Ivory campaigner found dead at home.

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Full story here / Wiki Tribune:

Key figure in fight against ivory trade found dead

Key figure in fight against ivory trade found dead

British man was a colourful and important contributor to preservation of elephants

Source: www.wikitribune.com/story/2018/02/05/africa/kenya/key-figure-in-fight-against-ivory-trade-found-dead/46658/

Amazon Delivering Live Lobsters.

From today’s Sunday Times:
“Amazon is marketing live lobsters for home delivery, meaning the creatures spend days in a box as couriers drive them around the country.”

Link to original article (Paywall):

Amazon delivers ordeal for lobsters

Amazon delivers ordeal for lobsters

Amazon is marketing live lobsters for home delivery, meaning the creatures spend days in a box as couriers drive them around the country. The Canadian creatures sell for £46.49 each, including…

Source: www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/amazon-delivers-ordeal-for-lobsters-37j28fwcr

 

Using Mamiya RB Lenses on an RZ


For obscure reasons, I decided to try an RB lens on my RZ. So I got a hold of a mint 90mm Sekor C from eBay.

The lens produced nice crisp images – from this point of view I was happy with it. It was also less expensive than a similar condition RZ lens.

One of the other benefits is that the mirror-up function is simpler than the RZ lenses – you just turn a knob on the barrel through 90 degrees and it’s ready to go.

The RB lenses are all-mechanical. Unlike RZ lenses, you set the shutter speed on the lens. (It doesn’t matter what shutter speed you set on the RZ body – the light baffle in the body opens and stays open, letting the light in regardless of the speed on the lens.)

Anyway, I was so pleased with the 90 that I went ahead and bought a 50, 65 and 250.

Then I ran into a problem: the 90mm jammed onto the RZ body. I tried for several minutes but nothing I could do would free it. Eventually, through some random combination of cycling the film wind-on lever and rotating the locking ring, I got the lens off. I was quite relieved, having had visions of having to send the whole lot off to a repairer.

I subsequently read that RB lenses frequently jam on and people have to take drastic measures to remove them. This put me off the whole idea of RB lenses so I have decided to sell all 4 and replace them with RZ glass.

So there you go. A cautionary tale. RB lenses will work on an RZ body but you’ll be taking your chances…

 

HIIT

I was reading a blog post about HIIT on Steve H. Graham’s website yesterday when I remembered that Andrew Marr had a stroke whilst doing it (HIIT).

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval training. The general idea is that instead of exercising for long periods at low intensity, you do intervals of twenty seconds or thereabouts at maximum effort.

The main benefit is that you don’t have to train for so long each time, yet you get all the benefits (And more) of prolonged aerobic exercise:

  • You burn more calories overall
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Increased mitochondria count (Not sure what this does but it sounds like it should be good.)
  • Increased endurance
  • Increased telomerase, which protects telomeres
  • Increased production of human growth hormone

A recumbent exercise bike is ideal for HIIT. Fortunately I have one. I just haven’t figured how to use it yet.

My under-utilised recumbent bike.

Anyway, I plan on starting an HIIT programme soon. I hope to see the benefits quickly, particularly the increased sense of wellbeing that comes with regular exercise. I also hope to lose a bit of weight and not die of an electrical cardiac malfunction. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Buying & selling cameras on eBay

How to buy and sell camera gear on eBay without getting burned.

