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03/27/17 Review of one of my shots from Calico Rock with the Fuji GFX–Great dynamic range

This is a repost from Photos of Arkansas, however I wanted to add it to my blog.  This shot is from my 03/10/17 trip to Calico Rock, and the details of how I took shot are below.

 

 

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Taken with a FujiFilm GFX 50s and 32-64 lens, ISO 200 hand held 5 part horizontal panorama. 

Calico Rock has to be one of the best places in Arkansas to go and grab a panorama and feature both wonderful scenery and the White River.   Just down stream on the White River you will find the town of Calico Rock and in this photograph the town is visible just off in the distance.  You can spend the whole day here and the scene is always changing.  On this day, I was there around 5:00 p.m. and there were no clouds in the sky at all.  Many times I have been there and just had a huge blue sky with no clouds.  For such a shot, clouds to me make it much more interesting, period.  However on this day just as sun was starting to go down, a line of clouds rolled in and the moon rose over them.  I could not have asked for a better scene.

On this evening I was shooting the Fujifilm GFX 50S, which is Fuji’s new entry into the Medium Format range of cameras.  Fuji is using the same 50Mp sensor from Sony that has been used by Phase One, Pentax and Hasselblad.  But this is the first large format camera from Fuji ever, as before all of their cameras have been APS-C.  More about the camera in later reviews, but I have to say I am totally impressed with what can be done with this camera.  I knew that the sensor had a lot of range since I used the Phase One versions, but never hand held.  The Fuji GFX is both considerably lighter than the Phase One XF and the 120mm lens has image stabilization something that no Phase One lens has.  Normally I have taken this in 15 exposures, 3 for each segment but with the GFX, I just took an exposure for the middle of the exposure range and pushed up the shadows and pulled down the highlights.  Neither of the extremes were blown out.  In fact the shadow recovery rivals the Nikon D810 and in fact may be just 1/2 a stop better.  But the real amazing facet was just how sharp the 120mm lens was, outstanding optic.

This image has shadow push in several areas, the entire lower half of the left and right sides were pushed at least 2 stops and the middle of the image which was not in the sun was push at least 1 stop.  The sky on the far left was pulled down 1 1/2 stops and the sky on the far right was pulled down 1 stop.

I took these Fuji Raw files straight to a panorama in Lightroom first, and then worked on the image in both Lightroom and Photoshop with several Topaz tools.

Overall the color and clarity is excellent throughout, and I have attached a couple of full sized crops below to show this.  The first is the lower right side featuring the bluff and the trees along the river.  This part of the image was pushed as much as 2 stops and I still have a nice green color in the trees that are just starting to leaf out.  The other crop is from the center of the image where the sun was shinning and again you can see that the amount of fine details is very impressive.

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

10/14/16 Fall starting to show it’s colors in Arkansas, but still a lot more needs to happen

This photograph featues the fall vista along Bee Bluff which is on the Buffalo River.  This row of gum trees provides a wonderful display of color the problem is just catching the right light.

This photograph featues the fall vista along Bee Bluff which is on the Buffalo River. This row of gum trees provides a wonderful display of color the problem is just catching the right light.

It’s already the 14th, and in Arkansas the fall colors are really just starting to show.  Arkansas had a very wet August, but extremely dry and hot conditions prevailed during September.  Most of the creeks dried up again and the trees did take a hit for sure.  As of last week, the areas up around the Buffalo river have some nice color beginning to show, but still I am not seeing enough to feel that it will be a uniform color year.   Instead I feel we will have individual species of trees starting to change.  So for now up on the Buffalo, the Sweet Gums and Maples are starting to change, but the oaks and hickory trees have very little to show.

Closer to home around Pulaski County, I visited the Pinnacle Mountain State park this morning.  There were spots of yellow along the road, but also quite a bit of brown.  In my local neighborhood, I am seeing more brown than anything else and we have a very good cross section of trees to look at.  Around the Maumelle River Valley, I am seeing some nice yellows off in the distance so hopefully in about a week the true nature of the color will show.

I still need to travel out to Flatside Pinnacle, as the fall display there can be one of the best in the state, but it always tends to be much later in October.

As of last week, the colors at Sam’s Throne were just starting to show, again mainly in the gums and maples.  Sam’s tends to peak the first weekend in November and has never been a disappointment for me.

Rainfall is still way off for this time of the year even though rainfall totals show Arkansas way ahead for rain.  The Ozarks took a nice rain yesterday, but it only seemed to effect the middle of the Buffalo River.  The Carver gauge showed around 3000 CFS running in the river which is a huge amount of water for this time of year so somewhere nearby the Buffalo watershed received a lot of rain.  Richland is up just a bit to 20 CFS, but that is still not enough to really make the creek attractive for photography.  The upper Buffalo is still very low in the 5 to 10 CFS range.   I have not checked the Cossatot, but I don’t believe it received any rain of measure.

Next week, the heat is back, so it’s still a guess as to if the state will have a good fall display or not.

