Archive | Gear RSS feed for this section

The Results Are In! Photo Contest Winners Announced for the ThinkTank Giveaway

Thanks everyone for the overwhelming response and involvement in our Street Photography contest. We had a blast looking through the thousands of entries and have finally managed to wittle them down to our three favorites….plus five honorable mentions that we felt compelled to shine a spotlight on. Take a look!
[Winners - congrats! We will be in touch with you about your ThinkTank prizes.]

The Winners

Wojtek Lesiak

This photo embodies the spirit of street photography. Out in the world, traveling, fun and spontaneous. What makes it good is that the photographer saw something that no one else did. There are great parallels in the frame. Out of more than 2,000 photos this one caught me off guard and made me laugh aloud. The photo looked back at me.

;

Jeremy Givens


The photographer merged fashion and street for this photo. Breaking down the barriers between two genres in a “candid-posed” moment. Genre-bending. I love the reaction of the lady looking back while everyone else is trying to ignore the model.

Adrian Woźniak

The photographer saw an opportunity for a unique moment – one that would be very easy to overlook. The expression is gritty and raw. I couldn’t figure out where the man is even standing!? I like the shallow depth of field with the tack sharp face – it’s a really impressive technical photo while still achieving some mystery and wonder.

Honorable Mentions:

Steve Stanger

;

Anthony Delao

;

Dave Sundstrom

;

Dave Butterworth

;

Chris Johnston

;

Nikon D7100 — A Definitive Review with Meaty Details [photo comparos + spec highlights]

The Nikon D7100

Although gear isn’t even close to the most important part of photography, it’s still important. And choosing the best camera for your particular needs can be a daunting task – which is why I often get new gear to bang around with and it’s also why I associate with smart gear guys like my pal Sohail. In this review, Sohail puts the new Nikon 7100 through its paces in a way that I haven’t got the patience for…the details, with side by side photo / setting comparo’s and the like. Me? I just shoot the thing and feel it, take a peek at the files. But Sohail goes deep. So sit forward and read the good word below. Feel free to holler with questions – we’ll pick em up as best we can. Take it away Sohail…
__

Introduction

Thanks Chase. Nikon’s D7100 has been an eagerly-awaited-upon update to the enormously popular D7000 (remember back when Chase launched that camera for Nikon with this bts video + campaign + blog post…). Now crowned as the flagship of Nikon’s DX-format lineup, the D7100 brings some pretty cool features to an already solid camera — though what it leaves out may disappoint those users waiting for a D300s replacement.

About the update

Like its little siblings the D5200 and the D3200, the D7100 boasts a 24MP sensor. Unlike pretty much all of Nikon’s cameras (the D800E is an exception), it does away with the Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF) that is present on the vast majority of DSLRs. That filter, which is designed to reduce moiré in digital images, softens the image up a bit in the process. Leaving it out means that the camera can now resolve more per-pixel detail, though images can be a bit noisier at higher ISOs.

Autofocus has also been improved in this update. We go from 39 AF points with nine cross-type sensors to 51 points, 15 of which have cross-type sensors. One nice surprise is that the center AF point will autofocus at up to f/8, which means that you can now use a 2x teleconverter with an f/4 lens and still autofocus.

There’s plenty more. Liveview now has two modes for still and video, and the dedicated movie record button has been moved to the top of the camera, near the shutter. The LCD is of a higher resolution, and there’s a stereo microphone built into the camera. Other features include: a new 1.3x crop mode that creates small (about 15MP) files and bumps the max framerate from 6 to 7 frames per second, exposure bracketing is now increased from 3 frames to 5, and the camera is a hair lighter overall.

Initial impressions

While the D7100 is lighter than the D7000, it actually feels more dense. The handgrip feels more rounded and less angular, giving my fingers a more comfortable grip on the body. The shutter button is angled a bit more, letting your index finger lie very comfortably on it.

The new arrangement on the D7100 (right) is more ergonomic than the D7000 (left).

The new arrangement on the D7100 (right) is more ergonomic than the D7000 (left).

On the back, the 8-way rocker switch has been moved higher, which adds to the ergonomics of the camera. It’s much more comfortable to move that focus point around now. The AE-L/AF-L button doesn’t get recessed when you push it — which seems like a small thing, but when you use it for back-button-focus like I do, it’s not such a small deal anymore.

The fine detail tweaking on the D7100 makes it a much more comfortable camera to use, especially for longer periods of time. Nikon seems to have put some more serious thought into this body, and the fit/finish feels more high-end to me than the D7000.

In the Field

Here’s where I was both disappointed and delighted in somewhat equal measures. When Nikon crowned the D7100 the “flagship” of the DX-format line, there was a contingent who hoped that it would be a replacement for Nikon’s previous flagship crop-sensor body, the D300s, a model that’s pretty long in the tooth.

Wildlife shooters, for example, would love to have an APS-C sensor body that will shoot up to 8 frames per second, as the D300s does, but with an updated sensor and processing engine. Canon users have the 7D, which brought them a weather-sealed, fast frame rate body, but Nikonians have been without an update to their equivalent for some time now, even as Canon allegedly prepares an update to the 7D.

Canon's 7D is the main competitor to the new D7100

Canon's 7D is the main competitor to the new D7100

Well, those Nikon fans are going to have to wait just a bit longer. While the D7100 does improve on the D7000 in many ways, it isn’t a replacement for the D300s, at least not in the area of frame rates for fast-action photography. Those eying the 7D on the Canon side still don’t have a fast-action camera with a decent buffer they can get on this side of the aisle, at least not until you hit the D4 range. Nikon really needs a camera that delivers for wildlife and sports shooters that doesn’t cost $6000.

True, 6 fps isn’t something to shake a stick at, but the problem factor here is the buffer. As you can see in Nikon’s specs, shooting at RAW, you get exactly 7 frames in the 12-bit lossless compressed format. That’s about a 1-second burst. Not exactly ideal when you’re trying to capture, say, birds in flight.

The new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II from Nikon pairs wonderfully with the D7100.

The new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II from Nikon pairs wonderfully with the D7100.

Dropping down to JPEG improves things a lot, as you get a 33-shot buffer in this mode. Drop it down to JPEG Normal mode and you get 100 shots in that buffer. But compare this to the 7D, the Canon body that the D7100 goes up against, and you have a 25-shot buffer for RAW images at an 8 frame-per-second burst. I’m not sure why the D7100 dropped the ball a bit on the buffer, but there it is.

Still, I wanted to shoot some fast action with the D7100 to give its autofocus a workout. I chose the new 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens for this test, and fortunately managed to secure one from my buddies at BorrowLenses.com (it’s back-ordered already, and with good reason). I dropped the file quality down to JPEG, and went off to shoot.

Shooting fast action

Let me say this pretty definitively now. Here’s the part of the D7100 that absolutely delighted me: it just plain rocks in the AF department. Shooting with a tight cluster of 9 AF points around the center, I was nailing focus far more than I ever did with the D7000. In fact, short of the D4, I don’t know if there’s a current Nikon out there with a better AF system.

Take the image below; these little blackbirds are ridiculously quick, and getting one in focus is, well, not easy, to say the least. It’s not a great picture, but for me it’s something of a minor miracle, as I’ve rarely gotten a shot of them in flight.

Blackbird in flight. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Blackbird in flight. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The other pleasant surprise was the D7100’s metering system. I usually set my camera to manual mode, then fire away, chimping every few minutes to monitor light changes. This time around, as a test, I set the camera to shutter-priority mode, set it to 1/2000 (or, occasionally, 1/1600 to compensate a bit for shadows), and enabled auto-ISO on the D7100.

To my great delight, the 2016-pixel RGB sensor that the D7100 inherited from its predecessor, combined with whatever else Nikon has baked into this new body, metered the situation very, very well, adjusting aperture and ISO as needed. In fact, in the cases where I did see clipping, it was minimal, and often restricted to highlights, as you can see below.

The built-in metering system does a great job, with minimal clipping. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The built-in metering system does a great job, with minimal clipping. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Detail was another area in which I was very pleased with the D7100. Remember, Nikon has chosen to leave out the OLPF filter, which means that images from this new body are going to be a bit sharper than a camera with the same sensor. In-camera, with the “Landscape” picture style set, the results, as you can see below, were extremely good for a camera in this price range.

The D7100 holds detail really well. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The D7100 holds detail really well. Image © Sohail Mamdani

All in all? While it’s not exactly D4-style sharp, it’s not bad at all. Given a RAW file, I’d have teased out some more detail and sharpened it selectively — another reason I missed having a larger buffer.

Shooting nightscapes at high ISO

Everyone wants to know how the newest camera does at high ISO. Here’s your answer: Not bad, but not great.

Starting at ISO 800, the noise starts to reveal itself. The file is still pretty clear, however, and needs but the slightest of noise removal in Lightroom or Aperture.

At ISO 1600, it’s pretty apparent, though the images are still usable. There’s some smearing in the shadows, but it’s there only if you pixel-peep at 100%. Noise reduction in your software of choice will get rid of it.

At 3200, it’s not that much worse, surprisingly. Compared to the D7000, there’s less color noise, more luminance noise. What’s apparent, as well, is the the D7100 is holding on to a greater dynamic range at that ISO, while the D7000 is showing just a hair more sharpness in some areas (but not in all).

ISO 3200 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

ISO 3200 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

By ISO 6400, the noise in the file is obvious and pretty bad, and applying noise reduction tends to blur the image noticeably. Nikon has nonetheless done a great job of controlling color noise, and most of the noise is luminance-based. Compared to the D7000, the dynamic range at ISO 6400 is still better in the D7100, and the RAW file holds up pretty well in post. The images below are DNGs in Lighroom.

ISO 6400 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

ISO 6400 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

If you’re wondering why the D7000 controls noise slightly better than the D7100, the culprit can likely be found in that OLPF — or rather, the lack thereof. Without it, images are naturally more noisy.

But if you look past the pixel-peeping, the fact is that the D7100 (and its predecessor) are incredible machines at high ISOs for the price. Is it D4-good? No. But it’s also a fifth of the cost of a D4. For what you’re paying, you’re getting an awfully good machine.

Portraits and Skin Tones

Okay, this is where I admit to making a goofball of a mistake. I shot portraits of my friend Ben right after shooting birds in the wetlands around San Francisco. If you recall, I’d set the camera to shoot JPEG for that… and that’s where I left it. Accidentally.

Yes, you may now proceed to call me a moron. It is well-deserved.

Yet the JPEG files from this shoot actually held up pretty well through Lightroom and Photoshop edits. The image below is the JPEG output from a TIFF file that Photoshop created from the original JPEG file exported to it with edits from Lightroom.

Yeah, my head hurts thinking of that too. But it worked. The original out-of-camera JPEG is on the left.

JPEGs from the D7100 hold up pretty well in post. Image © Sohail Mamdani

JPEGs from the D7100 hold up pretty well in post. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Now, this may be old news to you JPEG shooters out there, but for someone who’s been shooting RAW for the majority of his digital photography career, I didn’t think you could get away with this kind of torture on a JPEG. It’s a bit amazing how much we tend to depend on RAW without giving JPEG a chance.

For those of you interested in seeing an un-tortured file from a RAW image, with no camera/Lightroom/Photoshop interference, the image below, taken of my friend Courtney, is straight-out-of-camera RAW, exported from Lightroom with the 2012 process and Adobe Standard profile.

Processed RAW, no adjustments, exported from Lightroom. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Processed RAW, no adjustments, exported from Lightroom. Image © Sohail Mamdani

I have no complaints about the images — RAW or JPEG — coming out of the D7100 when it comes to portraiture. The white balance was set to Auto for this shot, and the lighting was two Profoto 2X3’ softboxes, with Elinchrom Ranger Quadras shooting through them. The D7100 rendered gorgeous skin tone and color, with just outstanding detail, even at 200% (below).

Courtney's portrait at 200%. Image © Sohail Mamdani.

Courtney's portrait at 200%. Image © Sohail Mamdani.

Conclusion

The D7100 is not the camera all Nikonians were hoping for. I wanted faster frame rates and a bigger buffer. I’m sure there are many who wanted more megapixels, or fewer. We all have our notions of what the next camera from Nikon/Canon/Sony/Olympus/Fuji/Pentax/whatever should have.

I do think Nikon needs a solid competitor to Canon’s 7D, and the D7100 isn’t it. But if you put that notion aside, and look at the D7100 on its own merits, what you have is an absolutely outstanding camera that’s just packed with bang for your buck. At $1299, this isn’t a body that can be called underpowered or anemic in any way. Rather, it’s an extremely capable and well-rounded body that will be a worthy upgrade to anyone using a current Nikon DX-format DSLR — including D7000 owners. The additional resolution, the lack of an OLPF, the great detail and color, autofocus, and metering all combine to make this worth every penny of the $1299 it costs, and then some.

For what it’s worth, I would have no hesitation using the D7100 as a secondary body to my D800E.

Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

Stop Creating False Barriers Between You & The Photos You Want to Take [aka Going to the End of the Earth to Get the Shot]

Are you pursuing your personal passions to get the pictures you want, or are you letting…ahem…”too many obstacles” stop you?

Here’s a little inspiration. Using a weather balloon, a Gopro 2, a Multiplex Funjet and some other lo-fi equipment, David Windestål decided to get some first person footage of a trip to space. What he ends up with is an awesome video of the camera’s trip into orbit, and a ton of inspiration for the rest of us. Sure he could massaged the footage and edited differently / better. But whatever. In this post its the spirit that counts. Because truth be told, he’s doing cool shit. And you…?

