The restless come down

"When I'm at home, I long to be away on my travels with my camera
and when I'm away, I sometimes long to be at home"

I'm just home from a month traveling in South America. It is something I do annually and I dearly love returning to Patagonia and Bolivia. Like most of the landscapes I have become acquainted with over the years, they have become a home from home for me. I dearly love them and would be very sad indeed if I could not return as frequently as I do. I fully appreciate that as part of my job, it is a real luxury to go to Patagonia and Bolivia each year, when these destinations are perhaps at most a once in a life-time experience for many.

Cono de Arita, Argentina Altiplano, Image © Bruce Percy 2015

Cono de Arita, Argentina Altiplano, Image © Bruce Percy 2015

I've been back home for a week, and I've found it very hard re-adjusting. Years ago, the adjustment was just as hard, but in a different way. Traveling abroad would be a real luxury for me - a once a year endeavour and escape from my (at the time) IT job. I fully see and understand the parallels for my dear clients - many of whom have become good friends. I understand their excitement on coming with me to Patagonia or Bolivia.

But for me now, the re-adjustment is different. I do so much traveling, and spend so much time with groups of enthusiastic photographers, where the chat and banter are so much fun, that it's often very hard to come back to my home town and settle back in to a routine. I noticed last year for instance, that after being home for two weeks, I was hatching plans to buy a plane ticket and head off..... I'm glad to say that I resisted the temptation and went 'cold-turkey' for a month.

It was only then that I really started to enjoy being home. The same bed each nice (bliss!), the same kettle, I didn't have to pay a fortune each time I wanted a cup of tea or coffee. I had full privacy, and the surprising thing of all - I delighted in the familiar.

It took me a while to realise, that due to the amount of traveling I was doing, I was becoming 'institutionalised'. The travel, the landscapes, the places I love to go to, were becoming more of a home for me, than my real home was.

So this year, I opted to go 'cold-turkey' for three months. To stay at home and just enjoy the familiarity of my surroundings. Well, I'm one week in so far, and I'm already feeling that sense of restlessness that seems to pervade my thoughts. But I know I'll get through it, and before I know it, I will be psychologically ramping up for going away on my travels during the autumn and winter.

It's a schizophrenic life I lead, and I think it's not dissimilar to many others who have a love of landscape photography.

The thing is, I recognise that I'm not alone. Most of us who have a passion for the landscape, have a desire to break free from the 9-5 job, or to be more connected with the world in some way.

Watching the clouds roll over a landscape, or watching the tide wash against a coastline is as primeval an instinct as staring at a fire is. It seems to be something deep within some of us, that we simply just want to be as connected with the world and our environment as we can be.

It's a restlessness of some kind, and I think it's just the way it is: we can't control the urge or the impulse, and because we can't, we never really know exactly where we want to be.

Perhaps it's just a yearning for a sense of balance that we're really searching for? 

We are inquisitive by nature: I would put it to you that all landscape photographers are seeking to know more, to feel more connected, to feel more alive, and one way to do that, is to go searching, traveling, seeking.

With that inquisitiveness has to come a sense of restlessness. And with that restlessness comes a need for some kind of balance between routine and adventure.

My Philosophy on Equipment Failure

I’m in Iceland right now. Everyone is saying the weather has been very challenging since December. With one storm front after another sweeping the country every four days or so, it’s been quite an adventure to be here.

And today they say we have the worst storm this winter (see weather chart below). The cabin I am in is shaking with the wind :-)

Big storm today (Saturday 14th March) means we're staying indoors :-)

Big storm today (Saturday 14th March) means we're staying indoors :-)

I’ve had a few equipment failures in the past two weeks during my travels. One of my Mamiya 7 cameras was pushed over by the extreme winds and the outer casing of the body literally shattered in two. It’s now being held together by some duct tape which I always bring with me. I’m convinced it still works, but it’s been put away in my bag while I use a spare body that I always carry with me now.

