Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Catching up

Salton Sea California
Sony A7r II FE 24-70
Crescent City California
Sony A7r II 90mm
Near Crater Lake Oregon
Phase One XF, IQ180 and Schneider LS 40-80
It’s been about 120-days since we last posted and many things have happened.
We’ve done a lot of traveling since our last post using some new equipment.
Sunset at the Salton Sea
Phase One XF, IQ180 and Schneider LS 35
Near Crescent City California
Sony A7r II 90
Carmel California Sunset
Sony A7r II 70-200
Lets catch up on a couple items:
The KPS T5 geared ballhead we wrote about January 7th remains a hit having used it at the Salton Sea, San Francisco, Carmel by the Sea, California Redwoods, Death Valley, Valley of the Gods Utah, Monument Valley to mention just a few of the locations we’ve traveled to since our last post. Our travel schedule reminds us of the Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere”.

San Francisco California
Phase One XF, IQ180 Schneider LS 40-80
Phase One XF, IQ180 Schneider 40-80
Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco California
Sony A7r II 24-70
While we’ve kept Face Book, Instagram and Twitter accounts up-to-date we’ve been lax in posting here. We hope to fix that with this post.
Dante's View Death Valley California
Phase One XF, IQ180 Schneider LS 75-150
Bombay Beach Salton Sea California
Phase One XF, IQ180 Schneider LS 35
Don has changed or better yet simplified his filter systems during this time.  Previously Don had to pack 2-complete systems for his medium format lens since neither Cokin nor Lee offered a system that would fit all his lenses.  The Lee SW150 fit his Mamiya 28mm however they hadn’t yet offered a 105mm ring for the Schneider 35LS or 40-80LS so he had to rely on the Cokin X-Pro system.  While both systems are equally good it was a problem packing 2-complete systems.  But no more since Lee began offering adaptor rings in 105mm.  Don is now using the Lee SW150 filter system on all his lenses ranging from 28mm to 240mm with great success.
Sony A7r II 24-70mm
Sony A7r II 16-35

Valley of the Gods
Sony A7r II 16-35
Valley of the Gods
Sony A7r II Mitakon 50 f/0.95

We’re including a lot of images here and will explain where each was taken as we go along.
We’ve just returned from Bluff Utah where we were shooting late night dark skies while scouting locations for a possible workshop next year.
Goosenecks State Park Mexican Hat Utah
Sony A7r II Voigtlander 12mm
Near Show Low Arizona
Sony A7r II 24-70
Monument Valley Utah
Sony A7r II 16-35
Monument Valley Utah
Sony A7r II Voigtlander 12mm

Don has picked up a Sony A7r II to add to his ever growing camera bag as well as a new Mitakon 85mm f/1.2 to add to his 50mm f/0.95.  Sandy will shortly be upgrading her 16-35 f/4 to the newer f/2.8 as well as replacing her older 24-70 f/4 for the new f/2.8 GM lens.
Seven Sailors Valley of the Gods Utah
Sony Ar7 II 24-70
Seven Sailors Valley of the Gods
Sony A7r II 24-70
Valley of the Gods
Sony A7r II 16-35
17-Room Ruin Bluff Utah
Sony A7r II 24-70
As you can see by the images we’ve been busy traveling seeing beautiful areas, visiting friends along the way and making new friends.  As always, thank you for allowing us to share our adventures.


Sandy & Don





Thursday, January 7, 2016

The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead

A short time ago a good friend of mine Ken Doo wrote an extensive review of the T5 on his blog titled, “The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead: In Search of the Elusive White Unicorn”  I suggest that you read this at some point.


Up until several months ago I had been shooting the majority of my landscape work with a technical camera; one that demanded precision in every aspect of setting.  During this same period I used an Arca Swiss Cube with great results.  The Cube allows for quick, easy and precise adjustments with a load capacity of 85 lbs. (38.5 kg)  The only downside was the weight and physical size.

One other downside to the Cube is that due to its form, I used it primarily for landscape and nature; while it could be used for wildlife in a pinch you’re much better off with a ballhead. I quickly ordered a geared Arca-Swiss d4 shortly after it was released thinking that it would be a great companion head to the Cube that would allow me the quickness of a ballhead and geared movement of the Cube.  Sadly it didn’t work out for me and I quickly sold it. The d4 was replaced with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead having a load capacity of 18 lbs.(8 kg) that has remained my principal ballhead for any quick movement photography.

I ended up selling the Cube shortly after I sold the technical camera and reverted to using the BH-40 for all my tripod work however I found I missed being able to set the level adjustments quickly and began rethinking a geared head for my Phase One XF.  Ken had attempted to get me interested in the KPS T5 last year at our annual workshop however at the time I was still using the tech camera and Cube and figured that if it wasn’t broke why fix it.  This was also before Phase One released the new and improved XF body which made me rethink my shooting gear.

I contacted Legio Aerium late last year in an attempt to try their T5 however I quickly found that they didn’t have any in stock and as a matter of fact the T5 was being tweaked for a new, updated design.  I was however informed that I would be able to try out the new design as soon as it became available; which is now.

The rest of this will be my initial thoughts of the T5.

I received the T5 yesterday and due to other commitments haven’t had a chance to really try it outside of the studio.  That said, I like it.  A lot.

I installed the RRS TH-DVTL-40 Round Dovetail Plate to the bottom of the T5.  This plate allows me to quickly attach a head to my tripod and something I have on all my tripods and bottom of all the heads.

After installing the plate I also installed a RRS B2-AS-II lever-release clamp on the top.

KPS offers a wide choice of ballhead setups and I chose the KPS T5 Geared Ballhead (without clamp) as I already had a RRS clamp that I’ve been using with great success.

