Sony has been receiving attention and praise in recent years for the quality of its sensors and the fact that it produces sensors for other heavyweight camera companies, including Nikon. But even though some of Nikon’s CMOS sensors may be manufactured in Sony factories, Nikon actually spends a considerable amount of resources designing those high-end sensors.
“I’ve known for some time that Nikon actually designs their own sensors, to a fairly minute level of detail,” Etchells writes. “I think this is almost unknown in the photo community; most people just assume that ‘design’ in Nikon’s case simply consists of ordering-up different combinations of specs from sensor manufacturers, picking a feature from column ‘A’, another from column ‘B’ and so on, like a Chinese restaurant menu.
“In actuality, they have a full staff of sensor engineers who design cutting-edge sensors like those in the D5 and D850 from the ground up, optimizing their designs to work optimally with NIKKOR lenses and Nikon’s EXPEED image-processor architecture.”
Responsible for determining the layout of devices on the CMOS sensor, Nikon’s sensor designers (assembled in teams that work on sensors for specific cameras) work to create an optimal combination of light-gathering efficiency, noise levels, readout speeds, power consumption, and more.
“One of the most surprising things to me was how much time they spent designing and testing for how the sensors interact with their optics,” Etchells tells PetaPixel. “That had never occurred to me as a thing before, but they seem to put in a lot of cycles on it.”
“Makes sense, [since] light doesn’t just appear at the sensor — the LPF, IR filter, microlenses and what’s under the microlenses are all part of an optical system that starts with the lens.”
“Even though I knew that Nikon had its own sensor design operation, I was surprised to learn just how deep the process runs,” writes Etchells, who holds a Master’s in semiconductor physics. “[T]he level of design, simulation and testing I saw was frankly astonishing.”
But Nikon fans, rest assured: it was Nikon minds and hands that developed the sensor from the ground up.
Etchells’ full report from his time with Nikon’s sensor designers weighs in at nearly 8,000 words. Head on over to Imaging Resource if you’d like to read the technical details of what the engineers do.
Image credits: All photos and videos by Dave Etchells/Imaging Resource and used with permission
Watch a Model Pose with a Crocodile in an Underwater Photo Shoot
Here’s a photo shoot you probably shouldn’t attempt yourself: photographer Ken Kiefer recently took his wife (underwater model Kimber Kiefer) and two other models into the crocodile-infested waters of the Chinchorro Banks in Mexico for a photo shoot. The goal was to shoot underwater glamour photos of the models right next to the fearsome reptiles.
Keifer says modeling with crocodiles is a wish that Kimber has had, and that it took two years of trying to finally succeed in turning the idea into reality. He shared a couple of the resulting photos on social media:
Photography can be confusing. I get it. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Because of this, at times it helps us to actually put some of these theories and myths to the test. One of these myths is the concept of compression and, with it, parallax.
This gets confusing to me as I am sure it does for some of you. Of course, there will always be the joker that knows everything and needs to let you know he knows everything. So this post is for the average, humble photographer that can’t seem to get their head wrapped around this concept of compression, distortion, and parallax. Let’s test this out.
But first, let’s define some terms.
Lens compression is the idea that when you use a telephoto lens things in the background of the image will appear larger and compressed closer to the foreground. It’s a bit like the warning of your side view mirrors on your car. An example would be if you have a row of pillars coming towards the camera. The pillars will not only appear larger but the distance between these pillars will seem to be more compressed when using a larger focal length lens.
Parallax is the apparent displacement of the position of the foreground with the background in an image. As an example, to use our line of pillars, the pillars in the background in relation to the pillars in the foreground shifts to become visible. So the question would be: when you shoot an image with a telephoto lens and then change to a wide angle lens, will the parallax effect be seen?
These two concepts are linked. To the point, you really can’t talk about one without talking about the other. So, let’s look at parallax first before we move onto compression.
To test parallax I went out to my friendly neighborhood fishing village and made a series of photos of the Floating Mosque (it really isn’t floating, it rests on pillars over the sea). I stood in one location and shot a series of photos of the mosque focusing on the same spot in each photo.
