30 October 2007

Rechargable batteries

A few weeks ago, David Hobby aka Strobist published a post about using rechargeable batteries for strobes. It was a pleasant surprise for me to find Energizer rechargeable batteries in Cape Town and even the local retailer Pickn' Pay stocks rechargeable batteries now.

I followed the advice to hit for batteries with at least 2500 mAh. I have been using the batteries for a couple of weeks now and am happy and don't see any reason, why I should buy normal batteries ever again.

To get the longest life span out of the batteries, I opted for a slow charger. First, I prepared myself for a complicated life and then experienced that it is much easier than expected. The batteries don't use their charge as quickly as I anticipated and though I charge on a regular basis, I don't have to do it as often as expected. As a precaution and for busy days, I bought a second set of batteries for my strobes and a second charger. Charger are almost thrown in for free in some special offers, so it's worth looking out for these offers.

So what about performance? I used to work with a 5 battery setup on my SB 800 strobes. Rechargeable batteries have a higher life expectancy when they are charged together. Most chargers allow 2 to 4 batteries to be charged at the same time. So, I gave it a try to work only with 4 batteries. Works great, without any noticeable loss in recycle time. So far the batteries worked fantastic. No problems whatsoever.

When the batteries of my wireless keyboard and mouse died, I replaced them with rechargeable batteries as well. My expectation was that I would have to recharge every week to keep things going. That was about 3 or 4 weeks ago. Our household is moving towards 100% use of rechargeable batteries. It is not cheap, talking from a South Africa perspective, but pays off long term.
It is the same story as with energy saving lamps. At the beginning you are hesitant to pay so much money (and it is not that much anymore) for them, but now it is second nature, if one of them actually breaks to go with the energy saving version. At least, I assume you do so as well.

Before I forget: My second charger connects also to my car, so if I am desperate, I can charge batteries on my way to a photo shoot...

29 October 2007

Working with Custom Settings on the Nikon D200

It took me a while to get accustomed to work with custom settings on the Nikon D200. I actually, didn't touch this option for almost year. What a mistake! Using custom settings, I can easily change a whole lot of setting for colour balance, image quality, autofocus etc by the changing to a different preset. If I want to do candid shots at a family gathering, I select my point and shoot setting with a bit more intense colour, using the built in flash for TTL exposure... If I want to take a serious portrait of a family member, I change to the custom setting for portraits with raw compression and activated CLS for more interested lighting with my SB 800s. The nice thing is that you can define up to 4 different custom setting setups.

To begin with, there are two custom setting menus, the first you find in the Shooting Menu, where you define on how to optimize the image, image quality, compression, ISO settings. In the Custom Settings Menu, you can set option for autofocus, metering, timeers, shooting display etc. Which means, you have to work with two different setups and need to change both, which still is much faster than changing the settings manually.

I found a nice version at Nikonians' webpage. They seem to have some server problems at the moment. Check them out later today or tomorrow. I hope they will be up and running again by then. Search their webpage for "Custom Settings v1-5". It is an Excel Spreadsheet, which offers you a great starting point.

I downloaded the spreadsheet a couple of weeks ago. I copied each and every setting in the two custom settings menus. Then, the fun started and I explored what works for me and what doesn't. Some settings are simply great and work fantastic for me and other simply are not, what I am after. The real nice thing about custom settings, is how is easy they are to setup and change.

You simply select the custom settings bank, you want to work with. Go into each and every menu and submenu and enter the changes you need. Not happy? Just change them again.
Be aware the next time you take pictures, which custom setting bank, you chose. You don't want to take your high profile portrait with your point and shoot settings! It takes a bit to get used to, but for me it is second nature. After each photo session, I set my camera back to my favourite custom setting bank.

Have a look at it and play around. It is a feature worth checking out further.

28 October 2007

Some interesting links

As part of my daily routine, I read a good amount of blogs (via Google Reader) every morning.
Here are some entries, I found interesting enough to share with you:

Inside Aperture shows you, on how to setup an online approval system with Aperture and some other software.

Pixelated Image gives some advice on self promotion.

David Hobby aka Strobist, shares an interview with 17 year old photographer Joey Lawrence. His work is outstanding and he is releasing teaching DVDs. Get some inspiration and read the interview and the go to his web-page.

Jasmine Star (what a name!) is a wedding photographer in the states, who's work inspires me working with available light. Her pictures look vibrant and fresh.

For any Apple fans, who haven't heard yet: Leopard has been released...

New Cameras and I am back

I haven't concentrated on my blog for the last few months, as you can see in the lack of blog entries. My photography business needed some focus and attention. Now I am back in situation, where I can spend more time writing again.

A lot of things happened. For Nikon fans, the new Nikon D3 was announced. It is the first full frame sensor Nikon digital camera. From the numerous reports, I read it appears to be a truly sweet piece of camera. There have been improvements in the autofocus system and most importantly in the quality of high ISO exposures. The published test images on Nikon's webpage look promising. Some of the nifty features are 9fps continuous shooting on full frame, scene recognition system for better exposures etc. Another interesting feature, I noticed is the artificial horizon (looks like from a aeroplane cockpit), which helps you keeping the camera in line with the horizon (important for architecture and landscape).

Together with the D3, the D300 (successor to the D200) had been announced. This camera promises some nice improvements as well. I will get into more detail on both cameras in a later entry.

Have a look at Nikon's page to find out more.