I sometimes read the Daily Mail…

…well to be honest, I actually look at the pictures – journalists for the Daily Mail don’t actually understand spelling or punctuation, or reality in fact so this is not a broad sheet that can be ‘read’.

‘Reading’ the Daily Mail is akin to skipping through the Beano – but frankly the Beano was more ‘real’ than a lot which is published in the ‘Mail…

At the moment of writing the Covid pandemic is not over, we have a war in Ukraine which looks like expanding outwards into Europe and the Daily Mail publish an article about an air-head called Kyley Jenner (one of the Kardashians it seems) who named her recently born son Wolf, but has now changed her mind.

Already things suggest that she, and the rest of her clan, have a similar number of brain cells to a golf ball, and are collectively as intelligent as a pea…

But what makes this SO interesting to the tabloid reading British public? I admit I was pissed when ‘Boris’ and his idiot government took the UK out of Europe – but I’m having second thoughts – I’m actually PLEASED I don’t count as one of the UK’s statistics – who wants to be involved with a group of bottom feeders that consider women with monumental arses more important/interesting/newsworthy than what is REALLY going on in the world around us?

Not I.

I’m Back (again said Nora…)

…with a monumental crash! (« Noisy Nora » by Rosemary Wells – one of my kids favourite night-time reads)

Yes – it’s been a while but I’ve been busy, and as no-one really reads this nonsense I’ve sort of let it slide a bit. But today there’s NEWS

The twelfth edition of our Marathon Photo is scheduled for the 21st of May – sign up from today (And no, it’s not an April fool…)

Couple of other odds and sods from recent press/media articles:

Will Smith got pissed off with a comedian making comments about his wife, so he decided to get up on stage in the middle of the OSCARs ceremony in Hollywood, and slap the comedian. Two schools of though on this, according to the press – 1: you agree with W.Smith, or 2: you don’t and in addition, think his Oscar award should be taken back.

I have to say I think the second option is by far the most reasonable – W.Smith thinks he’s God and can get away with anything – I don’t (and visibly I am not alone)

Closer to home (in that it involves a photographer) here’s a report from the wonderful US of A.

Shealah CRAIGHEAD spent the last 4 years as one of the leading photographers in the White House photographers ‘pool’ following rent-a-slob TRUMP everywhere he went on official business. Apparently they got on well and she was able to produce many images of the man. When he left office, she negociated a book deal with a publisher to create a book of her images during the Trump precidency. She was given a sizeable advance on the book, and Trump agreed to write the foreword in exhange for some of the cash.

The images she produced are all in the public domain (and on FLICKR) and some bright spark suggested to Trump that HE should publish his own photo book using the same images. So he did – and apparently has made up to $20 million dollars on sales already.

Nice slap in the face for the person actually producing the work….more proof that Trump REALLY is a consumate arsehole and should be jailed, for nothing less than just being himself.

I’m off back to sleep…..

Annie Leibovitz

Christmas 2021 has come and gone, and we were lucky enough to be able to spend the holiday period with our family – not so easy in these troubled times.

I was fortunate to receive « Wonderland » the most recent book published by Annie Leibovitz

It’s huge and should not be mistaken as a collection of her long career as a photographer, more a selection of her work in fashion. I find it interesting as a number of the included portraits were, well, frankly disappointing and to my mind could have been taken by anybody.

She has established a well deserved reputation for her, sometimes extravagent, « mise en scène » with large sets, exquisite lighting etc. and as simple vehicules for showing off a dress or two, are simply works of art.

But it got me thinking about the ephemeral side of photography – fashion photography is not really designed as works to be hung on walls, more to fill the glossy pages of Vogue etc. Liebovitz’s series with the Russian model Natalia Vodianova based on Lewis Carrols « Alice Though the Looking Glass » are superb and stand out as a perfect contradiction to this rule – any single image could be exhibited as a single artwork without any problem.

John Galliano as the Queen of Spades
and Natalia Vodianova as Alice

The principal was simple – each designer made a dress and then appeared as one of the characters from the story with Alice who was wearing the dress.

But that’s where it ends for me. There are a number of portraits of « famous » people in the book – simple plain backgrounds, often monochrome, and I can’t help wondering what am I looking at, and more importantly, why?

Mary J. Blige

I’m sorry but this image is NOT exceptional in any way – and I cannot understand why it, and several others, were chosen to be in the book.

For me this is not her forté and it almost makes me wonder if the art directors are not playing on the fact that the image was taken by the great Annie Leibovitz when any photographer worth his salt could have done equally as well.

She is a hugely talented photographer, this I cannot deny, but I can’t help wondering if œuvres such as this really portray her talent to the full.

Seen at a circus near you…

I’ve recently received mountains of mail regarding the fact that I seem to be neglecting my loyal reader, sorry, readers (I know both of you)

As I was so elequently reminded « no-one actually reads this shit » I wondered if I could really be bothered, but what the hell – why should gays have ALL the fun?

