Death Valley National Park is one of those rare places on this planet that does not cease to amaze every time you visit it. Thanks to its unusually dry weather conditions, cold winters and extremely hot summers, the park goes through a number of transformations throughout the year. And such changes can be observed in many of its rich and diverse landscapes, especially if you pay a visit at the right time of the year. I have visited Death Valley as early as January and as late as April (you certainly do not want to be there past May, as the temperatures in late spring and summer can soar as high as 130F!) and I have also been there once in the fall. Each time I visited, I saw something unique that I had previously never seen before, especially once I started exploring the park a bit more than just the main roads. In this article, I would like to hopefully show just some of the beauty of the stunning and the ever-surprising Death Valley National Park and show you some of my most favorite parts of the park I like to visit.
I just got back from a trip to Yellowstone National Park to test out the Nikon D500, Nikon D5 and Pentax K-1 DSLRs (reviews to be posted soon) and I wanted to share my experience, specifically my frustrations with visiting and photographing this amazing location, which has been my top spot for many years for photographing both wildlife and landscapes. I spent a week in Yellowstone and my original plan was to stay there for longer if needed, depending on how much wildlife I would encounter. But I had to cut my trip short, because I was just getting tired of seeing the same behavioral patterns of park visitors over and over again – to the point where it was just getting absurd, abusive and downright stupid.
While it was pretty sad to see Nikon recall its last round of rebates due to earthquakes in Japan, other manufacturers like Fuji are continuing to push pretty aggressive sales on both cameras and lenses to lure in more customers and increase their market share. I am a big fan of the Fuji X system (I own the Fuji X-T1 and a couple of X-series lenses – see my detailed Fuji X-T1 review), so when I saw all the available deals on lenses and cameras, I wanted to let our readers know about these deals. Although these deals are supposed to last until the end of June, if you have plans to purchase Fuji gear, I would suggest doing it sooner than later, since many of the lenses are already out of stock and it might take a while for your order to arrive if it is backed up too deeply in the order queue.
With so many editing / post-processing software packages on the market today, photographers might find it rather difficult to go through them all and compare key features in order to pick something that would ultimately work for their needs. Many of us go through that stage, especially when starting out. What is the best software for photo editing? What features does it have? Is it easy to learn and how much does it cost? These are just some of the questions photographers seek answers for. While John Bosley and I have been working hard on producing our PL Level 1: Post-Processing Basics course, we have decided to share one of the charts that we will be including in the course with our readers, which compares the most popular non-destructive editing tools on the market. It took us a while to compile all this data, since there are so many different features and considerations one must go through to make a meaningful comparison. The chart has not been fully finalized yet, since we are currently looking for your feedback and ideas, so that we can hopefully make the chart complete and comprehensive enough for those who are interested in such a comparison.
Today is a very sad day in our photographic community – Michael Reichmann, the founder of one of my all-time favorite sites “Luminous Landscape“, passed away late last night after an extended battle with cancer. He was 71. Although I never had a chance to meet Michael in person, I always hoped that one day our paths would cross, since he has always been such a huge inspiration. A great teacher, an amazing photographer and from what I had heard from others, a very warm, kind and funny person. I learned so much from Luminous Landscape and the articles that Michael and his team put out on the site, and I have always recommended the site to our readers as one of the best sources on the Internet on landscape photography.
John Bosley and I have been actively working on producing our second Level 1: Post-Processing Basics video and we have decided to look into getting a shotgun microphone for the studio environment. While our lavalier microphones have been working great for the most part, they tend to collect ambient noise quite a bit, especially when the subject moves or accidentally touches the microphone. Additionally, lavalier mikes can be painful to deal when there is a lot of interference, particularly in a busy urban environment. When shooting in San Francisco, we experienced some sort of interference practically in every channel, which made it difficult to shoot (and that’s considering that we had two different transmitters at completely different radio frequency ranges). So it was time to look for a different solution that gives us good quality sound without the problems of the lavalier microphones. We decided to evaluate a number of popular shotgun microphones and we came up with the following list: Sennheiser MKE 600, Audio Technica AT897, Rode NTG2 and Rode NTG3. While the first three are in the same price range (around $300) and therefore can be considered direct competitors, the Rode NTG3 was a higher-end unit priced at around $700. The big question was – which of the four microphones would win us over? Take a look at our video below:
It has been 15 years since Nikon produced the last iteration of its budget 300mm lens, so the new Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR was something many enthusiasts and professionals have been patiently waiting for. Although the previous generation Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S is an excellent lens optically, it lacks image stabilization, new generation coating and other new technologies that Nikon has been integrating into modern lenses. I have personally been a huge fan of the 300mm f/4D AF-S lens and have owned it for many years, loving the lens for its superb optical performance, fast autofocus, light weight and compact size, making it my ultimate travel lens for wildlife photography – a perfect companion for hand-held shooting. Because it was so good with the 1.4x teleconverter, I practically always kept the teleconverter attached to the lens, making it a very nice 420mm f/5.6 combination. When Nikon finally announced the new 300mm f/4E VR lens, I got very excited, because Nikon completely redesigned the lens. In fact, with close to a 50% reduction in weight and a 30% reduction in physical size, we are not dealing with another redesign or update – this is a completely different lens.
UPDATE: The review has been updated – missing Imatest charts and lens comparisons have been added based on two additional lens samples.
During our trip to Turkey, Lola and I had a chance to briefly meet with my Turkish friends from MIOPS.com, the talent behind MIOPS Smart Trigger and Nero Trigger (see our detailed review of Nero Trigger). MIOPS is a small business that operates out of Turkey, with an exceptionally knowledgeable team of software and hardware engineers. I first met the MIOPS team at the Photo Plus Expo in New York back in 2013 and since then we have become good friends. So when they found out that Lola and I were flying out to Istanbul, they invited both of us to their corporate office for a tour of their production facilities. Since I had a couple of cameras with me during the trip, I requested to record an interview with the team in order to introduce both the product and the talented team behind the product to our readers. In this article, I would like to share the recorded interview with our readers and provide some information on the MIOPS Smart Trigger. If you have never heard of this little device, I would definitely encourage you to read on, since this little gadget might get your creative juices flowing with all kinds of new photography ideas.
Sometimes it is quite amusing to observe the impact of the social media world on our youth. With the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr dominating the daily lives of people today, it seems like the younger generation is only concerned about getting more likes on their next “duck-face” photo, their thigh gaps, or a selfie in front of a major landmark. They know more about what the Kardashians wore for the Met Gala event than what the Pythagorean Theorem represents. We see them every day, everywhere; visit any popular hot spot and you will surely be surrounded by a herd of selfographers. And each time you revisit, it seems like their numbers multiply in geometric progression, spreading faster than plague. It is the generation of the self-obsessed. What’s worse, the selfie culture has become such a norm in our society, that it has already begun to spread to the older generation as well.
We had quite a few of our readers engage in our last “How Was This Picture Made #9” article for the image of the Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque that I posted from my trip to Istanbul, Turkey. While some of the readers did a great job at giving a description of my shooting environment and even correctly guessed the location, the camera and the lens I used for the shot, none of the readers correctly identified the specific challenges I faced when photographing the scene. And to be honest, it would have been nearly impossible to identify those challenges by just looking at the photo, since it is the final, processed version. Let’s go through all the steps that will reveal everything I did to capture and process this image.