Alnmouth

This blog is being neglected, not as a result of a conscious decision but simply through lack of time.  In part this is due to the ongoing heatwave in the UK; I don’t remember anything like it since 1976.  We travelled in the first part of the year but now I am locked into a cycle of golf, golf administration and putting many miles on motorcycles.  In short, I am making hay while the sun shines because at some point this must end.

This set of images is from a trip to the coast over the weekend.  It is perhaps indicative of a compulsive tendency that the coastal walk should skirt two golf courses, Alnmouth Village and the Foxton.  Perhaps I am in need of help 🙂

The Foxton golf course, Alnmouth

Alnmouth beach as the temperatures rise

On the beach Alnmouth beach

One man, two dogs, Alnmouth beach

Alnmouth beach

Northumberland’s fields of gold

Amble Harbour, lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

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Northumberland in mono …

… by now these images should show hints of springtime colour but Northumberland, for the most part, remains determinedly black and white.  To quote Joan Didion, we live entirely by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.  Put simply, March, and now the beginnings of April, do not fit my narrative line.  I have put 498 miles on the Yamaha since January 1st and squeezed five rounds of golf between the snow showers. Every mile and every fairway I have been clobbered up to the nines with multiple layers and thermals.  Enough is enough – let’s skip spring and go straight to summer:

Sandhoe in the snow

Snow and frozen puddle – on the road to Fawcett Hill

Afternoon light, Beaufront Woodhead

Up the hill to Beaufront Woodhead

Under March skies

The wrong line

St John’s, Whitfield

Misty morning, Beaufront Woodhead

Misty morning, Beaufront Woodhead

Hexham in heavy rain

Stublick Chimney

Towards Branchend

To emphasise the point, these last two images were taken today, 1st April. I was on the way to Allendale Golf Club to take part in the first competition of the year – it soon became evident this was not a practical proposition. I turned around 😦

Cabin crazy

This is the sort of thing that I find interesting, particularly when I have been cooped up for too long.  Anyone who uses a Fuji X camera appreciates the remarkable jpegs it is capable of producing straight out of the box.  However, as a ‘serious’ photographer, I feel obliged to shoot in RAW to provide maximum scope for adjustment – change to exposure, recovery of highlights, adjusting shadows etc etc, the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, I spend happy hours post-processing an image to the point where sometimes it is almost as good as the film simulated jpeg produced by the camera.

There are other options – Photoshop Camera RAW camera calibration contains all of the film simulation profiles which, at the click of a mouse, supposedly provide immediate conversion to the preferred profile – except that, even to this amateur eye, they don’t look as good as those produced in camera.

Enter Fujifilm’s X RAW Studio – I don’t know if this approach is unique to Fuji but it seems a very neat solution. This isn’t just another RAW processor, instead it enables access to the image processor inside the camera.  Consequently, what you get is exactly what Fuji intended; not only that, it is non-destructive so you can generate as many film simulated versions as you like, all from the same original RAW file i.e. if you are shooting RAW + a simulated JPEG, you are not constrained to one version of the JPEG.  There are detailed explanations of the set up and conversion process on Youtube – this is a good one.

If my ramblings are clear as mud, perhaps this will make more sense – this is the same image – shot in RAW and Acros + Red filter JPEG and these are four versions of the same image with four different Fuji film simulations:

  • Top left is Vivid/Velvia with strong grain;
  • Top right is Acros+Yellow filter with strong grain;
  • Bottom left is Sepia with no grain;
  • Bottom right is Classic Chrome with no grain.

Not only are these none destructive edits to the original RAW file, the subsequent JPEG edits are also preserved in *.FP1 files so they can be reloaded and amended further.  All of this done with the convenience of a large monitor, rather than peering into the camera’s LCD.

How often I will use X Raw Studio I am unsure, given that I am already post-processing with Photoshop CC, ON1 2018 RAW and occasionally ON1 B&W (this remains a very effective mono engine even though replaced many releases ago).  Nevertheless, it is good to know the option exists.

Anyway enough of that.  The reason I am going cabin crazy is down to the endless hours in front of this screen.  The Siberian snow has now been replaced by a dull wet slushy thaw and I can find no enthusiasm to go outside – unlike the previous few days.  This has been the weather in and around Hexham:

Our under-used postbox – we haven’t seen a post person in days.

Egger from Oakwood – on a smartphone – too weighed down with shopping, even for the diminutive X100F.

The view from Hexham Bridge using a smartphone – as above.

The road down to Hexham

A flock of sheep ane behind, a Flock of Seagulls

Ouseburn, Acros and …

… other things.

Like Seaton Sluice, Ouseburn doesn’t sound too attractive, something underfoot which should be avoided.  It turns out that names can be deceptive, Ouseburn is quite pleasant despite its mucky industrial past and living in the shadows of three viaducts which span the valley.

A brief period of snow after Christmas has been followed by leaden skies and persistent rain, not the best start to the year.  Après la neige, le déluge.  Nevertheless, on Wednesday afternoon we got lucky and a walk from the Side in Newcastle to the Ouseburn Valley was lit by a bright winter sun, splintered by the Tyne Bridge.

In the dull days before this Newcastle outing, I had spent many happy hours fiddling with the settings on the Fuji X100F. I am mostly a RAW man but I remain addicted to the jpeg film simulations available on Fuji X cameras and so shoot both.  When it comes to colour, I am mostly convinced by the argument that RAW records all of the data from the sensor and allows you to decide exactly how the final image should look.  However, when it comes to black and white I am not at all sure I can get anywhere near the simulations that Fuji provide in camera.  This is particularly true of ACROS as explained at fujifilm-x.com:

Other manufacturers are also implementing the idea of creating “graininess” to enhance image texture. FUJIFILM is not the only brand doing this. You can find “Grain” filter in readily available photo processing software, and many monochrome photographers add “grain” to achieve the monochrome film like effect.

Most of them try to achieve this by adding “grain-like element” to the original image. They simply add another layer of “dotted graininess” on top without changing the original photo composition. So something becomes unnatural in the process.  “ACROS” is different.

We developed it from the core of the image file to achieve a very complex and natural like grain expression. Optimal and different grain expressions are added to highlight and low light areas. You would not find unnatural dotted graininess in the highlight areas just like how the monochrome film behaves. In the low light area, you would see the graininess just as it would appear with monochrome film. There is undulating grain within the picture. And it adds depth like no other.

ACROS also changes the output of graininess depending on the sensitivity setting. As the sensitivity gets higher, stronger grain effect becomes visible, just like film.

We also think that it is very unlikely that any RAW conversion software would achieve what “ACROS” achieves. We all know that there are excellent RAW conversion software in the market, but we also believe that the magic of X-Processor Pro is not so easily solved.

These are the results with only minor tweaks in Photoshop – simulation is ACROS with a yellow filter, noise reduction at -1, highlight tone at -2 and sharpness at +2:

Newcastle Quayside from Lombard Street

The Newcastle Arms, directly beneath the Tyne Bridge

Newcastle Quayside – Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co. Ltd. All that remains is the DFDS ferry to Amsterdam.

The Toffee Factory and the Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company – Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle.

Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Company – Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle.

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do – Mother Teresa.

Boats at the mouth of the Ouseburn.

Mustang ‘S’ally, American Diner, Ouseburn.

The Ship Inn, Ouseburn.

Of course, I see what I want to see and I am not sure the subtleties of ACROS grain are particularly evident in these images.  So, to finish off, here is a portrait of my middle son, Matt, being subjected to the ACROS treatment.

Happy New Year, one and all.

Matt being given the Fujifilm ACROS treatment.

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 ...