Recent Posts
5 years, 9 months ago 15

O.K. let’s get down to the nuts and bolts!  Sorry about that, couldn’t help myself…….  As a the rep for Nikon NPS in the Southern U.S. I get that question almost every day, and truthfully it’s a tough one. It’s tough because when someone asks me how to best invest their hard earned money, I want to give them the best advise I can!!!  After all, I feel the same way when I spend my I own money on gear, I want it to be the best possible choice for me too!  In that sentence lies the keys to what I’m about to share, the most important consideration is, “what is best for you!”  I’m going to list five key things to consider below, but I want to encourage you to think very carefully before you answer the questions.  If you do, and I will give a little coaching on how to think it through, you will likely end up with the cameras and lenses that will serve you best, and will give you the greatest value for the dollar spent!  And your photography will likely improve as well!!!!


1.  What kind of photography do you do 95% of the time.  Equipment is designed to fulfill specific kinds of uses and what and how you shoot is a big indicator of what you need to buy and use!! Example; if you are a sports photographer, shooting football, basketball, baseball, soccer, or any other fast moving sport, then you are going to need the fastest frame rate, and the fastest auto focus you can get.  You cannot hope to have success in those areas without accurate, fast autofocus, and the ability to shoot a great number of frames quickly without your buffer filling up, causing you to have to stop shooting, even or a few seconds.  There are a number of cameras that can do this, but the best are usually the full pro grade cameras like the Nikon D4 or D3s or their equivalent cameras from the other makers.  Sometimes slightly less expensive cameras can get the job done, but  if you are a full time sports photographer, and especially if you earn a living doing this kind of work, get out your billfold!  These are the most expensive 35mm size bodies, and the fast lenses you need to accompany them are the most costly, as well.  Long glass is expensive, but the necessary tools for the job.


Let’s say you do mostly travel, nature, some close-ups, people, maybe weddings, what I call “General; Photography”.  Now your choices are much broader!  Frame rate will not be as important, and the speed of autofocus, while still important, will not be quite as critical.  With that in mind let’s move on to point two!!


2.  What do you do with your images?  This is a hard one because our fantasies often play into our answers!  Here are some questions to help you answer this question; Do you publish a great deal of your images?  Are they published in magazines like Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, or maybe Photoshop User magazine?  Or are they published in very large format, ultra slick paper, fashion magazines?  Do your images get published in high quality calendars, and books?  Do you make large exhibition prints from your images, on a fairly frequent basis? (let’s define LARGE as at least 24″ X 36″ or much larger)  How concerned are you about image quality?  Do you look at every file at 100% to see how the details are holding up?


Here is where some choices can be made.  If your “honest” answer is I’m on the lower end of those standards, you can buy down the line in your camera system and still be very happy with the results, if your answer is that you do all the higher ends of those examples and more, then you need to stay near the top rung of the ladder in your cameras system’s offerings.  This brings up a very important point, “can you tell the difference, in image quality, between say a D800e and aD3200?”  Yes, but you have to look very close!  The differences are not a great as you would think!!  If you are a “pixel peeper”, my affectionate term for someone that mostly looks at every conceivable detail of a file, you are going to be miserable if you don’t buy from high end on the food chain!!   If you just love to shoot photographs, you can certainly save some money!!  The more expensive cameras and lenses do offer advantages, but they are not always as great as you may think.  A little example, for many years I’ve used the Nikon 70-300 AF-S VR f 4.5-5.6 lens in preference to the 70-200 AF-S VR f 2.8 II lens.  What is the difference?  The 70-200 sells for over $2,300. the 70-300 for around $500.  The 70-200 is certainly sharper, but not 4.5 times sharper, not even twice as sharp!  The 70-200 is three times as heavy. The bottom line for me is the quality coming out of the 70-300 stills gets wows from my audiences, and from me!!!!  Which brings us to point number three!!


3.  How much can you afford to spend?  If your budget is unlimited, then buy two of everything you ever wanted, but watch out for the next point, how much can you carry or are you willing to carry, but first let’s talk money!!  The top of the line gear is expensive, no getting around it!!  The D4 is over $5,000. while the D600 is less than $2,000.  If you don’t need the unique qualities of a D4, you would likely be very happy indeed with the D600 and save $3,000.  (These comparisons apply to all manufacturers, but I’m most familiar with Nikon so I use their models as examples).  If you do not need a FX size sensor (Nikon’s term for a sensor that is the size of a 35mm pice of film), you can save even more with a DX (1.5 factor crop sensor).  They cost less, perform wonderfully, they are smaller, lighter and the DX lenses are less expensive as well!!  The D7000 with a nice lens goes for around $1,600.


You may be the kind of person that wears a Rolex watch, drives a Mercedes, and buys $1,000. dollar suits, if so, top of the line is your comfortable spot!  But if you drive a Honda Civic, have a Timex watch, and prefer jeans and t-shirts, you won’t have to give up great image making if you spend your money somewhere down the line from the very top!!   (I’m closer to this group myself)


One importtant last point, How hard do you use your gear?  If you shoot all day, everyday, in the rain, snow, sleet, in deserts, and monsoons, better consider the top end gear!  (Honestly, how many of us does this really describe???,  certainly not me!!!)  So point number four is;


4.  How much can you carry, or are willing to carry?  Pro cameras and lenses are big and heavy, how young and or strong are you?  Let me use myself as an example, I’m not as young or strong as I once was, so I’m finding lighter gear is a lot better for me.  You can lighten your load one of two ways, or by employing both for even more savings of weight and bulk!!  Method one, reduce the number of pieces of gear you carry.  For example lets say one body, and three lenses, preferably smaller, lighter lenses.  Example; instead of a D4, 14-24, 24-70 & 70-200, you might go for a D600,16-35, 24-85, and 70-300.  or to get even lighter, how about a D7100, 10-24, 16-85, and 70-300!!!  Want to get radical??  How about a mirror-less camera like the Nikon V2 and three smaller zooms that cover the same range??  With each step down in this example you have reduced the weight and bulk considerably!  Have you given up image quality?  None from the D4 to D600, and not much more dropping to the Nikon 1, V2!!  Try carrying each system around on a 3 mile walk, and then make your decision.


