A slightly different vantage

I posted an image similar to this one a few days ago; the difference being that this riparian view includes a bit more sky and less of the water in the foreground. For those interested in discussions of photographic equipment, I took this with Nikon’s 24-70, rather than with the 14-24 which I had in my pack, because the former accepts screw-on filters while the latter does not, and this very bright scene called for the use of a circular polarizer. The maximum angle of view for the 14-24 is 114º while that of the 24-70 is just 84º. Because I had the slope of a steep river bank behind me, I couldn’t back up. What was I to do … capture a wide, fairly washed out image with glare in the trees and on the water … or a more narrow view with good rendition? I opted for the latter. I have been scouring the internet for reviews of two other Nikon lenses, the 16-35 f/4G and the 17-35 f/2.8D, both of which accept screw-type filters. I almost ordered the latter yesterday but held off. Today, I am leaning toward the 16-35. The 17-35 is more heavily built and, at 2.8, is a faster lens. The 16-35 is lighter, because of a number of plastic components, and not quite as fast. Ken Rockwell likes both lenses, regards the 16-35 as quite sharp but showing some distortion at 16 mm, and reports that the 17-35 is, at times, soft in the corners. From what I can gather, the 17-35 is a lens for professionals for its speed and quality construction, while the 16-35 is a newer, sharper lens, made for less demanding conditions. Another photographer, Robert Rhead, compared these lenses and concluded, in favor of the 16-35, that he could deal with a bit of distortion at 16 mm and liked the sharpness and lower price tag of that lens. If anyone out there has an informed opinion, I’d be glad to hear it … soon!Creek2

20 thoughts on “A slightly different vantage

    • Thanks for the response ‘darwinontherocks’ (I think I knew your name at one time but have now forgotten it, forgive me). This whole lens debate has been a preoccupation for nearly a month – though I think I’ve finally settled on the 16-35. The whole problem relates to the fact that the 14-24 (which I really, really like) doesn’t accept filters … or doesn’t do so easily, Lee does make a holder for 150 mm rectangular filters. So, rather than investing heavily in the Lee system (which I may do, eventually), I needed to find a wide lens with a 77 mm thread up front. The 16-35 and 17-35 were my choices. After lots of reading and internal debate, I think I will order the 16-35 sometime this week. I thought briefly about a prime 20 and then determined that is was too close to my 24-70. The only, only, only problem which remains is that I have no good way of using graded (ND) filters … the round ones aren’t the best (static transition) and only something like the Lee system (once again) allows for use of glass rectangles. What do they say … it’s always something! Thanks for checking in. D

  1. It seems you are still a fair bit colder than I am. We’ve mostly been just one side or the other of the freezing mark. Just enough that nothing stays down for long. By the way I like the choice you opted for 🙂

  2. Weird effect, I hadn’t recognized the similarity between this image and the one shown in Life is an Oscillator. I think the reason is that I totally zoomed in on that spherical little cloud that seems to be trapped by the trees … and looks a bit like cotton 🙂

  3. I am glad I checked back. I replied earlier from my phone while at work, but for some reason it is not here. I use both types, David. My polarizers are all screw on as are my ND filters. Most are B+W. The CP that I keep on my 24-70 is a Singh Ray Neutral polarizer … no warming effect as with others. The GNDs are all from Singh Ray. I have a Cokin P holder for them, but most often just hold the filters by hand and often I’ll move them slightly up and down to soften the line … especially with the 3 stop hard edged filters. Two are reverse for sunrises as the brightest light is on the horizon, but that takes some careful use as the line can be pretty evident if not placed correctly. I have had the same Singh Rays for over 10 years save one reverse 3 stop. None have ever broken and there are almost no scratches visible. They all come in soft lined pouches for safety. Sorry this is so many hours past. I don’t know why my previous reply failed.

    • Boy, now I’m really confused by the choices. I’m having a difficult time organizing my thoughts so that I may ask the right question. I suppose the first question is to ask about screw-on versus rectangular. The former seems easier. The latter requires a holder .. but you say you don’t even use your Cokin holder. I can see that for ND filters, screw on would seem like the way to go … it’s just easier. For grads, however, since placement is fairly important … it seems like rectangular is the way to go. Singh-ray looks pretty good … but quite pricey. I like the look of the vari-ND … but then see that you need to use a step-up ring for very wide lenses (to avoid vignetting). So, at 16 mm I’d need a wide step-up ring to hold a 77mm filter. So, I thought I knew something and now I know nothing. Perhaps I’m simply getting carried away with something that really isn’t too important. Subject and composition are critical … right … tell me that that is so. Anyway, you’ve clearly got more experience than I. Here’s what I need to do. I’d like to be able to use ND and ND grads on, mostly, wide lenses. It seems I’m not going to do everything with a single system. Am I correct in thinking that circulars are OK for ND filters and that rectangulars are perhaps the way to go for GRADS? OK … I’m gonna stop there. I essentially need a brief Dummies Guide to all of this. If asking me to clarify my questions is something I need to do first … just say so.