To make the photos I used two lenses, the Fuji XF 50-140mm and my Fuji XF 10-24mm. I took five or six photos at different focal lengths just in case I need them. But in the end, I only needed one image shot wide and one image shot with a relatively long focal length to uncover this mystery.
I then took these images and examined them for any signs of parallax. What was the verdict?
What we see is there is no parallax effect between lenses. But this will only happen if the photographer remains in the exact same spot. Why is this? Because the focal length does not change our relation to the subject. To do that we physically have to move. It’s basic physics, but we fool ourselves all the time to think there is a perspective shift between lenses used.
The only way you will see any change between the lenses we use and a shift of position between the foreground and background is when the photographer changes position nearer or farther from the subject.
Below are the same two images from above. The difference is I enlarged (a bazillion times) and cropped the 24mm photo to the same scale as the 140mm. You will now be able to see there is virtually no parallax at all. Nor is the compression any different between the two images.
Here’s a back-and-forth comparison of the two images:
Now, let’s move on to lens compression. I hear photographers say how a telephoto will give you more lens compression than a wide angle lens. But I think you will see that the term “lens compression” is a bit of a misnomer. We do see compression when we use a telephoto, no doubt. But it has more to do with how, or shall I say where, we use the lens than the lens its self.
We attribute the compression to the lens when in fact it is actually due to our physical distance from the subject. As in the photos above, where I photographed the same scene with two lenses of different focal lengths but never changed positions, there was no compression or better put, the compression was the same.
Where we see compression is when the photographer keeps the subject in relatively the same position in the frame between lens choices. Look at the images of the statue below. I tried as best I could to keep the upper body of the warrior in relatively the same position in each photo. Because I moved closer to the subject (changed spots) each time we finally see parallax and we see compression.
Now look at this photo:
Now we see something else happening. Now we see lens distortion. Here you can see the distortion of the warrior’s lance and his face. This type of distortion gets worse with the use of a wide-angle lens and the closer in proximity you get to the subject the more exaggerated this distortion becomes. But that is for another post on another day.
As for compression, we can clearly see background objects appearing closer when I readjusted my position to keep the subject (the warrior) framed in the relatively same position in the frame using the telephoto.
Actually, “focal compression” might be a better choice of words for this effect. But let’s face it, I am not going to change the industry’s use of this term. So let’s just say, lens compression happens in proportion to the distance from your subject and that it is more pronounced or easily seen in the use of a telephoto lens.
About the author: Matt Brandon is a Malaysia-based assignment photographer who has experience shooting for non-profits, assignment, and editorial work. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Brandon’s work and writing on his website The Digital Trekker, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
One of my least favorite shots from Sani lodge now serves as a constant reminder of poor practice to me. This subject was one of many subjects collected by Tropical Herping working on a photographic field manual of Herps in Ecuador. This parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla) was played with.
It was grabbed by the tail and gently swirled in circles. Then it was gently batted about the head, to engage in defensive gaping (an open-mouthed threat display). This occurs naturally to a certain extent, but with more stress, the defensive gape is held for longer.
There were more than 30 different individuals, each experiencing greater or lesser amounts of abuse, and all held in sub-standard conditions over the course of days. Held in plastic or cloth bags, they were stressed out, mishandled, at least one died to my knowledge, and at the end, they were translocated beyond where they were caught.
Although I wasn’t involved in the project (the guidebook) or capture, I still photographed some of the species and offered my logistical help to them on where they could find other species. It’s one of those unfortunate incidents which was an eye-opener for me, and really forced me to look at my own practices and question them, even small actions and arthropod subjects. They may appear small or insignificant, but it speaks to an overall respect for nature, and it can be a slippery slope into poorer and poorer practice.
The tacit approval I gave amounted to an endorsement and I consider myself as much to blame as those doing the collecting and abuse. These practices are rife within macrophotography, and one should not expect experience, professionalism or status to be an indicator of a person’s ethical standards. Always question whether something needs to be done and if it doesn’t, don’t support it and if it continues, speak up. These experiences helped mold and form my concept of Ethical Exif.
