Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Top of the Rock

Fisher Towers 1 (291, 10-30-13)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Fisher Towers near Moab, UT.  I posted an entry about this place a couple of years ago but wound up removing it when the YouTube video I’d attached became unavailable (it was a video of a bank commercial – believe it or not – that had been filmed there).  Fisher Towers is about 20 miles east of Moab (along the Colorado River) and is one of the more interesting red rock structures in the southwest.  It’s especially spectacular at sunset, since all of the major rock faces look toward the west.  So every time we’re in Moab I head out to Fisher Towers in the late afternoon to wait for sunset.  And each time I’ve done so (3 times, I think) I’ve been disappointed.  In each instance the sun was covered up early by clouds.  The Towers are still interesting, of course.  They’re just a lot less photogenic than they otherwise would be.  The result is I wind up with pictures that were mostly taken an hour or two earlier than “optimal”.  Like these were.

This is also a favorite spot for climbers.  If you follow the dirt road that gets you really close to the Towers, it’s possible that you might not find a place to park.  People come early and stay late.  A few come here to photograph, others to hike, but most come to climb.  Some will climb the large structure on the left – known as the “Kingfisher” – while others will climb some of the shorter towers and spires that are visible in the above image.  One of these is called “The Corkscrew”.  It’s the one on the far right with the somewhat strange shape.  At least I think that’s The Corkscrew.  I’m pretty sure it is, but I’m not 100% positive.

I had both cameras with me when we arrived there a few weeks ago – the Canon 5D MK II and the Olympus OMD EM5.  The EM5 was fitted with the 75 mm lens (150 mm in 35 mm full frame terminology) and my standard 24 – 105 mm lens was on the Canon.  I like this overall combination because it enhances my options without adding a lot more weight.  The picture above was taken with the Canon at a focal length of 48 mm.  I then switched to the EM5 and took this picture:

Fisher Towers 2 (1137, EM5, 10-30-13)

I wasn’t crazy about the composition (I hate white sky) but I thought there might be somebody up there.  I could hear people talking.  And damned if there wasn’t.  This guy was standing right on top.  Made me dizzy just looking at him.

What blew my mind, though, was the result I got when I cropped this image to about 10% of its original size.


Fisher Towers 3 (1137, EM5, 10-30-13)

I don’t think I’ve ever cropped that severely before – not with any image from any camera.  Not even with my “big” Canon.  Yet here I was doing some extreme magnification on this 16 megapixel image.  I actually tried going even further, but I started to see some pixelation in the rock areas.

My point, I guess, is that I’m amazed at the image quality coming out of the EM5 with that kind of severe cropping, although the lens obviously has something to do with it as well.  Which has gotten me thinking:  Could I get rid of the Canon gear altogether?  Just use the EM5?  Man, talk about lightening the load.  And it certainly worked OK when I was in the Narrows and the EM5 was the only camera I was carrying.

Scary thoughts.  The Oly was just supposed to be a decent “backup” camera.  Not the primary.  Damn.  It almost feels like sacrilege………


6 Responses to “Top of the Rock”

  1. Markus Spring

    Definitely amazing image quality from the Olympus, Paul – and the only good reason to re-think gear when you are coming from the 5D. I made this switch (in steps) from a Sony APS-C to the Oly, which means that IQ was on par or I even gained something for less weight on the shoulders and in the hand. And now I have the new 12-40mm zoom for the Olympus on order, which should give me at least the same quality as my Zeiss zoom for the Sony did. Maybe this is an option for you, too – at a bit more than half the weight of the 24-105 and a supposedly stellar performance…

    • Paul Maxim

      I have to say, Markus, that I seem to be doing it in “steps” as well. My brain doesn’t seem to want to just switch. I’ve been using Canons for a very long time. And you’ve got to admit that Canon’s menus are a lot easier to navigate than the one Olympus uses! Still, it’s going to happen. I can feel it. Already my inclination is to pick up the EM5 on my way out the door, not the Canon. I’ve also found that using a monopod with the Olympus is about as good as using a tripod (when I actually need support). That reduces the load as well.

      I think the tipping point for me was when I got the 75 mm lens. It’s not what you’d call a versatile focal length, I guess, but the damn thing is really, really sharp. It’s as good as any Canon lens I’ve ever owned (I think).

  2. Cedric Canard

    No denying it, that’s an impressive looking crop. I am equally impressed with that guy’s efforts.

    A long time ago I used to think it wasn’t worth going out shooting without 2 bodies, 5 lenses, a bunch of filters and a heavy tripod. Now it’s 1 body, 1 lens.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yeah, to me it feels like I’m cheating somehow. If I’m not carrying a heavy camera with 3 or 4 lenses then I can’t really be serious about picture-making. Right? At least that’s the way my mind sees it. And yet I haven’t seen much in the way of qualitative differences when I “just” use the EM5. Especially when I make prints. No difference at all. So why can’t I pull the trigger and sell the Canon stuff?

  3. Kathryn

    Have you been to Sedona? It was quite a surprise to me when I was out west this summer. We drove from Tucson to the Grand Canyon and wouldn’t have stopped at all if my uncle hadn’t been pretty firm about suggesting it – stopped their just for lunch and we were completely blown away by the red rocks landscape. Very similar to this terrain.

    Thank you for the beautiful picture and the sense of adventure!


    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Kathryn.

      Oh yes, we love Sedona. We’ve been there 3 times, I think. It’s a wonderful place to explore. Should have become a national park in my opinion. I’m just glad your uncle told you about it!


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