Monday, December 17, 2012

West Fork Falls

Another view of the falls on the West Fork.  After taking the image in the last post I got in closer for more of a profile view of the falls.  I really wanted to compress the scene as best I could so I went with a bonus lens I have-the old Bausch and Lomb Rapid Rectilinear. 

This is 80+ years old that a buddy found and gave me.  The shutter only partially works.  It will not stop down, so you have to shoot wide open.  The speeds are inaccurate at best, but if you need a 2 second or four second exposure, those are easy to do by just counting. It is also a convertible lens, meaning I can remove one element to double the focal length.

So with on element removed this is about a 300mm lens which makes it my longest.  Now when I go this long that means I also have to have my extra rail and my standard sized bellows as my normal rail and the bag bellows I normally use are too short for this.

With the right set up I am able to bring in my view of the falls to make the water a center piece of my image and not just a small element.

The sky is overcast and I have no problem making it a long exposure to get it right.

One morning and two images/compositions in about 15 minutes.  You know in large format, that is a pretty good day!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Great Falls of the West Fork

The Great Falls of the West Fork of the Trinity River are a little visited spot in Fort Worth.  Hidden under steep bluff in an old park one can find this fantastic 10 foot river spanning waterfall.

It has been one of my favorite places to photograph over the last year.  This was a late winter day when the clouds were thick and I was not even sure if there would be a sunrise.  It seemed like a good day to take out the 4x5 and shoot some film.  

I arrived onsite early in the morning and started picking out a spot for the camera.  I framed up an image with the 210mm lens for a slightly longer than normal view.  Put on my 2 stop grad ND filter to allow for the sky.  Took a meter reading.  It would be a long shot, factor in reciprocity and it was roughly a minute in the dim light.

Decided to go with color and grabbed some Velvia 100F.

Made the image.

Then did a longer exposure with Efke 25 B+W film.

Several weeks went by until the the film was processed.  After looking at them both, I decided the color version, as muted as it was, made the better image.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fog and Rain

Here is a day we had fog and rain in north Texas and I was west of Cowtown out in Palo Pinto County.  I like doing this drive as it is an interesting place of winding roads, some hills and valleys, some neat views, and you are highly unlikely to run into other photographers interested in the same subject.

This was a large format day when there were several of us with our 4x5 cameras and we had driven west in the dark, stopped for some Dublin DP, and gotten here in the early gloom of a rainy day.  

I like days like this, it is ideal for moody black and white and being in the green of summer, it was the order of the day.

I waited out some rain as it seemed to vary in intensity.  Set up and went into focus mode.  Ended up covering the camera with my jacket once when it picked up a little and then finally got my shot ready.  Efke 25 was the film.  DR-5 was the processing so I could get a chrome.  Scanned it and tweaked for contrast in Photoshop.

One of those good days.  I think I ended up with 3 or 4 nice images that day.  Also, if memory recalls we made it down to Granbury for fried chicken, and that was pretty good too!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

El Cap and the Guads

El Capitan rises from the deserts of west Texas in dramatic fashion.  The sheer end of the Guadalupe Mountains is a sight to see and a frequent subject of my cameras.  I find the views varied and all of them superb   I often wonder why other photographers do not make the trek to photograph this park.  Then I remember, its here in Texas and for some reason people think all the good parks are in California or Utah.

Too bad for them.  Great for me.

On a fine fall afternoon, I arrived south of El Cap by one of my favorite roadside views of the mountains to find that fall rains had brought on some wildflowers and I instantly knew I had my image for the day.

Set up low.  Go wide to take it all in.  Use a grad filter to hold back the sky.  Stop down to f/45. Wait for the wind to slow enough to hopefully get the flowers sharp.  Then wait four weeks to see if you got the image.  You gotta love large format.

