Sunday, August 18, 2019

Nikon SB-800 Battery Door Replacement

My last attempt to clean the contacts wasn't successful in removing all of the corrosion.

Rust Never Sleeps. Neither Does Battery Corrosion: Familiarity breeds contempt, and absence makes the heart go wander. Since my world has essentially been appropriated by all things Fuji, my Nikon speedlights have been getting less attention than they should. As a consequence, my speedlights are occasional stored with their batteries still in place, and if the gremlins have their way, the batteries contained therein will leak, causing the contacts to corrode. An explanation can be found at this Wikipedia link, a portion of which I have duplicated.

...Alkaline batteries are prone to leaking potassium hydroxide, a caustic agent that can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation.[note 1] Risk of this can be reduced by not attempting to recharge disposable alkaline cells, not mixing different battery types in the same device, replacing all of the batteries at the same time, storing in a dry place and at room temperature, and removing batteries for storage of devices...

In many cases, the surface corrosion can be removed with some #0000 steel wool or a pencil eraser. In my last corrosion event, the damage was confined to the battery door, and this simple treatment worked, that is until the corrosion returned. But if this was to be a reoccurring event, I thought I should give some thought to replacing the battery door completely. It appears I'm not the first to confront this problem, as eBay had several vendors who would sell me a non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) replacement for about $10.00. Meh. Not Nikon.
For more information click here
SD-800 To The Rescue: If you purchased your SB-800 new, you also received an SD-800 Battery Holder along with the other boxed goodies. I never paid much attention to this add-on because of its bulk. I determined that if I needed an power boost, I would attach a Nikon SD-8a 6-AA battery pack, which would improve my flash recycling time  significantly. 

Incidentally, this add-on was created to bring the battery output of five rechargeable NiMH batteries to the same 6-volt output of four alkaline batteries. I never gave this much thought, as I found that four NiMH batteries were sufficient for my needs, and when I needed more, added an aforementioned SD-8a battery pack. Life is good enough. 

To install the SD-800, you can refer to pages 64 and 65 of the manual for installation instructions. I reproduced those two pages here. Once done, you'll have clean electrical contacts for your batteries, but you'll always need to take along that fifth.
Pages 64 and 65 from the Nikon SB-800 manual. To view the entire PDF, click here
What You Didn't Know: It turns out that the battery cover for the SD-800 is identical to the one covering the battery compartment of the SB-800. If all you want is a new, corrosion-free cover, just remove the cover from the SD-800 and install it on the SB-800. This gives you the OEM cover you desperately want. But don't throw the uncovered SD-800 body away. Some day you may want to add that fifth battery!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

My Fuji X-Pro1 And The Leica Mystique

Shawn and Tom at Buck's Restaurant, December 1996
August 6, 2019 - Lunch With My Mentor: When my friend Shawn and I taught together in the last century (1979-81), we often discussed photography. Both of us developed and processed our own black and white prints, and while other interests would come to consume my time, he was first and foremost a photographer. For him, Leica rangefinder cameras were the only way to go. Many other professional photographers agreed.

Shawn is a serious student of all aspects of photography. He is both a walking Leica historian and an artist driven to document the aspects of his life that make it unique . He carries his M3 with a Sumicron lens with the ease with which I carry my car keys, and when doing so, makes me long for the time when I was equally committed to the craft so long ago.

It was Shawn's preference for the Leica that made me believe that owning and using a Fuji X-Pro1 might give me insights into the rangefinder mystique. That it did, along with momentarily re-connecting me with some of my hero photographers who continued to use rangefinders, resisting the tide of single lens reflex (SLR) cameras like the legendary Nikon F.

In the 1970's, my own rangefinder experience was in some ways similar to Shawn's, but my camera of choice, made relevant by both my finances and my level of expertise, was a sexy black  Olympus 35 SP, and fixed lens 35mm rangefinder. In the early 70's, I carried it everywhere, hoping to somehow channel the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bill Pierce, Gene Smith, or Gary Winogrand. That little camera helped me gain some insights into street photography, a documentary style that some hipsters seem to believe they invented. Among other things, the Olympus taught me to crop in the viewfinder to make use of every square millimeter of the film format, primarily because the lens wasn't the sharpest and the negatives it produced couldn't stand enlargements past 8" x 10".

Source posting can be seen here.
Jim Marshall, the chronicler of the 1960's music and culture scene, relied on rangefinder cameras, specifically Leicas, for his iconic rock-star images. The reason was clear: The Leicas didn't employ the mirror mechanism typical of the Nikon and Canon SLR cameras of the time. In addition, Leicas were compact and supremely quiet, essential qualities when photographing live performances in close quarters. The build quality was second to none, and the Leitz lenses designed specifically for them became the optical and mechanical standards for performance that the world would seldom equal, let alone surpass.

Photographer John Naughton. Read about him here.
The Whisper Of Intimate Things*: I think the appeal of the rangefinder is the result of some design limitations. Even the most die-hard Leicaphile will readily admit that the limits of the optical viewfinder (essentially a small peephole-sized window) make working with telephoto lens a little tricky. The rangefinder really shines when using wide angle through short telephoto lenses. You will also notice the asymmetric design of the camera puts the eyepiece off to one side. This allows the photographer to maintain make eye contact with the subject, which encourages them to establish rapport, potentially leading to images of an animated, engaged subject. The photo then become a record of an interaction, a animated moment in time frozen at 1/125th of a second. You cannot be an anonymous voice hidden behind a camera. Instead, your subject will see you clearly, and any of your facial gestures of interest, indifference, or discomfort, will be in full view. This is frightening, and challenging, at the same time.

