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30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May


Watch on YouTube for full-size

Here is another 30-second landscape I made on my recent backpacking trip through Sequoia National Park. This clip features Mehrlen Creek winding through the Western Sierras.

This whole area of the trail was very interesting because it featured a gorgeous waterfall cascading gently over the slick granite rock formations. It wasn't a free-fall waterfall flying over a cliff, but instead the water just kind of poured down the steep rocks, finding the path of least resistance, guided by cracks and folds in the terrain. Truly stunning.

We made camp near this creek on our final night in Sequoia National Park and I had the great pleasure of spending some leisure time reclined on a seat of rocks next to this beautiful water feature. As I laid there with the soothing sounds filling my ears and the expansive vista filling my eyes, I felt like I finally understood John Muir's obsession with this area.

Soaking in the sights and sounds from my makeshift lounge chair, I had one of those rare moments of self-awareness where I realized that I was experiencing one of the happiest moments of my life. It may sound like I'm over-inflating a relatively mundane experience, but I truly felt a heightened state of happiness that only the deep wilderness can bring out in me. Being out there in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, observing the wonders of light and color before me, with no cell phone, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other usual diversions, I could truly enjoy the fruits of nature without distraction.

I can't wait to get back out there.

30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May


Watch on YouTube for full-size

I took a backpacking trip this past May with some good friends of mine through Sequoia National Park. Since weight is obviously an issue when backpacking, I decided to bring my lightweight Canon EOS Rebel T4i for some casual shooting. If I had my way, I would have brought my heavy Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera, but then I'd have to hire a sherpa and I just can't afford that.

The Rebel T4i may not be my usual medium of choice, but the fact that it shoots video came very much in handy for this trip. After a fun session of photographing Mehrlen Creek at sunset, I decided to steal take inspiration from an idea borne from the great Chase Jarvis. He does these awesome 60-second portraits which are basically short tightly-framed video clips of interesting people not really talking or doing anything particularly entertaining. It's just about observing a person and seeing what their face has to say.

I thought I'd take a cue from Chase and start making these 30-second landscapes so that you can get a taste of what the world is like wherever I happen to be taking pictures. No narration or anything. Just the sights and sounds of nature.

Enjoy.

UV Filter Use: Does It Degrade Image Quality?

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?Ah, to UV or not to UV, that is the question. This can be a heated topic amongst photographers. Some argue that UV filter use will degrade image quality, others argue that it’s the best insurance you can get for your expensive lenses. There are merits to each argument and we’ll get to that debate in just a second, but first things first - let’s talk about the purpose of a UV filter.

The best UV filter on the market will do nothing for your photos. That’s the whole point. UV filters are used simply to protect the front of your lens. It’s nothing more than a clear piece of glass that you screw on to the front of your lens and then forget about. You leave it on all the time as insurance. Drop your lens or smack it against a wall when it’s hanging around your neck, the filter will break instead of your lens.

If you get a good quality UV filter, it will protect the front of your lens without affecting the image one bit. If you get a bad one, it might degrade image quality or create more lens flare. And why are they called UV filters? Well, it sounds better than “clear piece of glass to protect the front of your lens.” True, they are supposed to block UV light - and most of them probably do - but it doesn’t matter because UV light doesn’t have any noticeable effect on your photos anyway.

Now the argument in favor of UV filter use is clear (ha! puns...). Put a UV filter on the front of your lens and you got yourself a $40 insurance policy. Replacing a shattered UV filter is much more affordable than replacing a shattered front lens element. And believe it or not, they actually do protect the lens. When I first heard about the purpose of UV filters, I thought, “Come on...like a single piece of glass is really going to do anything to protect the lens.” But they do. Of course it ain’t going to protect against a 5-story drop from a hotel balcony, but it’ll protect against those really frustrating “it just barely slipped out of my hands” kind of mistakes.

B&W UV MRC Filter

My UV Filter of Choice is the B&W UV MRC
Click Here to Purchase Yours from B&H

The argument against UV filters is, shall we say, untenable. Anti-UVers say, “Why would you put a $40 piece of glass in front of your $1,000 lens? A lens is only as good as the glass in front of it. You want to turn your $1,000 lens into a $40 lens? Huh? Do ya, punk?” Alright, maybe they’re not that hostile.

This argument is based in theory, not practice. Sure, it makes sense in theory that another piece of glass is just another chance for image degradation. But I’m betting the people spewing this logic have never actually done a side-by-side shot with and without the UV. This also sounds like the logic of someone who has never damaged a lens before. It’s easy to say “don’t get car insurance” if you’re never had a fender bender.

And by the way, I did do a side-by-side comparison with and without a UV filter. Can you tell which one had the UV filter and which one didn’t? Neither can I...

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?

Below is a 100% magnification of the above image.
One of the samples below was taken with a UV, the other without a UV.
Can you tell which is which?

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?

The bottom line is this: If you get a really poor quality UV filter, like the $10 Sunpak ones, then yeah, it might degrade the image a tiny, tiny bit when examined at 100% magnification on your computer screen (but still, I’m betting you won’t see a difference). Buy a good quality UV filter, like those made by B&W, and there is basically no chance of it degrading your photos.

So I generally recommend the use of UV filters to my students. If you want the protection, use one. I do.