I mostly got the shot.  Trying not to blow out the yellow in the flowers it does get kinda dark in the shadows, but as Galen Rowell always said-expose for the most important highlight.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lonely Lost Mesa

The Lost Mesa is an area of great beauty and mystery.  A blank spot on the map has no paved roads, no signs, no towns, and no campgrounds.  As I like to say, there is no stumbling upon it.  You have to want to get here and you have to know how to find it by taking unmarked rough gravel roads.

If you are lucky enough to get here, you will find over one million acres of grasslands and a few distant lonely mountains.

Visit here and you will have it to yourself.  I have gone days without seeing another person.  Only the occasional rancher who runs cattle on this BLM land.

Here is a view of a few of the lonely mountains that pop out of the open range here.  A few ocotillo still have some leaves from the fall rains.

This is a place that says empty and I hope that this image can capture that feeling.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Salt Flats and Guadalupes

The view of the Guadalupes rising above the salt flats is one of the classic west Texas desert sights. The basin and range geology of the west is at work here.  The western side of the Guadalupes has a dramatic cliff and the peaks themselves rise over 5000' from the salt flats.

I have always liked the two and often try to photograph the two together.  So after photographing just the flats, I turned my attention to putting together an image with both the Guadalupes and the dry lake bed.  

I am really surprised this is not more of a common image.  The view is dramatic and a fairly busy US highway passes right by the salt flats.  I guess most people are in too much of a hurry to get someplace else.  That's ok by me as it leaves most of west Texas to a few photographers.

To try to make it a clutter free of an image I walked far out on the salt flats, but I still found some tire tracks.  Rather than try to find a composition that precluded them-a tough proposition- I just ran with them in the image.  I tried to use them as leading lines the way folks use the rock paths in Death Valley at the Racetrack.  Hope it works.  Salt Flats, tracks, distant mountains in the morning light.

After making images in both color and black and white, I realized the morning was running on and it was time to head to Dell City and a plate of huevos rancheros.  So I packed up and drove west for some good eating.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Salt Flats

One of my favorite parts of the state is the area west of the Guadalupe Mountains.  A lonely, sparsely populated area of sand dunes, salt flats, desert grasslands, and stony mountain ranges.

I had arrived at the Guadalupes on a clear day, I drove west to the salt flats and walked out on them a ways.  I photographed both the mountains and the flats themselves.

 I have always wanted to be able to make a minimalistic image of the salt flats where I could hopefully capture the openness and the sky.

I set up placing northwest looking across the dry lake bed into a clear blue sky.  I tried out compositions that took in both the expanse of sky or that showed the size of the lake bed.

Here is one of the former.  Efke 25 processed in DR-5 as a black and white chrome.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Santa Elena in Black and White

Here is a third posting from my mornings at Santa Elena Canyon.  This is one in monochrome from the overlook.  I finally was able to get my film processed.  This image was done on Efke 25 black and white film that was processed by DR-5 into a black and white chrome.

There is nothing quite like a chrome and a black and white chrome is also something special.  Getting a box of processed images is a bit like being a kid again.

You can compare the color version from the same location from my 5/10 posting.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande

As the sky remained clear in Big Bend day after day I decided that another morning image to try was to go back to Santa Elena Canyon and photograph from the edge of the Rio Grande.

I made my way down to the river in the dark and walked until I had a decent foreground of water and rocks and not just mud.  The mud was the big concern as I was not keen to be walking back and forth in it.  I found a spot I could bounce across some rocks and hopefully avoid it.

I moved the tripod out into the water and started setting up.

The canyon is so big that the 75mm was the lens to use.  That is as wide as I go and it makes me wish I had the 47XL.

I knew the color would be intense on the rock and decided that classic Velvia50 was the way to go.

I used a soft edge grad filter to tone down the sky a bit and waited.

I set up the camera and worked on focus and then waited.

When the light first hit the top of the wall I got the middle image.  

Then quickly, while I reloaded film the light made its way down the wall and I got the third image.

I added a couple of more images for good measure and bracketed too.  All told I shot 8 sheets that morning.  That was a big day for me.  Luckily I got a couple of nice ones.