 

 

12/14/14 A nice view taken from the Mt Magazine summit

Fall Vista from Mt Magazine

Fall Vista from Mt Magazine

Fall for 2014 in Arkansas was not too much to write home about.  Colors were way off in most places, production mainly showing up in a dull brown color.  I attribute most of this to the weather pattern we had.  Warm, and then cold, and warm, then freezing the trees just did not have much of a chance.  I was at this same spot this year and the colors were just not the same, much more muted.  Still it was a nice day to be out for sure.  Read more about how this shot was taken here:  Mt. Magazine fall vista taken with an Arca rm3di.

01/04/14 It’s offical Sam’s Throne is now a full featured Forest Service Campground.

Sams Throne rock climbing campground

THE ENTRANCE TO SAM’S THRONE CAMPGROUND IN ARKANSAS

This actually happened in Mid 2013, but I never got around to writing about it.  They finally finished the improvements and created a formal campground status for Sam’s Throne.  This spot is a climbers paradise and for me a photographic wonder.  I work this area year round and love to work the bluffs of Sam’s after dark.  If you have not ever been here, it’s worth the trip up Hwy 7 to the Hwy 123 Junction.  Take Hwy 123 for about 10 miles north and then start looking for this sign.  You won’t find a bunch of RV steps here, and it’s a very informal campground, but it now has facilities and that’s a big improvement.  Sam’s Throne is one of the most famous climbing spots in Arkansas and is featured by a over 1 mile long bluff line made from primarily sandstone.  You can also look off the bluff to to the rock prominence that is the actual throne.   The road down to the bluffs has been dramatically improved since the early day’s when it was just a logging road.  Sam’s throne campground is pretty much on top of the bluff and you can get a great nighttime sky from there.  Once you get down to the bluff line looking northward you get a great shot of Red Rock and the valley of Big Creek.  Looking south towards the throne gives you a great view of the rolling hills moving off into the distance.

I have photographed Sam’s in pretty much all types of weather and as I mentioned above love to work it at night.  It’s not a bad compromise as you won’t be too far out from your car.  This area does get some rough folks driving by at times during the week, and I would not consider leaving a car alone at the trail head after dark unless there are some folks camping near by.  During the summer months and peak climbing season you can expect to have people there.  At the Bluff line you can walk along the top of the bluff in either direction and find great subject matter for your photography.

This shot is one taken during the night after the moon had set at the campground.  There was a group that had started a huge bonfire and the way it was lighting up the trees really caught my eye.  This shot was taken as single long exposure for about 30 minutes and during the time I had the shutter open a group of people walked by with head lamps on, and I really liked the effect they created.

Sam’s is a great spot to take the family and spend the entire day, be aware that there are sharp drop offs everywhere so if you are taking young children be careful.

Star trails over Sam's Throne in Arkansas

Star trails over Sam’s Throne in Arkansas

06/15/13 Gunner Pool Campground and 5 others closed to swimming due to e-coli outbreak

Fall view of Gunner Pool CCC dam at Gunner Pool Campground

Fall view of Gunner Pool CCC dam at Gunner Pool Campground

After reading the Arkansas Gazette yesterday, I noticed that several noted Arkansas swimming areas were closed due to a outbreak of e-coli in the water.  One of the areas mentioned was one of my favorite spots in Arkansas, Gunner Pool.  Sad to here this, and surprised to hear it due to the recent spell of high water we have had in Arkansas.  However Gunner Pool does tend to get a lot of use and the road will allow larger RV’s to make it into the campground.

This picture is of the CCC dam that creates the actual Gunner Pool, which is off to the far side of the campground and missed by many people who think the large pool in Sylamore creek is Gunner Pool.  This rock dam was made with local stone and created in the 1930’s by the CCC.  There was a formal CCC camp at Gunner Pool for many years.  I took this photograph of the dam back in 2008 after a rain storm.  The fall colors were just starting to peak.

Gunner Pool Campground and Barkshed Campground swimming areas were both closed along with the larger swimming area at Blanchard  Springs.  This implies that the problem is in Sylamore Creek itself and may be from some farm effluence running off into the creek.  These types of breakouts tend to occur later in the summer after the water has started to stagnate.  However Arkansas just had record streamflows less than two weeks ago and I am sure that Sylamore creek was effected.

Hopefully this ban won’t be for the rest of the year, but with all of the layoff and cutbacks in the federal programs, it’s hard to tell what’s going on anymore.  Just recently a large number of campgrounds along the Buffalo river had their facilities reopened since locals volunteered to keep them clean.  Gunner Pool is a full service campground with facilities, Barkshed is more of a primative site with tents sites only.  Both are bordered by Sylamore creek.

Sylamore creek is a great spot to visit in cleaner times.  It’s one of the best small creeks in the Arkansas for day hiking and if you hike up the creek from Gunner Pool you will be treated to several nice small bluffs and rapids that make for great photographic subjects.  There is also a formal backpacking trail that runs from Gunner Pool to Barkshed.  This same trail also runs all the way to Blanchard Springs caverns.