Through the Lens - Eric Palmer - Installment 1

Aug 24, 2009
by Jordan Holmes  
Words by Eric Palmer

I have been asked to share the story behind my photography & way I go about things when I shoot, so here I am. I often get asked technical questions from keen upcoming photographers, so Jordan & I thought it would be a good idea to cover a few things that should help you out in understanding your camera better & how to get the best out of it. I’m sure that even if photography isn’t your thing, it will be interesting to see what’s going on in a photographers mind while you pin it past them or float over some dirt jumps.

So, here we go…Name: Eric Palmer
DOB: 26 July 1983
Afreakin Photography
ericpalmer.pinkbike.com/album/


I took up photography in June 2007, I was lucky enough to be given a Nikon D70, few lenses & SB-24 flash that has since expired. Photography was not a foreign subject to me, my mom is a professional art photographer & teacher & have been abused with photographic theory for the last 15 or so years & was never too keen to start with film because of the cost & what would I do with a huge collection of slides. It just didn’t seem worthwhile to me, but after studying animation for 3 years & doing a short editing course my interest in media grew quite a lot since I left school & with photography going digital it meant I could play with my shots & get them out there much easier than before.

An old family friend & professional photographer Willem Oets had recently changed from Nikon to Canon & still had his Nikon gear & offered it to me, which was the start of something quite life changing for me. Rollerblading was my life & the reason for my interest in action photography & because of the lack of rollerbladers in SA I set my sights on downhill. I live really close to a track they use for nationals every year & that’s how the bikers got me hassling them. I knew quite a few BMXers from rolling parks with them, so they have me bugging them now too.

2 years later here I am, having spent all my money on equipment & still spending what I don’t have yet on my wish list. Here is what I have at the moment:

Nikon D70

Nikon D70


My D70 is the camera I use for the action the most. The fast sync speeds allow you to shoot at 1/640th with flashes, I can push it further to 1/800th. There is some darkening of the flash light when using the remote triggers, so try to stay below that as much as possible.

Nikon D200

Nikon D200


My D200 very seldomly gets used for action shots, mainly because I can only sync up to 1/250th & is not very helpful in bright light, so if I do pull it out for action it would be in much lower light usually evening shoots. I use it more for landscape, macro & portrait work when I don’t need the faster syncing. On it is my 105mm Macro lens & I rarely use it for action, mainly because it’s a fixed lens & I often can’t get to the right spot to get the shot & have to “zoom with my legs”. It's a great lens, extremely sharp & an f/2.8, but I have to run around too much with it to really enjoy it.

24-85mm

24-85mm


My 24-85mm is what I’ve been using the most for longer shots. It has a nice range from relatively wide to a good zoom, but I’m not always 100% happy with the quality of it & am replacing it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 to have sharper images & more control with the wider aperture.

10.5mm Fisheye

10.5mm Fisheye


My 10.5mm fisheye. I love this lens & maybe too much sometimes. It handles difficult lighting situations really well & allows you to get really close, but still keep a lot of the scenery in & is also an f/2.8 & a really sharp lens. Lately I’ve been trying to stay away from it & use the longer lenses, but the quality & fun distortion often is what has me pulling it out of my bag a little more often than I would like. That will hopefully change with the 2 new f/2.8 zooms.

70-300mm

70-300mm


My 70-300mm. I hardly ever use this lens for action because it’s never sharp enough, for landscapes you can get away with it, but on people I find I’m always disappointed with the quality, so it very rarely makes an appearance.

70-200mm

70-200mm


My new 70-200mm. This lens is a beast & is pretty much the best lens out there at the moment, super sharp, f/2.8, weather sealed & all the zooming & focusing is internal which makes it extremely fast & quiet. The only downsides to this lens is that the quality doesn’t come cheap & it’s rather heavy at just under 1.5kg. I haven’t had a proper shoot with it yet, but this is the Rolls Royce of lenses & I'm sure I’m going to be super happy with its performance. Have taken random snaps around the house & is amazing so far, but can’t wait to get out & shoot some action with it!

