Mazama Ridge Lupine Sunrise 1

Mazama Ridge Lupine Sunrise 1

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This past Friday, the second in a row, I woke up at 2:30am and drove down to Mount Rainier National Park to photograph wildflowers at sunrise. I have sold a lot of images of Mount Rainier over the years, so it is worth taking the time out of my busy travel schedule to do the quick round trip for just 1 hour of shooting. I parked my car at 5:15am and ran up the trail in about 20 minutes to my favorite flower meadows on Mazama Ridge. I’m always surprised that I never encounter any other photographers up there at sunrise, but I also only visit during the week to avoid the weekend crowds.  For anyone still planning a trip to Rainier, the wildflowers are at their peak, however, I would not describe this year’s bloom as more than ordinary.  I did not encounter any diverse fields of wildflowers and the clouds from the day before had vanished, but I still hoped to create a new unique image. All of my previous well-known photos of wildflowers at Mount Rainier were created using medium and large format film cameras. What a pain in the ass that was. With my large format camera in particular, I had to compose the image using a dark cloth, focusing loupe, and dark ground glass where the image was upside down and reversed, spot meter the scene, stop down to f32, place a Singh-Ray non-LB Warming Polarizer on the lens, position the grad filter correctly, and hope that the wind stopped blowing for a 10-30 second exposure because I was using Fuji Velvia 50 film rated at ISO 25 due to reciprocity failure. Still with me? Let me just state unequivocally that creating this image with my dSLR was a lot easier. I like this picture because of the soft warm light illuminating the lupine in the foreground.

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11 thoughts on “Mazama Ridge Lupine Sunrise 1

  1. Great capture…and depth

  2. Easier, but is it better ? Which one makes the nicer 24×36 print ?

  3. QT-Honestly, I prefer my 21MP Canon 5DmkII prints to anything that I ever shot with my medium/large format systems. I could not have stopped the motion of the flowers without shooting ISO 200 as there was a slight breeze. The images are also much sharper in general with more dynamic range. That’s my 2¢. Thanks.

  4. There is no question that with a digital camera you can make images that are not possible with a large format camera, but are you saying that anything else being equal, you find the the digital image superior ?

  5. Without a doubt. I was a hold-out who was still shooting my Pentax 67II up until last year. I own an Imacon Photo scanner, so that is how I scanned all of my film. The slightly smaller pixels on my dSLR are of course much sharper than anything I could shoot with my “blurry” Pentax glass. I only used my 4×5 with a 6×9 roll film back and finally sold all of my 6×12 system this year. My Rodenstock 65mm lens was incredibly sharp & rendered beautiful colors, but I will go back to my assertion that almost all of my images would not be possible without the ease & flexibility of what I am using now. I truly admire anyone that is still willing to drag a big camera around, but art sales are no longer the end product that I am worried about creating. I think that I’ve read that you were still using your 5×7 for your national park work. I’ve read that my idols Jack Dykinga & Tom Till now shoot dSLRs. I think that it still comes down to the end result. I have a friend who shoots 4×5 for his art gallery, who seems to be getting by, but he will never be very well known, because his work is not very creative. I’m not an advocate of just because everyone else is doing it, but I am happy with my results. Thanks.

  6. Impressive scene Jon. My personality is not really one that has the patience to try 4×5 if that is how much trouble it was for you to get your shots.

  7. I am actually using mostly digital these days, but while I appreciate the possibilities and freedom, I do not kid myself that image quality is even comparable to 5×7 inch film. If you read accounts by such photographers as Charles Cramer or Joseph Holmes, you’ll see that they consider their MFD backs to be roughly on par with 4×5. There is a gap between MFD and 35mm dSLR. There is also a quite a difference between 5x7inch and 6x9cm, so it is entirely possible that if I had been using the latter I would have come to the same conclusions as you do.

  8. So glad to see this. I am going up over Labor Day and was hoping there would be some flowers around still!

  9. This is beautiful, Jon. I really enjoy the explanation of what it took to create an image like this on large format. It really helps me to appreciate film that much more…while also increasing my love for digital!! Great work, Jon!

  10. I have great respect for the technique and master needed for great large format work, but for me, digital has far too many advantages over film to warrant working with large format. I do most of my landscape work while backpacking, and just the sheer weight of the required LF gear would limit the places I can visit with a light weight DSLR. Weight aside, the amount of experimentation that digital affords is something I would never want to give up. For example, if I was shooting a back-country sunrise with LF gear, I would probably be able to get maybe 2-3 shots (all pre-planned of course) before the magic light was gone. With a smaller DLSR and light-weight tripod, I can move around to many vantage points within the same area. Give it a few more years for our 21 megapixel DSLRs to become 40 or 50+. Then our current discussion will be moot.

    BTW Jon, beautiful wildflower photo! Shots like that make the early morning pain well worth it.

    QT – I have been in awe of your work for a long time.

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