2016 Mid Year Review, All In With Fuji

So this is my first full year shooting exclusively with Fuji Gear.  That gear includes the Fuji X100T, XT1, 18-55 zoom, 56mm f1.2 and the 35mm f2.  I have always gravitated toward landscapes.  I love the outdoors and am lucky enough to live in California, a place that contains such varied landscapes within a short distance.  One of those places is Yosemite National Park, it has always been my favorite landscape location for obvious reasons.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

People warned me that I might not like the Fuji gear for landscapes.  That I might not be able to duplicate the results that I was used to with my Nikon gear.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  El Capitan taken from the tunnel view rest stop, Yosemite National Park.

To the contrary I believe it has enhanced my landscape photography.  Fuji is able to capture color and detail in a way that my Nikon never could.  The optics of Fuji's basic "kit" lens (18-55mm 2.8-4) far surpasses the glass that I had on my Nikon, the 18-70mm f3.5-4.5.  My ultimate landscape lens would be the 8-16mm f2.8 if and when it is made available.  Until then, I am perfectly happy with my Fuji "kit" lens.  

Over the last six months I have also enjoyed shooting portraits more than I had in the past.  The Fuji 56mm f1.2 is an amazing lens.  I love the depth of field that this lens allows.  

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2.  

This lens has expanded my portrait capabilities in ways I cannot even begin to describe.  The images made with this lens have a unique look to them.  It has a soft quality but you are able to pull amazing detail from a subjects eyes.  

I have also started to explore fine art portraiture.  Using the 56mm f1.2 combined with off camera flash using the Yungnuo 560 TX paired with the 560 IV Speedlight I have been able to create some amazing images.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

I'm not sureif it is the camera system or my newfound excitement for photography that has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone.  The Fuji system is just plain fun for me.  It is light weight and the controls on their cameras are intuitive.  I have shot with a Nikon FE2 for close to 30 years and the Fuji system is the closest I have been able to come to that experience in the digital realm.  

Through this equipment I have rediscovered my love for photography.  I am pushing myself to shoot more.  I am drawn to new photographic experiences and adventures.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Who knows where the rest of the year will take me but I know that it will be fun.  Pushing boundaries is the theme for 2016 and thanks to Fuji It is easier and more fun than ever.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with the Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.  



Yosemite On My Mind

Another successful trip behind me and now the process of culling and editing, the hard drive full, of images begins.  I arrived on Friday, beating a pretty substantial storm to the valley.  It rained all night and into the morning.  At around 9:30am on Saturday the clouds began parting and the mad dash to the tunnel view or valley view overlook began.  I was greeted by parting clouds and a layer of fog so beautiful I couldn't believe my eyes.  I was able to capture this image.

Yosemite Valley

I return to this place every year.  I always go in either January or February for a couple of reasons.  The crowds are much smaller and the weather can create the most amazing views of this unbelievably beautiful valley.  The summer haze that stretches the entire valley is non-existant and the sun is lower in the sky.  This trip felt like a new beginning for me.  My skills have grown over the last few years, shooting more than ever in my life.  I am more pleased by my results with each new day and love picking up my camera.  I attribute some of it to my recent switch to Fuji but not all.  I have a fire in my gut to get it done lately.  The more effort I put in the better the results.  I know that that is a truism and that all good things come from hard work and perseverance.  The images I captured this trip are some of my best work to date but I still feel that I am just at the beginning of my journey as a photographer.  

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, Winter

Trees on the shore of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, Winter 

Yosemite Drama! Not the Ahwhanee?

In 1990 my college buddies talked me into a backpacking trip.  We hiked from Tuolumne Meadows, through Pate Valley and finishing at White Wolf.  We did this trip in seven days.  This was my first backpacking trip.  I was the ultimate noob!  My pack was full of things I had no business bringing.  I was totally out of shape and had no idea what I was getting into.  On top of all of that I woke up with an abscessed tooth the morning we were supposed to depart.  A quick trip to a local Oakhurst dentist allowed me to make it to the trailhead in time.  Needless to say the physical part of this journey was not enjoyable.  What I did find was that I had discovered the place that brought me closest to, whatever it may be, that created all of this.  Yosemite, from that day forward, became my church.  What does this have to do with photography you ask?  From that date on I have spent many hours photographing both the valley and the backcountry of Yosemite.  Both on film and more recently digitally.  

This week, on Friday, I depart for another photographic journey to Yosemite.  We have been blessed with several feet of snow at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The Yosemite high country is blanketed with the beautiful white stuff.  The Valley Floor has seen more than just a dusting over the last few weeks and i'm curious if we are going to be lucky enough to see it this trip.  As of this writing two small storms are on track to hit while i'm there.  I save a ton of money by staying in the Curry Village tent cabins.  While heated with propane heaters several blankets will be necessary.  

There is a new twist that has recently happened in the valley.  The concessions company that lost the contract for all of the businesses in Yosemite is fighting in court, for compensation, for the naming rights of practically everything in the park.  The Ahwhanee, Curry Village, the Wawona as well as the title of the park "Yosemite National Park" has been claimed by this company.  With the exception of the later, everything has been renamed temporarily.  Only a judge will decide the outcome and I'm sure it will take years before it is resolved.  You can read about it here.  I don't really care what changes are made, I will continue to call these locations by the only names I have ever known.  That I know is true.

My last trip to Yosemite happened in February of 2014 and I was lucky enough to catch a departing storm from the Valley View parking area.  It is my favorite image to date of the valley.

There are two additonal images from this trip that I love.  One of Upper Yosemite Falls and the other a view from the road that I captured out my car window.  You never know when an amazing image is going to happen.

I will be uploading video throughout the weekend as well as images to my Instagram account.  This will be the first photographic journey I will take with my Fuji XT1 and  i'm excited to see what I can accomplish with this new tool in a place that is close to my heart.  

Rim Fire

On Wednesday I took off for Yosemite, taking my normal route which includes State Route 120.  By the time I reached the foothills it was pitch black out and raining cats and dogs.  As I drove I did notice several patches of orange/yellow trees.  I did not make the connection to the Rim Fire that occurred last Summer that devastated the area.  On my return trip the damage was plain to see.  While I knew that this was a huge fire, I had no clue just how big it was.  

As I headed toward the exit today I noticed large stands of burned and dead trees.  The scope of this fire was just beginning to hit me.  I traveled for more than 15 miles and both sides of the road were either completely barren or full of scorched land and burned trees.  

I arrived at the "Rim Of The World" Vista in the Stanislaus National Forest and couldn't believe my eyes.  

The official word is that this fire was caused by a campfire that was started by a hunter, that got out of control.  It serves as a reminder to all of us as to how fragile our surroundings are and how our actions can have a major impact on the world around us.