It isn’t often that as a camera reviewer you get the chance to test a camera with the technical experts right at hand, but that’s how I got to know the Phase One 645DF and IQ160 back. Actually, I attended one of the company’s Phase One Digital Artists Series workshops in Chicago with other photographers (see PODAS workshops sidebar for further info on this and other workshops the company is offering). Beyond the guided portion of the workshop, we were given time to go off and work with the camera at our own pace. It didn’t take long to find my comfort zone with the new IQ system. By the end of day one, I had a working familiarity with the camera and back and hardly paid attention to the big bundle I was hefting. Although I often felt quite at ease shooting handheld, for night photography and some other occasions I did employ my trusty Benbo tripod, with the camera seated on a Foba Superball M-2 on one day, an Acratech GP-L ball head on another.
Jeffrey Totaro (www.jeffreytotaro.com) didn’t plan on becoming an architectural photographer. After graduating Drexel University in 1991, he became an architectural engineer. In his job, he found himself working alongside architectural photographers and was soon assisting them, until finally he found the allure too great and switched careers. Now he runs his own studio near Philadelphia.
I was quite impressed with Nissin’s initial lineup of shoe-mount strobes. The Di866 Professional (now the Di866 Mark II) is quite innovative and versatile in its own right, sporting a full-color menu interface, while providing TTL wireless operation. There’s also the Di466 (for Nikon, Canon, and Four Thirds cameras). And the Di622 has been updated to the largely revamped Di622 Mark II, now the subject of this review.
Increasingly, manufacturers are coming out with cameras and speedlights that support wireless TTL flash operation. What this means for you is a simplified approach to using dedicated flash units off camera—especially multiple speedlights, alone or mixed with other light sources. With wireless TTL you’re free to move the off-camera flash a few inches or a few feet here or there, not to mention modifying the light in any desired fashion, and all without having to recalculate exposures, use a flash meter, and link everything together with wires. The camera’s metering system does the math for you. Beyond that, wireless TTL assures you that all speedlights on and off camera will fire in sync.
Many commercial lifestyle/portrait shooters turn first and foremost to studio strobe to light their subjects. Not Ann Elliott Cutting. Her studio features a south-facing window that she utilizes to the max. I know, it’s not the proverbial north-facing skylight that we’ve been taught to strive for, but it does the job—and quite nicely. More than that, her penchant for employing window light doesn’t mean she shuns brawny power pack systems. She owns and uses those as well, but they’re not always the go-to gear even on commercial assignments and often play a subordinate role.
The 85mm VR Micro Nikkor ($529.95, MSRP) benefits from next-generation VR II technology and is stated to deliver usable results at up to four steps below the optimum shutter speed. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with a DX-dedicated lens for an APS-C sensor camera (like my D300). So the optimum shutter speed when shooting handheld and without VR on translates into 1/(Lens Focal Length x Sensor Factor), or 1⁄85mm x 1.5, or 1⁄125 sec (rounded off). (Because this is a DX lens and this is Nikon, the multiplication factor is 1.5, so the effective focal length is approximately 128mm.)
Jonathan Robert Willis knew where he was going at a young age. “In school, imagery always spoke to me louder than words and numbers. My interest in black-and-white photography was sparked during my high school years by music-industry portrait photographer Michael Wilson, a family friend. His work really resonated with me and I just fell in love with the idea of making pictures for a living and shooting the music that I listen to.” In fact, Willis switched to a public school “because that school had a decent darkroom that nobody was using. I knew I wanted to make photographs.” It was there that he taught himself black-and-white processing and printing. And in college, “I pretty much lived in the darkroom.” Fast forward and we now find Willis comfortably settled in his Cincinnati, Ohio-based studio, although we may find him shooting on location just as much, if not more. Willis’s creative team consists of first assistant Scott Meyer and digital retoucher Patrick White, with Laura McMurray serving as production assistant/studio manager.
Many of us use the speedlight’s built-in kicker panel to add catchlights to the eyes and thereby give the subject a more animated look. Regrettably, this built-in device plays a marginal role in filling in shadows. So we turn to much larger, more functional bounce panels, and although they offer distinct advantages, these third-party panels may not be as flexible as we’d like. Enter Rogue FlashBenders from ExpoImaging (www.expoimaging.com). These panels quite literally lend a unique twist to speedlight photography.
Before buying a photo backpack or sling bag for that photo safari or vacation, consider how you’re getting there, how you’ll get around once you arrive, and what you plan to photograph. Will you be flying commercial or hopping a puddle jumper? Do you anticipate being on foot most of the time or traveling largely by car, jeep, or bus? Do you expect to encounter rugged terrain and steep trails? Will you need fast optics and long zooms for wildlife, a macro for close-ups, a wide zoom for landscapes, and perhaps a speedlight and ring flash?
Chicago-based food photographer Jeff Kauck (www.jeffkauckphotography.com) developed his artistic eye through years of training as a watercolorist. While attending Central Academy of Commercial Art, in Cincinnati, where he also studied advertising, “I picked up my father’s camera—a twin-lens Rolleiflex—and really enjoyed playing with it. And to help support myself through art school, I did a lot of color printing for a wedding photographer.” But he soon realized that his time and talent were better spent on photography than painting. And Cincinnati proved to be the perfect location for a start-up food studio, since it was the home of Procter & Gamble, which became his first client, and a major one at that. But a larger market—Chicago—beckoned to him after 18 years, so he made the move and hasn’t looked back.