Friday, September 21, 2012

The new kid on the block – Nikon D800

For most people who aren't pro photographers or tech nerds, the more megapixels a camera has the better the camera is. That's one of the major reasons the new Nikon D800 is so popular.

But that school of thought isn't true. Not even a little bit.

Take my trusty Nikon D3s. Up until recently(the new Nikon D4 and Canon 1Dx are slight improvements) it was considered by many to be the one of the best cameras ever produced. Some Publications called it the best.

How many megapixels is it? A measly 12. The new iPhone, which costs approximately $600 to the D3s' $5000, is 8 megapixels. Not far behind.

What makes the D3s so amazing? Up to 11 frames per second and it can see better in the dark than I can with amazingly low noise(digital equivalent to film grain) for starters. It is a camera built for speed. A journalist's camera.

The Nikon D800 is the exact opposite. At 36 megapixels it is the highest resolution dslr to date. It's remarkably slow, getting 4 frames per second. Want to shoot in a poorly lit room? You better have a tripod ready because the low ISO range won't allow you to hand hold. Not a good camera for on-the-go photojournalists.

In short, it's built for a completely different purpose than the D3s.

Why did i get the D800 then? Mostly the HD video.

But that isn't to say it's not an amazing stills camera. It is. Phenomenal even. It does things my D3s can only dream of doing.

It is the perfect art photography camera. Great for landscapes, still life, portraits, macro, wildlife. All things I want to get back into as a hobby.

I haven't had a chance to really put the D800 to the test yet but I have shot a few samples. The first shot shows how much detail the camera can pick up. It's called a 100% crop. A peice of a photo shown at true 1:1 size to show quality. Pixel peeping. First up is the D800.

Click to enlarge

And for comparison, the D3s:

Click to enlarge
Both images shot with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G with the same settings. As you can see in the cutout, the D800 is considerably sharper and shows finer detail.

What does this mean? Larger prints with greater detail. For work it means I can shoot something like a crime scene from very far away, crop the image down a lot and still have a printable photo.

What I'm really looking forward to is shooting an interesting multimedia piece for work. The quality of the video is outstanding. Here are a couple basic videos shot with it so far.

Is the D800 better than other lower resolution cameras? In some respects, yes. But it also fails where lower resolution camera excel. Is it a great camera? Absolutely.

I can't wait to really put it to good use.

*this blog has a whole lot of text.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"An update? This is a joke, right?"

There may be an inch of dust on the shelves at Ambient Focus and cobwebs hanging from the ceiling that would put the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland to shame, but I assure you, this is no joke. I am actually updating. I have months of work I haven't shared. Photos and videos. 

Where do I start first?

How's about a dragonfly eating an aphid?

Or maybe something from a candlelight vigil after the killing of several people at a Sikh temple?

  Here's a great video I did about an artist who is nearly blind:


Old people playing piano?


I need a smoking break.

Did I mention that my video about Jeff Kooyman got 2nd place in the best video category in the California Newspaper publishers Association Better Newspapers awards?

Because it did. 


Ok. I think I got it all out of my system. More to come. I promise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A new project for the new year.

I always say that I am going to do my best to update AF more often but I always fail miserably at doing so. This has forced me to take drastic measures.

To kick-start more regular updates I am starting a new project in 2012. I don't have a name for it but I do have a plan. Every day, while on assignment, I am going to photograph something unrelated to assignment. I may shoot multiple photos each day if I have a lot of stories and I may just shoot one photo. Who knows what will happen? But I will shoot at least one every day. At the end of each week I will post my five favorite photos with a blurb.

Here's my example to start off:

Jan. 17: While photographing an interview with John Vanderheiden in Lockeford, this cowboy stood to my left staring out the window.

Hopefully having a goal will keep me on track and make AF a little more enjoyable. Now if life can just send me something interesting everyday.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 12(13) of 2011

The end of 2011 is approaching and in the newsroom that means the year end lists are being made. Top 10 stories, top 10 quotes, top 10 reader comments, top 10 photos, top 10 this, top 10 that. I would normally compile a collection of photos I've taken this year that I like without any structure. I like it so it gets added to the collection. But this year I'm taking a note from my friend a fellow photojournalist Clifford Oto and selecting one photo from each month.

Some months were easy. One photo stood out among the the rest. In other months(July) no photos were particularly interesting. And then there was October, a month full of great photos.

My votes have been tallied I have made the final judgement. Here are my favorite Lodi News-Sentinel photos from 2011.  


