Training

After the relaxation of our recent cruise it was time for me to go and get a job which involves a long period of pretty intensive training.

This will probably mean that for the foreseeable future blog posts could be a bit thin on the ground.

In case you were wondering the job is not related to photography, unfortunately.

I hope to maintain a bi weekly posting schedule.

 

Durham Cathedral

A recent visit to Durham Cathedral allowed a brief photo opportunity.

We had some family visiting so I wouldn’t class it as a photographic outing, but it did whet the appetite for a return trip.

The Cathedral can be busy with tourists so I would avoid peak season for photography purposes. If your going just for a visit you can take some photos that avoid people if you want.

I’ve added a selection to the 12 Pics series here of my adventures. While your there take in the impressive Lego Cathedral if you get the chance.

Durham itself could also be worth a wander around to complete a day out.

 

Roaming in Rome

Roaming in Rome – an day excursion on our recent cruise:

If you have had the pleasure of booking a cruise the second thing on your list (after deciding where to go) is what excursions you do.

Booking our cruise so far in advance, the excursions hadn’t actually been released, so it was a return trip to the travel agent to sort them out.

We diligently went through the list for each port of call to see what was on offer. Fortunately they give you a rough guide to how long each one lasts. Some were 12 hours. That was too long for us so we opted for some 1/2 day excursions instead.

One of which was Rome. Now let me say it is impossible to see what Rome has to offer in a half day. A whole day isn’t much good either. Some would suggest you need at least a week.

Being both on a coach and grateful of not driving we got to see some sights that we wouldn’t have time to visit.

Opting for the half day tour results in only a couple of hours or so free. This afforded us enough time (much to the wife’s delight) to do a mini Angels and Demons tour:

Piazzo Nivarno

Piazzo Nivarno

Castel D'Angelo

Castel D’Angelo

We essentially walked a loop from the coach drop off point which between taking in the sights and finding our way around, filled our free time quite nicely.

There are a few things you notice about Rome. It has:
Loads of history
The Vatican
Loads of tourists
A graffiti problem
Loads of photo opportunities
You don’t want to drive there (think of driving in London but more manic and with more scooters)

Should we visit Rome again I think we would look at doing a couple of attractions in a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and do them well, without rushing.

As this cruise was an anniversary celebration, photography wasn’t the prime objective. I took my Nikon V1 kit and some lenses…..and did the typical tourist thing using my phone around Rome. I didn’t have to worry about lugging gear around or changing lenses. More importantly I didn’t have to worry about the wife hanging around while I tried to get the shot. There were far too many people to attempt ‘proper’ photography anyway.

Before leaving we had an idea of producing a small photo book after our cruise, so with this in mind decided that the quality from our mobiles would be more than adequate.

Using mobiles and a tablet also had the advantage that we could put the images in albums as we went. Depending on your choices you could organise your images by port, city, attraction, country, you get the idea. Not to mention social media updates were a breeze. Trying to do that with a MILC or DSLR would have required more equipment and a lot more faffing around.

Using a phone as a phone.

We actually did use our mobiles as phones. The included European roaming package we had with our contracts came in useful on several occasions. As soon as we reached a port the phones automatically connected to the local network. Get the title now?  Just in case you don’t know, DON’T use your mobile at sea, the signal gets routed through a satellite system and will cost a fortune.

The cruise was enjoyable, relaxing and everything we wanted, apparently we will be doing it again 🙂

Before we go on our next one I need to do some serious thinking about what gear, photographically I will take.

In fact I’m questioning whether my current collection of equipment is still suitable for my needs.

That’s probably a subject for a future post……

 

 

There’s been a drought

There’s been a drought …..in me posting. I really must use the schedule post feature more.

Well September became a busy month. We moved house and just about managed to unpack before a cruise celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.

On our return it was a matter of getting back into everyday life routine. Which is difficult after relaxing on a ship, getting served great food and remembering not to take (too much) advantage of the all inclusive drinks package.

I will post some pics in the coming weeks.

As this was more of a holiday than a photographic expedition I only took my Nikon V1 and a couple of lenses. At one stage I only used my phone to take pictures.

Walking around various locations there seemed to be a lack of ‘large’ cameras. DSLR users were few and far between. No wonder camera manufacturers are struggling.

The overwhelming majority of people were quite content (as was I) to use a mobile phone to capture images.

What a lot of gear heads on the forums forget is how the end product will be used. People using mobiles for their photography needs probably won’t show those images on anything bigger than an iPad [insert your preferred choice of tablet here].

In fact they more than likely posted to social media, got a few likes and that will be that.

As far as I can see the latest raft of mirrorless cameras still don’t seem to address the problems mobiles have eliminated. The ability to capture an image, edit it and post it to the internet all in one device. With a few taps of a screen.