Years ago, when I was a hobbyist, I had one of everything: one camera, one tripod, one light meter. I could keep these items for many years and see little wear and tear on them. But over the past few years of being out on location more often than not, I’ve been finding that I seem to be going through tripods every few years, Lee filters every six months and sometimes Sekonic light meters every year or so too - my second failure in equipment this week has been a Sekonic 758DR light meter which had been working perfectly fine all the duration of the trip but didn’t come on one morning after being stowed away in a cold camera bag for a few days.

I’ve been thinking about how my backup strategy is just getting more involved. I now travel with two of everything and I think I will be changing my plan to travel with three copies of the vital things in future (camera bodies and light meters and ball-heads).

I have two sets of clothing: two sets of gloves, two sets of waterproof shells, several hats (I  keep losing them), and now I will be travelling with at least two camera bodies, and at least two light meters.

I love to look after my equipment and I like to have nice copies of everything I own. Mostly it’s because I treasure my equipment, but there is also a more practical side to this: if I have equipment that is well looked after, it will be less likely to fail. So although I use my equipment a lot, and it is used in sometimes very challenging weather conditions, I don’t abuse it either. 

I’m not sore or sorry for the failures in the equipment I’ve brought with me. I’m quite philosophical about it, as the way I see it, the equipment you buy is meant to be used. It's not meant to be coveted or kept out of the rain or snow. It's there to be used to photograph the things you see and experience. If you use your equipment a lot in challenging situations, failures from time to time are going to happen and they should be expected also.

Photography is about getting out there. If we restrict ourselves to being fair-weather shooters only, then our photography will be restricted to a very small avenue of possibilities also.

Equipment is there to be used. It it gets used a lot, it will get damaged and fail from time to time.  I have accepted that this is part of the price for getting out there and making images.

And image making is after all, what we are here for :-)

Bracing Myself

In just a few days time, I will be thrown back into Winter. Each February I spend two weeks above the arctic circle in Norway's Lofoten islands, and each year it's just like a winter reset.

Made after several days of looking at this scene. Sometimes I like to let a view sit in my mind's eye for a while before I know how I think I want to capture it.

Made after several days of looking at this scene. Sometimes I like to let a view sit in my mind's eye for a while before I know how I think I want to capture it.

It can be a bit of a jolt to the system, to have to go to Norway at the end of January. While winter is starting to show signs of loosening it's grip here in Scotland ( the days are gradually getting longer), it's not the case in the Lofoten islands up above the arctic circle.

One of the ways I cope with this, is to review my images from Lofoten. It helps me get my 'head into gear' for the trip ahead. My mind is filled with mountains and that beautiful northern light for days before I arrive.

I think there always has to be a 'settling in' period when we venture out with the camera. Go somewhere so different from where we've come from, and it can me physiologically challenging.

But today I've been thinking about the image at the top of this post. It is the view from my friend Camilla's spare bedroom. Camilla lives in the beautiful town of Reine, and her home is situated on the very edge of Reinefjorden. It's one of the most amazing views in the world as far as I am concerned, and it's a place where you can constantly study the shifts in light and season.

Making the photo you see here was hard. Simply because each time I looked out my bedroom window, the view seemed to suggest that although there was something beautiful happening every second, trying to capture the essence of it, would be a challenge.

I think some locations can be quite intimidating on that front. They're just so enigmatic, that the act of trying to start, to begin to make photographs of it, can be quite daunting. Start on the wrong foot and you might just screw up. Take the wrong approach and you might find you feel dissatisfied with what you create: often I feel there has to be a right time and it's best to just leave things until it feels right. So I left my camera in the bag for a few days.

The pressure was gone.

I just enjoyed what I was seeing and this in turn allowed my mind to become immersed in Lofoten. I found my mind and my dreams of what I was seeing began to sink into my emotions over the coming days until it eventually became second-nature. 

I started to understand, to anticipate what the winter storms were going to do to the view I had in front of me. I knew by now where the snow showers were going to go and what parts of the mountain scenery would be obscured and it was at that moment that I took up my camera and started to make photographs.

