Last week I received my latest in a long line of cameras that began with an Exakta back in 1972.
Over the last six months, I’ve been considering an upgrade to my digital cameras.
Sensor technology has progressed and my ability to work with digital photography successfully has matured.
I considered a variety of cameras in my price range including Canon, FujiFilm, and Panasonic Lumix.
I was looking for a camera that will augment my existing cameras while providing demonstrably better or different image quality.
Two events pushed me toward my purchase: The first was the loss of service of my 18-135mm zoom for my Fuji XT1. The second was the loss of service of my Panasonic LX7.
After careful and lengthy consideration, I ended up purchasing a Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera on the recommendation of photographer Pat Yough.
I plan to continue to use my Canon and FujiFilm digital cameras as well as my film cameras. Plus, I’m in the market for another Lumix!
The Nikon’s excellent full-frame sensor and the ability to use my older Nikon lenses on the new camera, plus the price point were among my considerations. I bought the camera with a 24-70 zoom.
Below are a few of the photos from my first day out with the Z6 on a wander around western Maine with my girlfriend and photography partner Kris Sabbatino. All were made with the 24-70mm and processed using Adobe Lightroom.
I may take me a while before I obtain the full visual benefit of this new tool, as it has a lot of buttons, functions, menus and features to explore and learn.
I am not new to Nikon, as I bought my Nikon in the form of an F3T in 1990, but this is my first Nikon Digital camera.
At Conway Scenic Railroad, we call the stretch of line on the Conway Branch running up to our yard at North Conway, ‘the Hill’. This uses a prolonged man-made fill to lift the railroad to its necessary elevation to serve the town. It is the steepest grade on the railroad.
Yesterday, July 30, 2020, I opted to work with my Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens to catch former Maine Central 252 on its northward run with the second Conway Valley train. This engine will soon be reassigned.
I hadn’t used this camera in almost a year. When I went to download the files to my laptop, I realized—to my disgust—that I’d left all the cables and card readers specific to the 7D, elsewhere!
The Canon 7D uses the larger ‘CF Card’ (compact flash card) rather than the now standard smaller size ‘SD Card’. I went to Staples hoping to buy another card reader. But when I asked if the carried a ‘CF Card reader’ all I got was a blank stare and ‘A what?’ After five minutes of explaining and describing the device I concluded I was wasting my time and theirs.
While I’ve ordered a card reader from B&H Photo in New York, that won’t arrive until next week. In the meantime Kris Sabbatino came to my rescue. Among her collection of card readers and accessories, she found an old USB2 ‘All-in-1 Card Reader’ and this did the trick!
When I’m working with film I keep a sharp eye on how many photos I expose, and work judiciously as I approach the 36th frame.
But with digital, too often the potentially vast numbers of photos that I can save to a card leads to my complacency. So, despite having had hundreds of exposures at my disposal, at an inopportune moment after releasing the shutter the dreaded ‘Memory Full!’ message appears at the back of the camera along with a snide sounding ‘beeep!’
I had this misfortune a couple of weeks back when in pursuit of the southward Vermont Rail System freight near Wells River, Vermont.
Luckily, I’d just captured the train in motion.
However, since I’d planned out a series of locations, and I needed to proceed post haste to my next spot. I didn’t have the time to root around and locate another SD Card for my FujiFilm XT1 (poor planning on my part), so I went immediately to ‘Plan B’. (the back up plan).
That involved working with my Lumix LX7 and a Nikon F3 (loaded with black & white film) cameras, both of which are excellent tools.
The film remains in the camera, so I’ve opted to present the Lumix Photos here.
These are not the words I want to see at the back of my camera screen.
Let’s back up:
Yesterday, after traveling to the top of New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain via the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway with my friends, I made a series of cosmic photos of the surrounding scenery.
However, during my photography all of a sudden as I was reviewing photos the words ‘Card Read Error!’ came up on my camera screen.
This is bad news: it means that the recording media has been damaged or corrupted.
When this happens to you, don’t panic, but follow these instructions:
1) DO NOT attempt to expose more photos using the damaged card. Doing so can greatly complicate your future ability to retrieve the images that you’ve already exposed.
2) Turn your camera off.
3) Take the card out of the camera.
4) Replace the card with a fresh spare. (I always carry two or three spares with me).
5) Test the camera using the spare card. If it seems to work as normal, you can probably resume photography. If it doesn’t, there may be a more complicated problem.
6) Before downloading, do not ‘format’, ‘erase’ or take any action that will add/subtract information / data to or from the card.