Will ILCs ever have such a workflow?

I’m going to stop buying gear

I’m going to stop buying gear because whenever I get into a system things tend to go downhill.

My premise of buying into Nikon CX was to gain a smaller capable system and use the crop factor to extend my DX zoom capability.

I quite like my Nikon 1 system and still use it. Quite a lot actually. It’s not very often you can stick the equivalent of a 300mm lens in your pocket, carry it around all day and not notice.

In terms of extending my zoom capacity with the DX zoom it sort of worked. It would have been better if Nikon hadn’t of knobbled the AF to one centre point though.

Anyway the downhill part became the demise of the 1 system. Nikon couldn’t figure out where to go with it. By the time they released the V3 with the third different body style my expenditure on the system stopped. I’m feeling a bit of deja vu here.

As it happens Nikon’s expenditure on the system stopped as well.

On the DX side of things I started with a D70 had numerous bodies since and currently use a D200  and D5300. So you could say I stuck with DX.

For me DX is a nice compromise in terms of cost, weight, value and performance. I’ve happy with my DX system and for what I do don’t need full frame.

Now it would appear that DX could go the way of CX.

Im starting to feel the APS-C sector is going to become very niche. The only company really sticking to the format seems to be Fuji.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the APS-C segment comes under pressure from smartphones at the bottom end and lower pricing on full frame from the top end. This could also apply to m4/3 as well.

If you don’t need full frame will there still be a choice of formats long term? Or will we be forced to choose between a smartphone and full frame?

Fortunately there is more than enough pre-owned gear around to last for a while.

In the meantime I’m going to stop buying gear and see where the dust settles.

 

Samye Ling Monastery

The Kagyu Samye Ling, a Tibetan Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health,  now appears in the 12 Pics series here.

The first Tibetan Centre to open in the West in 1967, it occupies a marvellous location in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk in Scotland.

Liberation Gate

As you can see from the images the place is colourful and bright. You can enter the actual Temple after removing your shoes. There are chairs along the back wall and it is well worth taking a few moments to enjoy the serenity and surroundings.

inside Samye Ling Temple

There is a shop and tea rooms on site but be aware that it closes for lunch. Now this might sound odd at first, but the thinking is the staff should have a lunch break too!

You can take photographs around the grounds and inside the Monastery .

The main car park is a short walk from the site. There are a couple of disabled parking spaces with wheelchair access to the main building.

For more details about visiting check the Samye Ling website here. The Samye Ling About page can be found here.

 

Camera: Iphone SE

The best camera

The best camera …… is the one you have with you. How many times do we hear that?

Now if you wanted to be pedantic you could argue for and against that statement. No matter how much gear you have (in value or quantity) is it any use if it’s not with you?

I happened to be out at the local airport and ..yep you guessed it the only camera I had was my smartphone. This was a slight oversight on my part because I normally have at least one of my cameras rattling around in the car.

So given the limited ability of the smartphone lens (the sooner they have decent zooms the better) I decided to go for it anyway and take a few snaps.

Plane heading to runway

On its way

Plane parked up

Parked up

And my favourite of the day, an unexpected visit from a RAF Hercules:

Hercules taking off

Take off

These shots were taken from the perimeter, with careful placement of the lens between the fencing.

Not too bad for some shots taken on a phone, I think.

 

All images IPhone SE.

Experiences not gear

Experiences not gear. A while ago I wrote about whether experiences or more gear would be beneficial to us as photographers. I also said I would be putting my money where my mouth is. So here are some photos from an experience I had for my birthday, along the Fort William to Mallaig railway line.

We started off on this:

Steam loco

Loco 45212


Sat here:
First Class

First Class

Went through here:

Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan

And ended up along here:

Glenfinnan viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct

The ‘Harry Potter’ bridge or its more correct name The Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Line in the Scottish Highlands. In the film its pictured from the other side. This image was actually taken on the return journey. If you’ve ever tried to take photos from a train carriage you will realise how many reflections there are 🙂

If your a railway enthusiast, at least in the UK you will be familiar with this line in Scotland.

It’s very popular:

Bun fight to get near the loco

It’s a bun fight to get near the loco

So what do you take photos of when you cant get near the engine? Well if your me, you look at the stuff other people aren’t taking photos of:

Coupling

Coupling

Workings

Workings

Nameplate

Nameplate

Steam Loco

One Final shot

OK I’ll stop there for those of you not into trains as much as I am.

The weather on this particular day was gloomy and overcast, we had to take a chance because we pre booked the tickets.

According to my wife though, it didn’t detract from my excitement 🙂

Should you fancy a trip along the Fort William to Mallaig railway you can find out more information at http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm

Arrive early in Fort William because you may have a longer walk from the car park than you think and it can get busy.