Rusty

A few days ago I posted that I was currently in Lalibela, Ethiopia for a special orthodox christian celebration. It’s been wonderful to come back and experience the place for a second time and I feel I’ve done much better this time in portraying the soul of some of the inhabitants of this town. There are a few images etched into my mind that really stand out: I have a few of local priests and of some of the beautiful children here, but maybe the ones that really stand out in my mind are those of the Ethiopian woman wearing traditional head dress.

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I’ve been thinking today about why it might be the case that I’ve done better this time. Especially since I feel my efforts haven’t justified the images that are imprinted on my mind so far. Four years ago when I came here, I really worked the place as much as I could and felt I didn’t really ‘get’ the place. This time round it’s the opposite way - I feel I’ve put very little effort in and yet I think I’ve captured quite a few memorable portraits in the space of two days.

How can this be? I’m really not sure, and currently it’s just a hunch as I haven’t seen the final processed films yet. But if I have learned one thing over the years of shooting film, it is that when I manage to make a memorable photograph: I tend to know it at the time of capture. The good ones just seem to be like that - they leave an indelible impression on your mind and emotions and I’ve found that they stay there, powerfully, right up until I get the processed films back from the lab and the confirmation that what I felt and saw at the time really did work.

Of course, it would be very easy to say that the reason why everything has gone so well this time is due to my improvement as a photographer. But I don’t think so. In fact I’m feeling rather rusty when it comes to photographing people, particularly in developing world countries. 

First there is the issue of feeling that I’m exploiting my subjects, even though I know I’m not like that and would never take advantage. But being surrounded by poverty tends to make you stare at yourself a bit more than usual and ask yourself some awkward questions.

As I stated a few days ago, I seem to have become really shy in front of people I really want to photograph. My guide helped a lot, but he couldn’t read my mind and he didn’t know when I was secretly longing to photograph someone. Inside, I’m crumbing to pieces at the thought of approaching them. God, I really am rusty as a people photographer.

But perhaps there’s something in this unfocussed approach to my trip that’s working for me, rather than against me. My feeling of helplessness is in some ways, making me go more with the flow. I’ve more or less decided that it’s just great to be here, and any good photos are an added bonus. I can’t help but wonder if serendipity is paying me a visit and offering me more than if I’d tried to orchestrate it myslef. I really don’t know.

As well as myself changing in the past four years, so too has Lalibela. Coming back has allowed me to compare, but it’s also forced me to notice the differences between what I was looking for back then, and what I’m looking for now. Years ago I would be very happy if I managed to get someone’s attention to work with me on a photograph, whereas now I feel I’m looking for more of a connection in the way they smile at me or how they talk to my camera.

And Lalibela is a bit more confident these days. Everyone seems to have mobile phones - Chinese fake Samsung Galaxy phones, and the town is a little more touristy than it was back in 2010. Tuk Tuk’s are everywhere - those strange little car inventions from India arrived only six months ago and I can already see the streets of people and mules being replaced by two stroke engines in four years time if I do ever return. But mostly I feel the inhabitants are getting used to cameras being around and I guess that’s maybe why I’m finding things just a bit easier this time. Ethiopian’s are very generous people at heart, sincere and open and they like to share. It seems that asking to make photos of people here is considered a compliment rather than an intrusion.

One last thought before I go. Coming back to Ethiopia has made me re-connect with why I got into what I do in the first place. The wonder of exploring a place that is completely different from my western existence has always made me feel more alive. It also offers me the chance not only to see new things, but to see things about my own life and myself that I had never had the luxury to consider before.

Next stop Japan, then Bhutan in April. I can’t wait to see what unfolds as I feel I’ve found my passion again for photographing people, even if I am a little rusty.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

As I type this, I'm sitting in the Seven Olives hotel in the heart of Lalibela, Ethiopia. I've come here to photograph the special christian celebration Timkat.