The respect with which we treat wildlife – whether it is a charismatic and emblematic species like the Jaguar, the common or under-appreciated backyard denizens, or even vilified pest species – our treatment is a reflection of us and our values. Nature, though wild, is a looking glass through which we can gaze upon our own humanity, a mirror to our human nature.
Ethics is a contentious and complicated subject, full of pitfalls and paradoxes, logical fallacies and fabrications. The ‘right’ course of action is often mutable, subject to situation and current social mores which not only differ from country to country but from one year to the next with the emergence or reversal of scientific data.
My stance on the matter, in brief, is transparency. Allow anyone viewing the photo to determine for themselves whether the ‘ethical specs’ of the photo align with their own personal standards by detailing the ‘behind the scenes’ treatment of the subject.
The symbols displayed below, or any variant thereof constitutes what I am calling “Ethical Exif” or EE. While EXIF information denotes the technical details of a photograph (aperture, shutter, ISO, flash fire, lens used, etc…) and is present as metadata embedded in the photo, the EE is meant to clarify the ethical standards used in the taking of the photo.
The elements which I have identified as being both relevant and important are as follows:
1. 🄷: Health injury/stress levels (scale 1-9 with ☠, the death of subject, substituting for 10)
2. 📷: in situ
3. 🖐: Subject Manipulation (either in the field or in a studio) *Updated 03/07/2018 to replace 📸)*
4. ⏳: time in captivity
5. 👣: Translocation (Capture, transport, and release of a subject from one location to another)
6. 🎨: Use of cloning or extensive post-processing
7. ↺: Image rotation
8. : Playback (Used primarily in bird photography, the science is currently inconclusive as to the long-term impacts on behaviour)
The health scale uses the following criteria to determine the numerical 🄷 value:
🄷1: Subject is unaware of the photographer’s presence, engages in normal, undisturbed activity.
🄷2: Subject is aware of photographer’s presence but either ignores, or is habituated to photographer’s presence, and engages in normal behavior.
🄷3: Subject is aware of photographer’s presence and modifies its behavior as a result (no immediate physical harm).
🄷4: Photographer engages with the subject Eg. Manipulation of position, translocation to a studio environment, etc. but with no physical evidence of damage to the subject.
🄷6: Physiological response affecting an individual’s short-term loss of fitness Eg. vomiting, tonic immobility.
🄷7: Physiological response affecting an individual’s medium-term loss of fitness Eg. Thanatosis (loss of limbs or digits), physical damage (recoverable)
🄷8: Immediate catatonia or unresponsiveness with manipulation, long-term loss of fitness – Revival and partial recovery aftercare and stress-free environment are provided.
🄷9: Immediate unresponsiveness with manipulation, partial revival but with permanent loss of fitness.
☠: Death of subject
Though one might perhaps strive for unobtrusiveness with a watermark, as is traditionally the case with signature identifiers, the purpose of EE is to convey information. Therefore it should be applied in a consistent, predictable and clear manner. To that end, I have opted to standardize the watermark’s position (top left), opacity (25), Scale (25), Colour (White or Black, depending on the background), and Font (Century).
EE takes the form of a watermark, because despite being intrusive, the watermark ensures that the message will remain intact regardless of the platform, and unlike a caption, which can become divorced from its image through sharing, and image copying, the watermark continues to provide some indication of methods of production, as well as provenance.
Furthermore, it will come as no surprise that the current means of ingesting media content (Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) encourages clicking without thinking. This means that captions often go unread and that a photo is evaluated based solely on its aesthetic, rather than its message. EE, therefore, attempts to bridge this gap and imbue the image with information related to its creation. Ultimately, the watermark is meant to remove the obstacle and the excuse of ignorance.
This EE has already evolved within a short period of time through several iterations. The story of the origin of Ethical Exif can be read in this 2017 Facebook post. The use of Emojis is useful to:
a. Enable a near universal understanding or inference of most of the symbols and their meaning where language may be a barrier
b. allow a shorthand notation where space is limited
c. Allow multi-platform explanation eg. Twitter (limited to 140 characters)
d. Save time for the photographer when applying EE to their photos
This watermarked EE will be found on all of my most recent photos, with further expansion and explanation (when 🄷 value exceeds 🄷3) to be found within the caption, like the parrot snake photo introducing this section.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to adopt this standard with respect to your own photography.
