Archive for January, 2011
Of course, it’s all about the 0.95. That’s the F stop by the way, the indicator of how much light can be captured by the lens. In the world of photography, you think you are doing pretty well if your lens is F2.8, you are starting to pay serious money for F2, and if you want to get down to F1.2, then you will need a very flexible credit card. But 0.95? Forget it, unless you fancy giving Mr. Leica $11,000 for the privilege.
So when Voigtlander announced this lens, designed specifically for M4/3, much lust was generated. More lust than Voigtlander expected perhaps, because they can’t make enough of them. The Voigtlander dealer for Thailand is AV camera, and their first two batches of twenty pieces sold out in two days. The third batch was an order for forty pieces, Voigtlander sent ten, and they were sold within two hours of arrival in the shop. Fortunately, I had left a deposit to secure one, and $899 (27,800 baht in real money) later, I was walking out with a Voigtlander box under my arm.
In the box you will find the lens with a cap, plus a hood and a separate larger cap to fit the hood. This is good because you can never have enough lens caps with the word Voigtlander stamped on them.
The lens itself is quite heavy and beautifully made. The focus ring is silky smooth with a long travel and the F stop ring has a satisfying click to it. Apart from the hood and caps, there is no plastic here; the lens is a gorgeous creation in metal and glass. As well as no plastic, there are also no electronics; this lens is completely manual in operation. Fortunately, M4/3 cameras are designed to be used in manual mode and using the Voigtlander is a delight, provided you are not in a rush. Set the camera to A mode and ensure “shoot with no lens” is enabled. Set the F stop at 0.95 and focus, then turn the F stop as required and shoot.
I don’t mind shooting manually, but I do wish they had built in sufficient electronics so that the F stop and the name of the lens were embedded in my images. Resorting to a little notepad to record F stops is a step backwards.
So, how does the lens perform? In normal light, the obvious comparison would be against the Panasonic 20mm F1.7; generally regarded as the best M4/3 lens. I have run a few direct comparison tests and I reckon that the Voigtlander is slightly better. But there is not much in it and the Panasonic has the advantage of being tiny and offering auto-focus; and it’s cheaper. So, as a walk-around lens, you can’t beat the Panasonic 20mm; but you don’t buy the Voightlander as a walk-around lens. You buy it for when there is almost no light, for when you want to create crazy bokeh, and when you want to go out and shoot with a “real” lens attached to your camera.
In low light, this lens allows you to keep on shooting without having to raise ISO. It was late afternoon in the crocodile pen when this was taken, but enough light when shooting at F0.95.
Not much light in a shopping mall, and a coffee cup is not much of a subject, but the background lights look good a F1.4
Take it out at night, and the bokeh from lights really comes into its own:
If the mood takes you; just throw everything out of focus and generate a bokeh Xmas tree:
Sometimes, shooting wide open can be too much. The depth of field is tiny, especially if you are close to your subject (and this lens can get very close). Only the lip of this glass is in focus:
Shooting these candles at F0.95 produces some very blobby candles:
Stopping down to F1.4 works better:
Generally, I found that stopping down to F1.4 or more gave a better photo, F0.95 is a little soft and provides such a very small depth of field. But it is good to know that the extra light is there if you need it.
The Voigtlander 25mm is a lens made in the classic style and, as such, it is a pleasure to own and use. Image quality is excellent from F1.4 and up, and F0.95 allows shooting in very low light and produces wonderful bokeh, especially of light sources. If I was only allowed to carry one lens, and did not need the speed of auto-focus; this is the lens I would take.
If new property projects are any indication of a vibrant economy, Pattaya is booming. You can’t go more than 50 metres in any direction without being confronted with a poster for some dubious concrete monstrosity which will change your life and make you a better person. Allegedly.
The latest development comes from Raimon Land, famous for building Northshore and Northpoint, and for not building The Lofts; a project they seem to have wiped off their corporate map. Now we have The Zire, a new tower to be built right next door to an existing tower. Just for fun, I decided to sign up for information about the project; big mistake.
After an avalanche of e-mails, advising me of upcoming launches in both Pattaya and Bangkok, I receive a call from a breathlessly-excited salesperson who wants to know whether I will be coming to the Bangkok or Pattaya launch. I think “none of your business” and tell her Pattaya. She almost orgasms with excitement at this news. And which of the three days of the launch will I be coming, and will I come in the morning, afternoon or evening? I think “WTF” and tell her I don’t know. She fails to orgasm and rings off.
