Phil Page Photography: Blog en-us (C) Phil Page Photography (Phil Page Photography) Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:06:00 GMT Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:06:00 GMT Phil Page Photography: Blog 120 42 Picture of the week XI I'd wanted to get an image like this for a while.  Slowing the shutter with the help of a 3 stop ND filter gave just enough motion blur on the legs of the camels.  My usual style of black and white conversion doesn't work particularly well with motion blur, so I tried a digital version of Tri-X film in Silver Efex to complete the image.


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white camels monochrome photography racing Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:06:20 GMT
Testing the D600 and D800  

In 2007 Nikon introduced their first full frame digital SLR camera - the D3.  The high ISO capabilities of this camera's sensor were startling at the time.  2008 saw the introduction of the Nikon D700, which combined the full frame sensor of the D3 with a body and controls which were very similar to the DX D300.  It was an instant hit as it provided the same image quality as the D3 yet was considerably cheaper.

Around the same time, Canon introduced their 5D Mark II as a direct competitor.  The pixel count was double that of the D700 and a very successful HD video capability was thrown in.

Despite the lack of pixel count at 12MP, the D700 had the edge in picture quality at high ISO and its autofocus was far more reliable.  It was, and still is, a fantastic all round camera.

Roll on to 2012 and Nikon and Canon both introduced replacements to the D700 and 5D Mark II.  However they took slightly different routes in the evolution of the smaller bodied full frame digital camera.  Canon opted to improve their high ISO capability, maintaining a similar pixel count while finally sorting out the focusing issues of the predecessor.  Nikon announced their long awaited D800 with full HD video and a whopping 36.3MP sensor.  Could the increased resolution still give the same high ISO capability as before?

Recently announced and just shipping is another Nikon full frame offering - the D600.  Interestingly it is smaller than the D800 yet still packs a 24MP sensor.  Nikon users have waited for years for an update to the hugely successful D700 and then two potential replacements come along at once.  So here I attempt to find out which one could be more suitable for you if your purse strings stretch that far!  This is deliberately not a technical review of each camera's features, but rather a glimpse at how useable the D600 and D800 are in the real world and what you can expect in terms of output and image quality.

Anyone familiar with a Nikon D300, D300s or D700 will instantly feel at home with the D800 camera body.  The body itself has evolved a little and is comfortable to hold, and virtually all features are accessible in the same way without resorting to diving into the menu system.  LCD resolution is unchanged but the screen is slightly larger at 3.2".  Focus modes are accessible in the same way as the D7000, live view now has its own dedicated button and switch and there is a separate record button for video capture.  All good news.

Similarly anyone familiar with a Nikon D7000 will feel at home with the D600.  The body is the same size as the D7000, but it is not quite as user friendly as the D800.  Both the D600 and D800 have excellent bright viewfinders with 100% coverage - in terms of shooting, what you see is what you get.

Through that viewfinder you can see the first compromise with the D600.  The focus points are weighted heavily in the centre of the frame, whereas the focus point coverage in the D800 is much larger.  This may or may not be a deal breaker depending on how and what you shoot, but I missed a few shots on the D600 as a result.  I rarely use focus tracking, but it worked well on both cameras in good light.  The D800's autofocus really locked on well at night which is a great improvement over its predecessor, which itself was no slouch.

Both cameras offer a virtual horizon showing pitch and roll which is very useful when shooting in a more considered style.  If you shoot with a wide angle lens, you can be sure to reduce or eradicate converging verticals altogether.  In camera HDR features on the D600 and D800 as well as in camera Time Lapse - this creates HD quality movie clips at 30FPS, with a maximum shooting time of 8 hours (see the bottom of blog post for an example).  For anything more serious, either the built in or a remote intervalometer is more useful but as a built in option it is a fun and creative additional feature.

Adding to their more professional credentials are dual memory cards - the D600 accepts SD cards and the D800 accepts a single CF card and single SD/SDHC/SDXC card.

