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Canon EOS Elan 7ne, Kodak TMAX 100 Black & White Film

  We are in a period where photographic technology has grown so much, and cameras are including more and more technology, that the camera seems to be taking the picture for us. High megapixel, “do-everything cameras” that include, IBIS (in-body-image-stabilization), high ISO with low noise output, 8K video, 10, 20 even 30 frames per second shooting, have overwhelmed the market. Add to this, fast, ultra-sharp, and compact camera lenses and there is quite a menu of highly desirable cameras and lenses to choose. Without a doubt, technology has significantly improved today’s digital cameras. I completely understand a working professional photographer who makes their living taking pictures, needing all the technology they can get in a camera thus making their job easier and improving the quality of their product. I have shot weddings and other events with both film and digital cameras and make no mistake that the digital shooting experience and immediacy of the image was far superior then when I shot film and had to wait for development to see what I captured.

  Camera companies also appear to be delaying release of technology only to include that technology in the next model so you “have” to purchase that next new release. They even delay technology in certain models, within their own line, so as not to cut into the market of other complimentary models.  I believe delaying of features is all part of a broader marketing strategy to not cut into your own sales and to keep consumers “wanting more”. At times cameras have barely been on the market a year and rumors begin as to what is going to be in the next release. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the new cameras and improved technology and will admit I fully converted over to digital photography years ago now owning more digital cameras than I really need. I will confess, I have suffered from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), but for many reasons I have been hesitant to fully jump onto the mirrorless bandwagon and purchase the latest and greatest mirrorless camera.  I love my Canon DSLRs, 5D Mark IIIs, Mark IV, 80D, 90D, as well as several others and still get many fantastic images from those cameras. I will also confess I much prefer an optical viewfinder to a digital viewfinder.  I would rather see the actual image through my camera’s optical viewfinder than a little digital rendering in a digital viewfinder. For those that prefer the digital viewfinder with all the supporting information readily available, I totally get it, it is just not my preference.

  Digital photography is here to stay and I will continue to embrace it and admit I am anxiously awaiting the second release of the Canon R5 and when it hits the street, I may break my own vow of staying away from mirrorless cameras. Regardless of when I purchase my first mirrorless camera my DSLRs will always be in my kit because they work for me and I get great images from them. I have always loved photography and embrace new and improved products but at times, it seems to be a bit much. Cameras now do everything for you, and we have gotten away from the basics of photography and for this reason, I now find myself being enticed back into film photography.

  When I jumped into digital photography, I kept all my film cameras (Canon AE1, A1, F1’(s), Yashica GSN35, Yashica 124G Medium Format) among many others. I have since added more film cameras to the collection including Minolta, Nikon, Konica, Yashica, Voigtlander, many P&S, partially because family members and friends have gifted me their film cameras knowing I am a “camera guy”. Lately when I go out to shoot, I find myself pulling one of those old film cameras out to take along just for the fun of it. I even plan outings just to shoot film. Shooting film has rejuvenated something in me that seemed to be missing. I have gone back to the basics and the three main components of exposure; choosing a particular speed film, setting the shutter speed, and setting my aperture. On a recent trip to the beaches of North Carolina, I took both my Canon digital 5D Mark IV and Canon digital 90D and used both extensively. I also took my film EOS Elan 7ne, and a film Rebel G, with black & white film loaded in one and color film in the other, shooting mostly in manual mode. For this particular trip, my film camera selection was dependent on all four bodies using the Canon EF mount lens. Each time I returned from shooting, I commented to my wife “shooting these film cameras is really fun”. Planning 36 exposures is far different than machine-gunning away and deleting later what did not come out. Each film exposure requires much thought and planning especially since film is not nearly as cheap as it once was, and neither is film processing. Shooting those older film cameras is just so much fun.

