Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 

Brad Hill: Blog: Q2 2008 (April to June)

Short-winded blatherings on whatever is currently occupying the part of my brain that deals with photography. Updated sorta weekly.

26 June 2008: Sequence of Images - Bald Eagle "Cartwheel Display"

I've added a sequence of 6 images of two adult Bald Eagles performing a "Cartwheel Display" (which is a courtship ritual) to my "Birds In Flight" gallery. These images AREN'T technically great shots (and they by-passed my "Latest Images" gallery) but they do show an amazing aspect of animal behaviour. The sequence begins here...

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24 June 2008: Grizzly Sparring Image Chosen as "Editor's Pick"

My image of two grizzlies sparring (entitled "Jaws, Paws, & Claws") has been selected as the Editor's Pick (fauna category) by Nature Photographers Online Magazine for the week of June 14 to June 21. View the image (complete with all the contextual information, including all tech specs) here. View what others are saying about the image here on the NPN website.

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24 June 2008: Nikon D3: Some Comments on High ISO Nature Images...

During a recent trip up to the Great Bear Rainforest on the northern British Columbia coast I had the opportunity to do more high ISO (above ISO 1600) shooting than I normally would. And, upon my return, I've had the opportunity (penance?) to spend a lot of time processing those images. Most discussions of high ISO shooting focus on image noise (or lack thereof) - but in my experience with the Nikon D3 the more important determining factor in the success of the image is the dynamic range of the scene. Huh? Check out my (il)logic under the "Field Notes" of the image entitled "Grizzly Portrait - At ISO 4000".

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20 June 2008: Nikon D3X Imminent? Rumours Abound...

It seems like the Nikon rumour mill is in high gear again. Most online Nikon rumours end up as just that - rumours. But some websites and/or blogs are beginning to claim that it's absolute "fact" that Nikon is going to introduce several new products on or around July 1st. For instance, Matt at Nikonwatch.com (the National Enquirer of all things Nikon) seems convinced that 5 new products will be announced. Supposedly we're going to see 2 new DSLR cameras and 3 new lenses. Apparently it's a "given" that there will be a replacement for the D80 and the second camera will either be the super-hi res D3X (24.something MP) or a smaller-bodied full-frame sensor camera (a Canon 5D killer). The lenses? Supposedly two Perspective-Control (PC) units (45 mm f2.8 and 85 mm f2.8) and "something else".

Do I think there's any truth to the rumours? I have no real clue - Nikon hasn't told me anything. It wouldn't surprise me to see the much-anticipated D3X unveiled. It seems to be one of the worst-kept secrets of the century. I would LOVE to see a DX-format camera in a truly professional body (D300-ish feature list with D2X/D3 build quality), but I don't think that's coming (Wouldn't sell you say? Make it 16 to 18 MP and it sure would!). I would also LOVE to see a new 70-200 f2.8 VR zoom that works well with a full-frame sensor (the current one doesn't)! Heck, I would even love to see them start shipping products that were announced in August of 2007 - like my 600 mm f4 VR!

One thing is certain: All Nikon-o-philes will be sitting on the edge of their seats for the next couple of weeks...

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18 June 2008: First Impressions: Nikon AF-S 500mm f4G IF-ED II VR

During a recent trip I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes shooting with Nikon's new 500 mm VR super-telephoto lens (thanks for the loan Matt!). I want to stress that I had only a FEW MINUTES shooting with it...and what follows are simply first impressions. I certainly did not have sufficient time to give the lens a full field test or discover any quirks it may have. So these really are FIRST impressions:

1. Autofocus Speed: Very fast. We were shooting birds in flight at the time and the 500 had no problem locking on to a bird (or keeping up with rapidly flying birds). I had no way of doing a test, but I had the perception that it focused faster than my 200-400 VR.

