2018 Annual Fine Art Print Sale – 25% Off

To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 25% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2018. How this works is very simple, just take 25% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print.

All of my images are available as Fine Art Prints. You can see which of my images are in the Limited Edition category on my website. Any images that are not shown on the Limited Edition page are considered Open Edition prints. Please note that these prices do not include shipping. If you have any questions about print sizes or available images please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will work with you to make sure the final print is the best it can possibly be and will look great mounted on your wall.

These archival prints are painstakingly created by yours truly on some of the finest papers available. I do not outsource printing to a third party printer because I want to have tight control over the quality of the final print, and I have not found a third party printer that can achieve the same level of quality that I can produce here in my office. The prints are made on Epson printers using a variety of papers including both fine art matte papers and baryta photographic papers. The printer and paper combination is chosen specifically for each image so that image will be rendered with the highest possible resolution and the widest color gamut. Our main papers are Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Ilford Gold Cotton Textured and Ilford Fine Art Smooth papers.

Below are a few sample prints that I have made in the last few months to give you an idea of just how stunning these turn out when framed up.

Please contact me with any questions or if you would like to look at a wider range of images than are featured on my website.

 

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Random Thoughts on Mirrorless Camera Systems

Over the past year or more, in anticipation of this time–where Nikon, Canon and everyone else would jump on the mirrorless train–I have been testing out and thinking a lot–too much really–about the equipment I use and what the future holds. It has been clear for a while now, at least to me, that mirrorless cameras are the future of photography. There are a number of reasons for this but chief among them is that to take 35mm full-frame sensors beyond 50 megapixels and have the ability to get sharp handheld images the mirror has to be removed. The mirror causes way too much vibration. The mirror also doesn’t allow for In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), which is key for getting sharp images at reasonable shutter speeds with super-high resolution sensors. Additionally, the DSLR lenses, at least those in the Nikon and Canon ecosystems, are not able to deal with the higher resolution demands of 50-plus MP sensors–or at least they would not deal with it well. Hence, both Nikon and Canon have created larger lens mounts to allow them to create next-generation higher resolving lenses.

It is only a matter of time until mirrorless cameras mature to where they will be the clear favorite over DSLRs for all genres. For many genres, mirrorless is already a clear favorite. I don’t know that we are there just yet for fast-paced sports photographers like myself, but we aren’t far off. For working professionals, to stay competitive and even improve our photography, pushing the envelope not only with our skills but also with the available technology is tantamount for staying relevant–at least in the adventure spots genre I inhabit. While testing the Nikon Z7 over the last few weeks (stay tuned for my full review), it has got me thinking a lot about how it or any mirrorless camera will be used in tandem with my DSLRs and medium format digital cameras. It has also got me thinking about the giant expense coming soon to replace my entire DSLR kit, that I have built up over decades, with a full-fledged mirrorless kit.

A mirrorless camera changes how you shoot. Because there are both an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a rear LCD, and both are showing the exact same image, I find that I shoot much more often from the hip than I would with a DSLR. I also find myself fine-tuning the image in-camera more than I would with a DSLR. With a DSLR, I am primarily just trying to record image data with a pleasing composition and a satisfactory exposure. I worry about tweaking the final image in the post-processing. With the mirrorless, I am comparing how the subject looks at a normal exposure–or with an underexposed or overexposed look. I can also see immediately if underexposing the image brings color back into the sky or darkens my subject too much. The live histogram is perhaps the best thing about mirrorless and it is something I have been asking for in DSLRs for more than a decade.

Mirrorless cameras offer some serious advantages in terms of speed and ease of use. The live preview image and histogram in the EVF allow you to dial in the exposure exactly as you want without having to shoot an image and then check the LCD as with a DSLR–and then have to shoot another image with new settings, and check it again and so on. Instead, with a mirrorless camera, you can see how the exposure affects the image in real time by looking through the viewfinder and changing settings to dial in the look and feel of the image exactly as you want. This is referred to as “what you see is what you get” or with the acronym WYSIWYG. This massively speeds up the entire process of getting the exposure just where you want it. Going back to my D850 was tough after getting used to this on the Z7. I can see now why DSLRs would seem quite clunky to those that have only used mirrorless cameras. Also, having a built in loupe, i.e. the EVF, to review images even in bright sunlight is a huge bonus, especially if you are using flash or strobes.

