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….


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.


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….

A Wonderful Idea!

I’ve been mulling over the « problem » of battery grips, buttons, etc. etc.

The basic problem, up until recently, has been that for battery grips to have duplicate controls (from the camera body) there have to match up to a series of contacts on the baseplate of the camera….

The recent battery pack for the Nikon Z series is just that – a battery pack, as there are no contacts on the baseplate of the camera to allow activation of the control circuitry in the camera from controls on the grip.

What if you didn’t need contacts?

What if it were all done by….BLUETOOTH?

I feel sure I’m not the first to come up with this stunning solution…but I’m going to pretend I was!

Excuse me while I pen an e-mail to NIKON UK……

Finally – Something useful from Canon

UK based photo site « NorthLight Images » has recently discovered a patent application from Canon (popular photocopier manufacturer) that will make many people, like me, who use battery grips on their cameras, very interested/jealous…

This shows a « Universal » battery grip that attaches to different camera bodies with a changeable adapter. Makes you wonder why no-one has ever come up with something like this before – although, Nikon tend to treat there battery grips as a cash cow and price them far too high. It is, after all, only a box with minimal electronics Inside.

Anyway, if this ever sees the light of day, Canon users will really be a step, a leap ahead of other camera users.

Battery grips are not only for holding batteries (with the exception of the MB-N10 for the Z 6 & 7) they also allow you to have extra controls, or rather, duplicate controls to allow a more comfortable grip on the camera when you use it in a vertical position, for example.

To enable the correct connection between these controls and the camera electronics, a series of contacts are available on the camera baseplate, which marry up to similar contacts on the battery grip.

Up until now, each camera series has had these contacts in different positions on the baseplate, allowing Nikon (and Canon) to sell expensive battery grips for each new model. It seems perfectly logical to build a « reasonable » sized battery grip, and then equip it with changeable plates for different camera bodies.

So, a little like the light bulbs that never burn out, will we ever actually see this produced?

This is the new Nikon Z9!

Nikon Z8…or 9

or Z8 or ZB or….gawd knows what.

No-one except the designers at Nikon (and a fat American git called « The Angry Pornographer » or some such, over on Youtube…or so he likes to think – enjoy your minority status, dickhead) actually know what the next iteration of the Z series mirrorless cameras will look like, or what controls, programmes they will contain….but it will be black, perhaps….

While I admit it amuses me to read all the speculation, it really doesn’t matter much to me – I won’t be able to afford one anyway – having just kitted myself out with the Z7! The fora are awash with comments from a whole horde of non-camera-owning public who « know » what is going to happen before anyone else…

The rumor-mill is very active at the moment, and it seems likely that the replacement /evolution for both the reflex D850 and the Z7 is likely to have the 60mp Sony sensor which became available recently. So far, the rumors have ‘stated’ dual CFexpress card slots (might be nice if we were actually A: able to buy the cards at sensible prices, and B: that once purchased, they would work in the camera (as only two models do at present) This said, if they are backwards compatible with the Sony XQD format, at least all of us using the existing models would still be able to use our XQD cards.

A GPS (Why oh why? We have smartphones with GPS) and Bluetooth/WiFi seem likely too, according to « the people who know » – the latter two are available anyway – I think a more useful manoeuvre would be to write software that actually USED the WiFi connexions to their fullest, and were able to shift hi-density image files quickly.

Another element is the lack of contacts on the baseplate of the existing Z series – thus making a real vertical grip unworkable. Yes, we have the MB-N10 battery grip, which helps, as batteries can be switched without disturbing operations, but no vertical shutter release or AF-ON button duplication.

Going back to the new Sony sensor, 60mp is far too high density for my work – even with Expeed 6 and future developments in high ISO noise reduction, I doubt I’d get the quality I do with the ancient 12mp D3s or even the 24mp Z6. But it might be nice for landscape work…

So what’s your guess? What will be included in the next model, given that so much of the original series seems to have been right (IMHO)

Suggestions on a postcard please….

What? Back to the Cri’Art??

Yes, despite the problematic ‘lighting’ (well, actually the lights themselves are perfectly good – but the guy ‘driving’ them would be better off doing something else) I went back to cover a concert last week – I was asked by the group if I would do it, and as the lead singer is quite cute, I obviously had to say « Yes »…


The headliners were a Spanish group called « The Limboos » – as I was the only one there who spoke English, we hit it off and passed a very pleasant couple of hours together – and not unnaturally I stayed on to photograph them too.

The Limboos
The Limboos

As you can see from the first image, the light was essentially on the front of the stage – so Danielle playing the drums spent the entire set in the dark…

The Limboos

I’m not going to let this post degenerate into a constat of the lighting conditions at the Cri’Art (Thank God) so just enjoy the images – the albums or on the main site

Circa Tsuïca

Tsuïca, in Romanian, means « eau de vie », and for the past 15 years, Circa Tsuïca have been distributing their form of « eau de vie » around Europe as a very accomplished circus troupe.

Last night was the presentation performance that ended a three week residence here in Auch with their latest production (V)îvre – not as fine-tuned as other works I’ve seen from them, but they’ve still a couple of weeks to go before the « first night » and hopefully the bugs will be ironed out before then.


Very annoying people – they really are multi-talented. They all play musical instruments, and not only one – most of them play two or three! If that weren’t enough, they play whilst zooming around on bikes, often backwards… I have enough difficulty riding a bike forwards, holding on for dear life with both hands!

One particularity with Tsuïca is their insistance on audience participation – for this show, the audience are given the chance to try to play brass instruments – it doesn’t matter if they don’t actually know how to play them – the first 10 minutes of the show are diedicated to showing them how! In addition, there’s an « apéro » (drinks and crisps etc.) available to everyone as they arrive in the tent. A real class act.

The prelim album has been sent, so now I’m waiting for them to choose the images that will be used as posters etc. for the new production.