2. "Hand-holdability": How's that for a new term? Anyway...I had no problem hand-holding the lens for photographing birds in flight or static subjects (in this case a seal in a harbour). I wouldn't want to attempt to hand-hold the lens for an extended period, but it would be very easy to use this lens with a bean bag or wedged against a firm object. I was, of course, using the lens with VR turned on (and in "Normal" mode). Note that I was shooting with my D3 and had sufficient light for VERY fast shutter speeds. I didn't have the opportunity to check how slow a shutter speed I could go down to while hand-holding the lens.

3. Handling: The lens handled well with my D3 (in terms of balance). When hand-holding the lens it doesn't feel much different from the 200-400 (at least over short intervals).

4. Build Quality: Appears outstanding. But it's a super-expensive new Nikon super-telephoto - it SHOULD be top-notch in build quality!

5. Image Quality: I had only a few quick "snaps" to review, but I instantly noticed good contrast, colour, and sharpness. I expect that under more controlled conditions the images produced by this lens would be simply outstanding.

Product Availability? I've heard scuttlebutt that Nikon Canada is claiming that they will begin filling backorders on the 500 VR by the end of June. Previously Nikon Canada told me that there were fewer backorders on the 600 VR (than on the 500 VR) so they expected outstanding backorders on the 600 to be cleared up earlier than on the 500. I've decided that the 600 VR will meet my needs better than the 500 VR, so I'm hoping that the recent comments from Nikon are accurate...

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16 June 2008: Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope - Four Thumbs Up!

I recently had the very good fortune of acquiring a new Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope (thanks Martin!). Over this past weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time behind it, including a lengthy session of watching a Black Bear from the comfort of our deck. This scope is near the top of the Swarovski product line and is an absolute first class product. Mine came fitted with a 20x-60x zoom eyepiece. As with any scope, focus is finicky when you're at or near the long end (60x) of the zoom range. My only "frame of reference" to compare this scope against is my "old" (5 or so years old) Nikon Fieldscope ED. While I always liked my Nikon scope, it doesn't hold a candle compared to the Swarovski. When I view the exact same scene through both scopes, the Swarovski produces a view that is noticeably sharper and with higher contrast and colour. This product definitely falls into the category of "...don't try it if you aren't prepared to buy it" category (like my Nikon 200 mm F2 VR lens). Maybe someone can talk Swarovski into making a 600 mm VR lens with a Nikon mount - if they started on it now I'd probably get it before the one I've had on order from Nikon since late last summer...

Are they any negatives about the scope? At this point I can only think of two drawbacks to the product. First - it's quite large and heavy - 16.75" (42.5 cm) long (lens hood retracted) and 3.7 lb (1676 grams). This makes it about 30% longer and heavier than the Nikon (at 12.75" [32.4 cm] long and 2.8 lb [1290 grams]). So, it's not going to be anyone's first choice to take when going backpacking. And, like all Swarovski products, it's far from cheap. Currently the Swarovski ATS 80 HD scope goes for around $2700 USD, compared to around half that (about $1300 USD) for the Nikon Fieldscope ED. Is the difference worth it? It depends on how much time you spend behind it. In my case, finding wildlife is directly related to my income, so having a top-quality scope is a priority and the Swarovski scope is a wonderful complement and addition to my photographic kit.

For more information about the Swarovski ATS 80 HD spotting scope (or any other Swarovksi products,) check out Swarovski's website.

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

13 June 2008: A Lucky Screw-Up!

Throughout the course of the year I give a lot of seminars and workshops covering various aspects of nature photography. Regardless of the subject of the presentation, I tend to stress the importance of "...always being ready" and avoiding having "...your equipment GET IN THE WAY of making the shot." Good advice - right? Well...I should practice what I preach! During a recent trip into the Khutzeymateen Inlet of northern BC to photography grizzlies I ran into a situation where my camera was "locked" into settings that differed from what I thought I needed to capture a specific image that I had wanted for years. But...sometimes you get REAL lucky...turns out the settings on the camera were EXACTLY what I needed to capture the moment! Full details here (see the notes under the "In the Field" tab). Photeus must have been smiling on me...

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10 June 2008: Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen IPT a Roaring Success!

I recently returned from my first annual (as "leader") "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" Instruction Photo Tour. To say that the trip was a roaring success (pardon the pun) is the ultimate of understatements! In just over 3 days of shooting (pixels, not bullets) we observed and captured an amazingly diverse array of grizzly behaviour and scenes - from courtship and mating through to ritualized sparring bouts and epic dominance battles, swimming bears, and more - we saw it all! Images from the trip are starting to show up on various places on the web (e.g., check out many of the grizzly images in the Fauna Gallery of the NPN website). I've begun to add images to my Latest Additions Gallery - first up is an affectionate moment between a pair of breeded grizzlies (entitled "Tender Moment - Grizzly Couple"), followed by an image of battling sub-adult males (which I call "Jaws, Paws, & Claws"). I'll be adding images from the Khutzeymateen Inlet regularly over the next several weeks, so keep your eyes on the Latest Additions Gallery. If you're interested in bears and get a chance to visit the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary you should do it. It's absolutely amazing...

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23 May 2008: Note to Self: Avoid May Commitments!

It's turning out that May is a month where I have to fight to find time to simply breathe, let alone spend non-image processing time in front of the computer! In my neck of the woods it's a phenomenal time of year biologically - nature is just going NUTS (time to party!)! Which means I want to be out with my cameras ALL the time! But between seminars, workshops, private tutoring sessions, instructional photo tours and more...where did the month go? Next year it will be different!

A few random thoughts and/or ongoing events...

Nikon Supply Chain Plugged Up? Nikon has had a banner year with their dSLR's. So much so that they seem to be having an extremely tough time keeping up with the demand for many bits and pieces (and not just in Canada). Between web scuttle-butt and discussions with dealers (and my national Nikon distributor), it would seem like there are many lens in short supply worldwide (like the new super-telephotos, the new 14-24's, the new 24-70's, and even the 70-200). Apparently even some battery re-chargers are currently hard to come by. While it may be a "pleasant" problem for Nikon, I know many Nikon users that aren't too happy with the state of affairs...

Wings Over the Rockies. Each year in early May there's a large (and growing) bird festival in the Columbia Valley called "Wings Over the Rockies." This year's festival was a huge success and had thousands of people attending the various events. I chipped in with a few contributions in the form of a slide show on the birds of the area, presented an "infotainment" presentation on photographing birds in flight, and took a group on a 4-hour walk and talk (about nature photography) that was appropriately called "Rambling On...". A good time was had by all. Good stuff! If you're a birder (neophyte or expert) and find yourself in the SE corner of British Columbia in early May, you should check the festival out. More info about the festival can be found at: www.wingsovertherockies.org.

So long D2Xs. Regular visitors to this website will know that I shoot primarily with a D3. Until very recently I was also shooting with both a D2Xs and a D300. When I acquired the D300 I had planned on selling my D2Xs almost immediately. But, between the build quality of the D300 (very good, but not of professional quality) and some serious electronic glitches I experienced with D300 (see entry of March 19 below for details) I honestly wasn't sure which of the two DX cameras would become my back-up camera. I certainly saw no reason to keep both. Anyway...after shooting with both the D2Xs and the D300 as back-ups for a number of months, I finally (and very reluctantly) decided to give up my D2Xs. The primary reason? I found myself gravitating to, and shooting with, the D300 about twice as much as the D2Xs (despite its glitches). Ultimately, if I was choosing one or the other for use as my PRIMARY camera (as opposed to my backup), I would have kept the D2Xs and sold the D300. It's just built that much better and, at least in my experience, that much more reliable. But...as a backup - I really like the slightly better, slightly higher ISO performance of the D300 (about one useable stop for me) and, in most situations, I do prefer the autofocus (notably the 51-point AF) of the D300 over that of the D2Xs. So...it's time to say so long to the D2Xs: Cheers buddy - we had some good adventures together!

