All posts for the month October, 2012

It’s been quiet a bit. I know. Been busy, and I had my images to process from the trip to the Rocky Mountains. They will come in the following posts.
But first I wanted to write this.

With my D800 (the space-eating, 40Mb per raw image camera) I needed bigger cards. The biggest card with my D700 was an 8Gig (Kingston). That was a conscious choice. I could’ve put in a 64 or a 128, but you never really know when a card fails on you and you lose everything. I didn’t want to take that risk. So rather than having 1 big CF card, I had several smaller cards.
From a local store I bought a Transcend 32Gig and shot with that the first months. Around the house I don’t usually shoot 0ver 500 images, so that card would keep me going until my trip. A Buddy of mine was going to the US and I had him bring back 2 Kingston 32Gig cards, because they are like… half the price at B&H compared to what I have to pay for the same stuff in this beautiful country.

The old "faulty" cards

I’m of the naive type that believes that everything works out of the package. So I didn’t test the Kingston cards in the camera before I left off to the Rockies. I had my Transcend 32, and the 2 Kingstons. I threw out all the other cards, save for one of the 8Gig Kingstons (just for good measure, but I didn’t expect to need that with 3 32Gig cards).
Rocky Mountains came. It was beautiful. It took me about 5 days to shoot the Transcend 32Gig full (about 750 images). Then I had to switch.

I took out the Kingstons and put one in the camera. No joy. I formatted -or try to- the card. Card ERROR came flashing in the display. Uh oh…
Well, that was bound to happen some time. And of course it would be at a time like this. But no worries. I had a second card. I switched cards. No joy… I formatted -or try to- the card. Card ERROR came flashing in the display. %#&(“%//#&%!!!
What are the odds that TWO cards, straight out of the package, don’t work? I got to fire up my Buddy’s laptop and went to Kingston’s website. The FAQ’s on this card mentioned something along the lines of “What if the card doesn’t work in my camera, but does work in another camera?”, which led me to test the cards in my Buddy’s Canon 1D MkIII. And of course… they worked in his camera. I planned on testing it still in my D700 at home, but for now I had to make do with the 8Gig that I had brought (just for good measure and which fit about 120 images of the D800-size).

When we got to Colorado Springs we went to a Best Buy to get me another big CF card (can you believe that none of the other big stores had anything bigger than 4Gig??). They only had Sandisk as a brand (which is fine), but the largest was 16Gig and it cost 87$. For reference: the two 32Gig Kingstons I bought from B&H were 53$ each. One of the clerks came to me and asked me if he could help me, and I told him that I got 32Gig from B&H for almost half the price of his 16Gig. He was eager to help and suggested a price match. He checked on Amazon for the price of the Sandisk and it came in on just over 60$, so he sold me the card for just over 60$. No hassle, no fuss, no struggle. Just plain and simple, friendly customer service.
That’s customer service #1, at Best Buy.

But I’m side-tracking.
When I got home from the Rockies I tested the cards in the D700, and they worked. I find it a tad bit strange that a newer camera wouldn’t be able to read older cards, but anyway… I contacted Kingston, explained them the situation and it took them less than 2 hours to respond to my inquiry:

Dear Arno,
Thank you for contacting Kingston Technology.
We are going to replace your 2 x CF/32GB-U2 with 2 x CF/32GB-U3 that has been tested as working perfectly fine with the Nikon D800.
The CF/32GB-U3 is the fastest of our CF cards range with a speed of 600x.
Could you please let us know if you agree with that replacement?
I look forward to hear from you.
Kind regards,

No “What did you do to your cards”, no “this is your fault and it doesn’t fall under our warranty policies”, not a single attempt to squirm away from their responsibilities, like I’ve seen so many companies do in the past. Just a simple “we’re going to replace your cards with a faster and more expensive card than what you had, do you agree with this?”.
I mean… Duh? Do I agree?

I sent them a mail back to confirm that I -of course- agreed with this, shortly after which I got a ticket number and an address where to send the “faulty” cards.

