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May 202016
 

Film Friday: Rolleiflex w/ Ilford Delta 100

By David Patris

I am from Belgium and I have been a frequent reader since a few years now. Recently I discovered my father’s Rolleifleix ( 75mm, Tessar 3.5), which was left a long time in a closet, with this camera I am enjoying to go 6×6 cm.
I use the Ilford Delta 100, a long favored film of mine, scanning them with the Epson V750 and processing the files with lightroom.

Thanks for your work with this site. I hope you will appreciate the following pictures.

David Patris

Blankenberge, Belgian coast 1.

Blankenberge, Belgian coast 2.

Colorado provencale. Lubéron, France.

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Lubéron, forêt des cèdres. France.

Arc de Triomphe. Paris.

Congressiste, porte Maillot, Paris.

Parisan Trip.

May 182016
 

Fabricated Landscape

By Olaf Sztaba

We have thought about photographing the Canadian Oil Sands for a long time. Finally, this year we drove to Fort McMurray – the hub for oil sands operations. Even though we approached the subject from a purely visual perspective, what we encountered made a huge impact on us.

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This land stretches 54,826 square miles, an area larger than England. Structures such as the toxic tailing lakes are some of the largest human-made structures in the world – so large that they can be seen from space. The land has been rearranged, altered and manipulated by human activity to the point that it is barely recognizable but so visually appealing – so ugly but strangely beautiful.

As we photographed this area, we had no clue that just two weeks later Fort McMurray and the oil sands operations surrounding it, would be threatened by massive wildfires. So far this huge fire has triggered an evacuation of the entire city of Fort McMurray or nearly 90,000 people. As I write this note, the fire has been moving north toward massive oil sands operations.

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Below please find a link to the Canadian Red Cross website, which accepts donations and helps those impacted. Please consider donating.

http://www.redcross.ca

www.olafphotoblog.com

www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

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The entire project was shot with the Fuji X-Pro2 paired with the XF 50-140mm or XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S.

Mar 082016
 

From iPhone to Sony A7RII

by Ryan Cole

Hello,

I have read your site now and again and used it as a good source of information before taking the plunge and buying a camera (Sony A7R2 and three manual Voightlander lens at 21mm, 35mm and 50mm) in November / December 2015. Before that I was using my iPhone for 4 months with the moment lens to make sure it was not just a passing fad.

Prior to August 2015 I was run down working two jobs totalling 55 hours a week in jobs I really didn’t enjoy. Circumstances panned out where I had a disposable lump sum of money and reverting to one job so I decided to use the opportunity of my new found free time and to buy a camera that I wanted (I know it’s not about the gear but if I went for an entry level camera, I would always be thinking would I be better with a better camera so instead I purchased the camera I was constantly looking at and I’m happy it will last me and only be added to if I ever get to the point where my hobby provided some income)

My three image submitted were from a day trip to Portmeirion, Wales, UK in February 2016 (first image was the road through Snowdonia national park on the way there).

Portmeirion is a weird little place in Wales and the creation of what most would deem a madman who commissioned all kinds of strange structures whilst limiting the impact on the natural surroundings. What it resulted in is a fairytale like village and whilst the images may be over-processed a little, they convey the sense of the place superbly (in my opinion but only been actively shooting for the last half a year or so)

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I think these three are in my top 5-10 images and I’m happy that I am making progress whilst also being critical and reviewing where I am and assessing where I would like to progress to (also happy that my best images seem to progress month on month as I develop)

I’d be more than happy for you to post an image, maybe it inspires someone or maybe I get constructive criticism but either way I’m happy to share.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I think I’ve followed the posting rules and apologies if I have not.

Regards,

Ryan Cole
Manchester, UK

His 500px is HERE

Feb 092016
 

Pro’s moving to Mirrorless? Yes they are!

By Craig Roberts

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Are pro’s moving to mirrorless cameras as well as amateurs and enthusiasts? Yes, they are. Is the quality good enough? Yes, it is. Can you still sell the images easily? Yes, you can. Are the images accepted by photo libraries? Yes, they are.

I made the move to mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago and use them for travel and landscape photography. I had intended to invest in the Fuji system with the XE-1, but trying both this and the Olympus E-M5 MK1 at a trade show, in my hands there was no question which felt best and I bought an E-M5 the next day.

The E-M5 has since made way for the E-M1, whilst a faulty E-PL5 was replaced with an E-P5. It’s a great combination of cameras and I have a great set of primes and zooms in the OMD system to cover all eventualities. I don’t like talking gear that much. To me it’s all about the image. The camera is just a tool and whether you choose Olympus, Fuji, Sony or Canon or Nikon for that matter, makes no difference to the end result. It’s the picture that’s important in the end, not what was used to create it.

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That said, mirrorless cameras have some great advantages over their digital SLR cousins and whilst they aren’t perfect, each of the Fuji, Sony and Olympus models have their plus and minus points.
The OMD system works for me as a landscape photographer. It suits me, the cameras feel good in my hands and the system matches my way of shooting and produces fantastic results. If I had chosen the Fuji or Sony instead, I’m sure I would have written the same sentence about them for this feature.

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I started off buying the selection of primes for the cameras, because I felt the small and compact size of the lenses, especially the Olympus ones, suited the smaller and more compact camera bodies. I love working with prime lenses and I like the discipline they force upon you. They make you consider your viewpoints more. They force you to see the world through their focal length and encourage you to put more thought into whether you should stick with that focal length or swop to another, much more than there would be with a zoom lens. Of course, they are smaller, generally faster and sharper than zoom lenses and everyone should have at least one fixed prime lens in their arsenal to appreciate the limited vision that they offer, which is a bonus, rather than a hindrance.

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I do have some zooms and they are useful for certain situations and subjects. There are times when changing lenses all the time is not convenient and so this is where zooms come into their own. Having spent the last 20 years shooting landscapes, I now, like many others, pass on my knowledge though workshops etc. In this changing world of photography, it has often become the way for landscape photographers to earn money from their profession. There’s not many photographers shooting and selling landscape images without using teaching as a way to top up their income.

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I use many was of teaching. Through location-based workshops, online courses, text-based articles and more recently through video. This last medium is an exciting one and a way of teaching that the others can’t match. I have a YouTube channel and I also a subscription service run from my website called e6, which offers even more videos and content. I teach about landscape photography and to a certain extent, the advantages of shooting with mirrorless cameras. I will rave about the Olympus system, but appreciate the choices others have made too. They all have their place and as I said at the beginning, the camera is merely a tool for an artist to use (we photographers are artists aren’t we?!)

I love photography and I love shooting with mirrorless cameras, just as I did with my Canon SLR and my Mamiya medium format camera before that come to think of it. I need a camera that suits my needs as a professional photographer. The Olympus does that in bucket loads and I’m happy to use these new breed of cameras as a workhorse for my work.

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So, the images in this feature were all captured with Olympus cameras. They make fantastic landscape cameras, yet are equally perfect for street photography too. I’m capturing images that I probably never would have with my Canon SLR and they have made me a more creative photographer. They are part of my evolution as a photographer. Why? Because of their size, their design and their flexibility. Yes, they are just a tool, but if you have great tools to work with, your progress isn’t hindered.

My YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/channel/UCqRkV8eRVvxwVStV5May0rQ

My website:
www.craigrobertsphotography.co.uk

Jul 132015
 
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Fingers Crossed: Leica Q Landscape Impressions

By David Nash

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I have to come clean: despite happily sticking with the wonderful Nikon D800e since it came out – and having no wish to change it in the forseeable future – I’ve bought and sold so many “small” cameras over the years that I’ve never settled with. To rub it in they’re all still there to remind me, listed every time I open in my Lightroom metadata tabs. Mmm.

Then along comes the Leica Q and seems to tick so many boxes: weight, size, IQ, DNG, fast sharp lens, full frame, fast autofocus, real dials, build quality, and very important for me with varifocal glasses – a really good built-in EVF (not an ugly plastic one to stick on top!).

Oh, and there’s one more key requirement for a walkabout camera: I have to be able to take photos one-handed while holding leads for to 25kilo poodles in the other hand…….

But like many I was initially slightly put off by the 28mm as opposed to 35mm which seemed about right for a general purpose carry around camera – and also by the emphasis in reviews on street photography (Not my comfort zone. I prefer trees – they don’t move so readily). Then I thought it through – I can easily crop to 35mm and still easily print A3+ and larger, and I can zoom with my feet.

So I took the plunge. Below are some of my first shots. A little work in Lightroom for the black and white images, and I’ve included at the end a color landscape, more or less as shot.

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Touch wood, this really does seem to tick all the “small camera” boxes for me. Your needs might be different. Your dogs might be smaller and lighter than mine. You might not wear varifocals and be happy without a viewfinder.

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Yes there are quirks. I don’t get why there are no tabs on the menus so you have to scroll through them all, why you must have jpegs whether you want them or not. The auto white balance seemed strange at first (7500k in sunlit scenes??) but it does actually seem near enough right. And yes it is very, very expensive.

But the bottom line is so easy to use casually, and fantastic IQ from a fantastic lens. For once Leica seem ahead of the game and listening to potential users. So maybe, just maybe, this one won’t be going on eBay in a month or so…

Thanks for reading and thanks Steve for your great site!

David Nash
Edinburgh, UK

May 132015
 

Oregon Landscapes with the Leica M9 in B&W

by Kirk Williamson

Almost a year ago my wife and I made a trip out to Oregon to visit our twin sons who have moved out there to find work in their field (3d animation). Knowing that the landscapes out there are really something compared to the East Coast I was really in a conundrum as to what to bring for gear. I am a newspaper photojournalist and carry Canon pro stuff all day every day and there was no way I was going to travel with all that heavy gear. I kept looking at my M9 wondering if it were really possible to travel with just that and my Canon G15. I know people travel light with the Leica gear all the time but they usually use it for street shooting and the usual tourist stuff. So I finally decided to go for broke and break away from my comfort zone and went with the M9 and the 35 f2 Summicron, 50 f 1.4 Summilux and the old bear 90 f2.8 Tele-Elmarit from the late sixties.

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I had no idea what I was in for when we got off the plane in Portland. It being June made me think that the weather was going to be ok but it is Oregon and rain is part of the equation, but really, all the time! So on the first day out we drove to the usual places involving beautiful waterfalls and tricky driving along the old road above the Columbia River Gorge mostly in the rain. The sun would peak out of the rain clouds from time to time giving me fantastic opportunities for images involving landscapes and clouds.

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I found myself using the 35mm and 50mm all the time for these scenics with clouds. I just put the lens at infinity, no focusing involved (old school auto focus). These two lenses did the bulk of the work and they were a joy to use. The 90mm was almost as much and the images were spectacular. I only wanted my 21mm a few times but all in all the travelling light thing was great, the Leica excelled at landscape shooting. Now I do have to say that I was not very well prepared for shooting waterfalls as I did not bring a tripod and cable release. I was able to get around it using the Canon G15 or shooting at around 1/30s some even at 1/90s to slow down the larger water falls.

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The Canon G15 made it out a few times but mostly on a hike of Silver Falls State Park which has ten waterfalls along a hiking route. What a great camera to hike with! Two of the shots I have included were taken with that camera – two of my favorites. The waterfall shot made with this camera was done holding it down on a post at 1/6s so it is a bit soft which adds to it’s other worldly look. The macro leaf shot was made with the G15 as well.

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Very quickly I noticed that this was going to be a mostly B&W conversion right from the start. The colors were muted with the gray skies and rain so I converted some right way after loading them into my iPad. The result was wow! The clouds just popped. So I knew when I got home that post processing in Silver Efex Pro would be warranted. Boy was I right the results were fabulous.

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Needless to say my small kit was a big success. I have upgraded my M9 to the M-P 240 and plan on bringing that along for this years trip. We will be going to the coast so I will be including my 21mm Super Elmar as I know I’ll need it. This time the G15 will be staying home as my Sony Nex-7 will be tagging along to use with my Leica glass.

My website is www.krwphoto.com and my blog is www.krwphoto.com/blog

Thanks,

Kirk

Apr 222015
 

Photographing an Icon 01

Uluru: Photographing an Icon

When you first hear of Uluru, you most likely imagine desert, Indigenous Australians, tourists and a very big rock. Conceptually you know that this is a spiritual place and that there is some pretty deep cultural significance when it comes to the land here. You may even realise that The Rock is one of Australia’s biggest (literally!) draw cards, hosting more than a quarter of a million people each year (amazing, considering how isolated it is).

What you may not be able to truly comprehend is the fact that big doesn’t even begin to describe this thing. Nor the fact that its spirituality will affect you, even if you are not a religious person – it is just that kind of place. So come on a walk with me as I share my (regrettably too short) visit to this magical, mysterious marvel.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 200; 40mm

At nearly 350m high and almost 10km in circumference, this truly is a big rock!

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 100; 38mm

The Red Centre is just that – red and right at the geographical heart of Australia.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 10 iso 100; 40mm

OM-D E-M5 with 45mm at f1.8; 1/3200 sec; iso 200; 45mm

One of the first things you will most likely do (assuming you arrive later in the day, as we did) is to run up to the nearest lookout so you can get your first glimpse of Uluru – and a selfie, of course!

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When you arrive at the visitor centre, you will get a shadowed view of the rock face – if it’s morning – and the amazing colour will not yet be apparent. It is when you finally see the surface bathed in sunlight that you first understand how vibrant this rock really is. Red doesn’t quite describe it, but orange is too lurid a word. These pictures come close but, like the Grand Canyon, different light makes for different experiences.

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f6.4; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/40sec; iso 100; 37mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f4.5; 1/2500 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/50sec; iso 100; 40mm

One of the next things you will notice will affect you in one of three ways. Seeing people climbing the face of Uluru can make you hunger for the thrill of bagging another unique peak. The sight may mean nothing to you – people can do what they want. Or you may feel a form of anger at people who so willingly decline to accede to the wishes of the traditional custodians of the land. As photographers we are asked not to record images showing this activity, however I feel that the image shows that individuals will always make their own decisions.

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For me and my wife the walk around the base was a revelation. As you start the circumnavigation, you are blown away by the height, more than anything else. At 348m at its highest point, Uluru is more than double the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza and even just pips the Eiffel Tower. Once you get over the height (you never really do) you begin to notice the textures and colours. Weathering from wind and rain and sand have left patterns in the surface – some of which are just pretty, but many of which are considered to be a form of scripture to the Anangu People who have lived in this region of Australia for at least 30 000 years. The patterns act as visual aids in the oral traditions of the Anangu and photography of many of the eroded areas of the rock is prohibited. Signage lets you know what you can and cannot shoot, but erring on the side of caution is recommended.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/80sec; iso 100; 17mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f8; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

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One of the next things you may notice is how still and quiet the air is around Uluru. Yes, I do mean the atmosphere in more than one sense – on the day we were there it was perfectly windless (I am unsure how normal this is) but mostly I refer to the sense of peace and solitude that exists. We were there just before the peak tourism period begins and maybe that had something to do with it, but I doubt that was the only reason. Standing before this chunk of weather-beaten arkose, it is easy to understand why it is held sacred by the Indigenous people. There is an eerie sense that you are both alone and at the same time, not alone. Again, like the colours, it is more easily experienced than described.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f8; 1/40sec; iso 100; 17mm

Finally, the light and the way it interacts with the rock and trees. As photographers we are always chasing light and you will not be disappointed on your visit to Uluru. Be it harsh midday sun or soft pastel light and the edge of the day, Uluru’s grandeur absorbs the light and throws it back at you in myriad ways.

