Many years ago, Ansel Adams photographed the Arizona desert in black-and-white. Many people might be unaware that he was a regular contributor to Arizona Highways magazine back in the day. Adams’ photographs of the desert have been an inspiration to me even before I captured a single exposure in Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not trying to compare myself with the legend. What I am saying is that Arizona and black-and-white photography go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s something timeless about it that just makes me feel good on the inside. It brings me back to those classic pictures by Ansel Adams that I carefully studied back in the early years of my own picture-making. As colorful as Arizona can be, to me it looks best in black-and-white.
I love Arizona! It is perhaps the most beautiful state in America. Some might disagree with that sentiment, thinking that the desert is dull and brown, but I find it to be a colorful and diverse landscape. Others might consider California, Colorado or my current home state of Utah, or perhaps another state like Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, etc., to be more majestic, and they are each certainly majestic, but to me Arizona is at the top of the list, and my heart belongs there.
My family and I like to travel to Arizona whenever we can, which is usually once or twice each year. A few weeks ago we visited some family of ours in Phoenix, and of course I brought my Fujifilm X-T30 along, with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 attached to the front. I appreciate this setup for travel because it’s small and lightweight enough to not get in the way, yet can produce some stunning pictures. The film simulations I used were Velvia, Kodachrome 64, and “Classic Negative” (for Quit My Job). This wasn’t a photography trip, but as always I captured a number of pictures. I hope you enjoy!
Almost two years ago my family and I visited the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I captured it with a Fujifilm X100F. The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park is one of the best city parks in America (it’s actually been ranked #1), and it truly is a neat place to go. If you are in Phoenix, Arizona, with your family, I highly recommend that you stop by this park. It’s especially magical around Christmas, as they elaborately decorate it for the holiday season. Last week my family and I returned to the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park, but this time I had a Fujifilm X-T30 and Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens to photograph the visit.
What I love about this park is that there’s something for everyone. There’s a large playground for the kids. There are barbecue grills and pavilions and large grassy areas to throw a ball or Frisbee. There’s a gift shop where you can buy ice cream in the summer and hot cocoa in the winter. There’s a museum. There’s a carousel. There are scale trains which you can ride that loop around the park. It’s both modern and historic. You can feel mindfulness and nostalgic simultaneously. It really is unique. And, of course, it can make an interesting subject for photography. I used my Kodachrome 64 film simulation recipe for most of these pictures.
Along U.S. Highway 93, about 12 miles south of the Hoover Dam, there’s a scenic view pullout, which offers tremendous views of desert mountains and canyons and a glimpse of the Colorado River at Willow Beach. This is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s easy to drive right on past this spot, as I have done many times before. Those who do stop here are rewarded with an incredible vista. It’s not the Grand Canyon, but it’s like a small glimpse of the Grand Canyon. It’s a quintessential Arizona landscape. Actually, you can see both Arizona and Nevada, as the river marks the boundary between the two states.
When I was at this scenic pullout last week, there was a storm passing through, which provided a dramatic sky with streaking light rays from the peeking sun. It was an amazing sight, yet short lived. I had my Fujifilm X-T30 with me, alternating between a Fujinon 35mm f/2 and a Fujinon 90mm f/2 attached to the front. A more wide-angle lens might have been nice, but these are the two lenses that I had with me. I captured a number of frames, then the great light disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Because I had a camera with me, and I decided to stop, I was able to witness and record this beautiful moment. Many cars zoomed down the highway, perhaps witnessing the scene quickly from behind their windows, or perhaps not noticing it at all, and only a few stopped. I’m thankful that I was one of the few who stopped, and what a great reward I was given for doing so. Sometimes the journey is the destination, especially if you are a photographer.
Last night when I checked the mail, waiting inside the metal box was the September issue of Arizona Highways. For those who may not know, this magazine has a long history of publishing great photographs, and many renown artists have been found in its pages throughout the decades. The newest issue of Arizona Highways features many pictures from the 1950’s and 1960’s, including the cover photograph by Allen Reed, so I found it especially interesting.