Now if you’re 32, run marathons, lift weights, and work out everyday, pick the one you like most!!  If you’re 67, love cheeseburgers and would rather ride in a golf cart than walk 18 holes, you may be a candidate for the lower end of the scale!!!  (I know, I’m that guy!  Which bring us to point number five;


5.  Is the expense, weight, or complexity of your gear robbing you of  the fun of photography?   If it is, it’s time to shed some pounds!!!  Remember when you first go into photography and you didn’t know anything about pixels, noise, resolution, or sensor size!!!!  Let’s get back to that kind of fun and enjoyment.  Let’s settle on what we are going to “shoot with” and spend more time thinking about, “what we are going to shoot!!!!!”  As I have started simplify my bags contents, and go back to just the sheer joy of shooting, my vision is getting better, by back doesn’t hurt as much, I can stay out shooting longer with out getting worn out, and most important of all I’m having more fun, and making better images!!!!


Well at least that is how it looks from my perspective…….  Give it some thought…..


O.K. got to get over to Southwestern Semianr and stand behind the counter and answer the question; “What camera should I buy?????”


Big old blessings on all of you,  (hey, I’m in Texas, everything is big down here!), like that Texas slang, been her a day and half and i’m already getting into the spirit of this place!


the pilgrim


Trying to do do something different with the type, let me know if this is easier to read??

5 years, 9 months ago 1

I got into Dallas this morning and arranged to meet up with Jay Miller, great friend, and world class shooter, and one of America’s most noted aviation historians.  Since the events at Southwestern doesn’t get going until Friday Jay took me over to Breckenridge, Texas to meet another legend, Nelson Ezell who owns and runs Ezell Aviation, the Premier Warbird Restoration facility in America.  Nelson is a legendary pilot, and warbird expert and his team in Breckenridge builds and rebuilds some of the finest vintage WWII era aircraft you will ever see. Nelson is a successful pilot and air racer in his own right.


Jay and I always have a good time when we are talking Nikon and every other subject imaginable.  I had not seen Jay since we worked the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last fall, so there was much to catch up on.  We visited Nelson and shot some typical Texas road side images and then topped it off with a burger at Fort Worth’s famous burger place, Kincaid’s.  I great start to the weekend of photography, hope you enjoy the eclectic collection of images!


Top, Nelson and Jay outside on of his many hangers, Fresh paint on a WWII Hellcat, study of plans for a airplane project, old faded Civil Air Patrol symbol, Nelson pulls out a Sea Fury restoration.


Below, some Hamburger stuff and road side signs and Americana!



And lastly another example of the sharpness from removing the low pass filter!  First shot is full file, second a section from a 4′ X 6″ print (yes, that’s 4 X 6 feet!!!)





the pilgrim


5 years, 9 months ago 12

It’s 7:00 p.m. and I’m in another Courtyard at an airport.  In the morning, early in the morning, I’m flying to Fort Worth, Texas for the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar, one of my favorites!  Great people, and great speakers, for me, a family reunion.  This will be my last one, so I can’t wait to spend a little time with friends I’ve made in the group over the last decade.


I’m turning in early tonight, early wake-up call, so I will make this short tonight!  I want to talk about what my mission is for the next few days!  I have no idea…….  Let me explain, I do know what I will be doing for Nikon, done that many times!  It’s the ministry part that I never know what will happen next, God seldom lets me in on what’s up, and probably for good reason!!!  If I had any idea what He is up to, I would likely mess it up.  So here is how it works for me, get up shower, pray, read my scripture, and go get on the plane and see what happens.  There is and important principle at work here.  I can do nothing apart from Him so I’ve learned to just go and wait.  The good news is He never fails to place people in my path and then He supplies what every I need to do His will.


The reason He works this way is to take us out of the formula, once we understand it’s all Him, we are free to be obedient, and watch His miracles happen, can’t wait for the alarm to go off!




the pilgrim


The old truck is in honor of the great Old Car City Event next week!

5 years, 9 months ago 2

I have started to enjoy working in Black & White recently, and it has spurred old feelings that I had long forgotten!!  The simplicity of line and form and the use of tones to accentuate the subject.  It’s truly a wonderful feeling to rediscover this art form.  I have long believed that the best images we make are those things that touch our souls as visual artists.  Light and tone are everything to Black & White.  Subtle tones and sometimes strongly contrasting tones all tell the story.  I think what appeals so much to me about Black & White is that it does not have color to rescue it, it must be compelling without color to draw your attention, like the image below.


Every form of capturing life on a sensor are equally breathtaking, no I didn’t say these images are breathtaking, but for the eye, that looks through viewfinder, photography is breathtaking!  After thanking God for His love, the sacrifice of His Son for me, for sending me Sherelene and my wonderful family, and the countless friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I thank Him for giving me this wonderful way of expressing my joy.  Life is a blessing, and for us that try to capture it with a camera, the joy is even greateer whether it’s color or Black & White!





Find the simple hoy of looking at the world through that miniature picture frame!!!




the pilgrim