Moab nature and adventure photographer Bret Edge provides an update on current photography conditions in Moab, Utah.Read More
Moab, Utah based professional nature and adventure photographer Bret Edge shares tips on choosing the right cameras and gear to get started on the right path in outdoor photography.Read More
Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are open during the federal government shutdown thanks to a generous donation from the Canyonlands Natural History Association. Moab landscape photographer Bret Edge offers a few tips to help you enjoy your winter visit.Read More
Old Man Winter strikes Moab again! Yesterday the weather forecast called for a 30% chance of snow which of course ended up being 3” of snow in town, likely more in the parks. Unfortunately, both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are closed to all vehicle traffic so bring warm clothing and a desire to posthole or snowshoe for several miles to access any of the winter wonderlands inside either park. No dout, you will be rewarded with solitude and so much beauty it almost hurts. Or maybe that’s your frozen fingers?
Dead Horse Point State Park should be open but call first to verify that the roads are plowed. Other areas in BLM control are open but again, the road maintenance workers have their hands full so it’s hard to say when the lesser traveled roads will be relatively safe to travel. Big thank you to all the men & women running plows today!
Forecast for the rest of the week is looking pretty darn spiffy. Mostly sunny or partly cloudy with high temperatures in the 30’s. This snow isn’t going anywhere for a few days and I suspect even next weekend will provide opportunities for winter photography.
Headed this way to take advantage of the snowy conditions? Be sure to check out The Photographers’s Guide to Winter in Moab on my blog. Totally free resource with lots of great information on how, when and where to shoot wintery scenes around Moab.
Learn Moab winter photography tips and a few fantastic locations to shoot snowy scenes from local professional photographer Bret Edge.Read More
Hello…is anyone still there? Anyone? Well, after a much needed break from photography, social media and blogging I’ve got an itch that needs to be scratched. Wait, that sounds bad. What I mean to say is that lately I’ve been kinda missing the whole writing thing and with 2019 right around the corner it seems like a good time to reinvigorate the MPW blog.
What can you expect? Truthfully, I don’t yet know. I’ve got a few ideas churning in my head, a few of which I’ll rattle off below, but I’m also very interested to hear what you, my readers, would like to see me write about. Got ideas? I know you do and I’d love to hear them! Send me an email or better yet, leave a comment on this post. Interested in writing a guest post? Get in touch; I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Here are a few of the things you can expect to see popping up here on the blog this year:
Landscape, nature and adventure photography tips, tricks and techniques. I’m working on an article now in which I will discuss the various types of light available to outdoor photographers and how to use each one effectively. Also look for wildflower and fall color photo tips.
A pretty comprehensive look at the various resources available to help photographers plan productive photography trips.
eFotoGuide is awesome, but there are so many stellar locations around Moab located outside the National Parks that I’ve decided to write a blog post or two to help photographers find some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path spots.
Behind the Image features, wherein I will post an image and write about the backstory of that image - how it came to be, anecdotes, etc. Less focus on the technical aspects and more focus on the emotional side.
Gear reviews because, well, I’m a gearhead and I think people enjoy them.
Current Moab photography conditions, especially frequent updates during wildflower and fall color seasons. I’ll also post when the snow flies or potholes are filled with rain after a sweet thunderstorm.
So, there you have it. I’m excited to be back and look forward to interacting with y’all again. Keep your eyes on this space because there’s lots of great stuff to come. Oh, and be sure to check out my all new photography website featuring several never before seen images. The site won’t officially launch until mid-January but you can grab a sneak peek right now at www.bretedge.com.
UPDATE 10:40 AM: The snow is still coming down and we have about 2” accumulation in town, likely a little more in Arches and Canyonlands. I have been told that the roads in both parks will not be plowed as a result of the shutdown, so travel at your own risk. There is some fog in the area that will make for interesting, moody images.
Looks like on the last day of 2018 the weather Gods have decided to gift photographers with a blanket of snow here in Canyon Country. The white stuff started falling around 6:00 AM and it is predicted to continue snowing through noon today. This typically results in outstanding winter photography for a day or two, petering off to good winter photography as the snow melts and is tracked over by humans and wildlife.
The big variable right now is the federal government shut down. I don’t know when the roads in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Will be plowed, if at all. This could make for very difficult or even dangerous access at the parks. I will update this post if I learn more. However, Dead Horse Point State Park and all of the surrounding 2,000,000 acres of BLM land are still open. The same considerations should be given to travel in these areas.
Not sure where to photograph in Arches? Pick up a copy of eFotoGuide: The Ultimate Guide to Photographing Arches NP for only $15 and you’ll discover all the details on where, when and how to photograph over 20 stunning locations in the park. Your purchase helps me to maintain this website and continue to provide real-time photo conditions.
Now get out there and create some beautiful winter photos in the Moab desert!
I'm pissed. Over the past couple of years, I've read news story after news story about dumbasses doing stupid shit in our national parks and other wilderness areas, and I've just sort of stewed over it. There was the Boy Scout leader who knocked over a hoodoo in Goblin Valley State Park, a drone pilot who flew his quadcopter into Grand Prismatic Spring, the "artist" who left her "art" painted all over rocks in national parks throughout the West, souvenir hunters stealing the mysterious moving rocks at the Racetrack in Death Valley, the total dope who got out of his car to harass a bison in Yellowstone (and somehow escaped being gored) and a real genius who thought it would be cute to wade into Brooks Falls for a selfie with feeding grizzly bears. On a recent trip to Glacier NP we witnessed a small group of foreigners attempting to feed rocks to mountain goats. Then, today, I hear that the National Park Service has issued a closure at False Kiva in Canyonlands because some jackass felt the need to light a fire in the middle of this ancient structure, and then use the ashes to leave handprints all over the cave walls.
