When we are very familar with a place there’s always the danger that we night take it for granted and effectively stop looking. Photographers know better though as we can always search for and find new variations. One such place for me is Astley Green Colliery Museum (Lancashire Mining Museum) and I have been there so many times, but the place is relatively compact and yet full of photographic potential. At the moment all visiotrs fill out a short form for Covid19 tracing requirements, and I’ve taken to having some Able Labels with me with our info on. I just stick one of those on the form, job done!
This visit was to shoot images for a Vintage Review, which is now almost complete, but I also made a special effort to look at finding new things. Here’s a few samples.
The workshop doors were open, so I grasped the opportunity.
A couple of days ago, my friend Peter (handlerstudio) made a comment about the camera that you have with you (always the best camera), and the occasions when we have no cameras at all with us, and cannot take the picture.
Peter suggested a blog on the subject: here it is: I hope it wont disappoint. It seemed timely, as the day I read Peters comment, Id gone out with one roll of film in a Kodak Hawkeye, and one unused frame on the only SD card I had with me. Id used that, taking a near-duplicate of an image Id shot with the last exposure on the film in the Hawkeye, and after chatting to the gentleman with the dogs all the way back to his car, I found that my camera refused when I pointed it at his three dogs in the boot of his estate car, looking eager and expectant as he looked in his pockets for treats to feed them. By the time I could find a frame to delete, the moment was past. I muttered to myself about the foolishness of leaving my wallet of cards at home, and a camera slot empty
In my career as a local government internal auditor, one of the more frustrating tasks I was involved with was clearing people accused of wrongdoing. We were dealing with a large number of accusations of wrongdoing by various managers. Because this was more than 20 years ago we did not have a prearranged fraud response plan, somehow the decision was made, at a political level, that we should suspend anyone named in an allegation, pending proof that it was untrue. The task of proving (or disproving) a negative fell to internal audit and human resources. We spent weeks reaching the point that we could convince the powers that were that in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, we should reinstate the suspended staff. That was around the time that we started to receive hard evidence that others had done things wrong, and we thankfully moved into investigating real things (not that this is much fun: ask any policeman just how uplifting it is to investigate the sordid and the nasty).
And just like that work, failing to be prepared for a photograph can leave a bad taste: we can focus on our failures. I want to suggest an alternative strategy, a twist of the mind that might set you free. Just for once, live in the moment. Instead of seeing life through a camera, taste the breeze and revel in the moment. You are free of the responsibility to record and share what you see. It is a gift from God or if you prefer, from the Universe and it is for you alone. It is unique, it is wonderful, and it is entirely yours.
You have no responsibility to anyone else, and you are completely free. You can choose to let it be yours, or to let it become a burden of guilt, or regret, or disappointment. The circumstances are set, defined but how you respond is not. This is freedom: this is what it feels like to be in charge.
When I was sixteen, I was travelling north on the A34 in Oxfordshire in winter. My mother was driving: no doubt the mist and low temperature were making her worried about the road. All I could see was the sunshine on the hoar frost. Ive never seen it thicker or more attractive. I spent the journey with the window wound down, taking pictures on Ektachrome.
A few days later, collecting a box of slides from the camera shop, the owner tried to console me over the way that the lab had cut almost every single frame in half, so that my decently composed (and perfectly exposed) landscapes had been turned into a surreal set of mismatched half-frames. A free film didnt seem sufficient consolation. I still have the slides somewhere: but Ive let go of the incident, at last, some time around 30 years ago, I suppose. It took long enough. And it taught me that sometimes, the best thing is to let go of the pain, instead of holding it tight and making it worse.
Photographer Brent Hall recently went out to shoot a comparison video that a lot of Canon shooters are eager to see: the brand new EOS R5 vs the EOS R6, for astrophotography, at high ISO. Does the lower resolution sensor of the R6 give it a low-light advantage?
The answer, at least according to Hall, is yes. And he’s got the photos to prove it.
But first, a few disclaimers that he wanted to throw out there. When we spoke to him about sharing this video and his resulting images, he shared two bits of information that he said we may want to include now that the YouTube commenters have gotten their hands on his comparison and started to (uncharacteristically… of course) tear it to shreds.
