2017-09-01 Crater Lake Trip

Smoke Filled Crater Lake

I drove over the Crater Lake Highway on my way from Klamath Falls to Medford. I spent the night on a logging side road north of Fort Klamath and found a plethora of Red-Breasted Nuthatches as the light was fading into the evening. I had my doubts about my chances for capturing satisfying images, but I thought it might be interesting to put the Nikon D5 to the test.

Back in prehistoric times when we all shot on film, the rule was the slower the film speed (50-100 ISO or ASA rating), the better the image quality, but hand-holding or subject movement produced undesirable blurring. Faster film solved that problem but introduced graininess to the image (ISO 400, 800, or 1600). To a certain extent those rules still apply to digital photography though for different reasons. In this experiment I let the camera adjust the ISO automatically. A review of the images showed that ISO’s of 36000, 45600, and 25600 were selected for the images (maximum for the D5 is 102400). These speeds were unheard of with film. As expected, there was a high degree of noise included in the images, but not nearly what I would have predicted. All the images I collected on this evening had more noise than I prefer to have in an image. Yet the images were much better than I would have thought, given the low light.

It is possible to tell the D5 not to use ISO values above a set threshold. I used this experiment to get a reasonable value for this setting. For now, it is at 16000, but I may change that in the future.

The following morning I headed off to see the crater. It had been decades since I last saw it. It was very smokey out with all the fires in the area. I smelled it all night, and I awoke to a very thick cloud hanging low to the ground. When I reached the rim of the crater and peered into the hole, all I could see was a smoky haze. When the sun rose slightly, the dim outline of Wizard Island and the peaks of the western rim appeared weakly in the distance. Trying to kid myself, I thought “Anyone can get a picture of Crater Lake on a clear day. How many have taken an image of the crater filled with smoke?”

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