More e-mails follow, and then last week yet another call. Did I come to the Bangkok launch, or will I be going to the Pattaya launch? Clearly these idiots do not write down any information as the result of their cold calls. Through gritted teeth I tell her Pattaya and hope she will now leave me alone. She doesn’t. And which of the three days of the launch will I be coming, and will I come in the morning, afternoon or evening?
It’s like telling a shop you are going to come and look at their televisions, and the shop wanting you to make an appointment. It’s a display of a housing project in a mall, not a limited seating seminar with a set starting time and tea and cakes afterwards. It’s completely stupid and they don’t deserve to sell The Zire.
Still, maybe I was wrong and the development is so popular that you have to make an appointment to have a chance at seeing a salesperson. Well, not on Friday afternoon at 1530 you wouldn’t.
The Zire, not worth making an appointment for.
To Bangkok for the biannual meeting with my endocrinologist. At least, that is what I think he is, I just call him doctor; and for the last eight years or so we have been meeting every six months to discuss my thyroid.
After seeing several failures posing as medical men, it was this doctor who looked into my swollen eyes and said “Grave’s Disease”, from which followed three years of unpleasantness and operations. The eye disaster has long since been fixed, but the over-active thyroid gland which kicked the whole thing off has continued to rage; held in check by a small white pill taken daily. And every six month they test my blood, pronounce my thyroid still raging, and more white pills are prescribed.
The hope has been that Mr. Thyroid will quieten down and become well-behaved. But clearly this is not going to happen so last night we agreed on a new and exciting plan; we’re going to murder the uppity little fucker.
We all have our weaknesses. Women, drugs, alchohol, gambling, flower arranging; there is usually something that could be used to facilitate our downfall. With Mr. Thyroid, it’s iodine. He jut can’t get enough of the stuff. He needs iodine to manufacture his hormones; and we rarely ingest sufficient for his needs.
We are going to arrange for him to be, as my doctor didn’t put it but should have, gagging for iodine; by taking me off my little pill for a week. Mr. Thyroid will become extra-excited and will be screaming for some iodine to feed his habit. And then, pause for effect, I will swallow a radioactive iodine pill. Mr. Thyroid will suck up all the radioactive iodine into him; and within a couple of days he will be dead, murdered by radioactive poisoning; just like a Russian spy only smaller and less Russian.
How we will laugh! Got you, you bastard we will scream, before swallowing handfuls of thyroid hormone tablets on a daily basis for the rest of my life (but cheaper and easier than the little white tablets.).
It all sounds most intriguing and it will be the first time I have tried to murder one of my organs, apart from my liver when I lived in Aberdeen. Should make for some excellent blog posts too.
Back to our overnight hotel to report on the murder plans to she who must be obeyed who is distinctly less enthusiastic than me about the idea. She did perk up though when I informed her that I had not yet managed a shit after three days without any action. Imodium is excellent a sealing you up, not so good at letting go again; and several hearty meals were queuing up to escape. I had been consuming orchards of fruit in an attempt to encourage movement; but to no avail.
She who must be obeyed was on the case.
Drink this chrysanthemum tea before bed and you will be OK in the morning.
Chrysanthemum tea is going to make me shit?
I know better than to argue with her lunatic ideas so I drank the disgusting tea and went to bed. This morning I spent a very happy ten minutes on the toilet. “Told you so”, she said smugly, with one finger holding her nose.
I checked the package of the tea bag, there were three ingredients. The first was chrysanthemum which was to be expected. The second was Sena pods, which the web told me were an excellent laxative; but not as strong as Sena leaves. The third ingredient was Sena leaves.
She also has some peach tea. Haven’t checked the ingredients yet, maybe it can kill my thyroid.
Urgent missive from Camberley this week, enquiring whether or not we had sunk beneath the waves. Apparently this week’s New Scientist features an article claiming that the Gulf of Thailand is rising by 4mm every year; much more than the average for the area.
Camberley could impart this information because he reads the New Scientist, and I don’t mean he just looks at the pictures. He actually understands it. He certainly could, and maybe has, contributed to the journal. For all I know he may be the managing editor; he just has that sort of brain. And I am not just saying this because there is a real chance he might complete all the Trainyard levels before me.