Maybe it's because Moab is my home and Canyonlands is my backyard, or maybe I've just reached my limit of jackassery, but I can no longer remain silent. I fully realize that venting here on my blog will have precisely zero impact on the reduction of this ridiculousness, but perhaps sharing my thoughts will provide me with some sense of relief. You know, like a blowoff valve. So, here goes.
When we moved to Moab in 2006, Arches National Park averaged about 600,000 visitors each year. This year, the park is on track to see 1.8 million visitors. Park administrators are struggling with how to manage the massive influx of people. Various ideas have been discussed, including a shuttle system and mandatory reservations during peak season. That's right. Reservations. Not that the shuttle would work any better, as we discovered on our recent trip to Glacier, where we spent a total of six hours either waiting for or riding shuttles to do a 4 hour hike with hundreds of other sheep, er...visitors. But, I digress. The reservation system is not a popular idea and has received significant pushback but all indications are that it will proceed in 2019. Fine, maybe with fewer people in the park it'll restore a tiny little bit of the peace that was once so common amongst the majestic towers and arches, and maybe it'll keep KW from proclaiming his undying love for JA with a carved inscription in the soft red sandstone, but probably not.
Where did we go wrong? When did people suddenly become so disrespectful toward Mother Nature and one another that "take only photographs, leave only footprints" is nothing more than meaningless words on a trailhead sign? Why are so damn many people doing so many straight up moronic, selfish, thoughtless, stupid things in the wilderness? I don't have the answer. I don't know that anyone does. Could it be that answering this question may help to guide us toward some sort of resolution, or are we past the point of no return? Will there always be tourons (tourist-morons) who try to ride bison in Yellowstone and carve their stupid initials into aspen trees?
Two decades ago, I was living in Phoenix and spent countless weekends hiking and backpacking throughout the Grand Canyon. It was common to find tourists wearing slacks and penny loafers, or skirts and platform shoes, at Indian Gardens, 4 1/2 miles below the South Rim, in temperatures approaching or over 100 degrees and carrying only a small bottle of water. I always carried extra water and food and frequently handed it out to these ill-prepared folks. I also always carried a garbage bag that I filled with trash I found along the trail as I hiked out of the canyon. I'd see people feeding potato chips to the squirrels, or sometimes deer, and I'd shrug it off. Occasionally, I'd interject and remind them that the animals are wild and shouldn't be fed human food. But it didn't animate me like the antics we're seeing today. I almost wish we could go back to those times, when a tourist being bitten by a rabid squirrel was kind of the big news when it came to national park tomfoolery.
Coming back to False Kiva, my wife and I were planning to visit it this fall with our son. We've been a few times but this would have been his first. If nothing else, maybe this should serve as a reminder that one should never put off visiting a specific location, because it's entirely possible that if you wait too long, you might not get the chance.
I don't really know where I'm going with this or why. I guess I truly am just venting, which isn't going to re-open False Kiva or solve any of the other myriad issues I've mentioned, but I think I do feel a little bit better, so I've got that going for me...which is nice. Perhaps if you've made it this far, you too are feeling some small sense of relief, or maybe you're more pissed off now than you were when you started reading this post. Who knows, but if you've got any thoughts to share, I'd love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment. Who knows, maybe we, as individuals, can do something to turn this train around, and it could start with one simple idea.
I've spent the last eight years building a viable nature photography business. And now I'm walking away from it.
Why? It's rather simple, really. My family is more important than owning a gallery, producing calendars, seeing my photos in magazines and hawking fine art prints. My son, Jackson, is almost seven. He still thinks Mom and Dad are cool and he wants to hang out with us. He wants to wrestle with me, color with me and go mountain biking with me. He wants to read to me and have me help him with his math homework. He wants me to cheer him on at soccer and football games. He wants to play at the park and then eat oversized cups of frozen yogurt together. I want to do all those things with him, and more. But all too often, I can't. There's always an inbox full of emails awaiting a response, prints to make for eager clients, accounting and marketing and photo processing to do, blog posts and articles to write...the to-do list never ends.
A few months ago Jackson asked me to wrestle with him. "Sorry buddy, Daddy's got too much work to do." He hung his head and said, "It's okay, Dad. I just hope I don't have to work as much as you do when I grow up." That was a hard punch to the gut. That night, after he fell asleep, I sat in my office and cried. I completely lost it. How much time had I already lost with him because I was too goddamn busy building a business? Too much, and it hasn't been worth it. I can't get back the time lost but I most certainly can make changes that will allow me to spend more time with him going forward.
If I only had the photography business to run I'd have more time to spend with my family but the truth is, I've got a full-time (and then some) job. I'm a cop, a patrol sergeant. I work rotating shifts, go to court and training on my days off and pick up overtime shifts when someone on my crew calls in sick or is injured. And when I wasn't pulling a shift or in training or court, I was swamped with all it takes to keep a business afloat. It was just too much. My days off were consumed with it when they should have been spent making memories with my family.