OK - so what are these cameras like to shoot?  I'll start with the D800.

The D800 is a beast.  Where the D700 was a highly capable camera, the D800 needs careful handling.  The old adage of taking the reciprocal of your focal length on full frame (e.g. shooting with a 50mm lens needs a minimum shutter speed of 1/50th second) when hand holding no longer rings true if you wish to make the most of the stunning resolution that this camera can offer at a pixel level.  You have to watch your technique and really make the effort.  If you do, you will be rewarded with amazing resolving power.  You will need to have good lenses and a good tripod to make the most of this camera.


D800, 50mm f1.4G @f8, 15 seconds, ISO100


A heavy crop from the image above


Image quality at low ISO is stunning.  You can crop images heavily and still have sufficient pixels to create a highly detailed final image.  High ISO files, on initial inspection, look noisy.  However once resized to a comparable size and applying noise reduction software they are cleaner than D700 files.  Nikon have managed to improve the D700's low light capability while increasing the resolution successfully.  Dynamic range is also greatly improved, which will benefit anyone processing images shot in high contrast scenes.


D800, 14-24mm, 13 seconds, ISO100

D800, 14-24mm, 1/30th second, ISO6400

Now all that resolution comes a compromise - file size.  Importing RAW files through Lightroom 4.2 and creating .tif files yields files of over 200Mb.  Without resizing, converted .jpg files are over 20Mb.  You are going to not only need good technique and glass - add a very fast processor in your computer, large amounts of internal and external storage and fast writing high capacity memory cards to the mix.  Spec your next PC/Mac purchase wisely!  The other flip side to the resolution is the frame rate, which is a maximum of 4fps in FX mode.  Switching to DX mode increases this to 5.5fps, but you will lose a lot of resolution in doing so.

If you are willing to accept the tradeoffs that 36.3MP gives you then you will be rewarded with the ultimate in current DSLR image quality.  But who is this camera for?

If you shoot portraiture, be prepared to sit in front of your computer a little longer after each shoot with your post processing.  Every tiny blemish will be visible.  Beautiful models will hate this camera!  If you shoot sports this possibly isn't the camera for you.  The low frame rate is not the be all and end all with sports photography, but the D800 takes time to write those large files and clear its buffer.  The flip side - you'll have plenty of opportunity to crop.  If you are a wildlife photographer, the ability to crop coupled with low light capability may make this camera ideal for you.  If you shoot architecture and landscapes then the detail that this camera resolves will be enticing.  If you shoot commercial then look no further.  If you regularly make large prints then you will see benefits in terms of viewing your print from up close.  If you have money to burn then you may just buy it because in marketing terms it has 36.3MP so it must be the best!  36.3MP really gives tangible benefits, but sadly many people that buy this camera will neither appreciate this nor have the technique and lenses to make the most of it, instead printing small or posting to social media.  It truly is a specialist tool.


D800, 35mm Carl Zeiss, f5, ISO320


So where does the D600 fit in?  A 24MP sensor coupled with a smaller body is a great thing.  Low ISO image quality is again beautiful and noise control is as good or slightly cleaner than the D800 up to ISO6400.  Comparing with the D7000, which many potential owners will do, shows that the full frame sensor really benefits the High ISO capability of the D600 over its DX cousin.  Compared to the D700 the High ISO image quality shows more than a 1 stop improvement, combined with double the resolution.


D600, 50mm f1.4G, f3.2, 1/4000th, ISO100

Physically the D600 is smaller than the D800, but is it also quieter.  Street photographers will appreciate the quieter shutter and smaller form factor, whilst still benefitting from full frame image quality.  Frame rate, the Achilles heel of the D800, is improved at 5.5fps with the D600.  The D800 can only match this while shooting in DX crop mode, negating its high mega pixel advantage in doing so.  Flash max synch speed and a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th second are both slower than the D800/D4, but that's not a big issue.  If you own larger and heavier 'pro' lenses then a battery grip will help balance your setup considerably.