  Can you still purchase film? Absolutely, and it is becoming more and more plentiful. Many old film manufacturers are re-introducing older films back into the market. Like vinyl records, anything good will come back especially if there is a growing (or returning) market. How do you get your film processed? Google “film processing” and you will get many hits of companies that provide the service. I have used several film processors but lately have been mainly using “The Darkroom Lab”. The Darkroom Lab will process your film and scan the negatives for you. Using a menu system you can have them just develop the film, develop and scan, develop scan and print, push, pull, whatever you want. I still have all my darkroom equipment but for now, I will continue to send my film off for processing much preferring going out to take pictures rather than being in the darkroom. Who knows, maybe the next step in my progression will be to dust off my Black & White enlarger, pull out the tanks and trays and print my own prints again, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

  So yes, I fully embrace the digital photography age but I am also having fun shooting film. If you are new to photography, I encourage you to shoot film with a manual film camera, so you know what your new “do everything” digital camera is doing and why.

Film Images from Emerald Isle, NC
(Kodak TMAX100, Ilford 100, Ilford 400, CineStill 400, Kodak Color Plus 200)

Canon EOS Elan 7ne, Kodak TMAX 100 B&W Film

Canon EOS Elan 7ne, Kodak TMAX 100 B&W Film

Canon EOS Rebel G, CineStill 400 Dynamic Color FIlm
Canon EOS Rebel G, CineStill 400 Dynamic Color Film

Canon EOS Rebel G, CineStill 400 Dynamic Color Film

Canon EOS Rebel G, Kodak Color Plus 200 Color Film

A Trip to the Beach


  Each year my wife Shari and I take a trip on or around the time of our wedding anniversary.  Although all of our trips are memorable, every fifth year we try to take a "special trip", be it to Bermuda for our 20th anniversary, Ireland for our 25th, or Italy last year for our 30th.  

  This year being our 31st anniversary we decided to stay a little closer to home as we plan to go out west in the fall.  We debated between going to the mountains or a trip to the beach.  We both had a strong desire to get back to the beach as it had been entirely too long since we walked on the beach or stuck our toes in the saltwater (I will not count getting my shoes wet last fall in Maine while photographing Boulder Beach in Acadia when an unexpected wave came a little too close.).  I thought maybe we would head back to the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach, but we decided to visit Ocean City, Maryland.  Although we do not frequently go to Maryland's famed beach town, it is a little closer to home than the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach and it had been many years since we had visited, so Ocean City it was (Fact is we had not been to Ocean City since 2003.).

  We figured that by visiting Ocean City during the off-season (late April early May), we would avoid the large crowds that typically flock to the beach during the summer season.  I will admit that I really do not like the large crowds at the beach, which is the main reason we had not gone back to Ocean City for so many years.  Because it was the off-season, we were able to get an oceanfront room for a reasonable price and at very late notice.  The hotel was located on 15th street and had been fully renovated in the spring of 2016, so it was almost like staying in a new hotel.  The view from our oceanfront room was breathtaking.  The boardwalk ran right in front of our hotel and I imagine it would be quite a busy location during the summer season.  During our stay, however, it was extremely peaceful and Shari and I were one of the few couples on the beach for as far as I could see, especially during the weekday.  Shari found a listing of the top 10 restaurants in Ocean City and we made it our mission to eat at as many of those restaurants as we could.  In fact, one of the top 10 restaurants was located right in our hotel.  I will agree with the list since the food in this restaurant was spectacular.

  The weather cooperated and photographically speaking I could not have asked for more.  Although the purpose of the trip was to get away to celebrate our anniversary and not strictly for photography, whenever we travel I try to take as many pictures as possible.  It helps to have an "artist wife" who understands my need to take advantage of my photographic opportunities as I work an 8 to 5 office job so they do not come as frequently as I wish.  For equipment, I shot mainly with my full-frame Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-105 f/4 L for landscapes, seascapes and general photography.  I also took a second 5D Mark III with a 70-200 f/4 L for longer landscapes and nature shots that I could reach with 200mm.  For longer wildlife shots and wild ponies on the beach in Assateague, I shot with my Canon 60D and a 400mm f/4 L.  Since the 60D is a "crop sensor camera body", the 400mm gave a field of view of 640mm, which came in handy, as the wild horses are known to not only bite and kick but also charge if you get too close.  I also took my new Canon 16-35 f/4 L, but I did not have too many situations where I needed an ultra-wide lens so I really did not use it much.  I realize I could have just changed lenses on my camera rather than take three camera bodies, but shooting at the beach and frequently changing lenses is just asking for trouble.  Nothing could be worse for your camera than getting blowing sand or water inside and on your sensor.  Sand can do permanent damage to camera equipment especially if it gets inside.  The Canon 5D Mark III has a sealed body so by not changing lenses, I knew I would be safe shooting in weather conditions that can be harmful to equipment.  Having a 5D Mark III with 24-105 and a second with 70-200 was a perfect setup for beach shooting, even with blowing sand.

