There’s a new trend in camera carriers that appeals to photographers who want to look chic while still maintaining the core functionality of the bag. In terms of style they are at polar opposites to rugged backpacks or gear-laden roller bags, yet even the most stylish camera bag has to carry gear in a practical and organized fashion. That includes being built to withstand the rigors of being jostled or bumped in crowds, and being constructed to protect against spilled drinks, or rain at the very least. At the same time, the ideal bag should be built to carry everything we may need on a shoot, and then some.
My impression of a tabletop tripod was probably like yours—a squat, three-legged support that collapsed down to handily fit inside a camera bag. After unpacking the 17 camera supports that arrived, I had to modify my definition of the genre to include designs that mushroom to roughly 2 feet when fully open—and some with considerable girth and heft. That also meant extending my thinking to models with a center column and multiple leg sections, which might be more correctly termed “mini” tripods. Either way, in contrast to a standard tripod at its full height, the tripods under discussion, when fully open, have a small footprint and should effortlessly fit in tight spaces.
The new Nikon D5100 D-SLR is a compact and lightweight DX-format camera. The body is about two-thirds the size of a D300, recording on SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The similarly compact kit lens, an 18-55mm VR, provides good balance, and, along with my Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, all fits neatly into a compact camera bag. The grip on the D5100 was a little smaller than what I was used to, but I soon grew accustomed to it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.