Zion 2010: Day 1 (The Journey)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I have a lot to prove on this trip.  With 10 days in Zion National Park during peak fall conditions, I have ample time to scout locations, find good compositions, and walk away with at least one good shot.  Even though I had the same amount of time, the same conditions, and the same equipment last year, I was disappointed with the shots I walked away with.

I often refer to large format as “personal accountability” photography. If the shot does not turn out, there is only one person to blame.

This year, I have a different strategy. I have learned a lot from my experience last year, and hope to return with a different mindset.

It often takes me 3 trips to a location before I walk away with a shot that I am satisfied with.  This is certainly true for Toroweap.

In the days before the trip, I meticulously packed my gear, and accounted for every small piece of equipment that would prove invaluable in the field. This includes screw drivers, spanner wrenches, and extra batteries for my light meter.

I am taking 3 cameras with me on this trip:  Ebony RW810 8×10 field camera, Toyo 45AII 4×5 field camera, and a Fuji GX617 medium format panoramic camera.  My film stock includes Velvia 50 (a true classic), Velvia 100 (deals with long exposures very well), Provia 100 (blah color, but a very faithful film), and Kodak Ektar 100.  This will prove to be my first trip shooting Ektar on the 8×10.  As a result, I do not know how it will react in the tough exposure situations that I will use it in.  I will be using it as a secondary film to either Velvia 50 or Velvia 100.  After taking a shot on my primary film stock, I will shoot a sheet of Ektar.  Who knows — maybe the Ektar will be the best film on this trip.  I honestly do not know.

Hitting the Road

As usual, I got an early start.  My alarm sounded at 3:30AM, and I was anxious to hit the road.  It is only a 7 hour drive to Zion, but I prefer to drive in the dark for the first portion. This makes the drive seem much faster.

I arrived just before noon, set up camp, then visited the back country office to reserve a Subway permit for the next day. I learned that only 12 people requested permits for Monday.  That’s a very good — low — number. The weather forecast was ideal for a hike to subway — sunny skies.

I spent the afternoon scouting the Kolob Terrace, and reservoir area.  There are some wonderful aspen groves along the road, but they had peaked in early October.  Most of the trees were stripped of their leaves.

In preparation for my subway hike the following day, I loaded my 8×10 film holders with Velvia 100, and Ektar 100.  I have shot Velvia 100 at Subway before, and was happy with the way this film handled the extreme contrast.  Although I’m not a big fan of Velvia 100 overall, it is a champ in low light.  With Velvia 50, you need to start adding extra time to an exposure of only 4 seconds.  By the time you reach a minute, you need to fully double your exposure time.  On the other hand, Velvia 100 does not suffer reciprocity failure until you reach an exposure time measured in minutes.

By contrast, Kodak does not publish reciprocity failure numbers for Ektar 100.  I will truly have to guess with this film — which sucks when a box of this film costs almost $100.

After loading the film, and packing my gear for the hike, I retired to my tent for the night.  I would need to be at the subway trailhead very early the next morning.

11 Responses to “Zion 2010: Day 1 (The Journey)”

  1. Ron Carroll Says:

    Hi Ben. Looking forward to seeing the updates from your trip…

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Ron. I have some pretty cool stuff in store from this trip. I had a blast, and walked away with some cool shots. The “production value” of the video will be a bit higher for this trip. I’m trying to better tell the story of what happened, and take the viewer along for the ride.

  2. Bob Ross Says:

    Let’s see some video from the Subway – looking forward to it.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Bob. I’ll have Day 2 and the video up today after work. I got your email, and I’ll shoot you a response after work as well.

  3. Ron Richins Says:

    Nice job with the video. I like how you’ve added music to it to add to the mood.

    Also, it’s also nice to know that I’m not the only one, it seems, that has to visit an area about 3 times to finally come away with something I feel good about.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      You’re definitely not the only one. I find that 3 times is the magic number. The first time, I’m often overwhelmed by the possibilities. I have an idea of what could work, but when I get home I realize that the shot doesn’t do the location justice.

      On the second time, I return with a plan and take a second shot, but often times it still isn’t quite there.

      By my third visit, I usually know exactly what I want to shoot, and I know what to avoid based on my two previous attempts.

      Sometimes though, it takes 4, 5, or more tries. The more tries it takes, the more I appreciate the final result.

  4. Chris Says:

    Hi Ben, came across your site from NPN. Great videos, really enjoyed watching them, gives a great idea to being there and sharing the experience. I have to say, I’m surprised youre using Velvia100, all the shots I have ever taken on this film are rediculously red, do you not find it so? OK it will enhance the cliffs in the park, but still, I find the film OTT? Im back to using Velvia50 and allow for reciprocity, or go with Provia…

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks for the comment Chris. I only use Velvia 100 in certain situations. Last year when I was shooting at subway, I was forced to do a 15 minute exposure on Velvia 50. It turned out surprisingly good, but I did not enjoy it. With Velvia 100, I didn’t have any big issues with reciprocity failure, and I avoid the blue cast of Provia. You’re definitely right about the red cast to the dark tone, but I find that I can balance that quite well by using the mid-tone sampler with curves. Also, I avoid the use of grad filters with Velvia 100 — the sky goes magenta. Other than those low light situations, I will use Velvia 50 or Provia. I haven’t developed the Ektar from this trip yet, so I’m curious how that will be.

      • Chris Says:

        No worries Ben, your images are no way worse off for it…
        Glad you also noticed the magenta colour cast too, thats another Ive also noticed. Although I have to say, when Ive wanted red, such as sunrises at the coast here in the UK, Ive used Velvia100 and my images are great, otherwise I agree, Velvia50 it is, you cant go wrong. Look forward to seeing the Ektar versions. Ive never used Kodak transparancies, only Portra, which is also very good for LF landscapes, if you would like a different representation, works well for “arty” looking scenes…

  5. Ryan Brooks Says:

    looking forward to your thoughts on Ektar

    • Ben Horne Says:


      I still need to figure that one out. I have a bunch of 8×10 Ektar that needs processing. I shot a roll of 120 Ektar on my panoramic camera, but I haven’t scanned it yet. I have the exact same shot on Velvia 50, so that might be a good comparison. I’ll be sure to write a blog post with a comparison. I honestly have no clue what to expect.

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