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5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f16; 1/15sec; iso 125; 17mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 1/30sec; iso 400; 40mm

This iconic landmark was on my wishlist for many years before my wife and I finally visited. We always wondered whether the reality would live up to the hype. Now we know that reality’s shadow leaves the hype’s glitter just a little dull. The only thing left to do now is to visit again. And again…

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f11; 1/60sec; iso 100; 17mm

A short list of things to remember:

May is a great time to go – fine weather and less tourists. Rent a 4×4 – you’ll see more places at your own pace. If you plan on using any of your images for commercial purposes (if you want to sell the images) you will need a permit. It’s a pain, but worth it – and you get park entry included for yourself and an assistant (my wife was my assistant!) so cost works out similar to if you just visited.
Some sites and viewpoints are restricted for cultural and religious reasons – respect these rules. Driving in the outback after dark is hazardous – hitting a kangaroo or cow at speed is potentially deadly. Be careful! Put the camera away for a least part of your trip – really experience this amazingly spiritual place for its own sake.

By Wesley Walker

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I am an Amateur photographer who dabbles in stock photography. Mostly I take images while hiking (particularly on holidays!) but I do occasionally set out to make specific images – still working on that!

SmugMug: http://walkerpodimages.smugmug.com/

Blog: https://walkerpodimages.wordpress.com/

Feb 102015
 

The Light Weight Really Matters!

By Mohamed Hakem

I’ve written before on how Fuji helped me unhinge new passion in the street photography but now I’m back with a new experience. After the switched from DSLR (Nikon D800) to Mirrorless (Fuji X-T1). I wrote before on how this switch helped me discover new genres in photography as street and people. But what I couldn’t imagine is that the mirrorless could outperform the DSLRs in landscape also! I am a landscape photographer and I’ve been a loyal Nikon user all my life. Coming from a monster in the shape of a camera (D800) made me see all other cameras as toys. Huge dynamic range and massive pixels. When I first got into the Fuji’s I was never expecting that it will one day be my main camera and replace the D800, and it did!

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People tend to look at the technical factors only; dynamic range, color depth and charts and come up with a conclusion that DSLRs are much better for landscape. Yes the D800 is much more capable on paper than the fuji, but the fuji can come to you to places that the D800 would be a burden! The Fuji can provide colors and of the nature and sand the Nikon never ever did provide!

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I was going to a hike in Mount Mousa , Sinai,Egypt. This is the second highest mountain in all Egypt 2422m above sea level and it has extremely rough terrain. Its a challenge for an unexperienced hiker like me. Its an over night non stop climb that lasts for 5 hours and you stay up there for 2 hours then come back. So you have to save your energy as everybody will go up there to rest while you will be setting up for your shots. Everybody’s major tip was leave behind all unnecessary things. for me I carried the fuji X-T1, 10-24, 55-200 and 8mm samyung lens and a small 3leggedthing tripod. As we climbed things got heavier and heavier and it was really hard towards the end but we made it.

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I never thought of climbing a mountain before as I would die if I go up without a camera and my corresponding Nikon setup would be (Nikon D800 1KG, 14-24 1KG, 70-200 2KG, tripod 3KG. fisheye 0.5KG. and a decent backpack would sum up to roughly 10KGs! All of this on my back and I could barely walk! Compare this to a 3KG of the Fuji system. So I went up, setup my equipment and was really happy with the results and they sold well on my website. If I were to take the Nikon I would have either gave up during the climb or would have reached the top with no strength to compose and shoot!

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Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Website: www.hakemphotography.com

500px: 500px.com/hakem

Jul 112014
 

My New Challenge: Black and White Landscape

By Dirk

Hi!

I decided I need a new challenge in photography. Thirty years ago, I printed black and white landscape. After a move I didn’t have a darkroom anymore and it stopped. Some years ago I started shooting medium format. My favorite camera was the Mamiya 7 rangefinder with the 43mm lens.

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I started shooting landscape again. I discovered I could directly use all my darkroom experience in Photoshop. This week I bought a 6×9 technical camera. I’m going for serious landscape now, with a camera with movements. I hope to make about ten good images a year. I very much enjoy going to the basics of photography. I know the Sony A7R with the Canon 17mm tilt – shift is better, but I don’t care: there is simply no comparison. I get my images printed with an inkjet on Hahnemühle baryta. I like grain and thus I shoot with 400 ASA film.

Here are a few images, shot with the Mamiya 7 with the 43mm lens:

The Bernia mountain range, Costa Blanca, Spain, orange filter.

Bernia mountain

Schelde river at Antwerp, red filter; this image was on my first roll off the Mamiya.

River Schelde, Antwerp

A village in the Ardennes, shot with an orange filter.

Falmagne

Dirk.

Jul 042014
 

Death Valley with the EM1

By Goran Nikolic

WARNING Long intro =)

I am one of those guys that bought a good (canon 1100d) camera when he got kids too make good pictures of them while they are growing up. However, I was not aware of the [email protected] possible photography addiction. They should come boxed with a clear warning, WARNING possible photography addiction (stage 1) followed by the more serious G.A.S. (stage 2) hehe :). I really liked taking pictures from the start and took the camera everywhere with me, everything was fine until I hit stage 2 of my addiction…

When I got struck with G.A.S. I told myself that I absolutely had to have a full frame camera, the main reason why my images were simply snapshots was because I did not have a fullframe camera with a 2.8 zoom and an awesome prime… So I saved up and got the Nikon D700 followed by a Nikon D800 (obviously! I mean come on… they were still snapshots I needed more Megapixels! That was the problem off course).

For some reason yet unknown to me I could not make a sharp picture with the D800 unless I used a tripod! It obviously was Nikon’s fault… so I switched to the Canon 6D because obviously Canon is far superior… I think by now you can image that I really had a bad case of G.A.S. and that my wallet was shrinking faster then that I could fill it up :). But it did not end here! Oh no… the next problem for my ‘dull’ images was obviously the big and heavy DSLR, so I got a Fuji XE-1 haha, yeah…. I know what you are thinking, dude what the…..?

So you would think thats it! He got the Fuji and this post would be full with Fuji pictures and those awesome fuji colours. Sadly no, I was used to some amazing DSLR’s and that little Fuji frustrated the hell out of me, it was a love/hate relationship because the images it chunked out were amazing! This was the first camera I was actually happy with the JPG images! If I could get the damn thing to focus… even with all the updates (why aren’t all companies like Fuji in this department?).

Luckily for me this was the end of the line and I saw that I was way to focussed on the equipment and not on the actual images that I made with them (or the experience!). I have had some great and amazing keepers from all of them but I went too far and had to stop (……. year right… by now you probably figured out that my wife got fed up with my gear obsession and told me to stop haha :). So I sold everything! I was actually quite amazed by the amount of money I was able to get back when I sold it all (except for the Fuji), the loss was actually limited to a few hundred euro’s (phew!).

I then spend almost three months to find the camera that would suit me best, and eventually ended up with the EM1, after having tried the camera a few times (even had it on loan for a few weeks) I decided to buy it with just one lens (the kit 12-40 zoom, probably should not call this a kit lens?), this report is my first experience with the camera (and next to that it is also the first time I am sharing my pictures outside of my friends and family too!).

Wow, now that was a large intro right? Well sorry for that :) but this was the path to ‘my style’ of photography. Through that process I learned that I was not a pro photographer, and it also is not my goal in life to become one. I just like to take pictures from time to time. So when a friend asked me whether I wanted to go to vegas with him (and leave our wifes at home) I obviously thought about the great pictures I could take with my new OM-D :) haha.

We took a plane from Amsterdam to LA (yes I am from the land of Heineken) and after a flight of almost 11 hours we rented a car to drive to Vegas. Not just any car….no no, a mustang convertable! Now I think that for Americans this is not really that special because they are quite common in the US, however Europeans love the idea of driving on the truly amazing roads (sorry have to exclude LA here….. that was no fun at all) in the US with either a Harley or a Mustang.

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After a rather long drive mostly due to the some brutal LA traffic jams we finally made it to Vegas and checked in at our hotel. And Vegas was …. well yeah I did not make a lot of pictures in Vegas hehe. Man what a place!

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But during the day I really had to buy a baseball cap for myself (I wear glasses and did not have my sunglasses with me) because the sun was really not what I was used to. Here in the Netherlands we are happy if we get 3 weeks of sun per year! It was a Yankees cap by the way which cause everybody to yell go Yankees at me, quite an experience :).

