16mm

SALTON SEA - A PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDY IN BLACK AND WHITE

Salton Sea State Recreation Area. 1/640 @ f8, ISO 200.

Salton Sea State Recreation Area. 1/640 @ f8, ISO 200.

I don't exactly remember when I first became aware of the Salton Sea. It may have been something I read, or perhaps I saw a news report or documentary, but I do remember being fascinated by this place.

A few weeks ago I finally had an opportunity to spend a day exploring a few of the communitites that remain.

North Shore. 1/750 @ f8, ISO 200

North Shore. 1/750 @ f8, ISO 200

Heading first to the Salton Sea Recreation Area, I had to pass through North Beach and the desolation became apparent. Empty lots where houses would never be built, abandoned gas stations, motels, and stores are the first thing I noticed, and what I expected to see. 

North Shore. 1/640 @ f9, ISO 200

North Shore. 1/640 @ f9, ISO 200

However, the recreation area was a surprise. It seemed like many other recreation areas throughout the country, campsites, a camp store, small beach with pavilions, picnic tables, and grills.

Salton City. 1/350 @ f11, ISO 200

Salton City. 1/350 @ f11, ISO 200

But like all the other locations I would visit over the course of the day, something seemed slightly off. Maybe it was the lack of people or the overall sense of failure. I don't mean failure of the people that remain, but the failure that comes from a dying sea. The failure to sustain life due to an increase in salinity and pollution over the years. 

Salton Sea Beach. 1/240 @ f8, ISO 200.

Salton Sea Beach. 1/240 @ f8, ISO 200.

I knew before I took my first photo that I would present them in black and white. Even in color, there is a monochromatic look to the area. I also shot all the photographs with the same lens, a Fujifilm 16mm, f 1.4, and from a similar height. That common perspective is what I was looking for in order to make this a series. 

Salton Sea Beach. 1/750 @ f8, ISO 200.

Salton Sea Beach. 1/750 @ f8, ISO 200.

With a large waterfront in one direction and mountains in the other, I can see why people were drawn to this location. And perhaps if you look deeper, why some people reamain.

Desert Shores. 1/340 @ f8, ISO 200.

Desert Shores. 1/340 @ f8, ISO 200.

I never made it to Bombay Beach or Slab City and did not interact with any people. I hope to change that if I have the chance to return. Mostly the people. I'm curious what it is like to live on the Salton Sea. And I know it is people that will add a warmth and bring my photographs to life. Maybe even show that the Salton Sea really is alive after all.

Desert Shores. 1/250 @ f8, ISO 200.

Desert Shores. 1/250 @ f8, ISO 200.

SAME LAKE - THREE DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHS

When I peered out of my tent at 4 a.m., I could see the stars. An hour later when I broke camp and headed to the lake, the stars were gone and the clouds were starting to build. There was some wind, however, it was blocked by the mountains, so the surface of the lake remained calm, allowing me to capture some nice reflections. A half hour after I took this photograph, the sky became a solid gray and it started to rain. No sunrise, but I still came away with a photograph.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1 second @ f3.2, ISO 200 .

When I peered out of my tent at 4 a.m., I could see the stars. An hour later when I broke camp and headed to the lake, the stars were gone and the clouds were starting to build. There was some wind, however, it was blocked by the mountains, so the surface of the lake remained calm, allowing me to capture some nice reflections. A half hour after I took this photograph, the sky became a solid gray and it started to rain. No sunrise, but I still came away with a photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1 second @ f3.2, ISO 200.

I set out on an overnight backpacking trip to Avalanche Lake, located in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks in New York State, with the intention of capturing both a sunset and a sunrise photograph. What I ended up with was neither a sunset nor a sunrise, but I still came away with three photos that I'm proud to share.

The details. From the Adirondack Loj parking lot, located 16 miles from the town of Lake Placid, it is a 5.2-mile hike to the south end of the Avalanche Lake where I took the photographs. The first 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam and the next one mile are fairly easy. However, the next mile presents you with a 635-foot elevation change in order to reach Avalanche Pass before you descend a litte to the lake which sits nicely between Avalanche Mountain and Mount Colden.

