Red Bull Photography recently posted an interview with me about my most recent assignment for Red Bull with the Red Bull Air Force at their annual training camp near Eloy, Arizona. On that assignment, I spent two and a half days with the Red Bull Air Force, which is Red Bull’s sky diving team based in the USA. I shot over 20,000 images, many with remote cameras. Marv Watson, from Red Bull Photography here in the USA, wanted to interview me to get some behind the scenes info on how I covered this daunting assignment.

I have shot several assignments with the Red Bull Air Force over the last seven years. I consider many on the team to be good friends and it is always a great time hanging out with this crew. The Red Bull Air Force is far and away one of the best group of sky divers anywhere in the world, which is why when Hollywood needs BASE jumpers, wingsuit BASE jumpers or sky divers they usually work with a few members of the Red Bull Air Force. As an example, Jon DeVore was recently in the new Point Break movie, and he and Mike Swanson were also in one of the Transformers movies a few years back as well. Below is an image of Jon DeVore and Luke Aikins jumping from the skids of a Red Bull helicopter, which was flown by Felix Baumgartner, with Kirby Chambliss flying a stunt plane just below the heli while practicing maneuvers at Kirby Chambliss’ ranch near Eloy, Arizona. This image was thought up by Jon and we spent much of the second morning planning out how we would capture it.

Above is a behind the scenes shot of a portrait session with Felix Baumgartner, one of Red Bull’s most famous skydivers. He was also a part of the Red Bull Stratos project, where on October, 14th, 2012, he became the first human being to break the speed of sound in free fall, while skydiving out of the stratosphere. In the above behind the scenes image some have noticed that I am wearing a climbing harness. The reason I am wearing a harness is that between portrait sessions with each Red Bull Air Force team member I was jumping in and out of airplanes and helicopters where I was clipped in while shooting out an open door of the aircraft. The portraits, as shown here, were captured in between flights on an ad hoc basis. I was wearing a harness for most of the assignment. Below is an image of Red Bull Air Force team member Jeffrey Provenzano, which was created using the same lighting setup as shown above.

In yet another photo op dreamed up by Jon DeVore, we attached a GoPro camera to the bottom of the Red Bull helicopter and then had some team members hang from the skids before dropping into a sky dive. From left to right are Jon DeVore, Sean MacCormac, Charles Bryan and Jeffrey Provenzano. The helicopter was being flown by Felix Baumgartner. Below is a shot of the three different camera systems I was shooting with for this assignment, including a GoPro Hero 5, a Nikon D4 (and also a D500 and D810) as well as a Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi medium format digital camera.

You can read the whole interview over on the Red Bull Photography website. My thanks to Marv for the interview and to Red Bull for the assignment. I’ll have a more in-depth and expanded behind the scenes article on this assignment in my Spring 2017 Newsletter here in a few months. Stay tuned for that.


Last year, I reviewed the new flagship Nikon D5. It is an incredible camera, with autofocus that is far more advanced than any I have ever used. At the same time Nikon released the D500 (shown above), which might have been overlooked, but has since received a huge number of “Camera of the Year” awards at the end of 2016. With demand for the Nikon D500 being sky high for most of 2016, I finally got my hands on it this past month–and it didn’t disappoint. B&H Photo and Video kindly lent me the Nikon D500 for a month to test out as part of their affiliate program–my thanks to them for this opportunity.

Like the Nikon D5, the Nikon D500 is a great camera. The D500 incorporates a DX sized sensor as Nikon calls them, which is a smaller sensor than their full frame cameras and has a 1.5X crop factor. Years ago, I used to shoot with a Nikon D700, which had a full frame sensor, and a Nikon D300, which had the DX sensor, as they gave me different sized sensors and the duo made for a very versatile and lightweight kit. The D500 is a new, much upgraded version of the now ancient D300. For those times when I need a little extra reach, the D500 is a great alternative to my full-frame Nikons. It is built like a tank. It is lightweight and compact, especially when compared to the D5 or my D4. And it has the best autofocus of any camera on the market save for the D5, which has the same autofocus module. In fact, the autofocus on this camera is so good that if you shoot sports that feature alone is worth the purchase price for the D500.

In this review I will cover the basics and give my impression. There are of course far more detailed reviews out there so if you are looking for a comprehensive review check out DPReview.com.

Autofocus

As already mentioned there isn’t any other camera on the market, save for the Nikon D5, that has such incredible autofocus capabilities as those found on the D500. This camera literally locks onto your subject and will not let go. For sports and action photographers like myself, this is a phenomenal feature. The autofocus in my Nikon D4 feels like something from caveman times when compared to the autofocus built into the D5 and D500. The difference is that stark. In fact, I will be going through withdrawals now that I have sent the D500 back to B&H.

On a recent assignment for Red Bull I was photographing the Red Bull Air Force, with whom I have shot with several times. This was a prime opportunity to see just how good the autofocus of the D500 was compared to my other Nikons (the D810 and D4). As you can see in the image below, Miles Daisher is falling out of the sky at a 120 mph (193 kph) after having jumped off the skid of a low flying helicopter. I had the Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF VR lens mounted on the camera and tracked Miles movement from the time he jumped off the skid of the helicopter. The D500, which was set to the AF-C mode with 3D AF Tracking, locked onto Miles and never let go. Literally no images from the entire sequence of 30 or more images are out of focus. Miles is tack sharp in every image.

In another example, using the same autofocus settings (3D tracking and AF-C continuous autofocus), I shot the below image of stunt pilot Kirby Chambliss with a 24mm lens out the open door of an adjacent plane. The 3D Tracking feature uses both color and distance to lock onto the subject and really frees you up from the focus points to adjust your composition quickly. In fact, being able to rely on the 3D AF Tracking mode, where you initiate the autofocus where you want it to start AF tracking, and then recompose the image however you want is one of the best options in any camera I have used in quite some time. My older Nikons have this same mode, and in the Nikon D810 it works decently well, but in the D500 (and the D5) it is ridiculous how well it works. Freeing yourself from the AF points is a huge deal when it comes to creativity and the 3D AF Tracking is the best way I have seen yet in any camera system to free yourself from the AF points. In addition to the 3D Tracking mode, with the D500 the focus points extend right to the edge of the frame so you literally can put a focus point just about anywhere in the frame, which is great when trying to pre-compose an image while shooting fast action.

With these two examples in mind, suffice it to say that the D500 has ridiculously good autofocus. As I said in my Nikon D5 review last year, I have no idea how Nikon will improve upon the autofocus in the D5 and D500. It is just that good.

