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Autumn Lane In Shinjuku Park

Welcome to September everyone! I don’t know about you, but the ‘tembers mark my absolute favorite months of the year. I do love a good winter snow storm, and of course adore the cherry blossoms and other flowers of spring, but nothing compares for me to the hues in the trees combined with the crisp air of autumn. Add in a couple of fantastic holidays, and there’s little the rest of the year can do to compete. So with that in mind I thought I’d kick off the start of the season with a fall photo from Shinjuku Park in Tokyo. This park is a great place to enjoy the fall, offering many trees with a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. The tall trees that make up the lane in this photo are called plane trees, and they come with some of the best autumn leaves around. The plane tree’s leaves not only have a lovely yellow hue during their peak, but because the leaves are huge, once they fall and dry up they are super crunchy and make that perfect seasonal sound when strolling through them. With a plane tree lined lane and plenty of benches to sit beneath them, Shinjuku Park is worth the visit during this time of year.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/6.3 | 1/1000sec | ISO400 | 35mm

Photo of Autumn trees in TokyoClick Here To Purchase A Print

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First Impressions: Making The Switch to Full Frame

I’ve been into photography for quite some time. I originally learned on film while taking classes in high school, then bought a DSLR a couple of years after my film camera was stolen in Europe. My first DSLR was the cropped sensor Nikon D70. I bought the D7000 about 6 or 7 years later in 2011, which was also a cropped sensor camera. I’ve come a long way as a photographer since buying that camera, and after a lot of saving and anticipation, I finally was able to purchase my first full frame DSLR this week! Meet my new camera, the Nikon D610:

Nikon D610 with 85mm

I hope to do a review at some point in the near future, but seeing as I’m a newbie to the full frame world, I thought it might be interesting to write about some of my first impressions on moving to full frame after so long using a cropped sensor camera.

Let me start off by explaining a little of why I wanted to move to full frame. It’s wise financially and personally to grasp what benefit the new equipment will offer that your old equipment won’t before making that investment. I’ve been using a cropped sensor DSLR for nearly 10 years, and you can see from my work the kind of quality images you can produce with that equipment. So why switch to full frame? There are many reasons, but primarily for me it’s about opening up some doors that the cropped sensor can’t handle so well. For example, in low light situations, a full frame sensor easily outshines its cropped counterpart. Another reason is details – the full frame sensor gives better details than a cropped sensor. There are also better lenses available for full frame cameras, and while you can use those lenses on a cropped sensor, you’re losing a good portion of the glass you paid hard earned money for. These are just a few reasons, but it’s enough to say that for me I had an idea of what I’d be gaining in the switch to full frame. But understanding it and experiencing it are two very different things!

So, with that said, let’s get down to it – what are my first impressions after making the switch? I should first say that unfortunately this ended up not being the best week to test out my new camera. Aside from being a little busier than usual, the weather has been mostly rainy all week. Nevertheless, intent on giving it a good maiden week, I put on my 85mm lens and took it out around my town.

The first thing I noticed was the quality of the bokeh (the out of focus parts of the image). This lens on my D7000 could produce some nice results, but after a long time looking at images from that camera, I could immediately see the difference. The bokeh on the D610′s full frame sensor is nice and creamy. It really makes the overall picture that much more pleasant to look at.

D610 example photoTest image from Nikon D610Japanese rain chain

Another thing I can see as I take more photos is the increase in detail. Part of this is because the size of the image – 24.3 MP on the D610 vs 16.2 MP on the D7000. But it’s also because the sensor is just better.

Test photo from the Nikon D610

I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to shoot in low light situations yet, but in the few chances I’ve had, I can see how much better this camera functions at high ISO levels. The following image was taken at ISO 4000, f/1.8, and 1/100sec shutter speed. Certainly not ideal camera settings, but I was testing the camera on purpose. I’m really impressed with how it performed. Use those same settings on the D7000, and you’re not going to be pleased, but it was very usable on the D610. Not only did it perform nicely straight from the camera, but there was a lot more room to pull out extra detail in Lightroom and Photoshop (though since it’s a test image, I didn’t do much adjusting at all).