If you ever make it to Big Bend be sure to plan for a sunrise from here. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Santa Elena Canyon

The showpiece location of Big Bend National Park is Santa Elena Canyon.  If you ever make it here and have just one night, the place you want to see sunrise is here at the canyon.

Calling this location spectacular is an understatement.

Here the Rio Grande flows out of the 1500' deep canyon it has carved in the Sierra Ponce wall.  You can stand at the rivers edge and look up and into it.  This is as awe inspiring of a location as the Grand Canyon and it is a whole lot easier to see and experience as it is just 100 yards from the parking lot.  Not that I am against a long arduous hike to get someplace, but as the large format photographers can tell you, close to the road is sometimes nice.

I had arrived in Big Bend one day last month to some amazing clouds and had one of my best days ever for photography.  I woke up on day two to clear skies and decided to photograph the canyon.  The clear skies should put nice light on the canyon and if I framed it right I could avoid too much empty blue sky.

When I normally photograph the canyon, it is from the mouth of the canyon as I cannot help but be drawn to the rivers edge and that huge wall right in front of you.  Well, I decided to try a different shot and went to the overlook, which is about 1/2 mile away from the canyon.  If you ever saw Ansel Adams image of Santa Elena Canyon, it was taken from the overlook.  The view here is less about the river as it is harder to pick out in the distance and more about the canyon cliff face.

I set up the camera in the dark and chose a longer lens.  Focused.  Decided this is a location all about the orange glow on the wall and went with Velvia 100F.  Waited.  When first light touched the top of the canyon walls I took an image.  When it got all the way to the bottom of the wall I took a second.  Then I switched to black and white.  I am still have yet to get the b+w images developed but the color looked good and is the image here.

What a way and place to watch the sunrise.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

El Capitan

El Capitan is one of the signature mountains of west Texas.  It might even be THE signature mountain of all of Texas.  It is a beacon visible for many miles across the desert and the views of it from above and below are spectacular.

El Capitan marks the end of the Guadalupe Mountains.  The mountians end here in a vertical cliff that is "V" shaped with the pint of the "V" being El Capitan.  See from above  it is like the prow of a ship, hence the name.  It is impressive.  It's neighbor is Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in the state of Texas.  Today both are part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The mountain and the park are a hidden gem of the park system and a favorite photograph destination.

The Guadalupes, or Guads as we call them, rise up out of the desert and reach an elevation of just under 9,000 feet.  From the salt basin to its west that is over a mile of elevation gain.  Dramatic vistas, desert canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, and hidden in the mountains, aspen, pines and maples. 
Here is what I would call the normal view of El Cap.  This is taken from the second rest area in Guadalupe Pass and right beneath the peak.  I arrived at the park on a very clear sky morning and decided to go with this location as I could fill most of the frame with the mountain and not have too much sky.

It helped that the winds were calm too as this location is often far too windy for large format work.

I went with the longer lens (210mm I think-I don't make notes he says sheepishly......) and tried to get that first light on the peak.

The light was warm but not that awesome orange glow I was hoping for.  I shot a couple of sheets but but the time the cliffs were all lit, I knew the best was already over.

I packed up and started down the mountain toward the salt flats and my mind was already on a plate of huevos rancheros in Dell City.........

Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Flowers Digital 4x5

It has been a great spring for wildflowers here in Texas.  After a wet winter and spring with some nice drought breaking rains we have had a great wildflower display.  Bluebonnets have already come and gone.  It was a good show.  Now we have a variety of red, yellow, purple, white, etc.  A visual feast.

I took the 4x5 out today to see if I could capture some of that spring color.  I had some Velvia 100 I wanted to shoot but I also decided to take the 50D along and hook it up for some digital work with the Arca-Swiss.

I carefully waded out into the wildflowers and found a good spot with some bare ground for the pack.  Then I set up the Arca-Swiss.  I went with the 210mm to compress the flowers.  I shot a couple of sheets, then switched over to the DSLR to see what it could do.

