2018 Photographic Review | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 35mm, 50mm, black & white, boats, close-up, colour, faux-colour, Indoor, infrared, landscape, macro, nature, personal, photography, review, skies, spring, structures, trees, waterscape

One Hundred, into One.


Seeing as how this post happens to be my one hundredth, it’s actually ninety-nine into one . Since I began this blog back in March, I have also enjoyed the works and posts of so many of you and, if there could be more hours in a day, there would be many more besides, too, providing me with no less enjoyable learning, entertainment or, food for thought. I have also, over the last ten months, hoped to provide some interest in the field of photography, my own takes from various genres of our art-form which I feel so passionate about. Without the love for it, the desire to (hopefully) create something a little different on occasion or, the discipline to stay true, it’s all for nothing. Insosaying, I hope with all the passion that I have for various genres of photography, that my sincerity is not only intact but also, perhaps more importantly, unmistakably evident.

As this year now tick-tocks on to draw its last, making way for the next, I would like not only to thank you most sincerely for your input, your comments, clicks, follows and conversations, but to wish every one of you a very happy New Year for 2019. Your presence here is just as important as my own works, because without a reader, a word or a picture – would be pointless. Therefore, if you will forgive my indulgence, I would like to share with you all just some of my favourite frames from this inaugural year on 35:Chronicle.  I truly hope that you will enjoy them.

Wishing you all wonderful celebrations and, much happiness from the coming year.

Warmest regards,

Rob. 

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Snowdrops | 35mm.

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Telford Woz ‘Ere! | 720nm Faux-Colour Infrared | 35mm.

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Double-Masted | 720nm Infrared | 35mm.

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Bluebell | 35mm.

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Broom | 35mm.

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Milkbank House Ruins | 760nm Infrared | 28mm.

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Talla Reservoir | 760nm Infrared | 28mm.

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Talla’s Monitoring Station | 720nm Infrared | 50mm.

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How the Other Half Live | 720nm Infrared | 35mm.

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Sir Duncan Rice Library | University of Aberdeen | 28mm.

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Moonrise | 720nm Infrared | 85mm.

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Grandeur | 35mm.

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Happy New Year 2019, to You All!

R.


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INTERNAL AFFAIRS | PT.IV | 35:CHRONICLE

35mm, 50mm, black & white, colour, full-spectrum, Indoor, night / low-light, photography, structures

St. Giles’ Cathedral – Edinburgh | PT.II


IV | Grandeur.  [X100T: 35mm – 1/12th – f2.8 – ISO:1600 – +0.7 – Matrix]

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V | Light. [GXR A16 (Full-Spectrum): 85mm – 1/125th – f5.5 – ISO:1600 – Matrix]

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VI | Blue II. [X100T: 35mm – 1/9th – f2.8 – ISO:1600 – +0.7 – Matrix]

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VII | Lantern. [GXR A16 (Full-Spectrum): 50mm – 1/30th – f4 – ISO:1600 – Matrix]

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(St. Giles’ – PT.I)
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Talla’s Monitoring Station | 715 & 760nm IR | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, infrared, photography, waterscape

It’s Not Over, Yet.


Secluded and sheltered deep between the hills, Talla reservoir is a hidden gem. The views from the peaks are simply stunning, no matter what the conditions. It is not often that I visit this beautiful place, however, whenever I do make the trip, I spend as long as I can here, to wander, makes frames and, absorb the quiet of this not often frequented spot. One road descends steeply from the top of the hill, winds around the edges of the reservoir, past the farm which looks onto the south-east tip of this almost mile long stretch of water, and continues north-westwards towards its far edges and, out to Tweedsmuir. Here, at the north-western end of the reservoir, is the monitoring station. 

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I. | 28mm 760nm IR.

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At Megget, the station is of far different design and structure, has a less aesthetic exterior and, due to it being situated in a much larger body of water,  it’s considerably bigger too. But the domed station at Talla with its modern walkway, is something that I have wanted so much to capture (properly) for many years – and, after around half a dozen photo-visits over the last ten or so years, I have finally come away with a few frames that I am happy with. The water here is seldom still – that mill-pond surface that can render a waterscape  as close to photographically perfect as one could get, is seldom seen on Talla. Nevertheless, though I am sure calm water does happen here, I have never seen that glass-like still that I hope one day to capture at Talla. I know that I will have to keep returning, until the day that I do. Photographing this curious structure alone is for me, a plenty good-enough reason to revisit.

Shooting these in infrared has certainly rendered a more pleasing contrast than I would have been able to portray if shooting visible-light, particularly in the skies of the 28mm – 760nm frames; hence, the 715nm frame displays markedly less definition but still, to my eyes, an even quality that even on a slightly cloudy day, seems to do the scene some noticeable justice.

I do hope that you’ll enjoy these captures. 

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II. | 28mm 760nm IR.

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III. | 50mm 715nm IR.

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‘Between Moments | PT.II | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, close-up, colour, macro, nature, personal, photography

(A Little More) Backyard Buffoonery.


Okay, nothing serious here – just a few frames I managed to snick from a mess-around this afternoon in the garden, with various Ricoh set-ups. 

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Waiting for the Bumble (that Never Showed) | GXR & 50mm (EFoV).

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An Unfolding Gladiolus | GXR & 50mm (EFoV).

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(For a Four-Legged Friend) Sweet William | GXR A16 & Hoya +10.

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Gladiolus | GXR A16 & Hoya +10.

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Closer Still(s) | PT.XI | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, colour, macro, nature, personal, photography

Taking a Chill-Pill.


Heck, I can’t always take photography too seriously; without doubt it is and has been one of my biggest passions throughout the past twenty (plus) years of my life and, I dare say, by those who know me personally, I am known for it. But there’s another side to the seriousness of getting the image and that is, to simply get the camera out and just have a little fun with it – and to not worry or be so seriously preoccupied with perfect composition or, focus or, whatever else we look for. The truth told, I love to shoot freestyle, freehand, free-lensed and, I don’t do it anywhere nearly as often as I would like, and, I have been photographically rather lazy lately. I could make excuses about the weather or some-such, but I’d be spouting bollocks so, I’m not going to place a blame. I guess sometimes, we just need a little break from the – constant thinking? I don’t know if I am making any sense here but I promise, I’m not writing for the sake of it. 

For me, the real enjoyments of photography come from many aspects. It’s so engaging when you would want it to be, so technical in thought and deliverance at other times and yet, so passive and relaxing on occasion, too. Depending on any given genre, expectations, deadlines, or presenting difficulties, all are true. If you are yourself an enthusiast, you will know this already. But at the heart of every image is me, you, and how we see. I love to look; and see; and interpret; and steal a frame. What I don’t love – is to always feel like I’m overthinking because then, at some uncertain, invisible point of effort, a line gets crossed and, I don’t always enjoy it so much – especially when that line is completely bulldozed. Indeed, on such occasions, I can take a whole load of shit and know that I have before I have even depressed the shutter. Yet I do it anyway – like shutter-finger Tourette’s  Syndrome (hereafter referred to as SFTS). Damn, I hate it when I do that because not least, I know I’m just going to spend more time at home, after upload, deleting the crud. 

Most often, I find that when I’m making shots for the fun of it, with no actual goal in mind, when I don’t care so much about focus, or content – I tend to make images that I like, nevertheless. In opposition, as we all have – I have put so much effort and thought into a particular shoot or subject and come away with so much utter crap, it could make me cringe at the knowledge that my own brain decided that that capture was a good idea. Really? 

With all of this preamble out of the way, I decided, with plenty of time to kill today and, though the weather was not playing ball (I was hoping to get a little more of a tan on my chrome-dome – uh… no!) – to faff around with my favourite body & prime combo and, make a few frames; just to see what I might come away with. No, given the images I have posted here, you’d be forgiven and absolved for thinking that I have actually been yapping on for the sake of it, because technically these images are not fabulous, or varied. They are indeed unimaginative, poorly composed, a tad soft, but do you know what? Today, I don’t care. Today, I made some photographs; and I like ’em! Moreover, I hope you will too. Yes, I shot close without a tripod – I was chilling

By the way, the first image in this post is great in colour, because it really looks to me like a camouflage-act and, it may have been, in the mind of the Hoverfly. I wasn’t going to post it in colour because I really do prefer the mono-shot (moreover because I have genuine dislike for the colour orange for some barmy reason that I can’t explain) – but I caved in, and have included it at the end of this post. You’ll see what I mean when you get there, if, that is, you haven’t nodded-off already. Okay – time to wake up. It’s picture time!) Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a great week ahead. 

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Montbretia & Hoverfly | 50mm – Handheld.

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Montbretia | 50mm – Handheld.

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Camouflage? | 50mm – Handheld.

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[There’s a photographer in India called Rajeev Virmani – he makes some beautiful environmental flora photographs and I have to say, he has nowhere near enough followers for the work he puts in and puts out here on WP. Please, if you like the genre, do take a look at his images. He has an intimate and opportunistic approach that may well appeal to many. I don’t know him but I do love so many of his images. If you have a little time, you may enjoy a peek!]


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Views from a Ridge | PT.II | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, infrared, photography

Talla & Megget | Take: 2.


In PT.I I posted three frames from a couple of beautiful locations not all that far from me, even though on the day that they were taken, sadly, I was not fortunate at all with the weather conditions (as far as shooting for infrared is concerned). Things like that niggle me somewhat and, if I was going to make images that I would want to look at again, ever, they have to be the best they possibly can be in-camera. That’s why I went back. Feel free to ignore the in-line link – these make me heap-loads happier. I hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

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Megget Water (Westward, from the Dam) | 50mm 715nm IR.

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Talla Reservoir & Farm – Tweedsmuir | 50mm 715nm IR.

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Big Sky – Talla | 50mm 715nm IR.

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Megget (Looking East from the top of the Dam) | 50mm 715nm IR.

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The Lambs | 715 & 760nm Infrared | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, infrared, photography

A Different Kind of Silence.


A week or so ago, I took a run up through Tweedsmuir with the express intent of immersing myself in some more IR shooting. The conditions for IR weren’t great, however, a few days ago, they were absolutely perfect – so I made another trip, early. As well as re-shooting a number of places I had already visited, (and, because I had allowed myself much more time) I drove just a little further north and stopped here, at the Crook Inn.

I have some fond memories of this place and stayed here for a couple of nights around twelve years ago, just to take in the atmosphere of the place. Though it is situated on the outskirts of a very small and quiet hamlet, it used to be a remarkable place to hang out. Especially in the winter when the wood-stove in the intimate, circular bar was roaring and, the beer was flowing. Aside from having an A-road right next to it, here, it’s about as beautifully rural as one could find anywhere. A great tinge of memory and sadness tainted my joy of walking around the old place again, as I made some photographs.

The Crook Inn has been closed for over ten years now but, the local community got together to raise funds in their efforts to buy the place, and collectively, refurbish and reinstate it.  I gather though, that seeing as how I was there shooting its first fund-raising event back in 2007 or thereabouts, and that not much work (if any) seems to have been carried out since then, the community plan has sadly fallen by the wayside. I could be wrong, but the visual evidence doesn’t suggest any movement in a positive direction. Sadly, these lambs will also continue to remain silent. 

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I | 28mm | 760nm Infrared.

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II | 50mm | 715nm Infrared.

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III | 28mm | 760nm Infrared.

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IV | 28mm | 760nm Infrared.

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Go for the Burn | 715nm IR | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, faux-colour, infrared, photography

I Think I’m Developing a(nother) Habit.


When the weather is as gorgeous as it has been lately, my photo-brain goes into meltdown and, I get a very itchy shutter-finger. Mostly, for fine-weather infrared (because there’s no better time to shoot IR than under a blazing sun) but even so, even when the clouds roll in, I’m still tempted to see how far I can push the light. As the days shorten over the year and the sun gets lower in the sky, I know I will have to store my IR units away again for a good many months, however, for now, as the ol’ saying goes – you have to make hay while the sun shines.

These two frames are of the same little bridge but shot on two very different kinds of days. It takes me an hour or more to get to this spot and I seriously think I am getting a habit for quaint, old bridges – if only I could find more worth capturing. There are far worse vices, I suppose. 

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I | Push | 50mm | 715nm IR.

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II | Pushed | 50mm | 715nm Faux-Colour IR.

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Milkbank House | Infrared Collection | PT.III | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, infrared, photography, structures

A Last IR Look Around the Ruin, But First…


… a huge thank you. This is my 50th post here and whether that number should matter or not it seems a fitting juncture at which to covey my warmest thanks to every one of you who follow, don’t follow but occasionally check back every so often, or, those of you who stumble here by accident and decide to stay and read anyway – all of you. Not only this, but for the work that many of you publish, keeping the many circles of interest, thought and knowledge ever-turning for the rest of us. I’m grateful for it all. 

This IR post at the ol’ ruin is to be my last for now, though I do have some interesting frames grabbed with my standard-light set-up which I may post in time. In my first post of this series I alluded to the fact that I was unable to capture the rear elevation of the house as yet, however, in August, I aim to rectify this and, will update when I can. I hope you have enjoyed this little series of images, from this beautiful old derelict and perhaps – a little more too enough to make you want to stay a little while longer. 

To all of you – thank you for visiting my pages, for your clicks, for getting in touch, and, as I look forward to more of your works, I hope you’ll do the same and, return.

Thank you so much for reading…

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IX | Fireplace | 50mm – 715nm IR.

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X | Interactive Wallpaper | 28mm – 760nm IR.

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XI | Corner Pieces | 28mm – 760nm IR.

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XII | Farewell, Perhaps? | 28mm – 760nm IR.

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[Click on ‘milkbank’ tag for all posts in this series]


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Karma? | 715nm Infrared | 35:Chronicle

50mm, close-up, faux-colour, infrared, macro, nature, photography

Sometimes, We All Need a Helping-Hand.


This little guy was crawling very lethargically around my garden a few days ago. While I know little to nothing about bees, I figured he(?) could use a lift. I picked him up and placed him on one of my flowering shrubs and instantly, he began to gather. For a few minutes I just watched it – half grateful, the other half of me just happy to see it perk up. Then, it occurred to me that I might be able to grab a few frames and, the one close-up capable camera I had almost instantly to hand was my 715nm IR converted GXR 50/Macro. For around five minutes more he frequented the flowers on my shrub before he had gathered enough strength to buzz-off again. Still, though my discipline was far from perfect and I was shooting handheld, I was rewarded with a few shots that, whilst a little tricky to process in faux-colour, were worth it. Karma at work? I’m not sure. But, it’s possible. 

With more time and a less urgent / opportunistic approach, I’d have set-up for this kind of work properly, but as is – these are just a few excited (excitable) grab-shots. (The high-key is intentional and, a result of my habit of spot-metering when I macro.) I hope you’ll enjoy them.

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I. | 50mm | 715nm IR.

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II. | 50mm | 715nm IR.

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III. | 50mm | 715nm IR.

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Closer Still(s) | PT.X | Infrared 715nm | 35:Chronicle

50mm, close-up, faux-colour, infrared, macro, photography

One Red Poppy.


There is such a pleasure in photographing in infrared, (in fact, I can say the same of making images utilising any alternative-wavelengths) though I can’t even begin to describe it. Something about the added uncertainty of the quality of the light we can’t see – and wondering how to control it and, capture it. It definitely keeps me thinking; sometimes head-scratching. Yet so often, surprise and delight are revealed in such density that one cannot help going back for more, and more

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I | Poppy | 50mm 1/125th @f8 | ISO:271 | 715nm IR

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Since having received my IR converted A12 50mm for my GXR it occurred to me that I’ve not really given it a fair outing, yet. It’s not like it will care, or anything like that; it has no feelings and minds not if it’s being used or, if it spends its time just rattling around in compartment three, in my bag. But – though I love what I’ve managed to capture with my 28mm IR unit, the 50 is a rather different kettle o’ fish. For landscapes and closer, wide-angle stuff, the 28 is supreme and, at 760nm,  has a perfect base-wavelength for those tasks, but the 50 has a whole other genre as its niche. Whilst I haven’t taken it out for more natural FoV shooting as yet, I did, this morning, mooch around the garden trying out some close-up and macro subjects while the sun was out. Being as this is the UK – that latter consideration should remind you that unless the forecast states temperatures of 25 Celsius or higher for the entire day, the sun largely makes its own mind up as to whether it’s going to shine or hide behind the nearest cloud, and, there’s usually at least one large bugger waiting  for that job. That said, I had around a half-hour for a play before the inevitable happened.

It was enough.

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II | Poppy | 50mm 1/220th @f5.6 | ISO:200 | 715nm IR

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I’ve broken with a couple of traditions for these frames. The first is more of a sacred rule than a tradition, I suppose: I shot these handheld because I was just too lazy to set up on my tripod.  (There. I said it.) Secondly, I so seldom process infrared in false-colour because, well – it just never looks natural to me (even after setting the correct WB). If I can’t believe what I’m looking at, then I’m certainly not going to expect anyone else to believe it either and, if that should be the case then, what is the point? Still something about these frames made me want to have a go at FC-IR again. Therefore, after processing the entire batch in black and white (my ‘safety-net’ batch), I went back to the beginning and re-processed the whole lot for the second batch in faux-colour; and, you know what? I actually prefer them. I enjoy the subtlety that 715nm has afforded to the colours – and, I have done extremely little to these files  in order to complete them. Still, complete, they are and I am very happy to share a few of them. One single bright-red poppy, dishevelled by short bursts of heavy rain and a fortnight of regular stiff breezes, yet, still every bit as photogenic as when it first came to flower. 

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III | Poppy | 50mm 1/180th @f8 | ISO:200 | 715nm IR

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IV | Working Lunch | 50mm 1/125th @f8 | ISO:238 | 715nm IR

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Closer Still(s) | PT.IX | 35:Chronicle

50mm, close-up, colour, macro, nature, photography

Cherry Blossom.


I.

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II.

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Land-Escapery | PT.II | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, infrared, landscape, nature, photography, skies

To Contrast.


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I | 715nm Infrared @ 50mm.

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II | VIS @ 28mm.

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Rootless Tree | Infrared | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, infrared, photography

Primary Outing | Ricoh GXR A12 28 & 50mm IR Conversions.


I’m extremely excited about these two primes and yet again, the Good Doctor has created something which for me, is truly special. The A12 28/2.5 has been internally converted to a 760nm wavelength and, the 50/2.5 to 715nm. Both focus just perfectly (as focus adjustments for IR wavelengths are performed during each conversion) and even the macro-focusing on the 50 works a treat, which I wasn’t expecting. To say that I am as happy as a rotund, pink farm animal rolling blissfully void of regard,  in deep, warm and smelly brown stuff, is a bit of an understatement. The 760nm wavelength will allow for slightly greater contrast than the 715nm and will lend itself moreso to black and white output and, the 50 should allow for not only good mono-output (something that the GXR is renowned for anyway) but, false-colour IR output, too. The latter isn’t my preferred finish but, it’s certainly an option, should I need it. 

At the bottom of my drive, at the far end of the wheat-field and next to the river, lay the dried and decaying remains of a gnarly old tree. It has obviously been laying there for a lot of years and, I had to capture it before long because I’d heard from a very reliable source that a party of  eager, local sculptors are more than a tad keen to get their chainsaws into it anytime soon. That said, I had no time to waste and, once the sun was well and truly over the yardarm, I had set off to make my first frames with my new primes. Here is just a small selection of my new cache of IRs from these fabulous conversions. I’d have preferred fewer clouds on the day, however, there’ll be other days. I’m going to have so much fun with these.


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I. | A12 28mm 760nm Infrared.

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II. | A12 28mm 760nm Infrared.

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III. | A12 50mm 715nm Infrared.

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… and a little something extra, just because I happen to like it (of course, you’ll see why?):

IV. | A16 (Standard) @ 55mm.

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[A.V – you’ve done it again. Thank you, my friend!]


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Gear Talk: The Ricoh GXR | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, colour, infrared, landscape, nature, personal, photography, review, skies, structures, trees, waterscape

Why Your Gear is Important.


I suppose in a way, having spent so long shooting with it (certainly when compared to other systems that have taken space in my bag over the years) I do feel especially attached to my Ricohs. What follows is my account of what I firmly believe to be one of the most usable, tank-like, versatile, enjoyable, ugly and yet most rewarding cameras ever made, not so much a review or a user-guide (we’ve had nine years of those already) but a personal reflection about why I still shoot with it. Whether any of this is relevant, or, of interest to you or not – well, that’s for you to decide, but I think that in some way, this could be written about most of us, with few changes of context. 

[From the off, I just want to get something out there before I get into the meat of this thing – I have shot plenty of crap on every camera or system I have ever owned. The longer I do this, the less crap I produce. With that said, it’s more about you than your camera but – your choices do matter.]

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Gestation | GXR A12 33mm / 50mm FoV.

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Birth | GXR w/A12 33mm Macro.

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Concept versus Reality:

On the 10th November 2009, Ricoh (before they became Pentax-Ricoh) released a number of unique ideas, in an unusual form. The ideas were thus:

  • A camera body doesn’t have to contain a sensor.
  • A camera body only needs to house the controls, battery, card, the screen and, a pop-up flash.
  • A lens doesn’t have to mount from the front of the camera body – it can slide from the side.
  • A lens can also house a uniquely matched sensor behind it, making each new lens-unit unique.
  • Serious photographers (outside of the East Asian markets) would catch-on.

With respect to points 1-4, Ricoh were right. On point 5, however, they were hoping for a little too much. Sadly, I believe, this was a real shame. A massive shame for Ricoh and, also for many photographers and enthusiasts who either just didn’t get the idea, or, even worse, never even got to learn of its existence and hence, its capabilities as a bona-fide camera-system.

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Frankenstein’s Monster? | GXR w/A12 18.5mm [28mm FoV].

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The idea was dubbed ‘GXR’ – and I am one who was fortunate enough to have availed my camera-bag with one back in late 2010. As I recall, on first release, the GXR was hideously expensive. Around £400 for a body alone and just shy of £600 a-piece for the two APS-C lens units (the A12 50mm / 28mm units) – left a lot of people stumped, scratching their heads and justifying their not investing in this new system simply (and rightly) because for the kind of money Ricoh was asking, it was far cheaper to look at other systems of similar capability or, further invest in currently owned systems. For the most part of 2010, I was in the same camp and, reading the continuous streams of negative reviews, forum-comments and discussions at the time did nothing to persuade me to bite Ricoh’s new, if slightly oddly-conceived bullet. But in late 2010, prices began to fall, and, how they fell. Ricoh marketing has always been a total disaster in the West, so I guess this was always going to happen, but for a new system to plummet so harshly in such a short space of time after release was almost unheard of. By the end of 2010, the two APS-C lens units that were released on launch of the GXR could be had for as little as £300 each and stockists couldn’t do enough to offload them to the consumer. Suddenly, there started to be a little more interest. Internet posts (or rather the increasing number of more positive reviews and images from the GXR) bore this out and, bore it out solidly. However, the GXR was still not catching-on like many other popular system-cameras, especially here in the West. I began to wonder – why are ‘popular’ cameras so popular? What aspects of the product are people attracted to? It can’t all be just marketing, surely? I think – possibly, that the answers are pretty obvious. 

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There is Always a Limit | GXR A12 28mm [FoV].

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Want, versus Need.

As consumers, photographers, enthusiasts (we’re all of these) – we’re attracted to new ideas (so long as we understand them and they appear to have the abilities that might work more in our favour) and, how we do all love new equipment. We’re attracted to system-functionality too, and, the prospect of (over)expansion, the idea that we have the ‘next great-thing’, that people may even envy us for using our chosen system. We want to show it off, wear it like a badge, but why, I don’t know; to extract the best we can from it, show off our images and even find ourselves professing that we now shoot with the ‘one size fits all’ equipment and we’ll never trade-in again. (Oh, the fibs we tell our spouses – and, ourselves.) It’s tosh, but it’s a truth, too. Ask any system-fan. What we also love, are looks. How our camera looks to us has taken on a ridiculous and unfathomable importance – perhaps for the image that we want to create of ourselves and, display. At this point (and I get it, because for a long while, I was of the same mind, too) I now know that such perceptions are ridiculous. I know this, because I shoot the GXR still – as it approaches nine years since release. There has been a veritable myriad of newer, shinier, faster, more button/dial-tastic systems on the market since from a number of manufacturers (the usual big-named suspects) with much more money invested in effective marketing than Ricoh ever has. However, I always felt that, though the GXR was, aesthetically speaking, a rather unattractive camera-system, the idea of it was incredible and extremely clever (or, brave) of Ricoh; and so eight years ago, because quickly dropping prices gave me the opportunity to, I bought into it. To this day, I shoot with it and (perhaps in part because it’s still going strong and new GXR modules and system-parts are like hens’-teeth nowadays) I appreciate it more and more. I enjoy it so much that I still expand my GXR systems from time to time. But almost eight years of image making with this thing has given me an insight into what the process of photography, is all about.

Enjoyment.

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Approaching Light | GXR A12 28mm [FoV].

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How the GXR Helped Me to See [the] Light.

Now, this bit is really quite personal, but seeing as how there are many who get themselves into far, far worse positions and never climb out of them, I can write this. Since 2000, when I first began to shoot with digital cameras (after a number of years cutting my teeth with film) I have, like most of you, owned a lot of camera equipment and systems. If I listed it all here (what I can remember anyway) I would easily run into another half-hour of typing, so I’m not going to. Suffice to say that I have used full systems by Pentax, Canon, Leica, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sigma, in vast numbers of body / lens configurations, not to mention a whole slew of ‘capable’ compacts for those days when I couldn’t be buggered to carry the big-rigs around with me. Like many of you again, I have spent way more than a small fortune (of my own money, I might add) on the stuff and, lost again through falling / plummeting re-sale values. It used to truly hurt if I thought about the numbers too much.

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The Crows | GXR A12 50mm [FoV].

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When at first I encountered a certain auction site on the then still fast-evolving internet, I was of the impression that it was rather handy to have a site where one could sell unwanted items and use the proceeds to buy something more desired, all in the same place. It was a new idea then and crikey didn’t it catch on? The web too, was as now, awash with endless images, information, reviews about every commercial product known to man and that made choice difficult. It also meant that whatever we had – we would always find something better very soon after our last big purchase. Given too that digital cameras largely become almost obsolete (tech-wise, I mean) very soon after release, because of newer technology or ‘features’ – it meant that many of us were like mice on a wheel. It’s knackering, in more ways than one. But my, how the negative margins widened over just a few unmonitored years, without my even realising it (until years later, when I inquisitively took a look at my statistical history, you know, just out of curiosity, then, I started to think about that dream car that I could have had, if only…). No matter. Eight years ago, I did just that. I looked at the numbers, shat myself copiously, realised that a done-deal was just that, shrugged my shoulders and decided, no more. At the same time, I also made myself think about and realise that what I wanted from a system was, to make pictures. Pictures that I was happy with and as part of a process that I actually enjoyed – and enjoyment was missing for me. This was after all, the only reason I was doing any of this at all. That said, I stopped chasing a ridiculous dream (of finding my ‘Holy Grail’ camera, so to speak) pulled myself out of the rut I’d got myself into and, got a little bit logical. I then did my research.

As so many of us have come to realise over the years of carrying around cameras, lenses, bags, tripods, all sorts of superfluous crap, that (we hoped) would make us look purposeful, experienced or whatever we wanted others to see of us as we go about our shooting, it comes to each of us that as enthusiasts or hobbyists, it’s a real pain in the backside carting so much weight about for hours and hours, especially when most of the stuff we were lugging around wasn’t even being used. So much so that it tarnishes the enjoyment of what could have been a fabulous trip, event, day or week, for the sake of a few photographs (a large portion of which would inevitably get uploaded, viewed on the big screen, grunted at and swiftly deleted). I mean, what’s the point? That’s when you realise it’s time to downsize and just shoot with what you have. All you need is a camera and a lens and, perhaps a spare battery. Invest wisely – and keep your investment. Learn you’re tools to the smallest detail and keep your rig to a minimum. Ah, salvation! If you have done the same, you know exactly as to what I’m referring. It’s a great feeling isn’t it? By the time I downsized, I sold off two DX Nikon bodies, a FF Nikon, around 5 pretty expensive Nikon lenses, flash units and studio lighting gear with a ton of ‘freebie’ extras thrown in to nudge each sale along. When all was sold, I probably realised no more than 65-70% of their collective resale value but it was more than enough to start over with a smaller but capable system. I’d done a shed-load of reading up on the GXR reviews and comments from all speculative and user angles and, I decided (with some reserve and trepidation) that this may be the right camera for me, for the image qualities that I hoped to see and, for the way that I shoot. I had the body and both A12 units at my door within a week of making my decision. (It was around this time that Fujifilm had announced the development of the X100. Alongside copious GXR reviews, I was avidly devouring anything I could find about Fuji’s new, ground-breaking offering too. All these answers to my prayers coming at once!) Anyway, I embraced the GXR almost instantly.

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Cherry Blossom | A12 50mm Macro.

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It has always had a charm, physically not that good-looking but extremely well laid-out, rugged and solidly built, a menu system that a photographer would instantly be at home with, a weight and finish that instils confidence and best of all – few pointless bells and whistles that other manufacturers call ‘features’. In other words, it has what counts to make pictures and doesn’t handle like a child’s portable computer-game with a lens on the front of it, like so many cameras do.

I was beginning to seriously enjoy this new freedom of not only having a much smaller system to carry with me, but also, the restrictions that shooting only two primes inevitably brings and, with that, a more thoughtful approach to shooting; more imagination and with that, more possibilities of ‘seeing’ in focal-lengths that I had deprived myself of for years, most notably, 28. I was never a wide shooter. I’m not sure I am now but I am certainly used to and happy with it when I’m photographing. Less is definitely more. The layout and customisability of the GXR also won me over quickly. Any relevant review will give you the skinny in this department so I’m not going to, but I am going to mention now, briefly, the image characteristics of the GXR with the A12 units. To do this, I am going to compare if I can, in words, the images from the GXR to those from a much newer, faster camera, which, until recently, I also owned and shot with for over two years – Fujifilm’s X-T1.

The X-T1’s files can be superb – but as I found out, only for certain subjects. But what I saw when I looked at the best shots I’d taken with it were either (squeaky) clean, crisp, faultless images or, utter mush. So, when I say – can be, I do mean that. As a RAW shooter I found skin-tones of jpegs from the X-T1 very ‘waxy’ or ‘plastic’ looking often, which is another reason I shoot RAW, because this character only appears in the X’s jpegs. Still, properly focused and exposed foliage would present as horrible mush even in the RAWs. But this isn’t an X review or a bashing either. What I saw besides crispness and cleanness in the Fuji’s files were images with a lack of lens character. It was all just a bit too perfect which, is a testament to how well Fuji build their lenses and, a sadness at the generic appearance to digital images from most modern camera systems now judging only personally from what I’ve shot with over many years. I also blame the countless reviewers who verbally pray for ever more image perfection from the manufacturers. When I wanted perfect reproduction under conditions at which I knew that it would excel, I would reach for the X-T1 every time. When I want character though, I always reach for the GXR. As such, my GXR was still my main system, and now, it is my only system. (I shoot a GR alongside it or, if I am not wanting to cart any bags at all, the GR fills in nicely all on its own). It produces images with a certain filmic quality, sharp but not bitingly so, a grain that pleases as it increases with film speed (ISO / ASA) right up to 1600 (which is as high as I shoot with any camera) but there’s a warmth to the GXR files that relates not to tone or colour or balance – but a certain something I have never been able to put my finger on. But it’s there. There’s no ‘Ricoh’ look (besides, I think the sensors in the A12 units were made by SONY) – it’s just a quality that speaks to me when I see it. A quality that I love. As for the lenses, the A12s are painfully slow by modern standards and very noisy, especially the 50/2.5 Macro, but as one who doesn’t rush when I shoot, that’s perfectly fine with me. The corners and edges can sometimes be a little soft but I really don’t care; I try to concentrate around the centre of the frame anyway. There is no image-stabilisation, in-lens or otherwise, and actually, I like that. It makes me think harder about what it is that I’m doing. Simple. No excuses or concessions for poor technique, either.

