Photographing surfers in Águilas (Spain) – April 2024

I learned that one of the most important needs to shoot surf photos is reach. All of the photos below were shot with the Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 lens with the TC-14EIII teleconverter, fully zoomed in (making it a 700 mm f/8). The camera was a 24 MP Nikon D780 and most of the photos were cropped by a factor of approximately 2.0. This still leaves photos that are 4000 px wide.

The shutter speed I settled on was mostly in the 1/500 to 1/1000 range which freezes the surfers and waves and droplets giving a sharp image. Shooting surf is not unlike shooting dance photos. After a while you learn the flow of the sport (wait for the wave, turn around, get up to speed rowing, stand up, ride the wave, try some tricks, fall spectacularly, all of which are similar to different sequences of a dance) and it is possible to prepare and anticipate the next shot.

The lens and teleconverter fit and work great together (both made by Nikon) and compared to some other TC’s I used they do feel made for each other, fitting very snug and tight. Both include rubber seals in their mounts which helps around salty water. That said, one thing I had to discover for myself is that the 3d tracking continuous autofocus (AF-C) stops working on the 200-500 f/5.6 when the teleconverter is mounted. This is probably due to the fact that the camera’s autofocus sensor struggles to detect contrast with small apertures (f/8 with the TC). This is reflected in the viewfinder where the focus point loses the small dot in the middle and stops moving around to track the subject. The AF keeps doing a good job in good light, but the loss of 3d tracking is good to keep in mind.

Playing with the Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system in the garden

Today I was experimenting with Nikon’s venerable SU800 wireless (infrared) commander and two tiny SB-R200 strobes (Nikon calls them speedlights) that came together inside the R1C1 kit.

Closeup of a beautiful magnolia flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

I was skeptical about the R1C1 kit that’s been sitting in my drawer ever since I “re-appropriated” it from the lab where I work (nobody was using it anyway). The main reasons were:

  • The strobes and the commander use pretty rare CR123A Li-ion cells. The ones I got from Amazon were 1300 mAh (which is not a lot) and are not rechargeable. I don’t expect the strobes to go on for very long on these cells, and even if they were rechargeable, it’s another piece of equipment, unique to this kit to travel with.
  • The system is wireless, but it’s infrared. Modern strobes (I use the Godox X-pro system) use a high frequency radio system, which is much more robust, allows for a high shutter speed sync, and more range, and less delay.

On the other hand, what’s nice about the system is that it includes a mounting ring, which screws onto the lens (different adapters are provided) and allows a comfortable 360 degree rotation of the strobes that are attached to it. Alternatively, strobe stands with tripod screws are provided. I’m not sure how well this would work with the limited infrared signal from the SU800 commander. I expect it to work well indoors (e.g. for product shots) but poorly outdoors in bright light as soon as the tiny SB-S200 strobes are separated.

Closeup of a beautiful tulip flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

I mounted the kit onto the fantastic Nikkor AF-D 35 mm f/2 with a +2.0 D macro filter attached to it. What a macro filter does is it makes the lens “myopic” by shifting its entire focusing range closer by +2.0 diopters. This means that the far end, which was at infinity is now at 1/2.0 = 0.5 meters, and the near end which was at 25 cm (which is 1 / 0.25 = 4.0 D) is now at 6 diopters (4.0 + 2.0 = 6), which is (you guessed it) at 16.6 cm. This lens has a magnificent and smooth bokeh and is very sharp even at F/11, which is what you need to expand the depth of field which is razor thin in macro photography.

As soon as I started shooting I realized that the communication between the commander and the strobes was a hit or miss. Without having read the manual I couldn’t figure out whether it was good for them to blink green, red, or both. The strobes would just turn off at whim and refuse to fire at random. Sometimes it was necessary to remove the commander from the camera and attach it again. Yet other times it was enough to fire a test flash for the system to start talking to itself correctly.

Closeup of a beautiful tulip flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

In spite of all the abovementioned inconveniences and reservations I have to say that when the kit chooses to work, the results are wonderful. I used the additional tiny diffusers on both the strobes which makes the tiny setup (flower, camera, and the two strobes) behave similarly as a studio shot with a model. Everything is just scaled down. Tiny subject, tiny diffuse lights, and the camera working at the very near end of the focus range. I shot at ISO400, using 1/4 flash power at F/11 and 1/160 second exposure time (this thing does not have high speed sync). The tiny diffused strobes can be precisely pointed at the subject, and freely rotated around the ring, casting delightful soft shadows on the petals. They are more than strong enough to overpower the sun and provide crisp and contrasty shots. As long as you’re not in a hurry and willing to look past the very obvious limitations of this quite vintage macro setup, you should absolutely give it a chance and spend a day or two with it in a garden.

Using the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Detect Faces in an Effort to Control Myopia Progression

I’m excited to have been given the opportunity to talk at SUNY School of Optometry about “Digital Image Processing in Modern Optics Research”. The talk was about neural networks, machine learning, their use in face detection in an effort to understand and prevent myopia progression and was part of a series of colloquia by the Schnurmacher Institute.

As promised, I am sharing the presentation and two demo apps that were featured in the talk:

Porsche Boxster 986

The classic boxster is a light, nimble and beautiful car, which debuted in 1993 at the Detroid Auto Show and was launched in 1996, reportedly saving Porsche from bankruptcy. While you’ll often hear that the car, designed by Harm Lagaay, was reminiscent of the 550 Spyder, the fact of the matter is that it was equally inspired by the modest but groundbreaking Mazda Miata, which debuted in 1989 and single-handedly (erm, four-wheeledly?) revived the market of two-seat roadsters. Below you’ll find some wallpaper-size photos of one gorgeous 986 Porsche Boxster in “Guard Red” shot on the banks of Lake Monroe in Indiana. Further down I’ve compiled a brief history of the model along with links and quality photos. I hope you enjoy it!

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

Brief History of the Porsche Boxster

Given Porsche’s high-flying success today, it’s easy to forget the company was on the verge of bankruptcy back in the early 1990s.[1] In fact, Porsche’s annual sales had fallen from over 50,000 units in 1986 to 14,000 in 1993, and only 3000 of those sales were in the U.S.[2]

Continue reading “Porsche Boxster 986”

A Winter Weekend of Street Photography in New York

New York is a truly astonishing city[1][2][3]. It currently houses 8.4 million people distributed over a land area of 305 square miles. The city has the largest Polish population after Warsaw. The same goes for Jewish people (outside Israel), and it also has the largest Chinese population outside Asia. New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with its residents speaking over 800 different languages.

architecture blackandwhite bnw city cityscape d800 newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc people street streetphoto timessquare urban

Times Square is named after the New York Times. It was originally called Longacre Square until 1904 when the NYT moved there. The city is associated with the British Empire but the first settlers were Dutch. They established a fur trading post in Governor’s Island. Later, the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam in Lower Manhattan. They purchased the island from the locals for the modern equivalent of $1000. Many have called the transaction “the best real estate deal in history” (which probably is an exaggeration if you consider the Louisiana Purchase).

architecture blackandwhite bnw city cityscape d800 newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc street streetphoto urban

In 1664, the English took the territory of New Amsterdam from the Dutch settlers living there. King Charles II named the territory New York after his brother the Duke of York and gave it to him as a gift. Manhattan comes from a Lenape word meaning “island of many hills” (mostly flattened by now to provide room for urban development). New York is known as the “Empire State” due to its growth and prosperity early in its history. George Washington is said to have seen New York as “the seat of the empire”. It was the first capital of the United States. The designation lasted only a year.

architecture blackandwhite bnw builing city d800 empire empirestatebuilding newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc shadow street streetphoto urban

There are more than 380,000 millionaires in the city and that’s why there are so many expensive stores and establishments in Fifth Avenue. One out of every 21 New Yorkers is a millionaire.

blackandwhite bnw city d800 man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc street streetlife streetphoto urban

The price to operate a hot dog cart in Manhattan (for a year) ranges between $150,000 and $300,000 (in the most expensive pars of town, like Central Park).

The city has been struggling with the problem of homelessness for years, and since 2007 it pays families to leave the city, as a way of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system which costs $36,000 a year per family. All it takes is for a relative in any other part of the world to agree to take the family in, and the city of New York sponsors the ticket.

blackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urban woman

blackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urbanblackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urbanblackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urban

From a photographer’s point of view, New York is an infinite source of inspiration. The people, the architecture, the never-ceasing movement and flow of faces, cars, bikes and events in the “city that never sleeps” is something that leaves a lasting impression. I had the time and opportunity to walk the streets of NYC taking pictures for two days with my trusty Nikon D800. Continue reading “A Winter Weekend of Street Photography in New York”