So, it's barely Monday. It's a new moon. Comet Neowise is further down on the horizon. Jay and I are gonna camp at Stampede Pass, hoping to align the galactic core with Mt. Rainier and the west fork valley of the White River. Our last trip found ourselves literally behind the 8-ball, without a view of the summit, and under skies polluted with moonlight. Add to it the beginning of the work week, we're hoping we get the area to ourselves. Since we haven't scouted the location prior to today, we have no idea if Comet Neowise will be visible from our location and if there's anything interesting between us and it. I'll be bringing a 1200mm long setup just in case we do. Back to gear... I got my 2 person tent and Shimoda Explore 40 back from Craig, a large version 2 camera unit from Shimoda and a 3 filter kit from PolarPro that integrates an ND and polarizer into a single body, allowing the combo to be used on wider angle lenses than previously. While that's the general benefit, the main goal was a set that fit my 23mm ƒ/4 lens and it's 82mm filter thread. The hope is the infrared response follows the same curve set by my Wine Country Cameras filter kit so I don't need to recreate presets for post processing. 10 days have elapsed and I've still yet to get any shots with these new filters. Initial impressions of these filters are on pause as I wait for an opportunity to really utilize them but even now I have a huge cartful of thoughts on them. The packaging alone spurred a thousand words but I wait so I can hopefully produce a measured reaction.
There are some drawbacks though. Uncannily enough, they’re the same as with the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM: slight vignette with a hard vignette at infinity focus. At ƒ/8, it isn’t very prevalent as you’ll see in the samples, easily corrected with a 5:4 crop that retains 48MP. However, as the aperture gets smaller, the vignette hardens, as you can see at ƒ/32, but still works at a 5:4 crop ratio. The lens works fine with a 3:2 crop at full sensor width and in 35mm crop mode, so you can choose what works best for you. Weirdly, the lens changes focus as you move in and out of playback mode on the GFX...
Widening out to an approximate 22mm in 35mm format terms, the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM does show some hard vignetting that is never fully resolved. It’s very, very slight and occurs at ƒ/4 and smaller at infinity focus. Vignetting is prevalent fully open, mostly disappearing by ƒ/4 at close focus distances. If the vignetting is a problem for you, the EF 28mm ƒ/2.8 IS might be a better bet but isn’t on Canon’s list of preferred lenses for the 5DSR, so it may or may not resolve well on a 50MP sensor.
I'm obviously not a professional photographer. Now, some may take that to mean an enthusiast has no need for a "professional level" camera, but that is entirely untrue, even on a general level. What the GFX offers is resolution. 50.1 megapixels of it. What I offer my camera is a crippled body, unable to get the most from any camera body. I can not hike as far, climb as high or go as long as an average photographer. I also cannot drive due to the medications I need to operate from day to day. Because of that, the GFX's resolution returns to me an ability lost by my inability to drive: repeatability.
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.
My friend Craig and I have been planning to hit Keekwulee and Snowshoe Falls on the way to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest for 2 years now and it's never come to pass. However, I recently was able to hit Keekwulee Falls with my girlfriend last weekend. It would've been better with more water, say after the spring thaw or between autumn rains, but that would also make it far more difficult to reach as you have to ford the very stream the waterfall is upstream of. Despite the unimpressive flow, the granite formations were spectacular. There were also enough pikas running around and whistling to fill a Disney movie.
Single row panoramas have always seemed to thwart me. Either the scene was never appropriate or they wouldn't stitch for one reason or another. After getting the stuff I needed to establish the nodal point on a couple of my lenses, I decided to give it another go from Kerry Park.
First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you're willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you're forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, "buy cheap, buy twice (or more)" applies here.
Just a few photos of the local deer on our last morning in Long Beach. They came by for breakfast, the doe bringing her two fawns, approaching our balcony as if she’d remembered that I was out feeding them apples the night before. They sat patiently below our balcony as we dropped bananas and apples for them, posing for photos before moving on to the next set of condos. These deer definitely have us trained well.
Went on another photowalk, this one being a bit more fruitful due to the weather conditions at the start time. Why do I do this to myself? I'm generally asocial and not very talkative, especially around people I don't know, preferring to operate alone. Despite that, it's hard to learn without someone to learn from and it's difficult to be inspired by my coffee table, so I fight my urge to run away for the sake of education and practice. Regarding the setting, while it wasn't ideal for golden hour, the cloudy skies and convergence zone did make for dramatic views and a highly textured backdrop to the humdrum scene. I hit the shutter over 40 times, but the result was less than 15 kept, fewer still that I liked and only 3-4 that I've processed to completion so far.
As for the evening, I took the Doc Maynard from downtown to West Seattle, meeting up with Kate Hailey and the attendees at Marination Ma Kai at Seacrest Dock. Two hours of rambling north, and then west, from the dock to Alki Beach as the sun set in the background behind a small convergence zone. Afterward, I jumped on the ferry back to downtown.
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.
Day 2 at Second Beach. Unfortunately, this time we hit high tide and quickly discovered the beach was a lot less interesting when the tide is in. We managed to make do, despite shooting over 200 shots, again, trying to chase waves that weren't hitting the shore as intensely as they had the day before. At least having my tripod allowed me to get some long exposures as the clouds were moving on shore fast and thick.
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.