The photo at the beginning shows a side by side comparison between the RRS BH40 and KPS T5 both of which are set up the way I will be using them.  The only thought is that I might also add a RRS PC-LR panning clamp as I’m use to that particular workflow.

Did I mention I like the T5?  Well in case you missed it I do.  It’s slightly taller than the BH-40 and weighs a couple ounces more with a load capacity 0f 88 lbs. (40 kg) however what it offers over a regular ballhead is immense. While I’m still getting used to it I see a vast improvement of leveling over a regular ballhead.  Trying to get a precise level with a regular ballhead can take 2-hands (one to hang on to the camera while the other attempts to find a level without jerking the entire system) and several minutes.  The first time I placed the Phase One XF on the T5 I felt that it was very sturdy (the same as the BH-40) however the difference came in leveling.  I found the leveling aspect very similar to the Cube and achieved perfect level in seconds; plus I wasn’t worried the camera would fall over in the process. I see the T5 becoming my primary head as it more than satisfies the dual role of quick action ballhead and the precision needed in landscape.

This will become the first part of a multi-part blog regarding the KPS T5 as I’m heading to the Salton Sea area in a couple weeks which is where I’ll get a great chance to kick the tires and really try this ballhead out.

Did I mention I like it?  And yes, barring any unforeseen issues I plan on not sending it back and will in fact buy it.

Now go read Ken’s blog on the KSP T5.



I had thought that I would have to wait a couple of days to really put the T5 to a test however I found myself using it the day after I wrote the above.  I ended up shooting an interior and used the T5 with my Phase One XF.  Without any thought of what I was doing I set the camera up much as I would have when I still used the Cube.  Very simple and without any real effort.  It wasn't until an hour or so later that it dawned on me what I had done and just how easy it was.
The sign of a great piece of gear is the ability to use it with little to no concern and get the shoot.  Which I did.
You can guess the rest.  I ended up asking for an invoice which I promptly paid.  The T5 is now mine.  Yes, it's that good!




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Winter at the South Rim with a Sony A7rII

Same image
FE24-70 at 35mm
f/10 1/400 ISO 50
We recently spent several days visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Late December and we were blessed with heavy clouds, dense fog, extreme cold, snow and we can’t forget about the high winds.  Most, if not all conditions for great landscape photography.

We’ve shared what Don was able to do with the Phase One XF, IQ180 medium format system he uses, this will highlight what the new Sony A7rII can do. 
Don standing on the edge near Mather Point
FE24-70 at 37mm
f/8 1/400 ISO 50
Sandy standing at the Abyss.  The fog and clouds rolled in as well as the wind.
Phase One XF, IQ180, Schneider LS35mm
The first couple days were so socked in that we began to wonder if we’d see the inside of the Canyon.  While we couldn’t see the Canyon we did experience several locations in the trees where the combination of snow and fog made for near perfect shooting conditions and couldn’t pass it up.

There’s a stand of trees at the intersection of South Entrance Road and Desert View Drive (actually on Desert View Drive).  The Park Service did a prescribed burn several years ago and we’ve been watching as it comes back to life.  Conditions were near perfect this trip with dense fog shrouding the trees.
 As shared on Instagram f/4.0 1/160 ISO 50

FE24-70-at 24mm f/4 1/160 ISO 50

FE 90mm f/4 1/160 ISO 50

Enjoying what we did at the burn area we decided to venture into the forest that is near the Canyon and weren’t disappointed. 

Ever wonder what was around the next bend in the road?  So did we….
As shared on Instagram
FE24-70 at 59mm f/4.5 1/160 ISO 50
As shared on Instagram
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50
As shared on Instagram
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50
The fog lifted, the snow stopped and the clouds parted to show the Grand Canyon in all her majestic beauty. 
Hopi Point Overlook
FE16-35 at 35mm f/13 1/200 ISO 50

As shared on Instagram
The Abyss
FE24-70 at 24mm f/11 1/320 ISO 50
Grand Canyon Storm
Hermit Rest Overlook
FE24-70 at 70mm f/11 1/320 ISO 50
On the Edge
FE24-70 at 24mm f/8 1/400 ISO 50

Four days at the South Rim experiencing just about every type of winter weather and we couldn’t ask for better.
We’ve met so many people while working at the South Rim that were disappointed because they couldn’t see into the Canyon.  Don’t be like these people, if you can’t see inside the Canyon look for the beauty that’s just outside the rim.  Also if you plan a winter trip expect to run into snow, dense fog, road closures etc.  If you can try to spend a little extra time just in case; there’s nothing worse than having to leave hours before the show begins.

This was our last trip of 2015.  We’ve got several neat trips planned for 2016 among them the Salton Sea, California Redwoods, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley as well as Sedona and a month shooting in Montana, so stay tuned.
Happy New Year to everyone and we hope you have a safe enjoyable year.
Sandy & Don 


We wanted to wrap this post up with a few thoughts on the Sony A7rII.  First we like it. A lot. The camera performed flawlessly both at the Grand Canyon and the previous month at Bryce.  Both trips we encountered extreme cold and in some cases very unpleasant shooting conditions.  Battery life was more than good.  Likewise autofocus using a battery of lenses ranging from the FE16-35, FE24-70 and FE90 all worked as advertised.  We often gave out way before the camera did due to the extreme conditions.  There were a couple instances where the battery was exhausted and shut the camera down however this was due more to a human error of not watching the level than to a technical error.  There were no malfunctions during either trip.  And Sandy found that due to the ergonomics of the camera she was able to work and handle the camera much easier than the older A7r. In short, the Sony A7r II is a great addition to our kit.