Springtime in Yosemite
These are photos from an Exploration of Spring Light I helped lead in Yosemite.
I normally shoot my Hasselblad 503 CX with a PME metered prism and 50mm, 80mm and 150mm ZEISS CF lenses on 220 Velvia and 120 Fuji ACROS — or my Canon 5DSR with 16-35 IS and 100-400mm IS L II — for serious work, but seeing how I shot these on the same trip last year and still have the scans sitting here without having gotten to publishing anything, I figured I'd have more fun this time and instead I shot my new Apple iPhone 7 Plus (the newest one with the two lenses) and my new Fujifilm X100F.
It was a hoot shooting these, which left me time to fiddle with the images instead of lugging a tripod.
The square is a very intellectual format. It shows you the artist probably was very deliberate in doing whatever was done, as opposed to just snapping away with whatever shape the camera handed you.
The square lets subjects breathe. It doesn't cramp the top and bottom, as do horizontal shots, or squeeze them in on left and right as do vertical shots. Imagine blowing up a balloon; things naturally like to fill a square or circle.
I share Ansel Adams' love of the square format for its practicality: it's easy to crop any horizontal or vertical shape from the big square negative, and here's the clincher: you never have to rotate the camera! Just shoot square, and you can crop whatever you need later. Ansel shot almost everything for most of his life after his earliest years on his Hasselblad, and unlike here and in the Hasselblad ads, always cropped to whatever shape he needed. DSLR and mirrorless 1.5:1 (3:2) sensor aspect ratios are an obsolete holdover from the first botched 35mm still film format where Barnack simply jury-rigged a movie camera to shoot two four-perf 24 × 16mm frames to give one eight-perf 24 × 35mm image. It's always been too wide for most things, but when Nikon proposed to correct it to a proper 24 × 32mm (4:3 ratio) back in the 1940s, Kodak successfully lobbied congress to prevent Nikon from importing it — because it would have given us 40 shots on the same 36 exposure roll, and saved us from so often cropping-off the side, or the top and bottoms of vertical shots.
There is no universal "best" aspect ratio, but something around 4:5 or 4:3 (like micro 4/3 and iPhone) makes the most efficient use of a sensor with usually the least cropping to arrive at our final work. One ought never compose to the restriction of a camera's frame; one should imagine the finished work and print it in whatever shape tells the strongest story.
The key to shooting on the iPhone 7 Plus is that I can optimize my work immediately with the free Snapseed app, which lets one finger do in a few seconds what used to take two full hands forever, even after a couple of decades of learning Photoshop.
Most of these received significant artistic input in Snapseed. I was having fun; I played with them until I had on my iPhone what I saw in my mind's eye. Know that these are designed to look great on a little screen where strong colors help them say "Springtime!"
They may be a bit loud for big screens; tough, I'm an artist and these look the way I intend. They are not just photographs trying to duplicate reality as if I'm a copy machine.
I shot a reflection looking down, and then flipped the image 180.º
This was a giant hunk of blue ice that fell from an errant airliner and landed in Mirror Lake.
But honestly though, this is a grey rock lit by blue dawn skylight — it just looks like blue ice.
The iPhone has such great resolution, along with its new longer second lens, that I was able to create this work by cropping to give the equivalent of a much longer lens. You could only barely see this waterfall with the naked eye from Tunnel View.
As shot, this would have been an awful image, however the iPhone 7 Plus has such dynamic range that I was able to use Snapseed, with about two clicks, to bring-up the dark bottom half of the image, and let me turn this into a whacky bunch of color instead of an orange blob at the top with empty black on the bottom. No grad filters needed!
Here's how the original file looked out of the iPhone before I worked my magic. It would look the same from any other digital camera; this is how the scene looks to cameras. I made a point of locking exposure on Half Dome to retain detail there, knowing I would bring up the shadows a moment later in Snapseed:
I knew that I'd be able to pull whatever I needed out of the shadows, and I did. The key point is that I was able to do all this editing in Snapseed the moment after I shot it, and then send the work off to the people who needed it immediately. There's no camera more fun than an iPhone!
As always, the X100F's superb leaf shutter let me shoot at 1/350, and that lets the tiny built-in flash fill-in the foreground perfectly, all on AUTO.
Raging Waters, Happy Isles, 12:00 Noon. Fujifilm X100F, Neutral-Density Filter IN (MENU > Camera > ND FILTER > ON), f/16 hand-held at 1/30 at Auto ISO 400, Auto Dynamic Range at 200%. split toned print. bigger.
It's easy to brace the vibration-free X100F on a railing and shoot at slow speeds, no tripod needed.
The X100F's built-in neutral-density filter let me shoot at 1/30 in broad daylight; easy!
Raging Waters, Happy Isles, 12:27 P.M. Fujifilm X100F, Neutral-Density Filter IN (MENU > Camera > ND FILTER > ON), f/16 hand-held at 1/30 at Auto ISO 400, Auto Dynamic Range at 200%. split toned print. bigger.
The Merced River as seen from a bridge at Happy Isles, 12:43 P.M. Fujifilm X100F, Neutral-Density Filter IN (MENU > Camera > ND FILTER > ON), f/16 hand-held at 1/15 at Auto ISO 500, Auto Dynamic Range at 200%. split toned print. bigger.
Wow! How did I get the stars and galaxies in the night sky at the same time as the granite wall bathed in last light? Did I need a three-hour exposure and a clock drive to capture so many stars, and then composite them?
I shot a reflection looking down in the river, and then flipped the image 180.º What look like stars are just crud on the water.