It’s Always About Light and Shadow

It's Always About Light and Shadow

On This Date: Photo taken 11/14/2010

I’ve posted this photo before. This version’s a bit more vivid.

There’s still another version. The comments on that one have some discussion about framing that someone might find interesting. My thanks, again, to Jeff and Matt for their feedback.


Number of pix taken on various November 14ths: 84
Year of oldest photo: 2010

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 9
  • 3 Stars: 48
  • 4 Stars: 25
  • 5 Stars: 2

Dusted

Dusted

On This Date: Photo taken 11/13/2012

Four years ago I posted a very similar photo that I took a few seconds after this one.

Under that image I said: “We got our first snow a year ago. Even a bored photographer should be able to make something of new snow.” Still true….


That pic’s commentary goes on to talk about my Nikon 1 V1, and offers the opinion that I’d have likely preferred an Olympus OM-D system. Which bears mentioning because I purchased an OM-D just last week.

I’m still using a (different) Nikon 1, though, and plan to keep carrying it. The Olympus is replacing my D500.

Number of pix taken on various November 13ths: 231
Year of oldest photo: 2004

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 4
  • 2 Stars: 18
  • 3 Stars: 164
  • 4 Stars: 39
  • 5 Stars: 6

Millrace

Millrace

On This Date: Photo taken 7/20/2004

Babcock State Park’s a pretty place in West Virginia’s New River Gorge where Joan and I have often vacationed. On various trips we’ve camped in a tent, camped in a popup trailer, and stayed in cabins. Obviously we enjoy the place.

The park’s mostly a rather steep wilderness on the side of the gorge, but its most famous feature is Glade Creek Mill. This is that mill, as the sign testifies, but it’s none of the usual pictures. I’ve taken those photographs, too, but….


This is the only digital photograph surviving from that vacation. I’ve film pix from that week, but I can’t confidently date those.

I’d bought my first digital camera in late 2002, and while I was still predominantly a film SLR photographer it was clear by the summer of 2004 that I needed to back up my digital images. So I began burning the pix to CDs. After a false start or two I came up with the system I still use, though it’s been augmented over the years. I began with the oldest digital pix and worked through 2003. At that point I took a break.

Then my laptop’s drive failed. The only digital pix that survived that failure were duplicated, for one reason or another, and stored away from that computer. This photo was one of those. But the larger reality is that I lost most digital images I took between Christmas of 2003 and October 2, 2004.

There’s a lesson in there….

And a new camera note: One year ago today I bought my D500. It’s been fun, but I’m still figuring it out….

Number of pix taken on various July 20ths: 1266
Year of oldest photo: 2004

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 91
  • 3 Stars: 934
  • 4 Stars: 206
  • 5 Stars: 35

Arborvitae

Arborvitae

On This Date: Photo taken 4/28/2007

A decade ago I spent the noon hour wandering around our yard, playing focus and depth of field games with various lenses. Many of the day’s 116 images are quite odd; some are rather striking.

Even the time stamps are interesting. The first photo was taken at 12:15:26; the last at 13:15:25. Exactly an hour.


I do this. I change some settings on whatever camera I’m carrying and make those settings the day’s subject.

F’rinstance: A couple days ago I took a new-to-me setup to the ballpark. While I wasn’t happy with the session’s results, I definitely learned stuff about the D500’s capabilities. Next ballpark trip I’ll put the lessons to work. Or perhaps I’ll apply those lessons to bird-at-the-feeder photographs this afternoon, while I experiment with my new tripod. Regardless, it wasn’t a wasted day.

Number of pix taken on various April 28ths: 292 [includes one by my brother]
Year of oldest photo: 1998

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1
  • 2 Stars: 14
  • 3 Stars: 224
  • 4 Stars: 51
  • 5 Stars: 2

The photo by Richard was of me, at the ballpark in 2006. I also took one of him.

Roxand Center Schoolhouse

Roxand Center Schoolhouse

On This Date: Photo taken 1/24/2015.

There once was a settlement at the center of Roxand Township in Michigan’s Eaton County. This old schoolhouse is all that remains.

The Post Office called the place Centre, but mostly you find it called Roxand Center. I expect if I hunted hard enough I’d find a reference to Roxana Centre/Center, but I’m not interested enough.


While I’ve taken a handful of pix in other years, the bulk of the January 24 pix date from the 2012 daily photo project. I was clearly bored; I tried a little bit of everything. There’s a pic taken at my dentist’s. Another couple came from where I ate breakfast, and I caught some more on my way home. Then I took random images around the house. There’s even a rubber ducky photo. And a cat, of course. Eventually I posted one of ’em–of a bird feeder, which I actually like.

For the 2015 daily project I took only 8 photographs. All were framed well; all had technical issues. I set to work in AfterShot Pro (ASP) and was able to rescue most of ’em. In the end I posted a photo of an ancient lawn tractor, sitting by the road in the snow.

