The wedding of the year

The ‘dreaded’ wedding has been and gone – the relief is enormous.

In hoesty, the only ‘dreaded’ bit was not producing images that were appreciated by the newly married couple – which seems not to have been the case as I’m receiving almost daily messages of thanks and joy!

Like most of my ‘work’ the images are, for the most part sharp, bear no refgerence to how skilled (or not) I might be at riding a bicyle, and for the most part, don’t concern trains and/or Bordeaux.

This was probably a great relief to the couple as their wedding took place in Auch…

They are a lovely couple and, to my certain knowledge, don’t have any hooks in their garage ceiling, which makes them so much more appealing. The remit was basic – ceremony at 16h at the town hall in Auch (civil ceremony – 20 mins and your out mate) then off into the wilds to the ‘Fou Gascon’ a wonderful place for the reception with excuisite decoration, food and drink – top marks to the young couple who run this – it really was 1st class from beginning to end.

A wide open remit is oki, if you know the pople you’re working for – it helps to have an idea of their taste as some newlyweds are very keen on the classic, very ‘posed’ wedding shots – luckily this couple were simply looking for a discrete photographic record of the entire sequence – which I think I provided.

Here are the three ‘teaser’ shots I sent them before the actual album…

I fully realise that these are all crap, to some, but….wait a minute….do I care?

Marathon Photo Déclic 2023

It’s nearly all over – we spent Saturday the 3rd of June here in Auch – and despite the fact that there were only 53 participants, I think it was a good year.

This year I decided to make a couple of changes – the morning would be given over to a workshop, in our concert hall, and the two themes for the afternoon would be announced together to enable people to wander off and spend their afternoon freely looking for inspiration.

The workshop was a tough one – I have spent the last few months ‘developing’ a fold-up pinhole camera! This is great fun – you start with a simple box, make a few holes, add a piece of photographic paper and bingo!

And despite the fact that there were 53 people totally lost, we all managed to A: make the cameras, B: take a photo with each camera and C: come back and develop the photos!

Naturally, two groups didn’t like this and complained that « this wasn’t the spirit of Déclic » and « we prefered it before » etc. etc. well darling, you try inventing new things every year – it’s REALLY easy to criticise, but a whole different ball game when it comes to putting on a show. Needless to say, these people WILL NOT be invited next year.

The jury takes place today, Wednesday 7 June and the winners will be announced on the site tonight…

Could be interesting…

Well it was…and this image was one that caught my eye (although I couldn’t vote) and managed to win the prize for the 5th Theme « Le Vélo dans le Paysage Gascon » (« The bicycle in the Gascon Landscape« )

Well done to Laurent VEYSSET

So what is ‘Monochrome’ ?

(And is it better?)

Over the years, Leica have evolved from film to digital cameras, much like all the other camera manufacturers. This said, they’ve always shown a preference for black and white photography, and to this end, have recently started producing a ‘Monchrome‘ version of their camera bodies – to the extent that there is even a monochome version of the ‘compact’ Q2 series.

So what does ‘monochrome‘ actually mean?

In a conventional colour sensor, there is a filter layer in direct contact with the sensor itself. This is called the ‘Bayer‘ filter, named after it’s inventor.

Bayer filter for digital photography – source: Wikipedia

Each photo-site has a coloured filter over it, thus only allowing certain wavelengths of light through to the sensor itself.

Light from four adjacent photo-sites makes up one pixel. Thus in the example of the Bayer filter above, the first pixel is made up of light values from one blue, one red and two green photo-sites. This approximates to what the human eye ‘sees’ in terms of colour – the mixture of these four light values gives the ‘colour’ of that particular pixel. The greater the pixel, or photo-site density, the more accurate the rendered colour will be, but with the disadvantage of receiving much less light as the density increases – the photo-sites are physically smaller, and thus receive less photons of light.

For the second pixel to be recorded, the group of four moves over 1 photo-site, and records 4 photo-sites again. This continues all the way to the right hand end of the sensor, then moves down one photo-site, and starts all over again. Obviously, this actually happens in real-time over the entire sensor area, and is almost instantaneous.

This is the reason why sensors are often stated as having an ‘effective’ pixel value GREATER than the quoted pixel value. The ‘borders’ (pixels on the edge of the sensor) are not counted as part of the picture itself, merely used to create the 4 photo-site grid.

The resulting information is ‘rebuilt’ by the image processing engine to create a colour image.

In a monochrome sensor, the Bayer filter does not exist. The pixel information is combined in one of two different ways – either the four adjacent photo-sites are ‘summed’ together as in a colour image (which gives greater dynamic range overall, as 4 times as many photons are recorded) or single photo-sites are recorded as individual pixels.

