Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Camera Choices - Part 2 - Nikon D800E


In addition to the Hasselblad H5D I also use the Nikon D800E. I was very excited about this camera when it was introduced because I have always enjoyed Nikon Digital cameras and actually began my digital photography career back in the 90's with a Nikon coolpix camera (I think it was a whopping 2 megapixels!). I slowly progressed through the years with the new Nikon digital cameras as they were introduced and feel the D800 is at the top of the heap now with the Nikon digital camera evolution. This camera is an important part of my toolkit because of its excellent higher iso image quality when compared to the Hasselblad H5D (the H5D image quality noticeable degrades at iso above 100). I use an assortment of noise reduction tools such as Topaz De noise when I need to deal with high iso noise Below are my opinions and impressions from using both of these cameras. There are plenty of other websites that will get into much more technical detail if you want to do some pixel peeping. This article just covers my personal experience and opinions based on years of using both camera systems.

If I am shooting in an environment where I have to hand hold the camera or where it is very windy and I need to freeze motion of blowing plants, I will use the D800E. I still try to use the lowest iso possible to achieve an appropriate shutter speed for the situation. I do not like to go above iso 800 and prefer to be around iso 400 max. I can also get a much wider angle of view with the Nikon Camera system than with the H5D due to the lens selection. I often use the Nikon 14-24mm zoom for wildflower photography, where I have to deal with the blowing flowers and need for very wide angle perspective.

Spring Poppies shot with Nikon 14-24mm zoom



I also find better results when using the Nikon D800E in low light situations. My favorite July 4 fireworks shots were taken with this camera (this was taken with the 70-200 mm Nikon Zoom). This image was an 8 second exposure at F13.
Donner Lake Celebration

There are also times when I want to be more discreet and not have a giant Hasselblad camera around my neck, so I will take the D800E and put on a 50mm lens so I can be more stealth. This is often true for more urban types of environments. If there is a lot of fast action that is going on I also prefer to use the Nikon since handholding the camera is easier in an environment where things are changing and moving rapidly, such as when shooting hot air balloons at sunrise:



If the weather is really bad I also prefer to use the D800 since I do not want to risk damaging the more sensitive H5D. This shot of a blizzard in the forest was shot with my Nikon D700 (which I have sold and replaced with the D800):

Sierra Storm

So my decision on when to use the D800E primarily centers on the shooting conditions I will be facing, including the need to hand hold, the light level, amount of activity I will be shooting, the weather, and the need to be discreet with my photography. I have been very pleased with the quality of the images I can obtain from this camera. In order to get the best image file possible it is preferable to shoot with the same technique as the H5D: Tripod, Mirror Lock up (or live view), cable release, and optimum aperture to avoid diffraction (I generally try to not stop down to a smaller aperture than f16 on the D800E). That being said, often times when I am using this camera I am not able to do that, so I have to rely on higher iso ratings, bigger apertures, and faster shutter speeds to get a sharp image. I think the files from this camera can be enlarged easily up to ten feet in size if needed.  I use On One Perfect Resize 8 for all my up sampling. It is very important to shoot files in 14 bit RAW setting with the Adobe RGB color space enabled to get the best possible file quality for the D800E. I do RAW file development in Lightroom or Camera Raw in Photoshop

I selected the E version of the camera that comes without the anti-aliasing filter since I wanted to maximize resolution of the sensor and generally find I do not have a problem with moire in my images. After working with files from both the H5D and the D800E I have developed a feel for the capabilities of both camera systems. My opinion is that the D800E files when enlarged will fall apart and start to look more digital and smeary when up sampled beyond 56", and the H5D can handle enlargements up to ten feet without ever experiencing the digital smear look. At print sizes below 56" wide I can tell the difference between the 2 camera files but the average viewer would have a harder time differentiating at a normal viewing distance.  Because of the additional color information captured by the H5D I think I can pull a broader tonal range of colors from those files. The bottom line is that I can use the D800E to capture images that would be difficult to capture with the H5D at iso 50 or 100. Beyond iso 100 I think I can get better image quality from the D800E than the H5D. Because of the file quality at higher iso ratings I can make huge enlarged prints with D800E files that will be acceptable to almost any discerning viewer or collector.


Monday, December 30, 2013

My Camera Choices - Part 1: Hasselblad H5D

Photographing my favorite subject Lake Tahoe with my Hasselbad Camera
Image by Martin Gisborne for Apple Inc.
With the new year approaching I am recommitting to posting interesting content on my blog for my fellow photography enthusiasts. We have been so preoccupied over the last year getting our new Calistoga Carmel Gallery up and running that I did not have the time to commit to my blog. With the successful opening of the Calistoga Carmel Gallery and the continued smooth operation of our  flagship Truckee Carmel Gallery, I am excited to be able to revive my blog posts on a regular basis.

In the interest of full disclosure I also have links on my blog that allow readers to click through to more information on the products I mention and to make gear purchases. I use this to help fund my photography, writing,  and travels so I can provide new and interesting content for readers, so it is greatly appreciated if you use these links to order photo gear. I am a big fan of both B&H and Adorama for photography gear purchases.

I often receive inquiries about what cameras I use and why. So here is the rundown on my camera collection and what specific types of photography each are used for. I am currently using 3 different camera systems depending on the subject matter and the amount of traveling involved in a shoot. These are the Hasselblad H5D 50, the Nikon D800E, and the Panasonic GH1 which has now been replaced by the Panasonic GH3. I will be writing about the Nikon and Panasonic in future posts. Here is the low down on the H5D-50:

Hasselblad H5D-50: This is my main workhorse camera. It is a 50 megapixel medium format camera by Hasselblad. I have been using Hasselblad cameras for the last 10 years, and started out the with 22 megapixel back that required a separate (large) battery pack that I had to carry around in a modified purse. Thankfully Hasselblad has continued to develop and improve their technology over the years and has provides a clear upgrade path so users can keep up with the latest cameras.

 I regularly make prints that are greater than 30" wide, and often up sample images with On One Perfect Resize to create prints up to ten feet in the longest dimension. To make such big prints I need a lot of  high quality megapixels. The large sensor size (6132 x 8176 pixels with a sensor dimension of 36.7 x 49.1mm) of the H5D 50 along with 16 bit color depth results in noticeable improvement in the quality of a fine art print when compared with almost all other camera systems. The Hasselblad sensor captures true 16 bit color, which basically means it captures a broader range of colors than be captured by a standard DSLR sensor. Most DSLRS capture colors in the 12 bit or 14 bit range, which is about 25% (in the case of 14 bit) of the color data captured by a 16 bit sensor. Granted this is an oversimplified explanation of bit depth, however functionally what I find with 16 bit files is that I am able to perceive a broader range of colors and shadow / highlight details from the image files when I make them into prints.

In addition the lens quality of the Hasselblad H lenses are stunning. The optical quality is designed to bring out the best in the high resolution sensor of the Hasselblad. Since the unique patented shutter is in the lens and causes no vibration, it is possible to capture images that are tack sharp at any shutter speed since there is no detectable shutter vibration once the mirror is locked up. The combination of very high quality lenses, 16 bit color, and 50 megapixels on a very large sensor make it possible for me to capture the best possible image quality. Of course this requires using a tripod for all image captures, since hand-holding a camera like this results in a decrease in image quality due to mirror slap and camera movement. I use the Really Right Stuff L bracket and the Arca Swiss Cube Head on a Gitzo tripod to ensure a stable platform, and I use a cable release with mirror lock up.

I use an assortment of Hasselblad Lenses. In my bag are the 28mm wide angle, 35mm wide angle, 50-110 zoom, 300 mm telephoto, and the 1.7x converter which makes the 300 mm into a 510mm lens. I also use a special macro adaptor that allows my existing lenses to focus at a closer distance to take better macro images. Here are some images I have taken with the different lenses (all images ©Elizabeth Carmel):


28mm Very Wide Angle

Summer Bloom Lake Tahoe


35mm Wide Angle




50-110 Zoom: Wide Angle to Mild Telephoto







300 mm Telephoto




510 mm Telephoto with 1.7 Converter




The reason I have invested a substantial amount of money in this camera system (it costs as much with the lenses and accessories as a nicely equipped SUV) is because I want to create landscape images that are state of the art in detail and color range. I want collectors of my work to have a print that represents the best possible image quality available at the time I made the photograph. I do not like to have regrets after I have photographed a scene. If I capture an amazing, once in a lifetime scene with the best available photo equipment I will not have regrets, since I know that the prints I make from that file will please even the most discerning photo collector. I know that I can make my images as large as needed to fit any wall. I have found this out the hard way by having the wrong gear along when I had a once in a lifetime shot in front of me. I have come to accept that very good photography is a pain in the a** to accomplish, so I have resigned myself to the need to spend the money, schlep the gear around, worry about the gear, fiddle with the gear, and get to the location at inconvenient hours. That is part of the price I pay to do what I am fortunate to do. Ultimately my goal is to bring home the beauty of our planet and share it in a way that others appreciate.

