Thursday, October 31, 2013

Practice Run

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The waning crescent moon looked so good as it rose above Twin Peaks around 5:20 this morning that my wife, who'd just gotten up for work, opened the curtains and told me to have a look. I wasn't disappointed. Having taken the day off, I needed a little motivation to roll out from under the warm covers.

I could see the moon just fine without getting out of bed, but I had another motivation to actually get cracking and make the drive up to Mt. Tam.

We're heading up to the Sierra tomorrow to spend a couple of days in Yosemite, where I hope to expose a few sheets of Velvia 100F with a borrowed 4x5 view camera. I haven't touched a view camera since I used one during a brief stint at Brooks Institute of Photography in the early '80s, so I figured I'd get in some practice on Mt. Tam. I fired off a few frames with the D800E while I waited for the sun to come up. I was surprised to see the sun rising so far south of Mt. Diablo. Just last month (link to pix) it was rising north of the mountain.

I used my 300mm rotated to vertical position to knock off a few panoramas.

I'd meant to create one very long panorama, but I must have been too tired and/or caffeinated, because I didn't leave enough overlap in a couple of the frames for Photoshop to stitch it together.

I did manage to expose a couple of sheets during the sunrise -- one pointing into the sun, and another pointing west as in the "Dawn Farallones" shot above. My next stop was to check up on the trail camera and move it to a new location, which is when I disturbed this coyote who'd been casually strolling down the middle of the fire road until it spotted me heading its way. The old camera trap location was in a good spot, but I was eager to set it nearby in a spot closer to a spring before we get any rain (hopefully soon) and there's water everywhere.

After I moved the trail camera I wanted to head out West Ridgecrest to use the 4x5 out on Bolinas Ridge, but I had to wait with eight wild turkeys for the gate to be open. A ranger finally showed up to open the gate, but then closed it behind her! Stuck waiting, I scouted around the parking and area exposed another couple of sheets on some nearby bracken ferns, where I tried a camera movement (lens tilt). Ooooo, getting tricky.

But it was nice to have the turkeys around to keep my attention occupied. I'd never noticed before that the mileage on this sign is posted as "04" instead of just "4".

Turkeys passing the "No Dogs" sign....

I finally got through the gate and set up the 4x5 in a nice spot overlooking Bolinas, with the Farallon Islands in the distance. I exposed a couple of sheets here, then called it a day. Starting with a box of 20 sheets of film, I botched the very first two sheets trying to load them into the film holders (I have five, and each holds two sheets). Today, I snagged the focusing cloth on a catch that released one corner of the bellows from the rear standard, but I didn't notice in time and botched another couple of sheets. So, keeping a positive spin on things, I've got a 60-percent success rate -- which I hope to improve with the next 10 sheets, in Yosemite.

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I got the first batch of 4x5 slides back today (Nov. 8), and what it's difficult to wrap my brain around when viewing them is that I am viewing huge slides, not small prints. Pretty cool. I don't have any way to digitize them except to photograph them on a light table that I pulled out of storage.

Here's the image from the shoot shown in the last photo of the blog post.

Here's a comparison between a 35mm slide and two 4x5 slides.

I'm looking forward to going back out to try again. I had many more failures than successes with the first batch, but I think I've learned a few things and ought to do better with the next batch. Incidentally, I sent the film via flat-rate Priority Mail to Data-Chrome in Santa Ana on Monday and got the processed film back the same way today. 

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