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Lake 22: Day Hiking with the Yashica Mat-124G

Not far from the bustle of Seattle is one of my all-time favorite short hikes. Nestled within Mt. Pilchuck State Park, the Lake 22 Trail is a seven mile out-and-back which parallels Twentytwo Creek as it climbs some 1,486ft from the stream's terminus at the Stillaguamish River to its source at Lake Twentytwo.

Though it is considered a heavily trafficked trail, I've found that those willing to hike at off-peak times and/or in less-than-ideal conditions are often rewarded with plenty of solitude. The day I took these photos, there was a patchy layer of overcast supplying misty precipitation on and off again every 30 minutes or so; very much a typical day in this part of the Cascade Range. I crossed paths with one pair of hikers on the way in, and then had the lake completely to myself for the hour or so that I spent there.

For this hike, I packed in my trusty Yashica Mat-124G and a roll or two of Kodak Portra 400.

Although I wouldn't consider the Yashica Mat (or really any TLR-style camera) an ideal tool for landscape photography, there are a number of features that make it worth considering for a hike like this.

Firstly, the camera's weight. Compared to something like a Mimiya RB67, the Yashica Mat is something of a featherweight - and this is much appreciated when you're carrying it uphill! Secondly, the medium format 6cmx6cm square negatives (combined with the camera's excellent glass) give a level of detail that 35mm film cameras, and all but the highest of high-end modern digital cameras, simply can't match.*

The downside to carrying the Mat-124G, for this type of work, is the fixed lens. There are some telephoto and wide-angle "adapters" that can be attached to the camera's bayonet-style filter mounts, but I have had mixed luck with these and prefer to skip them. This leaves only the 80mm focal length (50mm focal length equivalent in 35mm terms).

That said, the 80mm lens is fantastic! The photo above is one of my favorite images that I have ever taken on film. The detail when this image is enlarged is incredible, and the generous dynamic range of Portra 400 really came into play when metering this scene. Though it would be great to have a few more options when it comes to lenses, for me, the Yashica Mat is a great compromise for mountainous terrain when you still want to capture images that can be printed to size. There are a few other 6x4.5, 6x6, and 6x7 options that I may try in the future - the folding rangefinders are particularly appealing - but if I were to take another step up, it would probably be straight to a 4x5in large format field camera... but that's a post for another day.

All in all, it was a successful hike up to Lake 22. For a spontaneous day trip, things really turned out well - a few hours of solitude in the mountains, with a couple of images to take home and share.

If you like these film photography posts, please stay tuned for more and consider subscribing (which can be done on the "Contact" page). I have a big backlog of material to sift through, but I'm going to try to put out at least one post per week until I get caught up. In time I'll also be putting out some in-depth reviews of the cameras I use, select film stocks, related books and more. Thanks for visiting!

*This sentence is the subject of endless debate on the interwebs, and deserves an entire post of its own, but let's just take it at face value for now!


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