Buying

  • Valuation
    Before you do anything, go to eBay Advanced Search, check the ‘Sold’ checkbox and search for the camera / lens / whatever you want to purchase. The results will give you a good indication of the actual market value of the equipment you’re looking for, meaning you should be able to avoid paying over the odds for it.
  • Auction Versus Fixed Price
    Auctions are always better than fixed price sales. Items sold by auction are almost always less expensive to buy than fixed price ones. Sellers listing cameras for a fixed price usually list them for top-dollar. It’s true that most decent camera gear is now sold this way on eBay but if you’re not in a hurry, the thing you’re looking for will come up in an auction sale sooner or later. It pays (literally) to be patient.
  • Check Feedback
    Check the seller’s feedback carefully before buying. Less than 99.5% is a bad feedback score. If you’re splashing out on a pricy camera or lens, you want it to be in good condition. Some sellers are less than complete in their description of the item for sale. Past feedback from buyers should point to the honesty or otherwise of the seller. (There’s a separate tab for feedback as a seller and a buyer. The ‘Seller’ tab is the one you should read.)
  • Compacts and Lower-End Stuff
    Be especially careful when buying compact cameras or lower-end stuff: owners tend not to be keen photographers and often won’t realise their equipment has faults. Higher-end equipment tends to be owned by enthusiasts who know what their camera is supposed to do. They also, in my experience, tend to look after their hardware better than happy snappers.
  • Avoiding Bidding Wars
    Sometimes you will find that there’s another prospective buyer out there who wants the same item you’re bidding on. This can lead to a bidding war, where back-and-forth bids raise the price substantially. The way to avoid this is to use AuctionSniper.com. This website lets you decide how much you want to pay for your camera and it then places a bid in the last few seconds of the auction. They take 1% of the sale price as commission but it almost always saves you money in my experience.
  • Check It Over
    When your camera arrives in the post, open the parcel immediately and thoroughly check it over. Any faults that weren’t listed in the advert mean you need to contact the seller and ask for either a partial refund (If you want to keep it) or request a return. Always use eBay’s own messaging system when contacting sellers about faults. If you use personal email, eBay has no record of communication, which is important if you end up having to open a dispute.

Selling

  • Valuation Again
    As with buying, it’s a good idea to look at eBay’s Advanced Search > Sold option to find out what your gear is worth before you list it.
  • Fixed Price is Better than Aucion
    In my experience, you will always get more for your camera in a fixed price sale. Although some auctions raise good prices for equipment,they tend to be hit-or-miss compared to fixed price sales.
  • Long Listing
    The longer your item is listed for, the better your chances of raising the price you want. More potential buyers will view your camera over 30 days than 7 days.
  • Photographs
    The more photographs you can put in your ad, the better. People like to see what they’re getting for their money. I size my eBay photographs to 2000 pixels wide before submitting them. eBay will resize them but 2000 seems to be about right.
  • Cleanliness
    Clean your camera  / lens before photographing it. Little bits of dirt and dust are usually very apparent in big images and will put buyers off. A soft cloth and some compressed air make all the difference.
  • Completeness
    Be honest in your description. If there are any mechannical or cosmetic faults, list them in your ad. Failure to do so will most likely result in a complaint from the buyer. You really don’t want to get into a dispute or receive bad feedback.
  • Pack it Well
    Robust boxes are a must. I prefer double-walled ones. (I once had a film holder arrive broken because I sent it in a weak box.) Scrunched-up newspaper makes good packing. Don’t leave any space in the box for your precious gear to rattle around in.
  • Insure it
    Royal Mail’s Special Delivery gives you free cover up to £500, plus optional cover to £10,000 for an additional fee. You could also use Parcel2Go.com and get your parcel insured there, though their insurance is quite pricey. (They are good for sending stuff overseas though.)

…and that’s about it.

Rock Concerts

In 2013 I went to see Neil Young in Glasgow. He was touring his new album, Psychedelic Pill.

As experiences go, it was rather mixed: the music was great – great sound too. But we were in the standing part of the venue, which meant being so surrounded by other fans so packed in that you couldn’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction. There was also the (Completely hammered) guy directly in front of me wobbling about and shouting incomprehensible nonsense throughout the concert and raising his glass of beer over the heads of the people in front of him.

There are a few other bands I’d like to see while they’re still around but next time it’ll be in an all-seated venue like the Armadillo.

Nikon 35Ti Quick Review

Nikon 35Ti
Nikon 35Ti

This came in the post last week. I got it on eBay in my ongoing quest to find a decent pocket film camera. I had previously purchased a Ricoh GR1v but it seems a bit fragile, with lots of reports of the LCD breaking amongst other things, so I thought I’d try a 35Ti.

The little Nikon gets good reviews and while I’ve seen a couple for parts on eBay, from what I can make out it’s a lot more robust than the Ricoh.

Lens

It’s a 35mm f2.8. I haven’t had any film developed from it yet but sample images I’ve seen on the internet look sharp and contrasty. Minimum aperture is f22.

It has what looks like a metal cover that retracts when you power the camera up. The lens protrudes a centimetre or so from the body when in use. I prefer a 35mm to the 28mm of the Ricoh, which is just a bit too wide for my liking.

Metering

It uses Nikon’s Matrix system, which is reportedly quite good even in difficult lighting.  You can choose Program or Aperture Priority modes, which are selected from the power On/ Off switch on the top of the camera.

Exposure Compensation

You can vary exposure by plus or minus two stops. You have to hold down a small button and turn the control wheel on the top plate. It’s a bit fiddly compared to the Ricoh.

Flash

The flash is either always on, always off or auto. I never use flash so I can’t say how effective it is. Control is by two tiny buttons on the front left of the body. They’re not easy to operate.

Panorama

It has a switch for panorama mode. All this does is to move a blind into place which blanks of the top and bottom of the frame when you expose the image. Not hugely useful.

The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.
The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.

Construction

The body is made from titanium. It’s reasonably light. The control buttons and wheels look reasonably robust with the exception of the latch which keeps the back shut – this is a flimsy affair and looks like it would be easy to break.

Focusing

Autofocus is controlled by two sensors on the front of the camera, to the left of the viewfinder. The autofocus target in the viewfinder is a small oval. The focus motors are quite noisy.

You can also manually set the focus distance by pressing the ‘AF’ button and turning the control wheel. Again, this is quite fiddly.

Dials

The dials aren't hugely useful
The dials aren’t hugely useful

A small set of analogue dials on the top plate shows you focus distance, exposure compensation, aperture and something else I haven’t figured out yet. It’s not hugely user-friendly and is of limited use since the information displayed here can’t be seen when you’re looking through the viewfinder, which is when it matters. It looks nice though.

Viewfinder

Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks.
Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks. The red hue of the lines is due to the viewfinder illumination button being pressed.

The viewfinder has bright lines for framing. It also incorporates:

  • Parallax marks for close focusing
  • Shutter speed (Not displayed elsewhere on the camera)
  • Exposure compensation signifier
  • Autofocus target

There’s a button on top of the camera which illuminates the bright lines and other markings in low light.

Dimensions

118 x 66 x 36mm

Summary

It seems like a good pocket camera. Fairly robust, with a good lens and some control over exposure and focusing. It has a better reputation for reliability than the Ricoh GR1 cameras.

On the down side, it’s not as compact as my GR1 or Olympus XA. I can live with that in exchange for durability though.

Ricoh GR1v Quick Review

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I bought this camera on eBay a few days ago. It cost me £320. I used to have a GR1 but lost it so this is a replacement. The GR1 was a great little camera and I took a lot of photographs that I liked with it.

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Anyway, this one was advertised as being in excellent condition and the price looked good. I did a few quick checks on receiving it and mechanically it seemed okay so I put a roll of Tri-X into to it and quickly finished the film, which I sent off for development at Peak Imaging (An excellent company).

After inspecting this GR1v a little closer, I noticed that the eyepiece was loose. To cut a long story short, I ended up accidentally breaking it off in an attempt to fix it. (The plastic it’s made from is quite brittle.) I fixed it back in place with my mum’s hot glue gun but it’s a temporary repair. I’ll be on the lookout for a GR1 for spares on eBay and replace it soon as possible. For now the bodge looks reasonably secure though:

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The two main things I liked about my old GR1 were its pocketability and the scope for a fair amount of manual control. It also had a great lens. The 1v offers a bit more flexibility but not there’s not a huge difference between the two. The lens is the same except that it has improved coatings. One other thing is that the body is made of magnesium so it’s quite sturdy without being too heavy.

Lens

It’s a 28mm f2.8. Minimum aperture is I think 22. Very sharp and has good contrast. I’ll post some sample results below once I have them.

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Exposure Control

You have a choice of fully automatic or aperture priority. Selection is via a small wheel on the top right-hand side of the camera. The 1v offers exposure bracketing but I doubt I’ll ever use it. You can also override the auto ISO (DX) and set it manually here.

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Flash

There are three flash settings: always on, always off and auto. Flash range with 400 ASA negative film is about 20 feet.

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Focus Modes

There are three modes: full autofocus, infinity and snap (Fixed focus at about 6 feet. The preset distance in Snap mode can be altered but doing so is a bit fiddly. The main advantage of snap mode its that it makes for less lag if you want quicker response at the shutter button).

The Mode button on the top plate controls these options.

Exposure Compensation

You can increase or decrease exposure by two stops using a selector on the left side of the top plate. Very handy and easy to access like all the other controls.