OpticsPro accepted the ASP changes from that session for this photo and we’re going with those today.

Number of pix taken on various January 24ths: 62
Year of oldest photo: 2007

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 3
  • 2 Stars: 15
  • 3 Stars: 38
  • 4 Stars: 6
  • 5 Stars: 0

The Front Yard

The Front Yard

On This Date: Photo taken 1/14/2012.

Picking up yesterday’s story….

The next morning it was still snowing. While I wandered a bit farther with my camera on the fourteenth, I got some fine pix before I left the yard.


There are photographs I take regularly. This is one of ’em–the view from in front of our garage, looking across our yard and the neighbors’ towards Herb Peter’s place. If I wanted I could document my spruce growing from about 8 feet tall, my pines from about 3, and Mike Hansen’s trees growing in his yard. Herb’s tall pines anchor the view, and inspired mine.

Number of pix taken on various January 14ths: 333
Year of oldest photo: 2006

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 3
  • 2 Stars: 20
  • 3 Stars: 265
  • 4 Stars: 42
  • 5 Stars: 3

Nikon 1 V1: after three weeks

I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to insert an SD card wrong-way-up, at least in this camera. Which broke the spring that pushes the card out. Which complicates card removal, but otherwise it seems to have done no damage.

Now on to the more important stuff. Keep in mind that we’re still in First Impressions territory. This ain’t a review–it’s a progress report….


Late Note 7/28/2013: I’ve (finally) posted a short review of the camera on my Flickr.

Nikon 1 V1

I like the V1 camera. I like it a lot. It takes excellent photographs, weighs little, and is generally easy to use. It’s reasonably flexible. But there are issues. What follows is largely a discussion of things I wish Nikon had done differently, so there’s some danger you’ll think I dislike the camera. That would be a false impression.

The Lenses

The small sensor permits designing a small camera. If you believe you can live with that compromise, the next question involves the quality of the system’s lenses.

I’ve now taken a few hundred photos with the 30-110 mm lens, and continue to shoot with the 10-30. Both seem to be good-quality optics, but the 110 zoom is barely long enough for my usual purposes. I’ve certainly got a suitable big-camera Nikkor lens in my collection, and will likely buy the FT lens mount to address this, but I’d prefer that Nikon offer a longer lens that’s designed for the camera. (A wider-angle option would be real nice, too, but may be asking too much.)

Both Nikon 1 photo zoom lenses close in a retracted mode. When the lenses are retracted, the camera won’t take photographs, but pushing a button to extend the lens seems like an extra step. This is occasionally annoying, but I can tolerate it. I suppose it’s part of the price for the camera’s compact form factor.

Accessorizing

Since we last chatted, I’ve made a couple noteworthy modifications to the camera-as-carried. I’m now using Nikon’s “official” Nikon 1 wrist strap, and can’t say I find it better than the string strap it replaced. I imagine I’ll continue to seek a solution I actually like. I’ve also added Richard Franiec’s V1 Grip to the camera, which I like enormously; we’ve also added Freniac’s J1 grip to Joan’s camera (she likes the grip, but wishes it matched the white body and lenses). Those are seventy well spent dollars, between the two cameras. My camera’s also sporting a mount for my monopod’s head, but we shan’t go into detail about that.

Excepting my photographer’s vest, this camera will not fit in any pocket I’m likely to wear. I’m using a Tamrac 5720 bag to store and carry the V1, the second lens, and whatever gear I think I need. It’s light, and fairly small; I’ll follow this route for a time. Joan’s stuffed her J1 and a similar kit into Tamrac’s 3440, which is smaller and designed to carry less additional gear. We could probably trade bags and both be happy.

Two Shutters

I’m certain there’s a good reason Nikon equipped this camera with both mechanical and electronic shutters, but it’s not yet clear to me how to choose. Both shutters are very fast, and for most purposes seem interchangeable. There are a few electronic-shutter features which are clearly advantageous in some circumstances, but you give up significant exposure control if you use this camera in its high-speed modes.

If someone has a useful comment, I’d certainly like to hear it.

The Nikon 1 V1 Viewfinder

The V1’s viewfinder is, well, interesting. In normal usage it’s excellent. The viewfinder presents the image more or less as the camera settings impact the photo, and reports many of the camera settings around the frame. For composing a stable, well-defined photograph, this is an excellent tool. But if you’re setting up an action shot, the view is less rosy.

I’ve not found a way to turn off the review feature. (I’m hoping I’ve missed a setting, here. Can anyone help?) The V1 displays the image you just shot after you press the shutter release. This can be over-ridden by a partial-press of the shutter button, but that’s painful. If, like me, you often follow a shot with an immediate reframe/refocus/SHOOT, the extra partial clicks will mess up your rhythm.

