Jun 232013
 

Hardly a day goes by without a new review of the Ricoh GR camera appearing, the latest being the one by DPReview. At long last, DPReview has finally acknowledged that Ricoh make superb digital cameras, as anyone with a Ricoh GRD III or GRD IV will attest, and the GR has been duly given a Gold Award.

Ricoh GR camera.

Picture courtesy of erickimphotography.com

Ricoh meisters such as Cristi on One Day, One Picture and Wouter Brandsma have already had the chance to put the new offering from Ricoh through its paces and both are impressed. Check out their websites and you can see why. Street photographer Eric Kim has also thoroughly reviewed the camera, which he annoyingly refers to as the Ricoh GRD V, and gives it a strong recommendation for those photographers wishing to downsize and go for a minimalist approach to street photography. Of course, there is more to the Ricoh GR than just street photography, as Jorge Ledesma so ably points out.

When the Ricoh GR was first announced, it ticked all the boxes for me. Just fractionally larger in size than a Ricoh GRD III but with a 16.2Mp APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter and a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens that is already being hailed as a classic, why wouldn’t it? I placed a pre-order at the beginning of May with B&H and hoped that it would arrive before I left for the UK. Sadly, time ran out and I had to cancel my order.

Availability on this side of the Atlantic is also scare. I have checked several UK Ricoh dealers online, some make no mention of the camera, while others have it listed as a pre-order.

The dilemma I face is whether to put in a pre-order. My financial situation following my recent divorce is healthy in the short term but starting a new life in the UK is going to draw heavily on my limited resources. I need to find an apartment and then furnish it. I don’t have a stick of furniture to my name, not even a knife, fork or spoon.

I also don’t have any income, although that situation could and, hopefully, will change in the future. I would like to think that I could possibly find employment that draws on my expertise and experience but my age could work against me.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also discovered that former work colleagues, you know who you are you bastards, have also disowned me and won’t even give me the courtesy of a reply to my emails. As a consequence, my network is not all that I thought it was. Fortunately, some people have a more kindly disposition, strangely enough those who have gone on to higher and better things than those individuals who refuse to acknowledge me could ever dream about, and have agreed to give me a reference should the need arise. People are strange. I guess it takes adversity to remind us all of that fact.

So will the purchase of a Ricoh GR give me a much needed psychological boost or will it be a purchase that I may well regret six months from now if the money runs out and I have to throw myself at the mercy of the state?

I wonder whether I should post this piece on the Leica forum? I would be sure to get a sympathetic ear from Leica owners, don’t you think? The cost of one of the cheaper Leica lenses would keep my head above water for three or four months.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a tough call knowing what to do. In the meantime, my Ricoh GRD III continues to give me excellent service, as the photographs above show, which makes the purchase of the Ricoh GR all the more appealing. Also one UK dealer is throwing in a free Ricoh GC-5 leather case, which makes the camera even more tempting.

Decisions, decisions…

Dec 032011
 

Dark Entry Creek, St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The photograph above serves as an allegory of the early part of my week. I had a sunny disposition but it was under threat from the looming clouds.

The clouds in my case were my Mac Pro dying, a credit card transaction being refused and the temporary loss of my Internet access just as I was about to upload my entries for a photo contest.

My Mac Pro will be five years old next week, with a PC I would be braced for things to start going wrong but not with a Mac. You can imagine my shock, not to say disbelief, when it died. It would begin to power up but then stopped and the screen remained black.

A few procedures aimed at restoring an ailing Mac all failed. The Mac message boards provided no instant solutions, in fact they compounded my concern with mention of logic board failure. Logic boards do not come cheap and it looked as if I was facing a bill in excess of $1,000.

The one ray of sunshine amidst all this gloom was the presence of an authorized Apple repair shop only four miles from my home. I called Mac + PC Tech Pro and was told to bring my Mac in. I figured I would not only be facing a large bill but also the loss of the computer for several days.

The deadline for the photo contest was Wednesday. Sorting through all my photographs for suitable images and getting them ready for submission looked to have been a wasted effort. It probably was a wasted effort in terms of actually winning but that is a totally different issue.

