Legendary Utah-based landscape photographer Tom Till (www.tomtill.com) has been photographing on the Nikon D800e in the southwest of the United States during the monsoon season and shares with Pictureline a unique image from the desert. Tom's collection of imagery stretches over 37 years, mostly on 4x5 film, and he has many "first" shots under his belt in the Utah/Southwest area. You simply cannot talk about the development of landscape photography in Utah and the Southwest without Tom Till. In this particular image, Tom pleads that if people do know the location of this photograph, that they do not publish it. His concern is that it will be ruined as several other unique desert features have been over the years.
Tom: "I was following the monsoon on its ebb and flow last week. It's kind of like storm chasing, often with results that are just as beautiful. There's somewhat of a predictable pattern: beautiful clouds at sunrise, clearing during the mid-day, another build up of photogenic clouds until late afternoon, and then the big storms start moving around. I use Weather Channel radar to track them to go after waterfalls and stay out of the really big stuff. This was a two-day shoot, and the Weather Channel forecast was exactly on the money...right down to the hours.
"I have been to this site a number of times looking for light and clouds. No one knows about it, and that's why it's still there. Actually, I think some Germans discovered it. If anybody posts the location after seeing this, please take it down immediately. I do a lot of wandering, and I have my antennae up. Anybody who really pays attention to the internet and other sources can find a lot of this stuff. Last spring, I hired a guide on the Hopi Reservation to take me out to some places that have been off limits to non-Hopi. They're open now, and I recommend you look on the internet for their services. I've just been crawling over this country for 40 years, so there are always new discoveries, and now a reason to reshoot a lot old favorites with this new camera. I have a lot of stuff I can trade for sites, and some of that goes on. I also have a friend who is constantly exploring, so when I come back from Europe or somewhere, he's got a bunch of places to go. I also have a friend in Vegas who knows more than anyone, and I have been lucky to be friends with him. There are many other subjects to photograph at this site; it's a photographer's dream world.
"For this image, we arrived in late afternoon. We were hoping for sun but were amazed at the blue-black clouds. At first I didn't think we could use them, but they moved south right into the shot. This area is relatively flat, so lightning was a concern. Fortunately, again we were lucky and it stayed away. We worked it for about two hours with the sun coming out a little at one point, as in this shot. I bracketed compositions and have many versions of this. Who knows which is best? I don't.
"I was pretty blown away with the new Nikon D800e. First, since the image is so sharp, it's easy for my 63-year-old eyes to focus. I almost always use manual focus, and with the Canon 5D Mark II, I was using live view all the time. The Nikon Live View is not as good as the Canon's. It's harder to use and move around quickly, but the viewfinder is so sharp that it really makes up for it. Maybe there's a way to make the Live View brighter and more user friendly, but I haven't found it yet. Secondly, I was bracketing for possible HDR use, but when I got home, the indicated exposure was so right on the money (and maybe even purposely pushed to the right) that I could do everything with one image, which makes me very happy. The camera has a very wide dynamic range. I did very little to the image. I added a little contrast, and boosted the shadows in Lightroom some and that was it. I did compare the 2:1 Nikon D800e image in Lightroom to a scanned 4x5. I think the Nikon was at least as sharp, and maybe more. Plus, I start picking up grain on the film scan, while the Nikon results are noise-free. I did set the GPS time and metadata, but it didn't work. It put the images that I took back in February under shot time in Lightroom, which scared me a little until I saw what was happening. I immediately set the time and date by hand. I will continue to see why and if the GPS works or doesn't.