SB-600 and Pocket Wizard

SB-600 and Pocket Wizard

Pocket Wizard

Pocket Wizard


My SB-600 & Pocket Wizard. This combo was a must have for me, Pocket Wizards are the leading off camera flash transceiver brand & are very simple, but work like a charm. Their range is up to about 450m, so you can be pretty far away & still have your flashes fire, so if you like using long lenses these are a must have. 1 on each flash & 1 on the camera to trigger the flashes & the only time I’ve had a misfire is when the batteries in the flash or wizard are dead. The SB-600 is a great flash & has all the control you need with intensity settings from full to 1/64th & spread settings from 14m (the widest beam) to 85m (the most concentrated). The only downside to this combo is that the SB-600’s don’t have a PC port on them to connect the wizard directly, so you need an extra little cable to hotshoe & adapter. I have 4 Wizards & 2 SB-600’s & am getting a SB-900 in August & that has the PC port, so I won’t have to worry about fiddly connections.

Pentax AF-330ftz

Pentax AF-330ftz


My backup flash, an old Pentax AF-330ftz. I’m not all that fond of this little thing. It has no intensity settings & spread from 24m to 85m, so you can’t control it all that much & it goes into standby every 5 minutes, which is really annoying. It does help me out in tough times though & when 1 of my SB-600’s was in for repair this allowed me to still be able to use 2 flashes during that time, so is not great, but better than nothing.

Battery Charger

Battery Charger


Something very simple, but not to forget is the rechargeable batteries. Each wizard takes 2 (they last really long) so that’s 8 for the triggers. Each flash uses 4 (lasts 1 shoot if I’m lucky & each flash often goes through 2 sets on a long shoot) so that’s 16. So now on an average shoot I need 24 batteries & now with the SB-900 coming it’ll probably add another 8 to the equation. Making sure your batteries are all charged & ready to go is obviously really important & having spares is never a bad idea, because as luck would have it it’s at the best time of the day that you run out & can miss the best opportunities if you’re not prepared. The same goes for camera batteries & making sure you’ve downloaded the previous shoot & formatted your card so everything is clean & charged up.

Manfrotto Tripod

Manfrotto Tripod


I also have 2 Manfrotto tripods for my flashes, I find they work much better than most light stands because you can position each leg individually & works better on uneven surfaces which is where I shoot 90% of the time.

Lowepro - Closed

Lowepro - Closed


Lowepro - Open

Lowepro - Open


All that goes into 1 Lowepro backpack that I lug with me everywhere, so the hard work starts long before I even get my camera out & work up quite a sweat just getting to some spots.

I’d like to get into & explain shooting in RAW & it’s ups & downs, strobism, which is basically the use of off camera flashes & how they handle in different light situations & how I go about deciding on what camera settings to use, processing, composition & a bit of my philosophy & the way I approach my subject.



This sums up the first installment of Eric Palmer's "Through the Lens" Photographer's interview.

Check out the second installment here


76 Comments

  • + 19
 You have just single handedly taught me more about photography than i ever knew before. Awesome!
  • + 9
 sweet man, glad it helped you out... keep an eye out for the next installment, think it'll be quite helpful for most ppl.
  • + 2
 i'm soooo with cranxworks!!!
  • + 10
 Eric's the sickest photographer ever (Y)
  • + 5
 Go NIKON go! Finaly someone without these filthy white coloured zooms with a red stripe and shutter speed control on manual mode makin your thumb twist to the margins of its movement reach. "Yea but Nikon has only few lenses with f/2.8 blabla blaaa - U know which brand I'm talking about Wink
  • + 2
 Nikon actually has quite a few 2.8 or faster lenses, 13 in the past 4? years not to mention some quality lenses from 3rd party lens manufactures as well.

Eric- You should be able to sync worry free with the d200 at 1/320th with no darkening in the corners.
  • + 1
 hey frank, yeah, I have gone to 1/320th, but do get a dark strip on top, but is minimal & if the rider is in the top of the compo I just shoot up side down Wink haha
  • + 2
 thats odd, on my d300 its non existent until 1/400th, glad to see you're getting your foot through the door Eric, congrats man.
  • + 1
 yeah, that is strange... woulda thought they had the same shutter... Thanks man, am amped!
  • + 1
 I have a D80 and unofrtunately my sync ends up at 1/200. I use a pretty bad radio remote flash controller and although I can get up to 1/500 with it, sometimes flash gets unsynchronized (which is fine but only with patient "models" willing to go on and on). I am an absolute amateur, but IMAO shutter speeds shorter than 1/320 are just starting to steal the dynamics from the shot (at least from the non dirt/street pics. Regarding apertures, it seems superfine to get 2.8 or lower but how many are good enough to hit the focal length with it. I'm sure Eric and other good guys can but i personaly have big problems under 3,5.
  • + 1
 "shutter speeds shorter than 1/320 are just starting to steal the dynamics from the shot" if you like my work your opinion is not right, coz I just about always shoot faster than 320th... I'm normally between 1/640th & 1/400th. As far as the focusing goes, on dirt it's easy... just focus on someones jumping, lock to manual focus & shoot until you move & just re-focus, lock on MF & shoot again... on street it can be tricky coz the trick might not be in the exact same spot.
  • + 3
 well, I totaly like UR dirt pics, it's great to freeze a jump in the moment, it's dynamic enough when a guy is a couple of meters over the ground. I totaly appreciate ur lighting setup skills on riding shots (i.e. downhill competitions), but from my personal preferences point of view, I like to see the tires rotating, and generaly a bit of motion blur somewhere on the pic, just something giving an idea of the speed. PPl unfamiliar with MTB might never guess basing on i.e. Sam Hills lean and position how fast is he going if he is just frozen. I'm always trying to be somewhere in the middle between informed and general audience (at least as an architect and visualizations artist) Wink I'm not giving negative critisizm just selling my own point of view.
  • + 2
 yeah, I get what ur sayin & do agree, but I like to switch it up rather than go for 1 style. There is always a place for a completely frozen crisp pic, but if everything you take is like that it gets boring pretty quickly... the same applies to panning shots, so the best thing to do in my opinion, is to get comfortable with different techniques so you can do whatever you like & not be limited to one style. Variety is the spice of life!
  • + 1
 exactly Wink Thx for the great article!
  • + 8
 Awesome!
I've always looked up to your work Eric!
It keeps getting better and better!!!
  • + 3
 thanks Justin! we always gotta struggle & find those new angles on the spots we go to 1000 times... all about the love!
  • + 2
 Yeah I'm finding myself struggling now as I seem to frequent the same 3 places and constantly thinking about new angles which I never used to doPirate Finding myself getting more flexible too thanks to photography:P What with the handstands and cartwheels to get interesting shots.
Great story look forward to the next one and I have reinstalled faith in my d70 thanks to you tootup
  • + 2
 Hi Eric -been anxiously waiting 4 that write up . Am amazed ( or rather shouldn't be ) how brilliantly you nade it to the top of PB's photo masters. Now as my ol' trusty Dynax 500 is dying and am looking f4 new stuff (i.e.the a700 to get cheaper coz still got some Minolta glass ) that write up is great but I can't afford nor justify Nikon 4 me .
Anyway waiting anxiously for second pary as new pics as well.
Hope your doin' all right and no more fires nearby!
  • + 2
 I can't wait for the rest!

