Grassfire with the Nikon V1 by Sue Wotton


Grassfire with the Nikon V1

By Sue Wotton

On Thursday 15th August, a grassfire started near homes at Maryland, NSW, Australia. I had not intended to do much that afternoon but when I wandered out the front of my house and saw massive clouds of billowing black and brown smoke, I knew there would be a photo-op there. It was also an ideal opportunity to put my newly acquired Nikon 1 V1 camera to work. I had bought a J1 with a 10mm f/2.8 and a 10-30mm a month ago, and the V1 twin kit (10-30 and 30-110) just a week ago. Yes, the J1 impressed me that much!



Knowing I would not be able to get very close to the action, I decided to use the V1 plus 30-110. The V1 has a most excellent viewfinder, for those bright sunny days… which describes Thursday, perfectly. The extra reach as well, was something which would be needed and I did not wish to be switching lenses about, in a fire zone. I also took the J1 with the 10-30, but ended up not using it at all. Because the fire was so close to houses and the walking track, there were various Fire officers and Police present to make sure people did not get too close, and place themselves in harm’s way, and the entire street was blocked off, but as luck would have it, the burn was happening just off a huge grassy area which is usually frequented by dog walkers and others…




By the time I arrived, my favourite tree was already under threat. Smoke was billowing around its base and it wasn’t long before the flames reached it. I was expecting to see flames running up the tree and into the canopy, but the fire burned so fast, it had passed the tree before being able to damage it. The grass was a different matter. It burned bright, and hot. Even green grass was going up in flames, and small rodents were hopping and running to escape as their habitat disappeared. I think more than one house in the near vicinity would have had new residents that night. There were birds of prey, wheeling in and out of the flames, hunting small animals trying to escape.


Someone commented to me later, on seeing the photos, that it was almost apocalyptic… and it certainly looked that way at the time…

The firemen worked hard and hot all day, fire trucks came from other locations, at one point there were about 5 present, as well as two helicopters which were waterbombing the more difficult to reach spot fires. I think the local backyard pools would have needed a refill by the following day!

The little Nikon performed beautifully under these circumstances. With the changing of the wind and the need for fast shooting, the V1 was amazing. I mostly shoot manual with my K-5 and other cameras, so I naturally chose manual for the V1. It is so easy to switch settings *fast* that I had no need to use any auto mode. I used both the LCD screen and the EVF (EVF most of the time) and found both very easy. The LCD screen benefited later in the day with less direct sun, but at 921k dots, it’s fairly good even in sunlight. The EVF at 1.44k dots is bright and beautiful and it kept me on track for my photographs for the day.



I honestly could not fault the performance of the camera, nor the results which I saw later after upload to the computer. I found that I had the zoom at full most of the time, and this was a good thing, being as how the action was quite a distance away. I am completely won over by the Nikon 1 system… and am happy to have a 10MP camera instead of a honking great monster. Its light (relatively speaking), easy to use, quick to respond and fast to shoot… dare I say it in mixed company? *whispers*… even better than my Pentax K-5. What more could one want?

As a followup: 80 hectares were burned out, and officials are still looking at whether the fire was deliberately lit.


Enjoy the photographs, I sure enjoyed taking them 🙂

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  1. I bought a V1 a months ago seeing that it was on discount at $250 with 10-30mm kits lens. Despite having saw the review of the camera less than ideal performance, I can’t resist buying it at less than a compact point and shoot camera price. My wife could use it to replace her aging compact too. To my astonishment, the camera actually performed lots better than my expectation. It is well better than top end compact and it video capability is beyond a standard DSLR.

  2. I have been shooting many events on the island of Bali with my V1 that was purchased last December. A couple of weeks ago the 10-30mm lens died on me. When I am taking images under low light the battery heats up considerably as the processor sends the images to the memory card, causing freeze ups. With these two problems in mind I would not recommend this camera for professional usage as it is not dependable. I have been very happy with the results of many photos I have taken with my V1. The color saturation is excellent and the lenses are sharp when working. The 18mm is my favorite. As soon as my 10-30mm comes back from Nikon, my kit is going up for sale. I need something much more dependable.

  3. It’s a small world – I saw this fire too – I’m from Newcastle, and also have the V1!

    But alas – one major difference, my photo’s are all rubbish. I find the V1 fantastic – hey but a fantastic camera does not equal a great ‘eye’. Love the shots Sue.

  4. Beautiful shots Sue.

    Some of them do have a bit of a ‘painterly’ feel and the landscape shots remind me very much of Frank Frazetta paintings!

    If you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering what you processed them in (Lightroom4?)

    Nice work!

  5. These are really nice photos. I especially like the one with the single fireman shading his eyes, and the the lonely tree waiting to see its fate. Your camera was obviously good enough. No amount of discussion of any camera’s strength and weakness can override the quality of what it actually produces. And this involves the photographer too as well. We’ve long been past the point where the newest digital cameras and lenses really need to be better to make great photographs. In that sense, I think we’re in an era when the newest improvements or the more expensive cameras can only get you a 3% to 5% improvement, and even that improvement in the image would be debatable. I used to say 10%, but it’s shrinking. And yet, I too am drawn into the praises of the latest camera release. I do want the camera manufacturers to keep going with this, however. They are doing amazing things. But the current 16-24 MP sensors have already bumped up against the capacity of computers to easily process them. And yes, those same computers have themselves already topped out. 90% plus do not need any better computer than the one they now have. Consequently, Dell’s sales are now into a steep decline. We have the ones we need already. No sales pitch will convince us otherwise. Cameras are getting close to this. Your work here proves the point. I don’t see any difference between some of them and a recent award winning Pulitzer prize photograph of the same subject. It’s the image itself now that matters and you’ve captured some of them nicely.

