In May of 2019, my partner and I embarked on a 2000-mile road trip to Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Death Valley National Parks. It was a wonderful experience and the perfect opportunity to slow down with film. Shooting film in nature, especially 6×9 120 format, gives us more time to take in the sights and gawk at nature’s wonders.
I only took one camera: Zeiss Ikonta 521/2 with the 105mm f/4.5 Novar lens. I had only shot a single roll before the trip, in B&W no less but I was comfortable enough with it due to a recent CLA. You don’t need anything with a fancy fast lens or even a rangefinder for landscape. Compact affordable folding cameras are perfect for this use case, especially with fast film. I chose Portra 400 for its wide exposure latitude and warm palette. Even though I was using a handheld meter the film gave me a lot of piece of mind.
Life got busy and it took 5 months to finally develop all the film from the trip. In a way, it was better to wait as we got to experience our vacation all over again. Zion was definitely our favorite national park and these five frames bring back the memories from our journey.
The star trail photo was easily my favorite. It was a 6-hour exposure that was almost spoiled after sleeping through the early morning alarm. Luckily the wide exposure latitude of Portra 400 saved the day.
My keeper rate was very high from those rolls of film; much higher than anything digital or even 35mm. With only eight frames per roll, you really slow down and consider the shot before committing. On top of that, the ~46mm (135 equivalent) focal length can be a challenge with landscape.
Even though I only shot 6 rolls, I consider the photographic part of the journey a huge success.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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