When working with the DSLR I can only use the longer lenses to get anywhere close to infinity.  Now the 210mm on a crop sensor DSLR is like using a 300mm on a full frame camera as I am only using a small piece of the image circle.

Open up the lens like I normally would.  Use Live View to compose and focus.  Use Aperture Priority mode for the image.  Viola-image.

I get the 4x5 experience with instant digital feedback and I did not have to spend $30,000 for a high end digital back.  I just get a smaller file and cannot use wide angles.  However for what I was doing I thought the longer lenses would be a better choice.

I saw a few Indian blankets and thought they might be a good subject.  Used the 10x on Live View to really check focus.  Then it was just wait for the wind to lull for just a second.

Then when I caught that lull, I got this one.  Canon 50D, on Arca-Swiss 4x5 with a 210mm Nikon lens.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red Rock Country

Arches National Park.  Blue sky.  Some feathery clouds.  Bright red sandstone.

Let's go black and white.  Yes, black and white.  In the mid day light I was not sure how the colors would work out on Velvia, but thought the black and white could work and work well.

I had my trusty Efke 25loaded and ready to go.  I saw this scene and thought it had potential.

I framed up the red cliffs with the Fujinon 125mm so I could fill most of the frame with the rocks.  Used rise to keep the perspective right.

It looked good on the ground glass and I used one sheet.  This was it.  I got the exposure pretty good and it looked great on the light table.  I did not know it when I took it but it was a good shot.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Forge Rock

Arches has a great many famous locations that people visit.  I visit those same locations too as views like Delicate Arch are truly awesome.

I also like to get off the beaten path and try to find images others have not.   I posted some views of the red rock country a couple of weeks ago that showed some of the Park Avenue area in hopefully a different way.

This post is hopefully something different too.

I found this rock several years ago on a visit to Arches and kept thinking there was an image here.  I made several attempts at it but never could get the right light.

This last trip I decided to give it another go.  I had somewhat struck out with trying to get magic light here,so I decided to try seeing what I could get in monochrome during the day.

I set up the camera and made a couple of exposures on Efke 25.  I also set about trying to get a color image and did one on Velvia.

I figured the Efke would handle the scene better but I think I liked what the Velvia did that day.

I have to say I really like this location but this was still not the potential for what the area has.  I have worked on getting a night image here on a couple of occasions but even that has been more miss than hit.  I have never been able to get a film image here.  I did however make a night image with my digital camera that I like.

I would love to be able to do an image like this with the large format camera but just do not think it will be possible.  I have no lens that goes close enough to this wide and the exposure would run into the hours.  So for now I think this is about the best I can get it.

I call it The Forge of Odin.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

West Side of Canyonlands

I spent a day driving along the western side of the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park.  There are several neat views that are not the famous ones that most people go to.  I took the Arca-Swiss and set about making a few images of the various views.  

This one canyon jumped out at me as it was rather narrow with some fairly close buttes and edges to give the canyon some depth.  I found many of the other views to be so vast that without something in the sky it becomes hard to get a great image.

There was a few clouds in the sky but not enough to make it worthy of being a big sky image.  I decided that this would work without it.  I set it up to be a black and white and went with the Efke 25 knowing I would get DR-5 processing.

Black and White works well in the daytime and I thought there might be some nice textures through the canyon depths.

After making that one I decided that there was even some potential for color too, so I took a shot with Velvia 100F.  I was not sure if the shadows would go solid black but I wanted to get that great red of the sandstone.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Walking Along Park Avenue

Walking along Park Avenue.  After spending almost a week up in Canyonlands, I moved over to Arches National Park to work on some of the areas there.  A nice walk with some great rock formations is Park Avenue.  It is about a mile and the road passes by either end.  So if you are not wanting to walk two miles (one of which would be up hill), you can get someone to drop you off at the top , walk down to the bottom and get picked up.

I parked at the bottom and started walking up hill.  I was scouting for potential sunrise locations and also using the opportunity to make some black and white images.

I had not gone far when I saw this scene. 