I sent the cards on Monday, on Tuesday I got a mail confirming that they received the cards. On Wednesday morning I received another mail, saying that the new cards were shipped and on Thursday in the afternoon I got a phone call that the delivery guy was waiting downstairs at the door with a package from Kingston.

The new, faster and more expensive cards

That’s Customer Service, with a capital C and a capital S. From Kingston. With a Royal K.
It is absolutely refreshing to receive this kind of service in a world that has turned so individualistic and profit-based. The client is King isn’t something I would ALWAYS take literally. In the type of work I’m in I’ve seen clients behave like jokers and assholes, but when “the client” reports a faulty product Kingston for me has just set an example of how things are supposed to be dealt with. I’m typically not brand loyal when it comes to smaller accessories for the camera, but this kind of service makes me want to come back to Kingston. And I will recommend them to anyone.


Clearly I wasn’t the only one who’d been trespassing in the times gone by. The place was riddled with old clothes, one or two helmets, and other remains of people who’d stayed there after the fire had done its work. Of course destruction of this type is often followed by additional “vandalism”, since the place is going to be taken down / renovated anyway, it apparently doesn’t matter if you don’t respect other people’s property. Graffiti and other forms of “art” were found throughout the place.
One thing that caught my eye was something I could use for  one of my little projects:

Pink shoe

D800, ISO100, 15 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

… so step 2 was to check out the place from the inside.
The outside looked… well… unfinished. But the inside really was burnt to pieces. And that made for a couple of really gritty, dramatic black and whites…

Light streaming in through glassless windows of a farmhouse destroyed by fire

D800, ISO1600, 1/125 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

Office chair standing in a by fire destroyed room

D800, ISO1600, 1/125 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

Steps leading toward the non-existent second floor of a farmhouse destroyed by fire

D800, ISO100, 2 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

It’s probably not a good idea to publicly confess this, but owwell… It seems that I got away with it this time.
But you know… The best pictures usually come from places where you’re not supposed to be at a certain time. I got some funky pictures in this place. It’s an old abandoned farm house, destroyed by fire for the biggest part (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse-danger), but very photogenic.

Check this out:

Facade of a farmhouse destroyed by fire

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Facade of a farmhouse destroyed by fire

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Last year I bought from B&H Photo Video a Singh-Ray VariND filter.
I’m the kind of guy that wants to have all the good stuff, but I don’t want to have to haul around so much stuff. And since one ND filter rarely does the job, I wanted something that WOULD do the job, but would also give me the flexibility to “change” the filter if necessary.
I had my eye on a VariND filter for awhile already, but I couldn’t really justify the costs (they come in at $340, which is quite a steep price I think). But I was extremely happy when I got it, and I’ve been using it a lot. It’s absolutely worth the investment, especially considering the fact you get ND1-ND8 in one filter and if you’d have to purchase these filters individually you’d be out of a lot more cash.

But… Recently I started experiencing some weird stuff going on. I noticed it for the first time a couple of months ago when I was shooting some images for my “Commuting” series. A weird red “blob” appeared right through the center of the image. At first I thought it might be some funky polarizing going on, but that’s not it. It now appears -only at the darkest setting- indoors, outdoors, in natural light, in bright sunlight, in tungsten light… Everywhere.

It didn’t used to be there. The images I shot and posted in this post were shot also with the VariND and at the darkest setting. They don’t have it.
This is how it looks:

VariND problem

D800, ISO100, 30 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 50mm, VariND filter at its darkest setting

I have no idea what could be the cause of this. I cleaned the filter several times, there’s no other filters on top of the VariND that could cause this. I didn’t drop it… I’m in the dark…
I sent Singh-Ray a mail about it yesterday, let’s see what they come up with (if they reply).

Of course I can fix it, that’s not the problem (there are few things that I can’t fix in Photoshop), but it’s a pain in the ass, because it’s local and not global, so you really have to be precise with the masks and everything. I wouldn’t want to do this to a series of 100 pictures…

VariND filter problem solved

D800, ISO100, 30 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 50mm, VariND filter at its darkest setting and some Photoshopping à la Arno