Stand developing: follow-up

Any lack of sharpness is down to poor camera craft!

As a brief follow-up to the Stand Development post, here is an image printed in the darkroom from one of those negatives.

A brief recap. The camera was a Nikon EM with a 50mm “E” lens. The film, Kodak 400TX (expired circa 2013) with this particular image being taken in early 2016, so the latent image has been languishing in the camera for over three years.

The print is grainier than I would prefer but as I already noted this was not the perfect situation for trying stand development. However, this is a straight print and despite the tonal differences between Zac and his background the whole print had a 17 second exposure under the enlarger and I have not needed to use contrast filters or any dodging and burning.

So, whilst it is unlikely that I shall be using stand development for 400 ISO films in the future I shall certainly be employing the technique from time to time and it’s a useful tool in my developing (pun intended) toolkit.

Bluebells & Nikon musings

I’ve taken several thousand images in the last month or so and looking back, if we exclude drone shots, all but around thirty were shot with one of my Fuji cameras. This morning then, when I decided to go and visit the bluebells, I consciously took the Nikon DSLR. I have to confess I almost popped the Fuji bag into the car as well but was strong and went out sans-Fuji.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 14-24 @ 24mm.

I took the Nikon body, three lenses (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200), spare battery and a couple of filters. The first thing I noticed was the bag I needed was three times bigger than the one I’ve been using (with two Fuji bodies, four lenses and filters etc) and the second was the weight. Arriving at the car park and walking the short distance uphill to the woods I really noticed the weight. Now to be fair I would usually use a backpack with the Nikon gear so the large shoulder bag was always going to feel slightly less comfortable.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 14-24 at 16mm.

The lack of use showed very quickly once I’d got the camera on a tripod but happily muscle memory returned very quickly and I was soon shooting happily and intuitively. I even got the 14-24 f2.8 lens out for a spin too, something I haven’t done for a very long time it seems.  After those first five fumbling minutes I settled quickly into the old rhythm and it’s fair to say thoroughly enjoyed the hour in the woods with just the Nikon and its “Holy Trinity” of lenses.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 70-200 at 105mm.

The 70-200 is probably my favourite of these three lenses especially for landscapes. Indeed, the 14-24, which I bought for landscape work, rarely gets used for those purposes these days as I’ve slowly adopted a more intimate approach to landscape shooting. I still shoot wider scenes but generally the wider end of the 24-70 lens gives me everything I need. When I sold my Canon gear, accumulated over twenty years or more, and moved to Nikon I was not in a position to replicate the system item for item. I needed therefore to carefully consider my purchases and ended up buying the three lenses already mentioned along with the D800E and D7100 bodies and a Sigma 105mm macro lens. To be fair this has proved to be more than adequate and although I have added a 300mm f4 to the mix I generally only travel with the two bodies and four lenses I originally purchased.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 14-24 at 24mm.

Looking at the images I took with the 14-24 this morning, apart from the ones of the tree canopy all the others are at 24mm which perhaps illustrates the point very well. For a day out I could manage nicely with just the 24-70 and 70-200 lenses in the bag.  Where I use the 14-24 mostly I think is for urban shoots; but not street photography as it’s rather an eye-catching piece of glass.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 70-200 at 200mm.

Incidentally, you may have noticed that there is just a hint of the titular bluebells in these images. Two reasons, partly I was late going out so the sun was higher in the sky than I’d have liked but mainly because the bluebells themselves are only just starting to appear. It seems that the weather has put everything back a bit and it may be another week or so before the bluebells appear in the dense patches I enjoyed last year. When they do the macro lens will join the kit bag in place of the 14-24 as I have a few more creative ideas I want to try when the conditions are right.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D800E Nikkor 70-200 at 122mm.

One thing that always surprises me almost is when I get the D800E files up on my computer screen. At 36mp from a full frame sensor they are much bigger than the 24mp files from the Fuji X-T20 or the 16mp files from the X100t and X-T1 crop-sensor cameras. The detail is immense and each time I look at a well-exposed, properly focused and sharp image its as if I am seeing the detail for the first time all over again. It’s one of the reasons why I cannot yet relinquish my Nikon system despite the huge weight difference compared to my Fuji kit. For example, I can carry the 24mp Fuji X-T20 with three lenses covering 12mm-200mm (18mm-300mm in full-frame terms) along with the infrared-converted X-T1, spare batteries and filters and fit all these in my smallest backpack, a Camlink sling bag measuring just 40 x 24 x 23.5cm.  Despite this, for as long as I am physically able to carry the Nikon gear I shall be keeping it!

As for the bluebells, I will return to this spot regularly over the coming weeks. For an overcast or misty day the perfect time will be around sunrise or just after at this time of the year, which means leaving the house at 5:45am. On a bright day I suspect that later in the day, around teatime or even towards sunset, will work best but I’ve yet to test this theory. The only issue with an evening shoot is a practical one; I park in the carpark of a local restaurant and whilst they have no objections first thing in the morning I can see them being less happy when I’m taking up a space that could be used by a paying diner! I shall take a drive down one evening though to test this theory out properly and investigate alternative parking.

Chasing the light

OK, not the most original title ever but it has the benefit of accuracy.

© Dave Whenham

As I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post today I “mis-timed” my departure this morning; or to put it another way overslept. I had checked and knew sunrise was 6.58am so, allowing for a twenty minute drive and ten minutes to set two tripods up and get cameras in place I calculated that I’d need to be out of bed at 5.45 to give me time to dress, make a flask of coffee and get the gear into the car. I awoke at 6.28 and although I moved quickly I was already past my ideal set-off time when my feet touched the bedroom floor.

Despite driving within the legal limits, of course, I was still five minutes from my intended destination, and still fifteen minutes behind schedule, when, glancing in my rear view mirror, I saw that the sun was just about to pop its head over the horizon.  Luckily the road up on the moors was quiet at 6.57am so I managed to pull over and grab the camera (Nikon D800E with my trusty Nikkor 24-70) for a couple of shots including the 10-frame panorama I posted when I got home.  I had no time to do anything other than grab the camera and shoot handheld with whatever lens happened to be on it; I would have preferred the 70-200.  Nor was there time to add ND graduated filters so I bracketed and hoped that the dynamic range of the camera and some judicious post-processing would come to my rescue.

© Dave Whenham
Handheld panorama (6 frames)

Still hoping that I’d get something at my chosen location I jumped back in the car. In the end, despite visiting two alternative shooting spots, the conditions just five minutes down the road were nowhere near as photogenic. I debated sitting with the flask and just waiting but realised that there was a totally clear sky above the scene and by the time the sun illuminated my view it would also be very harsh.

I decided to go back and chase the light and the rapidly dispersing mist back down the valley.

© Dave Whenham

I stopped just over the brow of the hill, swapped the 24-70 for the 70-200 and knowing that I had an image in the bag already took the time to get the tripod out.  The light in the upper part of the sky was much brighter than the foreground but with the sun almost bald in the sky creating huge variances within that upper area of the frame no amount of graduated ND filters were going to make much difference. I therefore bracketed by five stops but in the end only used a single frame choosing to crop the sun out on the computer.

pano_DWE2767
A tiny bit of post-production manipulation here. I applied a warm filter to the sky and a cooling filter to the landscape. The end result is closer to what I perceived at the time.

sunrise-moors-_DWE2720
Taken at the same time as the panoramas, this is a single frame.

30minsaftersunrise_DWE2774

I stopped three times driving back managing a few nice images including the tree above which sits just above the M62 motorway. The third stop, at the reservoir, yielded nothing unfortunately. Just as I got the tripod out of the boot, the geese, which had roosted overnight on the water and were my intended subject, suddenly rose and disappeared before I could even extend a single tripod leg.

However, I was not going to complain. I had chased the rapidly dispersing mist down the valley and captured a few nice images so all in all a good start to the day.  It was a shame my intended location wasn’t “doing it” for me this morning but as I’ve said before nothing beats knowing your patch and it was that knowledge that was my friend this morning.

In retrospect – August

In Flying High I reflected on the number of different projects that I’ve embarked upon this year and in particular the new techniques, in terms of both software and hardware, that I’ve been adding to my tool kit. One thing I’ve not touched upon in any detail recently has been my ongoing move from Nikon to Fuji. I’ve gone a long way down the path, reducing my Nikon gear and purchasing further Fuji products, but have not yet made that irrevocable step and “gone mirrorless”.

As ever, this blog post is largely a transcript of my ramblings in the video, link below.

…made that irrevocable step and “gone mirrorless”

That sounds dramatic, and in a sense it is. Without a salary coming in every month the opportunities for purchasing new kit are of necessity limited. I’m happy with that as the alternative would be to return to being a wage-slave, and at my age that is not a pleasant prospect. The reality is that if I want to purchase the remaining items that would provide me with a “full” Fuji kit I will need to sell the Nikons with little realistic chance of being able to purchase them again if I change my mind at least in the near to medium future.  So it’s kind of a big deal – albeit a first world “problem”.

