2012 – In Association With The Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital

2012 will be remembered as the year I began my repairs… fixing the damage of poor choices of the past, healing a broken mind and trying to deal with the damage that’s been done along the way. I’ve seen more hospital rooms this year than I have in my entire life, and as we go into 2013 there’s more to come (next appointment on Wednesday).

From December 2011 to January 2013 and beyond...

From December 2011 to January 2013 and beyond…

Happy New Year to all the staff of the RD&E.

Sony NEX-5R – in the hands of a novice.

I feel a bit of a fraud. My tiny amount of photography experience does not by any means make me a worthy owner of such a beautiful piece of equipment. Michael, however, thought otherwise and very kindly gave me a Sony NEX-5R for Xmas. That is typical Michael. When he finds something he enjoys he wants to share it with me, and the easiest way of sharing his Sony NEX experience was to buy me a camera of my own.

It arrived yesterday and since it needed a while to charge I only started using it today. It was love at first handling. The camera body is tiny – perhaps a little bit bigger than the Lumix I had before it, but incredibly small given its power and capabilities. The lens, however, is a big old beast. A beautiful chrome beast that is a joy to touch. The whole thing feels perfectly balanced in my little chubby hands and from the first time I held it, it felt as though this was going to be the best camera I’ve ever had.

Michael is an experienced photographer and knows his ISOs from his f-stops. He has attempted to explain the intricacies of photography to me before, but it didn’t really sink in. Now I have a camera that displays instantly the effects of a slow shutter speed and wider aperture, it’s now starting to make sense. I can make adjustments and see in real time what difference it makes. I also get to see the difference in the wide selection of lenses we have – and get a chance to use vintage lenses from the 60s and 70s. This is the best way to learn – and that will help me get more out of the camera, and not only will I understand what my husband is talking about, I will join in with him and love every minute of it.

The bad weather has so far prevented me from getting out and about with my new 16-megapixel friend, but I’m hoping to soon. And when I do, I’m sure we will make beautiful images together.

How Anthony Bourdain made my 2012.

Parcel from a Californian Goddess

The first time I saw Tony was on The Colbert Report. His interview with Stephen made him come across as a badass Ramsey-esque f-bomb loving food writer. About six months after that he was a guest on The Daily Show. That was the point when my interest in this man and his work increased to the point of wishing to devour each and every piece of work I could find with his name on it.

This man’s work is hard to track down here in the UK, but I found enough to be so inspired by him that he has indeed made my year. Here’s why:

He’s a role model for the “late bloomers”.

Tony’s career as “The Man With The Best Job In The World” began in his mid-forties. I’m forty next year and currently have no career to speak of. He inspires me to keep looking for opportunities and never to give up hope.

He helped me to fall in love with food.

I thought I liked food before. Turns out what I really liked was mindlessly shoving any old rubbish in my face until my stomach ballooned and I hated my very existence. His passion for food and his way with words had me searching for similar experiences, and I learned how to truly love what I ate. Before, if you’d asked me to describe the flavours and textures of a recently enjoyed meal, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Now, I’ve slowed down. I eat properly, I eat well, and I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I used to because quality is better than quantity.

He helped me lose weight!

Yes, you read that right. Anthony Bourdain, well-known for his love of rich, fatty foods, has helped me to shed over 60lbs in the last year. Not just from re-wiring my appetite, but by fuelling my desire to travel.

He is a gateway drug.

Through watching “No Reservations”, “A Cook’s Tour” and “The Layover” I’ve been introduced to more wonderful people, food and restaurants. The budget for my dream trip to New York City will have to be trebled as I now need to visit Le Bernadin (Eric Ripert’s restaurant), Momofuku (David Chang’s restaurant), Les Halles (the brasserie where Tony is “chef at large”) and Big Gay Ice Cream (home of the Salty Pimp and the Bea Arthur).

And thanks to him, this year I’ve watched Apocalypse Now and bought my first graphic novel (his first graphic novel, “Get Jiro”).

On the off-chance he’s managed to see this post amidst the deluge of tweets he gets daily from his million-plus followers, I’d just like to say‚Ķ

Thank you. You’ve made my year. Here’s to Parts Unknown and 2013.

Unexpected Effects of Sony NEX

Having a Sony NEX camera (see my post about getting the NEX-6) has done for me what I hoped it would. I have a camera that I can fit in my coat pocket, that can take photos that are as good as I could take with my Nikon D90. Not in all situations, and not all the same types of photos, but it does 90% or more of what the Nikon did, without needing a backpack to carry it.

Spending time lurking on the DPReview Sony NEX forum has had one effect I didn’t expect, though. A sudden interest in old ‘legacy’ lenses. Adapters are available to mount lenses of the ‘wrong’ type on a few different cameras, but a couple of things make the NEX exceptionally good for this:

  • Short Flange-back Distance. The distance from the flange (the ring the lens mounts on to, on the front of the camera) to the actual sensor, is very short. The sensor is right there at the front of the camera. On a DSLR, there has to be room for the mirror between them, so it’s much further back. That means a DSLR lens is designed to be mounted further from the sensor. That extra space is, quite usefully, plenty of room for an adaptor to fit between the camera and the lens. With the right adaptor, it’s possible to fit almost any type of DSLR lens on the NEX.
  • Focus Peaking. This is an interesting feature that I haven’t seen anywhere other than the NEX. When you manually focus, it monitors for any areas of high contrast, which must be in focus, and highlights them in yellow (or red or white if you prefer). Because legacy lenses with adapters generally have to be focussed manually, this makes life much easier. Focussing on most small cameras, especially with only electronic viewfinder or screen, is difficult. The NEX makes things sparkle in yellow when they’re in focus, so it’s much easier.

So far, I have an adapter for my old Nikon lenses, which I’ve tested with my 35mm f1.8, 18-200 and my Lensbaby kit. All work well. It’s reasonably easy to get good focus, even with the 35mm wide open and quite close, with tiny depth of field. I’ve now started bidding on cheap old lenses of various types on eBay, and buying converters to mount them on the NEX. Old M42 screw-mount lenses look like great bargains, and a couple of cheap tatty ones should be on the way to me soon to play with.

I’m not convinced yet that I’ll want to use legacy lenses on the NEX most of the time, but it certainly seems like fun to try, and a great way of getting some useful lenses cheap.


Twice recently, we’ve paused TV shows at good moments.

Startled Bond


Update: A couple more from recent viewings…

Brian Cox in Wonders of Life:


As we were watching Exploring China, Sam exclaimed “It’s the Chinese Hancock!”. I’d missed it, and had to rewind a bit to confirm that it was, indeed, a Chinese Tony Hancock: