Chasing the Image

Grand Haven Lighthouse captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8 w/Z2x

Lighthouse, ice, and giant waves, it’s got Moose written all over it! Yet, it has taken me decades to finally make it to the shore of Lake Michigan and chase them. All you really need are freezing temps (10 degrees or less) and a lot, a lot of wind (we had 28mps winds). Then you stand there and shoot! Standing on ice, I went with handholding the Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8 w/2x combo, for over three hours and shot nearly 5k images! I know I know, that’s a helluva lot and I can’t blame getting carried away nor the speed of the Z 9. I wanted THE shot cause I have waited years for this moment. I took advantage of the Z 9 to give me the option to pick THE one after I warmed up. What you see here is the image right out of the camera, Auto WB, no Exp Comp, 3DAF, I just had to keep from blowing away. It was a great, great afternoon, a high I’m still riding chasing the image!

Zoom Into The Land

Bitterroots captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8 w/Z1.4x

I probably could have used more glass, but that little cloud cut me some slack making the image. Some of the best landscapes are just slivers of the overall scene. They catch our attention but in taking the photo, often there is something we’ve read that says you need to shoot landscapes wide, close the lens down to its smallest f/stop, and filter like crazy. When the image pops up on the computer, it leaves you short of the feeling you had when you were standing there. That’s when you know you should have zoomed in!

I say zoom as that is typically the lens landscape photographers have in their kit. For me, it’s the 180-400VR and the Z70-200f2.8. In this case, the Z70-200f2.8 and the Z1.4x were all I had in my bag at the time. Heading up Bear Creek Road, I pulled over as soon as I could safely and jumped out. The whole range was gorgeous but it was the light on these crags that truly caught my eye. That’s when I needed all the reach I had with me. The detail highlighted by the light in the scene shot with a lens like the Z14-24 would have been too small, you wouldn’t have known the subject or its story. Next time you’re arranging the elements in the viewfinder and the detail just doesn’t smack you right between the eyes, remember to zoom into the land!

B&W – Z 9 Loves Them!

Sky Pilot Peak captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8

One of my favorite times to be out with romantic light on the landscape is after winter storms. The landscape is blanketed in white and the clouds are busy jostling for what remains of the moisture. The scene is in total flux as the winds push it all westward. At one moment there is nothing to photograph and the next, you can’t point and shoot fast enough. And there is no more romantic medium for the chase than B&W! That’s how it was yesterday afternoon as we traveled down the Bitterroot enjoying the views. The only challenge on the icy roads was finding a place to pull over safely, fast enough to make the shot as they were happening left and right as we drove.
I was out with the Z 9 shooting B&W. The Z 6II / Z 7II do a gorgeous job with B&W right out of the camera B&W files, I wanted to experience the Z 9 B&W update and it’s gorgeous! In a heartbeat, I made quick changes to my Picture Control settings and I was off to the races. A change I made that I didn’t see coming was to the firing rate. I don’t need 40 frames of a rock so I have to get use to changing the FPS when shooting landscapes. It was fun though, the Z 9 rips!

The Heavens Dance!

Northern Lights captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

Many years ago I was in Barrow, AK, and late one night while tucked into my warm room, I heard howling. I thought it was just sled dogs calling so went back to sleep. Nights later long after lights out, there was a panicked pounding at my door. I got up to find Bunna standing there all excited. “The Lights are out, let’s go!” On the shore of the Beaufort Sea on a gorgeous clear night, I experienced my first North Lights shoot. The howling was the locals celebrating the dancing heavens and it was a celebration. The skies were magical, my photographs of them, not so much. I vowed to go back and do much, much better. Fast forward the clock fifteen years and you find me outside Fairbanks, AK a couple of weeks ago doing my own howling.

The shooting process begins with scouting during the day. The day had only five hours of light from the sun appearing over the horizon. Basically from 10AM to 3PM, I looked for locations with dark skies and some sort of character in the foreground. Using Aurora and Aurora Forecast Apps and heading to the Geophysical Institute, I’d determine the activity and likelihood we’d see and photograph the lights. The first couple of nights, they were just screaming overhead but we couldn’t see a thing. Clouds, snow clouds prevented any observation of the heavens. The last two nights though we had totally clear skies and the times of our lives out in the -34 degree temps shooting up a storm!

The photography was really very simple. The Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8 were attached to the Platyball and set up on a tripod out in the cold. The Z 6II was connected to the MB-N11 which has two batteries. The Z 6II was set to Aperture Priority and I changed the exposure comp based on the lights, from 0 to -2 stops. The Z14-24f2.8 was set to Infinity and I had the self-timer going taking nine shots at a time. Did that for two reasons. The first is the lights are moving, it’s like waves crashing on a shore and at the same time, changing in intensity. The second reason for the self-timer, get my hands back in my pocket to stay warm between shots. The first night we stood out in the cold for a few hours with no issues. The second night the cold set in so we went inside our running vehicle and controlled and fired the Z 6II with Snapbridge.

And the whole time, we just enjoyed the amazing show. The lights lasted two hours one night, nearly three the second night. The Z 6II had no issues, operational or battery being out in the cold that whole time so all we had to do was enjoy the light show. The -34 really wasn’t an issue since there was no breeze. We just took in the lights. I more about the Arctic that I’ve enjoyed for so long and have a new appreciation and love for Northern Lights. I am going back in ’23 just to see the heavens dance!

That Big, Beautiful Star!

The Sun over the Alaskan Range captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR

I love those times when I can include the sun in my photographs. The vast majority of the time, the aperture is closed down creating a starburst and while I love that effect, it’s times like this that I treasure. When there is a starburst, the sun is an element in the photo. But here, the star is the star. Shooting mirrorless makes this easier and safer so I find myself seeking the opportunity more and more.

The air temp was around -30, the time was just after 11 AM (sunrise was about an hour earlier). On the ridge, we could see over a vast portion of the Alaska plain across to the Alaska Range. The sun really never much higher in the sky all day. It was constant sunrise or sunset color. With all of these elements, the sun created its own landscape to star in so the photo was a simple click. Handholding the rig, I moved so I had no elements in the foreground and with zero comp, went click. It’s quickly become a favorite of mine. I’ve spent a lifetime chasing the light the sun shares with my camera. I was happy to make it the star.

The Northern Search Begins

The Stairs captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

It’s after 10:00AM and the sun is just thinking about breaking the horizon. Yep, I’m up near the Arctic Circle looking for light. Northern Lights that is! It was a lovely -14 this morning as we scouted looking for where we would stage tonight for the show. It was forecasted to be solid clouds but we had a gorgeous day with the skies all clear to the north. We went in for dinner coming out to the forecasted, solid cloudy skies. We’re here for a week with the next four nights forecasted for clear skies so not to worry.
These stars we came across during our scouting and with the way they seem to take you up to the clouds. You know me and clouds, I had to stop to make a click. Something about climbing to the heavens to be with the clouds just grabs my imagination. Time to rest up … hoping to be going out at 01:00 and -29 to play in the lights. mtc

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