There are other, tertiary reasons for shuttering the photography business. I've packed on 35 pounds since we opened the gallery. With the exception of the last couple of months, I can't tell you when I last made the time to take care of myself. As a cop and business owner in a small town, it wears on you when people threaten to blow up your business and/or kill or kidnap your family, which are threats I've received more times than I can count. Whatever creative drive I once had is gone. My new Sony A7RII has been sitting on the office shelf for several months. I forced myself to use it once, just to see if the damn thing actually worked. Spectacular sunsets have come and gone, and I haven't given two shits that I wasn't somewhere to photograph them. Hell, for the first time in nine years I didn't even make an effort to drive thirty minutes into the La Sal Mountains to see the autumn aspens.
So, what happens now? The Edge Gallery is closed. We sold off almost all of our inventory in the last couple of months we were open and just handed over the keys to the landlord at the end of January. (I do still have a handful of canvas prints in various sizes I'm looking to offload at 60% off retail. Contact me if interested.) I'll post images from time to time on my Facebook and Instagram pages and I'll continue to interact with all of the fantastic people I've met on Twitter. I took the winter off from leading workshops but this spring, I'll be back at it. The one aspect of the business I still thoroughly enjoy is working with other photographers but if it ever starts to feel like work I'll abandon it, too. Though I'm not interested in nature photography at the moment I'm thrilled to start shooting more mountain biking. I'll continue to work on eFotoGuide, a series of ebooks I'm co-developing with Aaron Bates.
Most of all, I look forward to spending real quality time with my family. In December we finally took a trip to Durango to ride the Polar Express. We started eating homemade dinners together again. We've gone for bike rides, had epic snowball fights, played countless board games, built and re-built Lego sets, snuggled on the couch while watching movies and wrestled until we're out of breath. I've lost 15 pounds already and have more energy and enthusiasm than I've had in years.
To those who have supported us over the years, we extend a heartfelt "thank you!" You have no idea how much we appreciate it. Melissa, Jackson and I are thankful for the friends we've made along the way and we look forward to staying in touch with you all.
I've got some photography gear to clear out of the closet as it's no longer in use. Quoted prices do not include shipping unless otherwise specified. See below for details:
Studio Lights & Equipment
$700.00 (sold as package only)
(2) (2) Paul C. Buff White Lightning X800 Studio Lights
(2) Paul C. Buff White Lightning X1600 Studio Lights
All four units are in perfect working condition and include all standard accessories including reflector, protective shipping cover, carrying bag, sync and power cords, etc.
Buyer will also receive light stands for three lights, fabric background with stand, miscellaneous reflectors/umbrellas and a few small accessories if picked up in Moab.
Not willing to sell individually and would prefer pick up in Moab but will consider shipping if buyer pays shipping expenses.
Acratech GP Ballhead w/ Lever Clamp & Level
This is a new-in-box, never used Acratech GP Ballhead w/ lever clamp & level. It's the same model I've been using for years and can be used as a leveling head for panoramas or as a standard ballhead.
Acratech Ultimate Ballhead w/ Knob Clamp, Detent Pin & Level
$200.00 (Retails for $320)
This is a new-in-box, never used Acratech Ultimate Ballhead with a left side main control knob.
Black Rapid RS-Sport Sling Camera Strap
This is a new-in-box, never used Black Rapid RS-Sport Sling Camera Strap.
Black Rapid RS DR-1 Sling Camera Strap
$50.00 (Retails for $135.00)
This is a new-in-box, never used Black Rapid DR-1 Sling Camera Strap designed to allow the user to comfortably carry two cameras, one on each side of the body. The model name is now "Double" but it is the same product.
Fotopro M-5 Mini Tripod
$50.00 (Retails for $115.00)
This is a new-in-box, never used Fotopro M-5 Mini Tripod. I won it in a contest but don't have any use for it. It's a very compact but sturdy tripod ideal for travelers who don't have much room in luggage.
Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Case
This is a used but in great condition Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Case. Fits many small, mirrorless cameras and point and shoots. Includes shoulder strap with quick release buckles.
Clik Elite ProBody SLR Chest Pack
$40.00 (Retails for $90, if you can find it)
This is a used but in great condition Clik Elite ProBody SLR Chest Pack with harness. I carried a Canon 5D MKIII w/ battery grip and an attached 24-105mm lens with this pack and it fit perfectly. It was also quite comfortable. I've switched to a smaller chest pack since my new Sony gear is considerably more compact. It looks like Clik Elite has discontinued this product so it will be difficult to find.
Please contact me via email if you're interested in any of these items. My email is bret (at) bretedge (dot) com.
Last year I ran my first official Undiscovered Moab Photo Tour and it was a huge success. So, this year I decided to offer it again. Join me in Moab May 13-15, 2016 for two solid days of adventure and photography as we explore some of the most spectacular off-the-beaten path locations in Canyon Country.
During our time together we'll photograph varied scenery that may include arches framing snowcapped mountains, jaw-dropping canyon views, a wilderness of sandstone fins, colorful wildflowers in a sand dune below an imposing tower and a waterfall in a remote desert slot canyon. The exact itinerary will be determined by the weather and conditions at the time of the tour but rest assured, your camera will get a workout and your memory cards will be full.
The Undiscovered Moab Photo Tour is only open to three physically fit photographers. We'll access each location via rough four wheel drive roads and/or strenuous hikes. Participants must be able to carry all their equipment in a backpack over difficult terrain and should have some experience in the backcountry. Most meals will be consumed in the field and are not provided. Self-sufficiency is a requirement for participation in this photography tour.
"Toured the backcountry of Moab with Bret and two other photographers this past weekend. As promised we hiked through desert creeks to slot canyon waterfalls, traversed gnarly four-wheel drive roads to dramatic canyon views and discovered hidden arches while scrambling over sandstone boulders. Bret was great about helping us set up our shots and give us his professional advise to get the best shot. The weather was a challenge on Saturday, but Bret always had backup plans so we were never without options should Plan A not be viable. This was a great trip and I highly recommend a tour with Bret. He's easy going and genuinely interested in helping you improve your photography."
