Are we / they missing the point?

For the first post of the new year – and we’re already nearly into March – a tiny grumble.

I peruse the photographic web sites fairly frequently – some are just for laughs like Ren Kockwell, others to try to glean info for prospective lens / camera purchases. Sadly, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that despite some of the highly respected names out there, that alot of ‘photographers’ seem to be missing the point. Obviously, this is all relative to my position – I couldn’t agree more, but I still feel that the comment is justified.

An example – I have two camera bags – one for ‘pro’ work, one for everything else. I will shortly be travalling to the Highlands of Scotland and for obvious reasons would prefer to have as little to carry as possible (in the ‘everything else’ bag). I’m looking for a lens which would extend the range of my 24-70 f/4 (for which I can’t use a teleconverter…)

I’m not particularly comfortable with any lens longer than 200mm, but I admit I love the compression that focal length can bring. After a bit of hunting around, I came across the NIKKOR S 24-200 f/4-6.3 VR

This lens checks a whole slew of boxes – light, huge range, really short (physically) barely 1cm longer than the 24-70 f/4 – perhaps a good contender for a travel lens.

So I started checking the reviews…

The people whom I respect (Thom Hogan etc.) have reservations, Ricci (confirmed NIKON nut in the UK – also on their payroll it seems) is head over heels in love with it (and manages to say this three times in as many minutes on one of his videos) and in between singing the praises of Canon, and trying to sell headphones, Ren Kockwell just suggests that it’s the only lens he’ll ever need.

For a brief moment I even considered reading the Nikon Rumors Forum, but as most of the people present on that particular forum wouldn’t know a camera or lens if you hit them over the head with it, much less actually know what to do with one, I ruled that option out. The info that Peter posts is valuable, and for the most part very accurate – it’s the members who create the doubt…

So who to believe? And what criteria do they use to choose or base their observations?

Ironically, the most ‘reasonable’ is Ren Kockwell who simply posts zillions of images taken using the lens – sure they’re sharp and contrasty, but when you check his shooting settings, and the extensive post-production, they should be! But, the lens seems to work as I would expect.

No images from Ricci but a few close ups of a colour swatch card and comparison photos with other NIKON zooms with similar ranges. His choice was more guided by these comparisons than by actually using the lens to make images in the field.

Tom Hogan is the most reserved, which surprised me, as I consider him much more of a real ‘photographer’ who goes out and makes images… visibly he is too busy to actually use the lens and bases much of his comments on MTF charts and comparisons with the NIKON f/2.8 lens which are supposed to be considerably higher quality.

Haven’t you missed the point here? The lens is :

A: considerably cheaper than the 70-200 f/2.8 – lighter and smaller too

B: has a range that means it can effectively replace the 24-70 f/4 meaning I can reduce my kit to 2 lenses instead of three.

C: produces results that are very sharp (before any post processing) and despite the f/6.3 aperture at any focal lenth from 85mm upwards, focuses rapidly and silently with the on-board vibration reduction and lens VR to produce excellent results.

No, it’s probably not as good as the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 24-70 f/2.8 but the it’s consideably cheaper, lighter and much easier to carry on holiday… personally I am not looking for a portrait lens to take into the field, or wonderful Bokeh (another pet grumble – why oh why has this become so important?) I want a versatile lens that I can leave on the camera pretty much all of the time, which is small and light – works for me!

My choice is made – and made even easier by the fact I was able to purchase a ‘like new’ example from the MPB site in Germany for almost half the price of a new one.

Join the MVMT

MVMT are recent (10 years already) to join the plethora of watch ‘brands’ on the consumer market, the main difference being that they’re still here.

They are based in California and design (and have manufactured elsewhere) a series of reasonably priced mens and women’s watches – for as little as 100€ there are watches to please most tastes.

This is what interests me at the moment – it’s a matte green ceramic – and it should be arriving in a few days!

I started with a white one – which I love, and then was given the blue version – very classy, which I also like it a lot. I had a slightly embarrassing moment with the white one while visiting my daughter last year – I took it off while walking, tripped and dropped it onto a tiled floor. One of the fundamental problems with ceramic materials is that they are VERY brittle – the strap smashed into a number of pieces (strangely, the watch itself was unharmed.)

I sent a mail to MVMT to ask if I could buy a new strap – which sadly wasn’t available. Instead they sent me a whole new watch, free of charge – excellent service.

Knee jerk reaction?

Not really – but since the ‘Meta-verse’ has decided it’s going to bring in subscriptions for people who don’t want to see publicity on their social network platforms, I (and millions of others it seems) are questioning if it’s really worth staying…

I left Facebook some years ago – they didn’t notice, much less I, so I’m pretty sure I won’t suffer too much… there are people who pretend they have no interest, then go bonkers when someone likes their bike videos…

It’s going to cost nearly 13€ for the ‘right’ to use Instagram on a telephone, less if it’s on a PC. I frankly can’t see the point – I have a few followers there (435 it seems) but there are probably only 5 or 6 who look at my posts on a regular basis, and 4 of those are family.

