Roadtripping in the US (well, 3 days) / by Giacomo Cattaneo

After attending a conference in Denver, I embarked on an intense and national parks - packed roadtrip with a fun group of colleagues / friends, crossing Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada (well, Las Vegas, but what else is there!?!?) aiming for Los Angeles. We spent days driving 6-9 hours, drifting by amazing landscapes, eventually finding a motel on-the-road - a "real" US roadtrip, at least in my stereotypical imagination, as this was my first US visit. However, every once in a while - and the main reason to drive across the states - we reached our selected national parks. And my (our) mind was blown to pieces! As a "villager" from tiny Switzerland, the first thing that one say about the places we visited is... SIIIIIZE:BIIIIIG!!! Definitely impressed, so much that this short trip seemed to be worth it a couple of weeks of travelling - well done guys, we definitely made the best of it! 

Here below I put some of my favourite pictures, plus a few comments on what I wanted to get, or how I edited them. It was my first time using my new Nikon D750, plus the new prime lenses. To be honest, I did struggle a bit especially in understanding, based on the picture I wanted to take, which lens would be more appropriate. After putting on most the times the wrong one, I slowly started to get the gist of it. The bigger difference, besides the "zoom" (how close or far the subject is), is the perspective: how much the elements in front of the camera collapse onto one another or they appear far from each other. This video is quite a good explanation, check it out! 

I'd love to hear your comments about the pictures, what do you like and especially what you think I could have done differently to achieve a better outcome.

Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

Our first stop outside of Denver, it was a bliss after 4 days locked in a hotel. Strong light of mid-afternoon, my first shot at using my new camera... did not really know how to handle it! 

Rocky Mountains National Park, Bear Lake - ISO 200, 20mm, f/14, 1/125 sec

For the picture above, I had in mind those great shots where the elements under the lake are very vivid. The outcome is not really close to what I wanted. The light is too strong, sunset would have been so much better. 

Rocky Mountains National Park - ISO 50, 20mm, f/16, 1/40 sec

I liked the idea with the reflection, the puddle of water was no large than 15cm. With the 20mm lens I could really get much of it in. Happy I got enough reflection in the water, but had to "take it out" with the clarity slider in Lightroom, plus some dodging/burning.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park - ISO 50, 20mm, f/14, 1/20 sec

This one you gotta enlarge it, it's much more impressive the bigger it is on your screen. Bryce Canyon was a breath-taking view, did not really know what to expect and it really hit me in the face when we could look beyond the ridge. Unluckily, the sun sets behind your backs, so that the canyon in the evening is mostly in the shadows. I can only imagine how magical it might get during the sunrise, with the red stone shining bright! The struggle in these pictures was then to get out as much as possible from the shadows, and balance it with the clear sky - so, you can perceive a huge deal of post-processing. Almost to much for my taste, but decided to give it a shot. Especially in the one below, it looks like one of those pumped up desktop background I never really liked. Still, the less edited one was so underwhelming with all such beauty in the shadow, that I went for the pumped up version - I beg for forgiveness ;)

Bryce Canyon National Park - ISO 250, 20mm, f/13, 1/80 sec

Bryce National Canyon - ISO 400, 35mm, f/14, 1/3 sec

Antilope Canyon, Arizona

Ah, the Antilope. Home of the most expensive picture ever sold. I really felt like a kid in a playground in this place - a canyon dug out of soft red stone into sensual curves, you could point the camera anywhere and it would be a great shot. This also means that getting that picture, a bit special, was a no-go - still, everybody is happy to have the same picture as person walking in front of you. We went to the lower-part of the canyon, so not where the famous "phantasm" picture was taken (that'd be the upper-part). Hence, no rays of light for us ;)

The trick in this case was for me to take very dark pictures, so that the light from the ridge above our heads would not blurry its borders as too intense - basically, trying to stay in the middle of the histogram away from both its black&white ends. The pictures on camera were for this reason very dark, but it was then easy to restore the shadows into their original colours in Lightroom. Actually, the camera in this case picked up even more colours than the human eye - what you see below are not ultra-saturated shots! I retouched them very little, believe me or not. I put four of my favourites, but as these get close to being abstract pictures, it's a real matter of taste what you like - I preferred focusing on details and particular shapes/colours using a 35mm rather than a wide angle. 

Antilope Canyon - ISO 500, 35mm, f/8, 1/13 sec

Antilope Canyon - ISO 500, 35mm, f/8, 1/10sec

Antilope Canyon - ISO 500, 35mm, f/8, 1/20 sec

Antilope Canyon - ISO 640, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/25 sec

Extra here below is the shot of the Horseshoe bend of the Colorado River, not far from the Antilope canyon - to be honest, I never thought I would suffer so much of heights. This place proved me wrong!

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River - ISO 50, 2mm, f/16, 1/40 sec

Grand Canyon, North Rim, Arizona

I always underestimated the Grand Canyon. No picture I saw was comparable to what I saw with my own eyes... majestic. Really, really majestic. Do you remember what I wrote in the beginning about the size being biiig in US? I think it's mainly because of the Grand Canyon I reckon. Plus, you get there by crossing forests like the one in the first picture here below, which makes it even more unexpected. For the picture below I used a 20mm, a "typical" landscape shot: foreground leading you to a subject that catches your eye that sits in an immense and beautiful landscape. Classic, but somehow I like it as it came out of nowhere expected, rather "on the way".

Somewhere on the way to the Grand Canyon - ISO 200, 20mm, f/16, 1/160 sec

Grand Canyon, North Rim - ISO 200, 35mm, F/16, 1/100 sec

Here above I used a filter. Yeah, like those on instagram... why? boh. But the warmth of the colours now, the light, they more resemble what I have as a memory of the place, and so I feel comfortable in altering the colours. Your take?

One the way from the Grand Canyon towards Las Vegas - ISO 500, 20mm, f/8, 1/8 sec

Los Angeles, California

Gné, these last two pictures are just some random shots from around LA - the first at Malibu, the second Venice Beach. Nothing fancy, but they conclude the trip and I don't have better ones eheh! The first one I wanted to capture the "baywatch" feeling, but instead of Pamela Anderson I got this Abercrombie&Fitch dude - I was disappointed! Plus, I had to wait for him to do something, as I really wanted him to interact with the red rescue-thingy, but he definitely took his time. The second, is just an "impression" of Venice Beach, where people stroll and skate around - I wanted to get closer to them, but they were way faster than I was and I would have really looked like a creep! So, what do you do when the picture is not that great? Heavy filter once again ahah =P

Malibu - ISO 500, 35mm, f/8, 1/320 sec

Venice Beach - ISO 200, 35mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec

I really enjoyed toying around with the new camera and lenses, and I do enjoy some of the pictures. What are your thoughts, which picture do you like and why? Especially, which one do you like less, and what would you have done differently?

Now I've gotta get to work on the pics from Japan - hopefully I can write such post soon enough!

Ciao a tutti,