I liked the sandstone monuments.  I also liked the rocky stretch this trail was on.  I thought they both might make good images.

First I set up with the longer view and the sandstone bluffs.  Went with the 210mm to make the image more the rock formation.

Once I had that one, I went wider for the sweep of the rock leading up Park Avenue.

The film of choice was Efke 25 that I would get processed at DR-5 into a B+W chrome.  Most folks who do black and white use film and make negatives.  I use a standard B+W film but through the DR-5 process you get a black and white positive.  I find them outstanding.  I can "read" a positive much easier than a negative and there is always the wow factor from any chrome on a light table.

This is one of those locations where there are image possibilities everywhere and even when looking at both of these shots, I still cannot decide which one I like more.  The only "more" I really know is I want more time out in locations like this.

See more images from Utah on my website galleries:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mesa Arch Sunburst

My favorite park in Utah is Canyonlands National Park.  It has incredible scenery and low visitation.  Those two combine to make it my must visit place when I am around Moab.  On my last trip there I stayed up there for six straight days.  It was finally needed both fuel and water that made me drive to town.  The rest of the time I had Island in the Sky to myself.

One of the areas I made a couple of visits to was Mesa Arch.  This is the classic Canyonlands image and one I got a really nice one of on my visit in 2008.  I wanted to see if I could do a little better this trip.  

The most important factor for a good Mesa Arch image is clear sky.  It goes against what I normally want as a photographer but clear sky gets you that wonderful glow just after sunrise.  The other big factor is crowds.  In 2008 there were easily 45 photographers there one morning all jockeying for tripod positions.  This trip it was much nicer.  One day had 20 or so, which is still very crowded but my second day it was myself and two others.

By camping in Canyonlands I have a huge advantage over the folks who drive up from Moab.  They have a 45+ minute drive.  I have about a 90 second drive from the campground to the trailhead.  So while most people are trying to convince themselves to get up and go, I am already on location.

Being the first one there also means I get my pick of spots and when you have a large format camera to fiddle with you need time.  I had already planned out my image and set up my tripod and camera in the dark long before daylight.  I do not have to focus yet, I just got the spot.  The glow happens after sunrise so I have plenty of time to compose and focus.

Luckily when only two other photographers showed up it was easy to get all the images you wanted. 

For me the ideal image of Mesa Arch is one that captures the glow, that you can see the Washer Woman Arch in the distance, has a sunburst, and excludes most if not all sky.  Remember that you are usually here on a clear sky day and what you will see is many people compose very wide and get a great deal of sky in the image.

I was using my widest lens too, a 75mm (about a 24mm for those who shoot full frame digital), but by getting there early and knowing where the sun would rise I was able to leave only a small gap of sky there and have the rest be rock and canyon.

Compose right.  Focus.  Set to f/45 and wait for the sun.  When it made it's appearance I fired off about 10 sheets.  This was one of the best.

You can see the set up and location.  Then you can see my final result.  This was a 4x5 chrome on Velvia 100F.  For comparisons I have my 2008 attempt at this as the banner on my WildernessPhotographer Blog.

WildernessPhotographer Blog

The 2008 version was on Velvia 50.

I like them both, but is either one better?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Overlooking the Colorado River at Dead Horse Point

One of the ways I have been wanting to make some changes in this blog was to show not only my camera on location but also what was the shot I got when I was there.  This being the first such example and is from a trip out to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks near Moab, Utah.

 One clear morning I left Canyonlands NP early and made my way over to the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park for the classic view it offered of the Colorado River.  I got there early, as always, and set up in the dark.  That helps get you a good spot and it gives me time to set up the 4x5.

Since it was my first time there, I stayed in the area most other photographers stayed.  Yes, it is a popular overlook, but it is popular for a reason-the view is awesome.

Since it was clear I set up to have little to no sky in my images.

Once there was light but long before sunrise I was able to confirm composition and focus.  A couple of test shots with the digital confirmed that the predawn light was already picking up nice color on the rocks and so I started making images.

