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Posts tagged ‘Nikon’

Le Mans: A Shoot that nearly Ended Me

Some photoshoots we love, and others we merely get by…..  this is one that I loved that almost ended me.

To say that racing is an important aspect of my life would be the equivalent of saying that I enjoy breathing air.  I love the speed, the sounds that the cars make at speed, and just for the intention of using the word “speed” in a sentence 4 times, speed.  This is why when a phone call came in with a photoshoot at the 24 heurs du Mans in France (better know as Le Mans), I decided that in no way would I turn it down.  With this said, I had already scheduled a week in the Caribbean that would get me home the day before I needed to fly to Paris.  On top of this I had a photograph in Texas two days after the race.  Most people in their right minds would cancel on one of these, or skip the race all together, sadly I am not like most in this regards.  In hoping to make life easier while in Le Mans I brought my assistant Mike with me to cover in parts where I needed a break, after all, the race we were to photograph is 24 hours long.

 Peugeot 908

After a great trip to the Caribbean I returned home, repacked, and went to bed, this is the last time I would sleep until I returned home………….

In the morning, Mike and I flew out to Philadelphia, excited, but already loathing the flight that would come next.  We both knew this would be a demanding photoshoot, but when tested, I always photographed better.  After about an hour in Phili we boarded the plane that would take us to Charles de Gaulle in France.  Now sitting on a plane for an extended period of time is bad, but when your seats are broken and don’t recline, and your in flight TV’s don’t work, and your laptop plugs are the wrong size…..well you see where this is going.  Needless to say, no sleep.

When we landed, it was 7:30am and a day later in France.  Wanting to have an idea of what we were getting into, I decided it would be best to go straight to the track from the TGV station in Le Mans (after sitting for so many hours, I needed to walk).  We checked in, got our credentials, and walked the track most of the day trying to think where we would photograph the coming morning.  Afterward we retired to the Novatel to rest, for a 24 hour long photoshoot awaited us.  Unfortunately with this rest came no sleep for someone (identity hidden for protection) has the ability to shake paintings off the wall with his snoring, impeding any chance that I had at sleeping.

dunlop

Then came race day, and for no sleep, I was surprisingly sprightly, it was though I was able to walk on adrenaline alone.  I felt the excitement building as the teams readied, and the track was cleared, and as expected, was photographing well.  As time went on, and the light fell I got a bit tired, but started a regiment of double shot cappuccinos to keep me awake.  I would say “alert” but in all honesty I was like a wired drunk that was very coherent, but not really comprehending much.  I could take a picture, but not much else, and thankfully my camera will not let the shutter fire without a memory card to write to, for I found this out once every hour or so.

Silk Cut Jaguar

With the light returning in the morning after a long rainy night I thought the motivation to stay awake would also come back to me, and I was horribly wrong.  With only a couple hours left in the 24 hours race I started collapsing, quickly followed by the shakes, and then, cherry on top of this pile, throwing up.  My lack of French (even after 4 years of it in school) didn’t help, and my assistant and I decided it would be best if I got back to the hotel.  With only an hour left in the race, Mike acted as a crutch getting me to a cab and it was off to the Novatel, for my condition was getting worse quickly and walking the track wasn’t helping.  I can remember little of this time, but know that halfway back to the hotel I asked the driver to pull over so that I could be sick outside of the cab, and he did.  The next thing I remember was being woken up by the cab driver after being sick and passing out in a random rose garden in the front yard of someone’s house on the road home.

Fortunately I was able to keep some fluids in my body after a while and when the race was over, Mike and I headed back to the airport to return home.  Oddly I was genuinely happy, for it was like escaping a nightmare, the irony in this statement being that I would of course had to sleep to do so.  Nonetheless we made it back, with great images and a story to boot.  That evening I would retire at home for a good night’s sleep, in my bed, the last place I slept a few nights before.

Le Mans Pits

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

 

 

Matt Forte of Da Bears

First of all, Happy Halloween! Go out and have a good ole time dressed as a naughty nurse, naughty secretary, naughty doctor, naughty librarian, naughty paleoclimatologist, naughty executive assistant, yadda yadda yadda (a naughty yadda that is). But be safe.

For those who have not joined my Movember team, GET ON IT ALREADY!  For those already on my team and growing the mo, tomorrow is Shave the Date, so get your best razor out and start clean. Also, it would be a good idea to take your significant other on a date before than mustache gets too big and she starts recommending that you cook at home a little more often.

A random blog? Yes.

Matt Forte

So periodically I get photos of my work on display that friends send over, and for that I am grateful. The most recent one comes from a photoshoot I did with Chicago Bears player Matt Forte. Perhaps the easiest going guy on set ever. We photographed him in New York at Milk Studios during a day that saw multiple athletes in and out of the studio. What made Matt so cool was that he was the first athlete of the day and one of the last to leave. He was so easy going that he just hung out with the crew and friends on set and was very much one of us. No ego, just a cool humble guy with the world’s coolest iPhone case.

One moment of humor, from the shoot stands out more than anything else. As is customary for athletes, I put on the Pandora station “Rap Strength Training” while we do the active portion of the shoot. With Matt we were shooting a continuos series of running shots (like the one seen here and on my site). Suddenly he stops and looks at me. I asked if everything was alright and he points to the speaker and says, “wait for it….”. A couple seconds later the song playing has the line, “Matt Forte got the bitch running back”… Everyone from the crew, clients, and friends just lost it… it turned the set into a damn near party and was almost ten minutes until we resumed shooting.

In the meantime, head to the website to see the shot and go sign up for my Movember team already…

Bb on FuseVisual

Hey there everybody, I am traveling today, but thought I would put up a quick blog of a recent interview I did with Fuse Visual. If you have a couple minutes, go have a read, and stay tuned for quite a bit of new work and announcements.

bb-fuse

For those of you, like myself, traveling to NY for PhotoPlus, have a safe trip and go say hi to my friends at Nikon, LowePro, Profoto, Sekonic, Pocket Wizard and Photoflex…. There’s a good chance I will be around one of them Wednesday or Thursday.

The Fuse interview can be found here

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.

PhotoPlus 2013

Hard to believe that it has been a year since I was sitting at Newark trying to fly out before what I thought was a media hyped storm was to hit. Of course I am talking about Hurricane Sandy, and damn was I wrong about the impact it would have.

At the time I was in town to speak for CreativeLive and LowePro and see the spectacle that is PhotoPlus. It was a whirlwind in and out trip because of a production I was doing on the west coast. That being said, I fear this year’s trip will be even shorter. Being the camera tech nerd that I am, I wish I could spend the days walking the trade show floor trying out all the new gear being announced. However, in all reality I am flying in for a single dinner and cocktail party then flying back out.

To the emerging photographers that read my blog, please don’t let my inability to spend much time at the show convey my opinion of its importance. The truth is, trade shows like PhotoPlus, WPPI, Photokina, etc. are the life of the industry (technologically speaking). They are where photographers can truly give feedback to the makers and learn how to fully utilize their equipment. Having had the great fortune to speak at them for the likes of Nikon and LowePro, I have seen first hand how much they value conversations with photographers at the show. So if you are in NY next week, go check out PhotoPlus, even if just for an afternoon. Heck, tweet me, and if by some chance I am at the show, I will walk you around myself.

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.

Photo… Illustration

Before the main thesis of this blog, let me give you an update…

As you may have noticed, I have rather fallen off the face of the Earth lately. I believe the more affable term would be, “bitten off more than I could chew.” Somewhere in my mind I thought that shooting a production, flying to Chicago, shooting another campaign, flying to the Caribbean, flying to DC to shoot another campaign, buying a house, moving and shooting another campaign would all fit into September… As it turns out, this is indeed possible, but comes at the price of sanity. The moment at which I knew that I was in over my head came when I was on set in DC and my wife called me. She informed me that the movers needed to either do the move the next day or three weeks later in October. Where I would normally stress out about never returning to the house that I had called home for the previous five years, instead I just laughed, finished the shoot and flew back that night. My entire concept of “home” has been has been explored lately. Often called Sheldon, because of my dislike of change, this month has been comparable to a non-optional medical procedure where you just have to sit back and endure with the knowledge that it is for good.

On to the fun stuff…

football-illustration-blog

So I am always on the internet looking at artists’ styles and trying to see their eyes through their work. In all honesty, I rarely look at photographers that shoot what I shoot, but rather enjoying looking at work from illustrators and designers that I feel would make a good compliment to my style. I was cruising on Altpick when I stumbled across the work of Mike Harrison. Clean illustrations that had an artistic expression of action and art combined in a way that was pleasing to the eye. I decided to hire him and collaborate with him on the ASU football campaign that many of you have seen on this blog and on my website. The idea was a throwback to the 70′s with faded colors, the athlete was lit linear to compliment paint swipes and the contrast ration was dialed down on set to make the shot pull the illustration together.

From there Mike did his magic and we produced an image that I feel I hadn’t seen before, a sort of modern art meets American football. I hope you enjoy it and stay tuned as there is yet more to come from this campaign…