Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Series: Response to Inquires - Today's Topic Hasselblad H3D vs Nikon D3X

I receive many questions from people who visit my website / blog who are looking for advice on photography gear etc. This most recent question fits in with a topic I have been dealing with this past week, so I thought I would post my response for blog readers. I will be selecting a question to respond to from the many I receive each week - I do ask forgiveness since there is no way I can respond to every question that I receive, but I hope this blog will help somewhat.

Question/Comments: 1.  How do you achieve the DOF in your landscapes?
 I'm having a difficult time getting DOF like that - used to with my
4x5 but not with my H3DII-39.

2.  Were you pleased with the Nikon D3X enough to consider it adequate
for your primary camera?  I'm thinking of moving from H3DII-39 to the

1. As far as DOF, I do stop down to about f22 on most of my shots. I have found that stopping down lower does introduce some distortion that can negate the increased DOF.  I have used some DOF bracketing if I am doing a very near to far composition, this can be tricky though since it requires bracketing not just the foreground and distance but also the middle  ground area, so that you do not end up with a fuzzy mid ground. I would love if one of the camera makers would develop software that would do this in camera, a custom DOF bracketing function that composites the pictures automatically would be great. I have not had much luck with the photoshop DOF merge feature, maybe they can perfect that. I tend to rely on layering the images in Photoshop and using masking to reveal the most in focus areas. Hasselblad has a new tilt-shift adapter that I am looking forward to trying out at some point, that could be a solution as well.

2. The D3X is  a great travel camera and was easy to carry around Italy in a smaller pack that fit easily in airplanes and busses & the metro. Now that I have had a chance to analyze my images from the trip, I do find the picture quality very different from that of my Hasselblad H3D 39. The resolution difference is very noticeable to me, both on screen and in prints. The D3x produces lovely images but there is a slight painterly quality to them when enlarged, not as crisp and photographic as the H3D. I also noticed that there is less of a definition between colors - it is hard to describe but the H3D seems to produce images with more color variation and depth to them. The main area I notice a difference is when I really enlarge the image with Genuine Fractals 6.0, my preferred enlarging software - the H3D files always hold together even up to 8 foot wide prints. The D3X files can look a little stressed at that type of enlargement. If all I needed to do was make 16x20 prints the D3x would be adequate, however I find it necessary for my work to have a certain quality to it I need the larger file sizes of the H3D. I would not convert over to the D3x as my only camera, but it is very good for magazine images, smaller print work and low light handheld shooting, or inclement weather shooting, which the H3D is not really designed for. 

I am looking in to upgrading my H3D 39 megapixel system to the 50 megapixel system, which will require me to sell both the D3x body and the H3D 39 body and a few lenses - if anyone is interested in either of these send me an email at and I can give you more details. The H3D 39 will come with a one day Lake Tahoe field training session on the system by me. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nevada's Black Rock Desert

I did a quick photo trip to the nearby Black Rock Desert of Nevada, home of the August Burning Man Festival. This is a very wild and beautiful area, similar to Death Valley but without the crowds and hassle of a National Park. I had permission to photograph the unusual Fly Geyser, located on a private ranch in the area. The image below is an HDR series I took at sunrise, HDR worked very well for this image so I could hold the color of the sky and still get the weird colors of the geyser. It is always spewing out hot water that collects in the little limestone reservoirs along the sides, a very otherworldy place. The other images I took are in a new portfolio on my website: Nevada & Black Rock Desert. I plan on returning there for more photography opportunities and to photograph the scenic Pyramid Lake.


Monday, May 18, 2009

New Portfolios of Images from Italy

I have put together 2 new portfolios of my images from Italy. This is just the first group, I will be adding more throughout the months as time permits. All these images were taken with the Nikon d3x. The first portfolio is titled "Tuscany I", and I have put all the images from my previous trip to Tuscany in a portfolio titled "Tuscany II". On this most recent trip I had a chance to spend more time in the scenic Val d'Orcia, where the hill towns of Montepulciano and Pienza are located. The light is constantly changing on the beautiful landscapes in this area; scenes never appear to look the same twice. As with any location photography, the best landscape shots were in the golden hours around sunrise and sunset. I experimented with doing some HDR images using Photomatix in Aperture. I have found that sandwiching images together with Photomatix does not work that well for shots with moving foliage, since it leaves a little halo around the leaves. It works wonderfully if the subject matter is not moving, but alas that rarely happens in landscape photography.


I have also put together a portfolio of images that are more retouched and stylized (Stylized Italy). For this collection I used a series of filters in Nik Color Efex Pro. I also experimented with the Lucis pro filter but then discovered that the Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex does almost the same thing without bleaching out the color. These images were taken throughout Italy, and include some from Rome and Amalfi. I will be adding more shots to this portfolio when I get around to processing my images from Pompeii, which truly is the singular most impressive historic ruin I have ever visited. This is a must see for everyone, and photographers will be especially delighted with the wonderful compositions that are everywhere among the ruins.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quick Summary of Italy Photo Shoot

We are back from Italy and now I am beginning the long process of using Apple Aperture to sort through my images and process the raw files. Italy is a wonderful overload of photographic inspiration - everywhere are interesting, unique subjects and landscapes that could occupy a photographer for a lifetime. It will take me a while to complete my new portfolio of images from the trip, but I have posted here one of the first images, taken on a rainy night in the Tuscan Village of San Gimignano. The Nikon D3x worked like a champ in the rain, I just used a plastic bag from the hotel to try and keep the rain off the body and lens, but that did not work to well and the camera got pretty wet and never acted up. Next time I will bring my KATA camera rain cover. I was also really pleased with how the Lowe Pro flipside 400 pack worked, it is much easier to unzip the back of the pack (opposite most packs) to access gear, and I could wear the pack and access it at the same time. The waterproof cover kept everything dry. As far as the Epson 6000 card reader / image viewer - I really liked how quickly & easily I could back up my cards with that, but I ended up filling the 80gb drive on it in about a week! It is easy to lose track of how much data space you can gobble up bracketing shots with a D3x. I will be exchanging that for a larger capacity model. The acratech ballhead and Gitzo traveller worked really well as a lightweight set up - I would not use them as a primary tripod system for car-based shooting, but it worked well as a lightweight backpacking / travel system. I will be doing some additional future posts about Italy and discussing some of the great locations we went to.