Monday, May 23, 2016

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Yes, I admit that I am both a Zeiss and Sony E-Mount fan boy. The combination means lightweight quality gear with dependable results. Although I have the Sony Zeiss 24-70 f4 as a walk around lens, my mountain landscape lenses are all Zeiss primes. This means this old guy can still get over the 12,000’ plus Sierra Nevada passes to the next alpine basin.

I am not here to offer an in depth review which can be found on numerous discussion threads and YouTube. This will be an example of my week spent with the lens on my Sony A7R2. I have included photographs from our home and yard in Fresno and from our cabin site near Shaver Lake. We have had to take down several dead pines recently because of the ongoing California drought combined with the native Pine Borers. This has been a disaster of epic proportions for California with an estimate of over 20 million dead pines thus far. We had professional loggers drop the dead trees and I am in the process of cutting the limbs off the trunks. We will later rent a chipper and broadcast the chips on the ground. All of my photographs are as they came from the camera except the cropped shots.

I am pleased with the ultra wide shots and look forward to being back in the mountains this summer. The autofocus is fast and the shots remain sharp when increased to “actual size”. The minimum focus distance is small and I have included a few cropped shots to illustrate how sharp this lens is. This lens is fat but small and light. I previously owned both the Zeiss 21mm 2.8 and 18mm 3.5. They are both much bigger and heavier, especially when including the adapters. I realize this is subjective but I believe it is sharper that the Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4 lens at 18mm. I traded this lens in on the 18mm f2.8 and am happy to have done it. There is a big smile on my face but you don’t need another example, having already seen a selfie under my hard hat. Yes, I am that old!

My final shot was taken yesterday 5-31-16. I hiked into a place near Kaiser Pass around 9,500' in elevation. The Sierra Nevada Mountains and Edison Lake are too far away for the lens but I thought I would include the shot.   

f 2.8 1/80
 F4.5 1/100
Crop Of Above
 f 5.6 1/125
Crop Of Above
 f4 1/60
Crop Of Above
f 10 1/160
 f9 1/125
I Had To Crop Out Lens Flare On This Shot
f10 1/200
f6.3 1/100
Central Sierra Nevada-Whitebark-Near Kaiser Pass
F10 1/200
Balsam Forebay
F10 1/160

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Sierra Nevada Pine Die-Off: Personal Reflections

Dale Matson
All photographs and video taken with Sony RX1R

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Small Sample Of The Die-off Below Our Property

My wife and I built a cabin 10 years ago on property we have owned for 15 years. During that time we have cut down dead pines, which we also use in our woodstove for winter heating.

The last four years of drought combined with the native bark beetles have created a perfect storm of die-off. The Sierra and Sequoia National Forest areas have particularly been hard hit with millions of standing dead conifers as potential fuel for massive wildfires. I have noticed this die-off especially at the 4,000’ to 5,000’ elevations, which have received much less, rain and little snow during the four years of drought.

The last two years in particular the die off has been very evident and our property has not been spared the ravages of this disaster. Although governor Brown has declared this to be a disaster, no help has been offered to property owners who are faced with the enormous task of removing the dead standing trees. Another problem is that the tree removal companies are overwhelmed with the requests for work from homeowners. I made several phone calls to tree outfits that did not even return my calls.

 Dead Trees By Water Tanks-Second Tank Is Dedicated Fire Tank

I finally got in touch with Will from the Sierra Nevada Tree Service who came out and looked at the dead trees in the developed portion of our seven-acre parcel. My neighbors recommended him. We are in this together and what makes my property safer makes their property safer also.

My chief concern was the cabin area and our water tanks and pressure tank located above the cabin. My concern was twofold. There is the obvious fire danger but also the risk of a dead tree falling on our cabin or tanks. This area was logged years ago so the current trees have been planted and are close together. Many trees are up to 100’ tall and taller. They stand nearly vertical and unless you are a professional logger, it is not a good idea to drop any of these huge trees. Standing dead trees are worse than dead trees on the ground. Crown fires in standing dead trees spread fast and are more difficult to control.

Will agreed to come out and believed he could drop all of the dead trees near my areas of concern in a day’s time. Some trees would just be dropped downhill into the woods, limbed and left to rot. Others would be dropped, limbed and the brush broadcast by the chipper onto the ground. The logs would be stacked away from the structures. Will had 2 loggers with him, a 12” chipper and a skid steer loader on tracks with jaws for picking up the logs.

It was a warm day even at our location, which is about 4,300’ in elevation. They needed to put a rope high in one tree and used a pneumatic gun to send a line high into the tree. They attached a haul line to it and used it to guide the tree down safely. I helped some but worked in other areas mostly by myself. It is simply amazing what young men can accomplish working hard for an entire day. The trees are down, my structures are safer and my neighbors have additional security from fires. This is dangerous work and I am thankful that things went well for the crew.

 Beginning Work


 Working Another Area By Myself

 An Upside: A Better View SSE
 Cleared East Side Of Cabin

 Stacking Dead Logs By Water Tanks

 Removing Dead Trees Along Drive

Two Trees Downed Together

Will told me that the newly dead trees are the safest to work with and that once they have been standing dead for five years, it will not be safe to remove those trees which will be rotten and not dependable to cut.

As I reflect further on this it seems like two of the largest recent wildfires in California, the Rim Fire (Stanislaus National Forest) and the Rough Fire (Sierra National Forest) were on USFS land. To what extent can these fires be attributed to management practices of the USFS? There is an interesting report from congress indicating that the State forests are better managed.


Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sony RXIR At Woodward Park

Dale Matson

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Sony RX1R
I have reported about Woodward Park before and for those who are interested in more background on the Fresno CA location and history you can find it here:

Having bought a used Sony RX1R camera, I continue to be impressed with how portable it is at about one pound, especially in the Think Tank belt pouch. This camera is a pleasure to look at and a joy to hold in my hands. Although I don’t consider myself good enough to refer to myself as a “photographer”, I believe this is a photographer’s camera.

Because we walk our dogs daily at Woodward Park, I took the opportunity to take the camera with us and to take photographs both in full daylight and in early morning. I have included several ponds and of course, The San Joaquin River. I want to note that these photographs appear as they came out of the camera including no cropping. My overall impression continues to be that this camera/lens combination imparts a unique and appealing patina to the photographs.

My initial report on this camera included photographs taken above Fresno near Friant at Lost Lake Park also along the San Joaquin River. I cannot overestimate the value of this river to our region. It is the second longest river in California. The three headwaters are in the high Sierra at Martha Lake, Thousand Island Lake and the foot of Mt. Lyell in Yosemite.

 Don't Mess With This Goose!

Fishing for Trout In One Of The Ponds With The Ampitheater In The Background Behind The Trees

 5:21am (Sunrise At 5:54 am)
 5:42 am Sierra Nevada Mountains Looking East
 5:57 am San Joaquin River
 6:01 am
6:02 am

This is not a review of the RX1R, which has already been profusely reviewed and lavished over, deservingly earning high praise from critics. It has been succeeded by the RX1RII with more megapixels and a built in viewfinder. The price drop on a used RX1R is paralleled by a new A7 and both can be purchased for slightly over $1,000.00.

I own the Sony A7R2 and am also caught up like most others in lens combinations. I have the new Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8 on order. However, that said, I love the RX1R!