B(L)AME me?

The current ‘buzzword’ seems to be BAME – for those of us unused to hearing this, it stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and describes anyone who isn’t basically a ‘white’ skinned person.

Why this is important completely defeats me – what possible difference can their be if a person has blue green or yellow skin? Surely it’s what’s inside that counts?

Apparently I’m in a minority myself thinking this way, and as we’ve seen recently, after a series of black people who’ve been beaten and even killed by the police in the United
States, a movement is in progress.

To a great extent I agree with the idea of the movement – principally to be clear the ‘Black Lives Matter’, but sometimes I do feel that that is overtly racist against white people.

Surely EVERBODY matters, and the simple fact that this movement seems to be aimed at black people makes it detrimental to white people?

The knock-on effect is now being felt as well – cosmetics group L’Oreal are removing words that could be ‘misconstrued’ from their advertising – toothpastes no longer ‘whiten’ your teeth’ etc. the photographic co-op Magnum has announced it’s hiring three ‘black’ photographers to ‘even the balance’…

Are black and white photographs soon to be renamed? I suppose we actually already have ‘monochrome’ so that would stand up, but isn’t this all getting out of hand?

Of course there are racist people in the world – everywhere you look – in some places worse than others. In India, for example, the situation is incredibly racist in terms of the caste system, and the people are all the same colour! At least, in America, the police know which colour to beat up (but then these policemen are pretty thick as a general rule, and need all the help they can get, so colour-coding the people must have seemed like a Godsend)

Trump, my favourite world leader, is true to himself, and couldn’t give a shit – aside from his re-ellection, which seems to be hanging on by an ever thining thread, and his bank balance, the country to go to hell in a handbasket for all he’s concerned. And judging by his efforts, probably will…

Sanity will ultimately prevail – but sadly not before a lot more damage has been done. Destroying statues, and our history, is not an answer in my opinion – it was particularly refreshing to hear a black historian interviewed on French television the other day – in his opinion, tearing down statues erected to slave traders and the like was simply a denial of our history – far better to learn why the person ‘celebrated’ by having a statue erected was, in our current thinking, wrong.

I agree – otherwise we risk becoming like China and Russia whose authorities have rewritten parts of their history books to hide/deny earlier historical events.

Are we really that naïve?

TTArtisan 11mm f/2.8 Fisheye

I can’t seem to find a lot of info about these people – I know they make third party lenses for Nikon, Fuji etc. and that their ‘site’ seems to be a Facebook page (hardly a site…)

I purchased mine from the NikonRumors site/blog as the site admin made these available to the readers. This one came from Singapore but they are available in Europe – at pretty much the same price of around 200€ – this is an excellent lens for the price – we’re not expecting Leitz-standard quality – be reasonable guys – but I’m frankly well pleased with the few test shots I’ve done today.

This lens is a full-frame, manual focus, fisheye (not a circular image) with a comparatively ‘fast’ aperture of f/2.8. Judging by the weight (556g) it is a mostly metal construction, and as there are no electrical contacts or ‘aperture feeler’ the lens is constantly stopped down to whatever is chosen on the aperture ring. This has an obvious effect on what you see in the viewfinder – the image will darken or lighten for a few seconds as you change aperture until the camera ‘corrects’ the exposure change (by changing the shutter speed).

The lens arrived via DHL this afternoon, and within 30 seconds I was tearing it out of the box… It’s a very compact lens – with a very interesting focusing scale…0.17, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.5, 1m – infinity. So basically there’s really not much point adding autofocus anyway – virtually everything is in focus from 1m to infinity, without turning the ring at all! (At f/8 the effective depth of field is from 0.4m to infinity.)

If you put a genuine Nikon rear lens cap (LF-N1) onto the Nikon Z bayonet, the fit is, how can I say this, ‘approximate’ – or ‘loose’ – however, the cap supplied with the lens works perfectly. The front lens cap is metal with a foam lining which needs a slight pressure to pull-off. Good move, as front lens caps that just slide off on their own are not terribly useful.