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Other notable features:

  • The film is completely wound out of the canister and onto the take-up spool when you load it into the camera. This means that when you take a photograph, that frame is rewound back into the film canister so that if the camera back is accidentally opened, the exposure isn’t lost.
  • There is a ‘Time’ exposure mode which lets you take long exposures without draining the battery. It doesn’t say in the user guide what the maximum length of exposure is but it’s probably adequate for most scenarios.
  • Mine has a Date Back. The control panel for this is on the side of the camera. The digits in this display are tiny:

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Weaknesses

These cameras are quite old now and Ricoh won’t repair them any more. I don’t know if there are any independent specialists in the UK.

There are a few known problems with them as they age:

  • The eyepiece tends to come loose. It’s held on with only one small screw and is made of a softish plastic which seems to be quite brittle, meaning it can break off as mine did. You’ll need to take one off a defunct camera. I don’t think this part is available separately.
  • The frame lines in the viewfinder can fade or disappear over time.
  • The LCD information panel on top of the panel can malfunction so that the data isn’t displayed properly – chunks go missing.

Summary

I’d recommend this camera to anyone who fancies one, with the caveat that you check for the problems listed above before buying. It’s compact, has a great lens and gives you good control over the main functions.

Update

Having read more about the many known problems with this range of cameras, I can’t really recommend them. Whilst they’re great when they’re working, in my opinion they’re just too fragile to invest a lot of money (£3-500) in.

 

Canon T90 Quick Review

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I got this camera to replace my Leica M6. The Leica was worth too much to have lying around and I didn’t like taking it out and about for the same reason, so I sold it and got this.

At about the same time, I bought an A1 and an AE1 body. My reasoning was that I could choose the one of the three which suited me best.

As it turned out, this was the T90, because it works best for metering and shooting on manual. The A1 is mainly designed for automatic exposure and the AE1 doesn’t have as good a choice of metering modes as the T90.

T90 Metering: you can choose between spot, centre-weighted and average. I prefer spot.

Exposure modes: aperture priority, shutter priority, automatic and program (Not sure what the difference is between these last two).

It has a built-in auto winder. Speeds are 4.5 or 2 frames a second. I use it on single-shot though. Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/4000.

The shutter is notorious for jamming, resulting in an EEE error being displayed in the viewfinder. Apparently this tends to happen if the camera is left unused for long periods of time. Newton Ellis camera repairers (UK) say on their website that they can fix it – no indication what this costs though. I read somewhere that to prevent this problem when the camera is lying unused, you should fire the shutter on B and take the batteries out whilst the shutter is open. I haven’t tried this myself so can’t vouch for it.

The camera takes 4 AA batteries. Reports vary on how long these last but so far mine seems to be getting through them quite quickly.

In short, I really like the T90. I like to meter and make exposures manually and it’s ideal for that. You also get motor wind and it just feels nice in the hand.

FD lenses for it are cheap – much less expensive than comparable Nikon glass.

The only downside is the potential for the EEE shutter error but as I said you can get that repaired, or just buy another functioning body for less than £100.

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Viewfinder display (Not a great photograph I’m afraid).

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Metering & exposure mode controls.

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LCD Display

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Rear panel with On/Off switch & some buttons I never use

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A look inside the door on the right side of the T90. Buttons are for viewfinder information brightness; battery check; rewind and (I think) self-timer. I hardly ever use these.

Mistakes

I loaded my Hasselblad with some Ilford Delta 400. As it turned out, I didn’t load it very well. The winder became a little reluctant about a third of the way through the roll.

Then, when I was loading the film onto the spiral after shooting it, I couldn’t get it aligned correctly.

End result: three or four wrecked frames.

I subsequently Googled ‘Loading a 501CM correctly’ and discovered that I’d been missing out a crucial step: it appears that you have to slide the film leader under a lip at the top of the magazine, which I didn’t know.

Needless to say, the ruined frames were some of the better ones on this particular roll.

Ignorance was the cause of my errors: I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to load the film into the camera properly. I’d also forgotten how to load film onto a spiral correctly. The cost was a couple of lost photographs. I can always go back and re-take the photographs but they’ll not be quite the same. Some lessons are learned the hard way. It seems age is no protection.

The triangular aberration in the lower right of the frame was caused by incorrect loading onto the film spiral. It's happened before. I need to find a solution or revert to sending my films away for processing.
The triangular aberration in the lower right of the frame was caused by incorrect loading onto the film spiral.