It's been four years since I came here to photograph Meskel - a special orthodox christian celebration held each year in September. 

I remember my first visit well. I was a little overwhelmed by the people, who appear to dress the same as back in biblical times. Lalibela is after all one of the birth places of christianity.

Photographically speaking, I was also a little overwhelmed back then and today I'm finding nothing has changed for me. I seem to be going through a period of adjustment. Landscape photography may come easily to me, but I feel it takes me a day or two to settle into making pictures of people. Most of my adjustment period is due to an inner shyness that I have. I'm not really sure where the core of my shyness sits: I was very shy as a kid, less so as a teenager and I'm very open as an adult, but I think we all have that inner-core - that old-self still lurking within us. So I think my young-shy self is still there, but he only really comes out when I'm faced with something I really love. When it matters, as is the case when I see a potential beautiful photograph of someone, I can become quite unable to direct my subjects to get what I am envisaging.

I saw so many great compositions this morning on my first outing with my guide - Muchaw - who is one of the Deacons here. But I really didn't have much confidence to take my camera up to my eye at first. I guess I just have too much respect for others as I simply do not wish to offend and would be hurt if I knew I'd upset anyone. 

But my guide is a great help in this respect. He is able to break the ice where I could not and I think this is one thing that I have reminded myself of - it's always worth employing a guide when I travel, as they can help smooth the relations between the subjects I wish to photograph and me. Plus I also think that hiring a guide is good, because it's a positive way of giving some money back to the local economy.

It's only the first morning, but tomorrow and Tuesday are two full days of celebrations. I think there should be many photographic opportunities since my guide has got me access to the heart of the celebrations.

Looking back at my first visit in 2010, I remember being right in the heart of some dance celebration making photos and found myself staring out towards the surrounding crowd.  In that crowd, were all the tourists I'd gotten to know at my hotel, each of them with a bemused look on their face as if asking 'how on earth did Bruce get in there?'.

It was so tempting to take a digital SLR for this shoot. Many of the locations are in dimly lit churches, and it's something that I might have to reconsider for another time. It is High ISO territory for sure if you want to be able to shoot everything here. But I prefer to work with what I know well and love, and so I've brought two Contax 645 bodies and a few lenses with me. I have the 55, 80 and 140 which translate approximately to 35, 40 and 70mm. Film stock is Kodak Portra 160.

I feel this year is about making people pictures. It's about having a welcome change. It's also something I love very much as it gives me inspiration in ways that landscape photography does not. Even though I feel that portraiture is not something that comes as naturally to me I get a lot of pleasure out of the exchange with my subjects and often the photography is of secondary importance.

A sense of dislocation and of being found

A friend once said to me - recognising in me what was in her - that we were both searchers. Travellers are not restless when they travel, they are often at peace with themselves because they are free to explore and discover their world.

Note that I said ‘their’ world. We all live on the same world, but each and every one of us has our own perception, and our own special way of being wired into what we see, hear and above all, feel.

When I travel I’m often at peace. When I am stationary for too long, I can’t find balance in my life because things are too static, staid perhaps.

I’ve just returned from a month long journey. Along the way I’ve changed. I felt new things, met new people I had not encountered before in my life, saw familiar landscapes in different moods, brought on by visiting in different seasons. I felt I was alive.

And returning home has caused me dislocation. The feeling that familiarity brings, is no longer familiar. I have not lived in a predictable environment for some time, and I’m finding it difficult to adjust to the static aspects of a life routed in one spot.

I thought I should be over this by now. I’ve lived a very travel-intensive life the past three or four years and I’d gotten used to going away, only to come home again. To flip between a life of new experiences and a life of familiar friends and family. Sometimes I thought I was becoming two people. Two separate lives. Where in fact, I was just coping with the sudden change of atmosphere. Moving from one environment of change to another of familiarity.

It shouldn’t bother me so much now, after all this time. I should have grown a thick skin to my sensitivities to the slight or sudden changes to my environment, but I’m glad in a way that I havent. Because it means I’m still sensitive to my environment, and my environment is all that I have to relate to when I photograph.