To learn more about or register for the Undiscovered Moab Photo Tour please click here. You'll also find a slideshow of gorgeous images from some of the locations we may visit.
UPDATE February 2: Arches and Canyonlands NP are open. The roads are snowpacked and icy, and the NPS recommends extreme caution. Dead Horse Point State Park is also open with similar conditions. All backcountry roads are closed. Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point received over 6" of snow. Today there are patches of fog but mostly blue sky with a few light clouds. Perfect conditions for photography!
It's dumping, folks. The snow is flying and according to the weather forecast it isn't stopping until tomorrow. The La Sal Mountains are predicted to receive several feet of snow out of this storm. Down here in town we've already received five inches of snow, which means higher elevations like Arches National Park (around 5,000'), Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park - Island in the Sky (both around 6,000') already have even more on the ground.
As of right now the roads in Arches and Canyonlands are closed. I haven't received any information from Dead Horse Point but I suspect their roads are also closed. National Park Service crews usually clear Arches first, then Canyonlands. Dead Horse Point is usually plowed by state crews before Canyonlands, but that can vary. There is no official estimate of when the parks will open but I suspect it will be later today, or possibly tomorrow, depending on when it stops snowing.
The La Sal Mountains have been getting hammered since yesterday afternoon. Roads into the mountains are not plowed and likely won't be for a few days. However, snowshoes or skis are a viable transportation option if you don't mind putting in a few miles. Avalanche conditions exist and are a very real threat. Travel safe.
One thing is certain: you want to be in the parks as soon as the gates open. All this fresh, untracked snow will make for some absolutely incredible photography conditions. Grand landscapes will be an easy target but don't forget to look for intimate scenes such as juniper trees wearing a robe of snow. Call in sick to work, throw your photography gear in your truck and make tracks to Moab!
Need some help deciding when, where and what to photograph in Arches NP? Pick up a copy of my ebook - eFotoGuide: The Ultimate Guide to Photographing Arches National Park - and you'll hit the ground running with all of the most important information you'll need to make stunning images in this snowy Red Rock wonderland.
Click here to purchase eFotoGuide: The Ultimate Guide to Photographing Arches National Park. Your purchases help me keep this site updated with current photography conditions, and we donate a portion of the proceeds to several organizations who support land conservation and the national parks.
Winter has finally arrived in Moab! Three to four inches of snow fell overnight in town and reports from Dead Horse Point State Park as well as Canyonlands - Island in the Sky District indicate over 7" on the ground...and it's still snowing lightly at 0900.
The Island in the Sky Scenic Drive is currently closed due to the snow so if you're interested in visiting the park you'll have to hike/snowshoe until the road has been cleared.
I don't have any reports from Arches National Park or Dead Horse Point with regard to the road conditions. In my experience, the snow is cleared from the roads in Arches first and I-Sky second. Dead Horse Point SP is usually on-point when it comes to clearing their roads and I would expect them to be open very soon, if they aren't already.
With high temperatures over the next couple days hovering at around 30 degrees it's likely this snow will be in good condition for photography through at least Thursday. Once it starts to melt off and become patchy it isn't as attractive in photographs. However, the melting snow can create interesting opportunities for waterfalls where there usually are none.
Camera batteries don't last long in the cold so be sure to keep a couple extras in a jacket pocket where your body heat will keep them warm and ready for use. Know that moving in and out of your vehicle with your gear will result in lenses fogging over and in the winter it takes quite a while for them to de-fog. Remember that the light meter in your camera will underexpose because of all the white snow so be sure to dial in a little exposure compensation. I usually start at around +1 stop and make adjustments as needed.
Now, throw on a down coat, some warm gloves and boots and hit the high desert for some exceptional landscape photography!
It's that time of year again - my 2016 Utah Scenic Wall Calendar just arrived and is now available for sale. This large format, 11" x 14" calendar features thirteen of my favorite images from throughout the great state of Utah. From now until the end of July we're offering free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. Put one up at the office and each month you'll be able to drift off into a daydream about a different Utah location when you should be slaving away. Buy one for you boss and he or she can do the same!
Click here to order your 2016 Utah Scenic Wall Calendar.
Last month I co-led a photography workshop in the Tetons with my friend, Jason Hatfield. We were lucky to have nine incredible people with diverse backgrounds, all of whom came together right away to create a really fun and supportive group. I had many interesting conversations with our participants, but one in particular remains in my thoughts.
A talented photographer from Texas rode with me to a sunset shoot one day. En route we had a lengthy discussion about the challenges involved with photographing landscapes that are vastly different from those of our home turf. For example, I live in Moab, the land of red rock, canyons and arches. I'm comfortable in the desert. I've learned how to read the weather, find interesting compositions, work the seasons and otherwise be productive in a desert environment. But as much as I love this arid land, I need an occasional escape. Maybe I'll run to the mountains, or to the coast, but wherever I end up, it's almost always a vastly different landscape from my beloved desert. Each time, there's a bit of re-calibration that takes place before I'm able to start seeing and creating images.
There are myriad ways to view this challenge. I like to think of it as an exercise in creativity. Photographing in an unfamiliar landscape pushes me to explore an area more thoroughly, which helps me to develop an intimate understanding of the local environment. I find that the images I make on the first few days at a new location are rarely my best. As I spend time familiarizing myself with an area, I discover little nuances that lead to opportunities for more dynamic imagery. And when I return home, I'm rejuvenated. My creative juices are flowing and I'm looking at the familiar desert landscape with fresh eyes.