In the middle of the afternoon, Jake at Mac + PC Tech Pro called back to say that testing of my Mac had revealed that the memory boards were shot and one stick of memory had failed. He said he had everything in stock and I could pick my computer up in 30 minutes. The total bill was going to be several hundred dollars but a long way short of the $1,000 I thought it would cost.

Anyone in the Jacksonville area who has a problem with their Mac should contact Mac + PC Tech Pro. You are treated like a customer rather than a number by the helpful staff. I highly recommend the company and the service it provides.

The return of my Mac also meant I would be able to submit my photographs a day before the closing date.

On Tuesday, I found that AOL had decided to change the inbox of my e-mail. They call it a unified inbox. I call it a disaster. My inbox had e-mails going back to 2009. I much preferred the old system of new mail and old mail being kept in separate inboxes.

My first attempt to switch back didn’t work and I contacted the online help service. I was being given instructions on what to do when the phone rang. It was the fraud protection unit of my credit card company, asking about a couple of recent transactions. They kept referring to today (Wednesday) when the transactions had taken place the day before.

I had decided to take up Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal on upgrading Photoshop to CS5 but my credit card company had refused to authorize the transaction. When I pointed out that I had made the transaction and made it in good faith, I was told I would have to reorder from Adobe.

“Just a minute,” I said, “yesterday was the last day of the special discount. You can telephone Adobe and put it straight.”

Moments later, I had Eric from Adobe on the line informing me that they had no record of my order placed on Nov 29.

“Excuse me, Eric,” I said,” but how is it that I have record of the order in My Adobe.” I read out the details including the order number and ended, “If I have a record of the order and you do not, I think something must be dreadfully wrong with your computer system.”

“I am going to transfer you to someone else,” Eric said sheepishly.

I was put through to a sales associate who could not have been more helpful. I got the Black Friday deal discount during which he happened to mention that the billing address on the initial order was an address in Morrisville, North Carolina and different from my shipping address in Jacksonville.

Now I could understand why my credit card company had refused to the let the order go through.

A Google search revealed the Morrisville address was vacant office premises. I contacted my credit card company with this information and also Adobe. The former assured me everything was all right with my account, the latter were not the slightest bit concerned that a bogus address had been attached to my credit card while placing an order.

With that problem sorted, I turned my attention to uploading the competition photographs, a task I had intended to start some two hours earlier.

I clicked the computer mouse and noticed that all my e-mails were grey, gray for American readers. I clicked the mouse again and nothing happened. Glancing across at the modem, I saw that all the lights were out save for the power light. Great! It was beginning to look as if I was destined not to enter this competition. I unplugged all the leads to the modem and waited for a minute, plugged them back in again but the modem remained dead. I tried a second time and got the same result. I had no recourse other than to call AT&T – that paragon of timeliness and efficiency.

I gathered together the information in order to contact AT&T, knowing full well it would be at least a day before anyone could come round to investigate the problem. With that thought in mind, I decided I needed a cup of coffee and a cigarette to calm me down.

With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs back to my office. I was in a state of disbelief at the events that had befallen me. Then at last, a piece of good fortune struck. From the top of the stairs I could see the modem and all its lights were lit up.

“You shall go to the ball, Cinders!”

I spent the next hour uploading my photographs. I am officially an entrant in the contest. The blue skies came back.

My upgrade to Photoshop CS5 should arrive next week along with a Mac OSX upgrade to Snow Leopard. I hope the learning curve is not a steep one and I can quickly get back into my workflow and make use of the new features the upgrade brings.

I am back on track.

St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Oct 042011
 

The Jacksonville Jaguars took on the New Orleans Saints at EverBank Field on Sunday. I attended the game thanks to free tickets courtesy of my wife’s firm.

The Jaguars are a team in transition. That is a polite way of saying they are poor.

If the action on the field left a lot to be desired from a Jaguars fan’s point of view, at least the occasion provided a good opportunity for photographs.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

A large number of Saints fans also attended the game, complete with painted faces and the obligatory Mardi Gras beads. Who Dat?

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

With no smoking allowed in the seating area of EverBank Field, I eventually had to make my way to one of the designated smoking areas. From my lofty vantage point I was able to fire off several overhead shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This female Jaguars fan outfit caught the eye, although I was unable to get into just the right position. A football stadium also presents quite a challenge in terms of lighting.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The game itself ended in a 28-10 defeat for the Jaguars. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw one good throw for a touchdown but it was very much a learning experience for him. Fingers crossed that he steadily improves, which I think he will, otherwise it is going to be a long season.

Still, looking on the bright side, if the season ends 4-12 for the Jaguars, if they are lucky, fans can at least look forward to the prospect of a new coach. Failure to reach the play-offs this season will see the end of Jack Del Rio’s tenure and most Jaguars fans will not be sorry to see him go. Of course, it remains to be seen if owner Wayne Weaver is as good as his word.

Mike Johnson over on The Online Photographer web site presents a similar photographic essay following on from his visit to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. At least he had the pleasure of seeing his team, the Packers, win.

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Sep 232011
 

As much as I enjoy following the fortunes of Stoke City, some games fill me with a feeling of dread as to the outcome.

One of those games occurs tomorrow when the Potters take on Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium.

In the course of the past few weeks, I have seen Manchester United several times on the Fox Soccer Channel. At the moment, United seem unplayable. They demolished Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea and routed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 away from home.

In their five Premier League games so far this season, United have scored 21 goals and conceded four.

Now, you can probably understand my feeling of dread.

Factor in Stoke City’s 120 minutes of football in Tuesday night’s third round Carling Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur, and given that many of the same players will take the field against United, and my fears are far from being unfounded.

However, as Jimmy Greaves used to say – It’s a funny old game.

United will start out as favourites to win — bookmakers William Hill has United 8/15 to win; 3/1 for a draw; and 5/1 for a Stoke win – but it is still eleven men against eleven men and a lot can happen out there on the pitch.

One thing is certain. Stoke City will give 100 per cent. The matches against Manchester United are always viewed as a derby game. I think it stems from Stoke City having ex-United player Dennis Viollet when they returned to the old First Division in 1963. A year later they acquired Maurice Setters from United.

The rivalry between the two clubs has always been intense. Older Stoke fans like me will remember those famous victories in 1971 and 1972 in the League Cup and FA Cup respectively, when Stoke knocked out Manchester United boasting players such as Best, Law and Charlton.

So despite the bookmakers’ odds, a Stoke win can be achieved. Here’s hoping.

And to take my mind off it all, here are a few photographs captured last Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The B&W conversions used Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3.

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Sep 132011
 

Saturday night was spent at the Florida Theatre, attending the Delbert McClinton concert.

McClinton hails from Lubbock, Texas, and moved to Fort Worth when he was 11. My wife was born and grew up in Fort Worth, so McClinton is something of a local hero.

I have to confess that prior to moving to Texas in 2000, I had never heard of Delbert. I have since learned the error of my ways and have seen him three times.

His mix of blues and country is infectious. It is impossible to walk away from a McClinton concert not feeling that you have had a good time. That was certainly true again on Saturday.

With second row seats, the Ricoh GRD III was not out of its depth for a few stage shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I find in these situations, it is best to set the camera on Program mode and let the camera’s processor figure out the best exposure. That is why some people term the P mode, the professional mode. A camera joke there, I doubt it will be appreciated by “serious” photographers.

Believe me, a lot of people out there take themselves far too seriously when it comes to the business of taking photographs or even talking about photography. An essential ingredient for any photographer, in my opinion, is a well-developed sense of humour.

After the show, 70-year-old Delbert was at the stage door signing autographs. Lighting conditions were not the best but I fired off a couple of shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Someone doing a Master’s degree in Photography could probably write a dissertation on the technical flaws contained in the image. For one thing, flash should have been used. But I detest using flash photography and knew that the GRD III, with a little help from Photoshop, would provide an image.

Despite its flaws, after conversion to B&W in Silver Efex Pro, the image has a certain appeal for me. It captures the essence of McClinton. He is something of a rough and ready character, the image is likewise.

Feel free to comment as to whether the Delbert McClinton shot works.

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Aug 262011
 

Esteemed Dutch photographer Wouter Brandsma, a guy who talks a lot of good sense about photography and is the perfect antidote to all the gearheads who seem to gravitate to forums such as DPReview, described himself in his latest blog entry as a stroll photographer.

Wouter explained the use of the term as follows:

I know it doesn’t sound so sexy as street photographer or the even cooler streettog.  I don’t give workshops and don’t use a flash to scare the neighborhood. I have hardly anytime to pay visit to a larger city and practice street photography, but what I can do a lot more is stroll my (mostly empty) streets of my hometown. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like street photography, but it does mean I am proud of being a stroll photographer.

That description struck a chord with me because it sums up my approach to photography. I like to stroll with camera in hand and like Wouter am proud to be a stroll photographer.

Last night was a case in point. I needed to go to Walgreens to buy a card for a friend who is recovering from an emergency operation. She was only given a 50/50 chance of pulling through and thankfully made it. I decided to walk. It was early evening and I reckoned the short walk would be a comfortable stroll. I was wrong. By the time I returned home my shirt was soaked with sweat. Still, it could have been worse. On Monday, Jacksonville was predicted to receive a visit from Hurricane Irene. Irene must have heard that Jacksonville is a bit of a dump and headed to the bright lights of New England. Commiserations to all those who have had to endure, or are going to experience, the wrath of Irene.

Naturally, I set out armed with the Ricoh GRD III. The case straps on my belt and it is the perfect camera for a stroll.

I happened to notice raindrops from an earlier shower on a stand of elephant ears (Colocasia). I fired off a couple of shots.

Processing the shot, I came up with three alternatives — colour; black & white; and a hybrid formed by choosing Overlay in the Silver Efex Pro layer in Photoshop.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The third shot used Overlay on the Silver Efex Pro layer with opacity set at 60 per cent.

Once again, faced by three different versions of the same shot it is hard to settle on my favourite. Does the hybrid shot work?

Please feel free to comment on which of the three versions works best.

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Aug 102011
 

It is hot once again in Jacksonville today. For the past couple of weeks the temperature as hovered between 93 degrees F and 96 degrees F. I was rebuked by an English friend for still talking in terms of Fahrenheit rather than the Celsius or Centigrade that has been adopted by Britain as part of its integration with the European Union.

America of course will have no truck with what the rest of the world does. It has to be different, often to the point of being contrary.

But for Europeans, the temperature has been between 33.8 degrees C and 35.5 degrees C for the past couple of weeks. Tomorrow it was supposed to hit 99 degrees F (37.2 degrees C) but the forecast has since been revised to 97 degrees F ( 36.1 degrees C).

When I lived in Texas and the temperature this time of year was at least 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) or higher, people used to ask me about the heat. I said that coming from Britain I was not going to complain. The heat in Texas was a dry heat and I could cope with it better. In Jacksonville it is the heat combined with the humidity that is the killer. It gets to the point where you don’t really want to step outside and consequently my photographic output has suffered of late.

The weather is really suited for lounging around in the sun, hence this image of sunloungers.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

And another one just for good measure.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

And after a session in the Florida sun, you need some of this to cool off.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

All these images used the high contrast B&W scenic mode on the GRD III and were taken at the Marriott World Center Resort, Orlando, Florida. I did a little bit of post-processing Photoshop CS3, essentially a bit of dodging and burning.

What does strike me in all this heat is that the tarmac on roads in both Florida and Texas does not melt. In Britain when temperatures rose above 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) the tar would melt. I remember as a kid using lolly sticks to dip into the liquid tar at the side of the road and write my initials on the kerbstone (curbstone for US readers). Such were the simple pleasures of my childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But woe betide you if you brought tar into the house on your shoes. or got it on your clothes.

If anyone with a civil engineering background can explain why tar melts in Britain and doesn’t seem to melt in Texas and Florida, please let me know.

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Aug 062011
 

My stepdaughter graduated from the University of North Florida yesterday and my wife and I attended the graduation ceremony.

In the 11 years that I have been in the United States, I have come to learn that things are done a lot differently over here and not always for the better.

The atmosphere of the ceremony was more like one normally encountered at a sporting event. Perhaps that is why it was held in the basketball arena.

The audience whistled, clapped, cheered, yelled and sounded horns as if they were supporting their sporting heroes.

The only true pomp and circumstance came from Elgar’s march of that name, as the graduands filed in to take their seats.

When the president of the university appealed to the audience not to cheer in order that the names of the students could be heard by their family members, his plea naturally fell on deaf ears. The dignity and decorum during my graduation more than 30 years ago, at the University of Manchester, were conspicuous by their absence.

