5000 Miles In 6 days

On a trip to the store for a few groceries, my wife and I were talking about someday making a trip to the western side of the US.  She and the kids had never been west of the Mississippi River and had only seen the other side of it on TV and in photos.  This would not do.  By the time we left the store, we hadn’t thought of a single reason why we couldn’t make a whirlwind tour in the span of week.  We arrived back home, unloaded the groceries and immediately set about packing.  Two hours later, we were on the road with our 8 kids.  Leaving from North Carolina we headed northwest to Nebraska before hooking a left for the long westbound trip to Idaho.  It was in the evening when we left so I didn’t photograph anything on the first leg of the journey.  Stopping around 1am in Kentucky we had a nap and were back on the road by 8am.  We drove the whole day and on into late night until we stopped about 100 hundred miles into the east side of Nebraska.  The following morning we awoke to a vast landscape of fields and prairie.  Now on to the photos!

Nebraska’s many wind turbine generator farms make for some pretty cool looking landscapes.

Sony Ay w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 46mm | f/8 1/640th | ISO 100
Sony Ay w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 46mm | f/8 1/640th | ISO 100

I found a great use for retired iPhones.  Give them to your kids to use as cameras!  My second oldest daughter has enjoyed being able to make good photos with such a small camera/game system.  Here, she was taking in the vastness of the prairies of eastern Wyoming.  I’m not aware of anywhere on our side of the river that looks like this.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 70mm | f/8 1/125th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 70mm | f/8 1/125th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 66mm | f/8 1/100th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 66mm | f/8 1/100th | ISO 100

Finally made it to Idaho!  This photo is from the Tetons, just south of Yellowstone National Park.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 40mm | f/4 1/60th | ISO 800
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 40mm | f/4 1/60th | ISO 800

What is a trip out west that doesn’t include Yellowstone National Park.  This has been on my bucket list for many years.  I’m so glad my first experience there was with my best friend and our kids.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/4 1/200th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/4 1/200th | ISO 100

My 5 oldest daughters and I walked around on the boardwalks surrounding the geothermal springs.  A few of them were quite nervous about this, having just witnessed Old Faithful blow its top.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 35mm | f/8 1/60th | ISO 160
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 35mm | f/8 1/60th | ISO 160
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 44mm | f/5 1/400th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 44mm | f/5 1/400th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/250th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/250th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 46mm | f/11 1/1600th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 46mm | f/11 1/1600th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 43mm | f/8 1/200th | ISO 320
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 43mm | f/8 1/200th | ISO 320

Be sure to click on this photo below.  The sand and bacteria has such an awesome texture that can hardly be appreciated even in the slightly larger version.  The original image looks amazing!

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 55mm | f/8 1/30th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 55mm | f/8 1/30th | ISO 64
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/60th | ISO 320
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/60th | ISO 320

We spent one afternoon in Yellowstone.  It was sensory overload for me, making it a real challenge to single out the things I saw that I wanted to capture.  I hope one day to go back and spend at least a week there. From Yellowstone we headed southwest back through Idaho and down into Utah.

I about slammed on the brakes for this shot.  Fortunately there weren’t many cars on the road.  I wanted to take a little more time on the trip home to stop and see things up close.  Shots like this are worth a few minutes time.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/16 1/60th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/16 1/60th | ISO 100

For this shot, I pre-focused the lens to a spot on the tracks where I knew the train would pass.  I mounted the camera to a monopod and fully extended it.  Holding the monopod above my head, I could get a more downward angle on the foreground so as to give it more depth.  Had it been shot at eye-level, all the plants in the foreground would have been bunched up and competing with the train for attention.  I suspect the camera was near 10-12 feet in the air when the shot was made.  Please click on the photo to see it larger.  The downscaling used on the default view makes it look excessively crunchy and grainy.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 70mm | f/5 1/640th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 70mm | f/5 1/640th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 320
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/8 1/320th | ISO 320

On the way through Utah, we stopped in Moab to visit Arches National Park.  This place is amazing!  Everywhere you look is another grand view full of color and layers.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/8 1/500th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/8 1/500th | ISO 100

I switched out the Zeiss lens for a Minolta oldie-but-goodie: the 70-210mm f/4 (aka the Beercan).  Yields a nice sharp photo when stopped down a smidge.