      • Whoa there, big fella. Slow down, take a few deep breaths in a a paper bag and things are not that complicated. Yes, screw ons, IMO, are the way to go with neutral density filters. The exposures are long and there is no reason for doing it any other way … again, IMO. The reason for the rectangular GNDs is all about placement. There are screw on GNDs, or were, but then the line is fixed in one place and zooming in or out isn’t always a good option. A Cokin holder is cheap and so are the various rings to attach it to your lens. It does a nice job of holding the filter steady in one place if you choose, so not a bad idea and a small investment to have one just in case. Singh Ray makes sprocketed circular polarizers that can be used in the holder but I did not like mine. As far as all this being weighty, I don’t know how much you carry, but my load is between 35-40 pounds plus tripod. I will admit, climbing hills might be the death of me, but I think that would be true even without the pack. So, not at all in conclusion, my advice would be to try one or two and see if that works for you. If it does then fill out the rest. Maybe buy an inexpensive polarizer and try it on one of your least used lenses to see if you like it without spending too much. Or, for just shipping to return, B&H will take back a purchase if you are not happy. Or you could hurry up and move back to New England and try mine. 🙂

        • OK … I have been reading lots of stuff this afternoon and came to the conclusion that circulars were perhaps the best way to go for ND filters. I’ve already got a couple and like them very well. I’ve also got a CP which I’ve used to good effect. Your point about the GNDs is a good one and was, in fact, right where my logic had taken me. Thanks for the confirmation. So, you think a holder and a few GNDs would be a good investment? I agree. OK … what about your opinion on Singh-Ray’s vari-ND? That’s it for now … I’m off to do more reading. Thanks for your time … I appreciate the words of someone more experienced. I can become myopically focused on something like this to the point where no reasonable decision is possible. It takes a someone more level-headed to snap me out of these periodic fits. D

          • I think I may have discovered the problem. The autofill was entering my Facebook profile address instead of my blog. The other day it was misspelling my autofill name on my own posts which is why I thought all this might have ended up in the spam bin. Can we complain about a free service screwing up?

            I don’t own the Singh Ray Vari-ND, but I have read that when combined with a polarizer, the Vari-ND-Duo, I think, there is some unevenness in the effect across the entire filter. All I know. I have considered getting one, but owning 4 NDs already (2,4,6 and 10 stops) as well as a few polarizers makes me hesitate to spend the cash. It would be convenient as well as much easier to compose without having to remove the filter at the higher stop settings. I can often see pretty well through 6 stops of filter, but at 10 stops it goes almost black.

            I am glad to help. I am not always clear in my own thinking and discussing these things with someone else is always helpful. If you have the time, it is also worthwhile to visit photography forums where this sort of thing is discussed (Naturescapes.net is a good place) and see where it goes. The comments on B&H for the individual products are also worth looking at for a general idea of the average user’s experience with things.

            Tonight and tomorrow are going to be as you described for your weather earlier. I may actually stay in bed until 5 or 6.

  4. This one is nice but I think the first one was a bit more dramatic. It drew you into the panorama and felt more inclusive, this angle seems to keep you at a distance. From matting and framing pictures I have learned that the bottom margin of the mat should be wider. Whenever I frame a picture where the mat is even on all sides it looks strange and not as aesthetically pleasing. In the second shot there is not as much space at the bottom and this seems to cut the scene off prematurely. In the previous shot there is plenty of space at the bottom. I guess that must be it.

    • I commented before, to you, that there are just some times, looking through that finder, when you know you’ve got a ‘good one.’ This was one of those times. I was delighted, after a week or so of dull weather, to be able to finally get outside and TAKE SOME PHOTOS! D

  5. I can not comment on the technical aspects of your photography. I can only tell you that this is SO beautiful! I always am struck by what seems to be a “painterly” quality to your prints. Not sure how you do that, but I love it!

    • That’s an interesting observation for there are (digital) techniques, HDR and tone-mapping, which generate the painterly quality you refer to. I do dabble, from time-to-time, with these techniques but feel that one can easily get carried away with the effect (for example, what do you think of this image, http://wp.me/s1yRFa-snout, which was processed with a bit of tone-mapping). Having said that, the image here, as well as its counterpart (http://wp.me/p1yRFa-4Uk) were both processed without either HDR and tone-mapping. So, what you have observed is that at least some of my images have a special quality that you appreciate. And, that’s something that I very much appreciate! I hope all is well. Thanks for keeping in touch, following the blog, and letting me know when something that has appeared here has appeal for you. D

  6. I had a similar dilemma when deciding between Canon’s 17-40 and 16-35 last year. There is also a significant price difference with the 16-35 being much more expensive although both are in the “L” series. I ended up with the 17-40 which does have a reputation for corner softness, but to this date I am satisfied. It is also lighter. Besides Ken Rockwell, who I have not read much, you might want to read the comments about the lenses on B&H’s website. There is usually a good mix of amateurs, semi-pros and pros to get a good feel. I believe there are adapters for using a filter on your 14-24, although I am not sure if there is one for a polarizer … I think just rectangular Lee type filters … but at the 14 end of things the effect is inconsistent most often and the sky gives away the polarization through uneven coloration.

    • I did consider the Lee system for the 14-24 … but it is awfully bulky … and would add yet another thing to be carried around to my already heavy pack. Do you use the Lee system or screw-on filters? I’m concerned with ND and GND filters in addition to the polarizer. Most Nikons accept a 77mm filter … I could accumulate one set of filters which would git nearly all my lenses. On the other hand … the Lee system would fit everything (including the 14-24) as well … but is heavy. And, those rectangular filters seem delicate if not expensive. What’s your opinion?

      • I use both, David. I like B&W for my polarizers and NDs. My GNDs are from Singh Ray. I used to use a Cokin P holder for the Singh Rays, but instead now hold them by hand. If I were to use one for a very long exposure then I might use the Cokin piece, but I prefer to actually move the filter a bit at the horizon so the line with my hard edged filter is not so strongly delineated. I’ve never had a broken Singh Ray…nor would I expect the Lees to break easily either. The Singh Rays come in a soft lined pouch so over the ten or so years I have owned them there are relatively few scratches.

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