Fuji XT1 and Yellowstone

Utah-43I just got back from a once of a lifetime trip out to Yellowstone National Park. I was actually in Utah visiting my son and his wife and their new baby girl. They decided to take me on the Yellowstone trip and I am so grateful for that gift. I had debated on what cameras to bring on this trip, my film or my digital. In the end I decided smaller and lighter would be better, especially since I am coming from flatland Illinois and would need to adjust to the thinner mountain air. The convenience of a smaller bag for airline rules wasn’t missed out on this decision either.

What did I bring? In a small Lowepro backpack, I was able to bring two Fuji XT1s, 50-140mm, 16mm, 10-24mm, 56mm and 35mm. A small Nissin I40 flash was also added along with the required memory cards, extra batteries, neutral density filters and chargers. In a small laptop bag I had my newly acquired 13 inch Macbook Pro with it’s chargers, a Wacom tablet, a portable hard drive for backup and some reading material. All of this was a breeze to carry on the plane and get through security. If needed I could have stuffed both bags under the seat in front of me but I tended to put the backpack in the overhead bin and the laptop under the seat. The whole kit gave me a wonderful, portable, fully functional studio for the road. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

So how did the XT1 perform? In a word, “fantastic.” I know the Fuji XT2 has just come out and yes I want one but the XT1 is no slouch and never will be. I tended to use the 10-24 and the 50-140mm the most. The 16mm was used third but mostly for shots of my beautiful new granddaughter. The only thing I may have wished that I had was a teleconverter but I was able to get plenty close to the wildlife with the 50-140mm.

The 10-24mm is a wonderful landscape lens. It allows for dramatic compositions and can really bring out the detail in your photographs. This lens combined with the tilting screen was used a ton! I feel that I was able to get some of my best landscapes yet with this combination.

One trick I utilized a few times was the use of a 10 stop neutral density filter for a couple of mountain stream shots. I had brought a small travel tripod in my check on luggage which worked well albeit a little short on occasion. Using this combination allowed me to smooth out the moving water even in the middle of the day with bright sun hitting the landscape. I did have an oh shit moment when I dropped the filter, which is glass, and heard the “chink” noise as it hit the ground. Luckily the Lee filter holder took most of the impact and the filter only got chipped in an area that is out of the frame. Whew! Now it has character I guess.

Would I use this kit again? Oh hell yeah! Did I miss not having film? Yes but mostly large format. It would have been fun to spend a day with that, but I don’t feel I was shortchanged in any way by using my Fuji’s. In fact I got shots I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Happy wanderings!Utah-77 Utah-68 Utah-53Utah-83 Utah-82 Utah-45Utah-81 Utah-80 Utah-158 Utah-156 Utah-150 Utah-147 Utah-123

Introducing ‘BAC’

BACOver a year ago I switched from a Nikon DSLR to the Fuji mirrorless system. One of the reasons besides the form factor was the decrease in weight that this fifty something body would have to carry around on assignment. So with that in mind what do I go and do, I buy one of the heaviest beasts of a film camera on the planet. Yep the Mamiya RB67! Hokey smokes it’s huge but so is the size of that negative!

I have drooled over these for sometime and my last wanderings on eBay showed a lot less of them showing up on the used market than even a year ago. A bunch of them are coming from Japan but not so many from the U.S.. My favorite used camera gear site KEH was out of stock of good ones and actually running low on a lot of used film gear. I am not sure what the reason is for this, maybe the resurgance in film usage but I don’t know. In any event I did find one on eBay from an actual photographer. It didn’t look as beat up as a lot of these get so I took the chance. Boy was I lucky! The beast is a beauty and everything works as it is supposed too. It took several visits to eBay to complete the kit but now I have three working lenses and four film backs. (Don’t get me started on how fun it is to replace the seals on those film backs.)

In my infinite wisdom I bought this studio camera to take out on hikes for landscape photography. Ouch! The camera and lens weighs in at six pounds and if you start adding different prisms and such the weight keeps climbing. They say due to the size of the camera it’s impossible to shoot handheld. Well it’s not impossible but you will need to keep those shutter speeds towards the higher side and using the optional hand grip helps greatly. For the most part though mine sits on a tripod.

If you are wondering, yes I do get quite the workout carrying this and a backpack full of it’s gear around. Yes I do feel it in my muscles the next day. So why do I do it? As stated earlier, that size of a negative. It’s the next best thing to 4×5. The details are amazing and it is just what I was looking for in image quality for my film fine art photographs.

The camera itself is kind of an odd combination of SLR and large format camera. You have removable lenses but the shutters are in the lenses instead of the camera, much like a large format camera. Well except the lenses are huge! You also need to remove a dark slide i/e like a large format camera before taking a picture. You have multiple levers, buttons and settings you have to set up before you ever make the camera go click. Oh and it’s not a click but a wonderful combination of shutter and mirror movement noise that is as sexy as hell! I love it!

I have affectionately named her ‘BAC.’ which stands for “Big Ass Camera.” So welcome to my summer workout program as I team up with my partner BAC to make sore muscles and beautiful photos.