The takeaway is this: you might not be as handy as David with a soldering iron, but it doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. The point is to stop creating false barriers between you and what you want to be taking pictures of…

Take that project that you’ve pushed off… decided is “too difficult” or “too expensive” or “too [whatever]” and hack into it. If you can find step by step instructions on how to send a camera into space with a couple of mouse clicks, what else might you figure out how to do with a little elbow grease and that good, ol’fashioned get-off-your-ass-and-do-it attitude adjustment?

Photo Kickstarter o’ the Week – The Rocket Travel Slider

“Sliders and dollies help you tell your story with beautiful camera moves.” So sayeth filmmaker Zeke Kamm of Nice Industries. Hard to argue with that statement. Well-placed, well-executed dolly shots increase production value, no question there. They can also increase production time and total gear load, as traditional sliders are bulky and a bitch to set up.

That’s where Kamm’s Rocket Travel Slider comes in. Capable of delivering up to 10 foot long, smooth dolly shots, the Rocket Travel Slider sets up in minutes and breaks down into a tight little travel package the size of a shoe box. Schlepers rejoice: the Rocket Base Kit (sled w/ mount, wheels, bar ends) weighs in at a scant 3 1/2 lbs. Not bad for a slider that can support up to 45 lbs.

Kamm + Co. have developed a set of 2 lb., 6-foot-long set of carbon fiber rails to go with the Rocket Base Kit called the Rocket Travel Tracks. They break down into 24 inch lengths and come with their own padded bag. But for those traveling videographers who really want to go light, the Base Kit wheels will work with any EMT pipe that you can grab at most hardware stores. Meaning you can travel to location with just the Base Kit and load up the tracks once you’ve touched down — you’ll probably pay around $10 at most stores (but you’ll be saving on airline oversized baggage costs).

A $425 pledge gets you the Base Kit, which is roughly $100 less than list + shipping. Want to donate and dolly? Pledge here.

If You’ve Ever Asked Me To Review Your Photos, Here’s A Chance — Photo Contest + Camera Bag Giveaway

Photo by Erik Hecht.

[UPDATE: Just returned from a job in Belize and damn...you guys have been busy! 2,000 comments/entries in a week! I've been checking out the work -there is some great stuff. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO SUBMIT AN ENTRY (April 24). Any entries after today (at midnight) will miss the deadline and not be considered. Standby for the judging - it's going to take me a while to get through all these! Thanks for paying attention!]

Hey photo friends, a few weeks ago my staff video guru Erik and I shared a glimpse into an ideal everyday walk-around camera kit. It’s a kit that Erik uses everyday and one that I beg/borrow/steal when not on assignment. Well the good folks over at ThinkTank took note of the love we showed for their Retrospective line of camera bags and sent the studio three of them to do with them whatever we choose. Just so happens we have plenty of camera bags already (2 of the exact models they sent us…), so we want to give these badass bags away to you. So here’s what we’re gonna do:

We wanna see your street photography. Your best everyday photos from being out in the world, covering the earth and actively pursuing the unexpected. Post links to your photos in the comments section of this blog post and we’ll pick 3 favorites and send the winners one of these slick camera bags. A few basic ground rules:

  • You must own the rights to the photos you’re sharing (this should be obvious).
  • You must be cool with us posting your photo (should you win) on a follow-up post announcing the 3 winning photographs.
  • Submit as many images as you want, but please only post direct links to single images, NOT galleries. Don’t make us sort through your portfolio to figure out what photo you’re submitting.
  • This should force you to use a little of your editing / curatorial skills too. Send us links to what you want us to review.

    We’ll leave the contest open for submissions for a week from today and then announce the winners in a follow-up blog post within 10 days of end of contest. Photos will be selected by composition, style, and overall merit as determined by us.

    Happy shooting. If you want to learn more about the bags you’re competing for, check out Erik’s blog post for his detailed thoughts on them, or take a look at ThinkTank’s website for the full specs. Here’s a peak at what we’re giving away. Rugged, stylish, downright awesome (valued at $157.60 each):

    ______
    Official Contest Rules

    Repurposed Vintage Cameras — Keep the Lights On + Other Unconventional Uses

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_andriux-uk_AmyRollo

    © Andriux-Uk

    An invention doesn’t truly achieve obsolescence until it gets turned into a night light. Or a meat grinder. Such it is for these retro film cameras, repurposed for some good fun, inspiration, and to invoke a sense of nostalgia for the days of dark rooms. Somewhere a hipster just gasped “the horror” and a grandfather went looking for his Dualflex III. Before you freak (or hate on the hacking of old cameras in gags like this)…Maker of these beauties, Jason Hull says…

    “I’m not modifying cameras if they are in pristine condition or if they’re rare, I’d rather they stay usable as cameras in those cases. The ones I’ve chosen are lightweight plastic, produced in huge numbers and easily found for sale at flea markets/ garage sales/ ebay.” [and i'll add that, in my experience, they're often inoperable too...]

    While I don’t think the Spartus neon-blue wall light would necessarily mesh with my pad’s decor, I say better lighting the way to the bathroom at midnight than rotting in a junk heap. Happy friday.

    [have you hacked a camera into something cool? show me with a link]

    (link to Jason in one of my fav art rags, Juxtapoz, here)

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-03

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-04

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    4 Great Ways to Get the Look of Film in Your Digital Darkroom

    Photo by Rachel A. K.

    A lot of us still shoot film for love and for fun. I’m often dragging around my Polaroid 600, my Hassie 500cm, some Lomo stuff (or these other film cameras)… but it’s next to impossible to have clients get fired up to shoot film in a professionals setting. They wanna see their picture NOW. Well, if you’ve ever been in a pickle over how to get the speed of digital with the look of film, join the crowd. In my studio we use a lot of digital tools to get this look and it seems there ar always new software toys emerging for this very job… But since I’m out on assignment now, I can’t think of a better guy to walk you through a handful of the very best options than my pal Sohail. And no doubt you all will have some other tricks not covered here to add…

    Thanks Chase. As the man said, the “look” of film isn’t something we are willing to part with….(and we’re not talking the vintage filters on your iphone or droid..) Some of this comes from an old-school love of grain; some of it has to do with the fact that we just love the way film renders tonality and color. We can all love digital photography just as much, however, so finding a happy medium is the task of this post. I’ll run you through the faves and you can decide for yourself what might suit you well…

    For the past year or so, I’ve cycled various plugins and applications through my workflow, trying to find the right add-ons that bring the response curves and grain of old film back into digital images. I found four options that do just that.

    The ground rule

    I decided that I wanted the look and feel of “real” emulsions like Ilford HP5 or Kodak Portra. Although I’ve liked the look and feel of “vintage” filters that mimic (but not truly reproduce or emulate) old films, I made the conscious decision to seek apps and add-ons that seek to reproduce the look of black-and-white, color negative, slide, and instant film emulsions produced currently and in the past. There are a number of apps today that can apply that vintage look, but that, to me, is not the same as truly emulating film.

