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Cover and two stories in Phoenix Home & Garden 2017 Special Edition

Two of my projects this year were featured in the Phoenix Home & Garden‘s 2017 Special Edition. On the cover is an Est Est Interior Design and PHX Architecture project, and featured inside is also a Drewett Works home.

We were commissioned by Est Est and Phx Architecture to provide architectural and interior images for this residence at the Saguaro Forest development in Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Arizona). See more pictures from this project.

We were commissioned by Drewett Works to provide architectural and interior images of this Paradise Valley home, situated between Mummy and Camelback mountains. See more pictures from this project.

Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV

This review from Photography Life says it all; the conclusion being there really is no competition. I’m liking the tilt-screen, the illuminated back buttons, improved ISO performance and focus system, all making exterior night shots less of a shot in the dark.

‘There are very few areas where the Canon 5D Mark IV can hold its ground against the Nikon D810. Nikon has done a phenomenal job with the D850 and it really shows when one looks at a chart like this, since it highlights where Nikon was aiming with the announcement. Clearly, Nikon’s goal was to make sure that the Canon 5D Mark IV stays out of the competition, and as you can see from the chart, Nikon beats Canon pretty much on every major spec. It has a larger viewfinder, much better storage media options, an option to increase continuous shooting rate by 2 fps to get to a total of 9 fps, better flash sync speed, better shutter durability, better AF system, larger AF detection range, 4K video without any cropping, a tilting LCD screen, a far superior battery life, and a lower price point.’
INCKX Photography blog

INCKX Photography blog

Why did it take me so long?

So I’ve been shooting with my new Nikon 19mm tilt shift and I’m already wondering why it took me so long to invest.

I can confirm: it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

There are two things I can do now that I couldn’t before, or were a pain to do in post-production. The shot above is a stitch using the shift function – just two images. I’ve learned to shoot in horizontal format from top to bottom or vice-versa – just two shots; no middle shot necessary.

Before this lens, I avoided stitching like the plague. It was a lot of work and often the image had parallax issues. I am a proud non-owner of complicated nodal gear. Time is always of the essence! There were very slight anomalies but nothing that couldn’t be fixed in a jiffy. I love the fact that I am no longer frustrated by the limitations of my wide-angle lenses, and at 19mm there is next-to-no distortion. On a recent assignment I foolishly shot in vertical format 4-5 shots, and the stitch worked but was all over the place in terms of perspective etc. I had to use perspective warp in CS to save the shot. Two horizontal shots would have made life simpler!

The second reason I love the lens is that you have a much finer control over the perspective of the image.

See the first image below. I like to shoot from a higher viewpoint, where possible, to allow the eye to ‘walk through’ the image while eliminating much of the space normally taken up by boring ceilings. This is so easy to do with the shift – just get into position and shift down. I was amazed by how far you can shift in either direction.

Interior image (Kitchen/living area) - Villas at Baker Park

Villas at Baker Park

Another bonus is edge sharpness: no more blurry edges. I am now shooting the vast majority of my images with this lens.

Here are some more shots taken with it on assignment for Rains design and Phil Nichols in Saguaro Forest, Scottsdale, AZ.
Evening shot of the living space at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale - shot for Phil Nichols and Rains Design

Evening shot of the living space at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale


Living area at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale

Living space at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale


Living area at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale

Living space at Saguaro Estates in North Scottsdale

Nikon Tilt Shift 19mm – a revolution
I’m very excited to have received my new Nikon tilt shift 19mm over the weekend. Canon photographers have waxed lyrical about the 17mm TS for many years now so I’m looking forward to seeing how the slightly less wide Nikon version stacks up against it.

Here’s a review with some good examples:

And here’s another one here (it also includes some fancy charts I don’t really understand but perhaps you will!):

Here’s one more link with great examples:

Shooting architecture and interiors, the shift function to correct perspective distortion is the primary use. Also, wide-angle zooms (my go-to is a 16-35 F4) have a less-than-ideal edge sharpness. With the tilt-shift, it’s tack sharp everywhere.

I also want to create distortion free, stitch-easy images that extend the form factor to show more in tight spaces where one image can’t do the job.

