TALKING IMAGES 50 – USING THE NIKON Z 6 TO PHOTOGRAPH SMALL BIRDS IN FLIGHT

 

 

All images: Skylarks in song flight, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

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Something that I’m interested to test on Nikon’s new Z 6 mirrorless camera is the accuracy and speed of the autofocus, and flying birds are – for an ex-birder like me – an obvious target.   To this end, I’ve already posted a picture of swans in flight here .

But down on the Somerset Levels recently, I aimed the camera at something far smaller and more elusive.  Skylarks kept leaping up from grassy fields all around me and ascending into their wonderful, towering song flights and so, using back button focusing (also described here ), I took a few potshots at them in silhouette.  These birds are about 7 inches (16-18cm) from bill tip to tail tip when laid out flat and, moving rapidly and erratically around, they presented quite a challenge.  The final image here shows the whole frame of the shot above it, to give an idea both of the birds’  size in the (electronic) viewfinder, and of how enlarged the first three of these images are.  All pictures were taken at 300mm telephoto, at 800 ISO.

There are two points to make here.  First, I used Dynamic Area Autofocus, where the camera takes information about the target not only from the focus point being used, but also from surrounding points if – like these small birds – the target is moving rapidly and erratically.  I used a single autofocus point, the central one, throughout.

And second, I used the lens I’m married to, the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor which – like me! – may be showing its age (from 2007) a little now.  To which end, I’ve acquired the 2017 upgrade, the 70-300 AF-P Nikkor – and time will tell on how this one performs!

The resulting images here are certainly not perfect, but to me they are in the right ballpark, and I’m looking forward to further testing.  Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window.

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TALKING IMAGES 49 – MORE ON THE NIKON Z 6, THE FUJIFILM X-T2, AND WAYS OF WORKING

 

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THE NIKON Z 6

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What needs to be said here is quite brief.  This is an extremely pleasant and capable camera to use, and it looks to be a highly creative tool.  It seems very likely that this is going to be my main camera – lol! my primary weapon! – for quite a long time.  I’m posting the above image again, because I still can’t quite get over just how small and compact this full frame camera is – on the left is the much larger Nikon D800; but the Z 6 in the centre doesn’t look that much larger than the APS-C format Fujifilm X-T2 (now superseded by the X-T3) on the right.  In terms of bare numbers (and in both cases including the weight of battery and memory card), the Z 6 weighs 657gm, as against the X-T2 at 507gm – I find this difference both negligible and really quite astounding.

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The large electronic viewfinder (EVF) is so good that, most of the time, I forget its electronic, its just like looking through an optical viewfinder.  One of my aims is to find out how good the Z 6 is at photographing birds in flight, and last week on the Somerset Levels I had my first opportunity.  The wings of Mute Swans make an entirely beautiful singing noise in flight, and I was suddenly aware of this noise behind me.  The Z 6 was set to continuous autofocus (more on that below) and, instantaneously,  I just turned on my heel, jammed my thumb onto the large AF-ON button and managed to get three shots of the birds before they were out of range.  The first two shots were out of focus as I struggled the get the camera onto the fast moving shapes, but the third exposure caught them – here it is:
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This all happened so quickly that I had no time to change any of the camera settings – hence my telephoto was on on 220mm; 800 ISO; 1/1250sec f7.1; the size of the full frame image is 6048×4024 pixels, and this is a crop to 1332×1323 pixels.  As I fired, there was a very brief (a split second) “hiccup” in the EVF after the first two frames, i.e. prior to this frame.  I’m going to try more such tests – hopefully with more time to prepare than for this one!  I have a feeling that the Z 6’s autofocus is not going to be quite as good as that on the D800, but time will tell.

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The other thing about the Z 6 that is really getting to me is the ease of switching between full frame and APS-C format, which increases the focal length of lenses by 1.5, so that my 300mm becomes 450mm.  By configuring the camera to how I want it to work, I simply have to press the Movie-record Button and turn the Main Command Dial a single click: this takes about a second, and being able to extend the reach of a telephoto almost instantaneously like this is extremely useful.

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WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THE NIKON Z 6, WITH REMARKS ON THE X-T2 TOO

Having said, above, that the Z 6’s EVF is so lifelike that it mostly seems like an optical viewfinder, this can’t be said of the EVF in the Fujifilm X-T2, which sometimes shows colours that are not accurate.  However, my experience is that the colours of the resulting images are always accurate – and often gorgeous!  The X-T2’s film simulations are more subtle and gorgeous that the Z 6’s picture controls, but the latter are still very usable, and can be edited to suit personal tastes if necessary.

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BUT the virtual level in the Z 6 is to me far more poorly designed and difficult than the very simple and eminently usable one on the X-T2 – I really don’t know what Nikon were thinking of when they designed theirs’!  And FURTHERMORE, the X-T2 has its virtual level and live histogram viewable simultaneously, whereas those on the Z 6 cannot be viewed on the same screen – the X-T2 is clearly superior in these (albeit fairly limited) respects.

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WAYS OF WORKING >>> CAVEATE … DISCLAIMER … A POLITICALLY CORRECT STATEMENT …

If eight years of blogging have taught me anything at all, its that we are all individuals, all different in our likes and dislikes – with this applying to just about any aspect of life that you care to mention.  With this in mind, its very clear that the two ways of working I’m about to describe many not be right for you, for any number of reasons.  However, they may strike a chord for someone, and they certainly are useful for me, so I’m going to describe them.

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WAYS OF WORKING 1

In the (good old?) days of film, I whipped lenses on and off my SLRs like there was no tomorrow, often changing the lens for each shot.  There were no worries then about getting dirt in the sensor >>> because the FILM was the sensor and you changed the sensor after every 36 pictures.  But now I change the lenses in my digital cameras far less.  This is partly because of the dirty sensor issue, but also because I take minimal kit with me when going out photographing, often taking just a camera and one (zoom) lens.  This makes for less weight to cart around – and I’m fully at one with the possibility of not being able to take certain types of shot because I don’t have the right type of lens with me.  I am certainly NOT someone who carries all my gear about with me, so as not to miss any shots at all.  In my philosophy, there will always be other chances another time.

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However, having said all that, for my last two visits to the Somerset Levels (which are all via my thoroughly disreputable car), I have taken two cameras and two lenses and this has worked extremely well.  The equipment in question is the Nikon Z 6 with the lens that I’m married to, the 70-300 Nikkor telezoom.  And the Fujifilm X-T2, with the Fujinon 10-24 wide angle zoom.

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Four points to make about this way or working.  First, no lens changes are involved.  Second, bulk is cut down because the Z 6 is so compact, really not that much bulkier than the X-T2 (see above).

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Third, this gear gives me two very different ways of looking at everywhere I visit, telephoto and wide angle.  So when I haul up somewhere, I walk about with first one camera and then the other, and very different photographic potentials are revealed.

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And lastly, carrying this gear gives me a very wide range of focal lengths to play with.  Since the Fujinon lens is APS-C format, its focal lengths must be multiplied by 1.5 to give their full-frame equivalents.  So that 10-24 becomes 15-36.  15mm is really quite a serious wide angle, whereas 36mm is not too far from the angle of view seen by the human eye.

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The 70-300 is a useful full-frame telezoom, and I “see” many images at 300mm, which is x6 magnification.  But because the Z 6 can be used in APS-C mode, the 300mm fetch of this telephoto can also be magnified by 1.5 to become 450mm = x9 magnification, and so to a 70-450 lens, which is a very significant extension.

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And so the availability of a very wide ranging and very flexible 15-36mm and 70-450mm lens choice.

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WAYS OF WORKING 2

Three things about focusing the Z 6.  First, just as I do with Nikon’s D700 and D800 DSLRs, I have taken all focusing functions away from the shutter button, preferring instead to use the large AF-ON button on the back of the Z 6 >>> this is back button focusing.  So now the shutter button only does exactly what it says on the tin:  when I want to take a picture I press it.

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Second, the Z 6 has two basic types of autofocus.  AF-S (Single AF) is for stationary subjects: use this to focus on a subject, and the autofocus point very helpfully turns from red to green when focus is achieved.  So, when faced with a stationary subject, I can use the AF-ON button to focus on whatever part of the image I want to be in focus >>> and then leave the AF-ON button alone, and concentrate on framing/composing the picture – and perhaps measuring the exposure from a different part of the picture.  AF-C (Continuous AF) is for moving subjects, and the camera focuses continuously as long as the AF-ON button is pressed – but does NOT change colour when focus is achieved.

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But third, HOWEVER, although the Z 6 can be toggled between AF-S and AF-C quite quickly, in the flurry of a really urgent moment  – like trying frantically to photograph the two flying swans (above) – there really isn’t the time >>> and so I do the following.  As with the D700 and D800, the Z 6 is kept in AF-C Continuous autofocus at all times.  For stationary subjects, I just give the AF-ON button a quick tap to achieve focus, and then leave the AF-ON button alone.  But if AF-C is ever needed, well its already set, and so holding down the AF-ON button gives continuous AF in an instant.

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I suspect that many photographers use the shutter button to initiate autofocus, and this is obviously a matter of personal choice.  However, personally, I can’t recommend back button focusing too highly.

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ANNIVERSARY – FATMAN PHOTOS IS EIGHT – PLUS SOME PICTURES FROM KENYA

 

 

Maasai woman

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Well, FATman Photos is eight years old, and once more I marvel at its longevity.  I read that photo blogging is addictive, and think this quite possibly true.  What is certainly true is that I find blogging a wonderful source of creativity and self-expression and a vast motivation for my photography – and that I enjoy the contact with “all of you out there” very much.  As always, thank you for looking at my blog, for adding Likes and making Comments – all of which are responded to.

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And news?  Well, two things to mention.  First, I’ve taken to carrying the diminutive Olympus TOUGH TG-5 camera with me on my long, relaxing and (hopefully!) waistline-reducing walks around south Bristol – and so to the Outer Suburbs project, which now has over a hundred posts – there is a recent summary of this project here .

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And second – and perhaps at the other end of the camera/photography spectrum – I’ve started using one of Nikon’s new full-frame, mirrorless cameras, the Z 6, which is a joy to use, and which certainly looks promising.  More details here .

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Long ago, I lived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, for 12 years.  I started off lecturing at the University of Nairobi, and then went into tourism, leading bird and general wildlife safaris.  To say that I liked both Kenya and its people, and enjoyed the life there, is vast understatement.  I’ve been back in the UK for 30 years now, but those 12 years in Kenya have undoubtedly affected me, they have given me different ways of looking at and thinking about many things.  I don’t think I was “mainstream” to start with (well, ok, the word on the street might have been that I was getting towards being a complete wacko … 😉 ), but my time in Kenya added other things, and I’ve never really totally fitted in back here >>> and I’m grateful for that.  Its both pointless and intriguing to think how I might have turned out if, rather than going to Kenya, I’d stayed in the UK and “settled down” …

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So, here are 12 pictures from Kenya, all of which have been posted before – all are colour slides (transparencies – remember them?) that I scanned into digital sometime back; mostly Agfa CT18 slide film, that could be bought and processed in Nairobi; most of these pictures were taken with a simply wonderful and beautiful Olympus OM-1 camera, and others with the more automated OM-2, both with Olympus’s small, excellent Zuiko lenses – and both dearly loved, classic cameras which – old and mouldy now – I still possess.

