10
Aug 17

Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Long Term Review

I have been using this lens as my go to wide angle zoom since 2011. I own many other Nikon mount lenses yet continue to use this lens because it is has outstanding build, sharpness, rendering and value. Wide angle lenses are a Nikon specialty and the 16-35 f/4G ED VR is a fine example of that tradition.

The 16-35 f/4G ED VR was announced in February 2010 and was originally intended to be used for travel, architectural photography and photojournalism. It is a full frame G type lens featuring a metal barrel and weather sealing consistent with Nikon’s professional series of lenses. There is a rubber gasket on the rear where the lens attaches to the camera via the Nikkor F bayonet mount. The lens is 3.2 inches (82.5 mm) in diameter and 4.9 inches (125mm) in length. It weighs 24 ounces or 680 grams, has internal focusing, and a constant f/4 aperture with 9 rounded blades. The VR II image stabilization gives up to 2.5 stops of increased low light hand hold ability.

Venice, Italy. 2017. Nikkor 16-35 f/4G ED VR and Nikon Df.

So how does the lens feel and function? It’s comfortable in the hand and balances well on both the D810 and Df bodies. The AF-S autofocus is smooth and reliable while autofocus speed is average, a lot of this depends on the camera. I don’t shoot fast moving sports or wildlife so I can’t tell you how fast it would be on a D5 or D500. The VR II works great and I love to shoot it in dim interiors and low light. The f/4 maximum aperture is plenty for a full frame wide angle lens for it’s intended use. I own the 24mm f1.4G and rarely if ever shoot it wide open under those conditions and if I did need that particular rendering and shallow depth of field, the 24 is the lens I would use. I might also take along a tripod, but that’s a different style of shooting and defeats the purpose of having a stabilized wide angle zoom.

Paris, France. 2017. Nikkor 16-35 f/4G ED VR and Nikon Df.

For the sake of argument let’s take that f/4 maximum aperture and apply 2.5 stops of increased hand hold ability, f/4  f/2.8  f/2  f1.4. We end up at the same place. The f/4 with VR II has the same low light hand hold ability, under the same circumstances as the f1.4 prime. The question you have to ask yourself is “what are you trying to say with your photographs?” Which lens better suits your intended purpose under the conditions you intent to shoot?

Tomb Raider, Cambodia. 2017. Nikkor 16-35 f/4G ED VR and Nikon Df.

The 16-35 f/4G ED VR is a walk around lens, it’s designed for shooting on the move and in this role it functions very well indeed. I’ve used it extensively for travel, architecture and street photography. In low light, no light, crap light, in the dust of the Sahara desert, on moving boats, in the rain, the back alleys and jungles of North Africa and India and just about everywhere in between. The lens just works and does what I want it to do.

Toymaker, Morocco. 2017. Nikkor 16-35 f/4G ED VR and Nikon Df.

Because I travel and photograph often under adverse conditions I value the fact that this lens is weather sealed and can stand up to heavy use. Are there better lenses on the market? Sure, I have access to several superb Nikkor and Zeiss primes, but then I’d be changing lenses more frequently and carrying more bulk and weight. The value of a rugged sealed zoom is that I don’t have to swap lenses and expose the interior of my camera to all the environmental junk that can foul things up. Certainly there is a time and place for gorgeous primes but I try to pick the appropriate tool for the job at hand.

Venice, Italy. 2017. Nikkor 16-35 f/4G ED VR and Nikon Df.

The 16-35 f/4G ED VR has a 77mm filter diameter. I always use B+W XS-Pro UV filters on the front of all my lenses. The only other filter is use is a B+W XS-Pro Kaesemann Polarizer. I have two of them in different sizes. I have not had any vignetting issues on this lens with the XS-Pro filters.

All images in the post are hand held available light photographs.


26
Jul 17

Photographing Ankgor Wat

Everybody wants to travel to Cambodia and experience the beauty and grandeur of Ankgor Wat. The area is quite large and crowded so be prepared to do a fair amount of walking to explore the complex of lakes, moats, out buildings, and main temple.