Image Quality

As a 20.1 MP crop sensor camera, the image quality of the D500 is excellent. It isn’t anywhere near as detailed as the 36 MP Nikon D810, but that is quite a different camera than the D500. For what it is, the image quality is excellent. The Nikon D5, which has the same resolution sensor, but in a full frame format, has less noise than the D500, but that is to be expected. The D500 has quite low noise levels for a crop sensor camera with this resolution. I was impressed and would easily shoot with this camera all the way up to ISO 3200 and even at ISO 6400 in a pinch. Images were crisp and clean at the lower ISOs. I tended to stay below ISO 1000 on the above Red Bull assignment.

With this sensor size and resolution, I would imagine that you can easily produce 24×36 inch prints with no issue whatsoever. With good camera technique, it would be easy to stretch that to 30×45 inch prints. For larger prints you would probably need more megapixels. Regardless, few people are going to quibble about the D500’s image quality.

The Buffer and the XQD Factor

Like the D5, the D500 has a ridiculous buffer when shooting long sequences at 11 frames per second. You can shoot up to 200 raw images at 11 fps without the camera even stopping to breath. Pull your finger off the shutter release for less than a second and you can go again for another hundred frames or more. Because of this, the D500 is an incredible action camera. But there is a caveat. You have to be using the faster XQD cards and you will need the latest and greatest versions available to get this performance.

With my older first generation XQD cards from Sony, the D500’s buffer filled up after 40 or 50 images and the camera essentially stopped firing in order to write the images to the card. For the Red Bull assignment, I needed a camera that could fire continuously without any hindrance so I purchased a 128 GB Lexar 2933x XQD card and that allowed me to get 200 raw images in a single 11 fps burst no problem. I used the camera extensively as a remote camera mounted on the helmet of one of the sky divers where the camera was set up in the interval timer mode shooting 5 fps continually for the entire three minute sky dive. With the fast XQD card this wasn’t an issue at all and allowed me to get images like the one below.

One note I will say about the new XQD cards, at least the Lexar variety, is that the original Sony XQD card readers are not compatible with the new Lexar XQD cards so you will have to purchase a new card reader for the fast XQD cards. This is somewhat of a pain as I have older cards for my D4 and have to carry the older card reader to use with those cards. So, in effect, I have to carry two different card readers for the same style of memory card. I love the XQD cards as they are the perfect size and they are also the fastest cards on the market–even faster than the CFast cards. I know lots of folks were not excited about the new XQD memory cards when they were announced with the Nikon D4, but I wish all of my cameras used XQD cards. They are rock solid and so easy to use…save for this little hiccup with the card readers.

Just like with the D5, if you want to get the best performance out of the D500 then you will have to purchase top-end XQD cards to use with it. If you are considering this camera, keep that in mind.

SnapBridge

I have to say, I had high hopes for SnapBridge, but I was quite disappointed. The D500 would not even connect once with SnapBridge on my iPhone 6s. I tried a half dozen times or more and just could not get it to connect. I see now why it has such a low rating on iTunes with lots of complaints. Nikon needs to hire some full time software developers that stay on top of the compatibility issues inherent in software updates so that they can get this to work. Having used Sony’s wireless software, I can’t say it was a whole lot better but at least it worked to some degree. Hasselblad’s wireless app blows SnapBridge away and is quite reliable on my iPad.

Video

The D500 is also one of Nikon’s first DSLRs, along with the D5, that can shoot 4K video. Having tested it out briefly, I will say that it works quite well. The 4K video is quite sharp and I saw very little jello effect when moving the camera. Combine this with the flat picture profile and the D500 is a decent video camera as well. I tend to shoot most of my video footage with Red Digital Cinema cameras, so it isn’t often I use a DSLR but the D500 is the best Nikon camera I have seen yet for video.

The only downside to the video on the D500 is that the competition has moved ahead. Canon now has the Dual-pixel technology which allows for pretty amazing autofocus capabilities while shooting video and Sony, Fuji, Panasonic and others all have five axis image stabilization built-in, which really helps when shooting on the go. Hence, on the video front, Nikon didn’t really push the envelope here, save for the 4K upgrade.

Conclusion

The D500 is a stellar camera. There is a reason it beat out a lot of other capable cameras last year to win “Camera of the year” from a wide variety of sources, including DPReview and Pop Photo Magazine. It is relatively light, compact, agile, wicked fast and responsive, and with excellent image quality there is very little to complain about save for the wireless app that doesn’t seem to work. If you are in the market for a new action camera then this one is going to be extremely difficult to beat. In fact, I think for my work, and since I already have a beefy Nikon D4, the D500 is a much more interesting camera for my needs than the D5. When shooting surfing for example, I either rent a giant lens (like a 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4) or go with my nimble Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF VR lens, which on the D500 becomes the equivalent of a 450mm f/4 lens with excellent vibration reduction. If I add a Nikon 1.4x TC-E III teleconverter, that becomes a 630mm f/5.6 lens with excellent vibration reduction and the whole kit weighs less than a D500 with a 70-200mm attached. That is a seriously versatile long lens setup. And as shown in the action images above, the autofocus can keep up with pretty much anything.

nikond500_backKudos to Nikon for creating yet another home run camera. A few years ago it was the D750, then the new D810, and now the D500. Nikon is on a roll. And they are showing the world why DSLRs with optical viewfinders still have an advantage on several fronts when it comes to capturing action. At some point here I will most likely add the D500 to my kit. It fills a niche, especially when shooting with longer lenses, that is key for the action sports I typically shoot. And at $1,995 USD, it is a pretty good deal for what you get. There are deals out there already where you can get a refurbished body for around $1,700 USD, which is an even better deal.

I do hope that Nikon can fix the SnapBridge software so that it is easier to use and connect to a phone. It seems like all of the camera companies need to spend more time on the software that they implement into these cameras. In fact, I would say, the camera companies need to rethink the entire menu system and how it connects to the outside world. Hasselblad has done an excellent job creating a very intuitive and easy to use menu in the H6D and X1D cameras. At some point here you would think that Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji and others would really invest in the user interface software and revamp it completely from top to bottom.

On another note here, it is my hope that in 2017 we will see Nikon finally come out with a full-frame (FX) mirrorless camera to give Sony a run for their money. If Nikon can use the technology they have built into their 1 series mirrorless cameras and put that into a top-end full frame mirrorless camera then they will have a formidable mirrorless option, that I think will be a top-seller. Additionally, if they can create an adapter for their existing line of 35mm lenses for that new full-frame mirrorless camera then they will have something no other camera company has, a full frame mirrorless camera with a huge lens line up.