But what I did noticed was that the camera was actually handling itself pretty good! Both during the day was well as by night! That image stabilization is quite magical. The image of the new york new york resort was shot hand-held (1/60th @ 5000 ISO) and still looks pretty clean and sharp! I do not really use a lot of noise reduction because I also quite like the grain structure of the EM1, its pleasant, I think that maybe due to the high pixel density but I am not sure what contributes to the grain structure. Also when printed below A4 you see almost no noise at all.

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This image below I call arty farty, it was a bit of an experiment. We sat down for a moment to enjoy the awesome cars that were passing (camaro, mustang, charger, and more! Wauw!) that I just thought I would try something out, after freezing my brain with a slushy. So I stacked my ND filters (10 stop + 3 stop), set the camera to its lowest native ISO (200) and stopped down as far as I could (F22) and saw that still I only got a 5 second exposure (was hoping for 20+)… thats how bright the sun was that day! It was pretty easy to set the camera up and change all the settings without using any menus. I really love all the various dials and buttons that I can completely setup to my own preference.

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After a few days started passing by we noticed that Vegas was quite EXPENSIVE! Yes you would think that we could have expected that, and we did, but a few ice-cold beers @ twin peaks can do strange things to your brain :). So we decided to do some sight-seeing. One day we decided to go to death valley, so we packed the car with water and were off. Again the roads, it is simply stunning to drive on roads with amazing views for hours with only seeing a few cars pass by. So I could not resist to stop from time to time to take some pictures of the road! Which drove my buddy to insanity since we kept stopping so I could take another picture of the road… again and again … and again haha

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What really impressed me about the EM1 was also how it handled in the desert, and how it handled the images in the harsh sun (this is also dynamic range right?)! Wish I was as resilient as the EM1! When we first arrived in death valley and stopped for the first sight, I saw a small hill and thought ow man that looks amazing (actually that was what I said for the entire route because everything was amazing!). I decided to run up there to take some pics…. yeah people told me death valley was hot…. but damn… hot does not give it credit! I now know how a burger feels on the grill. Anyway, I made it up the hill but I felt like I was baking in an oven! I couldn’t breath and everything in front of me started turning white! So my first priority was to drink drink and get my ass back to the car and turn on the AC. My buddy was actually quite worried and told me afterwards that I really did not look so well haha but after some AC time and one of the best hot dogs I ever had @ Furnace Creek and about 6 or 7 liters of water I luckily felt much better. When we walked back to the car I saw the thermometer outside read 120 degrees! So I took it a bit easier from then on and took my time (and had even more water!) :).

We unfortunately did not have a lot of time in death valley itself, we had to get back in time, so we decided to pick a few points to go to and then drive back to Vegas. We stopped at Rhyolite (ok not really death valley but close enough) to see a real ghost town, and it was pretty cool to see how people in the area lived once. Images were made on a tripod.

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After Rhyolite we stopped @ Beatty (errr did time stop there?) for some gas (GAS! you get it? probably not the best of jokes….) and then drove back through death valley. Up until Zabriskie Point I didn’t make a lot of pictures at all. The scenery was so amazing that I was enjoying every bit of it. It is such an amazing place that I really hope I can go back to one day and spend a bit more time there to see more of it.

By the time we got to Zabriskie Point the sun started to set and I started to walk around in search of different perspectives. At first I thought damn… how can I make some landscape shots without having all those tourist in my pictures! Haha great isn’t it… a tourist that is taking pictures that is saying that about other tourist that are also trying to get the same pictures :). Anyway after a few attempts I got these shots. A small warning though! I like colors! COLORS!!! I like them but I can imagine that some might find it a bit too much :).

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But after making them I felt something was missing. I really liked the pictures even though I still think they did not do the scenery justice because that truly was AMAZING! Wow the colors and the mountains and patterns… just wow nothing more to say! Really have to go back there one day. But back to the pictures :), I felt something was missing, but then I saw a few girls sitting down near where I was taking shot nr. 4. And then I though but what if I include them in my shot? Would that be better?

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And there it was…. my favorite shot of the day :). How such a small element can make such a big difference, I like the fact that one of the girls just made a picture and is showing it to her neighbour. Now most probably not everybody will agree with me here but I really thought that including them in the shot gave a totally new feel to the image. I also tried zooming in a bit and getting a closer shot of the amazing sunset and the four girls enjoying the view but I still thought the first shot worked better for me.

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That was it! Our day in death valley with probably the biggest intro this blog has ever had! Sorry about that :), but I wanted to share my experiences and share that for me having better gear did not increase my joy in photography. I truly love making pictures, but I love doing it because it gives me the opportunity to freeze time. To hold a moment in my live that I wish to remember, to have images that can trigger my memories, that can take me back to the time when I made them and relive the moments I experienced. The gear I used to make the images with will most probably fade from my memory since they are not a real part of my experience (more of a supporting element). So what worked for me is to have a tool that is the most complete package for me. Good image quality, good build (I did not have a single speck of dust on my sensor using that 12-40 zoom lens!) but most importantly that I can operate with joy. I wanted a camera that I did not have to think much about when using it, and for me I found everything that I need in the EM1 and cured my G.A.S. to a certain amount as well. I say to a certain amount because I am looking forward to that 7-14 zoom from Olympus :).

I also do not really worry about the camera because it is built like a tank. I dropped it a few times (it has a few chips on the bottom), spilled some lemon water over it and banged it into several people while walking the streets. But I’m not really bothered with it because I know it will survive, which gives me piece of mind as well. And it was this blog that got this camera to my attention. Thank you both Steve and all of your readers for that because I found a piece of equipment that gives me a great deal of satisfaction and helped me to focus more on the images then on the gear I use to make them. I even shoot more pics with my phone now, which I never did before because of the ‘inferior’ quality of the photo’s. In the end it’s all about the moment and what that moment captured does for you, what feeling it gives you, and possibly even what memories it relives for you if it is a personal photograph. I got that now :).
I hope you will like (some of) my images, my style of editing and have enjoyed my first ever photography related article! I thought about also adding a few more details about how I processed my images but I think I will not bore you with those details :).

Now obviously while driving back to Vegas…. I still drove my buddy nuts (yes again… sorry mate!) by stopping constantly to take pictures of the road! Amazing roads!!!!

Thanks for reading!

GN.

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Apr 162014
 

The Sony RX1r meets the Olympus E-M1 in Iceland

By Chris Bakker

My website – http://www.chrisbakkerphoto.com

Hi Steve and readers of SteveHuffPhoto.com!

My name is Chris Bakker, a free time photographer from the Netherlands. I began to do photography around Christmas of 2012. I started off with a Sony RX100 by taking photos from all kinds of subjects what surrounded me and It didn’t took me long to really get caught by the beauty of photography . Right from the start I tried to read as many (e)books on photography as I could, follow on a daily basis the online forums and practice the acquired knowledge in the field. I am also a frequent reader of this site and let me tell you this site has giving me so much that I thought it would be time to give a little bit of my contribution in return.

Because I was so into photography I decided in the summer of 2013 to trade in my trusty RX100 for his bigger brother the RX1r. This indeed is a magical powerhouse and capable of delivering some stunning photo’s. This camera has got me even more into photography. Later that year, in November the Olympus OMD E-M1 came out and because I wanted to do different things in photography which needed faster auto focus and different focal length than 35mm, I decided to buy the E-M1 alongside my beloved RX1r and step into the world of micro 4/3.  I can say I have no regrets at all. This camera is so well designed and thought out, it works so well, it just makes you want to go out and shoot.

I often attend workshops and like to learn from the pros. So when the opportunity came by to go to Iceland for 11 days with a pro landscape photographer from the Netherlands, to learn in the field, I decided to go. So on February the 22 I went off to Iceland to return 11 days later home with an overwhelming experience by the beauty of Iceland. Not only did I came home with a lot of photos but also with a lot of acquired knowledge and practical experience.

So l’ll stop the twaddle, let’s get to the photo’s!