Another happy byproduct of the digital experience, one shared by all mirrorless cameras, is the ability to review images in the viewfinder. By not having to shift my attention from my subject to the back of the camera, I can maintain my workflow without diverting my attention from the subject. This removes the distraction of the irresistible chimping, reviewing the LCD  and exclaiming "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!", after each shot.

Life In Real Time: This luxury of time is something I don't always have. My schedule for a normal photo is 15 minutes of setup, followed by 5 minutes of actual shooting. My desire to capture meaningful spontaneity is often abandoned in favor of some quick posture adjustments, some happy talk, and a count-down to shutter-press. Heck, my subjects are busy, and so am I. But should I be allowed sufficient time to be more involved with my subject, I am certain that this Leica-like X-Pro1  will provide new challenges, and hopefully, some emotionally rewarding images.

"Whispers Of Intimate Things" was a book of photographs and poems taken and written by Gordon Parks.


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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

National Night Out: Why I Chose My X-T2

1/250 second, F 16, ISO 320
National Night Out: This annual event, held at the Martin Luther King Center in San Mateo, gives the community the community a chance to to meet and speak with San Mateo's First Responders in a a block party environment.

This photo was made using a Fujifilm X-T2 and a 10-24 F 4.0 zoom lens. Camera cognoscenti who read my last post might have assumed that I'd be using my new (to me) X-Pro1 and a prime lens. In fact, it was packed in my camera bag, ready to use. But choosing my tried and true X-T2 was the logical choice if you consider the factors involved in make such a shot.

Waist Level Perspective
The articulated LCD panel allowed me to accurately compose and shoot from a low angle. If memory serves, the shot was made with the camera about 8 inches off the ground. Why the low angle? This allows me to isolate my subjects by framing them against the blue sky. You'll notice that the horizon line is approximately 1/3 up from the lower edge of the frame, a concession to the "Rule of Thirds".

Wide Angle Lens
Working with a wide angle lens allows you (or forces you) to work at relatively short distances. The foreshortening of the subject (exaggeration of subjects closest to the camera) is held to a minimum by making shots where the the subjects are held in a shallow (fore and aft) plane.  By keeping the hands on the same plane as the face, the foreshortening effect (hand closer to the camera than the face) is minimized. Notice that the feet appear a little on the large size, but it isn't obvious. And yes, I could have fitted the lens, a 10-24 F 4.0, onto the X-Pro1, but without the reticulated LCD, my chin would certainly be on the ground. Ouch.

On this assignment, the X-T2 gave me a working edge over the X-Pro1. Because their shutters are quite similar, the use of flash gave neither camera a noticeable advantage. To this point, it was all about the camera helping me make the photo. Now, it's the flash's turn to carry the ball. Incidentally, I used a Godox V1 Round Head flash.

Flash Supplement To Existing Light
Working at short distances is necessary whenever speedlight-sized flashes are used. It's a power issue. There is one caveat when working with supplemental flash on standing subjects shot from a lower perspective: The flash-to-subject distance must be the same from nose to toes, or you'll see noticeable overexposure of the legs when compared to the face. If the flash were the key (main, or shadow creating) light source, try to elevate to light above your subject's face to produce a natural, below the nose shadow. When used as a fill (lighten the shadows) light, it is better to have it mounted in the hot shoe so it will be close to the lens axis.

Concentrating The Light
One trick is to narrow the flash beam angle so it only lights your main subject, and to rotate the flash head away from areas you don't want overly bright. If you look closely, you can see that the narrowed beam of light starts to fall off  half way across McGruff's body, but fills the young boy's body perfectly. And if you look more closely, you can barely make out an arm sticking out from camera left, conveniently concealed by rotating the head away from it.

Balancing Your Fill
Successful use of flash outdoors must address two issues. First, the flash must be powerful enough to bring the shadow areas to an acceptable exposure level.  Second, you must consider how that same light will affect the areas already lit by the sun (highlights). David Hobby emphasized that light is additive, and that the highlights will get an extra dollop of light when supplemented by the flash. In a nutshell, you will need to slightly under-expose by the ambient (sunlight) exposure and your flash output.

If you examine this tight crop of my subject, you will see two shadows. The first shadow on my subject's right shoulder is created by the sun. The thin second shadow under the chin was created by the shoe-mounted flash. I contend that when the flash is kept close to the lens axis, this shadow is barely noticeable, but the results will be much better than a shot made with sunlight alone. And that bit of blur? Subject motion, somewhat common with the slow, 1/250 flash synchronization speed. High speed sync? Forget about it!

Shoot Shoot Shoot!
Probably the most important rule is to keep shooting, even after you think you have the shot. Digital cameras excel here, since those additional shots are free, free, free. Very often I'll think I just made the money shot, only to find one that I already had one a wee bit sharper or with better expression.

Composites like this one remind me of the contact sheets I made in my film days. For those too young to know, processed negatives were placed on a sheet of enlarging paper and exposed to light, resulting in an entire roll of film rendered as tiny exposures on a single sheet of paper. Since interpreting how a negative (processed print film) would actually appear, it was an invaluable tool for photographers tasked with evaluating and choosing a single image from a day's worth of shooting.

Seen as a group, you can see variations in the brightness of my subjects while the sky remains fairly constant. This images were ROC (Right Out of Camera) with no exposure adjustments, but any would have been improved with a minimal amount of post production adjustment. I chose the fifteenth shot as the keeper, primarily because of the visual "hook" provided by my young subject's right arm which resembles the posture taken by McGruff. 

I'll return to the topic of the Leica/Rangefinder Mystique in a future post.