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I hope you will like these pictures.  Thank you again for looking at FATman Photos.

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Adrian

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Tsavo West National Park
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Gecko with prey – several of these lived in my flat in Nairobi: I lived a simple life, with no phone or TV, and one of my enduring and very fond memories is of sitting quietly at home with a book in the evenings, and hearing these little lizards chattering back and fore to each other from the walls on either side of my living room.

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Lion asleep on a track in Maasai Mara

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Shaft of sunlight in Amboseli Game Reserve, with the dark slopes of Kilimanjaro as a backdrop

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Rocky semidesert in northern Kenya: the woman is leading the camels, each of which is loaded with baggage and tied to the animal in front

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The huge skies which I miss so very much, and which I find some memory of when out on the Tealham and Tadham Moors, on the Somerset Levels

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Luo farmers in Kenya’s far west

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Settlement in Kenya’s bleak – and vastly attractive – northern deserts; note the rough thornbush fences around each dwelling, to keep the stock animals safe at night; on the horizon is the great volcanic massif of Mt Marsabit, and every hill in this landscape is volcanic in origin; I’d picked up a liking for such empty vastnesses some years before, in Oman

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Storm over Lake Nakuru, in the rift valley; flamingos in the foreground, and more of them, and pelicans too, in flight further away

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Sunrise at Lake Nakuru: cormorants (some with their wings spread out to dry) and a great scrum of pelicans; and bare trees, killed by this soda lake’s alkaline waters

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TALKING IMAGES 48 – USING THE NIKON Z 6 IN ANGER

 

 

Muntjac stag – its about Fox-sized.  Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; uncropped; Lightroom; our back garden, Bristol; 3 Apr 2019.

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I posted here about buying the Z 6, one of Nikon’s new full frame mirrorless cameras, giving my initial thoughts.  Since then, I’ve been reading (and using a red biro to scrawl all over) the 247 page instruction manual that (thankfully!) comes with the camera, and configuring the camera to my way of working.  Then I’ve been sitting in my beloved armchair, interminably taking pictures and altering settings, in an attempt to have the layout of the camera’s controls become second nature to me – so that I won’t have to think before altering anything.  And I planned a visit to the Somerset Levels to have a first go with it outdoors, in the real world.  But fate intervened.

I’ve posted before about the Muntjac Deer which frequent our quiet and secluded back garden.  They have been introduced to the UK from China and, quite simply, we delight in their presence.  They are small, decidedly skittish, and we have been especially delighted to see one or two of their fawns.

We’d not seen them for awhile, and so their reappearance caused some excitement – and there was the Z 6 charged and ready, mounted via the FTZ adapter with one of my favourite lenses – the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor.  And so to using this new camera in anger for the first time.  As I said, these animals are very skittish, being spooked by the slightest noise or movement, so that opening the kitchen window was out of the question.  So the pictures had to be taken through the double-glazed window and, because our kitchen window is up above the garden, the camera was looking down at an angle through the double-glazing, rather than horizontally straight through it.  The deer were about 30ft-40ft away.

All images can be enlarged by clicking onto to them to open another version in a separate window, and clicking onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.
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Same animal.  Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 405mm; cropped; Lightroom.

THINGS TO TALK ABOUT

In terms of handling and ergonomics, the Z 6 works just wonderfully.  It has a large, deep handgrip and a well positioned thumb rest, and just feels completely at home in my hands.  Many of the buttons and dials fall under my fingers or thumb, and many are in the same positions as those on my D800.  It just feels good to use and, with the 70-300, feels very well balanced.

As with my other big Nikons, I’m using an OP/TECH USA neck strap intended for heavy DSLRs.  This is a little overkill for the distinctly leaner Z 6, but I’m still using fairly large Nikon F-mount lenses (esp the 70-300) and I’m not getting any younger: these wide OP/TECH straps really do spread the weight across the shoulders very well, and they’re quite reasonably priced.

I used Aperture Priority mode (as I nearly always do), and 1600 ISO.  The pictures were split between full frame format, where the longest reach of my lens is 300mm, and DX (= APS-C) format, where the reach is lengthened to 450mm; entirely handheld.  Full frame images have 24.5MP; DX format has 10.3MP.  All images used stabilisation.

Some think that Nikon’s images can be a little cold in tone, and so I’m using the new Natural Light Auto white balance, which looks natural.

I’ve taken all focusing functions away from the shutter release, and the large and ideally (and traditionally) sited AF-ON button (back button focusing) works wonderfully.  In this test, through double-glazing, the autofocus was very quick and sharp.
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Same animal.  Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in full-frame format to give 300mm; cropped; Lightroom.

Immediately below the AF-ON button is the joystick and this works well too, again well sited below my right thumb, and enabling me to move the focusing point rapidly around the frame.  I’ve opted for it jumping to every other focus point, for speed of use.  Pushing it locks the exposure.

And immediately below the joystick is the customisable i button, which gives quick and easy access to a very useful range of camera settings.

The exposure compensation button is not so well placed, and so I’ve customised the main command dial, which I can easily reach with my right thumb, to adjust exposure compensation without using the button.

Since I don’t take videos, the movie-record button has been cannibalised to quickly switch the camera between full-frame and APS-C format with the aid of the main command dial.

The camera’s excellent Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is set to Prioritize Viewfinder mode: looking through the viewfinder turns it on, taking my eye away turns it off; the monitor screen remains off until I review my images (when finger swiping can be used on the touchscreen) or look at the menus.  I’m not using all of the touchscreen facilities, but its reassuring to know that the touchscreen is turned off while the viewfinder is being used.

Firing off 25 or so pictures, with much autofocus use, brought the battery down from full to 84%: a spare battery may be needed for a day out, although Nikon says that 310 shots can be taken on a full charge.

Then a Sony QDA-SB1 XQD card reader gets the images from the camera’s Sony 64GB QS-G64E card onto my PC, where the images are read into Lightroom Classic CCLightroom doesn’t seem entirely at home with the Z 6 yet: there are issues with sharpening parameters, which are addressed here .

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TALKING IMAGES 47 – A NEW CAMERA

 

 

The Z 6 with the FTZ lens adapter and a 50mm Nikkor lens + hood.  Note how the adapter protrudes a little below the camera’s base – the adapter is threaded for use on a tripod.

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I MUST BE MAD!!! I MUST BE REALLY LOSING IT!!!!!!  I can’t believe that in my previous Talking Images post , I was wittering on about the differences of a few grams between the weights of two cameras and lenses!!!  Maybe I’m getting too old – not too far from 70 now – or maybe I’ve just been back in the UK – back from Africa! –  for far too long.   

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I mean, before you know it I’ll be frequenting garden centres, and labelling whole swathes of Highly Enjoyable Things in Life as “inappropriate” >>> and perhaps even watching BBC’s Eastenders soap… I mean, watch enough of that (a program which I have long considered a Crime Against Humanity) and I could start going around looking miserable and being unpleasant or even actually nasty to people, while incessantly muttering “Can I ‘ave a word?”.  The blood runs cold … as Edmund Blackadder would put it, for me, the Renaissance would just be something that happened to everybody else …

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On the right, the big, really good, solid handgrip.  Below the Nikon name, the viewfinder protruding far out beyond the camera’s back.  Not as many useful dials and buttons as on the top of the X-T2, but still very customisable and useful.

Anyway, thing is, I’ve had a lightbulb moment, one of those times when the heart takes over control from the head and, really for the excitement and intellectual challenge of it – the sheer feeling of uncharted territory – I’ve bought one of Nikon’s new, mirrorless, full frame cameras.

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Although late in doing so (Sony has already produced several), Nikon has just produced two full frame, mirrorless cameras; and other large camera manufacturers are following suit.  The Z 7 has a whopping 45.7 MP sensor, which really I don’t need – I mean, the D800’s 39 MP are more than I need – I know just how demanding such high MP models are on camera technique – they show up every little mistake in technique that I make!  So I’ve chosen the 24.5 MP and significantly cheaper Z 6.

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And yes, my MAIN reasons for this choice are excitement, fun, and a sense of going into the unknown a bit!  I’d been considering a Fujifilm X-T3, but then really thought a bit too much like the superb X-T2 that I already use, too comfortable and unexciting maybe >>> and so to the unknown!!!

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My rough and ready pictures of the Z 6, taken with the Olympus TG-5, are shown here: click onto each one and a larger version will open in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.  You can find many more polished pictures (incl the inevitable camera porn) on Google.

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The back of the beast.  The touchscreen tilts, and I’m a complete fan of the large and perfectly sited AF-ON button.  Below this button is a joystick for moving the focus point around, and for navigating menus.  And pressing the top of the joystick locks the exposure, i.e. it acts as a well placed AE lock >>> so just what I want, AF-ON and AE lock right under my right thumb.  DISP cycles through viewfinder options, but does not allow the histogram to be displayed alongside the virtual horizon, which is possible on the X-T2.

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THE Z 6: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • Well, first, the handling – the Z 6 is an ergonomic dream: it has a deep and very comfortable handgrip, and essential buttons fall very naturally under the fingers and thumb of my right hand.  This is to be expected from a company that has been making SLR’s and DSLR’s since 1959 – but I never quite trust camera manufacturers, even the best of whom have made some really poor choices in design and functionality before now.  And, also, in a bid to retain their legions of SLR/DSLR users, Nikon has produced the FTZ adapter that allows to use their existing F-mount Nikkor lenses on the new Z-mount of this camera – which means I won’t have to buy any new lenses!  (NB that only Nikkors with their own focusing motors will retain autofocus)  And I find that, since this new adapter protrudes a little downwards, it actually enhances the balance and feel of the camera when my lenses are mounted on it.  NB that this adapter should not be used with lenses weighing over 1300gm, it is not strong enough to support them.

  • There is a wonderfully large and bright electronic viewfinder (EVF), which allows me to see clearly right into the corners with my glasses on.  But this wonderful EVF is not as good as that in Fujifilm’s X-T2 in two ways: the live histogram and virtual horizon cannot be viewed simultaneously in the EVF;  and the virtual horizon, while useable, is simply not as easy to use as the X-T2’s superb example.  I had ruled out buying any camera without an EVF, sometime ago.

  • To help preserve battery power (see below), and also because I find it a good way of working, I have the Z 6’s EVF and rear screen set up as follows.  When the camera is switched on but my eye is not to the EVF, neither the EVF nor the rear screen is on.  When I bring my eye to the EVF, it automatically switches on, but the screen remains off.  The screen only switches on (a) when I’m reviewing images (NB that this function is NOT set to automatic; and that images can also be reviewed via the EVF); and (b) when I’m looking at the menus or the (very handy) i Menu.

  • Having used Nikon’s D700 and D800 DSLR’s for years, I’m a HUGE fan of back-button focusing: the shutter button thus takes no part at all in instigating focusing.  And the Z 6 has a huge AF-ON button sited in exactly the right place – how could I resist that???  The X-T2’s AF-L button is far less easily used and sited (although it can be moved), and that camera’s autofocus is just not up to that on the Z 6.  The X-T2 is excellent for subjects that are not moving too fast, it is compact and a joy to use, and it produces colours to die for – I’ll definitely keep using it.  But the Z 6 is significantly lighter and more compact than the D800, and it balances very well with the lens I’m married to, the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor.  Its quite probable that Nikon’s new Z-mount lenses will autofocus faster than F-mount lenses used with the FTZ adapter, but I’m impressed with the latter so far.

  • Also, I’m not getting any younger, and humping great lumps of photo gear around is becoming less “attractive”.  The Z 6 is lighter than the D800, and a little heavier than the X-T2, but I’m really quite shocked by the photo below – looking at the backs of these three cameras, the Z 6 is really not much larger than the X-T2, which I think really an achievement.

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Three excellent cameras.  On the left, Nikon’s D800 full frame DSLR – big, heavy, eminently capable and built like a tank, this camera really does the business.  In the middle, the Z 6, also full frame but a mirrorless camera, decidedly smaller and lighter than the D800 – and the electronic viewfinder takes away all of the guesswork of the D800’s optical viewfinder – you see exactly the image that you’re going to get.  And on the right the wonderful Fujifilm X-T2, an APS-C format mirrorless camera: this light and compact camera produces images and colours to die for, but its autofocus is not up with that of the Nikons – although that of the new X-T3 may be.  But the real stand out thing here for me is the Z 6’s size – certainly smaller than the similarly full frame D800, and almost the size of the APS-C format X-T2 – which to me is a real achievement. (the Z 6 seems to be sitting up, suspended a little just above the worktop surface – this is because the FTZ lens adapter protrudes down below the camera’s base a little)

 

  • Getting older and more crusty, I’m a great fan of paper – I hate reading large amounts of blurb on-screen, and I like to have something in my hand that I can scrawl on in bright red biro.  So I’m pleased and relieved to find a 247 page user’s manual included, and other Nikon resources online.  And I LOVE the understatement on page 1 of this manual: “Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the names and functions of camera controls and displays.”!!!  Well, I’m an old Nikon hand but it took me more than “a few minutes” >>> but then getting fully to grips with the camera, and availing myself of its myriad customisation possibilities, are two of the enjoyable, even exciting things I’ve been looking forwards to – for me, these aspects are part of what I’m paying for.

  • I think until the end of March, Nikon (via London Camera Exchange and probably other dealers) are doing a special deal: the Z 6, the FTZ adapter and a Sony 64 GB XQD card (the camera only takes XQD cards) for £1,999.99 .  We can’t afford to eat now, of course, so please send food and money parcels soonest.

  • Having a full frame sensor makes it easier to achieve shallow depths of focus, and also bokeh.  Also, of course, it provides greater freedom for cropping – but the files will take up more hard drive space!

  • And being a mirrorless camera, it eats batteries: Nikon estimates 310 shots per charge.  But if this becomes a problem, as with the X-T2 I’ll simply carry an extra battery.

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The three parts of the beast.  On the right the Z 6’s body, with its very protruding viewfinder.  Next left, and almost featureless but with a large white spot, the FTZ lens adapter.  Left again, the 50mm Nikkor lens and its hood.

  • The Z 6 has an (apparently) very useful touchscreen, something which is completely foreign to me.  However, I will try it – of course!  But I’m safe in the knowledge that it can be disabled.  This touchscreen tilts – most useful for someone who, now, finds getting down on his knees and getting back up again, not as easy as it used to be!!!  🙂

  • The Z 6 has a DX (= APS-C size) crop mode, which multiplies the focal lengths of lenses by 1.5 (e.g. my 70-300 telezoom becomes a 105-450).  This produces a useful 10.3 MP file – and I can change from full-frame to APS-C mode at the touch of a button.

  • I’m a huge fan of image stabilisation, as I can rarely be bothered using a tripod.  The Z 6 has in-body lens stabilisation (IBIS), and this works in concert with lenses which have their own image stabilisation built in (what Nikon calls VR), like my 70-300.  While I’m talking about this, it is important to reiterate the fact that all IBIS systems only really work for lenses up to about 300mm in focal length.

  • The Z 6 has an on-demand 4×4 viewfinder grid, which is helpful >>> but which would be so much more helpful compositionally if it were a 3×3 grid, i.e. for the “Rule” of Thirds.

  • Already I’m thinking about a plan for taking the Z 6 out onto the Somerset Levels.  Thus, the 70-300 zoom on the Z 6, which gives the potential for 70-450 if the APS-C format option is used;  and the X-T2 with the 10-24 zoom, which provides the full-frame equivalent of a useful 15-36 zoom.

So, hope this is useful / informative.  Comments / views??????? 🙂

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IS ANYONE ELSE HAVING TROUBLE ACCESSING WORDPRESS’S “DISCOVER” FACILITY???

 

The Discover facility on WordPress is found by clicking onto the Reader menu at the top of the screen and then clicking onto the Discover option.  Discover provides an easy way of reading other bloggers’ new posts, and I use it every day to find images which, if I give them a Like, then appear in the sidebar of my blog.  This is a good way of both pointing my blog’s followers at good images they might not otherwise encounter, and of showcasing other bloggers’ work, which is something I very much believe in doing.