D600, 50mm f1.4G, f3.2, 1/160th, ISO100

In terms of performance and image quality the D600 really is more of a spiritual successor to the D700.  It's more of an all rounder than the D800, is nearly as capable as the legendary D3S in low light, and produces beautifully crisp and clean files with 24MP resolution.  Dynamic range is as impressive as the D800 and the file sizes won't put so much strain on your home computer and storage requirements.  My only gripes are the ergonomics, where dials and controls don't fall as readily to hand, and the focusing system.  Nikon owners coming from the D90/D7000 bodies will not feel any discomfort with either and not know what they are missing, but D700 owners may feel their workflow while shooting is affected.


D600, 50mm f1.4G, f3.5, 1/250th, ISO1100


In 1996 Porsche introduced the brilliant Boxster sports car but there was a feeling that they had not engineered the cars to be as good as they could be, for fear of stealing sales from their more prestigious and expensive 911.  At the time the 911 was a difficult car to drive on the limit but once mastered the rewards were fantastic.  The Boxster was less powerful, easier to drive and handled just as brilliantly.

It's a similar story with Nikon and the D600/D800.  Give the D600 the same focusing system and ergonomic body as the D800 and D800 sales will definitely suffer.  The D600 has been engineered to differentiate itself from the D800.

Still, Nikon's hit a home run here.  That differentiation has reduced cost - the D600 will surely become the volume seller in Nikon's full frame range, be an excellent entry into full frame photography for many as well as a common back up body to D800 and D4 professional photographers.


Sample D600 in camera Time Lapse.  2/35 Distagon, f16, ISO100, 1/60th, 3 stop  ND Filter

]]> (Phil Page Photography) D600 D800 FX Frame Full Nikon UAE photography test Sat, 03 Nov 2012 07:09:31 GMT
Picture of the week X I've seen this tea boy on each visit to the Fruit and Vegetable market, and eventually got round to taking his photograph.  Pretty good hand/eye coordination!


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white monochrome photography street Sat, 03 Nov 2012 07:03:18 GMT
Picture of the week IX A dhow leaving port and travelling up Dubai Creek before heading to India

]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white dhow monochrome photography Sat, 27 Oct 2012 06:30:00 GMT
Picture of the week VIII A minaret framed in one of the wings of Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

]]> (Phil Page Photography) Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Mosque UAE black and white monochrome mosque photography Sat, 20 Oct 2012 06:30:00 GMT
Sheikh Zayed Road Skyline - Recce Photoshoot As summer ends and the weather changes here in Dubai we occasionally get thick fog in the early mornings.  This is burnt off by the sun by around 8am, so you can never view it from the viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa - this opens at 10am


I've always wanted to get photographs of the fog in the mornings, as the skyscrapers peek through into the clear blue early morning sky.  However I've never lived in a building high enough and have always seemed to miss my chance.  I don't have connections with building companies who are building towers so I'm stuck.


Last week we had 3 days of thick early morning fog and so I decided to ask for access in a couple of buildings to make the most of it.  Unfortunately the foggy mornings stopped before my request was granted, but I'm ready to go now for the next installment.


I did a recce photoshoot yesterday morning and here are a few of the results.  On the 43rd floor of this tower there is a wrap around balcony with great views.  A big thanks to Four Points by Sheraton for allowing me access yesterday, and hopefully next time the fog arrives!


For the first two shots, I used my Nikon D700 and 14-24mm f2.8 wide angle lens.  I shot in RAW with a preset White Balance of Cloudy to warm the image up a bit, and then processed with Nik Software Color Efex and Silver Efex.  The final shot was a 10 shot panorama with the Carl Zeiss 35mm Distagon, just to see how much detail I could bring out from the view.  The final image isn't great, but I will probably use a combination of both lenses when the fog comes to get some large sweeping vistas.