Jan. 3:

The year got off to an exciting start with the reorganization of the SJC board of supervisors. As I'm sure you are all aware, there are no assignments in the world of photojournalism more action-packed than meetings. From the beginning this was a real slobber-knocker of a meeting. Items were discusses in monotone voices, thanks for a year served were given. I could hardly contain my excitement. During the meeting, Mr. Ruhstaller up there was named the new chairman of the board. While he was speaking to the crowd he leaned forward to reach the mic and peered over his spectacles. With the county sign behind him it was one of those moments where all the elements came together to make an interesting photo out of a boring moment.  


Feb. 14:

It's been a couple of slow years for fires. We haven't had any major structure fires or grass fires in a long time. Fires are always horrible for the people affected by them, but for photos they are a goldmine. When I arrived on scene for this fire the flames were under control so I resorted to photos of the firefighters cleaning up the mess. but then from the garage came a couple of firefighters carrying puppies. They were barely breathing. One appeared to be unconscious. The firefighters and EMTs gather around the dogs and began resuscitating them. I knew as I snapped photo after photo I was getting something few had ever witnessed. Did I get any photos of flames? No, but would that really have been better than an EMT cradling two puppies, one wearing an oxygen mask?  


March 16:

 The guys on SWAT have a tough job. They deal with the crazies who will probably hurt themselves or others if they get the chance. To keep their skills up to snuff the SWAT team has monthly training sessions and occasionally hold competitions against other SWAT teams. In this photo the Elk Grove team was going from classroom to classroom searching for a "husband" holding his "wife' hostage. When they entered the room they began yelling at the reporter and I to get our hands up, not realizing we were not part of the scenario. 


April 11:

This was one of my favorite assignments from the entire year. Retired WWII veteran Chuck Casella was a B-17 gunner when he served. In April he had the opportunity to take a ride on the Liberty Belle, a B-17 that toured the country. It was amazing to see the oldster hopping on board and navigating through the plane like he was a twenty-something again. Sadly, about a month after these photos were taken the Liberty Belle crashed and burned outside of Chicago.


May 5:

Shooting Cinco de Mayo at New Hope School in Thornton has become an annual event. There's singing, dancing and kids in traditional Mexican clothes. This year I snagged a photo of a kindergartner who seemed to be quite embarrassed while still having the time of her life. 


June 23:

As a journalist you are sometimes involved with a story that truly opens your eyes. This year Jeff Kooyman was that story. He's one of those people that everyone in town knows of, sees them hanging around here and there, have heard stories about but know really know anything concrete about the person. If you speak to Jeff you may think he's a little off. 30 years of drug abuse will do that to you. But what you probably don't know is he's a graduate of UC Davis and a brilliant pianist. He is the reason you don't judge a book by its cover. Check out the video, "Jeff Kooyman: A Life Renewed" for the whole story.


July 12:

This has been the year of REACH. I have photographed REACH more times this year than any other year at the Sentinel. I've been to the REACH station, I've taken a couple rides in it and I've been to numerous accidents in which REACH was used to transport an injured person. This photo was taken during a training session with Lodi firefighters at Hutchins Street Square. They were reviewing landing procedures. Nothing to terribly exciting. But while shooting I did get the opportunity to stand beneath the chopper as it was landing, giving me a unique view of the crew. 


Aug 6:

Feature portraits a constant as a photoj. Rare is the day I don't shoot one. Staci Takach is a local photographer who was featured on the cover of the Lodi Living section. She brought a bunch of cameras for the interview and photo shoot. I gave her the simple instruction of "have fun." It worked. She was relaxed and gave me plenty of great candid shots. This was my favorite of the bunch and my favorite portrait of the year.

Sept. 15:

Former LNS reporter Jordan Guinn is a glutton for punishment and will do just about anything you tell him to. So what did we do to the guy who gets motion sickness if he turns a corner too quickly? We threw him on some carnival rides at the Lodi Grape Festival. He was a trooper, riding nearly everything he was told to, but he couldn't keep the brave face on the whole time. If you ever want to hear a grown man scream, watch the video of Jordan at the Grape Festival



Wildlife photography is not my specialty. In fact, I'd say it's the field of photography I am the worst at and have the least amount of experience in. So when I got this photo of a juvenile bald eagle at the Pardee Reservoir I was quite pleased with myself. We saw the eagle take flight from the shore and I manages to snap off a coupe shots before he got out of range. But in a stroke of good luck he landed again and perched on a tree. We manage to drive out boat right under the guy before he finally took flight again, giving me this shot.

