The Southwest in Black & White

The last few days of July 2017 and the first few weeks of August 2017 were devoted to a family trip, leaving California and thence traveling through Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and home.  In that time period we covered about 4000 miles, spending 2-3 days in each place.  There were four of us – my husband’s parents, my husband, and myself.  It was a family trip, to see places never before seen, as well as to see places where family ancestors lived and worked – specifically, Ft. Laramie, Wyoming.

On this trip, there were two photographers – my FIL and myself.  Tom has a Nikon D810 and D610; he brought the D610 along and shot numerous images, which I hope to see soon!  Myself, I brought along more toys than I should confess to, but enjoyed using all of them.  In particular, I brought along a new-to-me Olympus OM-1n, an OM 50mm f1.8 MC, and the OM 35-70mm f3.5-4.5.  Each has a 49mm diameter, so I also brought along UV, polarizing, orange and red filters, and used the latter two to see how JCH StreetPan 400 would work as landscape film.

It was gorgeous!  Combined with the Oly, I was incredibly pleased.  StreetPan comes in both 35mm and 120mm, so a lot of people will be really happy.

What I like about the StreetPan is that it is contrasty, yet has a good, long grey scale.  The orange and red filters helped to make the skies pop, and the landscape.  I didn’t have to do too much in post, perhaps modifying highlights and blacks to meet my own (artistic?) desires.  Detail was good, too.

The image at the top is a panorama I stitched together in CS6; below are individual images which can give you a good idea about the beauty of this film for landscape.  These scenes were shot in the Mesa Verde National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park, both in Arizona.

 

 

Too often, black and white landscapes don’t interest me, and the reason is the difficulty in differentiating small details.  Dramatic landscapes don’t have to look dramatic, but they need something to make them dramatic.  This can mean contrast, composition, and a number of other elements.  In all honesty, I do not consider myself to be a good black-and-white photographer simply because I find it difficult to think in terms of value.  I see color before I see anything else, and certainly my gaudy photos show this tendency.  Therefore, using the filters and an already contrasty film produced a number of photos that pleased me no end.  This experience is whetting my appetite for more!

 

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The Grand Grand Canyon

Needing to travel light, I took only my Chrome Book, my Nikon V3, the Olympus OM-1n, and the Olympus XA4.  I used up 3 out of 10 rolls of film, and probably blew one of those.  I thought I had used a 4th roll, and maybe I did, but cannot seem to find it.  I used a Chrome-OS based editor called Polarr, but found the Chrome Book a bit too small to do much editing.  I backed up all my images onto an external HD, a 1.5 TB “My Passport.”

The first stop on our trip was Flagstaff, Arizona, for two nights.  We stayed at the England House B&B to use as our jumping-off points for the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  Our hosts, Richard and Laurel, were full of great information, and sent us out to the Grand Canyon to a very specific spot from which we could peer into the depths of the Grand Canyon.  We made a few stops as we drove into the Grand Canyon National Park.

The first stop was the Desert View Watchtower designed by Mary Colter, who was quite an amazing woman.  If you have a chance to visit the Desert View Tower, take the time to do so.  Not only is the Tower a piece of fascinating architectural design and execution, the views are worthwhile.  Take the time to walk around it, find the little corners, and stop for a moment to appreciate the grandeur of the view and the vision of Ms. Colter.

From the Desert View Watchtower, we drove deeper into the park, following the specific directions from Richard and Laurel.  It is a pullout leading to a fire road, and about a 20 minute walk through a pine wood.  The air is aromatic, redolent with the spices of high desert plants – resinous and sweet.

Flowers and grasses grow between the pine trees, and old, dead trees have become architectural designs created by nature, with the details of their structure revealed in their craggy lines and intimate remains.

Finally, at the end of the road, a picnic area opens up at the very edge of the Grand Canyon, which drops below you a mile.  No fences protect you.  No one tells you not to jump.  You find a place to stop, and look, to hold on to.  Birds such as ravens and raptors fly above you, only to drop down into the Canyon.  The Colorado river, a deep muddy red, flows at the very bottom.  As the sun shifts and clouds move, the colors of the Canyon change.  It’s a mesmerizing, enchanting, and magical place – far too big and grand to be seen in one day.

I used the Nikon V3 with the 1 Nikon  10-100mm lens for most – if not all – of these images, with post in Lightroom and On1.

Tripod or Not?

I rummaged through the pile of camera gear cluttering the studio.  And then I discovered a tripod I had bought some time ago:  The Manfrotto MKC3-H01.  It will fit in my suitcase!  And, with small cameras, it should be just fine.

Image result for manfrotto mkc3-h01

It’s really small and lightweight.  I like the lever clamps, instead of twisty ones.  It’s got nice features, such as a swivel head, thumb thingies, and can handle up to 3.3 lbs (2.5 kilos) of camera.  Given I am bringing only small and light – except when the V3 has the 70-300 on it – it should work out really well.

Image result for manfrotto mkc3-h01

A tripod is honestly something I have been wanting to bring as I want to get the long exposures you can get with ND filters.  The smoothness of water can make for great photographs – and I want to do this with both film and digital.  Maybe I will even do a video, just for grins, but they aren’t things I really ever do.  So, problem solved, eh?  At least, I think it is!!  An 18-inch-tall-when-compacted tripod is a pretty cool thing.

 

 

Photography Decisions for Vacation

 

Yesterday, I packed up the rest of the choices I’d made for the photographic gear I want to take on our trip.  It was a really hard, but choices had to be made.

My first decision was the bag size.  I have back packs and over-the-shoulder bags of varying sizes, along with a sling bag.  I decided on an over-the-shoulder bag, which is roomy, but not large, and is now carrying the following:

  • Nikon V3
  • 1 Nikon 70-300mm
  • 1 Nikon 10-110mm
  • 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm
  • 1 Nikon 10mm
  • 1 Nikon 18.5mm
  • 1 Nikon 32mm
  • Olympus OM-1n
  • Olympus Zuiko 50mm
  • Olympus Zuiko 35-70mm Close Focus
  • 49mm yellow, orange, and UV filters
  • 55mm ND filters

The OM system and the Nikon 1 system were chosen because they are small and lightweight, but deliver good quality.

I am also bringing 12 rolls of 35mm film, in black and white, and in color, ranging in speed.  It’s still a toss-up between the XA4 and the Trip 35, but I am inclined to take the XA4 as it is more diverse, smaller, and has a covered lens.  No medium format camera made it to the final mix.  I may bring a tripod.   I am also packing some art supplies and my Kindle.  Some knitting, too.  Headphones.  Chrome Book.  Plugs and cords and a power strip.  Yeah, stuff.  Clothes, shoes, and a toothbrush!

10 Years of Photography

Taken in 2003 at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium with an Olympus C3000Z

I have been digging through my archives of photography and am surprised to see I have been doing it for 10 years.  I didn’t even think about this until I saw I had been on Flickr since 2007.  That time has gone by so fast!

I picked up the photography habit with a friend, who later loaned me his Nikon D70 for nearly a year.  Until then, I had simple point-and-shoot digital cameras, and complete fiascos with film cameras (back before digital) as I had no idea how to take pictures.  I figured a good camera was all I needed.  Not true!  I have a lot of pictures of the backsides of deer which are evidence of my lack of knowledge on how to get a good picture.  I like to think I have improved since then!

The only formal education I ever had – in a classroom, for a grade – was in 2003 when I was laid off from a job.  I took a film photography class that summer, and it was an eye-opener.  I used a film camera my husband had from high school, a 50mm lens, and access to a darkroom at the local community college to develop and print black and white film.  I loved it – and hated it.  Most important, it taught me a lot about photography, though I really didn’t grasp the relationship between iso-f/stop-exposure until I had the ability to do endless experiments with a good digital camera (the D70) which allowed for exploration into those factors.  By exploring those, I have learned I prefer f/stops for my main image control, as DOF is, to me, an extremely important photography element.  Only when the light shifts do I change time and iso as priorities.

Photography is an art, but it is still not my go-to preference.  But, when I look back, I can see what I do enjoy about it.  Memories of times past, seeing how people change over the years (like my husband!), and just how lucky I was to get some pictures, and how much I’ve learned.  Because I am such a gotta-be-doing-something-with-my-hands person, the darkroom – the film darkroom – was a great place.  The digital darkroom is not my favorite place because you sit and play at the computer.  Still, I appreciate it – there is a lot which can be done easily in the digital darkroom (digital dungeon?) which is not so easily done in the physical darkroom.