Due to eye surgery a month ago, and inactivity prior to that, I haven’t really taken my cameras out, much. Now that the eye is so much better, I’m hoping to remedy that with a short trip to Mount Rainier National Park. If you’ve looked at my previous post, you’ll know I recently spent a morning out there. Still, though, I didn’t really give my cameras the kind of workout that I’d like.
So, this morning, for a short time, I took my Sony A1 and 200-600mm lens outside the house to photograph the bees that gather on the globe thistle bush next to our back gate. I already knew the bees loved those flowers, but had totally forgotten the flowers were actually in bloom. Although they are on the last legs of blooming, the bees still like to congregate there.
All the images you see here are hand-held. I much prefer that to placing that big honkin’ lens on a tripod because my range of movement is considerably lessened. Yes, I have a gimbal tripod head, but was too lazy to set it all up and lug it and the heavy lens out.
These images are also cropped anywhere from 33 percent to 67 percent of the original. Thanks to the Sony A1 and its 50 megapixels, I can still get a nice, clear image even after cropping.
I am a Manual Setting kind of gal. I learn more about my camera that way and feel like I have more control over exposure. ISO was 1250 because I wanted to make use of that fps since the bees are always on the move. Aperture was f/9, shutter speed was 640.
As you can see from this original versus the finished product, above, there was a bit of noise (grain) at ISO 1250. I used Imagenomic’s Noiseware noise control plug in for Photoshop to control the grain, and selectively used it for the background, since you don’t see the grain issue so much with the flowers or the bee.
This high-resolution camera with its great fps (frames per second) shutter speed is the kind with which you should use a memory card that processes the images fast. The card I had in the camera was rather slow, so I had to wait for the image buffer to finish it’s job before I could capture another round of images.
I’ll be taking this camera and lens with me on my trip to Mount Rainier and hope I see some birds or even – if I am really lucky – furry wildlife. We’ll see. I’ll get back to you.
It’s been almost three decades since my last visit to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Since moving back to Washington state, I’ve been thinking about a little return trip there to see what has changed in the ensuing years. I figured a May day visit to celebrate 41 years since the volcano’s eruption would be a great opportunity to field test a couple of new cameras (Sony Alpha 1, Fujifilm GFX 100).
It takes four hours to reach the Johnston Ridge Observatory from where I live in central Washington. In my case, it took a little longer, since I stopped at various view areas along the way. There are actually two ways to get to the volcano. There’s the slightly shorter route to Windy Ridge, on the northwestern side of Mt. St. Helens, with a great view of Spirit Lake (the road which is still closed due to snow). And then, there’s the slightly longer route along Spirit Lake Memorial Highway up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, slightly northeast of the crater.
The first view area at which I stopped was the Hoffstadt Bridge area. There are 14 bridges built along the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway leading up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This bridge pictured here is the tallest of them and is located at the edge of the blast zone in this area, about 22 miles away from the volcano. The trees and green foiliage you see in the images have grown since Mt. St. Helens’ eruption 41 years ago.
After photographing the bridge, I noticed this lovely leading line of a trail creating a yin-yang feel to the scene, with the bare white tree trunks on one side and the heavier, green foliage on the other side. No, I didn’t take the trail, so I don’t know where it ultimately led. I was trying to get closer to the volcano while decent morning light remained.
I stopped at a couple more view areas, including the one above, with a side view of Mt. St. Helens and what I assume is Castle Lake to the center right of the composition. FYI, it’s reaaaalllly windy at this view spot as well as the Elk Rock Viewpoint, a stop before the Castle Lake Viewpoint. I was glad my tripod was heavy but still worried about camera shake because of the wind. I was also glad I had ear flaps to my Tilley hat, otherwise it would have blown off my head and far away.
All along the road up to the observatory, there are great stands of trees all about the same height, with signs denoting the type of tree and when they were planted. Most were planted between 1983 and 1986. This stand of noble firs was planted 1983, three years after the eruption.
The first really good, head-on view of Mt. St. Helens, imo, is at the Loowit View Area, probably a mile – more or less – down from Johnston Ridge Observatory. As you can see from the image above, even at 8 a.m., good morning light doesn’t last very long, as the vista was becoming hazy with a slight blue cast to it. Take a moment to note that contrail in the upper left corner. Every single plane I watched flying over me made a beeline to the mountain. I imagine pilots include this view in their flight plan for the benefit of the plane passengers?
This view area (as well as the observatory area) was totally devoid of the chilly wind I’d experienced on the way up, which was a nice change. No real tripod shake and I didn’t have to worry about my hat flying away.