It's good to get out of our comfort zones. It's good to push ourselves, to constantly learn new things and feel free to experiment. When we do, we grow, and growth always leads to good things.
Bloomin' Wildflowers and Reflective Potholes
The last time I wrote an update I warned you all about the quickly melting snowcap on the La Sal Mountains. Luckily, we've had a couple great storms come through the area and they left behind a healthy dose of snow on the peaks so they're actually looking better now than they were a month ago. That said, I seriously doubt that snow is going to last more than two to three weeks.
Those storms also dumped quite a bit of rain in the desert, filling area potholes to near maximum capacity. Larger potholes will hold water for several weeks but the smaller, more common ones will be empty within a few days. Get here while the gettin's good as it's always fun to photograph reflections of arches and towers in these ephemeral little pools.
Lastly, the wildflowers are coming along nicely. This is not going to be a banner year for them but there are enough blooms around that finding a floral foreground won't require too much work. Prince's plume is looking very healthy, as are the claret cup cactus blooms. Mules ear is just starting to bloom and will likely peak in most areas some time in the next 7 to 10 days. I've seen a few Whipple's fish hook cactus starting to flower, some nice clumps of lupine and, surprisingly, there are even a few bright red Indian paintbrush flowers clinging to life at the edges of slickrock and sand dunes.
That's all for now. Oh, one last thing: I've still got one spot available for my Undiscovered Moab Photo Tour next month, May 15-17. Click here to learn more about and/or register for this opportunity to explore and photograph some remote and stunning landscapes around Moab!
Sixteen years is a long time to spend together. I was always faithful, never so much as batting an eye at another camera brand, except that one summer when the Nikon D800 came out. Ooh la la! We ran away for two weeks on a whirlwind vacation through Wyoming's breathtaking mountain scenery. We had fun but in the end it was nothing more than teenage lust. The shine quickly wore off and I crawled back to my Canon with a bouquet of memory cards and a promise that I'd never again stray. A couple years later the Sony a7R came along and was all like, "Hey, how you doin'?" I swooned. Then I caved. The promise of incredible image quality in a smaller, lighter package was just too much to resist. I told my Canon 5DIII that the Sony and I were just friends, nothing serious. But then we spent a month together, traveling through Arizona, California and Nevada. I knew at the end of those magical twenty eight days that it was over. There was no going back.
"It's not me, it's you." Piece by piece I sold off all the Canon gear I'd acquired over the years. Soon, the only thing I had left was an sad little extension tube. Truth be told, it was a difficult decision. I'd grown comfortable with the Canon system. I knew what to expect of it. Using my Canon camera and lenses became so intuitive that there literally was no thought behind it. The notion of giving up what I knew for something I didn't was a little bit scary and a whole lot intimidating. But, the time had come for me to move on. I gathered my composure and went all-in on a shiny new Sony system.
Why did I do it? The answers are many; better image quality, more dynamic range, smaller, lighter and less expensive cameras and lenses, as well as a commitment to continuous innovation. In my view, Canon is a reactive company. Sony and Nikon are proactive. They push the limits and are on the leading edge of imaging technology. Canon waits and then plays catch up. The new Canon 5Ds is a perfect example. How long did photographers have to wait for Canon to release a high-resolution camera? How many photographers jumped ship because of Canon's complacency? I've no doubt that it is a remarkable camera but at almost $4,000, it's nearly twice the price of the a7R. It also weighs twice as much and is significantly larger. It goes without saying that camera choice is a personal decision. What's right for me may not be right for you.
I'm not bashing Canon/Nikon/Pentax/etc. Any camera is capable of producing incredible imagery in the right hands. No camera system is perfect. Canon, Nikon, Sony - they've all got flaws. That will always be true. The key is to find a system that works for you, one whose flaws are generously outweighed by the good, and for me that is the Sony system. Here's why I switched, what my new Sony kit looks like and why I chose each piece:
Why I Switched from Canon to Sony
I truly believe that Sony is leading the pack in imaging technology and innovation. Sony sensors are used in some of Nikon's most popular cameras as well as a few medium format digital cameras that cost more than my truck. There's a reason for that - they're incredible.
Dynamic Range - The a7R records over 14 stops of dynamic range. 14 stops! I photographed high contrast scenes with a single exposure using the a7R that would have required an exposure blend if photographed with my Canon system. Fewer exposure blends = less time staring at a computer screen and more time making images in the great outdoors. Win!
Image Detail - Sony a7R image files surprised me with the amount of fine detail they contained. Edges were sharper and small details like thorns on a cactus, palm fronds and pebbles by a creek were all better resolved than I'd ever seen in Canon image files. I'm sure some of this is attributable to the absence of a low-pass filter but I also noticed that the Sony files held up better when enlarged. That last point is unimportant if you don't make large prints but I often do so naturally, I got all tingly inside when I made this discovery.
Image Detail, Part Two - A sensor capable of recording incredible image detail is useless without lenses than can resolve those details. The Sony lenses I tried out and am adding to my kit were as good as, and in some ways better than, their Canon counterparts. My Canon 16-35mm lens suffered from very soft edges and corners, a known issue with this lens. At $1,700, there is no excuse for such lackluster performance. The Sony 16-35mm lens showed significantly sharper edges and corners as well as reduced flare when shooting into the sun for $400 less than the Canon lens. Sony's 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses were on par with Canon's offerings, which is to say that they're very, very good. But smaller. And less expensive. So, you know, they've got that going for them.
