The Nikon Z Series announcement came with much fanfare, and with good reason. It is an exciting product announced in a very exciting time in photography as technology continues to expand the horizon with what we can do as photographers.

One of the best parts to the Nikon announcement this summer was the congregation of the Ambassadors from not only the US, but Canada and Mexico. Being around such talented colleagues is tremendously infectious. We are always on and looking to create and inspire on a daily basis. That is certainly the case for those I know and I suspect you as well because you are here on this site.

A little bit about me. In my last life I think I was a goat because I am prone to climb anything I physically can to get a different perspective of what I am covering. I love being in helicopters, on catwalks and anything else that is elevated and maybe not terribly safe. That being said, make no mistake, I am no Keith Ladzinski or Corey Rich. You wont find me hanging from the side of El Capitan. I don’t have those skills. On another side note, in my next life I want to be a rapper…so know you know about me. Love to climb and an avid student of hip hop. Also like steak rare and walks on the beach.

Anyway, a couple days into the Nikon launch event in NYC, the weather was absolutely beautiful… especially at night. One thing I didn’t get a chance to do when working on the Z7 campaign was to get in any proper aerials. I did fly over Kilauea’s Fissure 8 in Hawaii, however, it decided to grind to a screeching hault (a good thing for Hawaii and those who have had their lives disturbed and turned upside down by the disaster), 36 hours before our flight…and conveniently 12 hours after the point at which we could have bailed on the flight for a full refund. Go figure. Still we flew and my frames were fairly underwhelming. I still had the itch to fly and get something cool, I just didn’t know when or where I would pull it off and budget was pretty much spent by the time we returned home.

The second to last night of the launch event was atop the PUBLIC hotel in New York which features a stunning panorama view of both midtown and downtown. As I sipped on a proper bourbon looking over what I consider to be the greatest city in the world, I knew I wanted to get up in the air for some night aerials to really test out this camera.

My next move was completely unplanned and unscheduled. I hunted down the Nikon people I needed to talk to at the party and told them I had an idea. As on script, they all smiled and looked down at the floor and said “Ok, let’s hear it.” I told them I needed 3-6 Z7 cameras to do a shoot the following night. The only downside is that I would miss the dinner they were expecting me and some other Ambassadors to attend. I stressed that weather was perfect and I needed to get in the air to shoot some aerials. You see, I didn’t want to fly. No, I needed to fly. I was going to fund it entirely out of my own pocket. Once I was told I could get at least 3 cameras, I was in full “go” mode.

The next move was to talk to my friend and fellow Ambassador Lucas Gilman. When I approached him and questioned his plans for the following day, he told me he had a flight at 4 p.m. I told him he needed to change that because I had cameras (keep in mind these were still tightly controlled preproduction bodies at this point), and was in the process of chartering (I had already emailed the company), a helicopter for a flight the following evening. Knowing that Lucas is always down for an adventure, he looked at me and nodded and said he would change his flight. Lucas was of course grinning ear to ear on cue.

We still needed one more (besides having one guy for each of the three open door shooting positions allowed me to split the costs of the charter), and I asked Lucas who should we ask. He quickly suggested Keith Ladzinski, a new ambassador but a Nikon heavy and a mainstay in all things adventure and nature. I had just met him that trip, but his reputation preceded him. However, we had hardly had a chance to visit at all during the event thus far beyond a simple introduction. I approached him and asked of his plans for the following evening. However, he said he had a dinner he was committed to attending and then questioned why I asked. I told him that we needed to go do night aerials and I had new cameras. “I’m down,” was his response and just like that we had a solid crew of three.

Initially we planned to fly for last light, but a Friday afternoon gridlock in southern Manhattan quickly (well it did take a couple hours) derailed that. What was supposed to be an insane twilight shoot ended up being full dark. While not ideal, it allowed us to really test out what the camera could do in low light as well as test out the body-based vibration reduction capabilities.

The result? We had more fun than we should have been allowed. We each made some killer frames while stuck with only one lens. I had a 70-200, Keith had the new 24-70 and Lucas the new 35mm. We also only had one card each and one battery each. We each pushed the camera in a different way. For me, I was seeing first hand how much the body-based VR could handle, and what limits it might have. Not only was I shooting telephoto, but I was shooting slow with exposures of 1/40 sec from an open door of a helicopter.

To say I was pleased with how the camera performed in this test would be an understatement.

It was the perfect bookend to an incredible week in New York to announce the new camera. If I said that I was bummed that I missed that last dinner I would be dishonest. I was at home in the air with friends making photos.