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Carrizo Plain Flower Status, 2017

I had a Saturday morning double century lined up on Saturday March 18. As Murphy’s Law would have it, on Friday morning March 17 the ignition switch on my SUV failed (102K miles), rendering it unstartable, which took me out all of Friday getting it to the dealer and stuffing all my gear into a Nissan Versa rental (uggghhh).

I completed the double century a hour slower than I ought to have but having felt lousy for some weeks I consider it a roaring success. And included in that time, I did stop and wait for the women’s winner (former cat 1 rider) to fix a flat, who I 'pulled' for 150 miles (she drafted me). As is my wont, I took no draft. It took my body two hours to get into the groove, but then I settled into a decent pace thereafter... maybe seasonal allergies had been pulling me down and hormones when riding start to counteract any allergy lethargies.

Anyway, the double century done, and dealers shut for the weekend, ignition switch diagnosis and part ordered on Tuesday and fixed and back in my SUV late Wednesday.

Carrizo Plain Flower Status, 2017

I lost 4 shooting days and had to do a rush job at Carrizo Plain National Monument. Here’s a quick status using iPhone 7 photos. The Santa Barbara area and Carrizo Plain area did not get good rain until mid-February. Also, conditions were very cold (frost last night!), so the season looks delayed by a week or so. Whether recent substantial rains will encourage additional blooming I do not know.

  • Good bloom but modest compared to superbloom years, but a paucity and near absence of reds/pinks/oranges (isolated patches in only a few places).
  • Large patches of yellow, and some good blue/violet large fields in a few places; looks like more to come.
  • Poppies just starting to emerge at lower elevations, such as Crocker Springs Rd just past oil pumping fields east of the Plain.
  • A few small patches of brilliant orange something off Elkhorn Road near north end.
  • South end of Elkhorn Rd should hit its peak in a few days (the part up the grade to miles-long meadow).

With only a few isolated patches of orange and red and pink in a few places, the colors this year are strongly dominated by two types of yellow flowering plants, the one variety favoring slopes shown here, which I much prefer over the very small dark yellow weedy type which dominates many of the flat areas. The hills visible along Elkhorn Road and the hills east and west of the main road show this type of pattern.

Elkhorn Road grade, just east of Carrizo Plain National Monument
Just off the main road, about 5 miles south of Soda Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument
Main road through Carrizo Plain National Monument, about 8 miles south of Soda Lake

My SUV has about the best traction system available (real 4WD, independent on each wheel). I know from experience in Death Valley that it can out-perform even modified jeeps in mud/snow/sand (excluding the oversize tire variants of course). But with winter snow tires, this sticky clay goo (bentonite?) just coats tires with a half-inch thick slurry that has the car sliding sideways and all sorts of directions. Extreme caution advised in the clayish areas when wet.

The main road through Carrizo Plain was fine, but Elkhorn Rd in a few places was still very gooey on Thursday, much improved on Friday, but more rain was headed in for Saturday. For those with SUVs and good 4WD and tires, the entire Elkhorn Rd can be very nice, with some excellent side canyons particularly approaching the northern end.

I had not yet switched from my snow tires to my all-terrain A/T tires; the A/T tires shed mud and bite into this sort of stuff much better. All that said, it was much warmer on 24 March by mid-day, with things drying out very quickly. Still, crossing Panorama Drive was a deceivingly risky bet, with water just below the seemingly dry surface—attempt at your own peril and only with excellent tires and 4WD until the goo dries. I went in 100 meters or so and decided to back out, which was a rolicking back-and-forth slip-n-slide show. A few days should dry it out and while I probably could have made it across with the the 4WD system cranking at it hard and a lot of slipping and sliding, it was just not worth it and that lowest wettest middle section held unknown muddy 'fun' which might be loads of fun sinking into it. And more rain was on the way by mid-afternoon, and I was out of food, so I headed home, already 3 days delayed.

Extreme Caution Advised in Clay Soil Areas

By 14:00 Friday March 24, clouds were massing rapidly, portending rain, which I encountered as I headed north to home.

Soda Lake appears to have much more water in it than 2016, and considerably more than the salt-pan conditions of 2015.

Soda Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens

The about $1499 Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is not far off, and I’ll be reviewing it, along with something else nice for Sony soon.

With its apodization element, the brightness might be more like T/5.6 —should be interesting to see not only its highly unusual bokeh, but general performance characteristics.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to 20 | T5.6 to 22
  • Apodization Element for Smooth Bokeh
  • One Aspherical Element, One ED Element
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive SSM Focus System
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Ring-Switch to Change Focus Setting
  • Rounded 11-Blade Diaphragm
Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens
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Thoughts on What Constitutes Being Worth a Switch to Medium Format vis a vis Hasselblad X1D, Fujifilm GFX

An essay in my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format:

Hasselblad X1D vs Fujifilm GFX vs Standing Pat: Buying Advice

Sometimes things are clear-cut and sometimes they are not. A lot depends on usage, likes and dislikes, timeline and money. My essay looks at how the whole medium format thing has shaped up so far, and my general and specific thoughts on switch/upgrade.

Early Season Trout at Cachuma Lake

Once in a while I just take a day off, something relatively new to me (what does “weekend” mean for a self-employed person?). Something I’m still getting used to, sporadically.

I was down near Cachuma Lake Reservoir (Solvang, California) for the Solvang Spring Double Century on March 18, and so I decided to rent a boat and go trout fishing—overworked and needed some downtime just to enjoy sun and water and fresh air, as I did (plus a sunburn, gotta get one of these once a year).

It went well: 15.5", 18", 18.5", 19", 19.5" rainbow trout weighing in (real weight!) from about 1.8 pounds to 3.5 pounds. Tasty dinners, including last night. Good fighters all. The Big One got away due to knot failure—which is incredibly bad luck since my knots almost never fail. So if anyone out there catches a really large 'bow with a red/gold Thomas Buoyant hanging off its jaw, that’s the one. Maybe the line had a nick I did not spot. I had the most fun with a Thomas Buoyant lure, but nightcrawlers were about half the hookups. These are triploid (sterile) trout, and from what I understood, one is not allowed to catch and release—taking them is mandatory.

The next morning did not go so well: car would not start due to some security interlock problem requiring a flatbed tow. So here I sit inside a car dealer writing this blog entry, wondering about both my double century bike ride and about my plan to shoot wildflowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument with the Hasselblad X1D starting on Sunday 19 March.

See also 2016: The Year in Trout.

Get yourself a Benchmade knife for gutting trout in the field. Benchmade 943 as shown has a better shape and thickness to the blade that works ideally for gutting a fish. Benchmade 940 is also excellent for all-around use, but the blade shape is not quite as good for fish gutting. As shown, I put bright green gaffer’s tape on dark objects just in case I misplace or drop them in dim/dark conditions.

Rainbow Trout, Cachuma Lake

See Cooking Fresh-Caught Fish on a Portable Yakitori Grill.

Rainbow Trout Dinner

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Available for Pre-Order as of 17 March

See Sigma DG HSM Art lens reviews in diglloyd Advanced DSLR.

It appears that the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art will be available for preorder as 17 March.

Get Sigma DG HSM Art and Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art B&H Photo.

I discussed the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art back in February as well as the intriguing Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art and the bread-and-butter Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art.

Sigma is on a roll with its high performance Sigma DG HSM Art line for full frame cameras. I’ll be testing the new 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art and the new 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art.

Optimal Exposure via ETTR Can Deliver More Noise Benefit than Medium Format vs 35mm

Image quality with any digital camera can be maximized by paying attention to metered (auto) exposure versus what is optimal for the subject matter, which means getting the maximum light to the sensor that it can handle, without blowing out details. AKA “Expose to the Right” or ETTR.

With most cameras, including the Hasselblad X1D, optimal exposure is often a full stop greater than metered exposure, and frequently as much as 1.5 stops.

In the Optimal Images from Hasselblad X1D section in my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format I step through the camera histograms and relate those to RawDigger histograms, then show the actual images that result.

Hasselblad X1D: Increase Image Quality by Optimal Exposure (ETTR, Dolls)

Includes full-size images from both Adobe Camera Raw and Hasselblad Phocus at five exposure each, RawDigger histograms, Hasselblad X1D histograms, plus crops in color and black and white showing the noise behavior versus exposure.

For anyone looking for the best possible image quality and not having understood and mastered ETTR, this single in-depth article by itself is worth the entire price of admission. I mean that literally and many times over: you can spend many thousands of dollars on better gear when the gear you already have when used optimally can step up a full pay grade. This article is applicable for any brand camera.

Histogram from as-metered image, Hasselblad X1D
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Irix Lenses for Canon, Nikon, Pentax K

New wide angle lenses from Irix might be particularly interesting for Pentax and Nikon users.

While Canon offers the about $2699 Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L (highly recommended,see my review), Nikon users have not had a high quality 11mm option. Pentax K1 users have a dearth of high-quality optics in general. So these new offerings fill in some blank spots.

I do not yet know if the optical performance is there, but as f/4 designs there is a lot of promise and they are on my to-do list for review. Available in “Blackstone” (high-grade build) and “Firefly” options.

Hasselblad X1D: Better to Use Camera ISO or Push Base ISO 100 to Equivalent Higher ISO?

NOTE: the Hasselblad X1D went into stock at B&H Photo today. As I write this at 15:25 PST, the 45mm and 90mm lenses are IN STOCK. See my Hasselblad X1D wish list.


Shooting at base ISO 100 with ideal ETTR exposure is always preferred, but shooting at higher ISO can be necessary, e.g., handheld shooting and/or keeping exposure times from becoming too lengthy (even on a tripod).

Is it better to raise the ISO in camera versus shooting at base ISO 100 with a push during raw conversion? Which approach delivers the best image quality?

In-camera processing for high-ISO presumably should bring to bear all the smarts the camera designer has to offer, including (potentially) characteristics of a particular sample of the sensor. But it is not a given. So I take a look to prove-out whether the assumptions hold:

Hasselblad X1D: Shooting at ISO 400/800/1600 vs ISO 100 Pushed (Dolls)

There is more to it than just the above. For example, an image at base ISO 100 might need a big shadow boost and/or push, such as with any outdoors high dynamic range scene. This series also addresses that question.


Hasselblad X1D: ISO 3200 Highlight Destruction in ACR vs Iridient Developer and Hasselblad Phocus (Dolls)

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list.

A check of the Nikon D810 through ISO 12800 shows that its high ISO exposure scales up with ISO, that is, the camera keeps gaining-up the raw file data—so there is no equivalent issue to contend with. The Fujifilm GFX was not available, as I am waiting for a replacement camera and 120mm f/4.

UPDATE: now includes results with Hasselblad Phocus. Also, this bug has been reported to the Adobe Camera Raw team as of 13 March 2017.

A must-read for any Hasselblad X1D shooter. I take pride in making my reviews far more than routine, and when I find goodies like this, I feel I’ve done my job well. At this point in time, I don’t know if lower ISO values are similarly damaged (versus higher ISO values only).

This page shows how Adobe Camera Raw 9.9.0 destroys a huge amount of perfectly-exposed high-key detail at ISO 3200 (and almost certainly other ISO value as well). No ACR settings could be found that avoid this wantonly destructive behavior.

ISO 3200 Highlight Destruction in ACR vs Iridient Developer and Hasselblad Phocus (Dolls)

Includes images up to full resolution. Proven with RawDigger histograms and by showing that Iridient Developer delivers high-grade images free of the problems seen with Adobe Camera Raw. This destructive behavior also exists in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (proof is shown), which shares the same ACR engine for raw conversion with Photoshop.

In essence, these results show that Adobe Camera Raw destroys at least two stops of dynamic headroom when shooting at ISO 3200 (and probably closer to three stops), at least with the Hasselblad X1D.

Unless and until Adobe fixes the raw conversion pipeline, a powerful case exists for photographers to consider Iridient Developer at the least for “special cases” for which Adobe Camera Raw incompetent to process the raw images. Iridient Developer is available as a free demo.

Severe loss of highlight color and detail with Adobe Camera Raw

Fujifilm GFX ISO Series from 100 to 12800

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

See also the Hasselblad X1D ISO series of this same scene.

In my review of the about $6495 Fujifilm GFX in the medium format section is now published an in-depth ISO series for the Fujifilm GFX:

Fujifilm GFX ISO Series from ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (Dolls)

Definitely worth a read for high ISO shooters considering medium format, particularly my analysis of the RawDigger histograms across the ISO range, and my take on the Hasselblad X1D vs Fujifilm GFX.

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UPDATED: Hasselblad X1D ISO Series from 100 to 25600

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

In my review of the about $8995 Hasselblad X1D in my new medium format section I have updated the ISO series page with a full RawDigger histogram series and commentary, discussing the curious behavior starting at ISO 6400 (scroll to end).

Hasselblad X1D ISO Series from ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (Dolls)

Definitely worth a read for high ISO shooters. I am finding similar behavior with the Fujifilm GFX.

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Fujifilm GFX + 120mm f/4 Macro: Focus Shift Summarized with Two Additional Proofs

See my Fujifilm GFX wish list.

A few days ago I reported an a stupefying focus shift problem with the Fujifilm GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS WR. I have now summarized my thoughts on the behavior:

Focus Shift Behavior of Fujifilm GFX + Fujifilm GF 120mm f/4 Macro

Although I observed exactly the same behavior in other series that same day as with the Baseball Diamond fiasco, I elected to confirm it with two other subjects on a subsequent day. In my review of the Fujifilm GFX system in Medium Format I’ve added two new studies (first two listed) which all confirm each other irrefutably:

Fujifilm 120mm f/4 Macro Aperture Series: Rodin Burghers of Calais

Fujifilm 120mm f/4 Macro Aperture Series: Mosaic

Fujifilm 120mm f/4 Macro Aperture Series: Baseball Diamond

Fujifilm 120mm f/4 Macro Aperture Series @ 1:10: Dolls

I am not happy to see the launch of a new system tainted by what I deem a non-starter, but there you have it. There is some slim hope that this is a camera issue (see my discussion), but that faint hope must wait until I receive a replacement GFX and a replacement 120mm f/4. Along with what I consider serious operational problems and a host of other irritations, I feel disappointed.

“I’ll shoot myself avant que j'arrive a Calais if the focus is off une foi plus... merde!”
Can’t love focus results based on faith or hope, that’s as charitable as can be said

Fujifilm GFX Late Dusk Exposures at ISO 100 and ISO 12800, 3 Stops Underexposed

See my Fujifilm GFX wish list.

I set out to compare ISO 100 to ISO 12800 using exposures that were both 3 stops underexposed (as per RawDigger), making for equivalent ISO of 800 and 102400.

In preparing this piece, I ran into some strange behavior, discussed in detail.

In my review of the Fujifilm GFX system in Medium Format :

ISO 100 Pushed and ISO 12800 in Low Light (Riparian Tree by Creek)

Includes images at up to full resolution plus RawDigger data, Fujifilm GFX rear LCD images, ACR Settings and ISO 12800 with and without chroma noise reduction.


Reader Comments on Fujifilm GFX

See my Fujifilm GFX wish list.

Mostly from those having bought and using the GFX.

In my review of the Fujifilm GFX system in Medium Format I have curated reader comments from two Fujifilm GFX owners, both serious photographers:

Reader Comments on Fujifilm GFX System, With Responses

I think these perspectives, which are their own and not mine, are particularly valuable in their own right, particularly with my responses to them.

Update March 9th (in the link above): additional reader comment added. The sum total conversation is a review in itself, supported by what I have documented, with more of that documentation to come.

Update 11 March (in the link above): Michael E explains his final conclusions in a bit more specificity regarding the Fujifilm GFX vs Nikon D810 at ISO 64, and his large collection of APO lenses (scroll down to end of Michael’s comments).

I suggest reading my initial experience report after the above:

Fujifilm GFX Initial Experience

The problem GFX goes back tomorrow, and then I await a replacement, plus a replacement 120/4 so I can also confirm its focus shift behavior with a 2nd sample.

My report is far from complete; this is a new system and a new camera system like this has many aspects to cover. So far I’ve been disappointed in some ways, but there is a lot more to cover and the GFX will get the good and the bad covered.

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Fujifilm GFX 50s + 63mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: Yellow House at Dusk

See my Fujifilm GFX wish list.

This is an in-depth evaluation of the 63/2.8 with findings I consider highly relevant to the GFX system. I consider this distance scene as one comparable in makeup as to what one might do for a landscape shot (wide range of near to far detail). It has a lot of very fine detail at distance for checking out performance.

In my review of the Fujifilm GFX system in Medium Format I evaluate the about $1699 Fujifilm 63mm f/2.8:

Fujifilm GFX 50s + 63mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: Yellow House at Dusk

Includes images from f/4 to f/16 at up to full resolution along with large crops.


Reader Question: Focus Shift (stems from Fujifilm GFX findings, but applies to all brands)

I have found that focus shift confuses people.

Michael Erlewine writes about focus shift in reference to the GFX 120/4 tests:

If I understand properly, in manual focus, if I focus once, shoot at different apertures, and then examine them, the focus should be the same, aside from varying DOF?

If I understand you right, this problem is not just about autofocus, correct? I never use autofocus, for example. This affects me of course, whether I keep the system, the lens, etc.

DIGLLOYD: focus shift has nothing to do with autofocus vs manual focus. It is an optical behavior. It occurs with lenses from super wides to telephotos, and in some cases is used as a balancing aberration. I consider focus shift one of the most abused tradeoffs in optical design (wide angle lenses often need a little of it, no excuse for longer lenses), a tradeoff that is frequently unacceptable because accurate focus is the #1 determinant of image sharpness.

See Focus Shift and Spherical Aberration in Making Sharp Images as well as various articles and posts on focus shift on this site (that list is just partial, due to partial indexing, search for focus shift).

For real-time see-with-your-own eyes: “Video: Focus shift with the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar” under Challenge #5 in Focusing Zeiss DSLR Lenses For Peak Performance, PART ONE: The Challenges, also shown below for convenience.

Be sure to view at 1080p.

Video: Focus shift with the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar

BH Photo Outdoor Gear Closeout Sale 50% Off

B&H Photo is having a closeout sale on outdoor gear at 50% off.

Deals won’t be repeated as this is a closeout sale. MOST STUFF IS 50% OFF!

B&H Photo closeout sale on outdoor gear at 50% off
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