Splash!

© Dave WhenhamDo you get frustrated when domestic responsibilities mean that you can sometimes go weeks without getting out with your camera? I know I do and I often find myself fitting a macro lens and prowling the garden (well, it’s more like a back yard to be honest) after a few days without getting out with a camera.  The macro capabilities of my Nikon D750 and Sigma 105mm lens are one of the reasons why I’ve kept my DSLR kit.  I’ve had an on/off interest in macro photography from my earliest days with a camera but never settled down to a prolonged period of serious work on the subject. Over the last few years I’ve managed a few half-decent bugs and several reasonably decent flowers but nothing to write home about really.

I dusted the Sigma off again this week for some macro work with a difference – water splashes.  My last two blog posts were basically just a few snaps from experiments at the start of the week but the end of the week saw a new piece of kit, and it doesn’t have a lens or a sensor! Enter the Splash Art II kit purchased for the sole purpose of exploring the world of water drops. Besides providing some interesting images it will I hope provide me with a creative outlet when confined to barracks, give me something new to train the macro lens on, test my ingenuity and creativity in building sets and also hone my lighting skills. Not that I expect a lot from this kit!

So here are a couple of images from the first couple of days. I will write up my early experiences and post those in the next day or two as well.

Anticipation

When Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything except temptation,” he could not have known he was describing not only myself but countless other photography enthusiasts too.

The fact is I found a loophole in my assertion that I would not be making any major purchases this year. I made the promise in the context of not depleting our savings further during 2017. Talking to ‘senior management’ as she is known it became clear that if I sold something to fund a new purchase that would be an acceptable get out. So I did something I’ve been debating for a long while.

(c) Dave Whenham
Fuji XT10

I sold my Nikon D800E.

Not a decision I took lightly but the simple fact is that I haven’t used it in over four months. I no longer undertake any paid work so as a camera for producing work for online viewing and prints up to A3 it could only be described as overkill. Plus I am no longer appreciating the weight (which is probably why I rarely take it out of the cupboard.

Which is why I am sat here awaiting the arrival of the postman with my shiny,pre-owned Fuji XT-1.  That is not a typo – the Fuji XT-1, not the XT-2. I toyed with getting the XT-2 but very few used bodies come up at present and those that do are still very expensive. I am primarily a landscape photographer and the XT-1 will fit my needs very well, I use the X100t for street photography and still have the XT-10 which is great fun to use.

Despite committing myself further into the Fuji system I’m not ready to ditch the DSLR yet and may still find a need for a full frame camera so I have the kept the D750 and my Nikon glass but realistically I can’t see them getting too many outings this year.

Come on Mr Postman!

My Fuji-less week

I’m always slight amused, perhaps even bemused, by the brand loyalty of the various brand-fanboys; and yes it normally is one of us boys!  Someone I know has just asked if I’ve still got my Fujis as I’ve not blogged about them for a few posts now and all of my Skye pictures were taken with Nikons.

So, yes I still have my Fuji cameras. Yes I did use Nikons (almost) exclusively last week. No I’m not ditching my Fujis. Yes I’m keeping both kits.

And why not? They fulfil different needs for me and most importantly I enjoy using them BOTH and am very pleased with the image quality of BOTH kits. One consideration for taking the Nikons last week was that I was in company with another Nikon user so we shared lenses and other bits of kit over the week. Another was that this was an exclusively photographic trip with carefully planned stops along the way and an itinerary over the week that flexed in response to changing weather and changing light.

©Dave Whenham
Nearing Talisker

As with the image above we stayed alert to opportunities that arose as we drove from location to location. This one was taken on Terrific Thursday as we drove from Glen Brittle to Talisker. It was a day when we decided to have faith in the forecast and have a lie-in. Ha! We woke up, looked out of the window and hurriedly got ourselves sorted and into the van. Sligachan was the nearest spot for such a morning and we arrived to find it swarming with photographers and tripods. Being familiar with the location though I knew that a five minute walk up the river would take me away from the hordes and give me a clean composition.

© Dave Whenham
Please form an orderly queue …

I hadn’t used the Nikons for landscape work for many months now preferring the Fujis for my local perambulation or for those days when photography was an adjunct to a family trip. It was like I’d never been away though and it only took me ten minutes to get back into the flow again. I do think that using a camera is a bit like that; working with a particular camera over time you develop and evolve a workflow that becomes instinctive rather than conscious. I have developed the skill with the Nikons and am well on the way to doing so with the Fujis too.

So, expect some more Fuji Moments in the coming months but also expect a few more Nikon interludes as I work through the files from last week, especially when I get around to Terrific Thursday!

Wot – no wifi!

© Dave Whenham
River Snizort – a Sunday Sunrise

I had intended uploading a few blog posts whilst I was on Skye last week but the wifi in the cottage was, shall we say, pedestrian at best and totally deceased at worst.

Not that the world noticed my absence! In a world awash with communication a modest personal blog such as this is not going to be heard above the din and noise of countless online voices clamouring to be heard.

So why bother?

Well, I can’t answer for anyone other than myself of course but I do it for one simple reason – it ensures that I continue to communicate and think, particularly the latter. It’s far too easy to settle into a domestic routine and allow skills that took years to acquire to wither and die. Even if no one actually reads one of these posts I have still had to sit down and write it. I’ve had to carefully think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. I’m keeping the skills, modest as they are, alive and functioning.

© Dave Whenham
Light on Shade

The more “thoughtful” posts cause me to think about what I’m doing, why and how. In doing so I challenge myself to rationalise a course of action or artistic decision. But it’s not a heavy academic pressure, simply saying “because it pleased me” is acceptable in my world. Contextualising my art is not something I’ve ever felt the need to do. I enjoy the creative process and like many little boys who’ve never fully accepted they have to grow up I do enjoy tinkering with the gadgets and gizmos that surround photography. I have four grown up daughters and three grandsons, am nearing the end of my sixth decade and yet still cannot quite accept that I am not twelve years old.

Enjoy these couple of early edits from Skye, I will be back later in the week with a few more.

Concerning batteries …

A day at the seaside this past weekend and as has been my usual practice just recently I took a Fuji system in preference to the Nikons. For a day which combined some photography with a day out with my long-sufferIng wife the smaller kit was the right compromise. It enabled me to wander around the gift shops with it on my back yet didn’t prevent me from getting the images I wanted. In fact during the blue hour the Fuji on a mini tripod sat nicely on the sea wall for some long exposures, not something the much heavier Nikons could have managed on such a tiny support.

© Dave Whenham

The night before we went I put fresh batteries in each of the two camera bodies and gathered the other spares. I know that compared to my Nikon batteries these smaller Fuji batteries have a much shorter life when measured in image count which is why I carry several spares as well as one in each camera. On an impulse I popped one of the spares in the charger and found it had only around a quarter charge. The same applied to all of them which ranged from 25%-50% charged. Now consider that every one of them had been fully charged no more than four weeks ago and most likely only two weeks ago this was a huge surprise. My Nikon batteries generally hold at least 80% of their charge for many months.

Now, no deal breaker and whilst it meant I had to stay up a little longer than planned that evening to charge them all I did leave the house the following morning with a full set of fully charged batteries. But had I not checked then I could well have been compromised when the fresh battery in each camera ran down as they did during the  afternoon. I do a lot of long exposures which also chews through batteries so fully expected to use two batteries in the camera that day.

© Dave Whenham

So, another lesson learnt with the Fujis and whilst it seems banal had I been going further afield for a more intensive days shooting I might have been a very unhappy photographer. In fact, if it had been for the weekend rather than a single day then I would have run out of juice given how low they had run down. I do not carry a charger for a weekends shooting – my D800E ran for almost a week on Skye one year with just one battery change so carrying a charger for a weekends trip is not something I would think to do. At least not until this weekend.

The moral of the story? There’s more to changing system than weight, body specifications and lens sharpness. It is important to consider and investigate the small things as they can have a massive impact. Batteries are not exciting or potential objects of lust but without them your camera is just an expensive paperweight regardless of the brand name on the body.

An Autumn Conundrum

I took a walk earlier this week along the local canal, my favourite haunt as those of you who’ve read more than one post of mine will know.

But when it came to grab a camera, remember I use the first that comes to hand, I had a conundrum. The nearest was the Nikon D800E but I have really been enjoying the Fuji X100T recently and would have chosen to take that. In the end I compromised by removing the 70-200 f2.8 from the Nikon and replacing it with a 35mm DX lens. It puts the full-frame Nikon into crop-mode but reduces the weight considerably.

© Dave Whenham

Railway Bridge and ferns – Nikon D800E

Now, you are probably thinking that what comes next is that epiphany when I finally renounce my big DSLR in favour of the flavour-of-the-month Fuji. Well, sorry to disappoint but no. I still love using the Nikon despite its relative weight simply because it handles so well.  The 35mm DX lens didn’t perform as well as I’d have liked, the 36mp sensor is very unforgiving, and if I’m honest it was a compromise I am unlikely to make again.

Back at home I found that the in-camera JPEGs did not have the same instant appeal as the Fuji’s but as ever the RAW files provided everything that I could possibly want. I suspect that if I took the time to tweak the in-camera JPEG settings I could get a much better final image but to be honest I don’t use the D800E for instant results so it’s unlikely  that I will do so.

© Dave Whenham
Zac – Nikon D800Eand 35mm DX lens wide open

So rather than reaching that “ditch-the-DSLR” moment I am even more convinced after this outing that there is room in my photography for both systems so for the moment I am going to forget about comparing and contrasting the two systems with a view to picking one and just enjoy using both and getting even better acquainted with the Fuji X-series.

Incidentally I took the Fuji X-100T with me on the same work the following day -a few sample images in the next post.

Ouch!

My shoulders hurt!

Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration but I took the D800E out yesterday and boy did I notice the weight difference compared to my Fuji kit.

I took a shoulder bag with the D800E and 24-70 f2.8 lens, a GoPro Session, mini tripod, Rode microphone, polariser and spare batteries. That’s all. Compared to what I’ve got used to recently it weighed a ton. I was also carrying an ancient Manfrotto tripod which was having its first public appearance for a couple of years.

I walked down to a spot on the River Calder close to my home to record footage for a current project. Yes. Moving footage – video! Moi!  I am working on a video entitled “My Patch” which will feature four or five locations that I regularly visit with a camera all of which are within walking distance of my front door. It will be my first foray into the video world and I am filming,narrating and processing the footage as well as overseeing all aspects of the production.

This trip was to film the footage for chapter two of the planned video which concerns said spot on the River Calder.  It was also an opportunity to test an idea I have for incorporating some GoPro footage (see below) into the final video.

I am currently putting together Chapter 2 and will post that on my blog later today I hope. My intention is to take Chapter 2 from planning, through filming, post production and finishing touches over the course of the weekend in order to gain the learnings for the other parts of the video.

Watch this space!