Another viewfinder annoyance is the wake-up delay after you’ve stopped shooting, which seems to be around one second. How much that matters will depend a lot on your photographic habits, but I guarantee it will cost you an occasional unexpected shot. For this shooter, at least, battery savings are not the absolute first priority; that’s what spares are for. I often carry my camera “hot,” anticipating opportunistic photographs.

Finally: The V1 viewfinder continues to disagree with my sunglasses, which is mostly an annoyance. (Anyone else having this problem? I imagine it’s sunglass-specific; mine are a mild grey prescription lens.)

The V1 Controls

As I said, this is not a review.

I have several concerns, but the main issue is that Nikon clearly doesn’t consider this camera an SLR, despite the SLR-like layout and purchase price. That the controls are differently arranged than I’m accustomed to is an adjustment I can make. That there are fewer non-menu controls is pretty much a given, as the camera has less available mounting surface. On the other hand, the specific external controls Nikon selected are certainly debatable, and the arrangement–regardless of logic–is probably less than optimal. The dial which changes camera modes is too easily changed, for instance, and I’ve discovered that I can accidentally press several of the controls just by securely bracing the camera with my right hand.

A couple specific complaints: In my normal routine, I regularly change between auto-focus and manual focus. My D300 handles this with a switch; it’s a buried menu item on the V1. And I’ve come to depend on the D300’s Shooting Bank memory settings; that the V1 has no equivalent feature will certainly cause me endless frustration. (Yes, this is an advanced feature. But the V1 is complex capable enough that photographers could profitably use it.)

My more general response, though, is that I’m still learning how to use this camera. I’ll have a better critique later.

Is It Any Good?

Yes, but I’m not sure who the market is. All cameras are compromises, and compromised. The useful question is whether the specific compromises instantiated in the Nikon 1 V1 are something I (or you, of course) can live with. For me, I suspect the answer is yes.

I love my D300. We’ve taken thousands of photographs, and I no longer give much thought to anything except “Which lens should I use?” and “What are the right presets?” If something unexpected comes up, I can generally find a better setting within seconds, because I’m accustomed to the system and the design’s efficient. I’m extremely comfortable with the camera. But it’s a heavy and obtrusive beast, and I’ve grown weary of those features. I’ve been considering alternatives for at least a year.

The best cameras get out of the photographer’s way. Good point-and-shoots accomplish this by automating nearly everything, at the price of flexibility and (for some photographers) creativity. While professional cameras these days are also highly automated, they tend in another direction, by making controls easily accessible; the price is a sometimes intimidating level of complexity (also a creativity barrier, for many). By this test the V1 is a poorly implemented, SLR-derived, design. Most of the professional-camera controls are there. But they’re decidedly not easy to reach. Using this camera will involve devising strategies for working around that design failure.

A better V1 would mimic the D300’s efficiency, and I expect that future iterations will do so. Nikon could certainly make a version of this camera I’d unabashedly love. But Nikon’s marketers clearly don’t recognize that I exist, and that they might wisely serve my needs. There’s ample evidence that I’m not the only photographer seeking such a solution, and it’s clear that some of Nikon’s competitors are more directly addressing these concerns.


The V1 will be my primary camera for the next few months. We’ll see what I’m saying about it when summer ends.

Revision History:

Thom Hogan’s Complete Guide to the Nikon 1: a short review

This is less a review than a perhaps-useful comment.

Ignoring a For Dummies guide, the currently-available (or soon to be available) Nikon 1 books are by David Busch (three books, all for sale through the usual channels) and this Thom Hogan book, which is available from the author’s website. This is the usual case for any new Nikon camera with serious intentions; Hogan typically gets his manual out quickly as a self-published ebook, then Busch’s book hits a few weeks later. Both authors produce books with much value, but their approaches–and their opinions–differ significantly.

Busch’s books are for photographers who want instructions and advice about specific situations and are essentially tactical. David Busch typically tells you little about how the camera actually works, but gives detailed recommendations about specific settings and about the meanings of all those menu items. He does the same for any external controls which can be used by the photographer for creative control. There are many people for whom that is the correct approach, and his books address that need well.

Hogan, on the other hand, is strong about technique and strategies–the technical aspects of the hardware, and the strategic mindset required to be a professional photographer. His books, therefore, spend their first hundred or more pages exploring the camera’s technical design and the impact specific design decisions might have upon photographs and photographers. And his explorations of the menues and other controls emphasize less what the “right” setting might be than the way the photographer should think about her options.

Both authors’ approaches have value, and I’ve certainly learned from each of them. But if you only want to invest your fortune and time in one tome, they are different enough that you might well prefer one over the other.


