Volunteered for Kate on a photowalk to the Seattle waterfront recently. After spending the past few months doing lonely portraits to practice using strobes in 1, 2 and 3 light configurations, it felt good to go out and do some of the type of photography I'm most passionate about. So, why did I volunteer and for what? Since Seattle is still under a pandemic lockdown that limits group sizes to 5 people, I chose to help by leading a group so more people could participate via proxy groups. Pier 62 reintroduces a location and perspective that's been missing since it closed for reconstruction. While somewhat pedestrian, the addition of new attractions and changes to the skyline have given it more value when compared with similar locations, both old and new. However, like those other locations, it offers a limited perspective and thus limits its overall value, long term, as a photographic location. It's one that will become over saturated by the end of the summer as a landscape and cityscape destination, even during a time of reduced foot traffic due to the pandemic, but will easily persist as a street, tourist and especially portrait photography location for years to come. Once the new waterfront master plan is completed, Pier 62 could become one of the premium destinations for environmental portraiture and street photography, due to its prime location, identifiable backdrop and potential for high foot traffic.
For the past few years, I've been using my Gitzo Series 1 Mountaineer as my primary tripod. It served me well when my primary camera body was the Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3 and X-H1. Once I bought the GFX 50S to use alongside my X-H1, I became acutely aware of the tripod's shortcomings. The Gitzo Mountaineer Series 1 GT1542 is an excellent tripod. Combined with the lightweight Arca-Swiss p0 head, the tripod weighed in at just under 3 lbs and featured a very slim profile when folded down. The 25mm max leg diameter contributed to this slim profile, and while it works well with entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies, the slim legs are just a bit too thin for a heavier, professional level body like the GFX 50S. Most people with a larger, heavier camera would be perfectly served with any Gitzo Series 1 tripod, as they only need it for single shots in adequate lighting. In my case, I use it primarily for landscape photography, astrophotography, night photography, etc... situations that require long exposures and/or multiple exposures for stacking, exposure blending or panoramas. This requires greater demands on my tripod as any movement between shots can ruin an exposure. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to work with multiple, misaligned exposures in post-processing, thus a lighter-weight tripod can cause problems as any flexing will result in misalignment. While I haven't gotten rid of my Series 1 Gitzo, I recently bought a Gitzo GT3542 Series 3 Mountaineer.
The biggest news was the purchase of a Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 45mm ƒ/2.8 lens and TechArt autofocus EF-GFX lens adapter. It arrived just before Xmas and I was able to use it for parts of both latter shoots. I also gave it a couple of runs, one from Kerry Park that was foiled by fog, another from Rizal Bridge that wasn't. The increase in resolution is shocking. Shots taken from the bridge could be cropped down to 8mp and were still crystal clear. Also shocking: the size of the uncompressed RAW files at ~140MB each.
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 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.
If you didn't already know, the Gitzo Mountaineer Series 0 and 1 Tripods come with fixed rubber feet. I can't speak for the 3 section versions, but generally the Mountaineer Series 2 and up come with 3/8"-16 threaded interchangeable feet, while those below have permanently affixed rubber feet. So I decided to buy a final leg section and foot for the GT1545T Traveler, already knowing it shared the 14.7mm leg diameter with my GT1542 Mountaineer but comes with a threaded cap to support 1/4”-20 interchangeable feet. The part number for the leg section is D106023 and the foot is D108623.
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.
Known for shit weather, the Washington coastline can be a bit of a toss up when it comes to photos, but even when the weather isn't particularly good for beach going, it can still be great for photos. During the summer, weekly events draw in thousands from around the state, so there are opportunities for all types of photographers; from landscapists, astrophotographers, street photography and even instagrammers, it's all there.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.