Friday, July 20, 2012

Photographing Utah and Wyoming

Ten Sleep Creek, Wyoming shot with 20D, yellow-blue polarizer
So I've processed all my photos from this month-long road trip through Utah and Wyoming, and I'm happy with the visual memories of a great trip they provide.  I brought my new Panasonic LX5 and was happy to take it through its paces, and I also brought my Canon 20D with these lenses:  10-22, 50, 70-200, and Nikon 5T closeup lens (for the 70-200).  If I had know we were going to Yellowstone I would have brought my 300 f/4 and 1.4x converter, as we were lucky to see wolves and bears!

What did I learn from this photography experience?  Well, the main thing that became apparent to me after I processed all my photos is that while the LX5 is a great little camera, it just doesn't hold a candle to what can be done with a quality dSLR/lens combination.  Now I knew this to be the case, but it helps to actually experience it.

Let's take the case of flower photography.  One of the keys to the type of flower photography I like to do is bokeh, the smooth creamy background that really showcases a beautiful flower.  Though I can get the background to blur with the LX5, using a wide-open aperture and a close-up diopter lens, I just cannot get the bokeh I so desire.  The image below is an example of the best I could do with this camera:

Dandelion shot with LX5, f/3.3 (the widest aperture allowable at maximum zoom).
On the other hand, my 20D/70-200/Nikon 5T combo was a joy to use, and provided me flower images like these:

Wyoming wildflower shot with 20D, 70-200 lens with 5T closeup lens
Beetle on flower, shot with 20D, 70-200 lens with 5T closeup lens
Oh, love that bokeh!  What a joy to create.

As I said earlier, we had the rare opportunity to photograph wolves in Yellowstone and while I surely wished I had my longer lens and converter with me, at least I had the 70-200 and was able to photograph this (using the magic of "digital zoom", i.e. crop tool):

Wolf in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone NP, shot with 20D+70-200 lens, digitally zoomed
But for all the advantages of the 20D, the LX5 does have some great advantages, portability and the ability to photograph spontaneously being at the top of the list.  When leaving our Ten Sleep campsite we were surprised to find our road out blocked by a cattle drive!  I was able to easily grab my LX5 for this shot:

Wyoming cattle drive, shot with LX5

And of course, while doing a multi-pitch rock climb, the LX5 was nice and portable for shots like these:

Hiking up to climb Castleton Tower near Moab, UT, shot with LX5

In the notch before the last pitch up Castleton Tower, UT, shot with LX5

I love the choice of the 16:9 format in the LX5, which captures an almost panoramic view of a landscape, or in the case of the rock face above, accentuates the sheer vertical nature of the rock.

I had great fun, and I learned what I already knew in that I cannot completely replace a dSLR with a compact camera, no matter how quality that camera is.  I'm glad, because I can continue to appreciate my good old 20D.

P.S. If anyone is interested I have a complete album of the trip on Facebook.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Back home after a month road-trippin'!

Mark and I took a month-long road  trip through Utah and Wyoming to camp, rock climb, and just see the sights.  It was a great opportunity to really get more experience with the new LX5 camera, and have fun with my good ol' Canon 20D too.  I love to photograph when I travel, so many new sights inspire me.  

So I have tons of photos to process, and I am currently making my way through it.  The very first photo I couldn't wait to look at on the computer screen was my attempt to capture the Milky Way while we were in Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming.  Talk about dark skies, that place is remote.  I know the Canon 20D is not the best at long exposures at high ISO's, but I tested my system to the max (f/3.5 at 10mm, ISO 1600, 25 sec exposure), and after a few tweaks to the RAW file to increase exposure further, I came up with this:

Not too bad for the "ancient" 20D.