• Nighttime shadows with the D7000

    I’ve always found nighttime photography with its deep shadows and bright hightlights challenging. With it is portability and low noise capability, my hope was to achieve some compelling D7000 nighttime photography. The camera is indeed enabling me to do just that, much as the D700 before it, with the premium of its weight and heft, was allowing me. Not only does the D7000 provide terrific shadow recovery, but it does so while retaining vibrant color. Add a proper denoise tool in PP to minimize whatever noise does pop up when we push shadows, and some striking images become your payoff.

    Around the Pike
    Around the Pike

    Dock and sky line {Explored}
    Dock and skyline

    Parker's and Queen Mary
    Paker’s and Queen Mary

  • D700 & D7000 high ISO comparison

    Yesterday we saw how at base ISO, the D7000 holds more range in the shadows than the D700. Does the same hold true as we increase ISO? To answer this question we start off with a couple of reference exposures at ISO 200 and 400 which we can compare to the subsequent pushed ISO and higher ISO samples.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/4 sec D7000, ISO200, f/8, 1/4 sec
    D700, ISO400, f/8, 1/8 sec D7000, ISO400, f/8, 1/8 sec

    Next, we under-expose at ISO400 by two stops, apply +2EV of exposure compensation in post and compare against the ISO 1600 exposures. We can also see how the D700 and D7000 compare at ISO 1600 in both noise and color rendition.

    D700, ISO400, f/8, 1/30 sec +2EV D7000, ISO400, f/8, 1/30 sec +2EV
    D700, ISO1600, f/8, 1/30 sec D7000, ISO1600, f/8, 1/30 sec

    Finally, we move up to ISO 3200 and compare with a ISO 1600 exposure under-exposed by 1 stop and pushed by +1EV.

    D700, ISO3200, f/8, 1/60 sec D7000, ISO3200, f/8, 1/60 sec
    D700, ISO1600, f/8, 1/60 sec +1EV D7000, ISO1600, f/8, 1/60 sec +1EV

    Note: Though each of the sample images appears at full resolution, I recommend scaling them down to the same equivalent resolution before noise performance is assessed. Evaluation at 100% and full resolution may be misleading when comparing files of different (12MP vs. 16MP) resolutions.

  • D7000 dynamic range for shadows

    There’s been a lot of buzz about the D7000’s outstanding dynamic range at base ISO (100). This buzz includes claims that it bests the full frame D700 at its base ISO (200). To see how these claims would work out in a practical shot, let’s look at the following little vignette, a challenging exposure where we have to decide between preserving highlight detail in the lamp shade against preserving some amount of detail in the deep shadows around it.

    On this first set of exposures, we opt to compromise to keep most of the shadow detail, while losing some detail in the highlights.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/4 sec D7000, ISO100, f/8, 1/2 sec

    But what if we purposefully select an exposure with two stops two less light? We have now preserved most of the lamp shade detail, but in doing so lose quite a bit of shadow detail, as shown in the first pair of images that follow.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/15 sec D7000, ISO100, f/8, 1/8 sec

    However, with shadow protection in ViewNX2 (or an alternative shadow pull technique), we can bring out shadow detail to get the following.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/15 sec with shadow protection=65 D7000, ISO100, f/8, 1/8 sec with shadow protection=65

    This is not ideal. Neither corrected image is perfect, but it appears the D7000’s output retains the best colors, while the D700 is already falling apart. You may also want to access the full size images to also review the amount of noise the shadow detail pull brings out.

    Can we take this one stop further, with more preservation of the highlights at the expense of the shadows? Here’s the uncorrected set of images.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/30 sec D7000, ISO100, f/8, 1/15 sec

    And here is the corrected pair of images after applying maximum shadow protection.

    D700, ISO200, f/8, 1/30 sec with shadow protection=100 D7000, ISO100, f/8, 1/15 sec with shadow protection=100

    I’ll let you decide whether these results are acceptable, but on the face of it, it does appear that the D7000 holds an edge in the shadows at base ISO.

