Monday, August 12, 2013

Waterfalls of the past.

A post in the Large Format Forum got me to thinking about waterfalls.  There aren't many in East Texas and really none worth mentioning.  This isn't rock country or big elevation country.  Yosemite and the Sierra: that's the spot.

  I've been to Yosemite five or six times.  Not enough.  The waterfalls run full in the spring and dry in the late summer and fall.  In the winter they freeze the rocks around them.

  They are big, unlike East Texas Landscapes.  And its the West.  Here landscapes are like interiors rooms and the subject matter is within arm's reach.  Very intimate.  There isn't a horizon line.  Out West thats not the case.  You have to be able to handle a very different scale, size and space.

Vernal Fall, Spring 1998.

  My earliest negatives of Vernal fall are from 1973, the first time I saw it.  Steve Erwin and I had driven out to go to the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshop.  I had a Hasselblad, 80mm and 150 lens and a Tiltall tripod.  I went up the stone staircase of Mist Trail past the Vernal and turned around.  The big Spruce tree across from the falls hadn't been broken off by ice or lightning at that point.  Nice negatives though I rarely print back that far any more.  I'm sure I have some prints in boxes.  I'd never seen falls of the size and scale and power of Yosemite.

  I climbed to Upper Yosemite Falls trail with a 35mm one afternoon and came down in the gloaming.  Those negatives are still in my file.

  Above is the standard view: off the bridge with a long lens looking up the canyon in afternoon light.  I had the luck of an overcast day.  It would make a nice print though it is a much-photographed scene.  You can never step twice into the same river and all that.  In this case it's best not to step in the river at all around the falls.  Several people die every year at Vernal and the bodies aren't usually found until the water drops in late summer.  There are people in this shot at the top right edge of the falls.  That will give you some scale.  They are standing where people stand when they get washed over.
  This is such a nice little honest image I think I might make some prints of it when the water cools off this fall.

  Bridalveil Fall, 2005.  I wish I had gotten closer and just shot the falls and the iced rocks.  Seems the footing was impossible.  I don't print this negative, because the only part I am really interested is that little bit in the center.

Lower Yosemite Fall, 2005.  Katie and I walked up to see this with my camera.  Horrible footing off the trail.  Slick boulders with gaps between them.  Terrible for tripods.  I shot this and another negative detail with a 450 Nikkor.  It had movement from the wind and this one isn't very sharp.  In the overcast light it was nothing but dark wet blacks and glowing high tones.

  Katie and I went to Yosemite and got caught in a two-day snowstorm.  Wonderful weather.  The Valley floor shops were open and the trams running, but very few people around.  We risked our lives going to Bridalveil parking lot and walked from Yosemite Lodge to Lower Yosemite Fall.  Snowy and overcast.  

Below Nevada Fall.

  Nevada Fall, 1998.  Chris Johnson and I were on our way back down from a trip up to the Diving Board on the edge of Half Dome.  The route emerges from a faint rockclimbers trail to the main route headed for the tourist cables up the far side of the dome.  It picks up the Merced river and then drops into the canyon past Nevada and Vernal Falls.  I worked and worked on the rock in the low center and the driving, swirling spray.  Some branches were back to clear the view and others tied aside.  The fall is to the left and the spot where I was standing pretty damp.  Mid-morning sun was behind the mist.  The water was thundering and the mist blowing around in the canyon.  It was the biggest active thing I had ever photographed.  I was using Tri-X in my 5X7 holders and it had been changed without Kodak making an announcement.  The new stuff was lousy on highlights and I've never printed these.  They don't quite come together enough to suit me.

  I shot upper Yosemite Falls with my 35mm and 5X7.  The sun was too direct.  Nothing special.  When Katie and I were there I lusted after a shot from Colombia Point of the frozen cliffs around upper Yosemite Fall.  That would be a wonderful shot but a terrible slog in the snow.

  All with 5X7 Deardorff off a tripod.  Love to have another shot at these Sierra falls, though the one I would really love is to get a desert waterfall pouring off Shiprock after a storm.  Those only run for about three minutes, so you have to be in position.

Dry waterfall channel at Shiprock.

  All of these images are with a view camera off a tripod.  I wasn't worried about camera movement, only the depiction of the flowing water.  Shutter speed makes a huge difference in the rendition of moving water.  Too fast and you turn it to ice.  Too slow and it dissolves to a fog.  A shutter speed of 1/4 second is usually balances the water and the flow.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Photographing with the Classics.

 I put a roll of HP5 film in a 1960s Canon 7Sz rangefinder.  It's got a rare 50mm F.95 lens on it.  That's quite an exotic combination.  There are forums dedicated to rangefinders and whole exhibitions built on images taken with this lens.

It's a neat old camera but I'm having a difficult time with it.  First- I like a little wide-angle in a view.  The 50mm normal on a 35mm camera is neither fish nor fowl for me.  Second, I've spent a lot of time looking at iphone projections and SLR images over the years.  Looking through a rangefinder, with a big chunk of the view obscured by the edge of the lens, and hunting for the approximate framing is making me pause.

 The light meter is long gone but exposure guessing is kind of fun.

  It's heavy.  There must have been some thick-necked photographers back in the 60s.  Probably be more fun on a tripod.  With a polarizer.  But then it's a view camera with no rise or fall.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monument Valley short video.

Monument Valley Day trip.  Sheep.  Fenceline.  Rocks.  The usual stuff.