E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Kirkjufellsfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Going to Iceland in the winter takes some planning in advance. Although the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t too cold the wind can be really extreme. And the combination of those two makes it cold. Proper clothing, like multi layers, warm hand cloves and a fur cap is not a luxury. A good windbreaker can be a rain suit. Because of the hard wind, I can advise to take a big and sturdy tripod with you. I have come to situations where I definitely had to hold on to my MEFOTO Globetrotter tripod preventing it from falling over. A tripod can allow you to shoot at times of day when the light is unlike any other. If you want to shoot at sunrise or sunset, and you want to keep the ISO down, you need that long exposure. when you want to work with HDR you need a tripod for sure. Light is everything, don’t miss some of the best light of the day because you didn’t want to carry a tripod. What also comes in handy is to wear knee-pads. The ground is often stony and wet.

Snaefellsjoekull – RX1r

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E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Brúarfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Shining stones in river – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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While I was out making photos in the field I did quite often use my filters. There are many people that think in digital photography you don’t need filters anymore. Many think that this is also possible in post processing. When you need a slower shutter speed to blur motion, like with waterfalls, or polarizing light to reduce glare, do it with filters. Filters still enable an aesthetic that’s not possible through simple post-production, and in some cases not possible at all, even in Photoshop. Everybody has his own way of working but we people often work in sequence. We start off with 1 go to 2 than react to 3 to get to 4 or so. While this is a quite similar process as in post-production, like Lightroom, it is also a good process at point of capture. When experimenting with filters in the field you see the result immediately and that gives you the change to react to it. So it can definitely be a good thing for creativity. I used mostly a 3 stop ND filter from Singh-Ray and a Big stopper from Hoya the NX400. In a few occasions I used graduated and reverse grad filters, mostly at sunrise or sunset. For Polarizer’s, Singh-Ray Color Combo and the Gold ‘n Blue.

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Northern Lights near Vik – RX1r

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Vik Beach – E-M1 pana 35-100f2.8

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – RX1r

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunset JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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What really fascinates me is that you can learn infinitely, it’s an ongoing process. Photography has become an essential part of my life. It’s so much fun, it’s a way of living. I hope you enjoy watching these photos as much as I did making them.

Chris Bakker

A few more…

Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Vik Beach – RX1r

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Old Turf Farm House – RX1r

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Icelandic Horse – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Nov 122013
 

Steve,

I’ve never really been a landscape kind of guy. Let’s just say that I wasn’t until my wife and I spent a week in Moab, Utah.

I’ve always been into the outdoors. I was eleven years old the first time my folks dropped my twin brother and I off in the woods and said “Hike to your aunt’s house if you get into trouble. Meet us at this spot in a week.” It was the mid 1980’s and parents had much more freedom and didn’t have to worry regarding public criticism from the media as they do today.

Backpacking and hiking have always been a passion in my life. Other outdoor hobbies have followed. I do not bring many new hobbies into my life as it is already full and I’m not willing to lessen the time with loves I already have.

The great thing about photography is that it does not interfere with the activities that I do or the adventures that I take. It compliments them.

My love and I always take at least one week-long outdoor trip per year. We fill the rest of the year with weekend trips as one week a year isn’t enough for us. On occasion I sleep out in the back yard for a quick fix.

While planning for the Moab trip my wife asked “Are you going to take some landscapes for me?” My love doesn’t feel as much passion as I do for street photography or my attempts at documentary style visual story telling. I used this opportunity to reply back “I am. But….. if we want to print the photos big I should probably invest in a wide-angle for my M9.” I still can’t believe that she agreed without hesitation or question.

I ended up purchasing a Voigtlander 28mm Ultron f2. I made sure that I went to your site and clicked the link to B&H for the purchase. I visit your site everyday and want to give back.

I must say that after spending a week in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park I will definitely look forward to taking more landscapes. On a side note, many men ask how I get my wife to head out into the wilderness for a week at a time. I always respond…… Keep her gear light and comfortable. Keep her warm. Don’t forget to hold hands and snuggle in the tent. Tell her you love her.

A Leica M seems to be the perfect on trail, off the grid, landscape camera and here’s why I feel so:

SIZE: No explanation is really needed. Pack a DSLR on the trail with a battery grip attached and you’ll understand. On the trail no one has anything to prove. Carrying a heavy pack doesn’t make you any more tough. Have a good time. Pack light and enjoy the trip.

OPTICS: Corner sharpness? Micro contrast? I don’t really think about these concepts as I normally only care about composition and light when shooting street or documentary style. This matters when printing landscapes. I look at the landscapes I took during this trip and don’t really focus on a single subject but admire the composition as a whole. I actually look into the corners and into the details of the rocks. The quality from the M9 and M lenses amaze me.

TRIPOD: What are those for? With no mirror slap I shoot handheld. I’ve been known to shoot as slow as 1/8 of a second with my M9 in a dark bar while having pints with friends. I’m amazed that the photos actually turn out pretty sharp. I actually take a Zipshot Micro for the occasional self-portrait when on the trail. We occasionally run into people when out and about. When people ask to take our photo for us I’m nice, oblige, and hand them the camera. But….. we all know where that gets us.

CONNECTION: My buddy has a great saying “It feels right.” When I’m on the trail with a pack on, the pack feels apart of me. It feels right. When I’m on stage my guitar feels apart of me. It feels right. I hold a rangefinder to my eye with a finger on the shutter release. It feels right. Shooting a manual rangefinder feels pure. That’s also why I head out on the trail. It feels pure.

Attached are several photos from our trip. All photos were processed using Lightroom 4. I couldn’t resist converting them to black and white. I couldn’t get Ansel’s photos out of my head. My only two M lenses are a VC 28 mm Ultron and a 50 mm Summicron V4. I used both for these shots.

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You can view more of the photos at:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.tumblr.com

www.facebook.com/photographsbybenmiller

Thank you for keeping such a wonderful website and giving all of us something to look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben

Aug 262013
 

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User Report – Sony RX1R and Leica S2 in Glacier National Park, Montana

by Eeraj Qaisar

Hello Steve!

I have been following your web-site for quite some time now and have seen it s tremendous growth over the past several years. Having enjoyed many user contributed stories, with some very impressive photo shoots (Ashwin Rao’s “Chasing Light in the Plaouse” is one such story that comes to mind). Here is my contribution.

About me: I have been interested in photography and outdoors since a long time. My first camera was an Afga Click III. Currently I use various Leica cameras with some of the newer digital compacts like Sony RX1R and Sigma DP3 thrown in the mix. While I am not a pro-photographer, I am dedicated enough to devote substantial time to photography and get out of bed at unearthly hours to catch that elusive pre-dawn or dawn glow and stay up late at night to get that one moon-shot. My photostream on Flickr is here and I also published a book on blurb.com featuring some of my photos from this user report here.

This will be a part user report and part travelogue with some notes about my recent visit to the spectacular Many Glacier National Park in Montana.

As it happened, I ended up with 3 cameras on this trip – Sony RX1R (the new version without the AA filter), Leica S2 and Sigma DP3. I will cover my impressions with the first two in this report. Sigma DP3, a formidable but quirky machine in own right can perhaps be covered in another report. For the Leica S2, I took the 180MM and 35MM lens. I could have perhaps skipped the 35mm, but since I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to haul both these beast sized lenses across the country in my backpack.

So my backpack included: Sony RX1R, Sigma DP3, Leica S2, Leica 180MM Elmar and Leica 35MM Summarit, Really Right Stuff ballhead, memory cards, batteries, rainsuit, a light jacket, and some snack bars. Add a medium-sized carbon fiber tripod in my carry on to the mix and I won’t blame if someone says I need to see a therapist soon.

TIP: In the USA, TSA generally allows tripod in carry-on luggage. Make sure you don’t have spiked feet with it and remove the heavy ballhead and keep it separately. Regulations may vary at other places and even TSA is inconsistent at times. I however carried my tripod in my carry-on.

