After my not so successful attempt at capturing the Perseids, I decided a little payback was in order. As it happens, I am currently residing in the beautiful village of Sa Tuna, at the Costa Brava. It turns out there’s much less light pollution here (no sh*t), and this week the clouds have only been conspicuous by their total absence. The only drawback: the best view and the least light was at the top of the local 170 meter hill, and I had to assemble the courage to climb it after a copious three course meal, including wine and a dessert containing whisky. Yesterday I finally did it, after putting it off for a few days. I definitely enjoyed the trip, and the results!
Last week my girlfriend and I travelled to the city of Umeå in northern Sweden. Because she is going to live there for a while, most of our baggage space was used for her stuff, but I did manage to cram some of my equipment into the Loka used as cabin luggage. My small insert was filled with my XT-1, the 16-55 2.8, and the 12, 18 and 35 mm primes. A small table top tripod was hidden somewhere in the bag. As it happened, I could have left the primes at home, as I didn’t touch them during our stay.
Photographically speaking, my intentions were kind of vague. I wanted to enjoy the weekend together and not focus on my camera the whole time. I also wanted, if I got the chance, to test the 16-55 a bit in terms of quality, versatility and handling. And I wanted to come back with a few keepers. Turns out I did all that.
My original intention was to bring a full sized tripod in our main luggage, but since both our packs were already close to their maximum weight, we decided to leave it at home at the last minute. Imagine my feelings when on Sunday evening we found out (after consulting several apps and a local facebook group) that it was the perfect moment to try and see the northern lights. After waiting until it was completely dark we walked a short distance to the nearby lake (Nydalasjön), where we imaged the best view would be. And boy were we rewarded.
I had been in northern Sweden before, but cloud cover spoiled every chance of seeing the Aurora on that occasion. This time we hadn’t really prepared, but were just lucky. From the frozen lake we had a beautiful view of the northern sky and from the moment we were there to the moment we left (some 90 minutes later), we were mesmerized by the array of colours displayed. I thanked my impulse to bring the table top tripod with me and managed some decent shots. It was a beautiful night.
Apart from some nice ice sculptures caused by melting, I didn’t really use the camera much the next days, until during my flight home (sadly having to leave my girlfriend in Umeå) I had an eight hour stopover in Stockholm. Here I could focus on photography, but the keepers were elusive until I reached the royal palace in the Gamla Stan. Pools of water had formed in front of the palace’s façade and it was a nice photographic puzzle to combine the reflection of the palace with the guards in front of it. I ended up with a few keepers. This was also the first time I used the Fuji profile ‘classic chrome’ extensively, and I enjoyed the results.
So, how fared the 16-55? Well, the image quality was superb. There is not much to say about it, other than that, since I used it at smaller apertures most of the time, the 18-135 and 18-55 probably could have made similar images. I did enjoy the wider view of 16 mm though, and this was definitely a pro. One of the main reasons I chose the 16-55 instead of the 18-55 (which is, let’s be honest, a lot more portable) is the weather sealing. This could be a huge bonus in the cold and wet north of Sweden, but on this occasion I didn’t really need it.
I used the 16-55 with the large XT-1 grip, so the whole package was rather hefty. I didn’t feel much of a difference with the 18-135 though (although if you weigh the two options, you’ll probably find a few hundred grams difference), and it never became a problem or even a bother. If you really want to travel light, the 18-55 would be a better option, but the relatively slow aperture at tele and the maximum wide angle of 18 mm would be a drawback. If I can find a relatively cheap 18-55 I may decide to add it to my lens collection, since the light weight and compact form make it the ideal travel lens when little space is available (for instance my trip to Rome in june).
Did I miss the 18-135? (I had to sell that lens to finance the 16-55). There were a few times I missed a bit of reach (while photographing wild reindeer in the fields north of Umeå the 135 mm would have come in handy), but all in all: no. The image quality and the 16 mm wide angle (which I found I used more than extreme tele) were to me enough to warrant the switch.
So, a nice stay in northern Sweden, some nice keepers for the collection, mixed with the sad feeling of missing my girlfriend for some time. And the northern lights as a bonus!
7:00 AM. The temptation to stay in bed was almost great enough to do just that and forget about my photography intentions of last night. The weatherman had predicted thick fog for the morning, but from the window it was difficult to see what state the world was in. A quick peek through the windows to the backyard confirmed the weatherman’s prediction of fog, and since I was already out of bed at this point, I decided to give it a go.
My target for this morning was a windmill not far from the house, but outside the city. Likely, the fog would be denser out in the fields than in the street, but I still hoped to get a nice shot of the mill and the sunrise. My backpack and tripod were already prepared the evening before and I had used the TPE app to determine the location for my shot, so all was set.
However, while biking to my chosen location, the first cracks in my plan were becoming apparent. The weatherman’s prediction of ‘thick fog’ turned out to be an understatement and the visibility was down to 50 yards at some points. I didn’t find the mill until I was nearly on top of the thing, and doubts were beginning to creep in whether the sun would be able to pierce this thick shite soup.
After setting up my camera and tripod at the right spot, my doubts were confirmed. According to google maps, the spot I had picked for this morning’s exercise was approximately a hundred yards from the target, but the mill was not even visible. At this point my “Sunrise and the Mill” seemed a bit pointless, so I decided to try something else instead. Fortunately, I have a habit of taking as much of my photography gear with me as I can carry, and when my eye caught some beautiful spider webs filled with water droplets, my 60 mm semi-macro lens was fished out of the backpack.
While I love macro photography, the lack of a true 1:1 macro lens and patience to fumble with a tripod in the bush usually prevent me from trying extensive projects in this area of photography. This time, however, the tripod was already set up, so I tried some shots. The first shots at f/2.4 were a bit hazy, but changing the aperture to f/4.0 did wonders for the sharpness and I was quite happy with some of the results.
As I was busy playing with my macro equipment, my sneakers (I had unfortunately neglected to fish my waterproof shoes from the closet last night) were getting more and more soaked and I was happy to change location when after a while the sun did manage to make an appearance. For the landscape shots I changed lenses and grabbed my ‘superzoom’ 18-135 mm lens. While I am not always entirely happy with the results this lens produces, when stopped down it is acceptable most of the times. After a few shots of the still barely visible mill and a few sheep that were very patient models, I decided to return home and defreeze my feet. It was at this moment that I realized that the sun would be a beautiful background for the droplet-spotted spider webs, so the tripod was unfurled again and I took one last shot.
On the way home it was clear that nearer to the city the fog had lifted considerably. On my way to the mill the opposite side of the river could not be seen, but now it was the perfect spot for a few more photographs of fog-shrouded trees reflected in the water. I nearly decided to cross the river and see if the view from the opposite side was as magnificent as it was from this one, but my feet convinced me otherwise so I went home for an appointment with a hot shower!
Hope you enjoy the results.
Helaas crashte mijn website zojuist, en zijn alle recente berichten verdwenen. Lang leven de backup, maar helaas was dat niet zo’n recente backup. Hieronder toch maar even de foto’s die ik recent geplaatst heb..
Deze foto was van afgelopen dinsdag, toen het onweer dichtbij langskwam.
De twee foto’s hieronder zijn gemaakt met mijn 60 mm lens waarbij ik gebruik heb gemaakt van de methode ‘focus stacking’. Een aantal foto’s gemaakt op F2.4 zijn samengevoegd om wel de hele bloem scherp te krijgen, maar de achtergrond onscherp..