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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Photography

Friday August 14 2015

That’s not my punctuation.  That’s their punctuation:

image

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 see also: Fossils reveal felines drove 40 species of canines to extinction after arriving in North America.

And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.

Here (thank you Instapundit) are twelve photos of the destruction that just hit the Chinese city of Tianjin.

This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:

image

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.

Wednesday August 12 2015

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 even found, at the Upshot website, a picture of the van which I think I saw myself, in Tottenham Court Road:

image

My first thought was that here was an enterprise only made possible by drones.  Well, drones are part of the Upshot story, but there is a lot more kit involved than merely drones buzzing about.

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:

image

Click to get it bigger.

Wednesday August 05 2015

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:

image

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.

image

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.

Saturday August 01 2015

Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank.  And with this, I thought, I had struck gold.  This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:

image

I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006.  At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos.  A … well, a camera.  But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.

Whatever that is.  I have no real clue.  Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?

The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale.  I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.

Friday July 31 2015

Here comes another of those Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories, at favourite-internet-place-of-mine, Dezeen.

imageI have rather unkindly sliced a vertical slice out of one of the photos, of a truly extraordinary post (I mean a physical post in the road - not a piece of internetting), which is covered from the top almost to the bottom in The Wires!!!

But, maybe this is an oblique reference to The Wires!!!:

“The reason we constructed frames was to filter the surrounding environment, which changes fast in an unforeseeable manner,” explained architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh.

They constantly take away some The Wires!!!, and install new The Wires!!!, in different places.  Could that be what architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh are, rather delicately, referring to?

What all these Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories suggest to me is that these are countries (the other big one being Japan) where electronic communication arrived when people were still very poor in other ways, and any politician who tried to restrain The Wires!!! to make them prettier, but more expensive, would be hanged by them.  Western trained aesthetes don’t like it, but know there’s nothing they can do.

I also recall hearing once about how in Japan, all buildings tend to be more temporary, because of earthquakes and all timber construction and suchlike, and that even religious buildings get torn down and rebuilt in another spot from time to time.  And if it’s temporary, who cares what it looks like?  If they want to make it pretty, fine.  If not, also fine.  If The Wires!!! will soon be different The Wires!!!, no worries.  Let The Wires!!! go where they want.

But what do I know?  I’m only babbling on like this to make entirely sure that this posting is longer than the post.

Looking at this some more, I do wonder if those architects maybe persuaded the electricians to rearrange these particular South Korean The Wires!!!, so that they are less visible from the Architecture, and if those frames, mentioned above, are as they are so that The Wires!!! cannot be seen through them.  They act like blinkers, in other words.

If so, it should have been explained more clearly.  As it is, we can only guess.

Thursday July 30 2015

A man who writes about cameras writes, here:

Camera makers have been trying for 150 years to develop an all-in-one camera that satisfies the needs of most photographers. The Nikon Coolpix P600 comes closer to filling that order than any of the other ultra-zooms I’ve tested to date, taking into account the issues at the wide-angle end of that monster zoom.

I love zoom.  My current amount of zoom is x24.  But, I really love zoom.  And there have been cameras out there, like this one with its x60 zoom, for quite a while now.  I was cautious, fearing that other things would have been sacrificed too much, for too much zoom, too soon.  But it is clear that Nikon’s marketeers have a wire attached to my mind and have been reading it:

The P600 was obviously designed for photography enthusiasts, by photography enthusiasts. Photographers who purchase the P600 will need to have realistic expectations – any camera with a 60x zoom is bound to be the result of countless mechanical, optical, electrical, and functional/operational compromises, and every one of those compromises is going to affect image quality in some way. The P600 will appeal to serious photographers who want to be able to cover a very broad zoom range of photographic genres without having to carry a heavy DSLR, a sturdy tripod, and a bag full of very expensive lenses.

And, he might have added, who doesn’t want to be wasting vital seconds faffing about with swapping lenses, while an animal like a cat or a digital photographer abandons the pose that got you (me) all excited, just before you (I) take the shot.

They also include a twiddly screen, which for me (me) is an absolute, no-twiddly-screen-no-sale, must.

Overall, the P600 does a remarkably good job of making those compromises palatable.

So, could this be my next camera?

Reviewers also mention that it is quite light, light as in not heavy I mean.

Best of all, although Amazon wants £500 for the P600, Amazon also kindly let me know that there is now a P610, which is a P600 and just a teeny bit more so, for under £300.