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On the Rocks | GXR w/A16 [24-85mm FoV] at 24mm.

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As well as the two A12 units, Ricoh also developed and released the A12 Mount, onto which M mount lenses can be fixed and I have used this too with a few different lenses. It’s a fabulous piece of kit to use but in the interests of keeping my gear to a minimum, I don’t use or even have the mount any more. I do hanker for it every now and then because the image qualities attainable with various legacy glass are wide and wonderful. The two small-sensor units though (the S10 and the P10) are largely useless to me, certainly as far as IQ, anyway. The larger sensor units are what makes this camera an absolute must in my bag. Even the A16 24-85mm is a bit of a corker when it comes to IQ and set-up ability.

The set-up I’m using now is similar to a few years ago when I was using two of the three Sigma DP Merrills. Namely, the DP2M & DP3M. The GXR at that time was consigned to a drawer while I evaluated the Merrills and, whilst I loved the concept of taking two small fixed prime lens cameras and nothing else, I couldn’t get on with the DP2M focal-length. I don’t know why by I didn’t gel with it at all. The DP3M on the other hand, I loved from the start, but the limitations of shooting at a maximum of ISO 200 hampered me some, 400 at an absolute push (and then I’d have to have been desperate for the frame) therefore, I traded them. Currently, in my main bag I carry only a GR and two GXRs. I’m in the process of re-working my bag though, so at some point, I’ll fill in on new additions and / or subtractions. As brilliant as the GR is (it’s made a huge amount of frames over the past few months, mainly using the internal 35mm crop-mode at the expense of a few MPs) I still prefer the GXR with the A12s. Like the GR, it is possible to set-up the custom settings (MY1,2,3) for different MF distances and apertures making zone-focusing and freelensing an absolute breeze. No need for snap focus either – instant shooting with no lens shift at all. Monochromes from the Ricohs are adjustable and consistently wonderful too. Just to get this out there as well, the GXR has a really neat trick when it comes to Auto ISO. On no other camera have I seen this: go into the menu and set the Auto ISO to 1600 (with whatever change-over shutter-speed you like). Now, instead of the camera auto-bumping up the ISO in the usual increments (100 to 200, 200 to 250, or 640 to 800, for example) it actually increases the ISO in increments of 1. Yes, you read that correctly. It will only bump the ISO by as much as needed to maintain your fastest possible shutter-speed (and best possible IQ) and as a result, you may, as I have, find that the GXR shoots at ISOs of for example, 201, 387, 1004, 1234; any number you can think of, really. So, whilst the GXR doesn’t have the IQ of more modern systems (which I am largely glad about) – it does make the very most of what it has for the benefit of the one behind the camera. This is probably my most favourite feature of the GXR. I do wish that it was a feature of the GR but sadly – it isn’t. Nonetheless, the feature itself comes across as a real ‘cock-a-snook’ to any and all other camera companies. It really bloody works.

That Ricoh had continued to develop the GXR instead of abandoning it is another wish that I have always harboured. The fact that they didn’t only makes it more special but how I wish they would pick up the baton again. Yes, it has a kind of cult status – but even that will die as time moves forward. But I’ll still be shooting with mine until it dies on me. It may not look like much, but when I wanted a camera that was aimed at photographers, the GXR delivered and, still delivers for me.

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Candlelight | A12 Mount w/Voigtlander Nokton 40mm 1.4 Classic SC

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Not long after the GXR and the A12s were released, Steve Huff made a comment about it on his site saying something like “If a camera can make good images now, it will still make good images in years to come, no matter what new tech arrives in the future.” I subscribe to the very same thought and, after years of keeping up with modern camera-tech – I have stopped because I just want my camera to make pictures. Pictures that I am happy with, from a system that I enjoy using, that actually inspires me to shoot and, can work the way that I do. It’s not quick, it’s not quiet, it’s not pretty, however – it’s a perfect fit for my hands, works the way I want it to, it’s built like a brick shit-house and, consistently produces the goods.

Not bad, for an ugly ol’ thing… 

 

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