So, I tore down my Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 to see what's so special about it. Actually, I do this with every tripod I buy to discover its weaknesses and proper disassembly for maintenance, cleaning, and lubrication. During the process I just happen to take a close look at each part to see how well it's been made, purely out of curiosity. In this case, I was truly interested to see if Manfrotto/Gitzo does anything differently during the manufacturing process that justifies the higher retail price or legendary status.
Very simply: Does Wine Country Camera actually use the same glass and coatings between their filters? I wanted my filters to produce the same results between my filter sets to reduce post-processing time. Recently, I replaced my B+W and Haida ND filters with WCC because the results between the two would cause difficulties in post as I'd work to match the output if I used both during the same shoot.
Serious question: What’s so great about Gitzo tripods? After spending a few hours inspecting my new Gitzo GT1542 Mountaineer Series 1 tripod and GH1382QD Series 1 ball head, for every positive engineering or design decision they made, there’s an equally puzzling or outright poor one. For now, I’m going to focus solely on the knobs for the ball head. I promise I’ll focus on the other things later once I’ve gotten a better look, but the next item will be the leg angle locks.
This is one aspect of the Wine Country Camera system I was not expecting at all. While most systems fit up to 82mm lens threads, the Wine Country Camera holder is able to fit lens threads up to 95mm due to its much larger size. It still takes 100mm filters, but combined with the filter Locker system that engages the rails to provide up to a 15mm larger diameter lens aperture, the adapter system and holder also places the filters closer to the front element for a shorter overall profile. The result is the ability to fit on both larger and wider angle lenses than other filter holders.
Since finding joy in landscape photography, I made the decision to try and do as much "in camera" as possible in an attempt to teach myself the art of photography, rather than exploit the science of photography, to create a photograph. As such, I slowly learned exactly what that meant and have been on the quest to acquire the best tools for me to do so, starting with a solid tripod and high quality circular polarizers.
From there, I continued. I bought a set of B+W ND filters in 3-, 6-, and 10-stops. Then, I bought a Formatt-Hitech (F-H) 100mm Firecrest filter holder kit so I could use graduated ND filters, solid ND filters, and a circular polarizer all at once.
After the trip to Forks, I realized I needed a mini tripod for those times when I forget my full or travel sized tripod. One that's small enough to carry all of the time and when height isn't all that important compared to just getting the shot. This is one of those things I'll be throwing into the bag whenever I may encounter low light, ensuring I can use whatever shutter speed I need to get proper exposure without fear of instability.
Cleaning and lubricating your tripod, no matter what material it's made of, will extend its life. The biggest point of contention seems to be over lubrication, so here's where I'm going to attempt giving a definitive answer for most tripods and ball heads.
Despite owning, and being quite satisfied with, my Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 100mm filter holder kit, I also like to keep a 77mm ND filter set for lightweight carry. The B+W set I previously used worked fine but had a noticeable magenta color cast that was especially evident in the 10-stop ND filter. I recently decided to give Wine Country Camera's filters a try based on endless reviews touting their well controlled color cast. Should these work out well, I'll probably switch my 100mm ND filters out for WCC.
As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.
High contrast scenes tend to work well when processed in monochrome format. I'm especially lucky since Fujifilm's film simulations are such great emulations of their popular film stocks. Their Acros simulation is especially good with high contrast, moody scenes and I've been processing more and more of my landscape shots with it.
A few of the high contrast shots I took while in Forks took especially well with the Acros film simulation.
After a day's break from the trip to Forks, Craig and I took advantage of a break in the rain to hit Roozengaarde in Skagit to photograph the tulips before the festival began. About half of the tulips were in bloom and the daffodils were still out, though they looked ready to wilt. Fortunately the weather and time of day seemed to keep most people away. This also gave me a chance to use my Leofoto tripod on different terrain. Again, things just happened to work out for us as the rain held off and the clouds helped give the photos a dramatic, almost ominous look that contrasts with the burst of colors below. Too bad the stiff breeze prevented any chance of getting a longer exposure, but that's fine. For tulips, it's all about the colors.
Funny how things tend to happen in spurts. I spent the past week in Forks and Mount Vernon to get some camera work in. Craig and I went to Second Beach on the Quilayute reservation to photograph the seastacks just off shore. After a day of recovery, we went to Roozengaarde to get some early shots of the tulips before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Despite the weather forecast predicting rain for the week, we were fortunate to get some breaks in the rain that were long enough to get all of the shots we had planned for, and then some.
Out of the box, the Leofoto LN-324C made for an intimidating presence. Fully extended, it was clearly as tall as advertised and the weight seemed about right. Looking more closely, all the details looked right. Tearing it down exposed finely machined parts all around and a carbon weave that didn't betray it's "10 layer" claim; the weave was consistent throughout with no waviness or warping of threads and no pitting or cracks in the resin. All of the aluminum bits are finely milled with no tooling marks. Parts that may have originally been cast were finely machined to remove any casting seams and cuts into it were obviously milled. The anodizing is consistent all around and all of the included optional hardware is of similar quality. No flashes, splinters or metal shavings anywhere. Metal on metal contact points showed evidence of lubrication and glided through their movements smoothly.
My B2 ball head has had an issue with drift since purchase, and after months of dealing with it, I felt it was now time to finally fix the issue.
The G2 a high quality, low profile ball head with huge capacity and smooth action that punches well above its weight. It compares favorably against more well-known name brands even if you take out price as a factor.
I've been acquiring more and more stuff to support my photography over the past summer and, since my last flatlay photo was taken back in May, I thought I'd update the image with all of the new gear I've acquired. This is limited to just my Fujifilm bodies and glass. There's far more laying around in support of this, from bags to filters to tripods and everything else in between. At least I've hit a plateau, now owning all but 1 or 2 lenses on my list, transitioning to the acquisition of the filters and platforms I need to support my work.