March 30-31, 2012

5D Mark III Visits The Milky Way In The Badlands Page 1 of 2

Page 1 Page 2

In reading about the new Canon full frame 5D Mark III, I saw where canon claims a 2 stop ISO improvement. I then remembered shooting a star trail on the 5D II when I had it, at F4 3200 ISO. I thought, hummmm, so I could have as clean of an image as that if I shot at 12,800 ISO. I then thought well I'd have to rent a lens for it, so would get an F2.8 lens. Wondering what this combo could do at night got the better of me, so I wound up renting the 5D Mark III with the Canon 14mm F2.8. Looked like clear nights ahead of a big trough in the west for the following weekend, so I took the plunge and rented it for then. I figured I'd head to the dark SD Badlands again, as also with that trough it looked like a couple high plains chase days, so I'd be making the west drive anyway. Soon as I rent it all, models change and speed the system up 3 days. Doh. It ends up working out well enough, though no chase days out of that system for me.

I didn't intend this to be any sort of review really, but more of a see what can be done with this much "ooomph" at night somewhere dark. Not long after having it, I was rather underwhelmed. The noise levels at various higher ISOs really didn't seem any better than that of the 5D II when I had it. Just an impression. In the end, I think you'd be splitting some hairs to see much difference(there will be some examples on page 2 with all the Milky Way shots). I wouldn't buy the camera for that reason if I had the money anyway. All this said, the 5D II is already a great camera at higher ISOs, so not like it is bad at this. Just came off as damn similar as far as noise. I can't see the 2 stop claim being true but whatever. The one thing I think that might be possible, is it's just better at the really higher ISOs, 5000 and up. It seemed it was pretty good 3200 ISO to 10,000. Felt like a hit came in at 12,800. Anyway, if there is going to even be much of any visual difference between it and the 5D II, I could possibly see it lying up in those realms. I haven't had the 5D II for a while now and in a way, I don't have a ton of images from it either. But last page of this I tried to compare 400, 800, and 1600, then added some full sized crops of even higher ones from the 5D III. Kinda hard to find similar scenes though after the fact. But anyway, did toss some 5D III high iso comparison examples on here for a slight bit of a review in that sense.

Ok on with the trip.

By this point, I'd already scared myself out of camping in one area. You have to go at least a half mile off the road or trails and find a spot unseen from the roads, to be able to do the back country camping and not at a campsite. I looked at satellite views on the way there and thought I found a good spot to do it. It's east of the door trail. I go out there and soon say to hell with that at night. I almost couldn't find my way back out of there in the day. Everything is either on top of formations or in the stream beds between them. Down low you can't tell where things are. You pick the wrong stream bed to go back in and you can't get up the formation, so back out you go to try another. That whole deal bugged me in the day. I can't imagine trying to find the right way back in the dark if you needed to.

After too much walking, I try the Notch Trail. It's 1.5 miles round trip with some pretty rough terrain lol. I've already went up a cool log ladder in the above shot, halfway to the end of the Notch Trail. You come to this sign that says dangerous cliff, keep right. If you went past that sign and got off that skinny skinny ledge there, you'd slide off on that crap. You for sure wouldn't want to go that way, right? Right. (I screw this up at night)

I've gone right like it says. This is the safer way to get over there. Notice my footwear. So dumb. My toe is actually bloody, not from this, but from dropping the desk on it at home before I left for this trip. There are areas of this trail that it's real stupid to have flip flops on. Hell this really ain't one of them.

14mm on a full frame is super duper wide btw. Like 8mm on a crop sensor I guess.

This is the backside of that area, to keep you left on the way back. Not that I saw this in pitch black the next night, as I went right on around clueless I had or a cliff was right next to me. More on that on the second page.

Now at the end of the Notch Trail, 3/4 mile from the parking area in rough terrain. Takes a little while to get here, but not real bad. Don't do it in flip flops. This view is amazing. It is also sketchy as all hell. It's so slanted and there's loose crap, it's not hard to fall back and really screw yourself up. The next night I'm over on that crap right in front here....in the dark. You had to hold onto that hard stuff with one hand. And you damn sure had to not step on the lose stuff. Back down to the right would be a pretty crappy fall/slide. Obviously the other way would be worse, just die that way.

Holding the camera off the edge. I'm obviously not standing up and am reaching way forward.

There was another view in there, if you go a different way through the stuff and this is that. Probably a little more sketchy in that there are cracks going through this and it sounds a little hollow when you step on it. I found the first place in the dark the next night, but I could not even find this in the dark.

This is how crappy the terrain is to get to the edge to the left. Mix of loose crap to make you fall and hard as hell jagged stuff to mess you up as you do. Really smart in flip flops! I at least wore shoes in the dark when I did it.

I'm now heading back and have reached the fun log ladder. Don't screw up your step on this. I briefly tried to imagine how that would go and yeah, that'd go so bad. Like if your foot simply slid back inside one step and you go forward. This was fun in the dark with a tripod.

