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Old Oct 18, 2005, 10:58 PM   #1
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We are going to Sedona AZ soon and would like to get nice crisp shots of the red rock formations. Besides using the landscape setting on my camera, what are the best settings for these distant shots?

I have a Nikon 8700

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Old Oct 19, 2005, 3:52 PM   #2
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I have a Nikon 5700 and like to shoot the kinds of areas that you're talking about going to.

The 5700 doesn't have scene modes (odd, because the 3100 I have does), but, for what it's worth, you might find it useful to use aperture priority AE. This is good for landscapes because it allows you maximize depth of field. You don't really have to pay attention to the shutter speed unless it gets down so low that camera shake might be a problem. If you're zoomed out to full telephoto and hand-holding the camera, you might want to consider going for at least 1/500 on the shutter speed.

I'm a fan of polarizing filters. They do a lot more than just darken the sky. They also increase color saturation and detail by removing all the little reflections from rocks and leaves. Unfortunately, adding filters to coolpix cameras can be a problem. A good place to go that sells all kinds of custom-manufactured filter adapters for the ultra-zoom coolpixs and other such cameras is www.nextphoto.com. Their products are great quality and they're cheaper than getting what Nikon has to offer -- which ain't much.
If you get a polarizer, get a good one. I just got a B+W on ebay for $19.00 -- a heck of a deal! You'll want a lens hood with any filter that you use. I screwed up when I bought a 55mm filter adapter from nextphoto. I already had a 55mm for another camera and nextphoto said that I could use a 55mm with a polarizer with the 5700 without vignetting. Well, that was true -- but when I screwed on a lens hood also, I got some vignetting at full wide angle. I should have gotten a larger size adapter and a larger filter. So think ahead better than I did.

Shooting in RAW mode is good, too -- although it involves a lot more trouble post-processing than fine JPEG and eats up a lot more space on your memory card. But, RAW can't be beat for capturing and preserving fine detail and it gives you a few stops greater exposer lattitude with the shadows.

You also might want to consider underexposing about a half stop in scenes with high contrast, too. You can usually bring up darker areas later in the computer (although this adds somewhat to image noise) but there's nothing you can do about blown (really overexposed) highlights. This is one advantage of RAW. You can bring out underexposed shadows with less added noise than you would get from doing the same thing to a JPEG.

Some people like to set their white balance to "shady" or "cloudy" even in full sunlight. They say the extra warmth that it gives to the scene is preferable to the results you get with a "sunlight" or "auto" setting. Maybe that's something your landscape does, dunno. Anyway, it's a matter of personal taste.

Have extra batteries and/or a DC charger that plugs into your car cigarette lighter. I wish that I had one when I was at Bryce Canyon.

Bring a laptop computer if you have one or a battery powered storage device. It's a pisser to max out your last cf card when you're in the middle of nowhere with nothing to dump it into.

Bring your lens cleaning kit, too. Lots of fine dust and sand blowing around desert country. You might even consider one of those zip-up clear freezer bags. You can cut a hole in it for the lens to poke through while protecting most of the body from flying debris if things get nasty.

Have a good trip!

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