Category Archives: Silver Lake RV Resort

Eastern Sierra, 2013

I’m back!  My wife, 3 dogs and I have spent the last 3 weeks camped at the Silver Lake RV Resort, right across the street from Silver Lake, on the June Lake Loop in the Eastern Sierra.

Silver Lake and Carson Peak

Although we visit there every year, the experience is never the same.  One year we had late afternoon thunderstorms almost every day.  Last year we had very warm weather for most of the month we were there.  This year we had snow on 3 different occasions!

As for photography, this year was a little different in respect as well.  If you’ve followed this blog at all, you may have noticed that I’m moving towards smaller, lighter cameras and associated accessories.  This year, I really made use of my Olympus E-P3 and Panasonic GX-1.  These are categorized as Micro 4/3rds (M4/3), mirrorless cameras.  Although I did bring my Canon 60D DSLR, I only used it a couple of times.

On one occasion, I brought both my 60D and Oly out at the same time, mostly as a side by side comparison in real world usage.  I took them to Mono Lake’s South Tufa, and carried them and all of their supporting “stuff” down the boardwalk and across the sand to the Tufa.  This isn’t a scientific, pixel peeping review of the results, but rather my opinion of each type camera system in a real life situation.  Here’s my bottom line – if someone would have made me a fair offer for the Canon stuff, I would have sold it then and there!  What a pain in the back it was!  After carrying it around I was really sorry that I brought it.  Yes, the sensor is bigger than the Oly’s.  Yes, it’s better at action photography.  But, I wasn’t shooting action.  And to my eye, the image quality isn’t any better that what I’m getting out of the Oly.

There is one thing I can say about my Oly, it is tough!  I slipped and fell once and smacked it on the ground.  Another time I got fumble fingered and dropped it.  Although it has a couple of nicks and dings, it works perfectly.

If you have a DSLR that you like, keep liking and using it!  I’m not here to talk anyone out of their DSLR.  I’m just sharing my experience in case you are curious about something smaller, but don’t want to drop down to a point and shoot.  There are options!

Rant Warningthe opinion expressed in the following rant are my own, your experience my vary!

One of the other things I noticed this year was the behavior of other photographers.  I’ve met and talked with quite a few over the past few years.  When it’s just one or two out by themselves, they were usually approachable and polite when greeted with a “good morning”.  But when I was unfortunate enough to come across a group of them (workshop) I found them unfriendly, rude, and obnoxious.  What is it that turns people into jerks when they group together?  I would be embarrassed if I were part of one of these groups with people behaving so badly.  It seemed to me – if you were in one of these groups or workshops, you owned all of the view around you.  One jerk in particular was loudly proclaiming to some poor folks, that dared venture near him, that he needed them out of his field of view, which looked to be in excess of 180 degrees (this didn’t happen just once while he was taking a picture, but over and over).  And this isn’t the only example.  I ran across at least 3 of these groups, and didn’t see much difference between them.

While I’ve never been part of a photography workshop or photography group, I wouldn’t want you to give up the idea because of what I’ve experienced.  I’m sure there are some good ones out there, with leaders that would reel in the jerks, I just haven’t seen it happen.  But if you wanted to join one of these groups, go for it, they just aren’t for me.

End of Rant…

Back to photography.  This year I really tried to slow down and take my time composing my shots.  I also tried to focus attention to single elements in the frame and not go for each whole grand scene.  Sometimes I would include an anchor in the foreground, something that would add interest, and help give some depth to a scene.  Other times I would focus on something small, like a leaf.  There are exceptions, such as when the sky was really putting on a show over Mono Lake, but for the most part, I tried to keep my images this year much more intimate.

After 3 weeks of shooting I have a lot of editing to do.  It’s funny, when people see me walking back to the motorhome carrying my gear, they ask if I’ve gotten a lot of great shots.  I usually say, “I hope so”.  That may seem like a funny answer, but until you actually look at what you have on a larger screen, you don’t really have an idea if you “got a lot of great shots”.  Looking at pictures on the little LCD on the camera gives you general idea, but you need to see them on the computer screen to make any real determination if it’s a keeper or gets tossed.