  6. Hey Sue, thanks for such great pictures. I looked at the chronology and saw that you appeared to use truth in time line I suspect) . Beyond the remarkable brilliance of clarity true to almost film , I think you’ve done amazingly. Bravo…John W

  7. Fantastic photos and story Susie, the images convey what the words describe and then some!!!

  8. Really like the pictures, and it’s never a great event to have fires blazing, but it does make great interesting pictures/story.

    Well done!

  9. The last three are really amazing pictures! I agree that the first few look a bit soft, but it could be the kit lens. Kit zooms are kit zooms. But great composition!

  10. Well done Sue… great composition and attention to perspective even in the heat of the moment (sorry about the pun). Not sure I’d pick a favourite but I think if pushed I’d be caught between the first and last.

  11. I was interested to read that you were in manual exposure mode. Because I think your exposure is friggin’ spot on, thru out. Love the silhouettes in some shots, leaving background tone and colour to richly shine thru.
    Very, very professional looking work! Hope you post here again.

  12. Oh the nikon v1 is cool wait wait is a nikon v1 with the sensor of the sony rx100 . So it is a sonynikon mutant jajaa

  13. Pics 4 and 7 are the proof of why the V1 is magic.
    They look like classic old school color film pics.
    The roughness and grain and lower resolution look have that film magic, the look we like when we see film pics, a look that allows the imagination to be stimulated.
    The V1 is now lost to us as I don’t think Nikon will be able to recapture its look in the V2 or upcoming V3.
    But we will see.

    • Beautiful pictures Steven! What is the workflow you are using? Is importing NEF to Lightroom enough? Most people say V1 is almost film like – sometimes I wonder if they are talking about OOC JPEGs

      • My workflow is very simple.
        Just open the raw file in adobe raw.
        If I am doing color then I do the simple contrast and color adjustments in AR.
        I and then open the file in Photoshop and do a high pass filter to subtly bring out the natural sharpness, 2 pixels at 50%.
        Next i do any finishing contrast/color adjustments and done.
        For B&W I flatten the RAW files contrast in AR to increase the dynamic range, then same high pass filter in PS and then silver efex for the rest and done.
        I have played alot and have silver efex presets I have created for the V1 as a good starting point.
        Love the V1!

  14. Some good shots but I do find V1 files look a little soft (even Steve’s) – not that sharpness is everything.
    I do like photo 7.

    • Pretty hard to get *really* sharp shots with the kit lenses, I find that the 10mm f/2.8 (not in use here) is better, but not markedly so. I’ve got the 18mm and 32mm in my sights, and possibly the wide zoom.

    • They are amongst the sharpest shots I’ve taken from any camera. However, in low light you cannot set a minimum shutter speed in aperture mode, which results in some blur.

  15. Brilliant. Sorry about the bushfire, Hope no houses or lifes… and isn’t if fairly early in the year for this? (Or have we in NZ stolen all your rain)

    As a note to the non antipodeans, NZ is to the east (1200 km downwind). When there is a big bushfire in Australia, the sky turns orange here.

  16. I refuse to believe your statement about the v1 being better than the k-5! 😀 just kidding!

    Actually, I’m looking for a mirrorless to compliment my my k-5, but I can’t let go of all my limited pentax glass.Your stories about the om-d almost persuaded me of buying one!
    I just wish there was a mirrorless camera (ricoh or pentax) that could use those beautiful limiteds (with autofocus).

    • Laughin’. I actually bought an adapter so I could use some of my pentax glass (limited entirely to manual lenses because of the lack of electronic controls… the DA lenses cannot be used, because they have no aperture ring… wish I still had my FA43 though!)

  17. Hey Sue – awesome pictures. I have been shooting with a D700/X Pro 1 combo and recently bought a V1 thanks to Steve. I am yet to put it to full use. Do you shoot out of camera JPEGs or RAW? If JPEG, are you using any custom picture control setting?

    • I sometimes use JPEG straight out of camera, but usually only with my X100. These were all shot RAW and processed in ACR/CS5

  18. HI

    I really liked a couple of those photo’s although they are all good. My reason for commenting is I’ve just bought a Nikon V1 with 10-30 & 30-110 lenses which is due to arrive tomorrow. What the wife will say when she see’s another camera I dread to think!

    I have the Olympus OM-D with quite a few lenses and the ‘pocket rocket’ Sony RX100M2.

    I got interested by reading Steve’s review and piles of others that liked the camera. I got a mine
    for £300 delivered, so couldn’t resist it for the price. I hope to use it for sports shooting my football

    Great to know that you highly rate it!

  19. Very nice images, especially those of the Fireman. They almost look like they were painted. I love the texture and the color. Well done. Did you use a tripod when you were shooting?

    • No tripod, HTree, we were moving around the area too quickly to bother. And, the thing is, hand holding with the tiny lens on the V1 was easy as, by comparison with my usuals 🙂

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