Note the top of the Rose Rotana hotel (the tallest building on the left of the image).  On the single shot images, due to the nature of the 14-24mm wide angle (or any wide angle, for that matter) the pixels are slightly stretched once the image is corrected.  Shooting at 35mm as a panorama gives a much cleaner and more realistic final file.  Next time I'm up there I'll shoot with the 14-24mm first to get my keepers before shooting some 35mm panoramas hand held.


Anyway, here are the views:




]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white monochrome photography Tue, 16 Oct 2012 08:48:17 GMT
Picture of the week VII Two children running into the sea to cool down in Mauritius

]]> (Phil Page Photography) Mauritius black and white monochrome photography Sat, 13 Oct 2012 06:30:00 GMT
Latest Souk Photo Walk Whenever I go for a photo walk I tend to stick with a single lens.  The dusty conditions in Dubai mean that this reduces the chance of getting dust spots on the camera's sensor while changing lenses, and it makes me feel more focused.  When walking around familiar areas you have different composition possibilities with different lenses and it insures that no walk is the same as before.


I'm now starting to get the hang of looking for interesting light.  Outside there is always harsh flat light in Dubai which it not the best for photography - 'golden hour' doesn't really happen, unless it's in the 30 minutes before sunset in the winter months.  By moving to covered areas of the city and the narrow alleyways the quality of light becomes much better, softer and diffuse.  Shooting around 10ft or greater away from the harsh light outside, and you find soft directional light which give images a lot more depth.


On my latest photo walk, I started by walking through the backstreets of the Gold Souk area of Dubai, continuing through to the Spice Souk and Textile Souk areas in Deira.  In the early morning shops are opening and porters are moving goods from wholesalers to stores - there is a lot of day to day activity going on which is great for street photography.  I chose my Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon for this particular walk mainly because the focal length is wide enough for street scenes, conveying more of the environment.  Also, with the air quality being clean and clear, I could make the most of the micro contrast and detail that this lens records in scenes.  It is a bit 'retro', being manual focus, but the image quality is awesome.  Manual focus does not prove to be a hindrance at all and it is very easy to use.


Morning inactivity - D700 & Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon


Generally in this area of the city in the mornings you find people on their way to work, preparing for the day, and no shoppers.  Most of the people that work in this area are Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi, with a scattering of Omani and Yemeni people as well.  The Emiratis that come to shop generally arrive in the later morning.  Still there's a lot of hubbub, and with the shops barely opening you don't get preyed upon by eager store keepers trying to sell their wares which can irritate after a while!


Indian Barbershop - D700 and Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon


After walking around the more open side streets and alleyways, where you're never far from harsh light, I made it to the older souk areas.  Here the alleys are fully covered and the tunnel effect really softens the light.  Letting the ISO on my camera ride anywhere up to ISO6400 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/100th or 1/50th I could concentrate on shooting rather than worrying about my exposure.

Firstly I came across a Pakistani porter in a small side street.  I couldn't see him as I walked into the alley due to the bright sunlight outside.  His friend didn't want to be photographed, but he was more than happy.  He was lit from over his right shoulder by light streaming along the alley.  The light was perfect if a little dark, his clothes were traditional Pakistani which meant lots of drapes in the fabric to pick up light and shadow, and some of his hair was dyed red with henna.  For once, a perfect candidate for a colour street portrait - I love it in black and white but the colour shot, for once, is right up there with it or nicer in my opinion.


Pakistani Porter - D700 & Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon


Manual focus in the dark alley was easy, I dialled in f2.5 to separate the man from the background, one click and I was done.  It's very difficult with these guys to get them to pose.  I generally ask with a thumbs up or thumbs down and a waggle of the camera to see if it is alright to take their photograph.  If I get a yes, there's a quick appraisal of the scene and light to estimate the best location for me to take the photograph from, and then these guys just stare straight through the lens.  Within 30 seconds and generally a single click I'm done as I don't want to impose.  If I get a good shot, I'll return with a print and find the subjects to give them the final image.


On viewing the camera LCD and checking for clipped highlights I realised I'd got a good image recorded and was more than happy.  Moving on to an area of the Spice Souk I came across another man, this time with a headdress on.  I had harsh light streaming in from behind my right shoulder and bouncing off the floor of the souk, softening it and lighting his face light a giant reflector.  Perfect for accentuating his weathered face and lifting his eyes out of shadow.


I couldn't move any closer to him due to the way he was sitting, cross legged, on the floor.  If I'd asked him to move then I would have lost the light and moment.  Ideally I'd have stepped back and used an 85mm to blur the wall behind the man and not need to crop.  As it was, I only had my 35mm lens and had to do the best I could with an idea of cropping later.  Below is the original image, shot at f8, 1/50th and ISO720:


Issues?  Plenty of them, but it was the best I could do with what I had available.  The bright alleyway off to the left had to go, as did the electrical cable over the man's left shoulder, as did his hands, arms and legs.  So with quite a severe crop, cloning out the electrical cable, reducing the exposure by one stop on the RAW  file and adding a little tonal contrast with Nik Software Color Efex I ended up with this image:


Pakistani Porter - D700 & Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon


The problem with the background was gone, which was fortunate as there is generally so much going on.  There's always rubbish lying about and people getting into the image - it's very difficult in these souks to get a clean background.


I then looped back towards my car via the Fish Market.  Here there is one main covered thoroughfare which always has nice light, whatever the time of day.  It's dark in the alley, but it's lit from both ends by sunlight softly being bounced around the walls.  Near the middle of this alley is a clean background where there's no distractions and occasionally a porter or two is hanging about waiting for a customer.


I got lucky with another interesting face, and perfect light which really give the image some 'pop'.  I asked the question if it was OK to take his photograph, got a yes, dialled in f3.2 and shot at 1/100th and ISO2000.  f3.2 gave me just about enough of his face acceptably in focus and slightly blurred the background for  separation.  The light hitting the man's face on both sides, coupled with the catch light in his eyes, really give the final image some character.  I'm amazed by these porters - no direction, but an instant connection through the lens to the viewer.  One click, check histogram, show the man his shot - done.


Pakistani Porter - D700 & Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon


So in half an hour or so I had three nice new street portraits, all with interesting and different light.  It definitely pays to search out the darker covered areas of markets with openings to the harsh light outside, rather than purely avoid the shadows altogether.  The best light, at least in this neck of the woods, is to be found in the shade.

]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE photography street Tue, 09 Oct 2012 12:41:27 GMT
Picture of the week VI Two farmers chatting to each other in the paddy fields of northern Vietnam


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Vietnam black and white monochrome paddy photography rice Sat, 06 Oct 2012 06:30:00 GMT
Picture of the week V Sun rays peeping through the clouds over Table Mountain, South Africa


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Cape Town South Africa black and white monochrome photography Sat, 29 Sep 2012 06:30:00 GMT
The Onion Seller - Processing Workflow I visited the Dubai Central Fruit and Vegetable Market for the first time this week, and initially had a walkabout with my Carl Zeiss 2/35 Distagon.  It was nice to visit somewhere fresh to shoot, and there are plenty of photo opportunities.  I came across this guy standing beside his Onions stall, and knew I had to take his photograph.  The light on his face, combined with the beads of sweat, make for an interesting portrait.


Conversation was impossible as he understood very little English, so I composed to insure that nothing too distracting was going on in the frame (quite difficult in a bustling market) and took the shot.  f3.2 was enough to get most of his face acceptably sharp while blurring out the busy background.


Here's the shot straight out of the camera, apart from cropping to 8x10 format in Lightroom:


Firstly I added a little Tonal Contrast, using a weaker version of a preset in Color Efex.  This drew out a little more microcontrast on the subject.  This layer was limited just to the man.


Then I used a little selective sharpening, just on the man again:


This created a nice finished colour shot, accentuating the heat and sweatiness of the subject.  Moving into Silver Efex I then converted to Black and White using a Neutral Preset, with a light vignette and my standard type 14 border at 85%, complete with a little adjustment to the dynamic brightness and fine structure.  A little dodging and burning to reduce the emphasis on the highlights in the background (which couldn't be avoided whatever I did while on site) and the finished B&W shot was complete.




