Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Court Leve is a sports, wedding, portrait, and pet photographer. His work has been published in National Geographic Adventure, Powder, Ski, Skiing, Freeskier, Parade Magazine, ForbesLife Mountain Time, Spirit Magazine, Southwest Art, and more. He is a regular contributor to the BL Blog. Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review by Court Leve Like most new iterations of Nikon’s pro bodies, the D4s is yet another leap forward in imaging. In my case, coming from a D3s to a D4s ,the improvements are quite noticeable. If you are a current D4 user, the differences will be more subtle but still noteworthy especially for those shooting video. It’s hard to believe a camera can make the D3s feel somewhat antiquated but the D4s does just that. While the D3s is more than capable for just about any situation, the D4s ups the ante yet again. The main areas of improvement are autofocus, low light capabilities, faster frames per second, and better handling. First is the handling of the camera. The added sub buttons are a welcome addition. The reach is shortened and response time quicker when selecting autofocus points.  The body has a few different tweaks and has a great solid feel. The new autofocus is simply amazing, extremely fast and accurate. While shooting a free skiing event I was capturing athletes coming towards me blind over a jump. I was able to instantly capture the skier in mid air while traveling towards me using my 80-400mm at 400mm and achieve nearly a 100% focus accuracy rate. Also helpful was the improved frame rate of 11fps and a nearly non-existent blackout time while...
Two Lighting Styles in 1 Shot with the Pocket Wizard MultiMax

Two Lighting Styles in 1 Shot with the Pocket Wizard MultiMax

Alexis Cuarezma is a San Francisco-based photographer who specializes in both on-location and in-studio portraiture. An alumnus of the Eddie Adams Workshop, Cuarezma has done assignments for the LA Times, the New York Times, HBO, and a number of international publications. He recently did a shoot with Shayne Skov for Sports Illustrated at Stanford University, where he had precious little time to essentially do two shoots at once. Cuarezma has a passion for bold visuals, bright colors, and high contrasts. However, his assignment called for “gray seamless”. To accommodate both Sports Illustrated and his personal style, Cuarezma harnessed the light grouping abilities of the Pocket Wizard MultiMax. He assigned all of the lights Sports Illustrated wanted for a uniform, seamless look to one channel and the punchier lighting setup to another channel and used the MultiMax’s Speed Cycler feature to fire off the two setups in succession. “As soon as I saw this, in my mind I knew I could use this. I didn’t care to fire off strobes at 10 FPS, however, I did care about being able to fire off 2 different sets of lights back-to-back because they don’t have to be the same setup/look. I have a Canon 1D Mark IV that can fire off 10 FPS. So that’s taking a frame every 100 milliseconds. In theory that’s 2 separate images in 200 milliseconds and with the Speed Cycler feature that could be 2 completely different looks shot nearly simultaneously.” Cuarezma set off to draw a lighting diagram for his assistants and to make this concept a reality. So long as the transmitting MultiMax is set...
Memorial Day Weekend Photography/Videography Shooting Ideas

Memorial Day Weekend Photography/Videography Shooting Ideas

If you’re lucky enough to have a long weekend coming up, seize the opportunity to get some valuable shooting time in. If you’re stuck indoors there are still a few things you can accomplish to make this short break a productive one. Here’s 10 great activities for new and seasoned photographers and videographers alike. 1) Get Reflective Avoid the traffic, the crowds, and the madness for awhile and spend some quality time with the ones you love: your camera and lens. Fire up some new romances while you’re at it – after all, Memorial Day is a free rental day! 2) Build a Photobooth Photobooths are one of the more efficient ways to capture the life of any get together without having to be the “event photographer” the entire time. If you’re new to photobooths, now’s the time to practice (your family and friends will love it even if it’s your first one). Try our  Photobooth Essentials to get started. We also have a swank Drop It Modern backdrop you can try. 3) Get Some Exercise Want a workout? Rent a rig. You’ll build some muscle in no time while harnessing creativity. 4) Pack Well If you’re air traveling, don’t check your gear! It will end in tears. Get a bag that is carry-on approved. 5) Embrace Your Inner Hybrid Cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH3 and GH4 are fantastic at shooting both stills and video. Becoming versatile with both will improve your marketability. 6) Learn to Light Paint Light painting is fun and requires inexpensive materials to accomplish. Check out this tutorial by Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald on how to enhance your everyday pictures with this unique lighting style. 7)...
The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

Of all the things that photographers argue about in our secret monthly meetings, sensor size and its impact on our work is perhaps one of the most heated topics that can come up. From the true “bigger is better” snobs (“Sensors? Bah! 8X10 film is where it’s at!”) to the ones who prize portability above all (“Micro-Four-Thirds rules!”), the debate between advocates of MFT, APS-C, and full-frame sensors often reaches religious fervor. Contentious topics related to sensor size include resolution, high-ISO performance, and dynamic range, but the quality and characteristic of bokeh, or out-of-focus backgrounds, is perhaps the most fiercely contentious. While there’s no contest that the bigger sensors can clearly produce much smoother and, well, blurier (not a word, I know), it’s also an unfair statement that the smaller sensors like the ones in Olympus and Panasonic Micro-Four-Thirds cameras can’t produce good bokeh. The Prerequisites Now, before you get into this article, if you have questions about what crop sensors are, how they work, etc., you want to read a few of these articles: Tip of the Week: Understanding Sensor Crop Factors, Part 1 Transitioning from Point-and-Shoot to DSLR: Understanding Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Best Wide Angle for a Crop Sensor Camera These articles will give you a good understanding of what crop sensors are, and what using a crop sensor camera implies, for the most part. In this article, we’re going to drill down to one specific thing. We will take a look at just how the size of your camera’s sensor affects the bokeh characteristics of your image. To do this, we devised a pretty...