 

  • John Munnerlyn - Very good review. I was especially glad to read that I was not alone in having a problem with SnapBridge. 🙂

  • Rob Brown - I’m a Nikon fan. Have been with them 25 years. They are making stellar cameras. But it scares the heck out of me that they are loosing so much money at the moment compared with Canon and Fuji. And why o why have they not coughed up a decent lightweight FM2 type mirrorless for us fans. They’ve got the technology and I hope it comes good for them…..but they need to listen to users a bit more.

  • Michael Clark - Rob – Nikon and Canon are both seeing a shrinking camera market and they are both – along with all the other camera manufacturers – selling fewer cameras every year as the DSLRs hit a maturity where they don’t have to be real,aced every 18 months. Nikon wrote off a huge overhead item, which was that “Extraordinary loss” that was all the buzz recently. They are fine. They are still the 2nd largest camera manufacturer in the world. I have a feeling a sweet mirrorless rig is on the way. Fingers crossed.

  • Rob Brown - Thanks Michael, Good to know for all of us invested with them….would not be good if any of the biggies fell over. And yes…Nikon usually take their time but when it arrives it’s usually good so here is hoping on the mirrorless for the lightweight backcountry camera.

The Winter 2017 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial about being Back in Action, a review of Sekonic’s L-478DR light meter, an article detailing a recent assignment with Sekonic photographing boxers, an editorial entitled G.A.S., which means “Gear Acquisition Syndrome,” and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Winter 2017 issue on my website at:

http://www.michaelclarkphoto.com/files/winter_2017.pdf

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

I have been drooling over the Hasselblad X1D since it was first announced last summer. The X1D is the first mirrorless digital medium format camera. It is also significantly lighter and smaller than any medium format camera on the market that uses an optical viewfinder. With a price tag of $8,995 for the body and lenses starting at $2,295 (for the 45mm) up to $ 3,995 (for the 30mm), this is not a low-end camera system. But, when compared to the Hasselblad H6D or the Phase One XF, where you can easily spend upwards of $30,000 on a camera system, this is a bargain in the digital medium format genre.

Last week I was fortunate enough to try it out for a few days in New Orleans while teaching a photo workshop. Fellow Hasselblad shooter, Michael Kerouac, had just received his Hasselblad X1D “4116” edition only a few days before the workshop and was kind enough to bring it with him so I could shoot with it. As can be seen above, the 4116 edition, which is an abbreviation for the years 1941 (when Hasselblad first announced the V series cameras) and 2016 (when the X1D was announced), is an all black version of the original X1D. My thanks to Michael for letting me try out his brand new camera.

Unlike my other equipment reviews, I only had a few short days with the X1D. Hence, while these are my thoughts on the camera from that short period, I cannot call this a full on review. Others have had much more time with the camera and have been able to put it through it’s paces in a way I have not been able to. If you are looking for an extensive review, Kevin Raber of Luminous Landscape has published a lengthy Hands On Review after a month or more with the camera. Ming Thein has also written quite a bit about Hasselblad’s latest offerings. This review will offer up my thoughts on the X1D but by no means should it be considered comprehensive. I have chosen to write this review because there are so few reviews out there and because so many people, myself included over the last several months, have been waiting to get their hands on this camera.

DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS

When you pick up the X1D it is a bit heavier than you think it would be just by looking at it. It’s diminutive size and mirrorless design implies that it will be a lightweight camera similar to other mirrorless offerings. But, when you wrap your hand around the grip, feel the heft of the camera, and realize it is a solid chunk of metal the realization sets in that this camera is in a whole other league than any mirrorless offering that has come before it. As usual with Hasselblad’s offerings, including my H5D 50c WiFi and all of the H6D cameras I have shot with, the X1D is superbly crafted. Hasselblad’s attention to detail and craftsmanship is on full display with the X1D. Very few cameras that I have ever shot with compare with the X1D or the latest H6D versions in terms of craftsmanship. The Phase One XF is one of the few other cameras I can think of that is in the same league as the new X1D.

The grip on the X1D is the best I have ever seen on any camera. The overall design is absolutely splendid. Again, very few cameras have ergonomics in this realm. My H5D doesn’t feel as good in the hand as the X1D regardless of weight and size. Even my Nikons, which I love, don’t feel as well sculpted as the X1D. The overall design of the camera is simple, straightforward and elegant. I hope that Hasselblad wins some awards for the X1D design because this camera is a masterpiece and deserves any and all design awards that it receives. It’s design is so elegant it already deserves to be shown in museums.

As an example of the modern aesthetic built into this camera, the main mode dial, shown above, is ingenious in how it pops up to make a change and then pops back down to lock in that setting and stay out of the way. The overall design is so intuitive that you can literally pick this camera up and figure it out without having to refer to the user manual and that says a lot about its design ethos. While I didn’t have enough time with the camera to get to know it intuitively, I can see that with time, the X1D could be a very intuitive photographic tool.

Autofocus

One of the things I was keen to check out was the autofocus capabilities of the X1D. My H5D has very accurate autofocus, but it is not what I would call fast autofocus. This is typical of medium format autofocus cameras. I found the X1D’s autofocus was quite fast for a medium format camera. It was noticeably faster than my H5D, but not nearly as fast as my Nikons. I had it set up with back button focus, which is how I have my H5D set up. I was quite impressed with the autofocus speed in all conditions, even in low light. The X1D had no issues focusing in low light as shown in the image below of New Orleans.

In terms of the autofocus points there are 35 AF points available and they cover a large majority of the viewfinder. Switching between AF points is as easy as pushing the AF button on top of the camera and using the touchscreen display on the camera’s LCD to select the AF point (this is the slow method), or by tapping the AF button on the top of the camera and using the front and rear dials on the grip to move the AF point in a similar manner as the older Canon cameras used (before the toggle AF selection was added). This second method seemed a bit clunky but with use I am sure it would become more intuitive. If I were to add one thing to the X1D, it would be an AF point toggle like those found on Nikon or Canon cameras.

The size of the autofocus points seemed a bit on the large side. I am not sure if that makes much difference but when very carefully shooting a portrait wide open, as I tried to do a few times, it took some work to get the eyes in focus. I know that Ove Bengtson of Hasselblad mentioned in an interview with Luminous Landscape that there would eventually be 60 AF points so we will have to wait and see what firmware updates come along in the future. As it is, the autofocus was quite good and among the best I have seen in any medium format camera.

