Returning Home With Zero Images to Edit
In a previous post, I mentioned I was changing cameras and my approach to landscape photography. Last week I had the chance to go to Southern Utah for a few days, visiting places I’d been and exploring new ones. I was eager to shoot with my “new” setup and see if it really was the right tool for me. The weather ranged from cold and snowy to cold and sunny, with the common denominator being cold. I’m completely fine with cold weather and I love the snow, so these were perfect conditions in my mind! Shooting in the cold weather, and snow, presents quite a few challenges that I’ll speak to in a future blog post. Being prepared for the cold is rule #1 and can make or break any type of photography in cold weather.
Stop one was at Bryce Canyon National Park. Light snow and 15 degrees greeted me and with a few hours of daylight remaining, I hit the Navajo Trail and descended. Light snow continued to fall, then became heavier as darkness came. No breaks in the clouds and very soft, diffused light created a wonderful scene for the eyes. I continued hiking towards the Queen’s Garden and daylight had all but disappeared. I found one isolated tree and a white ridge that I took my first 2 photos of before the light was gone. Near the top of the rim, I stopped to make a few more images with my headlamp on high power, side-lighting some nearby hoodoos in the falling snow. I returned to the parking lot to find I was the last one there as the Park Ranger came by to make a final sweep. 15 degrees and still snowing.
I’ve never seen Bryce Canyon with snow (5th trip!) and I was not going to miss the sunrise in this incredible place! 4:30 AM, wake up. I chose to hike to Fairyland Point for a few reasons: the road was closed, I’d never been there before and anywhere in Bryce Canyon is amazing so pick a spot and go! There were no other tracks on the snow-covered road and the nearly full moon made my headlamp pointless as the skies cleared. 12 degrees. It was so strange seeing an empty National Park parking lot, no people in sight or to be heard and a freshly coated landscape of strange beauty spread out before me. It was about 5:30 AM so there was still some time before dawn to find a location to shoot. I began walking down the Fairyland Canyon trail in the fresh snow, again with no headlamp and only moonlight to light the way. Previous tracks were covered and I felt like I was on another planet. I found a place to shoot a few long exposures (still before dawn) and then the glow of dawn began. Bryce Canyon sits at around 8,000 feet and faces East, which means the canyon instantly glows once dawn breaks. No direct light is needed there and the colors begin to saturate in front of your eyes. There really isn’t anything like the light in Bryce Canyon. The way it is absorbed, reflected, radiated and bounced around confuses one’s eyes and mind until you just stare in awe. Yes, it really is this amazing.
The sun crested the horizon and for a few minutes, the world was all pink, orange and yellow. And cold. 10 degrees and windy. Within minutes,
the light became more white and direct so I headed back to the main road. 3 hours in the cold was good for me for a while! Plus, I was planning to leave that morning and continue
down the road. Highway 12 passes by Bryce Canyon and heads East to Escalante, 45 miles away. Those 45 miles are good ones, really, really good miles. Bright blue skies, lingering clouds and a fresh blanket of snow made driving through the sculpted desert landscape a visual treat. Gradually, the snow disappeared and the colors of late November returned. I headed towards the Burr Trail to Capitol Reef, and headed towards the Henry Mountains. Capitol Reef is my favorite National Park in Utah, but again, that’s another post;) A quick lunch at a newly discovered spot, a few photographs and then East towards the Henry Mountains. This isolated area of Utah is a strange land of clay hills, mesas, washes and a barren landscape. This was an area that was new to me and I wanted to see what this place looked like for future travels. The landscape is very open and broad, with unique formations of land in the distance. The Henry Mountains (11,000 feet) dominate the skyline with the Little Rockies blocking the endless view to the South.
From here I headed North towards Hanksville, then towards Price, UT. The landscape surrounding both of these cities is typical of Central Utah, a seemingly endless barren and desolate landscape. Once you look a little closer though, and get away from the highways, you’ll soon see barren and desolate is far from the best description. Unique and majestic formations of land, delicate ribbons of water and hidden wonders dot the landscape. I explored some of this area via road and some via hiking, making several images. I was beginning to become sick before leaving Park City and by the time I reached Price, I felt miserable. Camping, making and finding images and being outside in general is tough when it’s cold all day!
I was able to shoot roughly 50 frames (some scenes 2 shots) and learned quite a bit in these few days! I’ll list them below with a short description.
- Light meter is useless in low light/dark. It doesn’t detect light until well after dawn, making all exposures of early dawn and via headlamp all guesses. Headlamp light, snowing, hoodoos from 5-50 feet away: What aperture, shutter? Dawn atmosphere, dark but glowing hoodoos with snow? All a guess. Good thing I pay attention to settings from previous images I’ve made:)
- Self timer is hard to use with gloves. It’s in a funny spot too close to the lens. Without gloves it’s easy. The self-timer locks the mirror up so I use it for every shot slower than 1/250th second shutter.
- Cable shutter release lock is difficult with gloves. Same thing as above. Gotta use this for anything over a 1 second exposure. Cold hands!
- Focus is difficult in low light. It relies on contrast and low light makes focus extremely challenging. I found a new focusing method though and I’ll speak to that in a future post.
- My eye is more trained for light. I bypassed many images I would’ve made with a DSLR while in Bryce Canyon, hiking in the snow. Also, many images while driving were passed by. Why? The light wasn’t right for making an image.
- The camera/tripod/lenses/accessories are lighter and less bulky than my previous setup. Definitely noticeable and welcomed.
- No changing batteries or charging batteries.
- Light meter is definitely averaged over a large circle in the frame. Knowing this is hugely beneficial when metering a scene of interest.
- I LOVE the sound of the timer, shutter, film advance. Click:)
- I find myself being highly selective when observing, composing, metering and ultimately exposing the film. No matter what type of photography or camera you may be interested in, becoming more selective is a good skill to develop.
To summarize, the only thing I’m concerned with at this point is metering accuracy. I feel I know what it is averaging and can work with it. I also am a bit surprised at how much light it actually needs to operate. I can see myself getting a hand-held meter very soon. I love the field of view of both lenses, 105 mm 2.5 and 24mm 2.8, but I find myself missing the 180mm+ range. A lot. I don’t “see” at 50mm so I don’t miss this mid-range. A 180mm or 200mm fit’s what I “see” much better. I also enjoy coming home to ZERO images to edit, catalog, keyword, sort, flag, etc. ZERO. I took several pictures with my phone that I’ve embedded throughout this post, to give context to the locations I’ve described. Some are similar to what I was shooting with the camera and some are completely different. My main goal with writing all this, is to have something to look back to and compare thoughts down the road. I also haven’t seen my film from this trip so I have no idea if ANY images came out at all! I plan on sharing them once I do see them to serve as a learning tool, regardless of how they turn out. We’ll see:)
Thanks for reading along and I look forward to sharing images from this trip soon!
Find me on Instagram @sageroamer to see more from this trip.