I don’t think most people out there realise the stresses put upon someone who has to move from a state of constant change, to that of being stationary. Those that don’t do this, think it must be a terrific way to live - ‘seeing the world is so exotic’, they may say. While those who do get to experience it often feel dislocated: each time a major trip comes up, I feel it looming for weeks, and I know that I will have to tear myself away from any feelings of being settled that I’ve built up over a few weeks of being back home. The flight tickets are booked and they are fixed in time, yet they seldom synchronise with my moods. If I don’t feel ready to go away, it’s a huge bind for me to do so. Like a child that doesn’t want to get into the bath, I too don’t want to go to the airport. And after a few days or perhaps a week on the road, I slowly realise that I’m actually enjoying my new freedom. I’ve become someone else through spirit of travel and all the new senses it provides. My old self seems like an distant memory - ‘was that really me who didn’t want to leave home’?, I ask. Now I’m in the bath, there’s no getting me out of it.

So I often wonder just why I find the transference from static to mobile so hard at times. I absolutely love traveling but I also really love being home too. I love my friends and my family, yet at the same time, I often find myself hatching new plans to go somewhere new. I think this is nothing unusual for most photographers - when we’re at home, we so wish to be away, and when we’re away, we can often wish to be home.

I’ve realised that I live a life very different from a lot of my friends now, and it’s very different from the life I used to lead when I worked in an office in Edinburgh. I feel I’ve changed as a result of my life-style. For me at least, it’s given me confidence in myself and a broader outlook on just what life is all about. As much as I can feel a sense of dislocation in those ‘transfer moments’ whilst moving from my home life to the life I have on the road, I feel I have found myself many times too, through the experiences that this ‘transference’ stage has offered me.

I can lose myself if I’m stationary for too long, and I can find myself when I put myself in new environments. And the opposite is true too. However, each time I move, I’m challenging my perceptions and I think that’s maybe why I love doing it: travel is perhaps just another way of making photographs. Instead of making visual images, I make emotional 'imprints' in my mind - they are what I like to call emotional-images. Less tangible perhaps, but equally valid.

Nature does not conform to timetables

Last night we had the biggest blizzard on the Lofoten islands (read Blizzard, not Lizzard!). It was so bad, that there was zero visibility on the roads and there were a few moments when I had to stop the car in the middle of the road, because I simply couldn't see where I was going.

Needless to say, my flight and the following three other ones got cancelled. I've been to Lofoten a few times now, always in Winter, and not had any cancellations, but even the locals were saying the weather conditions were something else last night.

So I'm stranded here in Norway until Thursday, and will be spending a lot of free time roaming around Bodo, which seems like a nice town (i've only ever seen it in the dead of night when coming in from Oslo en-route to Lofoten).

But if you're reading this and thinking 'sounds terrible', then you should also consider that the reason why the Lofoten is so amazing to photograph in winter, is precisely because of the dramatic shifts in the weather. If you want to shoot dramatic light, then you have to do it at the edge of a storm, and storms mean bad weather. They also mean unpredictable weather, and it's this unpredictability that you have to accept (and to some degree - hope for). Things won't always go according to plan and having an open mind to this, and the surprises it might give to your photography is a start, but you also have to consider you might not get home on time either.

So if you are considering going anywhere like Lofoten in winter time (maybe Alaska, or even the Scottish Highlands), it's always worth giving yourself plenty of contingency time to change flights if need be.

We've become too used to having things work on time, and in my own case, I've just been reminded that nature does not conform to timetables.

Ethiopia and things

Sorry my postings have been very quiet of late. I've had a lot of workshops and things on off late, so it's been a bit hectic. I thought I'd let you all know that I'm off to Ethiopia sometime in the next few weeks. I won't be able to post anything on the blog because there is no internet access there, but what I do intend to do is write up a journal about my daily activities and the 'memorable' photographs I hope to capture each day. This is with the intention of coming home and creating a pseudo-diary of events on my blog, with the processed film pictures to go with the writing. I think since I'm a film shooter, this is going to be a really nice way of letting you see what happened each day etc.... I think it matters little that the entries will not be in real time.