Here are some of the photos that I’ve had time to work on:

Silver Lake Pond

Carson Peak

The Log, Silver Lake

Silver Lake Leaves

That’s it for now.  If you have a different opinion or experience with either DSLR’s vs other options or photography workshops, don’t be bashful, use the comment section.

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Fall Colors, Eastern Sierra Style

It seems like forever since I’ve been able to do anything on my website.  Unfortunately, I have to make my living in the conventional way and sometimes it takes priority.  Having just spent several days in the desert, I really miss being in the Eastern Sierra.

While the desert is ok, it’s not my first choice of places to be.  For one thing, there were no Fall colors, or at least nothing like what I experienced in the Eastern Sierra.  Now, if anyone is reading this from the East Coast, I do understand that nature puts on a magnificent show.  But the Eastern Sierra provides a very worthy display as well.

If you’ve never seen it for yourself, then perhaps it’s time to change that.  There are Yahoo groups and various other sources of information available online, you just have to do a little research.  Enthusiastic color chasers provide up-to-the hour reports with all of the detail anyone could want or need.  I participate in one group – Calphoto, and shared some day-to-day details for those interested.

It’s too late this year, since most of the color is past prime or is gone completely.  Having made quite a few trips just for the turning of the trees, I’d say that the last couple of weeks in September, and the first 2 to 3 weeks of October are your best bet.

Where to start is a good question.  I happened to be in about the middle of the area, camped at Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop.  It wasn’t too much trouble to head south to the Bishop Creek area or go north as far as Bridgeport.

What kind of gear to bring is also a good question.  I overdid it this year, and brought 5 cameras, 3 tripods, and all of the other associated crap.  Yes, I did say crap!  In the end, I would have been better off with 2 cameras, with one as my main and the other as backup.

Thinking more about carrying my heavier DSLR’s made me appreciate my little Sony NEX3 even more.  If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know how much I enjoy using the NEX3.  It’s small, has the same size sensor as my DSLR and excellent picture quality (in my opinion).  And going for a hike is some much more enjoyable when I take the NEX3, rather than it feeling like a chore when lugging around my DSLR.

Back to the fall colors!  They were simply amazing in some areas, and just ok in others.  One of my favorite places for color is the Bishop Creek area, above the little town of Bishop, California.  As you head up Line St. towards either South Lake or Sabrina and get to the 7000 foot marker, you start to notice the trees.  It was subtle at first, then became more and more striking the further I went.  All of sudden there are trees that are yellow, gold, orange, and even red!  You want to pull over every 10 feet.  ‘Had to be careful not to get hit by other photographers also looking everywhere but where they are supposed to while driving.  There are so many photo possibilities everywhere you look that I had to slow down, take a breath, and just take it all in.

Once I started composing and shooting I lost track of time.  A couple of hours can go by so fast and you may not even notice.  I ended up with memory cards full and about 75 miles to drive back to camp.

Here are some of the photos from the Bishop Creek area.  Maybe next year you’ll consider heading up yourself and see what I mean.  The Eastern Sierra in the Fall shouldn’t be missed!

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

My New (Old) Camera

I’m back!  It’s been a fantastic month-long vacation in the Eastern Sierra with my wonderful wife and 2 Cairn Terriers.  In addition to a lot of fishing, I was also able to use 4 of the 5 cameras I brought along, including my latest addition – the Sony F707.

