Tag Archives: Yosemite

Two intense weeks with the Sony a7R.

Those of you who followed my last trip know that I brought along my new Sony a7R camera. Before this trip, I was working exclusively with my Canon 5d Mark III and thought it was the best camera I could use for long exposure…

So it was a challenge at first for me to make the decision that I would mostly use the a7R for that trip. I was concerned that not being familiar with the system and might have issues while shooting and realize later that all my pictures were junk. I could not have been more wrong… but let me elaborate.

The gear I used during the trip:

Sony a7R

Sony Vertical Battery Grip for Alpha a7/a7R/a7S

Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter Mark IV

Mirex Canon to Sony E mount tilt/shift adapter (for manual aperture control lenses)

Sony Wireless Remote Commander

– a bunch of Canon lenses including 24mm TS-E, 17-40mm f/4.0, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2

My first impressions after I received the camera:

Initially, I thought that the camera itself was small, maybe too small, compared to my Canon 5d Mark III. But rapidly I realized the size and weight of the a7R was were actually a great advantage compared to my Canon. Smaller means lighter, and lighter means less strain when you carry it around, or that for the same weight you can pack up an additional lens. Cool!

On top of the obvious increase in resolution (36.4MP for the Sony a7R; 22.3MP for the 5D), another huge difference in my opinion the absence of anti-aliasing filter on the images. I was very curious about that point, I after shooting a few images, I want to stress out that they are EXTREMELY sharp, much more than the 5D. So much that I had no idea what my lenses were capable of until I used the a7R . Really impressive! (see images below)

My other first impression was “I still can’t believe this is a mirrorless camera, and I can attach any FF (or MF) lens I want. This is amazing!!” And true to its promises, with an adapter, I could mount all of my very precious tilt shift or fast lenses on it.

My third main focus was the back screen that can be oriented in almost any direction, and allows the photographer to shoot from very high, or very low, which is almost impossible with Pro Canon or Nikon cameras.

Field use:

My first day using the camera “seriously” was in Death Valley National Park, CA. As you can imagine, there are smarter ideas than going there in August, and it was 120+F (52+C), but I still braced myself, and thought it would be a test for both the machines and the man πŸ™‚ I spent almost two days in the area, and used my a7R most of the time. I have to say that I was very much impressed by the little guy. It worked very well, and looking back at the pictures from then I am surprised by the low noise level and very small number of “hot pixels”. One thing I should say is that after almost a full day under the unforgiving blazing sun, the a7R internal temperature was over 120F and the firmware shut the camera off to prevent it from burning white. Only solution for me, use the 5d instead and cool the a7R in the car with the A/C running.Β  I shot with my 5d for about 30 minutes until the a7R was ready to go, and the 5d turned extremely hot because of the insane heat. Here is a behind the scenes image of when that happened:

I need to state now that one of the things I like the most with the a7R is the Electronic ViewFinder (EVF). Some people say they don’t like it… well, especially for long exposure, I think it is amazing! Why? Two main reasons: 1/ no need to tape the viewfinder anymore to avoid diffraction, it’s electronic! 2/ I use the back screen a lot to setup my camera at the best spot, and it implies that the outside isn’t so bright that you can’t see a thing. With the EVF, you don’t have this issue anymore. You can just take a look with your eye stuck to it, reducing the ambient light to virtually zero, and use the zoom in function to digitally zoom on a detail and precisely focus on it. Something impossible on any other Pro SLR out there!

Along the trip, it became clear to me that another very important feature makes the difference between the 5d Mark III (and other high end cameras) and the Sony a7R. Only the a7R allows you to shoot at ISO 50. Why is that important? Because some day, the sky is just too bright to use exposure times longer than 2 minutes at ISO 100, even with 16 stops. Sure it’s rare, but it happens and why not have the advantage? But my main reason why I love the low ISO follows: if you want to shoot wide open with fast lenses or tilt/shit lenses, you’ll need to either increase the filter attenuation (sometimes not possible), or reduce the sensitivity of the sensor. Impossible when you’re stuck to ISO 100. Going down one stop to ISO 50 can make all the difference between an OK photograph, and a killer shot πŸ™‚

The one drawback of the camera to me is the absence of a counter during long exposure shooting like that of the 5D. This is not a big deal, since you’ll always have a watch or cell phone with you, but it would make things easier, especially that the screen at the back actually stays on during the acquisition. No doubt a firmware update should solve that issue and allow time to be shown on the screen in a future version.