Shutter Lag?

One of the things that was a let down for me is the time lag between the time you press the shutter release and when the camera actually takes a photo. With the H5D, which I have been shooting with for over a year now, the shutter release is pretty much instantaneous. I have shot a lot of sports with the H5D and it is very responsive, which enables me to capture the moment exactly as it happens. With the X1D, there are a series of clicks that are audible when you press the shutter release. I am not sure 100% what all of these clicks are, but my guess would be that the first click is the live view deactivating, the second is the leaf shutter closing down, which is the start of the exposure, the third is the leaf shutter opening and then finally the live view, either on the back of the camera or in the viewfinder, starting up again. The key thing to know is the second click is when the image is actually taken. While my description above sounds lengthy, in use the actual clicking happens quite fast and is not that loud.

I was very surprised with this lack of responsiveness. This is a serious impediment for most of my work. I am sure with experience you can learn to anticipate the shutter lag, but when shooting portraits or action, often there isn’t time to anticipate the shutter lag–you just need the camera to fire exactly when you push the shutter release. I hope that Hasselblad can fix this in the future.

Additionally, when you take a photo, the viewfinder blacks out. The viewfinder black out is not an insignificant amount of time either. It felt like the viewfinder black out lasted longer than it needs to. This black out is another issue that will hinder photographers trying to capture “the” moment with this camera. For landscape photographers, I don’t see either of these issues being a problem, but for photographers who need to react and capture a moment precisely as it is happening this may not be the best tool in the bag. Of course, if you need to react quickly a DSLR or a faster mirrorless option would be the obvious choice. Medium format cameras in general are for those situations when you have more time to consider, compose and focus the final image.

Update February 11, 2017: The shutter lag may not actually exist. Some users have done some testing and found that there is no shutter lag at all, but instead there is an elongated EVF blackout that makes it feel like there is a shutter lag. So, this may not be an issue at all. Form Howard Cubell on the GetDPI forums:

“I read in Kevin Raber’s review of the X1D that the X1D had “shutter lag.” After the X1D I ordered arrived last week, I did some shooting with it and really did not detect what I would describe as obvious shuttler lag. I think there is likely a perception of shutter lag because the leaf shutter makes three distinct clicks after the shutter is depressed. However, the first click is quite instantaneous, the second click follows quickly after the first click, and the third is quite delayed. While I am not sure exactly what is happening, I did a Slo Mo Video of a stop watch with my iPhone with a Nikon SB-700 flash mounted on the X1D and, as best as I can tell, there is a delay of about 10 one hundredths of a second or 100 milliseconds between the shutter being depressed and the exposure. This a relatively crude test, but it is the best I could do. By way of comparison, a Canon 1DX has a delay of 43 milliseconds, a Leica M9 has a delay of 80 milliseconds, and the Hassy H has a delay of 160 milliseconds. So, while I am not sure quite yet, the issue of shutter lag on the X1D may turn out to be a Red Herring. At least for my use cases, it is a total nonissue.”

I didn’t have time to test this out when I shot with the X1D but Michael, who lent me the camera to try out, has been doing some of his own testing and has found that the image is captured pretty much immediately after pressing the shutter so it appears there may not be any actual shutter lag.

From Hasselblad (2/22/2017): The first click is the aperture and shutter closing. The second click is shutter operating. The third click is the shutter and aperture opening again after the data has been read from the sensor. After the third click Live View will operate again. Kind regards, The Hasselblad Team

Handling

Having shot with a variety of mirrorless cameras, I have noticed that their smaller size makes them feel like point-and-shoot cameras that can be handled with less rigor than a normal DSLR or larger cameras. With the X1D I felt the same way. The camera, along with the 45mm and 90mm lenses I used, felt fairly light and agile. Because of this, I had to constantly remind myself to take care when shooting handheld with the X1D. Steady hands and high shutter speeds are required to get sharp images when shooting hand held with this camera and hence, the new 1/2,000th second top-end shutter speed is a blessing for shooting hand held. This comment is not a knock on the X1D, just a reminder for those looking to purchase this camera that care will have to be taken when shooting handheld, just like when shooting with a Nikon D810.

Image Quality

I have shot with several medium format cameras that use the same 50 MP CMOS sensor as found in the X1D. My H5D 50c has the same 50 MP sensor. As you would assume, the image quality produced by the X1D is excellent. I didn’t really see any difference from my H5D 50c. It has 14-stops of dynamic range and has very low noise even at ISO 6400. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with the image quality. As with the Nikon D810 or my H5D, exposing for the highlights and bringing back the shadows is easily achieved with this sensor. In the image below, I exposed for the sky and brought up the shadows slightly. I could have pulled the shadows slider out much further but wanted to keep the silhouette of the photographers in the foreground.

While I only had two days with the X1D, that was enough time to recognize that the image quality is on par with similar resolution medium format cameras. The X1D is right in there with the best of them.

Lenses

As this is a new system, many are wondering about the new XC lenses. First off, yes, the lens mount has a tight seal when changing lenses. I was a little surprised at the tightness of the lens mount when changing lenses but that only goes to show just how well made this system is and the degree to which Hasselblad has seriously taken the weatherproofing for this camera. The lenses themselves are very elegant, and similar in design to the HC lenses. I found the 45mm and the 90mm lenses to be extremely sharp. They are also both rather small considering the equivalent focal lengths I have used on my H5D. I was not able to try out the 30mm lens as Michael had not received it yet, but I look forward to seeing quite a few more lens options announced this year and in the future.

Hasselblad also is offering the XH lens adapter, which will allow the use of the H-series lenses on the X1D. This adapter gives access to the full range of Hasselblad’s lenses from 24mm all the way up to 300mm. For prior Hasselblad users this offers a very affordable way to use your existing lenses.

I am overjoyed that Hasselblad stuck with the leaf shutter lenses for the X system. Because of the leaf shutters built into the lenses, the X1D can sync with strobes all the way up to 1/2,000th second. That was a major selling point of the H-series cameras for me and is here again another major selling point with the X1D. As a side note, the fact that the forthcoming Fuji GFX only syncs with flash at 1/125th second and below is a serious limitation for my style of work.

