My sweetie and I took a trip to The Black Hills in South Dakota with a visit to Yellowstone National Park on the way home. The trip had a two fold objective, one to photograph some of the most beautiful landscape in North America and secondly to show Erna my old stomping grounds in the Black Hills.
From birth until the age of 19 I spent all my summers and any other time the family could get away in the Black Hills. My uncle and aunt built a cabin and named it the Antlers. One of my uncles businesses was guiding hunters and fishermen. Many famous people stayed at the “cabin” including one US President.
I learned to walk, shoot, fish, hunt, track, survival, haul/split wood and how to enjoy silence. My first adventures in photography began in the Black Hills as well.
This photo of me taking my first steps in the front yard of the cabin was taken by my father with a Rolleiflex TLR. I now have that camera and use it fairly regularly.
Back in the 60’s my father took me out and taught me how to shoot a single shot Winchester Model 67 .22 caliber rifle. Up until I could pull the cocking mechanism back myself I was not allowed to touch the rifle. Once I had enough strength in my fingers and hands to cock this rifle, that was the turning point, it was one step closer to manhood in my young eyes. These first shots at tin cans went on to become a love of target shooting and eventually earning a place on the Canadian National Rifle Team. I also set records in the US during competitions I attended there. Yes I was a member of the NRA and am considered a Life Time Master in smallbore prone shooting.
The closest town, if you want to call it that, to the cabin is Rochford.
This little mining town grew to over a 1000 in the mid 1800’s but by the 1885 it was all but a ghost town. My earliest memories of Rochford were some old shacks, what was left of the stamping mill and a corner store and a bar. There were a few folks still living there as well as a few ranchers in the area. Every time I came to the little corner store the owners made me feel special and always remembered my name. I have no idea what happened to them. Today it’s a private home across the street from a tourist type store. The owner of the curio shop told me the store went out of business about 10 years ago.
This trip down memory lane was an emotional one for me. Remembering all the good times with family and friends and how it will never happen again. Both of my parents have passed on, my aunt and uncle passed on but before my aunt died she sold the cabin to strangers. I wish I could have shared this special place with my children when they were growing up.
Once we finished touring the Black Hills it was off to Yellowstone. The weather was inclement for most of our trip and this portion was no different. Rain, snow and low clouds greeted us in Yellowstone. Once there and setup it was off to the geysers and thermal hot springs. Old Faithful still does his thing every 90 minutes + or – 10 minutes. While not the most spectacular or frequent geyser in Yellowstone, Old Faithful is the most famous. The park service has setup an expansive viewing area which is easily accessible. I have to admit I was quite under whelmed by the rest of the attractions in Yellowstone. Understandably it is a geological wonder and as such is breath taking in many respects, but and this is a big but, the opportunities to get anything beyond the average tourist shots is almost impossible. For the visitors safety everyone is confined to boardwalks. This hamstrings the photographer looking for something out of the ordinary. Many of the shots you see in books and government publications have been taken either by helicopter or with special permission to get off the boardwalk. Many of the more colourful water features have either dried up or have turned murky. Some of this is just due to the natural ebb and flow of the hot springs but increasingly this problem is caused by careless humans throwing garbage or coins into the pools.
Erna got some excellent shots of the Bison and a baby Antelope using her 300mm f2.8 L series lens attached to her Canon Rebel XTi. Check out her website at www.ernasplace.com .
On this latest trek I took my newly purchased Nikon D700 full frame DSLR. For some time I have been using a Nikon D70s for my colour work. I have used the D70s to make stunning 11×14 colour prints. It may only be 6 Mega pixels, but I found that a well exposed image from this camera was technically very good. The only thing that was a short coming in my eyes was the 1.5 crop factor. I shoot a lot of wide angle images and this camera turned my wonderful Sigma 17mm lens into a 25.5mm lens. Not wide enough. On the other end of the spectrum it made my 300mm a 450mm which for wildlife photography would be a bonus. The only problem is I can count the number of animal pictures I have taken in the past 30 years without taking off my shoes. In the middle range my Nikkor 60mm AF macro lens becomes a great portrait lens. If it’s a little too sharp this can be taken care of with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. I use both programs and couldn’t live without them.
The Nikon D700 is a very well built camera, right up there with my Nikon F5. I considered the Nikon D3 because it had some added features that appealed to me. In the end the flip up flash on the D700 clenched it. I use the flip up flash built into my D70s a lot for outdoor portraits. It’s perfect for taking out the shadows under chins and eyebrows. If I need more flash horsepower I us my Nikon SB 600.
The Nikon D700 was purchased from KEH.com. Over the years I have purchased both cameras and lenses from them. In every instance they have exceeded my expectations in both service and quality of product. I highly recommend them. Over the past couple of years I have become very wary of auction sites. Seems there are an every increasing number of bad transactions taking place if complaints on photo forums I frequent are any indication.
Since I have been a Nikon guy ever since my newspaper days I have quite a collection of old Nikkor lenses. These old warriors are tack sharp and just as contrasty as they day I purchased them. Using them on the D70s was a bit changing as it did not have an AI coupling ring. It was still worth the effort to use them because being the old Scotsman I am I refuse to spend money on newer AF lenses if I already have that focal length in an old lens. I can usually estimate my exposure to within ¾’rs of a stop so a quick review of the histogram allows me to zero in very quickly. The D700 has an AI coupling ring so metering is dead easy. Some of my really old lenses are pre AI so I will have to convert them. I’m not a big fan of auto everything so shooting this way is not a hindrance for me. My digital cameras are usually on manual mode and non AF even if the lens has that ability.
For black and white I took my Leica M5, 50mm Summicron, 90mm Summicron and 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar. I just love the M5. A true shooters camera. The film of choice is Ilford FP4 processed in PyroCat-HD. A fellow sent me a 100 ft. roll of Tmax 100 and I’m looking forward to trying it out. But in all honesty I love Ilford products and want to support a company that is actively supporting film photographers.
Check out my Yellowstone and Black Hills gallery for my keepers from this trip.