Photo of the Month – December

Nikon D800
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
105mm, 1/200 Sec at f/8,  ISO100
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic V10

The lovely Alaria who I was supposed to photograph in November but with lock down 2 I cancelled my December shoots and moved the November shoots to December.

COVID-19 Lockdown Round 3

So last month I started to book photography shoots for January, only a few as things were not looking good on the COVID-19 infection rate.

As expected after Christmas Day we had a full lock down. I had not anything booked for the first week of January but was hoping to start working after that. Instead I spent last week canceling shoots again.

I’ll be doing some initial planning for February and I do support the lock down but I feel sorry for the small businesses and self employed, for them this is very hard.

You have a computer in your office and want decent Music?

Modern sound equipment in the last ten years has come a long way.

My first job was working for a music shop, working in the workshop weekdays building speaker, crossover circuits, repairing amps and mixers. We also did special affects, so I learn’t to repair lighting controllers. On Saturdays I would work in the shop selling audio.

I went to all the big shows in London, and was privileged to be able to listen to high end audio from vinyl and cd on systems costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Now it does not cost a lot to get quality a quality music sound, but with people using low quality MP3’s, bluetooth headphones many have not heard how good music can sound.

Now let me state, most of my casual listening is done through a set of wireless Apple Earbuds from streamed lossy format music on my phone. In fact let me state now, it is not worth listening to lossless format music using Bluetooth, but you can get high end audio at a budget price, and also not all lossy format music is the same; you can get quality lossy format MP3’s; that combined with a good CODEC over Bluetooth can give quality sound when combined with good noise cancelling headphones, but todays chat is not about mobile audio, its about audio in your home office.

An old laptop or desktop computer as your music source with some ripped CD’s lossless format, or a high quality streaming service, a £100 DAC and £100 wired headphones can go along way. Do try and go wired where you can for better quality.

So how do I get quality music in my office. Well I have seem some users with high end vinyl record decks and thousand pound desktop speakers, but whose office generally gives good acoustics?

In my office I keep things simple. In summary its a music library of losses ripped cd’s in my iTunes (now Apple Music Library), streaming from online music services and some quality budget active speakers on the desk.

First the source part of the system.

I have Roon software on my MacPro pulling all my music together and acting as a Roon end point. From the MacPro I have a high quality audio USB cable feeding into a DAC stage of the preamp on my desk. I used to go straight into my speakers from the line out feed on the Mac, but the digital to analogue converter in computers are decidedly average. Even adding a £65 DAC such as a AudioQuest DragonFly Black can add a great improvement to the sound of your system.

My preamp is a Schiit Asgard 3. This has the optional USB multi-bit DAC. Purists who complain that the multi-bit military spec DAC cannot touch a high end audio Delta-Sigma DAC, really need to give multiunit DACs a listen, on paper its certainly not as good, but its sounds nice and would certainly rival may £500 DACs available.

Asgard 3 with optional built in multi-bit USB DAC

Amplification and Speakers.

Its not a good idea going to high end on the speaker front for your home office. Over eighty percent of how it sounds is down to the room. You have some big floor standing speakers in a large empty room with a wooden floor? You can greatly improve the sound quality with a £50 rug from Ikea! Also the amp and speaks are a very important pair, if your going separate speakers and amp then remember to audition them together.

Speakers are either active or passive, all that means is that active speakers have the amp built in them. People used to look down on active speakers; they used to be the cheap low-end of the market, but this is now not so true.

The Asgard 3 has RCA phono output and single ended headphone jack. the RCA feeds the built in amp inside my Ruark Audio MR1 Mk1 speakers, these also accept bluetooth should I wish.

This system gives me great music in my office and with the headphone socket in a quality preamp I can also get even better sound out with a pair of quality open backed headphones.

This is a nice system and comes in under a £1K but would rival many above that. Its also easily upgradable. Adding a higher end DAC such as a Schiit BIFROST 2, or even going up to a Chord Electronics Hugo with some headphones gives sound that would be hard to beat, on the speaker front you could upgrade to KEF LS50 speakers or add a power amp and some nice Wharfedale’s but you need to remember that the room has a big impact on the sound of your speakers and going to high end may not be worthwhile in your office. Keeping it simple like I have and when you want higher end listening go to headphones, or if your lucky like us and have a room you can dedicate to music then build you dream system there.

Iconic Camera shops and dealers

There are few iconic camera shops left and I saw in AP (Amateur Photographer) today that we are losing another one.

Richard Caplan has now closed the specialist Leica and Hasselblad dealer. I’ll be sad to seem them go.

I was worried about Robert White’s but following his death the shop has kept going and remains a wonderful Aladdin’s cave of items.

With the internet one can fine difficult items but often only if you know what you are looking for. These older specialist shops had staff who knew their craft and could really help you out. Its going to be tough for shops like this in the future but I hope they can keep going.

Nikon Z Pro

For my studio and wedding work I generally use a Nikon D800, if rumours are true the D8xx Z version to come after the D850 and Z7II will be coming in just over a year.

This is likely to be called either the Z8 or Z9. Its been confirmed that at least three prototypes are currently in the field being testing.

For me the most interesting prototype is the 60 MP, 16 bit A/D model with a 5,76 MP viewfinder, 120 Hz refresh rate, this is going to. be quite the studio and landscape beast and would work well for me.

Here is hoping that it comes in under £3K.

New Years Day

With lock down back on, and this area now in Tier4, planning shoots for the early 2021 is proving interesting.

I managed a few shoots this year but they were few and far between.

The best shoot of this this year was with Helen seen above at the Two Wei Location House. This is a fantastic location is one that I hope to use many times in the future. Helen is an amazing local model who I also will be working with again.

