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Feb 8 2012 The Nikon D800- A few more features to point out

It’s been a heck of a day or so. The interest in the Nikon D800 has been overwhelming, to say the least. I had confirmed with my webhost, Network Solutions on multiple occasions to confirm they’d be able to handle the traffic. They could not. The result was frustration on the part of those attempting to satisfy their curiosity by logging onto my blog, and agony on my part knowing that this was happening. Not to mention the most important thing... potential brides could not access my site! 
Many, many questions have been asked about the camera, and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’ll save my full review of the camera for when I have a bit more time to compose one that’s well thought out. In the meantime, I want to say thanks to everyone for their kind words, and thanks to the .5 percent for the not so kind, ridiculous comments... at least you took the time to look. The most ridiculous of the comments was from people angry that I didn’t post full resolution images. The site couldn’t handle the traffic as it was, and yet they expected full res. Pretty funny. Some were also upset that I retouched the files. That’s what I would do for my clients, so that’s how I want people to see them. Full resolution- UNRETOUCHED images can be viewed Also, those that were concerned that the images were “overcooked”- when going from 7300 to 980 pixels, the images MUST be sharpened to a degree. Otherwise, the files will look soft, and out of focus.  
To attempt to judge a file from a blog post is kinda silly. I also don’t hide the fact that MY images here on this blog were absolutely retouched. They are similar in nature to how I’d present them to my clients. Also, as my studio manager, Noelle Andrews points out, “The resolution and detail in these files are so high that when being retouched at a100% it doesn't look like there is as much retouching, so when it is sized down the retouching looks exaggerated.” I absolutely agree. 
There will always be couch photographers who are kind of like Monday morning quarterbacks. They’ll download someone else’s file and then pick it apart. Go ahead, take the full rez, unretouched file, and look closely. This, of course, is only part of the story of this camera. For me, a camera’s responsiveness is equally important to the image quality. The focusing in this camera- like it’s D4 sibling- has been improved from the last generation. Yes, I said improved. I didn’t think it was possible for Nikon to improve the focus in the D3S, but somehow they did. The low light capabilities were targeted, and it’s more responsive in low light. The dynamic range in the D800 is also something people may overlook. With my style of shooting- sometimes in very harsh light- by choice- I’ll be able to hold more detail than ever before. File size alone wont do that. However, the file size accompanied by the increased dynamic range will make for some stunning files in dramatic light.  
ISO. In my opinion, from the results I achieved, the ISO performance is about equal to a D3. It is in no way a D4, and wasn’t intended to be. It’s not a D3S either. You should expect it to perform close to the D700 and D3 with respect to ISO.  
As I mentioned, in the next few days, I’ll post a comprehensive review, and I’ll also post a little about the actual assignment- which was an incredible honor. What goes into producing a brochure for a new imaging tool is quite daunting, to say the least. Lets just say I lost some sleep as the shoot approached. Ok. Below are some other images that depict a few other features. 
PLEASE understand that these images have been reduced in file sized, and then sharpened back up. When a file is reduced from 7300 pixels, down to 980 pixels, they soften up. They need to be sharpened back up. So, please note that. These blog images are to give people an idea of what my experience was with the camera. They’re not intended for people to download and scrutinize. They’re only 980 pixels, and they’ve been sharpened back up. I can only hope that people understand that these are my honest observations and that they’re informative so people may make a decision on whether this camera is for them.  
Lastly, I would like to state that the D800 will be a part of my wedding day workflow. When I buy one, which I will, the D4 will be my main workhorse. With my style of shooting, the D4 suits me well. However, the D800 will absolutely be used for all portraits, and a few other parts of the day as well. The right tool for the right application. The two combined will be a killer combination.  
For this image, I used the first of 2 Auto white balance settings. Auto 1, with the 91K-pixel RGB sensor and the image sensor working together, the camera renders white as white with supreme accuracy. This is the Pierre Hotel in New York City at an actual wedding.  
D800 with the Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8 

Here, Auto 2 white balance was used. This allows some of the warmth from the room to be maintained. I really do like this setting. 

Auto focus. Another area not really being highlighted much. I can tell you first hand that the autofocus has been improved... even from the D3S- which I didn't think was possible. Here, the 3D tracking maintains focus throughout the series of images. The focus point continues to move reliably allowing me to maintain focus. I used my 70-200 VRII for these images. Model Rachel Johnston and Luca Taormina were fantastic to work with.