    The apps

    With that simple ground rule in place, I settled on four apps to look over. These aren’t by ANY MEANS all the apps out there that allow you to emulate film, but they are the four that do offer both color and B&W film emulation. They are:

    Nik Collection by Google

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    Until recently, the two plugins from Nik Software, Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2, were both available as individual downloads for about $99 each. Following Google’s purchase of the company, the entire suite is now available for $149, which makes this collection one of the best in the “bang for your buck” category. FWIW, this is the one Chase makes primary use of in his studio.

    Color Efex Pro 4 has a number of film effects, ranging from the aforementioned “vintage” effects that don’t appear to be based on any specific film stock, to effects based on a very nice list of modern color films.

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    From slide films like Velvia to modern negative stock like Portra, Color Efex Pro 4 is a first-rate one-stop-shop for the most popular emulsions out there.

    Silver Efex brings a similar range of choices for B&W images. Some of my favorite films are represented here; Ilford Delta 100 and 400, Fuji Acros 100, and Kodak Tri-X. The interface is somewhat similar to that of Color Efex Pro, and is pretty simple to use.

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Silver and Color Efex also include Nik’s unique Control Point technology, which lets you make some pretty sophisticated selective adjustments without having to deal with masks and selections in photoshop. Additionally, Silver Efex Pro also gives you a range of color filters you can use to adjust tonality in your B&W images. The Red filter, for example, can darken blue skies, while the Green filter lightens greens, helping to separate a flower from a background of bushes.

    The Nik Collection (which includes Silver and Color Efex) is available now for $149.

    Alien Skin Exposure

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    Alien Skin’s Exposure plugin for Lightroom isn’t just a film effects plugin; it also places a number of powerful exposure controls at your disposal. It gives you very specific control over elements like film grain, aging, and vignetting, in addition to letting you adjust the tone curve of your images.

    The interface is pretty straightforward and functional. Very little consideration seems to have gone into making it “pretty”; rather, it uses the most simple possible interface elements. Most of the research into this app seems to have gone into the “under the hood” area rather than window chrome.

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    This is a good thing. The app is reasonably fast, applying effects and saving files very quickly. That last item might seem like a small thing, but when you’re saving 100MB+ .tiff files, the extra few seconds is kinda nice.

    For those who aren’t looking to emulate film, Exposure also offers many other presets and effects out of the box as well. One major ding against them, however: they don’t make an Aperture version of their plugin. Aperture users will have to round-trip their images through Photoshop to take advantage of Exposure.

    Alien Skin Exposure is available now for $199.

    DxO Filmpack

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    DxO’s Filmpack is available as both, a standalone plugin or as part of DxO Optics Pro, which is a collection of various image tools, from perspective correction to sharpening and denoising.

    There’a decent number of films represented here, from slide films like Velvia to black-and-white emulsions like Ilford Pan F 50. They also pack in refinement tools to adjust elements like HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance), noise, and film grain.

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The interface is pretty straightforward and well-designed. You pick your film, make your deeper adjustments, then close it out. DxO installs two versions of the plugin, a 32-bit one and a 64-bit version, so if you’re on an older version of Lightroom, you can still go back and use the 32-bit version.

    Filmpack itself also has two tiers, “Essential” and “Expert.” They’re priced at $49 and $99, respectively, and the “Expert” version, in addition to having certain emulsions that the “Essential” version doesn’t, also has a few features like batch processing and noise reduction.

    DxO Filmpack is available for $49 (“Essential”) and $99 (“Expert”).

    VSCO Film

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    VSCO is perhaps the most unique of the plugins I worked with. Available for Lightroom, Camera RAW or Aperture (I tested the Lightroom version), the plugin is implemented in Lightroom as a collection of presets and camera profiles, all of which can be accessed without ever leaving Lightroom.

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    There are currently three collections available; 01, 02, and 03. Each adds a number of specific films to the roster of available emulsions, building on the previous version. Every film is made available in four presets. There is a normal version that is, according to VSCO, the most faithful representation of what that particular film would look like for the image you’re working on, a “-“ version that tones the effect down somewhat, a “+” version that ratchets the effect up, and a “++” version that pushes it even further.

    Each of the three packs is sold separately, and is priced at $119, making VSCO’s collection the most expensive of the lot here. VSCO does offer a loyalty discount, so if you buy one of the packs, the others are available for a discount, bringing the price for all three packs under $300.

    It should be noted that the real strength of VSCO is, in my opinion, their combination of both camera profiles and presets. They currently have Canon and Nikon camera profiles for all three packs, and in something of a first, they also have Fuji presets for 01 and 03. A Fuji preset for 02 is apparently in the works.

    You can certainly apply the generic “Standard” presets to images shot on other cameras, and they still do a neat job, but the effect won’t be as faithful to the original film you’re looking to emulate. In my quick tests, RAW images taken with a Sony A99 still looked pretty darn good though.

    Aperture users, take note that the camera profiles feature in VSCO Film isn’t available to you. Aperture doesn’t support that feature, so that isn’t VSCO’s fault, and the plugin for Aperture is priced at $79 to reflect that loss in functionality.

    VSCO Film is available now for $119 per pack.

    The results

    I worked on several images over the last few months, from portraits to landscapes, and came away with some pretty clear ideas and opinions on the strengths and weakness of each plugin. The thing to remember is that these are just that — ideas and opinions. I’m applying my subjective judgement to these images, and that should be taken into account when you make your own choices.

    That said, let’s have a look at what I found.

    Initially, I thought of judging them based on criteria such as ease of use, speed, features, and final product.

    Ease of use

    After using all four apps over a few weeks, the first criteria almost fell by the wayside, since all four are pretty straightforward to use. A few factors did arise, however, that are worth mentioning.

    The Nik Collection was perhaps the only one that had a bit of a learning curve. That’s directly due to its Control Point technology, which you don’t have to use unless you want to adjust specific parts of your image — and if you do, the learning curve is absolutely worth it.

    VSCO was the other one that has a learning curve, but again, only for a specific reason. If you do things like retouching skin in Photoshop, there is a workaround you’ll need to use to avoid smearing the grain pattern and messing with the other settings for your images.

    Speed

    Hands-down, VSCO was the fastest of the lot. Since you never leave Lightroom, there’s no round-tripping of images through an external program. Even better is the fact that the presets render lightning fast, and you can reset them with just a click.

    Alien Skin’s Exposure was the other app that did a pretty decent job of round-tripping images from and to Lightroom. While it’s not orders of magnitude faster than its competitors, as I mentioned, the few extra seconds you eke out while working with 100MB+ .tiff files is kind of nice.

    Features

    If you’re looking for a plugin that does some pretty advanced film effects and has a good selection of emulsions to chose from, you can’t go wrong with the Nik Collection from Google.

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Between the truly awesome Control Point technology and the collection of popular films like Velvia and my personal favorites like Acros, the Nik Collection knocks it out of the park in the “packed with a bunch of features” category. At $149 for the whole dang thing, it’s also the clear winner in the “bang for your buck” section.

