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When you visit Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains for the first time one of the first things you’ll notice is the sheer number of bare, dead trees. These trees are Hemlocks that have been attacked and killed by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. It was this sight that provided the subject for Hemlocks In The Fog.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is a non-native insect, originating out of Asia, that kills hemlocks by depriving them of nutrients. The insect was first detected on the eastern seaboard in the 1950s before spreading to the Blue Ridge Mountains and then up through the northern Appalachians to Maine. In Shenandoah National Park alone, up to 90% of all Hemlocks have already died due to the infestation. Adelgids were originally discovered in the Smokies in 2002. The death rate of the Hemlocks has slowed due to the introduction of predator beetles and hand treatment of the trees by the Hemlock crews.
Composition and Processing
On this day, there was a heavy fog at the higher elevations. I had originally intended to be there for the sunrise but the fog had other ideas. As I stood there scouting the area I was struck by the way the dead Hemlock trees stood out in the fog. It was a ghostly feeling. I shot this with a Canon 7D and the 24-105mm lens. Processed in Lightroom and then converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2.
© 2012, The F/Stop Guy: Hemlocks in the Fog
There’s a lot of discussion out there about what makes a great landscape camera. This month’s Outdoor Photographer magazine has a feature article on which camera to buy. The article touches on a few mirrorless camera examples but they’re mostly fixed lens cameras. For whatever reason, given the mirrorless technology that’s now available, a full blown, mirror slapping camera body is still considered superior. In the article, the tips they share don’t lean towards landscape photography with a mirrorless camera. There’s even a story on PetaPixel about photographer Gordon Laing being denied a permit into Antelope Canyon because he had a mirrorless camera. Clearly, mirrorless cameras haven’t been embraced yet for what I’ll call “heavy lifting” in the landscape photography arena.
The mirrorless camera category is a very exciting segment right now. It’s a rapidly changing, ever updating segment with a lot of fierce competition and oneupmanship taking place. Whether you like micro 4/3 cameras or something larger with a APS-C sized sensor or even a Leica with its full frame sensor, it all boils down to your needs, pocketbook and the subject matter you want to capture.
In my case, I was lugging either a Canon 7D or a 5D Mark II and several associated lenses, along with a tripod, into the field. That kit weighed a lot and I’m not always interested in carrying that much weight on my back. I began to consider mirrorless options when I started carrying a used Fujifilm X100. I fell in love with the camera because of its simplicity of operation and image quality. But it fell seriously short for me as a landscape camera because I wanted the ability to zoom in and out without always relying on my feet to do the zooming. After a lot of research, I settled on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and its APS-C sensor and the 3 associated prime lenses ranging in focal length from 18mm to 60mm. The combined weight of that kit was significantly lower which made hiking with gear more fun and easier on the knees.
My current kit for landscape photography:
- Fujifilm X-Pro1 body
- Fujifim XF 18mm F/2.8
- Fujifilm XF 35mm F/1.4
- Fujifilm XF 60mm f/2.4
- Really Right Stuff L-Bracket and grip for X-Pro1
- Cable release
- Extra batteries—expect about 250-300 shots per battery
- Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
- Circular Polarizer
- ND Filters—3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop
- Tripod with ball head
It took some time to acclimate to this set up as I learned my way around the camera and its settings. By the way, as a guy not prone to reading directions, the manual was a wealth of information. Once I was comfortable, capturing the types of images I had previously shot with my Canons was no problem.
Are there negatives to this set up? Absolutely, but I think they are outweighed by the positives. For example, Adobe has yet to perfect the RAW file processing of the X-Pro1 RAW files. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Some images require processing through RAW Photo Processor instead because of the “smearing” of details in leaves, bushes, etc. I haven’t found it to be a consistent issue in my images. The included SilkyPix software is miserable from a user interface. In addition, I find myself wanting on the long end of focal length. 60mm really isn’t very long when you’re out in the field. Fujifilm shows a 55-200 zoom lens on its lens road map so we’ll see what that looks like when it comes out sometime in 2013. I also find that using prime lenses is a bit of a pain because it’s not always possible to zoom with my feet and changing lenses constantly gets old. Fortunately, the new 18-55mm zoom lens is about to ship in the United States and that will solve that problem. Lastly, I look forward to the 10-24mm wide-angle zoom slated to be released in 2013 as well. The 3 zooms with the X-Pro1 will round out what I’ll call the perfect landscape kit for me.
As you can tell from the images here, the quality of the final images is incredible. The X-Pro 1 has different film emulations that you can use if you shoot in JPEG format but I tend to shoot in RAW exclusively. The vast majority of my processing takes place in Lightroom 4 with the occasional side trip into Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 or Silver Efex Pro 2.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the system. Based on the sales numbers of mirrorless cameras, a number of folks have taken to this type of system. I’d love to hear your thoughts on landscape photography with a mirrorless camera. Tell me about your experience in the comments below.
© 2012, The F/Stop Guy: Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera
We all chase the perfect light when we are in search of a great image. During a trip to the mountains, I was set up to shoot sunset photos. The overall atmosphere was hazy with low lying clouds. As the sun set that night the colors changed constantly. I came away with several images including this one which was originally several shades of gold. For me, the image really looked better though when I converted it to black & white. This gave some fantastic shades of grey. The variations in shading in the image drew my eye through the image.
Equipment and Processing
For this image, I used a Canon 5D Mark II and a 70-200 lens to compress the scene. Processed through Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.
© 2012, The F/Stop Guy: Shades of Grey
When I was just starting out in photography, I thought that photographing cloudless, over saturated, blue skies was an awesome part of landscape photography. As I grew as a photographer, I decided that clouds added what I like to call “character” to an image. Nowadays, I spend as much time evaluating the “quality of the sky” as a I do the rest of the potential image. This past weekend, that evaluation process helped me to create what I’ll call Smoky Mountain Cloudscapes.
All of these images were made from the top of Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve written about Clingmans Dome before on this blog. It’s one of my favorite places, along with Newfound Gap, in the Smoky’s to take photos.
The view from 6643 feet up is vast and the weather changes constantly. It’s not uncommon to be fogged in and an hour later have a clear view of the valley below.
On the morning of these photos the wind was constantly sending clouds of all shapes and sizes over the landscape. I took numerous shots as the sky was literally changing every few minutes.
While I was, in fact, visiting the Smoky Mountains for the Fall colors, in this case, for me the clouds became the landscape. Let me know what you think in the comments section below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.