Ok, ISO performance. I was really surprised that it performed just about as well as a D3 with regard to ISO. This seems to be one of the biggest concerns. It's not a concern to me. Now, I won't be using the D800 in the most extreme low light conditions. That's where the D4 will be utilized. But as you can see, it's not much of an issue. 
D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 800 captured our model Amber Young

D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 800. 980 pixels cropped out from a 100% view of the image

D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 3200

D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 3200. 980 pixels cropped out from a 100% view of the image

D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 6400

D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G @ ISO 6400. 980 pixels cropped out from a 100% view of the image

Finally, for those pixel geeks who complained that I retouch my images(forgive me if I want my clients to look their best) This is an unretouched, straight out of camera jpg. NO retouching whatsoever. The file size is dropped, so a slight unsharp mask had to be used.

AND, this is 980 pixels cropped from a 100% view of the image. UNretouched, of course. Yes, its 100%.

Again, these images are all low res for the web. I also want to point out that I was using a prototype D800. I'm sure the production models will have improvements. Enjoy this camera if, and when you get it. The technological advances are incredible. I'll post a review asap. Along with the review, I'll talk about the assignment as well. Thanks for reading, and I read each and every comment.

Feb 6 2012 IT'S HERE... The Nikon D800!!!!

In 1978, my parents brought me to Manhattan to buy a camera. Having utterly no idea whatsoever, I convinced my dad to spring for a Nikon FE. Why?, because even though I was clueless back then, I knew the name Nikon was synonymous with excellence in the photography world. For the past 34 years- 30 now as a professional- I've felt as though I've had Nikon hands, and Nikkor eyes. My relationship with the Nikon Corporation has been an enormous honor. I'm incredibly grateful and honored to have been hired by Nikon to shoot this camera for the Nikon brochure. For more information on the D800, click on the Nikon Corporate site for more information and specifics on the D800. 
I know, you want me to cut to the chase. Lets jump to May of 2011. I was approached by my friend Gen Umei at K&L in Tokyo, the Nikon Corp's ad agency. I'd had the privilege of working with them on a few projects. I took great pride in participating in a Nikkor lens campaign, a Nikon speedlight campaign, and a few other assignments as well. However, those campaigns didn't require secrecy for 7 months! After the box arrived, I ripped it open like a kid on Christmas morning. After shooting just a few frames in my studio with it, I ran upstairs to our digital lab and viewed a file on my 30 ACD. My first reaction was primal. With my jaw open, and after few superlatives left my mouth, I kept checking the monitor to confirm that I was looking at the file at 100%. 36MP. Wow. The image quality was astounding. I couldn't wait to get started.  
My assignment was very clear: Incorporate the D800 into my typical wedding day workflow while demonstrating the various features and functions of this new technology. Below, you'll find a few images that clearly demonstrate a few things the D800 can do. I had it in my hands for only a month or so before I had to kiss it goodbye and send it back to Tokyo. I assure you, that was not an easy thing to do. Some of the images are from actual weddings, and some are from our location shoots with various models, but were shot in real world situations under the same conditions I'd encounter for a wedding. 
Now, obviously, the impact of these files will be diminished when viewing them as low resolution web images. For those who want to view full size files, feel free to stop by the WPPI booth in Las Vegas. They'll have some gorgeous prints on display there. And, for those fans of, I'm sure you'll find some ways to speculate on the next piece of technology. In the meantime, lets enjoy this one. I really believe it's going to help me produce images I haven't made before. These observations are based on my few weeks with the camera, and these are my opinions.  
In every wedding day scenario, I'll spend a few minutes making a few beautiful portraits of the bride with a little window light with my Nikkor 85mm 1.4G. I posted a similar image a while back, but that was taken with my D3S. This was from an actual wedding. For those interested- I put my D700 strap on the D800 body and nobody gave it a second look! 
D800 ISO 640 Nikkor 85mm 1/250th @1.4  

This image is obviously sized for web. It's impossible for me to show full resolution images. This is a crop from the image at 100%. Remarkable detail

One of our models, Rachel Johnston in my studio. Window light only.  
D800, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, ISO 200, 1/320 @ 1.4 

On a typical wedding day, it's impossible to choose our time of day to shoot portraits of our couples. On a bright sunny day in the summer here in the Northeastern U.S., it's either run for the open shade, or embrace the bright sun. I love the texture, dimension, and mood that the mid-day sun can give me. With my style of shooting, it was important for me to incorporate a bride in harsh lighting conditions. Nikon wanted me to put this camera to the test in these conditions. Here, our model Rachel Johnston was photographed in Philadelphia at around 3pm in July in very harsh back light. Absolutely no fill flash or reflectors were used. The dynamic range speaks for itself&. Detail in the veil, detail in the gown, and her face is well exposed. In my eyes, there is absolutely improved dynamic range with this camera. I'll be able to maintain more detail in these conditions that ever before.  
D800 Nikkor 70-200 2.8G ED VRII ISO 200 1/500th @ F4.0 

Our model Veronica Lane on location at one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the region- Ashford Estate in Allentown NJ.

Some of the more interesting technology introduced in this camera is the face recognition for auto exposure. The idea here is that the 3D color matrix meter III uses the face recognition information and exposes for the face- rather than the other elements in the frame. This is a real advantage in backlit situations. This image was shot in Aperture priority with absolutely ZERO compensation. The advantages here are obvious. Even in a challenging lighting scenario, if the camera can recognize the human face, it'll expose for that face without the need to adjust, thus, nailing exposure consistently without the need to compensate.

Face recognition for I-TTL flash is another feature that allows us to produce images without much adjustment. There is no flash compensation whatsoever in this image.

In years past, wedding photography was traditionally captured with medium format equipment for maximum image quality. When the 35mm format was adopted within the genre, it was widely accepted that image quality was compromised in lieu of speed and convenience. Now, my wedding portraiture will have a depth it's never had before, and my style of shooting won't ever be compromised-only enhanced- with the D800. 
Speed and power, without compromise. That's how I'd sum up my impression of this camera. Old world, medium format image quality is now inside a phenomenal, incredibly responsive Nikon body. At 36 megapixels, the D800 produces unprecedented image quality and resolution within a body that boasts revolutionary technological advances. The 3D color matrix meter III, the improved auto focus with more cross sensors, additional dynamic range, and the improved AF performance in low light are just a few features that are glaring improvements. From a focus standpoint, I found it hard to believe there could be improvements to the D3S focus system. But, this camera does focus faster and will allow me to make pictures I couldn't make before.  
For now, I need to give a huge thank you to K&L's creative director Gen Umei and art director Aoyagi Toshiaki- affectionately known as Mr. Blue. Ken-san, our Nikon engineer on hand to answer any and all questions, was an absolutely invaluable asset as well. Also, mi amigo Mike Corrado from Nikon USA. Mike always adds the perfect balance of serious work and comic relief to whatever we do. The fact that everyone involved trusted me to demonstrate what your newest technology can do in the real world is an incredible honor. Thank you so much for the privilege. I'll be posting a few more images in the next few days that highlight other features from the D800. Stop back soon. Also, please check out my friend, Rob Van Petten's site. Rob was also involved with this campaign and he's an amazing photographer.

Oct 28 2011 Keynote presentation at DWF Convention 2012 New Orleans

I've done a slew of speaking over the past few years. I've been honored to speak for Nikon, WPPI, PPA, and a ton of other organizations. This January, however, I'm especially stoked to deliver the Keynote address in New Orleans at the Digital Wedding Forum Convention, 2012. It's not going to be the same old seminar for me. Ordinarily, I'll talk about fundamentals, harsh light, and how to create texture, dimension, and mood with light. Sure, I'll touch on that, but I intend on presenting a seminar that's less about lessons of light, and more about lessons of a lifetime in photography. 2012 will officially be my 30th year in professional photography. At 49, I still believe I'm continuing to learn and grow, and my best images are ahead of me. I hope to see you in New Orleans! 
Oh, in case you were wondering about the extremely goofy photo of me below, it was the


Jun 13 2011 Image of the week

Moments. The hidden gems we as photographers attempt to find at each and every wedding. Moments are what motivate me to continue to shoot as many weddings as I do per year. Now, I'm a big fan of the lovely image of a beautiful bride with her veil drenched in the late afternoon backlight. However, these are moments that I create. I prompt and control the situation in order to produce that portraiture. I will always enjoy that. However, to me, nothing beats the challenge of the found moment. They're not my moments, they're my client's moments. Intimate split seconds in time, captured for future generations. I still, after 29 years of shooting, and 13 years of shooting weddings, enjoy this aspect as much as ever.  
Here, captured a few weeks ago at Knowlton Mansion in Philadelphia, a mother and grandmother of the bride share a moment while the bride and her sister look on from the doorway. I truly have no idea what their conversation was about. It's not my business to know. It's my business to capture it, and work that moment until I feel I've documented the decisive moment from that situation. It's about anticipation, and reaction. If we can't anticipate something, we'd better be able to react. Now, it doesn't hurt that there's some great light on mom! But grandmom is precious. I hope they like it!  
D3S, ISO 1600, Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, 1/400th @ 1.4