Tag Archives: Nikon D4

Quick Tips for Video with dSLR

I will be using the Nikon D4 as an example (the d800 is set up the same way) for shooting video with a dSLR.

  1. Shooting mode– You will want to shoot in M (Manual) Mode. Why? Because if the light varies much, your shutter speed will vary and shutter speed is related to frame rate, so you will want that consistent.
  2. Resolution/Frame size– You will want to use a 1080p resolution whenever possible. A 1080p is the frame size 1920 by 1080 as indicated on the Nikon D4. The other resolution you will see is 1280 x 720. This is called 720p. On the Nikon D4, you choose the resolution and the frame rate at the same time.
  3. Frame Rate- There are various frame rates (Frames per Second or FPS), but the most common that you will use are 24 FPS, 30 FPS and 60 FPS. 24 FPS is a more cinematic frame speed (movies) where 30 FPS is more TV 9 and commercial). 60 FPS is a really low HIGH speed. When you shoot at 60 FPS, then you can slow the play back down to 10-20 FPS and have slow motion footage. In the D4, the Frame Size (Resolution) and Frame Rate are connected. You will see 1080*30 (which is 1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS), 1080*24, 1080*25 (don’t use this as it is not common frame rate here in US), 720*60. When you go to 60 FPS, your Frame Size goes down to  1280 x 720. Can you mix and match Frame Sizes and rates? Yes but it makes editing much harder and the outcome might not be as good.
  4. Shutter Speed – Your shutter speed should be about twice what your frame rate is set for. So a 24 FPS frame rate should have a shutter speed around 48 (50 is the closest we have). At 30 FPS, shoot for a shutter speed around 60. Whatever you do, try to keep your shutter speed below 100 or below. The only caveat to this rule is when shooting for high speed (60 FPS). Then you want a high shutter speed (say 500-1000) so when you slow the playback down, the images are still sharp.
  5. Neutral Density filter – One of the upsides to a dSLR is using glass with fairly wide-open aperatures (f1.4- f2.8) to give you good separation between your subject and the background. But if you have to close your aperture down to f22 to get a shutter speed of 60, that kinda defeats the advantage of shooting with a dSLR. In steps a ND filter to the rescue. A variable density ND filter such as the Singh Ray Vari ND or the Genus Vari ND will best serve you. Just get one to fit your largest lens (say a 77mm) and then use step rings to fit smaller lenses. If you plan to shoot 2 cameras simultaneously (say for an interview) then you will need 2 filters. With the ND filter, you can get a shutter speed of 60 at f2.8 even with bright sun outside.  
  6. Audio– Cameras come with a built in mic, but this is not the best mic to use if you plan on using the recorded sound with the video. Rode makes a great small mic to fit on your hot shoe and plug into the Mic port on your camera. The Rode VideoMic Pro is a good choice. One add on do decrease wind noise is a Dead Cat.  No, don’t go try to find a road kill cat. A DeadCat VMP by Rode is an artificial fur wind muff to help deal with wind noise when shooting outside.  

This should get you started. I will talk about support in a later blog for video..


My Nature Photography Day Shoot

To celebrate Nature Photography Day, I initially was going to Colditz Cove on the Cumberland Plateau. Then I realized that I had plenty of subjects in my own front yard in our wildflower garden. So, about 630am, I proceeded down the steps with a 200 Micro lens, Nikon D4 and my tripod.

At first, I was scouting and taking some rather standard flower shots.

Then I started framing different color flowers in the background for some contrast interest (I also shot some verticals after I shot the horizontals).


Then I played with Focus stacking.. I really liked the bud in front of the bloom.


After an aborted attempt to get a bumblebee in focus in flight ( I didn’t have my flash with me when he flew by), I was about to call it quits. I wasn’t satisfied with what I had shot so far. Just ho hum. Then I stood there looking at the flowers and wondered about using my multiple exposure techniques.

