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Posts from the ‘Gear’ Category

Bb Q&A

In light of yesterday’s announcement, I received an absolute ton of messages from people in the photo community and I wanted to say, THANK YOU!

I took on this ambassador role with the hopes that it would be an outlet to help other photographers learn, and I promise to stay dedicated to this goal. With that said, I am going to take Friday off of my regular schedule to answer questions for anyone that has one. So be it cameras, watches, life in general… feel free to ask away. At the end of the day, you are just as important as I am in the role of ambassador. So please do not hesitate to reach out on Twitter or Facebook and I will do my best to answer.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank all of the good people at Nikon. You made me feel like family before any talks of this opportunity ever started. I love standing around the booth at trade shows not only to hear about gear, but also to hear the enthusiasm in which it is described. Such an environment reminds me of the true passion for photography that exists in us all. I am excited to see what the future holds and again want to thank you for your support.

Bb: Nikon Ambassador

If you think there is a chance that I typed the title of this blog without laughing with excitement like a child, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Just reading it draws strong emotion… it is an honor, it is a privilege, it is not deserved and I will forever be humbled to announce that I have been chosen as an ambassador to Nikon. With all the composure I have to have on sets of great responsibility, I had none when I got the call with the formal request to be a part of the Nikon family. I was choked up in the brief conversation that proceeded, and after I hung up I just sat on the couch staring blankly out the window.

Being an ambassador to Nikon means so much more than having my name and picture on their site. It represents validity that what I am doing has been enjoyed by others, and for that I am grateful. Money removed, I would still do this job because it excites those around me, it gives us something to talk about. Recently I learned that the father of a man, for whom I have great respect, is going through a very tough health struggle. The father, in the hospital, asked that one of the photos I took be displayed above his bed. This man, is the reason why I create. He and the many of you like him are my pride and my inspiration.

It is for this reason that congratulations to you all is in order. For without you I would not be a Nikon Ambassador. This honor rests on the shoulders of you that wrote me an email, tweet, text and said you enjoyed a photo. It is because of the people that picked up a magazine that had my imagery on it or showed a friend my website because it had a cool car or famous person on it.

For all that you guys do, Thank You so much.

iPad mini Retina for Photographers

Before we get started, I want to make one thing clear… this is a review of the iPad mini Retina for photographers. With that being said, I will not be discussing the camera on the iPad mini because I don’t know if it even has one…. no photographer should, as no photographer (or anyone for that matter) should ever use a tablet to take a picture. Now that we got that all cleared up, let’s chat about this new little tablet that Apple is going to sell a gazillion of this holiday season.

I was fortunate to pick mine up a few days ago and have already fallen in love with its size, performance and capability to help my life become more simplified. For a while I took a break from iPads in general and purchased Nexus 7′s for personal use and client gifts. I thought having Android tablets and iOS phones was fun, and in all reality it worked, especially with the 2013 version of the Nexus 7. Then Apple did their usual, announced two new tablets that made me salivate while watching the keynote. I tried to think of all the possibilities that these tablets would offer me for my job that other tablets couldn’t.

The first one they announced was the new iPad Air. Pretty much the same iPad that we have all become accustomed to using for everything from reading to ordering pizzas. I can still remember when the first one was announced, going to stores everywhere to buy as many as I could so that I could load a portfolio on them and send them to clients. Even then they were beautiful, functioned easily, but as much as we didn’t want to admit it, they were heavy. I found myself still using my iPhone to read news and browse the web while laying around because the iPad was, well, awkward.

Because of the weight of the iPad I gravitated towards the Nexus 7 and it’s small, light form factor. At seven inches it was easy to read and quickly took the place of my iPad. I looked past the contrast of the screen that made images muddy and the consistent crashes, because it was light, and cheap. I remember thinking over and over how it would be nice if Apple made a tablet like this….

Enter the iPad mini (the first one).

I thought it was going to be the answer, but in all reality it was just a smaller version of the iPad 2. The resolution was not all that exciting and the processor was old, but the form factor was great. All this led me to buying the Nexus 7 (2013) which had a spectacular screen resolution, but still the contrast issues I saw in the first Nexus. I could use it for fun, but for work it was not a strong enough picture and the ratio was too narrow for horizontal images to be run full screen.

Enter the iPad mini Retina…..

ipad-mini-retina

Now I have only had this thing for a few days, but have already seen what this tablet will do for photographers. Even though it is considered a 7 inch tablet, it feels much larger, almost like the original iPad. This is thanks to its higher ppi screen and larger ratio than the Nexus 7′s display. The quality of the display is what we have come to expect from Apple and it renders my work better than I have ever seen it on any tablet I have had previously. Even images not resized to the new resolution specs look great, something that I was worried about as I don’t want to resize a book every time a screen comes out. It is the first tablet that I have ever used that truly feels like a book, and in essence the way I always felt a tablet should feel. With the cover laid open the eye can envision turning a page, rather than swipe across a screen.

For work, it is perfect. I can manage emails, iMessages, and social presence from it with ease. While I could type a blog on it, I still prefer a keyboard for that sort of thing and I will continue to designate chores like this to a laptop or desktop. However, tasks such as signing contracts can be done on it, and more importantly, games play well on it, so I’m set for long flights… again.

So we’ve identified the new iPad mini Retina as a invaluable gadget for a commercial photographer to travel with, but the question remains, “will it work as a portfolio?”

Unfortunately, this is a rather tough answer in general. While I would gladly show my work on it and would use it as an on-the-fly portfolio without a second thought, I genuinely can’t answer yes or no. Some feel that the iPad Air will be the modern portfolio, so I purchased one as well and my wife has yet to let go of it. I like the look and feel of it (the Air), but have yet to see how it would offer anything that the mini can’t in ways of a photographer’s portfolio.

At the end of the day, there will always be true physical portfolios, and there will be tablet portfolios. The only determining factor of whether one will get you a job is the person viewing it.

Terps Football: Action through Light

As a freelance artist, I have found that my loyalties to any particular team need to be minimized on set, the only person I work for is the client. This is often easier said than done, but is a must in order to maintain a certain quality level of work over a broad portfolio. In order to stay objective, I intentionally try to stay uniformed about the sports or athletes that I am photographing. It is important that I know only what I need to know in order to be respectful and safe with the athlete on set. From there I have found that most of my subjects have fun talking about what they do to someone that doesn’t try to know too much about their sport.

photographed by Blair Bunting

On a recent photoshoot that I did for the University of Maryland, I let one of the football players walk me through what he visualized as “intensity.” It was speed, it was fluid motion and I was captivated. I began thinking about how to show my viewers the mental imagery he created. I had him walk me through the action that he sees on the field, both in common plays and highlight reels.

photographed by Blair Bunting

Going into the shoot I had researched the aesthetics of the team and school only to find that many people found their jerseys to be cluttered and busy. For this reason I asked myself, “what does motion do to this uniform?” The yellow stripes on the legs, the red and black contrasts, the flags on the gloves… Yes, it was busy, but I felt that it could really sell speed, explosiveness and action.

We shot in the locker room of the football team, not by choice, but because the weather forced us to. It ended up working well as we had the fake grass from the field and a dark environment of contained light.

photographed by Blair Bunting

I often tell people that working with collegiate athletes is easier than working with professionals because they have not yet developed the sense of importance that a pro has. However, I feel that I learned more from this shoot and would extend my concept to this… college athletes often realize that the shoot is important and that there is no guarantee of more shoots in the future. For this reason I feel they give everything they can to make the image. For this shoot, it was a simple conversation that made the imagery.

Midnight will Return

In the day since the announcement of the Nikon Df, I have given great thought to where the paths of photography and happiness cross. Being known for my lighting, it is profoundly ironic that some of my most relaxed time behind a camera is enjoying the absence of light, studying what little light exists at midnight. There is so much beauty in the light that a bright moon and low level clouds can offer you. Studios would give anything to have it, but it is one reserved for us to enjoy, not use.

The tradition started when I got my first Nikon D3 and has continued periodically throughout the years, usually when I pick up a new camera body. At first I just wanted to see what it would be like to photograph at ISO’s in excess of 6400, but I soon saw the artist merit to the imagery.

midnight

I don’t to it to try and land jobs or to decorate my walls, I do it to imagine. I think of those before me that have travelled on nights like these. Even before photography itself existed, the moonlight captivated man, whether it meant calm guidance or coming storms, for the moment that it existed, it meant beauty.

midnight7

This brings me to the age old question that photographers ask… Does the camera take the pictures, or the photographer, in short, can I shoot at midnight with any of my other camera bodies? Yes. Where the critics of camera gear often get a little lost is the heavier weight of the grander story being played out. I use the Nikon Df, not because I want to capture the night, I use it because I want to be moved by it.

PurePhotography: The Nikon DF

I can still remember taking my first photos…

It was a beautiful spring morning in Arizona and the light was coming down through some trees and hitting a little gathering of water from a previous day’s rain. A friend of mine was across from the water and the reflection, water and light struck me a beautifully symmetric. I held up my Nikon F and shot only one frame. Yet to this day I identify that image as one that began to steer my path into photography. There was no money involved, no fame to be had… it was Pure Photography.

nikon-df-camera

Ask any photographer their earliest memory of photography, every one of them will have a different yet impactful story. In all of our careers, there is a moment, not the one that deals with being a professional photographer, but one far more simplistic. It is the moment when we fall in love with photography.

Like any relationship, photography is a journey. There will be times when we struggle through the feelings that we have lost our creative visions. However, there is balance in times that we feel the clarity from producing imagery that matches your mind’s eye.

nikon-df-top

What Nikon has done by releasing the new Nikon DF has allowed us to step back in time. For me it is being able to approach subjects and life differently. They have given me the key to creating images, not as Blair Bunting the professional photographer, but as Blair Bunting that kid that thought the light looked nice.

Now there will be a lot of reviews of this camera that will nitpick it for technical details or price. But a word of advice if I may.

Don’t ask what this camera will do for your photography. Ask what the camera can do for your love of photography.

It all started with a 1972 Nikon F

So many people have asked what camera I use and what photos were photographed with what cameras.  All valid questions, but equally as true is the notion that one’s eye will truly express itself through whatever body and glass lies before it.  The one thing that holds true in my situation is that no camera will ever replace the the 1972 Nikon F’s place in my heart.  It was my first camera, and before that, my father’s camera that he gave me along with a 50 1.4 Nikkor.  The images I created with that camera will probably never reach the eyes of most of my viewers, but the freedom of creativity it taught my will.  For fun I decided to create a time line of my cameras as I have owned them.  I have linked the names of the bodies not to their website, but to random sites that I feel are appropriate for the bodies, so please enjoy…..

Nikon F –   Canon A2E –   Canon D30 -   Canon D60 -   Canon 1D -   Canon 1D mk2 -   Canon 1Ds mk2 -   Canon 1D mk3 -   Canon 1Ds mk2 -   Canon 5d -   P30 on 645 AFD -   P30+ on RZ67 ProII D -   Canon 1Ds mk3 -   Leica M8 -   Nikon D3 -   Canon 5D mk2 -   Nikon D3 -   Nikon D3x

 

 

The Maurice Lacroix Pontos Movember

When Maurice Lacroix asked me to captain their Movember team I was esthetic, after all they make the watch I would wear if I could only wear one. However, they then told me that as a part of their Movember team they were going to give away a watch to the person that raised the most money on my team… suddenly I realized that as team captain I am excluded. ….. But it’s for a good cause, right?

So here is the watch in all her glory:

movember-s

It is a Maurice Lacroix Pontos S in orange and special editioned with the Movember logo and limited number on the side (our’s is 7 of 11). I could go on and on about how many moving parts it has inside and what functions it has, but just look at this thing…. damn sexy.

Also should be noted that I am holding the watch for the month of Movember to give to the winner, so if there is a photo or two of me wearing it, I know nothing about it (but I do promise to clean the saliva from it before delivery).

Ok, so how do you make this one yours?… Go to Movember Mo’Rice Lacroix US and sign up. Raise the most money and it’s yours (currently the highest person is $200).

Nikon’s 58mm f/1.4

Before I start, let me just say that this is more of an opinion piece than anything else.  I haven’t had any time with the Nikkor 58mm f/1.4 G yet, and in all honesty, I had no idea that this one was actually going to make it to the market. It wasn’t because I lacked confidence in the focal length, it was because I worried of how it would be received. Unfortunately, reading the opinions that many have lobbed its way has only proven my concerns.

So many photographers have been quick to criticize not only this lens, but Nikon’s strategy in general. Their opinions being founded internally based not off what photography as a market wants, but rather what they want. I can sympathize with them as I also have gone through this in the journey to becoming a professional photographer. Being quick to read what others may tell you about a lens, often leaving that to block what the lens itself should say to our art. Let me say this, being overly critical of gear before trying it out first hand will become a handicap upon a career. It will stunt the growth and depth of your repertoire all because of the inability to experience a piece of gear before passing judgement.

One such circumstance that nearly cost me my approach to an image was when the Nikon D3 was about to be released. At the time I was a fierce critic of anything Nikon and a loyal Canon shooter. To me, Canon could do no wrong and Nikon was the dark side. I made fun of the D3 for its lack of resolution and thought it was insane that anyone would spend money on a 12 megapixel camera. When it came to bashing on a camera I had never tried, I bought the hype….

Had I not tried the D3, I would NOT be where I am today.

A new piece of gear like the D3, the 58mm or any other photo item represent the metaphoric brush to the artist. It is the device through which we will convey expression, emotion and capture greatness. I have seen great photographers with cheap cameras and lenses make incredible imagery and I have seen guys with expensive gear make junk. The relationship between you and your gear is evident in your work. The idea that a lens is bad before ever giving it a shot is the inability to push one’s own photographic boundaries.

With that said, let’s chat about the 58 f/1.4 G…

Right away I see this lens and think journalism. The imagery of some of the great street photographers comes to mind. The focal length would also suggest this and so would the aperture. Some will say that the 1.4 is a limitation, however after shooting the Canon 50mm f/1.2 for a long time, I found that I had to play around f/2 to make sure that the focus was hit and that the lens was sharp. At the end of the day, ISO has made max aperture less relevant to low light photography.

The next argument that has reigned prevalent is the focal length of 58mm. All to many have had issue that it is not 50mm, however this argument presupposes that Nikon is replacing their 50mm with this lens, which they are not. I believe this lens is meant to fit the range between 50 and 85 rather than replace either lens.

This brings us to the last issue that I have seen harsh remarks over…. the price. I don’t think this is a lens that is really shifting the paradigm of pricing, rather the opinions seem to hope to shift the price. Comparison to the price of the 50mm is just not fair. A quick viewing of the lens itself will show that it is not even on the same chassis. This lens is more properly compared to the Nikkor 85 f/1.4 G. In doing so it aligns perfectly to a prime set that is above the grade of the 50mm and therefor demands top dollar.

This all brings me back to my original thesis of this blog… what gear works for you. There will be many photographers out there that the new 58mm doesn’t work for, and that is completely fine, for it keeps our eyes different and our styles distinct. However, for those that try this lens and find it to compliment or develop their imagery, the price is nothing to the return it will bring. In the end, we don’t have to love every lens or camera out there, we need only love our own. However, respect and openness towards gear that we have yet to use will equal opportunity that your art has yet to realize, while distain for that gear will always amount to nothing.

4K for Otus

If you are not a photographer, your morning read would best be spent reading…. well…. just about anything else.

A few days ago we saw the formal announcement of the Zeiss 55 f/1.4 Otus…. a new prime lens that makes no compromises on image sharpness. If you have already seen the articles surrounding this piece of glass, you have most likely not read past one particular aspect… it costs $4,000. Roughly ten times the standard 50 f/1.4 lenses that we are accustomed to using on shoots.

So if you are still reading this article, you are probably thinking, “damn, I bet this thing is an AF speed monster, I can’t wait to go shoot my first piece with that.”  Not so fast. You see, Zeiss has taken a bit of a Ferrari approach to this lens. Ferrari will sell you a 458 Italia road car $230K, however if you want it without radio, A/C and power windows, it will run you $330K. With the new Zeiss Otus, they created a four thousand dollar lens with an AF made of platinum which they then remove before shipping and charge the buyer for it anyway. (sarcasm sign)

In all reality, this a lens that will be purchased specifically for the glass, and most likely by landscape and architecture shooters. As much as I would love it, the idea of loosing sharpness from a missed focus makes the point of paying so much for sharpness rather moot. While I revel in the idea of the ability to finally resolve images from sensors like that in the D800E, justifying a lens that won’t close past f/16 is also a tough compromise for me as I tend to hang around f/18-22 on set.

Bitching and moaning aside, will I pick up the new lens…. probably.

Zeiss 55

With that said, I think we need to look at what this lens says about how far digital technology has come and where it is going….

It was not long ago that we had conversations about whether or not digital would ever beat the quality of film when it comes to resolution. Obviously film posses a certain romantic quality to it, but I think we can all agree that in resolution, we are now seeing a cleaner, higher resolution imagery than we have ever had. Lenses that we once used to determine the resolution of a camera are now being surpassed by those very sensors.

Perhaps what is more exciting about the new Zeiss Otus is that it shows us where the future of 35mm DSLR cameras are going. The industry of photography although diverse, is actually a small family. While I joke about other brands of cameras or lenses, at the end of the day I am joking, and actually have a world of respect for what they do and what approach in which they try to push the envelope of photographic technology. With that said, I have always had a deep appreciation for Zeiss and have had quite a few of their lenses in my collection over time. Their lenses are often the milestone that other companies measure against and this is a reputation that has been well earned.

All things held equal, we also know that Zeiss works together with the two big camera manufactures, to make their product compatible and applicable. Making a lens like the Otus that is very expensive and no doubt a large undertaking from Zeiss themselves tells us one thing…

The Otus, wasn’t made for the cameras we have today, it was make for the cameras of the future. Its sharpness and absolute resolving power shows us what those cameras will be.