Tuesday, 24 December 2019

A Merry Nikon Christmas! Part 2

Obviously one can never have enough Nikon cameras. On this basis I bought yet another body. A lovely, if somewhat scrappy, digital D2X.

I saw this puppy going for cheap in a tech store and part exchanged my very old D100 and a kit lens for it. It'll form a solid backup for when I'm doing shoots.

The D2X was first released waaaaay back in 2004. This is an eon in digital camera time. Nonetheless, it was Nikon's flagship body of the day, and is consequently built like a tank and has a load of features. It cost $5,500 when new, so I feel like I got a steal! Its images still stand up today, and its so much better than the D100 I parted with to acquire it. It was the last of Nikon's pro bodies with the smaller sensors, giving a (very annoying) magnification to lenses, before Nikon heard the dull but constant roar of complaints and moved to full frame sensors with the D3.

I'm not going to dwell on all the beast's features, as they are multifarious and will make a very boring post. The main reason I love the camera is the experience of using it. Much like my beloved manual Nikons, this thing is solid, weighty, and dense. It's so satisfyingly massive that when the shutter pops you barely feel the camera vibrate. You can take much of it apart to clean it, which is a strangely therapeutic exercise. It has loads of funky little buttons and levers which you can toggle, all engineered with a precision that makes them fun to play with. Who knew that closing the eyepiece gate would be so rewarding? Not me, that's for sure...

Below are some of the sample shots I took from my first outing with the D2X. In good light it performs exceptionally well. The thing is so bulky, it feels like I'm taking it for a walk. Turns out my puppy has had 160k shutter actuations (actuations are kind of like the mileage on a car). It's got a bit of life left in it yet, I hope. If it dies I'll probably look at getting a D3 as I really enjoy using these old flagship models.

Monday, 23 December 2019

A Merry Nikon Christmas! Part 1

My occasional posts about my love for Nikon cameras are weirdly popular, it seems. So hopefully you'll indulge me as I brag about my latest purchase(s).

While in Manchester a few weeks ago I was lucky to find a Nikon F2 in very good condition. Not only that, there are quite a few variants of this beast, and it was the exact one I wanted: silver with the non-metered prism.

The F2 was Nikon's flagship camera for the 70s. It improved on the previous flagship, the F, by being slightly lighter, smaller and having improved technical specs. It also had a 'swing back' - the mode of opening the back which lasted until the end of the film SLR era. Much like its predecessor it is a fully mechanical 'system camera', meaning that it's highly modular allowing users to replace things like the prism and back to fit metered heads, high speed backs and then clip on motor drives. The body is notoriously sturdy. It's essentially a block of aluminium with a shutter in it. I think someone famous once said you'd never be mugged while carrying an F2 because throwing the camera at your assailant would ensure they had a really bad day.

One of the great features of this camera is the plethora of viewfinders which it can mount. On board light meter technology was improving in the 60s and 70s and this was the end of the era when photographers had to carry a separate metering device. Consequently the F2 could mount various 'metered heads'. All of which are very ugly. The connection between the lens and the metered heads is particularly abstruse and requires 'bunny ear' lenses to allow the communication of the aperture to the meter. So I was really pleased to find a silver model with a much prettier 'non-metered head'. Meaning I have to rely on a light meter app in my phone (while trying to also not use my phone to take the photo - damn you convenient 2019 technology!). Also, I can mount most Nikon lenses from the 2000s backwards. No metering, no bunny ears needed.

The famous Nikon 'bunny ears' showing how they connect to a metered head. Photo courtesy of DPReview.

The F2 is a simple beast by today's standards. But an absolute joy to use. The ca-chunk of the shutter is incredibly satisfying, as is feeling the gentle thudding of the gears as you alter the dials. Without a metered head attached, there is no need for any batteries. So you can use the thing in the cold without fear of it powering down.

In terms of its cultural impact, the F2 was the camera of the 70s. Weirdly it's a bit under-represented in Hollywood, with the F being 'the camera that shot Vietnam' and the pro-sumer FM featuring in The Eyes of Laura Mars. Nick Nolte uses an F2 in the 1982 movie Under Fire, set in 1979 Nicaragua, though.

Below are some of the best shots I got with the test roll. To finish,  I'd highly recommend a visit to The Real Camera Co. in Manchester if you're in the area. They have an amazing array of stock and are very generous with their time and advice.

Part 2 will follow very soon, which showcases another purchase. Because you can never own enough Nikons...

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Death in the Drakwald - part II

Not only is this part 2, but my Drakwalk project has been divided into two parts. Don't worry, all is revealed below...

Part the First - Microhammer!

'Microhammer' pretty much sums up the first incarnation of Drakwald. I've fallen in love with Citadel's old range of 10mm Warmaster minis and I'll use these for the Tears of Envy version. The Warmaster minis are utterly adorable and beautiful sculpts to boot. I love how much expression the designers managed to get into such tiny figures. Yikes!

I intend to play using Warcry rules so I'm somewhat restricted to those figures which can stand alone (many were sculpted 'clumped together' in ranks). I'm basing each on a washer for two reasons. First the ferrus washers stick to magnetic sheet making the finished minis easy to transport. Second, the aperture in the washer allows you to sink the mini into the base somewhat so they don't appear to sit on weird mounds of earth. Weird mounds of earth are things you should stay away from in the Drakwald...