The removal of the Bayer filter creates a more authentic ‘colour’ depth (or grey tone between white and black) as there is no ‘mixing’ of different filtered light values – this means that the overall difference between the levels of grey is far more subtle, something which cannot be reproduced by simply using a colour sensor (with Bayer filter) and choosing « B&W » in the capture menu of the camera.

It should be noted that Pentax have now launched their ‘Monchome‘ camera, based on the K-3 APS-C reflex camera. At €2500 (body only) I imagine that it’s not something people will buy just to ‘try out’ but I think it’s a step in the right direction. I would very much like to see a monochrome version of the NIKON Z6 or Z7. Sadly there is no reasonable way to remove the Bayer filter and reprogramme the recording software to be able to undertake this after the camera has been made.

Leica price the monchrome version of their full frame M11 at €9540 where the traditional ‘colour’ version only costs €8750 – why nearly €1000 no-one knows….perhaps simply because it’s a Leica?

UPDATE : I wrote to Thom Hogan and asked if it was really so unreasonable to imagine a monochrome version of the Z6/Z7 could exist one day?

His reply, short and to the point :

« You can imagine it all you want ;~). Not difficult at all. 

You can even buy one (from a third party, maxmax), but at much higher cost and the phase detect autofocus layer is removed ;~(. »

Thanks Thom – I’ll keep it in mind 😉

Trials and Tribulations

I photograph circus companies. On a regular basis. I must be good at this, as some even ask me to come back. For the most part, these companies are happy for me to follow the evolution of their work, and they let me in to see what’s going on. I make an album of photos, and often use some to hang in the circus restaurant etc.

The other day I contacted the current company in residence here, and we agreed that the best day would be the following Monday (as I was not working – it was a bank holiday). I duly contacted them on the Sunday – or tried to – they didn’t reply. Eventually, the next day, they got back to me saying that instead of the day we’d agreed on, they’d be ready the following day.

I had already explained that this day would be difficult as I was only available in the early evening. Their response was remarkable « Oh I thought you were more flexible »….

We eventually met up, only to be confronted with the arrival of a man supposedly checking things out for a proposed video shoot (another day) – after a lot of faffing around we finally got started (late) and I had to try to make images with two women who spent 90% of the time (over an hour) talking into a microphone and/or rolling around all over the floor.

I did my best – sent them the link to the album – and 24 hours later received « OK thanks »

Makes you wonder why I bother…


…the new NIKON Z8

NIKON Z8 – Front
NIKON Z8 – Rear

First impressions?

Sensor – sadly, we’ve got the 45mp Z9 sensor….which is very good, but a shame they didn’t ‘push the envelope’ a bit here and go for a larger density sensor. This said, they have decided to include the protective shutter blind – this is a good thing. I wonder if it’ll ever make it into later versions of the Z6/7..?

Size – 144 x 118 x 83 which makes it bigger than the Z6/7 (134 x 100 67) by a centimetre or two, but significantly smaller than the Z9

GPS – No there isn’t a GPS – which seems odd. The NIKON site states « GPS – Via Snapbridge app ». I’ve tried this – it’s slow….

Price – 4599€ which makes this camera 1500€ less expensive than the Z9, with very similar specifications.

The top plate is like the Z9 (surprised?) with a mode dial to the left, and a large screen to the right – this said, the mode dial is not exactly the same as the Z9, and is in fact much thinner/lower to the body – which presumably means that the choice of single/continuous/multiple shots, self timer etc. are now displaced into menu items…

NIKON Z8 Top plate

Another good thing carried over from the Z9 is the eyepiece protection which clips in (release button lower left) rather than sliding-on like on the Z6/7 (which falls off regularly on these models), so this is a good move.

Two button card formatting is still there too – so much easier than having to delve through menus, and illuminated buttons too – things are looking up !

For me, it’s sad to lose the built-in grip – and that huge EN-EL18d battery which allows me almost 4000 shots on one charge which simply can’t be matched by the two EN-EL15 in the new add-on grip. However I fully understand that a lot of people don’t need this kind of autonomy.

Storage is also different – with one CFe/XQD and one SDXC slot, but then, this is a pro-sumer model…

The grip is the MB-N12 which here in France will cost just shy of 400€ – like the MB-N11 for the Z6/7 ll it’s a ‘replace the battery’ type grip which I find frustrating – sure, you can hot swap either one of the two batteries, like on the Z6/7 ll, but it makes the whole thing quite large. I would have preferred something along the lines of the D850, without the battery box ‘spike’

NIKON MB-N12 grip for the Z8

At the end of the day, what you’re actually getting for 1000€ more than the Z7ll is a better auto-focus and a shutter blind…in a slightly larger body. Duh….

