Saturday, 27 May 2017

Crunch Time

I bought my first Fuji camera, an X-T1, in March 2015; and, since that time, I've run the Fuji system in parallel with my Canon gear.  Initially I was worried that the quality might not be "up to snuff", but my trip to Iceland during the summer of 2015 soon put my worries to rest.  It's true that Adobe have still not added good support for the X-Trans sensor within Lightroom and Camera Raw, but there are other solutions out there - notably Iridient and Capture One - which do an excellent job.

Since 2015, Fuji has gradually become my system of choice, and I gradually added more lenses and a backup body (the amazing X-E2, which has since been converted for Infra Red).  Just before Christmas last year I decided to rationalise my setup and sell the Canon lenses for which I had a Fuji equivalent in order to fund the purchase of an X-T2.  Effectively this meant using Canon for long lens and close-up work (300/2.8L IS plus 1.4x and 2x converters plus the 100/2.8L IS macro), and Fuji for everything else.  In the past 12 months I have only used the Canon system three times, most recently when I went bittern-spotting at Lakenheath Fen last weekend.  Cutting a long story short, I ended up with neck and back ache from carrying the long lens and carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand from gripping my 5DmkIII all day.  The camera felt like a house brick compared to the Fuji bodies, and I found it frustrating having to press buttons and dive into menus in order to change the camera settings.  In short, I realised that I had become completely "Fujified", expecting proper controls (like a shutter speed dial and an aperture ring) as well as a live preview of what was being captured.  Clearly I needed to decide whether to to make the final move to Fuji after 37 years with Canon.  Crunch time, in other words.

The spanner in the ointment was that I don't possess a long lens for the Fuji system (the 50-140, although a stellar performer, simply doesn't have enough reach for nature and sports work).  I was aware of Fuji's 100-400, but wasn't confident that this could come close to replacing Canon's amazing 300/2.8.  As with many things photographic, Ann Miles came to the rescue by very kindly lending me her 100-400 to try.  Ann and I went to a small nature reserve in Kingston, not far from her home, and I played with the 100-400 while she went off photographing bugs.  First impressions were really encouraging - particularly the size/weight compromise and the image stabilisation.  It was only when I got home and downloaded the files onto a computer that I realised quite how good this lens really is.  Granted, this is a slow lens and we were in bright sunshine; but, even so, the performance is highly impressive.  Even with the 1.4x converter attached (560mm, or 840mm in full-frame terms) the images were sharp, and I was able to hand-hold without any problems.  The pictures here were all taken with the X-T2 and 100-400, some with the 1.4x converter, processed in a combination of Lightroom and Iridient X-Transformer.

The conclusion?  Well, it has to be "bye-bye Canon and hello Fuji".  I know we're all supposed to suffer for our art, but for me this doesn't extend to back ache plus pins and needles in my right hand.  Even without the size and weight issues, I simply prefer the ergonomics of the Fuji system: these are cameras, designed to be used as such, and not computers with lenses attached.  As a result, my whole Canon system will be going up for sale, as there are plenty of other people around who don't feel the same and might was well get the benefit of this superb, and well looked after, equipment.  It's the end of an era for me, though.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Once Bittern...

The problem with bitterns is that you wait months for them to appear and then five turn up at once.  A bit like blog posts, in fact, but I've been snowed under with RPS and Cambridge Camera Club work since before Christmas and have only just come up for air.

The sun was shining today, so I decided to head to the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath Fen.  As mentioned earlier, bitterns were more plentiful than I've ever seen them there, and it was wonderful to hear their booming in the background.  I even managed to grab a picture of one flying, which was a real treat.

The coots were very busy feeding their young, and I spent a long time watching them while waiting for the next bittern to turn up.

There was also a family of great crested grebes.  The mother (too distant for an acceptable photograph) had a couple of youngsters on her back, and the father was out catching fish for his growing brood.

There were also quite a few reed buntings around (and, allegedly, a mash warbler, although I never saw it).  Also unphotographed were cuckoos (loads calling, but none to be seen) and hobbies (too distant).

Sunday, 23 October 2016

RPS East Anglia Exhibition 2016

I spent yesterday at Wingfield Barns, near Diss in Suffolk, stewarding this year's RPS East Anglia Region exhibition.  Very good it looked too, demonstrating the huge amount of work put in by Moira Ellice and her team of expert "framers" and "hangers".

As with last year, The Dumb Blonde was in position waiting for the next person to open the biscuit box...

Hughes have very kindly lent us a large screen TV for the duration of the exhibition, and this was used to display the accepted Projected Images.

We have some superb Natural History photographers in the Region, and Moira was also able to fill the foyer with a selection of stunning nature shots.

It's always a pleasure stewarding at photograpic exhibitions, and yesterday was no exception.  Although the number of visitors wasn't high, this gave plenty of opportunity to chat to everyone who came.  Roll on the opening of next year's exhibition at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Toft Animation Festival

Yesterday saw a workshop run as part of the world famous (and cutting edge) Toft Animation Festival.  I went along ostensibly to help participants to set up their cameras, but it soon became clear that I was also expected to be creative.  After a small amount of thought - and sellotape - I made a short sequence about two Land Rovers entitled Road Rage.

Stop-motion photography is time consuming and frustrating, but very satisfying.  More taxing was trying to remember how to drive Photoshop to turn the image sequence into a movie; but, like riding a bicycle, it all came back to me once I had started.  The masterpiece, now available on YouTube (and in all good cinemas), took about 90 minutes to shoot and another hour to download and edit.  All this when I should really have been doing something useful...

I know: don't call us, we'll call you; but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Meet Leonard

Leonard is a lungfish (naturally) and belongs to the geology department of the University of Bristol where my elder daughter, Frances, is a PhD student.  Apparently he was acquired by someone who was studying the palaeontology of lungfish, with the intention of dissecting him for comparison purposes.  When the time came - and quite understandably - the student concerned couldn't bring himself to "do the deed", so Leonard has lived at the department ever since.

In geological circles, Leonard is actually quite famous.  He even has his own web and Facebook pages...

Leonard is fed once a week on Fridays, and I was lucky enough to turn up at the right time to witness this rare event.  Step one is to remove some prawns from the freezer and thaw them in the microwave (emulating what happens in the wild, presumably).

Stage two is to attach the prawns, one by one, to the end of a long stick and dangle them directly in front of Leonard's nose.  His eyesight is pretty poor, it seems, but his sense of smell is rather better.  His appetite wasn't much to write home about, though, as he only took one of the prawns on offer; and, even then, spent the next half an hour or so spitting it out and then re-swallowing it.

Frances and one of her fellow students demonstrating the tools of the trade needed to look after Leonard.  The baton/magic wand is the feeding stick, and the rather clever cleaning contraption uses a strong magnet to allow the inside of the tank to be scraped while being controlled from the outside.  Sneaky.

The final picture shows Leonard being "tickled" (which, apparently, he likes).  I always wondered what all those thousands of washing up brushes from IKEA were used for.

It was a real privilege to meet Leonard - even if the department isn't quite sure of his/her gender.  Maybe I met Leonardina, after all?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Water Baby

Last week Izzi and I had a "Grand Day Out" in Norfolk, principally to do some shopping at the wonderful Roy's of Wroxham.  Apparently it was "essential" to buy lots of "stuff" before the new University term, although I'm sure it wasn't like this in my day.

Needless to say, The Dumb Blonde came along too; and, given that we had some time to kill before lunch (and serious shopping), we decided to head to Salhouse Broad: one of our favourite locations, and a great place for canine swimming.  It didn't take long before Amber went headlong into the water...

Sometimes, the similarity between Amber and Winston Churchill is uncanny.

Although Amber is a retriever through and through, she's never quite got the hang of handing back what she's just fetched.  I suppose blondes are allowed to play hard to get.

Gradually worsening arthritis means that Amber is now getting rather "limpy" on land, but this hasn't dampened her enthusiasm for diving into water (no pun untended).

I only wish Salhouse Broad were a bit closer to home, as it would do Amber a huge amount of good to swim on a regular basis.  I suppose we'll just have to visit Roy's again soon...