I am very tempted.  But I have been so happy with my x24 Lumix camera that I have not been paying attention to the camera market, until I happened to go back to it today.  Not only was I unaware of the existence, since several years back, of the Nikon Coolpix P610.  I also failed to clock the fact that since it was introduced, in about 2013 or some such year, the Nikon Coolpix P610 has acquired a bigger, more expensive and even zoomier younger brother, the Nikon Coolpix P900.  The Nikon Coolpix P610 is a cool red colour ...:

image

... but the Nikon Coolpix P900, maybe because it is aimed at money-less-of-a-problem semi-pro types (rather than at “enthusiasts"), is boring black:

image

The Nikon Coolpix P900 is also more expensive, and heavier, and heaviness is starting to be as much of a problem for me as expense always has been.  Is the Nikon Coolpix P900 worth that extra expense and extra weight, just to get x83 (!!) zoom, instead of a mere x60 zoom?  I am thinking, maybe not.

But mostly, what I am thinking is: that I would like to be able to compare these two cameras in a shop.  Remember those?  To see just how much these two cameras differ in bulk and weight.  This is the kind of thing that is hard to see from mere pictures, even if they tell you the weights in numbers.

And no sooner is the thought thought, than it is investigated, because this, as I keep being reminded, is the world we now live in.  Next stop, I think, will be a place like this, just to see if they’ll let me hold these two cameras, one in each hand, to compare and contrast.

Friday July 24 2015

Well, it hasn’t really worked has it.  No way have I caught up.  But before today ends, I do want to show you this, because it is a cat and Friday is my cat day:

image

This photo is not mine.  It is Mick Hartley‘s.  I really like his photos, both the ones he takes himself and the ones he picks out for his blog that other people have taken.

What I love about Hartley’s photos is his attitude to colour, and to black and white.  He loves both.  He loves the black and whiteness of black and white, and he loves the colourfulness of colour.

So, that white cat above, for instance.  It adds an extra something that the white cat is surrounded by a white window frame, and that it is black behind the white cat.  And, neither the cat nor the window frame would be as white if it were not for the blue wall.

So, go to Mick Hartley.  You may not want to read the whole thing just because I do.  But, look at the whole thing.

Sunday July 19 2015

As already related here, I had a delightful day out with G(od)D(aughter) 1, way back whenever that was.  And I got as far as telling you that we had succeeded, with the help of our mobile phones, in meeting up, not (as I wrongly related (apologies to anyone inconvenienced or insulted)) at the “Manor Park” Cafe, but at the Park View Cafe.  And I also wrote about how I nearly didn’t have my mobile phone with me, and about how inconvenient that would have been.

Once settled inside the Manor Park View Cafe, GD1 and waited for the rain to stop, and conversed.

GD1 was full of apologies for the fact that she had kept on postponing our expedition.  I, on the other hand, was rather pleased about these postponements, because they were caused by pressure of work, GD1’s work as a professional photographer.  And I think that her being faced with pressure of work is good.  Getting established as a professional photographer has been a bit of a struggle for her, but now the struggle seems to be paying off.

Another sign that GD1 is now photographically busier than she had been in former years was that she felt the need to apologise also about not having done much recent photoing for the sheer fun of it, as I constantly do, and as the two of us were about to do again.  “You put me to shame” was the phrase she used, in one of her emails to me before this latest walkabout.  But again, I see that as a good sign.  I mean, if you have spent a day taking important photographs for a demanding client, and being sustained in your efforts by the expectation of money, would your idea of a fun way to wind down be to go out and take yet more photos, with nobody paying you?  That she does rather less fun photoing than she once did means, again, that she is probably busier doing work photoing.  Good.  Under the circumstances, it was all the more kind of her to be willing to share a day with me doing this now, for her, ever so slightly uncongenial thing.

At the Park View Cafe, GD1 and I discussed the fact that, although becoming an established professional photographer may be a struggle, this line of business still most definitely exists.

Not that long ago, some were predicting that the ubiquity of cheap-and-cheerful cameras, wielded by cheap-and-cheerful photographers like me, would drive the formerly professional photographers out of business.  Well, it did drive some of the old pro photographers out of business.  But the world now is at least as full as ever it was of pro photographers, including many who started out as cheap-and-cheerful digital amateurs.

Yes, there have been big changes in the photography business, as my friend Bruce the Real Photographer long ago told me, when digital cameras first started catching on.  And change often registers first as bad news for existing practitioners, who then have to adapt fast or go out of business.  Because yes, lots of the kinds of photos that Real Photographers like Bruce used to charge for are now taken by amateurs instead.  Family portraits, for instance.  If you take photos of your kids constantly, you are pretty much bound to get lucky with some of them, and that’s all most people probably want.

And yes, amateurs like me can sometimes take nice wedding pictures.  But, would you want to rely on the amateurs to take those crucial never-to-be-posed-for again wedding moments, just for the sake of a few dozen quid?  I think not.