Mud

img043 2000

I went out with the camera yesterday and took this photograph. It’s just down the road a bit. It was the first time in a while that I’ve had mud on my boots. Quite pleased with this composition. I see quite a few scenes when I’m out in the car that I would like to photograph but with the roads round here being country ones, there’s nowhere to stop.

Periodically I toy with the idea of getting a little motorbike specifically for camera outings but the thought of another system to feed and maintain puts me off, so for now it’s going to be locations within walking distance or places where I can stop the car.

Veganism

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Recently I gave up dairy and eggs. I’d been vegetarian for about 25 years and had been thinking about going vegan for a while. My older brother has been vegan for a couple of years and kept on telling me how great he felt, how he had lost weight.

As for me, so far so good. I don’t miss cheese, eggs or milk at all. In fact I don’t think I could go back to eating them. I don’t really have a sweet tooth any more so I didn’t really eat cakes, puddings or ice cream. One less problem.

I’ve lost about 7 kilos over the past couple of months and whilst I’ve been on a weight-loss diet, I think being vegan has made it easier to lose the weight.

I don’t know if I’d say I feel significantly healthier but I certainly don’t feel any worse. (I’ve also been avoiding beer, which has made a difference to how I look and feel though.)

Meat and dairy are primary sources of calcium and B12 for most people, so I’ll be taking supplements for those: a B complex pill for the B12 and soya milk for the calcium. Hopefully that’ll suffice, though I have read about vegans with brittle bones here and there. (Possibly scare stories, I’ll do some research and find out.)

Another aspect of veganism its that it’s easier on the planet: meat and dairy are resource-intensive and they account for a big chunk of CO2 emissions.

One of my main motives for going vegan though, is the fact that I like animals, or, more accurately I hate to think about animal cruelty. I don’t think it’s possible to produce meat, eggs or milk without the animals suffering in some way. It feels good to have a clear conscience about that side of things.

The only other thing I have to think about is leather: only one footwear manufacturer’s shoes fit my fat feet (Geox). Unfortunately, they use leather or suede in all their products, so I’ll be doing a search for an alternative when I run out of trainers (I went on a splurge before I decided to go vegan so I have a couple of years worth of them stocked up).

Anyway, veganism seems to be trendy these days. So much the better. I just hope those experimenting with it for whatever reasons will stick with it.

Gravure.

img036 1200

This is just up the road a bit. Taken a few days ago. I thought I had Tri-X in the camera but it turned out to be Delta 400. A nice film all the same.

I’d like to make a gravure print of this. Might happen, might not.

It would be nice to have a press but they’re big, heavy and expensive, bedsides which I don’t have too many negatives that are suited to gravure.

Maybe one day though…

Oliver Sacks

I’ve read most of Oliver Sacks’ books. I’m not a book critic so I won’t go into detail about why I like his writing but in short, he was humane, learned and interesting.

Yesterday I bought the last book he ever published, “Gratitude”. I got it on my Kindle. It was a great read, if short (It’s only 64 pages). In my opinion it’s one of his best.

I was disappointed to reach the end so soon, but the last lines of the book contained this insight, which was worth the cover price alone: “And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself.”

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Bottles

Over quota on this stuff too.
Over quota on this stuff.

I took this photo when I was thinking about doing bottle photography. I’ve since abandoned that particular idea because:
a) I no longer need the money, and
b) I dislike advertising in general and alcohol advertising in particular.
c) I didn’t have a proper studio.

Anyway, if something needs to be advertised in order to sell, I’m not sure I want to help. I’m also generally against consumerism and added to that, I think alcohol is a bad thing for a lot of people and therefore banning alcohol advertising would be a good thing in my opinion.

So whilst I enjoyed (Sort of) trying my hand at product photography, I’m not sorry it didn’t work out.

Leitz Summicron 35mm F2.0 Quick Owner Review

Since it’s late and I have nothing better to do, I thought I’d just post a quick review of my Summicron 35mm 2.0.

I bought this (Used) lens on eBay about a year ago. I think I paid over the odds for it, in hindsight. The (Cypriot) bloke I bought it from said it was unused but I looked up the date of manufacture a couple of days ago and it’s apparently 2000-2004. It seems to me unlikely that it was sitting in the box for more than 10 years…

Anyway, it’s in mint condition so who knows. I’ve only used it on three rolls of film (All Tri-x) but the results have been fantastic. It’s pin-sharp edge-to-edge; nice and contrasty and I don’t see any distortion, even when using it for portraits from nearest focus.