  • D7000 dynamic range for highlights

    Nikon D7000 owners everywhere seem to be raving about their newly found dynamic range, with all sorts of silly claims about all the over/under-exposure one can do and still get a serviceable photo out of this great little camera. As pleased as I am with this camera, I cannot share this enthusiasm when it comes to preserving highlight detail. At the end of the day, getting the exposure right, at least within reason, is still the best approach.

    To show what I mean I set up the following side-by-side experiment with the D300 and D7000. To get the baseline exposure, we spot meter to place the whites in zone VII. Then, in the subsequent exposures for each camera, we over-expose by 1 and 2 stops, applying corresponding correction of -1 and -2 EV in ViewNX to see how much white detail we can recover. Based on these results, I don’t think I would ever want to place my whites beyond zone VIII, and just to make sure, I’ll keep them in zone VII unless pushing the exposure harder is absolutely necessary.

    D300: 1/4 sec, f/8, ISO 200 D300: crop
    D300: 1/2 sec, f/8, ISO 200, -1EV of PP compensation D300: crop
    D300: 1 sec, f/8, ISO 200, -2EV of PP compensation D300: crop
    D7000: 1/2 sec, f/8, ISO 100 D7000: crop
    D7000: 1 sec, f/8, ISO 100, -1EV of PP compensation D7000: crop
    D7000: 2 sec, f/8, ISO 100, -2EV of PP compensation D7000: crop

    You will note a slight shift to blue in the 2 stop over-exposed shots. This is probably in part due to the way ViewNX applies negative compensation, but is nonetheless a good example that there is no free lunch for not shooting the correct exposure.

  • Lighting up the holidays

    During the holidays, some of us spend some time adding special lighting to the outside of our homes, and many of us add lights to our Christmas trees and other indoor holiday decorations. But when it comes time to light our many snaps of gatherings and parties with friends and family, we seldom think beyond the built-in flash in our cameras.

    This Thanksgiving, for photographs of a long dinner table, I decided to get a little fancier. Using an off-camera flash atop a cabinet two thirds into the room and standing on the other side of the table with on-camera flash, bounced from a near wall, I was able to even up the lighting for the entire room. I used manual flash power for my remote flash unit, I set the on-camera flash to TTL and used it to trigger the remote with Nikon CLS. The results were fairly consistent and as I had desired.

    On Christmas day, I decided to use as similar setup. This time, I pointed my remote unit into a lamp shade, as shown below, and decided to set both my off and on-camera (bounced) ranging from 1/4 to 1/8 manual power.

    This gave me fairly consistent results even when shooting subjects around the room, so long as I took care to angle my on-camera flash to get a good bounce. Snapshots like the following were, well, a snap to capture.

    Even the yearly family portrait was fairly easy to capture — no umbrellas or softboxes to setup while the family watches on in horror/boredom.

    Merry Christmas!!!

  • Balancing flash

    In a recent blog entry about flash usage, you may have noticed that lighting on our subject resulted in somewhat deep shadows on one side of the face, especially when ambient light contribution on the subject was reduced through exposure adjustment. The following example shows a similar effect: with the flash coming from camera right, bounced, in this case, the left side of the subject (left to us) appears darker.

    ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/4
    flash right=1/4 Manual power

    In some cases this may be acceptable, but if you want to avoid this, you may simply add a flash unit at camera left, using the same flash power.

    ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/4
    flash right=1/4 Manual power, flash left=1/4 Manual power

    Having positioned and bounced the flash at camera left to mirror that at camera right, the lighting is balanced (though perhaps a bit bright). But notice how the subject has “flattened” out. The almost perfectly balanced lighting reduces the dimensionality that light-to-shadow transitions creates. To get back that dimensionality, we simply create a lighting imbalance between the two flash units. Here, for the sake of illustration, I’ve chosen to reduce the flash at camera left in 1 stop (1/2 power) increments.

    ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/4
    flash right=1/4 Manual power, flash left=1/8 Manual power

    ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/4
    flash right=1/4 Manual power, flash left=1/16 Manual power

    ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/4
    flash right=1/4 Manual power, flash left=1/32 Manual power

    As you can see, the last photo comes close to the first, though still featuring a tad more light on the left side of the frame. Which flash power ratio you select depends on the effect and look you are trying to create. But as you can see, once you’ve decided on a pose and setup, the rest is fairly straightforward.