NEX5R kit goes to the (French) Alps

Every year, for the past six years, my husband and I have spent a week skiing in the Alps in the winter. And for all of them save the first one, Marla tagged along. Two years ago she got on skis herself, so she was on her third year of schooling this time. She’s just 6 but it’s pretty amazing what teachers can achieve with 6 yr olds…

Pralognan2015-03PMBut that’s not the point of this post, at least not entirely. Sure, you’ll see a boatload of pictures of my daughter in the snow, more of my daughter, and then more snow (are you sick of either, yet ? Lol…). But the true point I’m trying to get across, is this : you don’t need a fancy camera to make successful travel pictures. Not at all, indeed.

Pralognan2015-01No, I’m not gonna start telling you to dump your D800’s and 1DIV’s and fancy 70-200/2.8 bazookas for compact cameras, or, heaven forbid, to shoot with your phone instead. Gawd, no. But what I am about to tell you, though, is that the lowliest form in existence of an APS-C sensor, namely something like a NEX5N, R, T, or 3N (or it could have been a Fuji X-M1 for instance) is totally good enough to yield perfectly satisfactory results, and yes, here and there a really cool photo.

Pralognan2015-04Why APS-C ? Because with a not so fast kit zoom (typically opening at a sluggish 5.6 at the far end), APS-C is what I feel as the smallest acceptable chip size for decent DOF handling and light capturing, as well. For good measure, I had brought along the NEX5R kit a friend of mine very generously lent me for the month, a fast manual prime in the shape of the PEN F 38/1.8. And in ALL honesty, I’d be hard pressed to say I was limited by that rig at any moment. Sure, a 18-200 would have been superbly handy for telephoto zoom and reaching the kid up there on the slopes. But I didn’t have one, and worked around it.

Pralognan2015-02PMFirst day of ski school, the teachers evaluate the kids’ level from the previous year. The next day, they bring them up on gentle slopes and the real schooling can begin

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Pralognan2015-06On the left in red : Daddy, on the right in pink : Daughter

Pralognan2015-07And so after her schooling sessions, she’d go up and down with Dad a handful of times…

Pralognan2015-08She remembered that from last year just fine

Pralognan2015-09That used to terrorize me as a kid, but she seems to find it pretty funny…

Pralognan2015-10We were pretty blessed with the weather. Fast changing, but a lot of blue skies altoghether

Pralognan2015-11That would be the maximum subject isolation you can expect at the tele end from a slow kit zoom. Not great, but real, and significantly different from what a compact would deliver

Pralognan2015-12Pralognan la Vannoise is dubbed “the pearl of the Alps”, and for good reason

Pralognan2015-13Those are of course in camera jpeg files !! Dynamic range is very, very nice. I didn’t say “straight out of camera”, either. I do process all my files but here shadows have only been lifted ever so slightly, and I’m still very pleased with the DR

Pralognan2015-15Autofocus performance. Iffy on the NEX models, but excellent on the new A6000 and all later models

Pralognan2015-16PMAgain, you need APS-C to isolate your subject somewhat with a slow lens

Pralognan2015-17

Pralognan2015-32PMOk, now please do not think that any of those pics was taken in Auto mode, or that I just handed the camera to my husband, without very thoroughly fine tuning settings first !

Pralognan2015-20PMIn the snow you face two very serious issues. 1) you don’t see *crap* on the LCD screen. That’s where an EVF comes superbly handy, but guess what, I didn’t have one. I did, however, have a sort of foldable, plastic hood on the screen that made it visible… sometimes. Some of the pics were still shot totally blind as far as composition goes, and framing was primitive, at best… 2) you absolutely canNOT trust the camera meter in the snow (it will severely underexpose everything in a vain and crude attempt to get an “average grey” exposure over the frame), so you have to take advantage of the brilliant WYSIWYG feature of the NEX mirrorless cameras… unless in this case you just don’t see shit !! (lol). Oh, wait a minute, not quite. You have access to a histogram that is pretty sweetly accurate. Just push that sucker half a millimeter from the extreme right border, than maybe dial down another 1/3 stop for safety, and shoot away. Believe it or not, but about 95% of the images in this post were captured that way !

