Frans Lanting, Spring Workshop 2009

Discussion in 'Nature' started by shuncheung, Apr 29, 2009.

  1. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Frans Lanting's spring advanced workshop from his studio in Santa Cruz, on the Central California coast.
    The workshop began on Wednesday evening with an introduction and participant image review. From Thursday to Sunday, we got up early around 4:30am and be at the studio around 5 for morning sunrise photo shoots along the coast. Around 10am or so we went back to the studio for lectures, image editing and reviews. At noon the group had sandwich for lunch inside the studio. Around 3, 4pm, we went out again for more photography. The group typically got together around 7pm for dinner, and most of us stayed at the Mission Inn, which is just a block away from the studio. Nevertheless, we had four busy days and it was somewhat tiring.
    The theme for Lanting's workshop is story telling. In other words, it is more than just nature photography. In fact, Lanting emphasis adding the human element into the images and string a sequence of 4 to 6 images with a story for a final presentation on Sunday noon. I think the most fascinating part of the workshop is to whitness other people's creativity under exactly the same location and shooting conditions. I saw a lot of beautiful images that I couldn't think of even though I was right there at the same place.
    The Outdoor Photographer magazine sent a photographer/writer there to the workshop. It looks like his story will be published in the fall this years. The Lanting studio also had two viceographers (one being Lanting's wife Christine Eckstrom) recording the entire workshop, and that will be available as a DVD.
     
  2. Shun
    Sounds like a wonderful workshop in a beautiful setting with a great photographer. Should be an interesting story in Outdoor Photographer. Has Frans started shooting with the D3X or is he sticking with the D3?
    Bob
     
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Photo.net currently has a D3X on loan from Nikon USA, and I took that camera to the workshop for testing. That was the only D3X at the workshop.
    Most participants used the D700 and D300 or Canon 1D/1Ds Mark III and 40D/50D. Lanting himself was using a D300 although I know he has a D3. Apparently he prefers the crop factor for the longer reach (as some wildlife photographers do).
    Lanting was also using a 200-400mm/f4 AF-S with a 1.7x TC, stopped down a bit at higher ISO (e.g. 1600) during the day. I asked him about that, and he does not mind using high ISO outdoors. I think he is right that it is more important to get the right shot than worrying about small quality differences. I tried the same thing with a 1.4x on my 200-400 at effective f8 (stopped down 1 stop), 1/500 sec and ISO 800 and got pretty good results at 9 to 10am.
    The photographer who will be writing the article for Outdoor Photographer is Mark Edward Harris from Los Angeles. He had a D3 with him and was interested in the D3X. So we did some A/B comparisons, and we realized that the difference is not that obvious. I have a D700 myself and will make further comparisons.
     
  4. Shun
    Thanks for the informative answer. Bet you enjoyed using the D3X although it sounds like you didn't see any obvious differences between that and D3/D700. Did you shoot any in the crop mode of the D3X? Will you be writing a D3X review for Photo.net?
    Bob
     
  5. << Lanting was also using a 200-400mm/f4 AF-S with a 1.7x TC, stopped down a bit at higher ISO (e.g. 1600)>>
    Ha! Interesting that he uses a 1.7x. I don't mind D300's ISO1600 but find the 1.7x slower than desired.
     
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Concerning the D3X, yes I'll be writing the review for photo.net, but that is another topic. I think it is better for me to comment on the comparison after I gather more information.
    The attached image shows Frans Lanting (the one in the back in the blue outfit and wearing black boots) using the 200-400mm/f4 AF-S with the TC-17e on the D300. We were photographing cliff swallows at the Four-Mile Beach near Santa Cruz.
    00TDMi-129863584.jpg
     
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    And this is my image using my 200-400mm/f4 AF-S with a TC-14e on the D3X. This is about half of the original FX frame so that it is approximagely the equivalent of a DX crop.
    In this case I captured at f7.1, which is about 2/3 stop down from wide open. That really is necessary since teleconverters typically do not work very well on zooms. Closing down by a stop will help regain some optical quality and also provide more depth of field. That was a lot of action so that I used 1/1600 sec to stop the motion, and ISO 800 did the trick.
    The D3X's base ISO is 100. Therefore, this is a 3-stop gain from the base ISO. Since there was plenty of light, using high ISO wasn't a major issue.
    00TDMm-129865584.jpg
     
  8. "I saw a lot of beautiful images that I couldn't think of even though I was right there at the same place." This, to me, is a key benefit of a workshop. Also a good reason to go back again and again to places you like to find something new.
     
