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Pentax 645Z

The Gear... the Camera

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The Gear... the Camera

The Pentax 645Z in action at Jordan Pond

The Pentax 645Z in action at Jordan Pond

This is the first of a new series about the gear I use to make my images. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the photographer makes the image, not the camera, or lenses, or any other gear. It starts in the mind and it takes experience and knowledge to translate an image into a photograph.

But having said that, the gear I use is certainly an important aspect of my image making. I’ve been a professional photographer for almost thirty years and I spent many years honing my craft with film cameras (all of which I still own, about fifteen all together). Since 2002, I’ve been using a succession of better and better digital cameras (only six at last count). But the camera I use now for my fine art and landscape photography is the best I’ve ever owned.

In the 1990s, I used two Pentax 645 medium format (referring to a film format that’s about four times larger than 35mm film) cameras for weddings. Then digital came along and for several years, I didn’t use the cameras much, though I knew the lenses were incredibly sharp- much better than my Canons. Then in 2014, Pentax introduced the 645Z, 51-megapixel digital camera and I jumped in and bought it.

It’s a very different beast from my Canons, but I’ve enjoyed getting used to the camera’s layout, and love the sharp, big files, as well as the wide dynamic range of the images (the ability to show details in the shadows and highlights). I used to make a lot of HDR (high dynamic range) photos, where I’d combine 3-8 images of varying exposures together to make one image with good details in the highlights and shadows, but with the 645Z, I’ve stopped making HDR images– I can do it in one image rather than several now. I’m not going to try to do a camera review here; there are plenty of other websites doing that, but I’ll just say that this is the only camera I bring on my trips to Acadia now.

Just don’t ask how much it costs. Seriously, I get that question all the time- how much did your camera (or lens) cost? The bigger the item, the more people want to know. It’s a bit like walking up to someone in a swanky sports car and asking about the price tag. Or walking over to your neighbor and asking how much she paid for her house. If you really want to know, look it up, then add 25% (I did buy it when it came out and the price tag was higher, after all). :)

Pentax 645Z Camera

Uses: landscape, fine art, architecture, any time I’ll need to make a big enlargement

My Rating: 9/10

Cost: $$$$

P.S. Just to be clear, I’m not sponsored by Pentax or any other camera manufacturer- these are just my honest opinions, from a professional photographer who uses the camera. Hey Pentax, if you’re reading this, how about making me one of your brand ambassadors? ;)

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Photo of the Week, February 26

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Photo of the Week, February 26

Eagle Lake Dawn

This was a tricky shot to compose. It was about an hour before sunrise when I arrived at Eagle Lake to scout the photo possibilities; it was so dark I needed a flashlight to find my way around, and I was the only person there that morning. Eventually I settled on this location which had a good foreground, nice middle ground, and the distant mountains in the background.

But the water was choppy and messy, so I knew I would need a very long exposure to smooth it out into a large, creamy expanse. And to get this angle, I needed to balance myself and my tripod on one single rock the size of a basketball, about five feet from the shore. In the end, the exposure needed over six minutes, so it was difficult balancing for so long, hoping you don't fall in the water, while trying hard not to knock $13,000 worth of camera gear into Eagle Lake. It's at times like this that you realize that although you're cold, hungry (I still hadn't eaten anything and I probably skipped dinner the night before), you're all alone and your body aches from contorting itself to fit onto your camera position, the end result is worth it- at least you hope, because often it's not. But such are the sacrifices we make for a potentially great photo...

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This image was made about ten minutes before the sun rose. But at Eagle Lake, the surrounding hills block the sun so you don't actually see the sun until several minutes after it comes up in the east. I had hoped for more interesting clouds in the sky but that morning we got plain blue. Better than plain grey, but not by much. The glow off the sun behind the mountains does add a nice touch of color to an otherwise dull sky.

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