Greece is big in the news right now, you can’t miss what’s going on there in the current economic turmoil. It’s been a long time coming and the country has been feeling the crunch for some time.

I was invited to go to Athens in March by Nikon Europe. This wasn’t a typical press  trip to try out pre-release equipment at all. This was a trip where we were learn to see things differently, to use using the current Nikon cameras and current NIKKOR lenses together with 4 photographers who have immersed their lives and careers in showing what goes on in the world. Now seems a good time to make my post, hopefully show my own unbiased view on what I saw.

The Photographers who accompanied us were:

Alastair Philip Wiper
A British photographer based in Denmark is a specialist in photographing industry, science and architecture.
Bénédicte Kurzen
A French national focused on recording socioeconomic conflicts.
Elena Chernyshova
A Russian national, based in France her goals are to visualise the impact of human activity around the world.
Philip Poupin.
A French national focused on conflict reporting.

The Photographers.

Alastair

Bénédicte

Elena

Philip

 

 

Every day I’m surrounded by a familiar pool of colleagues that are in one way or another, active in the media. This young quartet (each around 35 years old) I have to admit, had never popped up on my radar. Of course, as soon as the trip info pack was sent to me I went in search to see who they were and what they get up to. Another admission, when I see a long list of awards, acclaim or exhibitions, my eyes glaze over. To me, an award, a photographer does not make. So I was keen to meet the team and see who they really were, stripped clean, just them.

The very fact that none are buzzing the social media radar is a good sign to me, a sign that they are off doing what they do rather than spending time talking about what they do. To me, this type of photographers are the true influential ones.
They are all in a totally different branch of the job than me, More often than not, I’m producing work to a brief. A set of guidelines that I follow to create an image. Elena and Bénédicte are working for agencies who commission a project but it’s up to the ladies to go out there and produce the content as they feel they need to, to represent the situation they are in. Less constrained than a cut-and-shut advertising shot. Less skilled? No.
Philip has drifted away from the adventure/conflict and into producing film documentaries. Alastair, well he’s loving shooting his technical/industrial style work for numerous publications.

So, 4 people, 4 backgrounds and 4 stories to tell in Athens.
We, the guests were split up, given a camera body and a choice of lens and sent out into the city to hang around with the 4 and hear from them how their work methods would influence their photography in the city.

The photographers in Athens.

Each of the photographers made their own personal studies of the cities, through their eyes. Focusing on something that was close to their own work and ideas.
We then joined each of the photographers in turn, to make our own photo reports around the city.

Elena wanted to focus on the contrast of space and time in the city, bringing together the old and the new into images. Some of the images she made highlighted the stark reality of modern life in an ancient city. Shot in her way, she has an enviable self admission of knowing very little about post production. I think the innocence of that shows too.

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Philip’s adventure took him ‘Searching for Gods’ His images reflect his way of getting in the mix of things, not standing on the outside and looking in, he liked to get into the action and be part of it. Even though he was in a different country, culture and clearly interacting with a very personal situation.

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Alastair couldn’t resist seeking out some technical reportage images. He ventured off to the now derelict 2004 Olympic Games facilities. All shot late in the day with long exposures, concentrating on lines and structure. Away from people and in his element.

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Bénédicte headed straight into her world, reporting on the socioeconomic situation that is gripping Greece. Not wanting to make her reportage a downbeat and depressing story of doom and gloom, she highlighted people helping people and the characters that are caught up in the hardship. Her stories of the chats she had with some of the people were quite moving. The determination of people to rise above and get out of the dire situations that they are in.

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The dedication of the 4 to each of their disciplines is off the chart. I can go home to the safety of my house and a square meal each day, Some of the toe-curling situations that I heard Bénédicte, Elena and Philip have been in make me realise what a cushy number I have. For example, Bénédicte flew off the next day, back to her ‘home’ of Nigeria to cover the elections there. Straight back into potential conflict.

Each of the photographers made their own personal studies of the cities, through their eyes. Focusing on something that was close to their own work and ideas.
We then joined each of the photographers in turn, to make our own photo reports around the city.

What did I get out of the trip?

I got to be reminded of the reality of what visual story telling means to the world. Writing says a lot but a photo says it in any language. Yes, an image can be biased too however, none of these guys demonstrated to me that they were in any way gained by political standpoints, they just wanted to record facts, as they happened.Do check out their websites to see what they do.
I was also reminded that when someone asks me ‘who should I follow online?’ I will continue to say that the biggest influencers and ‘do’ers’ are not heavily present online, they are too busy being out there, doing.
4 young people, mostly self taught, ‘simply’ doing what they feel they were called to do. Not for the money, not for the glory. Not for the ‘likes’ Pure photography. I’m not embarrassed to say that part of me wishes I was like that, took the plunge and just ventured out there with my heart strapped to my camera as a reminder why I do it.

A few points remain engraved in me, points I’m fully aware of but confronted all too often that people don’t release how lucky they are:
Bénédicte made it very clear to us that she doesn’t give a hoot what gear she uses, as long as it does what she wants and can give justice to the people she’s photographing. They are giving their trust to her, she wants to offer them the very best she can, with the gear she has. Usually a Nikon DF and a single prime lens.
Elena made it clear too with her very vague and innocent knowledge of the kit she uses, when you’re 400km inside the North Pole for months on end, in eternal darkness. The last thing you want to worry about was how to charge your camera batteries. Simple, use a film camera.