Obviously there is no filter thread, and the domed front element is quite pronounced. There is no provision for sliding gelatin filters behind the lens (on the mount side) either.

As there are no electrical contacts, no information will be passed back to the processing engine in the camera – what are you expecting with a 200$ manual focus lens?! This means that no aperture or distance information will be recorded in the EXIF data – obviously it’s a good idea to programme the lens as a ‘non CPU lens’ on the camera body, but strangely, on the Z6/7 the range of options for ‘focal length’ jump from 8mm to 13mm – time for an updated firmware Nikon?? (Note: this is due to the fact that Nikon imagine that you will only ever mount Nikkor lenses on the camera, and the focal lengths correspond to Nikkor lenses…)

Here it is, wearing one of my favourite Hyperion straps (A red binding version is en route for the Z6)

Held virtually horizontally, this is simply a wide angle lens…

But tilt it up a bit and interesting things happen! As you can see (click on the image for a larger view) there is a bit of lens flare – but nothing we can’t cope with, with a little judicious Lightrooming…

As I’m a fan of ultra-wides, I’m already looking forward to putting this through it’s paces in extreme environments – we have a cathedral in our town which could be interesting to use as a test bed…

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of vignetting (which can be corrected, more or less, in Lightroom). This doesn’t particularly bother me anyway….

No (post) correction

With +76 post-crop vignetting correction

Welcome to the club…again….

This is the story of a ‘fantasy’ lens – a lens that, in it’s original manufacturers form, would cost an arm and two legs, but has been produced in a slightly simpler, and much cheaper form by the simple expedient of manufacturing it in China…

Welcome the TTArtisans 11mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. This is a full-frame fisheye (not a circular image) and one of the things that appeals is the price – 199€ shipped! Mine is apparently on a plane from Singapore at the moment, and as soon as it arrives I’ll post some images – watch this space.

As a fan of ultra-wide angle lenses, this conforms to my requirements – it would be idiotic to complain about distorsion, or color fringes at this price, and with such a wide angle, ridiculous to expect edge to edge sharpness wide open.

This particular lens is designed for the Nikon Z mount, so I’ll be able to use this on my Z series camera bodies without the FTZ mount – the lens is also very compact, so I’m looking forward to carrying this around as I won’t feel my arm is being pulled off by the weight of the lens and body.

This lens is also manual focus – which is never a problem with ultra-wides as it’s much easier to set the focus distance at 3m, shoot at f/8 and EVERYTHING will be in focus anyway. The auto-focus motors and engineering are also what help to increase the price of the lens…I’m happy with this.

So, we’ll have to wait a few days to see…come on DHL….

Welcome to the club!

Or should I say, ‘collection’ ? I’ve just splashed out on this little beauty.

This is one of the series of f/1.8 prime lenses that Nikon produce for the Z series cameras.

It is astonishingly sharp, across the frame, even wide open – there will always be people who complain about the quality of the ‘bokeh’ but frankly, I’m more concerned about the sharp bits rather than the blobs that are out-of-focus.

I stumbled across this on the site ‘Leboncoin’ (a site where people sell off all they don’t want, can’t use etc.) and the man selling it seemed a bit odd….he had purchased the lens a few weeks ago, had never used it, and was now selling it at 2/3 the price. I had to take a closer look.

So I drove over to Libourne, near Bordeaux, and met the chap in a carpark (very secure!) – turns out he’s one of the breed who believe EVERYTHING written in photo magazines, and as such, had decided that he prefered zoom lenses and that this lens wasn’t for him., without even bothering to actually put the lens on the camera and try it…

Anyway, everything checked out – he had the bill, I saw his ID card and the name was the same on the bill…

Now all I have to do is try it out! This shot is hardly a definitive test, but it does show the lens is VERY sharp!

Oh gosh, another one!

Just when you thought you’d identified the ‘prime’ dickhead in the world, and were about to have the t-shirt printed, the flags made etc. up pops another one – must be the season.

I should explain – I used to have a gay friend – very competent photographer in fact, and he has a Flickr feed, like me. We came across each other a few years ago, on Facebook of all places, and enjoyed a few months friendship, losely based around things photographic.

He, like me, is a bit of a gear-addict, and together we have amassed a considerable arsenal of equipment, some of which is actually useful…but a lot of it not…

Our ‘friendship’ frittered and died, and for a few years we had no exchanges, until a few months ago where our collective sarcasm had calmed itself, and we were again able to enjoy reasonable conversations – and I must say, a number of very nice lunches.

Sadly that waned too as I just couldn’t get my head around the snide comments. From time time, when REALLY bored, I take a look at what’s going on over on Flickr, and lo and behold, I tumbled onto my old friends feed – obviously his equipment addiction hasn’t calmed at all, and the object of his latest series of ‘product shots’ is a new tripod.

And very nice it is too (well, everything bar the price, which is slightly on the high side…an arm and THREE legs?) and his images were perfection, as usual. However, in the ‘comments’ section I read comments from someone who was visibly FAR from impressed. I decided (I told you I was bored…) to go and take a look at what his Flickr feed had to offer – what did I find?

A clone of my gay friend! Flowers, product shots – and all the ‘dross’ I used to complain about (jokingly) on my friends feed.

I went further – after reading several chapters of this blokes ‘bio’ on Flickr I discovered he has a blog AND a website.

This is basically Mr Grumpy all over again – nothing, but nothing is ever right, or to his exacting requirements. He owns EVERYTHING, he has, to date, purchased 24 Nikon Z7s, and is certainly not afraid to tell you – why oh why would the fact that he owns a « Neewer backdrop paper stand » be of any interest – to anyone? More to the point, how would this information help me understand how to make decent photographs etc.?

The only thing of interest was, undeniably, the fact that he has less Nikon equipment than me – yo! But frankly, I couldn’t give a damn. Guy sounds like a real jerk -although we don’t talk, I rather hope my gay friend feels the same way – I would hate for him to be « under the influence » of such a tool….

Oh, one last thing – the rant concerning the Nikon Z7 was that the menu system was in English and Chinese – after freely admitting he would only ever use English for the menus, he complained because he’s buying a grey-market camera, and therefore paying considerably less than shop price, and complaining that something he’ll never use, isn’t present – what REALLY surprised me is the fact that there’s actually a firmware update which can fix this – for free – no unpleasant bending – wrestle poodles and win.

One last, last but by no means least, thing – apparently this idiot REALLY dislikes animated Gifs being used in comments to his photos – OMG it’s like a red rag to a bull….. how will I be able to resist….

Oh great, it’s silly season again!

I feel I should justify that – it’s silly ‘photo‘ season again – this is the moment when all the software companies, creating largely useless software supposed to make your images stupendous, announce offers on all their old stuff before launching ‘new’ versions.

Skylum Luminar – Fast Sky Replacement

Topaz, Skylum even DxO – they’re all at it. What’s the point? I mean, I’m not against software to ‘repair’ images, to get rid of spots, or increase contrast etc. but these programmes can radically change the original images – to the point that they’re nothing, but nothing like the originals.

I fully realise that there are photographers out there who consider that they just need to use ballpark camera settings to get a shot, then when they get home, the fun starts – they think they can correct EVERYTHING, colour balance, focus – the works!

I admit I picked up the NIK collection when it was free – I think I used it once – and frankly I’m glad I didn’t pay for it.

If an image looks overly reworked, it probably has been – HDR has been run into the ground – everybody uses it, to the point that a ‘real’ unretouched image looks pale…however, the unretouched « effect » is probably the closet thing to ‘real’. Most photographers use the three basic effects at the disposal of everyone with a camera – the shutter speed, the aperture and the film speed/ISO.