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For several days now, I have not been able to access Discover, which is very frustrating >>> and I’m putting out this post to ask if you are encountering similar problems.  I’m in touch with WordPress Support, and they can’t identify a problem yet – for them Discover is still working fine.  But I’m wondering whether the problem I’m experiencing is either local to the UK, or the southern UK – or just to me.

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Hence, can you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE !!! send my blog a Comment if you are unable to access Discover?  Comments re Discover working fine and dandy are welcome too.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

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Remember, to access Discover, you simply click onto the Reader menu option, and then select Discover.

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Adrian

FATman Photos

 

TALKING IMAGES 46 – THOUGHTS ABOUT GETTING A NEW CAMERA – AND IS THIS THE END OF THE DSLR?

 

Although not exactly drowning in cash(!), I’m thinking about getting another camera, and various thoughts/issues arise, which may be worth passing on.  But, amongst all the marketing hype and the genuinely astonishing technology, the one thing I’m certain of is that whatever camera I buy (if I do take the plunge and buy one), it won’t be a DSLR.  (All links in this post will open in separate windows)

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WHICH CAMERAS DO I ALREADY OWN?

So first, if I’m thinking of buying another one, which cameras do I already have?  Well, an old Canon G11 PowerShot, which only goes up to a (grainy!) 3200 ISO and which rarely gets used now, but which is compact, and sports an unbelievably useful and adaptable, fully articulated screen – which is absolutely wonderful in awkward or tight spots eg on buses, in town, etc etc.  It also has a very useful 24-140 zoom range, something which I’ll return to below.

Then two Nikon full frame DSLRs, the D700 and D800, which are heavy and bulky, but which have wonderful autofocus and big AF-ON buttons (back button focus really is the thing), very good layout of controls and, well – they just deliver the goods, excellently, time after time after time.

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The much bulkier, full frame Nikon D800 DSLR beside the APS-C format Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera.  Note the difference between the wonderfully sited and large AE-L/AF-L and AF-ON buttons, to the right of the Nikon’s viewfinder – really ideal positioning and usability – and the smaller, not so well placed AE-L and AF-L buttons on the X-T1.

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Another shot of the mirrorless APS-C format X-T1 and the bulkier full frame format D800 DSLR, with telephoto lenses giving equivalent telephoto magnifications (roughly 70mm-300mm).

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And, more recent acquisitions, Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2 APS-C format, mirrorless cameras, which are excellent, more compact than the Nikons, and with really excellent Electronic Viewfinders – and which deliver wonderful images with colours to die for.  The X-T1 is somewhat pedestrian in comparison to the X-T2, but still good enough for my wide angle zoom.  The X-T2 is simply wonderful – but in terms of autofocus just doesn’t quite match the Nikons.  And while both of these Fuji cameras have (just about) well sited AE-L and AF-L buttons, these buttons are significantly smaller and more fiddly than those on the Nikons – and far more difficult to use in the cold and/or dark.

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And while I’m talking about DSLRs and mirrorless  cameras, the following.  I subscribe to Amateur Photographer (AP) which is an excellent weekly photographic magazine that is managing to do quite well in these internet and screen-dominated times.  Why do I like AP?  Well, it has an excellent production team that put out really interesting and relevant material (including really in depth product reviews) week after week, which is simply an incredible achievement – and I enjoy having a real magazine in my hands, I enjoy the tactile, real feel of the thing, I scribble notes all over it in red pen, keep pages that teach me things >>> and, quite simply, AP has taught me vast amounts about photography over the years.  And, like many others, I do not for one single moment miss reading it on some device’s illuminated screen!

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THE END OF THE DSLR??? – Anyway, a recent AP article thinks that the rise of full frame mirrorless cameras that we are now seeing spells the end for DSLRs with their optical viewfinders and (somewhat) larger size and, looking at how technology is howling forwards, I can’t see any reason to disagree.  Certainly Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) provide more, highly relevant information to the photographer – as well as eliminating the guesswork/skill involved when overriding the camera’s setting or using the camera manually.  Ah but, you say, such skills are something of value, something to cherish and preserve.  Well, yes they are, but personally I’d rather let the camera do as much of the work as possible so that my mind is as free as possible to concentrate on equally vital factors that the camera does not give information on like viewpoint, composition and pre-capture cropping.  When I look through a (good) EVF, I’m shown the image exactly as it is going to appear – and I can’t ask for more than that!

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Another shot of the less satisfactory AE-L and AF-L buttons, to the right of the viewfinder on the back of the X-T1.

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The Olympus TG-5 (Photo credit: TrustedReviews)

And finally the Olympus TG-5 TOUGH, which is a diminutive speciality camera, and which I’m using on my Outer Suburbs project.

Here are links to this (ongoing) project’s images.  The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 53a 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 .  Each will open in a separate window.

 

SO, WHAT ARE MY BASIC REQUIREMENTS IN A NEW CAMERA???

  1. Fast, accurate autofocus, via a (preferably large) AF-ON button (and hopefully for something adjacent and similar to lock exposure – see the D800 in the first of the images here).

  2. An excellent electronic viewfinder (EVF): having used the excellent EVFs in the X-T1 and X-T2, I can see that, for my requirements at least, optical viewfinders (like those in the D700 and D800) are a thing of the past.  The EVFs on the two Fuji cameras are so big, useful and crammed with relevant information that I’m completely persuaded.  The trick is getting a really good EVF on a camera that ALSO has blistering autofocus via AF-ON.