It was interesting to see the growth that’s occurred in 41 years, yet still see very obvious signs of blast devastation. The cliff walls near the top of the image tower over the Toutle River (or what is left of it, after ash and mud spread out, flooded down, and clogged parts of the river.
I think I spent a good 45 minutes there before heading on up to Johnston Ridge Observatory. The observatory is closed, to date, and there are no restrooms or water, but the parking lot and view points are open. The last place for restrooms and water are at Coldwater Lake, some 8 miles back down elevation (or, if you look at a map, further north in distance) from the observatory.
It was after 9 a.m. by the time I reached the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The volcano was in my face as I walked up the paved rampway.
As you can see from the image above, the atmosphere around Mt. St. Helens was hazy and had quite the blue cast to it. Regardless of lighting conditions, to see up close this volcano and the devastated area around it is truly impressive.
There is a paved walkway in both directions from the observatory’s main view area, so I walked up to this view of what remains of trees that were 150 feet tall. These blasted stumps are what is left of trees blown by the power of the eruption back to the valley you see in the background.
Before I left to head toward Longview and attempt an early check in, I walked the paved trail in the other direction from the image of the blasted trees. Lo and behold, right there on the hillside where the observatory building stood was a trio of mountain goats. I’d been given a heads up by a local photographer that I might see elk, so I’d attached my Sony a1 to my 100-400mm lens. I did see elk along the route to Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (aka Hwy 504), but they weren’t in the national monument proper and I was trying to get to the volcano while there was still decent morning light. I’d switched out lenses while photographing at Loowit View Area, so I had my 24-105mm lens attached, with which I ultimately had to make do for the photos I captured of the mountain goats. This image has been cropped from the original and it was the only one showing this goat’s front end (rather than the butt ends of the other two goats on the hill).
I was able to get early check in for my reservation at the Quality Inn & Suites in Longview, a little over an hour’s drive away from the observatory. In retrospect, I wish I would have stayed at the Comfort Inn, right next to the Three Rivers Mall and closer to places for take out options. The hotel at which I stayed is in Longview’s industrial section and is a bit dated. My room had cracks in the sink and the toilet, plus my room’s door wouldn’t automatically lock after shutting. Thankfully, that issue was fixed promptly, or else I would have asked for a different room. The hotel staff was very friendly, which was a plus to an otherwise meh hotel stay. I only stayed one night, so the room was fine enough.
I returned to Mt. St. Helens later in the afternoon and the lighting was considerably better. I also noticed steam rising from a couple of vents in the lava dome that I had not detected early that morning. That was pretty cool.
I made my way from the Loowit View Area back up to the observatory (see image at the very top of this post). Once again, as I was getting ready to return to my vehicle, I saw the same three mountain goats I’d spotted earlier that morning. And of course, my Sony still had the 24-105mm lens on it. The goats were closer to the paved walkway, but I didn’t want to get too near as one of the three was rather aggressive and I sure as heck didn’t want to be on the receiving end. So, I did what any good photographer would do with a wide-angle lens on their camera instead of a telephoto lens (left back in the car): I made the wildlife a part of my landscape scene.
What did I think of my cameras? I love them both! That GFX 100 is the landscape camera of my dreams, although I sure wish they had a wider selection of lenses. Fujifilm apparently figured the GFX 100 would be used only for portraiture and architecture. That’s probably true for what the current majority of photographers who own this camera use it. But with the advent of the GFX 100s, I would imagine there are a great many more landscape photographers out there who will use this medium format for their work. Hopefully, the people at Fujifilm will take note and create more lenses.
The Sony a1 is an exceptional camera, as is the rest of its line. This one combines the resolution I like for my landscapes, along with a shutter frame rate (up to 30 fps) perfect for wildlife and sports photography. I’m hoping to get more wildlife action from this camera during an upcoming visit to Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite national parks. Yes, I’ll be keeping a long lens attached to this particular camera during that trip.
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May marks the 41st anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens (May 18, 1980). I first visited this volcano about 10 years after its eruption. The devastation was obvious. It would be 30 years before seeing this area again. While there has been much growth in the area (including stands of trees planted 3-6 years after the eruption), the devastation is still obvious.
