Valentines Full Moon on the Mt. Hollywood Trail

The Stars are Not Big and Bright on a Smoggy Night in L.A.
Valentines Day on the Mt. Hollywood Trail

Lovers at Griffith ObservatorySo. Here’s the thing about smog.  It’s terrible for your lungs, wreaks havoc on my allergies and serves to make you think there are no mountains in L.A. when standing on the beach or on some days downtown but boy does it make for great pictures!  I have only seen the sky more orange on two other occasions, once during a sandstorm in Iraq and in San Diego during the fires of 2003 and 2007.

On Valentines Day my wife and I met our friend Bonnie in Griffith Park at the Griffith Observatory for a full moon hike on the Mt. Hollywood trail.  Since this is L.A and we live only 30 miles (driving distance) we had to leave our house at 3:00 in order to get to the observatory by sunset which is 5:38.  Locals totally understand that this is a 2 hour drive.  Those of you who live elsewhere are probably thinking, “it takes 2 hours to drive 30 miles”? Yes it does and I’m sure that thousands of cars idling on the freeway does not help the smog situation.  Since we got to the observatory a bit early I got to take a couple of sunset photos.  The photo below is maybe my favorite urban landscape of all time.  I’m a big fan of the monochromatic look and the smoggy conditions made this photo a no-brainer for me.  This photo is looking westward from Griffith Observatory at Westwood home of UCLA.
Smoggy Sunset Over Westwood

After sunset we headed up the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail in search of a view inside of a distance that my 3 year old son was willing to hike.  Regardless of smog the trail provides fantastic views of sights that you have most certainly seen in a variety of hollywood’s best movies. Below is the view of the Griffith Observatory from midway up the trail.  Below it you can see that we weren’t the only people who thought it might be fun to come to the park for valentines day.  The observatory has been with us since 1935 and has witnessed on one side a city explode around it and on the other a landscape unchanged due to the foresight of Colonel Griffith J. Griffith to preserve the land.

Griffith Observatory at Night from the Mt. Hollywood Trail

We hiked to a nice 3 yo stopping spot and enjoyed the few stars that can be seen in Los Angeles.  The photo below shows more stars than I could see with the naked eye but that’s what a long exposure will do for you.

For tonight’s Valentine’s full moon hike I used my Sony NEX 7 and the following lenses. 55-210mm and 19mm.

The stars at night are not big and bright in LA from the mt. hollywood trail

A Short Hike in Palos Verdes

A Short Hike In Palos Verdes

A Short Hike In Palos Verdes

I took a short hike in Palos Verdes this weekend with my family.  Palos Verdes is an Oasis in the greater Los Angeles / Orange County area, a rare place where there are trees, open space and wildlife aplenty.  We can thank the inaccessibility of the area for its current state of preservation.  If it were easy to get here it would be no different than the stretch of beaches from Redondo to Santa Monica and beyond.

My son is about to turn three and finally starting to enjoy short hikes.  I am thankful for this as it is once again allowing me to get outside and photograph the world around me.  With the exception of the occasional winter hike in Rocky Mountain National Park I have not done much hiking in the past there years.

A Short Hike In Palos Verdes

Between asking my son not to touch the slowly rusting wire fence and asking him to stay away from the edge I was able to capture a couple of interesting images.

The Gear

These photos were taken with the Sony NEX-7 and 18-55mm lens.  While the lens leaves a bit to be desired in terms of sharpness it is certainly portable.  I am looking forward to comparing it to the Sony 16-70mm when I have the opportunity to purchase the lens.  I am certainly curious to find out if it is indeed worth the upgrade.  Although it is only 2mm wider I find that I really miss that range.  Sure I could switch to my 10-18mm but that would of course involve a lens change. Call me lazy but I am more likely to take a photo with the lens that is on the camera than switch to a new lens.  I have a 16-85mm lens for my Nikon system.  Not only is is a darn good lens its range envelops 90% of the pictures that I take.

I’m looking forward to taking hikes similar to this short hike in Palos Verdes on a more frequent basis in the future so stay tuned in this space for more interesting images.

Nikon DX vs Sony NEX Weight Comparison–Wide Angle–

In this Nikon DX vs Sony NEX Weight Comparison we are going to compare the carry weight of a DSLR and a mirrorless camera.   The goal in this comparison is to see just how much weight can be saved by switching to mirrorless.  Both cameras are APS-C sensors with 24 megapixels. On the left we have the excellent Nikon 12-24mm and on the right the similarly good Sony 10-18mm.  Both are APS-C sized lenses of the wide zoom variety and are among the best in this range for their respective systems. I was wondering just how much weight is saved by going with a mirrorless system vs a standard lightweight DSLR and so I put together this simple comparison.   Including a Nikon D5300 the Nikon 12-24mm would weigh in at 945g or 2.08 lbs.  The Sony 10-18mm with the Sony NEX-7 by contrast only weighs 517g or 1.13 lbs. (more…)

The Ultimate Ballhead?

If you’re looking for a great ball head you really can’t go wrong with one of the heads listed in this DPReview article.  The problem in my view is that they are all in the 1.5lb range which is overkill for the lightweight F8 photography style.

My favorite “Heavy Duty” ballhead is the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead.  The Acratech is >30% lighter than the ballheads in the above test and every bit as good.  When you aren’t trying to hang 5+ pounds of DSLR and lens off the top of a ballhead your strength requirements for a ballhead are substantially less.  That’s not to say that the Acratech can’t hold a DSLR effectively, it most certainly can.  I’ve been using the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead since at least 2006 on an array of DSLR’s. Be on the lookout for a lightweight ballhead roundup here in the near future where we’ll find out what’s really best.  Do you have a favorite lightweight ballhead?



Here at LightWeight F8 we are interested in exploring the idea that the best way to get incredible photos is to be in unique places at the right time with a great camera.  One of the best ways to make your excursion to unique places easy is to reduce the size and weight of your camera gear.  Once you have reduced the weight and bulk of your gear to the point where it becomes a no brainer to take it you will find that you are able to capture high quality images more frequently.  The ultimate expression of this idea is most certainly the smartphone camera.  We have smartphones with us everywhere and they take pictures that, while they look good on Facebook, have significant limitations that I believe make them inadequate for use when creating unique images.  Instead we will focus on cameras that allow more flexibility in the traditional photographic sense.

Since one of my favorite ways of taking unique images of wild places is to go hiking we will also be exploring the equipment and techniques for hiking and backpacking in an ultralight manner.  Hang on and have fun reading the content to come.  If you have questions comments or content suggestions please let me know.