Probably time to call it a day – which will give me more time to do other things…

Cie Raoul Lambert

The week of the Festival is drawing to a close, and on before I left for the Thursday evening performance, I had a quick look at the details for the Cie Raoul Lambert on the site of CiRCa. I had bemoaned the fact that for my last two ‘real’ performances, I didn’t know the companies etc. etc.

Turns out I was wrong – Mathiew (Despoisse) and Marine (Fourteau) are old friends – and Marine was even born in the Gers! So off I went and it was great to see them again – one of the things I had to get used to at a very early stage in my ‘career’ photographing circus artists, is that EVERYBODY kisses EVERYBODY – men, women, horses – the lot! And nothing changed last night!!

This image is from my Instagram post (haven’t treated the other 700 images yet….) – very entertaining hour and twenty minutes – there are several magic tricks and things that the company don’t want to divulge to the public, so the album might be shortish…this will be fun trying to sort it out!

Bordeaux

Sort of forgot to mention our day trip to Bordeaux a couple of weeks ago – the highlight of the day, after seeing my daughter again (mwaj xxx) was a trip to the submarine base.

This has been on the books for a while now, and we finally made it to visit the Dali exhibition which was set to music from Pink Floyd – yeah!!

Four of the 8 pens have been sealed off (to the outside) and a mass of video projecteurs beam images on the walls and floors with superb reflections in the water of the pens.

In the furthest pen from the entrance, they have built a large inclined seating area – so you can relax and let the images roll over you – with the excellent sound system, it really makes for an excellent visit.

The entrance fee is 16€, and it’s a good idea to book online, you can infact stay as long as you like – we saw the whole sequence twice, and it took just over an hour. Well worth the effort and the price.

A Festival of Circus…

It’s the last school holidays of the year – so it’s time for the Festival CiRca, or to give it’s full name, the 36e Festival de Cirque Actuel.

As usual, the festival last a week, and for me started on the first Saturday with a belgian compagnie called Grensgeval who presented us with « Murmur« 

Murmur

Very innovative – the audience, sitting on the scene with the actor, all wore small backpacks which they were not allowed to open. Some of the backpacks contained Bluetooth speakers and at certain moments of the show, these came to life and the sound followed the actor around the scene – very enjoyable, and a great start to my week.

Next up were old friends the Cie Aïtal (based in Toulouse) – their show « A Ciel Ouvert » (Out in the Open) was typical extreme, and great slapstick circus.

A Ciel Ouvert

Unusually for modern circus, this also included animals – well, birds in fact! Four chickens, three doves and a pair of ducks – great performance.

Since the weekend I’ve managed to photograph the Federation of French circus schools who have a series of their schools performing each day, and we both enjoyed « ‘Brame » by the Cie Libertivore on Sunday.

Brame

The Collectif Sous le Manteau were at the Mouzon this weekend with « Mikado » – pretty obvious why really – the scene was simply a huge number of pipes, a bit like the game ‘Mikado’ – they 6 artists spent their time climbing up and swinging off the structures that they’d created – very dynamic and entertaining.

Mikado

Cirque Queer gave us « Le Premier Artifice » on Tuesday evening and I have to admit I was slightly disappointed as their normal brand of extravagent costumes and make-up seemed overshadowed by a very inconsistent stage show. The lighting was not brilliant (pun intended) and artists should have realsied by now that wearing hats obscures a lot of the face – a sad waste frankly. We (the photographers) were not allowed into the tent until everyone else as the artists were « stressed » (when aren’t they) – I somehow think the transition from male to female has been taken a little to far….

Le Premier Artifice

Another show with a question mark, and possibly one of the worst I’ve ever seen here in Auch, was by the Cie Diagonale du Vide who gave us « Le l’Hiver, le ciel est bleu » (It’s winter and the sky is blue)

C’est l’Hiver, le Ciel est Bleu

I had occasion to follow their residence here in April, and at the time I thought the spectacle was a bit repetitive and extremely pedestrian – but since then things seem to have got a lot worse. Possibly the most frustrating thing was the almost total lack of actual ‘circus’ – Idriss (the man) played with a series of juggling clubs, but did no actual juggling – when Mona climbed into a mass of rope hanging from the ceiling, her movements were more frenetic than stylish and posed. A great shame as we got on well, and I admit I was hoping for a lot better.

Tonight is free, but for Thursday and Friday I’ll be seeing shows from two groups of artists that I don’t know, which is always fun.

Incoming…

But which colour?

Watch this space…

Not much to say really – as a previous ‘iPhone’ user, the gestures haven’t changed and the phone just ‘works’ straight out of the box. It’s nice to have a bit of extra space, so the fact that it comes with 256Go is a huge improvement (to my last, an iPhone 5 with 32Go !!)

FaceID helps tremendously – no more clicking and fingerprints etc. and the ApplyPay integrated means I don’t even have to get out a credit card to pay for my sandwiches anymore…

The Mag Safe charger is new (to me) and is another ‘wireless’ option which improves the general usability of the thing. Nice just to be able to arrive home and plonk the unit down on it’s little magnetic pad and off it goes.

