One SLRs mean that mirror slap is like the proverbial barn door in a breeze. Combined with massive pixel counts, this is a recipe for mushy shots, hence the Large Tripod/Serious Head/No Centre Column/10 Second MUP ordinance. With the D800 and a Vetruvian, unless you're shooting on a cliff in the wind, that misery is a thing of the past.
Here's a 100% crop of the above. Remember: this file is a crop of a 36MP frame shot on a 1.25Kilo tripod & head combo with a large zoom set at 155mm attached, shot at 0.4 second, all perched on twigs and moss, with only a 3 second delay and no remote release.
It shouldn't be allowed.
(Note: this crop has my default 'deconvolution' sharpening for the D800E of 90/0.7/70/20 in LR4. That makes it look a bit crunchy at 100% but generally works very smoothly for prints. Travelling with a new Retina Macbook, for which LR is not yet optimised, makes this hard to judge 100% until I get home but I am very confident that the above would make a lovely 36" x 24" print because viewed on screen at 50% zoom it is flawless)
The shots were all taken in and around the gardens of the amazing Mustion Linna manor, which is historic, lovely, great value, comfortable, has great food and is set in the middle of the nicest part of Finland I have yet found. What's not to like?
All the shots are heavily underexposed of course, in order to preserve the mood. I already have the cameras set to -1/3rd as a 'set and forget' fine tune that doesn't even show up when shooting. I'll post on this again but the combination of great dynamic range and quite an aggressive roll-off into white clipping means that the old 'Expose to the Right' mantra no longer holds. Don't do it: blow a bright area that matters and it's lost for ever. Underexpose a bit and you can use the Shadow Slider profligately and get your picture back nicely.
While we're on the subject of exposure, I guess many of you know that the so-called 'Matrix Metering' with built in memory of X thousand scenes etc. in fact appears quite focus spot oriented. Which is one reason that the left point AF issue is a bore - "focus and recompose" in matrix mode means "bugger up the metering", unless you use AE lock as well as AF lock. And the fact that the built in 'blinkies' like to panic way too early means that experience is the only way to go: IMHO there's nothing in the camera that will hold your hand well enough to get the best results. And that's as it should be. We don't want this malarky getting easy enough for anyone to do well, now do we?
On this topic, I tried an experiment today: I set a custom Picture Control to 'minus brightness' and minimum contrast to see if I could calm the blinkies down a bit (the 'play' function displays an image with your currently set Picture Control as if you were shooting JPEG, even when you're not, which sounds illogical but isn't).
It didn't work. Well, maybe a touch, but it was a Scotch and not a Valium and them pesky blinkies need a Valium to sooth their nerves...
EDIT: 13th July 2012
One last photo:
Keywords: 70-200VRII, D800E, Finland, Giottos, Mustion Linna, Nikon, Svarta Slot, Vitruvian, dusk, night, tripod
Hi, I'm the work-a-holic waitress at the restaurant in Mustion Linna. Impressive pictures, it was nice having you here and safe flight! :)
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