This is a solid lump of metal and glass. The only piece of plastic on it is the little focus grip, which is unfortunate but nothing’s perfect. It’s quite heavy for such a small lens. I think the barrel’s made from from brass, whereas the black version of this lens is made from aluminium. As I said, it’s quite a diminutive piece of engineering – the filter size is only 39mm. My old Canon 35mm 1.4 L was a monster by comparison.

I recently listed this lens on eBay (I was planning to sell it and my M6 body) but got hardly any interest. It may have been that I’d priced it too high – I’m not sure. Maybe there just isn’t much of a market for this particular model.

At any rate, I’m happy to hold onto it for now. It’s a joy to use and the results are fantastic.

Here are some sample pictures from it:

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Leica M6 Quick Owner Review

I got this camera about a year ago. I’d had one before and only put one roll of (Colour) film through it before selling it but this time I was determined to use it.

However, I found myself looking at the negs from the last roll of Tri-X I put through this one and feeling distinctly underwhelmed (Not that they were lacking in technical quality, just that they were a bit boring). This was only roll number three too. Not exactly heavy use.

So I listed it on eBay, reasoning that it was too expensive to have lying around. I had it on there for about a week before I had a change of heart. This was inspired by looking back at some photos from film numbers one and two, some of which I was very pleased with. Additionally, I had sent a print from it to a Japanese bloke and he had seen fit to frame it, which encouraged me.

It’s a very nice piece of engineering. It’s solid metal, glass and leather. The only plastic bit is the wind-on lever shroud. Everything about this camera is quality. The controls feel silky smooth. It has heft. The ergonomics are perfect. There’s nothing extraneous on it. It feels as though it’ll last a hundred years and it probably will, if looked after.

I took it out in the dusk tonight and shot some pictures of the housemartins wheeling over the garden. Not sure if I got anything but I just got back from posting the film away so I’ll know in a few days.

I hope to hold onto the M6 for the foreseeable future. It’s such a good tool, I really enjoy using it and it yields great results. (The lens I have for it is a Summicron 35mm F2.0, which is as nice a thing as the camera body but I’ll review that in another post.)

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Bread

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The bread: before baking.

I made some bread yesterday. It turned out fairly well. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first part of the build process, then hand-kneaded.

The recipe I used was this one:
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1162642/olive-oil-bread

One thing I forgot to do was add the olive oil but I’m not convinced it made a huge difference. I used Doves Farm organic flour since I try to avoid pesticides.

Anyway, I had a slice of it toasted for breakfast this morning and it was fine.

I’ll make some more tomorrow. This time I might add some herbs to the mix. Possibly a few olives too. I’d like to use unsalted black olives but I can’t find any at a reasonable price so I’ll go with what I have.

Making your own bread isn’t much cheaper than buying it from the supermarket, in fact it the cost is probably about the same once you factor in electricity for the oven.

Nonetheless, there’s something satisfying about making your own, so I think I’ll continue.

After baking.
After baking.

Feline Hyperthyroidism

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The cat hasn’t been well lately. Primarily, he has been losing weight. We couldn’t work out why so we took him to the vet. They took some blood and the vet said possibly a thyroid problem.

We got the results the next day and sure enough his thyroid looked to be out of whack. They took more blood which confirmed things.

Hyperthyroidism can be nasty. The symptoms in humans include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbance

The symptoms are probably much the same for cats I should imagine.

The treatment options we were offered for Gus were:

  1. Radio iodine – a permanent cure but requires a two-week stay at the vet’s, so we ruled it out as he gets stressed there.
  2. Surgery- again, a permanent cure but he’s old and we didn’t want to put him through it.
  3. Dietary restriction of iodine – expensive and not as good as the option we chose.
  4. Methimazole gel – this is what we settled on. You apply a small amount of the gel to the inside of the ear once a day. The drug suppresses production and release of thyroid hormones. Side-effects are rare apparently. Costs are £34 per  month for the gel, plus about £35 every three weeks for a blood test to check thyroid levels. All things considered, I think we went for the best option.

Hopefully Gus will get well again with no side-effects. Costs per annum will be about £1000, which is quite steep but he’s been a great cat and we don’t mind spending the money.

Edit: I’ve discovered that on methimazole, cats can be expected to live for only 3-5 years after starting treatment. They can also suffer liver damage if their hyperthyroidism is left untreated for too long. More here.