I didn’t downsize the R5 images in the video (and this made a few viewers quite upset, lol) as people were quick to point out that it wasn’t a fair test because downsiziing the R5 images would have reduced the noise and made it more comparable. Well, I did do that after the fact, and while, subjectively, it may have helped a bit, I still has the same results, that the R6 (again, subjectively) looked a bit cleaner at the higher isos (6400 and up).
On the note of the R5, I totally forgot to take into account the NPF rule for the high megapixels, so the 500 rule doesn’t apply with high mp cameras, and it should be more like the 300 rule (you can see evidence of this with the 20 sec 3200 iso R5 images having slight star trails when zoomed in, and the trails are gone with the 8 sec 12800 iso image). Of course, like I said in the video, that has no bearing on noise levels, just me defending myself against the lovely critics of the YouTube world.
With these two points in mind, here are some (almost) full resolution sample images that Brent was kind enough to share with our readers (click to enlarge). In each of the pairs of images below, the EOS R5 image comes first, followed by the EOS R6:
20 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200
15 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400
8 sec, f/2.8, ISO 12800
So… how did it go? The good news is that both cameras performed admirably, even at 12800 ISO. And while there is a difference to Brent’s eye, the difference is surprisingly small given the fact that the R5 is more than twice the resolution. That’s good news: those who want the R6 are getting slightly better high ISO performance at a much lower price; and those who want the R5 are getting surprisingly good high ISO performance despite the bump in resolution.
To dive deeper into the images, explore them at 100%, and hear Hall’s thoughts on this test, be sure to check out the full video up top or pixel peep the samples for yourself.
Having got the bug for astrophotography with the visit of Comet Neowise, I have been waiting for the right conditions to photograph the Milky Way. This has proved incredibly frustrating trying to get the right conditions and being a novice, there is a need to experiment and practice the processes of gaining a suitable image and then, how to process it. There have been several false starts, where the weather forecast promised but on the day, the weather didn’t want to play ball.
Last night, the forecast was good so I headed off to the nearby headland of Rame Head. This time, the weather did provide the clear skies BUT I still was thwarted, this time by a small fishing boat of all things which sat just off the headland with a green light displayed.
This was the shot I had in mind
A crop version but the spread of the green light can still be seen and the real downside is that the headland rocks are clipped.
While I was off having fun with video and a horse on Wednesday, the postie was dropping off my two rolls of 127 film at home. 127 used to be a popular size, bigger than 35mm frames, but a lot smaller than 120 roll film. When I was young, both Ilford and Kodak produced film in the format, with a different formulation from the more popular emulsions. Selochrome Pan (Ilford) and Verichrome Pan were, from memory, thicker and possibly more robust, and were designed to tolerate a good deal of abuse in terms of exposure than FP4 and Plus-X.
The most accessible 127 film, a few years back, was sold by Jessops under their own brand name it was EfKe film from Czechoslovakia. The company closed the factory 8 years ago, and I think Jessops had discontinued their rebranding some time before that. I developed my last roll of this fairly recently, having left it in a Vest Pocket Kodak camera for several years.
But theres only one game in town now, and its called Rera Pan. Made in Japan, it costs around £15 a roll delivered, so its not cheap by any means. There are a very limited number of niche suppliers in the UK not even my friends at Ag Photographic stock it.
It comes in a plastic tube, and the spool is also plastic, rather than the traditional metal. A feature of 127 spools is that theres a central spindle protruding from the ends, with a slot in it this is what engages with the cameras winding mechanism. Metal spools are slotted at both ends, while the Rera Pan spindles are only slotted one end. I wonder if they are made on a 3-D printer
But what about the results? They definitely have a sort of charm (or maybe Im thinking of the effort and cost of achieving them?) Real softening at the corners, but surprising sharpness in the middle of the image, and a good way out. You pay good money for the software to get the kind of vignette effect that the Hawkeye gives as standard, too.
And the viewfinding arrangements arent as inaccurate as you might expect. I put a bit of effort into centring my eye in the finder, and framed tightly on the bridge in the shot below. Theres maybe not much margin for error, in the sense that some cameras give you much more of the scene than you think youre getting, but if you are careful, its fine.