The Viewfinder

I have to admit up front here that I have yet to see an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) that has won me over. I vastly prefer the responsiveness of an optical viewfinder so I can see with utmost clarity what is happening through the viewfinder. If you look through a viewfinder like that found in the H series Hasselblad cameras it becomes quit clear just how amazing a good viewfinder can be and what impact it can have on your images. The best EVF that I have seen in any mirrorless camera is the one in the Leica SL—and I still wasn’t blown away by it. The viewfinder on the X1D is very good, but I found that the “shimmer” effect on moving objects, like flowing water for example, to be a little distracting. I don’t think this is any different than any other EVF in any other brand of camera. This is just where EVFs are at the moment technologically. Regardless, the EVF in the X1D is good enough for the uses one would buy this camera for.

The Touchscreen on the back of the camera was very impressive. In live view mode, the image displayed, even in full sun was pretty spectacular. For landscape photography I could see myself going to a Live View touchscreen workflow where I barely ever looked through the viewfinder. It was that good. Overall, I’d say the EVF was up to par and the LCD was spectacular.

The Menu System

The menu on the X1D is a thing of beauty. This just might be the most intuitive camera menu I have ever seen. Kudos to Hasselblad for creating a simple menu that is so easy to figure out that any 12 year old who has used an iPhone could easily pick up the camera and figure it out rather quickly. Simply touch the item on the rear LCD that you wish to adjust and choose from the options. I found myself changing most settings, like changing the ISO and selecting the focus point, by using the touchscreen more than the buttons and dials. With more time, I am sure I would be able to change the basic settings with buttons instead of the touchscreen as that would allow me to not take my eye out of the viewfinder. Below are a series of images showing the main menu, changing the ISO settings and also changing the white balance settings to give you a sense of the intuitive menu built into this camera.

Battery Life

I didn’t test the battery life out extensively but I shot for a few hours without any issues. After that session I think we still had 60% battery life left. We only had one battery because at this point there are no extra batteries available for purchase.

Also of note, the start up time takes a bit longer than with my H5D and seemed to take around seven seconds or longer. I didn’t measure it but it was a considerably longer start up time than I am used to with medium format cameras. In use, I just left it on and let it go to sleep when I was in between shots. I imagine that through firmware updates this can be improved over time.

The Reality of Medium Format

Many that are considering this camera may not have ever shot with a digital medium format camera before. Medium Format digital is a whole other beast than DSLRs, especially when it comes to software upgrades and feature sets. In the medium format world, it has been my experience that a camera is announced, starts shipping and then the company deals with unforeseen software and/or hardware glitches. This is partly because the digital medium format genre is a much smaller marketplace, but also because the companies themselves don’t have the resources a Canon or Nikon have to dial in the cameras to the nth degree before they are brought to market.

I say all of this just to say that the X1D is still a work in progress and will be for some time to come, just as the H6D is still a work in progress and the Phase One XF is still being perfected. This is not a Hasselblad thing, it is just the reality of the smaller market for these type of cameras. With Fuji coming into the equation I have a feeling they will have the GFX dialed in to a degree the other medium format manufacturers are not able to achieve because they are a larger company and already have a lot of experience with mirrorless cameras. Nonetheless, with any new medium format digital camera you should expect there to be a few bugs in the system that need to be worked out.

Sensor Cleaning

One of the revelations I had when I started working with the H5D was that cleaning the sensor when the entire digital back is removable made it very easy blow off any dust or use an e-wipe to clean off encrusted dust spots on the sensor. Compared to cleaning my DSLR sensors, the H5D is a dream to clean. The downside of the X1D is that the sensor is in a cavity, i.e. below the level of the lens mount, and just as with the DSLRs, it will be a bit harder to clean than my trusty H5D. This isn’t a huge deal but just something I realized while looking down at that huge sensor. Another thing to note is that the larger the sensor the more dust it attracts since the sensor is charged while shooting. I think this might be part of why the lenses lock onto the body with such a tight seal—to keep dust off the sensor. This is just a small side note in this review but worthy of mention since in real world use the sensor will have to be cleaned fairly often.

Conclusion

Having lugged my Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi all over the world the last year and a half, along with a decent size Nikon kit, the thought of having a smaller, lightweight 50 MP medium format rig is very appealing. The X1D is an excellent camera, with identical image quality to my H5D or new H6D 50c. The size and weight of the X1D is very similar to my Nikon D810. It is such an elegant camera that I found it very hard to put down once I started shooting with it. The X1D reminds me a lot of the Mamiya 7II, which was one of my favorite medium format cameras ever. The X1D’s small size, straightforward, no-nonsense approach to photography, like all Hasselblad cameras, helps you to concentrate on the image and not on the camera. In other words the camera doesn’t get in the way of the image.

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As an adventure sports photographer, this would not be the camera I reach for when trying to capture fast action. The shutter lag would be a major hindrance. Also, the viewfinder may or may not work well with tracking fast moving subjects. With my H5D, the near instantaneous shutter release allows me to set up the shot and capture action fairly easily. On the other hand, the X1D is a stellar landscape camera. I can also see it being used for other genres like portraits and street photography.

Updated February 11, 2017: As noted above, it turns out there isn’t a shutter lag, just an elongated EVF black out. Hence, the X1D could therefore be a decent camera for capturing action the old fashioned way, the same way I do with my H5D, by pushing the shutter release at just the right moment. In fact, from Howard Cubell’s measurement, which is crude (as he stated), the X1D actually has a shorter shutter release time than the H5D. If anyone has any experience shooting moving subjects and can weigh in on this it would be great to have some other confirmation.

Hasselblad has taken quite a few hits in the media the last few months with the late shipping of the X1D, a new CEO and DJI making a larger investment in the company. Everything seems to have been blown a bit out of proportion if you ask me. In the end, what Hasselblad has done with the X1D is revitalize their brand in a way few camera companies have ever done. The X1D is nothing short of a futuristic version of the original Hasselblad 500 series cameras that they brought to the market in 1941. Don’t get me wrong, it has a few issues to be worked out but they are minor and will surely be fixed this year with firmware updates.

So, I suppose the big question is: “Will I be buying one?” At this point I am still paying off my H5D system so the impetus to spend more money on a somewhat equivalent setup is lacking. Do I want one? Hell yeah. But, I am set for now with my H5D. I will be watching for news of X1D firmware updates and news of the new lenses that become available for it very closely. I might even rent it for specific assignments where I want top-end image quality but need it in a small, compact kit. At some point down the road I could easily see myself purchasing the X1D but for now I am holding off. We’ll see how long I can resist this gorgeous piece of kit…

  • David Clifford - Great review Michael. As always. Any thoughts on using this rig for Architecture?