For 95% of images, the ‘effects’ can be created simply by the experience of the photographer – he judges the speed or aperture, positions himself with regards to the predominant light etc. all to get the effect he wants, or more, to recreate what he sees in the scene.

I admit I have used graduated neutral density filters – probably three times in the last ten years (mainly because I forget to take them out with me….) but the hassle with these things is compounded by the fact that they don’t fit any of my ultra-wide angle lenses – so it’s back to basic exposure compensations…

Try to be original – try to look at a scene and previsualise it, knowing what an under or over exposure could do to improve it, in your eyes…before you resort to hours of post treatment.

J+28…the beat goes on

As the title says, we’ve just come to the end of our first month of confinement here in France. This situation will continue for (at least) another month, until the 11th of May when, if all goes well, the relaxation of the lock-down will begin…

We’re extremely fortunate as we live on the outskirts of a small town, and as such have an enormous liberty of movement around our area. We go for daily walks and have discovered flowers and hidden objects in the hedgerows.

This old Citroën Traction from the late forties, was discovered not 200m from our house.

And then there are the orchids and other flowers.

We have been having some beautiful weather recently, and each time we go out, I take a camera. However, the images above were all taken the same morning! Today, we’ll be visiting a tomb!

Yes, a long time ago in the 50’s, a local lady, well known for helping (and hiding) people during WWll and also her love of her dogs, died and following her wishes was buried (with one of her dogs) in a tomb in a field with a view towards the Pyrenées. We heard the story from our neighbor and decided to look for the grave, which we found a few days ago. We’re going back today to explore a little more around the site…I’ll try to remember to take some photographs…

For now, here’s the beautiful oak tree just beside the lady’s tomb.

There’s still some SERIOUS loonies out there…

It’s almost reassuring to see that, despite all the catastrophic problems the spread of the COVID-19 virus is causing worldwide, there are still some SERIOUS loonies that take our mind off recent events.

Loonie-in-chief Tronald Dump for one – he’s now enlisted help from his son-in-law. No-one can actually figure out why, as reports suggest that he’s the kiss-of-death to pretty much everything he touches (or gets involved with). Par for the course you could say…as his father-in-law isn’t much cop as a President either, judging by his recent antics. His basic daily principal is to watch Fox News then lie to the American public. Go get ’em Donald! This « Chinese » virus isn’t dangerous, and when it gets a bit warmer it will all disappear magically….yeah, got that right you d***head.

D.Trump – loonie-in-chief

Next up are the UK loonies who seem to think that the 5G Wireless telephone network has links to the Corona virus….yes….so where did that one come from? No-one knows (Jared Kusner? NDLR Trumps son-in-law) But as it turns out, these idiots are going around burning communications towers in the North of England. I suppose this should have been expected, as the people ‘up north’ are not exactly known for their mental prowess, but burning cell towers? What do these people think they are, witches??

Cellular communications

More loonies, but further South now – the warmer weather has brought the f***wits out in numbers – presumably these people are ignorant or foreign or both, as they don’t seem to understand what ‘lock down’ means. Admitedly, here in France we’re fined if we’re caught outside without a valid reason, or paperwork, but in the UK the police just tell people off, with a serious face, and this is supposed to make people see the error of their ways. The headlines keep showing the increasing number of deaths in the country, and the f***wits just get back on their bikes…

‘Lockdown’ in the UK….

At time of writing (J+21), here in France we’re starting our 4th week of confinement – so far, I’ve been out three (3) times – and each time, for short food shopping trips.

Funny world really…as the Swedes have decided to let people do whatever they like – no government imposed confinement at all – the Dutch did this for a while, and now the numbers of people testing positive is starting to shoot up…

Can’t help thinking this is going to take a huge toll – but then, what does Donald care? It wasn’t his fault was it!

New Leica

I’m trying to figure out if this is actually good news or what….?