Having a live preview of what the image will look like allows for a more artistic decision making process as to how you want the final image to look–at least before raw processing. I would even say, it gets the image farther towards the final look in camera and in some cases speeds up the post-processing workflow. With the live preview in the EVF providing WYSIWYG, you can see that the image is better dark, or maybe you really want those highlights to blow out. Being able to see and compare the differences in the EVF or on the back LCD live allows for an immediate decision making process that is difficult to duplicate on a DSLR–or at the very least it would take a lot longer to work out on a DSLR.

So far, I can easily say the Nikon Z7 is the best mirrorless camera that I have worked with as far as ergonomics, image quality, EVF and overall build. There might be other mirrorless cameras out there with faster autofocus, like the Sony A9, but none of them that I have worked with have the complete feel I have been looking for until I picked up the Nikon Z7. In any case, this blog post isn’t about any one camera but more generally about mirrorless cameras versus DSLRs, which have been the mainstay for the last fifteen years or more. In my experience, once I start shooting with a mirrorless camera, switching to the DSLR feels slow and clunky–unless I need the wicked fast 3D AF Tracking in the Nikon D850. Once the manufacturers can dial in the AF speed and consistency for fast moving sports I think DSLRs will slowly fade out.

While using the tiny Z7 camera body with the 24-70 f/4 S on a recent assignment, I had a discussion with my video crew about showing up with such a small, lightweight camera on a big assignment where you would be charging the client tens of thousands of dollars. The video crew by the way was lugging around a full Red digital cinema camera with five honking huge cine-prime lenses, which made the comparison that much more relevant. Everyone who passed by us was blown away by the video rig and said nothing of the Z7 because it looks like any other consumer camera to the general public. I realize the final images are all that counts, but on some jobs the size of the camera matters in terms of the client, and the subject, feeling like they are working with a top-end photographer. Hence, this discussion about camera size.

In terms of size, Sony and Fuji seemed to have come out with the smallest and lightest MILC offerings. They dictated the form factor and for years hyped the small, lightweight nature of these cameras. Then reality hit the masses when they realized you can’t bend the laws of physics. If you want an f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera it will be the same size on a mirrorless as it would be on a DSLR and in most cases it might even be slightly larger to account for the shorter flange distance. Hence, that slightly lighter mirrorless camera body isn’t really that much lighter overall. Further, when you take into account the poor battery life of most mirrorless cameras when compared to equivalent DSLRs, and the need to take a few more extra batteries, that weight savings evaporates very quickly. Now that the weight advantage of mirrorless is well understood as a myth, save for when using f/4 and lighter lenses, if we are going to shoot with f/2.8 and faster lenses, like those announced with the Canon EOS R, what is the point of a small form factor for the camera?

It is nice to have a camera that is smaller for expeditions and when weight is a huge concern–and I am all for that–but for a lot of jobs, having a larger camera that is mirrorless (a.l.a. the Leica SL – but not that heavy) might be nice. A larger mirrorless camera body can have more buttons and dials and better ergonomics, like the D850, and still be a mirrorless camera with all the advantages therein. It would also balance better on the larger f/2.8 lenses and it could have larger batteries to overcome the battery life issue. Interestingly, there are now a variety of mirrorless camera sizes on the market. Sony and Fuji are perhaps the smallest, Nikon is a bit larger, Canon opted for an even slightly larger body and then the Leica SL is perhaps the largest full-frame mirrorless option. I don’t think we have yet figured out what size is the best overall size for mirrorless cameras.

My hope is that going forward we can have both smaller and larger mirrorless offerings. A small form-factor full frame mirrorless camera, like the Nikon Z7 or Sony A7RIII, is a great option. I hope that in the future we continue to have these smaller MILC options and a slightly larger mirrorless option with better ergonomics–and the same lens mount. Of course, for the current crop of mirrorless cameras a battery grip can certainly go a long way to making the cameras appear slightly larger and on a lot of assignments, where weight isn’t a concern, I would definitely attach a battery grip to my mirrorless camera if for nothing else than for the appearance of bringing a larger style camera to the assignment. But I hope the camera companies see the benefit of a slightly larger mirrorless camera body. As an example, the size of the Hasselblad X1D is just about perfect.

