Alaska Practice!

Eagle1-2048

Headed out to Alaska next month to explore and to catch up with some friends and meet their (not so new anymore) kid! Everyone keeps telling me how many bald eagles we’ll get to see on our visit, and as you can tell by this website I’m a huge fan of all aerial creatures and machines. I’ve been getting pretty rusty with the camera lately, so I decided to head out yesterday afternoon to practice and familiarize myself with some new gear. Within the last couple of years I’ve acquired a Nikon 1 V2, a Nikon TC-14EII, and a Nikon 300mm f4 VR PF but I only recently received the Nikon FT1 as a Christmas gift allowing me to mount my F-Mount lenses to the Nikon 1 camera. The smaller sensor size on the Nikon 1 cameras equates to a 2.7x crop factor meaning my 300mm lens is now an 810mm lens – sort of… It’s a bit technical and I barely understand it as is so I won’t do you the disservice of trying to explain it. GTS.  I’ve had pretty good luck over the last couple of weeks with the 300mm on the V2 at 810mm chasing ducks, geese, and seagulls around but yesterday I decided to throw the 1.4x teleconverter into the mix and see what happened. Without the TC-14 the autofocus of the V2 hunts a bit and really slows down the 300mm VR PF, but it still does an adequate job for my needs. Especially since the best I can do with the D800 is 630mm (1.4x TC and 1.5x DX in body HSC mode) I’ll learn to love the V2 for its 810mm. Attaching the 1.4x TC turns that 810mm equivalent into a whopping 1134mm equivalent focal length. Sounds awesome, and it is from a purely fun standpoint, but the already shaky AF performance absolutely falls apart. Teleconverters suck up light passing through the system, and make even the best AF systems on the market work a little harder. Maybe I’m being too harsh and in perfect sunny conditions this would be an alright combination, but as the Tongass National Forest is a temperate rain forest, I’m not practicing for ideal weather. So, as yesterday was overcast and cool with the threat of rain (rainforest?) I walked down to the river in search of the aforementioned ducks, geese, and seagulls. Imagine my surprise when the photo subject I’m practicing for is out fishing in the St. Clair River. So, looking like an idiot (I’m good at it) I go sprinting up the boardwalk to get into a better position and start snapping away like a madman. I can tell during my frenzy that the Autofocus just isn’t keeping up, but I kept working at it. I wound up with about four pictures in decent focus…  I guess that’s why we call it practice.  I’m not very happy with the above picture from a technical standpoint, but it’s my favorite from the bunch. I spent about 5 minutes in photoshop trying to clean it up, just kinda rushed it, and it shows. I think I’ll be leaving the TC-14 off the V2 combo, it softens up the image more than I like, decreases saturation and contrast, and really seems to muddy up the out of focus areas. I’m going to test it out a bit more before our trip, but not a fan right now. It works phenomenally well in conjunction with the 300mm and D800 however, so I’ll keep it around for that. Comparison jpeg image straight out of camera of just the 300mm VR PF and Nikon 1 V2 – taken at the Toledo Zoo in mixed indoor lighting and handheld. Good contrast, fairly quick AF, and pretty darn sharp. The distance to the subject was obviously much closer, may have made a big difference, I’ll do some testing of that as well.DSC_1647

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