As I was flipping through the pages of the magazine this morning while sipping coffee, I was drawn to the Kodachromes, which can be seen many times in this issue. I was impressed with how well my Vintage Kodachrome film simulation recipe mimics the aesthetics of these pictures. It shouldn’t be too surprising since I consulted (among other things) some old Arizona Highways magazines when I created it, but it is a bit surprising that it’s possible to get this look right out of camera. Studying this issue was good confirmation that I got those settings right, and it made me want to shoot with it more. Perhaps later this week I’ll use Vintage Kodachrome for my Film Simulation Challenge.
If you can, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Arizona Highways so you can view these pictures for yourself. Look carefully at the vintage photographs captured by Ansel Adams, Ray Manley, Chuck Abbot and others. Esther Henderson’s pictures were especially impressive, and this was my introduction to her work. It was great inspiration for me, and perhaps it will be for you, too.
When most people think of Arizona, they picture dry dusty deserts and sprawling cities. It’s hot. It’s brown. It’s inhospitable. There are endless rows of look-alike stucco homes. Many people might be unaware that the desert bursts with color in the spring. Arizona isn’t just brown, there are vibrant greens, blues, reds, yellows, purples and other colors, especially in the spring, which is my favorite season in the state.
Arizona isn’t all desert, either. While it may be best known for the Grand Canyon, you might be surprised to learn that the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world is in Arizona. There are tall mountains and even winter skiing. The state is full of surprises. It’s one reason why I love Arizona and appreciate visiting whenever I can.
I used to live in Arizona. Back when I was barely an adult, the Air Force sent me to live in Arizona. I met my wife there. My first two kids were born there. I have a deep fondness for the state. I would love to live there again someday. It’s a wonderful place for photography. I highly recommend grabbing a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine to see many wonderful pictures of the state. A fact that you might be surprised to learn is that Ansel Adams was frequently published in that magazine back in the day. Many great photographers were, and still are.
The photographs in this article were captured a few weeks ago. I used my Fujifilm X-T30 camera with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens and a Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens, which are both excellent examples of Fujifilm’s great glass that they’ve become renown for. I hope that you enjoy this variety of photographs that demonstrate there’s more color in Arizona than one might initially think.
A couple of weeks ago I passed through Sedona, which is an incredibly beautiful town in northern Arizona. Sedona is surrounded by amazing red rock formations. The place feels like it should be a national park, but it isn’t. It’s a tourist town, and people come to see the rocks. It’s the subject of many photographers’ attention. You’ve likely seen pictures of Sedona in magazines and calendars. I had the chance to stop in Sedona in the early afternoon for lunch while travelling between Phoenix and Flagstaff. I didn’t stay for nearly long enough, only to eat and capture a handful of pictures. Sedona is one of those places you want to see over and over, and I wish that I lived closer to it so that I could photograph it more often.
Some would say that the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky, is a terrible time for landscape photography. The golden hour is when you should be out with your camera. While it’s true that around sunrise and sunset is a great time for photography, anytime can be a good time. Just because the sun is high, drenching the scene in harsh light, doesn’t mean that one can’t capture a decent picture. Today’s cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T30 that I used for these photographs, have a great dynamic range latitude, and can handle the bright highlights and deep shadows surprisingly well. While it’s best to attempt to capture a subject in the best light possible, if that’s not practical you do the best you can with the light you have.
Something that I did have going for me were clouds. I prefer a partly-cloudy sky over an endless blue sky for landscape photography. Even an overcast sky can sometimes be more interesting than a cloudless one. Clouds add interest to the scene and can sometimes have a positive effect on the light.
I hope that you enjoy these color photographs of Sedona, Arizona!
There are many reasons to photograph. It might be because someone is paying you money to do so. It could be because you want to hang a pretty picture on your wall. Perhaps you want to share what you ate for lunch with your social network followers. Maybe you have a message you want to photographically convey. Or it might be because you are compelled to create art. There are any number of reasons to take a picture.