I decided to using the Multiple Exposure Monet technique because the flowers and the garden seemed to be calling out for that type of expression.


I also played with broader strokes of my Monet brush while making the image.

I had a great time and while I was downloading the images from my Nikon D4, I picked up my iPhone and went back out.

First I shot this image.

Then I opened it in ProHDR app on the iPhone and converted it to a sketch>

Then I Imported both to Lightroom and opened them up in Photoshop CS6 as Layers then used a Layer Mask and Opacity to paint in the color of the flower on the sketch. I think it’s cool that you can even see the little ant with the iPhone image.

I hope each one of you enjoyed your shooting during Nature Photography Day. If you haven’t, there is still time. June 15 doesn’t end until midnight!

Where to photograph Red Efts!

I was first introduced to Colditz Cove almost 25 years ago. A friend said it was a great place for a hike with a nice waterfall. I went out to explore and the first time there I was amazed to see many small Red Efts climbing around on the moss. This intrigued me and I have made numerous trips back in late spring to enjoy the area and to photograph the Red Efts. Writing about Colditz Cove was my first venture into writing for Outdoor Photographer magazine back in the middle 90s.

Colditz Cove  is a Tennessee State Natural area that has 165 acres set aside for preservation and recreational enjoyment. Located just off SR 52 east of Allardt, TN, it is just a few miles west of historic Rugby, TN. Beautiful Northrup Falls cascades 60 feet down into the gorge from the Big Branch Creek. The bottom of the gorge area contains rhododendron and mountain laurel along the edges of the creek. You can walk under huge stone outcroppings (“rock houses”) and actually walk behind the falls along the trail.

As far as the Red Efts I have found there, more are found down in the gorge along the mossy covered rock walls. They don’t move quickly, so once you find them, you can set up a macro lens or wide angle or whatever you want to use. I’m hoping to go back this year and shoot more video of them crawling across the rocks and moss with the D4, which will make things much easier.

The trail isn’t long, maybe a mile or so down into the gorge and the falls. It is cooler down in the gorge, also, even when the temperature is warmer up on the Plateau. If you head that direction from Oak Ridge and go through historic Rugby, there are several old houses and churches to photograph and a museum and a café if you are hungry. Have fun and take your time down in the gorge, it is beautiful.

What equipment to carry?

Many times you will find photographers who specialize in one type of photography or subject matter. In nature, we have underwater photographers, landscape photographers, bird photographers, wildlife photographers, adventure photographers, and so on. I guess that if you build up a clientele and specific images from you is what they want, you shoot what pays the bills. But that seems a bit limiting to me. As a generalist, I go out and shoot the light. I look for great subjects. These might be landscapes, they may be extreme macro or intriguing wildlife. So I have to be ready for many different possibilities. Sometimes I wish that I would limit myself to one or the other. This would sure cut down on the gear that I carry.  The more techniques I learn, it seems the more equipment I carry. Not always with me, but at least in the car. Adding video (along with audio capture) now adds even more to the mix.

These are typical from April 5 in Cades Cove: They vary from landscape to wildlife to macro.

So, what should a general nature photographer start out carrying in their pack?

1 to 2 camera bodies- In the old film days, one body would have slow speed film (Fuji Velvia which I shot at 40 ISO) and then a higher speed film for wildlife or just higher shutter speeds. Now with the capability of changing your ISO between shots in the same camera, carrying 2 bodies into the field is not quite as important. Carrying 2 bodies when you travel is important, because you never know when disaster may strike and if you only have one camera body, your trip may be doomed.

Wide angle lens – I keep a 17-35mm F2.8 lens in my pack all the time. I love the field of view from really wide angles. Remember that you loose the extreme wide angle if you camera is not a full frame camera. Then a lens like a 12-24mm lens (which is the same as 18-36 on full frame) on your APS-C sensor camera will do.

