Photography







Female Chobe Bushbuck,

Tragelaphus ornatus
near Chunga, Upper Kafue River
Nikon F90x
400mm Nikkor IF-ED f5.6 AIS
Fuijichrome Velvia 50

Sunset in the Zambezi Valley
Nikon FM2
400mm Nikkor IF-ED f5.6 AIS
Kodachrome 25



This page(s) is a work in progress as many of my images still exist as 35mm transparencies only. Sampling of photos here are from my Portfolio (downgraded jpg files). This New Page has recent selects using my new Nikon D7200

My interests focus on wildlife and landscapes, and I have been remarkably fortunate to explore a richness of places and subjects. Many have only rarely, if ever, been visited or seen let alone photographed. In the latter category, the experience of being the first to handle animal species new to science is understandably unique. My portfolio also includes species never previously photographed, many being bats and snakes only known previously by the museum specimens collected in the 19th century. Unfortunately, too often the saddening catastrophe of human impacts on biodiversity obviates photographic opportunities. The population collapse of the recently described antelope - the Upemba lechwe is one sobering example. Fortunately, series of historical specimens of this species in the Royal Museum of Central Africa and Field Museum, Chicago enabled me to compare this population, which is restricted entirely to Katanga, and my research included DNA sequences.

I use Nikon. Most of my images have been taken with a Nikon FM2 and Nikon F3. In 1999 a Nikon F90x added its superb AF capabilities and ease of use with TTL flash, notably the SB-21B unit. After starting with Kodachrome 25 and 64, I always have used Fujichrome's infamous Velvia 50 wherever possible, with recourse to Sensia 100 for its higher ISO. Then digital became inescapable for convenience and cost. My first digital SLR was a Nikon D60 (more affordable) and it worked (sort of) with most F mount lenses, and the gelded DX lenses work fine most of the time. Now I use a D7200, which is a great camera and have changed my lenses to mostly FX AF models with the aim to work with a Nikon Df as soon as I can afford one. After experimenting with several medium range Nikkor zooms (28-200 AFD f3.5/5.6 and 24-120 f3.5/4.5 AFD), I have settled on the 28-105mm f3.5/4.5 AFD. It's one versatile instrument and optically sharp.

I used the F3 for macro work, largely using a 55mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AIS and Nikon's macro attachments, including the SB-21B ring flashes.  Latterly, admittedly seduced by the idea of auto-focus, I bought the 60mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AIS, with its useful 1:1 magnification (albeit I soon found auto focus is mostly superfluous to macro) and switched to the SB-29 on a F90x. To my lasting regret, I did not buy instead the impressive 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor f/4.5-5.6 AF-D  (inexplicably discontinued by Nikon) but recently I secured a Used model. It replaced a recently acquired 105mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 ED VR-II, sadly, it's a [G]elded lens. But this revamped 105mm is a good macro lens, with greater reach (safer for some snakes!). Whilst this 105 is also superb for portraits and short telephoto work, it sucked dust and fluff into its innards. So with some relief I traded it in to afford the 70-180 Micro-Nikkor. All that's written lauding the latter, a unique lens, is true. And early in 2016, I found a gem of a 55mm f3.5 Micro-Nikkor NKP model circa 1963 - one wonderfully sharp and solidly engineered lens.

I have worked my principal telephotos and old film SLRs hard in the bush since 1984, especially a Nikkor 200mm f4 AI and a 400mm Nikkor IF-ED f5.6 AIS. True to Nikon's classical reputation, they continue to deliver over three decades on. They have been bounced around in LandRovers, and I have carried them back and forth, close to hand, to and fro across the Zambezi valley, and throughout the Matobo Hills; so I have no idea how far this outfit has covered in backpacks, but the protective foam inserts collapsed in at least three ensembles. Somehow, almost all my equipment has survived: precipitous descents and ascents up inselbergs and trees; wading flooded rivers; up-turned canoes in the odd Zambezi dunking; the humid heat of the Congo basin; crawling through caves among the ground fauna, ranging from stinking infernos to flooded up to near the cavern roof; and a few escapades where buffalo and elephant had a go at pulverising me. Back in 1985, the 200mm took a plunge in a river in the Matobo Hills, but it underwent a full recovery after a new diaphragm and professional clean.

My original inventory included the legendary 105mm Nikkor f2.5 AIS, which did much to establish Nikon's lead with professionals using this lens on their F2s and F3s. This short telephoto - superb for portraits - is also uniquely suited to single out and crop salient details of those fleeting events in landscapes, when, from time to time, the photographer is handed a special opportunity; these events are encapsulated in the words and images of Jay MaiselLight, Gesture and Colour blend uniquely [see two among many of the must look reviews of this book - here and here]! I sold this 105mm lens when a postgrad student. Although its loss got me beyond a lean month, it was big, sad mistake. Ideally, one hankers to replace such a lens in the calibre of this classic, portable 105mm, but it's harder than ever to justify as the years slip past. This prime lens is not matched by my Zoom Nikkors; although the 105mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 ED VR-II turns out superb portraits, but it's a heftier lens to lug around on the off chance. But a 135mm f2 AF DC Nikkor is in a class of its own for portraits and landscapes.

A battered and bashed 28mm Nikkor f2.8 AI wide angle has served me admirably well for landscape work, including aerial shots. I bought this veteran in 1983 from the junk pile in the dingy corner of a darkroom of a professional photographer and friend (sadly he's no longer with us). It cost a paltry SAR25 (US$3 back then) for what was condemned as junk, because the filter rim was buckled, with a slight scratch on the front element. One can only imagine the victim of a dropped camera.... Some careful work with a fine-tooth hacksaw and gunsmithing files salvaged the rim;gap-toothed but grasping a 52mm filter, it's worked superbly ever since. It is optically one excellent lens for landscapes, especially to position close-up subjects against the horizon. And I now have a great little 20mm f4 AI Nikkor, whose reputation is well deserved.

