At last …

… credit where it is due, Nikon have finally done the decent thing.  Earlier this week I took delivery of a brand new Nikon D610 to replace the three year old, and seriously flawed, D600.  A few days later the invoice arrived – total cost £0.  I am of course delighted and the last few nights I have been re-studying the many-paged manual in earnest.  Not that there is any difference between the two models (at least none that I can remember) but I had grown seriously disaffected with the camera and the brand.  Sitting on the shelf, the subtleties of its dials, buttons and menus are soon forgotten.

It remains to be seen just how much I will use it.  The Fuji X100s is still my weapon of choice not just because it is small, easy to carry about, beautifully retro and produces such wonderful results but because it is so intuitive – yes, it too comes with a many-paged manual but I rarely look at it.  The dials are entirely consistent with a ‘proper’ camera and the menus easy to navigate, which prompts the question, will I be able to resist the rumoured 24MP X100F.

Enough of the hardware – the skies above Northumberland have been putting on a show this last week and here they are.  The stills are captured with the Fuji and the videos with the even more diminutive GoPro Hero 4.  The first two are time lapse recordings across the neighbouring fields and the last, a ten minute edited drive in the Elise from Hexham to Warkworth Golf Club (across country via Corbridge for fuel, Fenwick, Whalton and Morpeth):

Hexham sunset ... Hexham by night ... Hexham skyline...

Old England

There is a sameness creeping into my imagery.  Old England has taken on the role of New England these last few weeks, the countryside turning a super-saturated Fuji Velvia riot of golds, browns and reds.  I carry my Fuji X100s with me almost everywhere I go, hence the opportunity to snap, hence the sameness – however clichéd, however familiar, the temptation to press the shutter one more time is irresistible.

Ken Rockwell describes the X100s as the “The World’s 2nd Best Digital Camera”, the best being its successor, the X100T.

I have said it before – the X100s is like a jewel, a retro work of art.  By comparison my Nikon D600 is a house brick – a perfectly capable house brick (apart from the oil spots on the sensor 😠 ) but not something you feel inclined to carry around in a golf bag, for instance – a full set of clubs in a carry bag is quite heavy enough.

This is what Northumberland has looked like these last few weeks through the eyes of a Fujinon 23mm F2 fixed focal length lens:

Beech leaves...

Autumnal waters ...
Autumn ... Talk about ... Autumn leaves ... Along the lanes ... Looking north west ...

And so to the crux of this post – my ongoing communications with Nikon Support:

Many thanks for your prompt reply. Unfortunately I am once again disappointed by Nikon’s response to this ongoing problem. At the heart of the issue is the fact that the Nikon D600 is a fundamentally flawed piece of equipment which should have been the subject of a replacement exercise from the outset. To be told, on the occasion of its third return for repair, that I might or might not be subject to a charge is unacceptable. There is inconvenience, time spent packing/arranging shipment and loss of use which seems to be ignored by Nikon, quite apart from the blemished images the camera produces.

In addition, it should be noted that I was explicitly told that my camera would form part of the D610 replacement programme by your colleague  – to receive the same camera back, which remains flawed, merely adds insult to injury.

I have been a Nikon customer for many years and have an extensive system supporting the D600. Unless you can guarantee replacement, I intend selling and replacing this system in its entirety – there are simply too many excellent, competitive cameras available on the market to remain with a manufacturer who has so little regard for its existing customer base.  I would be grateful if you could escalate as necessary.

I will let the world know how they respond 😉

Monumento

For a small town, Comillas has much to interest without sinking to the depths of themed parks, experiences or visitor centres.  Most of the information boards are solely in Spanish which is also fine by me – I can admire things for what they appear to be while idly scratching at my many mosquito bites.  I don’t do in-depth analysis or consideration of other cultures, I struggle to keep up with my own. Suffice to say that Comillas is a quite spectacular place with some very fine old architecture and not too much of the modern, at least not at its centre.

On the headland above the bay stands Antonio López y López, the first marquis of Comillas; condemned, like Nelson, to spend eternity atop a stone column – he has the better view. Ubicación, ubicación, ubicación.

These variations on a theme were taken at different times across the same day – the cool winds above the bay relieve the itching 😉

Monumento ...Monumento ...Monumento ...

Pushed …

I have time on my hands, life has slowed to the pace of a snail.  I am not good at doing nothing.  Consequently my blog output has suddenly risen and playing with the camera occupies a large part of the day.  This is not necessarily a bad thing – life back home is always too full.  Here in Comillas the opposite applies.

Days start too slowly – we skip mornings, arrive ready prepared for siesta time and finally hit the streets early evening.  I could not do this for long, it feels like a life wasted but for a short time it is fine.

I avoid using flash – it has limited range, it is intrusive, it does nothing for facial features and the strong shadows are unnatural.  As the light fails, the answer is to push the X100s to ISO 6400, change the white balance to incandescent, switch the film simulation to Provia Standard and then fade into the background.