7) Later, when you are home, attempt to download your card using an external device. In my case I have a card reader that inserts into my MacBook using a USB port.
8) After you successfully download the card, put it aside and mark it ‘defective’. Once recording media goes bad it is unwise to continue to use it. Buy a new card.
In my situation, I waited until evening, I first downloaded the new card that I’d inserted into my after the first card went bad. Only after all the photos from the new card were successfully downloaded and backed up on an external hard drive, did I began downloading the images from the damaged card.
I was lucky and all my images were downloaded with relative ease. I marked the suspect card ‘BAD’ and put it away. I will not use the card again. If I could not download the card using my normal software, I’d have to go through a more complicated procedure to attempt to retrieve missing photos.
Incidentally, camera-recording cards are only designed for short-term storage. I routinely download my cards nightly. While, I hold on to the cards for future re-use, I do not use them for long-term storage.
I suggest that all digital and digitized images be stored in triplicate and in different places. Further, since all hard drives will eventually go bad, it is wise to periodically re-backup data on new media. At least once a year I back up older files on new hard drives and check to make sure that files transfer successfully.
I made these views of a CSX freight operating on the former Reading Company in Philadelphia. My vantage point was from the sidewalk on the road bridge near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill.
The day was bright, but partially overcast, which benefitted my photography since bright sun would have resulted in a difficult and unflattering high-contrast situation.
This northward freight was moving slowly, allowing me to work with two digital cameras and expose a series of images as it went by.
A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.
The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.
Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.
I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.
It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.
It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.
I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.
My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.
I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.
The other evening I arrived at Trenton, New Jersey on board Amtrak train 55 the Vermonter.
The blue glow of dusk prevailed. That moment between daylight and evening when the hue of the light adds a extra atmosphere to photographs.
That is of course, unless your camera has its ‘auto white balance’ set, which will neutralize the color and make for blander, duller images.
To avoid this problem, I set my white balance to ‘daylight’, which forces the camera to interpret the bluer light more or less as I see it.
These images were exposed using my Panasonic Lumix LX7 in ‘Vivid’ mode at ISO 200.
Other than scaling the in-camera Jpgs for internet presentation, I’ve not made changes to the appearance of these photos in Post Processing; color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure and sharpness were not altered during post processing.
These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.
True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.
Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.
I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.
I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.
As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).
At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.
In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.
For the discerning photographer, summer midday high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows.
In my Kodachrome days, I’d put the camera away from 10 am to after 2 pm during June-July. Kodachrome’s palate and contrast didn’t work with midday high-light and the slides would suffer from inky shadows, exceptionally harsh contrast, and bleached highlights.
Using digital photography and post processing, I can overcome some of the difficulties presented by summer high sun by adjusting color temperature and carefully controlling highlight and shadow detail.
Another tool is the external graduated neutral density filter. By attaching one of these filters to the front of the lens, I can darken the sky to better hold highlight detail and color saturation, while lightening the lower portions of the image area to make for a better balanced exposure and increasing the relative amount of data captured.
Final adjustment is still required in post processing to lighten shadows.
Thursday morning on my way to breakfast, I made this photo of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (Dublin to Ballina) passing Islandbridge Junction.
I timed my visit well and so only waited a few minutes for the freight to pass.
I’ve often photographed the IWT at this location, so this was really just an exercise.
Soft morning clouds made for some pleasant lighting, but also a post-processing quandary.
My FujiFilm XT1 allows me to simultaneously expose a Camera RAW file and a camera interpreted JPG. Among the features of the Fuji cameras is the ability to select a film-like colour profile for the Jpg.
In this instance I’ve opted for the Velvia profile, which closely emulates the colour and contrast of this popular slide film.
Another colour adjustment is the white balance control. In this situation I selected ‘auto white balance’, which means the camera interprets the color temperature.
When I processed the photos, I wanted to see if I could improve upon the camera JPG by making subtle changes to the Camera RAW file (which has ten times more information imbedded in it than the Jpg, but serves in the same role as a ‘negative’ and is intended for adjustment rather than uninterpreted presentation).
Below are three images; the a JPG from the unmodified Camera RAW, Camera created JPG, and my interpretation of the Camera RAW file.
Incidentally, by using Lightroom, I can make adjustments to the RAW files without permanently changing the original data. This is very important since it would be a mistake to modify the original file. That would be like adding colour dyes or bleach to your original slide to ‘improve’ the result.