5 Frames… Of Yosemite National Park on a Yashica Mat-124 G and Kodak Portra 400 (120 Format / EI 400)

In order to reduce the number of folks that are visiting Yosemite National Park due to Covid-19, only a handful of park passes were being released at 7am each day through the Yosemite National Park website. After a few failed attempts and early wake-ups that were in vain, my fiancée and I finally got the opportunity for a much-needed getaway from LA to spend a weekend together taking photos at one of the most iconic photography locations in California.

To document this trip, I packed my Nikon Z6 digital camera along with the Yashica Mat-124 G medium format film camera. While I certainly enjoyed shooting with the Z6, I didn’t enjoy switching lenses and the consequential weight of having to carry so much gear while on extended hikes. (You must leave some room in your backpack for water and snacks!)

Yosemite Valley packs one breathtaking view after another. The temptation with a digital camera was to be trigger happy at every stop! For me, this trip asked for a more zen-like approach to photography: Meter the scene, adjust the settings, wind the film, take a deep breath, and click the shutter. On day two of the trip, I ended up leaving the Nikon Z6 back at the hotel. The Yashica Mat-124 G was light and compact enough for a full day of hiking while not compromising on image quality with its very capable 80mm fixed lens (45mm full-frame equivalent).

For my film, I decided to go with Kodak Portra 400. While Kodak Ektar 100 or Fuji Velvia 50 might have captured the fall colors in a more vibrant way, I intentionally chose to use Kodak Portra 400 for its warmer tones, and subtle softness in the way it handles the fall off between highlights and shadows. All of the photos were shot at box speed without a lens hood and developed and scanned by the amazing folks at thedarkroom.com

In comparing the landscape photos from the Nikon Z6 and the photos from the Yashica Mat-124 G, the photos from the Yashica were my favorites.

The intentionality that naturally came with having 12 shots per roll of 120 film with a 6×6 medium format camera allowed me to meaningfully select and compose the images that I ended up shooting for this trip.

Portra 400 might not be the obvious choice for landscape photography. After this trip, I came to appreciate its ability to balance the subtleties of light and color in nature. The combination of this film and the Yashica Mat 124g ability to produce razor sharp images that are not clinical but soulful was a combination that I will be looking forward to shooting more in the future!

Simon Kim