Friday, 19 December 2008
Dusk flight & December landfall at the outer reaches - we all head for shore, airborne or sea bound inside a scarfs caress of gathering night storm. And what an evolution of storm. Ripples of thunder bounding across black open seas like lost cannonballs & light shows silhouetting the latest naked supermodels drenched in vast swathes of Torridon monoliths, squalls of hail running mad tempo on the bivvy skin & dousing fires. Sometimes, you are morally obliged, having made it through Lith Sgeir yet again, to bound out of your shelter & dance like a madman in the middle of it all.
Todays shipping forecast for the 19th is now reading: Wind, Southwesterly, cyclonic gale 8 to storm 10, increasing storm force 11 imminent, veering westerly 7 or 8 later. Sea State high or very high. Squalls. Visibility moderate to poor. Everything is tied down & everything that isn't, is flying. The vibrating tent fabric, the bothy cornerstones, running reeks & high desolate ridges should be entertaining over Christmas...

Anyhoos, in a week or three I should be able to scrape enough sheckles together & find a Ricoh GX100 & GRD replacement. I may have to sell the dug, my soul & a carbon paddle to do so, but working with the wee stand-in Ixus has swiftly become like having to eat a dry cracker when you really need a full meal. There are now print demands coming in from as far away as Norway & Spain. Well, although Ricoh recently replaced the GRD & the GX100 with the release of the GRD II & GX200, increasing RAW writing capabilities & adding some mega-pixies, it seems a pointless exercise of purchase & replacement, in light of the GX300 rumoured to be arriving in November 2009. They should have gone for a superior sensor in the 200, but Ricoh are almost constricted by giants, market flooding the consumer compact arena.

Lumix DMC-LX3

What is the point of these endless numerous mid range boxes & their strange boasts? There is no point in having an obscene amount of mega-pixies if the CCD & optical range are both out of balance with the cameras ability to process the information it receives - it's a total myth that more mega-pixies create better shots in that respect. Why manufacturers add unusable 3200 ISO ability in attempt to market consumer units is also laughable. The Ricoh GRD & GX series avoid such whimsical glitter & are, to my mind, superior niche items, especially in the field of black & white production, & especially within the low ISO range. I've opted for the Lumix DMC-LX3 this time round, which still retains full manual creative control over post-processing, f-stops, aperture etc & sports a 1/1.63-inch CCD shotgun to 60mm optics at f/2.0 & f/2.8 respectively. It should give the GX200 a serious run for its money. My dreams of maybe one day even holding a Leica M8 will have to remain in the realm of dreams.

Woodland light by Wouter Brandsma - © 2008.
One of my favourite examples of low ISO light & contrast play with the Ricoh.

So often, compacts below the high end semi-pro range build lazy photographers, where everything is pre arranged, analysed & evaluated for them. The flip-side is that the more adventurous, are left fighting an automated & infuriating array of presets. I much prefer a box that can be fully manually overridden, putting the camera back in the hands of individual perception, rather than the box continually arguing with you about how it knows best. Just as using a G-style paddle will introduce you to it's intricacies & characteristics, free technique allows each shot to become a honed process of relationship communicated between the individual, the equipment & the panorama/subject ahead. If you shoot like you're using film in an old Rollieflex, you develop technique & an intuitive response to lighting conditions. Underexpose to retain white light, overexpose to retain shadow information. Lay down in the street, climb a lampost. Roll with a traffic cone on yer heid.
Most of all play. Become a subset force majeure.
Couple such explorative results with some minor adjustment & editing in applications such as Lightroom, SP Developer Studio or S.Efex Pro in the Digital Darkroom as I call it, & you can realize some wonderful results.
Seriously, with your technique down, who needs to shoot outside of the ISO 64 -180 range?

Riding the crazy train through Lith Sgeir & Más Sgeir - f3.8, 1/133 sec, ISO 64, +0.3 EV

Above is a cropped pan of the kayaking channel through Lith Sgeir & Mas Sgeir toward leeward shelter. 4m-6m breaking swell & a wee bit stormy. It was another obligatory, skin-of-the-teeth moment in the slim black knife all told. Black gloved, sealed into a tuiliq with a lanolin greased face, continual immersion is not an issue. Getting dumped into downhill racer troughs where submerged boulders groan & having enough power to outrun the insane rip & backwash in a gathering force 9, is.

I had the advantage of a helper on the cliff to set the camera running multiple shots per second on a tripod bolted to the floor with pitons. Before attempting the crazy train I had set the camera ISO, aperture & target frame etc, & all that was left was for my button pusher to set it rolling as I rounded the channel, & stand back. The rest was a case of processing, balancing & knitting the image pan at home once I had thawed out. Normally I would leave the camera on repeat shots myself & play in the pelagic fireworks alone; but there's no short way into Lith Sgeir in such seas.

≈•Cast yourself against this black thing. Thrown raving at the sky•≈

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 15:47:00 |

5 Retorts:

At 18 December 2008 at 21:52, Blogger eurion

Oh please return my ring of focus and aperture and let the only dial be the shutter.
And let +/- be the only override.
This would be progress in retro.


At 18 December 2008 at 21:53, Blogger eurion

I almost forgot- and let the camera feel like one


At 19 December 2008 at 13:36, Blogger Borrasca

is the best option in compact cameras.
The Canon G10 is the other good option.

Congratulatios, for the camera and of course, for your photos.


At 21 December 2008 at 16:54, Blogger Wouter Brandsma

At base ISO most serious compact cameras produce amazing photographs in the hand of a capable photographer.

Cameras like the Panasonic LX3, Canon G10 and the Ricoh GRD2 and GX200 are fun to use and great to play with.

Looking forward to your results from the LX3 and the experiences.

Wouter Brandsma


At 25 January 2009 at 23:46, Blogger •≈ Sgian Dubh

Apologies for the late reply. I'm often away kayaking, thus no watching the screen.

Wouter: The Lumix arrives Monday. Wooohooo! I always check into your latest posts & will continue to always do so. :o)

Borrasca: I agree the Lumix is a serious contender in the semi-pro line up & will set standards hard to match. I hate the G10. It is good across the range & that is what Canon are good at - being non specific. They produce good equipment that has no discernible talent or quirk. The G9 is the same. Technically it is alive, but has no soul.

Eurion: Being Welsh is no excuse. :o)