Saturday, August 2, 2014

Visiting Death Valley? Five Locations to Consider Photographing

shot with Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S on Nikon 1 J1 fitted with Nikon FT-1 F-Mount Adapter

Death Valley is an amazing place to visit but not all of us have the time/means to take in everything this incredible landscape has to offer. Even if one gets a chance to wander around here for only few days, one should feel blessed. Just like all National Parks, Death Valley has its share of iconic landmarks that most landscape photographers try to have pictures of in their portfolios. Each of the following (except the last one) is a short distance from Furnace Creek:

  1. Zabriskie Point (sunrise)
  2. Artist's Palette (sunset)
  3. Salt flats at Badwater (sunrise)
  4. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (sunrise/sunset)
  5. The Racetrack (sunrise/sunset)
The Racetrack is about 70 miles from Furnace Creek. The last 25 miles takes two hours or more of (cautious, slow) driving on a dirt road. Although a high clearance vehicle is recommended, do not let that stop you from going there if all you have is a car (as long as it is decently reliable). Just drive sensibly and you will get there and back just fine.

If time is money, stay in Furnace Creek. Choices are: Furnace Creek Inn (less expensive) and Furnace Creek Ranch (more expensive).

If money is time, Beatty, NV is only about 40 miles (~45 minutes drive) from Furnace Creek. It has a Motel 6 and few other motels. If one is alone, driving from Beatty to (locations near) Furnace Creek in the dark for sunrise shoot and returning to Beatty from Furnace Creek after sunset shoot might be tedious. More so when there are hardly any cars passing by. Do not count on cellular coverage between DV and Beatty. Gasoline is much cheaper in Beatty than in Furnace Creek.

if you prefer camping, there are a few campgrounds as well around Furnace Creek.

Do not forget to stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to pay park entrance fee and get a map. Also for information on road conditions.

I've been to Death Valley four times and I sincerely hope I get to visit again.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Camera Should I Buy?

Legally Nikon
shot with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED AF-S on Nikon D200 with multiple off-camera Yongnuo 560 ii and Yongnuo 560 flashes triggered by Yongnuo RF-603 N1 Transceivers.

I've been asked "What camera should I buy?" so many times, I decided to post my answer here.

Warning: If you're expecting a specific answer to this question, I am sure you will be disappointed. Please feel free to click away.

My answer is a bunch questions that will, I hope, put you on a path to informed decision. (I am assuming you're looking at getting a digital camera, not a film camera.)
  • If you have a phone camera, isn't it helping make images you're trying to make? What do you find lacking in your phone camera?
  • Is this going to be your first digital camera? Or, an upgrade from your current one? If an upgrade, what is lacking in the camera you already have that is preventing you from making images you wish to make with it?
  • How important is compactness? (Notice I did not use portability. IMO, most digital cameras are portable.)
  • What is your maximum budget?
  • How serious are you about photography to budget that much money?
  • Are you going to use it for still images? Or, Video? Or, both?
Okay, you're still reading this means you're serious about buying a camera. It also means I can move on to next set of questions!
  • What cameras do your family and friends use?
  • Have you tried using their cameras? How do these cameras feel in your hands? Too heavy, too light, or just right?
  • Do you like any of the cameras your family and friends use?
  • Have you asked them why they use the cameras they use? If not, ask them. Pay attention to what they like or not like about their cameras.
  • Do you like the pictures any of your friends and family make with their cameras? Would you like to make similar kind of pictures?
  • If your friends and family do not have cameras or you do not like any of the cameras they have or pictures they make with their cameras, time to search the internet or visit your local camera/electronics stores...armed with all the answers you have (to questions I asked above).
You have talked to your friends and family and done some research on the internet. If you're still undecided about what camera to buy, let me see if I can help you. Since you've come to Nikon Coach, you will hear me recommend Nikon cameras. That doesn't mean other brands are not good, it is just that I am more experienced with Nikon cameras. That's all.

If compactness is crucial, you will have lots of choices among point & shoot cameras. If compactness is not all that important, you will have even more choices. You will find quite a few Mirrorless and DLSR cameras that will fit your budget.

If your budget does not allow for a brand new camera, do not despair. Consider a used camera. (If you talked to your friends and family, I am sure one or more of them showed interest in giving/selling their camera to you so that they can justify getting the latest/greatest!) I've seen gently-used, well-taken-care-of mirrorless and DLSR cameras for $50 to $200 on Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, etc. For this amount you won't get the latest/greatest that is out there, but you will get a camera that will serve your photography needs. They may be old but still plenty capable and more than adequate as first DSLRs.

I have bought a Nikon 1 J1 with 10-30mm lens (less than three years old technology) for $85, Nikon D200 body (less than nine years old technology) body for $125, and Nikon D70 body ((less than nine years old technology) for $40! All of them came with memory cards, batteries/chargers, camera bags, etc. And all of them are in excellent working condition, having been used to take less than couple thousand pictures on each for the entire duration their previous owners had them.

If you make an informed decision now, chances of you selling your camera few years down the road, barely used, and for a fraction of what you paid to acquire it, will be minimized. Not only will you use it for a long time for your photography needs, you will also enjoy photography.

If you want answers to some specific question/s you still have that need to be answered before you can make a decision, please ask your questions (with POST A COMMENT) below.