Size and Weight - Sony's mirrorless cameras and lenses are significantly smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. I'm not getting any younger and the prospect of losing a few pounds without giving up carrot cake and a daily breakfast burrito was too tempting to pass up.
But Wait, There's More
User Interface - I can't say that the Sony user interface is better than Canon's but I found it to be very intuitive. One press of the "function" button gives immediate access to nearly every commonly used setting or function. The A7R and a6000 also have three custom function buttons and the A7II has four, just in case you don't find what you need with the "function" button.
Electronic Viewfinder - As a landscape and adventure photographer the vast majority of my work is done outside, in bright light that makes it difficult to see an image on the rear LCD. I do use a HoodLoupe, which is hugely helpful, but the Sony EVF supports image review in the viewfinder and I've got to admit...I love this feature. I found that I used it all the time to check for critical sharpness and overall composition. That said, the EVF has some shortcomings that I'll detail below.
And Now, The Downside
As much as I'd love to tell you all that the Sony system has no flaws I just can't do that. It's damn good, but it isn't perfect. Then again, nothing's perfect so this shouldn't be a shocking revelation.
Limited Lens Selection - I need pro quality lenses as my photos are frequently printed at 32" x 48" or even larger, and any lens imperfections that are virtually unnoticeable in a small jpeg can become glaring in a large print. Sony's current catalog of full-frame E-Mount lenses consists of only eight models. I've no doubt that Sony will continue to design and develop new lenses for the system but until they do, photographers are left with a limited selection of lenses. It is true that you can use Sony's A-Mount lenses on A7 cameras with an adapter but that defeats the purpose of a smaller, lighter camera system.
About That EVF - Truly, the Sony EVF is very good but it isn't an optical viewfinder. It's grainy in low light and there is some lag when working with moving subjects. This isn't a problem exclusive to Sony. Rather, it's just an issue with EVF's in general. I found myself using the LCD screen in live view more often that I ever did with my Canon system, which in turn exhausted the small battery even faster.
The Batteries - Battery life is not at all what I became accustomed to with my Canon system. With a battery grip on my 5D Mark III I could usually make it through four days of heavy use before the batteries needed to be charged. I'm doing good to get one full day with the Sony batteries. And for some reason, those small batteries take a long, long time to charge. Extra batteries and a dual battery charger are a must. Speaking of charging, the Sony cameras don't come with a separate wall charger. You have to put the battery in the camera and plug the whole camera into the wall, which is just cumbersome. Of course, you can buy a wall charger but it's an extra expense.
Delayed Start Up - Don't expect to flip the power switch and be ready to go. There is a lag and in some cases (as in the a6000), it may even be a few seconds. If you're a landscape photographer this probably won't be an issue. Wildlife or street photographers may find it to be a nuisance.
Miscellaneous Gripes - On the A7R the shutter button is in a bit of a strange position that forces you to move your shutter finger farther back than on most DSLR's. The A7II was redesigned and the shutter button was moved forward. I'm hopeful that Sony will do the same with the A7R's replacement. Auto Exposure Bracketing is limited to 3 exposures. For extremely high contrast scenes I often use five exposures that I blend together in Photoshop to record the full dynamic range. Initially I thought this would be a bigger problem but thanks to the incredible dynamic range that the Sony sensors capture it turned out to be a non-issue. However, photographers who shoot a lot of HDR may find this to be an issue. I'm not sure if the lack of a mirror is to blame or if it's something else but the Sony seemed to collect more dust on the sensor than my DSLR's ever did, causing a few curse words to escape my lips while processing my images.
And Now, An Introduction to My New Sony System
I started flirting with Sony last year when I purchased an a6000 and 16-70mm lens, which is equivalent to a 24-105mm lens in the full-frame world. This little camera is without a doubt the best bang for the buck in the market right now. It won't be my primary camera but as a back-up to the back-up, or for adventures that require me to travel ultra-light, it'll be an amazing piece of kit.
As much as I loved the A7R, I decided not to buy one right away. Why? It's a couple years old and a replacement is likely near on the horizon. I'd rather wait for the newer camera that will most likely address at least some of my gripes. Instead, I decided to pick up the A7II that was just released four months ago. When the A7R Mark II (or whatever it will be called) is released I'll add it to my kit and it will become my primary camera. The A7II will then be relegated to back-up duties.
The three lenses I tested with the A7R were Sony's 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm FE lenses. I loved all of them. This collection of lenses gives me a range of focal lengths from 16mm all the way out to 200mm, which is almost all I ever need. Yeah, it'd be nice to have a little bit more reach but if I really need it I'll throw the 70-200mm lens on my a6000 for an equivalent focal length of about 350mm. Sony's A-Mount 70-400mm lens receives great reviews and could be used on the A7 line with an adapter if more reach was absolutely necessary. I won't be surprised if at some point Sony develops an FE lens in the same or similar focal length range and if/when they do, I'll pick it up. I'd also like to see a 15mm or wider fisheye lens added to the line-up as I enjoy using these lenses for adventure photography.
In addition to the aforementioned bits there are several extra batteries, a remote shutter release and a couple wall chargers. I haven't bought one yet but I'll likely add a Sony flash to my kit. I don't use flash often but there are times when having it allows me to make an image that would otherwise be impossible.
So, there you have it. I've spilled my guts. But maybe I left something out or you've just got specific questions that I didn't address. If so, feel free to post them in the comments section and I'll respond as soon as possible.
***NOTE: I'M ON THE ROAD AND I DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO MY IMAGE CATALOG. I'LL ADD PHOTOS TO THIS POST AS SOON AS I'M HOME****
Wildflowers, Waterfalls and National Park Status Updates
UPDATE: March 30, 2015 - Yesterday on a mountain bike ride I saw quite a few wildflowers popping up in the desert north of Moab, even a handful of desert primrose that were looking very healthy. None of the more showy wildflowers are blooming yet, i.e. mules ears. We haven't had any rain or snow (in the La Sals) for well over a week. The snowcap on the La Sals is melting off fast.
Wildflowers and warm weather are here! Okay, so the wildflowers are nowhere near peak but they are starting to pop up here and there. I've seen some really nice bouquets of indian paintbrush at lower elevations as well as a few small white, yellow and purple flowers (sorry, I'm not much of a wildflower recognition expert). Cottonwood trees are just beginning to leaf out and their vibrant green leaves are always a lovely contrast to the rich red sandstone.
Area waterfalls are flowing nicely as the warmer weather melts snow in the La Sal Mountains. Speaking of the La Sals, they still have a snowcap but if they aren't visited by any more winter storms this spring the snow will disappear quickly. Compositions that include the La Sals always look better when they mountains are coated in snow.
Most of the 4x4 roads are open and in good condition, or as good as can be expected of a 4x4 road. As an aside, the National Park Service is considering the implementation of a permit system for day use of Elephant Hill and the White Rim in Canyonlands. For better or worse, you would be wise to keep an eye on the progress of this initiative. Construction on the new, larger parking lot at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is now underway. Visitors will be impacted. For more information please visit the Arches NP website.
That's all for now. As the wildflower season progresses I'll post frequent updates, hopefully with a few photos, to give you all a better idea of what's happening around Moab in real-time.
Planning a photo trip to Moab? I offer private photography workshops that are designed to get you to the best spots at the best times for incredible photo opportunities. Click here to learn more about a private photography workshop with me.
I honestly never thought this day would come but alas, it has, and I am selling ALL of my Canon camera equipment and a few other miscellaneous items related to outdoor photography. Why would I do such a thing? Simply put, I tried the Sony Kool-Aid and I liked it. A lot. So I'm switching. I need to sell my Canon gear to fund the crazy shopping spree on which I will soon embark. Additionally, we just bought a new house and I'm literally cleaning out my closets. I will probably add more to this list as I dig deeper into storage so if you don't see something you want, check back periodically.
Below you will find a list of the equipment I am selling. None of the prices indicated include shipping or insurance. I am happy to provide a shipping quote if you are interested in purchasing something. Just email me with you shipping address and the item(s) in which you are interested and I will get back to you within a day or so with a shipping estimate.
Without further ado...
The following items are offered as a package only. I will not consider parting this out so please don't ask.
(1) Canon 5D Mark III camera body. Excellent condition and just under one year old. Works perfectly. No scratches, dents or dings. Top and rear LCD screen have been under the care of an Invisible Shield screen protector from day one so they are in perfect condition with no scrapes or scratches.
(1) Canon BG-E11 battery grip. Excellent condition and just under one year old. Same description as 5D Mark III.
(2) Canon LP-E6 batteries. Real Canon batteries, not cheap knock-offs that will explode in your hand.
(2) Canon LP-E6 battery chargers. Also real Canon products. One came with the 5DIII and the other is left over from my dearly departed 5DII.
(1) Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3. Well used but in good condition and perfectly functional.
(1) Vello Shutterboss Intervalometer, Version 1. Bought it, used it once or twice and realized I'm not really a time-lapse kind of guy.
(1) Acratech Arca-Swiss style QR plate mounted on battery grip.
Miscellaneous CF cards, incl. (2) Lexar Professional 8GB, (4) Sandisk Extreme III 4GB, (1) Sandisk Extreme 16GB, (3) Sandisk Ultra II 1GB. Yeah, you'll get real, honest to goodness vintage 1GB CF card. Don't hold the shutter button down too long or you'll fill it up in a few seconds.
And, the rest of the riff raff. Note: These prices do not include shipping or insurance. Please email me with your interest in a specific item and I will provide a quote for the shipping and insurance based upon your shipping address.
(1) Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens w/ Lowepro padded lens case. The lens functions flawlessly but the front lens element has a small scratch that I've never found to affect the image quality. I've used this lens primarily for adventure photography but there have been a few scenes that called for it. Includes box, instructions and warranty card. The lens cap is in a pothole in Capitol Reef National Park filled with dark, stanky water. I'll tell you which one if you really want to dive for it.
(1) Canon 16-35mm f/2.8II USM lens including lens hood. This lens is in excellent condition. The zoom and focus rings rotate smoothly, the front and rear lens elements are clean with no scratches or other defects. There are a couple very minor paint scratches on the front of the barrel but no dents, dings, dimples, divots, defects or other "D" words. Includes box, instructions and warranty card.
(1) Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens including lens hood. This has been my workhorse lens and is the one most commonly found attached to my camera at any given time. As such, it looks the part. I like to think of it as authentic. There are minor scratches on the front lens element that do not affect image quality. The barrel exhibits signs of use (but not abuse) such as minor scratches and zoom/focus rings that rotate freely but sound like they had a rough night at the bar. Image stabilization works perfectly and image quality is outstanding. Of everything I'm selling, I am most attached to this lens and I will probably get misty when I ship it off to you. Includes box, but not instructions or warranty card.
