Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Mastering the AF-ON Technique with Nikon DSLRs

On the rear panel of Nikon’s high-end DSLR bodies, including the D300, D700 and D3 series cameras, you’ll find a little button marked “AF-On.”  It seems kind of redundant to use this button for focusing when a half-press of the shutter release does the same thing.  Actually, I’ve found that setting the AF-On button to be the only way to activate AF is the best way to operate my Nikon’s AF system, but it requires a few set up steps and a little practice.

Why should you use the AF-On Only Technique with your Nikon DSLR?

The idea behind setting the AF-On button to be the only way to activate your Nikon’s autofocus system is simple.  Doing so allows you to set the camera to continuous-servo AF (AF-C) mode permanently, while still being able to get the benefit of focus-lock like you do in single-servo (AF-S) mode.  This means that at any time, you can switch between a focus/recompose/shoot style of photography (portraits and landscapes) and continuous subject tracking (sports & wildlife) without having to change camera switches or menu settings.

Also, with this technique, you decouple VR activation (half-press of shutter release) from AF activation.  That means you can be tracking a subject with AF and only engage VR when you want to.  This technique can save battery life in your camera!

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Fixing uneven skies with Capture NX 2 or Nik Viveza (video tip)

As someone who shoots a fair bit of landscapes out west, a polarizing filter is one of my favorite tools.  However, you have to be very careful when using a polarizing filter to avoid uneven polarization.

Uneven polarization is when one part of the sky is darkened more than other areas.  This can be a particularly easy thing to mess up, especially when you are using a moderately wide lens.  Take, for example, the following shot:

Courthouse rock, with an obviously overpolarized (and uneven) sky

I not only overpolarized the sky, but I failed to notice that the polarization was uneven.  The upper right corner is just WAY too dark.

Fortunately, if you use Capture NX 2 or Nik Viveza 2, a Color Control Point can quickly and easily come to the rescue.

I used a single CCP in Capture NX 2 and used the “Color Picker” to sample the color from the upper left sky and fix the overpolarized image.

A Color Control Point in conjunction with the Color Picker lets you fix the sky.

Click here for a video tutorial on how I made this fix

The final result looks absolutely natural:

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Save 15% off the purchase of any Nik software product (including Nikon Capture NX 2) in the USA by using coupon code JODELL in the Nik online shop.

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Follow-up to Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX2

Sorry for being unavailable for the last week, but I was out of the country on vacation.  I got a bunch of responses to my last post, Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2 and I thought I’d clarify a few things.

  • The workflow I describe only works on TIFF or JPEG images.  This is because that is how Lightroom/Aperture plug-ins work.  You cannot open a NEF file directly in any Nik plug-in– even those of us with Photoshop need to use ACR and convert their raw files to TIFF before the plug-in reads it.
  • The workflow I describe is not something that Nik designed intentionally; it’s simply a by-product of the way Lightroom plug-ins work, and something I came across and thought I’d share.  I’m sharing this with my readers to offer those people who don’t use Adobe products a way to access the great features of the Nik plug-ins.
  • Because this “feature” was not something that Nik intentionally designed, they don’t offer support for it.  If it works for you, that’s awesome.  As with all things, try the free demo of the software first before you buy it!

Happy shooting!

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Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2

As much as I like using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 image editing software for processing my NEF files, I also really like using Nik Software’s plug-ins.  Currently, only Color Efex Pro 3 works natively within the Capture NX 2 environment.  However, I was recently having a discussion with one of my contacts at Nik Software, and he mentioned an interesting fact: the Lightroom implementations of Nik’s plug-ins can essentially be made to work as “stand-alone” applications, and launched directly from Capture NX 2.  This is because Lightroom doesn’t really support “plug-ins,” instead it supports external editing applications.  The upside of this design is that if you have the Lightroom version of a Nik plug-in installed, you can send it TIFFs or JPEGs directly without using Lightroom or Photoshop!

Here’s how to make Nik Plug-ins work with Capture NX 2 as external editors: Continue reading Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2

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Stepping outside the comfort zone

Small strobes DO produce big results!

There’s a reason I shoot wildlife and landscapes.  Birds and deer don’t ever complain that I didn’t get their “good side,” or ask me to retouch their photos.  Also, most outdoor photography is all about natural light.  I admit, I’m a big fan of The Hot Shoe Diaries and I’m amazed at what can be done with the Nikon CLS system.  I just don’t have many opportunities to try out the fancy techniques.  That changed on Saturday when I attended my friend David Tejada’s Small Strobes, Big Results workshop.  Even though I had a reasonable understanding of flash technique, David’s class brought everything together in a studio/location setting.

Continue reading Stepping outside the comfort zone

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