Sony A7 w/ Minolta 70-210mm @ 75mm | f/6.3 1/400th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Minolta 70-210mm @ 75mm | f/6.3 1/400th | ISO 100

Here is another example of shooting a scene with the camera extended up high on a monopod.  The elevated perspective opens up the foreground’s low-lying plants so that you can see all of them instead of just the front row in your face like a fence.  I love the contrast of the red desert floor and the green plants.

Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/14 1/125th | ISO 200
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/14 1/125th | ISO 200

Using the Minolta 70-210mm f/4 again.  Not too shabby for a $100 lens eh? Look at the creamy out of focus areas.

Sony A7 w/ Minolta 70-210mm @ 120mm | f/6.3 1/400th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Minolta 70-210mm @ 120mm | f/6.3 1/400th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/8 1/640th | ISO 100
Sony A7 w/ Zeiss 24-70mm @ 27mm | f/8 1/640th | ISO 100

After our day at Moab, we made our way east through Colorado.  The trip was short but memorable.  I look forward to the next chance we get to head back to Yellowstone  and beyond.

Thanks for having a look at all the photos.  Hopefully they brightened your day!

 

Technical Notes:

Shooting this trip with the Sony A7 was a pleasure.  The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 OSS is a solid lens with few compromises when space and weight are your concern.  The Minolta 70-210mm f/4 I’ve found to be pretty soft at 200mm until stopped down to f/8.  The middle of the range focal lengths tend to do better than the extreme ends – as one would expect.  The lens has a character to it that I’m unable to define very well.  While not all images I get from it are tack-sharp, they posses a certain creamy, colorful, quality that I’ve actually grown to like.  I wouldn’t call it blurry or fuzzy as those terms sound negative.  Maybe it’s just an issue of micro-contrast.  Whatever it is, Photoshop RAW seems to be able to clear it right up with a touch of sharpening with the result being surprisingly excellent.

Another note to add:  I used a graduated filter set in some of the images.  In case you’re wondering, I don’t shoot HDR.  I do, from time to time,  post-process single RAW files in Photomatix if the image could use a little pick-me-up in getting the right pop.

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10 thoughts on “5000 Miles In 6 days

  1. Wow, what a lucky family!!! You and your wife are amazing beyond words. I am left speechless at the ease with which you guys can take on such a monumental journey. The educational experience of a lifetime with not one, but EIGHT children, a task most will never comprehend. I am in awe….. and quite humbled.

    Thank you for sharing these experiences with those of us who have not taken the time to stop and appreciate the beauty around us until now. With your descriptions I am able to see what has been there all along, yet I never noticed. Because of you, I now can see in a way I never knew was possible.

    Happy traveling and learning….

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  2. Tom- You and Jen never fail to amaze us. Your life, your photos- I am truly humbled to know you- and to call you my friend. You are a once-in-a-lifetime! I have only one question- what happened to the groceries??? 🙂

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  3. It was such a blessed trip! So memorable! The trips that we have just thrown ourselves into, without planning, have been the most fun! Our kiddos were in awe of Idaho’s mountains, Yellowstone’s beauty, and the differences between the East and West of the U.S. They will never forget that amazing road trip!

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  4. What a journey! And such amazing photos! Hopefully one day you will capture all this in a book – an incredible keepsake for your family! You guys amaze me! Thanks for sharing with us!

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  5. Hi Bessie,
    Thank you for the kind words. I have thought about printing a limited edition book with a selection of my favorite photos. I think my children and, Lord willing, grandchildren would enjoy having something like that. A memoir without words: positive and filled with the beauty I’ve enjoyed throughout my life. One day, I must do this.

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  6. Wes,
    You’ve always been an uplifting influence on me. I cherish your friendship. Regarding the groceries, we brought some of them with us and the slighted-few had to remain behind locked away in the cold, dark fridge. 🙂

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  7. Hi Dana! So good to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The trip will certainly standout in our family’s memory. I remember my parents willingness to be spontaneous about such things and it has left a positive mark on my life. It seems the times that we plan the least for a trip, the more we enjoy it. Doing so provides so little time between the initial thought and resulting action that you never develop expectations that may be let down.
    I do hope all is well with you. I sure miss our rig-side Skype chats.

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  8. My Dad wrote a long, typewritten document about his early years- growing up, leaving home… he gave one to me- and one to my sister. It presents a side of him we never knew, and is cherished by us. I have given a copy to my son…. whom also cherishes it.
    We should do the best we can to leave our children- and descendants- a picture of who we were. It is a wonderful gift.

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