I had recently purchased the Fujifilm GFX 100 and desparately wanted to get out to test this medium format camera. A return trip to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was just the ticket. It’s about 4 hours’ drive from where I live, and even leaving at 3 a.m. didn’t get me up there in time for sunrise shots. Once I arrived, I did spend all morning there and about an hour or two of late afternoon. I can tell you that early mornings (before 9 a.m.) and late afternoons (5 p.m. and after) are the best times for good lighting, because starting at 8 a.m., things start to get a little hazy and a blue cast to the atmosphere begins to settle in prior to harsh light for the remainder of the day. Doesn’t really matter, though, since this mountain (or what remains of a once conical, snowcapped mountain with an elevation of 9,677 ft [2,950m]) is picturesque nonetheless.
I only have two lenses for the GFX 100, and both of them are prime wide-angles (wide and wider). So the close up shots I achieved while there were captured with a different camera, about which I’ll write later.
The GFX 100 is easy to work with. It still takes a little hunting in the menu to find what I need, but as I wrote in a previous post, the menu is much easier to walk through than my Sony menus. The only thing I had a problem with was the auto power-off setting, and it wasn’t so much a problem as the fact that I assumed it would be like my Sony cameras, where I depress the button and the camera comes back to life. Not so with the GFX 100. I kept pressing the shutter button and nothing would happen. It wasn’t until I turned the camera button from the On position to Off and then back On again that the camera came to life. Needless to say, I changed the settings and the camera remains completely on now. I know it’s a drain on the battery life, but even with that, I was able to shoot through the entire day without needing to change to the spare batteries (the GFX 100 takes two batteries).
As long as you check the weather reports to pick out a decent day for visiting this national monument, May is a great time. I could count on two hands the number of people I encountered, and that was at a safe distance. Not many people were there early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It is a bit of a drive off of Interstate 5 (about an hour). There aren’t that many hiking trails around there, and Johnston Ridge Observatory is not open – well, the building is not open, nor are the restrooms, but you can still drive up there, park, and walk around. The nearest restrooms are accessed at the Coldwater Lake parking area, 8 miles away from the observatory. The main hiking trail (Boundary Trail) which starts at the observatory still has quite a bit of snow on it in places – deep enough for snowshoes. I had them in my vehicle but didn’t feel like putting them on and taking them off multiple times just to cross over the snowy parts. IMO, the two best view areas for really seeing this volcano are the Loowit View Area (the photo above was captured there) and Johnston Ridge Observatory area.
If you go visit, make sure you take a telephoto lens with you. I’d brought along my Sony 100-400mm lens but left it in the car and naturally, I came across a trio of mountain goats grazing around the observatory area. Sigh.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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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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It’s Saturday, folks! Or does it matter? For the past year, the days have all run together and I’m glad I have a calendar (a real paper one, no less) to which I can refer and find out what day it actually is ;).
This photo is looking up the very short .4-mile round trip Flood of Fire Trail in the Foree Area of the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, in Oregon. It was the last trip I made pre-pandemic, before things shut down. Not the last trip I made during the entire year, mind you, but the last regular trip I made prior to Covid.
Anyway, if you are ever looking for a nice little road trip to make, a trip to any of the three units within this national monument will allow you to stretch your legs, since the few trails in each of the units are short. I really wish there were more, longer trails, but I have a feeling that perhaps, national monuments don’t get quite the love (or money) that national parks get. Then again, national monuments probably don’t get the visitor headaches that national parks get – or do they?
Last year, I saw a post, either on Facebook or Instagram, by this national monument asking that people park responsibily in the Painted Hills Unit. Apparently there was a crowding issue, brought on by people wanting to get out and away from Covid for a little bit. Many of those people were probably the kind who are only accustomed to water parks or theme parks, and a trip to an actual, outdoor, in-the-wild-type park unit is a new experience for them – an experience for which they don’t know how to practice the Leave No Trace etiquette.
But, I digress. Central Oregon is a place of winding roads, slower driving (so as not to hit the cattle ranging freely), stunning geology, awesome landscapes for your camera, but few large towns or gas stations. If you prepare accordingly, it’s a great excuse for a road trip.
WTF? What on earth is this? Food photos? And not even really good ones. Well, yeah, I basically just saved them as-is without any fancy touches. It’s to demonstrate my new toy: the LumeCube panel. And no, I’m not a paid whatever – I’m just impressed, that’s all.
Ok, here’s the backstory. I am a pretty damned good cook, and I do almost all of the cooking for our family (me, my sister, and my youngest nephew). My sister suggested I create a little Blurb-made cookbook to give as Christmas presents this year. I have tons of recipes that I’ve been using over the past 3 years, and I take photos of my daily dinner creations. They aren’t fancy, posed, food photos because I get these suckers right before we chow down, and frankly, I don’t have the time (nor do I want to make the time) to get everything all just perfect in terms of composition. I just take the photos and then will work on them later for my cookbook.So, last night’s dinner was an awesome tuna noodle casserole (how 1950’s, right?). I took a photo of it sitting in the oven after it was done, then remembered I’d just gotten my LumeCube panels (one for the camera, complete with little mini ballhead that sits on the flash shoe, and one for my laptop so I’ll look only slightly better and more lit-up during Zoom meetings. I’d not yet even tried the LumeCube panel for my camera and decided this would be a good opportunity to test it out. I’m totally impressed.Yes, I might be able to get the same view with a regular camera flash, but with LumeCube, the light is on all the time so I can actually see how everything looks lit up through the viewfinder before clicking the shutter button.
To learn more about LumeCube, click the photos.
Anyway, I can tell you from personal experience that the tuna noodle casserole was very good, and it’s going to end up in the cookbook, tentatively titled “Becky Homecky’s Cooking Template.” That Becky Homecky moniker was bestowed upon me by my hairstylist a year ago. She likes giving people nicknames and since I’m the cook, she thought up that name. It’s a “cooking template” because all the recipes I use can either be cooked per the recipe, or tweaked (and I’ve tweaked many if not most of the recipes I use). So, if somebody wants to add cheese, or take it out of the recipe, they can, since all the recipes are basically “templates” which can be changed to suit the cook’s preference. Clever, eh?
Nature does a fine job at making her own Christmas tree, don’t you think? I photographed this lovely, snow-frosted evergreen along the side of the road in Mount Rainier National Park.
And, since it’s Fun Fact Friday as well as Christmas Day, here’s a little bit of Mount Rainier tree trivia for you: The trees in this park extend all the way up to over 6,000 feet along the mountain flanks (over 1,800 meters, more or less). Forests cover approximately 58% of this national park. And most of the trees here are evergreen conifers, meaning they have needles and they keep their needles on their branches year-round.
On my next-to-last day in Zion National Park, I happened upon a flock (actually, it’s called a “rafter”) of wild turkeys. I first encountered them along the road through the park and thought that was pretty cool and I was tickled to have seen them then. Then, during a hike where I was crossing the bridge from Sand Bench Trail toward the Court of Patriarchs, I found a flock – er – rafter – of them hanging out around a park maintenance building. I had the best time walking along with them, photographing them. They weren’t the least bit afraid of me and that’s where I learned they can actually fly – enough to get up into a tree, at least. Wild turkeys, for all their grizzled faces, are pretty cool birds to watch, and their feathers are beautiful.
After a presidential election, what better photo to post than the symbol of American democracy, the bald eagle. As I post this image, I am listening to National Parks Traveler podcast episode #91, about bald eagles in Chesapeake Bay and how populations in the national parks around the Bay have a bit of a better chance of survival. It’s a good podcast, if you feel like listening. It’s about 41 minutes long, and you can download it to listen to later.
To listen to the podcast, click on the image above.
This image was of a bald eagle taking off from a snag in the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, in Alaska was captured with my Canon 1DX and rented 500mm lens.
Ok, I’m a little late in getting this posted – a day late, actually. Nonetheless, yesterday was National Bison Day. And, in honor of that day, the National Parks Traveler published a short aerial video about a herd of 100 bison from Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt national parks being released onto the Wolakota Buffalo Range of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. That article also has links to other Traveler stories about bison.
To see the video and perhaps click on the links to other bison-related articles in the Traveler, click on the top image.
The images above were captured during a visit to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. I was actually on my way out, but before I reached the park entrance/exit booths, I saw a small herd of bison on either side of the road. I parked in a pullout and drew out my Canon and 100-400mm lens to capture some shots of the bison and the tussle (and subsequent detente) between two male bison.
Here’s an interesting thing about the bison located on the North Rim: these particular animals are a result of an experiment at crossbreeding cattle with bison by a man named “Buffalo Jones.” Mr. Jones wanted to cross the two species to create a hardier breed that could withstand the cold and snowy winters of the Plains. Didn’t really work. The small herd made its way to the North Rim, and, if you ever see any during your own North Rim visit, look at them closely (without getting close to them, if you get my meaning) and see if you don’t spot a few that look “cow-ish” and maybe have white faces.
All images on these posts are the exclusive property of Rebecca L. Latson and Where The Trails Take You Photography. Please respect my copyright and do not use these images on Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat or any other business, personal or social website, blog site, or other media without my written permission. Thank you.
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