Kabbadi is an eastern sport. A mix of tag, red rover and wrestlemania. I love shooting other cultures so I jumped at the chance to work on my day off and shoot at the Sikh temple. The sport was unlike anything I had ever photographed. Surrounded by a crowd of about 3000 it was also the largest sporting event I covered this year.

Nov. 18:

In July a postal worker was hit by a car as he crossed the street. His legs were crushed. He has had multiple surgeries and months of therapy, slowly learning to walk again. During one of his weekly sessions at Lodi Memorial West the physical therapist pressed on his knee as he performed leg presses. The look on his face was of excruciating pain.

Dec. 14:

For family members of soldiers serving oversees there is no better gift than their safe return home. This month I've photographed two homecomings – a son surprising his mother and a father surprising his children. Tears flowed freely at both. It's hard to imagine a more joyous occasion.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life isn't always a piece of cake...

But sometimes it is easy as pie.

I always give my coworker Maggie a hard time about the assignments she gives me to shoot. She is the city hall reporter so most of her stories deal with some kind of government regulation, city council meeting or pensions. All riveting topics when it comes to photography as you can imagine.

How can I forget the time we drove around photographing non-ADA compliant curbs? Or the thrilling task of photographing storm drains? How I have not won a Pulitzer yet is beyond me.

But sometimes, sometimes Maggie works a miracle and finds something good. And by good I mean delicious.

Being that this is Thanksgiving week people are out preparing for the most important part of the day and the reason we all gather together–pie!

On Monday we headed over to Phillips Farms where they made more than 700 pies for Thanksgiving last year. That's a lot of pie filling.

The photos were not technically challenging or even particularly interesting to look at but it was fun. Sometimes that's all that matters.

What I enjoyed most about it though(other than eating a delicious apple pie) was making the video. This is one of those cases when a movie does more justice to a subject than still images. With the video you can see the crust forming, the juices dripping and the skill it takes to form the crust(it's harder than it looks). The photos just didn't convey it as well.

So check out the video, read Mags' story and enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Sur Wedding

A couple posts ago I said I only shoot a wedding or two each year. I have now met my quota.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to assist Jen, of New Vintage Photography, shoot a wedding in Big Sur, Ca. I jumped at the chance. It was a chance to shoot a wedding somewhere I had never been to and avoid all the post wedding work of being the lead photographer. It also gave me time to focus on other things and not have to worry about getting all those shots the bride wants.

It was a great DIY wedding. Really, how can any wedding with fiddle and mandolin players be bad?

Here are a couple shots I came back with. For the whole set and more weddings, engagement sessions, and family portraits, check out New Vintage.

I didn't get to do as much sightseeing as I would have liked too, but we got a little in.

Jen getting a shot of some rust barbed wire.

She also managed to sneak off a shot of me.

And one shot of the beautiful coast.

Hopefully I can be back to Big Sur again. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kabaddi-It's like a childrens game but way more violent

Working at the News-Sentinel for as long as I have means there isn't much that happens in this area that I haven't shot before. But every once in a while something new comes along.

That something new is Kabaddi.

Until yesterday I had no idea what Kabaddi was. However, I learned quickly that it is an intense athletic competition popular in India, Iran, Pakistan and other eastern countries. It's basically a mix of red rover, tag, and Wrestle Mania.

Let's see if I can explain this without thoroughly confusing everyone. Two teams face off in a large dirt ring with a line down the center. On the center line, in the middle, are two small mounds of dirt about 10 feet apart. At any given time there are five members of each team on each half of the ring. One person on each team is the "Raider." The other four stand together holding each others arms.

The raider from team A approaches the four members of team B on B's half of the ring. The raider then has 30 seconds to make contact with one of the four opponents. If he contacts one he then as 30 seconds to return to his half of the ring through the mounds of dirt while the opponent he contacted tries to stop him. If he makes it back team A gets the point. If he is stopped team B gets the point. Then the whole processes is repeated, switching roles between the two teams.

It was unlike anything I've ever watched before.

Dirt clouding the air and my eyes. The crowd of 3000 cheering as the voice of the announcer calling the fight in Punjabi rang out. Athletes slamming each other to the ground. It was a sensory overload.

Enough with the typing. Time fore the photos and a video. 

The night ended early because a real fight broke out during the tournament, prompting law enforcement for clear everyone out. Hopefully that doesn't prevent the return of the matches next year because I would love to shoot Kabaddi again.