One question I hear from a lot of photographers is why do we need these super high-resolution cameras? For the working pro, it may be that they need the resolution for huge prints, but those making huge prints are pretty rare. The real reason for super high-resolution cameras is due to higher resolution monitors (think Apple 5K Retina Displays) and the strange crop and aspect ratios associated with modern digital advertising. While teaching at a recent photography workshop for Summit Workshops, Scott Wilson, who is the Managing Director at Sandbox Motion, showed us a slide with all the various crops pulled from one still image for a clients online adverting needs–including web banners (both horizontal and vertical), Instagram, Instagram stories, Facebook, website homepage images, and other various crops. As shown below, I have had similar requests from recent clients to crop images for various online uses. When cropping an image so massively, if you aren’t using a fairly high-resolution camera (i.e. 40-plus MP), then the resulting crops have very little resolution, which can come back to bite you if a cropped image is displayed on a high-resolution monitor. The image below is an example of how the image might be cropped to a variety of different sizes and an aspect ratios. This is the new reality of modern advertising photography.

As with any camera system, there are advantages and disadvantages with mirrorless cameras–as it stands right now. Mirrorless has a distinct advantage in terms of the lack of vibration, better optimized lens options, WYSIWYG, live histograms, live focus peaking and a very intuitive interface. The downside, at least for right now, is slightly slower autofocus for those of us trying to capture fast-moving subjects. For pretty much any photographer that doesn’t need the ultimate in autofocus technology mirrorless is there–it is good enough. For the rest of us, it is just another tool in the bag. Regardless, it is a very exciting time to be a photographer.

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Staying Relevant in the current Photo Industry

This year I have given a presentation to a few different ASMP chapters on Staying Relevant in the current photo industry. This presentation covers a wide variety of topics concerning the photography industry. Chiefly, it discusses how the industry has changed in the last decade and how photographers can cope with those changes. As with everything in life, the times they are a changing, and as the slide below shows, the advertising industry has undergone seismic shifts in how it reaches potential consumers in an age where most people go to great lengths to avoid advertisements. The rise of on-demand video has eliminated TV for many, and in doing so that has drastically reduced the number of people who see TV ads. The main question in advertising these days is “How do you advertise to people who don’t watch advertisements?”

The economy, at least here in the USA, is as strong as it has been in the last three decades as far as I can tell. But for professional photographers, the digital revolution has spawned massive changes in camera technology, distribution and publication, as well as how we market ourselves to potential clients. In effect, we are facing the same issues that large ad agencies are facing in trying to get our work in front of potential clients. The supply and demand curves have been going in the wrong direction for sometime now, i.e. huge supply and steady or slightly expanding demand. This puts pressure on all professional photographers to build buzz around their work and themselves. Honestly, this has always been the case. Forty years ago, the supply and demand curves were better for photographers but it was still hard to get noticed and even harder to get work.

 

What has really hurt individual photographers is the massive drop in pricing. If there was any doubt that photography was a commodity, that doubt has pretty much been erased. In the last decade, since the 2008 crash, pricing for photography in the advertising space has dropped anywhere from 60% to 90% depending on your genre. For direct stock licenses, if I can get 50% of what I used to get pre-2008, then I feel like I am doing pretty well. There has never been a time in the photography industry where pricing has been pushed downward this aggressively. With the supply and demand curves skewed heavily in favor of the client it isn’t surprising that pricing has taken a nose-dive. I have to say that giving this presentation, it is hard to stay positive. But when I think back to the early days of my career, and even a decade ago, I remember a lot of the older photographers bemoaning the end of the photo industry. Maybe it has always been that way. The industry is ever changing, just as every other industry is as well. The reality is that we as photographers and content creators have to keep adapting to the new way of doing things: social media, video, data driven advertising, and much, much more. Stagnation is the slow downhill ride. As never before, we as creators have to be creative and continue to come up with breathtaking work to advertise our services and satisfy the needs of our clients. And if you happen to have a million or more would be consumers in your back pocket (i.e. on Instagram) that doesn’t hurt either.

There are still many young photographers, just coming into the industry, that are thriving. They are hungry and they understand the new age of advertising to their peers. This is a natural cycle in the industry, and why it is so difficult to extend a career as a photographer past the twenty to thirty year mark. Photographers that have had a fifty or sixty year career in this industry, like Annie Leibovitz, Jay Maisel, Albert Watson, and a handful of others, is rare for a reason. How long can you keep working as hard as it takes in this industry to make a living? In my own genre, the adventure sports photography world, the current top adventure photographers have already extended the average length of a career considerably from the generation before–and this genre is really only fifty years old at most.

In short, the answer to how you stay relevant is easy. You work your ass off, create amazing work that is hard to replicate, and get creative in how you promote that work.