Talking of gays, I met a charming group called ‘Cirque Queer‘ here in Auch last week. Hard to define exactly what they were (collective noun for a group of gay, lesbian, transvestites?) but I got on with them all very well and at the end of their 10 day residence here they decided to dress up as drag-queens and launch themselves upon an unsuspecting Auch…

Sadly the make-up session lasted well into the evening and it was too dark to photograph outside so we all stayed in the circus tent.

Cirque Queer, Auch, 25.11.2021

Another very interesting (as yet, unseen here in Auch) circus residence was the ‘Out-of-the-blue Company’ and their eponymous spectacle which basically consisted of two blokes bobbing up and down in a huge fish tank. I enjoyed the time I spent with them, and the photographs I made – however, the Company were VERY particular regarding what could or couldn’t be published, so the resulting album is small… It wasnt helped by Frederi (red shirt) having an ear infection preventing him diving to the bottom of the tank (required for part of the spectacle). However Sébastien made a very convincing mermaid….

Out of the Blue Company, Auch, 22.11.2021

One last little bit of news – Shabat Gula the famous « Afgan with green eyes » photographed by Steve McCurry back in 1984 has finally found refuge in Europe – she’s arrived in Rome with what’s left of her family – hopefully the end of her life as a refugee in Afganistan, then Pakistan etc. I have no proof of this, but the press doesn’t seem to think that Steve McCurry (who presumably made a mint from selling his photograph of her) had much to do with her repatriation…

I’m Back…

It’s been a while, but I’m just poking my nose around the door to prove I’m still here.

So what’s new recently? We’re creeping ever closer to the launch of the NIKON Z9 which is likely to be announced next week (28th October)

This seems to be a reliable image from Nikon Rumors – we’ll see next week. Judging by the hype, this will be an « exceptional » camera « surpassing the competition by huge margins » – all things we’ve heard before – let’s wait and see the reality on Thursday.

At a purely professional level this camera appeals to me as it has A: a secondary shutter that protects the sensor (when changing lenses, for example) as I get fed up with having to constantly clean the sensor, and B: a ‘real’ integrated grip for horizontal/vertical use (with two batteries as well…) – burst speeds of 20 fps etc. frankly don’t interest me for the sort of stuff I do, but a decent monitor (which can move in 2 directions now), a reasonable pixel density (likely to be 45mp) and a built-in GPS make this interesting to me.

Circus Festival – yes the 34th Festival du Cirque Actuel starts tomorrow here in Auch – I’m booked to photograph 16 different shows – could be fun…hope I don’t run out of film…

Jacks 1st Birthday was a blast and had us driving 1500kl (round trip) to an isolated farmhouse lent to us by his other grandparents who live not far from Geneva in Comté cheese country – yum yum! Met nearly 30 members of ‘the other side’ of the family – all very charming, and we also enjoyed brilliant weather for my grandsons 1st – I pretty sure he really understood what was going on – but he certainly enjoyed his birthday cake !

Our project involving making statues to put into the empty holes on the front of the cathedral in Auch is now finished – it all went very well, and after the ecclesiatics deciding that we could only hang the work on the catherdal for one day, they finally came to the presentation and found it was all rather decent (obviously) and let us extend the project to a total of two months!

Naturally we’re very pleased, in particular for the 10 local kids who did all the painting!

They’re at it again

Who’s this? You might ask – well LEICA of course – you can always trust them to come up with something totally bonkers. (Remember the model WITHOUT a rear screen?)

This is the LEICA M10-R. Isn’t it an M10R you ask? No, it isn’t – it’s a Special Edition of the LEICA M10R – note the very subtle change of name there… It’s truly amazing how important a ‘-‘ is…

The ‘Special’ bit (aside from a NEW shutter button surround and diamond hashing on the control wheels…) is the fact that they have given the body a coat of glossy black paint…which is designed to wear off.

Why? You might well ask…

For the ‘normal’ people (ie; they couldn’t really give a monkeys…) reading this, most modern cameras have an anodised finish which is very hard wearing – as paint tends to wear off.

And as we’re all going retro at the moment, LEICA have decided that people would like the ‘old fashioned’ patina of brass showing through on the worn edges…so 2000 lucky (and I use the term lightly) people will have the chance to pay 8300€ (Body only) for this ‘collectors’ item which will no doubt never actually see any action as people will store them away as an investment.

Will it take better pictures, or more importantly make you a better photographer?

Of course not – but that’s not the game anymore, is it.

Monumental WOT

(Waste Of Time)

Yesterday NIKON announced the NIKON Zfc – instead of continuing to update and improve the existing range of full-frame mirrorless cameras, NIKON have been convinced (by God knows who) to launch a ‘retro’ styled APS-C mirrorless body.

Will this make anybody a better photographer? Will this correct ANY of the annoying little faults in the existing range of cameras? Will this die a death like the hopelessly over-rated (by NIKON) Df?

No, no, more than likely yes.

Who really needs an APS-C body? Particularly if, in keeping with the ‘S’ series lenses, and the ‘retro’ feel, new lenses are required…

The price point is interesting – at time of launch there’s already a 100€ discount – normally priced at 999€ here in France, it’s available for 899€ body only. The NIKON Z5 (full frame) is available for 500€ more WITH a lens….

Sure, it’s small – but the Z series in general are by no means large…and the very useful grip at the right hand end of the camera has to be purchased as an optional extra…yeah sure, let’s go back to the FM2 – while we’re thinking of it, why not go back to the original ‘F’?

I can’t help thinking that NIKON management are launching this camera as a smokescreen to hide other, equally useless, developments. The ‘S’ series lens roadmap has still got a number of holes waiting to be filled, and using the Corona virus as an excuse for not being able to produce material is getting ridiculous. Why announce an item only to say, three days later, that there will be serious supply chain delays?

If you hadn’t already worked it out, this is a Z50 in a retro body…and you pay a premium for this ‘pleasure’ – 100$US more!

Sorry mates – not impressed. As an old friend of mine used to say, « nice try but no big cigar »

Swimming pools and tightrope walkers

June this year has really started with a bang. As for most of Northern Europe, it’s been wet and cold, but our planed escape to l’Hérault coincided with a massive change in temperature – reaching 35° one day this last week. Hence the « swimming pool » reference in the title.

Bargot-Grandjeans cooling off in the swimming pool

We had invited my daughters to spend a long weekend with us in our favourite B&B and when they all discovered the pool it was difficult to get them out. Even Jack, at 8 months, became a fan.

Nadia & Nico en-route…

Before the family arrived we decided to sign-up for a 3 hour walk around the area with Nico Bertin, a professional guide. The idea was to ‘discover’ part of the area and visit a winery at the end of the walk. We met up with Nico only to find that we were the only ones, so we had an excellent walk (4.5 hours – 12kl) topped off with a wine tasting in St Jean de Buèges.

This is the view from our bedroom window – a wonderful way to wake up and prepare ourselves for a huge breakfast!

La source de la Buèges

When the family arrived we had organised visits to different places that we’ve come across over the years of visiting this area. One of the, the source of the river Buèges is almost fairy-tale like, with clear blue water and a really beautiful, peaceful setting. While we were there I was able to take some half-decent portraits (these people never stop moving!)

We were only away a week, and a couple of days after we returned, the weather changed back to wet and windy – we were very lucky really. This change in the weather brought into doubt whether or not I would be able to photograph Tatiana (the tightrope walker) giving a show at the Château of Mons, near Condom. It rained and thundered all day – and even arriving at the château the weather was horrible – but luckily it dried up, and the 100 or so guests were able to watch her show.

Tatiana is a very talented « fil de feriste » (tight rope walker) and never seems the slightest bit phased by the prospect of dancing on a steel cord 5 metres (or 55 metres) above the ground. I’ve been following her since 2017 and she has never worn a safety harness, not even crossing the Gers to ‘walk’ to the cathedral in Auch, 50 metres off the ground.

Before the walk in Auch I had chatted to her and mentioned the rain that day – « Oh no problem » she said « if anything, it actually helps my shoes ‘stick’ to the rope ».

July should be interesting too – Welcome in Tziganie are finally able to stage their festival at the beginning of the month so photographically, it could be fun. I just hope the rain will finally stop…

The BIG picture…

Just come across this new lens adaptor from FOTODIOX.

Hasselblad V to NIKON Z mount

FOTODIOX are an American company that make camera and lens adaptors. I got to know of them when I discovered that they were the only company (at the time) that produced a filter holder for the bulbous front element of my NIKON 14-24 f/2.8 lens.

Anyway, this new adaptor is made to fit NIKON Z series cameras, and it allows the use of Hasselbald lenses – which is neat, ‘cos I’ve got a bunch of those…

What’s more, it allows the creation of much LARGER square images because the mount allows the camera to turn 360° – I’ll let FOTODIOX show how it’s done.

The photographer takes 4 images, one after another, turning the camera through 90° after each image is taken. Then it’s a simple matter to merge the images in Photoshop to produce the final square image – equivalent to a 46 x 46 mm square sensor.

This is an excellent idea, and for someone who likes square images, this could be great fun to try…I just have to find the 300$ to fund it…

I like straps…but I don’t….

A strap on a camera is a bit of a problem for me – I obviously need to be able to carry the camera when I’m not actually using it, but straps do tend to get in the way when you’re working, I find.

Op/Tech an American company, make an excellent strap, the Mirrorless Strap

This is a 40 cm strap, roughly 4cm wide with a non slip interior – this clips onto the long adjustable camera connectors (shown in the image above) so ideally you can detach the camera from the strap.

Yes, but…this still leaves the long connecters.

Peak Design came up with a very neat (and small) system for attaching things to cameras that they call Rapid Anchor links – these consist of a thin cord which fits through the D-rings on the camera, and a round plastic button which clips into the Peak Design camera straps. When these are fitted to the camera they are virtually invisible and don’t get in the way while using the camera. They also resist a weight of 90kg apparently…

Great – so now, how do we put the two together?

Simple – with these…

These are simply straps with the correct size snap links for the shoulder strap, and open ended flat braids which are the right size for the last item needed – the Peak Design Anchors

The flat braided strap passes through the top of the connector, and the round buttons clip into the lower half.

Now I can have a comfortable strap when I need one, and virtually nothing attached to the camera when I need that – simple!