My thoughts on Sony RX1R

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Steve has already reviewed the RX1 in detail earlier and also the RX1R recently. Let me say that it is the best full-frame 35 mm compact cameras in existence today. I say it on the basis of the totality of its package that includes image quality, size, portability, FF sensor, superb Zeiss lens and the controls it offers. There is nothing like it out in the market today. There are some nice APS-C compact cameras that come close, but not equal to it in 35MM format. At the risk of upsetting some Leica diehards, I would say that for 35MM focal length, RX1R will give more consistent results shot to shot, with no loss in image quality compared to either Leica M9 or even the new M (yes, I have access to Leica M9 and Summilux 35 FLE). (I agree – Steve)

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Its one Achilles heel is no built-in EVF and that renders it virtually useless in bright sunlight. Non-articulating LCD is another. I was unfortunately not able to get the EVF on time for use with it. The other thing is that the battery life while not bad is not great either. Plan to take 3 batteries if this is going to be your only camera for a full-day’s worth of shooting. Otherwise two will suffice.

On all cameras, I use only singe center point AF, aperture priority and this is how I used the RX1R also.

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It feels nice in hand and has a certain heft that without being heavy, manages to convey a feeling of solidity. A very fine balance indeed. In use, I found it fluid and fast. Most controls I needed were a click or two away, including ISO (left click on the wheel), exposure compensation (dedicated wheel on the top – brilliant), real aperture ring on the lens (lovely), drive mode (press the Fn key and select the drive mode).

I am not sure how Sony engineers managed to squeeze in a built-flash too. Perhaps they can make the LCD screen articulating and add an EVF too in a later iteration while keeping size largely same. One other thing Sony can improve upon is to tone the camera down a bit – I mean it looks a bit too flashy with bright white markings and the ring around the lens saying “35MM Full Frame CMOS Sensor” is downright silly. These flashy things reflect Sony’s consumer electronics background, but please can they just tone it down?

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I used AF most of the time (and it never missed), with probably only 3 or so shots taken using MF as the targets were a bit tricky (small berries behind some leaves). When shutter speeds got low and tripod was not viable, I raised ISO to 400 without hesitation. In practice it can go much higher on the ISO without practical image degradation, but personally I prefer to then use a tripod and keep the ISO low especially for critical shots in places that I may not visit again that easily. Obviously it depends on the situation too – if it is a shot, that moment that you must capture without wait, then feel free to go up to ISO 3200 or perhaps more. RX1R will deliver. Another thing is that this camera has a much larger headroom than its image previews with blown highlights indicate (these are incorrect in most cameras anyway as they are based on JPG previews, even if you shoot RAW), so feel free to experiment by pushing the EV to +0.3 or +0.7 and then pull back in post for even better noise control. In other words, play with ETTR. You can also look at the histogram in live-view as that is closer to reality.

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Tip on batteries: If you are like me, you will be out shooting by 5am and won’t be back by 8pm or even 9pm as the real fun for evening photography happens when it starts to get dark. Add to this the fact that you may have been hiking and will dead tired when you get to your room. You also need to get up early next day – 5am. Given all this you may not have time to wait for one battery to finish charging so you can put in the next one, unless you are awake all night. So think carefully how to manage all this.

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Leica S2

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Note: Steve reviewed the S2 earlier, be sure to read his review as it covers more ground than my user notes here.

If Sony RX1R is the svelte model, the Leica S2 with its lenses is to put it delicately, Rubensque. Well maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. It is the exact opposite of RX1R, not only in size but also in appearance – devoid of any bright white markings nor any announcement on the outside stating that it has a larger than FF sensor. Though the body alone is no larger than pro FF DSLRs, with the lenses, it is big and heavy. You will get noticed. Its high ISO sucks. Actually, it does not have high ISO by modern FF or APS-C standards. Its LCD screen is barely adequate at 480K. A D800E can not only compete, but exceed it in some cases, especially at high ISOs. So why did I take it? As it happened, I was offered a loaner for a month or so. At first I was hesitant to carry it due to size and weight. But a few hours with it and I made a decision. A big and bright viewfinder, superb ergonomics, lenses with gorgeous manual focus ring and precise autofocus all convinced me to haul it with me. I was not disappointed.

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In hand, ergonomics are superb and all buttons are placed so that the thumb and the forefinger rest at the right places. I found the AF very accurate. Having used the D800E before and the need tweak AF to get the right focus, it was a pleasure to not do this hocus-pocus with the S2. Each Leica S2 lens comes with embedded firmware specific to that copy of the lens that ensures accurate AF. Except in very dim light when the AF did not work at all, I tried hard to see if I could do better than the AF with manual focus on my own. Even when using a 2X loupe over the viewfinder, I did not find one instance where manual focus was more precise that the AF.This is simply amazing. In the S2, you can set the camera to manual focus and yet, by pressing the function button at the back can have the lens AF. I found this very useful and used this setting all of the time as it allows you to quickly set the focus via AF and then tweak a bit if needed. The focus ring on the S2 lenses is a joy to use with a large grip and very precise movements. Some may find Leica S2’s single center point AF limiting, but that was more than adequate for my purposes. S2’s AF while accurate is not exactly fast if you compare it to the likes of Nikon D800E or Nikon D3X.

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One thing to note is that the 1/F rule for handholding does not really ensure crisp shots with the S2 or any other larger than FF sensors for that matter. 1/2F is a minimum and 1/3F is needed if you want to increase your odds. Given this and the fact that I used the S2 180 mm lens most of the time I used the tripod with it for all of my shots. Yes, a pain. But that pain and ache is gone in a few days and the results will last a long time so it is worth it. Another thing: on the tripod, I either chose drive mode of 2 seconds self-timer that enables mirror-up automatically or 12 second-timer and enabled mirror-up. This is important to ensure that any vibration resulting from shutter press dies down before the shutter is tripped. A better way is to use a remote release which I did not have.

A tripod does limit mobility and at times creativity. At other times, it can slow you down and force you to be in a more methodical shooting mode as opposed to a machinegun shooting style, so that can be good. So plan ahead about your objectives for that day’s photographs and how you will accomplish those.

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I ended up using the S2 180mm Elmar lens a lot on this trip. The reason is that vast landscapes like these require long lenses to really focus on the interesting parts. I would say it is much harder to pull off convincing landscapes in places like Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park with wider lenses. If you don’t have a tele-lens with you in such areas then it is simply not possible to get certain shots. You can’t zoom with you feet and walk on water or air to get that shot of the mountain-top with fog on it or pick a certain structure far in the canyon. This is not to say that a wide lens is not needed or cannot be used effectively in these situations – the point is that you need to plan for both situations.

Note that the crop factor on the S2 is 0.8x.

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Battery life is superb. After a full day of shooting, the meter had barely budged.

One comment I often hear on cameras like Sony RX1R, Leica S2, Leica M9 “camera xxx is thousands of dollars cheaper than [RX1R/S2/M9] and can produce equally good photos”. The reality is that all modern cameras are good and you have really have to try hard to find a BAD camera today. It boils down to your personal preferences, ergonomics, camera size and your budget. Even the iPhone can take excellent photos. So find a camera that you like and can afford and enjoy.

About Many Glacier National Park, Montana

Stunning. Amazing. Breathtaking. It is a wonderland if you like the outdoors, the mountains, the spectacular scenery, several hiking trails at all levels of difficulty, lakes and much more. From the US East Coast, getting there is a bit of a hassle requiring two flights. But it is worth it. I met many persons not only from the USA but from all over the world there during my trip. I spent 6 days there and probably could have stayed 4 more without running out of things to do. For staying there are several options, both inside and outside the park.

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Main Activities & Logistics

The park has two main entrances, West Glacier and East Glacier. I found East Glacier to be more scenic but the West side is no slouch either. I would recommend dividing your time by staying on both sides to be able to enjoy the scenes from both sides. Whether you are a hiker, biker, want to enjoy the scenery just from the car or all of these, there is plenty do here.

One of the main attractions here is the aptly named “Going to the Sun Road” that makes its way through lakes, and then reaches dizzying heights with spectacular views of valley below. It was built in 1932 and is a fine example of civil engineering and sheer willpower even today. It passes though small tunnels, waterfalls right by the road (!) and has several pull-outs along the way to stop and soak in the majestic sights. It runs West To East (or East-West) and if you have time, I highly recommend covering it from both sides, West to East and East to West. Several hiking trails exist to challenge you and range from short easy hikes to strenuous multi-day adventures. Outside the park, there are a few small businesses that offer customized hikes, kayaking and other activities if you wish.