I knew that I would not be able to capture the sunset unless I hiked back to the other side of the lake. and that wasn't going to happen. But the great late afternoon light coming from behind and skimming the tops of the mountains on either side of the lake added a nice warm color reflection and made the photograph.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f11, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -1.3.

I knew that I would not be able to capture the sunset unless I hiked back to the other side of the lake. and that wasn't going to happen. But the great late afternoon light coming from behind and skimming the tops of the mountains on either side of the lake added a nice warm color reflection and made the photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f11, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -1.3.

The final part of the hike which brings you around the lake is the most challenging and demanding, especially with a full pack and camera gear. You will contend with boulders, ladders, and a very winding trail, but if you take your time, it is worth it. One of the neatest parts of this section is the two "Hitch-Up Matildas," or boardwalks, that are affixed to the sheer rock walls. 

While it is quite possible to do the round trip hike to Avalanche Lake in one day, it would be tough to do that, yet still be there early in the morning or late in the day, optimal times for taking photographs. So I recommend you bring a tent and plan on spending the night. There are some lean-tos closer to Marcy Dam, but that is still quite a hike. A nice tent area sits only about 100 yards from the South end of the lake.

At this end of the lake, there is plenty of debris, mostly logs, that has built up and makes for some interesting foregrounds. In this case, I switched to a vertical and used this large branch to lead you into the photograph. Converting to monochrome emphasizes the contrast between the warm wood and the cool lake.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f16, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -0.3.

At this end of the lake, there is plenty of debris, mostly logs, that has built up and makes for some interesting foregrounds. In this case, I switched to a vertical and used this large branch to lead you into the photograph. Converting to monochrome emphasizes the contrast between the warm wood and the cool lake. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f16, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -0.3.

So in the end, even if I didn't capture a sunrise or a sunset, I was able to get three different looks of the same lake and it was all made possible because I made the overnight hike. Sometimes the effort put into the hike makes the photographs even better, even if only to the photographer.

TOO BOLDLY GO... NOT A REVIEW OF THE FUJI 16MM LENS

Best Western Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend, Arizona. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm 1.4. 1/70 @ f2.0, ISO 200.

Best Western Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend, Arizona. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm 1.4. 1/70 @ f2.0, ISO 200.

Two photos, two locations, one theme, and one lens. I had originally thought this post was going to be a review of the Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4 lens, but I'm not quite ready to write that yet.

It's not that I'm disappointed with this lens. In fact, it is tack-sharp, solidly built and deserves its place in the Fuji premiere lens lineup, but I just haven't used it enough to really write a proper review. Perhaps I will never use it enough to write that review. And that's the issue.

Typically, before making a lens or camera purchase, I borrow the piece of equipment and try it out. If I had done that before aquiring this lens, I would have realized that the Fujinon XF 23mm 1.4 would have been a better choice for me. 

Too big. That was my first impression when attaching the 16mm lens to my X-Pro2. I'm so used to carrying this camera around all the time while not drawing attention to myself, that this lens with its 67mm front element and even larger lens hood made the camera front heavy and made me feel very conspicuous.

Too wide. Is that really possible? I had become so accustomed to shooting with the Fuji X100S and its fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) and the Fujinon XF 35mm F2 (53mm equivalent) on my X-Pro2 that I found myself lost in the frame.

Restored USS Enterprise model on display at the Smithsonian Sea Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm 1.4. 1/60 @ f2.0, ISO 1000.

Restored USS Enterprise model on display at the Smithsonian Sea Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm 1.4. 1/60 @ f2.0, ISO 1000.

Too much. Not cost, in fact, I was able to purchase the lens for $699 during a promotion. Perhaps the real issue I need to work through is how many lenses do I really need? The joy of shooting with Fuji for me has been the simplicity, one camera, one lens, in a form factor that does not draw attention and allowed me to be very creative.

For me, the reality is that the 16mm (24mm equivalent) borders on a specialty lens, whereas the Fuji 23mm (35mm equivalent) or the 35mm (53mm equivalent), can be a one-lens solution. Or, maybe having to change lenses just feels like I'm at work shooting with DLSRs.

Perhaps this has turned out to be somewhat of a mini review after all.