Anyway, the rising Gulf of Doom scenario seems to have gathered pace this week with a report published by a local university claiming that Pattaya beach will disappear within 5 years. The local media, who don’t read the New Scientist but do enjoy “shock, horror, disaster” wordbites from universities were hot onto the story and it made some headlines; enough for the local politicians to wake up and pretend to care for five minutes.
So a tour of the beach was conducted and some beach vendors were instructed to move out of the way so that some areas could be fortified and trees strengthened. This won’t work, for two reasons. Firstly, beach vendors won’t leave their pitches unless driven out by teargas and small arms fire, and secondly because shoring up the area with a few sandbags or concrete ain’t going to stop nature.
So, the beach is doomed and we better be prepared. In anticipation of the event, Pattaya Days commissioned an environmental impact assessment study into an “Oh dear, Pattaya has no beach” scenario; and I am pleased to present a summary of the findings to you here:
The negative aspects of having no beach:
1. There is nowhere sandy for people to sit.
The positive aspects of having no beach:
1. There is nowhere sandy for people to sit. This means they will bugger off to where they came from. Nobody who lives here sits on the beach. If we wanted to spend our time surrounded by used sanitary towels and decomposing poisoned fish we’d……….. actually I suppose we would be locked away for wanting to do that.
2. No beach means no beach chairs and umbrellas taking up what little space there is. No vendors hawking shitty wooden elephants and three day old squid. No Cambodians pretending to be Karen and attempting to sell those stupid wooden frogs that are meant to sound like frogs when you hit them on the back with a stick, but don’t.
3. No customers for the jetskis, rented by the scum of the earth who daily scam tourists out of thousands of baht for “damage” they didn’t cause under the eyes of the police who do nothing because they get a cut.
4. All the used sanitary towels, dead fish and assorted crap that comes in on the tide will now end up flowing out again; or ending up on pavements where it can disposed of (i.e. thrown back into the sea) more easily.
Please god, can you make it rise 8mm a year?
Fresh from the yawn-fest that was Black Swan; how about an uplifting tale of overcoming disability, how about The King’s Speech?
So there’s this bloke and he has a bit of stammer. And he finds another bloke to help him; and for two hours they embark on a number of increasingly bizarre remedial exercises. At the end of it all the stammering bloke makes a nice little speech without stammering and everyone claps. The end.
Really, that’s the entire story. Of course it is juiced up a little by the fact that the stammering bloke is king of England and his ending speech comes at the start of World War 2. So we have the usual suspects of the period, including Helena Bonham Carter as the person we now know as the (dead) Queen mother; but as she fails to spend the movie surrounded by empty bottles of gin and waving aimlessly at everyone, I think she failed to capture the character. Then there is Timothy Spall, with an almost cartoon-like impersonation of Winston Churchill; quite appalling.
The stammering bloke (a.k.a. King George VI), is played by Colin Firth and the man who makes the stammer go away is played by Geoffrey Rush. Both competent actors and they both do a competent job. But there is not much to work with. The script is mainly plodding, relieved by a few attempts at wit; and there is nothing in the way of plot beyond fixing the stammer, with the back-story of history to beef things up a bit.
The King’s Speech is not a bad movie. Knock 30 minutes off the length and make it for TV and it would be a fun diversion. But as Oscar material for Best Actor or Best Picture? Oh please….
She who must be obeyed gave it 6 out of 10, so marginally preferred it to The Black Swan. I just wish I hadn’t bothered with either of them.
OK, let’s get the positives out of the way. Natalie Portman gives an Oscar-worthy acting performance, and the level of commitment she must have shown to master the physicality of ballet deserves respect. That’s the only positive thing I can find to say about Black Swan.
Portman plays Nina, a dancer in a ballet company about to start a production of Swan Lake. She is selected for the leading role which will require her to dance both the white and black swan roles. Conveniently for the story, Nina is already a bit of a schizophrenic, so dancing both characters should be a breeze. But with the added pressure from her mother, and a perceived rival in the form of Lily (Mila Kunis); Nina slowly descends into madness; which is just what she needs if she is to become the Black Swan. Allegedly.
I know that director Darren Aronofsky is highly regarded; but I just don’t get the appeal of this movie. It’s billed as a thriller; but there is no suspense. Nina is clearly deluded, and it is pretty obvious when she is deluded and when she is not. There are no surprises, no plot twists; in fact there is not much of a plot at all, just endless ballet practice. I realise that ballet requires incredible fitness and skill; I just don’t want to watch Natalie Portman pretending to do it for two hours; even if she does lighten the mood by pretending to have lesbian sex with Mila Kunis for two minutes.