Logan Pass, a point approximately mid-point along the Going To the Sun Road is the start of many popular trails including highline trail (full day hike) and hidden lake trail (4 to six hours hike). Plan to arrive at Logan Pass by 8:30am or so as the parking lot tends to get full. Free shuttles run throughout the park, so that is another option instead of trying to jostle for a parking spot.

Popular hikes on the East side of the glacier include those to Grinnell Lake (easy 2-3 hour hike + boat trip), and hikes to Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake(both full-day). In addition there are several others that will take another story to cover. For non-hikers, a car drive along the Going To the Sun Road, scenic drives outside the park, several boat tours and other less demanding physical activities exist.

Early September can be a good time to visit as the crowds will have departed by then and it will be cooler. July and August are peak months. If you want to see the wildflowers in the valleys, then probably mid-July is best. Note that at the highest points on the Going to the Sun Road, snow drifts can occur even in late June or early July.

As for me, I hiked, I walked, I drove on the Going to the Sun Road 4 times, took many scenic byways and marveled at the stunning and at times powerful and poignant scenes I came across. I stayed two days on the West Side, 3 days on the East Side. Apart from enjoying many a misty morning and sunsets along several lakes, I hiked the highline trail which was physically demanding but I was rewarded with scenic eye candy all the way. Yes, I carried the S2 + 35MM + tripod + RX1 + 2 liters of water, bear spray, rain jacket and food on this trail if you are wondering. I took a few other short hikes including the easy hike to Lake Grinnell in East Glacier.

Overall, I found the combination of Sony RX1R and Leica S2 with 180mm APO Elmar-S complementing each other very well. I used the RX1R a lot while hiking and for quick shots while driving or when there was simply not much time to set up the Leica S2. S2 was brought into the mix during early morning and late night shots of distant horizons as well as during the day when I wanted to focus more on some of the more interesting parts of the landscape.

Wildlife encounters are not uncommon, but the time I went was unseasonably hot, so most were probably hiding from the sun. I did however, came across a bear swimming in Swiftcurrent lake that is right behind the Many Glacier hotel and what an impressive beast it was – silent, strong swimmer, came from one end to another in a short time and then scampered via the parking lot to the forest. I managed a bit blurry grab shot of it swimming. In addition, I was greeted by a small mountain goat at Logan Pass. Generally there are quite a few of them in the open, but again, they were taking shelter in trees due to the sun.

Note 1:

You cannot carry bear spray [a form very powerful pepper spray) on airplanes. So donate yours (hopefully unused!) to the park ranger office when you leave. These park rangers are awesome and will not hesitate to risk their lives to rescue you.

 

Note 2:

This is backcountry and even though the trails are well maintained for the most part, be very careful while hiking or navigating the rugged terrain. Do not hike alone. This is bear country and that is not the only danger. People have fallen to death and drowned here. Cell phones do not work in most of the area and certainly do not work on most trails. To put it bluntly, you can get killed or vanish and never be found if you are not careful. You may be working out in the gym every day, but that does not come close to the effort needed for some of the longer hikes. I saw a woman being carried by two park rangers on a narrow trail. She was hiking alone and slipped, fell and hurt her leg badly. She was lucky that another hiker was in the area and he went down to get help for her. I recommend the excellent and free ranger led hikes for those not experienced with backcountry hiking. Check the NPS web site for activities. You can enjoy the place without hiking too if you wish.

Many_Glacier_Hotel_Night_Leica_S2 (4 of 17)

Lodging

At places like these and especially if you are coming from afar, I always recommend staying as close to the scene of action as possible even if it means paying more. See the few images I took at dawn. These were right outside the lodges I stayed in. It would have been very hard to reach most of these locations on time to catch the light if I stayed outside. Having said that, the lodges inside the park are very old and Spartan and not exactly cheap. Some of them like the Many Glacier Hotel are about 100 years old. So you are paying for location and not creature comfort. I would however, say that irrespective of where you are staying in this area, do visit Lake McDonald Lodge and Many Glacier hotel and see the lobby inside. It will be hard not be impressed by the magnificent wooden pillars and interior made of wood.

Lodging in the park can be hard to get, so plan well ahead you intended dates of visit. Campgrounds also tend to get filled, so if you plan on camping do not expect to drop in and find spot.

Montana_Moon_Leica_S2 (5 of 17)

Note that a lot of shots were taken is hazy conditions due to grass fires in Idaho and the greater than average temperatures that resulted in a persistent haze for most of the period. Enjoy and I will be happy to questions in the comments area.

Thank You

Eeraj Qaisar

 

 

Jan 022013
 

My top 12 for 2012 by Jason Howe

As the year draws to a close, I felt it would be a worthwhile exercise to reflect on 12 of my photographs from the last calendar year, images that I feel were significant to me for one reason or another and to elaborate on the reasons behind their selection.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” these words, immortalized by the great Ansel Adam’s are of course well-known in photographic circles, but are they still relevant in todays photographic world? Well, I believe so, of course it’s true that this statement originates from a generation where even the most industrious of photographers would have taken far less photographs than we do in the digital age, yet despite this obvious imbalance I feel it still holds some relevance.

Firstly, we must understand the context to the word “significant”, as only a relative handful of individuals are in a position to be producing images of “global” significance it’s important that we measure significance on a personal level and furthermore that we’re clear on the underlying reasons for that significance. Whilst this objective may seem quite achievable vs. the number of photographs taken, we must endeavor to look subjectively at our “crop” amongst the good, great and wonderful images we’ve collected only some will hold true significance.

I’ve applied the definitions of “meaning” and “importance” to the word significant, in addition to this I have imposed a further caveat that the image be technically sound although one could certainly argue that there are technically poor photographs that are of extreme significance, that is really a personal judgement.

Of course you may have more and you may have less? If you have hundreds, I’d suggest you look again! Too few, well there is always next year. Remember, I’m not talking about the number of good shots you have, just your significant ones.

Bridge Dynamic – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Bridge Dynamic – This image featured in my User Report on the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5, you can view that HERE. I know from the emails and comments I received following this post that many people either went out and bought this lens on the back of my report or were able to achieve superior results because of it. The satisfaction that came with knowing my images and writing had assisted others really was the most rewarding experience. As a result of that and because this really is the most incredible little lens this image is included here.

Bridge Dynamic

Day Dreamer – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Day Dreamer – This is one of my favorite images of my youngest son and whilst that is reason enough in its own right to be included here it also marked the arrival of the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE lens. This heralded a significant shift in my thinking on lenses. Yes, I moved from cautious to cavalier in the blink of an eye, in the main, because I had established that rangefinders were going to be my cameras of choice for a long time to come. You can read about my purchase of this lens HERE if you want a laugh….. As it happens I have not used this lens as much as I thought I would, that’s no reflection on the lens, just my attentions have been elsewhere, it is on my list to explore further in the new year.

Day Dreamer

End of the Road – Leica M9 – 35mm Leica Summicron f/2 Asph

End of the Road – Looking too hard, yes I’ve found myself doing this a few times over the course of this year, I’m sure it’s a condition many will relate to. Your traveling to interesting places, thinking there must be a photograph here somewhere and before you know it that’s all your thinking about and it can become counter productive. This image and several others that almost made it in to this selection were taken on a road trip with my son’s, relaxed and having fun I still managed to see photographs, in fact I probably saw more and it finally sunk in that you don’t have to be on high alert to see photographic potential around you. This particular scene was spotted in the rear view mirror as we drove past in the opposite direction, I guess that kind of proves my point.