I have a very similar kit with my trusty D70s doing full duty, 80-200 2.8, 50mm 1.8 and Tokina 11-16 2.8 along with a compliment of pw's and 285hv's. I've actually sync'd 1/1000 with pw's with the D70s.
  • + 2
 Superb article Eric! I love all your work and definitely looking forward to the next installment. It's easy to search online for photographic tips and advice, but a lot harder finding someone who not only shoots at a high level, but also whose subjects are so similar AND someone who is willing to share their experiences and ideas. Keep up the awesome work!
  • + 1
 Thanks Andrew!
  • + 2
 Just a lil update on this... have since received my 24-70mm f/2.8 & got 3 lightweight manfrotto tripods for my flashes & my SB-900, so am happy as a pig in shit! & after a few shoots with the new glass I'm officially in love... hope everyone is enjoying the crispness as much as I am. haha
  • + 3
 Just wondering, do you ever submit stuff into like RideBMX, or RideUK, or DIG or BMX Plus!? If not, I think you should. Your work is worthy of getting printed, plus if it did get printed, you'd get paid and help pay for those lenses! I checked, and damn, that 24-70mm is expensive.
  • + 1
 Nah, havn't sent anything in yet, bat am keen to. Was basically just waiting till I got proper glass so the quality was worthy. Was asked for shots by RideBMX & got 2 in the april issue. Will start hassling them more now & hopefully they like my work. Yeah man, the 24-70mm & 70-200mm are each more than my lil car haha... worth it tho & will have to make that money back now, but sure they'll pay for themselves in not too long.
Thanks man.
  • + 1
 That's awesome. I checked the price for the 24-70mm lens as it sounds like a perfect lens for concert photos for me, and saw the price and well was super disappointed. Hahah. I'll stick to looking at those cheap, fast, prime lenses! Hahah. But yeah, looking forward to see some of your work in RideBMX if you submit it!
  • + 1
 just please don't take pics of ppl without the helmets Wink I get this strange feeling that BMX-zines promote that... not every reader (especially the young ones) knows or takes that on board that PROs actualy wear helmets on daily basis and take them off when asked for a session... a bit of a pose... i guess Wink
  • + 3
 aah man, I take shots of guys riding wherever, whatever... if they decide not to wear a helmet it's their responsibility... I'm not their parent & can't tell them what to do.
  • + 2
 I like your photos and your knowledge, but I have a question for you ericpalmer; why are you doing stuff for Pinkbike when in your own words a few months ago, you vowed never to post pics on Pinkbike again out of your frustration with "stolen" P.O.D. photos. Are your words not to be taken seriously? Sorry to ruin your parade but before you all neg prop me to oblivion, let the man truly respond, I want to know if his words are to be taken serious or if he was just being a dog with all bark and no bite. That's all, let the man answer seriously, thanks.
  • + 2
 Fair enough question... what I'm hoping to do with this article is educate everyone & let them see how much effort goes into getting good shots in hope of slowing it down... even if I only convince 10 ppl it's a step in the right direction. You will see I mention it in the next installment.
Thanks for your concern.
Hope that was a serious enough answer for you?
  • + 2
 Finally an expert gives a friendly advice to how he started in the shooting business. I'm an rookie in phtography and really enjoy the your tips, stories and pics. I feel great 'cause now I know I can still make cool pics like yours (at least I can try). I have a D50 (old one... I Know) with a 18-135 and a 70-300 (I agree, I don't use it for the action). I've been able to take some really nice pics with higher speeds but I feel I gotta move on. Thanks to your article I found myself motivation to do plans again... Tks man
  • + 1
 Wow! That was very helpfull, so I need some advice, I'm just getting into photogrophy, and wanted to know your opinion on the fairly new Nikon D5000? And if you have any recomendations for a wide angle/zoom lens, thanks alot.
  • + 2
 Yeah man, the D5000 is a cool cam. Offers a bit more than normal SLRS with video & swivel screen which could be fun to play with. Aah, it always depends on how much you want to spend... the more money you have the better glass you can get & price between standard wide angles & the top of the range will be quite crazy, so that's kinda up to you. The best would be the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, but that will set you back quite a bit.
  • + 2
 I rented the d5000 as a second body for a wedding I did recently. It was nice, comfortable, and familiar if you're used to Nikon controls. I didn't like the flip screen, actually, because the screen size had to be made smaller (2.7" on d5000 vs. 3" on most other new Canon and Nikons: d90, d300 and d300s, d700, d3). Another thing to consider is that the d5000 doesn't have an autofocus screw on the camera body, so all lenses you buy would have to have their own AF motor, or you're stuck with manual (good if you're good at it, but takes a lot of practice). Other than that, the image quality was excellent and it felt quite nice in hand. I used a 70-200 2.8f with it all day with good results.
  • + 1
 this is really nice article, eric...
i am looking forward to read more,,,
i hope you will surprise me with something new while you gonna write about more advanced technics in photography. . .

