Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Peter Foster on Robert Owen
- Quota Bald Blokes and Big Ben
- Less heat and more light
- Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
- Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
- Bell end?
- Couple photoing their own shadows
- Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
- What is this iceStone device?
- Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
- A Morris Minor advertising a ping pong night club
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Photography
It was something to do with the fact that it was unseasonably warm yesterday, which resulted in fog this morning in London, but only in patches. And the Evening Standard, which now keeps virtually ticking over at the weekend, reported on the various London fog photos people have been taking.
This, taken by this guy, is my favourite:
Cranes (and the Walkie-Talkie) in front of the fog. Shard stabbing through the fog.
It seems that I am not the only one reminiscing about photos taken nearly a decade ago. The Atlantic is now doing this, with the help of NASA and its Cassini orbiter, and the Cassini orbiter’s oresumably now rather obsolete camera:
Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus (504 kilometers or 313 miles across), is the subject of much scrutiny, in large part due to its spectacular active geysers and the likelihood of a subsurface ocean of liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter has studied Enceladus, along with the rest of the Saturnian system, since entering orbit in 2004. Studying the composition of the ocean within is made easier by the constant eruptions of plumes from the surface, and on October 28, Cassini will be making its deepest-ever dive through the ocean spray from Enceladus - passing within a mere 30 miles of the icy surface. Collected here are some of the most powerful and revealing images of Enceladus made by Cassini over the past decade, with more to follow from this final close flyby as they arrive.
Here is a picture of Enceladus taken on June 10th 2006:
That is picture number 25, or rather, a horizontal slice of it.
Beyond Enceladus and Saturn’s rings, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is ringed by sunlight passing through its atmosphere. Enceladus passes between Titan and Cassini ...
That’s right. Those two horizontal, ever so slightly converging white lines and the edge of the Rings of Saturn.
Picture number 10 is even more horizontalisable:
A pair of Saturn’s moons appear insignificant compared to the immensity of the planet in this Cassini spacecraft view. Enceladus, the larger moon is visible as a small sphere, while tiny Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers across) appears as a tiny black speck on the far left of the image, just below the thin line of the rings.
That one was taken on November 4th 2011.
Every so often I check out Jonathan Gewirtz’s photos, often because I am reminded to do this when I read Chicago Boyz, for which Jonathan writes. Yesterday, I found my way to this wonderful photo of the cranes of Miami. Because that photo has “Copyright 2013 Johathan Gewirtz” written across the middle of it, I looked for other Miami crane photos, and found this ( by “ozanablue"):
Then, I think my finger slipped. Anyway, something happened, and I found myself looking at another terrific Gewirtz Miami crane snap, also adorned with a Copyright notice, but from which I have sliced out this:
That slice is much smaller as well as much (vertically) thinner than the meteorologically imposing original. But, as is the rule here with anything I “borrow”, if JG sees this and wants even this small slice of his picture removed from here, it will be done pronto.
Those container ship cranes will surely be looked back at by historians as one of the great visual symbols of our time, to sum up all the peaceful material and trading progress that we as a species have been making in recent decades.
Shame our cranes of this sort are too far away from the centre of London for a picture of them to be able to include our Big Things as well. Because our Big Thing’s are better than Miami’s.
Talking of cranes, another English one attracting admiring attention is this one, who bowls leg spin for Hampshire. (Another spinner nearly won it for England today, in Abu Dhabi (where they also have cranes (they now have them everywhere important that’s next to the sea)).)
Time for some weird transport, here at BMdotcom. So, google google, this kind of thing doesn’t take long. Here are three photos of transport arrangements, all three of which make use of the tricycle principle to not keep falling over.
First, a combined bicycle and shopping trolley, which, if you think about it uses the shopping trolley not only for transportation purposes but also to turn the bicycle into a sort of tricycle, although actually it is more like a quincycle, what with this device now having four small wheels at the front:
Second, this new slant on the tricycle principle, which actually combines three cycles, the one at the back motor- and the two at the front bi-. Magnificent, I think you will agree.
And, the third of these triple-based transport arrangements, a tractor that used to have four wheels but which has lost one, leaving only three:
Back-seat passengers are seldom all that helpful to a driver, but this one is essential.
I think that these snaps date from around 2009 (they are three of these ones), and you’ve very possibly already seen them. But they are new to me, and me is what matters here.
This kind of nonsense is why the internet exists. And beneath and beyond such photos is a very significant subtext, about people getting on with their lives, with determination, inventiveness, and above all without wars or catastrophes, unless one of these contrivances collapses into the road. Before the internet, too much “world news” consisted of disasters, and of helpless and miserable people begging to be rescued from these disasters. The begging continues, but there are now also other and more encouraging messages to enjoy.
I actually think that this change in how the world sees the rest of the world will make invasions by powerful parts of the world of less powerful parts less frequent. Invasions won’t stop, but the desire to rescue (by invading) will be at least somewhat moderated.
After my recent bout of picture archive trawling, I am convinced of two things.
First, that my pictures have got better and better. I only now show you the best ones from a decade ago, but most of those taken then were pretty terrible.
Second, that much of the reason for this is that my cameras have got better and better. I have got better too, but the cameras can do far more now, for the same money than they used to do. (For another example of this, see a recent 6k posting, with a picture that features a bug (which means that the bug is a feature but still a bug (heh)).)
This recent picture of mine, for instance, would not have come out nearly so well a decade ago:
Photography is light.
For a chilling description of all the various creepy organisations who are or who have been based in this creepy building – political parties, regulators, the UN, even the World Bank - I recommend reading the Millbank Tower wikipedia entry, and going to Occupants. My photo works perfectly for all that. I think it looks rather like one of those hyper-realistic oil paintings that the hyper-realist oil painters paint.
Notice how all Millbank Tower photos at Wikipedia are taken from close-up and below, thereby rendering the classic (but creepy) Millbank Tower roof clutter invisible.
Here he is in action:
Chandoha might be considered the forefather of the Internet’s now-ubiquitous cat photo; and while digital cameras and smartphones have certainly made it easier for people to document their feline friends, as Chandoha sees it, “All of this technology would be for naught if cats were not the sweet, lovable companions they are, and who are held in higher esteem today than those in ancient Egypt when they were worshipped as gods.”
“All of this technology” really has made it a whole lot easier to photo cats, though. That’s a big part of the cats on the internet thing. When cats do their funniest stuff, they tend to be moving about a lot, and now, that can all be captured.
Excellent piece in the Daily Mash about photography and its impact, entitled Everyone sad because of photo of thing that’s been happening for months. I only just noticed this piece, probably because it didn’t include a photograph:
It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.
The thing about a photo is that a vivid photo can tell a story very quickly, this being why this particular one is getting around so much and being talked about so much. Not necessarily a true story, not straight away, but a story. And that’s what you want, if you are The Media. The Media sell stories. Truth, factual and/or moral, is nice too, but not the essence of the product. That photos do their job well is not a “conscience” thing. It is a speed of communication thing. Photos communicate a lot very quickly.
The speed with which a picture tells a story is why I have so many photos here. This is a kitten blog. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t expect you to take it seriously, unless you want to. My photos don’t consume your time, unless you want them to. Often, I only tell my stories here at all if I have a photo. It would take too long to explain with mere words, and anyway, what would be the point?
Headlines aren’t necessarily true either. In fact, I would say that the biggest media lies are to be found in photos and in headlines. Photos typically lie, when they do lie, by omission. Headlines just lie, and you can often tell they’re lies simply be reading the story under them.
Why do headlines lie? Because that often makes for a more appealing story. The truth is usually more mundane. But mundane doesn’t get you eyeballs.
The day I spent at the Oval with Darren last Monday was enjoyable for me in so many ways. I am now definitely considering becoming a Surrey Member myself next season, a snip at just under two hundred quid. Seriously, that’s how great a day it was for me. But it was not quite the day that I had been expecting.
The thing was, Surrey had, after many disappointments in the recent past, finally been promoted just three days earlier. Half way through the game against Derby, the reportage was all about how well Derby had been doing. But the Surrey first innings tail did not so much wag as flail like the tail of a crocodile, and then the Surrey spinners polished Derby off on day four, to win the game by an innings and plenty, with several hours to spare.
So, last Monday, I was expecting the Oval to be seething with boisterous celebration. But once the game began, I soon realised that this was not going to happen. The place was that far from being deserted, and looked even more sparsely populated from where Darren and I were at first sitting, what with the bulk of the Surrey support being below us and out of our sight.
The thing about last Monday was that it was on a Monday. And why this game, of all games, on a Monday? A semi-final of the annual 50-50 county tournament ought surely to be staged at a time when regular people can show up to watch it, shouldn’t it? So, why wasn’t it?