Medium Zoom – in my pack is either a 24-85mm (with macro capability) or a 24-70mm  lens. Both are good lenses. The 24-70mm f2.8 Nikon is an extremely sharp lens, but weighs a ton. I have made the mistake of carrying only a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom and then find a scene that was inbetween.

Telephoto Zoom- a 70-200mm f2.8 is my mainstay lens for this range. With a 1.4 convertor, your reach is out to almost 300 at f4.

These 3 lenses are always in my pack. I frequently add my 200mm f4 Nikon Micro along with a 24mm PCE Micro (tilt shift lens) and a 16 mm f2.8 Nikon fisheye.

Usually along in the car is my 200-400mm f4 Nikon big telephoto. This is my wildlife lens but it is also handy in doing extreme compression of a scene.

Through in a cable release, a circular polarizer, a bulb blower, and a lens cloth and I am good to go.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the fuzzy thing on top of my pack in the bottom right hand corner that looks like a mouse is my Sennheiser MKE 400 microphone for shooting video. It just has a fluffy windscreen on it that cuts down wind noise outside.

All of my equipment fits into my Think Tank Airport Acceleration bag, which works well for plane travel as well and 4-8 mile hikes.

I carry my tripod with me everywhere I go and use it once I have scouted around and found my position and framing for my subject. I have been using the FEISOL Elite Tripod CT-3372 Rapid tripod that I really like. My wish for FEISOL is that they take this tripod and add another section to it so the overall height is taller. I still use a Really Right Stuff Ballhead, but FEISOL also makes ballheads that look really good. I just haven’t used them to render any type of judgment.

But what do I use if I find myself without all of this equipment? I pull out my iPhone and snap away if there is a great subject and great light. My wife uses a small point and shoot all the time for her photography when we are out shooting. (She claims she isn’t a photographer, but her work is good and she is my best scouting partner, finding things I miss and scouting while I am shooting. If I could just tear her away from her lab more often to go with me.)

Spring Flower shooting tips- Multiple Exposure

Spring has come to the Smokies extremely early this year. I am hearing from friends around the country that they are experiencing an early spring also. Some teaching tips for spring wildflowers from today’s shoot.

Consider using multiple exposure to achieve a dreamy look to go along with your images. Flowers images look good when using this technique. Ok, here’s the How to for Multiple Exposure ( Canon people, don’t feel left out, the new Canon EOS- 1D X now does in camera ME). These instructions are for the Nikon D4 but are similar to other Nikon dSLRs.


  • First go to Menu>Shooting Menu and scroll down to Multiple Exposure and press OK or the Right Arrow button on the Multi Selector.
  • Scroll down to Number of shots and choose 2 (in another Blog I will talk about techniques that use more than 2 images).
  • Leave Auto gain on at the bottom ( if you are shooting double exposures at night or a night shot combined with sunset image, turn Auto gain off).
  • Now scroll back to the top where it says Multiple exposure mode and click OK. This will take to the Mode dialogue box where you will choose On (single photo). This indicates that the multiple exposure mode will shut off once the required number of images is taken.


  • Once you are in ME mode and ready to shoot, take your first image at whatever f stop you would normally (say f11 or f16) and focused the way you want the focus point to be. Take your first image.
  • Next, change the f stop to 5.6 or lower. If you are in Aperature mode, the shutter speed will change automatically. If you are shooting in Manual mode, don’t forget to change your shutter speed to center. You don’t have to worry about under exposing either one of the images the way we had to with film. That is what the Auto Gain is all about.
  • After changing the f stop, then rack the focus closer to you (in front of your focus point). This will throw everything out of focus. You can occasionally get interesting images by racking the focus completely behind your normal focus point.
  • Take your second image. Wait for it, wait for it, done. Your Multiple exposure image appears in your Preview Monitor. This allows you to see if you want to change focus points or f Stops to achieve a different look.

Ok, now go out and play. Remember that Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

The next installment of Flower teaching tips will cover Light Modifiers.