SOMERSET LEVELS 325 – LONG MOOR DROVE, LOOKING WEST (MONO)

 

 


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A dull, dark morning, and Long Moor Drove makes off westwards across Liberty Moor.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset and adding a split tone; Liberty Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 22 Mar 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 323 – LOOKING SOUTH DOWN KID GATE DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Kid Gate Drove, on the western edge of Tealham Moor, surfaced with tarmac and making off to the south – one of my main access roads onto the Levels.

On the left, the stumps of two old pollarded willows, mostly dead now but still with a few new twigs, and with their bark peeling off to expose the pale, dead wood underneath.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Sepia Landscape preset; Kid Gate Drove, west of Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 22 Mar 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 321 – JACK’S DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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An unreal landscape.  Just a single track road, its verges and, standing up on either side, the precipitous, abrupt lines of machine-cut trees – that are either columns along the nave of some vast, natural, outdoor cathedral or, equally fancifully, sombre beings – Ents perhaps! – standing obediently aside to let us pass through. 

But pass through to where, that is the question. 

The mist is down, and beyond this road and these trees there lies only uncertainty.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 101mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Plate 1 preset; Jack’s Drove, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 320 – SUNRISE, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


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Looking east, Tadham Moor: the day begins.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 319 – WINTER SCENE (MONO)

 

 


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If you want to be standing on Jack’s Drove, looking up its length on this cold morning, this image is best viewed enlarged >>> click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

The view northwards up Jack’s Drove on Tadham Moor, in winter.  Mud and water on the road, the flat sides of the bare, machine-cut trees on either side, and in the distance (best seen with the image enlarged), the small, black metal upper works of the little bridge over the North Drain. 

And behind that, the higher ground around Wedmore, which was formerly an island when, not long ago, this drove and all the country around was covered by lakes and swamp.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Warm Tone Paper preset and adding a split tone; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 11 Jan 2019.
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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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OUTER SUBURBS 77 – METROBUS (MONO)

 

 


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Three things to talk about today.  First, Bristol has serious traffic congestion, and the new Metrobuses are aimed at helping to ease this.  These are new and very modern, double decker buses with long routes right across the city, and they are cashless, which means that you can only buy tickets online, or via your mobile phone, etc etc – you can’t actually put your hand in your pocket and pull out the filthy lucre.  This is aimed at having these buses hanging around less at their stops while the drivers give each passenger their ticket and change, and so speeding up the journeys – something which is also helped by bus only lanes on some main roads.

And because payment is digital, each bus stop must have one of these illuminated columns – looking rather like something out of the Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey – from which you can buy tickets via debit/credit cards; and where the buses are satellite tracked, so that accurate arrival times plus other info is also available.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – definitely recommended.

Technique: secondly, this image comes from a source I haven’t used before, its derived from using the TG-5’s RAW Data Edit facility to process a RAW image in-camera.  This uses the TG-5’s large array of ART BKT filters, or art filters – this one being the Dramatic Tone II filter.  I like the effect, but have to say that this in-camera RAW processing is far less intuitive and useful than that found on Fujifilm’s X-T2 mirrorless camera, where it is really is a significant creative tool.  Still, yet another aspect of the TG-5, a camera which I’m increasingly impressed with.

Technique: another aspect of this photo is the deep depth of focus (= depth of field), which results from the TG-5’s very small sensor – for the most part, this is a camera for those liking front to back sharpness.  This was taken at f2, where depths of field on larger sensors are very small – the TG-5 does of course have smaller apertures, up to f11 I think, but I read somewhere that these smaller apertures do NOT give increased depth of focus on the TG-5, which is an interesting phenomenon I’ve not come across before.

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 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Technique: TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 320 ISO; in-camera processing of a RAW file, using the Dramatic Tone II art filter; followed by further processing of the resulting jpeg in Lightroom; south Bristol; 15 Feb 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 318 – LOOKING TOWARDS GLASTONBURY TOR

 

 


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A very muted winter sunrise, and the view from Tealham Moor towards the iconic landmark of Glastonbury Tor, topped by its ruined church tower.

What can we see?  The water-filled ditch in the foreground is known locally as a rhyne (rhymes with seen); rhynes pervade this wet landscape, and act as liquid fences to the fields.  Follow the line of the rhyne off into the distance and, just right of where it disappears, are two Mute Swans, visible only as two white dots, and these great white birds pervade this landscape too.

And, as already mentioned, off at top right is Glastonbury, instantly recognisable by its Tor.  When these wet flatlands were actually lakes and marshes, the high ground of Glastonbury was an island.  The Romans had a harbour there: Glastonbury is 14 or more miles inland now, but in those far off times seagoing ships could still reach it.  And in addition to its world famous pop music festival, it is the centre of a vast mythology which, amongst other things, encompasses King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, the Holy Grail, the Isle of Avalon and other medieval stories.  I dearly wish that each and every one of the Glastonbury legends were true, that would truly be wonderful, and so it saddens me that I cannot find it within myself to believe them.  That said, this small town really is a unique place, and I feel very fortunate in not living far from it.

And finally, if you look very carefully, you’ll see a line of tall electricity pylons marching across the horizon, on either side of Glastonbury’s high ground – evidence that, here, we are not that far from the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which is something somehow highly incongruous in this flat, quiet, peaceful landscape.

Composition: the bright line of the rhyne takes my eye straight up to the top left of the frame, and less prominent pale and dark, horizontal lines come across the frame (just below the Tor) from the right margin to meet the rhyne’s vanishing point.  Hence everything drags my eye to upper left, but the Tor is such a strong feature (to me, a local, at least) that my eye swings to upper right too, so that there is a dynamic here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 143mm (equiv); 6400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 11 Jan 2019.
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STANTON DREW 61 – WINTER SCENE (MONO)

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Gull flock amongst the prehistoric standing stones at Stanton Drew.  Such flocks are a common sight on pastureland during the winter: this one consists mostly of Black-headed Gulls (lacking the dark heads of their breeding plumage), but there are a few Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls in there too.

Tall, dark stones, sombre sentinels (sombre sentinels??? >>> what on earth am I on???) overlook the scene, and bare winter trees form the backdrop.

Already posted images from this early morning shoot are here: 1 (with context) 2 3 4 5 6 7 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting  at the Underexpose EV-1 preset and adding a light Selenium tone; Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley south of Bristol; 14 Dec 2018.
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STANTON DREW 60 – FROSTY MORNING

 

 


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Early morning in the village.

Already posted images from this early morning shoot are here: 1 (with context) 2 3 4 5 6 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Color Efex Pro 4; rotated; flipped; Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley south of Bristol; 14 Dec 2018.
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