    Lest you think it’s the clear overall winner in this criteria, however, let me throw a twist at you. VSCO has what I believe to be two truly killer features: its edits are non-destructive, and it actually takes your specific camera model’s output into consideration when applying its edits (as long as you shoot Canon, Nikon, or Fuji).

    All the other apps output TIFF files. This is just fine; Photoshop does the same when you roundtrip files from Lightroom to it and back. What you lose there is the ability to fine-tune the changes after the plugin is done exporting the finished file back to Lightroom.

    Since you never leave Lightroom, and are working on the original RAW file, VSCO’s edits are easy to roll back the edits – just select the “RESET VSCO FILM” preset in Lightroom and you’re back to your starting point. You can also adjust the preset’s effects at any time simply by moving the sliders in Lightroom or Camera RAW around to get your final look.

    So, to me, this criteria has a two-way tie between Nik and VSCO.

    Final Product

    Here’s the meat of the review. The long story is below, but the short story is this: for my use, it’s a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and Nik Collection.

    Let’s dive in a bit more.

    In the images below, I’ve used the film preset in each app/plugin, with no additional adjustments in the plugins themselves. Any adjustments were made beforehand in Lightroom. Global adjustments were restricted to white balance and exposure, and there are some localized adjustments like dodging, burning, and skin smoothing. The original image in each case is shown as well.

    In each of the image comparisons below, the original starting image is shown in the top-left. Clockwise from there, we have the adjusted images from VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Let’s start with B&W. I chose a film that all four apps had in common, Ilford HP5. The subject is the wetlands in the Alviso area of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Clockwise from top-left, we have the original DNG with basic Lightroom edits for exposure and white balance, followed by VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    What struck me here was how similar Nik and VSCO’s output was. VSCO laid the grain down a bit more evenly, while Nik Silver Efex was more selective about it. Silver Efex, on the other hand, crushed a little of the detail in some midtones and highlights.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    Alien Skin’s Exposure, on the other hand, tended to underexpose the sky, and lay down far less grain than either VSCO or Silver Efex for this film emulsion. It did, however, do a great job of holding detail throughout the frame.

    The real surprise here was DxO Filmpack. The output is nothing like that of the other three apps; in fact, I re-ran the original file through Filmpack again just to be sure, and the results were replicated exactly. DxO’s output looks almost washed out in comparison, with far less contrast than I remember seeing in images taken with actual HP5 film. The grain pattern is weak as well, which is odd considering that HP5 usually has some pretty good contrast with decent grain.

    The color images showed a similar disparity in final results as well. I chose a portrait for the this round of images, and picked an image I’d made of my friend Alexandria (an awesome photographer in her own right). The image had gone through a bit of retouching in Lightroom, but Alex has pretty flawless skin, so I didn’t need to round-trip it through Photoshop.

    The film I chose was Kodak Portra NC. Portra was originally available in two flavors, NC and VC, but the two lines were combined into one single Portra emulsion a while back. Portra NC is also one of the films that all four apps had in common, so I went with it over the standard version.

    Once again, clockwise from top left, we have the pre-film-effect Lightroom version, followed by VSCO, Nik Color Efex, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Here, Nik Color Efex and Alien Skin’s seem to be the two closest, but both look somewhat washed out. I almost like that effect, but VSCO’s render looks more natural to my eye. Color Efex and Exposure really reduced detail in the highlight areas, while VSCO managed to retain them nicely.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    DxO managed to disappoint me here again. Their render is, I think, over-saturated with a strong bias towards red. In fact, if you look towards the base of Alex’s neck, it almost looks like she’s blushing. DxO also reduced contrast in some areas and laid down a heavier grain pattern than any of the other apps.

    So who’s the clear winner for the “Final Product” criteria? I’d say it’s a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection.

    Conclusion

    As I mentioned earlier, this test ended in a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and the Nik Collection by Google. but thing is that there is no real way to quantify a choice when it comes to applications like these.

    The final product and featureset are the two most important things to me, and in both those categories, I came up with a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection. I do wish VSCO had some slide films in their packs; this is a glaring omission, but then so is the lack of “real” instant film emulsions from Color Efex. The Nik Collection has that awesome Control Point technology, but you can apply VSCO’s effects to video in Lightroom.

    In an ideal world, I’d tell you all to go buy both, but that’d run you upwards of $450. Instead, I’d say this – you can’t truly go wrong with either. Look at the samples here and elsewhere on the interwebs, and decide for yourself.

    MoVI Camera Stabilizer from FreeFly Cinema Looking Good To Revolutionize Camera Stabilization

    Last week we checked out the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer, a small stabilizer that has been lighting up kick-starter, already making over double their goal with almost a month left. Today we’ve got the other side of the spectrum with the MoVi from my very good friends Tabb and Hugh at Firefly Systems. I’ve used these guy for several years now as go-to help for aerial RC choppers and other fun toys… but in the past week they’ve dropped a much more hi-tech entry that’s already built a lot of worthy buzz as the next big thing in camera stabilization. I got the early tip, but was swamped so Tabb & co went way down stream (j/k Vincent ;) to work w my dear friend Vincent and take the MōVI for a test drive. Vince gave it his seal of approval, especially praising its short learning curve + ability to quickly make both simple and complex shots. My favorite part is the separation of the camera carrying from the camera pointing function. Don’t know what I mean? Check out their video… one guy handles the camera, the other guy steers the tilt / pan (ie what the camera sees). Genius! The video below will give you a solid idea of just how smooth the MōVI is, and might make you look at handhelds with a new respect.

    Using a 3 axis gyroscope to stabilize the camera, the MōVI system is portable and lightweight (3.5 pounds), making Scorsese-like shots a breeze. You can also manipulate the camera motion remotely by a second operator via joystick. Unfortunately the only real negative so far might be a deal-breaker; it’s currently priced at $15,000. Rumors have a $7,500 option coming soon, which is a little more manageable. The good news is, with technology like this breaking, you can bet a more consumer friendly option is on its way. Even more below for more of the MōVI in action.

    Win $15,000 From Burn Magazine. Emerging Photographers Apply By May 5th.

    chasejarvis_burnmagazine

    Photo: Matt Lutton/ Pristina, Kosovo


    Need a little more change in the pocket (or a lot)? If you’re doing top-notch work, you may be in luck because Burn magazine is giving away $15,000 in grants for three photographers. Called the “Emerging Photographer Fund”, the grants will be awarded in three allotments; one photographer will win $10,000, and two others will get $2,500 a piece.

    Initiated by legendary photographer David Alan Harvey in 2008 and awarded by the Magnum Foundation, the site describes the grants as “Designed to support continuation of a photographer’s personal project…[whose]…body of work may be of either a journalistic mission or purely personal artistic imperative. We just want to support committed authored photography of any ilk.”

    A maximum of 25 photos may be submitted for a non-refundable submission fee of $25.

    Entry deadline is May 5, 2013 at 6pm (EST), and winners will be announced in June 2013. Get on it.

    Check out the exact rules and contest description HERE
    Or to apply directly for the EPF grant for 2013, click HERE.

    Photo Kickstarter o’ the Week — The Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake

    I’m loving the photo related projects that are popping up on kickstarter these days. I get 4-5 emails per week from people pimping their projects. Some of them suck. Some are fun. Others are downright dope. So, as we usher in a new era of DIY gadgetry and attempt to discover a future slew of products that might help us photogs + directors, I’m going to try to regularly recommend some kickstarters that have a little swagger. This week, I present, the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake.

    You might have the eye of an auteur, but without smooth and stable footage your film is going to reek of amateurism.

    The folks at Supraflux brought video stabilization to the masses with the geeky-but-effective Picosteady, a hand-held camera stabilizer. Back by customer demand for a heavier-duty stabilizer to accommodate larger cameras, Supraflux’s new Kickstarter campaign, introduces said larger stabilizer with a cool feature that they call the Brake.

    The Brake is an electronic locking device that locks one axis of the stabilizer with the touch of the button, allowing for 2 free-floating axes and eliminating the need to touch the stabilizer with the free hand in order to turn the camera. (a problem we’ve noted on the expensive but pretty good Merlin Steadicam that we’ve owned for years.) So this is Supraflux’s solution. Haven’t tried the prototype myself, but they could be onto something.

    Check it out here on Kickstarter campaign and donate!

    We scored an interview with Nadim Elgarhy (one of the inventors):

    CJ: What inspired the SupraFlux? Did you wake up at 3am out of a dream or was it a more iterated process?

    Nadim: A few years ago I developed an interest for filmmaking. I quickly realized that it wasn’t that easy to get nice, smooth footage. So, I started exploring stabilization options: tripods with fluid heads, sliders, jibs, and of course, handheld stabilizers. The stabilizer got my interest the most because it doesn’t have the same limitations as the other devices do: it’s not limited to only one type of motion, it’s not limited in range, and it’s quite compact. The only problem is that it is much harder to operate and it’s not as easy to get decent footage with it as it is with other devices.

    Last year my brother Karim, and I created a very small stabilizer (The Picosteady) that only works with small cameras, and that is very easy to setup and use. But it has it’s limitations, mainly that it can’t stabilize heavier cameras, like, for example, the very popular Canon 5D2. So, we started working on a bigger stabilizer. One day, while testing one of our prototypes and using our hands to control the direction of the camera, Karim just came up with the idea to have some sort of mechanism to lock the main shaft on-demand. We went through a couple of iterations before settling on the current design.

    CJ: What makes the SupraFlux so innovative?
    Nadim: The first stabilizer was invented in the 70′s and hasn’t seen any innovation since then. In more than 30 years it has always remained the same concept, and has always been operated with the same technique: using your fingers directly on the post to control the camera’s movement. The problem with that is that it requires a lot of experience to get a good results. What makes the Supraflux Stabilizer so innovative is that you no longer need to touch the post to control the direction. This removes the human-factor error, and it tremendously reduce the experience and skills required to get good footage from the Stabilizer.

    CJ: You’ve already eclipsed your goal on Kickstarter – how many units are you hoping to make and when will you ship?
    Nadim: We’re very grateful to all the backers so far! People are awesome! We’re hoping to reach 200 backers by the end of the campaign. We’re going to announce some stretch goals (bonuses and extra options that will be made available if we reach certain goals) very soon. We’re planning on having all Supraflux Stabilizers shipped by the end of August 2013.

    CJ: Any other ideas up your sleeve you can give us a peek at?
    Nadim: We’re working on a few things right now, mainly sliders and jibs. But we don’t want to come up with just another slider, or just another jib. We’re always looking to innovate, making things easier to operate and handle, making things more practical for the end-user, without ever compromising on quality. When we announce our next product, it will be something really cool!

    Photo Geek Alert — The Camera Sensor as Emulsion + Why Your Digital Camera is More Like Film Stock Than You Realize

    Geek alert. Although the mentality stems from the last century, the megapixel wars are not over. It is, however, safe to say that those of us familiar with our cameras have started to realize that they are much more than megapixels + dynamic range. There are other factors that we have come to admit are important to consider – case in point, the sensor. Some are noisy, some are big, some are juicy, others are…well… you get my point. These apparent truths prompted a conversation with my friend Sohail and led him to this in-depth post about the comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into today’s cameras — all with the emulsion (the photo sensitive side of film) discussion that used to kick around in the era of film. It’s all coming full circle now… Take it away Sohail. -Chase

    A few months ago, I made a switch in camera platforms. Comparing images taken with a 5D Mark III and a Nikon D800, I found that there was something about the Nikon image that I really liked, something that went beyond the standard things that can be quantified, like its 36MP resolution, or its 12 stops of dynamic range.

    D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    The atmospheric conditions for the two shots were different, but even accounting for that, the 5D Mark III image was uncomfortably crunchy, with some pretty serious color noise and banding in the shadows. The D800 shot, on the other hand, had amazing tonality, and the noise was mostly luminance noise, smoothly rendered, almost organic, like film grain.

    Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

    Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

    I’d love to tell you that this was a moment of epiphany. It would be great if I could say something like, “And at that moment, it was as though the heavens themselves had opened up and poured the sweet song of angels down upon my ears and I realized I had found the camera I’d been waiting for all my life.”

    Yeah, that didn’t happen. Though I did end up switching to Nikon, for a number of reasons. (Let no debate rage at this point…please).

    An idea is born

    Comparing the two images — especially the comparison of the Nikon’s luminance noise to film grain — did serve to make me aware of something that I think has been happening for some time now. Though the megapixel wars aren’t over by any means, we have started to look at our DSLRs as more than the sum of their megapixels.

    Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

    Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

    I’m old enough to remember the halcyon days of film. Back then, we had vigorous discussions about tabular versus classic grain, T-Max vs Tri-X, why no one should shoot caucasian skin with Ektar 100 and why only masochists shot with color slide film (Chase tells me this was his primary mode). The old darkroom hands swapped developer recipes back and forth, or kept them close to the vest, like preciously guarded state secrets, while the young hands spent hours in the darkroom with pieces of cardboard punched with holes for dodging and burning under the enlarger.

    It was with much amusement that I realized the parallels in our comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into cameras with the old film hands’ discussions about various emulsions.

    Really? What parallels?

    Let me break it down for you.

    In the old days, every film could be said to have a purpose. Fuji Velvia was the landscape film, with awesome, popping greens. Kodak Tri-X was the photojournalist’s film, a 400 ASA film that you could push to three stops and shoot at ISO 3200. Kodak Portra was, as the name suggests, for portrait films.

    We left a lot of that specialization behind when we went to digital – and thank goodness for it. Unlike real emulsions, however, digital emulsions can’t be switched out — unless you’re shooting medium-format or with a Ricoh GXR system — so it made sense to have a more “generalist” chip doing the job. Instead, we resorted to post-processing to recreate the look and feel we wanted, and this is an approach that still yeilds dividends today. The cityscape above was finished in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, for example, and I applied the Kodak Portra 160 effect to it to make it look the way I wanted.

    Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    But look around you. In the last couple of years, specialty sensors are, in fact, making an appearance. The Sigma SD–1, with its Foveon sensor, which purports to deliver a file that claims to rival medium-format images, for example. Or the proprietary X-Trans sensor in Fuji’s X-Pro1, with its EXR processor and built-in film effects, which does away with the standard optical low-pass filter and the traditional Bayer array of pixels, with fantastic results. Or the aforementioned D800E, with its ridiculous resolution and dynamic range. Or the most blatant of all specialty sensors – the Leica Monochrom-M with its black-and-white-only sensor.

    That piece of silicon in your computer that sits on the film plane is starting to look a lot more like film, isn’t it?

    Okay. But why does any of this matter?

    Simple. It matters because when you reach for your wallet to buy or rent your next camera, accepting that there are differences in sensors beyond megapixels is going to go at least some way towards helping you pick your next camera.

    Let me give you an example. If you’re the kind of shooter who likes HDR photography, then knowing that the D800E has incredibly dynamic range might help you chose that over, say, a Canon 5D Mark III. Or, if you’re nuts about great, popping, luscious colors, you might chose an X-Pro1. Black-and-white enthusiast? That Leica Monochrom might have your name on it.

    The realization that the sensors going into digital cameras have their own unique characteristcs, just like the film emulsions of yesteryear, can actually direct your choice of cameras. I’ll happily put up with the X-Pro1’s foibles, for example, to get that awesomely luscious color out of it.

    JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

    JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

    Wait a second. I can do that Velvia film look and get those colors in post, can’t I?

    In many cases, sure. There are some great programs out there now that can help pull color out of RAW images like never before. And if you have the time, energy, and funds, you should invest in them.

    You are, however, going to have a much better starting point if the sensor in your camera gets you that much closer to the look you want to begin with. To go back to images at the beginning of this article, I’m sure that with enough massaging, I could work that color noise out of the Canon image, deal with the banding to a large extent, then apply the film grain of my choice. I tried that, in fact, and like my experience, your results may not meet your expectations. After an hour of work on it, the image from the 5D was still murky in the shadows, and didn’t have the look I wanted.

    The Nikon image, on the other hand, took less than ten minutes to get it to where I wanted it.

    Conclusion

    Unlike the days of film, you don’t need to delve into the minutae of the differences between film grains, the response curve of Portra 160 vs 400, or the tonality of Neopan Acros 100. But if you understand that — and accept — that modern sensors do, like their film analogues, have quirks and capabilities beyond those listed on the camera’s spec sheet, then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about where you spend your money.

    In the end, you’re going to make the image, not your camera. But it helps to have a great starting point.

     

    Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

    The Secrets of Surf Photography —- Chris Burkard Shares His Craft

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    At 26 years old, Chris Burkard is living the dream of traveling around the world to shoot surfers in exotic places.  He’s been recognized for his work with some prestigious awards including a first place spot in the Red Bull Illume competition.  His images are a complementary mix of being right in the action and being removed from it.  At times the subject is a tiny speck in the grander landscape.  Other times the camera is enveloped in a wave.  I caught up with Chris to get some insight to what he’s doing and how he got there.

    Could you describe your process? How do you end up with the striking images we see here?

    CB: I guess my process has a lot to do with luck and preparation. I like to research and prepare as much as possible so when those unique unexpected moments happen, I’m ready. I also like to keep in perspective the work and the passion. To never let the assignment become more important than my photographic voice. My process seems to always involve a little bit of introspection. Am I just taking pictures to take pictures?  Or are these actually moments that mean something?
    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    How did you get your start in photography? How did you get to where you are now?

    CB: I started taking photographs around the age of 19. I did a lot of art in high school and it seemed like a natural departure from painting, pen or ink. Photography for me was the perfect medium for expression. It was ideal for how I wanted to experience and document because I could take my art into any situation. The mountains, the ocean, social settings.

    When I started getting serious about photography, I would shoot surfing locally, just friends. But my passion was for landscapes.  I would spend summers exploring the desert southwest and looking for a chance to expand my photographic eye. I sought out internships and shadowing opportunities and from there. Things just evolved and I’d like to think even though I have a distinct style now, that I’m still seeking to change and grow in my art.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Do you have other influences outside of surfing and action sports? Whose work inspires you?

    CB: So much of my work is based in action sports and outdoor lifestyle, but in fact the majority of my inspiration comes from landscape photographers and portrait work. I’m really drawn toward the work of William Albert Allard, Henri Cartier Bresson, and Edward S Curtis. I have such a strong admiration for people that really connected with there subject, whether a landscape or a culture. I have always aimed to have the same kind of connection with my subject. In the surf world and action sports realm I also have a lot of influences. Ron Stoner, Craig Peterson, Jimmy Chin, Ted Grambeau.

    Ultimately I think I am the most inlfluenced by nature and the outdoors.

    chasejarvis_chrisBurkard

    You clearly have influences outside of the action sport world. Do you also work outside of the surf world?

    CB: Yes.  I shoot a lot of outdoor lifestyle, music, wine, automobile. I love to branch out and shoot everything, and I love the challenge of new assignments. I’m usually pretty specific and only work with brands or companies that I feel are going to help promote my personal aesthetic or natural light and editorial style photography.

    People always want to know about the gear we use – so I gotta ask – what’s in the bag?

    CB: Nowadays mostly using Nikon, and occasionally some sony nex mirrorless cams.

    70-200 and 16-35mm are in my usual lens kit. Also a 50mm and 400mm telephoto. And always a fisheye for work in the water.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Where do you like to haul all that gear? What’s your favorite location?

    CB: I love Iceland. I have been 7 times and already planning my 8th trip. Can’t wait. The place has a really unique type of light. It’s almost tangible. Like surreal beauty that seems to fill you. For me it’s the type of place I could move to someday.

    Where do you want to go that you haven’t been?
    CB: I would love to spend some time in Alaska. Really excited to explore some of the islands off the coast, especially Kodiak. For me, the more remote, the better. That’s where the adventure lies.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Advice for aspiring surf photogs?

    CB: My advice would be always aim to create a style that is recognizable. Something the viewer will know is your image without seeing the photo credit. I think it’s so important these days, especially with how many people are out shooting surf and action sports images to create work that is meant to last. Dont be so focused on logos or how good the action is, but more on the emotion in the image.

    Anything else?

    CB: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Check out more of Chris’s work here.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Wireless Cameras Are The Future — What’s in it for You?