The answer of course is: television:
That’s Gary Wilson of Surrey striding off at the end of the Surrey innings (they batted first), doing a great job of pretending that the TV guy who is poking his huge camera in his face just isn’t there.
These are not the kind of pictures of cricket that you usually see, are they? Usually, you see only the sort of pictures that this TV guy himself is taking, not pictures of him. He is not supposed to be part of the story which he is, so very obtrusively, helping to tell. Yet even the very day on which this match took place cannot be explained without reference to that TV guy, and all his mates.
That’s a picture, taken moments later, of Sky TV discussing that Surrey first innings with Notts fast bowler and recent England Ashes hero Stuart Broad. What did Broad say? I don’t know. I wasn’t watching this game on my telly. I was merely there.
But why Monday, rather than Sunday or Saturday? I mean, more people watch the telly at the weekend, surely. Well yes, they do. And Sky TV did indeed show the first semi-final on Sunday. (Yorkshire, crowned only days later as the 2015 champions of the four day game, were beaten in this first semi-final by Gloucester, with surprising ease.) So, why not the other semi- between Surrey and Notts, on the Saturday?
Because on Saturday, Sky TV were showing the second England v Australia ODI, and there would be no point in Sky buying both those games if they had happened on the same one day. So, the other semi- got shoved over to Monday. The schools were back at school. Workers were back at work. But, television rules.
So this was mostly an Old Geezer day, from the live spectator point of you. But, despite all those empty seats, this particular Old Geezer had a terrific time, not least because of all those TV cameramen whom I was able to take photos of.
I promise nothing, but I do now hope that there’ll be a whole lot more to follow about this marvellous day out.
Just under a week ago, last Wednesday, there was rainbow weather over London. I was in my local laundrette, which is just at the corner where Horseferry Road stops going at a right angle to the river and does a sharp right towards Victoria Street. But even thought I was lugging a big bag of shirts with me, I followed my camera rule, which goes: always have it on me. Consequently, I had my camera on me, and was able to take photos.
Not as pretty a foreground is it might have been, and must have been for many others who were out and about in London at that time, or who were told to get out and about by others. But: cranes, scaffolding, a tree with no leaves cluttering it up, that chess board building I like, the Millbank Tower and its classic roof clutter (see the right hand one of these photos). I wasn’t complaining:
Whenever I photo a rainbow, I am pessimistic about how good it will end up looking in my pictures. This is partly because a rainbow is pure light. There are no sharp edges for your camera to grab hold of, and inevitably the original somewhat blurry thing tends to come out just that fatal bit more blurry, and to look fatally less striking than the original did.
But, even more fundamentally, everyone knows that a rainbow is a photo op. Indeed, I saw several other people taking photos, and the only reason I didn’t photo them photoing was that we all had our backs to the same wall, and I couldn’t get behind them, in such a way that I could have got them and the rainbow in the same snap.
Anyway, my point is that because rainbows are universally regarded as ultra-photogenic, rainbow photos are really rather mundane (because so very common), compared to actually seeing the thing itself.
The best photos tend to show you things that you are not already used to seeing in photos.
But, I enjoyed myself. And I certainly like that in the final one, bottom right, you can make out a second and much fainter rainbow, above the main act.
I believe I may have said here recently that I did not care for selfies, although I cannot find where I said this. But whether I said this or not, it is not entirely true. There is a kind of selfie that I do like, which is when I am photoing some scene or other, and I am able to sneak a selfie into it, in a small part of the picture.
Partly this is because my understanding is that Real Photographers go to enormous trouble to avoid such selfie effects. As with PR experts, if the Photographer is the story, or any part of the story, then he isn’t telling the story right. The Real Photographer is not doing his job, which is to create a photo of whatever he is photoing, not of him, the Real Photographer, photoing it. The Real Photographer is supposed to be invisible.
Well, fair enough, business is business. But I am not in business. I am wandering about, having fun. If I show up in one of my photos, that’s fine, because that was what was going on in front of my camera. There was this mirror or this window or this shiny windscreen or whatever, and my face bounced back to my camera off of it. It happens, and it’s all part of how cameras work and what can happen with them.
Besides which, more fundamentally, I am not trying to persuade you that you were or are actually there. No. This is a photo. Photos are different from what you actually see if you are there, that being a great deal of the point of them, and a great deal of the fun of them. Cameras see and tell you about things that you might very well have missed, if you had merely been there, just as I do constantly miss stuff when I was there taking the photo, and only see later. It’s not reality. It’s a photo. Which means that someone stood there, with a camera, and took that photo. And, sometimes, the camera sees that. Why is that wrong?
