Some test shots of the Nikon 28 f1.4E

Decided to pick up the legendary Nikon 28mm f1.4E to use for some upcoming commercial shoots that required a bit more intimate focal length. Just some snapshots from an offsite event on a boat. Shot with a Nikon D810. Really like this focal length. 28mm is great as a candid focal length, as it's just wide enough to get people in the shot towards the edges that don't think they're in the frame :) It also is right at the point where you have to be a little careful about having people at the extreme edges, but not quite as much as say a 24 f1.4 which I find too wide for general usage. 

100% crop of the above image - exceptionally sharp at f1.4

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Watch out for counterfeit D750 MBD16 grips on eBay!

I purchased a suspiciously inexpensive Nikon MBD16 vertical battery grip from an eBay seller that claimed it was authentic.

When I received it, the box and even the papers had some convincing Nikon branding on it. It even had a fake warranty card in it!

However, what made me suspicious is that the battery grip did not have rubber coated front and rear dials like my MBD18 grip (for my D850). Also, the AF joystick on the grip had a "clicky" imprecise feel that I've found to be present on the clone grips sold under the Meike, Vello, DCOplus, etc brand names. What ended up making me realize it was fake however was that the serial number is "2000082", which is not a valid serial number - also if you look at the auctions on ebay, you'll notice that ALL of these counterfeit suspiciously cheap battery grips have the same serial number regardless of which seller it is!! Unfortunately eBay is not doing a good job filtering out these fakes, so hopefully this post helps people avoid my mistake. Pics below - as you can see the packaging is very convincing.

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Why I love my D750

Here are some quick samples of various images that I've shot with my D750. Though I have a D850, I honestly at times prefer to shoot with the smaller megapixel and lighter D750, especially when I'm just shooting for fun.

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And here are some recent shots from PegaWorld in Vegas where I photographed attendees of the event for LinkedIn.

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Sony A7rii grip rubber replacement DIY

UPDATE: I have since sold off all of my Sony gear and moved to Nikon. As with any DIY project, unfamiliarity with tools and process can lead to damage so this post should be construed as theoretical advice only. If you are at all uncomfortable or inexperienced working on DIY electronics projects, please reconsider doing the job yourself. By using this website, you agree to indemnify Sung Park ("the Company") for any and all claims, damages, losses arising out of using the information in this website. The materials on this site are distributed "as is" and appear on the site without express or implied warranties of any kind, except those required by the relevant legislation. In particular the Company makes no warranty as to the accuracy, quality, completeness or applicability of the information provided.

I've put my main A7rii body through a lot this past year, and apparently my somewhat acidic skin doesn't help much.  A big chunk had come out of the thumb pad area on the back of the camera body, which proved to be incredibly annoying.

Thankfully, unlike the mark 1 A7 bodies (which had the rubber portion integrated into the back plate), Sony made the smart decision to make the rubber portion a separate part number that is surprisingly cheap at about $35 plus shipping: https://www.encompassparts.com/item/10855597/Sony/X-2591-929-3/Grip_Assy_(795),_Rear

Important: It appears that the back plate and rubber grip is slightly different on the A7ii versus the A7rii. Make sure that you order the A7ii rubber grip part, not the A7rii one as there appear to be subtle differences between the two. The A7rii has more magnesium alloy bracing on the back plate, whereas the A7ii does not seem to have the alloy on the back plate. Also the A7ii grip rubber seems to be attached with a few dabs of epoxy based on the photo I was sent, whereas the A7rii grip rubber does not have epoxy and instead is held on with 3 plastic tabs and the two screws. Perhaps the magnesium alloy on the A7rii back plate offers enough stiffness that the plastic tabs are able to hold it in position better?

Here is a pic of an A7ii back plate with integrated rubber grip alongside an A7r2 rubber grip. If you look closely at the A7ii back plate, you'll see that the rubber grip is held on with semi-permanent plastic rivets that appear to be melted or glued to attach the grip. If you compare it with the A7rii back plate later in this post, you'll see they are different as the A7r2 rubber grip is attached via a couple tension clips and screws and is not permanently mounted to the back plate.

Here is the new A7rii grip rubber compared to the tatty old one:

And now the teardown.. First though, I'd like to say that do no try to attempt this unless you are comfortable working with extremely delicate electronics. Basically the steps are as follows:

1) Remove bottom plate, tripod mount plate, and battery door

Remove side screws on both sides (a couple are hiding under the usb/hdmi port covers)

Remove EVF cup, four screws that hold the piece below it in, as well as the adjustment screw. I'd recommend holding the adjust knob with your finger as you unscrew it as it probably isn't a good idea to torque against the internal stop of the adjuster.

