Railroad Day Trip and the Fuji GA645zi


The Art Of Film Photography And Travel

 

Jordan standing on part of a giant Redwood tree on the top of the mountain


Day 1

Earlier this month Ellen and I took our 9yo grandson Jordan on a week long trip to the San Francisco area.  We did many things and visited some great sights! One of the most memorable was a 2 day visit to the Roaring Camp where the Big Trees and Pacific Railroad is!  They offered several train trips around the mountains and through the giant Redwoods. 

There also were two covered bridges in Felton, one in Roaring Camp itself and another a short distance away in the town. Here is the Roaring Camp bridge.

Roaring Camp Covered Bridge

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train being lubed

Our first trip was on the Dixiann a 160 year old narrow gauge steam train designed to move ore down the mountains from the mines.  It was special in that it had geared drives to all of its wheels and while it could not move fast it could pull loads up and down the mountains and take as much as an 8% grade!.

The rail yard was full of amazing trains that were in various stages of repair or being torn down for parts. It was a photographers dream!  There was so many different parts, trains and cars around the yard that I could have spent hours and many rolls of 120 film there.   The film I did choose was Kodak Tmax 400.  The reason for this was the fact that I was in the mountains covered in giant Redwoods and there was not too much light!

 

Pacific Railroad Yard in Roaring Camp, Felton, CA

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train arriving at the station to pick us up

Once it was time to board the train Jordan and I went down beside the tracks trying to get some good angles on the steam engine with its puffing smoke and steam. 

As it approached we were physically pushed aside by an foreign  woman and her daughter who then stood directly in front of us taking phone pictures. 

We were already setup with our film systems when they did this.  It was the only black mark on the day for us and caused enough anger for me to yell at them for being so rude but they simply did not care.  So this next image had to be majorly cropped to remove them from it. Some people are totally clueless and without a shred of common sense or decency.

If you take a look at the engine you will notice that there is really no dark smoke.  This is due to the fact that it has been converted to burn used motor oil!  There was a water town that it pulled up to and topped off its water level too.

The engine  had a central drive shaft that powered the gear drives to all of the wheels.  Next is another image of it getting ready to leave the top of the mountain on the ride back down to the station.

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train getting ready to head down the mountain

There was another interesting covered bridge in Felton as well.  It was the tallest covered bridge that I have ever seen!   The town built a nice park around it.

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

 


 

Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera

Let’s take a bit of time to talk about the photography a bit…  On these two train trips, light was an issue as well as not being able to use a tripod.  As this was a week long trip and not photography based I chose the Fuji GA645zi medium format camera because of its light weight, 55mm to 90mm 4 position f/4.5 zoom lens, fast autofocus, accurate built in meter, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes, internal flash and lightweight as the only camera I would take and carry. It is also tough with a solid titanium body!  In other places around California I was able to use a small carbon fiber travel tripod from Really RIght Stuff and then shutter speed became a non issue.

As I said earlier, ALL shots in this post were done on Tmax 400 due to it being difficult using a tripod as well as lower light levels in the Redwoods.   Normally in a situation where I have enough light or am able to use a tripod I will always choose Ilford FP4+ 125 ISO  film for its amazing sharpness, small grain and great contrasts.  I also shot with an orange filter whenever I could but sometime even that had to come off in order to keep a decent shutter speed.   Processing was done in Kodak Xtol stock in my FIlmomat automated table top film processor.   Once dried I used a wet mount scan process.  I find the Tmax films very easy to use and they give consistent results are easy to load on the reels due to their thick film base.  I also brought along some Velvia 100 film and managed to shoot a few rolls of that at the covered bridges and ocean scenes.


Day 2

TIme for the Beach train ride!  This was a 3 hour trip from the mountains down to the boardwalk along the beach in Santa Cruz! Of course Jordan liked this trip also because the boardwalk held a huge amusement park!   We had an hour to play there once we arrived but he was having so much fun that we decided to wait 4 extra hours for the last train back to Felton.  The train this time was a diesel, Gene O”lague #2641 that took us and we actually rode on tracks thru Santa Cruz proper!  I was pretty interesting and sad at the same time due to the VAST numbers of homeless people who had setup permanent camps along the tracks in the low mountains outside of town.