    Cheers,
    DC

  • Michael Clark - It could be good for architecture, if you use the XH adapter, put the title shift adapter on it and use the H lenses. But by then you might as well have an H6D I suppose. Here is the link to that adapter: http://www.hasselblad.com/accessories/h-system-accessories/hts-1-5-tilt-and-shift-adapter

  • Aldo CG - Regarding Architecture- I am just now noticing that the 30mm has absolutely no distance focus markings on it.

    This is completely and utterly useless for architecture. Everything must be focused manually, and you can’t even see where you’re focusing? I have shot thousands of images for clients and not once have I not relied on distance markings.

  • Niels Volders - Batteries are long available

  • Michael Clark - Niels – Maybe the X1D batteries have been available where you live but here in the USA they are still on backorder and have been for a long time.

  • Jan - How would you compare the AF with a camera as the Sony rx1r? Do you think it is possible to make street photography with the hasselblad x1d?

  • Erik Lundqvist - I rented the X1D for a field test over a weekend a couple of months ago, and one of the shoots I had arranged was a fitness shoot with a boxer. I took around 40 frames of him unleashing his inner fury on a sandbag and I did not manage to nail even one frame just as he hit the sandbag.

    Admittedly, maybe the the series of clicks caused me to think there is shutter lag and as a result I pressed the shutter earlier and earlier, but to me it looked like the boxer was in the process of retracting his arm as the sandbag was in full swing.

    I am not convinced the X1D is shutter lag free, but I would like it to be 🙂

    Erik

  • Michael Clark - Jan – I don’t know. I have not ever shot with the Sony RX1R. You can shoot street stuff with the X1D but just realize the AF is going to be a little slower. I’d say rent one before you buy it.

  • Photographer Michael Clark Reviews the Hasselblad X1D 50C - […] Note: This post originally appeared on Michael Clark’s photography blog and has been reproduced with his permission. All accompanying images are ©Michael Clark and also […]

preview-2016_instagram_logoWithout a doubt, Instagram is one of the most exciting social media platforms anywhere. It is now ranked the number two most active social media platform (by number of users), just behind Facebook, with over 600 million participants. As a photographer, who has been slowing building a following on Instagram over the last three years, I have a love-hate relationship with the app. “Hate” might be a bit of a strong word choice in that last statement but you get the point. Trust me, I spend way too much time on Instagram. They have me hooked. On the one hand, it is inspiring to see an incredible number of amazing images on my Instagram feed each day. I tend to follow a lot of my fellow pro photographers, who post some top-notch images. In addition, there are a large number of amateur photographers creating incredible work, and in some cases their images are better than a lot of pro photographers.

Instagram is a hot topic among pro photographers. When I get together with my peers, it is the rare meeting where Instagram is not mentioned or discussed. For some pro photographers, mostly those with large numbers of followers, Instagram has been a huge boon to their career. For other pro photographers, it has been a burden, a source of frustration, or just another form of marketing. Before Instagram, there was the feeling that the pecking order in photography was based on a meritocracy. By this I mean that those who held the purse strings, and who also knew a lot about photography and what constituted excellent photography, chose the best photographer for each assignment. Instagram has flipped that script to some degree because it often rewards images that are good but not those that rise to a whole other level of excellence, which is why it is intensely debated and discussed among working pro photographers.

I will parse my words here carefully as many might take issue with that last statement and I don’t want to sound like a whining voice, moaning about my lack of followers. I know among pro photographers, who are a pretty discerning bunch, that quite a few of us have realized this fact. That fact being that our best images rarely get as many likes as our B-grade images, which are some times tailored just for Instagram. My best images, those that are the best I have ever created in 20 years of working as a full time pro, always seem to get less likes than an average image with some fancy lighting or a landscape reflection in a lake.

As an example, below are two of my images that were posted to my account @michaelclarkphoto. The left image is a cool image of a windsurfer, which was shot from a helicopter. It is a decent image, and an interesting perspective, but by no means is it out of this world incredible. On the right is one of the best images I have ever produced. It is an image that draws you in and forces you to look hard, and the lighting in this image took years to develop. Yet, the far superior ice climbing image got less than half the number of likes as the windsurfing image. This is but one example, but I have seen this over and over, not just on my own account but on other major Instagram accounts that I post to. On other accounts, I have regularly seen my best images get 1/5th the number of likes as some of my more pedestrian images have. I have also seen world famous photographers post “once-in-a-lifetime” images that barely get a yawn, but the next image posted of a Lilly pond gets more than twice as many likes. That begs the question, “What is going on here?”

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The answer, I believe, is that the masses are not necessarily as educated about photography as industry insiders are. I’m pretty sure that isn’t really a shocking statement to anyone. I would hope that photo editors, ad agency art buyers and professional photographers who have spent years and years in the industry critiquing, editing and pursuing top-notch imagery would have greater experience judging imagery than the average consumer.

In many ways, this emphasis on entertaining the masses with an-image-a-day is in some ways promoting mediocrity in the photography industry. I know that is a huge statement. Let me explain. Instagram is driving a lot of advertising these days–much more than the average consumer probably has any idea about. I have lost assignments and sponsors because my social media stats weren’t big enough–i.e. I didn’t have enough followers. That is totally fine. I get it. If a company wants to spread the word far and wide then they need to go with someone who has the megaphone and can do just what they want–or help to increase the spread of that companies advertisements beyond the companies’ followers. These days, there are quite a few photographers (and non-photographers) on Instagram with significantly larger followings than the companies they are promoting. [Kudos to those photographers!] Amazingly, some of the best photographers to ever pick up a camera have a ridiculously small number of followers.

There is actually a pretty clear formula as to which images get the most likes on Instagram. Create images that are nicely composed and exposed, which allow the viewer to escape in that image and you will have a winner. A few examples of those types of images are: place a small figure in a large and compelling landscape, create a unique and stunning landscape image of an exotic location, use dramatic lighting to make an image pop off the feed, put up a hammock in an unusual place with a stunning background, shine a headlamp up into a night sky with a little aurora borealis in the background, and finaly post those images often. Of course, some of these are age old image styles while others are new “Instagram” style images. The reality is the first time you saw an image of a dude standing there under a star lit night sky shining their headlamp straight up into it, you have to admit, that was a pretty stinking cool image. Just like songs on the radio that get stale after being played too many times, everyone copied the original and we are now officially over it–though those images still get a ton of likes.

