Before moving from Georgia to Colorado, I never really appreciated our National Parks. I would only visit one occasionally, and even then it was when I was a teenager and “too cool” for that kind of thing… Fortunately, The Mega Pixels Digital HQ is only about 45 minutes away from Rocky Mountain National Park, and only a few hours away from some of the most unique landscapes our country has to offer: Arches and Canyon Lands National Parks to the west, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to the North, and Grand Canyon National Park to the south.
These National Parks are special because of what they represent, but also because of their rugged grandeur. It’s easy to be caught up in your surroundings. Sometimes, when I don’t have a photographic plan, I panic because I want to photograph everything around me at once!
Many of our clients are landscape photographers, and on a personal level, landscape photography is near and dear to my own heart. So as you can imagine, I like to take full advantage of our proximity to these locations and photograph them with the greatest equipment in the world to the best of my ability (the cameras we know are good while my skill varies day to day).
This was the case when my wife and I packed up our trusty Isuzu Trooper-turned-camper-van and headed to Yellowstone National Park for a week long getaway. Neither of us had ever been to Yellowstone or Grand Teton before, so we were excited to get to experience this new area. It also didn’t hurt that I was able to bring along the XF100MP camera system and a couple lenses. However, this was not designed as a shooting trip. This was vacation. For fun. Not for shooting. At least that’s what I kept telling myself…
When we arrived we were immediately shocked by the Teton Range. Colorado’s mountains are inspiring, no doubt, but the Teton Range is special because of its young age and how the mountains formed. While not quite so large, these peaks are dramatic and ominous with unobstructed views. Naturally I had to pull over and take a quick shot as soon as we arrived. Vacation. Not a shooting trip.
Both National Parks are in very close proximity, with Grand Teton directly to the south of Yellowstone. As anyone that has visited either Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks before will tell you, they’re amazing places. Beautiful landscapes. Rugged yet still accessible. Wildlife everywhere. Unique geothermal springs literally exploding with color. The total package.
Fortunately my better half knew what she signed up for when we got married, and knew before we even left that I would probably have to take some special time to make some images. Still, its a vacation. Not a shooting trip.
I carried two lenses with me- the Schneider Kreuznach 150mm f3.5 LS and the Schneider Kreuznach 55mm f2.8 LS. I wanted the length of the 150mm (93mm small frame equivalent) since my work is beginning to shift towards more spacial compression. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring a 55LS (34mm small frame equivalent). Both are excellent lenses with superb sharpness.
Pro Tip: When I’m not shooting strobes or don’t need the leaf shutter, I always set the XF camera body to only use its focal plane shutter instead of the lens’s leaf shutters. The leaf shutters are the most delicate piece of equipment in the camera system, so I like to save it for when it really makes a difference- controlling ambient light when syncing with strobes.
I’m not a wildlife photographer. It’s never really crossed my mind to pursue that genre of photography with any vigor. That being said, when a huge bison is lounging in morning dew basking in the sunlight with geothermal vents spewing steam in the background, you just take the photo. Who says you can’t shoot wildlife with medium format cameras?
I naturally brought my tripod along for the trip, but because this was vacation and not a shooting trip, I elected to leave it in the car most of the time. This allowed me to be quicker on my feet when making images so we didn’t have to stop for too long at a spontaneous photo op. 100 Megapixels is a lot of resolution- and if you’re at all careless with how you’re making your images, you’ll see motion blur.
Knowing this to be the case, I decided to give it a shot as a test to see what I could get away with. The results are pretty telling, and I definitely had some images with some motion blur- most notably with the 150mmLS. However, I was easily able to overcome that motion blur.
Once I checked my images on the rear LCD I knew that hand holding the camera wasn’t going to be an issue- I just had to be aware of my shutter speed. Fortunately the XF camera body contains a limiter if in aperture priority which allows me to shoot handheld spontaneously. I set the limiter to not drop below 1/320s which I found to be more or less the sweet spot for shooting the 150mmLS on the 100 megapixel back. (That isn’t a hard and fast rule. That combo works for how I hold the camera, it will be different for other users). And if there wasn’t quite enough light out to give me the shutter speed I needed, I could raise the ISO on the IQ3 100 without feeling guilty.
After a stint in Yellowstone we came back down to Grand Teton to avoid the crazy crowds in Yellowstone during the weekend. This is where I put on my photographer hat to take a sunrise shot of the Tetons and actually used my tripod. Unfortunately I didn’t have the clouds I was looking for, but that’s the way it works. While I was composing the image below I realized I was being inspected by a pack of wolves 20 yards away. I didn’t get the shot because I literally wasn’t sure if I was being hunted. After they ran off I went back to setting up the shot.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are amazing places. For a photographer, these locations can be a sanctuary for image making. We were struck at the rugged landscape, stunning geothermal activity, and the prevalence of majestic wildlife. It was an exhaustive deluge of breathtaking scenes around every corner. It was truly an honor to be able to capture this amazing territory with a tool like the XF camera system. The confidence the XF gave me to be able to shoot without compromise was exhilarating. We have some big plans in the works for this area- so stay tuned.