The talk obviously goes into much greater depth, and on a wide array of subjects, than this blog post allows for. I will continue to give the talk around the country – stay tuned to your local ASMP chapter to see if and when it will be coming to an area near you. 

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Summer 2018 Newsletter

The Summer 2018 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 the award winning Lighting the Spirit project, a review of the new Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL battery-powered strobe, an article detailing my recent assignment for Method Seven sunglasses with the Patriots Jet Team, an editorial entitled The Changing Face of Advertising, 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 Summer 2018 issue on my website at:

http://files.michaelclarkphoto.com/summer_2018.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.

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Thoughts on the Nikon Z6 and Z7

Last night Nikon announced their long awaited mirrorless camera system, which now includes the Nikon Z7 and Z6 models. This announcement and the month long lead up of teasers from Nikon constitutes one of the biggest product launches in the history of the company. Rightly so, the internet seemed to explode with coverage of the launch both before it happened and especially afterwards. Nikon is to be commended for producing what seem to be two phenomenal mirrorless cameras. These first two mirrorless cameras put Nikon right into the mix with Sony for top-end, full-frame professional grade mirrorless options. This is probably one of the most exciting product announcements I have seen from Nikon is a long, long time.

At this point, I have not even laid eyes on the camera, much less shot with it, so I hope you have explored the other thousand web pages and videos out there from folks that have actually used the camera. When the Nikon D810 was announced I posted a similar blog post as this one with my thoughts on the new camera, and in this blog post I thought I would share my thoughts on the Nikon Z system just from looking at the specs. Of course, as I learned with the D810, the specs of any camera is only a small part of the shooting experience. Hence, take everything I say here with a grain of salt. I have a Nikon Z7 on order through B&H and will hopefully have a full review for you here in a couple of months.

Of course, as we have all seen, the mirrorless hype is at a fever pitch right now. Before I get into my thoughts here I want to say that no new camera will make you a better photographer. It might make your life easier, but it won’t change how you see the world and how you choose to create images. Faster autofocus might allow you to get sharper images of fast moving subjects than ever before but there have always been workarounds. Here, I hope to cut through some of the hype and talk about mirrorless cameras in general as well as these new Nikons. I have been shooting with Nikon cameras for more than 35 years now–since I was 14 years old. I love my Nikons and they have been my go to camera for my entire career. I am biased when it comes to cameras so there is no getting over that. In the last few years I have had many offers to switch brands and move towards mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers. I have tested out, quite extensively I might add, many of the mirrorless offerings from other manufacturers and considered how they might fit into my existing kit. In every case so far, I found that none of them really worked for me as well as my Nikon DSLRs. In some cases the autofocus wasn’t up to par, in other cases the smaller camera bodies just didn’t feel right and in every case my Nikon D850 offers supreme image quality and the best autofocus I have seen from any camera on the market.

The Nikon Z7, as seen below, looks to be a Nikon D850 in mirrorless form. Without even seeing the camera there are a few things I can tell right off the bat. The ergonomics looks great. I love that Nikon didn’t go too small, and put a real grip on this camera. That is critical for me personally. Time will tell just how good the ergonomics are. Compared to my Nikon D850, using the Z7 will be an easy transition. the button layout is very similar and the controls are well placed. Nikon knows that their pros need a consistent layout to effectively move over to a new camera and it seems they delivered on that front here.

On thing I have realized with all mirrorless cameras is that the dream of a lighter camera is only that–a dream. Sure, the Z7 and Z6 are about 30% lighter than the D850 (330 grams to be exact), but the lenses will pretty much be the same size when comparing f/2.8 versions. When you add in the extra batteries you will have to carry, that weight difference evaporates quickly. The only real way to save weight when it comes to mirrorless cameras, over DSLRs, is to step down to a smaller sensor, like with the Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras. But stepping down in sensor size comes with an image quality penalty that I am not willing to make at this point.

With the announcement of the Z7 and Z6, Nikon went to great lengths to communicate why they designed such a huge lens mount. Not only was that lens mount created to accommodate the 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) but it was also to allow for advanced lens designs, which they say will greatly improve image quality. The samples they offered up in the announcement seemed quite convincing but we will have to wait until more testing is done to see exactly what they mean. Nikon started out as a lens manufacturer, so they know a thing or two about lens designs. I have a feeling they have not gone to such great lengths without having done their homework.

Looking at the future lens line up that Nikon plans to create (see the lens road map below), it is obvious to me that Nikon is looking to create a mix of lenses; some of which are lighter, slower aperture lenses (f/1.8 or f/4) and also some stand-out, crazy-fast primes, like the Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/0.95. I am sure at some point they will add faster f/1.4 and f/1.2 primes to the line up because the Z mount allows for that but it is obvious that they are starting out with lenses that are both sharp and also lightweight to go along with the smaller, lighter camera body. I don’t necessarily have any comment on this, though the 58mm Noct-Nikkor is very exciting. The lens road map has some exciting lenses on it but I hope Nikon expands this massively and gets the big three f/2.8 zooms (14-24, 24-70, and 70-200) out on the market as soon as possible. Those are the workhorse lenses for most pros. A fast 24mm and 85mm is also a top priority for most pros.

The giant NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct-Nikkor will surely be an extremely expensive lens. Note that it is also a manual focus lens, which will lean hard on the focus peaking feature built into the Z7 and Z6 to be used effectively. At f/0.95 the depth of field is going to be ridiculously shallow–half the width of an eyelash. Not many folks will have a need for such an expensive and heavy beast but it sure is a wild lens to consider. I am guessing it will be quite popular for rental houses. The expensive nature of the f/0.95 Noct lens is probably why Nikon has a 50mm f/1.2 on their lens road map as well. 

The reality is that it will take years for Nikon to build out the S-line of lenses for the Z series cameras. In the mean time, the FTZ adapter (shown above) will allow any existing AF-S Nikkor lens to be used on the Z-series cameras with no penalty in AF speed or accuracy from what I am hearing online and from those photographers that have used it. That means there are a ton of lenses that can be used with the Z7 and Z6 right off the bat and all of my current F-mount Nikkor lenses can be used on both Nikon’s DSLRs as well as the Z series mirrorless cameras with equal performance. That is quite exciting and a huge deal for all Nikon photographers. The FTZ adapter also makes the Z-series camera system the most robust mirrorless system ever announced–at least up to this point–if indeed the adapter offers the same performance for my AF-S lenses on the new mirrorless cameras. And because of the huge lens mount, you can be guaranteed that a whole slew of adapters will be announced to allow third party lenses to be used on the Z-series cameras. At this point, we still don’t know how third party DSLR lenses (like those from Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron) will fair on the FTZ adapter but I would be surprised if they are compromised in any way.

The specs for both the Z7 and Z6 are pretty incredible — and importantly, they match up quite well to the Sony A7R III and A7 III. The pricing of the Z7 and Z6 also match up closely to the Sony cameras as well. The stand out specs for me are the new autofocus system with 493 AF points that cover 90% of the frame, the 45.7 MP sensors, the 5-axis IBIS stabilization, the smaller, lighter form factor and the fact that the FTZ adapter will allow my F-mount Nikons to perform just as they do on my D850. There is also a silent shooting mode, which I know for many is a very exciting feature. I don’t know that it is something I actually need but I am sure in some situations it will come in handy.

One of the sticking points for me with all mirrorless cameras, from any and all manufacturers, has always been the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I have yet to find one that I really want to look through all day while shooting. I have definitely found that I enjoy optical viewfinders much more than any EVF–including the supposedly amazing one in the Leica SL. This will certainly be a key aspect of the Z7 I want to look at. Several folks have already talked about how crisp and clear the Z7 viewfinder is, even though it is approximately the same resolution as the Sony A7R III EVF. I am guessing the lenses they put in front of that EVF make a big difference. Fingers crossed it is spectacular.

The new larger lens mount is also very exciting. I have no doubt that Nikon can take their Z lenses to a whole new level of optical quality and that will be very, very important if they hope to announce cameras with a resolution higher than 50 MP. I think they are setting themselves up to go well beyond 50 MP with the Z-series cameras. In order to handhold a 35mm digital camera that has 60-plus MP, the lenses will have to surpass any that Nikon currently makes and the 5-axis IBIS will also be mandatory to get sharp images handheld. I think this is the real reason that they went with the huge lens mount. The larger lens mount might also offer the option of slightly expanding the size of the sensor by a few millimeters each way to deal with noise issues that would be created by packing that many pixels onto a sensor. I have no idea if a slightly larger sensor was part of their thinking or not but it would make sense.

There are a few specs that left a lot of folks wanting with these new cameras. The biggest one is that that there is only one memory card slot. I applaud Nikon for using XQD cards as those are the best memory cards on the market by far in my opinion. But, most of us have gotten used to having two memory cards in the camera and writing images to both cards simultaneously. Many folks online have said that this is a deal breaker for them using these new Z-series cameras professionally. I am not sure I would go that far, but it is a curious decision on Nikon’s part. I would have rather seen two card slots and a slightly larger camera body than just the one card slot.

As a side note, my Hasselblad H5D-50c, which cost more than my car, only has one memory card slot and I certainly consider that a professional grade camera. I often shoot in the field with it and rarely shoot tethered. It doesn’t bother me that it only has one card slot. Also, when shooting fast-paced sports, like big wave surfing, I set up my D850 to only shoot to the XQD card because shooting to both cards would slow the camera down and fill up the buffer faster. I have not ever had an XQD card failure. The only memory card failure I have ever had was with SD cards. Hence if the Z7 only had one SD memory card slot then I might be a little worried, but with XQD it seems pretty solid.

Another issue for me is the frame rates. Sure, the Z7 can get up to 9 fps and the Z6 can get up to 12 fps but they both can only achieve those frame rates in 12-bit mode. In 14-bit mode, the Z7 is limited to 5.5 fps and the Z6 is limited to 9 fps. The buffers are also a bit limiting. It has been many years since I have shot in 12-bit mode and I have no plans to ever shoot in 12-bit again as it is a pretty significant difference in image quality when compared to 14-bit, especially when making prints. Hence, for my work, the Z7 might be an addition to my workhorse D850 but it would never take it’s place fully. As a side note here, the Sony offerings (A7R III and A9) suffer from this same issue. Their top-end fps ratings are all in 12-bit mode and are significantly slower when shooting in 14-bit. As far as frame rates go, I could care less about a 20 fps burst rate. That only adds to the crazy number of images shot and extends the editing time massively. If I can’t get the image I want with 9 to 11 fps then it isn’t the camera that is the issue.

One of the other oddities I found in the specs is that the flash sync speed has dropped to 1/200th second on both the Z6 and Z7, down from 1/250th second on most every other Nikon camera in recent memory. It isn’t a huge deal as most of use are using Hi-Sync (HS) or High Speed Sync (Has) strobes these days but it is a curious difference. Because of the IBIS stabilization, the 1/200th second flash sync speed doesn’t matter as much as it did on the D850.

Battery life is also a big issue for mirrorless cameras. The upside is that the Z-series cameras have a similar battery to the Nikon D850 batteries so you can use the ones you have. Also, the new EN-EL15b battery can be charged via USB, which is a great option. On the down side, it only gets 330 shots per charge but I have heard that a few folks online have gotten much better battery life than that so we’ll have to wait and see. Nikon has also announced a battery grip, which they will release here at some point. The grip will hold two additional batteries and triple the battery longevity. Sadly, it does not increase the frame rate in 14-bit mode as with the Nikon D850 battery grip.

For many, the video features of these new mirrorless cameras were the main spec they really wanted to see improved upon over the Nikon DSLR cameras. I think they will be quite satisfied as the video specs look pretty fantastic. Full frame 4K UHD footage, 4:2:0 output in camera and 4:2:2 10-bit output via HDMI to an external 4K recorder as well as what seems to be excellent autofocus during video recording. The Z6 might actually be the better of the two for video as it will have less noise and doesn’t use pixel binning when shooting full-frame. Otherwise, the video specs are pretty much the same on both cameras. I know some have said online that Nikon blew it by not offering a RAW video codec. That might be possible but the camera would surely suffer from overheating issues. There is a reason the Red Digital Cinema cameras are so huge and have giant slots for venting. There is also a new N-Log video codec that offers an even flatter picture profile than the “Flat” profile available in the menu. To access the N-Log profile you will have to use an external 4k recorder.

Below are a series of images of the Z7, showing it from various angles. The weather sealing (also shown below) is said to be on par with Nikon’s top-end DSLRs, which is a nice touch as well. All in all it is a smart looking camera with well-laid out controls.

Not only did Nikon announce their new mirrorless system but they also announced the AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens that looks incredible! This is a phase fresnel lens that is considerably shorter and lighter than any of Nikon’s other super telephoto lenses. I have the 300mm PF lens that came out a few years ago and I love that lens. The 500mm version looks like the perfect surfing photography lens. This lens is only slightly larger than the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens and it will cost one-third the price of the AF-S 500mm f/4 version. Add in that with the FTZ adapter, it will work perfectly with the new Nikon Z7 and Z6 cameras and you have one heck of a lightweight super telephoto lens option. For my work, this lens might be just as exciting as the announcement of the Z7!

