Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly

I've been really busy lately, traveling up and down western Washington State, hiking and photographing both beaten and unbeaten paths. It began by trying to take advantage of a streak of good weather and morphed into chasing the autumn colors as the weather got colder. Hikes include: Alpine Lake Wilderness, Denny Creek, Mount Fremont Lookout, Annette Lake, Lake Twentytwo and Artist Point. All of these on consecutive weekends, and even some weekdays, over the past 3 weeks. And in that time I think I've posted just once. Maybe twice. So, here are 3 photos from the past week.

My first real, composite photograph

Today, despite watching others do this for years, I've finally started using it for its intended purpose: modifying photographs to create images that don't exist in real life. I guess you can infer by my tone that I'm not a huge fan of photo manipulation, and you'd be correct. There's a fine line between photography and art and I feel wholesale manipulation of the image to create something that cannot be captured in whole, within the camera, as dishonest. However, I draw that line at profitability. If you're profiting from a reputation as a photographer while creating digital art and misrepresenting it as a photograph, I take issue with that. If you're creating art for the sake of it and representing it as such, for profit or not, I have no problem. The gray area is of course the line between reality and art. What I did, while photorealistic, is what I would classify as art because you couldn't recreate my result in a single photograph.

Camera Bags Are More Than Fashion: Shimoda Designs Explore 40

A week before the Fremont hike, I grabbed a Shimoda Designs Explore 40 kit from Glazer's Camera. After transferring my gear from the LowePro to the Shimoda, I weighed it and it came out to only 24 lbs. Once I fully loaded the pack with extra clothes, food, water and the extra photography gear needed, it topped 42 lbs. Despite the extra weight, and with a pair of hiking poles, I made it up and down the mountain with my back in far better condition than the previous 2 weekends.

Sometimes You Just Have to Go a Different Direction

As much as I like Gitzo as a brand and the quality of their products, some of their stuff just isn't as good as others. Take for example their leveling base; Gitzo features a large lever for tightening a head to the base and a handle borrowed directly from their sister Manfrotto's lineup. Instead, I got the series 3 leveling base from Really Right Stuff. It's lighter, has a simpler attachment system with no silly lever and a much sleeker locking handle with, get this, a gear hook! That hook alone is almost priceless, allowing me to attach weight for stability when I'm not leveling the head, ending any need to swap back to the flat top base. Back into the box that can go.

I finally have my dream 3 tripod setup

I finally have my dream 3 tripod setup. Gitzo Systematic GT3543LS+GH3382QD, Mountaineer GT1542+GH1382QD, and Traveler GT1555T+GH1382TQD. Next up is the Gitzo GM2542 Monopod and Mini Traveler Tripod. I plan to give all of them a thorough shakedown in Long Beach, WA in a couple of weeks and then in the North Cascades the week after. That is all.

The Fujifilm X-H1 Needs a Real Reason to Exist

Like it or not, the Fujifilm X-H1 has no real reason to exist. If the X-H2 is to happen, it needs one to justify its status as the "flagship" of the X-series range Fujifilm claims it to be. When it first came out, it was $2000 for basically just a $1500 X-T2 with a bigger grip and IBIS. Sorry, but that's not gonna cut it if they plan to release an X-H2 with X-T3 guts at the end of that product's lifecycle, especially if they plan to price it above $1500 again. It needs a real reason to exist and I have an idea.

2 Out Of 3, For Now

BMW doesn't make a perfect car. While certain aspects may exceed those of other makers, those others oftentimes exceed that of BMW. Despite that, the Bavarian badge commands respect and with it comes an unmistakable allure for most when they see it. It's a symbol of quality but not necessarily the best and certainly not with all products that display the marque. The Bavarian roundel holds cachet for many and that's something very hard to quantify, an intangible factor that appeals to one's emotion rather than objectivity.

Amazon Strikes Again…

So, just like what happened with the deal on the Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 + GH1382QD kit, I got a price alert on a Gitzo Traveler GT1555 + GH1382TQD kit for 45% off the advertised price of $989. So I bought it, because I have no self control.

Has Fujifilm Abandoned X Raw Studio?

Maybe you've heard of Fujifilm's mostly ignored software companion, X Raw Studio. It was released sometime after the X-T2 and advertised to leverage the power of their X-Processor Pro image processing engine, aka onboard CPU, to post process your photos on a desktop or laptop computer. It did this by connecting your X-Pro2, X-T2, X-H1, or X-T3 via USB 3 or USB-C's superspeed bus and would allow you to edit your RAW files on a computer but would leverage the high speed bus and X-Processor Pro's power to process the images. Since it's release, it's sat collecting dust with only minor bug fix updates since, while Fujifilm has established partnerships with brands like PhaseOne's CaptureOne and Skylum Luminar to natively support the X-Trans system. All of this seems to be the result of traditionally poor support from Adobe, the long-standing leader in the industry. But I have a vision.

New Toy: Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head

Some first impressions after picking up an Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head recently. Why? It's interesting. It's an inverted design so that the panoramic base is above the ball, ensuring a level platform for panoramic photography. Basically it eliminates the need for a leveling base. Combined with the 9oz weight, it'll reduce as much as 1.5lbs from my systematic tripod setup. I quickly discovered the reason for the weight savings: the base of the ball head is made of polycarbonate, most likely Delrin. The rest is made from either magnesium or aluminum, depending on the part. Regarding the design, it also has no protruding parts beyond the pano lock lever. The ball lock is performed by a rotating collar around the middle of the body, resulting in a sleek design. The ball is also aspherical, a feature used across Arca-Swiss' whole line, that increases friction to prevent your camera from loosely flopping over when the ball lock is loosened. A very elegant solution to a universal issue with all ball heads.

Wine Country Camera Filters: Screw-On versus 100mm

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.

So, Why All the New Filters?

What may just look like wasting money, there’s an actual reason why I’ve bought into the Wine Country Camera filter holder system and round filters to replace the kits I had before: I’m planning to purchase a Fujifilm GFX-50S by year’s end.

I’ve Learned the Secret to Using ND Filters: Consistency.

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.

Canon’s Latest Sales Figures Are Way Down But Why Are You So Confused?

Canon is trying to sell us cameras from 2016 at 2019 prices, all up and down their lineup. Their biggest advances have been made in their entry level cameras, a market mostly ignored by both first time buyers and enthusiasts. As ILC cameras have become a luxury in the age of smartphones, the impact of entry level models will continue to shrink moving forward. The future is in models that appeal to enthusiasts while Canon has dumbed down their lineup instead. They’re still banking on entry level, mass market, low cost, high volume models while the consumer has been filtered down to primarily enthusiasts. The mass market has lost their desire or need for the ILC.

Rant: It’s an Entry-Level Camera with a 35mm Sized Sensor and an Entry Level Price. Get Over Yourself.

Oh, you're an "enthusiast," "professional," or talking face on YouTube? This camera wasn't designed for you. It was designed for the audience you spew your crap opinions at, like, "pros only shoot full frame and just because you don't get paid doesn't mean you're not a pro-level shooter. You need full frame if you want to be a pro." Well, now all of your viewers who have no technical reason to shoot with a 35mm camera now have a 35mm option with the price and features commensurate with an entry-level product.

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