Well, I am back from Yosemite. It really is amazing how this place emerges from out of nowhere. We drove the 140 from Merced into the West end of the park, and the landscape leading up to the park ABSOLUTELY RESEMBLES NOTHING like what is in the valley floor. Blows my mind. A lot of the National Parks have a "seamless" transition in the landscape leading up to the Park (or whatever destination), but the only other place I can think of that comes close is Smith Rock State Park, here in Oregon.

If you came to this blog via a link on my Facebook page, you will remember that I have mixed feelings about this place. Let me explain why I typed that. Now remember, it is "winter" in Yosemite, so most of the good places are in-accessible by vehicle - such as Glacier Point, Tioga Pass, and all the great spots out there. Getting to Mono Lake and Mammoth take 6 times as long to reach - but I knew this going in.

Yosemite is unique in that most of the classic spots that Ansel Adams so famously shot, are super easy to get to. This is great as far as a National Park goes, because you don't need to be in super good shape witness this amazing place. It also means it is so super crowded - not so much when I was here, but the lodge just outside the park was booked up, and by the looks of it, the Ahwahnee was as well. I can only imagine what this place is like in summer.

Don't get me wrong, waking up at 3 or 4am and a 20 minute drive and a 2 minute walk to shoot a location is nice sometimes, but it kind of cheapens the total experience. I cannot tell you how many times i have left Portland at 10pm to get to a trailhead by 3:30am, and then hike 4 miles in to shoot a sunrise. Thins out the crowds for sure.

With this said, the photographers I ran into were actually pretty nice. After the Peter Lorber "Hasselblad" workshop in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks last March, I try to avoid shooting in crowded areas as much as possible. But here, people moved their tripods to allow others to shoot - and people were talkative. So that was a very nice plus.

Another thing that blew my mind was the lack of photographers at night! Once the sun went down, the park was empty. I saw cars driving around, but no photographers. I shot every night i was there, for some star trails (it was a full moon, so didn't turn out as well) and some long exposures with the full moon. I am no expert on Yosemite, but how often is there snow on the ground with a full moon and clear skies? Perhaps other photographers didn't realize that? I ran into no one on Friday night, a dude Saturday night and three on Sunday night. So basically I had free range of the whole park after 9pm. I am not complaining, however!

When I go back in summer, I most likely won't spend much time in the Valley Floor - but rather do a bit of backpacking to some of the high country lakes.


Posted by dustin gent | File under : , , ,
A few days from now, I will be in Yosemite for the first time - and I am stoked! I haven't been out shooting really since Thanksgiving. Crazy, I know. I have upgraded cameras twice since May, and have been out shooting maybe 7 times. This year I will be out shooting a bit more than last year.

The weather forecast for Yosemite took a huge turn in the last few days. Last week, it was sunny and mid to high 50s all week. Kinda boring - well, really boring! Star trails and shooting "fire falls" are the only things I would want clear days for. Now it is snowing in Yosemite, and is supposed to until Sunday, where there it is calling for partly cloudy.

So most likely I won't be able to shoot Horsetail Falls lit up - but I am ok with that. From what I have heard this year, there are 100s of "photographers" lined up, trying their hand at shooting that. I am not a huge fan of crowds - especially shooting the same thing. I would have scouted out a different look anyways. I am hoping many of those photographers are fair weather shooters - I mean who doesn't want Yosemite to themselves? Especially in the snow!

Another thing I wanted to do was shoot star trails - however there is a full moon this weekend, so that will make things interesting. Breaks in the clouds, long exposures, snow - man, these are going to be the longest 48 hours, lol.

Zenfolio emailed me stating that my website will be taken offline in 21 days if they don't receive payment - they have this awesome "automatic renewal" that obviously is set by default, and the card they have on file (the one I used to pay for the subscription) is no longer valid - thus the "reminder" on the payment info. This is good news though. I get three more weeks of Zenfolio, which buys me time (no pun intended) to get my new one up - which ironically will cost a little more than I am paying for a Zen subscription.

Also, I am thinking of remodeling this blog. I spent a TON of time going through the code and modifying a theme to my liking. I realized AFTER I changed it, that white text on black background is not the easiest on the eyes. So I will be making a change in the next week or so. If you haven't noticed, I like change. Nothing is permanent, right?

One last thing I forgot to mention before I sign off. I picked up a Nikon 24-85mm NON VR lens to use in Yosemite. I think it is a stellar lens, and I hope to prove this. I haven't had more than a few lenses in years - and changing lenses is not my favorite thing to do :)


One of the reasons I bought a Nikon D700 was due to its' legendary low light performance. I am sure you have noticed more and more night shots with the Milky Way and star trails and such. This is due to better sensor technology - which makes it sooo much easier to execute more dynamic shots.

Sure this could be done in the film days or even during the "toddler" stage of digital, but it was harder. One of the they very few times I wished I had newer gear. A camera with a high ISO limit and fast glass (2.8 or faster) are a recipe for good results - neither of which I had until last week; as I just picked up the 14mm 2.8 prime.