For many years zooms were a taboo item, even the Nikkor zooms of the mid 1980s that are of decent glass. Times change; technology advances; Opinions mutate. With the benefits of AF, AFD (preceding Nikon's AFS) appearing in the 1990s, I found the 35-105mm Nikkor f3.5-4.5 AF-D and 28-70mm Nikkor f/3.5-4.5 AF-D worked really well on the F90x: especially for bursts of aerial shots. Today I use these short zooms on a D60 (manual focus only) and they are great on more recent D-series Nikons. I find zooms ideal to frame fieldwork shots, with the many photos needed of our sampling sites, especially to record geomorphological data. The plastic-bodied Nikkor 18-55mm DX II ED is a great lens for this job, but I found the Nikkor 55-200mm VR ED to be less impressive in sharpness. Anyway, I have now replaced both with the Nikkor 18-200mm DX VR II ED, the more versatile lens by far. All these DX lenses do an admirable job, and surprisingly well, under rough conditions, especially during fieldwork where disaster to a dropped camera hovers over one's shoulder.... But I don't see them surviving as long as metal-bodied classic Nikkors. And perhaps DX lenses are a poor investment over the longer term, as advances in electronics and IT (allied with competition) will bring down costs of FX sensors (hopefully packaged in sensible cameras). 

Compared against the optical quality and plastic bodies of so many of today's "modern" lenses, the Nikkor lenses of 1980s vintage (i.e. the AIS lenses from the late 1970s that persisted into this century) remain wise investments - and so do some of the AF models. With auto-focus, those AF-D models with superior optics are all the more desirable. In my experience, the endurance of my equipment - in its very survivorship - speaks volumes. It more than vindicates the arguments (e.g. Ken Rockwell).  And weight the further proof that certain classic Nikkor lenses are conspicuously scarce on the second hand market! Since 2013, their compatibility with the Nikon Df with its FX sensor (among many other advantages of this camera) gives the classical Nikkor stable a whole new lease of life. Some people may prefer the plastic D600 and similiar, which can also bring an AI or AIS lens back to life. As things stand, the Nikon Df and its possible Nikon "Df2" successor are the way forward for the outdoor photographer who seeks a proper camera body of the calibre of the F2, F3, FA and FE2 - and last but not least - the FM2 and FM3a, with all the advantages of digital. And in the same vein, for practicable cameras outside of the studio, suburbia and tourist vehicle, the D3, D4 and D5 and their ilk are too heavy and too expensive for serious outdoor work.

A final word, it is handy to reach for one's 55mm Micro Nikkor, or a Nikkor in the same optical league, to test how a modern lens performs in rendering light

The waterfalls of northeast Zambia are sights to behold. These are research targets of our 3 year  Off the Beaten Track Research project - see more links on the latter scroll: down my Home page.
I took nearly all these images with a Nikkor 18-55mm DX II ED on a Nikon D60, and still need to run them through Lightroom


Kundebwika Falls, Kalungwishi River
Nikon D60 18-55mm f3.5 ED DX Nikkor




Kabwelume Falls, Kalungwishi River
Nikon D60 18-55mm f3.5 ED DX Nikkor



The 230m cascade of Kalambo Falls
Nikon D60 18-55mm f3.5 ED DX Nikkor




Lupupa Falls
Nikon D60 18-55mm f3.5 ED DX Nikkor




Lumangwe Falls - early morning on the Kalungwishi River
Nikon D60 18-55mm f3.5 ED DX Nikkor

Marromeu Floodplain, Coutada 11, Zambezi Delta. Nikon F90x, 
35-105mm Nikkor f3.5-4.5 AF-D. Fujichrome Sensia 100

Marrameu Zambezi Delta



Nyala Bull, Pafuri. Nikon FM2
400mm Nikkor IF-ED AIS
Kodachrome 64

Matobo Hills viewed southwest from a Supercub
Mt Silozwe dominates the topography
Nikon F90x, Nikkor 35-135mm f3.5
Fujichrome Sensia 100










L

Large-eared free-tailed bat, Tadarida lobata. The first
live photographs ever taken of this rarely
encountered species (November 1999) 
Nikon F90x, 60mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AF, SB-21B
Fujichrome Velvia 50

Female Giant leaf-nosed bat,
Hipposideros vittatus - in fulvous pelage
Nikon F90x, 60mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AF, SB-21B
Fujichrome Velvia 50
Larger slit-faced bat, Nycteris macrotis - in fulvous plumage
Nikon F90x, 60mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AF, SB-21B
Fujichrome Velvia 50



















Sunrise, Rusitu Forest, Nikon FM2, 55mm Micro Nikkor f2.8 AIS, Fujichrome Velvia 50




















































































                                                                                 
 








Mana Pools floodplain - middle Zambezi valley
Nikon FM2, Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AIS,
Kodachrome 64

Walking fast upstream along the Zambezi's south bank, this truly unique window caught my eye,
where, in the words and images of
Jay Maisel - Light, Gesture and Colour blend in fleeting synergy.
I just managed to change lenses, and compose the shot. 
Seconds later, the patchy clouds drifted north across the Zambezi
river. This vision evaporated.











Subpages (1): Recent Portfolio
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F Cotterill,
Aug 29, 2012, 7:01 AM
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