About the author: Paul Bertner is a wildlife photographer based in British Columbia, Canada. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work and writing on his blog, portfolio, Facebook, and Flickr. This article was also published here.
Back in January, the tech world balked when a Kodak-branded Bitcoin miner called the Kodak KashMiner was unveiled at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. It seems that photography and cryptocurrency enthusiasts weren’t the only ones that balked: the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) actually blocked the KashMiner from moving forward.
BBC News reports that the Kodak KashMiner scheme collapsed after critics called the product a “scam” and the SEC responded by halting its sale.
What’s more, Kodak tells the BBC that the third-party company behind the Kodak-branded miner, Spotlite USA, never officially licensed the Kodak brand for use on the miner, which was apparently a rebadged version of the popular Antminer S9 by the Chinese company Bitmain.
The Kodak KashMiner was to cost customers $3,400 up front for a 2-year rental period and provide them with a cut of profits from Bitcoins that were mined. Customers would reportedly earn profits of $375 a month over the course of the contract, generating profits of about $5,600.
But critics crunched the numbers and concluded that Bitcoin would need to maintain an average price of $28,000 per coin over the period to make the scheme pay out according to plan. Since January, Bitcoin’s price has plummeted to its current price of around $14,000 to less than $7,000 today.
The scheme was killed off by regulators so quickly that the company didn’t even finish the KashMiner website — some pages contained placeholder text instead of actual content.
Spotlite says it’s planning to run its own private mining operation now rather than rent out Kodak-branded miners to the public.
That Weird Symbol on Your Camera is the Film Plane Indicator
If you use an interchangeable-lens camera, your camera probably has a weird symbol that looks like a circle with a line through it. If you’ve never learned what this symbol is, here’s a 2-minute video by ZY Productions that explains the film/sensor plane indicator.
The symbol is a visual reference for where the plane of the sensor (or film) in your camera is, allowing you to measure focus. Focusing distance is measured from the surface of the sensor or film, not the front or back of the lens — a common misunderstanding. Thus, to accurately measure focusing distance, you need a marking on the body to tell you exactly where to measure from.
Yellowstone is one of the most visited parks in the United States, and for good reason. It’s full of unique thermal features and one of the last great destinations for an abundance of wildlife. Even if you come for the geysers and hot springs, you’ll want to stay longer and keep coming back for the wildlife. There’s always a new experience, and you never know what might be waiting around the next corner.
Almost unarguably, the most sought-after species to photograph in Yellowstone are the wild grizzlies and black bears. Conservatively estimated, there are around 150 grizzlies inside the official park boundaries, and 700-1,000 in the whole greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Black bears haven’t been monitored like grizzlies, but they are under study currently. With 466 miles of roads in the park, a person could easily spend a lot of time driving around aimlessly in search of bears. It may seem easy when you see so many bear photos, but some people visit for many years without ever seeing a bear.
This year I kept a record of sightings beginning in April and I’ve encountered 68 grizzly bears and 74 black bears. Some of those are the same bears seen on different days, but there are still dozens of unique bears. If you come at the right time of year and follow my recommendations in this article, with little bit of luck you should find yourself a bear!
When to Visit
Without a doubt, spring in Yellowstone is prime time for bears. Spring in the Yellowstone area and spring in the rest of the country are two different things, so I’ll clarify. The snow starts melting and bears typically start emerging from hibernation in March and April, but hang around their dens for a while before coming down to the valleys. Roughly any time from April 1st through June 30th is going to be the highest likelihood of finding bears, both black and grizzly. The peak of reported sightings is usually right around May 15th. In summer and early fall bears will move to higher elevations and less accessible areas, though they are still around.
Photographers often have the notion that you have to be out before sunrise and after sunset to find any wildlife, but that’s just not true for spring in Yellowstone. Bears are hungry after hibernating for months and some will stay out and visible for 12+ hours a day. They are often found feeding close to the roads where snow melts and grass turns green first. I typically leave with my photography workshop clients from West Yellowstone around sunrise, staying out for 8-12 hours depending on the day.
