Photography

Samsung EX-1 Review

I’ve been using the Samsung EX-1 since June and here’s a quick review, starting with the “bad” things and ending up with what I really like. Much of the review compares this camera with the Canon G-10, my previous advanced point-and-shoot.

No Stitch Assist

I do a lot of stitching in my photos, meaning that I take several shots and then combine them on my laptop. The Canon cameras have a function that lets me line up a series of two or more shots very easily, plus it automatically locks the exposure and focus. The Samsung doesn’t have this, and I really miss it for the grand vistas of Yellowstone National Park.

I can mostly replicate this by shooting in manual mode, but it’s a hassle. The Samsung has manual focus, but I don’t see how anyone could actually use it.

White Balance

It’s not as consistent as the G-10, and sometimes flips around trying to decide what to do. But there is more to this, so continue reading.

Speed

This camera seems to take more time writing photos to the memory card than the G10. A bit of a pain, but I can deal with it.

Self-Timer

It seems minor, but the Canon let me program how many self-timer shots to take, but the Samsung does not. It was a nice feature to have on the Canon.

So those were the faults of this little camera. Mainly, the programming side doesn’t seem as refined as the Canon. But don’t let that distract you.

The Intangible Part That Makes Up For The Above

I met someone once who said all art is self-expression. Samsung’s combination of lens and computer chip definitely connects with me, letting me come closer to what I want to express. I’m talking about capturing the mood of a place, or perhaps expressing my mood when I see the place.

Flower in front of Mt. Haynes Overlook in Yellowstone National Park. I like how the Samsung captured the purples and greens, along with the steam rising from the Madison River.

Lens

It’s a 24 mm lens, compared to 28 mm with the Canons. The 24mm is significantly more usable for outdoor shots. I’m in Yellowstone with the mountain ranges and canyons and rivers, and that’s what you want.

More importantly, there is a mysterious,¬†ethereal¬†quality to the lens. I can’t put it into words, and I’m not sure if anyone else can notice it, but it captures detail and lighting in wonderful way.

White Balance (again)

The Samsung emphasizes subtle greens and purples. Combined with the lens, it lets you create beautiful early morning shots emphasizing forests and flowers. So while it’s not 100% “accurate”, the result is an expressive photograph.

Summary

Would I recommend it? Depends on what you want. The Canon G12 is the safe recommendation, and it’s more technically refined than Samsung. For family shots and capturing things like little kids running around, it’s probably superior. But if you tend toward the artistic side of photography, then yes, this is a gem of a camera.

Read Darwin Wiggett’s review here.

 

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Morning Moon Over the Madison River

Morning moon over the Madison River

Early morning picture of the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. Click for larger image.

Got up at 5 a.m. this morning and the park, beautiful as ever, is filled with wildflowers. People downstream aren’t going to appreciate the wet spring weather because the rivers are full and will start spilling over, but around here it means lots of blue, yellow and white flowers sprinkled throughout thick green grass.

This is a shot taken a few miles from the West Yellowstone entrance. It’s two pictures stitched together, and that’s the actual moon in the upper left.

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Yellowstone Wildflowers Are Out

Yellowstone Wildflowers Are Blooming

A quick photo from yesterday morning in Yellowstone park. I wouldn't say the park is known for wildflowers, but right now they are blooming and it's exciting to come across them. Click for larger image.

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Winter Vista View From Refuge Point

Winter Vista View from Refuge Point near Hebgen Lake, Montana

Winter vista view from Refuge Point near Hebgen Lake, Montana. Click for larger image.

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Sunday morning Montana highway

Sunday morning Montana highway

Highway 287 on a Sunday morning, about 30 miles south of Choteau, Montana. Click for larger version.

Cloudy and cold Montana morning on the drive back to West Yellowstone – just cloudy enough to make the sun look like the moon.

The temperature was 7 degrees and my car slid along the icy highway several feet before finally stopping to let me get the picture.

This is three sequential shots taken with my Canon G-10 and stitched together in Photoshop. Location was about 30 miles south of Choteau, Montana on Highway 287.


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Four Days Later – A Snowfall Comparison

Four Days Later at Red Canyon

From Fall to Winter: top photo is Sunday, bottom photo is Thursday. Looking into Red Canyon just outside of West Yellowstone, Montana.

After a wonderfully warm October around Yellowstone National Park, this week we are starting to get snow and you can already see the changes in the landscape.

I took top picture looking into Red Canyon on Sunday afternoon, the day before the predicted snow was supposed to start. I went back this afternoon for the bottom shot and you can see the difference between fall and winter. You can’t see it in the photo, but the temperature also dropped. On Sunday I was using my fingerless bison gloves, while today I had to go full-fingered.

Red Canyon is across from Hebgen Lake, about seven miles away from West Yellowstone. I don’t know the story of why the old barn is there, but it makes an interesting subject.

