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Old Sep 5, 2009, 12:19 AM   #1
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Default Rainbows and Devils Posts (& 3 Pentax dSLRs)

Last week I took a couple of days off and visited a couple of different - very different - places. This was actually the third place we visited (for some reason I find myself going through my pictures a backwards). They aren't true direct comparison shots - the K100 had the kit lens on it and was used by my sister who's never handled anything but a point-n-shoot (camera set to green mode). The K20 (set to P mode) had the DA 55-300 on it and was used by my husband. He has some experience using the K100 once in a while, so he's not as big a beginner as my sister, and I had the K-7 with two bags full of lenses (I was shooting raw, the other two shooting jpg). But I thought they were still interesting and offered some insight into the three cameras.

First, a pretty sunrise and a short walk from where we were staying to get a clear view of this mountain:

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Devils Postpile National Monument. Interestingly enough, at one time it was part of the original Yosemite National Park, but then was removed from the park later on. Eventually it was granted national monument status.

In the summer you are pretty much required to take a bus from Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center into the monument. The monument protects two areas - the Devils Postpile, made up of columnar basalt, and the Rainbow Falls, a pretty water fall a couple of miles away. We visited the postpile in the early morning - definitely the WRONG time to visit as the sun is behind the formation so its in shadow.

I tried using HDR to even the lighting out a bit. It helped, but next time I'll visit in the afternoon. K-7, DA 12-24, 5 exposures merged with Photomatix:

It's an interesting formation, caused by lava cooling into columns. It's not going to last forever - they have on display a picture taken in the 1920s (I think) that shows a rather different formation. And you can see the broken up columns at the bottom.

A closer look, taken by Dan using the K20 and the DA 55-300:

One of the neat things you can do is walk up to the top of the formation. There's no railings so not a place for unsupervised small children, but otherwise fascinating. You can see the lines of the columns and how regular they are. The scrape marks and polishing were caused by glacial ice.

K7, DA*50-135 (which really got a work-out on this trip):

Compare the above picture (full frame, no cropping) with a similar picture taken with the K100 and kit lens, used by my sister (who's point-n-shoot died after a fall recently):

I had never before noticed any color cast when shooting outdoors with the K100 or K20 before, but comparing the two pictures above, the K-7 is more accurate.

This little chipmunk posed for me - K-7, DA*300 (great combination, but didn't get used all that much this trip).

We then went on to Rainbow Falls. We got there in the early afternoon, and the sun was very harsh. Again I resorted to HDR techniques. But you can (barely, toward the bottom of the falls) see how the falls got their name.

K-7, DA 12-24:

Trying to capture a waterfall with the effect mole so often uses is hard when the sun is so bright. I wished I'd had a neutral density filter, a circular polarizer helps, but isn't really enough. This was as slow a shutter speed as I could manage (thought it worked out OK).

K-7, DA*50-135

We continued down a trail to a lower falls (not the bottom of the upper falls - too many stairs on that trail). The falls themselves weren't really worth all that extra effort, but the walk was interesting. The area had burned in a fire in 1992. Recovery at that altitude seems very slow. The tiny dots on the top of the bare mountain are part of the Mammoth Mountain ski facilities.

K-7, DA*50-135:

Two things come to mind when I saw this last picture. The first thing was that weather sealing is useful for more than just rain. Second, do you suppose I'm carrying too much stuff? After hiking 4 miles with this set-up (to be fair, the green Tamron bag could have held one more lens than it did), I ordered a Kata 3N1-30 bag. I'm not quite sure all of the stuff I had this trip will fit in it, but I'm sure it will be better than this set-up!

K100, Kit lens:

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Old Sep 5, 2009, 1:53 AM   #2
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Isn't Nature amazing, what incredible stone formations and the 2nd waterfall shot is lovely, although my favourite is the chipmunk.
You will sure keep fit carrying that load, I hope the new bag is dust proof as well.


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Old Sep 5, 2009, 1:57 AM   #3
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If I remember correctly, the trees & shade from that burn area is really missed...that hike/trail is really rough on sunny days when you're headed to the falls.

