Photography, Travel

Aalborg on the Nikon Df

At work in Aalborg

I was in Aalborg, Denmark, primarily to work. My company purchased a firm there this year, and I traveled there to do some work integrating the two companies. Here’s a selfie I made at the desk I was using in their office.

While I worked, Margaret ran around Aalborg on a bicycle she borrowed from the hotel. She made a lot more photographs on this trip than I did! But in the evenings and especially on the weekend in the middle of this trip, I brought my Nikon Df along. I purchased a 28-200mm Nikkor zoom lens not long ago with this trip in mind. I knew a deep zoom would be very useful, and it was.

I used this lens a lot before we left on the trip so I could get to know it, and I’m glad I did. Because the lens lacks image stabilization, I learned that I needed to hold the Df very steady when deeply zoomed to avoid shake. The more I practiced this, the more of my images turned out. Even then, after I got home and could look at my Aalborg images on my computer, a number of images suffered from shake. Some of them were bad enough that I just deleted them. Unfortunate.

But here are some images that did turn out. We spent Saturday walking the shopping and entertainment districts in Aalborg’s city center. This is Algade, a pedestrian-only street in the shopping district.

Walking in the Aalborg shopping district

This is Bispensgade, in the entertainment district.

Walking on Bispensgade

This is Jomfru Ane Gade, lined with bars and restaurants in the entertainment district. Because of the time of day, there wasn’t much activity here.

Jomfru Ane Gade

Bicycles were everywhere in Aalborg. Margaret and I joined in, borrowing bicycles from our hotel and riding all over. It’s common to find dozens of bikes parked in a clump. Bikes there all have a way to lock the back wheel with a key, which is how most people deter thieves. I saw few bikes locked to something so they couldn’t be carried off. I have never felt as safe riding a bicycle in traffic as I did in Aalborg, by the way, because drivers are so heavily conditioned to be aware of bicycles. Riding home from work every day I passed over an Interstate-style highway. There was an exit onto the highway there, and I had to cross it. Drivers unfailingly yielded to me.

Bikes parked at Salling

Aalborg being a fjord town, of course there are seagulls. Huge ones.

On the waterfront near Jomfru Ane Parken

These are people who enjoy their waterway. We saw all manner of craft floating by in the fjord.

On the waterfront near Jomfru Ane Parken

I liked the look of this store that specializes in coffee and tea.

Kaffe & The

This it Utzon Center, the last building to be designed by Jørn Utzon, the architect behind the Sydney Opera House.

Uzton Center

This is the Jens Bang stone house. Jens was in his day one of Denmark’s wealthiest people, and in 1624 built what is considered to be Denmark’s finest independently owned Renaissance mansion.

Jens Bangs Stonehouse

I love moving in close when I make photographs, and Aalborg offered me a number of opportunities like this funky frog fountain.

Frø springvand

This is more of a classic statue, but I’m not sure what to make of the grapes.

Statue: Man, child, grapes

I’m a giant fan of stouts and porters. Carlsberg, one of the two major breweries in Denmark, makes a superb imperial stout. I drank it everywhere I could get it. I don’t believe it’s exported, unfortunately.

Carlsberg Porter

We had stopped at a pub that Saturday to find it full of football fans — Liverpool fans, to be exact. I’m not sure why Liverpool finds so many fans in Aalborg! In the US, sports bars have TVs everywhere. This pub had two screens, one at either end of the space. Bodies were crammed into the pub, all on little stools pointed at one of the screens. Liverpool won by a huge margin, which caused everyone in the bar to break out in song. “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” in fact. Apparently that’s a thing with the Liverpool club. Anyway, as Americans of course we know the song and could sing right along.

Liverpool fan

After the game we wound up drawn into a group of happy, tipsy Danes basking in the win. We talked about all sorts of things together. First, someone bought us shots of akvavit, or “Red Aalborg” as they called it. Then someone had the bright idea of buying those little bottles of Underberg. I haven’t had that stuff since I was in Germany in the 80s, and as it is an acquired taste I can’t say I missed it. But we wanted to be gracious so we drank the bottles that were offered. All six or seven of them. I even bought a round for the table at one point. We bicycled home very tipsy.

Red Aalborg akvavit

Home was Hotel Scheelsminde, about a 15-minute ride south from the city center. I chose it because it had good ratings online and was close to the office. It turned out to be a terrific choice and if I go back, I’ll stay here again.

