The Dead South

Hailing from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada the Dead South brings a darker and grittier sound to the country bluegrass genre.

Ten Minutes With The Dead South
The Dead South

With roots going back to the pioneering days of Canada and the US,  the birth of Bluegrass in both the Canadian and US music backgrounds, Bluegrass has faded somewhat as a popular music style.

Even here in New Zealand in the 1950’s through to the late 70’s country bluegrass was always heard. With our own local bands and Bands such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and there widely acclaimed hit “Mr Bogangles ” there was always something to listen to from the folk/country scene. By the end of the 1970’s this style of music had pretty much disappeared from the radio playlists, usurped by punk rock and new wave and a younger generation that was going in a different direction and was quickly becoming more mainstream.

Fast forward to 2020 and we are seeing a resurgence in a lot of these partially forgotten music styles and influences. A new generation of music lovers are rediscovering the sheer wealth of talent that paved the way for the current crop of music artistry, while at the same time this generation is tiring of the canned garbage that a lot of music studios put out.

Its little wonder that artists are avoiding the big studios and relying on the likes of YouTube to get their music out there. If it doesn’t suit the three and a half minute mantra the studios dont really want to embrace new artists. Thats what makes seeing acts like The Dead South come to life and what makes it so refreshing.

Its also what makes duos like Larkin Poe so good to listen to and watch in concert. See the link lower down for these two hugely talented ladies.

Choosing a telephoto lens, a not so simple exercise.

One of the over-riding reasons for buying bridgecameras, for me at least is the all in one nature of the lenses they come with. If you are familiar with the Fuji bridgecameras or for that matter any of the models offered by other manufacturers you will know what I mean.

This gave us a camera with huge zoom range coupled with reasonably fast glass. Some models support constant apertures in the F2.8 to F4 range which makes for nice bright images.

In the DSLR and Mirrorless  world this style of lens wasn’t readily available until the last 10 or so years. There was very little to choose from as well, with most telephoto lenses being in the 70-200 mm range or in the 50 – 200 or 55 – 250 mm range. While being pretty versatile they dont quite match what you get with a bridge or superzoom camera.

Today we can get an 18-135 and 18-200 mm from Canon, 18-200 mm from Sigma, 18-270 mm From Tamron as well as 18-300 mm and 18-400 from Tamron, to list just a few.

Now as I’m in the market to match up a telephoto lens with my Canon 700D which I just purchased, and like many of you, I’ve been watching and reading various reviews on different telephoto lenses.

The all in one option is very very attractive having used an all in one lens Fuji bridge camera. But of course in keeping with the Frugal photography ethos I really dont want to exceed $1000.00 NZD for camera and lenses. I’ve already bought a new camera bag to house the camera and I still need to get a second battery, ball-head for the tripod as well as a new hand-strap, therefore I can only allocate approx $400.00 NZD for a lens. This does limit my choices quite markedly.  Most of the likely lens choices are going to be from the used market. Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 event people are selling off gear to recoup funds and this seems to be inflating the used market prices considerably above what prices were like pre Covid-19.

That too is limiting the range of choices available.

Eventually it came down to the following lenses all of which were around the $400.00 NZD mark. Some a little more costly some a little to a lot less.

  • Canon 55-250 MM IS II … $150 to $ 300 … Used
  • Canon 55-250 mm IS STM … $250 to $450 … Used
  • Canon 18-135 mm IS II … $250 to $500 … Used
  • Canon 18-200 mm IS II … $325 to $450 … Used
  • Tamron 18-200 MM IS … $170 to $300 … Used
  • Tamron 18-270 MM IS … $300 to $500 … Used
  • Sigma 18-300 DC Macro … $450 to $550 … Used
  • Canon 55-250 IS STM … $394 … New
  • Tamron 18-200 mm Di II VC … $498 … New

And the winner is – The Canon 55-250 mm STM and heres why.

All of the all in one lens offerings were either too short at the long end of the zoom or too expensive with the exception of the Canon 135 mm tele which for my purposes was too short, although they are an excellent mid range telephoto lens.

Both the Tamron and Sigma lenses have multi tube lens barrel construction, something I dont like as it allows lens droop and wobble to effect the lens, especially as the lens wears. This is true of my Tamron 28-300 lens that I have on one of my film cameras. It exhibits a small amount of barrel wobble, fortunately it hasn’t yet succumbed to lens droop/creep. Add to that that there is no warranty on used lenses just to further sway my choice.

The Canon 55-250 IS II lens is one I am familiar with and have had good results from when using it with my 650D. However it wasn’t that fast to auto focus compared to the STM lenses. My 18-55 STM lens AF is close to 50 percent faster the the earlier mark 3 version of the lens and is silent to boot. The front lens element doesn’t rotate on the STM version either which means I can use circular polarisers again without having to think about the filter orientation.

There were one or two “bargains” to be had. However closer inspection showed these bargains were for older versions of the current crop of lenses and had some pretty major flaws, even when compared against later generations of the same lens not including the very latest models.

The new Tamron 18-200 mm Di II VC got some very serious attention from me and I was seriously considering buying it. What stayed my hand was the price. Being above the cutoff point for the budget ruled this lens out leaving just the Canon 55-250 IS STM as the obvious choice.

Right from the start this lens was a major contender and coupled with its outstanding optical performance, reach and lack of weight made this an easy purchase at the end of my deliberations. With that in mind I hit the buy now button on the website and in a couple of days I should see it arrive in the mailbox.

I’m looking forward to using the new lens, weather permitting and will post some of the results here as I get to use it.

Happy Snappin’



Camera Bags .. we all need one.

Camera bags are generally a must have for anything larger than a smartphone or one of the premium compacts, something akin to the new Sony ZV-1 or the RX100 series. You get the idea, if it doesn’t fit in the pocket you will probably need a bag.

This is where things can get complicated very quickly. If you are going to get a bag, what sort should it be? I personally prefer the shoulder style bag and thats what we will look at in this article. I should note that I do have a LowePro Slingshot 200. I dont use this bag as  a camera bag anymore, it sees duty as my work bag and serves that purpose very well. I stopped using the LowePro bag as it tended to get too heavy with a load of gear in it. But for those wanting something between a shoulder bag and a backpack and you are happy to tote a bit of weight around, its a good option.

The New Bag…

As I’ve gotten older and my photography requirements have changed I want to carry around less gear and in a more compact way. Theres a huge range to choose from and its not easy to always tell what a bag is like from a set of images on a website. Ordinarily the large OMP camera bag retails between $80.00 to $90 NZD at most camera outlets. I bought mine off TradeMe for $22.00 NZD as a clearance item.20200628_114358 Whether this is actually a clearance item or just sales speak I dont know. I do know a bargain when I see one so after looking at dozens of new and used bags I took a punt and grabbed  one of the large bags.

Now large is a rather subjective term and the quoted size is for the internal space in the bag. What I was looking for was a bag big enough to fit my 700D with the 18-55 attached  and enough space for either one of the following. Canon EF-s 18-135 STM, Canon EF-S 55 – 250 STM or the Tamron 18-270 VC lens.  I haven’t yet decided as to which of these telephoto lenses will be going in the bag.

To test out this requirement I grabbed my 28-300 mm Tamron off my Pentax camera as well as a 28-90 Sigma. Both as you can see fit quite happily in the bag. I like to store my camera lens up. Fortunately the Canon 700D has the flippy screen so its protected. The bag comes with four Velcro compartment dividers. Two small and two large dividers. I put the two small ones side by side on the floor of the bag giving a nice well padded bottom for the camera to sit on. You can see them in place in the following photo.


The bottom of the bag is reasonably well padded but having the extra padding under the camera brings piece of mind.


In addition to a well appointed interior space the bag has a zippered internal pocket in the top flap which can carry a range of extras, like filters and other flat pieces of equipment.The top flap has two zips so that access can be fully or partially open when needed.

At either end of the bag is another pocket suitable for things like smartphones, small books or maps, these pockets would also accommodate other lenses up to the size of the EF 70-300 mm, a flash unit or spare batteries and charger, or even a small table top tripod. For a smallish bag its capable or carrying quite a bit of gear. On the outer surfaces of both the end pockets you have semi stretch pockets that would easily take a small water bottle or can of compressed air.20200628_114721

But wait we are not done just yet. On the back of the bag is an open top sleeve that would take a 10 inch tablet or small netbook for on the go editing. While on the front is a vertical zip that allows access to a pocket that would take a wallet or smartphone. This pocket is neatly set under the OMP logo on the front of the bag. The bag comes with a detachable ( one side only ) hand strap with a pleasing soft cover that makes it very easy to carry. The full padded shoulder strap is attached to metal rings at each end of the bag with carabiner style swivel clips. Both the attachment rings and clips are solid metal units.

Carabiner style strap attachments and stretch pockets at each end of the bag.

I have the shoulder strap stowed in the tablet pouch at the back of the bag. This pouch has a central Velcro tab to keep it closed so whatever is in the pouch stays put. Very handy for storing the strap.20200628_114515

On the front of the bag two sets of nylon loops can be seen. These came with two short adjustable straps attached which I have stored in the front wallet pocket. They are used for attaching a lightweight tripod to the bag.


Overall construction of the bag is excellent, the only thing it lacks is a pull out wet weather cover like my LowePro bag has. This really isn’t an issue as I dont intend to be getting wet doing adventure style photography. The bag is more than capable of shielding the gear inside from a passing shower and that is all I require it to do.

In conclusion,

I’ve had other shoulder bags in the past, both large and small and its fair to say than none of the have come as well equipped for the enthusiast photographer as this particular bag. At the current price you cant go wrong and even paying more for the bag would still leave you feeling that it was money well spent. The only real niggle I have with the bag is the the handle does sometimes impede ease of access to equipment, but its only one click and the handle is out of the way. I usually have the top handle stowed in a pocket when I’m using the shoulder strap so this really is a bit of a non issue.

  • Internal Dimensions:250×180×13­0mm
  • External Dimensions: 300×215×150mm

Canon 700D my new camera.

Well not new exactly, it is six years old according to the onboard date. With only 2337 on the shutter this is essentially a brand new camera. It came with the 18-55 STM kit lens which is very quiet in operation and appears to be a reasonable performer for video work, although this will need more investigation as to how good it will be for video work.

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At $499.00 NZD it was a little higher than I was wanting to pay considering my Canon 650D which I bought a little over two years ago cost $365.00 NZD. However the newer STM lens goes some way to offsetting the higher ticket price. I picked up a new 16 gig Sandisk Extreme SD card and will no doubt purchase a larger capacity card sometime in the future.

You can see my buying process here for The Canon 650 . In keeping with the Frugal Photographer ethos I wasn’t wanting to spend over $500.00 NZD maximum, as I will need to purchase either a 18 -135 or 55 – 250 telephoto lens. Having had one of the 55-250 lenses I know that they are a good quality lens, better in fact than the 18-55 kit lens. Further to this is the suggestion that the 18 -135 is as good has me interested in this lens as a more general purpose walkabout lens. Time and budget will no doubt be the main factors in my search for lenses.

So what do images from this camera look like. Pretty much as you would expect from any modern DSLR, pretty average. Thats not a bad thing it just meant the camera needed a bit of tuning and the lens needed a good clean. On the way back to Hamilton ( We picked the camera up from Botany Downs in Auckland ) we stopped at Mercer, as I had spotted some old steam locomotives sitting in a large rail-yard area. It turns out these steam locomotives belong to the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust and are awaiting a restoration program.

The locomotives are all from South Africa and you can read more about them in the Stuff news article from 2018.

The images were all shot Raw + Jpeg and I have edited the Jpegs images only at this time. The RAW files have been discarded. As I have mentioned previously my intention for the future and at least in the short term is to primarily shoot Jpeg. Most modern Jpegs from late model DSLR’s or Mirrorless cameras are generally very good. As with most cameras there is some fine tuning to get things right and Fuji cameras probably do this best.