Monk. Angkor Wat, Cambodia. 2017

Sunrise photography seems to be the thing to do. Guide books will tell you to arrive at the complex as early as 5AM in order to photograph the main temple complex. The problem is that everybody will be lined up in front of one of the lakes at the entrance and the sunrise will occur in the east, in your face, backlighting the all the buildings. There will be no beautiful morning glow, only silhouettes. Perhaps there will be clouds in the sky with an interesting orange patina, but honestly if you’re not prepared, it can be really disappointing.

Sunrise Crowd. Angkgor Wat, Cambodia. 2017

Christy and myself hadn’t realized we would be facing in to the rising sun when we got up at 4:30AM to take our tuk tuk over to Angor Wat. I had prepared as I typically do by ensuring that my gear was cleaned, batteries charged and everything was in order the night before. I even took the time to assemble my tripod and get out my 24mm landscape lens for the first time in months.

When we arrived at shortly after 5AM, there was already a large crowd, and looking at the sky I realized that the light would be all wrong for what I had envisioned. Perhaps some lovely silhouettes? If I were to prepare to photograph Ankgor Wat at sunrise again, I would do a time laspe.  Ultimately though, if you want to photograph the temple complex in beautiful light, late afternoon is the time to go.

Lacey White. Angkor Wat, Cambodia. 2017


01
Dec 16

Keeping a Travel Journal

As a traveler I aspire to keep a handwritten journal/sketch pad. It’s great fun to pull out my old journals and read all the goofy and sometimes awesome stuff I did on my adventures. It’s a place where I can write, scribble and store stuff in real time. I have pressed flowers, train tickets, attraction passes, coffee stains and all sorts of other goodies tucked into the nooks and crannies of my journals. It is a physical memento of life experience that will survive and outlive the trendy social media of the day. Remember Livejournal and Myspace?

My Pen and Journal. Fes, Morocco. 2015

My Pen and Journal. Fes, Morocco. 2015

Start with a quality notebook or sketchpad. There are lots at your local bookstore, the most common being Moleskine. Moleskine are easily available and come in a variety of sizes and configurations, each with a handy pocket inside the back cover. On the down side, their paper is thin and prone to feathering and bleed through. If you like the Moleskine form factor, a significant step up in quality can be found in the products of Rhodia and Quo Vadis.

The Rhodia Webnotebook comes with a black or classic orange cover and with either lined, blank or dot Rhodia paper. The dot paper is an interesting variation on traditional graph paper with dots where the vertical and horizontal lines would intersect, but the lines themselves have been removed. Rhodia writing paper is outstanding and among the finest in the world.

Quo Vadis Habana notebooks come in lots of colors although I prefer basic black and can be found in both blank and lined varieties. These are softer than other hardcover notebooks and feel really great in the hand. They are the only journal/notebooks of the Moleskine style to feature Clairefontaine paper, which in my opinion is the finest smooth writing paper in the world. I own several of these.

How about something a little different? Try the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. These great Japanese notebooks are beautiful, clever and absolutely ooze quality. They come in a few basic colors but have so many accessories that you’ll never run out of fun and interesting ways to configure and utilize them. The paper is superb and I believe it is Japanese Mulberry, one of the oldest, most durable and archival types of paper in the world.

Lots of people love basic marbled composition notebooks and the bamboo or sugarcane paper in these is pretty good. A lot of companies make fancy covers for composition books and they are a great option.

Something to be mindful of are all the leather bound travel journals  populating the internet and bookstores. The paper can be of poor quality, it is often rough bulk paper or really cheap paper, bleeding ink and feathering worse than an eiderdown goose.

The travel notebooks and journals I use are made by Innovative Journaling. I’ve been using them for several years and I love the quality, materials and craftsmanship.

What to write? Everything! I like to make notes about trip planning, why l chose to go to certain places and not others. I write about the people I’m traveling with, who I meet, where I’m staying and what I had for breakfast. I write about my expectations and if they were fulfilled. I write about how my experiences changed me and my perspective on life and the world.

So there you have it. Get a good journal and a good pen, take them with you everywhere and write.

I plan on writing a more detailed article on journals, inks, paper and travel in the near future.