I leave for a spell of grizzly photography tomorrow - it's time for the 2008 Khutzeymateen Instructional Photo Tour. I'm really looking forward to meeting the participants and introducing them to my furry friends (i.e., the bears, not the guides) in the Khutzeymateen grizzly sanctuary on the northern BC coast (info on this trip which will likely be repeated in 2009 can be found in this 1 MB PDF file). Expect new bear shots and new bear stories to start appearing on this website in early June. Until then...cheers!

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

02 May 2008: High Dynamic Range Cameras: Is Flash-fill Obsolete?

I've been experimenting with capturing some extremely high contrast scenes of Tree Swallows using my D3 without a flash-fill. These are shots that I wouldn't have dreamed of shooting without a flash just last year. But...the dynamic range of the D3's RAW files seems to be sufficient to capture detail over such a wide range that I'll be thinking twice before grabbing my flash in the future. Check out a sample image, and the full story in my Latest Additions Gallery (comments found under the "In the Field" tab).

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

23 April 2008: UPDATE: Nature's Best Photography Magazine Controversy

Recently I made some comments about what I felt were questionable decisions made by Nature's Best Photography (NBP) Magazine. In short, I questioned the motivation behind editorial changes to the magazine and the inclusion of a specific article (which I felt was "advertorial" in nature). Those wishing more information or to read my EXACT words should check my blog entry of 25 March 2008 (go to Brad Hill: Blog: Q1 2008).

It would appear that my comments had an impact. On April 15 the publisher and CEO of Nature's Best Photography phoned me to discuss the situation. We had a long discussion that I would characterize as polite, honest, informative, and amicable. The exact contents of the phone call will remain private and I mention the call for one reason only - I think it was a very classy thing for the publisher to do. In some respects you'd have to say we agreed to disagree - I really can never know for sure what motivated Nature's Best to do what they did and I still am not fond of the changes they've made (I still really want them to bring back the deleted technical information from their photo captions). Regardless, it is their magazine, not mine. To be clear, here's a precise listing of my feelings about the magazine:

1. NBP Magazine is Good for Nature Photographers. This high-quality publication has given many nature photographers a place to exhibit their finest works. It's possible that without Nature's Best Magazine these images would never have been seen by the public at large. It's even possible that Nature's Best Magazine has helped keep some struggling Nature Photographers alive (as photographers). This is a good thing.

2. NBP Magazine Can Only Help Conservation Efforts. The company behind Nature's Best Photography Magazine is not a conservation advocacy organization. However, the beautiful nature photographs they publish do increase the awareness of the beauty (and fragility) of the natural world. And, perhaps most importantly, this awareness is very likely hitting a broader audience than many conservation advocacy publications do - they aren't simply preaching to the converted. This is a good thing.

3. I Will Continue To Subscribe. On balance, I believe NBP Magazine deserves my support in the form of my continuing flow of money (my subscription!). I can't tell others what to do, but I will continue to subscribe.

4. I Would Like to See the Complete Photo Captions Return! Personally, I found the detailed technical information in the photo captions, including camera brand and model, very useful. It was an interesting mirror into what the top nature photographers were/are using. I liked it - it was ONE of the reasons why I decided to subscribe to the magazine in the first place. I believe others probably feel the same way. I still disagree with the decision to remove this information.

I look forward to receiving and perusing the next issue. Isn't the web amazing?

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

23 April 2008: More Updates to my Field Gear Page

I've added some more updates to my Field Gear page. The updates include some new comments on the autofocus capabilities of the D300 (compared to the D3 and D2Xs) as well as updated information on the performance of various lenses with the D3 (including a description of the issues/problems many are experiencing when using the highly-regarded 70-200mm f2.8 VR on the D3).

