Who dat man?

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t really like photos of me – however someone has finally managed to take one of me that I really appreciate.

(C) Sylvie HANNOYER aka Gersicotti Gersicotta

Thank you Sylvie!

Platy-what?

Yesterday I received my Platypod (R) – it’s a fiendishly simply way of getting photographers to fork out huge sums of money for what is essentially a simple metal plate…however, it does have certain advantages over a ‘simple metal plate’.

I am a fan of ultra-wide angle lenses – on a full-frame (24x36mm) camera, ultra-wides start at about 18mm and as the number reduces, the angle of view increases…my widest ultra-wide is 11mm…this is a staggering 126° angle of view (as an example, a 20mm lens has a 94° angle)

One way of making visually impressive images with a wide angle lens is to get a really low viewpoint. When you’re doing this in near darkness, a tripod is a huge help – however, sometimes it’s not practical to carry a tripod, and additionally, many tripods don’t unfold particularly ‘low’.

This is where the Platypod comes in.

Platypod ‘Max’

One simply screws a ball and socket mount onto the centre screw and off we go.

Camera mounted on ball & socket head

Having a tilting read screen also helps…unless you actually like laying on the ground trying to squint through the viewfinder…

So this allows a very low viewpoint, which means we can produce images such as these…

Conclusion

Despite what I said at the start of this article, my first outing has convinced me of its qualities. It is a very well thought out ‘simple metal plate’ and I can fully understand how their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign was so popular.

I used two of the threaded screws to adjust the plate, not to be perfectly horizontal (I can do that with the ball-head) but to create a stable base. The length of the plate has been thoughtfully designed to be able to use longer telephoto lenses, and the storage of the screws is very well though out too. Each screw has a ‘rubber’ cap AND an adjustable locking collar, (the opposite end of the screw being a point)- this means you can turn the screw to the desired length, then ‘lock’ it in place – I find it all works very easily.

Of course, it helps to have ball-head handy – which I just happen to have in my vast collection of ‘bits’ – this one is a Manfrotto MHXPRO which I’ve kitted out with the Manfrotto Arca mounting plate the MSQ6T (The ‘quick release’ plate shown is a complete disaster, hence the change) as all my cameras/L-plates are equipped with Arca style quick release mounting plates. The advantage of this ball-head is the weight – it’s made from a magnesium alloy and doesn’t weigh a tonne!

Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ6
MSQ6T adaptor

Who are these people?

We did something unprecedented this weekend – we went to someones wedding!

A close friend of my daughter was getting married in a church (all the bells and whistles) and we were invited – this is only the third I’ve ever been to in my life – fun was had by all.

And I bought a hat…

It’s HERE!

Fibre Optic Cable

Need I say more?

After months of farting around, a large Orange van (well, the van was actually white…) arrived this morning complete with ladder – and two kids got on with running the cable. It took a while principally because the two doing the installation took their time – but it was working in three hours.

I ran a speed test before changing over, and I was getting 8 Mb/s down and 0,8 Mb/s on up. When I plugged my system into the new ‘Livebox’ I instantly got 80Mb/s down and 170 Mb/s up – so, roughly 170 times faster than this morning – ok, I’ll go for that.

As an example of the advantages of having a faster upload, in one hour this morning my LARGE backup safeguarded the equivalent of a WEEKs previous safeguard…

And now, over to Sweden

This, at 14h CEST the 19th of June 2019, is what all the fuss is about…

Hasselblad XIDll

Well for all Hasselblad fans this is NEWS. The XID, Hasselblads excursion into the world of mirror-less cameras, has been updated and here is the X1D Mark ll.

6000€ without a lens….so I sincerely hope it HAS been updated…

Pure gorgeous…

It’s a gorgeous peice of kit – made out of a single chunk of alluminium it’s relatively small and light at 650g (without a lens) . It keeps the 50Mp sensor (43 x 32mm) from the previous model, with a 3.6 inch rear touch screen and a 3.69 OLED viewfinder it’s really a very interesting beast.

It takes dual SD cards, has USB-C connectivity (and WiFi and Bluetooth of course) and is launched with the new XCD 35-75 f/3,5-4,5 zoom lens. This brings the range of lenses up to nine – from the 21mm f4,0 Ultra-wide up to the 135mm f2,8.

Now all that’s left is to find the ????€ to buy one….

PS Hasselblad also launched the 907x body today – here it is stuck on the front of the CFV ll 50c sensor back…

907X + CFV ll 50c

Sadly, as yet, there is no price published for this.

Berlin Break

Brandenburg Tor

What a great way to celebrate our two (Gemini) birthdays – a long weekend in Berlin. And it was great – the weather was fantastic, there was loads to see, the people were great, and the food was good – what else could we want?

Gat Point Charlie Hotel – Bethlehemkirchplatz, Berlin

Our chosen hotel was very well placed – and very well served by the U-Bahn (metro) – the 72 hour all-transport pass we purchased was well used by the end of our stay!

We had booked an « Alternative Berlin » Walking tour, which started at 14h on our first day – the meeting point was infront of the Brandenburg Gate…

Brandenburg Gate

The tour guide, Sophie, was Welsh and was able to anwser most of our questions – the Walking tour took three hours and we visited the three major areas of the city, crossing backwards and forwards into the old Eastern and then the Western parts of Berlin as we walked.

Artistic « squat » at Hackescher Markt

It was 31° in Berlin when we were walking – but although we had no feet by the end of it, we were able to spotlight areas we wanted to visit during the following two days.

The East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is a 1,3 kl stretch of wall that remains to the East of the city and has been dedicated to street artists, with the previso that they paint on the Eastern (otherwise unseen) side of the remaining concrete wall.

The Bundestag – Central German Government

The following two days were almost as warm, but just as exhausting as we wanted to see everything! We decided to go out late at night to see what was lit up – and we weren’t disappointed…

Paul-Löbe House and the Bundestag Library on the river Spree.

Walking behind the Brandenburg Gate and the Bundestag, we discovered a very recent development of office buildings which looked terrific at night. This is the Paul-Löbe house and the Bundestag Library.

The Berliner Dome (background)

During the week the Berliners seem to come out at night, and the parks and open spaces were filled with people lounging around, drinking a beer and listening to live music…brilliant place!

Great trip – wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Berlin as a place to visit.

MEIKE Grip for the Nikon Z6

Meike MK-Z7G

One of the minor disadvantages with the new Nikon Z series cameras is the size. It’s actually both good and bad – good in that there is a lot less bulk flaying around the shoulder, but bad in that for people with largish hands, the grip (to the right side of the body) isn’t deep enough vertically and the last (little) finger tends to be left floating.

Nikon have announced development (What? This should have been available when the body was announced – it’s only a battery case) of the MB-N10 which will provide room for two EN-EL15b batteries (but strangely, no shutter release, AF-ON buttons etc.) – the design goes back to the older D5*** and D7*** where a stalk replaces the camera battery. Sadly no-one has actually seen one…and frankly for the additional size and weight, I think a spare battery in a pocket is going to be substantially cheaper and a better solution.

Battery grip for Nikon D7500

The bulk of the grip is for the two batteries. There are no electrical connections on the base of the Z series cameras (yet…who knows what future designs will give us…) so this is the only way to connect the batteries to the camera electronics. The original battery door unclips and can be stored on the grip. Aside from the obvious increase in autonomy, the battery grip gives more vertical depth, and thus better ‘grip’ !

Back to the Meike MK-Z7G. Meike have obviously given this a fair amount of thought – the machining is really top class, and there is even a location ‘stalk’ on the plate which mates to a recess in the camera bottom plate – this makes the alignment perfect.

Another nice touch is the way that they have included a recessed plastic block into which the original battery door is clipped – it retains it’s job of being a ‘door’, but flush with the underside of the plate, rather than hidden and almost inaccessible under the plate in it’s original position.

Meike MK-Z7G plate with Nikon battery door

Sadly the plate is not supplied with a hex key with which to fix it to the camera – a detail, but a lot of the ‘L’ plates and other accessories purchased from China are supplied with these (so it’s ok for me – I’ve already got loads!!)

The plate increases the vertical depth by 19mm which is VERY useful and comfortable – my little finger feels quite at home and the overall grip is improved without a huge increase in size and/or weight.

Shipping included I found this for 32€ on eBay and the (free) shipping took 10 days.

And here is the news

It’s been a while – but I’ve actually been quite busy since the last article.There’s a little bit of catching-up to do:

DECLIC 2019

This years poster.

This years edition was very well received – we had 77 participants and they all spent the day wandering around Auch (aimlessly!) taking photos…that was the point wasn’t it?

It wasn’t difficult for me to keep the themes secret – as it now seems to be only me who organises everything to do with the marathon, I just didn’t tell ANYBODY. Much easier.

The first indications showed up on the video projecter at 10h00 « Rdv at Ciné32 at 10h15 » – this is our local cinemea ‘complex’ and was easily within 10 minutes walking distance. I caught-up with the group at which point I announced that we would be heading off towards the river Gers. So we all set off…but after a couple of minutes I stopped everyone and asked if they would perhaps prefer to spend the morning exploring the abandonned military ‘caserne’ that we just happened to be passing…not unnaturally that got 77 heads nodding so we did just that – I had arranged for the gate to be unlocked and I was able to just open it and usher people onto the site!

We finally got back to the BIJ (the people really didn’t want to leave) at 12h45 at which point everyone started to download there images and eat their packed lunches.

We managed to consume 6 kilos of M&M’s, and produced 488 images. The jury sat the following Wednesday and tonight we will award the prizes.

Cie Bivouac

« Perceptions » Cie Bivouac

I’ve known this circus company for a few years now – we’ve always got on well, and they often buy a few of my images. They came back to Auch in late May for a ‘residence’ and as usual, they brought a new ‘structure’ with them….and this thing is huge!

The Structure…

This thing moves every which way – the square outer part revoles around a center pivot – the circular inner ring also revolves around the same point, but it also turns within the structure… This is not at all clear from these images, but when there are 5 people leaping and climbing all over it, it creates a superb impression…I think I’ve got some good material from the presentation, and afterwards they asked me back to do a specific shooting – the spectacle will be having it’s first night in three weeks – and they don’t have any visuals yet!

Berlin

Both our birthdays are in roughly a weeks time, so we’ve decided to celebrate both of them….in Germany. We’ve wanted to visit, so this will be our birthday present to each other!

Berlin

We’ll be leaving on my birthday – and spending 4 days away – looking forward to this – if only to get away from Déclic!!

Lens Testing (Again)

What’s this? I hear you say…another lens to test…could be.

The 14-30 f/4.0 has arrived and… how can I say this…. well, it’s everything I expected, and more. It’s small, light, and makes incredibly sharp (edge to edge) images. I had to go somewhere special to test its abilities…so off I went to the cathedral. (At least we’ve still got a roof on ours…)

The Place de la Cathédrale, Auch

The flare (sunspots looking directly or indirectly into the sun) is very well corrected, and the 14mm ultra-wide angle is made for me! This is also an unusual ultra-wide angle lens because as a general rule lenses of this focal length have a large bulbous front element which prevents the use of filters. Nikon have gone back to basics with this design and we now have an 82mm filter thread which means, for example, that we can now use a circular polarizer filter – something unheard-of before. Yes, the lens is ‘only’ an f/4.0 but I don’t think this will really cause anyone serious problems – the WEB is already alight with the ‘know-alls’ predicting the downfall of Nikon (and the rest of the civilised world…) because it’s not an f/2.8 (which, as it happens, will be coming out next year) but I’ll be happier to A: pay less than the f/2.8 and B: have a more compact (and lighter) lens, and finally C: enjoy using a polarizing filter! The difference in depth of field, particularly at the 14mm ‘end’ of the zoom range will be practically invisible. Yes, this means one ‘stop’ less light, but we also have camera bodies with excellent hi-iso treatment.

La Cathédrale Sainte Marie, Auch

What is remarkable about these interior shots is that, even wide open at f/4.0 the quality is really there – edge to edge. Click on the image to enlarge it.

I will have to do a series of comparisons with the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 and also the IRIX 11mm f/4.0 – these two will obviously be needing the FTZ adaptor, which is another reason why this new lens is so interesting.

Inside the Cathedral Sainte Marie the stained glass windows are magnificent.

I’m firmly convinced that this lens will fast become my ‘standard’ lens, combined with the NIKON Z 6 body with it’s in-body stabilisation, this is a superb combination!

The « Book Tree », Place de la Liberation, Auch

My next testing series will be with a polarizer…this is going to be fun!

The post « Welcome » decompression

Right well that’s over for another year then. It was strangely quite a lot less stressful than I imagined it was going to be…and not staying until the bitter end each night/morning was a good move too.

The huge poster with my images – 10m x 2.5m

The first evening, Friday, the headliners were a group I’ve photographed before at the Cri’Art in Auch – « La Caravane Passe » – the nice thing about this group of musiciens is that it’s a dynamic set right from the start, which makes it a whole lot more interesting to photograph.

La Caravane Passe – Olivier Llugany

Olivier actually remembered me from their concert at the Cri’Art – possibly because we spent most of our time talking about his home town Perpignan!

Saturday was unusually dry – I can’t remember a « Welcome » weekend where it hasn’t rained – the irony of the situation was that the town of Seissan, where the festival was held, have recently invested a lot of money in covering the otherwise unprotected concrete seating – don’t worry, I feel sure it’ll rain next year…

The headliner forSaturday was the virtuoso guitarist Titi Robin. He had contacted me before arriving to find out if I could do some publicity shots for him and his (3) bands….of course, Mr Robbin!

Shooting – Titi Robin

On stage, it was a different story – much more colourful!

Titi Robin – Ma Gavali

Sunday was THE day – the rather well known headliner arrived very discretely and gave no interviews…but when he arrived on stage, everyone knew who he was…

Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra

In the ‘pit’ where the photographers were, we were all asking ourselves if the Kalashnikov bullets were real…

So all in all a lot less tiring than usual, the food was excellent as usual, and I met up with a great crowd of people that I meet up with every year, as usual. This was my 7th…I wonder if I get a chocolate when I get to ten…

PS With over 5000 images I hd a lot to sort through…and this one popped up after I’d processed the others – I love it, but understand if I’m in a minority…

Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra