Friday, August 10, 2007

All week I've been looking for a game to use my 400mm, and tonight I got that game.

Earlier in the week I shot the Maryland Terrapins during Media Day, and that was a lot of fun. I covered it using my 70-200mm and my D2H. The shots came out very well. I've really sped up my post-processing speed by using Aperture and adding a second screen to my laptop.

I hate the Windows so I use the Linux and the Mac OSX for work and pleasure. I encourage everyone to take a look at Linux and OSX for their development, professional, and personal workflows. Recently I added a 22" Acer LCD that I purchased from NewEgg for a cool $220. Going up to a 24" more than doubles the cost, so a 22" is a nice sweet little price point.

The screen has a DVI interface and a 400:1 contrast ratio. The brightness is like 3000:1 and it looks great. It's brighter than the glossy LCD on my MacBook Pro, and I do most of my photo editing (post processing) on the LCD and use my MacBook's display for shells, emacs, and other non-graphical applications. I highly encourage anyone doing photo editing to add a second screen because it greatly increases your productivity in post processing.

When posting images up to this blog I used to have go go back and forth between Preview (the picture viewer in OSX) and Firefox using Expose's "All Windows" magic. It was better than Window's solution, but it was still slow. Adding the second LCD I can land my browser on my MacBook Pro's screen and my photos on my LCD. It's then extremely easy to go back and forth between the two. I personally can't think of any photographic equipment these days that costs less than $220, so this LCD is a great deal in my opinion.

The only problem I've had with the LCD is the white balance. I've noticed that the whites on the LCD are definitely more neon-like brighter. That's made me think about the accuracy of displays, and I intend to look into calibration software that I can use to get my MacBook Pro and Acer LCD in sync with respect to white balance. My photos on the MacBook Pro look dark but they look great on my LCD. Likewise, if I adjust brightness when I'm viewing my photos on my LCD they look really bright (kind of washed out) when I look at them on the LCD (and on other LCDs).

I've also been spending a lot of time going back through old photo albums and pruning the "bad" photos. One of the nice things about being technically savy is that it allows me to feed my in born pack-rat tendencies. I hate physical clutter, and digital clutter gets to me too. But organized digital content is the sweet spot. In the past I've dumped ALL of my photos into a directory, even tho most of them are not properly framed, are kind of off with respect to lighting, or maybe a tad out of focus.

I've been shooting a lot of events, and with DSLRs you can create a lot of content pretty quickly. So I've learned about the whole post-processing aspect of digital photography and I now apply post processing to each event I cover. But my post processing in the past simply consisted of me rotating images by hand and deleting the completely out-of-focus. I've quickly chewed up disk space on my fileserver with this strategy and I'm now working on correcting that.

Over on I'm posting my albums for all my games. As I cover a new event I post it over on the gallery. During off days I'm going back through my photos I shot this spring of Maryland events and posting them. That's occupying a lot of time!

Moving 1.5GB of photos from my fileserver to my laptop takes a bit, and then the disk IO to pull those images into memory takes awhile as well. Sifting through them, cropping, and resaving them takes time too. Fortunately I've gotten through all of the basketball and I'm almost through lacrosse. Then I'll have baseball and softball and I'll hopefully be finished.

A few weeks ago I ordered a ThinkTank Airport International from my local Penn Camera office. I debated the International vs Security but in the end I went with the International. I gave up a little space, but I saved about 10% on the bag because I didn't feel like I needed the extra "security" that the security model provided.

I bought the bag because my current bag was just a small over-the-shoulder style Nikon bag that barely fit my 70-200mm lens. I bought a 400mm/f2.8 lens as well as a D2H body and there's no way I could fit 2 bodies in the original bag. Additionally, the 400mm/f2.8 lens costs several thousands of dollars and I don't want to break it because I'm carrying it around unprotected. I was happy that my bag arrived this week from overseas and I moved all of my gear into the bag.

I still have a little room to grow, but not a whole lot. I'm not very concerned though because I feel like I have 90% of all the gear I'll need for a long time. I currently own a D200, D2H, 70-200mm/f2.8, 400mm/f2.8, 50mm/f1.8, and 2X TC. The only lens I plan on purchasing in the near future is an 18-55mm/f2.8 DX and there's room in the bag for that lens. I also am considering selling my 2X TC now that I own the 400mm/f2.8 and that will free up some space.

With my new bag, new lens, and new D2H body in hand I was looking forward to my shoot tonight. I had my season credential in hand and with the photo bag I walked right past security without any problem at all. It was so nice having that bag. When I wore the bag over my shoulder I was always afraid I'd bend over to the side and the strap would slide off my shoulder. Or I was afraid that when I walked past a door frame I would catch the bag on the frame somehow and screw up a lens inside. With the bag rolling behind me and my lenses between 1" of solid insulation I felt so safe and protected. That bag was so worth the purchase!

I headed to the media room and pulled out the D2H and the 400mm lens and assembled it onto my monopod. I debated pairing my D200 with the 70-200mm lens and carrying that on a strap on my shoulder but decided against it. The 400mm lens is remarkably heavy and large even though it is AF-S. Since it was my first time out with it I decided not to press my luck. I left the D200 and 70-200mm lens up in the media room and headed down to the seats to take some pictures.

The first thing that struck me was how powerful 400mm is on a DX sensor. DX sensors have a built in 1.5X crop, and that turns my 400mm lens into a 600mm lens (albeit through cropping). Standing up in the stands my subjects at home plate completely filled my frame. It was really odd not being able to zoom out.

It was also the first time I felt "too close" to the action. Most of the time that I'm feeling too-something it's "too-far". But tonight I was "too close" for a few shots. My shots from 3rd base of the batter didn't allow me to see the catcher at all. That's ok but it took a little bit of adjustment.

One comment Al made earlier this week really resonated with me tonight: shoot from far up. He showed me a few photos he took of the Nationals earlier last week from in the 400 sections using his 400mm and they look really good. At that range he's far enough way that he gets the batter in the frame as well as some space around the batter. It's truly remarkable how powerful a 400mm lens is.

I shot the entire game using the D2H and 400mm lens. I started out at ISO 200 and aperture priority mode with group weighted continuous autofocus. The shots looked decent on the LCD, but since it's an old camera it's a little difficult to tell sometimes. I trust my equipment and myself so I'm sure the photos will come out alright.

I also saw Bob again at the game. Bob sits down in the front row and takes notes during the game. He's a true baseball fan and attends almost every game. During the last game he and I chatted while I shot next to his position. He owns an 18-200mm/f4-f5.6 VR lens and a D70 and we compared a lot of notes and techniques. It was good to see him again.

I also met another gentleman named Mark. Mark's a Canon shooter but he's considering switching to Nikon. He rented a D200 and a 70-200mm lens from and was giving it a shot tonight. I told him about my experience on that body and lens and he was excited about it. If he switches he'll be the first person I know to go from Canon to Nikon. He currently has an EOS-1D and an 80-200mm/f2.8 IS lens.

Towards the end of the game I was up at 1600 ISO and my meter was telling me that 1/250th of a second was needed to properly expose the image. Since the D2H taps out at 1600 I decided to pack it in and head home. It was a great day, and I wanted to go home to catch up with my wife (she got some good medical news today!)


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