I chose Middenland as the State colourway as it encompasses the bulk of the Drakwald. Plus it's safe to assume that drunk Middenheimers would get involved in any fisticuffs in the forest. I've deliberately gone for quite a bright, high contrast paint scheme to ensure these tiny guys really pop. Using muddy colours on things this small risks them not 'reading' well when you stand more then a foot away from them. Clearly I've been inspired by the 'red period' in Middlehammer history :-)

I also found a little house on Thingverse which I printed off at 10mm scale. While it's my only piece of terrain to date it's a good start. Again, I tried to get a bit of colour contrast into it so it reads well on the table. I added tiny specs of colour to approximate painted decoration on the timbers on the main facade. This gives it a bit of a Scandi-folk-horror feel.

Part the Second - Oldhammer

I've buddied up with a friend who wants to get involved in some Drakwalk action too. He's currently creating a wonderful 28mm Empire warband. I've dutifully agreed to try and steal his lifeless corpse with the help of my Oldhammer undead warband. I'll leave you with some photos of the amazing and naturalistic board he's working on. This is going to be a riot to play over...

Sunday, 15 December 2019

All aboard the Space Hulk!

Fate has decreed that there are not one but two Space Hulk projects on the go at the moment. I'm humbled to have been invited to both the Bucephalus and Primogenitor games taking place in 2020.

Both games will use current 3D Citadel terrain to represent their respective hulks. Hence each participant is building various rooms and corridors which we will combine to form the greater floorplans. Such esteemed company requires some serious effort. So I put on my archeotech thinking cap and considered how I should theme my terrain contributions...

I settled on an unsettling solution which can only be described as 'totalitarian art nouveau healthcare nightmare'. Catchy, eh? Here is the visual reference I collected.

It all started when I watched a documentary on the ill-fated Alien III. The retrospective pointed out just how beautiful (and criminally under-used) the morgue sets were. They featured decaying art nouveau tiles and some beautiful art deco panelling. This would be a nice twist to add flavour to what will otherwise be, I am sure, a very gothic ship.

I decided to design two wall tiles which I would use to upgrade the wonderful new Necromunda Uprising scenery kits. One features mortuary cold storage units while the other is somewhat more generic. They're specced to mate with the existing plastic wall tiles.

I've built three 'gurney' beds to add to the room which will function as a ward. They predominantly use the handrails from the new Uprising kits.

I'm also going to work in some murals and banners (all stained by the passing of millennia, of course), but more news on that soon...

But what of the actual denizens of these hulks? The hulk-skulkers, if you will? Well, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to add some Terminators to my Night Lords army. Hence I've been converting the plastic Tartaros kits to 'Night Lords' them up a bit. For extra measure I've also thrown in a Contemptor as a potential nasty surprise for when the situation gets real.

That's all for the moment. Remember: stay frosty.

Oh, one last thing. I took some snaps of a WIP corridor made by the great shibboleth02. I snapped these rather evocative shots when he was over a few days ago. It's just a taste of what he's cooking up and I can't wait to see his contribution when it's done.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Cassette micro gaming case inserts now for sale!

A few of you have asked if the inserts I'm using for my audio cassette gaming cases are for sale. Well, now they are! Head over to my Shapeways shop to buy one.

I'm keen to see what you do with them so please do send me photos of your creations.

Thanks for all your enthusiasm and support :-)

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Death in the Drakwald

The announcement of the return of The Old World came along at the same time as I was reading an article about the forest in the German psyche. To celebrate the former I thought it would be cool to organise a small Old World skirmish using the amazing Warcry rules set in one of the forests of The Empire.

But first, a word on forests...

Becoming the Forest zine is one of my favourite publications. Ostensibly a black metal zine, it includes articles on wider context and influence of forests. Issue 3 features a fascinating examination of the great German woodlands and how they have been viewed (and used) over the centuries by German politicians, writers and artists. The Romantic notion that the Germanic peasants personified the forest, and that these forest dwellers were in turn a taproot of sorts for wider German society struck a chord. The Old World is, of course, modelled to a great extent on medieval Germany. So, I began to imagine a low-fantasy encounter.

What if a Necromancer clawed his way out of a barrow in the Drakwald and raised the few corpses he could find? His small gaggle of lackeys would likely soon come across one of the many little hamlets buried deep in the woods. The locals would be decimated, with a single messenger escaping to report the tidings to the local Burgomeister. A crack team (perhaps a lance) of State Troops is sent to investigate. They would arrive to find the village eerily quiet. Settling down for the night in an abandoned inn, all hell would brake loose at midnight. A tiny siege would ensue - a kind of Seven Samurai standoff meets Dog Soldiers. Thatched rooves would burn, chickens would run about as the plucky humans discover they've bitten off far more than they can chew.

This scenario is an excuse for me to start a new project, play a game and take some nice photos. I may even design a new card deck to go with it. But more on that if it happens.
For inspiration I've collected together a bunch of images (many crops of larger works) evoking the kind of feeling I'm after. I quite like the aspect of the Warhammer Old World that emerged in the late 80s - a rich, bucolic landscape, verdant and picturesque but with danger and weirdness lurking just below the surface. Quite related to the folk horror trend that is all the rage in 2019. The late 80s work of John Blanche is certainly a big inspiration here, as well as the paintings of Ilya Repin, Vsevolod Ivanov and Pavel Ryzhenko.