In conclusion, the new Nikon Z7 and Z6 mirrorless cameras look pretty sweet. Nikon has pretty much hit it out of the park with all of their recent camera launches so I am sure these will be no different. They have come into the mirrorless market at a very high level–matching or exceeding what is already out there. For those adopting this camera I think the biggest differences will be the IBIS stabilization and the video features. I suppose the big questions are will I be adding one to my kit and do I see it replacing my D850s? I will have to use the Z7 before I will know if it is something I will add to my kit. As I said in the beginning, specs are only a small part of a cameras allure. At this point, I do not see the Z7 replacing either of my two D850 camera bodies. The main reason for this is the 14-bit high frame rate of the D850 (9 fps with the battery grip) compared to the slower 14-bit frame rate of the Z7 (5.5fps). If anything, I could see adding the Z7 to my existing kit and choosing it for those times when I want a slightly lighter, smaller camera to take into the field. I do believe that mirrorless is the future of photography and most if not all of us at some point will be working with mirrorless cameras, but we aren’t there yet. For most pros, it will be a long transition period. I am all about being on the cutting-edge of technology, but I also need gear that I can trust to deliver under pressure every time I head out the door.

Congratulations to Nikon on the launch of their new mirrorless system – and all of their new products! I hope to get my hands on one of these new cameras as soon as they are available. Stay tuned for a full review. For more info on the Nikon Z7 and Z6 head to the Nikon website.

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Inspiration: Dan Winters

While looking through my bookshelf the other day I thought about how cool it would be to share with my readers those photographers whose work has inspired me and some of their books that are references I go back to time and time again. Hence, I thought I would start a new vein of blog posts (that I will add to regularly) where I share those books that have inspired me greatly over the years. Please note, that for everyone of these I post, I have contacted the photographer in question and have asked permission to post any images and/or book covers.

Early on in my career, I didn’t have the money to purchase photography books. Instead I would go through hundreds and hundreds of photographer’s websites. I still find a lot of inspiration online and on Instagram but I have to say there is nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, feeling the heavy paper stock and sitting with a book full of stellar images. If you can afford it, I highly recommend buying photography books that grab you. If you can’t afford to buy photo books, head to your local library.

For anyone paying attention to the photography space in the last few decades Dan Winters is a well-known photographer. He has worked for a wide variety of clients ranging from Vanity Fair to National Geographic to Wired Magazine in the editorial space and just about every Hollywood studio there is producing a wide range of movie posters. If you have ever opened up a copy of Wired Magazine in the last few decades then you have seen his work. He has inspired all of us, at all levels. I have heard other very well-known portrait photographers whisper his name and say things like “the god of lighting” when they speak of him. He is a photographer’s photographer, who wields incredibly skill, and he is an artist as well as a photographer. I was lucky enough to meet him briefly a few years back (as shown in the image above captured by photographer Steven St. John) when he did a book signing here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In our twenty minute conversation, I realized a few things about Dan. He is not only a great photographer but from what I can tell he is a great human being. I know saying that after a short conversation might seem presumptuous but even so, you can tell a lot about a person from a conversation like that. He is also the best conversationalist I have ever met. He instantly put me at ease and engaged in the conversation sincerely. He was completely present. It isn’t often you meet people like that everyday, even people you know very well. Without further ado, let’s jump into Dan’s books that have inspired me.

The Road to Seeing: In his book The Road to Seeing, which I have spoken about before here on the blog, he is very open about his process and what it took to create the images contained in the book. In this book he also lays out his entire career path, which is fascinating to read about. I never knew about his fascination with model building, but it makes total sense, and helps to explain how he can build such elaborate sets and props for his images. His focus on each and every shoot is very apparent in the book as well – as the quote below indicates.

“I make it a habit to approach every picture as if it were my last” – Dan Winters, The Road to Seeing

This book is a gorgeous. It will make every photographer jealous. I say that as a high complement of the layout and design as well as for the images. If you love photography, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Road to Seeing. I am pretty sure you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it – and there are very few photography related books that fall into that category. It is much more than a fine art photography book as there are hundreds of pages of stories sharing what was going on behind the scenes as well as essays about his path as a photographer and how he sees the craft.

Last Launch: All of Dan’s books are incredibly inspiring, but I have to say that Last Launch is my favorite of his fine art photography books. This is because I am a total space geek and really wanted to be an astronaut. When I was young, I could list off all of the Space Shuttle missions and tell what happened on each one. I was fascinated by space travel and the Universe in general, which is why I got a degree in Physics. Last Launch was Dan’s personal project to document the last launch of the Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor Space Shuttles. The images in this book not only show the launches with Dan’s signature look, which I might add is quite different than normal launch images–and much more compelling, but also includes detailed images of the shuttle, the shuttle cockpit and the gear involved in launching into space.

Periodical Photographs: In his first book, Periodical Photographs, Dan provides an overview of his editorial work photographing a wide variety of top celebrities. In my view, if you want to see some of the best portraiture being produced in the modern age of photography then this book is a must see. It is out of print but you can still find used copies, though these come at a high price. On Amazon the least expensive used copy right now goes for $182.33. A new copy starts at $515.40! That should tell you about the quality of this book and the importance of the images that reside within. Highly recommended.

America: Icons and Ingenuity: In America: Icons and Ingenuity, we see a compendium of Dan’s work that includes images from Last Launch, Periodical Photographs and The Road to Seeing as well as a few new images. If you are new to Dan’s work and want to get one book that shows a wide range of his images then this is the one to get. America also contains several of his works on paper, his close-up images of Honeybees as well black and white images.

All four of the books listed above are quite different and each deserve a decent amount of time to digest. Dan also has another book, which I haven’t even seen: The Grey Ghost: New York City Photographs. This book contains images of New York City captured in the early part of Dan’s career when he lived in NYC. I will definitely check it out the next time I am down at the Photo-Eye bookstore here in Santa Fe. 

As you might be able to tell, Dan’s work really resonates with me. I am a huge fan. I tried not to gush too much, but it is hard not too. As someone who has been an artist (from very early on) and has lived a life filled with creativity I can see the artistic sensibility in all of his images. If his work inspires you, check out his website at www.danwintersphoto.com and also pick up a few of his books.

Thanks for the inspiration Dan and for allowing me to post this blog with your images. I look forward to seeing where you go next.

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Equipment Review: The Elinchrom ELB 1200 Dock

Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Elinchrom and have worked with them for over 12 years now. This product was sent to me to try out. I am a big fan of their products as they work exceedingly well for my work. They are also tough enough to withstand the torture I dish out. This isn’t necessarily an in-depth review as there isn’t much to review other than it works perfectly. 

Last week Elinchrom announced the ELB 1200 Dock. The ELB 1200 strobe kit is already an incredibly powerful, lightweight and versatile 1200 Ws battery-powered strobe but with the addition of the Dock, Elinchrom has made it much more versatile so you can have one lighting solution that works both in the studio or out on location. Having known that the Dock was coming for a while, I asked if I could get one to work with in my Cutting-Edge Lighting workshop, which happened this past week at the Santa Fe Workshops. During the workshop, we spent two days in the studio and two days on location. In the studio I used the dock for a demonstration and out in the field we used the ELB 1200 Air batteries. The dock made for seamless integration in the studio and allowed us to use the modeling lamp for hours without worrying about battery power.

The dock snaps on to the bottom of the ELB 1200 in the same way that the batteries attach so it is easy to swap out the battery for the dock. When using the dock, you get the same level of performance as with the battery. The recycle times are pretty much the same as with the battery. I know the Elinchrom website says the pack recycles 0.1 seconds slower at full power with the Dock connected but I honestly couldn’t tell any difference. Even with the dock attached the power pack is still relatively lightweight at 11 lbs (5 Kg), especially compared to other studio power packs.

During my demo for the class, we used one ELB 1200 with the modeling light on as a continuous light source (that did not fire) and another ELB 1200 in Strobo mode with an Action head. As you can see below, we were able to experiment quite a bit and get fairly creative with Deollo Johnson, a good friend and a very talented martial artist.

There isn’t much to say about the new dock aside from the obvious fact that it works great and does exactly what you would expect. For those that already own the ELB 1200, note that you will have to update your firmware on the ELB 1200 pack so that it will work with the new dock. Other than that, snap it on, flip the switch and you are in business. The dock has a fan to keep things cool, but I never even heard it while using it for nearly three hours on a relatively hot day. All in all, this is a great addition to the ELB 1200. I will definitely be adding a few of these docks to my strobe kit.

My thanks to Elinchrom for shipping me the dock to use in the workshop this past week and for letting me try it out before it was announced. The dock is another home run for Elinchrom.

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