If your subject is far away, you’re good to go; just shift far left and right, and stitch. But for interiors with far and near details, I’ll need some more gear to avoid parallax issues: a ball head and a nodal rail to slide the camera to compensate for the lens shift. The process is explained here:

Anything to avoid those gargantuan nodal ninja things…

LG V20 and its genius wide angle
With camera technology improving exponentially on mobile platforms, it’s inevitable that stock libraries will soon be gobbling up our cell phone pictures too. So I’ve been checking out the reviews on the best cell phone cameras.

A quick search reveals the answer to my dreams: the Google Pixel. Or so I thought.

DXO salivates:

‘With an overall DxOMark Mobile score of 89, pixel, the latest Google smartphone, is the highest-rated smartphone camera we have ever tested. Its image quality scores are impressive across the board, but it is particularly strong in providing a very high level of detail from its 12.3MP camera, with relatively low levels of noise for every tested lighting condition. It also provides accurate exposures with very good contrast and white balance, as well as fast autofocus.

The Pixel’s strong scores under a wide range of conditions make it an excellent choice for almost any kind of photography. As with any small-sensor device, results are excellent in conditions with good and uniform lighting. But in addition, images captured indoors and in low light are very good and provide a level of detail unexpected from a smartphone camera. With flash, its auto white balance and detail preservation are excellent, making it suitable for indoor portraits — and even for photographing indoor events as long as there is some additional ambient light to help even out the flash.’

But is it really that much better than the rest? I’m not so sure.

It may be the best in terms of image quality, but not by much. And while the dynamic range is a home run, other batters out there hit almost as far.

Check out the LG v-20. It has something pretty incredible the Pixel doesn’t: a separate wide angle lens! Brilliant! This will surely become the standard down the line. Why not three or even four separate lenses, all with their own unique capabilities?

Just playing around with the wide angle is a joy and opens you up to a whole new level of creativity. 

For all its bells and whistles, the one-lens Google Pixel already looks dated by comparison. I’d rather have two lenses in my pocket than an extra stop of dynamic range any day!

Superb Wireless Control with CamRanger

My trusty CamRanger is a no-brainer when it comes to small jobs where a real-life assistant isn’t necessary. 

While it can’t speak, hold lights or load up the car at the end of the day, it quietly sets about its job with impressive functionality, particularly for an interiors photographer, where focus, bracketing and auto view are prime considerations. 

The client can join in too, reviewing the image on a large screen from any comfortable perch within a 150-foot radius. When it comes to what kind of screen though, the CamRanger has its favorites – and my recently recommissioned Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12 is unfortunately not one of them.

In terms of speed, ease of use and stability, this little guy links to Apple products seamlessly. Those drop-down menus and double-tap focus options don’t even make it to Android. So my Note stays at home.

For the price and functionality of theCamRanger, there’s nothing to compare it to, which is a little odd. Nikon and Canon have their versions too, but they’re either very sub-par, or too pricey.

Just make sure you charge it, have an extra battery on hand, and turn it off when you’re done – this thing doesn’t like to sleep!

Dynamic range – can we ever really capture it all?
Capturing the dynamic range of an interior image with bright sunlight outside is always a big challenge.

I use a Nikon D810, bought in 2012 when it was the best DSLR out there. According to DXO, it’s still at or near the top of the charts when it comes to dynamic range. More dynamic range equals less time shooting and post-production.  

However, there’s still more dynamic range to be had; one frame rarely covers it, so bracketing is still a must. Three frames at two-stop intervals pretty much does it, even indoors during the middle of the day. 

Lightroom Enfuse does a pretty good job of combining the brackets especially if you add an lit image to the mix a la  but there is very little control over the  final result so have been looking at other options. Ive always loved the results from SNS HDR but unfortunately its not available for mac. I could use parallels but that takes forever so gave Aurora HDR a try.

Theres a realistic HDR preset but it isn’t realistic at all. In fact most of the presets are way too saturated so custom presets are the way to go. Once you get the hang of that, the amount of detail you can get in the highlights and shadows is very impressive and gives a glimpse of what camera chips will be capable of in the future.