Aggie and Cairn Terriers

Aggie, Mulligan & Sullivan – Sony NEX3

For a camera that’s at least 10 years old, the F707 has some pretty impressive features.  These include:

  • 5.24 megapixels
  • Zeiss F2.0 Lens
  • Swivel Body
  • Exposure Bracketing
  • Burst Mode
  • Center Weighted, Multi-Segment, Spot Metering
  • Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Scene Modes
  • Night Shot Mode
  • Viewfinder and LCD

I’m not going to attempt a full review in this post.  That’s already been done and you can read about it here:  DPReview, Sony F707

What I am going to do is talk about using this camera, and contrast it to something more modern.  I actually had a camera very similar to this one (the Sony F717) when it first came out, and loved using it.  In fact, that’s what started this little project.  I was looking through my files and came across photos I made with the old F717, and was reminded of just how good that camera was.  Don’t get the wrong message here, the photographer creates the image, the camera is just a tool.  What I mean is the quality of the photo includes color, contrast, noise, and sharpness.

Back to the vacation.  We were camped at the Silver Lake RV Resort on the June Lake Loop in the Eastern Sierra.  This was the perfect location for photography with easy access to beautiful lakes, streams, trails, wildlife, and one of my other favorites – Mono Lake.  I’ll talk more about Mono Lake and some of the other Eastern Sierra locations in future posts.

With all of the photo opportunities just outside my motorhome’s door, I got busy quickly.  Unless we decided to go fishing, I had at least 1 camera with me, usually 2.  The F707 was one of the 1st cameras to go around my neck.

The F707 has a nice feel to it.  Just enough of a handful to feel solid, but not so much as to be a pain to carry around.  The large barrel that houses the lens and some of the controls is also a good place to grip.  There was a little lag time from the moment I turned the camera on until it was ready to shoot.  The tiny LCD was also interesting, but not totally useless.  I did end up using the viewfinder more, and for an EVF (electronic viewfinder), it wasn’t bad, although it didn’t come close to the viewfinder in my Canon DSLR.

The camera that I spent most of my time comparing to the F707 is my Sony NEX3.  The NEX3 isn’t classified as a Point and Shoot (P&S) or a DSLR, but rather an Interchangeable Lens Compact (ILC).  My NEX3 is the 1st generation of ILC by Sony and has a small rectangular body, large articulating display, and 18-55mm lens.  The other most notable feature of the NEX3 is that it has an APS-C sensor, the same size as the one in my Canon DSLR.

During my unscientific in-the-field shoot out, I’d have to give the nod to my NEX3.  The NEX3 has 10 years of technological innovation in it’s favor.  While the startup time isn’t that great, the camera is faster overall, very versatile in different lighting situations, and it’s image quality is outstanding.  One of the things I really like about the NEX3 is how well it works in low light.  The feature that I use a lot while in Aperture Priority mode is Auto HDR.  I just love how it captures much more of the detail in lower light without blowing out highlights.

In the F707’s favor, I have to say that it’s image quality is outstanding considering it’s age.  Even with a smaller sensor, the images are clean, contrasty, and colorful.  And if you keep the ISO low (100), there’s no image noise to speak of.  In order to more fairly compare to the NEX3, I did use the Auto Bracketing function quite a bit.  Processing the images was as simple as importing into Photoshop and running them through the NIK HDR Efex Pro plugin.

There was one area that the F707 came out ahead in, and that’s battery life.  The F707 is a power miser compared to my NEX3.  I’d go through two NEX3 batteries to one F707 battery.  One of the nice features of the F707 is that it displays battery life in actual minutes instead of the little bar.  This would be a feature Sony should consider bringing back!

In closing, I’d like to say that it was fun to use the F707.  If it was all I had to use, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it everywhere with me and use it until it wouldn’t work anymore.  I have to admit, I get caught up in the hype and sales pitches for all of the new cameras.  It’s a vice, I just love cameras.  Having said that, I still hold to this statement – the best camera is the one you have with you!  Use what you have, and use it well.  Learn all of its functions and features so it is second nature and you won’t miss that once in a lifetime shot because you were fiddling with the dials.  You may be surprised at the quality of your images!

Here are some images from both cameras.  Let me know what you think.  Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Carson Peak, Sony F707

Carson Peak – Sony F707

Rush Creek, Sony F707

Rush Creek, Sony F707

Carson Peak, Sony NEX3

Carson Peak, Sony NEX3

Rush Creek, Sony NEX3