    The Samsung Galaxy Camera includes Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS and can run Android apps

    I’ve been banging on the doors, windows, and faces of camera manufacturers for years about this one having long found value in the idea, “What good is a picture if you can’t share it?” It’s a simple concept that lots of us helped ignite in our culture via mobile devices. Instantly being able to share is assumed now. But… that our friends in the “real” camera world have been a little slow in adopting this concept is a massive understatement. So what is the state of that state really? What planet are they from? It’s worth taking a look at. As such, I’ve enlisted my pal Ben Pitt (who has authored some popular posts on the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D in recent weeks) to give us the technical breakdown on the latest and greatest. But even as you read this post that dives deep on which widget does what and how fast, remember, dont forget I’m still backing the idea that the best camera is the one that’s with you. Take it away Ben! -Chase

    12 months ago, Wi-Fi was built into about half a dozen digital cameras. This year it’s everywhere – not just in high-concept cameras such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera but also in half the compact cameras announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s built into the Canon EOS 6D and Panasonic Lumix GH3, and is available as an optional upgrade for Nikon’s latest generation of SLRs (D3200, D5200, D7100, D600, D800, D4) and the Canon 5D Mark III and 1D X.

    So is Wi-Fi going to change our photographic lives, or is it just another over-hyped innovation to help camera manufacturers shift more units? Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.

    Remote control

    Wi-Fi allows remote control of the camera from an Android or iOS app – most of these cameras have accompanying apps for both platforms. The camera creates a wireless network for the smartphone or tablet to join. In some cases this can be cumbersome to manage, but it needn’t be after the first time they’ve been paired.

    The EOS Remote Android app for the Canon 6D includes touchscreen spot focus and a VGA live preview.

    The app can then show a live preview feed and provide a remote shutter button and some control over photographic settings. In many cases this includes a touchscreen spot focus function. The quality of the live preview tends to be pretty good. Most run at 640×480 pixels, which is equivalent to a 921,000-dot LCD screen, but with the added benefit of a larger screen size. There’s a certain amount of latency in the live view feed, and also in the response of the shutter release, but in my experience it’s usually well under a second.

    These remote shooting functions are impressive but, personally, I doubt I’d use them much. They’re perfect for group portraits when you want to include yourself in the photo – something I do perhaps once or twice a year. Knowing my luck it’s bound to stop working at exactly that moment, giving my assembled friends and family yet another chance to revel in my humiliating defeat at the hands of technology.

    The Lumix Link app for the GH3 running on an iPad

    I’d hoped that remote shooting would be useful for photographing birds and other wildlife in my garden. It turns out that birds are just as nervous of a tripod as they are of a person (the shot on the right was with a long lens through the window). I guess that birds would get used to the tripod if it was left in place for a few weeks, but would they be scared off by the appearance of a camera on the tripod? If anyone has experience of this, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Remote shooting has other uses, such as when the camera is positioned in hard-to-reach places. This is probably more useful for video than photography, though. So far I haven’t seen or heard of a camera that can stream video wirelessly while recording it – unless you count the Parrot AR Drone app-controlled aerial drones.

    Using a high-resolution tablet as a wireless video monitor would be extremely useful for video production, regardless of the camera position. 802.11n should be fast enough for compressed 1080p video. I’m hopeful that this will appear before too long in mirrorless and SLR cameras.

    The Canon EOS 6D also supports wireless PC tethering, with a live view feed and comprehensive control in the accompanying PC software. This might be a killer feature for people currently struggling with (or put off by) tethered shooting over short USB cables. Performance and latency seemed to be pretty good in my tests with the 6D.

    Wireless transfers

    Transfers are technically simpler than remote control, but probably more useful. In most cases, the same Android and iOS apps used for remote shooting can also browse the camera’s card contents and request photos and videos for transfer. In some cases, photos can be selected for transfer on the camera too.

    Picking a photo to upload from the Panasonic SZ9 compact camera.

    The remote shooting modes usually incorporate automatic transfers as soon as the picture is taken. However, the ability to shoot with the camera’s controls and transfer photos automatically is surprisingly rare. This is something that Eye-Fi cards have been able to do for years.

    I can see two potential uses for wireless transfers to an app. One is for instant online sharing. Mobile phones have changed the way casual snaps are shared – people want to be able to upload within seconds to taking a photo. With a Wi-Fi camera, you’re not limited to using your phone’s built-in camera.

    For serious photographers, the ability to review a photo on a high-resolution tablet within seconds of taking it is a big draw. It’s useful for checking focus, and for spotting subtle problems with the scene that would be hard to see on a camera’s 3in screen. The Canon EOS 6D’s app also lets you rate photos, with the data synced back to the camera’s SD card.

    I’m looking forward to seeing cameras that allow photos to be transferred to an app at the touch of a button on the camera, directly after taking a photo. I don’t necessarily want to transfer every photo, but when I do, it should be a quick operation that doesn’t distract me from the creative process.

    Most Wi-Fi cameras can also transfer photos and videos directly to online sharing services – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. I’m not sure how useful this is, though. It’ll only work when you’re in range of a home network or public hotspot, and entering social network passwords using camera controls is pretty fiddly. It seems easier to send the photo or video to a smartphone first.

    Wireless transfers to a computer or network storage hold more appeal. Large transfers are slow, but it’s great to be able to simply switch the camera on and press a couple of buttons to start copying.

    Other tricks

    Syncing GPS data to the Canon PowerShot S110 from the CameraWindow app.

    GPS is increasingly common on digital cameras, but a few models (Canon S110, Fujijilm F800EXR, the latest Panasonic compacts, among others) provide GPS by proxy via the Wi-Fi link. This uses a smartphone app to keep a log of the location over a given period. Later, this log is cross-referenced against the capture time of photos in the camera to add GPS coordinates to their EXIF data. It’s not as neat as integrated GPS but it’s cheaper to implement. It’s certainly better than no GPS at all.

    The Sony NEX-6 and NEX-5R can be expanded with downloadable apps. This lets you add functions such as time-lapse photography and advanced bracketing modes, and cost a few dollars each. However, I can’t help feeling that this is less about getting more features and more about Sony looking for new revenue streams. Sony has always lead the way for innovative shooting modes, but they used to be included as standard rather than optional extras.

    The potential for third-party app development is interesting, but I can’t see many developers choosing to spend their time coding for a closed system such as NEX at the expense of Android and iOS platforms. The natural home for third-party camera apps is on Android cameras such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera.

    Looking forward

    So that’s where we’re at so far. These Wi-Fi functions are still in their infancy, and I’m yet to test a Wi-Fi camera where everything has worked smoothly. Some implementations are a little cumbersome, particularly when it comes to configuring network settings. Pretty much every camera I’ve tested has had one or two features that I’ve not been able to get working as advertised. Hopefully these kinks will be ironed out.

    For me, the most useful functions – wireless monitoring while recording video, and one-touch, on-demand photo transfers – have yet to materialise. Even so, Wi-Fi cameras show lots of promise, not just for casual users but also for enthusiasts and professionals. They won’t revolutionise digital photography, but if they help to keep dedicated cameras relevant in this age of instant sharing, that’s no bad thing.

    But that’s enough about what I think. Are you tempted by any of the features described above? Are you already using them? Is there’s anything else on your wireless wish list that no one’s thought of yet? Let us know below.

    Highslide for Wordpress Plugin