Hugely expensive for a simple phone, but I consider it more as a pocket sized camera (48Mp – AppleRAW with wide, normal and telephoto lenses) which can also make phone calls.

Physically slightly smaller than the Samsung A52 – fits in the pocket a treat, and stays there when you get in the car as it automatically connects to the entertainment system for making/receiving calls, music playlists etc.

Fun will be had ! (Twice in fact – we ended up buying two !!)

A New Billingham

I’d had a few Billingham bags, over the years, and one thing that is impressively constant – the build quality.

I purchased my first Billingham bag in 1979 just after they came onto the market in the UK. I was living and working abroad and went to Leeds Camera Services in London with three large supermarket bags full of different camera gear, and asked if they had any camera bags that didn’t look like camera bags. I came away with my first one that day.

Since then, they’ve come and gone, with one of my most recent purchases the Billingham Hadley (Small Pro? No idea) which I use exclusively for my NIKON Z6ll and it’s associated f/4 lenses when I’m on my holidays. Everything fits – it’s waterproof, and protects my stuff.

I’ve started carrying a small bag – wallets, telephones, keys, and other dross which one likes to have available, is just getting too much for my trouser pockets, so I’ve been having a look around the Billingham site. The model that caught my eye was the Stowaway – of which there are three – the Airline, the Compact and the Pola – they are all the same price, and more or less the same sizing, some more square than others…I chose the Airline as it was the taller of the three – my Ulanzi table top tripod and ball head fits perfectly – even if this was NOT intended as a camera bag…

Obviously the only bag size/colour combination I wanted wasn’t available in France/Europe so I decided to order directly from the UK – BIG mistake. Yes, they take OFF the VAT, but then UPS declare the package at French customs so you pay the French TVA but ALSO a 25€ fee for doing (essentially nothing as it’s all done by computer) the ‘work’. So yes, you have to WANT one of these buggers if you go that route…

This image seems elongated – click on the picture to see a correct representation

This is it, and it fits EVERYTHING I think I need at hand – beautifully made – and waterproof – I’ve decided to sleep with it by my side. It’ll be a whole lot better after a few months when things start ‘wearing in’. The Billingham Airline Stowaway in all its glory !

August

August is here, with the normal run of stupid things happening in the world press, which most people forget within minutes.

Closer to home, the Z8 seems to be getting bad press from a series of ‘incidents’ involving strap lugs – I personally have not noticed any extra play etc. but people have had their cameras fall off their shoulders when one of the strap lugs comes out of the body.

Nikon have not officially recognised this, but as there’s already a recall in operation for another ‘fault’, they are sure to be checking for that too – people in the know seem to think this may have been an error with the mounting pins in a very early batch of bodies.

UPDATE: Nikon have announced a recall – 07/08/2023 (Based on a range of serial numbers)

Someone has tested the serial number check on the Nikon site, and has suggested that ALL the shipped bodies (up to 10,000 units may be affected) – I’ll check mine…

I have never relied simply upon the strap lugs, as I tend to slap an ‘L-plate’ onto each new body A: to let me attach straps to that (if needed) and B: to have an ARCA mounting plate available in both axes for mounting on my tripod.

This is the one I purchased from Smallrig – almost half the price of Really Right Stuff etc. it does a perfectly good job, is adjustable, and VERY well made – it also has mounting ‘eyes’ for my Peak Design camera strap connectors. Very well thought out piece of kit from Smallrig.

I’ve been out and about with camera (!) to prepare for a ‘photo day’ for which I’ve invited a close friend – he (and his son) don’t know where we’re going, but suffice it to say they’re both prepared to get up at 5am so that I can take them to a special place to photograph the sunrise, and then on to two other places I doubt they even imagined exist! As he ‘follows’ me on social media etc. I can’t publish any of the images I’ve been taking while I put this all together (frustration!) but my time will come! With a bit of luck the weather will be suitable in a few days – watch this space.

And finally, for all fans of colonoscopy and hooks in garage ceilings, our (un)friendly local deviant and founder member of the BABBA, has decided to ban everyone (or more to the point, everyone who counts) from his social media, Flickr accounts etc. Joy to the world! We’re having a party next week to celebrate – we feel somehow blessed 🙂

Ironically – it seems that this person has been having quite serious health problems, and the phrase « a pain in the arse » has really taken on a ‘hole’ new meaning… if you get my gist…

Happy holidays

Old Friends

My chums Nicolas and Julien from the Collectif Petit Travers, were back in Auch this week – the collectif were in residence at CiRCa with the Debussy Quartet for a new production titled ‘Nos Matins Intérieurs’ (« The mornings inside »)

It was great to see them again as we’ve been collaborating since 2014 – and they still use some of my original images from that time.

Petit Travers & Quatuor Debussy « Nos Matins Intérieurs »

The new production is huge compared to most of what they’ve done before – 10 artists on stage AND a string quartet playing live. All new!

They still have a nasty tendency to avoid lighting – a few years back they performed by candle light ! All in all a well rounded production – which we sadly won’t see here for the time being.

Petit Travers & Quatuor Debussy « Nos Matins Intérieurs »