Taking this type of photo was harder than I thought it would be. I had to match up the focal length of my zoom lens and there is no good way to find 62 mm, plus I had to find the exact spot I was standing at four days ago.

To help with matching the image, I brought along a print-out of the Sunday shots. I held them up and then tried to match that scene with what I saw in the camera’s live view screen. I was close on this one, but should have stepped back a couple of feet.

Trying to match up shots

Trying to match up shots. I took "before" photos in four locations around West Yellowstone. Red Canyon turned out to be the best for the "after" image.

P.S. I got this idea from Colorado photographer Jack Brauer who had a two-day comparison of Ouray here: before snow and after snow.

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Second to last sunset of the season

The west gate into Yellowstone National Park closes tomorrow morning. Was able to get in last night and capture this second-to-last sunset of the 2010 season. In the background is the Gallatin Mountain Range in Montana, in the foreground is the Madison River.

Sunset in Yellowstone National Park

Second to last sunset of the 2010 summer season in Yellowstone National Park. Click image for larger version.

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Peeking Between the Trees in Yellowstone

There are plenty of trees in Yellowstone and while sometimes they can get in the way, other times you can use them to help frame your pictures.

Here are a few shots from yesterday afternoon in the park about seven miles from the West Yellowstone entrance.

First, here’s how not to incorporate a tree! I liked the way the buffalo formed a v-shape pointing toward me, but the tree was in the way. I moved to the side and down a little bit to get this better view.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Buffalo in Yellowstone, but the tree is in the way. Click for bigger image.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Here's the same shot, except with the tree off to the left. Click for bigger image.


Here are two more pictures in the same area, this time incorporating trees on both sides of the picture. I like the effect because it helps frame the subject, and makes you feel like you are peeking in on the scene.

Mountain reflection in Madison River, Yellowstone National Park.

In addition to framing this shot with the trees, I was also able to catch the mountain's reflection in the Madison River, which yesterday was extremely still. Click for bigger image.

Grazing at Yellowstone National Park

Grazing along the river at Yellowstone National Park. Madison River is in the background. Click for bigger image.


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Bread and wine in your Yellowstone photographs

Last week at West Yellowstone’s delightful public library I picked up a copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Stranger in Paris novel and came across one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what art can be.

Maugham’s characters vividly illustrate how art can go beyond a technically well-crafted and pretty picture, and deliver meaning, though the viewer’s openness and cultural background are just as important.

The scene starts with Charley, on a Christmas holiday in Paris from his sheltered and wealthy English family, visiting the Louvre with Russian emigrant Lydia. They were looking at La Brioche, a still-life by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin.

Charley said, “Yes, I’ve seen that before” and described it as “well-painted”.

Lydia: “But have you ever looked at it?” and then she talked about what it meant to her.

It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the bread of life and the blood of Christ, but not held back from those who starve and thirst for them and doled out by priests on stated occasions; it’s the daily fare of suffering men and women. It’s so humble, so natural, so friendly; it’s the bread and wine of the poor who ask no more than that they should be left in peace, allowed to work and eat their simple food in freedom. It’s the cry of the despised and rejected. It tells you that whatever their sins men at heart are good. That loaf of bread and that flagon of wine are symbols of the joys and sorrows of the meek and lowly. They ask for your mercy and your affection; they tell you that they’re of the same flesh and blood as you. They tell you that life is short and hard and the grave is cold and lonely. It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the mystery of man’s lot on earth, his craving for a little friendship and a little love, the humility of his resignation when he sees that even they must be denied him.

Charley thought to himself, “who would have thought a picture could affect anyone like that?”

The book, and even this scene, weren’t about art, they were about Charley learning new ways of looking at life itself, but it applies to photography and your trip to Yellowstone.

When visiting the park, keep in mind Lydia’s emotional reaction to the iconic images and seek to trigger something similar in your photos. Think about the cultural tradition of the American West, the cycle of life so much on display in Yellowstone, the tremendous power of the Earth’s thermal energy, and represent those elements in your pictures.

Those are the ones that will become your favorites from your visit.

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Montana Horse Pictures

Black and White Photography magazine recently included some amazing photos of horses that showed a huge emotional range and regal nature of these animals. Since Montana has its fair share of them, I’ve been keeping an eye out.

While driving between Great Falls and Bozeman a few weeks ago I saw this horse out grazing, pulled over, and used the Canon 300 mm lens to capture this picture.

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman. Click for larger image.

This next shot was taken yesterday in Paradise Valley, which is north of Yellowstone National Park and between Gardiner and Livingston. I had been taking a series of pictures when my store landlord called at the same moment the horse walked up to me, so this picture was taken with a cell phone cradled against my ear while talking about plans for the summer.

Montana horse in Paradise Valley

Montana horse in Paradise Valley. Click for larger image.

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