Jasmine in Red
Nicola
Alaria

In the last couple of months I managed three quick shoots, Jasmine and Nicola I have photographed before and will again. I used them as test subjects for a number of ideas that I will develop some more in the future. Alaria I had never worked with before but had lots of ideas that I knew would work from previous tests.

We ran out of time before we ran out of ideas which is always a good position to be in.

My first shoot for January is another test, a new model, a new location we will see what comes from it.

Late Autumn Light

OK I know its Winter now but was Autumn when I took this pictures and wrote this blog post! Silly fact, those of us in the UK call it Autumn but in America its called Fall. In general we often rightly assume are American friends are wrong (joking) but in this case they are correct. In the past here in the UK we called Autumn Fall but at some point changed the season’s name.

Welton Church

The weather and the light over the last month has generally been awful but we have had the odd nice day, and the latest one I took the car to a pretty little Lincolnshire village and photographed the church and surrounding area. With the bright low warm light the colours did not look real, they were so intense.

I had an enjoyable hour photographing the village and came back with some nice pictures.

So if you get some nice light, even if only a few hours at this time of year its well worth going out and making the best of it.

a Bikers – Night before Christmas

On the Biking Blog “Ride it like you stole it!” which is sadly no more by Dave Dragon, there was a poem “The Biker’s Night Before Christmas”.

I have posted this before but as it is Christmas Eve I thought I was worth posting again.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,

There was nada happenin’, now that’s pretty bad.

The woodstove was hung up in that stocking routine,

In hopes that the Fat Boy would soon make the scene.

With our stomachs packed with tacos and beer,

My girl and I crashed on the couch for some cheer.

When out in the yard there arose such a racket,

I ran for the door and pulled on my jacket.

I saw a large bro’ on a ’56 Pan

Wearin’ black leathers, a cap, and boots (cool biker, man).

He hauled up the bars on that bikeful of sacks,

And that Pan hit the roof like it was running on tracks.

I couldn’t help gawking, the old guy had class.

But I had to go in — I was freezing my ass.

Down through the stovepipe he fell with a crash,

And out of the stove he came dragging his stash.

With a smile and some glee he passed out the loot,

A new jacket for her and some parts for my scoot.

He patted her fanny and shook my right hand,

Spun on his heel and up the stovepipe he ran.

From up on the roof came a great deal of thunder,

As that massive V-twin ripped the silence asunder.

With beard in the wind, he roared off in the night,

Shouting, “Have a cool Yule, and to all a good ride!”

Mirrorless: who is winning

I see a lot in the press and the general internet chatter that Nikon is playing catchup.

Leica SL2

So who is winning the game for full frame mirrorless autofocus bodies.

Well on specs just looking at bodies one would say Sony is leading. The highest megapixel count. They already have a large selection of lens from themselves and third parties. Out of the box the autofocus feels faster then the other manufactures.

The reality is that any camera today is good, I always rate cameras with how they feel in the hand, how quick can you change a setting, especially with the camera to the eye. This is where Nikon and Canon come to the fore. Both have excellent handling but each follows there own preferences; a Canon user will prefer the Canon and the Nikon user will prefer the Nikon.

The handling on the Panasonic is less ergonomic than the big two but still beats the Sony, but in handling terms I would give Leica the points as best in this department. Leica is simple and straightforward.

Feature wise on the bodies, actually there’s not much in it, despite what you will hear, there are all quite close and with sensors with these megapixel counts the 16 MP lead the Sony has over the Canon means very little.

So on the bodies, feature set is about even, Sony have a slight lead on the megapixel front, but in handling its Leica, Nikon and Canon at the top. Fuji and Panasonic / Olympus take the middle ground with Sony bring up the rear.

Lets now look at lens. Sony has been in the mirrorless game the longest and there are plenty of lens to pick from. If cost is not an option the Leica L mount glass is simply in another league. The native Nikon Z glass, especially the S designation is simply outstanding and comes in at a price below that of the equivalent Canon or Sony glass.

For an all round camera I would say the Nikon Z range and glass takes the win. If price is not an option and the glass is key, pick the L system glass and pair it with the Leica or Panasonic. If you need the megapixels pick the Sony and pair it with their G series glass or Zeiss glass but again that’s putting it in Leica L glass prices. In recent tests the Nikon Z glass with the S designation topped many of the Zeiss glass lens.

So who in my opinion is winning? Glass its Leica then Nikon, body performance out of the box Sony, then Canon and Nikon ignoring ergonomics, but dive into the settings and customise, its a close call between Canon and Nikon. Trying to use the cameras its Leica, with Canon and Nikon joint second. As a Nikon fan ignoring cost its Leica who is top for pure usability and image quality, but you have to weigh in the fact that third party companies like Profoto are going to support Canon and Nikon first. I’ll give Canon and Nikon a joint lead on overall system, the Sony megapixel lead and their poor ergonomics is not enough.

I see on the internet and especially YouTube’s batting against Nikon hard. Those first models that hit the press were pre-production models, but any issues are now over, as a system camera its Canon with Nikon a hair behind. Out of the box without customising a Sony will focus faster but dive into the settings and Nikon will beat it. I would say if you’re a Nikon user pick Nikon, a Canon user pick Canon. If you are not already in a system with a collection of glass, then pick Nikon, the glass is better for the cost than the others.

So for the win in overall system terms, and value for money and performance, I give Nikon the win, Canon a hair breadths behind, the Canon body may be a fraction better but the better Nikon glass at lower cost gives the win to Nikon, especial with the over heating issues Canon has had.