Hotel Scheelsminde

On one of our nights here we made a reservation at the restaurant for dinner. This isn’t the kind of restaurant where you can get a quick cheeseburger and then turn in for bed — it’s a fine dining establishment and you will spend hours here enjoying several courses. Various wines were a part of the experience, a different wine with each course. The hotel also laid out a lavish breakfast every day that was included in the price of the room.

Hotel Scheelsminde

I have mixed feelings about the Nikon Df on this trip. It’s a large camera. I bought a sling-style camera bag to carry it while riding my bicycle. I had to pack all of this stuff, and I was trying to travel light, just a carry-on and the backpack carrying my work laptop. But it’s not an unduly heavy camera for its size, and it wasn’t fatiguing slung over my shoulder all day. Still, there were times I wished I had just brought my workhorse Canon PowerShot S95 instead. It would have been a ton easier to pack and carry.

The S95’s 28-105mm (equivalent) zoom is nowhere as deep as what that 28-200mm lens offers, though. Many times I was very happy to be able to zoom all the way to 200mm, even though I risked shake. The lens is compact, which made it easy to carry.

In autoexposure mode, the Df biases to shallow depth of field. It’s great for portraits and when I move in close to a subject, but not wonderful otherwise. I had some luck counteracting that by using the dial on the front of the camera to choose smaller apertures. But I’d like it if I didn’t have to do that. I simply must explore my Df’s manual to see if there is a setting that forces the camera to choose narrower apertures for greater depth of field.

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31 thoughts on “Aalborg on the Nikon Df

  1. DougD says:

    Wow, what a great experience for a WORK trip. I think you and Margaret really come into your own while in Europe, you should spend more time there.

    • It’s why we made the trip straddle a weekend. It let us get out and about! We’d love to spend more time in Europe. Germany is on our list, as is Scotland. Margaret would love to see Spain and Italy, too.

  2. Greg Clawson says:

    Jim, it sounds like you and Margaret had a wonderful time.
    I love street photos, you really get a sense of what a place is really like unlike riding a shuttle.

    The best part of a trip is meeting and talking to people Even though the media wants to portray everyone as angry or divisive, I find almost everyone kind and friendly.

    I have had a Nikon D7000 nearly ten years, I have thought of going mirrorless for travel, maybe a Nikon Z of some variant.

    • We had a very nice time indeed. I was worried that I wasn’t going to have room in my bags to bring the Df. A smaller highly capable camera for travel would be terrific.

  3. Andy Umbo says:

    Jim, I think your pictures here still tell the tale of the beauty of the Nikon Df, film-like look, contrast, and color…

    I have to say, tho you’re hitting on a few of my “bug-a-boos”, one being, I just don’t particularly care for “everything” zoom lenses. 90% of the time, you’re walking around with way more hardware and weight than is acceptable, for the possibilty of a few shots you might do at the longest settings. If I wasn’t getting paid to make that shot, I might let that go for my personal work. I’ve always railed against the “coffee-can-on-a-credit-card” concept of modern cameras: all lens, priactically no body. Too hard to handle, hence the “shakes”… I also prefer single focal lenght lenes of a reasonable size, hence my acceptance of the M 4/3rd’s format.

    Something else with regards to your Canon S95. I’ve been talking to more and more retired pro photographers that have been showing me amazing blow-ups from “pro level” pocket cameras, like the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic LX 100. I mean, like beautiful 30 X 40’s! I’m amazed! I knew someone who sold all their pro digital in retirement and is just walking around with that Sony, with stunning results, altho the Panny would be the way I’d go for the zoom…something to think about…

    • My wife has a Sony RX100 Mk I and it’s brilliant. When my S95 finally dies, an RX100 is in the running to replace it. I’m not eager to learn a new menu system so the competing Canon is on the list too.

      That 28-200 zoom is remarkably small and light. Check out Ken Rockwell’s review of it:

      https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/28200g.htm

      The Df is far heavier than this lens. So shake is really a function of normal human unsteadiness magnified by the depth of zoom.

      There really were times on this trip that I was thrilled to go to 200mm. The Canon S95 goes only to 105mm and there are shots I just couldn’t have gotten with it.

    • tbm3fan says:

      The S95 is truly nice. In fact I found two of them on the Goodwill site some years back for $25 after seeing Jim’s shots. When I go to the Philippines in December, so my wife can spend Christmas with her family, I’ll bring one along. I’ll also bring one P&S film camera. In my first early trips there, in 1992-93, I bought my SRT-101 but learned when traveling light in that country the SLR was too big and conspicuous.

