Gaylor Lakes black & white (5 photos)

Five black & white “bonus” photos from my morning hike to Gaylor Lakes and Granite Lakes in Yosemite National Park. This is also the last post with photos from my recent Yosemite trip, and it’s time to reflect a little bit (below the photo gallery).

Except for the first day, I hiked lightweight, with just the camera and a universal zoom lens (plus a polarization filter and a spare battery, of course). No tripod and no extra lenses. No extra weight. Which was actually a result of how exhausting that first day hike was (I mentioned it in the North Dome post). :-)

Hiking in the mountains and experiencing the beautiful alpine landscapes was one of the things, if not the thing that got me into photography. After initial disappointments with digital compact cameras, a Nikon D70 (my first DSLR camera) and a superzoom lens became my lightweight hiking kit (I recently added the series of blog posts from a three-day hiking trip in Italy, in 2007, that were made with that kit).

And then I began to carry more photo gear. And more. And more. Somehow, photography “took over” and became the primary purpose of being out in nature. And in Yosemite, leaving all the heavy extra gear behind reminded me of how it used to be – that the hikes were primarily about just that: hiking! Being out in nature – and preferably in the mountains. Alpine landscapes just give me the most.

I love photography, but if I can’t make that abstract/close-up photo with a telezoom lens because I’m not carrying that lens – then so be it. No one else but me will know. It’s funny sometimes how the things that we have in our heads weigh us down – in addition to the gear that we’re hauling around.

But luckily, the photographic tools we have today enable us to get images of the scenery and capture good data to develop photos from even when we’re approaching photography in this more simplistic way.

For example, during my “free” hikes in Yosemite, I had the camera on Auto-ISO, which thankfully is driven by a smart algorithm now that adapts to the focal length, to make sure you get a sharp photo. A sharp photo is the most important thing. High ISO just means a photo that has more grain. A quality that we used to admire of course, especially in black & white film photos. There’s no real reason that digital photos need to be licked all clean, de-noised, and look hyper-real. No normal person actually cares about that – only other photographers. ;-)

Or take the lack of a wide angle lens – that can easily be circumvented with a panorama. Hand-held panorama stitching works great. The computer does it all for you. And the telephoto range? With current high resolution sensors, we can crop a lot. The little ground squirrel from my Mount Hoffmann hike was photographed with a focal length of 120mm. The resulting photo is just 8.5 megapixels, from the original 36 megapixel capture. It won’t print billboard-sized, and who cares (or would want to do that, anyway).

So I’ll try to not let photography impair my ability to hike the way I want to too much in the future. I’ve always been a rather opportunistic photographer anyway. Instead of hauling heavy gear that puts limits on the miles I can cover, I want to try to simply enjoy again whatever is out there. The land and the light. Being less obsessed with squeezing the best out of every photographic opportunity will hopefully allow me to experience the places themselves better again – as it should be.

Wish me luck. ;-)

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