And now the hardest part, and the part where it's easy to screw things up - remove the LCD. You also need to remove the two plates covering the ribbon on the arm, and if you want more slack, loosen the dab of glue holding the LCD ribbon onto the pivot arm. I did not completely disconnect the LCD ribbon as just removing the plates gave me enough slack to remove the back plate of the camera, but proceed with caution if you are doing this yourself as you can easily damage the fragile LCD ribbon in this process. To clarify, when I did this repair, I kept the pivot arm attached to the LCD screen, and just removed the pivot arm + LCD screen assembly from the back of the camera body.

Once you have the LCD and pivoting arm off, very very very carefully remove the back plate of the camera. There should be almost no resistance at this point. If you meet resistance, then STOP. It means you are snagging something vital, or haven't removed enough of the screws.

The reason why you have to remove the back plate is because the rubber grip is attached to the camera back plate from the other side with two screws. As you can see, the ribbon is still in place, so I've carefully positioned the rest of the camera on a little pad to keep it from moving around. Aside from the two screws, there are three very small tabs that hold the grip in. You have to lever the old rubber grip piece out, and the new one in, and then snap the little tabs in carefully because otherwise the new grip won't sit flush.

And then re-assembly is the reverse process again taking care not to bend anything vital. And now my A7rii feels good as new for only $35, and I've avoid the $250 minimum cost to bring it into a sony service center.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below, or email me at info@sungparkphotography.com

Also, if you found this post useful and it helped save you a couple hundred bucks sending it into Sony service, a donation of a few bucks is always appreciated via paypal.

More fun with the new Nikon D850

A couple weeks ago, I made the perhaps foolhardy decision to switch from my tried and true Canon 5d mark IV system (2 bodies, 24-70L f2.8 II, 50L f1.2, sigma art 85mm f1.4, 70-200L f2.8 II, 16-35L f4 IS) to the relatively new Nikon D850.

I've since picked up the latest version of Nikon's 70-200 f2.8E FL VR, the previous gen 24-70 f2.8G (as I don't see the benefit of VR for what I shoot and the G is in some cases sharper), the contentiously debated 58mm f1.4G (as many feel that the much cheaper 50mm f1.4g is just as good), the excellent and super sharp 18-35g, 85 f1.8g, and lastly the 35 f1.8g.

I had been talking to my yogi friend about taking some photos with the new kit as well as my new Gravity Backdrops painted canvas backdrops, and here are the results. Still learning my way around post processing skintones on Nikon, but so far I am happy with the decision (though when my computer slows down to a crawl because of the massive RAW files I start to doubt my own sanity).

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24-70g

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70-200 f2.8e

Can't resist zooming into the these 46mp full size RAW files - the level of detail is astounding!

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Nikon D850 test shots comparing Medium RAW vs Large RA

Just recently switched to the D850 from my Canon 5d mark IV setup, and was curious to see how the files looked compared to my tried and true Canon setup. These were taken with the D850 and Nikon 85 f1.8g lens. Exposure was SS 1/250, f5.6, iso 100 from what I remember.

In particular, I was curious whether there was an acceptable amount of sharpness retained with the medium RAW file, as I often would rather shoot at that 26mp mode for web only work (and to double the shots out of my cards). I was also curious how the skintones would look. The images below are non-retouched, with only minimal global post-processing tweaks.

The TL:DR version is that the medium RAW files are totally acceptable for me, but the large RAW files are amazing. And as for skintones, I have to admit that I prefer the canon skintones out of the box - there is that trademark green tint relative to Canon's magenta tint. Personally I think it's easily corrected with HSL in the orange and yellow channel.

Updated: I was just told that the "Camera Portrait" profile in Adobe Lightroom CC is a better one for Nikon files. I've reprocessed the two uncropped images and I think they look a lot better.

On to the photos so you can judge for yourself:

 Medium RAW - cropped to eye

Medium RAW - cropped to eye

 Large RAW - cropped

Large RAW - cropped

23 days in Cuba

This blog post will be split into two parts, this will cover the portraits I took over the course of my 23 days in Cuba. A separate post will cover travel tips and what I learned for anyone planning on traveling to Cuba in the near future (some tips will be particularly helpful to US citizens).

Goal

I didn't have a specific vision in terms of what I wanted to produce from my trip to Cuba. Aside from knowing that I'd want to take some portraits, I primarily wanted to avoid the typical images you see of Cuba; ie the street performers that essentially just pose with massive cigars and ask for CUC in exchange for photos. I wanted to capture something authentic from Cuba, but I didn't want to apply my own preconceptions of the country to the photos.