Pralognan2015-33PMProudly posing in front of the school’s meeting point

Pralognan2015-34This was taken from a peak, TOTALLY blind. What you see smack in the middle was a bit cottony cloud of fog quiety resting there. When you cross the thickest of it you hardly see your own skis… I judged the exposure entirely from the histogram, and just took a wild guess with the framing

Pralognan2015-42The teaching sessions start on Saturday (on Sunday for Marla, as we’d rather not suffer through Saturday traffic ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and on Friday the kids take a final test. Here is there little group coming down on the right, see the red clad silhouette of their teacher followed by colorful midgets, Marla was third in line…

Pralognan2015-39All kids that graduated (4 had been culled from the group on day 2 and will have to go through the whole level again next year) queued to get the much coveted “snowflake” pin

Pralognan2015-45Marla showing the precious token to her friend Leonor

Pralognan2015-35PMThenย  very proudly posing with her dad

Pralognan2015-36PM

Pralognan2015-37PMWith her mom…

Pralognan2015-38PM…Her teacher…

Pralognan2015-40… and her buddy !

Pralognan2015-41I got them to relax a tad

The next day school was out so we went for a family ride, all three of us, all the way to the top of the mountain. Daddy opened the way for our baby and in slow and wide swipes, we made our way down. Three times. I followed her closely and threw poisonous looks at those who zoomed by a little too close for comfort, but all in all we had a superb afternoon and Marla didn’t tripped a single time, she skied like a champ.

Pralognan2015-43PM

Pralognan2015-44PM

I don’t know if I made my point, and I doubt that I cured any gear addict out there, but as far as I’m concerned, I have lost all camera lust, but not the pleasure I have to document my kid’s life as graciously as I can, and with as little gear as I can… Don’t think I’m bragging though, or cured… I just bought another saddle tonight ๐Ÿ˜‰

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About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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4 Responses to NEX5R kit goes to the (French) Alps

  1. MJWC1 says:

    Absolutely lovely photos Claire (as always). Amazing colours!

    Very sound advice. While I have a few cameras, my NEX 5N is my choice in difficult lighting. The real time on screen exposure preview is a perhaps underappreciated asset.

    I hope all is OK with you. At least you got a week away from work and you could do worse than the French Alps!

  2. marla2008 says:

    All is well Matthew, how are you ?? Have your girls been riding again ?? We’ll be visiting an amazing property next week-end, and I’ll document the visit with the 5R, stay tuned ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. MJWC1 says:

    Life has been pretty full on here, Claire. Lots of changes, which have meant lots of emotional upheaval and relocation. I’ve only had limited access to the computer and even more to the internet (other than when at work), so my blog is a little behind. I have taken a lot of photos, but have a lot of catching up to do on processing and even more on blogging and uploading.

    The girls have not had a chance to ride again recently, but I am keen on making this happen again soon.

    For my part, I have been keeping myself sane and balanced by walking up lots of the big hills and small mountains we have around here as well as lots of walking generally. I love the freedom and fulfillment of a hard walk uphill and the views are wonderful. Of course, nothing so impressive as the French Alps (though on the weekend I plan on walking up a small mountain that is just on the edge of the Australian Alps). I should come away with sore legs and some great photos – well, at least the sore legs are a certainty!

    Take care, my distant friend, and keep sharing your wonderful photos.

    M

  4. marla2008 says:

    Thanks for the update Matthew ! I truly hope the “changes” have been positive ones, and all the emotional turmoil will turn for the better. I totally know the peace that walking the outdoor can bring, I sure wish I had access to more of it right now ! Riding my horse has been a much needed outlet, and I can’t wait till all the suburban hubbub is behind us for good. I hope to be able to share news and pictures about a possible move soon !

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