The Yosemite in Springtime
These are snaps from a week of Dave Wyman's photo tours of Yosemite. The falls are running like crazy after record rains, and reservoirs are about to burst at about 200% capacity!
Since we were doing some of this by bicycle, I brought as little as possible that could still produce superior gallery-size (40 x 60" or 1 x 1.5 meter) prints. I was going to bring my Nikon D7000 (27.3 oz./774g with battery, strap rings and card), 10-24mm (77mm filters, 16.3 oz/463g), 35/1.8 DX (52mm filters, 7 oz/197g) and 55-200mm VR (52mm filters, 11.8 oz./335g) lenses for light weight, but it was still more than I felt like carrying and needed two sets of different-sized large filters. Without filters, I'd be hauling 4 pounds or 1.8 kg of stuff, and this is the lightest full-range system one can create with Nikon.
Instead I chose a 2009 LEICA M9 (20.9 oz./593g with battery and card) and three tiny lenses:
LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH (39mm filters, 6.1 oz./173.18g, current production),
LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2, (39mm filters, 7 oz./198g, built 1987) and a
LEICA TELE-ELMARIT-M 90mm f/2.8 (39mm filters, 8 oz./225g, built 1987).
This LEICA camera and three lenses weigh just 2.6 pounds, or less than 1,200g, total. In other words, the entire system with three lenses as fast or faster than any f/2.8 pro zoom weighs almost a full pound or 350g less than just one Nikon 70-200mm VR II! What are people thinking, and just as importantly, I'm supporting American workers by buying the M9, which uses an American-made image sensor.
I used the standard hood with each lens. I used LEICA's standard cap over the 28mm hood, and ordinary 55mm snap-in caps over the hoods of the 50mm and 90mm lenses. I never moved the hoods; they stayed locked on each lens all week.
The camera, three lenses, two batteries, a dozen SD cards, cable release, microfiber cleaning towel, filters and spare caps all fit in a tiny Kata Ergo-Tech Format Q waist pack, which is only one-third the size of the SLR-optimized Speed Demon.
I expected mostly to be shooting black-and-white, but was too lazy to want to bring a superior LEICA M3 instead. It's easy to convert from black-and-white to color, but more difficult to convert from 35mm black-and-white to color, and I expected to need some of each.
I added most of my burning, dodging and other creative input in Apple Aperture 3.
I shot DNG-only, because the primitive digital circuitry of the LEICA M9 chokes trying to compute JPGs in real time, and DNGs opened in Apple Aperture 3 have much, much better color than the LEICA's own JPGs. Nikon and Canon cameras are advanced enough to make great JPGs in-camera, while the LEICA is not.
Once I had my full-resolution JPGs, I used Photoshop CS5 to resize, sharpen and brand them for publication.
I shot all week on just two SanDisk SD cards: one 4 GB and one 8 GB. I only made 519 shots in a full week full week of shooting, and many of these shots were multiple safety shots to ensure hand-held shots at slow speeds were sharp. I prefer to concentrate on what I'm doing when I'm doing it, because no amount of software can fix crummy photos later.
I did no computer work all week. I brought my two cards to my studio when I returned, and only then loaded my photos into my computer directly from my cards. Because I didn't spend any time on a computer, I got to sleep early and woke up relaxed before dawn every day, excited and looking for snaps.
All this techocrap means nothing. As an artist, I'd get the same results regardless of whatever camera, lenses and software I used precisely because I'd keep working at it until my images matched how I imagined them in my head. This just happened to be the easiest way with the least to carry for this trip; the gear never matters to the result, it only changes how much I'd have to carry or how much work I'd have to spend later.
If I brought more gear, I'd have fewer good photos because I would have missed shots changing lenses or not carrying it at the ends of the day when others were tired.
16 May 2011, Monday top
Today I drove down from Reno and met the group in Yosemite. I didn't snap anything worthwhile; just dreary waterfalls in dim light. It was getting ready to rain.
17 May 2011, Tuesday top
The first fun thing we saw today was a baby bear! We didn't see its mommy, so we didn't hang around long enough to let her discover us. We snapped photos as we drove by. Nature photographers need to think like news photographers: have your camera ready at every moment, especially when you least expect it.
Here's the full-frame shot:
Little bear in there somewhere, 90mm lens.
And here's the cropped snap of the baby bear's butt:
Conditions weren't much better than last night; it was all gray and stinky:
That was it for today. It was yucky, but we had a great dinner!
18 May 2011, Wednesday top
It had snowed overnight, yay!
Today was bright, crisp and clear.
I worked this to bring it up from boring color. I cropped, burned and dodged, and toned, Here's how it looked directly from the camera:
Word's getting out about Dave's tours, so we had several LEICA guys with us as usual. Thus we had our lunch at the Ahwahnee, a place with $35 hot dogs for LEICAMEN. I keep suggesting we add a LEICA surcharge to help out the Canon shooters. I'm as far away from Communist as they come, but LEICA guys are so loaded that it wouldn't matter at all if Dave added a few thousand dollars to the tour price for LEICA shooters. If LEICA guys chipped in a few thousand instead of the few hundred Dave charges, we could drop the price for Canon shooters by 10%, and by 25% for Pentax, Sony, Minolta, Olympus and other lesser brands. Prices for Nikon shooters would remain the same, as Nikon has been the professional reference standard for 50 years.
After LEICALUNCH, we left the valley for the barn in the rain.
Half-Done Half-Dome. (as shot.)
It was stormy. A typically well-composed snap just doesn't have any snap under these conditions.
Let's work it in Apple Aperture 3:
This snap's now OK for tourists, but it still doesn't say anything.
Let's get rid of what's not contributing to the image, crop and print it properly, and see what happens:
Ahh, much better. The color was a distraction, so getting rid of it strengthens the image, as does removing the useless left and right sides, and the extra fluff on the top and bottom. I burned and dodged and made something much stronger out of it. All three of those images are from the same file.
Most people look the other way from this vantage point and make the same snap everyone does of Yosemite Valley. I turned the other way from the parking lot and looked into the light.
NEXT DAY > >