© AMI VITALE
Rancher Bryan Ulring gathers horses at the J Bar L ranch, a unique conservation-friendly ranch nestled into the wide open land of the Centennial Valley in southern Montana. The ranch finishes its cattle on grass, in contrast to the vast majority of ranches in the U.S that send cattle to feedlots. The Centennial Valley is an important wildlife corridor for elk, moose, antelope, deer, wolverines, grizzly bears, wolves and hundreds of bird species. The valley is largely owned by a handful of large ranches, which means that their use of the land impacts the local environment.
Ami Vitale first picked up a camera in high school and quickly realized it “was a passport to engaging with people and the world.” For the past 14 years, she’s been shooting professionally, so far visiting 85 countries and weaving stories with her images to bring us a better understanding of our universal commonalities.
After traveling, working and living everywhere from Kashmir to West Africa, Vitale recently switched gears, moving to Montana and following her own advice to “shoot what’s in your own backyard.” Her recent stories about the cowboys, animals and land surrounding the remote J Bar L Ranch fit perfectly with her growing interest in the environment. People in Montana have a “deep, deep connection to the land—they are the stewards of the landscape.”
As a visual storyteller, Vitale depends on her tools—the Nikon D800 and D4 cameras and her “go-to” lenses, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8, AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4 and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm VRII. “I think people can often get overwhelmed by the tools in their hand, but I find that Nikon cameras and lenses are really easy to use,” she says. “I’m not worrying about the gear so I can immerse myself in the situation and the people.” Vitale recently shot with the brand-new AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR, which she plans to add to her kit. “It’s incredibly sharp at every focal length,” she says, “and allowed me to capture photographs I couldn’t get before.” When using the 80-400mm with her 36.3-megapixel D800 to capture an eagle perched on a fence post, Vitale was amazed by the image sharpness when cropping close in on the bird’s eye.
Vitale is “all about traveling light,” and appreciates the 80-400mm lens for its smaller footprint and weight compared with her AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8 G ED VR, especially when traversing the ranch’s vast acreage on horseback or on foot. “Given the exceptional high ISO performance of the Nikon D800 and D4 and the extremely effective four-stop vibration reduction of the 80-400mm, I can easily stop down the lens and still get a razor sharp image when photographing the ranch’s wildlife,” says Vitale. And, when the cowboys gather the horses each morning, swift and accurate focusing makes it possible to freeze the motion of horses as they’re galloping over the mountain toward her.
Wide-angle lenses also play an important role in Vitale’s work, both on and off the ranch. She relies on NIKKOR wide-angle lenses to get close to her subjects for a more intimate look at whom and what she’s photographing. Riding out with the cowboys in the mornings, she’ll carry a couple of cameras and lenses, usually the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm and the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm. But this past trip, she used the new AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED and the 80-400mm lenses. Although the 18-35mm was a new focal length for Vitale, the wider angle of view really worked for her. “It allowed me to get close to the horses and the action, to show the drama of the movement.” She points to more intimate situations when the cowboys are working with horses as an example, although she’s even used the NIKKOR 18-35mm to photograph running horses in close proximity.
Vitale found little evidence of distortion with the new 18-35mm lens even when shooting at 19mm and 22mm, thanks to Nikon’s use of aspherical lens elements. This type of construction helps eliminate lens aberrations, while NIKKOR’s extra low dispersion (ED) glass optimizes chromatic aberration correction, delivering sharp, clear images.
From prime to zoom, NIKKOR’s newest offerings are designed to meet a wide range of needs (and budgets). But it’s not just the focal range coverage that makes a difference with NIKKOR’s 79 lenses. Features such as excellent Vibration Reduction (VR) make handholding long lenses possible, while NIKKOR’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology is especially relevant to DSLR videographers, and its internal focus (IF) lenses provide lightweight options for travelers. As Ami Vitale says, “Storytelling is at the core of what every great photographer is.” And NIKKOR lenses make it possible for photographers everywhere to tell their stories with the best images possible.
Since the first Aero-NIKKOR aerial photographic lenses were shipped in 1933, Nikon has made great advancements in lens development and technology. NIKKOR lenses continue to bring optical excellence to photographers with its current line-up of 79 DSLR camera lenses, including:AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED (FX format)
AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR (FX format)
AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR (FX format)
AF-S Teleconverter TC800-1.25E ED
AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR (DX format)
AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 G (DX format)
Picture your world through renowned NIKKOR lenses.