Towards the end of last year, we met Richard Craig, a Glasgow based photographer who wanted to put the Nikon D5 through some serious challenging environment testing in the form of a fashion shoot in the Doha desert in Qatar. A bit hesitantly, Richard did come back (still missing the sun though) and told us about his adventure and how the D5 performed. We were lucky enough to get behind the scenes of the shoot and find out what Richard had to say about the camera’s performance.
‘I had shot in Qatar before, so was mostly aware of what lay ahead of me embarking on this project. On this occasion, I was looking to build on my previous shoot in Qatar and to use various locations to create different atmospheres in the images. The desert has many different looks depending on location; there are interesting mushroom shaped hardened sand formations, sand dunes, bare rocks and escarpments, all creating truly unreal surroundings.
Preparing for Desert Photography
It was a problem for me to try and work out shots without sunglasses on but for the camera’s sensor it posed no problem at all. Some of the shots were taken as fast as ISO 500, F9 and 1/3200. This is quite impressive, as the upper limit for matrix metering is EV 16.33 on 100 ISO and my shots were at EV 15.7 which is very close to the matrix limit and the exposure was spot on, as you would expect from a camera of this calibre.
The first things to arrange on shootings like this are deciding on the location and the best time. In Qatar, the midday temperature can range from 12 C in winter through to 45 -50 C in the height of summer so it had to be somewhere between these extremes. November is good as the weather is usually settled, however during this trip we were welcomed by strong winds which blew a lot of dust and sand around during the shoot.
For this project, I had three backup cameras, a Nikon D5 with a 24-70mm, and two Nikon D810s, one with a 24-70mm lens and the other with an 80-400mm lens. I decided to opt for this gear to prevent any sand or dust getting inside the camera whilst changing lenses out in the dessert. Having 3 cameras at the ready also gave me options at the different locations as well as speeding up the shooting process in the scorching reheat!
What Equipment do you Use for Shooting in the Desert?
I don’t tend to use a tripod as it’s about moving to get the shot, which is my style, and with the very high light levels, high shutter speeds are always possible so there was no need to stabilise the gear. Apart from the tether tool viewing of shots (in less windy moments), the only other accessory we used was a reflector, but the high wind quickly put an end to using it. On a practical level, shooting in the desert requires spare food, sun block and plenty of water. You also have to consider what would happen if you got stuck, and how long it would take to get help as we only used one vehicle equipped for the desert.
What Difficulties Did You Encounter?
The wind itself wasn’t a problem for the D5, unlike for everything else (yes, you can imagine the sand in our eyes and ears). Model’s dresses blowing in the wind had to be captured at some high speeds with which the camera had no problem at all. This meant getting lots of shots to try to capture the right moment but the camera responded phenomenally well despite the high temperatures.
Overall, the Doha experience proved to be a very successful test for the Nikon D5. I can say that this is a reliable and responsive camera , especially for capturing shots quickly in the wind. It was a dream to work with, even Megan, the model, who is not a trained photographer found it very easy to use!