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The Rockies
7 National Parks in 7 Days

A Medium Format Digital
Landscape & Wildlife Shoot

This was the first major shoot that I have done using medium format digital. I've been shooting film professionally for the past 35 years — usually medium format for landscape and 35mm for wildlife and nature. But two years ago I began to use 35mm digital SLRs for an increasing amount of my work. Then, a year ago — in late 2002, I began to work completely with digital, selling off almost all of my medium format and 35mm film equipment.
In a separate section of this report titled titled Medium Format Digital — In The Field I detail my experience using the Contax 645 and Kodak DCS Pro Back on an extensive location shoot for the first time.
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There are five National Parks in the Rocky Mountain region of western Canada — Banff, Jasper, Glacier, Kootenay and Yoho. These parks are in Alberta and British Columbia, and nearby in Montana is Glacier National Park and its sister park sitting astride the international border, Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. All seven parks are within a day's drive of each other.

In early October, 2003 along with the usual suspects; Chris Sanderson, Director of The Video Journal, and nature photographer, teacher and photography guide Steve Kossack, we spent a week driving some 2,500 miles (4,200 km) though these parks, some of the time making multiple passes on the same roads at different times of days through key areas. The weather was idyllic— soft autumn light, relatively warm temperatures and perfect Fall colour on the foliage. We had some "weather" as well, including snow and rain, but never so much as to be a drag, yet enough to make for some dramatic shooting conditions.


Golden Path — Jasper National Park. October, 2003
Contax 645 with 120mm f/4 Apo-Makro Planar
and Kodak DCS Pro Back @ ISO 100

One of the most beautiful (and photographically productive) areas that we traveled though was the Maligne Lake road in Jasper N.P. Warm early morning light and the rich golden colours of the grasses and Aspens made the landscape appear as if from a child's storybook.

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Wildlife

These parks are renown for their wildlife, and they didn't disappoint. We were able to view and photograph Moose, Elk, Bear and Mountain Goats. Taking the frame below of a female and her calf was a unique experience. We had seen them standing in the lake below us grazing, and as we watched and photographed they slowly strolled up the hill and started to walk along the crest paralleling the road where we were standing.

I quickly changed from a long lens to a short telephoto, and with camera still tripod mounted walked beside them, not more than 20 feet away, stopping when they stopped and taking frames as best I could in the low light levels. This is the most felicitous frame of about a dozen taken. Moments later the two creatures walked across the road in front of us, less than 10 feet away. It was if we weren't there.

Two Moose — Jasper National Park. October, 2003
Contax 645 with 120mm f/4 Apo-Makro Planar
and Kodak DCS Pro Back @ ISO 400

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Atmospherics

Photography in mountains is always difficult. Cliches abound, and the repetitious nature of the subject (mountains, trees, lakes, and more mountains, trees and lakes) requires an extra ingredient to make it sing. On this trip it was frequently great light and atmospherics that made for the most successful images.


Sunrise Glow — Glacier National Park, Montana — October, 2003
Contax 645 with 210mm f/4 Sonnar
& Kodak DCS Pro-Back @ ISO 100

Taken in Glacier National Park in Montana the above frame captures only a small sense of how dramatic the light and clouds were during the four times that we drove the 50 mile long Going to The Sun road. This is in my experience one of the most dramatic mountain roads that I have ever driven. As it climbs several thousand feet in just a few miles, making frequent 180 degrees turns as it hairpins up steep valley grades, the views are constantly changing. Fortunately there are frequent turn-outs where one can park to enjoy the view and do photography. But, this was only possible due to the combination of time and day and time of year. I am told that in summer the road suffers from gridlock, and turn-out areas are always jammed. As always, the off season is the best time to travel the National Parks, and early and late in the day when the light is best and the tourists in their campers are either still asleep or enjoying sunset cocktails are best of all.