Side note: you know I do long exposure, and use mostly tilt/shift lenses when I work. Being able to rotate, tilt and shift such lenses implies that they have cracks on them. And having cracks for long exposure photography is an issue since it will create diffraction patterns and ruin the photograph. This is the reason why every time you see a behind the scenes picture of my camera, it is wrapped in a cloth. Old school, but effective method πŸ™‚

A few test shots:

You will find here a few pictures I shot with the A7r during that trip. They are plain Raw images, with absolutely NO PROCESSING. To give a better idea of the quality, I also added a couple 100% crops of these images.

Bodie Ghost Town, CA:

DSC00554 copy

Yosemite NP, Vernal Falls, CA:

As you can see, the images rendered (again, raw with no adjustments) are very sharp, due to the absence of the anti-aliasing filter.

Please note that these photographs have been shot with my 24mm TS-E lens. They are two horizontal images (top, bottom) that have been stitched together. Exposure times of at least 4 minutes for each, and I used the new Firecrest Formatt-Hitech ND 16 stops filter. I will write another article later focused on this filter alone.

Verdict:

I would recommend the Sony A7r camera in a heart beat. It is a great camera for most subjects (with the exception of action shooting when using third party lenses), and especially for long exposure.

In my opinion, the a7R has a number of advantages compared to the competition that make all the difference: the EVF makes focusing much easier, especially in bright environments, and no need anymore to cover the viewfinder to avoid diffraction during LE. The size and lightness are also nice features, and above all, being mirrorless, the a7R can be used with any third party lens provided the right adapter (Nikon, Canon, or even medium format lenses!). Of course, that is without mentioning the absence of anti-aliasing filter, increased resolution, lower ISO, and the exciting new and future native lenses…

So seriously… what’s keeping you from switching over to Sony? πŸ™‚

 

Bonus:

As a bonus, here is one of the images I showed you before, fully converted to B&W:

Details: 24mm TS-E lens, two horizontal pictures stitched (top/bottom); f8; 275 seconds; ISO 50; 16 ND stops Firecrest from Formatt-Hitech.

For more photographs from that trip, or to order Fine Art prints, please follow this link to my website.

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Back from California, full of new images

There it is, I’m back from my trip in California.

As a reminder, here is my rough planed itinerary. I hit every located but for Joshua Tree, and added a few on the road:

Loop2014Map

I’m very happy that I got to visit so many iconic places that were shot by amazing artists such as Ansel Adams, and sad at the same time that I could not keep going, and did not have enough time to swing by some places I really wanted to go, such as Kings Canyon NP, Sequoia NP, Pinnacles NP and so many more.

For those of you who did not follow my trip on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find bellow some of the behind the scenes images:

10592749_10152599860858485_2197533298053526444_n

In the airport waiting to board the plane to Las Vegas, NV.10556437_10152600727723485_7248009828693195371_n

Finally Las Vegas, baby! πŸ™‚10487313_10152602893223485_3736478368378318548_nUnder the blazing sun in Death Valley NP, probably the hottest place in the Parc: Devil’s Golfcourse (125F/52C). Hard on the cameras!

10599500_10152605314918485_2595824104220014100_nMono Lake area: gorgeous place and skies, perfect for long exposure!

10537386_10152606292543485_8825312066160115185_nSunrise on Mono Lake. A very early start of the day, but the wonderful colors and clouds made it all worth it πŸ™‚

10014539_10152606232013485_4232817371124794983_nAnd did I tell you about the tufas? They are incredible rock formations sticking out of the lake. Very surreal, feels like you just landed on a wild uninhabited planet.