I have so much night stuff to get through on here, I kinda have to shorten the heck out of stuff like above. Was shooting the sunset here as some deer strolled up on the hill next to me. I had to run over to put the sun behind them. I was like, wait wait, as I tried to stop down far enough to get the depth of field. I eventually got it, but not on as good of a pose and after some took off running. So this one will have to do, with background not quite there yet. It took a tripod and F14 or so and still wasn't really working due to some breeze. Shutter just too slow. IS on the lense while on the tripod seemed to get it done though.

I think this is just the norm at the Badlands, vibrant sunsets over cool terrain.

So much for clear skies the first night. Endless clouds from here across Montana, but they worked at times. Venus and Jupiter down on the right. This was the other problem with the camping in the back country idea. Leaves you pretty immobile. And you'll be up all night anyway. So the idea was to find a place to put the tent up in the morning and attempt some rest during the day.

One good thing about cirrus, some optics to mess with. I kept getting hosed by moondogs. I'd see them, then set up the camera and not realize I bumped the focus. I did that twice before finally getting some. They'd always be gone soon as I'd see them. Some lower more mid-level clouds were clearly creating them. They'd pass by the moon, then for a brief window of time some dogs would appear.

Getting pretty sleepy, early a.m. I decide to head up to the Pinnacles Overlook, so I could at least get data and on the internet. Clouds ever clearing seemed unlikely. On way up I see this Bighorn Sheep. Remember it's night out, not nearly this bright. Just a dark road in the moonlight. I hurry up and stop and try to shoot him from the window, with the mount. I then think, I can at least try to open the door and get out. They are used to people but only so much so. I get out and he crosses the road. Damn it. Then he crosses back over. I walk ever so slowly down the middle of the road. I was down wind from him, which heck might have helped this some. At times it almost seemed like he didn't realize I was a person. Then other times if I'd move too quick or make any crunching noise on the gravel, he'd spook off a bit.

I stand completely still as he slowly works his way towards me, munching grass. Just before this I got the crap scared out of me, when an unknown friend of his took off down the rocks right next to me. Didn't even see him there. They sound heavy going down the rock. I couldn't believe just how close he was getting as I stood still. I thought, it would suck if he decided to attack. Like what if he wasn't completely aware I was a person, it was pretty dark at times with the moon blocked by various degrees of cirrus. He then gets close enough and becomes aware and doesn't know what to do other than ram me lol. Still playing out the possibility, he didn't actually ram me. He got to a point that if I laid down, he was literally 2 of my lengths away, 10-12 feet away. He was stupid close, I could have probably road him down into the Badlands. He then spooks some and moves off. I leave for a bit then eventually come back here.

I left and am now back here again lol. Faint moondog now and mr Bighorn sitting on his rock. Just like there are some bald eagles that are more brave, clearly there are some Bighorn Sheep that are the same. Note the orange object up there in the night sky. Mars.

You really had to ISO up to do this and were still usually saying to yourself, "hold still for a second." He looks a bit two headed as he moved his head during the exposure.

There is a better moondog now on the right. Sucked I could rarely get them good at the same time.

Now an upper tangent too.

I leave here and head back over to the east side of the park. I figured I could pull my car down the gravel road over there and at least try to get some sleep in. Any would be a start. I have a Mitsubishi Eclipse and it was now jammed packed full of stuff. I finally fell asleep in the drivers seat, with my legs over the tripod in the passenger seat. Good times. I can't believe I actually feel asleep for what I guess was 2 hours. I wake up groggy at 5 a.m. or so and look out and first thing I see was very early signs of twilight. I thought, damn I slept some! I then sit up and look out more and see it was at least more clear. I then notice the Milky Way brightly looking back at me to the southeast. Oh crap, jumped up out of the car fast!

I guess I didn't even think to ever do this or that it would even work like it did. You can have the Milky Way showing on one side and twilight happening on the other. 8000 ISO, F2.8 for 14 seconds. It's a pretty dark version of twilight to do it though. It will reveal noise quicker too, with a lighter sky area. Cleaned parts of the image. Many of the night ones I didn't even touch the noise, other than color noise in the raw converter. And this is at 5000 to 10,000 ISO levels. I took many of these but they really were all similar, so just one this morning for on here. It really focused me for the next night thought, as I'd only casually considered the Milky Way before seeing it and this op. I wasn't sure how much was up yet this time of year, as it rises pretty late still. That is why when I looked out and saw it, it was a pretty big surprise. Again, a damn good thing the car wasn't comfortable enough to sleep more than 2 hours, I guess. A whole lot of Milky Way shots will be on page 2 from the following night. With the moon setting at 3:15 the next morning and sunrise at 7:12, wasn't going to be a massive window to shoot the Milky Way, but there was enough.

Sunrise comes and it's now find a place to camp mode. I was willing to pay for the pay area there, to keep from having to drive 30 miles west and back, to do it at the other one. The problem was they only had a "winter" area open to camp in, while the others were still closed. Seemed pretty dumb. In this winter area I couldn't even determine what was and what was not a camp site. Couple RVs in there and a tent and a couple people out next to that. It's damn small, but I figured there'd be some sorta layout so you know where is a spot and where is not. Drove around a couple times and said, screw it! Least I hadn't deposited the $10 yet. I for sure didn't want to put up a tent and find that it was in a set area that someone was already part of. And there really was so little room in that winter area one.

I then headed west, really not wanting to have to go way out to the other, when I knew I was coming back to the east side of the park for the night. The other worry was just people being awake at camp sites and maybe making noise. Probably the biggest concern, other than sunshine, sigh. Not far into heading west I decide, fine, doing the least half mile back country camping thing. I kept looking where looked easy and hidden and not miles away. Found a spot and said that's it. I then realized I had to carry my camera gear, as I wasn't about to leave $5400 in rented gear in my car, plus my own stuff. That was fine but that meant I wasn't carrying the sleeping bag too. Had the camera bags and the tent, and a pillow, there would be no carry room for the big sleeping bag too.

Took me a bit and more distance to settle on a spot. For as much cliff type stuff there, there's just not a ton of shade to be found. They usually slope just enough. Often harder rock near them too.

I didn't get any sleep in this thing. It was cool/nice out but not in the tent. Screens just don't breathe well enough. Soon as I open the door I see wasps. Screw that. This place was freaking loaded with wasps by the way. Not even April and they were freaking everywhere. I tried this for a couple hours then gave up. Too hot in there. I drag it all back to my car. And oh yeah, bad foot and other cramps. I climbed and hiked a good 4 miles when I got there and was paying for it. Biggest problem was, I did it all in flip flops and well you're constantly having to use your muscles to grab ahold to keep your feet from sliding out of them. That and 8 cans of pop. If I had any chance to fall asleep before it was hot, it was ruined by something cramping. So it was fun to find it not even work and just spend that much more effort to further the cramping issues setting it up and taking it back.

I get it all back to my car and can't even get in my car, it's covered with wasps. I hate bees so so so so so so so bad. Thank god I didn't leave the windows cracked. It was a challenge though, just getting crap back in the car. I start driving west, unsure of what the plan was but knowing I had to get sleep, especially with another all nighter coming up and the fact I had to drive back home right at dawn after that one. Some sleep was super important. So I decided, get a motel room. Only $32 for the Motel 6 in Wall this time of year, so it's dumb to mess with day tent issues, when sleep is rather needed.

I get the room but really never get that much sleep. One thing I tried to do with the tent, was at least lay and not move, to try and fix the cramping issues. Figured least I could do is lay around. And I bought 4 things of gatorade and rather quickly drank 3 of them. I finally slept from 1-4pm. That clearly wasn't going to be enough though. Around 8pm, after sunset even, I decided to fall asleep, with my alarm set for 10:30. Actually I decided it sooner but think I fell asleep around 8:30. When I finally did, it was in a fashion you'd just sleep all night then. When that alarm went off at 10:30, only 2 hours later, holy crap. I couldn't even figure out what was happening for the first bit. Then once I shut it off and had to get up, I found it right next to impossible to fight off the fall back asleep urge. Extreme drowsiness that didn't feel beatable, as in it didn't feel like it would go away and you'd wake up more, if you got up and left. Knew I had to so I did, but it was for sure the hardest I've ever had that ordeal and I've done some stupid stuff being tired.

I check out of the motel, at 10:30 pm the day I got it lol. The desk lady was like, oooookkkk as I gave her the card and said I was checking out lol. Bet she hasn't had that very often, as she's probably usually the night person too. Drove back to the park and began star trail shots. Finally a night with this rented setup that is clear. I was getting worried.

It's pretty stupid how much I've looked for a night shot of the Yellow Mounds and never just used the "Yellow Mounds Overlook". Worst part is I've looked from right there and didn't know this was there. Guess it's always looking in the darkness. I didn't get the overlook was to look this way. I thought you were supposed to climb the mounds at the end of the parking lot and look west/northwest. I walked right to the sign there and was like, well this is the actual overlook, then took a shot to see and saw this. What a concept. F2.8, 1600 ISO, 20 second stacks.

F2.8, 2500 ISO, 6 second stacks. Some clouds working in, starting to mess with my emotions, as I had big plans for the Milky Way once the moon was down and it was up. There wasn't going to be a massive window of time for it, last thing I needed was some patchy clouds.

F2.8, 1600 ISO, 15 second stacks. I got the impression this didn't happen that long ago. Some rocks were on the road and it's damn close to the road. I kinda imagine they pick up spills like this near the road. The peak up there is more straight up than it appears on this. It's a lot bigger than it looks too. I kept thinking just how bad that would be if the rest of that deal fell down. You can see where these fell from, on the bottom of that.

F2.8, 2000 ISO, 20 second stacks. That is either an iridium pair flairing over there or the ISS with its restocking spacecraft with it at the current time. It's not a plane.

Now time for the Milky Way, this time before twilight starts. Most all of these will be between 6400 and 10,000 ISO for 15 to 30 seconds more or less. F2.8 I was surprised to see the green airglow phenomenon for the first time. As in you could see it with your eyes. The camera was really picking it up. It's now as dark as it gets there, which is dark dark.

***Head on over to PAGE 2 for the rest of the account and best Milky Way shots and high ISO examples from the 5D II here***