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip

The train is shown here arriving to pick us up at the station.  It was huge and I managed to capture this one image of it arriving before a mob of people again ran out in front of me, oh well…  

The trip done out of the Redwoods was very interesting and we even went through a long tunnel as we came into Santa Cruz.  The tracks are actually down the center of the streets and was very slow do the traffic!  ALL of the people on the streets, in the cars and trucks waved continuously as we would pass.

After we arrived at the boardwalk the train powered down and sat there for an hour waiting for the first trip back to Felton.  This gave me ample time to do some detail shots of the train which I found very interesting.  This is my favorite of the roll!

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip stopped at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz

 

Of course we were now at the boardwalk amusement park.  We were there a few days earlier (the park) but could not spend much time there for Jordan.  So as I said earlier we decided to add 4 extra hours here for him to ride and play.  It was time well spent and he enjoyed the day.

Sky RIding on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz during the Beach train ride

Ellen & Jordan

All in all the train rides and park were a nice time on the trip for us all.  It was both fun and very tiring but I managed to capture 14 rolls of B&W 120 film and 4 of color slides.  I continue to evolve in my technique for travel photography with the inclusion of more capable travel medium format camera systems which makes me VERY happy.   I hope to travel much more with Ellen in the future and once in a while I will take my larger Mamiya 645AFDii camera and lenses there is good reason to stick to the lighter Fuji GA645zi system with its single zoom lens!

Things learned:

  • While a wider range of interchangeable lenses would be nice, the camera/lenses are just too heavy to travel with and carry…
  • I love rangefinders but an auto focus made my photography much more fun and faster with my family in tow…
  • Take more film…
  • Split the B&W film evenly between slow and fast.  Stick with Tmax 400 and Ilford TF4+ 125…
  • Take along a faster slide film…
  • Get a bigger dark bag to hold exposed film…
  • Did I say take more film?  Yep, but it is a biggie!

 

Thanks for bearing with me thru this ultra long post.  While it does come across as more of a family vacation (which it is) post it really does go into ways to make such a easier and funner experience!

 

As always, please let me know what you think of it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Little Time Off With The New Sony A7rii Camera System


A personal trip to the West Coast to chase Hummingbirds, Rough Shorelines, Fishing Boats, Light Houses & Elephant Seals!

Light at Santa Cruz at Sunrise. Sony A7rii

Light at Santa Cruz at Sunrise. Sony A7rii 15 second exposure

Yes, it has been a busy year with the start of our workshop schedule!  Add into that a knee operation, taxes and other such negative aspects to life we decided that it was time to take a break!   So, for 2 perfect weeks we ventured out to the San Fransisco area to explore the rough West Coast!

Looking North along Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

Looking North along Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

I know that it has been a long time since I did a post here but the workshop and teaching schedule has been brutal.  It seems as quick as one year ends that another begins and we are busy again!  The good news is that the photo schools are moving along and this years workshops are moving forward.  I have had NOT had any time to work in the darkroom this year yet but hope to fix that soon as well.    Plus the knee repair is finished and I am starting to feel a little better after that!

Sea Lion on a Float. Sony A7rii

Sea Lion on a Float in Monterey. Sony A7rii

So, we decided to take a break from it all and flee to the West Coast to get lost in the rough shore, wildlife and the continued search for old fishing boats!  It was a wonderful trip and I am sorry to say that it is all over and done with but with great photographic results!

Sea Lions at rest... Sony A7rii in Monterey

Sea Lions at rest… Sony A7rii in Monterey, 70-200mm G f/4

This trip was centered on the new Sony A7rii 42 mpex camera body.  As you know I am a dedicated mirrorless shooter and in my quest for the perfect camera I have settled on this system.  It has amazing functionality, SUPER wide dynamic range (14) and a review from DXO as the best and most advanced image sensor ever tested!  I also added the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4, the Sony 70-200 G f/4 and the Tamron 150-600 A lens with the Sony adapter which allows full lens control and auto focus.  I also have adapter for all of my Leica and Contax glass as well but for this trip it is the 3 lenses listed above!

 Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

Rt. 1. Sony A7rii, 87 sec exposure, 70-200mm G f/4

We based our home plate in San Jose and then traveled around for the 2 weeks.   Spend most of our time in Santa Cruz because the hummingbirds were there in vast numbers building nests and laying eggs, but more on that later.   We also went north to Point Reyes specifically to photograph the wrecked fishing boat Point Reyes.  But while there spent time with the lighthouse and Elephant Seals!

Lone Cyprus, 17 mile drive, Peeble Beach. Sony a7rii

Lone Cyprus, 17 mile drive, Peeble Beach. Sony a7rii, 70-200mm G f/4

We also went south to Monterey for whale watching and a trip along the 17 mile drive!  The image above is from the Lone Cyprus along the drive.  The drive costs $10 per car but is very much worth the cost.  It is full of wildlife such as birds, deer and seals.  The rugged coast has to be seen to be believed!

The Point Reyes, High and Dry. Sony A7rii system.

The Point Reyes, High and Dry. Sony A7rii system. 24-70 Sony/Zeiss f/4

So then this image I am sharing above is the Point Reyes, a boat washed ashore a while ago.  This boat was suggested to me by my friend Jennifer Hunter who lives in Santa Cruz and was one of my main location visit requirements.  This is in a National Sea Shore North of San Fransisco and was about a 3 hour drive from San Jose.   

The Wave.... Sony A7rii. This wave was over 80 feet high.

The Wave…. Sony A7rii. This wave was over 80 feet high.

The WEEK we arrived this boat was burned on its stern by a STUPIDLY UNCARING PHOTOGRAPHER who put his own agenda above the preservation of the scene.  He was doing spark photography with flaming steel wool and destroyed the back.   I hope that the Federal Government (National Park) throws the book at him for this.   I feel very lucky to have walked away with this wonderful shot of this local landmark…

Point Reyes Light. Sony A7rii

Point Reyes Light. Sony A7rii, 70-200 G f/4

Also visited was the Point Reyes Lighthouse!   What a wonderful subject and location.  It is high on a cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean.  It is full of color, depth and wonder!   

Elephant Seals, Sony A7rii with 150-600mm Tamron A mount.

Elephant Seals, Sony A7rii with 150-600mm Tamron A mount.

So as you can see, I have LOTS of time to relax and shoot with the new Sony system.  To say that it is an amazing system is an understatement of Biblical proportion! All of the lenses are flawless and gave great results!   

Bright Allen's Hummingbird

Bright Allen’s Hummingbird

But Wait!  I have not shared my several trips to the Arboretum at the University of Santa Cruz!  There were hundreds of Allen’s and Anna’s humming birds there deep into the fury of mating season!  They were amazing subjects and since I did NOT bring along my hummingbird flash setup I was forced to shoot the “bird on a stick” portraits.  Still, the results were stunning.  ALL of these shots were taken on the Tamron 150-600mm A mount lens with the Sony A to E adapter.  Yes, it did and would auto focus, but with the birds against the green vegetation it had a difficult time picking them out to focus on.  

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

So I shifted to manual focus (yes I said manual…) with white focus peaking.   To say that I was stunned at the ease of focusing with this at high speed still leaves me breathless with wonder!  

Super Bokeh: Allen's Hummingbird

Super Bokeh: Allen’s Hummingbird

The Sony manual focus with peaking is simply the BEST manual focus system that I have EVER used!  It was fast and DEAD ON…

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

I will let the results speak for them selves…

 

I hope that you enjoyed this update and info on the new Sony system.  Please let me know what you think!