Gear

My main portrait kit was my trusty Canon 5d mark IV, along with the amazing Canon L 24-70 II f2.8 and Canon L 50mm f1.2. I ended up using the 24-70 for all of the portraits as I preferred to have the flexibility between framing a wide environmental portrait at 24-35mm and then a tighter shot at 50-70mm. For walking around, I decided to bring a small Sony kit; an A6500, Sony 10-18mm f4 lens (which was my most used street photography lens), Sigma 30mm f1.4 (super sharp), Sony 50 f1.8 OSS (used very rarely), and a Sony 55-210 kit telephoto lens. I ended up using the telephoto lens quite a bit for landscape shots.

Lighting wise, I brought two Godox AD200 "pocket strobes", two Godox X1T-C triggers (which also work on the Sony A6500 albeit without HSS or TTL), a manfrotto nano light stand, a Westcott Joel Grimes Collapsible 24" Beauty Dish in bowens mount, a Godox s-type adapter, a 51" Paul C Buff PLM white shoot through umbrella with diffusion and black backing, and a tripod that doubled as a second light stand when needed.

Habana

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 Rider, Laura and Leuvis. Kids riding skateboards on the Prado in Habana, Cuba

Rider, Laura and Leuvis. Kids riding skateboards on the Prado in Habana, Cuba

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Cienfuegos

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Vinales

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Trinidad

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Road Journal: Tica and Nica

Costa Rica: Dec 2-23

Marianne Wells Yoga School (www.mariannewells.com) hired me to document a two week long intensive 200 hour teacher training, in the small Caribbean village of Cahuita, Costa Rica. I booked a ticket leaving 12/2/16, returning 1/1/17, with the intention of spending the latter half of the trip traveling around Central America after the teacher training.

Once we all arrived to Cahuita via a 4 hour bus ride from San Jose, CR, I was struck by how raw and un-polished this part of CR is. Cahuita felt like a primordial jungle, especially at night when the sounds of the jungle came to life.

Yoga practice is an especially vulnerable time to take photos, so I made every effort to make sure my presence was rarely noticed. At times, I would put down my camera as a respect to someone that was discussing a particularly difficult topic in their lives.

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I quickly became part of this tribe of beautiful, strong people, and it was an extremely beautiful, cleansing experience for me. It's struck me how much more powerful the experience was as a student in the training - I was often moved to tears just as an observer. These people came to the training as strangers, and through sharing their experiences I saw such pure love grow between them.

There were tears, but so much more laughter and enlightenment. I learned that these yogis were more similar to myself than I would have ever expected. 

As the training progressed, I found that my favorite time to shoot in the yoga studio was about 6:30am, as the rays of the rising sun were able to selectively highlight teachers in golden light. I also found that as time went by, that the students saw me as one of their own rather than "the photographer", and wanted me to help capture the beautiful moments they had with their new lifelong friends.

After I left the yoga teacher training midway through December, I wanted to keep a bit of that calm with me. I've seen more sunrises and sunsets during that time then I have in the past 10 years combined. I had gone from eating a massive amount of meat and drinking like any good New Yorker to an occasional glass of wine, and an almost entirely pescatarian diet.

 Man on horseback on the Caribbean

Man on horseback on the Caribbean

Nicaragua: December 24-31

I had originally been keen on going to Colombia to visit a friend that would be in Bogota during that time, but after talking to people about Nicaragua, the beautiful colonial architecture in Granada called to me. After some scheduling snafus because everyone was trying to go from Costa Rica to Nicaragua for the holidays and many bus lines were booked, I made it to Granada.

I wanted to capture genuine, gritty photos of Granada locals, so each morning I would get up with the sun at 5:30am, and ask people if I could take their photos as they started their morning rituals. I however wanted to use my control of off camera portrait light to really highlight people's features and personalities. This is a small sampling of the best of them:

 This man looks like a guru, but he is actually a well known building contractor in Granada

This man looks like a guru, but he is actually a well known building contractor in Granada

 This woman helped me find the convento in Granada, and in return I helped her across the street

This woman helped me find the convento in Granada, and in return I helped her across the street

 This is Austin, a pipas seller and from one of the original African-Caribbean families that settled in the area. He is much loved by the community

This is Austin, a pipas seller and from one of the original African-Caribbean families that settled in the area. He is much loved by the community

 This man runs a small stand in the central park area of Granada

This man runs a small stand in the central park area of Granada

 This is Roger Martinez, a photographer in Granada. I had just met his brother by chance a few hours earlier.