  3. RAW capture; nothing else cuts the mustard if you’re contemplating anything like extensive post-capture processing.

  4. Not too bulky or heavy (I’m not as young as I was!).

  5. Easily accessible controls, so no delving into deep menus for routine requirements – the two Fujifilm cameras in particular are good in this respect.

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WHICH CAMERAS DO I HAVE SPECIFICALLY IN MIND?

Fujifilm X-T3

Nikon Z6

None at all!!!!!!!!!!!

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THE FUJIFILM X-T3

This camera sounds very promising.  Its body is virtually identical to the light and compact X-T2, but it has a new sensor and processor that (apparently!) deliver far better autofocus than the X-T2. The downside is the smaller APS-C sensor but, mostly, I’ve found this sensor size generally fine in the X-T2 – there just isn’t quite the latitude for cropping that full frame sensors give – the X-T3 has rather more pixels than the X-T2, 26MP as against 24MP, so this helps a little – and I’ve found that around 25MP suits my needs just fine.

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Furthermore, Fuji are going to produce a 24-120 (equivalent) zoom lens, which like the Canon 24-140 mentioned above, is to me a very useful and versatile zoom range, covering as it does everything from wide angle up to medium telephoto.  To me, this is the sort of multi purpose lens to take along when the types of images expected during a shoot or day out are uncertain.

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In a nutshell: something externally almost identical to an X-T2, and which works even better than an X-T2 >>> well, that can’t be bad!

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And while I’m talking about mirrorless cameras (and this applies to the Nikon Z6 too), they are heavy on battery use, far heavier than DSLRs.  But to me this is peripheral – when out and about with the X-T2 and/or X-T1, I just take along a spare (Fujifilm) battery or two.  This is certainly not a reason to eschew mirrorless cameras.

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THE NIKON Z6

This is one of two recent models that are Nikon’s initial (and highly impressive) foray into the full frame, mirrorless camera market.  Relevant points are: a huge and excellent EVF; full frame capture; less bulky than Nikon’s DSLRs; fast autofocus; an adaptor (£100) that will enable me to use the Nikon lenses I already have – full frame Nikkors – with full autofocus etc.

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But … yes, there’s always a caveat.  I photograph in three broad settings:

  1. There’s the Outer Suburbs project, walking in south Bristol; and for this the light and diminutive Olympus TG-5 TOUGH camera is ideal – it lacks a viewfinder but shoots RAW, and it sits easily and completely out of sight in my trouser pocket.  And should I get soaked in a storm or whatever, it really is tough, for a start being completely waterproof.

  2. Then I walk in the city centre, with larger cameras, for example with the Going to Work project, and here the relatively light and compact X-T1 and X-T2 cameras have been superb, in fact they really got Going to Work off the ground in the first place.  I have used the Nikons in this environment too and, although heavier, they are superb.

  3. Lastly, I photograph out in the country, most frequently on the Somerset Levels, and, since I’m never too far from the car, camera size becomes less relevant – but for fast moving subjects like birds, I really do need the excellent autofocus and back button (AF-ON) focus activation that the D700 and D800 provide.

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So, the Nikon Z6 sounds good – full frame and fast autofocus in a more compact package – but examining its weight difference from the heavy D800 may suggest otherwise.  The D800 + battery weighs 1,000gm, while the Z6 + battery + lens adaptor weighs around 800gm, so only 200gm difference, which is not a huge amount.  But, OK, the Z6 is more compact than the D800.

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Nikon’s lenses are the other factor.  I’d be using my existing Nikkors, so that there would be no weight difference there.  But, with its new Nikon lens mount, a new series of Nikkors are being developed for these new Z cameras.  These new lenses do not need the adapter, which saves 88gm in weight, BUT in the three new Z lenses looked at so far, they are in fact heavier than their existing Nikkor equivalents!!!  And they are expensive too.  So the Z6 loses some of its charm, and I must think long and deep.

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NONE AT ALL!!!

The third option is not, for the moment at least, to get a new camera, but rather to go using those I already have – especially the X-T2, the D800 (using it more than I do now) and the TG-5.  And to wait and see what new technology and new models the future will bring – and with technology accelerating forward as it is, the wait may not be for too long.

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I hope these points are useful. 🙂

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TALKING IMAGES 45 – SOMETHING THAT REALLY TURNS ME OFF ABOUT THE OLYMPUS TG-5 CAMERA!!!

 

 

Photo credit: TrustedReviews

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LOL!!! the word “TURNS” in this post’s title was actually going to be another word altogether but, well, this is a wholesome, wholemeal, wholeheartedly whole family blog, and so I eased off – but Olympus had just better watch out – and all the more so because this is the company that, all those years ago, produced the truly iconic and wonderful OM-1 film camera, that I loved using and still have.  But, greed is greed, and its everywhere these days, it is a fundamental part of our world’s corporate architecture >>> so what am I getting so worked up about?

Well, its simply that Olympus add the caption “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” to every image that the TG-5 captures – and I have a feeling that all modern Olympus cameras do exactly the same.  Why???  I mean, Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm manage to get along just fine not doing this, so why does Olympus have to???

And the thing about this that really gets to me is that if I see an image I particularly like and, brimming with enthusiasm, go at it in Lightroom having forgotten to remove this caption first, and then I export this image from Lightroom as a 16-bit TIFF, which is what I always do, then this caption can be devilishly hard to remove.  I did just this recently and, having processed the image in Silver Efex Pro 2,  managed to remove the caption in the code which underlies these WordPress blog pages – what WordPress calls the “Text”, rather than the “Visual” – I always use WordPress’s old post editor, which still works like a dream.