If you consider that only two weeks ago I was processing images from 2015 and wondering if I’d done the right thing in selling my Nikon D800E rather than the D750 then you will appreciate that I’m probably not “there” yet and I had a long conversation on this very subject with a fellow Nikon/Fuji photographer very recently.  He took three ŷears from purchasing his first Fuji camera to selling his full-frame Nikons. However, even now he still has a top-quality crop sensor Nikon DSLR which is his go-to for natural history and wildlife subjects.  He has been trying the Fuji X-T2 for wildlife but in his words the jury is still out on that one. The telling comment though came ten minutes later when he mentioned he was looking to upgrade his current crop sensor Nikon DSLR for a newer model. I think that tells us what we need to know about the practicalities of going fully mirrorless using Fuji cameras if wildlife photography is a serious part of your output.

Now, unlike Richard I am not a regular wildlife photographer (he is and is excellent at it too) but I do like to dabble, plus of course the longer lens does have uses for landscape work.  The longest lens I’ve used on the Fuji is the 55-200 “kit” lens. It’s OK, nothing stellar, but used carefully it’s perfectly adequate for landscape work. For the number of times I actively seek out wildlife subjects it simply isn’t appropriate to splash the cash for the Fuji 100-400 for example. For my purposes it falls neatly into the “nice to have” category.

With my Nikons however I have an f2.8 70-200 Nikon lens, a 300mm f4 prime Nikkor with a 1.4x converter both of which provide much better quality for landscape use compared to the Fuji 55-200.

Looking back over the last twelve months the majority of my photography has been with one of the Fuji bodies. On the surface a clear indication that perhaps the time is perhaps right to move over fully. But further analysis (harking back to my working days) reveals something more fundamental. If we ignore the occasional wildlife photography then broadly speaking my camera usage is actually fairly genre specific:

  • Travel – Fuji
  • Street – Fuji (mainly X100t)
  • Landscapes -Fuji (mainly X-T20 or X-T1)
  • Macro/insects – Nikon D7100 with Sigma 105mm macro lens
  • Astrophotography – Nikon D750 with Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
  • Video – Fuji (specifically the Fuji X-T20)
  • Timelapse – Fuji X-T20
  • Urban – Fuji
  • General pottering – I always carry the Fuji X100t if nothing else
  • Portraiture – no clear split

To me the conclusion is fairly clear. For most of my photography the Fuji system gives me everything I need. However, like my friend Richard, there are a few specific subjects where I rely on the Nikon kit given the choice.  I say given the choice as I do not carry both sets of kit unless I know that I will need them both.  Like many others I still feel that whilst the Fuji system can be everything to some photographers, those of us who are more generalised or indeed the wildlife or sports focused amongst us, are still not fully catered for specifically in terms of long telephoto lenses and of course macro.

So, for the time being at least I think I will be staying as I am, using Nikon kit alongside the Fuji. On the one hand it feels like a cop-out, a mere pandering to an irrational emotional attachment to some lumps of glass and metal perhaps? However, on balance I think the bottom line is that whilst for some purposes it is a complete solution Fuji has not quite got there in terms of a full kit for the enthusiast photographer.  I have tried using my 105mm Nikon-fit macro lens on a Fuji body with an adapter but whilst it works it is unwieldy; the small bodies need small lenses! Likewise, I have attached my trusty old 300mm f4 Nikkor to the Fuji bodies and unless it’s on a tripod it is just not an easy combination to hold steady in my experience. But that might just be my age!

So, for anyone who has been following my “Fuji journey” this brings the story up to date. I am still anticipating going fully mirrorless at some stage in my future, if only for the weight reduction. However, as I can still carry the bigger, heavier kit and it does still have some advantages photographically then that date is still some where in the future.

Back in the old backyard

You may have realised that I spend a lot of time in my backyard. I often eat my breakfast sat on the upper patio (that sounds grand!) and when weather permits I like nothing better than sitting with a mug of tea and contemplating life. As well as domestic duties (note the washing line) it is also one of my main photographic locations as I’ve noted many times in my blog over the years.

© Dave Whenham
Fisheye Poppies

So what I thought I’d do this week is something that Postcard Cafe actually suggested a month or so back and that is a slideshow of just a few of my favourite backyard images both old and new. I mentioned in a previous video post that I once owned two slide projectors and struggled vainly to produce the sort of slideshow that nowadays many photographers take for granted – I’m hoping that my 2017 attempt is better than my 1977 efforts!

