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!

Traveling Light, and the Laptop Adventure

In about 5 days we leave for a 2-week road trip throughout the American Southwest.  We leave California and head to Flagstaff, AZ, for a few days, then on to Four Corners in Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park.  Then, a stopover in Colorado Springs.  From there, we will be in Laramie, Wyoming about 4 days, to explore as well as to visit the University of Wyoming and Fort Laramie as there is family history related to Fort Laramie in particular.  After that, on to the Teton National Park and Yellowstone, home of beautiful mountains and hot springs and geysers like Old Faithful.  Then, Salt Lake City, Utah, and St. George, Utah, and finally, home.

There will be four adults, two of whom are photographers.  We take up space.  Then there is the need for technology, too.  Not to mention knitting and drawing and reading (thank goodness for the Kindle!).  Space needs to be considered very, very seriously.  I’ve narrowed it down:  I am going to take only my Nikon V3 and its small lenses – I can pack them up quite tidily.  I am also going to bring the Olympus OM-1n and its 50mm and 35-70mm lenses, the latter of which has a close-focus element.  I also want a point-and-shoot film camera, which will be either the Trip 35 or the XA4 – possibly the latter as it is more versatile and has a wider lens, having close-up and 28mm capacities.  I will also tuck a medium format folder in amongst the camera selection, and maybe a tripod, though I seldom use them.

And then . . . there is the laptop.  It pays to have a serious IT guy in the house.  He restored the laptop to Windows 8.1 by doing some research and installing it as a bare-bones system.  I need to still install Lightroom and such on it – but I’ve decided I am not going to spend the time on it between now and the day of our departure.  I will bring my Chrome Book and use Pixlr and Polarr for post processing, and use an external 1.5 TB mini hard drive as storage.  This should do.  I would prefer to bring the laptop – thank goodness I have a genius of a husband! – but don’t want the time hassles at the moment.

Film is another decision which needs to be made.  I have JCH B&W in the OM-1n at the present, and a yellow filter as I want to try my hand at b&w landscape and nature photography (and maybe some street).  The 120 film decision can be either Kodak or Fuji . . . I chose the Perkeo as it has an automatic film stop that works, and with Kodak not having numbers dark enough to read through a red window, it’s important when choosing cameras and film.

By choosing the V3, I am going to give myself an opportunity to master some of its features that I have not yet done.  I want to try long exposures with it, to smooth out waterfalls or just the rivers we will cross.  I may need to bring a bushing for the Perkeo if I want to use it for landscape and a tripod . . . but that may be more than I want to think about!  The OM-1n should be fine as it is, and the point-and-shoots are fine in the hand.  The Chrome Book and affiliated software will be another learning curve, and it should be fun.  Polarr seems to leave a signature on all the images, but it might be it can be removed.  I haven’t had time to fidget with it too much, but like what I see.  Pixlr is like Photoshop, and some of its key features should work well in conjunction with Polarr.

So, the technology and camera questions have been sorted.  Now I have to do the bills and begin putting things in the suitcase, tech bag, and camera bag.  So much to do!  So little time!