I had a glimpse of Athens and her people. Stuck in a pretty awkward situation right now they were an open people, getting on with life and knuckling down to get through everything. Our guide, Antonis, was keen to point out the positives of the economic crisis engulfing the country. People were being more resourceful, fresh markets were bustling places. A new culture of people in suits buying from markets instead of supermarkets, finding ways to stretch their Euro.
We saw how the needy are helping the needy, with a smile, with conviction. Hats off to them all.

Ridiculously big thanks to the team. All 4 photographers for giving sharing their precious time.
The same to Nikon Europe for inviting me to this worthwhile and eye-opening couple of days.

What did I use for my photos? I used the most excellent Nikon D750 and the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f1.4G ED.
(More on my D750 findings at the bottom of there page)

My photos from Athens made with the Nikon D750 and the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f1.4G ED.

 

AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G

 

Some other peripheral shots that I made with the Nikon Coolpix A

 

Part of my delay in voting this brief report on the trip was to give the D750 a full and proper workout. Athens was the first time I’d used the D750 and it felt a little strange in my hands. I was used to the volume and controls of the D810.
I used the NIKKOR 24mm for the whole trip. I’ve never used this prime lens before as I already have 2 lenses that cover this focal length. The 14-24mm and the 24-70 mm. What can I say? I’m not a pixel peeper so corner pixel sharpness isn’t what I look for. It is indeed a great lens, There is nothing I can say about the image quality that I don’t like. Is it a lens I would want to own though? I doubt it. to me, 24mm is neither wide, or long enough to be used a whole lot.
My 14-24mm gets used mostly at the wider end and my 24-70mm get used mostly from 50mm up. I normally grab my 35mm 1.4 if I want to go single focal length. Given more time, I would have liked to have tried the 58mm 1.4, from what I saw of that during the event, it was a pretty amazing lens. A strongly soft, soft focus area as well as the expected sharpness in the details. Maybe next time I’ll get to try that one!

Anyway, the camera. The D750 somehow seemed a little too small to be taken too seriously. It’s about the same size as the D7200 but deeper body grip gives it much more positive feel in the hand. I was missing the mass of the D810. There was no way around that.
Until..
I took the D750 on a few missions, one to the Isle of Man TT to cover the motorbike racing there. I started to realise that the D750, its size, flip screen and light weight were a massive advantage. A trip to New York finished off the convincing that the D750 is the best camera I have used in a long time. Mirrorless system cameras are huge right now, ultra compact and portable, excellent image quality, good bang for the buck. However, when I need to travel and shoot commercially, I need the same guarantees that I get from my ‘pro’ DSLR bodies. Accuracy at all levels, speed of operation, good battery life, robust construction, compatibility. The D750 is there. It covers all bases. I could probably write a whole article on the camera, both pros and cons. I just know that the pros outweigh any cons it might have for my line of work.
I have a very exciting travel project coming up soon and the D750 is the camera I will be using. The D810 will be playing 2nd fiddle and sitting in the bag as backup. Who’da thought that, huh?

Some people might have noticed that I’m quite involved in beer. Not just drinking it but photographing it. I shoot for brewers and of course for Belgian Beer and Food.
This all means that I’m lucky enough to get out and about to discover a lot of beer and the fabulous people passionate about making it.
There is one thing that I notice, time and time again.. Labels that are wonky and stuck on with poor adhesive. They often come loose or wrinkle like crazy when refrigerated. As I’m photographing the bottles, I need to show off the product as well as I can. As you can imagine, bad labels can be frustrating.

I know full well that a bottling line costs a lot of money, I also know that labelling machines cost a mint too. However, this is how the end consumer sees your product on the shelf. This is the impression they get.
YES, there are exceptions to the rule, YES there are brewers that pay serious attention to this. Not enough though. There is still too much wonky out there!

It seems very unfair that I single out this example but it was one I picked up today for a photo. Every bottle of this beer on the shelf had a wonky and badly stuck-on label. y.

Maybe it’s just me and the fact I look at details, maybe a slapped on label is distinguishing feature of a true craft beer?
If you think that, have a look along the shelf next time you are in the beer aisle of the supermarket or your specialist beer shop. The beers from the US and the UK are not only setting standards in beer quality to match and even surpass the traditionally superior Belgian beers, but they are setting standards of both label design and label stick-on-ability.

Anyway, if you are one of my brewer friends with a wonky label machine. I still love you and your beer, but please, please. Have look at what you can do to help me present your delicious liquid gold in the optimum way.

Your beer photographer friend,
Rob

Beer with wonky label

165 tonnes of ‘Gorsemkrieken‘ the local sour cherries will be sent to the Liefmans brewery this week. They will of course be used to produce 2 of the beers that Liefmans are well known for. Fruitesse and Kriek Brut.

Here are a few of the photos I made this weekend at the family run cherry orchard in Limburg. The Briffoz family have been exclusively supplying Liefmans with their delicate and lovingly grown fruit for 20 years. Maxime Briffoz was proud to show brewer Elfried Anckaert around the orchard. It goes without saying that Elfried brought some of his Kriek Brut to sample.