Close-up to the Hollywood Sign with the Nikon P1000 Superzoom Camera
Earlier this year, I took my Nikon P1000 super zoom camera to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California for a photoshoot. There are lots of great photo opportunities there and I'll be posting more articles of this photoshoot in the future. In this article, we'll look at the pictures and video that you can get of the Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory with the P1000. We'll start out at the P1000's most wide angle setting and then work our way up to the most telephoto setting - and then beyond!
Griffith Observatory is one of the few easily accessible spots where you can see the famous Hollywood sign. Here's a picture of the sign taken with the Nikon P1000 at its most
wide angle setting:
The P1000's widest angle is 24mm (35mm equivalent), so this is what a photo from the average point and shoot camera would likely look like. Unfortunately, the sign is so small that it's not really the subject of the photograph, which in this case is the intent.
The problem, of course, is that even though the Hollywood sign is huge, it's too far away. According to the Wikipedia page for the Hollywood sign, the letters that make up the sign are 45 feet (13.7 meters) tall and the entire sign is 350 feet (106.7 m) long. But because it's located on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains, the line of site distance to the Hollywood sign is 1.6 miles.
To put that distance into perspective, if you were in a car that was traveling at 60 miles an hour, it would take you a minute and a half to drive 1.6 miles.
By the way, I assumed that the Hollywood sign was located in... well, the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. It is not. Unfortunately, I looked into the sign's true location after making the video below, so when you watch it, pretend that you hear me say that the sign is located within the Griffith Park grounds in Los Angeles :)
OK, so let's zoom in to see how close the Nikon P1000 can get to the Hollywood sign! We've already seen a picture of the sign at a zoom level of 24mm, the P1000's most wide angle
setting, so let's look at a picture taken with the lens at 50mm:
Unlike the 24mm photograph, you can actually make out the letters in the sign, but it still doesn't make for a good subject of the picture. It still appears to be too far away.
Here are the views at 100mm and 200mm:
I think that we're finally close enough at 100mm and 200mm for the sign to be a worthy subject of the photograph.
Before we get too far along here, I should mention a few things about the photographs:
- I was balancing the camera on a fence when I took these pictures and somehow didn't notice that these pictures are not AT ALL level! It kind of looks like Hollywood sign is going to slide off the mountain and the transmission tower is going to tip over.
- The pictures that you see in the article are scaled down to fit into the reading area of the website. The size reduction affects the sharpness of the photographs, so be sure to click on the small pictures to see the full size versions.
- I also wanted to mention that the zoom references that I use throughout the article 35mm are equivalents. These are the numbers that the Nikon P1000 camera displays while you're zooming.
In the pictures below that were taken at 500mm and 1000mm, the Hollywood sign fills the frame and the pictures have good clarity.
Out of all the pictures I took over the P1000's full zoom range, I like photos at 500mm and 1000mm the best. A picture at 750mm would probably be ideal for me. They provide a close-up shot of the sign that most cameras cannot get at this distance, but they're not over-zoomed. In an over-zoomed picture, not all of the subject would be visible and the effects of shooting through the atmosphere would be very noticeable.
And if you're looking at the 1000mm picture on a computer screen or a television (in other words, not the little screen of a cell phone), you can see people in the top right corner of the photo. They give a sense of scale to the letters of the sign. You might need to click on the 1000mm photo in the article and view the full size version to see the people.
As we move in closer, doesn't it look like the people who put up the sign ran out of room on the mountain and had to squeeze in the letter "D". And the letter "H". Actually, now that I look at all of the letters, I think the letter spacing expert was busy on another job when the Hollywood sign was built. Does anyone else think about these things or is it just me?
The 500mm and 1000mm zoom range is probably close enough for a well composed photo, but it you have a Nikon P1000 superzoom in your hand, you are absolutely going to zoom in further!
Here are the photos at 2000mm and 3000mm:
At these zoom levels, you can start to see the effects of all the atmosphere in the 1.6 miles between the camera and the sign. The problem is that heat waves are moving through the air and that makes the edges of the letters and the details in the rest of the picture appear to be wavy. This effect is easier to recognize in the video below where you can see the heat waves moving.
Zoomed in at 3000mm (the Nikon P1000's maximum), the sign no longer fits in the picture. But as is so often my experience with the P1000, you can frame your initial subject (at, say, 750mm in this case) and then move in even closer to find a new subject to photograph. At 2000mm and 3000mm, the subject of the picture changes to the structure holding up the letters or to the ladders for the workers on the sides of the letters. In the video below, you can even see a bird jump off the top of the letters at 1.6 miles away!
Here's the comparison between the 24mm zoom and the 3000mm zoom:
125X magnification is kind of amazing if you're interested in zooming in on things like I am.
But wait, we can get even closer to the Hollywood sign! The photographs that I took with the Nikon P1000 have a resolution of 4608 x 3456 pixels. The width of the reading area on this website page when viewed on a high resolution device like a computer or a television is 670 pixels. So, the photographs are much bigger than what can fit in the viewing area. To fit the whole photo on the page, it has to be scaled down.
We can let the picture display at its full resolution by changing the scale so that one pixel in the photo equals one pixel on the web page. At that size, the picture expands beyond the size of the web page and we can only see a 590px x 443px section of it:
In the picture above, we see the ladder on top of the first letter "O". This is not a digital zoom. We're just seeing the picture at a 1:1 scale. Just a reminder that this is for the viewing area of the website on a higher resolution device like a computer screen or a television. The website automatically changes the viewing area of smaller devices like a cell phone or a smaller tablet so the math changes.
Of course, the Nikon P1000 also takes video, so I shot some video of the Hollywood sign while I was at the Griffith Observatory. The P1000 can record video in 4K (Ultra high definition or UHD), but I was shooting 1080P (full high definition or HD) that day. The video below starts at the P1000's widest angle setting (24mm) and zooms in to the most telephoto setting (3000mm).
My experience with the P1000 is that it sometimes struggles to maintain focus when zooming in over this huge zoom range, but it did a pretty good job with the Hollywood sign.
As I mentioned in the photo section above, atmospheric effects are noticeable at the upper range of the zoom, mostly in the form of heat waves rising through the air. Remember, we're looking through 1.6 miles of air. I recorded the video at around noon on January 28th, 2020 which is a cooler time of year, but it was at a time of day when the sun had been heating things up for a while.
The P1000 takes about 16 seconds to zoom from 24mm to 3000mm. That can make the sign seem closer than it is. To put the distance into perspective, if you could travel the distance to the sign in the time that it takes the Nikon P1000 to zoom in on it, then you would be traveling at about 340 miles per hour!
I have fairly shaky hands, so I stabilized the video below in my video editing software. The stabilization process crops the edges of the video, so the video is not full frame.
You can click on the picture below to watch the P1000 zoom into the Hollywood sign:
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