For at least part of the journey put the camera down, take in the scenery and enjoy the experience.

You’ll be surprised at how smooth travelling on a steam train is.

 

(Camera / lens: Nikon 1 V1, 10mm, last image Iphone SE)

 

 

Catch up – June has been busy

Here’s a catch up – Due to a busy few weeks the blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground.

I hope to remedy this soon with a couple of articles about our holidays.

Life in general has got a bit busier too. I will try to make a concerted effort to return to a post a week.

While I’m happy with my current gear and have no intention of changing it, I have noticed a long time blogger of Nikon 1 gear is softening his approach and trying out a different format.

We have a wide range of equipment available to us today, take advantage of that.

Don’t be precious about what you use. A camera is a tool to take photographs. Ask a car mechanic, plumber, electrician or gardener about the tools they use. I bet a bag a doughnuts they don’t care about the make as long as it does what they want.

Keep calm…..go create 😀

A celebration

We recently had a chance to attend a celebration of two people committing to spend the rest of there lives together. Or in other words a wedding.

Now I might of mentioned before that I enjoy a wedding. There is something special about standing up in front of friends and family and declaring your love for one person. I know I’m an old romantic at heart. My wife, son and I were fortunate to be invited as guests. We had no pressure and could relax and enjoy the day.

Now being a photographer you always keep an eye on what other people are using to take images. The official ‘togs were using Nikon and I dare say any other make would probably yield similar results if you know what you are doing.

But what about the guests? Well there was a very pleasant chap with a compact camera taking pictures at the evening do. Everyone else (including us) were using …….yep you guessed….wait for it…. our phones. Once the official photographers had gone there wasn’t a DSLR or mirrorless camera in sight. In fact all the guests throughout the day only used their phones. And yes the pictures did get posted to social media more or less as it happened.

Now mostly you are looking at a mid twenties group here, with a few either side just to spread it out a bit. Potentially these are the people who MIGHT progress towards a more fully featured camera in the future. Why is might in capitals? Because they might not.


What now?

Here’s the interesting thing. The phones provided enough video and still picture quality for those using them. Together with the ability to instantly share to social media.

Now whether us two bodies and a handful of lenses toting oldies like it or not, we have to accept younger people are not into imaging in the same way.

But what people use at one wedding isn’t definitive. No it’s not. But it isn’t just one wedding. It’s several weddings, birthdays, It’s when your out and about. The bag carrying photographer is becoming an endangered species. If you don’t believe me, have you looked at the latest sales figures widely available and commented on over the web?

We are witnessing a change in how society thinks about and records it’s activities. The camera manufacturers are like dinosaurs trying to wake up and come to terms with that. Don’t get me started on prints 🙂

I still don’t believe mirrorless is the answer. I’m not convinced it will attract enough new photographers to be sustainable. Anyone wanting a half decent kit now will have to spend a lot of money to carry around a device and some lenses that can only take pictures and has woeful connectivity.

Will smartphones take over?

Arguably they have already. We have a multi function device with internet access in our pockets at a (compared to cameras) reasonable price. Cameras not built into a smartphone will become more niche. Perhaps they are now. Do we ever recognise a niche until it’s happened?

My 27 year old son shows no interest in photography. At all. Judging from the similarly aged people at the wedding they are more than happy with their phones.

There in lies the problem. For us older non gear heads cameras are good enough. For the younger ones phones are good enough. Bridging that divide is going to be difficult.

The next time your at a celebration, be it wedding, birthday, anniversary, religious festival connected to your faith ,take a few moments out to see how people are capturing the event.

Most of all remember why your there, enjoy the day and capture the event and memories the way you want…………..

Snipe

Snipe – have you seen any lately? That was the question put to me in the bird hide. Actually I had. Only a couple of weeks ago at least four of these well camouflaged birds were about.

Heres a couple of them:

Snipe

Two snipe….does that make them snipers?

Snipe are reasonably common and love wet grasslands. The average lifespan is around three years for this medium sized wader. In a previous post I joked I needed to find bigger birds or get a longer lens. I took these images with my Nikon 1 V1 and the 70-300mm AF-P zoom. The V1 has a silent shutter and the 70-300 is extremely quiet in use. With the crop factor of the V1 and the 300mm end of the zoom that gave me an equivalent of 810mm lens.

Four snipe

Look carefully….there are four in this image

These birds have some marvellous gold and black bars with a brown and gold head and a very long bill. When they stand still they are very difficult to see and blend into their preferred habitat quite nicely.

Snipe in wet grassland

Nice camouflage

As you can see in the picture above the one on the right is harder to see than the chap on the left.

It was only when these guys started moving that I noticed them at all. Chances are if they had stayed still I might have missed them completely, that is why I always take few minutes when entering a bird hide. Set up the gear and have a look around before taking pictures.