Stayed at that spot until sunrise and continued making images.  By sunrise many other photographers had arrived and they all went crazy after the sun hit the rocks.  However, I think they missed the best light as the predawn glow on the rocks was much nicer.  The sunrise brought harsh light and deep shadows.  Certainly tough conditions and lack of clouds made it tougher.  I actually only took a few images after sunup.

Here you can see a couple of views of the Arca-Swiss set up on location.  One taken in predawn light and another towards the end of my shooting after the sun was in the canyon.  While the sun might have made a great B+W if there were clouds, I just was not sure anybody was getting anything great by then.

Finally there is the image I made on film at the top of the post.  Used my longer lens-the 210mm so I could exclude the sky and just pick up the canyon and river.  Film was Velvia 100.

If you make it out to Moab, do yourself a favor and do the drive up to Dead Horse Point for sunrise, but get there early if you do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arca-Swiss Wide Angle Bellows

In an older post I wrote about the wide angle leather bellows that Arca-Swiss makes and how fine a piece of equipment it is.  I also picked up a used synthetic wade angle bellows and that is the subject of this post.

The nutshell review is to skip this and go for the leather one.  Yes, it costs more but it is more functional, easier to work with, and let's face it-just looks cooler.

Unlike the soft supple qualities of the leather bellows, the synthetic is stiff.  I am sure that helps keep the light path open but it also makes it more fiddly to work with.  Even changing the bellows which is literally a two second affair with the leather or standard bellows takes a while as the bag like qualities keep getting in the way.

It puffs up when in use and can act more like a sail than the other bellows.  Being a landscape guy who frequents west Texas, wind is a common element I deal with.  Adding any more features that catch wind is not something I like to do.

Even storage of the camera becomes more of a pain as the bellows sticks out on three sides from the camera meaning you have to carefully wrap it around the frame prior to putting it in your pack.  This is the exact opposite of how the accordion folds of the leather and regular bellows fit nicely within the frame.  I worry that heavy, long term use will weaken the material and potentially cause a light leak.

Then that cool factor.  The leather bellows would get the approval of the Fonz, it is a finely crafted piece of leather.  The synthetic bellows, on the other hand, has about zero cool factor.  

So, yes the synthetic bellows will work, I just think an Arca-Swiss owner ought to just get a bellows that matches the engineering quality of the rest of the camera.

My final thought on it is I keep mine as somewhat of an insurance policy for my good leather bellows.  I also now have a bellows frame I could send to the UK and see if the folks at Custom Bellows could make me something of a universal style bellows for my Arca.

Both images here have me set up in a local park, with a 125mm lens and the compendium.  I think you might be able to see how stiff and sail like the synthetic bellows can be.  Also note the Crown Graphic in the background.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Adventure Continues

Photography is an adventure.  

Large Format photography is even more of an adventure.  It is fun, challenging, difficult, frustrating, surprising, and unpredictable.  It is an art, a science, a skill, and something that just plain dumb luck is the best thing you can have. 

In the end it is ultimately rewarding.

Photography continues to evolve as an discipline and the technology is changing at an ever increasing rate.  As traditional as large format photography is it is not immune to change.  I continue to deal with markets and tools that do not sit still.

It is something that I am still compelled to work with, to try to understand better, and to try to improve in.

As I look forward to working more with the camera and seeing where it takes me next.  

I think of this image as one that has always inspired the photographer in me.  Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande, it always makes me ready to grab the gear and head west.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Fresh Start for 2012

2012 got me to thinking of changes that go with the new year.  I looked back over my photography and where it was going.  I also looked back over this blog and decided to start to try to make some changes.  For starters I decided the name was ready for a change.  
So here I will rechristen it The Large Format Photography Blog.

That means the address was updated and I might even start to change up the style of it.

Here is the first image to share for the year.  I went out on Monday January 2nd with the big camera and photographed a few areas southwest of Fort Worth.  Here is an old grain elevator in Hico, Texas.