Nikkor fisheye lens

Now I’m back from my trip I can return to geekery. My lens collection for my camera is growing. I have just got a fisheye lens. I bought it on Ebay on an impulse. When I won it I wished I hadn’t bid on it, however, now its here I intend to make the most of it. Its a Nikkor 16mm AF D lens for those in the know. Unlike the ghastly gimmicky 1970s fish eyes, this lens fills the whole frame with an image, not just a circle in the middle. The question then is how to convert what should be projected onto a curved surface onto a flat film – or rather computer screen. As with maps of the world there is more than one way of doing it. And in fact, some come free(ish) and some you have to shell out for.

Here is pretty much what comes out of the camera:

Its a reasonably sharp lens though has noticeable chromatic aberration (corrected I think in this shot) but I find the curved uprights quite nightmarish. Its amazing, for such a physically small lens it really sees 180 degrees.

Adobe Lightroom comes with a vast database of lens characteristics built in that can correct their characteristic distortion. For most lenses this is mild and it works well. This is what it does for this lens.

Its ok. Its a real relief to not be living in the LSD world of the first picture but the corners are really stretched and lose definition. Also it crops out quite a lot of the image, so the wide view is rather wasted.

Now here is what the hemi fisheye plug in produces:
Its an odd perspective. You can tell that the way it remaps the image varies across it. But it produces the best image. It is much sharper at the corners and does not lose any of the image. So, the £25 that it cost – the plug in that is, not the lens – is worth it. It makes the lens a useable ultra-wide angle lens rather than a novelty that you quickly tire of.

This is what it looks like, courtesy of Mr Rockwell:
Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 21.33.20

Before this, I bought, also on Ebay, a more conventional lens, Nikon’s 35mm f1.4 lens, which is much easier to use. this is what it does:

The journey home: like clockwork

9th August sailing home
I’m sailing home. It’s 10.30 UK time and we have just left Caen headed for Portsmouth. Today everything went according to plan. With the help of my two beefy helpers we hauled Belinda out of her garage, packed up and I headed off from Ile de Re at around 10.30. Getting up to Caen, all 300 miles (really 280 according to the bike’s clock), was easy. There was mostly little traffic, petrol stations where I needed them and pleasant enough places to stop, rest and get something to eat and drink. By 6.30 I rode into the centre of Caen and looked round it’s cathedral and sat in the pleasant shade of the castle watching the people come and go, before returning to Belinda and driving the twenty minutes or so out to the port. Her cruise control was useful on the 130kph speed limit motorways with little traffic. It was a beautiful evening as I arrived up in Normandy. I arrived around 7.30 pm in time to eat some passing fish and chips at the terminal to save searching for something to eat late once on the boat.

In the queue for the boarding I had the usual interesting conversations, first briefly with a young guy in an Audi who told me, sitting on the bonnet smoking a cigarette, that he was a jockey and had come to France twice in the last week to ride a horse, coming 4th and 5th in his races. I said that seemed not a bad result and he said at least he didn’t fall off, three people had fallen in the last race he rode. He was rather flouncy and I imagine the combination of youth and a highly rewarded job are likely to lead to this (I was thinking of footballers). Then, more interesting, after I had joined the five other people on bikes, I talked to a man who shared with me all the same anxieties about manoeuvring big bikes in tricky situations, like gravel and sloppy ground as well as similar experiences with the IAM. Then we were told to ride on. They pack our bikes closely together, practically touching which feels uncomfortable. Once showered I bought an uncharacteristic pint of Stella (it seems the only drink that would be right) along with a couple of cigarettes out on the deck watching, with a dozen other passengers, the ship moving away from the now dark harbour. I observed that English men have problems with shorts, many ill chosen and not matching a slightly formal top half. I am pleased with my trousers from Ljubljana. So, all is good, and all went well: campsites were all good, weather was perfect and there were no disasters with the bike, which performed effortlessly well. But as one or two of us said in the queue, roads in France are a bit boring from the bike point of view. A couple of guys had ridden up from Alicante and we all talked about how enjoyable the roads in Spain are.

Do I have any thoughts for a next trip? I remember after last year I felt I had got a few things wrong, but this is different because everything did go so well. I think the main ingredient was taking the time to find and book small, carefully chosen campsites. Their friendliness made an enormous difference, and for the most part I think they attract a more interesting bunch of visitors.

So tomorrow is the familiar and rather heart sink journey clockwise round the M25 from the A3 round to the A1, then dropping in somewhere on the way home to pick up some champaign to celebrate H and I’s 31st wedding anniversary. So far, nearly an hour into the channel, the crossing looks like it will be smooth, with hopefully a good night sleep.

For the first time my circulation on the M25 was uneventful and I arrived home, after 140 miles riding today. Here is the trace of the journey homeward.

Ile de Re

Friday 7th August
I’m now in Ile de Re. I seem to have accumulated a number of insect bites at various places on my left leg. I’ve now retrieved my 100 percent Deet to keep by me at all times (which I didn’t need last night despite the evidence of a mosquito net over the window of the bedroom I have here).
The last twenty four hours have been uneventful. I moved pitch back there on the campsite, went for a 7k walk, through beautiful woodland paths, enjoyable until my footwear, unsuitable for walking, started to give me blisters for the last kilometre. Two ageing men invited me for drinks on the campsite last night and in the spirit of the place’s friendliness I went to join them. They served me white wine but disappointingly it had obviously not come from their caravan refrigerator (they had a satellite dish too, a large one). They talked to me about the round the world cruise that they took in 2008. I must say virtually everything they told me about it strengthened my opinion that I would never go on one including a fight breaking out in the launderette resulting in the two involved families being ejected from the ship at the next port of call and having to fly home at their own expense (apparently this potential penalty was made clear to passengers at the time of booking). I stayed for an hour and went to bed in not the best of moods. During the night I was awoken by scratching sound apparently just under where my head was lying. I remember having this experience in a campsite in Germany. I was convinced that it was a small burrowing animal emerging under my tent.

I woke finally at seven and decided to get up and get packed, though with waiting for the dew to dry off the tent and bequeathing a few items off food and drink, I finally rolled out at 9.30. The twisty roads leading to the main road were enjoyable but once on the main route I concluded that French roads don’t have much to recommend them. But, after filling up with petrol (the GPS led me very efficiently to two petrol stations that obviously had not served petrol for years) I finally made it after nearly four hours riding to the beautiful Ile de Re that you reach over an impressive long bridge over the sea. It costs three Euros to cross. Suddenly there are people everywhere, mostly on bicycles, all clearly on holiday and nearly all young. I realise what a different slice of people I have been spending my time with over the last week and a half. I arrived at Helen’s family’s house in a beautiful web of small streets with white painted cottages and bright coloured flours. I made heavy weather of getting Belinda into their garage but I am promised significant brawn to help me pull her out backwards on Sunday when I leave to take the five plus hour ride up to Caen. I took a stroll through these lanes down to the beach here. It is a stunning Atlantic beach crammed with brown bodies but with, strangely and rather ominously a military looking plan circling very low above. Where they looking for terrorists about to launch a beach attack? Whatever, I decided to retrace my steps back to the house.

After the storm the supermarkets

Tuesday 4th August
It’s nearly twenty to five in the evening and the sun came out briefly for the first time today. There has been today, as people here and my weather widget predicted, a large drop in temperature, ushered in by thunder storms during the night. Something about yesterday evening worked well. It was good to be cooking for myself at at my own timing on this trip, after enjoyable meals made for me. With my chilled white wine the rest of which awaits me in the fridge sited in the huge barn here on the table and the chair provided for me, I was comfortable and I am sure I digested my meal better than those evenings I spent crouching on my low stool or boxes.

But it thundered and rained and rained in the night, in fact for most of the night in three distinct but interconnected storms. Pity, as I had settled quickly into the most comfortable nights sleep so far on this trip. I was prepared for the rain and, apart from some splashing, I and my pile of vestibule belongings stayed dry. I emerged rather blearily into a damp morning and had showered and was heating water for my tea before most people had got up. I think the dog lovers here were apprehensive about the weather for their pets. My neighbour told her her ageing twelve year old dog hyperventilated all night. Without a trusty order of breakfast croissant I was reduced to eating biscuits and some dry baguette from two days ago along with my pleasing green tea. The morning stayed cool and damp (I am seeing blue sky for the first time today) and I headed off down the road for a brisk walk to warm up meeting most of the dog owners walking for a different reason.

The great thing about this site is having access to a fridge and one that has space in it. The bad thing is it is tricky to move and park the bike here. The two work together in a way. I set off around lunchtime to ride the 7km to Nontron where there are an abundance of supermarkets, three in one small town. My GPS knew the one with the U in it so there we headed. But the mixture of deep gravel and lack of level ground on the site make parking and manoeuvring the bike, even with most of the luggage offloaded, really tricky. And I think probably my greatest fear is looking completely incompetent with my mixture of revving and stalling and heaving the bike backwards. I have a piece of stone under the side stand which I retrieved and intend to keep if I need to move it again, to get pointed in roughly the right direction for my final exit, laden with everything. I bought food hopefully for my remaining three days here which dovetails beautifully with the available fridge which is stuffed with more of my food and chilling wine (I bought two bottles of local rose – let’s see what 4 Euro wine is like) than anyone else’s it seems. If one stony space for a caravan is empty I can manoeuvre the bike round in it to get out, but if it is full then I will need to enlist an unsuspecting camper to help me with another approach, I will make a point of choosing some one young (not some heart attack candidates up there). Then off the few hours west to La Rochelle to stay with Helen for two nights before hitting the road on Sunday to Caen. In the meantime three more nights here, heading off on Friday, just to remind myself of the days.

