Roadtrip, Day 3

So far my impromptu jaunt through the Southwest has presented me with one amazing scenic vista after another. It’s overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Knowing when to stop shooting is the problem out here; at some point one becomes beauty-soaked; you just have to put away the camera and say, “enough”, and look around and take in the splendor before you.

That said, fear of the photographic-cliché landscape has thus far not prevented my shooting seven rolls of 120 film with the Superwide (that’s 12 shots per roll); and a couple hundred digital images with my aging-but-competent Fuji X-Pro1. As an experiment, I’m using my Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron with the Fuji, via an adapter. We’ll see how that turns out. It’s equivalent to a 50mm “normal” lens on the cropped-sensor Fuji, so a bit less wide than I normally like to shoot. So I just stand back a little farther. It’ll be interesting to compare the look of Fuji’s own lenses with the Leica on this sensor. Fuji’s lenses are superb, so the Leica will have a job to match them.

Yesterday and today have been a treat. Almost on a whim, en route from Grand Junction, CO to St. George, UT I decided to stop at Bryce Canyon, in southern Utah. It was fairly late in the day, which turned out to be the ideal time to visit. I’ll post images after I’ve gotten home and sorted through them. Suffice to say, Bryce might be the most beautiful natural “attraction” I’ve seen, second only to the Grand Canyon. And I’m not certain about that. There was hardly anyone there, which added immensely to the experience. (I met a couple from Iowa who told me that Arches National Park was a madhouse.)

I crashed in St. George last night, and departed – after a leisurely breakfast buffet of cold, rubbery eggs and acceptably flaccid bacon (I like my bacon thus) – for Flagstaff, AZ. My intention was to stay there tonight, but it’s close to the Grand Canyon and it’s Friday night, so “cheap”-ish hotels are in short supply. Instead, I’ll go on to Gallup, NM, then back to Denver tomorrow via Durango, CO. Nearly that entire route is lined by national forests, so it should be beautiful.

Today’s trip has taken me along US Highway 89 and 89A, which traverses a stretch of desert containing Paiute and Navaho reservations, as well as some remarkable scenery. I probably stopped at every “scenic overlook” along the route. The desert Southwest defies description; it’s a lunar-scape painted in pastel, warm colors. Of course, I wasn’t going to get Bryce-lucky again with the timing. It’s usually true that, when one visits anywhere, it’s at the wrong time of day for photographs; today, I went through at mid-day, with a scalding sun nearly directly overhead, broiling a sky already hazy from wildfires in the region. Nevertheless, I managed to expend some film.

I am big on geotagging my photos. One of my digital cameras – not in use this trip – has a GPS receiver I can put in the flash shoe. It tags the image “metadata” with the location of the shot, which I can then map in my image-management software, Adobe Lightroom. There is no GPS capability for the X-Pro1, nor for any of the Fuji X-series cameras. As for film cameras, forget it. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to conveniently record locations for film images. For now I make an iPhone image, which is automatically geotagged, in each area I shoot film photos, and I match them up later in Lightroom. It’s cumbersome – just like film photography in general in the digital age.

I’m wondering if a better method would be to use a standalone GPS receiver that can record and export a GPX “track log” file containing waypoints marked at every place I’ve made an image. I could then make sure my non-GPS digital cameras are time-synced with the GPS receiver, and I could manually record in my shoot log the time I make a film image. Once I ingest the photographs, I can also import the GPX file, and Lightroom will automatically match them up by time, and tag the images accordingly. I’d still have to manually enter the time for each film image. Accurate, but still cumbersome. That’s analog for you.

Time to hit the road for Gallup, which is about three hours down the road. More to come.

Michael Sebastian @mikeseb