And finally, I still consider sticking to the 45mp sensor limiting…in the long run. But then of course, it just allows NIKON to come out with another model in a years time….

Fun part – I posted a comment over on the Nikonrumors blog…which was immediately treated like bait, and all the bottom feeders zoomed (excuse the pun) in to criticise the fact that I had dared to mention that I was disappointed in the new toy (regardless of the fact that the vast majority would never actually own one, or know what to do with it if they ever did purchase…) I was simply expressing my opinion, that I thought it sad that there was no GPS, and my comments on sensor size from this post.

Visibly ‘self expression’ is frowned on over there – sad for Peter (who runs it)

To sum up, this is going to be a total winner for NIKON – size, weight, specs – it’s all there and if I hadn’t already ‘invested’ in a Z9 this would be seriously interesting, and I’d recommend this to any serious photographer. For the bottom-feeders, and garage ceiling crowd, you’ll have loads of things to moan about – like for all the other camera bodies you never buy.

Available from the the 25th of May 2023 it’ll be interesting to see how long people have to wait to see their orders. (The Z9 waiting list was initially an entire year)

Self Levelling Tripod – wtf?

BENRO recently announced on Kickstarter that they were developing a ‘self levelling tripod’ – couple of questions here…

1: Why KICKSTARTER? This platform is famous for leaving ‘investors’ in the lurch when their total lack of concern about the viability of some of the projects proposed extends to not giving people their money back when the project is found to be a total scam. TO BE AVOIDED

2: Why self levelling? Most, if not all, decent tripods have a bubble level and regardless of how the legs are positioned, at least the platform for the camera can me made level in seconds.

No it seems in the day of the Internet, we need to cram even the most mundane objects full of batteries and circuitry to make it simple for the bottom feeders, and perpetual forum posters (who buy this sort of rubbish) to actually just use it. Naturally a significant amount of these people probably don’ even own a camera anyway…but they will swear to God Almighty that it’s the best tripod since sliced bread, to justify their purchase…

Frankly it’s cheaper, and easier, to buy a few more hooks for the garage ceiling…

I find it interesting to note that the Kickstarter campaign was started aiming for $50,000 of funding and that at close, the float was $2,452,958 – my God there’s a lot of gullible people out there…

So is this what’s coming?

And more to the point, is it important?

This is a ‘mock-up’ (or a real image) of the upcoming NIKON Z8 – the fan boys are all getting very excited – to the point where some have even stopped adding hooks to their garage ceilings, so that they can scan the web for new ‘news’ on yet another NIKON camera they will never actually own.

For me, at least, the most important element is that this shows what NIKON thinks is the future – where we’re going with full-frame digital cameras. It’s fairly clear that they’re not putting that much effort into DX – the number of lenses is frankly disappointing for the smaller format, although the camera bodies ‘seem’ to conform to a reasoned planning ( for once) with a tendency towards video and v-logging which is more marked than before.

The ‘smaller Z9’ status seems to be born out with the specifications of the new camera. NIKON are maintaining the electronic shutter – but why wouldn’t they – it’s hugely effective, and considerably less complicated to make. It’ll be interesting to see if they include the sensor protection (shutter blind) in this model as well.

Two different memory cards seems to be par for the course as well – in the ‘pro-sumer’ range of cameras it’s totally reasonable to have the ability to use a really fast, but expensive, CF Express card for the 45mp sensor, and a much cheaper SDXC card for video capture – the buffer size seems to increment exponentially every new camera iteration, and this helps getting the images off the sensor and onto the card as quickly as possible, but it also helps to have a sufficiently rapid card. Personally XQD or CFExpress is the way to go, with the former probably fading away soon – the large capacity and MUCH faster CFe cards are slowly -becoming almost affordable !

There is a body size comparison over on but I admit to being slightly confused – I was led to believe this new body would be more akin to the Z6/7 format, but now it seems it’s grown in size to be a similar profile to the D850 – only thinner, obviously.

I don’t have any problems with the size and/or weight of the Z9 – obviously, with almost identical specs in a smaller body could be useful for some jobs, it’s true, but judging by the proposed 4,500€ I won’t be adding this to the stable soon. Apparently a battery grip will be available too, with this and the camera using the well established EL-15 series batteries.

Another thing that has surprised me in these theoretical specifications, is the sensor size, and we’ll all find out in a few days time. I still can’t get my head around staying with a 45mp sensor when suitable 60 or 61mp sensors already exist. The ‘manual’ that was leaked earlier this year seems to include an interesting format too ( 9552 x 6363 ) which is certainly larger than 45mp. I’m certainly not hunting for a massive pixel rise with all the complications that come with it, not least of which, the disk space needed to store even larger RAW files, and the time to treat them, but the Z series lenses must have been designed with 60mp or even greater sensor sizes in mind, in particular the ‘S’ variants, so when are we going to see a camera with this kind of sensor. Adding a higher pixel density camera body would extend the overall range of the ‘Z’ system.

This would seem to me an ideal moment to follow in the footsteps of LEITZ and allow a choice of pixel density on the same sensor – 30, 45, 60 – all technically possible.

The rumours continue regarding the use of new thermoplastics being used to advantage in the camera body – this is a good thing if it lightens the load, but I know a lot of the fan boys ‘don’t like plastic’ so any mention of this material is doomed to receiving criticism. It should be noted that ever since the D3000 NIKON has used plastics in many situations – even the latest Z DX 12-28 f/3.5-5.6 PZ VR lens has a plastic lens mount, like a number of it’s AF-S cousins.

It should be noted, by the simple inclusion of a mirror box, this isn’t the new camera…

Countdown is still on…8 more days to go fan boys!

Artificial Intelligence

(And no, this isn’t about the idiot who screws hooks in his garage ceiling…)

This is fast becoming ‘the’ topic of articles on the Internet at the moment – be it from photographers bemoaning the fact that we’ll never be able to believe what we see (in the media) to graduates thanking the God of AI that they were able to pull off their (completely manufactured) end of course memories…

The Internet ‘magazine’ BLIND has just published a very well good article about AI and it’s effect on what we perceive…read it here – it’s worth it.

Michael Christopher Brown is a photographer and artist who has just published a project with images created by AI called « 90 Miles » (The distance separating Havana from Florida)

He is a respected photographer, having worked with National Geographic, Magnum etc. and now he’s an artist who works with photographic illustration. This project is not entirely virtuel, as he has worked in Cuba and followed the changing situation there.

Read the article and make your own opinion…

Removing noise with A.I.

The latest release of Adobe LIGHTROOM contains a new feature – ‘De-noise’. This is powered by an Artificial Intelligence ‘engine’ (no, this isn’t a tiny 4-stroke dripping oil all over the living room carpet, more the popular name for a mathematical computation, or algorithm). AI seems to be creeping in everywhere, from making ‘almost too true to be believed’ images of people to writing exam papers…

In this instance, the AI engine treats the original data and creates a DNG file – I can’t actually figure out why…in addition, for my tests, the original file RAW was 33,9Mb, while the de-noised DNG is a whopping 220,9 Mb file. Luckily disk space is getting cheaper.

The process takes a few minutes to work – it’s not instant like using a preset – in this example, the original file was recorded at 6400 ISO and it took Lightroom 11 minutes to create the treated file. (Interestingly, a colleague with a Mac powered by the M1 chip did a similar computation in just over a minute – my 2018 Mac mini is obviously struggling here...)

Original untreated file – « Des nuits pour voir le jOur » Cie Allégorie
Adobe Lightroom ‘DeNoise’ – « Des nuits pour voir le jOur » Cie Allégorie
Original Hi-ISO preset – « Des nuits pour voir le jOur » Cie Allégorie

It’s very interesting to see the results (click on the images to enlarge them) both in the face, but also on the wall AND the feather boa (hanging to the right) – this image is a 50% crop from the original 8256 x 5504 file, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to create a full file. The image was captured with no hi-ISO adjustments in-camera, and frankly the image is very good in terms of detail etc.

I think it’s fairly clear that the Adobe algorithm seems to work well, compared to my original preset – but, the preset is applied in microseconds, without creating extra baggage, so if speed is required, perhaps this isn’t the best way to go.

However, in terms of image quality, there’s no doubt the results are very interesting, and would be worth the effort for final post treatment before printing, for example. These results are really only visible after enlarging the image, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest using this for web or media output, as the time and disk requirements would make this very laborious and consume a huge amount of space.

Easter Eggs? In May?

Not chocolate ones, at least. Easter Eggs is the term used describe something hidden in an image on Internet.

Nikon are playing the game, apparently – the latest ‘teaser’ campaign, slated for the 10th of May, has just started with this image

Someone much more inquisitive than I, noticed something hidden in this image…

The last two question marks have transformed into ‘8’…and as the photographic world is expecting the NIKON Z8 to be announced soon, this seems to confirm the rumours!