So enjoy this selection, I always enjoy making photographs in the old back yard and I hope you enjoy seeing them.

 

All images and videos are ©Dave Whenham 2016 and 2017

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

A weekend of images

© Dave Whenham
Dave capturing bluebells with a Nikon D810 and Sigma fisheye – snapped with my Fuji X-T1 and Samyang 8mm fisheye

Over the past weekend I managed to abdicate most of my domestic responsibilities and get out with my cameras. Over the two days I shot bluebells on my Nikon cameras with a macro lens, sweeping views of the bluebell carpet with a wide angle lens and more intimate landscapes with a 300mm telephoto. Some informal portraits of the grandsons with a 105mm lens occupied the period between the bluebells and a walk along the canal with  the X-Pro1 (“pick me up!”) and the 23mm prime lens.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 with Samyang 8mm fisheye

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

© Dave Whenham
“Fore!” Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D7100 with Nikon 300mm f4 prime

© Dave Whenham
Not a bluebell in sight!

Day two saw me shooting urban landscapes in challenging light (lack of) with a full frame Nikon, an extreme wide angle and mid-range (24-70) zoom lens.  A momentary panic at the start of the shoot when after my third exposure the camera returned an “ERR” message which I could not immediately resolve but other than that a pleasant stroll even if we weren’t blessed with much light.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 24-70 f2.8

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 24-70 and B+W 10-stop filter

So, just a taster of two days shooting mainly with the Nikon D750 and D7100 but with the Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji X-T1 sneaking in the bag too. Final shot is of Dave’s drone capturing a birds eye view of Elland Bridge.

© Dave Whenham
Drone overhead! Fuji X-Pro1 with 23mm f2

 

The end of the debate … for now

If there is one thing which initially put me off sharing my thoughts on the move to incorporate mirrorless in my set up it was the “I sold all my dSLR kit and moved to mirrorless and never regretted it” stories that abound both on the internet and even in the real world.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D7100 – circular polariser

I did sell some of my Nikon gear to finance the foray into Fuji-X-land it’s true but I kept a fully featured Nikon kit (one full frame and one cropped sensor body with five lenses covering 14mm – 300mm) and I still use it, even if it is used less frequently than in the past.  My decision to give the Fuji-X series a try was centred around having a lighter option which made for more portable and relaxing photography especially on family trips or days out. It is fair to say that the experience of using the Fuji-X kit has far exceeded my expectations and I cannot see me returning to a DSLR-only set-up. It has fully met the brief in terms of weight and portability and the Fuji have exceeded my expectations in terms of image quality and the sheer enjoyment of using the equipment.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D750 with 14-24 f2.8 lens

All of which does not mean that the Nikon DSLRs have suddenly become terrible cameras nor that I’ve suddenly stopped enjoying using them. For macro work and indoor work such as my water-splash photography the Nikon D750 with Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens is still my go-to option, the Fuji kit I have simply cannot match this set up for flexibility to even usability.

The other area where I feel the Fuji system still has limitations is with regards to wildlife photography. I am not a regular bird photographer but when I do I use the D7100 with a 300mm f4 prime lens and a 1.4 converter which gives me just over 600mm in full-frame terms (300 x 1.5 x 1.4 = 630) and the combination produces sharp, crisp images which are perfectly good for my use. The focus on the crop-sensor Nikon is very responsive and with appropriate care I’ve had some good results. From everything I read, whilst Fuji are making strides in this direction they haven’t got there yet.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D7100 with 24-70 f2.8 and polariser

I had a good conversation today with a friend of mine who has followed a similar path to mine, albeit he is six months ahead of me. Long story short he came to the same conclusions as I have and currently runs two systems. He finally loosed the shackles of full frame and has kept a Nikon DX camera with a 50mm prime and the three telephoto lenses he uses for wildlife. For everything else he uses a Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2. Whilst the exact make-up of our kit differs he has basically adopted the same dual-system set-up that I am tending towards and it works for him.  I think it is going to work well for me too.

© Dave Whenham
Nikon D7100 with 70-200 f2.8 and polariser

As the images here show I was out yesterday with two Nikon DSLRs, three f2.8 lenses and a hefty tripod. As always a delight to use and I’m well pleased with the results. My shoulders and back however reminded me this morning what I had been carrying yesterday.

So, if I had one, I guess my mantra would be “I sold some kit, made the move to a part-mirrorless/part-DSLR system and I am not regretting it”.