10306552_10152606658318485_2792756942413484067_nA little later in the morning. Colors are so as nice, but still. What a dream for landscape photographers!

10599227_10152610837008485_3730984380069454479_nΒ  Bodie Ghost town near Mono Lake. a rough and long drive to get there, but very cool material for nice photography.

10583972_10152611909338485_1072964833468490978_nYosemite at last! Feels like being in Ansel Adam’s path. Very inspiring and humbling… how could you do better than him? πŸ™‚

10534092_10152612013173485_5061974192059941879_nView of the half dome from Glacier Point. So high, so nice!!

10369984_10152610863288485_380645085482201297_nA very nice lake after a tiring hike. The rest was welcome, and long exposure gives plenty of time for rest πŸ™‚

10441287_10152614161418485_5946638993380921493_n

The famous Rat’s Island in China Camp near San Francisco. My second time here, and I just HAD to go back…

1609752_10152615515098485_6823114523591059489_nFound a few nice poles off a beach in Sausalito. Interesting experience: clamping the tripod down to avoid the waves from sweeping it away.

10615559_10152619942863485_5984643549050641413_nOff from SF, heading South, you’ll find this great place: Pigeon Point lighthouse. Some very nice angles. Can’t wait to process these images!

10614361_10152622233093485_8759896559569613004_nShipwreck and pier shooting near Santa Cruz CA. This boat was madeΒ  of concrete in the 1940s because wood was getting rare.. Can you imagine that: a concrete boat!

11294_10152624196453485_1353950726242694036_nBig Sur, CA, after whale watching 24 mm tilt shift on @Sony #A7r, 4 minute exposures, 2 pictures that I will stitch in PP. Can you guys see the waterfall illuminated by the sunset?Β  πŸ˜‰

10606320_10152624550768485_864807398192758664_nMore pier shooting!! San Simeon CA. Doing panoramic photographs using the 24mm tilt shift.

10559791_10152624961968485_5756207432212015102_nAvila Beach CA. Some clouds, a nice life guard station and a sunset

10013617_10152626246403485_4602424592896322134_nThere are so many piers in California… a dream come true for photographers! πŸ™‚

10577095_10152626884123485_3982820803987515772_nΒ Β  Sunset on the Santa Barbara pier, CA.

Now for those intrigued by the cloth I wrapped the camera with, the reason is to prevent light leakage on the sides of the camera because I use Tilt/Shift lenses. Those are very special kinds of lenses that can be moved in all sorts of directions to prevent distortion due to pointing up or down, and also allow to do some stitching more easily.

During that trip, I had the occasion to use the new @Sony #A7r camera, as well as the new @Formatt-Hitech filter called Firecrest. I will soon make a couple small reviews on them, pointing out what I liked (or not) about them.

So stay in touch!

Road Trip to California

Loop2014MapI am now one day away from my trip to some of the nicest National and State Parks in the Western United States, with a focus on California.

The aim of that trip is two-fold. Complete some of my seascapes series, and start a new desert series. In order to achieve that goal, I decided to fly to and from Las Vegas, and do a loop mostly in California.

Some of the main spots I’ll visit:

  • Death Valley NP
  • Mono Lake
  • Yosemite NP
  • San Francisco (just a hop)
  • Big Sur
  • Morro Bay
  • Mojave NP

I also have ideas of a few other places I’d like to visit provided enough time.

If I stick to my plans, it should represent about 1,400 miles (2250 km) and more than 25 hours driving non-stop. Should be very interesting, and bring many occasions for great photography.

I am also very excited to bring and use some new gear from Sony and Formatt-Hitech during that trip. The mirrorless A7r camera will allow me to use all of my Canon lenses, as well as a few other lenses that I use for medium format. I’m also planning to bring along my large format camera and some cool B&W, slide and IR film. On the filter side, I will still be using the “regular” and great IRND filters from F-H, as well as their new Firecrest ND16, ultra neutral filter. Can’t wait!!!

To follow me during my trip, keep an eye on this blog. I’ll also post some behind the scenes images more regularly on my social media streams: Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram (troland00)