D610 High Iso image

As of now I’ve taken about 200 photos on my D610, and I can truthfully say I can easily see the difference in quality. Of course, I’ve not yet been able to really test out the camera yet. Hopefully in the near future the rain will at least take a break for a day and I’ll get to take it out and do some more serious shooting, but even with the sample of basic photographs I’ve taken to this point, the differences are pretty clear. I can’t wait for the Fall, when I get to really test it out with all the great colors and textures the season brings.

Of course, one problem with the switch to full frame is the loss of use of my DX lenses. I have two DX lenses currently: the Tokina 11-16mm wide angle and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G. Both are great lenses on my D7000. I’ve use the Tokina lens an especially large amount, so losing the ability to shoot with it is tough. Of course, the D610 has a DX mode, but you lose a lot of the frame and pixels, to the point that it would be better just to shoot with my D7000.

Or would it?

I had heard that the Tokina 11-16mm lens actually could work on a full frame body at its narrower zoom distance of 16mm and possibly out to 15mm, so I decided to put it on just to see how it worked. For starters, here’s the Tokina at 11mm in DX mode. This gives you an idea of how much area it covers on a cropped sensor at its widest.

Tokina 11-16mm lens on D610 DX

Next, here is the Tokina on the D610 with DX mode turned off. Using the entire full frame sensor at 11mm is obviously not going to work. You’d get a little more of the image if you take the lens hood off, but it’s still just kinda of silly.

Test of the Tokina 11-16 on D610

Finally, here is the Tokina 11-16mm lens at 16mm using the full image sensor of the D610. Not too shabby! And if you compare it to the 11mm photo in DX mode in the first image, you can see it’s actually a tad bit wider since you’re using the full frame sensor with it.

Tokina 11-16mm lens on full frame Nikon D610

One problem I notice is that the corners have some issues with sharpness. Compare the corners in the DX mode photo and you’ll see what I mean. That said, it’s not too bad really, certainly usable, and if you crop the image some you’ll probably get a view similar to the 11mm image on a DX without having to purchase a new lens. Of course, eventually I plan to get a new wide angle lens, but in the meantime having this available is nice.

So that’s a quick overview of my first impressions of switching to full frame. Again, I hope to do a more full review in the near future of the D610 once I’ve had more time to use it fully, but I hope this gives you a taste of some of the benefits of moving to full frame that you can notice immediately. There’s no doubt the image quality is superior to my D7000, and that’s saying something because of the D7000 is no slouch. I’ve produced some wonderful images that I love with that camera, and I likely will have some more to make before I (probably) sell it. Are the differences so major that it makes the cropped sensor images look bad? Not at all. Is full frame a decision that everyone should make? Certainly not. But for me, right now, it was the right one, and I’m excited to see what else I can do with this great camera.

If you have any questions about my jump to full frame, feel free to ask – I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

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Blue Evening Over Chiba City

I mentioned in my last post that my daughter and I recently took a visit to the Chiba Port Tower in Chiba City. This tower is very interesting and quite unique. At 125 meters tall (over 400 feet) this tower would normally be around 40 stories, but it actually only has 4 floors. The first floor is where you enter and access the elevators, while the other three floors are all at the upper levels. Two of those floors are observation decks, while the other is a small restaurant/cafe. Everything in between those 3 floors and the first floor is essentially a large elevator shaft. While it’s not the most impressive tower or observatory in the world, it does offer some great views of Tokyo Bay and Chiba City and allows for the use of tripods which comes in really handy when trying to take nice photos from observatories at night. Today’s photo is the Makuhari section of Chiba City, and while not as exciting perhaps as Tokyo skylines, I think the view from the Chiba Port Tower is still pretty impressive.

Photo of Chiba CityClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Summer Storms Over Japan

Last night I took an impromptu trip to check out the Chiba Port Tower with my daughter. It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and in Japan that means lots of humidity, heat, and otherwise fatigue inducing weather. As a photographer, that’s not especially inspiring to go out and shoot, but it has been several weeks at least since I really went out just to shoot last, so I figured a nice indoor observatory would be a good way to do some more shooting.