HOW TO REMOVE THIS CAPTION IN LIGHTROOM (Lr)

Its very simple – and the trick is to make this a rock solid routine part of the way you use Lr – every time!  You simply highlight the image you’re going to work on in Lr’s Library module (or you can enlarge it in the Library module if you wish), and “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” appears in the Caption box in the metadata panel on the right on Lr’s screen.  Click onto this caption, which highlights it, press Delete, and it disappears; then go into the Lr’s Develop module and get processing!

These instructions may not apply to all versions of Lr: I use Lightroom Classic CC, and have the right hand Library panel set to show “EXIF and IPTC” metadata.

MY REVIEW OF THE TG-5

This brief review can be found here .

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TALKING IMAGES 44 – HARRIE NIJLAND

 

Before posting an image of my own today, I’d like to draw your attention to the IMAGES I’VE LIKED RECENTLY panel in this blog’s sidebar – the panel is some way down the sidebar, below the Recent Posts listing and the Stats.

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The IMAGES I’VE LIKED RECENTLY panel – logically enough!!! – provides links to other photographers’ posts that I’ve recently added a Like to.  And my hope is that this panel, in its small way, will give more exposure and recognition to other photographers’ work. 

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Harrie Nijland is a blogging colleague based in the Netherlands, and we are often in contact re aspects of photography – we have found that we share many opinions and views about photography, and I both admire his work and find it an inspiration.  You can find his blog here .

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UPDATE:  rather than looking at Harrie’s portfolio via the IMAGES I’VE LIKED RECENTLY panel in my blog’s sidebar, here is the link to take you straight to the portfolio in Harrie’s blog – hold your cursor over the Portfolio 2 title at the top of the page in Harrie’s blog to see the portfolio’s categories

portfolio .

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Yesterday I looked at some portfolios of his earlier work and was very impressed – and so I’m leaving the links to those portfolios in my IMAGES I’VE LIKED RECENTLY panel for a day or two, so that others can look at them too if they’re interested.  I hope you find Harrie’s portfolios interesting, and stimulating too.  And I thank Linda Grashoff at Romancing Reality for giving me the idea of making this post.

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Adrian

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TALKING IMAGES 43 – SOME CORE PHOTOGRAPHIC BELIEFS

 

 

Selfie, probably nude (but try not to think about that, especially if you’re just about to eat), in a hotel room, 28 Apr 2014
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Here are some things that I regard as core to the ways in which I perform and think about photography.  From the outset let’s be very clear: these are my mantras, beliefs, philosophies, ways of working, call them what you will – this is ME, but – and more on this below – it may not be YOU … (clicking onto the images will (mostly!) open larger versions in separate windows)

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT

To me, the first thing to realise is that we are all different, that we are all individuals, each with his/her likes/dislikes about anything that you care to name – clothes, sausages, cars, furniture, colours, TV programmes, sports, books, etc etc.  I think I realised this before, but seven years of running this blog and talking with all sorts of people have really hammered this home to me.

And, this being the case, it should come as no surprise that we have widely varying visual tastes – so, I hate an image but you love it: nobody is right or wrong here, we are simply different, we are individuals – and that makes for a very interesting (if often turbulent) world.

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Wet flatlands on the Somerset Levels

SUBJECTIVITY

In my view, photography is an art, albeit one that powerfully combines science and technology with the disciplines more usually associated with the arts.  Like all other arts, it is purely subjective and individual.  Hence all photographic “rules” go out the window unless they fit in with – or more correctly, add to –  what I’m doing.  And, in my view, the same applies to all photographic competitions and qualifications (eg RPS), they go out the window too, since judges may well have subjective views that differ from your’s, mine, Great Aunt Maud’s, etc.  So, I don’t enter competitions, I just do my own thing – absolutely revelling in the vast creative opportunities and potential that (for me, digital) photography brings.

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Seascape, Cornwall

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FINAL IMAGE

To me, all that matters in photography is the final image, completely irrespective of how it was captured (camera, pinhole, phone, anything).  And completely irrespective of how much or little it has been subsequently processed.  The resulting image is in the here and now, it is what we are looking at, it is all that matters.

Others hold different views.  For example, never cropping, only using film or digital, only using black and white, never doing any post-capture processing etc etc.  All of these ways forward, and all others, are valid.  What is certainly not valid is the opinion that, unless we use certain photographic equipment or techniques,  we am not practising photography “properly” and that, in some way, our images are invalid, inferior or unworthy of consideration for that reason.

Another real no-no here, in my view, is to try to pass off something that has been highly processed post-capture as something that is straight out of the camera at point of capture.  That is plain dishonesty.

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Going to work, on the early morning bus

CONTENT AND EMOTION COME FIRST

Finally, for me, technicalities, and especially technical perfection, always come some way second to the content of an image – the subject matter, emotions, atmosphere, narrative, and so on.  And that rather than looking for perfect overall sharpness, I definitely think that blurred detail can be of value in many images.

Which leads on to the point that its always worth trying to take a photo, no matter how poor the light and other conditions (although I do draw the line at getting my cameras soaked in the rain).  In particular here, I always use high ISOs where light conditions require it.  The basic tenet, for me, is that its always better to have an imperfect image, rather than no image at all.

So, for better or for worse, this is me. What do you think?  Do you agree???  Views?????????

Adrian

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On a farm in the far west of Kenya

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