Instameet – Château de Cassaigne

Tomorrow, July the 26th, year of our lord 2022 I’ve been invited to participate in an Instameet at the Chateau of Cassaigne in the South West of France.

I’ve been invited by the tourist office at Condom who, from time to time, create little ‘experiences’ for their devoted (lol) followers/contributers – of which I am one. We shall have a tour of the Chateau, meet a local theatrical group, and watch a performance which will be staged infant of the château.

The reason I’m getting sticky knickers is that I’m finally going to meet photographic royalty (well, in these parts at least) !! Yes, one of the other people invited is no less than Matthiew Rhinestone – and if I quote from his Instagram profile, you’ll understand why he is such an important guest and that this is such an important occasion :

« Award-winning Photographer – architecture, landscape, travel and location weddings worldwide. iPhoneography…
10 Internationally acclaimed books…

My lord, what am I going to do? Should I tart myself up, have a haircut (but which one?) ?

Does one bow in his presence? Curtsey perhaps? Is it actually worth me taking a camera, or even going there??

I’ll keep you posted…

Low light camera settings

The original article was written for the Z9 but in fact can be applied to any of the Z6/7 series camera link

Thom Hogan recently published a short response to people having problems with focussing in low-light – the link is above.

The interesting part is this: people very rarely play with the ‘Picture Control’ (Menu Camera, Set Picture Control) as, like me, they probably don’t understand what it does, despite Nikons explications.

Thom Hogan was trying to figure out why some of his readers seemed to have a lot more problems than him in focusing in low-light, and on further investigation came to the conclusion that this could be influenced by the Picture Control setting. He – possibly the only human to actually A: know what it means, and B: being someone who fiddles with EVERY setting (Thanx Thom) suggests moving from ‘Auto’ to ‘Neutral’ with an increased Sharpness value (default is 2) – I’m trying 6.

Remember to click OK after selecting your sharpness value, and if you want to store the values in one of the 3 presets, do that immediately afterwards or the setting will revert to the default.

Home Movies

A couple of times a year I visit a FLICKR feed of an English guy living in the Gers – principally to make myself feel better – it rarely fails.

My most recent visit coincided (it seems) with the uploading of an umpteenth « Home Video » which I’m sure is all very hi-tech and interesting blah blah – I don’t actually know as I was put off by the first 5 seconds of « lets look off camera to see what’s on my (badly positioned) monitor to see if the camera has actually started recording yet »

It would be wonderful, from a viewers point of view, if these prolific video makers were to discover EDITING SOFTWARE

In case you’re not yet aware, EDITING SOFTWARE allows one to cut the boring bits from a video (and yes, I realise, for some this would mean 98% of the film…) like « oh shit I’m going to sneeze » through the occasional fart, to « let’s look off camera… » etc. Get my drift?

Might be worth a try…this said, I’m pretty certain that most of these efforts are not aimed at an audience, per se, more an exercise in self flattery. Practice makes perfect…

Late May, Déclic, blindness etc.

The marathon Déclic has come and gone – great success, even if I say so myself (well, as it was I who organised pretty much everything, I think I’m allowed to pat myself on the shouler…)

51 people signed up, down on our usual 80+ but par for the course with the post-Covid situation etc. We had a lovely warm day, the participants enjoyed the food I had layed on – all in all a good year. The jury sits on the 1st of June – we’ll see what we can drag out of them this year…

Had a quick look over on FLICKR and noticed a chap who I used to know (over near St Clar in the Gers) has bought himself a Nikon Z7ll – now his FLICKR feed is overun with dross of a slightly higher pixel density, but sadly no increase in visual quality, and it got me thinking – I asked myself why the 3 or four of his harem, sorry, followers seemed to think this bloke is the bees knees?

And then it dawned on me – and frankly I have to admit I’m sad that I didn’t think of doing the same thing myself – his pictures are in braille – his followers are BLIND! I had previously realised he must have been playing to a visually handicapped audience, but I hadn’t twigged the fundamental reason.

What a marvellous technique – and I really must congratulate DT for his perspicacity – people with physical handicaps really do get a rotten deal in the long run, and I think this is a wonderful initiative – well done!

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.