(1) Tokina AT-X Pro 20-35mm f/2.8 lens. I've had this lens for 15 years, though I stopped using it around 8 years ago when I bought a Canon wide angle lens. It's burly as hell, heavy and in good condition with no defects or scratches on the glass. You won't want to use it in church because the focus mechanism is LOUD. And not fast. But, it does auto-focus just fine. Comes with a padded Tokina lens case, the original lens hood and nothing else.
(1) Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 & Flex TT5 set. Not much to say here. If you have to ask what they are, you don't need them. They're in very good condition, they work perfectly and both come with their original boxes complete with manuals and the cables that shipped with them.
($250.00 for the pair)
(1) Canon Extension Tube EF25 II w/ storage bag. Just what it says. Nothing more, nothing less. Very good condition and works perfectly. No box.
(1) Singh-Ray 77mm Thin Mount LB Warming Polarizer. You won't find a better filter manufacturer than Singh-Ray. This one is in very good condition with no defects or scratches to the glass. Includes the coveted Singh-Ray storage pouch although the little strap that holds the flap down is starting to unravel.
(1) Singh-Ray 77mm Thin Mount Vari-ND Filter. This filter allows you to dial in between 2 to 8 stops of neutral density, thus allowing for longer shutter speeds, even in bright daylight. This one is in very good condition with no defects or scratches to the glass. Includes the coveted Singh-Ray storage pouch.
(1) Black Rapid Curve RS-7 Camera Sling. Brand new, still in box, never been fondled.
(1) Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Bag. I used this bag to carry a Canon EOS M, which it fit perfectly. I no longer own the camera so I've got no need for the bag. It held the camera & attached lens, charger, USB cord and a wireless remote. I don't have the little slider thing (I think BR refers to it as a wrist strap). It's a great bag for smaller cameras.
(1) Clik Elite Pro Body SLR Chest Pack w/ Harness. The Canon 5D Mark III with attached battery grip and 16-35mm or 24-105mm lens fits perfectly inside the pack. You can also fit 4 extra CF cards, a remote shutter release, an allen wrench, a few business cards, a microfiber cloth and a hotel room shower cap. Figure that last one out on your own. It carries comfortably on your chest using the included harness, allowing instant access to your camera. This one is black.
(1) Gitzo G1227 carbon fiber tripod. No head (see below). This tripod is a grizzled veteran. It's supported my cameras from coast to coast, in the mountains, in the deserts, in oceans, creeks, rivers and everything in between. Maybe you're a new landscape photographer and you don't want to give off that "Hey, I'm new here!" vibe on your next visit to [insert iconic National Park location here]. Buy this tripod and no one will mistake you for a noob. Seriously though, it works just fine - it's just ugly. All the legs extend fully, the little hook thingy on the bottom of the center column extends and retracts like it should and the legs lock securely in place. Take it apart and clean it and it'll be your BFF.
(1) Acratech GP ballhead. Whaaaat? An Acratech GP ballhead for only $75.00 instead of the usual $400? Yeah, well, this one doesn't come with a QR clamp and though it's still functional, you're gonna wanna get it fixed. Or if you're handy, maybe you can fix it yourself. I'm not. At all. The main control knob is stripped so it just spins and spins and spins. But, you can still use it by turning the smaller tension knob to loosen or tighten the ballhead. You will need to buy a QR clamp, which Acratech sells for $80, which means you'll have a $400 ballhead for $155. Cosmetically, it's got a few scratches but nothing that affects the operation of the ballhead.
(1) f-stop gear Tilopa BC backpack. If you are buying the Gitzo tripod above you may also be interested in this backpack to complete the "veteran landscape photographer" look. This foliage green backpack looks thrashed but is actually still in good working condition. Until today it was my primary pack, always loaded and ready for a hike at a moment's notice. It's got the requisite scrapes and embedded dirt from months of use but the suspension is still going strong and the pack material is wondering "Is that all you got?!" I'm keeping the padded ICU (Internal Camera Unit) so you'll need to invest in one before you can carry your camera gear. The only reason I'm getting rid of this one is because f-stop gave me a new pack and though I do tend to carry a lot of gear, I just don't need two backpacks.
(1) Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for Apple iPhone 5 or 5S. A marketing agency sent this to me to test and review, so I did. It's cool, but I'm not going to carry it around with me as I already have too much crap in my pockets. It includes their iPhone case made specifically to work with the lens and comes with the original packaging. Retail is $100. I'll sell it for...
There you have it, folks. If you're interested in anything please use the form below to send me an email. I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Please feel free to share this post through whatever social media outlet you'd like using the "Share" link at the bottom of the page. Who knows, maybe your buddy is in the market for some new camera equipment?
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! There's fresh snow on the ground in Moab and fog swirling around the cliffs. About an inch fell at 4,000', which means Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point will all be blanketed in just enough snow to turn the red rock into a winter wonderland. The La Sal Mountains are completely hidden behind a thick layer of clouds and when those clouds finally part, the snow capped peaks will be looking their very best for the cameras.
All main park roads are currently open. Expect some slick, icy spots and drive accordingly. We're already seeing a few patches of blue sky peeking out from behind gray clouds and the landscape is intermittently spotlighted, creating interesting opportunities for photography right now. The storm is predicted to leave the area some time tonight. Sunrise on Saturday morning (Dec. 27, 2014) should be spectacular.
I'm planning to visit Arches this afternoon for a sunset shoot - if the weather and clouds cooperate. If so, I'll update this post with a photo of the current conditions.