So anyway, I was on Eigg last week with a group of eight people. We had a great time and I have a really nice mixture of different nationalities: Swiss, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, English and of course one Scottish person too ;-) I hope to post a contact sheet or two from the groups efforts later on this week once I have had some time to rest. We ended the workshop on a nice note by putting together one big long slideshow with everyone's best images in it and married it to the music of Martyn Bennet and some of his recordings from the Glen Lyon CD. Very atmospheric it was too!

One lens or two?

I'm busy writing some chapters for the eBook I'm working on about Street Photography, and I've been diverted to reading on Photo.net today about David Alan Harvey. I've loved his photographs for some time now, and he's a very simple shooter, only taking with him a Leica, 28mm and 35mm lenses.

I've been busy writing about how I prefer prime lenses and that I prefer to go out with only one or two lenses with me. Often it's only the one lens I use. In the case of India and Nepal last year, the entire collection of images I made were shot with my Contax 645 and an 80mm lens. I didn't need anything else.

I'm a big subscriber to keeping things simple and cutting down on the amount of gear I travel with. It can be back breaking bringing too much kit with you, but it can also inflict a sense of creative constipation because you also have too many choices at hand. You think that bringing all the lenses you can think of will mean you're going to be prepared for just about any photo situation, but the truth is more often the case that we just confuse ourselves with what to use and when.

It takes time to master lenses, but that's not really the issue at hand. It's more about immediacy. If you have one lens on your camera at all times, you learn to work within the confines of that. I prefer primes because they make me roam a location and work the scene more. I also prefer primes because I don't have to think about different focal lengths. I make do with what I have. I also prefer one lens because there is no delay in choosing another one. I also start to 'see' every potential encounter in the focal length of the lens I have on me.

Using one lens makes it easier for me to 'visualise' and be proactive, rather than reactive. And it also means I'm much more free to move around.

Mamiya 7 - Good & Ugly

I get a lot of e-mails regarding the Mamiya 7 camera, which I use extensively for my travel and landscape shots. I feel that many people assume that having the same camera as me is going to make their images better, which I misleading. But for those that are intrigued by the camera and want to know what I think about it, I'm going to give you the low down here and now.

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Q. Why did I choose this camera over other Medium Format systems?

A. Because first and foremost, I wanted something with maximum resolution and lightest weight. I do a lot of traveling and it's important that the camera is light and that the lenses are light too. Try out many other MF systems and you'll soon see why the Mamiya is great for compactness and light lenses.

Q. What is the resolution like?

A. It's a rangefinder system, so the lens designs were not compromised by having to 'work around' there being a mirror in the way. The wide angles in particular extend right into the camera body and are a few mm close up to the film plane. The distortion in these lenses is almost non existent. Point the camera down and the horizon is at the top of the frame - straight as an arrow. No barrel distortion.

Q. Are the lenses fast?

A. No. This is the real downside - depending on what you are shooting. With maximum apertures of f4.5, they are a few stops slower than other MF systems. This is because Mamiya couldn't guarantee precise focussing with a rangefinder MF system. For instance, a standard lens in MF land is 80mm or 90mm. Now think about the DOF (depth of field) you have on a 90mm lens in 35mm land.... it's not that deep is it? If your focussing is slightly off, chances are that at f2 you're going to notice it. So the best compromise is to make the lenses slower. So that's the downside. Slow lenses, but on the bright side, because they are slow lenses, they're not that bulky / heavy / big. A plus point. Ideal for travel.

Q. What is a Rangefinder anyway?

A. A rangefinder is a system where you do not look through the lens. You actually view through a side window an 'approximation' of what you will get. The problem with this is that focus is achieved by overlapping two paralax images onto the same spot... this requires some mechanical calibration so that when the images are overlapped correctly, the lens is actually in focus.

Q. So why use this system if it doesn't allow you to see through the lens then?

A. Because it makes the system more compact (no mirror in the way), you also get to see the scene at the point of exposure (no mirror flipping out of the way for a moment obscuring your view) and the system is also very, very quiet (no mirror to make a big slapping noise). The Mamiya 7 System has the shutters placed inside the lenses, making the shutter tiny - and therefore less prone to vibration. So images are often sharper than systems with large shutters that are 6x7 in size!

Q. What are the other limitations of the Mamiya 7?

A. Close focussing is terrible, due to limitations gaining accurate focus with a rangefinder system. No decent telephoto support either - the biggest telephoto you can get for it is a 210mm lens - at f8 !!!! and it's not even coupled to the rangefiner - so you have to guess the focus point.... bit of a silly lens unless you intend to use the camera for landscape work.

Q. So what do I like about the camera?

A. I keep coming back to the camera time and time again. I swear at it, curse it while I'm using it, feel I'm missing shots with it, but each time I get the films back and look at those sharp 6x7 transparencies on my light table... I instantly forgive it its weaknesses.

A. I also actually like composing the shot through the rangefinder window. Because it is an approximation of what is there, I have to 'visualise' more in my head what I am wanting to create - no bad thing.

A. I tend to use it in manual mode all the time for landscape work. I have a Sekonic L-608 light meter which I use for zone system metering, so I can determine where and if I should use a grad filter. So I tend to slow down with the camera and think more about composition.

A. I also love the 6x7 aspect ratio.

A. I also love how quiet the camera is when out shooting street scenes. Even though it's big, it doesn't attract as much attention as a small SLR does.

A. I also find placing the grads on the camera to be a non-issue. I compose, I check how much area the sky is using - if it's using a 1/3rd of the scene, then that's how far down I put the grad. Because the grad is so close to the front element, it's diffused anyway. I only use the hard grads. The soft grads are no use to MF or 35mm shooters because the lenses are small. For Large Format, the soft grads are worth holding onto.

A. I find the camera great for the landscape work I do. I have my process with this camera nailed down now, and am comfortable with it. I can take it anywhere with me and its been up the side of glaciers in Patagonia, on an ice field for a week (it uses small batteries), and its been completely soaked in New Zealand and it still worked the next day once all the water evaporated off all the lens elements.

Q. What don't I like about the camera?

A. No close focussing.

A. No decent telephoto support

A. Slow lenses

A. To change lens, I have to pull a curtain over the film via a dial underneath. Can't take any pictures until the curtain is released and I *always* forget to release it once I've changed lenses.

A. It's poorly made, bits keep falling of the camera.

But I keep coming back to it. But be warned : it's not for everyone.

Dingy flying over Lago Grey

A few days ago we took the boat up to the face of Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine. Most of the trips had been canceled that day due to 80km winds that were racing down off the Patagonian Ice cap, and onto Lago Grey. It was a hectic journey on the boat with everyone staggering back and forth on the upper deck or hiding under the roof to shelter from the spray and winds that would often take us of our feet. Literally.

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At one point I managed to make my way to the back of the boat, and to my surprise I could see the dingy that was attached to the back of the boat almost flying in the sky. I know, it looks like it's been superimposed, but my workshop amigos will vouch for me on this one. It really was taken in one go. A lovely rainbow in the sky, a 17mm lens to get it all in, and an air born dingy.

I'm always intrigued by what is round the corner. I could have never anticipated this shot.

Now, if only my workshop amigos had captured me whilst I was outside trying to save my camera bag from disappearing over the edge of the boat in a pretty awful storm. I thought I had managed to rescue my bag whilst maintaining a degree of dignity (I got completely soaked!). I returned to the cabin where everyone hadn't seemed to notice, only to discover later on at dinner that everyone on the boat had been watching me with mouths agape, wondering when I was going to go overboard along with my camera bag.....