While the Chiba Port Tower doesn’t have especially amazing views, particularly during the summer when viewing distance is significantly decreased, but I’m glad we went because we got treated to quite a show. Off in the distance, maybe 20 or 30 miles away (I’m awful at guessing distances, so don’t take my word for it), summer storms were lighting up the night sky. While we couldn’t see most of the actual lightning bolts, we could see the strikes blasting light throughout the massive clouds. Thankfully I had my 70-300mm zoom lens on me so I could shoot the storms, and even more thankfully the tower allows the use of tripods, without which this shot would have been impossible.

Photo of storms over JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Skytree Nightfall

There’s a reason magic hour is called that – the colors in the sky in the hour after the sun goes down can be incredible. Unfortunately, aside from the various observatories in Tokyo, there aren’t a whole lot of great places to photograph those colors. While I still prefer the combo of those colors with a great scenic beach or mountainous landscape, the view of the Tokyo Skytree and surrounding buildings from the Arakawa River can be remarkable as well.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 70-300mm VR
Shot Info: f/13 | 30sec | ISO100 | 70mm

Photo of Tokyo SkytreeClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Movement of Shiraito Falls

Today’s photo comes from the lovely Shiraito Falls in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. I posted several photos from this waterfall several months ago, but I had a lot of work to do on this one before it would be ready for sharing. The main reason it took so much processing is that I didn’t expose for the shot as I should have. Check out the three exposures I used for today’s photo:

Three Exposures Of Shiraito Falls

As you can see, all of these are way too dark. Even the final photo doesn’t expose nearly enough for the shadows. I wanted to show these photos though because it’s a good lesson on several points, primarily on the importance of getting the exposure right in camera and the value of shooting in RAW, so you can squeeze out all of that juicy digital information when necessary. So how did I take these exposures and create today’s photograph?

It’s a long process, but essentially I tweaked the photos multiple times in Lightroom and then exported those files into Photoshop CC. In Photoshop, I then blended those edits together for different areas using layers, masking, and several other smaller features for detailed edits. The upside is I recovered a basically unusable selection of exposures and made a lovely shot of the waterfall. The downside to this process is that it was both time consuming and ultimately resulted in some loss of detail in the final image. Moral of the story? Correct exposures matter, but don’t trash an image straight away just because it looks bad at first. You might be amazed at what you can do!

Photo of Shiraito Falls JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Evening Begins In Tokyo

I may have said this before, but Ueno Station in Tokyo is one of my favorite train stations. Much of the photography you see out of Tokyo is focused around the Central or Western areas – places like Shinjuku or Shibuya, for example – and I think places like Ueno are comparatively less popular. Personally, I think the area surrounding Ueno Station is much more diverse, particularly as a photographer. There are shopping streets with great atmosphere, Ueno Park which is filled with interesting locations, and the station itself, which is surrounded by dozens of pedestrian overpasses, which come in quite handy for doing long exposures on a tripod. And since it’s less crowded as compared to central Tokyo, I find I’m less in people’s way while taking photos. Anyway, this is one I shot along one of those overpasses, toward I think the Northeastern side of the station, as evening was beginning across the city. This is a great time to shoot photos like this. Plenty of people moving about, lots of cars still going here and there, and especially in early October, a great cool breeze to keep you company.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
Shot Info: f/11 | Multiple Exposures (HDR) | ISO100 | 11mm

Photo of Tokyo at nightClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Sem's - ah, sugee…
Tokina lenses are good?
I’m considering buying one, the 12 28 F/4 or nikon 16 85 F/3.5 – 5.6
in this photo, are you using Adobe lightroom?

sorry for my poor english -_-!

leslie - Thanks! :) Yes, I love my Tokina lens. I’ve used it tons since I bought it. Very sharp and sturdy build.

As for this photo, I used Lightroom, Photomatix, and Photoshop CC. This is a true HDR photo, so it is made up of three different exposures.