A wonderful thing about working in the Old School Gallery is the many conversations we have with the folks who visit; whether it’s the American lady who suddenly recited three Robert Frost poems, or the ex RAF Nimrod pilot who told me tales of flying over the North Atlantic, or the Chinese film maker recently returned from Tibet. We learn so much in these conversations and hopefully give a little back on the subject of art, crafts and photography.
A recurring conversation concerns Sigma’s “secret” cameras with their magic Foveon sensors. The trigger is the overheard debate between customers, discussing whether an image is a photograph or painting. It quickly moves on to the vibrant colours and immense detail, even in the far distance … and that brings us to the technical bit about Bayer sensors and Foveon sensors, micro-contrast, photons and wavelengths.
If the technical bit doesn’t kill the customer off they invariably buy the print! … And one camera club member liked the print so much he returned to say he’d bought the camera!
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the top selling photographs in the gallery are taken by the Sigma DP0 Quattro. It offers something different from Bayer sensored cameras that the buying public seem to be instinctively drawn to, unbiased and unburdened by any technical knowledge or heavyweight marketing budgets. And as a photographer it provides me with a distinctive, unique, tool with which to capture the stunning scenery that surrounds our tiny village in upper Swaledale.
My short journey to reach the Cart Ford above the Foss, where you cross the Rushing River, began by The Small Cultivated Field. I passed through The Clearing, then on up the Dale, gaining height as I climbed through Grazing Land. If I’d been visiting my friend Waendel at his Woodland Clearing I’d have taken the pass before The Clearing, careful not to stumble and fall into the potholes full of cooling butter, and down past Sigemund’s Rock, or perhaps climbed up the hill to see if Sjon was at his Look Out Hill, then down past the Row of Shepherds Cottages. But today it was to the Cart Ford I was headed, to take photographs of the Foss and just beyond The Spring I found the very spot.
(Translations below 🙂 )
Old Norse & Old English Translations, with thanks to http://www.daelnet.co.uk/placenames/index.cfm
The Muker wild flower meadows are beginning to come into their own in early June, which for me means a desperate search for interesting angles and compositions. The image below is my favourite hand held “sketch” so far and I’ll head out early tomorrow with a tripod and (hopefully) interesting light.
The meadows are an inspiration for artists and photographers alike, with the vibrant colours of Buttercups, Clover and Crane’s-bill, scattered all around, broken by the staight lines of dry stone walls and field barns.
The Sigma DP0 Quattro is fast becoming my camera of choice for the meadows; its wide lens capturing immense foreground and its colour rendition and tonal rage showing the wild flows at their best, whether in colour or monochrome.
Twelve favourite images from 2016; an unforgettable year of travel that took us to Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the Isle of Harris in Scotland, and the Himalaya of Nepal, but begins with two shots of my home county of Yorkshire, England.
In order taken … click on a the image to see the bigger picture …
1. Hole of Horcum, North York Moors, England. Shot in the winter on the drive home from Whitby, East to West across the North York Moors, and perhaps the only photo of the Hole of Horcum that doesn’t feature the Hole.
2. Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire, England A flip of a coin decision somewhere in the Winter desolation of the North York Moors took us to Saltburn, and a perfect sunset as the tide receded. When your lucks in …
3. Utakleiv Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway. A million photographers on the beach sent me stomping up the sand in search of solitude and a clear shot. All I found was a pile of lumpy old rocks!
4. Olstind, Lofoten, Norway. Leaving it as late as ever it became a race against the storm, wading through two foot deep snow to find a spot that pointed up the valley. We won by five minutes!
5. Pipework, The RERF, Leeds. An odd shot to throw in, but an image that perhaps only the Merrill with its extraordinary tonal range could take, and the culmination of a year long project to photograph the build.
6. Boat & House, Isle of Harris, Scotland. A mouldy old boat, a broken down croft and a dull, wet, miserable day; anywhere else awful, on the isle of Harris, wonderful.
