JHP Newsletter - 2017, No. 4, 6 November
Greetings from southwestern Utah. It's been quite a while since the last Newsletter. We spent the bulk of the summer in the Canadian Rockies for relatively cool temperatures but had a lot of smoke from wildfires. Then we dropped down into Idaho for the total solar eclipse in August. Photography picked up at the end of September with fall color in Colorado then the badlands of Bisti and a first-ever visit to some scenic areas of the Hopi Reservation in October.
Equipment: Sony α6300
I've been using a mirrorless, 1.5x crop factor Sony α6300 for about a year and a half mainly for landscape photography from my kayak because it's nice and small and easily fits in the day hatch over my legs. It has a 24MP sensor, can shoot at 8 fps (frames per second) with continuous live view, and it produces acceptable RAW image files. I was interested in the continuous live view because I had hoped that the body would be like a DSLR where the electronic viewfinder would always show the view through the lens, but that's not the case. It does show what's through the lens while performing continuous shooting, but when you stop shooting, the viewfinder is frozen and it's no longer possible to track what's going on so you have to take it away from your eye to follow the action.
I used the kit lens, the Sony E PZ 16-50 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS, up through August this year because it is a very compact lens, it's cheap, and the image quality is reasonable. At the end of August, I traded the kit lens for the much larger Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS lens that has significantly better image quality, especially in the corners.
Tour: Tanzania in February 2019
Join me for an amazing 15-day photo safari to Tanzania in February 2019 where we will visit two of the most famous locations in East Africa to view and photograph wildlife: Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. We will be there during the height of the wildebeest birthing season for lots of predator-prey interaction. Learn more here.
Travel: Banff & Jasper National Parks, Canada
We spent about a month, beginning in late June, in Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia. We were mainly there for the relatively cool temperatures, compared to the US Rockies this year, but there was smoke from wildfires that greatly reduced our enjoyment and photography.
One foggy morning I photographed some Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum or Lilium umbellatum) south of the Jasper town site (below L). Another day I photographed Tangle Falls (below C), one of my favorite locations in Jasper. The smoke in Banff was particularly bad, but one morning it was very light and the clouds were interesting at Moraine Lake for a black-and-white image (below R).
1/10 sec, f4.5, ISO 100
1/4 sec, f8, ISO 50
1/6 & 1/3 sec, f9.5, ISO 100
We didn't spend much time photographing wildlife, but did have a nice evening with some Elk (Cervus Canadensis, below L). There were some Black Bears (Ursus americanus) in one area of Jasper National Park that were very frequently out and about, and one morning I photographed one of them behind a patch of dandelion (below R).
1/750 sec, f4, ISO 800
1/750 sec, f4, ISO 1250
Travel: Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
We spent about two weeks in Waterton Lakes National Park at the beginning of August. We timed our visit for the Saskatoon berry season so we could photograph the Black Bears as they feasted on them. We saw several bears fairly regularly, but they were extremely skittish and spent a lot of their time in thick brush that wasn't good for photography. Plus, there were periods of smoke from wildfires that reduced our enjoyment.
I did a lot of kayaking when the smoke was light, and one morning it was calm and clear on Lower Waterton Lake (below L). Cameron Lake was fogged-in on my first morning kayaking on the lake, and it was quite exciting to head out following the shore because visibility was only about 50 yds (45m). When I returned a few days later, there was some haze from smoke, but the clouds and calm water prompted me to take some pictures (below R).
1/350 sec, f11, ISO 400
1/350 sec, f11, ISO 400
We were in Idaho for about a month surrounding the total solar eclipse on August 21st. We camped for about a week practically on the centerline of the path of totality near Stanley, and had a fantastic view of the eclipse. I was there just to experience it, but Jan had fun photographing it.
I ran an unplanned experiment while viewing the eclipse with special solar glasses and my binoculars. As you might expect, with the binoculars between the sun and the special glasses, the protective film got hot enough to melt even when looking at the sun for occasional maybe 30-second intervals at the beginning and end of the eclipse. Fortunately, the protective film continued to work just fine, but the solar heating also deformed the plastic lenses in my bifocals, so I had to get a new set of lenses. Next time, I'll put some protective film on the binoculars to reduce the amount of light that's concentrated by the binoculars.
1/250 sec, f11, ISO 400
0.3 sec, f13, ISO 100
We also spent a couple of nights in Craters Of The Moon National Monument. It was Jan's first visit there and I hadn't been there since high school. It was interesting to visit again, but there was light smoke from wildfires, so photography was limited to intimate scenes like these two Rubber Rabbitbrush bushes among a lava flow (above R).