btw. what software do you use for postprocessing the shots? [if you do use any of them?]
  • + 1
 Chance are he uses Photoshop for Touch Ups and the like, but don't quote me on that, there are many other programs out there.
  • + 1
 thanks man!
Yeah, I think you & a few others might be quite happy Wink

Yeah, I'm using CS2 at the moment
  • + 1
 good job! have you ever thought about buying other lensens than nikon? you said you're going to buy the nikon 24-70, and that must be a huge investment. there would be a 24-70 by sigma (2,Cool or a tamron 28-75 (2,Cool . i use the tamron on my eod 40d and i'm pretty satisfied with it. of course it's not the same quality as the nikon lense, but it's just one third of the price for little less quality. or did you have bad experiences with sigma or tamron that you could share here?
  • + 1
 ups, just read, that you already got the nikon 24-70. so forget my comment.
  • + 1
 and what's with the smileys?!?!? i wanted to write 2.8 instead of 2,Cool
  • + 1
 Yeah, have considered other makes & sigma is great too, but want all my gear Nikon. Don't want to spend money on a lens & then wish I'd waited & got what I really wanted, so rather get the best straight away & lenses can last for years if you look after them, so is a good investment. Haven't regretted spending the extra cash so far & it is my job, so don't mind, coz it'll pay for it's self in not too long... if it was just a hobby I'd prob go sigma
  • + 1
 you're right, seeing it professionally (not from my view) it makes sense to go only for best quality. i was just curious if you had experiences with sigma or tamron.
  • + 1
 hey buja, I got the sigma 70-200 2.8. It's really good, I didnt had the money to buy the Nikon VR version but i needed it for an event, so bought it. it's soooo much cheaper and the quality is almost simular as far as i can tell, i tested both lenses later with other photographers, it was hard to keep the pics seperated.

but if i had to choose now, having enough money to buy both, i would go with Eric, for sure. Nikon has also a new 70-200mm 2.8. great lens, sick price tag.
happy i bought the sigma though, got kind of a scratch on the front lens, doesnt make any differance on the photo, for real, but just for my mental condition Wink
  • + 1
 Excellent work Eric. This information is good to show people what gear it really takes to capture quality shots. Sure most P&S cameras can take a photo but it's like comparing a Bugatti to a Honda Civic.

Cant wait for the rest.
  • + 2
 Thanks! haha, yeah
Most of my earlier work was just kit lenses & D70 with 2 flashes, so not too crazy, but def not a P&S.
  • + 3
 well written informamtive and cool to hear another "angle" ( pun intended) of the riding scene. lookin forward to more...........
  • + 2
 Awesome stuff. That 70-200mm lens is a dope lens. Wish I could afford it. It's great for concert photography as it's fast and sharp.
  • + 2
 U could do good with 55-200 for non proffessional use, quite decent for a price.
  • + 2
 it's a sick lens, but a sigma 70-200mm 2.8 will do also really well, less expensive, i use it all the time on my Nikons, love it.
  • + 2
 Nice, i'm so jealous about your 24-70mm f/2.8 Wink
The same to me, i love my wide angle lense Sigma 12-24mm too much..i think, i just like to be close to the rider
  • + 0
 Great article, awesome photos. You're going to love the 70-200, it's an amazing lens. I went cold when I bought mine but every time I shoot with it, it's worthwhile. Looks like you'll do it a lot more justice than me man!

just focus on someones jumping, lock to manual focus & shoot until you move & just re-focus, lock on MF & shoot again...