So, what is the upshot here? I still love checking my Instagram feed and seeing what my friends and my peers are up to. The app is fun and easy to use, which is why it is so appealing. Do I wish my following was bigger than it currently is? Yes, of course. I am working on that. I also realize that the number of followers I have is growing quickly because I am allowed to post on some other much bigger Instagram accounts and because I get shout outs here and there. But no matter how many followers I have, I look to my own experience as a photographer, and to art buyers and photo editors that see thousands of images each year, to help me decipher which are my best images. The upshot is that photographers should not judge their best images by the number of likes they get on Instagram.

I realize this sounds like a giant rant on Instagram. If I had a million followers perhaps I would think differently about Instagram, but I know a few photographers with a million or more followers who are realistic about Instagram and have said similar things as posted here. Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is a great tool for marketing as well as for sharing images and communicating. But, it is my hope that those looking for photographers to promote their brand look at more than just the number of followers.

  • Jeff Holdgate - You are correct. The “dumming down” effect of the internet is evident. I’ve seen some truly bad street photography with hundreds of likes – why ? because so many of the other images are equally bad. Images which require some investment of time and critial facility are usually ignored.

  • Daman Powell - If it makes you feel better, when I loaded the page on my phone and flicked around looking for the images (before reading the copy) I decided that I prefer the picture of the ice climber.

  • Donald Giannatti - Super well written, Michael. The old paradigms are changing fast. What worked before may not work today, and the smart money is learning how to think and act fast in the face of technology/culture and the “attention” era.

  • The Paradox of Instagram – Mi Podrastaem - […] Concerning the creator: Michael Clark an internationally revealed out of doors photographer specializing in journey sports activities, journey, and panorama images. You could find extra of his work and phrases on his website, blog, or by following him on Instagram. This text was additionally revealed here. […]

  • Sherri - People who are not photographers don’t think about the quality of images in instagram. Many of us look for inspiration, for images that capture our imagination, and for escape from the mainstream media. There are also those who are addicted to selfie/celebrity social media, also described as “old school” ha, who view instagram as just another posting method. There are “spam” followers trying to sell products and lots of people just trying to increase their numbers. You can play that game but I prefer to have authentic connections with people and places that are beautiful. That beauty is more often displayed by the subject than by the equipment used to capture it.

  • Andre - Great comments on Instagram- far too many of the popular photos and photographers are instagram cliches and all blur into one giant photo of a hammock, small person and reflection in a lake.

visualrevolutionary-image1A few weeks ago I had the honor of speaking with the the Visual Revolutionary Podcast, hosted and created by Ric Stovall and Kevin Banker. Ric and Kevin are laid back, easy going guys, with a penchant for exploring how top-end photographers have gotten to where they are today. If you have not heard about this podcast I can’t recommend it highly enough. Ric and Kevin have interviewed a lot of photographers in the last two years, and specifically quite a few photographers in the outdoor adventure genre, including many of my peers: Tim Kemple, Keith Ladzinski, Andy Mann, Corey Rich, Chris Burkard, Anson Fogel, Cory Richards and Tyler Stableford. They have also interviewed luminaries such as Dave Black, Ami Vitale, David Alan Harvey and Rich Clarkson.

Their focus is not on gear, but on the journey each photographer has taken to get where they are currently in their careers. As it says on their website: “Because we are interested in people’s story and not what type of gear they use, we introduce a new much needed podcast in the world of photography and cinematography. Featuring in-depth conversations with some of the world’s leading photographers, filmmakers, and other visual revolutionaries, we are bringing you the backstory on how some of your favorite artists got to where they are today.”

Bravo Ric and Kevin! This is a much needed style of podcast. Whenever I meet a photographer that inspires me, the burning question I always want to ask is “Tell me your story. How did you get started?” I think that in telling that story, those who are starting out, or even the seasoned pro, can learn a lot about the process, the journey and what it takes to get established. None of us have the same story, but they are all fascinating stories to listen to and learn from.

You can find my conversation with Ric and Kevin on iTunes or on the Visual Revolutionary website. It is also available on Stitcher and many other podcast apps. I hope you enjoy the conversation – and find time to listen to some of their other excellent interviews. My thanks to Ric and Kevin for reaching out and asking me to be a part of their podcast series. This is definitely one of the best podcasts I have been a part of in a long, long time.

  • terrell c woods - This was a fantastic sit down. I felt like i was in the room with you guys. Michael you provided great insight into the work that has to be down.Talent is only part of the equation. I seriously appreciate your work and talent. Stay safe and keep shooting.

  • Michael Clark - Thanks Terrell!

  • Randy Lovelace - Michael,

    Thank you for taking the time and doing the interview. I learned about the podcast through your blog, and I will share it with my network. Specifically, thank you for telling us of your journey and being willing to share your most prized lessons. It was an inspiring interview that has helped bring some clarity to my goals as a photographer. Chase Jarvis talks about scaling your mentoring, and while I can’t afford to go on your workshops this year, I am learning a lot from you. To give back to you in a small way I have purchased Exposed, worked/ing through anything from Albert Watson, sharing your interview on Vision Revolutionary and putting into practice what I’m learning. I am a life long learner, I want critical feedback and I aim at being in the one percent who applies what you teach.

    Cheers – Randy

2016 has been yet again an incredible year with some of the most adventurous travels I have had in a number of years. Luckily, 2017 is looking pretty adventurous as well. 2016 also marked a year where one of my images was recognized by Communication Arts in their Photo Annual. That was a huge award for me as I have been trying to get an image in the CA Photo Annual pretty much my entire career. I know that these “Year in Review” blog posts are a dime a dozen – and I have seen a lot of them over the last few weeks – but I hope you find this blog post at least entertaining. If you have been following along this year then you have seen most of these already but there are a few new images here that haven’t been distributed far and wide just yet. Hence, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the best images I have created this past year.

Patagonia Ice Cap Expedition
Argentina and Chile

Traversing the Patagonia Ice Cap earlier this year with Vertical Shot Expeditions in February was one of the most incredible trips I have ever done. With near perfect weather the entire trip, and incredible views of both Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre from just about every possible angle, it was a stand out trip and perhaps the best trip of the year. I have had a love affair with the Patagonia Ice Cap for nearly a decade now, since I first saw it while covering the Patagonia Expedition race way back in 2008. At that moment exploring the ice cap shot to the top of my list of things to do in the future. It took me all of a second or two to accept this assignment–which was also an incredibly adventurous photo workshop. I got so many amazing images on the ice cap traverse that it is very hard to pull just a few here for this wrap-up, but here are what I feel are the best of the best from that experience. And if you are interested in exploring the ice cap, you are in luck, Vertical Shot Expeditions is putting together another trip on the ice cap slated for 2017. Stay tuned for more details.