Travel: Colorado Fall Color
We had intended to photograph fall color in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, but we arrived a little late and the color was dull and already past peak. Jan ordered a set of lithium-ion (LiFePO4) batteries to be delivered to her daughter Erica's place in southwestern Colorado, so for about three weeks at the end of September and the beginning of October, I split my time between Erica's and the San Juan Mountains near Ouray.
The aspen in the San Juans transitioned quickly from green-leaves to bare, so there weren't many stands with lots of yellow. Fortunately, the cottonwoods were good this year and the scrub oaks were fantastic, so there were lots of images to be made. Here are six of my favorites.
1/60 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/60 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/6 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/30 sec, f11, ISO 100
1/60 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/30 sec, f11, ISO 100
I installed the lithium-ion (LiFePO4) batteries in Jan's RV and was able to visit with Erica and Steve some and even helped them a little with their tiny houses which are still under construction.
Travel: Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico
I spent about a week and a half in mid October at the Bisti Wilderness in northwestern New Mexico. There were fewer visitors than on previous visits, and best of all I never had to share an area while I was photographing! The weather was clear for several days when I first arrived, so I made lots of images that didn't require an interesting sky. This sunburst through a small arch or window is one of my favorites (below L). I was fascinated by the sun illuminating these plants at first light (below R).
1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, & 1/250 sec; f22; ISO 100
1/10 sec, f13, ISO 100
The dry ground has lots of interesting features like these cracks and waves (below L). I had never seen any forms quite like the ones in the middle image (below C).
2 sec, f11, ISO 100
1/8 sec, f11, ISO 100
1/2, 1/4, 1/8, & 15 sec and 18x 12 min;
f9.5; ISO 200
On two nights while it was clear, I made my own interesting sky by making star-trail images. This image (above R) was my second, and it has a much more interesting composition than the first. I changed how I photographed them from my first experience three years ago. The first thing I did differently was to use chemical hand warmers and an extra beanie to help keep the camera battery warm overnight. The second thing I did differently was to set up the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 to wait for 1.5 hours, then take a series of 12 minute exposures with only 5 seconds in between instead of 10 seconds like before. Also, after taking the foreground images, I put a fresh battery in the camera before starting the timer sequence.
I also changed how I processed the images. I processed the star images through Capture One with zero saturation (for B&W) and increased contrast like before, but this time I performed some noise reduction too. Then I loaded the star images into Photoshop with the blending mode set to Lighten on all but the bottom image. Then I flattened the layers and ran Camera Raw noise reduction because all of that Lightening enhanced the remaining noise from the individual images. Then I performed "dust removal" to get rid of hot pixels and what was probably an airplane flying through the composition. Then I flattened it to have a single layer. After manually blending the foreground images, I brought in the star-trails image and set its blending mode to Linear Dodge (Add).
Clouds eventually arrived one afternoon in the form of contrails. I usually avoid contrails like the plague, but by the next morning they had spread out enough to no longer look like contrails and they developed some nice color (below L). I was hoping for a repeat the next morning when the clouds themselves looked even better, but the clouds in this great composition of the Wings (looking west) never did light up so I converted the image to black-and-white (below R).
0.3 sec, f11, ISO 100
6 sec, f13, ISO 100
However, the clouds behind me to the east developed a really intense orange color, so I quickly changed lenses and ran around to the other side of the Wings to capture the most interesting section of clouds (below L). The clouds were still interesting two mornings later at the Egg Factory, but they only developed very subtle color (below R).
1/10 sec, f11, ISO 100
1/2 & 1/4 sec, f13, ISO 100
Travel: Hopi Reservation, Arizona
I met up with Jan for two nights at the end of October in the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. We had hired a Hopi guide to take us to some scenic areas that Jan had wanted to visit for years, and the only way to get there is with a Hopi guide.
The area we visited on the first afternoon was a fascinating canyon with wonderful formations at the bottom, but we could only access it from the rim. My favorite image from that first day is of an interesting erosion pattern near the top of the rim (below L).
1/15 sec, f13, ISO 100
1/60 sec, f11, ISO 100
The area we visited the next morning was a different canyon with fantastic striped red-rock formations, and here we were able to be down among them. Both Jan and I had a blast with all of the photographic opportunities. There weren't any clouds, so I had to minimize the amount of sky in the composition (above R) or avoid the sky altogether (below L and R).
1/250 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/90 sec, f16, ISO 100
We want to go back because there was a whole different section of the second canyon to explore and we also want to visit some scenic areas in the neighboring Navajo Reservation. We had been planning to go to the Navajo area on this trip, but smoke from a controlled burn near Flagstaff would have been a problem.
Take care and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com