Here's a trick for Nikon users - I use on the D300, I think it also works on the D200. I bang these settings in a custom bank called 'action'
- Leave focus mode on 'C'
- Disable focus from the shutter button (focus option a6?)
Now the camera only focuses when you press the af-on button. Holding af-on will track action but if you want to lock focus, just leave the af-on button alone! A half-press will now meter but not refocus. Great for switching from action to portraits or locking on a jump.

Hope that tip helps someone else, was a godsend for me!
  • + 0
 thanks man!

just reading your tip again now & thinking that just switching between C, S & M focus & only using the shutter button is way faster than changing from one custom bank to another & using the af button & will do the same thing.
Your method is def not wrong & if it works for you don't change it, but switching between banks & using 1 button to focus & another to shoot seems like more of a hassle than just flicking the focus mode & only using the shutter button. Either way gets the job done, guess it's just what u prefer & what ur used to.
  • + 2
 No worries! Heck yes, so many options with these cameras, swings and roundabouts I guess, always fun to mix it up and play with the settings when the pressure isn't on! Just to clarify, I rarely change the bank at all since this setting just works for all sorts, so it doesn't slow you down on the job. Using the af-on button is great for jumping from focus tracking to the 'focus and recompose' type shots. As my thumb is right by the af-on on the body or the grip I also never need to touch the C, S, M button either, so for me, it's a good bit quicker. Looking forward to your next instalments!
  • + 2
 Thats awesome, I've been just getting into photography lately and am on the market for a DSLR style camera for riding shots and such. Thanks for the info.
  • + 2
 Nice article, looking forward to more. Amped for getting out with my new camera!
  • + 2
 I'm just starting Photography, and just got a Sony A350, I hope I can be as good as you one day Wink
  • + 2
 Awesome job Eric. Very educational. Thanks, and keep up the awesome photography skillz!!
  • + 2
 Great article bro! do your thing, you got it dialed!
  • + 1
 thanks Dennis! Think the next installment will be a bit more interesting, but glad ppl are diggin it so far!
  • + 1
 Yeah everybody seems to like it man, cant wait for the next, great to see you got the 70-200mm vr. as you already know i got the sigma version, quality is really good, but i need that Nikon in the future.

are you also going to tell something about selling photo's? that would be a really intresting aspect of photography i think, would be a great thing if everyone would ask money for their photo's, instead of letting themselfs being ripped of giving it away for free to magazines and companees who can afford buying the pics. or do you think something else?
  • + 1
 yeah man, the new glass is soo good! Nope, didn't really get into that, but agree with you... good idea for something in the future maybe.
  • + 2
 nice one mr.p. very enjoyable read.
  • + 2
 Nice...be gettin' the front page now. Smile
  • + 2
 your legend i get loads of tips from your pics
  • + 2
 Good article, looking forward to catching the second one.
  • + 2
 is the d70 in the pic the one you first started off with?
  • + 1
 yeah, it is...
  • + 3
 keep on shooting mate
  • + 1
 How are you shooting a flash sync speed at 1/640 or 1/800 with the D70? Because of the use of the PW's?
  • + 1
 yeah, you can get around it if you want to work with the flash on camera. Just cover the 2 smaller connections of the flash & leave the main center one open & the camera doesn't pick up the flash & you can go up to 1/8000th
  • - 2
 my mom is a professional art photographer & teacher & have been abused with pornographic theory for the last 15 or so years..

anyone else read this way? sorry man, nice article, just joking!
  • + 2
 not a very funny joke, but glad u like the article.
  • + 1
 somebody send me that nikon!
  • + 0
 you've got all the gear i'm hoping to get over the next year! except i'm a canonizer...
  • + 0
 the sync speed of the D70 is total dope! allows for so much more flexibility and thus, creativity. I hate my 1/250th max...
  • + 2
 Great article!
  • - 1
 lets see some nugs!

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