In February 2019, I was able to travel around the desert and mountains of California and Nevada. The trip spanned from February 16th through the 27th, covering almost 1800 miles. I drove across 7000 foot mountain passes to being 280 feet below sea level, documenting my adventure along the way.
What I Chose to Bring
For this trip, I brought a camera that is still very new to me. Having used Olympus mirrorless equipment for the better part of ten years, the thought of switching brands was scary, but when Canon announced the EOS R in the Fall of 2018, I knew I would add one to my collection. In November, I was able to purchase one of the first EOS R’s at Richmond Camera, since then, I have had a blast using it. Being a Canon user for most professional work, I understood that things would feel familiar to me. Even though the camera is very different than my Olympus, I instantly felt right at home. There are differences however, the Olympus is small and fast, it can provide outstanding image quality. I would say it is the ultimate travel camera when paired with the right lens. The Canon is drastically larger than my current Olympus body, but still small in comparison to a Pro-Canon body.
My Travel Pack
For this trip I decided that the EOS R would make the trek with me. I carried two camera bags, the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 6 and the Think Tank Photo Urban Approach Backpack. I normally only travel with the Retrospective bag, but this trip I wanted the comfort of long travel of a backpack and the grab-and-go convenience of a shoulder bag. I packed the EOS R, Canon EF-EOS R adapter, Canon EF 16-35mm 2.8L, Canon R 35mm 1.8 Macro, and the Canon R 50mm 1.2L. This provided me the flexibility of having a ultra wide for landscape, a small prime for walking around, and a fast 50mm for low light and sharpness. I also packed two extra batteries, a Canon Wired Remote, and a Three Legged Thing Billy Tripod. The only thing I really didn't need were the extra batteries. Even though I would be camping most of the trip and not having access to a power outlet. I found that the EOS R would avg. about 1000 shots per charge. Still having one extra can be a life saver.
Where I Went
I arrived in Death Valley National Park, I quickly found a place to camp then ventured out to see the landscape. On the first day in the park I explored Bad Water Basin. This is a giant dry lake bed 282 feet below sea level. It was flat and salty. Going in February, I was hoping to beat the crowd, but I forgot that traveling a holiday weekend made things busier. Over the next few days, I traveled to the Mesquite Dunes, Salt Creek Trail, Rhyolite Ghost Town, Ubehebe Crater, Mustard Canyon, 20 Mule Canyon, and Titus Canyon. Death Valley is known for being the hottest place in the United States. However in February, it can be cold and windy. I was happy to have the EOS R with me. Being weather sealed it gave me the confidence to shoot in a variety of conditions, of which I would push the boundaries.
From Death Valley, I traveled to Trona Pinnacles in the high desert of California. Driving over a few more mountain passes, past Joshua Trees, and volcanic deposits, you drop into the Searles Lake bed. Venturing off pavement for 10 miles into Bureau of Land Management land, you can camp and explore to your liking. The pinnacles are nothing like I have ever seen. You feel like you are in another world, a vast open space alone. Covering almost 3800 acres with 500 tufa spires, it is breathtaking. I made camp and set up for the night. I had one goal in Trona: startrails. I wanted to feature a group of spires and let the rotation of the earth do the rest. I set up my Three Legged Thing Billy Tripod, connected the EOS R with the 50mm 1.2L and waited for darkness. I could have opted for the ultra-wide, but I wanted a tighter view. With the wind blowing between 15-20 MPH I was worried about shake, but the Billy was rocksolid. I was only able to spend one night in Trona Pinnacles, but it was worth it. Unfortunately I had to leave before sunrise, that is something I will not miss the next time.
From Trona Pinnacles, I drove the 200 miles to Sequoia National Park. You leave the desert slowly gaining elevation, passing mountains, rolling hills, pasture, and orchards. Most people think of California as being only beach and city. They forget that it is a massive state, with some of the prettiest countryside I have ever seen. You can leave the desert, and be in Los Angeles, or 8000 feet up standing in a grove covered in snow with the largest trees on earth. The California you experience is up to you, it's all pretty great!
Sequoia National Park covers over 400,000 acres and includes the highest peak in the Continental US. It contains five of the ten largest trees on earth including the largest. General Sherman stands at an impressive 275 feet tall and 102 feet around, its massive. However it is not the tallest tree in the world, that title goes to Hyperion a California Red Wood that is over 100 feet taller. In February the High Sierras experience regular snow, and lots of it. You are required to have snow chains and use them when needed. From Three Rivers California, you gain 6000 feet of elevation to get to the Sequoia Groves. During my visit it snowed, but that did not stop me, with the EOS R, I felt confident. With temps in the low 20s with snow, I was still able to get the shots I wanted. The camera, 16-35mm, and 50mm performed flawlessly. I would regularly have to brush the snow off, but it worked perfectly all day. It was an experience I will never forget.
Looking back I made the right choice in gear for this trip. I had all my focal lengths covered except for long telephoto, but with the modern megapixel count so high, you can crop if needed. The EOS R paired with these lenses provided a smaller system with professional image quality. I look forward to traveling more with it in the future.
-Chuck Rudisill, Richmond Camera Carytown