  9. Everyone's vision is different. Very often two people shooting side by side come home with different images.
    Thanks for sharing Shun. Love the fighting seals!
     
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I did some Google search and found a couple of galleries from other workshop participants. Lanting actually held two workshops in consecutive weeks: a 3-day workshop from the week before and then the 4-day advanced one I attended. It looks like both workshops visited some of the same locations:
    • Moss Landing: sea otters, sea lions
    • Four-Mile Beach: cliff swallows, landscape
    • University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum: humming birds, flowers
    The first link is to a gallery from a person I don't know, so apparently he attended the earlier workshop: http://akushnir.smugmug.com/gallery/7966560_8a4mA
    The second link is from Susan who attended the same workshop as mine: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/forum/topic/767485
    Pay attention to her sea lion images. I am showing the setting in the attached image below. The sea lions were crowded on a pier at Moss Landing, which is about half way between Santa Cruz and Monterey. You can see the bridge for California coastal Highway 1 on the left side and the smoke stacks for a power plant are clearly in the background. Susan did an excellent job with a long tele to focus on the action while cutting out a lot of the background. In particular, Lanting pointed out that it is important to exclude the distractive white line along the edge of the pier. It was an overcast morning, and the soft light worked quite well for this subject.
    Also keep in mind about Lanting's story telling theme. He does not emphasis pure nature photography (i.e. not showing any human-made objects). Instead, a potential story theme could be how wildlife and human co-exist. Sea lions on a pier with a huge power plant in the background could be part of that story.
    I have found other blogs and galleries from workshops from previous years, but these two are from this year.
    00TE0T-130281684.jpg
     
  11. Does Lanting use flash a lot these days? It can add punch which may help hide slight optical softness arising from using a TC with the zoom. Also, it helps with subject movement that might otherwise arise due to using such a small aperture. I've been reading Joe McNally's book "Hot Shoe Diaries" over the last few days and although most of his examples are people subjects, I think a lot of it can be used in outdoor situations with appropriately small subjects (macro or animal close-ups). I'm comfortable with flashes in the studio, but bringing them outdoors is going to take some time to learn. Also, I suspect my back won't like the idea of carrying C-stands and 2m x 2m diffuser panels out there. :)
     
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Lanting always uses flashes a lot. That is due to the nature of his work and is nothing new. There are images of him using powerful strobes from (I believe) the 1980's. In Nikon's 1997 video the Wildlife Masters, his wife was holding Nikon flash in a safari Land Rover when he was photographing in Kenya.
    As long as you are willing to stop down, high-end zooms such as Nikon's 70-200 and 200-400 are perfectly fine with teleconverters. I have tested the 2x TC-20e on the 70-200, and the resulting 400mm is quite good at a stop down, yielding a 400mm, f8 lens. Such a slow long tele would have been very difficult to use in the old days, but today, as long as you are willing to crank up the ISO on DSLRs, that has become a very usable option. Just yesterday, I tested the D3X at ISO 800 in an overcast day for some flower macros. At ISO 800, I managed to use 1/200 sec and the outcome is far better than at the base ISO 100 and 1/25 sec (both at f11) where it suffered from a lot of subject vibration issues.
    At ISO 800, the D3X results are a bit more grainy, but with today's DSLRs, those middle ISOs still yeild very good results as long as you don't underexpose. (Keep in mind that 800 is 3 stops over the D3X's base ISO 100.) As Lanting himself puts it, the most important part is to get the right image; a little more noise or a little softness from the lens is not a big deal.
     
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

  14. Nice! Thanks for sharing.
     
  15. Thanks for sharing this, Shun! Some great information here.
    Dick
     
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

  17. I find, contrary to traditional findings with regard to IQ with TCs, that Nikon's newest 2X TC, the TC-20e II 2x renders more detail than without when used with the 200-400mm II lens at 400mm. Meaning that an 800mm image shot with the TC will have more detail than a 400mm image shot without the TC and upsized to 800mm.
    Keep in mind that the combo will only AF properly with Nikon's newest bodies, such as the D800 and D7100. And also keep in mind, that you need plenty of light as you need to shoot at least at f8 with the TC while f11 will probably give better overall results but you really need a lot of light to shoot at f11.
     

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