Nikon Firmware Updates: Two Main Places to Check

First go here to check for your camera’s firmware updates.  It will look like the screen capture above minus the red arrows.  However those two arrows direct you to those two updates you need to check on: 1) DSLR & 2) Distortion Control Data.

Here are the shortcut links for you:

Firmware download links: Mac | Windows
Installation instructions: Mac | Windows
What is barrel and pincushion distortion?

from Nikon’s website
– Barrel distortion normally affects images shot with wide angle lenses and results in an image that appears to have details that bow outwards, away from the centre of the image.
– Pincushion distortion normally affects images shot with telephoto lenses and results in the image appearing as thought it is being pulled towards the centre.

An example of Barrel Distortion


An example of Pincushion Distortion 

Nikon D4

You need to know what firmware you have on your camera. Check your manual, but for the most Nikon DSLR just go to the wrench icon and then look for firmware.

Here I am showing you the screen that shows up once you have downloaded the firmware update and put this on the memory card and then into the camera.  When you go to firmware it will ask if you want to update.

Here you can see that I updated my Lens Correction from 1.004 to 1.009.

If you attach your flash as I did on my camera and check firmware you will have four different software updates possible.

What do all these refer to on the Nikon D4

A: I/O processor
B: Expeed processor
L: Lens Distortion Control Data
S: Flash

If you shoot RAW the RAW file doesn’t have the corrections, but the JPEG thumbnail does have the corrections. For the most part if you use Nikon Capture, Adobe PhotoShop or Adobe Lightroom you can apply these corrections to the RAW file there.

Flash

The Flash I had on the camera for the 5.002 firmware was my Nikon SB-900.  

Nikon D4: Sports Camera Setting

In an earlier blog post I gave you my normal settings for the Nikon D4 for how I shoot. Here is a link to that post.

These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D4 for shooting most all sport action. Nikon has made it really nice to allow photographers to save these settings so they do not have to remember each and every little setting they like to use for a style of shooting.

If you go to Menu and under the camera icon pick the first item “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen C, which is my sports menu.

If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend to go ahead and try all my settings and then tweak them to your preferences.

When shooting sports it is very common for the lighting conditions to change instantly. While the football player runs toward you they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason I let the camera do some of the thinking for me.

Go to the camera icon again and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this and you will then see this menu:

I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I set this to ISO 100 and then set the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 12800.

While I am in Aperture Mode shooting the camera will always pick 1/2000 shutter-speed. If in sunlight I am at ƒ/4 the shutter-speed may go as high at 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade the camera will automatically drop to 1/2000 @ ƒ/4 and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/2000.

The only time the shutter speed will dip below the 1/2000 is if the ISO peaks out at 12800.  If my aperture is wide open then the camera is doing everything that I would have done manually, but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.

Under the custom settings bank (Pencil Icon) I go into the auto focus setting.

I change the “Focus tracking with lock-on” from Normal to 4. What happens when I do this is the delay for the lens to refocus if something comes in between the camera and subject (like a referee). While I am following someone the camera will not refocus right away. This is something you need to try and pick what you like. You may want the lens to be more responsive and therefore go to setting 1 which will let the lens refocus instantly.

Focus Settings

I set the camera to AF mode. I also run this in continuous focus mode rather than single.

I go into the menu and select under custom settings the AF activation and choose “AF-ON only.” This means when I press the shutter it will not focus the lens.  It will only fire the camera. To focus I am using the AF-ON button on the back of the Nikon D4.

By changing these settings you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them or maybe a football player running towards you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.

I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it so I don’t bump it. I am trying to get photos of moving subjects and off center is too difficult for me. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject in focus first.

Now of the 51 different focus points you can choose groups of these to help with focusing. I went with Nikon’s suggested 21-point dynamic-area AF.

Here are suggestions by Nikon in the manual:

The only other setting is on the lens that I turn on VR. 

Nikon D4: Normal Camera Setting

These are my settings for normal shooting. Normal shooting for me is more photojournalistic using a lot of available light and lenses from 14 – 300mm range.

The first thing I do is select my shooting menu bank in the menu. I have saved two primary shooting setups.

I have normal for most average situations and shooting using studio flash. You can rename these to whatever you like to use.  I have occasionally setup a sports menu bank as well. Once you select this setting everything you then set in your menu will be saved here.

My primary slot is the XQD and the secondary slot is overflow. I am normally shooting in RAW in this setting. This means I can change white balance later if I want with more control than I would have in JPEGs.

Also I have set the bit depth to the highest setting of 14-bit to give me the largest possible data capture from the sensor.

I set the picture control to standard which only really affects the previews in a RAW.  If you are saving as JPEG and RAW then the JPEGs will be a little more punch than the Neutral which for me is too flat.

I shoot in the ADOBE RGB color space and after editing in Lightroom I output to sRGB.  In the Adobe RGB I have the largest color space and therefore when editing will have more information giving better color in the final image.

I prefer to shoot in AUTO ISO.  The ISO sensitivity is set at ISO 100 and set to max out at ISO 12,800.  I will go into this setting and often tweak the minimum shutter speed, especially when shooting under fluorescent lights to 1/100.  I wrote about Auto ISO in an earlier blog post here. While it is written about the Nikon D3S the concept hasn’t changed.  Earlier I also wrote about the reason to shoot at 1/100 with fluorescent lights here.

In the custom settings I only change a few from the default settings.

I use the auto focus points of 51 with auto setting on single. It will look for faces automatically.  I may override this if the auto setting isn’t locking in where I typically want. Often it is faster than me and sometimes I just need to override who I want as the focus point when there are many people in a photo.

I also like to embed my name in all the photos. So both in Image Comment and Copyright Information I put my name.

I will write more in future posts on settings for studio strobes and sports.

Shooting sports using backlighting

Nikon D4, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 28-300mm

This past Saturday I drove up to North Georgia College in Dahlonega to photograph The Citadel playing them in Rugby.  Honestly I just don’t shoot a lot of Rugby.  I can probably count the number of times on both my hands.

There are a few things I knew from shooting football that I would do to insure good photos.

Nikon D4 Camera Settings:

  • Auto ISO with lowest ISO set to 100 and highest to 12,800
  • In Auto ISO I also set the minimum shutter speed to 1/2000
  • Capturing the images as RAW
  • Dynamic-area AF 21-point
  • Continuous-servo autofocus (AF-C)
  • Focus Tracking with Lock-On 4
  • AF Activation Off (Focus is done with the back button and shutter is only fired with shutter button)
  • 10 FPS and not 11 FPS.  At 11 only the first photo is focused.
Nikon D4, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 extender.

Lens Choice

  • Camera #1: Nikon D4 with Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 and 1.4 extender.  This gives me a 168 – 420mm ƒ/4
  • Camera #2: Nikon D4 with Nikkor 23-300mm ƒ/3.5 – ƒ/5.6
Nikon D4, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 extender.

Where to stand?

There are basically four sides to pick from.  I picked the sideline where the players are backlighted.  It is extremely important to use a lens hood or you will be getting lens flare.

The advantage I see in shooting with backlight is the contrast is dropped in the middle of the day. The players are rim lit, but you are not having the really strong bright area of the face with a strong shadow.

I am also watching my backgrounds.  The first photo, while a good moment, the background is distracting. Sometimes you cannot get a clean background. There are two things you can do. Use a shallow depth-of-field and pick an angle so the background is darker and cleaner. Maybe you pick an angle where the grass is predominate, or where the background is so much in the shade it goes dark.

Nikon D4, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 extender.

What I am looking for?

In Rugby you can only pass off to your team without advancing the ball. So you must pass in general backwards.  You can only advance the ball by running (most of the time) or by kicking.  Very similar to American football in tackling and running with the ball.  I wanted to show the competition rather than a guy all by himself running.

The major difference in Rugby and American football is just about the time they are getting tackled the players are often handing off to their team mates.

If they do go down they can hand the ball back to their teammates. I wanted to show how this is done in the photo below.

Nikon D4, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 extender.

Even in sports expression counts

I think the one key element that can really make a photo is the expression on the athletes faces. In the photo below you can feel the intensity of the players just in their facial expressions. 
Occasionally even the flexing of the muscles can help communicate the effort of the athlete. The key to this success is being ready, because it is up to the athlete to make the effort and you then can catch it.

Nikon D4, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 extender.

My suggestion is to shoot some shots when the teams are warming up.  See which side of the field gives you better light on the athletes.  See what combination of lighting and background works the best and then choose this side of the field for most of the game.  You can mix it up if you like, but the point is to get the best light to capture the action and the expressions of the athletes.