Black Swan is a trivial thing; dressed up as something more. She who must be obeyed gave it 5 out of 10; I think she was being kind. If this gets the best picture Oscar, I’ll show my arse in Tesco’s window for a week.
What a month. Frantic decorating, followed swiftly by frantic shitting; and now we are in the totally sealed arse phase, after ingesting a pharmacy’s worth of Imodium. Life can be bliss sometimes; but not right now.
On the plus side, I lost three kilograms in four days which must be some sort of achievement. Never knew poo weighed so much.
Still not feeling up to doing anything taxing, such as writing; which is a shame because I have watched a couple of truly awful movies which I need to warn you about. The only thing that got me out of my chair today was a flower that neighbour Nik had nicked from a nearby garden. Rather splendid and it demanded to be photographed, so I did:
From my year of study at Kew Gardens for my Doctorate in Tropical Flora, I can tell you that this is a Crinum asiaticum Linn. Either that, or she who must be obeyed told me. She also had a go at photographing it herself, and I rather fear she did a better job than I did. Grounds for divorce I’m afraid.
Warning: Extensive references to faeces.
As befits a man of my vintage, I have a few bodily complaints. My back hurts, my eyes are not as good as they could be and the hair does not have the coverage it once had. But throughout the various medical pitfalls that have punctuated my life; my digestive system has continued to operate with commendable efficiency. You can throw anything at it; and while other may be vomiting in a corner, Spike’s digestive tract just gets on doing what it was designed to do.
The last time I can recall throwing up was on new year’s eve in 1985 in Holland. This was after the son of my boss had convinced me I should drink Dutch gin from a pint glass, so I don’t think you could blame my digestive system for failing to cope.
As for happenings further down the digestive chain, well there’s maybe the occasional over-enthusiasm for waste products to escape; usually after too much spicy food; but nothing exciting enough to share as a story over the dinner table.
So when I lay in bed at around 0400 two nights ago and felt like death was imminent, my tummy was not on the list of potential guilty parties. My heart was pounding, my head was aching and a a substantial fever seemed to have taken hold. I did not feel good and I did not know why. More out of boredom than anything else, I headed for the toilet.
Oh my god. While I had been asleep, persons unknown had inserted an industrial sized tank of very hot Ovaltine inside my body; and the act of sitting down opened a valve and the Ovaltine came flooding out of me; although from the smell of it, it was not a flavour I recognised. Must have been a really big tank too, because it took a long time to empty; after which I felt it prudent to hose down the bathroom and have a shower before crawling back into bed. The Ovaltine evacuation exercises continued for the next several hours.
Since then I have mainly been asleep. Thanks to a regular diet of clay, the Ovaltine emissions have now stopped, but that in turn means that my botty is not going to see much activity for the next week.
The prime suspect is a dodgy prawn. As she who must be obeyed cooked said prawn she is feeling unjustifiably guilty; but on the plus side it means she has been even more caring than usual; cooling packs on the forehead, body washes, that sort of thing.
Hopefully I will be feeling more normal tomorrow, although it could be a while before I drink Ovaltine again.
Not really into processing photos; but played around in Topaz Adjust and liked this. Quite a labour of love, it took me all of
five hours twenty ten three minutes:
GF1 with Voightlander 25mm.
And then there was the 1950′s wallpaper look:
GF1 with Industar-22 50mm
There is something in the human condition that, when we discover something truly unpleasant, drives us to share the information. Perhaps we feel that the act of sharing will dilute our disgust, perhaps we want to discuss it and try in some way to rationalise it; or maybe we are just typical Daily Mail readers and want to go “tut tut” at some abomination before waddling off for a cup of tea and forgetting about it.
Whatever the reason, I read something so unpleasant this morning that I felt the need to tell she who must be obeyed and gain her insight. So I told her about a Laotian man who took his pregnant wife into the forest and killed her with an axe; and then cut her open to remove the three month year old foetus of their child. His plan was to create a talisman which would enable him to talk to ghosts and gain access to lottery numbers.
Pretty vile stuff, and my wife was quiet and pensive for several seconds before posing the inevitable, incisive question:
“Did he win the lottery?”