Or consider the house-selling trade.  The phrase “false economy” is the one that best explained why there will always be professional photographers alive and well in that line of business.  Imagine you are trying to sell a house, perhaps for several million quid.  Does it really make sense to rely on some fun-photographer like me to try to make the place look its best?  No it does not.  A crappy set of house photos or a flattering set of house photos could be the difference between sale and no-sale, a difference that could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds or more.  So, not spending a few hundred quid making sure that the photos are non-crappy is … a false economy.

In general, whenever the economic difference made by good photos dwarfs the mere cost of good photos, then good photos will be demanded, and good photos will be paid for.

Here is a rather crappy picture which I recently took, of a non-crappy picture of a house interior, a house recently featured in the Guardian, a house which is (fingers crossed, for it is now (or was until very recently) owned by a good friend of mine) about to change hands for several million quid:

image

That’s a photo of a glossy brochure, devoted to this one, highly desirable house.  The house-sellers paid quite a lot for that glossy brochure.  For the same reason, they paid quite a lot for the photos in it.  Why would they not?  My friend described the mysterious things the photographer did with light when he visited.  “Ambient” light, was it?  I can’t even remember.  A simple way of putting it would be to say that if a muggins photographer like me had taken the photos, the garden would either have been invisibly white or the rooms would have been invisibly dark.  Plus, more generally, and for reasons I don’t even understand, it wouldn’t have looked like nearly such a desirable place.  No wonder the guy who took this photo makes a living at it.  And I’ll bet he doesn’t any longer go out fun-photoing in his spare time, any more than GD1 now does.

So, in the short run, Bruce the Real Photographer was suddenly faced with a hoard of crappy photographers like me, taking all the “good enough” photos that he had been taking, and he had to adjust to that by finding other photos to take.  This was not fun for him, at all.  But meanwhile, the same digitalisation-of-everything process that was making such miseries for Bruce the Real Photographer was also creating a whole new world of internettery where photos are now required.  Most of these photos need only be “good enough”, so Bruce the Real Photographer can no more make a living doing them than he can make a living with the many of the photos that he had been taking for a living in his younger days.  But, GD1, after a struggle, is finding work, illustrating all that internettery, for all those people - people like my friend’s house-sellers - for whom only very good is good enough.

If only because there are now so many more photos swirling about in the world, if you want your photos to stand out from the crowd, they need to be really good.  And really good costs.

My guess is that the photography profession is now several times bigger in number than it used to be, before cheap digital cameras erupted.

I say similar things from time to time (for instance towards the end of this recent posting here about the changing context within which Samizdata now operates) about the impact of the internet on the old-school news media.  Despite many individual failures to adapt to the new digital dispensation, and despite similar prophecies of doom at the start of the digital age, the Mainstream Media are in much the same sort of healthy state as, to adapt that phrase, Mainstream Photography.  And the current non-plight of the Mainstream Media is not only analogous to the non-plight of Mainstream Photography, but yet another cause of that non-plight.  After all, one of the biggest customers for Mainstream Photography is the Mainstream Media.

Thursday June 25 2015

Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered.  He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog.  And I reproduce it here:

image

So, how come this flurry of privacy violation?  Hartley explains.  (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)

Wednesday June 24 2015

I like cricket.  And I like drones.  But which is best?

There’s only one way to find out.  Fight.

Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.

What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other.  Or a war.  Either would do.

Or, perhaps a demo.

Saturday June 20 2015

But, there is light.  And there is light.

Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Yes, that is excellent roof clutter.  Yes, that is a crane.  But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.

But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Put it this way.  Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening.  Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.

Monday June 15 2015

Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.

Selfie sticks have caused particular ire.  Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.

I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.

But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs.  Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included.  And some people do just this.  I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it.  I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad.  Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.

Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:

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This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background.  But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them.  They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them.  A much more dramatic shot.

Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot.  Try getting me to take that shot.  Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen?  How would I compose the shot?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  It would be a random mess.

The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.

I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it.  Well, maybe they did.  But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies.  And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.

But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach.  It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here.  With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly.  And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.

Selfie sticks are great.  Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one.  Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own.  I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say.  But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.

I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.

Saturday May 23 2015

Indeed:

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No not taken by me. I wish.  The original and several others of the same guy that are equally fun, here.

I chose that one because, in addition to showing the artist and his murals, it also shows what a fight reinforced concrete puts up, when someone tries to destroy it.  (A point also made, with an illustration (yes taken by me) in this earlier posting.)

Friday May 22 2015

And this one has a camera!:

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Drone details.

It’s like the internet can read my mind.

Am I happy about that?  Are you?

More to the point, what are the rules about flying one of these things around in London?