End of the Road

Awakenings – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Awakenings – Striking a balance between your love of photography and your love of family, should be easy, right? I’ve touched on this before and it is still one of the biggest challenges I have come across photographically. My family was of course quite used to seeing me with a camera over the years, but when my relationship with the camera became a little more serious (ok, obsessive) then at times it seemed there was a conflict between to two. This image serves as a reminder that with a little care, it is possible to combine the two, although admittedly there is probably still plenty of room for improvement on my part. Taken on a celebratory break in Queenstown, this image almost never came about as I seriously contemplated leaving my gear at home in a bid to avoid any photography/family clash. A last-minute change of plan and some of that care I mentioned previously, proved the two can be combined, most of the time…..you can see all the images from this post HERE.

Awakenings

Showtime – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Showtime – So many great memories are encapsulated in this one image, it really embodies all that is magical about the theatre in my eyes. My post The Producers which you can see HERE was the culmination of my time spent with the Tauranga Musical Theatre. What initially started as a one-off project has now evolved in to a more regular association. This ongoing involvement holds more than photographic significance to me, it enables me to be in the company of other creative individuals and that has been a real blessing.

Showtime

The Mob – Leica M9 – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1

The Mob – An image with dual significance, I realized a long time ago that you can either sit around and wait for things to happen or you can make them happen. Have the courage to ask and be prepared to try new things, this mindset got me behind the scenes at the regions biggest horse racing meet and I was delighted to capture this scene. Less significant but still worth baring in mind is a point about equipment, I was prepared to part company with the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 lens that was used in the making of this image. I hadn’t given it enough time on the camera and consequently I had not seen it at its best. I learnt a valuable lesson on the day I shot these images, you must get to know your gear and be prepared to take the time to do so.

The Mob

Lakeview – Leica M6 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

Lakeview – I began to shoot and develop film around 18 months ago because I felt somehow that I had missed out and also because it could only improve my photography in the long run, now with the benefit of hindsight I believe it was the right move and I would recommend this route to anyone. I suppose when I look at this particular image I associate it with my love of film photography. Certainly I have a very long way to go when it comes to film and this will be something I look to explore more in the coming year.

Kodak Gold 200

Misty Mornings – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

Misty Mornings – I’ll always look at this image and remember the wonderful time I spent on the road with my boys earlier in the year, having fun, exploring new places and really seeing them in a different light. Much like the light in this image their personalities and sense of humor really shone through on this road trip, we had so many laughs. Photographically, this journey really highlighted the quality of the 35mm Summicron f/2 which I had considered selling just a few months before. I bonded with that lens and in truth it was the only lens I needed on that trip. You can see the full post of images from the East Cape HERE.

Misty Mornings

Rock Thrower – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

Rock Thrower – One of the main draws to the Leica M9 and indeed the M/LTM system was the ability to shoot with retro glass, this image underlines that appeal for me. Shot on an inexpensive, 49 year old lens from the former Soviet Union I still look at it today with the feeling that I could almost reach in to the scene, such is the quality of the 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5. Proof if any were needed that it is still possible to get great quality without spending a small fortune. Not to mention, so much fun to shoot because there is always a chance of a magic. You can read my User Report on this lens HERE.

Rock Thrower

Reach Out – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Reach Out – The Leica M Monochrom didn’t mark any great shift in preference from colour to b&w for me, it’s quite clear from my photographs that b&w imagery is very much a part of my photographic identity. I mention it here because I have a strong feeling from what I have already seen from this camera that it is going to be very significant for me, I guess only time will tell……….This image featured in my first post from this camera which can be seen HERE.

Reach Out

A Turning Point – Leica M3 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

A Turning Point – This image has not appeared on here before, shot on Ilford HP5 plus 400 it made such an impression on me that for a while there I was considering abandoning digital and shooting solely with film. However one thing that I learnt early in photography is that your opinion on a specific genre, image, film type, you name it, can change quite quickly and decisions need to be considered. As time past my love of film remained strong but I eventually began to see that for me at least it did not need to be a choice between film and digital, I can see the merits of both, therefore I should enjoy both.

A Turning Point

Lake Placid – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1

Lake Placid – I had the remarkable good fortune to not only discover some great equipment this year but more importantly the photography of the late Roland G Phillips-Turner, so far I’ve featured his work twice on my website with more to follow in the new year. It’s really been a discovery that has bought myself and many others a huge amount of joy. The image above was shot with the 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1 that belonged to the aforementioned photographer, this was certainly the first time it had been used in many years and it worked it’s magic accordingly. A great reminder of this wonderful discovery

Lake Placid

Food for thought…….

Taking an overview of my selections here it’s actually quite insightful and as it happens, a very accurate assessment of my shooting habits, for instance –

Two of the twelve photographs are film, equating to 1/6th of the images This is an accurate reflection of the amount of film I’ve shot this year compared to digital, I really want to increase this next year.

Three of the images or 1/4 are in colour. Again, I’d say this is a fair reflection. I only want to make great photographs, B&W or Colour it makes no difference to me, although it’s fair to say I can’t see the the ratio of colour increasing next year.

It’s been a good year for me photographically, I’ve continued to develop and whilst there have been challenges I’ve certainly done my best to overcome them and progress. Whilst it’s always rewarding to look back on the images you’ve taken the real excitement lies in the images your yet to capture, that thought should fill us all with encouragement and excitement in equal measure, enjoy!!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a safe and prosperous 2013.

All the best, Jason.

Nov 152012
 

Fisheyes are more than a gimmick.

A recent post discussed the choice of fisheye lenses for 4/3 cameras, particularly the Panasonic f3.5. The comment was made that these lenses are mostly a gimmick because of the severe barrel distortion. That is true in many instances. These lenses do not work for portraits, for example, unless you want to show someone with a really big distorted nose. I would not take a fisheye to walk around a city.

But I have found a fisheye an indispensable lens for shooting some landscapes, especially wide open desert vistas in southern Utah. Some of the best shots are those that capture as much of the whole vista as possible and a fisheye, used correctly, is the ultimate wide-angle lens. Here are some examples.

This is an early morning shot from an overlook at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. It takes in a nearly 180 degree view. Island in the Sky is a 6000′ elevation mesa with the Colorado River on the east side and the Green River on the west. Both sides of the mesa have 1000′ cliffs dropping to a level of concrete hard white sandstone named the White Rim. From the White Rim a maze of canyons drop another 1000′ to the two rivers (which eventually converge at the southern end of the mesa). This view is to the east. The mountains in the distance are the second highest in Utah at over 13,000′. Capturing all of this in one shot is key to depicting what is so spectacular about this region. The secret to getting the shot without distortion is to put the horizon in the middle.

There are three iconic arches in this area. Two are in Arches National Park (Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch) and the other is in Island in the Sky, named Mesa Arch. It is a spectacular sight at any time but especially on a clear morning when the sun hits the cliff below the arch and reflects up making the bottom of the arch glow a brilliant orange as if it were on fire. There are thousands of photos of Mesa Arch but virtually all show only a portion of the arch. The best shot shows the many formations that can be seen through it down to the White Rim but you have to stand close to get it. Only a fisheye can both capture the full arch and the scenery below it. Shot straight on a fisheye makes the arch appear like a big mouth but off to the side it works better than any other lens to capture the whole scene.

This is a shot of the goosenecks of the San Juan River near Bluff, Utah. Again, the most spectacular feature is the whole scene, the number of meanders the river takes through this section. Monument Valley is in the distance. Only a fisheye can capture this whole scene in one shot. A very wide-angle like a 14mm would only get three meanders. The fisheye gets all four. Another option would be a series of stitched shots but sometimes you also want the foreground and the sky with the sun. This is not that spectacular because it was shot mid day but that is the only time to see the details down in the canyons.

This final shot is of a place named The Citadel in Cedar Mesa, near Bluff, Utah. This was a defensive site accessible only across a very narrow neck leading to a rock outcrop surrounded by deep canyons on both sides. These 600 year old Anasazi ruins cannot be seen from the neck and there is very little room to back away from the ruins for a shot. I wanted to get the ruins and the canyon next to it so show how precarious this site is. Again, only the fisheye would do the job. A 35mm lens would only capture a portion of the ruin and none of the canyon to the side. My son is only about 4 feet from me when this shot was taken.

Obviously a fisheye is not a take everywhere lens but at times it is the best lens for the job.

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