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Shiprock
New Mexico, USA

When I got back from Patagonia, I received the new Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi camera that I ordered in December. Right away, I took it with me to Hawaii and shot a bit with it there. Sadly, the best images I shot in Hawaii are still under embargo so I can’t share them. But, the best image I have captured with the new Hasselblad, and perhaps the best image I captured all year was this image of Shiprock with the starry sky circling above it. I shot this image at around 11 PM and even though there was a faint glow from the city of Shiprock, New Mexico (seen on the far right side) it was pitch black. I couldn’t even see the 2,000-foot tall volcanic plug that was right in front of me and I had to guess at the focus, which was painful because of the thirty-minute long exposures. It took me three tries but I eventually got the focus dialed in and this image was the result.

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Nikon D5 Review with DPReview.com
Northern New Mexico

In May, I was asked to do a video review of the Nikon D5 for DPReview.com, the largest photography website on the internet. Working with Rishi Sanyal, DPReview’s Deputy Editor and Technical Guru, we shot three different sports–BMX, whitewater kayaking and Motocross–over three days right here in northern New Mexico. While I got decent images of the other sports, motocross was completely new to me and a few of those images are definitely some of the better adventure sports images I have captured this year. The Nikon D5 is also an incredible camera, with autofocus like nothing I have ever seen before. Below are the two best images from that assignment.

Daniel Coriz motocross riding at the Santa Fe MX track in northern New Mexico.Daniel Coriz motocross riding at the Santa Fe MX track in northern New Mexico.

Red Bull Summer Solstice Challenge
San Francisco, California

This summer, to celebrate the summer solstice and announce a new kiwi flavor, Red Bull flew in ten of the top Red Bull athletes and ten of their top photographers for a photo showdown. I had the pleasure of working with Levi Siver again. Levi is a world-class windsurfer. We have worked together on a few Red Bull projects in the past and it is always fun to work with Levi. This photo challenge included a variety of genres including lifestyle, action and Red Bull specific images. Typically, there are no waves of note in the summer months in the northern hemisphere. Amazingly, even though the waves weren’t phenomenal, we did get some wind on the day of the shoot and Levi was able to put on a show, even with the tiny little waves that were rolling in. This assignment was tough. We had to go out and shoot the images for all five categories and then work them up and submit them by that afternoon. This forced all of us to be on our game and also get really creative, as can be seen with the double exposure images below. This event was also a great time catching up with some of my peers and athletes that I have worked with in the past including JT Holmes, Ian Walsh, Christian Pondella, Zak Noyle, Chris Garrison, Chris Tedesco, and of course it was great to get a chance to work with Levi again. Below are three of my favorites from this shoot. For the full story on this assignment check out the Summer 2016 Newsletter.

Levi Siver wind surfing in and around San Francisco, California on June 20, 2016.

Levi Siver wind surfing in and around San Francisco, California on June 20, 2016.

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Ultra Trail Running with New Balance
Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of the best assignments I had all year, because it was perhaps the least stressful and the most fun, was photographing Dominic and Katie Grossman, two world-class ultra trail runners, for New Balance. This assignment was both a photo shoot for New Balance with Dominic and Katie as well as a way to promote the Ultra Santa Fe, a new ultra trail running race in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. We got so many amazing images this day it is very hard to pick the best of the bunch but below are my top three. For more on this assignment check out my Fall 2016 Newsletter.

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Dominic and Katie Grossman trail running in the Sangre de Christo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Boxers in the Studio
Santa Fe, New Mexico

As can be seen in my previous blog post, I had an assignment shooting for Sekonic light meters in August of this year photographing boxers in a studio-like setting. We actually shot these images at a local gym. The point of the shoot was to create a behind the scenes video of me setting up the lights and using the light meter to show how easy it is to use with my Elinchrom strobes. The Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U-EL, with the Elinchrom Skyport transmitter built into the light meter, allows for full wireless control of the strobes using the touchscreen on the light meter. Even when shooting for photographic equipment companies, I am always looking to push the envelope and really create something striking. These in-camera multiple exposure images are the two strongest images from that shoot. Check out a behind the scenes video and my full blog post on this shoot here.

Luis F. Castillo shadow boxing at Undisputed Fitness in Santa Fe, New MexicoLuis F. Castillo shadow boxing at Undisputed Fitness in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Diablo Canyon
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

This fall I set up several portfolio shoots to play around with various outdoor lighting techniques and work with new equipment, like the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi. The end results were some pretty cool new images that have already made it into my portfolio both on my website and in my printed portfolio. Here are a few images from two different shoots, which were captured in Diablo Canyon near Santa Fe. In the second image, we really got lucky with the sunset behind the climber. My thanks to Amy Jordan and Aaron Miller for working with me to create these images.

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Alamos Vista Trail
Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico

On another portfolio shoot this fall, I worked with Chris Sheehan up on the Alamos Vista trail in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. The aspens were in peak form and this trail is perhaps one of the most beautiful in all of New Mexico – especially in early October, when this shoot happened. Again, testing out some strobe techniques and experimenting with various lighting setups paid off. When I have time between assignments I am always testing new lighting techniques, new gear and trying to create more dramatic images than I have in the past.

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Portraits in the Studio
Santa Fe, New Mexico

In August I took a photo workshop, only the second I have ever taken, with Albert Watson. Albert is a legendary photographer and this workshop, which was only the third time he has ever taught was phenomenal. Check out my write up on that workshop here. Let’s just say he is a true master when it comes to lighting. I learned a lot about lighting for portraits and a few months after the workshop I spent two days putting into practice some of the techniques I learned in his workshop — and I also worked hard to add my own flair to the portraits as well. Here are a few of the results.

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God Beams and Monklets
Myanmar

The last adventure of 2016 was teaching a ten-day photo workshop for Popular Photography magazine and the Mentor Series Treks in Myanmar. Myanmar is pretty phenomenal for photography. The culture, the people and the landscape are all exotic, friendly and photogenic – at least for our western eyes. It has become a major travel destination in the last few years and I can see why. I haven’t even finished editing the 7,000-plus images I shot on this adventure but this image below seems to be the clear winner.

mclark_myms_1116_4686Of course, there were a whole truckload of other excellent images from this year, but for some reason these have resonated the most for me. Thanks for taking the time to check out some of the highlights of the year for 2016. Feel free to comment on any of these images and tell me which one you think is the best of the best from this year. Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping your 2017 is filled with adventurous travels and amazing experiences!

T W I T T E R
L I N K S