This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Nikon 1 V1: after one day

Nikon 1 V1

These notes are from someone who’s long used film and digital SLRs. Folks considering moving up from a point and shoot camera may or may not find them useful.

Some more or less random comments after spending yesterday experimenting with my new camera. This is not intended as a full-out review; it’s just my first impressions–and these opinions may well change after I’ve had time to better acquaint myself with the new system. Since I took over a year to get comfortable with my D300, it may be months before I’m satisfied I understand this camera. It’s perhaps useful to know that I’ve so far used mostly the 10-30 mm lens and have only used the V1 in Still Camera mode. I took a few more than 100 photographs yesterday.

First thing: In use, the camera feels like a miniature (D)SLR. The miniature part of that sentence is important because the size will require some adjustments to my habits; the SLR part’s important because that’s what I was hoping it would feel like. (In contrast, Joan’s J1 strikes me as a big point-and-shoot, even though they’re incarnations of the same basic design.) I’ve had prior experience with small SLRs, as my primary camera was a Minolta Zoom 110 for a year or two; my brother owned a (much more capable) Olympus OM-1 at the same time and used it to take excellent photographs.

Second thing: The V1’s capable of taking fine photographs. I was experimenting yesterday, so taking quality shots wasn’t my first concern, but I was quite satisfied with a few of the pics.

The V1’s electronic viewfinder’s impressive–bright and surprisingly sharp–but has two or three quirks. The more important quirk is that it doesn’t get along with my sunglasses, which make the image look like a failing television. While I’ll certainly adjust, that’s annoying. A lesser annoyance is that the finder goes to preview mode immediately after taking a picture (pressing the shutter release clears this). The viewer also turns itself off if you stop taking pictures, which is an entirely new viewfinder experience. All three quirks have the potential to cost me an occasional photograph. The viewfinder displays a whole lot of nicely-arranged icons reporting the status of nearly everything, which I trust I’ll find useful when I stop complaining about the sunglasses. (In real life, though, I only occasionally check those on the D300, though I’m certain others find them essential. I may decide mostly to turn them off.) Of course it’s also possible to use the LCD “monitor” display as a viewfinder; I was doing that to frame flower shots yesterday, and will likely continue to do so.

On the fly camera adjustments will require relearning a bunch of habits. In particular, changing the aperture (or shutter speed) with a switch seems quite odd, but is something I can learn. I’m definitely not yet comfortable enough with the camera to discuss the overall competence of the controls, but it’s already clear enough that the design assumes I’m moving “up” the Nikon product line from a P&S, not “down” from a DSLR. They perhaps don’t understand this part of the market.

Joan and I have contrasting viewpoints about the Nikon 1 menu system. To Joan, coming to the J1 from a point-and-shoot background, the menues seem long and complicated. Compared to my D300 the menues seem abbreviated and occasionally disappointing. I already know I’m going to miss my D300 presets. (I’m old enough to remember IBM’s PCjr. Some of Nikon’s design decisions have that feel.)

Just holding the camera’s going to require some rethinking. Using my left hand to hold the lens and brace the camera just isn’t going to work the same as has been my practice. Not only is the lens too small for that approach to be realistic, but the camera’s so light that it may be counterproductive. I’m still playing with that.

I’ve long used a wrist strap–mine wraps around my hand, more or less like a glove–to hold my camera, both because I dislike shoulder straps and because the hand strap helps to stabilize the shot. My strap is part of the reason I can successfully hand hold a long lens under ballpark lights. (Yeah, this is a personal quirk.) Finding a similar solution for this camera may be a challenge–particularly since the shutter trigger’s right next to the strap connector on the Nikon 1 body. At the moment I’m using a simple wrist strap I borrowed from an old P&S, but that’s not where I want to get. The borrowed strap will work for now, and I’ll experiment until I’m happy. Or at least satisfied that I can’t fix this.

I’ll also need to figure out how to pack this camera. My D300 lives in a Tamrac holster, and I hang a spare lens and other gear off the sides of the bag. With this lightweight camera I’ll likely do something simpler. (I go through this routine every time I buy a new camera. We’ll have to see how things shake out.)

Finally, I’ll be upgrading my software to support the new camera. It looks like Photoshop Elements 8 doesn’t support this camera’s RAW (NEF) format, and although Bibble 5 does support the camera, the product’s been sold to Corel and Bibble will not be getting further updates. Whether I just make the obvious upgrades (PSE 10 and Corel’s AfterShot) or switch to something else remains to be seen. This is complicated, slightly, because I’m simultaneously moving my computing from a Mac to a PC.

Last words: It’s too early to tell, really, but so far I like the camera. It remains to be seen whether the transition’s going to be painful or joyful. I expect compromises; the ultimate question is whether the design is too compromised for my comfort.

Revised on 3/18: Mostly I just polished the language a bit, but I made a significant change to my description of the Viewfinder behavior.