Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hokitika dreamin'

Just back from a few days in Hokitika. I had forgotten how lovely this West Coast town is; especially in the glorious sun. Plenty of places to go, things to see and great food.

The Otira Viaduct from Death's Corner. The old road (behind the ridge to the right) was a driver's nightmare and this corner was well named. Fortunately the viaduct (finished in 1999) cuts out the worst section of the road - a magnificent feat of engineering dwarfed by the landscape.
View over Lake Mahinapua from "Swimmers Beach" - a 2m wide sliver of sand in an otherwise bush edged lake :-).
Swimming from the jetty at at Lake Mahinapua.

The Carnnegie Library at Hokitika - now used as a museum.

Sunset (nearly) on Hokitika foreshore with one of the art installations.

The only camera I took on this trip was Tillie, the RX100 m3. It was very freeing not having to tote around my DSLR kit and while Tillie's reach at the long end is not enough for wild life shooting, in all other respects she was quite up to the task and produced some wonderful quality files.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

It didn’t take long - the anti “Je Suis Charlie” brigade are now in full cry with “how can you support such a puerile, offence laden, rag like Charlie Hebdo?”

Who knows how many thousands, probably millions, of people have rallied to the cry of “Je Suis Charlie” in the last few days. Are they all Charlie Hebdo readers? Of course not. Most, in the wider global community, had probably never heard of Charlie Hebdo before last week. Few would probably subscribe to the offensive and frequently vile content of Charlie Hebdo.

“Je Suis Charlie”. It’s hard to make an articulate and comprehensive argument in three words. But one thing is clear, the majority of people were not saying, “I agree with Charlie”. Charlie Hebdo it seems was one of the more disagreeable and unlikeable publications to ever get into print.

But “I am Charlie” in the sense that my participation in a free society, my right to have an opinion and to express it, is based on exactly the same rights as allow Charlie Hebdo to exist - despite what I may think of it. If Charlie Hebdo can not speak, then neither can I - Je Suis Charlie.

As the well known saying goes (usually misattributed to Voltaire) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  - Je Suis Charlie, indeed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tillie at the Botanic Gardens

Yesterday, Annette, myself and Tillie went to the Botanic Gardens. It was good to see the conservatory open again (it was closed after the earthquakes in 2011) and to see the new Visitor Centre. This was Tillie’s first real world outing and I was very impressed as to how she handled herself.
The 24mm wide end provides a satisfyingly wide field of view in tight situations allowing this shot of the two-story interior of the main conservatory. While the ambient light shot in a dimly lit exhibit below was no problem, with Tillie deciding that 1/30sec, f2.2 and ISO 125 was the way to go.
Inside the cafeteria Tillie demonstrated her high dynamic range chops by including everything from the brightly lit exterior through to the goodies in the cabinet in a single RAW file, with no fancy post-processing (just Lightroom). Love the ceiling shades and the dappled light they produce - like being under a tree.
On another shot I got Tillie to take 5 bracketed shots for an HDR, which I later merged in Photoshop. However, the results were not as tonally pleasing as the single RAW shot that I also took of the same scene. It would seem that, like the D600, Tillie can manage most high dynamic range shots without any external help.
One of the things I am beginning to appreciate, is Tillie’s ability to get the shot right, it leaves me free to make a grab shot or to concentrate on the aesthetics of the picture and not get distracted by constantly having to worry about camera settings. Of course, if I want a special effect or Tillie isn’t reading the scene correctly then I can intervene with my own settings but why reinvent the wheel every shot?

Why Tillie? Well, there was an English adaptation of “The Little Engine That Could” in which the engine was called Tillie. I think the Sony RX100iii is the ‘little camera that could’, so that’s what I called her.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Last Camera

The last camera I brought was not a rip-roaring success. It was a Panasonic LF1 - I wanted it as a go anywhere accompaniment to my full-frame DSLR. It seemed to tick the right boxes (very small, RAW shooter, EVF) and the reviews were quite good too. But, in use, it never met my expectations for image quality.

Of course I knew that the LF1 wouldn’t produce full-frame quality (or even close) but I soon found that the RAW files just seemed to lack spunk. Whenever I went to develop one, it felt like I was having to give it CPR with Lightroom, just to get it looking average. It wasn’t just the sensor noise (evident even at the lowest ISO) but a general flatness and lack of detail that no reasonable amount of sharpening or clarity seemed able to overcome.

I don’t think I ever had a frame out of that camera that made me whoop for joy. In the end I just didn’t want to pick it up - it was like having a friend who always turned up at your house feeling miserable; guaranteed to lower the spirit of any occasion. Who needs a camera like that? The LF1 did, however, prove that a camera of this size is a useful thing to have - if only it could produce better images! So my search continued for a compact camera that I would be happy to use when not toting a DSLR. And I am now confident that I have found it.

In the last couple of days, I have processed well over a hundred RAW files from this compact and I am in awe of its capabilities in both general, low light and high dynamic range situations. Perhaps that is why all the reviews unanimously rate it as the very best camera in its class. It’s also almost the same size as the LF1 (just a little thicker).

So, after weeks of research and waiting for the mail man, my Sony RX100 iii is now firmly in my hot little hands (thank you wifey)- this one could be the elusive Last Camera for this aging photographer. Play time!
Taken with the Sony RX100 iii, 1/125sec, f4.0, ISO 125 - RAW file processed in Lightroom.