I finally made it back to Alaska. This trip is a busy one. I’ll only be here 11 days total and I have two assignments and a workshop to teach. I’m also testing several video and still cameras and lenses, a new tripod and assorted other stuff I can’t mention yet.
The trip from Vegas is a long one. I got up at 6:00 am my time and didn’t get settled and in bed in Alaska until 1:00 am Alaska time. The next day I spent cataloging and checking gear. I shipped some gear ahead, brought some with me and had Borrow Lenses send some more. In total I have the following bodies and several supporting lenses: Fuji XPRO 1, a Panasonic GH3, two Olympus OM-D E-M5s, a Canon 1DX, a GoPro Hero 3, and a Sony NEX-FS100U Super 35mm Sensor Camcorder. I have a couple of other cameras I am testing that are pre-release. I’ll talk about those another time.
My team also has a Nikon D800, D600 and D4 along with a full compliment of lenses. We have 10 different tripods, heads and sliders as grip. As usual, no matter how hard I try, I always forget something. We didn’t bring a fluid head for the video camera. Sigh. Even seasoned veterans make mistakes and trust me I make plenty of them.
Now for the good news. The weather is relatively warm. It’s getting up to 30 degrees (F) during the day. I’ve been here when it’s been 30 degrees colder and this is much easier to take. There are tons of eagles in the area, as well as the incredible scenery of the Kenai Mountains to keep us busy when we’re not after birds.
My friend Robert O Toole and I are leading an eagle workshop and it’s been fun to introduce my pal Rich Harrington to his first real wildlife/nature photo experience. He looks like a giant kid in a camera store. If he would just stop grinning from ear-to-ear maybe we could get some work done. :)
We’ve already recorded three podcast/videos up here. And I’ve already had some good test images from most of the cameras.
The first image I made was with the Fuji XPRO 1 and a Fuji 35mm lens (EFL 52mm.) This is a popular and controversial camera. Many of my friends didn’t like the original X camera but Fuji seems to have listened to the feedback and the XPRO 1 is a step in the right direction. It’s a quirky, odd camera to be sure. And that’s why it is probably so popular. It uses a new lens mount and the glass (typical of Fuji) is first rate. The camera is still slow to focus compared to similar cameras, but the image quality (especially the jpgs right out of the camera) is flat out amazing. It uses an aperture ring on the lenses! That I like. It is a slow camera meant for contemplative shooting. Landscape, automotive, product, and portrait shooters will want to give this camera a serious look. It is deserving of your attention.
Next up I tried the new GH3 with 35mm to 100mm zoom lens and 100-300mm zoom lens. This is very different from my OM-D E-M5 bodies. But it is also an amazing camera. My first impressions are that if you’re looking for stealth, the Olympus is a better bet. If you like your image stabilization in the lens, the Panasonic gets the nod. The image quality is different from the Olympus but not better or worse in my opinion. Just different. The video may be (and I repeat MAY be) a tad better in the Panasonic, but I doubt most people would see the difference. The camera handles well and has a few features I’d like to see on the Olympus including a fully articulating LCD. In fact, I wish I could marry the two cameras into one super camera. Maybe in my next life.
The eagles are in very good shape. Some years, we’re faced with eagles that clearly had a rough winter. Not this year. The birds are in excellent condition which means better images. I am very blessed to get paid to work in this environment and with every tick of the clock am mindful that I must get every drop out of this experience, because this is my last pro photo trip to Alaska. So far so good. I’ve peppered this post with a few images. Rich is posting a video of his first efforts (quite well done in my opinion, especially for a newbie.) We both hope you enjoy the ride. I’ll have more from Alaska in two days.
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