7. The Gloaming, Isle of Harris, Scotland. The rooftops of Northton silhouetted against the bay, then out over the sea to the mountains of Harris. Not such a bad midnight view.
8. Soul Machine, Wakefield, England. Discovered in the middle of a farmyard machinery graveyard on a local walk, the truck has seen better days, but wears it’s scars with dignity and soul.
9. Himalayan Mountain Stream, Nepal. A rock, water and time, combine to create an example of nature’s perfection.
10. Himalaya Trail, Nepal. A line of Mani stones stretches along a tree-lined, sandy trail, overlooked by the sacred mountain of Kumbila shrouded by cloud ; a microcosm of everything I loved about Nepal.
11. Suspension Bridge, Nepal: A texture and detail of Nepal; the polished slats of a metal footbridge suspended 30 meters above the turbulent, mountain river, captured in Foveon detail by the Sigma DP3 Merrill.
12. Mountain Sunrise, Nepal. Not many things are worth climbing out of a nice, warm bed for, but this was one; truly a jewel on a crown.
After six months of anticipation it’s now just four days and counting before we begin our journey to the Lofoten Islands; bags are packed, final purchases made, last minute preparations underway.
Our journey takes us by air from Manchester to Bergen, where we catch the MS Lofoten to head North, hugging the Norwegian coastline for three days and nights until we reach Bodo. There we say goodbye to the boat and make the short hop by air to Leknes, an hour’s drive from our base at Reine.
Though Lofoten is North of the 66th Parallel the warming effect of the Gulf Stream keeps the deep freeze of the Arctic at bay. Even so our preparation has been pre-occupied by the question of warmth if temperatures plummet, and how to keep upright on the ice and snow; winter boots, smocks, crampons, thermals, fleeces, hats, gloves, fill our Rolling Thunder holdalls.
Photography wise the trip is pure Foveon with one notable exception. In the bag is a Sigma DP1 & DP3 Merrill, a DP0 Quattro, an SD1 paired with an 18-300mm lens (both kindly loaned by Sigma for the trip) and a shiny new Sony RX1rII. When the sun’s above the horizon I plan point the Merrill’s and Quattro’s at the mountains, lakes and coastline. If we spot a whale offshore I’ll reach for the SD1. The Sony I plan to use as a general purpose travel camera, and, when the sun goes down, to take star trails and the Northern lights (if we’re lucky enough to see them).
If you want to be inspired by Lofoten the very best place to start is Cody Duncan’s website http://www.68north.com, a veritable mine of information alongside a set of beautiful inspiring images.
Now on with the packing!
What’s in The Bag
Sigma DP1 Merrill
Sigma DP3 Merrill
Sigma DP0 Quattro
Sigma Close Up Lens
B&W & Hayes ND filters
Induro CLT103 Tripod
Many spare batteries & memory cards
Red torch for night-time use
Silcon gel bags for removing moisture
Freezer bags for bringing cameras from cold to warm temperatures
The comparisons of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro have remained by far the most popular posts on this website throughout 2014 and 2015, with the test shot of Leeds (below) the most clicked upon.
The two shots below, taken a few days ago, complete the set with a comparison of the Sigma DP1 Merrill and Sigma DP0 Quattro. Both shots were hand held. Both have been post processed in SPP and Lightroom, using the same settings. Both shots were taken at ISO100 at f5.6. On both the colours come straight from the camera. The Quattro shot has been cropped to aid the comparison.
With the Quattro I’ve struggled to control highlights, but a B&W graduated ND filter, soldered onto the camera, seems to have sorted the problem.
On previous comparisons the Merrill has always come up trumps on resolution and micro contrast, but taking into account the different focal lengths between the DP0 and DP1 to my eyes it’s too close to call. Both are fantastic image producing machines and both deserve a place in my camera bag.
Please note the above is an unapologetic, unscientific comparison.