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

22 April 2008: "Birds In Flight" Gallery Expands...

I've just completed the expansion of my "Birds In Flight" Gallery. Seven new images - complete with full shooting and processing information - have been added, including some appearing in public for the first time ever. Check 'em out here...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

17 April 2008: Nikon D3 Firmware Update: File Corruption Problems...

The recently released firmware update for the Nikon D3 (firmware version 1.10) appears to be the source of a periodic photo corruption problem. The problem is apparently experienced when continuously shooting bursts of images at a high frame rate. More details are available on Rob Galbraith's website. If you have a D3 and haven't already installed the firmware update, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to hold off until Nikon solves the problem.

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

14 April 2008: Nikon D3 Firmware Update Released

Nikon has released a firmware update for their digital flagship - the D3. A host of existing features have been tweaked, and apparently a few bugs have been fixed. Full details are available here on dpreview's website. From my limited perspective as a nature photographer, there's some interesting things in this update, and at least one thing that I think they missed:

1. Improvement to Auto ISO Sensitivity Control. In an earlier blog entry (way back on December 13) I discussed how much I liked Nikon's implementation of Auto ISO Sensitivity Control. At the time I thought that being able to specify a minimum shutter speed of 1/250s was fine. However, when shooting migrating eagles in April I quickly came to wish that this function allowed you to specify a far faster shutter speed. Good news! With the firmware update you can now specify a shutter speed as fast as 1/4000s. Good move - thanks Nikon!

2. Vignette Control Added. There's been a few (and likely legitimate) reports of vignetting (darkened corners) when the D3 is used with certain lenses. For instance, Bjorn Rorslett reports when the D3 is used with the 70-200 f2.8 VR that "...A certain amount of vignetting when the lens is ste wide open is both to be expected and indeed readily visible (go here for Bjorn's full review of the 70-200 f2.8 VR review, including how it works with the D3). The new Vignette Control (found in the Shooting Menu) presumably deals with these situations. Seems like a good idea. But...on the negative side, if you're a RAW shooter you have to use the latest version of Nikon Capture (Version 1.3.3 - released today as well) when converting your NEF files in order to use the Vignette Control feature (third party converters, such as Adobe's Camera Raw and Phase One's Capture One, won't "see" the settings for the Vignette Control).

3. Longer delay for Exposure Delay Setting? In my opinion, one thing Nikon missed in this firmware update was adding longer delay options when using the Exposure Delay feature. I use this feature almost exclusively when using Live View in Tripod Mode and while doing macro work. Currently the delay (between when the mirror lifts and the shutter triggers) is only one second. I think it's a tad short to allow all vibrations associated with mirror lifting to subside. I'd love it if Nikon could add slightly longer options (up to 2 or 3 seconds). By the way...Live View can't be combined with the Mirror Up release mode, so using exposure delay is the only way to separate the mirror lifting from the shutter triggering when using Live View. So...to be clear - Nikon: PLEASE consider offering longer delay options in future iterations (firmware updates?) of the Exposure Delay Control. I said "PLEASE"...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

14 April 2008: Photography Instruction Calendar Finally Updated

My teaching schedule for 2008 (including Instructional Photo Tours, seminars, retreats, and workshops) is now fixed and I've finally updated the online calendar. All the details may be found here. Briefly, here are the highlights:

1. Instructional Photo Tour: Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen (May 26 to 31, 2008). Sorry - this instructional photo tour into the amazing Khutzeymateen Grizzly on the northern BC coast sold out just a few days after it was announced. For more information about this once-in-a-lifetime trip, please download the brochure (PDF: 1.0 MB). The trip is likely to be repeated in the spring of 2009 - contact me at: seminars@naturalart.ca with questions or to reserve your spot.

2. Weekend Retreat Workshop: The Essentials of Nature Photography with Your Digital SLR. This full weekend nature photography retreat is being presented by Roaring Pass Lodge in beautiful Kimberley, BC. I will be the guest speaker during the weekend retreat - during it I'll be offering a combination of a classroom-style seminar and a field shooting session. Scheduled for the weekend September 19-21. Three ways to get more information: download this brochure (PDF: 780 KB), go directly to the Nature Photography Seminars page on Roaring Pass Lodge's website, or check out the Photography Instruction page on this website.