Coming Next: Why I also use a Nikon D800 E 

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Links to My Articles in Outdoor Photographer Magazine

I write a regular column for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. You can access my articles online at this link or through the print version of the Magazine.

http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/columns/fleeting-vistas.html


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Review of the Lowe Pro Rover Pro AW Camera Backpack - A Great Solution for Outdoor Photographers


LowePro has recently released a very well designed camera backpack for outdoor photographers that combines safe camera transport with capacity for additional cargo, all in a comfortable and lightweight design.  Most camera backpacks were either designed just for a camera system with little thought given to pack weight and carrying comfort, and they were not useful as outdoor travel backpacks since they always had huge amounts of velcroed in camera compartments that left little room for other needed  gear. The new Rover Pro solves this problem by using removable modular pouches for camera and lenses. These padded pouches are big enough for a pro dslr and a few lenses. What is great is that they can be quickly accessed by an outer zipper on the pack or through the top of the pack.Rover Pro AW seriesRover Pro AW series

The pouches nest behind the front zipper panel and are easy to access without having to take all your gear out of the top of the pack. I do a lot of photography while skiing and hiking, so I always need to carry extra outdoor gear when out in the field. This pack lets me pack food, clothing, etc in the top compartment of the pack and in the top flap. A tripod can be placed in the tripod pocket on the side of the pack.

What I also like is that the shoulder straps & hip belt are very well designed and of the quality you would find on a high end hiking backpack.  You can adjust the shoulder straps and hip belt so they are snug and move with you when skiing. The panel that goes next to your back is ventilated mesh material that is breathable, which is a must when hiking. Best of all this pack is not the heavy old camera pack of old that weighs 10 lbs without anything in it! These old camera packs had so much velcro and camera padding that they became beasts to carry anywhere farther than a half mile from the car. The Rover Pro is one of the lightest camera packs I have seen thanks to the innovative modular camera pouches.


.Rover Pro AW series


One side pocket has a secure tripod carrying system, and the other side has a pocket for a water bottle or hydration pack. This helps balance out the weight on both sides of the pack.  There is also a pocket in the pack that can easily hold a laptop. There are plenty of exterior accessory straps for attaching things to the outside of the pack. Lowepro is also generous with the accessory pouches and other storage compartments included with this pack.

I plan to use this pack for air travel in addition to outdoor photo treks. It is the right size to fit in an overhead bin on an airplane. It will also double as a daypack for sightseeing, and can even be converted into a full on dedicated backcountry backpack for multi-day hikes. They definitely had someone who actually hiked and was a photographer designing this pack.  There is also a nice waterproof cover included that tucks underneath the bottom when not in use. 

LowePro has done a fabulous job of providing a state of the art backpack for landscape / adventure photographers who travel on hiking trails and skis to their destinations. Often we feel a little left out with all  the packs designed for the more auto oriented or studio bound photographer, so it is nice to know they are designing products with us in mind. Great job LowePro and thanks for making my efforts to get where I need to with my camera a little more enjoyable.

You can see a video and more details on their website at 
http://www.lowepro.com/rover-pro-aw

Rover Pro AW series

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Autumn 2012 Releases and Autumn Workshop Recap


I spent October 4-7 with a fabulous group of people, including my co-instructor Jerry Dodrill, doing an autumn colors workshop in the Eastern Sierra. We hit the colors perfectly for the high country, and were able to get some amazing sunset shots during an evening photo shoot at Mono Lake. The workshops are put on by Galen and Barbara Rowell's Mountain Light gallery in Bishop. The Mountain Light gallery is like a pilgrimage location for me -  when there I feel fortunate to be able to work in the spiritual presence of one of the true masters of color landscape photography, Galen Rowell.