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Foliage


Burned Trees — Glacier National Park, Montana. October, 2003
Contax 645 with 210mm f/4 Sonnar
& Kodak DCS Pro-Back @ ISO 100

The Canadian Rockies are forested primarily with coniferous trees. The only colour in Fall is therefore provided by Aspens and Larches, and both are yellow. This part of the continent has none of the hardwood trees, such as Maples, that provide the colourful reds and oranges of Fall foliage in Eastern North America.

Glacier National Park experienced some extensive forest fires in the summer of 2003. Several of them were still burning while we were there in October and were evidenced by a pall of smoke hanging over the valleys, and some burned out stands of trees.

The almost surreal colours of the frame above are caused by a combination of fire damage and smoky air filtering the warm morning light.

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The Equipment

This was the first major shoot that I have done using medium format digital. I've been shooting film professionally for the past 35 years — usually medium format for landscape and 35mm for wildlife and nature. But two years ago I began to use 35mm digital SLRs for an increasing amount of my work. Then, a year ago — in late 2002, I began to work completely with digital, selling off almost all of my medium format and 35mm film equipment.

In a separate section of this report titled titled Medium Format Digital — In The Field I detail my experience using the Contax 645 and Kodak DCS Pro Back on an extensive location shoot for the first time.

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The Video Journal

Chris Sanderson, the Video Journal's director and cameraman filmed our seven day saga for an upcoming issue. In it you'll see some of the remarkable locations that we shot in, how we worked, the tools that we used, and an in-depth discussion between Steve Kossack and me about both our images and working methods. Become a subscriber so that you're sure not to miss it.

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A Special Print Offer

#1 — Golden Path
#2 — Two Moose
#3 — Sunrise Glow
#4 — Burned Trees
#5 — Cloud Glow

Here is an opportunity for you to see first-hand what state-of-the-art medium format digital images look like. There's nothing like holding a high quality beautifully made original print in your hand for evaluating quality, and then having the pleasure of living with it hanging on the wall at home or in the office.

Each of the five featured photographs on these pages are being offered for sale for a limited time at a special low price of U.S. $125 — or all five for $500. Prints are made using an Epson 2200 printer using Ultrachrome pigment inks on 13X19" Enhanced Matte paper. Each print will be signed and dated. Prints will be shipped within the U.S. and Canada via Expedited Mail, and internationally by First Class Parcel Post.

To order simply send me an e-mail letting me know which prints you are ordering. I will print them for you right away and will place them in the mail the day that your check arrives. Please mail your check for the appropriate amount, made payable to The Luminous Landscape Inc. to...

The Luminous Landscape Inc.
68 Roxborough Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1T8
Canada

If you live outside of Canada please make sure that you place sufficient postage on your letter. If you live in Ontario, please included appropriate PST and GST, and in the rest of Canada, GST only. Sorry, no credit cards can be accepted at this special price. Be sure to include the numbers of the prints being ordered, and your name and mailing address along with your check!

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Concepts: Eastman Kodak, National Park Service, Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, Kodak DCS, Jasper National Park, 35 mm film

Entities: Jasper, Toronto, Kodak, Landscape Inc, North America, Canada, U.S., Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, Jasper National Park, Ultrachrome, Rocky Mountain, Michael Reichmann, Chris Sanderson, Steve Kossack, Aspens, Maples, Kootenay, Yoho, Epson, The Video Journal, Montana, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, SLRs, cameraman, 13X19

Tags: medium format, park, national park, medium format digital, Glacier National Park, Kodak DCS, extensive location shoot, 35mm, Video Journal, Luminous Landscape Inc, digital slrs, major shoot, 35mm film, separate section, Chris Sanderson, Steve Kossack, morning light, Waterton Lakes National Park, film equipment, Canada, amount, experience, Jasper National Park, state-of-the-art medium format, soft autumn light, Contax, Warm early morning, rich golden colours, Rocky Mountain region, frequent 180 degrees, dramatic shooting conditions, perfect fall colour, low light levels, warm morning light, guide steve kossack, Maligne Lake road, steep valley grades, Roxborough Street West, dramatic mountain roads, prints