About The Size Of A Nacho Chip

A close-up view of an endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchling, Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

Today’s Feature Story in the National Parks Traveler uses a number of photos I captured during my June 2017 visit to Padre Island National Seashore, where I had the privilege of photographing a couple of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchling releases. There’s been quite a controversy over this hatchling program since the days of the trump administration, and the National Park Service is not looking so good in my eyes regarding this program. I read the article and came away feeling angry and sad.

To read this Special Report, click on the image above.

This image below is one I took while standing stock-still in the sand, surrounded by these nacho-sized little babies as they literally swam in the sand on the beach to reach the water of the Gulf of Mexico at this national seashore. The scientist in charge of this program had been gracious enough to allow me to be in the midst of this release and it was a joyful experience not only for me, but for the almost 1000 spectators who were up at 6:45 a.m. to watch these little guys head out to the sea.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Texas, Travel

Fujifilm GFX 100 The Landscape Camera Of My Dreams

Hosta
Hosta – Closer
Hosta – Closest (93%)

Recently, I sold off quite a bit of my camera equipment that I don’t really use any longer, and managed to purchase the Fujifilm GFX100. I’d really wanted to purchase the GFX100s, but that thing is on backorder probably until 2022 (just kidding – sort of).

This morning, I took the GFX100 out for a spin around the yard. I’d already gotten it all set up, but had not actually taken any photos with it. I’m heading out to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument next week and figured I’d better do some test runs to make sure I understand how to get most of what I want from the camera.

After my 15 minutes outside, I must say I am totally blown away with the results. Editing was minimal – just some light/dark adjust and a little increased color saturation. I didn’t use sharpening for any of these images. I’m still learning and during this upcoming trip will fine-tune things (hopefully). I’d like it all to be “camera ready” for my big trip in a few months to Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite national parks.

The photos above are of a hosta plant. With that last image, I tried to crop it at 100 percent but I’m apparently not that good with cropping ratios. I managed to get to 93 percent crop and the photo looks as if I’d captured it with my Sony mirrorless – it looks that awesome even at such a crop. This makes me think it’s a landscape photographer’s dream – at least, this landscape photographer’s dream.

So, a few first impressions here:

I turned off the focus point beep so it wouldn’t be intrusive. However, I guess I didn’t turn off any noise regarding the shutter click (still learning the menu system). That said, the shutter click noise is quiet (to me), which is nice.

The menu system is pretty easy to understand – far easier than the Sony menu system but not quite as intuitive as the Canon menu system. Still, it’s easy. There’s just a lot of menu items to go through in order to find what you want (like the command for formatting the memory card).

There are dual memory card slots. I must say, the door to the slots feels kind of flimsy – as if it might snap off if I am not careful.

An acquaintance of mine who has had this camera for far longer than I, told me that attaching and removing the lens was “backward” to his Nikon. That, of course, means it’s just like my canon, which for me, is easy. So, no problems there.

The GFX 100 does not have that mode dial that my other cameras have. I miss that, but it was definitely not a deal breaker for me. I see the GFX 100s has the mode dial. And, speaking of modes, I am a total manual settings person, but I have to tell you, trying to figure out how to set the camera to manual took me quite a while to figure out, even with the instructions. You’re given a few choices for programming the front command dial (I chose ISO) and a few choices for programming the rear command dial (I chose shutter speed) then to make it completely manual, you simply twist the aperture ring on the lens to choose your aperture.

The top LCD is always on, even when the camera itself is off. I don’t know how much of a drain that puts on the batteries, but the juice to keep that LCD on has to come from somewhere, right? The LCD itself is nice and clear and easy to read.

The rear LCD is a moveable one, but, if you have the camera on a tripod and it’s low to the ground, and you’ve got the LCD flipped so you can look down to see what the camera sees, that viewfinder sticks out and actually hides a good portion of the rear LCD. Sigh.

I’ve read about everybody complaining about the joy stick. There’s a 4-way controller in the rear, and that’s what you use to move and select your focus points, among other things.

I turned off the touch screen because it tends to make selections for me when I am wearing the camera around my neck and it bumps into my clothing. I’ve done the same thing with my Sonys.

A number of photographers don’t much care for the “clunkiness” or show reaction time to the camera. Sure, this camera is not a Sony Alpha 1 in terms of speed, that’s for sure. But the resolution and resulting images make up for that, where I am concerned.

While this camera is “boxier” than my Sonys, it still feels way lighter than my former Canon 1DX and 1DX Mk II. I have small hands and it fits my hands pretty well.

The colors do tend to be understated, but – as reviewer Ken Rockwell says – that’s because this camera was made more for “people, fashion, and product photos.” So I’ve had to bump up the colors during the editing stage. Not a big deal for me. I have read about quite a few photographers getting this and the GFX 100s for landscape and I wonder if Fujifilm realized this would be a game changer for that aspect of photography. If they didn’t before, I’ll bet they know it now.

This camera uses two batteries, so I had to remember to order two spares. These batteries are supposed to last a long time for a full day’s shooting, but I always like to carry spares around.

This morning, as I was walking around with the camera around my neck (which is how I carry it when I remove it from the tripod), I realized I needed to put that vertical shutter button on lock, because it kept bumping against me as I walked and clicking that shutter.

I have an l-bracket for this camera. Actually, I use l-brackets for all of my cameras because it makes it so much easier for both horizontal and vertical shots. It was difficult to find an available l-bracket but I managed to snag a used one on KEH.com.

This is not a camera with a fast fps (remember “people, fashion, and product photos”), so it’s not anything a wildlife photographer would be using much. But for those of you landscape photographers out there who use a tripod (or, well, ok, use the burst method of handholding, which I sometimes do), then this will blow you away with the image quality.

There is in-camera image stabilization, but I keep that off since I use a tripod mostly. However, even with handholding, I keep the IS off because I’m using the burst method (aka “spray and pray”) which generally means at least one image out of the series of contiuous shutter clicks will be nice and clear. Sure, that uses up space on the memory cards, but that’s why you should always have extra cards handy, so you don’t have to waste time going back and deleting previous images to make room for new images.

There are all sorts of other pros and cons that I’ve read about things I haven’t actually needed or wanted to utilize – yet – and this post is just a sort of “first look” review. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this camera once I return from my Mount St. Helens trip. That’s when it will get much more of a workout.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Do You Sometimes Wish You Could Return To Re-Photograph A Particular Scene?

I look back as some of my photos and wish I could revisit a particular landscape and capture the same scene with my newer-model cameras (bear in mind, newer-model also includes the high-megapixel Canons I’ve had since 2016). Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah is one such place, and this is one such scene.

I photographed this landscape back in 2013 (8 years ago – has it been that long – or that short – of a period of time??). The February winter midday light was harsh, but the distant snow/rain storm was pretty cool. I’d like to go back and see how much more detail and dynamic range my current cameras could pick up. Maybe someday, I’ll do just that.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Photography, Travel, Utah

Fun Fact Friday, April 30th, 2021

Here’s something interesting you might or might not have known about life in Denali National Park and Preserve, in Alaska. There are 39 species of mammals in the park, including the Big 5 (moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears), and 139 species of birds. But, only one amphibian has managed to adapt to life under the harsh conditions of the park’s landscape. The wood frog can actually freeze itself solid during the winter! It’s heart stops, it doesn’t breathe, but there are cryptoprotectant chemicles that keep the frog’s cells alive, and when spring arrives, the frog thaws out and starts searching for a pond and a mate. Pretty cool, huh? (pun intended).

As for this image, it was captured during my 5-day stay at Camp Denali, located near the end of the one and only road through the park. There’s a little pond right outside of the main camp building called Nugget Pond, and on this particular day, I captured three different shots of it as the morning lightened up. The first shot you can see if you look at a previous post. This is the second shot, captured a little later during sunrise, and I’ll post the final shot later on.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Alaska, Denali National Park, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, Photography, Travel

Traveler’s Checklist For Glacier National Park

The view along Grinnell Glacier Trail in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park (Montana)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest Traveler’s Checklist. This week’s helpful planner is all about visiting Glacier National Park. If you are thinking about visiting this park for the first time, or are revisiting it again for the hundredth time, check out this checklist to see if you find anything helpful, or if it jives with the list you might be making for your trip.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Glacier National Park MT, Montana, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel

An Interview With The National Parks Traveler

If you are wondering what the National Parks Traveler is all about, then you should listen to this CNN Reliable Sources Podcast interview between Brian Stelter and my editor and Traveler founder, Kurt Repanshek. Kurt discusses what the Traveler is all about and what it’s like to run a nonprofit news organization dedicated to all things national parks. This is the organization for which I contribute articles and images, and it’s one of the things I am most proud: contributing to the National Parks Traveler for almost nine years, now.

To listen to the podcast interview, click on the image above.

As for the image above, it was captured during my last couple of days in Denali National Park in Alaska. We were walking along the park’s dirt and gravel road, looking for birds. I happened to look over to the right side of the road and saw Denali Mountain with its top wreathed with clouds. Only 30 percent of people who visit this park ever get to see Denali in its totality on a clear day. I was lucky and got to see it the entire five days I was there.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Podcast

National Parks Quiz And Trivia: April Notables

An overview of Fountain Paint Pots in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

So, what do John Muir, Ulysses S. Grant, Voyageurs National Park, and Isle Royale National Park all have in common? They are all April notables. The two parks were established in April, Ulysses S. Grant (born in April) signed legislation establishing Yellowstone as the first U.S. national park (hence the image below), and, also born in April, John Muir’s writings convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mount Rainier as national parks.

The latest quiz and trivia piece penned by yours truly and published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler is all about these April notables. To test your knowledge about these notables and maybe learn a little something, too, click on the image above.

And, speaking of this image, I was pretty tickled that I finally got to visit this part of Yellowstone, back in autumn of 2019. When I’d tried to see this (and other sights) during my 2018 summer move from TX to WA, I couldn’t because all the parking spaces were filled, and – to be honest – I was starting to tire out from my road trip, as it was going on 3 weeks now that I’d been on the road. Autumn is a good time to visit Yellowstone, with the caveat that it might snow on you and roads might get closed because of the weather. There are still crowds there, but nothing on the scale (not yet, anyway) that there are during the height of summer.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Happy Earth Day 2021!

Today marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration every April 22nd of Earth and the wondrous things we see in nature. I thought I’d mark this day by posting an image I captured while spending five days at Camp Denali in Denali National Park (Alaska).

Every morning, I’d get up, dress, leave my little cabin, and walk up the gravel road to this little pond right outside of the main camp building. It’s called Nugget Pond and it has an awesome view of Denali Mountain and the Alaska Range, towering in the background over the mirror-smooth water of this little pond, with a hint of mist rising from the water.

How will I celebrate Earth Day? By pulling weeds out in the flower beds to make more room for the tulips and iris that are in bloom – nothing very glamorous.

How will you celebrate Earth Day? At least, take a moment to appreciate nature in all of its forms. If you go hiking today, remember to pack out what you pack in and follow the Leave No Trace principles.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Denali National Park, holiday, National Parks, Photography

The Yin And Yang Of A Composition

Sunsets afterglow at Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park (Washington)

My latest photography column has been published in the National Parks Traveler. It’s about the yin and yang of a composition, Click the image above if you would like to read the article.

Sunrise at the seashore, Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

My latest Traveler’s Checklist has also been published, and it has a beach theme like the image above, because it’s all about Padre Island National Seashore. To read that article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Traveler's Checklist

April Showers Bring May Flowers Part II

Here’s another spring (and summer and maybe even fall) flower you’ll see in quite a few national parks: Indian paintbrush (aka scarlet paintbrush, magenta paintbrush, pumice paintbrush, etc. etc.). Here’s an interesting little fact that you would have picked up if you’d read my National Parks Quiz and Trivia Piece #28: the paintbrush flower is quite opportunistic, digging its roots into neighboring plants to steal their nutrients. This plant, therefore, is hemiparasitic – it has chlorophyll, so it doesn’t get all of its nutrition from other plants.

The next time you are out in a park, or even when you look alongside the road and you spy a paintbrush flower, look around to see if there are other flowers nearby. You’ll usually (not always, but usually) see Indian, scarlet, magenta, or pumice paintbrush quite close to other flowers and plants.

Oh, and if you are interested in looking at that wildflower quiz, then click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under flowers, National Parks, Photography