Fall is another great time to see bears, as they’re feeding often to prepare for hibernation. That heavy feeding (up to 20,000 calories per day) requires a lot of hydration, so they can be found traveling near rivers and lakes. After the bison rut in August and September, which naturally causes a lot of bison to die of injuries, you can find bears scavenging on carcasses in an around Lamar and Hayden Valley. In October last year, my workshop group watched a huge grizzly bear feeding on a carcass for hours in the middle of the afternoon, even joined briefly by a lone black wolf. The great thing about the shoulder seasons of April and October is there’s often nobody else around.
In general, you can find bears in the mountains feeding on moths, berries, and whitebark pine nuts, or in the valleys feeding on roots, carrion, and ground squirrels. The area from Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake, over Dunraven Pass, and down into Lamar Valley covers the entire range from low to high elevation. Don’t hesitate to take a day searching in areas just outside the official park boundaries as well.
Where to Go
At 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone is the second largest national park in the lower 48 states, making navigation a possibly daunting task for a new visitor. Even though pretty much all of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (20+ million acres) is considered bear country, there are definitely some places that have higher concentrations.
For black bears, the area from Mammoth Hot Springs to the Tower Falls area is the place to go. This year I’ve photographed at least 16 different black bears within a three-mile stretch near Tower, and even closer to Mammoth. For the most part, these bears have a “home” area of a few square miles but will make their way to slightly higher elevations throughout the summer and fall in search of different foods. A “secret” spot I like to look for black bears is on the Blacktail Plateau Drive, a six-mile one-way road that begins between Mammoth and Tower. Although it’s not guaranteed to see bears here, it’s a nice escape from the main highway.
Grizzly bears typically have a larger territory, so they aren’t quite as predictable day to day. As early as February and March, the biggest male grizzly bears start to emerge from their dens. Mothers with cubs will emerge later in April and May. A lot of their diet early in the season consists of winter-killed bison and elk, so they’re going to be concentrated in areas with high populations of those. The area from Old Faithful to Norris to Canyon can be great right when the interior of the park opens in April. Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley are great for grizzlies too, but they tend to be found farther away from the road or on distant mountain ridges.
The valley areas are huge, but it’s still possible to encounter bears that are making their way through and crossing the road. One of my May workshop groups spotted this mother grizzly and her two-year-old cub from pretty far off, but we could see they were heading in the general direction of the road. I chose a pullout down the road and away from the crowd, so we had time to get out and set up tripods alone as the bears approached. After a minute or so of intense photographing I noticed the bears were approaching quicker and heading directly towards us, so we had to get back in the car.
I took this photo from my window, but only because I knew my clients were all getting the same quality images. I don’t worry about getting my own images on a workshop I’m teaching unless my clients insist or they’re happy shooting and I can grab a few quick shots. I spend a lot of time in the field without working, so I can focus on my own photography then. In reality, nobody is asking what’s the best aperture to use when you’re face to face with two huge grizzly bears!
Heat waves can be a factor shooting in the middle of the day, as seen slightly in the photo above. You’ll want to avoid shooting next to a hot car, across the road, or at distances that are just too far. Heat and evaporating moisture from the ground will wreak havoc on image sharpness. I look forward to and prefer to shoot on the cloudy days when possible. Even on freezing winter days, the sun beating down on the snow will cause distortion. Same goes for shooting from inside a warm car when it’s cold outside. Let your lens acclimate to the same temperature from inside to outside when you can.
Shooting While Staying Safe
Most likely someone else has already found a bear before you and there may be a crowd with park rangers present. For photographing bears, this is the best situation. The park rangers work to allow the best experience possible while keeping visitors and bears safe. Although some photographers don’t want to deal with “bear jams” I would NOT recommend hiking in the backcountry for the purpose of finding and photographing bears. Bears found in the backcountry will behave and react very differently from bears hanging out near the road.
You are legally required to remain 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from everything else (birds included). Currently, the only exception to these rules is photographing from inside your car (parked legally) or in the presence of a park ranger or law enforcement that deems it safe to allow people within 100 yards. As disrespectful visitors continue to illegally approach animals, I imagine soon there may be no way to legally get within 100 yards of a bear.
If you do encounter a bear jam, remember to park legally and completely off the road. Definitely don’t stop in the road and abandon your car like I’ve seen far too often… If you approach and affect any animal’s behavior, even farther than the legal distance, you’re too close. Be respectful to other visitors and don’t make too much noise. Don’t expect to get the best view if others are already there. Wildlife photography should be about photographing animals doing what they do naturally, so don’t do anything in an attempt to make the animal look at your camera. Not only is it illegal in Yellowstone, it’s unethical and disturbs the animal.
Some may wonder if being in close proximity to a bear is healthy for the bear, even if it’s legal. There is a difference between a bear habituated to human presence and one that is conditioned to human food. A habituated bear can utilize great habitat, even if it’s relatively close to civilization and regular traffic. A bear that has obtained food from humans or garbage will regularly come back looking for more. That kind of bear is dangerous and is likely to be relocated or removed. A bear that sees hundreds of visitors per day is not associating them with food, it has just decided over many encounters that humans are not a threat and may keep them safe from larger male bears.
For camera gear, I would recommend being prepared with at least 800mm on a full frame camera or 500mm on a crop sensor camera. I use a Canon 5D Mark IV and a 400mm f/2.8L IS with a 2x extender. Some cheaper lens options are the Sigma/Tamron 150-600mm, Canon 100-400mm or Nikon 200-500mm. Many of the photos I share are still cropped, sometimes significantly for social media.
Unless you can’t physically control your lens, I strongly recommend not using a tripod. They take too much time to set up and are cumbersome to move around for a better composition. I prefer shots taken at the same eye level as my subject, and being a tripod restricts the ability to do that. A monopod is a good compromise if you have a heavy lens, but I personally handhold for 99% of my images.
At most bear encounters a ranger is going to dictate the area you’re allowed to stand, so there’s not always a big range of where you can go for different compositions. The closest shots I’ve taken have been fortunate or surprise encounters where a bear heads towards the car (that I’m sitting in). I thought this bear was on the other side of the river still, so I was quite surprised when it walked right outside my window. I only had time to take a few shots before it was gone.
You can’t always get full frame headshots, so it’s important to learn how to photograph bears (and all animals) with a wider view of their environment. This three-year-old grizzly cub and her mother were in the woods feeding on a recent elk calf kill. My workshop client and I waited for hours for a short glimpse of the cub coming down to the water for a swim and a drink. Even though it was June and getting quite warm, these two bears were very visible for several weeks.
The best photographic opportunities come with a lot of time spent in the field and a little bit of luck, but you can help improve your odds by being out at the right time and place. If you visit at these times and drive around these areas for a few hours, you’re almost guaranteed to find a bear.
About the author: Trent Sizemore is a wildlife photographer, instructor, and tour guide living in West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside Yellowstone Natoinal Park. The opinions in this article are solely those of the author. He has been working and teaching photography as art since 2011, and has had his work published internationally both online and in print. You can find more of Sizemore’s work and writing on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
This Time-Lapse Shows a Massive Dust Storm Sweeping Across Arizona
The 2018 monsoon season has arrived in the American Southwest, and on July 9th, photographer Jesse Watson drove out into the desert to capture some time-lapse stills of an approaching storm. While out, he was met by the largest dust storm he had ever seen.
Watson managed to capture some breathtaking views of the approaching haboob, which he later turned into the beautiful 30-second video above.
“I checked my radar late in the afternoon and saw that storms were blowing up and heading my from Gila Bend,” Watson writes. “My girlfriend was cooking dinner, I ran into the kitchen and said let’s go shoot, there’s a haboob coming our way! So put the food on hold and jumped in my truck. Drove about an hour east of Yuma until we caught up with the massive wall of dust that was racing towards us.
“Once we were upon the haboob, I grabbed my cameras and tripods to roll timelapse until the dust hit us. Then I jumped in my truck and raced ahead of the haboob to repeat the process, leapfrogging all of the way back to Yuma, AZ.”
In all, Watson captured 800 photos and drove 200 miles in the course of shooting the photos seen in the video. You can find more of his work on his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Image credits: Video and photos by Jesse Watson and used with permission