LEICA M10 Monochrome

As the title says, this is the new LEICA M10 Monochrome. It’s a B&W only, rangefinder camera made out of black (yes, just black), costing 8200€. Body only – the lens will cost 2350€. As they only make 8 or 9, I suppose this justifies the price…

As with most things LEICA, this shoots « taking the piss » to new, almost stratospheric, heights. I mean, LEICA were the people who produced, a couple of years ago, a similar digital rangefinder WITHOUT A REAR SCREEN. I’ve often wondered why they bothered putting on a lens mount…or a shutter button…

I’m sure it’s very nice – I mean, it has to be at that price, doesn’t it?

Here’s another view – and it’s free…unlike the camera

In the same way that ANY camera owner will swear blind that their camera is the best, LEICA owners will extol the virtus till the cows come home – but it’s still a B&W digital camera, with no video, a 40 MP sensor and no autofocus.

And why is autofocus SO important? It’s all down to what you want to use the camera for. If you’re happy setting the lens at it’s hyper-focal distance and just pointing, why not? Or, spend time focusing through the minuscule viewfinder and match the two rangefinder images…again, why not?

But for the sort of work I do, autofocus is vital – I would never be able to change scene and adjust a rangefinder sufficiently quickly – I would probably be able to use the camera for one in every 50 shots. In addition, I can let my camera worry about this while I concentrate on the scene or movement I’m looking for.

But it does look nice in black.

Just to introduce an equivalent which, sort of, brings things into focus, for almost exactly the same price, you can have a brand spanking new HASSELBLAD X1D ll 50c and the 35-75 lens – with autofocus

X1D ll 50C + 35-70 lens

And this one makes images with a larger sensor, both physically and by number of pixels, and in color or B&W…oh and it’s made from dark grey – much more class….

Covid-19

This name has created havoc, world wide – and I can’t help feeling that we won’t see the end of it for a long while.

COVID-19

It’s the end of March 2020 and people are very scared here on Earth at the moment. It all started just over a month ago in China, and due to the spread, worldwide, of a ‘Corona Virus’ called Covid-19 the world is in lock-down.

It’s amazing what is actually affected by this deadly virus – the effects on humans is very varied – from symptoms akin to a light cold, to people dying in their thousands from respiratory failure., but the global effect is quite amazing.

If people are locked down and can’t go to work, how do they earn money to pay for food? And who stocks the shelves in the shops? Going further, if we’re not allowed out, what happens to bars, restaurants, theatres etc.?

We have been told to work from home – this is relatively easy for people like me who sit staring at a computer for 75% of their working day. But there are many jobs that can’t simply be folded up and taken home…

This is likely to last for a while. The over-optimists want this to be over by Easter (middle of April) but I think this is way over the top – I would expect to be told that we will be in lockdown until at least the start of May.

However, the knock-on effect of all this is going to be interesting. For my work, there are a number of concerts cancelled, and circus performances too, and the Welcome Festival (end of April) has been canceled too. No-one knows when this confinement will end, so it’s very difficult to plan anything at the moment. I’ve even had to cancel the Marathon Photo due in May – but I’ve « invented » a way for the participants to still do this, but from their confinement – this year is going to be interesting!

We’ve been like this for two weeks now – today is J+14 – and with the prospect of another 4 weeks before any changes, it’s going to be a long spring.

Here in France we are only allowed out of our houses for food shopping (alone, not in pairs), to go to the doctors or pharmacy, or to go to work if we can’t work from home. We are also allwoed to go for a maximum of an hours walk, no further than 200m from our houses, once a day. When we do go out, we must take a signed, dated, declaration giving our names, addresses etc. and the TIME we left the house. If we are stopped by the police and we don’t have this form, or if it’s not completed correctly, we face a fine of 135€ – which increases to 200€ if we do it again!

Frankly, even though I have a permanent ‘laisser-passé’ to allow me to go into work to check the servers etc., I think I’ll stay at home for the moment….