A 35-minute walk on the Great Barr Estate (with the sound of the M6 in the background much of the way) gave me eight images, and Ill account the exercise a success. I like the Hawkeye much more, for instance, than the plastic Diana I wrote about early in the year: that was flamboyant and promised more than it could deliver. The Hawkeye offers little, and delivers quite a lot.
Last night a few ADAPS members went on a stroll around Pennington Flash, all nicely socially separated in a huge open area! A flash is a lake, caused by mining subsidence, and Pennington Flash is a huge lake, very popular locally. A sign of the times is this notice, which even in this area cautions us:
The hides were all closed because of Covid19, but there are plenty of places to watch the wildlife. There are also other positive messages, such as this one near the childrens’ play area:
The area is bounded on one side by the canal:
You’ve just had a sneak preview of a new Vintage Review that’s in preparation, so watch out for that coming to an EPZ near you…..
Well, that may be true, but Im still wedded to the BBC audio output And yesterday, I discovered why. Again.
Now, back in the Sixties, I played with Standard 8mm ciné film, in a succession of cameras: a Kodak Brownie (really, there was a Brownie ciné camera), my Dads Bell and Howell Sportster, finished in a crackle grey paint and hewn from solid metal, and finally a Bolex C8 that my uncle gave me.
From them, I learned to hold the camera as steady as possible, not hosepipe around the scene, and to shoot a series of shorter clips, moving position between them. And that it is VERY hard work. And I had no serious clashes with video from then until yesterday.
Someone I know writes songs and sings them: she wanted to put together a video to go with one of them. Stella likes my still image style, so she asked me if I do video. My immediate answer was no but Im willing to try. Hence my Sony and I were in the country along with costume and a horse. (Did I not mention the horse? Stella wanted to sing on horseback, and had persuaded another friend to lend her his horse.)
So there we were, and the horse wasnt looking that friendly, despite Lee and Janine bringing expert calm to the situation. When Stella started singing to the horse, she received a gentle nudge but horses are big, and one quadrupeds gentle nudge is another bipeds head-butt
And I was having fun stepping back you cant turn the camera on its side for video!
We decided that this might not be the way to go, and Janine offered to take us to her horse, Lady Luscious, who has a more sedate temperament. 30 minutes and ten miles later, Lush (as shes known) was saddled up, and had a singer in the saddle. Which is where the fun really began for me.
I have never used a gimbal (a £400+ device that stabilises the camera in three axes, so that the image doesnt wobble, even when the cameraman does), and Im certainly not going to buy one but I definitely acknowledge the need for one. SteadyShotInside deals with camera shake, but comes nowhere near giving the steadiness that you need walking across a rough field.
But we did what we could with minimal camera movement, and after three takes of the whole song (one of which involved me standing on top of a water trough (Janine Dont fall in that water!) we were pretty happy, and the subject was confident enough to take one hand off the reins for gestural purposes.
An attempt at a tracking shot as we went back to the stable has left me with (vastly!) increased respect for the BBCs outdoor cameramen, who can walk sideways without falling over. And for separate microphones with woolly covers that pick up more sound, but without the laboured breathing of the operator and wind noise.
Will I do it again? Yes, definitely, if asked. I shall beg, borrow or hire a gimbal, though we can do without the fluffy microphone: the sound will be added in the edit (which, thankfully, I am not involved in).
But like Ronnie Corbett I Know My Place. I have no aspirations to shoot a lot of video, and no illusions that Im any good at it. And my advice to others is that video is an absolutely different thing from stills photography, demanding a separate set of skills, and that you shouldnt expect everything to go perfectly with zero practice. Mixing in stills may be a problem: shooting portraits at 1/13 second is not a clever thing to do.
The swing gate swings no more. Burrator Halt (originally Burrator Platform) was built in 1924 initially to serve the dam workers involved with the dam extension and then opened in 1925 to the public as the area around Burrator Reservoir had become an attraction to ramblers after the completion of the reservoir in 1898.
Burrator Halt later Burrator and Sheepstor Halt was on the Princetown Railway which opened in 1883 with trains operating from Horrabridge until the opening of Yelverton station in 1885. It was amalgamated on Jan 1st 1922 into the Great Western Railway although the GWR had operated the railway previously. The 10¼ mile single track branch line also served Dousland, Ingra Tor Halt and Kings Tor Halt on its way to Princetown.