This is Roger Martinez, a photographer in Granada. I had just met his brother by chance a few hours earlier.

 Orlando is a tough man, but as soon as he started talking about his girls (his eyes softened and he called them his little angels) I knew I had to make a portrait for them. Here he is with his girls Sharon, Emily and Jennifer.

Orlando is a tough man, but as soon as he started talking about his girls (his eyes softened and he called them his little angels) I knew I had to make a portrait for them. Here he is with his girls Sharon, Emily and Jennifer.

 This is Sergio Antonio Aburto Gaitan, a master craftsman and owner of a Talabarteria (horse tack shop) tucked away in the side streets of Masaya, Nicaragua

This is Sergio Antonio Aburto Gaitan, a master craftsman and owner of a Talabarteria (horse tack shop) tucked away in the side streets of Masaya, Nicaragua

 This is Miguel Torres, a "cuidador" or caretaker of a property one of my new found friends own. He has worked with his hands all his life, and was a "grey work" ie concrete layer before he was brought on as a caretaker. Right out of frame is the ubiquitous Nica machete

This is Miguel Torres, a "cuidador" or caretaker of a property one of my new found friends own. He has worked with his hands all his life, and was a "grey work" ie concrete layer before he was brought on as a caretaker. Right out of frame is the ubiquitous Nica machete

 

Through various coincidences, I ended up falling in with a group of ex-pats and locals that worked or were connected to a yoga spa called Pure Nica (www.purenica.com). I ended up joining them for adventures in Granada, Masaya and Laguna Apoyo and they really made it hard to leave central america!

 

 

Wedding at Camp Stalker on beautiful Guemes Island, WA

My dear friends Adam and Janelle (now the Stalkers) got married on Washington's breathtakingly beautiful Guemes Island. For many it was a weekend long event, waking up to a gorgeous sunrise on the east-facing beach while drinking coffee and eating eggos, and catching up with many familiar faces and good friends that were in attendance.

Portrait Session FAQ - Short Version

I wrote a long rambling version of this several months ago for clients, and this is a much easier to read version based on feedback from all my beautiful clients. If the question or answer is applicable to everyone, or primarily to women or men I will mark it as such.

General Prep Tips

  • Drink plenty of water the day before and the day of the shoot - hydrating the skin is important
  • Try to get enough sleep the day before. I realize that this isn't always realistic, but it makes a difference

What Should I Wear?

  • How many outfits? Recommend bringing 2-3 different outfits.
  • What types of outfits do you recommend?
    • Simple, single color clothing with no prints, patterns, florals etc is highly recommended.
    • Clothing with texture looks great in portraits: Chambray, denim, distressed clothing all look very good in portraits.
    • If this is for a standard headshot portrait, they will be cropped around chest or waist level so don't worry about bringing different changes of what you're wearing on the bottom. Focus on your tops.
    • Layering and accessories like scarves is always a good idea and is a fun way to dress up basic outfits
  • Should I wear jewelry and eyeglasses? Avoid large pieces of jewelry as it can be distracting when it catches light from the studio flash. If possible I recommend not wearing eyeglasses, as the flash can appear in the glass from certain angles - however this is something I can easily work around if needed. Best case scenario if you want to wear frames in your portrait is if you have a spare pair of glasses without lenses in them.
  • Tips on suit jackets/blazers: Darker colors for jackets/blazers is in general best. Recommend against jackets/blazers that have a lining or are made from a thick heavy fabric as they can add bulk to a portrait. Fit is of course important with suits and blazers - so make sure the seam is hitting correctly on your shoulders

Makeup Tips

  • Bring powder! By far the most important tip. Even if you don't normally feel like your skin is oily, the bright light of the flash will emphasize skin oil. Also, oil builds through the course of the day so if you're doing your shoot in the afternoon/evening, using some oil is definitely recommended.
  • Minimize usage of products that have a highlighter in them: A "highlighter" is often used with makeup "contouring", and basically just makes specific wherever the makeup is applied shinier. They'll often come across with a slight sheen in the makeup.
  • Go easy on blush: It's easy to put on too much blush for photographs as usually it's not as obvious under natural or lights in your home. The color-corrected nature of portrait lighting will show over-application of blush though, so everything in moderation. 
  • What if I typically don't use much or any makeup? This is completely fine - as retouching allows me to apply similar effects of makeup in post like smoothing skin and removing under eye shadows. If possible I typically recommend applying at least something around the eyes to bring them out.

If you have any questions of course feel free to contact me at info@sungparkphotography.com as we build out your portrait shoot! Again thank you for choosing me as your photographer, and I'm excited to work with you!!