Wednesday, 31 August 2011

PhotoShare: Impala Leap

Hi everyone! We are back from a wonderful trip to the Kruger National Park. I am so far behind on working through images of previous trips, but I have managed to work through some images from this recent trip already since there were quite a few special sightings. I will do a lengthy blog post about an awesome leopard sighting we had soon...but for now, here's an image for you to enjoy.

This young impala male was leaping very gracefully at the start of its run, and I was happy to be able to fit him into the frame and also to be at quite a low vantage point relative to the buck's position.

(Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II)  f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-800

See you soon with a more lengthy post!

Morkel Erasmus

Friday, 19 August 2011

PhotoShare: African Darter Portrait

I am off to the Kruger National Park tomorrow for a glorious 8 days of quality time with my wife and baby daughter, being in nature, feeling close to the Creator and obviously a little photography.

Before I go, here's a portrait of an African Darter taken in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, earlier this year for you to enjoy.

f7.1  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-400 |  Focal length 600mm
Expect some new images when I return!
Stay safe...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 8 August 2011

First Nikon D3s results

So, I received my new photographic equipment on Friday...and took it for a test run on Saturday at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Pretoria, South Africa.

Let me say right off the bat that I am by no means a technical gear-tester-cum-review-writer...for that there are many fine websites all over the world where they do extensive testing with colour charts, sharpness metrics and fancy lab results. I can only reflect here how I experience the equipment based on my techniques and preferences in real-world shooting.

Anyhow, here are some initial results obtained with the Nikon D3s and the Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II lens (with and without the TC-14E-II teleconverter).

This first image is of a male ostrich walking towards me. This is basically full frame and is chock full of details. The image quality is something else and there is no grain visible at all on this shot (taken at ISO-800).

f4  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-800

Here is a close-up of the same ostrich's face. This was cropped from 12 megapixels down to 3.5 megapixels, and have a look at the detail retained.

f4  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-800

This herd of zebra shows how beautifully the 500mm lens renders the out-of-focus background:
f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-400

It's a well-known fact by now that this camera excels in low-light situations because of its excellent handling of high ISO settings. The benefit for bird/wildlife/sports photographers is not just that it handles poor light well, it's also that the excellent image quality attainable at high ISO settings translates to a much faster shutter speed being possible when the light is decent. Here are a few shots taken on this particular morning with higher ISO settings. These were taken with the 1.4 teleconverter attached.

f5.6  |  1/3200 SS  |  ISO-1600
f5.6  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1600

I also went one step further to test the high ISO capabilities of the D3s. I took the camera to church this morning with the aim of doing some low-light photography on our stage. For this purpose I also took along 2 of my new lenses in my bag: the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G ED and Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8G ED.

Both these lenses excel in low-light situations...and I was amazed by the overall results. The following photos are directly out-of-camera, I did not even apply slight adjustments in the conversion of the RAW files (NEF files).

Test Shot 1: ISO-3200
Most of you won't know that my other favourite pastime is making music. Before photography came along and completely ruined my budget and time allocation I was a very active touring musician (vocalist/guitarist), now I mostly play and sing at our church and for friends and family. This is my favourite electric guitar, a PRS Custom-22. This was photographed with the ambient light from the stage lights and no camera flash was used.

f2.8  |  1/30 SS  |  ISO-3200

Test Shot 2: ISO-12800
I photographed our drummer, Mike Botha, on stage using the 14-24mm lens and some fill flash from the Nikon SB-900 speedlight. Again, this is straight out of the camera at a ridiculously high ISO setting...

f22  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-12800

Well, there you have my initial images taken with some of my new kit. I might post some sample images of my experience with the Nikon D7000 at a later stage.

Curious to know what you think?


Morkel Erasmus

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Big Switch

The time has finally arrived...after months of planning, contemplating and weighing my options...I am now officially switching photographic brands.



I have been shooting with Canon ever since I started out early in 2009. At the time they had the most enticing entry-level offering, and as many of you know, as soon as you start buying lenses you are mostly set onto one brand for the rest of your photographic career.

But something strange happened early in 2010. I was afforded the opportunity to shoot with the acclaimed Nikon D3s and a couple of Nikkor lenses. Needless to say I was impressed...for wildlife photography there simply is no other camera that can perform like the D3s does. Its high ISO files are very clean, even up to commercial usage standards. Its autofocus system simply rocks. And image quality and dynamic range are off the charts. Since using this monster of a camera, I have dreamed of owning one...which of course implied that I would have to change systems sometime.

Yes, yes, I know many will say I am senseless and a new announcement of a possible Nikon D4 is due later this month...but the time is now. I have an opportunity to make this move now...and the D3s will be a magnificent piece of machinery for quite some time still. I also like to give a new piece of photographic equipment some time to 'settle in'...see what others are saying about it and see if there are any glitches that came in during development (that's one thing the Canon 1Dmk3 fiasco taught the photographic community). We should also try to avoid always trying to be on the forefront of developments - it's a dangerous place to be since tomorrow's new technology is obsolete the next day.

So - in the past few weeks I have sold all my Canon gear. Every piece of equipment I have owned has served me very well and you will find it hard to get me to bad-mouth the Canon brand. However, I feel Nikon is better suited to the photographs I want to create, and and am looking forward to getting to know my new toys. I am picking them up to get the first half of the day to pass quickly!

I will be pairing up my D3s with the D7000, giving me both a full frame and 1.5x field-of-view crop factor camera. The lenses I am going to use are:
14-24mm f2.8
24-70mm f2.8
70-200mm f2.8 VR-II
500mm f4 VR-II

I will also try to convey some of my experiences in using these cameras and lenses in the field during the coming months.

Till next time, keep shooting, no matter what you're shooting with! And remember, in the end it's the monkey behind the viewfinder that's responsible for taking the photo...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 1 August 2011

PhotoShare: Pied Kingfisher

Another quick photo! This was taken from the Mankwe Hide in the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, sometime last year. I am hoping to go there again soon if time and opportunity allows.

f8.0  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-1000


Morkel Erasmus