  As always, my sleep suffered as I got up at 5:30 every morning and went out looking for something to shoot during the "golden hours".  Two of the mornings we had a nice clear sunrise while the other two it was overcast and foggy, which created nice, soft, diffused light which yielded far different results from the clear sky sunrises.  There were many nice locations, a short walk up the beach or a short drive up the street.  The beach always provides an abundance of shooting subjects be it shells, birds, kites, seascapes, or surf and sand patterns.  We also spent a day at Assateague Island National Seashore where we spotted egrets, willets, gulls, horseshoe crabs, wild ponies, as well as plenty other natural subjects.

  I also took many "dreamy water" shots and to accomplish this task on a bright sunny day I used a nine-stop neutral density filter and a polarizing filter, which took away an additional two to three f-stops.  With this two-filter setup, I was able to shoot black & white images at f/11 for 10-12 seconds in the middle of the day, and remove reflections on the sand or rocks. 

  Although I am still processing my images, and will be for quite some time, I am very pleased with what I have completed so far.  We had a wonderful week and we both cannot wait until we go on our next artistic adventure. 


Below are just a few sample images from our trip.

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My First Visit to Yosemite

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  For most of my adult life I have dreamed about visiting Yosemite National Park.  My obsession with Yosemite coincidentally began around the same time my fascination with Ansel Adams began.  Most photographers interested in landscape photography, at some point in their growth journey, will research and learn about Ansel Adams.  I consider Ansel Adams the master of all masters when it comes to landscape photography.  I will admit that over the years there have been many other landscape photographers who have captured my eye (for example Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz), but in my mind neither of them have risen to the mythical status of Ansel Adams.  Alfred Stieglitz did more to bring photography to the fine art world, but when it came to pure photographic image creation and expression, Ansel was the master.

  Many years ago in the early 1990's, I would spend my lunch breaks visiting a used bookstore near my office.  I immediately would head to the photography section, grab an Ansel Adams book and sit in the chair pouring through the book taking in each incredible image.  The store would typically have classical music playing which only added to my relaxation and transformation to those mythical locations (Ironically, I would later find out that Ansel Adams was also a trained classical pianist and nearly pursued classical piano rather than photography).  There was just something about the richness of those black & white images created by Ansel that did not seem of this world.  I would return to this bookstore and repeat my routine on a weekly basis for what seemed like several years.  After memorizing every image in the hardbound coffee table book titled Ansel Adams: Classic Images I finally broke down and purchased the book.  I've since acquired pretty much every Ansel Adams book I could get my hands on and even have multiple copies of some.  My favorite Ansel Adams book would have to be Ansel Adams An Autobiography.

  One can't have a fascination with Ansel Adams without also developing a fascination for Yosemite National Park.  Ansel spent most of his life in Yosemite and for more than sixty years either resided there for the entire summer or visited the park during other seasons.  In his autobiography Ansel would recount his first visit to Yosemite as a child with his parents, meeting his future wife Virginia Best at Best Gallery (now the Ansel Adams Gallery) in Yosemite Valley, and describing in great detail his many trips and workshops over the years to Yosemite.  Reading those recollections from Ansel only served to build my fascination with not only Ansel but also with the locations he loved to photograph, primarily Yosemite National Park.  I knew some day I had to get to Yosemite but for one reason or another, my wife, Shari and I could never find the right time to visit.  Between other scheduled family vacations, other family obligations with our two sons with sports and scouting, or for whatever other reason we just didn't get to Yosemite. 

