Death Valley Photo Trip: Preview / by Jake Horn

Looking forward to my next photo trip, Death Valley, and it’s right around the corner. I’ve been hoping to photograph this area for the last few years, but other parks have taken precedence (i.e. Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef). In preparation, I have been pouring through my Galen Rowell books to bolster inspiration. This really gets me in the mind frame of shooting and helps me visualize the types of shots to go after on this trip.

Now the fun and frustrating exercise of photo gear planning begins. First off, we will be tent camping, so a checked duffle for camp gear is a must. Since we will be sticking to day hikes only, I will take the liberty to bring a large kit in my Satori EXP backpack from F Stop Gear. I will carry this bag on the plane with my Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod.

The primary focus of this trip is landscape photography, so the Fotoman 69 HPS is a must. I will write a full review on it soon, but this camera is pure photography. It's operation is completely manual, lets you use large format lenses on medium format, and creates images on the brilliantly large, yet portable, 6x9cm format. I have had three frames of Ektar 100 drum scanned by West Coast Imaging, and the files are completely stunning. It’s almost a joke when I have scans from my Epson flatbed side by side with the drum scans in Lightroom. The resolution is high, yes, but the dynamic range is what really makes the files pop. People that compare film to digital, and do not look at drum scans, are really missing the boat.

  Example of Flatbed Scan (left) vs. Drum Scan (right)

Example of Flatbed Scan (left) vs. Drum Scan (right)

Other gear that will be making the trip

  • Schneider 47mm f5.6 Super Angulon XL
  • Schneider 90mm f8 Super Angulon MC
  • Pentax 645NII w/120mm f4 
  • Leica M-A w/90mm 2.8
  • Sekonic L-508 Light meter
  • Horseman Loupe
  • Dark Cloth
  • Ground Glass & 10x Peak Loupe
  • Singh-Ray 82mm polarizer
  • Assortment of grad filters (0.6 HE/SE, 0.6 Reverse, 0.9SE, 1.2ND)
  • Assorted lens cleaning gear
  • Spare batteries

My film usage in past trips has been around 2-3 rolls per day, so I will pack accordingly. I have been planning to compare Ektar 100 and Portra 160 head to head for some time now. To do this, I will utilize my spare Horseman back for the Fotoman to get each landscape captured on Ektar and Portra. There are also two rolls of Adox CMS 20 II to burn through in my fridge that I’ll bring along. I developed some of the rolls from the Wind River trip, and I think I found my new favorite black and white landscape film.

 Camera Ammo

Camera Ammo

Please check back for the synopsis and hopefully, some keepers to share.