3. Seminar & Workshop: Nature and Outdoor Photography with Your Digital SLR. This is an 11-hour seminar and field school combination that takes place over 3 consecutive Saturday mornings in July in beautiful Invermere, BC. This course provides the technical information and creative concepts to help you improve the photographs you capture with your digital SLR. The course material is geared towards novice to intermediate users of digital SLR's. The emphasis (and most examples) will be on nature photography, but the skills acquired will be applicable to all forms of outdoor photography. Additional information (including pricing and registration info) is available on my Photography Instruction page.

See you in 2008?

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

10 April 2008: Eagle Migration: Nikon D3 vs. D300 vs. D2Xs Field Shootout

Over the past month I've spent the vast majority of my available shooting time photographing migrating Bald Eagles. The nature of this year's migration (delayed and compressed) and the weather conditions meant that I actually had only 3 or 4 days of productive shooting. But during this time I had a chance to compare the performance of 3 of Nikon's top cameras (the current flagship - the D3; the past flagship - the D2Xs; and their newest "prosumer" model - the D300) under demanding field conditions. My goal was NOT to produce a review of the cameras with wide applicability or a reproduceable scientific study (or an exhaustive review of camera specifications - there are more than enough of these out in cyberspace). I don't get paid for reviewing camera equipment. Rather, my goal (as always), was to produce as many memorable and saleable images in as short as time as possible. Enjoying the process was simply a nice perq of the job! What follows is simply a short summary of my observations in this particular shooting situation.

Field Conditions and Goals: My shooting site was in the Columbia Valley wetlands of southeast British Columbia - a ways north of Invermere, BC. I shot from the tops of cliffs facing the wetlands - in many cases I was shooting flying eagles that were at eye level or even below me. My goal was getting some good flight shots of adult Bald Eagles (the guys with the real white heads and tails and dark body plumage - think "dynamic range challenge"). Specifically I was hoping to get some tack-sharp tight shots of birds flying directly at me and I had hoped I could do so with sufficient depth of field to keep the entire length of the bird (from beak to tail tip) in focus. Kind of like this shot. By default the unique characteristics of shooting eagles under these field condition meant that this became a test of autofocus capablilities, dynamic range, and camera "speed". Because the eagles often popped up very close to me from "out of nowhere" (from below me along the cliff) it turns out that the absolute most important variable in capturing images was rapid initial acquisition of focus. The remaining variables that were important in capturing the images I wanted were (in order of importance): autofocus subject-tracking ability, moderate to high ISO performance (for a high shutter speed at a moderate aperture), and, last but not least, decent dynamic range.

Equipment: As mentioned, I was shooting with Nikon D3, D300, and D2Xs bodies. I needed between 400 mm and 500 mm (full frame equivalent) lens "reach" to capture the images I had in mind. Unfortunately, Nikon STILL hasn't got my 500 VR to me (c'mon guys - I need it!), so I had my 300 f2.8 VR and my 200-400 mm VR (plus a 1.4x teleconverter) to choose from.

Image Results: I've posted a few of my resulting images online, beginning here (contextual info for each shot available by clicking tabs under each photo).

And the winners are...

A. Lenses: As much as I wanted to use it, the initial image acquisition of my 200-400 VR was simply too slow to do this job. I set up this lens (on Gitzo tripod with Wimberley head) religiously each day - and tried it each day - but almost all the images ended up being very fuzzy to "just" out of focus. My 300 f2.8 VR, when paired with the two DX bodies (D2Xs and D300) was pretty much the idea focal length (450 mm). And, this lens (with the right body) has awesome initial focus acquisition speed (and subject tracking capabilities). It was by FAR the best lens to use in this situation. With my D3 I paired the 300 mm with Nikon's TC-14EII (1.4x) and, much to my surprise, it still had amazingly fast initial focus aquisition speed and subject tracking capabilities. ALL the acceptable images I shot came while using the 300 2.8 VR.