  That changed in the fall of 2012.  We have close friends who retired and moved from Maryland to Arizona and for many years they had wanted us to come and visit them.  We decided to visit in October of 2012 and would combine that trip with a few nights in Utah to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon and would also make the drive into California to Yosemite National Park.  I will admit that at one point we almost decided it would be too much to visit Yosemite on the same trip and there was even a little part of me that thought I might be disappointed in Yosemite since I had built it up to such a mythical standing in my own mind.  Part of me thought maybe I should just leave it as Ansel had built it up in my mind in all its Black & White glory.  Thank goodness my wife told me I needed to have my head examined which helped change my mind about not going.

  It was a twelve hour drive from Zion National Park to Yosemite but that only served to build the anticipation.  While driving into California we decided at the last minute to stop and visit Sequoia National Park to see the Giant Redwoods.  I really enjoyed Sequoia National Park but the delayed anticipation for Yosemite was killing me.  While in Sequoia National Park it was raining pretty heavily and they were also doing some road construction so it took a lot longer than expected to get in and out of the Park.  Our initial plan was to drive the remaining distance, check into our hotel then drive into Yosemite the first evening.  Since it took longer than expected to drive from Sequoia to Yosemite we decided to go directly to Yosemite before checking into the hotel.

  By the time we got to Tunnel View it was pouring rain so hard and the fog was so thick I could barely see El Capitan let alone Half Dome.  On top of that it was beginning to get dark.  I quickly grabbed my tripod, mounted my Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-105 L lens attached and stood under the umbrella grabbing some inclement weather shots.  As if matters couldn't get any worse temperatures were beginning to drop and we heard that they were calling for significant snow that night and the next morning and the park would likely be closed.  We were instructed to check the next few days to see if the park was open.  I thought to myself "are you kidding me!  After all these years and all the anticipation they may not let me into Yosemite".  

  The next morning we called and thankfully the park was open, although due to the heavy snow some of the roads in the upper sections of the park were temporarily closed.  Driving into the park was absolutely beautiful with all the fresh fallen snow from the night before.  Arriving for the second time to Tunnel View was quite different from the previous evening.  Having a clear view of that landscape was something I could not at that time put into words and I still can't find the words to describe the feelings that came over me.  All those years of anticipation and buildup were right in front of me and it was just like I hoped it would be, (I cannot believe I actually thought I may be disappointed). We spent the next several days hiking the meadows, driving the back roads, watching the sunset against El Capitan, and exploring all that we could explore.  It didn't even bother me that a very large male deer with a very large rack head butted our rental BMW driving into the park one morning (I think he may have seen his reflection in the silver vehicle).

  The final fulfillment of my dream came when we visited the Ansel Adams Gallery.  This is the same gallery that Ansel Adams's wife Virginia Best (Adams) family owned when they first met.  The gallery is still in the Adams family to this day.  That afternoon we visited the Ansel Adams Gallery and viewed all the original Ansel Adams prints, some printed by John Sexton and some printed by Ansel himself.  We also ate in the eatery near the gallery, then walked around Yosemite Valley.  What an incredible day and a dream come true.

  For most of the trip we were not allowed to drive up to Glacier Point because the road was closed due to the snow.  On the afternoon of our final day we discovered they had opened the road to Glacier Point so we quickly made the drive to that portion of the park.  What incredible views of Yosemite Valley you have from Glacier Point.  For me this was clearly the trip of a lifetime.  

  Although we have not been back to Yosemite, I definitely want to go back someday so I can continue to explore that famous park that Ansel loved so dearly.  Ansel spent 60 plus years in Yosemite and he still felt like there was more to see.  I can only imagine what all I still have to see after spending only 4 days.  Even though I shot over a thousand images during our brief visit, in order to create an extensive body of work you need to visit many times, different times of the day, and in different seasons.  It sounds like we need to plan another trip.


Below are a few images from our trip to Yosemite:     

(For more of my images of Yosemite please visit the Yosemite National Park Gallery on this site.)   


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My two favorite Ansel Adams books.


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