Tag Archives: outdoor photography

Yosemite: Mirrorless and Moonlight

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Cabin fever got the better of me this past weekend, and I took off for a very quick trip up into the Merced River canyon and Yosemite. I was in search of redbud, having heard they were popping into bloom with the warm weather. I found various stages from full bloom with leaves showing, to just barely beginning to bloom. But the idea I had for a redbud image was not to be this year – with water levels at record lows due to the drought, the branches had river rocks behind them instead of the flowing water I had wanted. Still, it was all so pretty to see things beginning to bloom! With the warm temperatures of this past weekend and early days this week, I’m sure that the peak will happening very soon. I will defer to Michael Frye, however, who always has a reliable and up to date report on seasonal events happening near and in Yosemite.

I photographed some redbud, and then headed up into the valley to eat while waiting for complete darkness. I wanted to test out my Fuji XT-1 at high ISOs required for star points of light (3200 and 6400) and also test out my new Fujinon 23mm 1.4 lens. The results were really amazing. I was so impressed by the way the camera handled the noise of 3200 and 6400 ISO. The 23mm f1.4 was a superb light-gathering lens, as well. But I discovered one ‘down side’ of such light-gathering. You see so many stars that the constellations themselves can get lost in all of that. I could see a strong definition of Orion in the sky, with my eye. But at f1.4 I saw so many stars that he disappeared in the picture. If I exposed at f2.8, I saw him better because I gathered in only the light of stronger stars. At least I know know that when I get the chance to photograph the milky way on a moonless night with this lens it will be awesome.

I then moved up the valley, to get a photograph of Yosemite falls and the cliffs under moonlight. Being a few days past full moon, I had to wait until about 11 PM for the cliffs to be bathed in moonlight. But heh, the best entertainment in the valley is being out under the billions of stars at night so I didn’t mind. I made a 6 minute exposure, at 400 ISO, for the blog image above. I love how at this time of the moon cycle you can get moonlit landscape and star trails. It makes for an unusual effect.

Some might be wondering how I could do this with a mirrorless system that uses an electronic viewfinder, and I’m here to say it was a challenge! To say they are noisy is an understatement. Even the best EVF’s will be challenging if not impossible to compose at night. You’ll have to get there early to compose while you can see, or use the point and hope method of composition that I used that night! With a few quick test shots, I got my composition, and was ready for the moon when it came. It rose later, as it was a few days after full moon, but by 11 PM it was bathing the cliffs in beautiful moonlight. I was glad there was enough water flowing over the falls to at least have that as a feature to work with, and I got a little ‘bonus’ of prismatic hues in the wispy falls – the beginnings of a moon bow, but not strong enough with the low water flow.

All in all it was worth the trip and I am looking forward to doing more night and star photography with my mirrorless system, now that I know it’s feasible.

Thanks for visiting,

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