One thing is for certain, graduation is definitely not a spectator sport. It is purely for the participants.

After the ceremony was over I wandered among the crowds outside the arena.

I happened across members of a black fraternity performing a stomp routine.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This young lady sporting a bowler hat caught my eye.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

My stepdaughter is a cancer survivor. The memories of taking her for chemo sessions at Forth Worth Children’s Hospital are still fresh in my mind. My wife and I are terribly proud of her success. She deserves it.

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Jul 212011
 

I had an errand to run on Tuesday. The Monday night grocery shop had missed out on one item. So I ventured out with the Ricoh GRD III attached to my belt. There really is no excuse for not having this camera with me at all times and that is one of the reasons I like the GRD III so much.

I needed to visit the Publix supermarket in Riverside. I tend to avoid its car park. For one thing, it is always crowded; for another thing the parking spaces are tight. When they were marking them out, they obviously didn’t consider people with a Bentley Continental. Just kidding!

Car parks and parking lots are also locations where the normal rules of driving and the concomitant care and attention seem to have no place. Parking on that crowded and small parking lot is asking for trouble in my opinion.

I decided to park on the street a few blocks away. I figured that would give me a better chance of shooting a few photographs of things that caught my eye. And so it proved.

May Street provided me with these two shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I snapped this one as I was about to enter the grocery store. It was shot from the hip and the final image is the result of cropping in Photoshop CS3.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This final shot was taken as I made my way back to the car, following a different route along Oak Street. Am I the only person who tends to follow two different routes to get from A to B and back to A again?

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The B&W conversions were performed with Silver Efex Pro.

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Jul 062011
 

Like millions of Americans I spent part of Monday evening watching the Fourth of July fireworks.

In previous years, my wife and I have headed to a vantage point in Riverside, Jacksonville, to watch the display.

This year was different. My stepdaughter and her husband have recently moved into a high-rise apartment across the St Johns River from downtown Jacksonville. The apartment unfortunately does not overlook the river but it is located close to the heart of the action.

We sat on the Riverwalk and watched the barges loaded with the fireworks glide into place.

The barges are positioned about half a mile apart. We sat about a third of the way from the barge to our right.

When the display started, the fireworks burst almost overhead; the loud bangs reverberating off the apartment buildings. It was an awesome spectacle.

What followed after the fireworks display was equally memorable and I had the perfect view from the apartment’s balcony on the 18th floor.

I had heard of the term “gridlock” but never before witnessed it.

The traffic along Riverplace Boulevard was backed up in both directions as far as the eye could see. If Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had a plan to deal with the traffic, it clearly wasn’t working.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

A police motorbike blocked off access straight ahead along Riverplace Boulevard in order to allow cars to exit the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza. That made sense, although a parking lot to my right did not receive such preferential treatment.

When 75 percent of the cars on the Crowne Plaza parking lot had left, the police officer moved his motorcycle and then proceeded to control traffic at the Flagler Avenue/Riverplace Boulevard intersection. That too made good sense and the traffic started to flow a little more freely.

Five minutes later, the police officer left his position, climbed on his motorcycle and drove away. It could have been that he went to answer an emergency call but surely other police officers were held in reserve for just such an eventuality. It looked to me as if he had come to the end of his shift, simply pulled up sticks and left. The scene at that intersection then resembled chaos, it was everyone for themselves. Turn lanes were used by some drivers to gain a 50-yard advantage over those people stuck in the regular lanes.

This event occurs every year. I should imagine the number of people who turn up is pretty much the same each year – a lot. The roads certainly haven’t changed in the past 12 months, so it kind of baffled me why Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hadn’t devised a plan to deal with the volume of traffic. Well, it had and it was inadequate.

Among the cars stuck on Riverplace Boulevard was a Mini Cooper with the checkered flag roof, which stood out from the rest of the vehicles, making its progress easy to monitor. It took the Mini Cooper 25 minutes to cover 100 yards.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

For Jacksonville’s finest, this was not their finest hour.

These shots were all taken at ISO 1600 and then processed in Photoshop CS3, using the noise filter. I did an overall noise reduction and then reduced the noise in each of the three colour channels. The results would probably not stand up to being printed at a size larger than 10 x 8 inches.

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