B. Camera Bodies: In order of best performance (highest number of acceptable images)...

1. The Nikon D3. Won by a country mile. I ended up using this camera with the 300 2.8 VR and even though I "hampered" it with the 1.4x teleconverter (I'm not a big teleconverter fan) it easily outperformed the other cameras. I was able to shoot at ISO 800 and f8 (allowing me to squeeze more performance out of the teleconverter AND giving me good depth of field) and shoot under a wide variety of available light situations. This combination gave me STUNNING autofocus performance - it picked up initial focus FAST (even when the eagles were little specks) and clung to the focus on fast moving eagles exceptionally well. I ended up using 51-point Dynamic-area focus (with central focusing bracket chosen as my initial focus point) almost exclusively. Dynamic range? Best of the bunch (as we know from published reports), but it was noticeably easier to avoid blowing out highlight detail while shooting in the field.

2. The Nikon D2Xs. Huh - 2nd place to the D2Xs? Really? Yep. When I had full sunlight and thus could squeeze high shutter speeds out of the D2Xs at ISO 200 (about as high as I go on this camera when I have the choice) it performed very, very well. Autofocus performance (Dynamic-area mode with centre-most focus bracket selected) with this body and the 300 2.8 VR was very good, particularly the initial focus acquisition (almost as good as the D3). Subject tracking didn't seem quite as good as with the D3, but was still quite acceptable. Because the camera has an appreciably lower dynamic range than the D3 (and it was noticeable in the field) I had to be particularly careful to avoid blowing out highlight detail (via compensating on my exposure). Why no D2Xs images in the "Latest Additions" gallery? Luck of the draw - almost every time I was using this camera I had mostly immature eagles (those mottled ones) around, and they are a whole lot less dramatic to display than the adults (hey, it's MY website, I can display what I want!).

3. The Nikon D300. The clear cut bronze medal winner! Why? While I'm totally aware that this camera is supposed to have the exact same autofocus system as the D3, for some completely unknown reason this camera was the slowest of the three at initial focus acquisition (using the 300 2.8 VR with NO teleconverter). Context needed here - it wasn't BAD, but it was slow enough that I missed several shots (and cursed a lot) when I was using this camera body. I had a few situations where I had a slow, "floating" eagle (like with this shot) and, in those cases, the camera did just fine. On the positive side, I had none of the electronic glitches that have plagued my D300 on previous occasions (see entry of 19 March below). I attribute this to the fact that I was simply standing with the camera and lens in my hands and not walking around (my glitches have always occurred when I've carried the camera around for a while with a largish lens attached).

Take home lessons? At least two for me. One, I've commented elsewhere (see my teleconverter comments on my Field Gear page) about how cameras with good high ISO performance (like the D3) allow you to squeeze the most out of your teleconverters in a field setting. My eagle shooting experiences provide more evidence of this for me - all my best results during this time came while using the D3 with a teleconverter on it. So...you can pretty much make up for the loss of effective magnification of the D3's full-frame sensor by using teleconverters (with SOME lenses). And, lesson #2 - that "old" D2Xs can still produce awesome images and, in some situations, outperform the newer D300. After all, it's important to remember that the D300 IS a prosumer camera (and a darned good one at that) but it is NOT designed as (or marketed as) a professional camera.

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Blog Archive - not so fresh but still very readable and relevant...

2013 - The Whole Shebang
2012 - Almost The Whole Shebang
2011 - The Whole Shebang
2009 - October to December2009 - July to September2009 - April to June
2009 - January to March 2008 - October to December 2008 - July to September
2008 - April to June 2008 - January to March 2007 - October to December
2007 - July to September 2007 - April to June 2007 - January to March