I just had to share a photo I captured yesterday while teaching a photo workshop on flowers at Calumet and the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.  Sharing not so much to show the image I captured, yet more so the detail I’ve loving in my new Nikon D800E 36MP DSLR (and no, Nikon doesn’t pay or sponsor me).In a garden of dahlia flowers, I captured this scene with my 70-200mm f/2.8 Tamron lens – not a macro lens.  Take into account this bumblebee was visiting various flowers, buzzing in and out of each one, constantly on the move, so I wasn’t dealing with a still subject, nor was I using a tripod.  Even outside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, on the edge of the coastal fog rolling in, the flowers were catching some wind and moving themselves.

As far as my DSLR goes, yeah, I love it- it’s the camera I’ve always wanted.  The image sensor ranks even higher than the D4 (in fact DxO Labs rated it the highest DSLR on the market), and that’s a big part of why I bought it.  It’s also about the engine of this beast – 36 megapixels, which for an outdoor/ landscape/commercial photographer provides huge files to blow up nicely, tons of intricate detail, and minimal noise in a top-notch full-frame image sensor.  There’s lots of extra bells and whistles – cool new LiveView functions, an incredibly fast auto-focus (although I still manual focus a ton), and a sturdy well-built frame.

This image was captured at 1/400 sec, using f/2.8 and ISO 100 in manual exposure mode while spot metering.  You can see the detail of the bee here in a close-up.

It’s rare that a piece of equipment gets me excited about photography – usually it’s my subject, the location, the moment, the light.  This Nikon camera has energized me about the images I hope to capture in the near future!


Where should I buy photo gear?

As more and more camera stores close with the onslaught of web-based photo distributors, I often hear the question “Where should I buy my photo gear Sean?“.

There are mix of places I’ve used over my career, from local Bay Area stores (Northern California) like South Bay’s Keeble & Shuchat, San Francisco locations like Calumet (based in Chicago with an e-store as well) or Pro Camera, and East Bay stores such as the Looking Glass and Sarber’s, open since 1961- and then Reed’s in Walnut Creek (the closest to my home) that closed in ’07 after 50 years in business.

Then when I’m on the road and need quick gear or rental equipment, I use Samy’s Cameras in Los Angeles CA (a few locations and where the pros go) or Glazer’s Camera Supply in Seattle WA (around since 1935).

Where to go online? Besides B&H Photo and Calumet, I love working with the people at Hunt’s Photo & Video– an east coast-based store (online, as well as physical locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine).

Hunt’s rocks- not only have they been around since 1889 (that’s right, 120 years), they are personable, don’t try to sell you gear you don’t want or need, and I’ve had direct connection with the owner (Gary) for years.

I also feel if we, as photographers, don’t support companies like Hunt’s, we’ll end up falling into the mix of large companies with horrible customer service reps that know nothing about gear and only want to “make their numbers” in sales. You know these companies – the ones that transfer you six times to different departments, screw up your bill or order, and waste your time for an hour and what could have been a 5 minute call (rhymes with ShmAy-Tee-&-Tee). Where’s the invention that will allow me to grab someone’s neck through phone lines? A fiber-optic vulcan grip of sorts.

I have certain criteria when I use these stores, and if they don’t follow them, I don’t get them my business:

Reps that are awake, alert, happy and helpful

Good competitive prices (but I’ll pay a few bucks more for prompt service and accurate details from knowledgeable reps)

My gear arrives on time, or they follow up with me on my order

Mistakes happen, just admit it (instead of trying to cover it with a bunch of baloney)

Don’t try to sell me something I don’t need (no, that $300 camera strap made of Carbon-fiber isn’t necessary dude)

Help me when I’m in a jam (don’t place a 10 grand hold on my card for rental gear, when 5 grand will do the job and save me some space to use the card on my job)

There ya go- now go out and spend, spend, spend. Just kidding. But if you do, and don’t get the treatment you expect, let ’em you’ll take your business elsewhere, tell ’em I sent you, and go somewhere else if they don’t get it.

Happy shooting….I mean shopping. 🙂