Thunder rumbles

I have written before about the ingredients for wonderful camping. I remember on my last night under canvas in the Black Forrest last year when at least one of the ingredients was lacking, writing that. The two key ingredients are good weather and a beautiful and socially agreeable site. This trip has combined them both, pretty much unfailingly. Tonight, for example, I was able to buy a bottle of chilled white wine to sip while I cooked up a simple but tasty pasta dish on my stove next to this lovely still river in the still hot evening (onions, tomatoes and some sausage fried up with some curly pasta) interrupted in a good natured way by Betty, black little dog owned by two men camping up just up the hill, who came to investigate me and my tent and my rubbish bag followed by Betty’s sweet owner. There are two women now just behind me also with a dog, a white dog while Betty is a black dog, and a mixed gender couple just over there also by the river. Up on the hard sites are more conventional camper van travellers but nice all the same. There is complete friendliness on this site. But back down here, with my easily cooked meal on a borrowed table done and washed up it is still warm and humid and I sit hot and shirtless and read as the light here starts to dim. It’s half past eight. This campsite is full of the English, or at least English speakers. It makes casual conversations while waiting to dry up or humour about tonight’s expected rain so easy and evokes a sense, imaginary of course, of connection, for me aloneness but with the always available and present connection with others.

There is a very faint rumble of thunder in the distance. I have spent so many hours in my tent in heavy rain that I have a routine: bring everything in, gather it all right in the middle, balance what might get soggy on top of my boots, tighten up the guy ropes so that the fly sheet and inner tent don’t touch, then pray.

At Manzac Ferme camping

3rd August
Now I am sitting by the little river at what will be my final campsite of this trip. In a sense it’s true that the sites are getting better and better or rather they are all good in different ways. This one Manzac-ferme has a fairly ordinary area up top for cars and caravans but tents can pitch down here in the shade by a small river that doesn’t seem to be flowing anywhere which is probably quite good because it won’t burble all night. What is best about this site is the beautiful restored farmhouse and barn that the owners live in. The barn is cool and enormous in the heat which is reaching 35 degrees today. The owners are Brits who have lived here for four years and are clearly thrilled with the place. He has an enormous white beard and reminds me of someone I used to know. This is another adult only site, so everyone seems accompanied by dogs, but not dogs as as you know them, these are almost silent non barking incessantly all night or when they see another dog. (I spoke too soon we now have a barky poodle-ish kind of hound in residence.)

The ride over here was good, though short, just 80 miles. I woke up at the last site having slept poorly (I was awoken by a rustling in my paper rubbish bag just outside my tent. I looked out with my torch and the whole thing was heaving. and with an upset stomach and headache again but after a cuppa (green tea) and Paracetamol and once up on the bike and rolling my spirits revived. As today was a short trip I had planned a nice curvy route on small D roads drawing a large circle around Limoges instead of taking the high road through or closely around it. My first direction was fine but after fifteen minutes of riding I found myself back on the same old main road I had left. I really have no idea how that happened. I looked at the trail afterwards on the GPS and can make no sense of it. Still the ride was mostly good and it was great to keep moving in the air to cool down with breeze finding the ventilation of the jacket I wear. I was spoiled with the last sites that served up food, in fact a delicious meal last night, and there is no shop though they say they can sell wine. Some one alerted me to the weather forecast which is for quite heavy rain for most of the night. Tomorrow will mercifully be a little cooler. There is also a fridge in the barn where I have stashed my food.

Last night I joined in the three course meal offered by the proprietors, one of whom is a chef. I joined three other couples, two Dutch and a younger quite quiet couple from Ayr. Our conversation was quite grown up, with some laughter but verging on the stereotypic (jokes about wives from the men), quite unlike the more witty talk at the first site where we talked about different views of the marauding migrants threatening to invade Kent and someone’s experience with a hugely powerful kit car (was it a Caversham? no Caterham) which was much more fun. The meal was delicious and much of it was courtesy in one way or another, of the chickens that stride around the whole site.