All of which is a preamble-stroke-excuse for the following selfie:
I am the bloke in the light green shirt and the dark jacket, reflected in the bus window, underneath the “38” of “38 Victoria”.
Now, I approach my original point, the point referred to in the title of this. To me, it doesn’t look as if I am standing where I obviously had to be standing. No, it looks like the bloke in the light green shirt can’t be me, because the bus, all of it, and especially the bit with the reflection of the green shirt bloke, is a bit to my right. Ergo, green shirt bloke had to have been standing a minimum of about three yards to the right of me, me being the bloke who took the picture. But, despite all appearances to the contrary, me and green shirt bloke are one and the same.
I presume that this odd effect is the consequence of the lens (there is only one) in my camera being of the very wide angle sort. This means that the camera takes a very wide view, but then makes the result look not so wide. Everything that would be seen by the eye as being way off to the side is squeezed into the picture. And things on the far left, to the left of the photographer at the time, are squeezed into looking as if they were on his right, in the picture.
I don’t think I’d have been able to see this nearly so vividly if this picture had not been, among other things, a selfie. On the other hand, it was not a selfie in the sense that I deliberately included myself in the picture. I am pretty sure that just happened, without me trying.
At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a bus, covered in a popcorn advert.
Incoming photo (which is something I like a lot), from Simon Gibbs, of a sign (I like signs a lot), near Southwark Cathedral:
Click on that to get the bigger, unhorizontalised picture, and read more about what this is about here. Google sends me regular links to anything that is “new architecture london”, and there’s been lots written about this place.
Although, rather oddly, I couldn’t find any pictures of this sign. Maybe this will change that.
The gimmick is that this is a pub that sprays alcohol into the air. That was always going to be catnip to the media, social and regular. “Breathe responsibly”. Arf, arf. There are already plenty of pictures around of that sign.
That’s not my punctuation. That’s their punctuation:
This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.
There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs. And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s. That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter. Their rule: No Photos. My rule: Photo of their rule.
I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care. Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.
I didn’t really compose the shot. I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding. But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top. And, top left: “London”.
This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved. And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.
Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.
And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.
This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:
What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground. And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been. It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.
Fireball. Nothing else could have done that.
However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.
Today, a truly wonderful White Van sped through my field of vision, but by the time I had extracted my camera from my bag it had been and gone. But, I remembered the name advertised on it ("Upshot"), and better yet the service advertised ("Ground Based Aerial Photography"), and when I got home I looked the story up. A truly twenty first centurion would have looked it up on the spot.
I had to look up the acronyms UAV and ROV. UAV is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and ROV is Remotely Operated Vehicle. I sort of knew those, but needed to be sure. But yes, drones.
The language at this website is pervasively evasive:
Given the nature of our work we cannot always advertise the scope of our experience, ...
Indeed. The word “surveillance"s occurs quite a lot. It’s all a bit creepy. But then, photography so often is, I think.
But, I did like this photo, of lots of photographers:
Click to get it bigger.
I love to photo tourist crap in tourist crap shops. And I am able to report a new arrival in the tourist crap shops, or at any rate an arrival that I have not noticed until now. Yes, they are now selling selfie sticks, in large numbers. Either that or they are not selling selfie sticks in large numbers, and have reduced them to clear:
I took that photo today on my way from Oxford Street to Holborn tube station. I would have taken the tube, but the Central Line currently fails to stop at Tottenham Court Road tube station, so I walked instead.
Later, outside Buckingham Palace, a place I do not normally frequent but tube strikes have peculiar effects on travel habits, I spied a Bald Bloke taking photos of a guardsman. And he was using a selfie stick.
What I think we see here is an interesting “other” use for selfie sticks, which is simply for holding your camera-phone more steadily than you might if you merely used your unaided hands. It is important that selfie sticks can be scrunched up to something quite short, which can then operate as a simple handle. I am seeing this kind of thing quite a lot, now I come to think about it.
Selfie sticks, hated by opinionated would-be opinion-formers, looking for some stupid new way to denounce the Depravity of Modern Life. But people ignore the opinionated would-be opinion-formers and just go ahead and use their selfie sticks, whenever they feel inclined.
This guy, with his bright blue hood, looked vaguely academic I think. He isn’t academic, you understand. He just looks that way in my photo.