Surf, Beach and Bikinis at 810mm with Nikon V1
By Joe Marquez – His website is HERE
This past weekend I photographed the final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters on the Northshore of Oahu. This Hawaii based mega surf event held at Pipeline attracted 10,000 beachgoers to watch world-class surfers duke it out for a number of championships including the Vans Triple Crown and the ASP World Title.
This seemed like a fun and perfect opportunity to test the Nikon V1, Ft-1 adapter and the longest lens in my bag – the Nikon 300mm f/4 Af-s. I also tossed a Ricoh GR in my shorts pocket for a few wide-angle shots.
For those unfamiliar, the Ft-1 adapter allows Nikon F mount lenses to attach to Nikon 1 system cameras such as the V1, V2 and rumored V3. Once attached the angle of view is longer by a factor of 2.7. As a result, my 300mm f/4 lens transformed into a 810mm f/4 super telephoto lens. Amazing.
Back to the beach. Surf conditions were ideal – 20 foot waves, bright sunshine, slight breeze and temperature in the 80s. Sorry rest of the world but Hawaii in December (or any month for that matter) is tough to beat.
Compared to surf photography pros with their DSLRs and 500, 600 and 800mm bazookas on heavy-duty tripods, I looked like a silly amateur with my 300mm lens attached to the mirrorless V1 on a rusty old monopod. I could have hand-held my rig but found it useful to stick the monopod in the sand to mark my territory between all the pros.
Overall I was happy with my setup. Focusing was quick enough in good light early in the day and a bit slower later in the afternoon sun. This is probably more a function of Nikon’s 300mm lens – which has never been a focusing speed demon. Rumor is there will be new Nikon 300mm lens soon.
I shot in manual mode with iso at 100, aperture between 5 and 6.3 mostly and shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/1600. The goal is to not blow out surf highlights. This is a concern because the V1 with a tiny CX sensor does not have the dynamic range of larger sensors. Fortunately, I managed to keep highlights in check.
With the Ft-1 adapter, there is only one central focus point but this was not a problem for a couple of reasons. The surfer was pretty easy to track or if I wanted to recompose, the wave in the background was a solid focusing surface preventing the lens and camera from trying to focus at infinity. The other reason one central focus point was not a problem is the DOF of a CX sensor is much greater than a DX or FX sensor, thus it was easier to keep wave and surfer in focus. Sometimes greater DOF is a benefit.
Also, did I mention the FT-1 allows for continuous focusing and tracking? This is the result of the latest firmware update (a Nikon rarity) and this allowed me to capture some amazing surf sequences. Thanks Nikon
I was concerned with the buffer size and speed of the V1, but with only two surfers in each heat, I never lost a photo as the camera was writing to the SD card. If there was more action I think there would be a concern. I believe the V2 has a larger buffer than the V1 and hoping the rumored V3 will be even better.
And of course at all surf events, there is a bit of downtime between wave sets and this gives photographers an opportunity to hone their photographic skills on bikini-clad beach babes. A few practice shots included.
As far as processing, I decided to add a slight Fuji film look to the images. Again, this is all for fun.
In conclusion, the Nikon V1 and Ft-1 adapter worked great to give me 810mm of reach in a small and low-cost rig. At future events and with a lesser crowd I plan to carry this small rig along the beach to shoot into the barrel or get some great backdoor shots. As much I love great full frame image quality, it’s nice to get super telephoto reach in small rig at a fraction of the cost.
Final note: Congratulations to Kelly Slater for winning the event, John Florence for claiming the Vans Triple Crown and Mick Fanning for winning the overall 2013 ASP World Title.