On the journey to Princetown, the train crew would not have admired the view much, they would have been working hard as the ruling gradient was 1 in 40.
The platform shelter still remains at Burrator and the track down to the reservoir can be seen on the right.
Sadly the railway closed in 1956, though the area is still very popular with ramblers and tourists. The track bed survives from Dousland as a footpath / cycle path.
The humble standard lens was originally set at being the diagonal of the format, give or take. This was the lens that would result in a perspective that was similar to the human eye. I’m not going to dissect what we mean by perspective, but suffice it to say that the diagonal of a 35mm format 36x24mm frame would be 43mm. The only 43mm lens I know of is the SMC Pentax-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited, which I use quite often and is a beautiful lens. It has a gorgeous rendering, but not the highest resolution ever measured. However, there are lots of 50mm lenses, and that is the standard normally referred to. Of course, many lenses are 55mm, there have been 58mm optics and if we want to go wider rather than longer then plenty of 40mm.
The bit that was never really a problem in days of yore (I love those days of yore) was a different format. So 6x6cm (2 1/4″ square) ends up with a standard lens of 75mm or 80mm. 645 format tends to be 75mm. Minox spy cameras are 15mm. 6x7cm cameras are 90mm or 105mm. And all these have that standard field of view.
Since digital of course there have been so many different formats that a new concept arrived to try and make sense of it. Yes, the dreaded “35mm-equivalent”, which I am not going to try to defend or to criticise. It is an effort to standardise that which cannot be standardised. So this tells us that to see what a 35mm format (full frame) lens would be, a lens for an APS-C camera should have its focal length multiplied by 1.5 or 1.6. So, an 18-135mm zoom has a “35mm equivalent” of 28-200mm. Not excatly I know, but that’s a close approximation to lenses that actually exist.
And this is why I’m noy going into it any further. I do not want to be resposible for muddying the waters still further, nor for giving any readers a headache. Instead, let’s have a look at some pictures, as that is what photography is really all about.
I was discussing light modifiers with a model who also runs a studio, as part of an arts complex. Shes recently bought a single flash unit to go with a couple of cheap LED lights, which have white brollies. We were discussing softboxes, which arent that costly these days – £25 will get you one thats 120x80cm. But the flash was there, and the brollies were there, and so I played.
Now, really cheap brollies are white nylon, and have a degree of see-through that would be entirely appropriate for a Patrick Lichfield Unipart calendar so while the obvious thing is to bounce the light out of the brolly, it can be highly productive to just point the flash as the subject through the brolly.
It happens that Id been musing about my first ever brolly, which was a thing called a Paraflash I ended up with one white one and one gold one. These were very simple, with a crudely-machined flash shoe where youd expect the handle, and a socket for a tripod screw in the bottom of the block of metal. I modified my Paraflash units to fit studio flash units but then, among the bits and pieces of photographic stuff that Ive acquired, I found a cardboard tube marked Polysales with their version snuggling inside.
Polysales were a firm in Godalming around 1980 who sold all manner of interesting, often own-branded kit and chemicals. I dont know when they disappeared from the landscape I remember buying stuff from them on my way between Winchester where I lived at the time and Strobe Studios and The Beehive in London. But thats another story
Id also acquired a very Fifties tripod: multiple sections of slender brass leg, tall, elegant and fragile Only my inability to find my flash extension lead led me to an inauthentic setup, with a radio trigger for the manual-only Sunpak flash. I even shot with my Spotmatic, though I admit to taking readings with a meter, and trying a shot on a digital camera first
The top and bottom of it is this: while all of us who shoot a lot with lighting can be precious about EXACTLY what light modifiers to use, a brolly is a lot cheaper than the other options you can get a couple with (flimsy) stands and continuous lights for £20, and the light is lovely and soft. You may even be able to beg, borrow or steal a brolly a lot of people have got them as part of a kit, and arent that fussed about using them.
Mind you, if youre really desperate, you can do what I did before the Paraflash Evo Stik and kitchen foil collided with my Mums old and tatty umbrella
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