Saturday, February 20, 2010

Livermore Wine Country and Altamont Pass Wind Farm

The weather was wintry, forecaster had called for a partly cloudy day. I wanted to take a drive and get some fresh air away from the city and thought I should venture out to Livermore to see how the grapevines are shaping up thus far. Northern California has had a whole year's worth of rain already - could it wreck havocs to the year's vintage? I wonder...Anyhow, my excuse for driving 50 minutes northeast to the pretty rolling hills countryside despite the menacing rain clouds hovering over my head most of the journey. .
I was not too optimistic about getting decent shots. Well, the sky did clear (long enough for me to take a couple of nice shots of the wind generators towering on the hills along Altamont Pass). I did not really mind the cloudy sky, to me it just added to the mood. The intermittent sun and dark clouds and its shadows falling on the rolling pastures made for beautiful landscape. There is always photo ops I reminded myself. The real reason for my little escape today was that I had acquired a nice (well used) Mamiya RB67 Pro SD with 90mm f/3.5 KL/L lens and a 120 film back last Sat all for a mere $280 and I have been dying to use it. I had a roll of 120 Velvia in hand and thought I should take it out for a "test drive". The RB67 Pro SD is soooo heavy, weighs a good 6+ lbs not counting my tripod :(. I weigh a mere 110 lbs and have a 5 ft frame!! This is going to be fun.....My shoulder will probably hurt tonight but what did they say about chasing your hobby (my passionate pursuit of something called photography). I had just the right backpack for it though....a new backpack I got last Xmas (it even has a touch of champagne pink fabric on the front) See pictures below. It is pretty large but not overly large for me, with straps on both sides so I could strap a tripod on it (barely though) (the main selling point of the backpack). I was able to pack my RB67 ProSD body with the 90mm lens and 120 film back, my Pentax digital spotmeter, Canon 10D with a wide angle lens and even a Holga which I had a couple of frames left that I wanted to finish. I quickly loaded everything in my car, and drove north on 680 and then 84 in the direction of Livermore at 7:30am.

A few comments from the trip:

First of all I love the RB67 ProSD...I am all smitten by it. The waist level viewfinder is so very bright, what a world apart from the viewfinder of 35mm SLR. Second, there are a few safety locks so one will never accidentally click that shutter without cocking the level and winding the film forward. Third, multi exposure on same frame is a breeze, just set it and adjust for stops and shoot away. Fourth, I don't have to rotate the entire camera to change from vertical to horizontal shot or vice versa, just rotate the film back, WOW!! (that is such a brilliant idea). Finally, it is all mechanical, no worries of camera battery dying on me just when that perfect moment presents itself!!

It is HEAVY!!! but it is such a joy to use....The only way for me to use it is to shoot on a tripod (a good habit anyway)

The images posted above were from my Canon 10D, as I need to finish the roll of 120 Velvia and as soon as I have it develop, I will update with some images...can't wait.

Finally, this is the day I decided to leave all my Canon DSLR lenses at home except for the wide angle because it would simply be way too heavy. I wish I had them expecially the 70-210 f/4. Anyhow, I had also inadvertently set the image size on the Canon 10D to small (uugh)!!! I was so grateful I had shot a roll of Velvia on the RB67, I never have to worry about accidentally setting the wrong image size with film camera. I was reminded of how pros used polaroid to do test shots before the advent of digital camera. Well mine sure look like polaroid samples now, good for web use:(. So much for agonizing over whether to leave my other lenses at home. On a good note, I did find a couple of spots that would be awesome for black and white photography and as soon as my films arrive from Adorama this week, I shall head out there to shoot more!!

"my beloved new backpack" It has a rather large top camera compartment where I put the medium format camera and a second bottom compartment for a second camera, seen here in the picture. Here is a link to Amazon's Cuscus Amazon store I can't seem to find the same backpack on their store anymore, I remember reading that it was out of stock. They have some really nice hiking backpacks tho :)

Find Camera Backpackson Amazon

Looks like dust spots have found their way into my Canon 10D again, time to cough out some money to get the sensor cleaned again!! With film cameras, one never have to worry about sensor dust spots.

A footnote about the wind farm, these towering wind generators do make a constant swirling (humming) noise (sort of like sound of a quiet engine running constantly). It is very audible indeed at the foothills some 400 ft down and I understand now why some farmers in the midwest objected to their neighbors starting a wind farm as a way to subsidize their farm income

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