I'm so glad you went to the top of Devil's Postpile. We did have kids with us and didn't go up there. I wondered what it looked like...now I know.
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Old Sep 5, 2009, 4:04 AM   #4
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Great series Harriet,

had a friend who had a holiday in the Czech republic who talked about a place where the had this basalt lava columns. But had forgotten to take her camera that day.

now I know what she was trying to explain to me.

Great series, the hdr looks like a normal shot, what I like a lot.

Thanks for posting

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Old Sep 5, 2009, 5:36 AM   #5
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Great photos Harriet and your geology is spot on!
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Old Sep 5, 2009, 7:39 AM   #6
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Nice series Harriet. That is a beautiful waterfall and nicely captured.

The Chipmunk shot was right on. A nicely colored specimen, and well taken.

Were your HDR shots as taken with the K-7 or were they a combination of HDR plus treatment with HDR software. If only with the K-7 was it HRD 1 or 2.

You do look like you need another carrying solution as your LowPro looks ready to burst at the seams.

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Old Sep 5, 2009, 8:20 AM   #7
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Once again...I enjoy so much when I get to go along travels like these! Very nice series...I especially like the wide angle perspective on #2.

You are right on the waterfalls...I imagine a ND filter is on your shoppiing list! I made the switch to Cokin about a year ago and together with a couple of adaptor rings am well equipped with ND, Split ND and C-PL filters!

BTW, loooks like you were carrying quite a load there in terms of gear!
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Old Sep 5, 2009, 8:34 AM   #8
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Thanks for taking us along, Harriet. Pictures as good as expected from you. I didn't know there had been glacial ice as far south, interesting. (I guess this place is in California, where more precisely?)
For your carrying problem I wouldn't recommend a new bag, but a sherpa. (I don't carry less myself, though. If I leave just one lens at home, that is the lens I'll need.)

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Old Sep 5, 2009, 1:56 PM   #9
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Hi Harriet,

Thanks for taking me on a very nice trek which would have been exhausting for me physically, but was instead very pleasant with me sitting on my duff in front of the computer. . .

About the "soft" waterfall shots -- The K10/20 and K-7 can take long exposure equivalents in bright sunlight without the need for ND filters. You need to use the tripod, then set up the cam at (lowest ISO), MF, and for multiple exposures on the same frame with Ev compensation (the EV compensation automatically cuts each individual exposure so that they all add up to a correct exposure when added together). Stop the lens way down and then set up for max number of exposures (IIRC, it's 9). The total exposure times of all the exposures added together will give you the equivalent of a multi-second exposure -- all on one frame, and without an ND. The shots I've seen done like this by others were very impressive, IMO.


I haven't had occasion to use it, since I don't have access to many waterfalls here in the flat midwest. . . but it just occurred to me that it might make for some other interesting applications in my environment. . . hmmmmmmm

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Old Sep 5, 2009, 2:47 PM   #10
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Thanks for the compliments!

Scott - the one time I tried to use the multi-shot for something similar (a fountain), I didn't have a slow enough shutter speed so I ended up with lots of little dots all over and it looked strange. I had forgotten about using it and I think this scene would have worked reasonably well.

Kjell - my hubby agrees with you about the sherpa. And I also agree with you about always wanting the one lens you leave home - it never fails. I'll find myself going to work with a particular project in mind for lunch, then find myself doing something totally different.

Lou - I used Photomatix for both HDR photos. The ones I took at Devils Postpile were hand-held and wouldn't have worked using the in-camera option. I could have used it for the waterfall (and I would have been curious to see how it would handle that type of scene), but I didn't think of it. I was so hot by the time I got there - as cameanee mentioned, the lack of shade makes the hike a lot hotter and harder than it would otherwise be.

California had quite a bit of glacial ice during the last ice age. There are still some small glaciers high in the Sierras, really remnants of ones. Glaciers formed Yosemite Valley - if you look at wide angle views of the area you can see the classic U shape of a glacial valley. I don't think there were any further south though. Devils Postpile is on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains, on the back side of Mammoth Lakes, a very famous (at least in California) and popular ski area. It's more or less in the north/south center of the state, not all that far north of Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft/4,421m). Elevations at the postpile is over 7,000 feet, so it's definitely in the mountains. It's not the highest spot we went to on our trip - I'll post other threads for the rest of the photos.
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