      • The S95 is a terrific cheap used digital P&S. I’ve recommended to many people that they get one and they’ve all been very happy they did.

  4. Bernal Saborio says:

    Fantastic photos from a very cool trip. Big, heavy lens are a always a challenge to carry. I used to bring a Vivitar 75-205 plus a 55- 1.8 Chinon on my field trips and most of the time ended up shooting with my phone. Now I bring my very old old Lumix G1 with the fantastic Vario 45-200. and my Minolta Freedom 35-60 for film. Saves a lot of weight. Keep up the great work.

    • Fortunately, the 28-200 is light at about 12.7 ounces and compact — collapsed, it’s about 3 inches long. But a newer compact P&S would have been easier to bring and carry.

  5. tbm3fan says:

    I went through Denmark back in the first week of July 1976. I recall being told Happy Birthday several times by Danes on July 4th until I realized it WAS July 4th. I recall the huge firework show at Tivoli Gardens to celebrate July 4th. I recall the visit to the Carlsberg Brewery at noon one day and then waking up at 9:00 pm that night wondering what happened. i very much enjoyed Scandinavia and her people. Actually pretty much all Europe and her cities to small towns for three months. One big takeaway was that Europeans had a good understanding about what the word freedom means compared to many Americans idea of the word freedom. To one it meant responsibility and to the other whatever I damn well please. I like Europe.

    • I want to spend more time in Europe to deepen much the same experience you describe. I was last in Europe proper in 1984. I’m not sure I’ll still be alive if I wait that long to go again!

        • For most of my life I was not a man of means. That 1984 trip to Germany was an incredible gift. My early adulthood was characterized by having enough money to pay the bills and save a little for retirement, and that was it. Then I went through a crazy expensive divorce, followed by heavy child support and then putting kids through college. Now I’ve finally hit my stride in my career with the salary that brings, and I’m done paying for all the stuff above — now my wife and I are able to really prioritize travel.

  6. Like you, I have found the Df with a long lens cumbersome. Recently I got a Nikon z6ii with a 40mm lens – and it’s perfect for a lot of things. I have used the Nikon 85mm f1.8 D lens on the Df and found it to be a good walk around lens. The shallow DOF is lovely, as is the bokeh. I still have my Df and earlier Nikon DSLR and use them as the vintage lenses I have work on them. That said, I think your photos are great and it sounds like you had a wonderful time in Denmark. I enjoyed traveling along with you.

    • For my documentary work (road trips, for example), zoom is essential. I took the Df on a road trip on Saturday — I haven’t really studied the images yet to see how the camera behaved. I do not want shallow DOF for that kind of work and the Df seems to LOVE shallow DOF.

  7. ronian42 says:

    Some nice shots Jim, I’m going to have to add another country to those I want to visit! With regards to the technical aspect Jim, does the df allow you to use aperture priority and have an auto ISO setting? (I shoot Canon). If it does then this would allow you to set the aperture you wish and the camera will adjust the shutter speed and ISO to cope! Often you can also select a slowest shutter speed option which may help with the camera shake. Why make it difficult when the camera can do most things for you?

    Ian

    • It does, and I did that in Aalborg. The auto-ISO is weird – you set minimum ISO on the dial atop the camera and then auto ISO will kick the ISO up as needed. It often gave me the DOF I wanted, but sometimes even this still whiffed.

  8. Wowsa! My work trips never look like this! What a wonderful opportunity for you both! Love the pictures and the peak at a new place. I hope you’ll share more about this trip. I think your pictures turned out great!

  9. I do not use Auto ISO to keep control of the settings on my Df. I will set the aperture, check the shutter speed, and adjust the ISO manually to get the acceptable shutter speed. I do not mind raising the ISO if necessary. The Df does well if the ISO is higher.

    • I’ve read a lot of complaints about Auto ISO on the Df, so maybe I should take a page out of your playbook and just set ISO for the conditions.

  10. Looking forward to a little work travel again soon. The question of which camera is a good one, it depends somewhat on the nature of the trip what is sensible to carry, but unless I am going to be in an area for some time, I think my film cameras are likely to stay at home unfortunately!

    • I did shoot a little film in Denmark, using a nice 35mm point and shoot. But I’m thinking about going all digital for travel. We will see.

        • I try always to travel with only carry-on bags. Even when we went to Denmark, we managed that. The CT scanners are only in baggage in the US, so it lets our film come through unscathed.

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