Mother Nature sure had a show planned for us on October 5. The sunset at Mono Lake was one of the epic sunsets of my life. The sky stayed gray until about 6:20 pm, and we were starting to have our doubts about the sunset colors. Then the heavens exploded in color and I went into a panic mode trying to get a few good shots in during the best light. Fortunately I had scouted out some spots and knew where to go once the show started. Following are my favorite images from the evening. I assure you all the colors are accurate as to what we witnessed. I actually had to desaturate the images to get the colors to match the gamut of my printer. It is best to view these on a color managed browser like Safari - they look crazy in the Chrome browser but seem to show a little better on my actual website. Click each image caption to go to my website where you can see the larger jpg (select Larger Photos on the product page). These images are all available as fine art prints via my website. All were taken with the Nikon D800E. All of the images can be viewed on the new releases portfolio on my landscape photography website.


Autumn Sunset, Mono Lake
Sierra Sky, Mono Lake

Sunset Blessing




Since I have so many images of yellow aspens I did not add alot of new aspen shots to my website, but I did like this image of the aspens reflecting in a creek up towards South Lake:

Autumn Reflections, High Sierra

I have also been wanting to get this shot of the Palisades visible up the canyon on the way to Lake Sabrina. The colors were lovely at sunrise although I still need to get it with some snow on the peaks. I understand that is snowed there yesterday so the shot with snow might still be possible.

Sierra Crest Autumn


We also had a wonderful visit to the Patriarch Grove of ancient Bristlecone Pines, the Earth's oldest living trees. The high elevation of this area, at over 11,000 feet, makes the sky and colors of the trees very brilliant just before and after sunset. Being in the presence of these amazing ancient tree beings is a very humbling experience.



Autumn Sun, Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Sunset

Swirl of Time

Ancient Sentinel

Jerry Dodrill and I will be leading an Autumn Colors workshop in Napa Valley in a few months - there is still time to sign up if you are interested: http://www.mountainlight.com/workshops/121129.html





Monday, June 4, 2012

LowePro Flipside is a Great Backpack for  the Nikon D800

One of the benefits of shooting with the Nikon D800 E is the reduced size of the body and lenses when compared to medium format. This allows me to carry the system in a smaller backpack. I have found that the Lowe Pro Flipside 500 AW offers a great balance of size and portability. I really like that the backpack unzips on the side of the pack facing the back pad, instead of the outside like most packs. This improves security in urban environments and allows you to access the pack while still wearing it around your waist. The 500 is larger than the other flip side versions, so I can fit all my Nikon lenses in there with my filter systems and flash. It fits well in the overhead bins of even small airplanes, and does not scream "I am a camera backpack". I find it is best to travel unobtrusively as a photographer. The Padded waist belt and water bottle / tripod pockets on the outside make it great for hiking. All around it is a great choice for an everyday  dslr camera pack. Here is more info on the Lowe site.


Monday, May 14, 2012



New Images from Arches and Canyonlands with Nikon D800 E

Utah is one of my favorite places to photograph. The landscape seems so primordial and mysterious to me. I had the good fortune to be able to photograph Arches and Canyonlands National Park with the new 36 mp Nikon D800E. I chose the E version of this new camera because it produces a higher resolution image than the version with the extra filter (the D800). I am amazed by the dynamic range of this camera. I was able to pull out incredible detail in the shadows and highlights of images. This was especially important with the full moon images since the moon is so bright - I was able to bracket shots and had enough detail in the bright moon with the underexposures to bring back all the details in the moon craters. Since this camera is more difficult to stop down to f22 for depth of field, I took multiple exposures of images and different focus points so I would be able to stack them in Helicon Focus to create images with better depth of field. Medium Format cameras such as the Hasselblad can tolerate stopping down to f22 for depth of field, but the smaller sensors on these Nikon cameras produce distortion when they are stopped down more than f11 or so. This distortion degrades print quality. I love the Nikon 14-24 mm zoom and took my shot of Spring Sunrise, Arches with that lens and combined images in Helicon Focus. The other images were taken either with the 24-70mm zoom or the 70-200 zoom.


I am having difficulty getting the blogger software to properly display my images, so I am including a link to the new releases section of my website where the images are located (they are the first seven images):
http://www.elizabethcarmel.com/New-Release-Prints-from-Elizabeth-Carmel-s/84.htm














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