Take your time and have fun.

 

Camera/lens: Nikon 1 V1, FT-1 adapter, Nikkor 70-300mm AF-P DX VR.

A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods – what does it do for you?

For me, I get outside, get some fresh air, say hello to other people enjoying the outdoors, listen to the birds and get to look around for potential pictures. I also pay attention to the weather, if it has been raining or is about to rain, watch out for squirrels or maybe deer and keep an eye on the light. While I do all that I get some exercise and get to relax.

And you thought it was just a walk in the woods 🙂

Some images from my last walk:

Lichen

Lichen on a cliff edge

In the picture above I imagined the lichen to running off the cliff a bit like lemmings. I don’t know why. Now I’ve mentioned it you can see it too, cant you?

How about this one:

Fungus on a tree

Stuck on you

At first glance this fungi looks like it’s been stuck on this tree. I was fascinated by the shape and layering.

Talking of things that look like they’ve been placed:

Fungi between the branches

I couldn’t have made a better job of putting this here myself. It’s like it was jammed up between the two branches.

And finally:

Plant root

Is it going to get you?

This root structure looks more like some creature that is about to jump out at you. In fact I was expecting it to move while taking the picture.

Don’t always look for the obvious

On this walk I could hear some woodpeckers although they were quite elusive. There were plenty of other birds adding to the sounds of the wood. All of them seemed camera shy on this particular day.

So I wondered about looking at what else was around. We’re almost into spring here so in a few weeks this same wood should have more leaves on the trees. Hopefully a bit more colour and some sunshine too.

I am going to make a point of returning to see the difference.

And I won’t just be looking for the obvious…

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikkor 85mm Micro

Deer

Deer, sometimes you see them other times you don’t. It could be weeks in between sightings at the local nature reserve.

This morning I was fortunate:

Once this young chap noticed me, he didn’t hang around very long. I tried getting closer but he decided enough was enough and wondered off further into the woods.

If you ever tried photographing deer you will know they only tolerate you for so long. The slightest noise will spook them.

So today was a good day. Got some deer pictures, had a nice walk and enjoyed some sunshine.

It’s the simple things in life……..

Camera/lens: Nikon 1 V1, FT-1, Nikkor 70-300 AF-P VR DX.

A quintuple of black and white

A couple of weeks ago I ventured out with the camera. The weather wasn’t too good and neither was the light but I decided to put together this quintuple of black and white images.

Now if you are of a certain age and had a darkroom, you will know the nuances of using different papers and developers.

The best, richest blacks I ever got always seemed to be with Kentmere paper. The Kodak and Ilford papers of the time just didn’t seem to compare. Now I realise this is purely subjective, but that was what I found.

Either way its not quite the same on a monitor. I’m not saying one is better than the other, they are just …….different.

Each with their strengths and weaknesses.

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikkor 70-300mm AF-P DX VR.

Is the Olympus camera division on the ropes?

Is the Olympus camera division on the ropes? Several sites are reporting they might be forced to forgo their digital camera business. This has of course fired up the comments on various forums. Some in defence and others proclaiming m4/3 is dying.

The situation isn’t helped by Panasonic deciding to change direction.

So what’s the problem?

Well….It would appear to be the investors in Olympus suggesting a new direction. While their latest camera the EM1-X  might be considered an expensive model, somewhere within the rooms and corridors of Olympus HQ it must have been discussed and agreed to release that product at that price point.

It’s interesting that its the investors – reportedly foreign investors – who are asking for change. Does that vindicate the Olympus marketing and production departments? Maybe. It can’t be easy in the digital camera business these days. Despite comments on what camera companies should do from forum users, I think that those very users sometimes forget what they want may not be appropriate for other markets or regions. A few vocal Americans [insert your country here] may not be representative of a global market.

M4/3 may not be the only casualty

I still think that anything smaller than full frame could well be challenged in the current climate. It’s possible, to get some clear product differentiation that Canon and Nikon may give up on their APS sized cameras and cede market share to smartphones.

That would leave Fuji in the APS segment, effectively in a niche. Both in style and sensor size.

Will Nikon continue to produce what is effectively three different ranges of lenses? I’d bet a bag of doughnuts that Nikon will (officially or otherwise) let the DX go. And I say that as an avid DX user. I just hope that they don’t do a CX on it and neglect it to death. Nikon published a road map for their Z series lenses. Let’s hope they have the kahunas to tell us what they might do with DX.

Will other investors want out of the camera market?

If Olympus investors want out, are they the only ones? Will this prompt other investors to think along similar lines and want to change direction away from a declining market?

Let’s face it investors want a return. If that is harder to accomplish in a diminishing market they may very well want out.

That could mean Olympus won’t be the only one in trouble.

It could also mean investors increasingly calling the shots …..