Bill Frakes on Shooting The Nikon D4
We had an intense 10 days in Istanbul making this short documentary shooting exclusively with the Nikon D4. Exhausting and invigorating. Crazy great fun.
It’s a wonderful place. The only major city in the world spanning two continents. Divided by the Bosphorus, this place is packed with activity and people, but yet is comfortable and calm.
This is where East meets West. It is an ancient city with modern rhythms. It has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years, every stone is steeped in history — while every day new fascinations emerge combining eastern style with European flare.
I picked Istanbul because of its history. A city of one thousand names, it has been the capitol of two major civilizations. The Ottoman and the Byzantine. It was the eastern Capitol of the Eastern Roman empire. For thousands of years, it has been a cultural and religious center.
Our challenge was to really put the D4 to the test. And to challenge ourselves to extend our vision, to use this incredible new technology to not just make our lives better, but to honor the people who gave us the opportunity to have these chances by making better images.
This is photojournalism. We controlled nothing. Everything is candid. Reportage.
It’s real world solutions to real world problems.
In post we did virtually nothing to the files. We edited the video native. On the stills we did minor corrections so that they would fit with the video when we put them together. No sharpening nor grain reductions. Some burning and dodging. Cropping. That’s pretty much it.
We used the cameras 18 hours a day for 10 straight days. We used it as a still camera, a video camera, an audio recorder and an intravolometer.
What stands out for me most about this camera is the power of subtle changes. Small ergonomic changes make it incredibly comfortable to hold. You can activate backlight on all of the buttons and controls, now you can see everything on the camera in the dark. The video controls are the best of any DSLR I have seen, and I think I have seen them all. Audio, always a Nikon strength, is better than ever. They dominate this just like they do small flash.
The camera is amazing. The high ISO files exceeded my expectations, and after the D3S I had huge expectations! The new video and audio functions have transformed this camera into something beyond what we have seen before.
It is a rock solid, well crafted, easy to use machine. The menus are simple and elegant. The autofocus is extremely fast and accurate. The sensor delivers perfect, very sharp images.
I didn’t have any concerns about the technical, the Nikon engineers had taken care of that for me. I was free to concentrate on the creative, which is exactly as it should be.
We had a tight team of four.
Laura Heald. My creative partner in Straw Hat Visuals. She is everywhere on these projects. She shoots video and stills. Collects audio. Carries gear. She just makes things happen in the most positive way possible. When we get back to the studio she puts the pieces together. Having her on location making creative decisions is incredibly helpful both in the field and then in the edit bay because she has such a great feel for the material. She is the calm in the storm.
Andy Hancock. Our good friend and long time associate came to Istanbul for the first half of trip to help with the stills and video for the backstage video. Andy’s only been out of the country a few times, twice with us, and it’s great fun watching a Texas cowboy on the loose. If you meet Andy ask him if he remembers his first trip abroad., it’s a really good story.
Jana Erb joined us from Munich to do data management and run some of our robotics. Like Laura, Jana doesn’t understand the word no. Whatever needs to get done, she figures it out. Always in motion she is, as my good friend Paolo Frisson from Manfrotto says, “an EXPLOSION.” Although she was constantly scolding her mobile for it’s imprecision, she managed to navigate us seamlessly through the labyrinth of the city once known as Constantinople.
My job on these things is to do the connecting. I figure out what we need to do and keep pushing until we’re done. I do the lion’s share of the shooting both stills and video. I am in charge of quality control. In the edit process, I do the rough edits for concept and style. And then I try to stay out of Laura’s way until she is ready for me to weigh in on the final edit.
Things happen for a reason. We were ready to go. Spent seven hours packing 14 cases of gear. Left for the airport with plenty of time for our 3 p.m. flight home. We got to the counter, nobody there. Jana took off to find her gate for the flight to Munich. Laura found an agent. We missed the flight out of Istanbul. I had looked at the wrong flight. Back to the city, tired, cranky and annoyed at what this was going to do to our post production schedule -which was too tight.
We got to the hotel. Checked back in. Rescheduled our flights. And went for a walk. Two cameras for me. Laura took her beloved P7000. Headed into the center of the old city for an hour. We got lost. Ended up walking for seven hours, slowly covering 12 kilometers, and we made my favorite images of the trip.
Lost and slow. Lovely way to see a new city.