Safety

I don’t remember how I first came across them but IIHS’ small overlap videos caught my attention.

You probably aren’t aware of IIHS if you live in the UK but they’re the America equivalent of Euro NCAP.

In their small overlap crash tests, the IIHS send cars at 40mph into a solid barrier. The car impacts the barrier with only a small percentage of its frontal area.

This is quite a brutal test but it has a purpose: a quarter of all road deaths are attributable to this type of crash.

So I thought about my three star Euro NCAP 2003 Fiesta and the hairy road I have to drive on to get out of this village and decided a more modern car was in order. In the end I bought something newer with a five star NCAP rating.

Question is: was it money well-spent?

Road deaths per billion kilometres (621,371,192.237 miles) travelled in the UK were 3.6 in 2013. I travel about 10,000 miles per year in my car. This means I have approximately a  1 in 17260.31 chance of being killed on the road each year (In an average car).

If my five star Euro NCAP car halves my risk of being killed versus the 2013 average (Generous estimate), I now have a 0.0029% chance of being killed in a year, versus a 0.0058% chance before the new car.

The new car cost me a fair chunk of my savings. Was it worth it, solely on the safety criteria? I think not but in our new risk-averse world, safety sells.

 

The M8

To Edinburgh on the M8 today. It’s not my favourite road. The last time I drove along it there was a storm and my wee car was getting blown about quite a bit. Then there was the road works, the lorries, the spray, the surface water. All in all not a great trip.

Today was better but still not great. You have two choices on the M8: the slow lane, where you trundle along at 45-55 mph sandwiched between lorries; or the “Fast” lane, where traffic goes a little bit faster but you find yourself being harassed by people in a more of a hurry than I usually am.

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The M8 on a sunnier day.

My brother commutes on the M8 a few times a week (I used to do it myself) and it’s even less of a joy at rush hour. All it takes is a breakdown or a crash and your 90-minute commute becomes a three-hour headache.

A partial answer would be to add a third lane on each side.  There’s work in progress at the moment where it looks like this is being done for at least parts of the whole. However adding the required lanes for the entire length of it would cost a huge amount.

As an occasional user, I would be happy to pay a toll to fund the third lanes. Commuters might have a different view as it would obviously be more expensive for them but on the other hand they would have a better road. This is one of the main transport routes in Scotland and it’s completely inadequate in its current state. I wonder when it’ll get better?

Canon Pixma Pro-10

This printer actually belongs to my brother. I use it to print short-run brochures for him. I also do the occasional print of my photographs but lately I’ve been thinking that’s a little pointless as I have a good monitor and they look the same on the monitor as they do in print.

This is a nice piece of equipment. It prints up to A3+ (329 x 483mm) and I have actually used it to print some images on that size paper but the problem you then have is finding an off-the-shelf frame to fit. A3 is much more common and not that much smaller.

It uses 10 inks to give very nice colour and black and white prints. If I’m printing photographs, I use Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre silk, a beautiful baryta paper. It seems to work well with the Pro 10 and has the added benefit of smelling like a true silver-based photographic paper. I’m not sure how archival it is. To my eye, the prints are indistinguishable from a proper darkroom silver print. (Note: Ilford Imaging Europe Gmbh went out of business, so this paper will soon be out of stock everywhere.) Which reminds me that Pixma inks are the pigment type, meaning they should be quite durable prints.

A set of inks is currently about £80 from Amazon, down from about £110 when I first got this printer. The cartridges are pretty small so they don’t last very long. I couldn’t guess how many sheets of full-colour print you’d get out of a set but it’s fairly expensive to run. The print head has never gummed up despite the printer sitting idle for months at a time, which has been a bonus.

This printer has been superseded by the Pixma Pro-10S, which looks to be a similar spec but no doubt has detail improvements.

I tried using the Pixma wirelessly but the connection was very unreliable so I reverted to plugging it into a USB port and it now seems fairly happy. (The only available space for it was on the bedroom floor next to the door so I’ll no doubt be stubbing my toe on it at some point.)

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Anyway, if you’re in the market for a photo-quality A3+ printer with pigment inks, this is a great choice.

Hasselblad SWC903

I had seen pictures taken with an SWC here and there – notably Robert Adams’ pictures from shopping malls in the Midwest. Then I got a book of self-portraits by Lee Friedlander, many of which were taken using an SWC.