Once captured, the images are cropped and the levels adjusted in Photoshop CC. ON1 is used to convert to black and white with a basic green filter, a minor vignette applied and a border added.  Then a final dabble with sharpening, levels, brightness and contrast in Photoshop finishes the job.  And, the real trick in all this? – remembering to reset the camera to its standard settings.

On the Run, Phoning HomeThe Fountain and Church Door were taken out and about on the streets of Comillas last night.  It keeps me amused and out of trouble 🙂

On the run ...Evening in the square ...The fountain ...Iglesia de S. Cristobal ...

 

Narrow-gauge

The narrow-gauge FEVE railway meanders across Spain’s northern coast between Bilbao in the Basque Country and Ferrol in Galicia.  Narrow-gauge it may be but this is no museum piece, the rolling stock is modern and clean and the trains run to time.

Given my background, it was inevitable that we should find ourselves on the regular FEVE service between Cabezón de la Sal and Santander within just a few days of our arrival.  The single track line carves a neat track through a rural landscape, crossing open fields, hugging shady river banks and diving into rough-hewn tunnels.  Heading east, Torrelavega marks the boundary between the rural and the suburban, open country makes way for a semi-industrialised landscape as the line approaches Santander.

The line heading west from Cabezón de la Sal is even more spectacular but the services are less frequent and the day travel options more limited.  Simon Calder explains the attraction in this extract from the Independent:

Here’s the issue: railway engineers in mountainous areas like to stick to river valleys. In northern Spain, these tend to run north-south. But the line sets itself the challenge of running east-west to link some of the biggest cities (plus countless tiny villages) in northern Spain. You are reminded of this with the occasional squeal of steel on steel as the train performs twists and turns that would be implausible even on a child’s train set.

Narrow guage ...

Walking around Santander, I travel light – as ever I am carrying the Fuji X100s on a Black Rapid strap. It is unobtrusive and swings easily in and out of use. The downside is that this old-style, everyday workhorse is beginning to look a little rough around the edges. However, it is not just it’s retro looks and convenient size that appeal. Like many other Fuji enthusiasts I am convinced that the results you get from this little gem are more analogue film-like than any other camera I have used. This is a biased and entirely subjective opinion but this article adds some substance to the view – Why the Fuji Series Images are so film likeDan Bailey.

Of course, by the time my JPEGS have been processed in Photoshop and ON1, any similarity to the original image is entirely coincidental 😉  A brief walk around Santander:

On the waterfront ...

Jessica Ennis

Afternoon shadows ... Street scene ...

The priest ...

The waterfront ...

The call of the wild …

The roads are still salty, on most days they are uncomfortably wet and the air is still piercingly cold but, there is no resisting the call of the wild and the open road.  Against better judgement I ventured out on two wheels on several occasions in March and was never disappointed.  The still image is from a ride out to Carrshield and the video from a late afternoon ride to Allendale Golf Club – Home of Golf in the Wild.  This is now accessible from the club’s website just in case visitors have difficulty finding the course – follow satnavs to NE47 9DH and you will be taken to High Studdon Farm.

Different high road ...

“The course is tucked away in the hills of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and must therefore be discreet. The road south out of Allendale winds down the Allen Valley along the B6295 towards Allenheads, following the course of the East Allen River. A mile or so south of the town, as the road breaks free from overhanging trees, a sharp left turn is signposted to the club. The track is rutted, rabbits run for cover and depending on the time of year, will wear a layer of rich agricultural muck. The track climbs 167 feet in a third of a mile which is more or less the difference between the high and low ground on the course; it helps to be fit. The clubhouse sits at 1077 feet above sea level on the west facing side of Green Hill which peaks at 1374 feet – it is not entirely inaccurate to say the course is situated on the side of a mountain. A wind turbine installed in 2010 marks your arrival. On a plain 9-metre tower with dark coloured blades, it blends into the agricultural landscape in a manner reminiscent of the iconic multi-bladed windpumps of America’s central plains.”

Accidental selfie ...

An accidental selfie, captured by the GoPro – I am wearing a backpack, just in case you were wondering 🙂

Victorian Market

These are more images from our recent trip to Inverness. They were taken at the Victorian Market: indoors, on a grey day, in artificial light at ISO 1600, they are silky smooth. I remain astonished by the quality of images produced by the Fuji X100s under less than ideal conditions.  Perversely they were shot in Fujifilm Velvia mode and then converted using OnOne’s B&W simulation (20th Century Classic Silver/City Streets). I sound like a Fuji salesman but this is one magical little device – expensive but they are coming down in price (damn) and are now available in black (double-damn) 😦

Victorian Market Victorian Market Victorian Market Victorian Market Victorian Market Victorian Market

(click on the images to enlarge)