Lone Pine Tree on Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, 07/03/2021

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a seriously underrated national park. It offered diverse geology features within a relative small package. A remote area that is separated from the main park, namely Cinder Cone, is the hidden gem of the park. It is a young volcano, only a few hundred years old. Hence, there is very little vegetation over it today. The few pine trees on its surface are popular subjects in photographs.

Volcanic Eruption, Hawaii Big Island, 12/28/2021

It is not a common experience to witness the live volcanic eruption and lava flows. Fortunately, during our trip to Hawaii Big Island at the end of year 2021, we caught it on our camera. To be precise, the eruption has been a continuous event happening on the island for many years. Sometimes it carried out more lavas from underneath the Earth, sometimes it was just quiet for a few days. During day time, it could be difficult to see the lava flows because they were just thin red lines between the black volcanic rocks. So evening is generally the best time to observe this incredible phenomenon.

The volcano was in a quiet period till the fifth day we were on the island. So we headed out in the evening. To our surprise, there was a traffic jam in the Hawaii Volcano National Park! We waited patiently for a while till the park rangers allowed us to drive to the parking lot. There was a one mile hike from the parking lot to the observation point. A few hundred yards from it, we could already see the red light in the sky. What an exciting walk!

There was a quite large crowd at the observation point. Head after head, tripod after tripod, wow after wow. It was an exciting moment to appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

Aspen Trunk and Leaves, June Lake Loop, Eastern Sierra

June Lake holds a special position in our memory. It is the first place in Eastern Sierra that we visited many years ago during autumn season. This year, we explored it again when the fall foliage just started here. While driving past this section of the road, our eyes were caught by the bright white trunk of several aspen trees — they stood out from the background of warmed colored leaves. We carefully composed this shot and singled out only one aspen tree, making its trunk the dominant subject in a relative uniform background.

Winter evening Yosemite Tunnel View on 4×5 film, by Intrepid 4×5 large format film camera, Caltar 150mm f/5.6 lens, Ilford HP5 Plus film

The past week, Yosemite welcome its first snow of the season. We did not get a chance to go there until the snow stopped, and thus missed the best moment when the valley was blanketed by fresh powder. However, clear evening brought an opportunity to shoot the Tunnel View under moon light with large format film camera.

For people unfamiliar with large format photography, it was commonly accepted that night is the enemy for this form of photography due to a few limitations. First of all, it is extremely challenging to focus and compose with the ground glass in evening because there was virtually no image to look at on the ground glass. Secondly, film has a notorious problem for long exposure, namely reciprocity failure. It means that a long exposure in digital world need to be extended to an extreme length.

Fortunately, our experience had told us we could try to focus on the moon or bight stars in the evening. And in this evening, we had a clear sky with an almost full moon. It was relatively easy to focus on the moon on the ground glass because it was a big and bright circle on the sky. Bright moon light also created a not-so-bright image visible on the ground glass. It made composition possible.

The other benefit of bright moon light is that it brought down the exposure time to several minutes at a relatively low speed of ISO 400, a common speed for fast films. Reciprocity table pointed to at least 4 times of the exposure for the Ilford HP5 Plus film we used. And we decided to push it to 10 times longer, which gave us 60 minutes exposure in the end.

The result was surprisingly good. The film responded to the moon light very well, and held a great deal of details with barely visible grain. Whether this was the first attempt to capture the evening Tunnel View on large format film, we do not know. It surely was a rare one.