This particular photo was taken at Pacific City with my Canon 1DS and Tokina 17mm 3.5 RMC that I just sold several weeks ago. ISO on this was 800, which my D700 absolutely scoffs at. To put this into perspective, I can get a shot at 6400 at night, handholding the camera - and the shot turn out. Of course newer flagship cameras (Canon 1Dx and Nikon D4, respectively) can shoot 25,600 and be usable - though you pay for this privilege ($5000+). The exposure was 782 seconds, so roughly 13 minutes.

I ran the file through Niks' AMAZING Define 2.0 software, which rids images of noise, and this image has plenty. Happened to go through files in Aperture, cleaning up and deleting images I have no reason why I keep, and came across this shoot - I totally forgot about them.


Posted by dustin gent | File under : , , ,
It has come to my attention that my Zenfolio subscription is set to "expire" on February 15th, this upcoming Friday. The renewal fee is $120 for the premium, which I think it is called. When I signed up last Feb, it was $80. My domain name is paid for, and that is like $10 a year.

Even before I got the email from Zenfolio, kindly reminding me that I need to pony up $120, I was looking at alternatives. Don't get me wrong, Zenfolios' customer service has been good, with what limited help I have needed - that is always good when you do not need to use the customer service. In that aspect, I have been happy with Zen.

What has got me looking at alternatives is more customization and a different look. One of the downfalls of Zen or even SmugMug for that matter, is that there is only so much you can do. That is the  trade off from spending the big bucks on a custom site. It is actually cheaper to pay for a custom site, as you just pay a developer once for design - and a good developer will have tools incorporated where you don't need their help with uploading images.

Of course, one has to most likely be making monies from their craft to justify the $1000+ it cost for a custom site. That is why sites like Zenfolio and SmugMug are popular. Fairly straight forward and cheap.

So, what am I going to do? I am going to have a WordPress based site. Wordpress is a popular platform, and there are a TON of amazing themes that are built on the WP engine. Themeforest is a good starting point. The theme I am going to get will cost me probably $70-$100 and hosting through a site like BlueHost will be like $60 or less. Yes, this does add up to more than $120, BUT next year my fee will be the hosting, which will be $60 or whatnot.

I want my site to stand out, to be fun - not all serious and such. Anyone who knows me or shoots with me knows I am not at all serious when I am shooting. Most of the time I am laughing or goofing off. I want this to convey over into my website. Doing something out of the norm, and I am hoping this will be live by the end of the month. I will be gone for 6 days, and then will probably be working 10 days straight or so, and may not get a chance to get a ton done, especially with new photos to be editing.

Speaking of which, I will have some gear to accompany me this year. Obviously the camera is "new" to me, as is the Samyang 14mm 2.8, but I JUST ordered an amazing Nikon Nikkor 200mm f/4 prime. Nikon has some amazing lenses that are manual focus, and they are pretty cheap too! I got this 200mm for $111 shipped - should have it in my hand by the 19th; just in time for my trip! I will be also picking up one more lens. Kind of a hole in my line up, with a 14mm and 200mm. I may try to get a zoom or a 50mm and 35mm prime - gotta sniff out a deal :)

Anyways, here is an image taken last Tuesday with the 14mm lens, converted to B&W.


Posted by dustin gent | File under : , , , , ,
Gotta love the quickness of the USPS - I bought this lens on FredMiranda on Friday evening, and it is mounted on my D700 on Monday!

First thing that I noticed is the size of this lens. It is much smaller in size than I expected. No doubt it is larger and heavier than my Tokina 17mm was, but I was expecting a beast of a lens - not sure if I am disappointed in that respect :). The size is probably closer to that of a Canon 17-40L or Tokina 11-16, for those of you that have used those lenses.

Second thing I noticed right away was the lens cap. Without really closely examining the lens, I assumed it was a lens hood. No doubt a REALLY nice design on Samyangs' part. It feels solid and not cheesy like some of the lens caps out there, especially from a manufacturer that most have not heard of. It cinches on the sides, so no accidents. It would be deliberate to get this thing off.

Lens hood isn't extremely extruding, but I suppose it really cannot be. The lens almost comes flush with the shallowest part of the pedal hood - but it IS 14mm FUN after all. Zoom feels solid, as does the aperture blades. The rear mount is metal, which for this price range is expected, no doubt.

Quality of the lens is on par with my Nikon 85mm 1.G, which I just temporarily sold to free up funds for some much needed gear. I mean I work at REI after all, gotta get some of the new spring line we have coming in :). Nothing screams cheap on this lens. I do not have a Nikon 16-35mm to compare this to, but my buddy has one and I will try to pry it from his hands to do a non scientific test one of these days.

Anyone going into ownership of this lens will realize that filters cannot be used without some custom MacGyver work. It is not a deal break by any stretch of the imagination for myself, as I have not owned a filter of any type in years - except when I had one for about 2 minutes last year when I went to Utah (it broke after literally 2 minutes of shooting).

This lens will get a full workout (as will my D700) when I hit up Yosemite in 2 weeks from tomorrow for some winter goodness. I am unsure if I will be able to get out before that.