Winter weather

While driving back from Kelly toward Jackson, WY, this scene opened up right before me. I was very lucky to have my Nikon 80-400mm and Nikon D800 with me, as my shorter lenses and Nikon D300s body would not have captured the detail or tonal range of this image. We were out for a drive to check out the warm springs and to see if any interesting animals were out in the weather. I just happened to bring my extra gear.

Cache creek

Once I saw this scene develop, I visualized the image in my mind before I shot it. Then, I remembered I was wearing running shoes. The only way I was going to get the shot was stomping (postholing) through deep snow to get to the right vantage point. Boots would have been much more pleasant. But I was not going to let a small thing like cold feet stop me.

As the light was a dull, milky blue, I knew that this shot was not going to work in color at all. The original looks muddy and dissonant, not something I wanted in a photograph. But with the 13 stop range of the Nikon D800 and the 36MP body, I knew I might finally be able to capture an image worthy of making a good black and white panoramic.



Although I really enjoy the Nikon D300s, it does not work very well for taking effective panoramic images. There just is not enough resolution in the 12MP body. When taking landscape photos with that camera, there was very little image left by the time I cropped the image. As much as the camera is still great for sports & portraits, it never made me happy when photographing landscapes with it. The D800 has fit that bill very nicely.

As much as I like shooting the D800, the RAW files are huge. 45MB a pop. What’s the big deal? Well, when I do a photo shoot or go out to make some shots, I’ll shoot 100+ images. That’s 4.5GB. Very, very quickly, my external hard disk storage has been eaten alive. As such, I have started treating this Nikon more like a medium or large format camera. Instead of using the “spray and pray” technique, code for shooting with wild abandon, I find myself slowing down and enjoying making the image. It still does not come close to the quality of a 4×5 format camera, but there’s enough resolution and tonal range where I can actually made good enlargements.

As I learned from Galen Rowell

When I shoot, I heft the camera on top of the tripod, treating it like a large format camera. I adjust the settings a bit, then really look around at the image, inspecting the corners. Then, when I’m fully satisfied with the shot, I take one more look. And, only then, do I press the shutter release.

I just wish I was wearing boots to make the above shot. Standing in running shoes in 20 degree air in 25MPH winds makes for distracted photography. Galen would have ignored the cold. I have learned to do so, too. As I had a warm vehicle to hop back into, it was not a big deal to deal with stinging toes. The result was worth it.

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