Fortunately however the 700D comes with the ability to custom tune any of the shooting mode presets as well as being able to customise 3 blank presets. The aim is to have the standard Jpeg mode as well as the inbuilt modes to choose from and have the three additional modes geared towards the type of output I would select for film simulation profiles in Fuji cameras. These options are found in the settings and are labelled as ” Picture Style”

All the following images were processed using Photoscape 3.7. Various filters have been applied as part of the processing of these images. In general this is simply for a little artistic flair to enhance what would in essence have been a fairly bland lot of images. The overcast sky and late time of day, around 4.30 PM meant the available light was very flat and dull, hence a little fine tuning using various film sims and filters found in Photoscape.

There appears to have been a problem with loading the images . If you are not able to see the images on this page , click here to see the album.

A modern era diesel locomotive cruises on by while I was taking the above photos.

Ritchie Blackmore – Then & Now

November 1975 I had the privilege of being at one of only two Deep Purple concerts. I say privilege because it was decades before we were likely to see them live again, apart from a rough 1984 concert. The same applies to Led Zeppelin when they were at Western Springs the previous year, the first and only time they were here.

One of the main stays of the early Deep Purple line up was legendary rock guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Any one familiar with some of the early anthems like “Smoke on the Water” – “Lazy” or “Highway Star” just to name a few tracks will recognise Ritchie’s guitar playing. Slightly younger folks will know him from his very successful band, Rainbow.

What I didnt know was what he had been doing since his “Rainbow” days until just recently. Purely by chance the good old YouTube algorithms threw up a reference to “Blackmores Night” featuring Ritchie Blackmore. Obviously knowing the name I investigated further and much to my surprise I found music magic. Classed as Traditional Folk Rock, the band leans towards Renaissance era style and musical instrumentation along with modern instruments. With Candice Night providing lead vocal and much of the song lyrics as well as being the wife of Ritchie Blackmore, this ensemble was never going to fail.

While the music is light-years from the likes of Nightwish, Deep Purple or Rainbow it is no less totally enjoyable and the blend of old and new is nothing if not genius, and at 75 years of age Ritchie doesn’t seem to be likely to hang up that guitar anytime soon.

As with all music there are some songs that I dont necessarily like all that much ( they are few in number ) but then there are the gems that Candice brings to life in a way that gives you head to toe goosebumps. Her voice is at times mesmerising and the guitar work by Ritchie is in a class of its own, a master at his craft still.

Below is the full concert of Blackmores Night performing – “A Knight In York”

I’m still standing …. just

Sounds like a line from a song, actually it is. However in my case it has a somewhat different meaning.

Its almost halfway through 2020 and I’ve had little time to devote to this blog even with being in lock down for 7 weeks because of the Corona Virus, as well as  work injuries and ongoing health issues.

Since the start of the year I have been experiencing health problems of one form or another. As we age parts wear out or exhibit problems, just part of life I guess. As I write this I’m experiencing yet another medical issue. All of which has prevented me from doing what I enjoy, and thats taking photos, sharing my results with you and talking about the processes I use and sharing the work and insights of other like minded individuals.

This image is taken with my Samsung J#Pro smartphone. Looking at the detail shows a good deal of mush. The Mountain hiding behind the cloud is where I live.

Like most folks these days I carry a smartphone with me always and I do get the odd random snap, but the phone really isn’t that good as a camera, its merely a mid level work-phone.

Currently I am limited to my Fuji HS20 and a couple of Pentax 35mm cameras for anything more serious in photography and again because of the lock-down and restrictions I haven’t had access to the local film lab which is the down side to 35mm film photography if you dont develop your own films and scan them.

On the music side of things I have been watching a good deal of online content plus revisiting a lot of my own music collection. This has been restricted a little by health issues as well, think ear infections and possible ear drum damage, and so it goes. Thankfully that seems to be mostly in the past and I have had a bit more time of late to listen to some of my favourite bands.

I will endeavour to post something from time to time when I see or hear something I think you folks might like, most likely this will be on the music front as we are well into winter now so photographic opportunities are going to become a little less likely.

Until then .. stay frosty!!