So I idly perused these cameras on eBay, thinking I’d quite like one to play around with. The 903 seemed like the sweet spot – not too old, not too expensive (Relatively speaking).

Then one came along in mint condition and I bought it. It was in Italy and had been part of a collection.

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It’s quite a light camera and fairly compact for a medium format one. The shutter is pretty quiet (Adams used to cough as he pressed the shutter release when taking his candid shots). There’s no mirror. The viewfinder is external – it fits on the hotshoe.

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So anyway, I now had this nice camera to play with. I soon discovered that I liked to take “Selfies” with it. I put three rolls of Tri-X though it and was quite happy with the results. Then I went back to look at my Friedlander self-portraits book and realised that he had been there before me, done it all, packed up and gone home.

And so, a couple of months after taking ownership of it, I somewhat reluctantly put the SWC back on eBay. I got my money back, more or less, and I have about 30 self-portraits from it I suppose.

I’m not sure what the moral of this tale is – maybe that you shouldn’t be impressed by your heroes into buying expensive camera gear. But I never seem to learn that particular lesson and I do like buying stuff…

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

To The Kelvingrove for a quick wander. It’s one of my favourite museums / art galleries. (The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh runs it a close second.)

Amongst my favourite paintings in the Kelvingrove are two Monets:

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Vétheuil, 1880 (Above) and, more importantly –

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Ventimiglia, 1884. I could stand for a long time in front of this one and sometimes do. It makes me happy that you can be alone with a masterpiece in a small city like Glasgow. (Mind you there was a small rabble of schoolchildren at the other end of the gallery today but they moved away after a bit.)

The gallery itself is a fine-looking building too:

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(I hope you’ll excuse the very terrible quality of this panorama. I hope to do better next time.)

Donald Trump

TrumpPhoto: Dominick Reuter

Had a long conversation on the phone last night with my brother about Trump. He reckons Trump doesn’t take himself too seriously and that a lot of his comments are intended to be funny. He also thinks that most of Trump’s outrageousness is designed to ensure he gets maximum press coverage. So far it seems to be working.

I’m not so sure that Trump is quite as benign as my brother thinks he is. When I look at his treatment of the people on his golf course in Aberdeenshire, he seems like a bit of a bully. Calling Mexican immigrants “Rapists” is quite an inflammatory thing to do. Then there’s this list of his Twitter insults. (He calls Neil Young, one of my rock heroes, a “Hypocrite“, which is plainly unforgivable.)

I’m not very well-informed about the Republican alternatives to Trump so I can’t say if he’s the least-worst candidate but it seems to me that he’d be a liability if he got the job.

Of the Democrats, I’d much rather Bernie Sanders got in there than Hillary but that seems unlikely given how far left he must seem to most Americans.

The election is on November the 8th. It’ll be interesting.

Soligor Digital Spot Sensor

I bought this spot meter some time ago to use with my Deardorff 8×10 camera.

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It was considerably less expensive than the more popular Pentax alternative. For all that, it works just fine.

The readout uses old-fashioned ‘Light-up’ LEDs rather than LCDs, which I rather like. (It reminds me of the first digital device I ever saw, a Texas Instruments LED watch my Aunt Sheila brought over from America in 1977.)

Anyway, this meter is simple to use: you point it at the target and press the trigger. The E.V. value is displayed and you take your shutter speed and aperture from a rotating scale on the lens. Easy peas.

I don’t use it much now that I’ve sold my Deardorff, so I may just put it back on eBay someday soon…

IMG_7750(It proved very difficult to get a decent picture of the LEDs in action.)

Weekend Papers

To the shop to get the FT Weekend and The Times.

I only read the Life & Arts section and the magazine in the FT. These incorporate a fair amount of photography. The quality of journalism in the FT Weekend is so good it makes The Times look pretty shabby. So much so, in fact, that I might stop buying it. (There’s also the fact that The Times is a Murdoch paper, which I find a little distasteful.)

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Storms

It’s been a long winter and still a bit to go yet. Storms, and there have been plenty, have recently been given names by the authorities. Today’s turmoil brought to you by Gertrude:

Hello

I decided to go completely retro and start an olde-worlde blog. So here it is. Before this was here, I had an NDXZ Studio setup displaying some of my photographs but hardly anyone ever visited it so never mind.

I intend to blog periodically about the little things that interest me – principally: photography; cats; cooking; books… whatever I’m doing or, more likely, thinking about.