Ever since I purchased my Fujifilm X100F, I have found myself much more than ever before using the camera to chronicle my family and the adventures we have. I’m documenting us, the Roesch family. This is something I’ve always done, but never to the extent that I’ve done over the last six months. I’ve captured a heck-of-a-lot of family snapshots lately.
There are several reasons why I’m photographing my family more, and it comes down to gear. The X100F is the perfect chronicle camera. It’s small and lightweight enough to fit in my pocket, so I carry it around with me and it’s never in the way. The image quality is nothing short of fantastic. Many of the different film simulations are great for people pictures. The leaf shutter and built-in fill-flash are great for portraits. It produces wonderful pictures right out of the camera that don’t require editing, so I’m not bogged down with post-processing.
That last point is an important one. I used to spend hours and hours and hours sitting in front of a computer screen editing RAW files. That’s time spent away from family. My workflow was constantly backlogged. I found myself purposefully not capturing images because I knew that meant editing them, which required time that I didn’t have. In fact, I still have thousands of RAW exposures sitting on hard drives that I never got around to post-processing.
With the X100F, I not only have more time to capture pictures, but I’m also not worried about the time that I would have to spend with each image after exposure. I click the shutter and the image is done. It’s ready to be uploaded to the web (which is where I backup my pictures). I’ve saved so much time, and I believe that this more than anything accounts for why I’m now taking more family snapshots.
Years from now these pictures will be worth more to my family and I than any of the other ones. These will be the cherished photographs. I have an old box of slides that my grandparents captured, mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There are images of Yosemite and Yellowstone and such in that box, but the pictures that are most interesting are the family snapshots. Pictures of my dad and his siblings as young kids, or my grandparents when they were young adults, are particularly fascinating.
The photographs in this post are from our family trip to Arizona last Christmas. There’s a really neat place in Scottsdale called the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, which is just an incredible place for any train enthusiast (and what kid isn’t a train enthusiast?). We spent an afternoon at the park, and these are the family snapshots that I captured. The kids had a blast! It was a really good couple of hours. Because I chronicled it with my camera–the adventure was documented–my kids and their future kids will have these treasured exposures. This will be meaningful to them.
The Fujifilm X100F is a great camera because, among other things, it makes family snapshots easy, producing excellent results without fuss. I’m so glad that I purchased it six months ago. I can’t wait to use it to chronicle the next family adventure, wherever and whenever that might be.
One thing that I did on my Christmas visit to Arizona was photograph cacti. You can find cactus all over the place there. The spiky shrubs are common in Arizona landscaping, and a short walk into the desert will reveal even more. There are over 60 varieties of cactus that grow there. I only photographed a few different types, including Organ Pipe, Saguaro, Barbary Fig, Cholla, and a couple others that I couldn’t identify.
The ten photographs in this article are all camera-made JPEGs; however, I used X RAW Studio to process the RAW files (if you aren’t sure what X RAW Studio is, be sure to click the link), fine-tuning my Across Push-Process Film Simulation recipe. For most of these I increased the shadows to +4, and for some of them I reduced highlights to +3. I adjusted the exposure by 1/3 stop (either plus or minus) for a few of the pictures, as well.
I love the film-look that the Fujifilm X100F produces. A few years back I captured some cactus pictures in Arizona using a Minolta XG-1 and Kodak T-Max 400 film. What I get from the X100F using Acros and what I got back from the lab using the film gear are surprisingly similar. You can achieve film-like results with any digital camera using software, such as Nik Silver Efex or Alien Skin Exposure (both of which I’ve used extensively in the past), but with Fujifilm you can get it straight from the camera if you want.
People have told me, “I don’t get your fascination with film. I don’t like the film-look.” Different strokes for different folks. I personally don’t like pictures that look digital. I compare it to listening to an MP3 file versus an analog record. The MP3 will be more cold and clean, while the analog sound will have more warmth and character. Digital music is way more convenient, and that’s why it is so common.
Digital photography is way more convenient than analog photography, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. I appreciate the characteristics of film, and the ability to achieve that look while enjoying the conveniences of digital is something I’m thrilled about. One thing I especially like about Fujifilm is that they maintain their analog soul in the digital age.