]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white monochrome photography street Mon, 24 Sep 2012 08:33:03 GMT
Picture of the week IV Motor  yacht moored at Dubai Marina


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai Dubai Marina UAE black and white monochrome photography Sat, 22 Sep 2012 06:30:00 GMT
Picture of the week III Racing Camels being taken for an early morning training session


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white camels monochrome photography Sat, 15 Sep 2012 06:15:00 GMT
Picture of the week II A view along the deck of a junk in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Ha Long Vietnam black and white monochrome photography Sat, 08 Sep 2012 06:15:00 GMT
Some things just demand to be photographed I'd never noticed the name of this shop before, but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to take the shot.  Deira in the oppressive summertime is not the most comfortable environment to walk about, so the shop's name is quite apt.  Add the obligatory sweaty porter resting in the shade and you have an image!


Shot with D700 and 50mm f1.4, before conversion with Nik Software Color Efex and Silver Efex.


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white monochrome photography street Wed, 05 Sep 2012 07:06:33 GMT
The Conundrum Walking about in the summer in Dubai is hot business.  A little shade from the harsh light and heat can help a little but with temperatures in the high 40's it's still oppressive.  Luckily, shaded walkways and alleyways in the souks provide a great place for diffused light, such as in this photo.


This man was wondering how all the stock would fit onto his bicycle before riding around Deira to deliver.


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white monochrome photography street Wed, 05 Sep 2012 07:01:58 GMT
Souk Environmental Portraits There is an obvious language barrier, but here are a few environmental portraits I'd managed to take during walkabouts through the souks in Dubai.  Whenever I came across an interesting subject all I could manage to do was ask them to hold their pose for the shot


Afghans in their fabric shops/stalls



Porters that work in the souk areas


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai UAE black and white environmental portrait monochrome photography street Tue, 04 Sep 2012 06:15:00 GMT
Around The Spice Souk Dubai's Spice Souk used to be really thriving but nowadays the area is a lot quieter as many people live further away form this old part of town and prefer the convenience of hypermarkets.  There are still spice shops but a lot pf retail properties have now been taken over by general trading stores and tourist trade stores.


There are lots of small alleyways between the old covered streets of the souk, and it feels like a different world.  Well worth exploring and getting lost if you are a photographer.  The people are very approachable for portraits and are oblivious to you taking candids and environmental shots.  Here are a few images from the vicinity of the Spice Souk


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai Spice Souk Street photography UAE black and white monochrome photography street Mon, 03 Sep 2012 05:30:00 GMT
Textile Souk The Textile Souk is a small area of Bur Dubai near the Creek, which is visited by tourists in the afternoon and evening.  In the early morning it has a different character as the shops begin to open and people pass through on their morning commute.  Small shops open, Emiratis come to shop, and stallkeepers set up.  The small streets and alleyways are a lot quieter and easier to photograph and are full of character.


Here are a few photographs from the souk in the early morning


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Dubai Textile Souk UAE black and white monochrome photography street Sun, 02 Sep 2012 05:45:00 GMT
Angkor Temples in Black and White I have to revisit the temples of Angkor again soon.  My first visit was in September 2009


Advantages - not many tourists due to the recession

Disadvantages - I'd only been taking photographs for 6 months, and I'd like to think I could do so much better nowadays


The great thing about Nik Software's Silver Efex for me has been the ability to look at old photographs that I'd previously saved but not done anything with and giving them a healthy dose of pp.  Some shots which weren't necessarily keepers have been freshened up in black and white.  Here are a few from the temples:


]]> (Phil Page Photography) Angkor Angkor Wat Bayon Temple, Bayon, Cambodia Reap" Siem Ta Prohm black and white monochrome photography Sat, 01 Sep 2012 06:36:41 GMT