Pedernales Falls State Park. Pool with puffy cloud sky.

Converted from color to black and white with DXO FilmPack 3.0.

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Try the novel...add some spice to your Summer vacation.

Using the Nikon D810 as a "Zoom" Camera.

Chanel Haynes-Schwartz at Zach Theatre. 
©2015 Kirk Tuck

I'd love to own every lens in the Nikon catalog (except the crappy kit lenses and weird, DX lenses) and I'd also like to own all of the Sigma Art lenses but, unfortunately, I live in the real world reality of a commercial photographer working in a second tier market. C'est la vie.

If I had all the lenses I want I'd have one of the discontinued Nikon 300mm f2.0 lenses and a full time assistant to carry it around for me. I chose to buy a car instead. We still need those in Texas. We don't need 300mm f2.0s quite as much.

But where it would always come in handy is when shooting dress rehearsals on the new Topfer stage at Zach Theatre. In the two older stages we rarely ever shot dress rehearsals with a full audience and the venues were tiny by comparison. Generally, I got by handily with a fast, medium range zoom and something like a 70-200mm or sometimes even just a 135mm f2.8. Something with enough reach that, from the front row, created a sense of close intimacy.

Ah, how things change. We are now shooting with almost full houses and while I could move about (marketing takes some precedence over "family and friends" non-paying audiences) I think it's too disruptive and too difficult to work around and in front of a packed house in the same way. I've mostly chosen a vantage point that allows me to shoo fully stage shots (side to side) from the middle row, sitting in front of the videographer and just on the aisle row that has space between the front and read of the house.

Now if I want an intimate shot I'm racking my 80-200mm f2.8 all the way out and praying that the actors do fun and interesting stuff near the front of the stage. Lately, I've decided to do what I would have never done with a less resolution intensive camera and I've started using the various crop modes that the D810 offers. I can easily switch between the full frame (200mm) a 1.2X crop (240mm) or the DX crop (300mm). I know that these modes are really just crops of the sensor but they help me visualize (with the finder lines) exactly what I'll end up with and, since I shoot so many images it potentially saves me a ton of time in post production.

This shot is a perfect example of where a high resolution camera, in crop mode, shines. Chanel was near the back of the stage, at least 100 feet from my stationary position and I really wanted to get in tight enough to make the shot interesting. I did a longer, vertical shot of her to show off the dress with the exaggerated train but I felt like the tighter composition would be more engaging. Since I was already at the 200mm setting of my f2.8 zoom it was necessary to start using the "punch in" crops. I used the 1.5X, DX crop and I still had enough resolution to allow the art director to crop even tighter, if she wanted to. When you click on the image above you'll see it at around 2100 pixels wide but the original file is 5520 x 3680 pixels. That's still an amazing amount of resolution to play with, especially for web use.

More amazing to me is the image quality of the files given that they are shot at 1600 ISO and are handheld with neither the camera nor the lens having the benefit of image stabilization. At a 300mm equivalent that's pretty great performance from every part of the chain (including me).

I now pronounce the Nikon D810 the current, ultimate zoom digital camera. Crop to your heart's content and do it in camera so you know what you are getting. Cropping after the fact is just an act of desperation or stubborness...

And, by the way, take a chance and read the novel....

Sometimes you engage the shutter button because you love the light, the tones and the textures you are seeing more than the content of a shot. For me this is a good example...

I also like the ambiguity of it all.

Shot during a dress rehearsal at Zach Theatre.

The Novel


I love nailing white, on white, on white on stage. Balancing the highlights and the flesh tones makes some images work well. This is with the D810 in the DX crop mode. Still a 20 megapixel image....

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

Tip: Manual Exposure. Spot meter for the white coat and then open up 1 and 2/3rd stops. Push up a third of a stop in post.  KT


The Novel...

Defying Gravity On Stage.

What: A Dance number from "Sophisticated Ladies" 

Where: Zach Theatre at 1510 Toomey Rd. Austin, Texas 78704

Camera: Nikon D810+Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens

Particulars: f3.2, 1/1000th of second, ISO 1600, manual exposure, autofocus - center group Jpeg file.

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