Happy wanderings!

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Is it fall already?

Sorry for my absence the last couple of months. Since going freelance full-time I have been busy drumming up work and thankfully it seems to be “working.” This where they always say it’s all in who you know and it really is. From friends, to relatives to past business associates it has been amazing at the help that has come across my desk. It has either been in the source of direct work or names of people that may have work. It is a reality check in seeing that how you have handled yourself in the past with others can dictate what you may receive in return later. I am humbled.

I am learning how to schedule my day to day calendar and create this new way of working/living. I must say I do like the flexibility that freelancing can provide in your daily routine but I do try to at least have a plan for each week. If I deviate from it, that is fine but at least I have a roadmap to guide me through the week. One thing that I have been trying to do is make sure I leave some down time available. If you work all of the time you will quickly burn out. My downtime has turned into a mixture of photography and woodworking lately. Both bring me great gratification. With this post I bring you just some down time photography. Fall is my favorite time of year and I gifted myself with a couple hour walk in one of my favorite fall spots.

Enjoy!DSCF4642 DSCF4643DSCF4648DSCF4664DSCF4666DSCF4668DSCF4673DSCF4678

Iridient Developer 3.0, better than the big guns!

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I have been an Aperture user since it came out. Of course now in Apple’s infinite wisdom they are doing away with the support for their professional photo editing software. That is a huge disappointment for those of us who had a good workflow going with their system. I also use Photoshop but have not yet done the leap to Lightroom. Just about when I was considering the Lightroom jump I bought into the Fuji XT1 system.

There were many complaints online on how Lightroom did or mostly didn’t, handle the Fuji X-trans files. I don’t even begin to understand the differences between their raw format and other camera maker’s raw formats but apparently there is plenty. I am more artistic and not scientific minded so I will leave those technological readings to those of you who enjoy them. I just care if it works! When I shot Nikon I shot only raw files for the flexibility. All of the modern software “big guns” out their handled those files great. Fuji is known for their great JPEG files and they are awesome but I wanted to know if I could get more out of the Fuji files.

Enter Iridient Developer! I heard that it handled the Fuji raw files really well and better than the “big guns” in the photo software business. I don’t know if this guy works out of his house or has a small company but it sure feels like you are dealing with a real person who cares about bringing out the best product that he can. It’s not expensive by software standards either, I think I paid like $99.00 for it or something like that. The best part is it works!

Now their is version 3.0 and I got to try it out yesterday. I downloaded some images that I just recently shot in Chicago. The originals are in color but I decided that I wanted to see how Iridient handled them in black and white. Wow! I mean really wow! I was able to make fine tuned adjustments to my shadows and mid tones and impressively bring back some blown out highlights that I thought were unretrievable. The results were black and white images with great tonal range and clarity. I could make huge prints off these files. I am super stoked about how well this software handled my Fuji XT1 files.

Currently I have only used it on landscape and city scape files but am eager to see how it would handle portraits. Stay tuned for that one. So don’t feel that you always have to buy from the “big guns” to get what you need. There is some great things coming from smaller companies with big ideas!

Happy wanderings!

Chasing the light with Ektar 100

Photography by it’s very definition is painting with light. As a photographer it seems that we do a lot more chasing of that light than painting with it. Landscape photographers are always chasing the sunrise and sunsets. I’ve done my fare share of that. For me great light can happen anytime and anyplace. The light can me made by nature or man made. I have created the wonderful light myself when it didn’t already exist in the situation being photographed.

They say the golden hours are the best time for photos and to some extent those time tables can certainly put the odds in your favor for getting beautiful light. In this case it was morning but it was already getting past what is considered the golden hour. On this day I was chasing the fog as much as I was the light. I needed the sun to be a little higher in the sky for the dramatic look I was hoping to capture.

With my camera backpack in hand I headed off to a nearby forest where I knew the sun would break through the fog with a cool effect. On the way I passed this cemetery and instantly went to plan B, which required a U-turn on my part a race back to the cemetery. As a photographer if nothing else you need to be flexible.

I had never explored this cemetery so I had to scout it out quickly before I lost my light. I knew this event wouldn’t last long. I drove to the back end of the cemetery and there the light was just streaming through the trees like you see in these photos. It was amazing! I loaded my camera with Kodak Ektar 100 in the hopes for more saturated colors but I was worried if it would have enough latitude to capture everything. I ended up really liking the look. I shot off one roll in less than 30 minutes and the light was gone along with the fog.

While I was taking these photos a woman walking her dog came up to me and asked “what are you taking photos of?” Probably curious as to why anyone would want to shoot in a cemetery. With what must have been an incredulous look on my face I stammered “well the gorgeous light of course!” She looked in the direction I was pointing and her eyes widened and she said ” oh my that is amazing!”

This morning I chased the light and received it by the bucket full. I was looking for things that other people would walk by and not even notice. Beautiful things.

Happy wandering.

All photos were shot on a Mamiya M645 and the film was developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab.