Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Photography

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:

image

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:

image

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!:

image

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?

Wednesday May 20 2015

A few months back my computer got a going over from The Guru, and I immediately started receiving more internet advertising than hitherto.  At first this continued because I merely didn’t know how to stop it.  But now, I find myself interested by this advertising.

I like old-school advertising, the sort that has no idea who you are or what you like, not even a bad idea.  I learn from old-school advertising how the world in general is feeling about things, which is interesting and amusing information.  (This is, for me, one of the pleasures of walking about in London.  (Soon this pleasure may also vanish, because of embedded spy cameras.  Soon, I may find myself looking at adverts for classical CDs and history books (and drones – see the rest of this), whenever I walk past a billboard).)

But I am now starting to enjoy new-school, internet advertising, where your most trifling internetted thought results in adverts appearing a little while later, for related (or so the internet thinks) products.  Sometimes, it’s just crass, like a salesman barging into a conversation at a party and changing it.  Fuck off jerk.  But I am starting to enjoy this sort of advertising, sometimes.

So, for instance, all my droning on here about drones - arf arf - has resulted in adverts for this miniature contraption appearing on my computer screen:

image

As you can see from this picture, this drone is very small.  It is also very cheap.  But does it have a camera on it?  Could you even attach a camera to it, or would that make it too heavy and crash it?

The last drone posting here was about a drone noticed by 6k that costs $529 dollars.  But the above drone costs a mere £13.78.  It is as cheap as that partly because you get it in the form of a kit rather than completed.  But there must surely be a factory in China where people are paid 10p a go to assemble such things.  I could surely buy a completed Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter if I wanted to, rather than have to make do with an Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter Frame Kit.

Kit or completely, I have no intention whatsoever of buying such a thing any time soon.

I can’t help thinking what gadgets like this, so small, so cheap, will do to photography, in a place like London.

A lot of what this blog is about is the texture of everyday life, and how that is changing.  (I mean things like down-market computer stuff and smartphones and CDs.  And advertising, see above.) Well, these drones are not yet a Big Thing about which old-school moany newspaper articles are being written about how the twentieth century was better, blah blah.  But, they soon will be.

If I ever do get a drone to take photos, you may be sure that I will make a point of photoing the other drones.  Although that’s assuming I’d be able to make something like a drone actually work, and I now assume the opposite.  Maybe I will compromise, and photo all the drones I see from the ground.  So far, I have only seen drones for real in shop windows.  But give it a couple of years …

And oh look, the mere fact of me working on this posting, embedding links into it, caused another advert to present itself to me (for this only slightly more expensive drone (and this one you don’t have to assemble yourself (it’s like it read my mind!))), when I switched to reading something Instapundit had linked to.  The advert has vanished now and been replaced by something for Walt Disney (?), but I screen-captured it before it went:

image

Adverts at blogs are a rich source of horizontality, I find.

Sunday May 17 2015

A while back, I showed you this photo, and mentioned how a sight like that often gets me going, photographically speaking.  That one certainly got me going that day.

Here is one of the more fun snaps I then took, of a hair drying machine that looks like an alien robot about to crush your head with a pair of cymbals, ...:

image

... or perhaps it is about to hug you.  You decide.

And here, taken only moments later, is a picture of a celebrity (the sort of celebrity that nobody has heard of) being papparized by a bunch of big-arse paps in big-arse trousers, outside what I assume is some kind of club, just off of Seven Dials.

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When you get into that state of photographic ecstasy, that’s the kind of thing that seems to present itself to you.

Who knows?  Maybe the cymbal playing alien robot had just been drying Madam Celeb’s hair.  It does have some rather artful curls in it, that have the look of having been done to her, so to speak.

Nothing wrong with her arse.

Monday May 11 2015

I wonder if me posting this will help:

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And when I say “if me posting this will help”, what I mean is: if me posting this will help me.  To take an informed interest in all this stuff, and then to start doing it.

All this stuff being:

aperture, shutter speed and ISO ...

That being a link to the posting at Quotulatiousness, in the heading of which those words are to be found, and where I found the above graphic.  Mr Quotulatiousness found the graphic here.

I have tended to own cameras from which, had I understood all this stuff, I might have got the occasional much better result.  However, the only reasons I owned such clever cameras was that I wanted lots of zoom and a twiddly screen.  With all that, they have tended also to be very clever.  But I have treated all of them as brainless point-and-shoot cameras.  All my thinking has gone into the matter of what I have pointed at and shot at.

Goddaughter One once tried to give me a lesson in all this stuff.  Well, correction, she did give me a lesson in all this stuff.  But it didn’t stick, at all.  One of the categories below is one of my favourites: how the mind works.  But perhaps this posting would be better labelled as: how the mind doesn’t work.

Tuesday May 05 2015

Shiny Thing in London, by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, near to where I live.  I go there.  I photo it.  I show you some photos.  I tell you what I think of the Shiny Thing.  (I like it.  If I didn’t like it I’d not be mentioning it.) So far so ordinary.

But for me this was not a regular photowalk.  The difference this time was that I had a friend with me while I did my snaps, and she was snapping also.  Just as I was about to depart from my home and do the checking out of the Shiny Thing on my own, the friend had rung up and we arranged to meet, near the Shiny Thing so that I could combine the two things, meeting the friend and then, as a separate operation, me checking out the Shiny Thing.  But while seeking somewhere to sit down and have a drink we went right past it, she saw it and liked the look of it, and we ended up photoing it together.

I was using my “camera”, and she was using her iPhone.  And of course I photoed her doing this:

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I have been out and about in London with this same friend quite a few times over the years, and I have usually been taking photos in among chatting.  But I don’t recall her even joining in with the photography so enthusiastically.  It was the Shiny Thing that did it.  And you can bet that her bests snaps were pretty soon if not instantly transmitted to others, long before I posted a couple of mine here.

There is a lot of this sort of opportunistic smartphone photography going on in the world, just now.  The key moment was when cameras in smartphones got good enough, which at first they weren’t.  But for a handful of years now, smartphone cameras have been more than adequate for shots like the ones my friend was taking, and of course smartphone cameras will, like my kind of cameras, keep getting better and better.  Soon, it just won’t make any sense to own a dedicated point-and-shot camera, if you also use a smartphone, because the camera on your smartphone will be plenty good enough for all but the fussiest of purposes.

Here is a piece by Michael Zhang, linked to a while back by Instapundit.  This tells the story in one graph, but presented in two different ways.

First, in this graph of camera sales from 1933 until 2013, we see the defeat of the old-school roll-of-film camera (the grey stuff) by digital cameras (in blue) like the ones I have owned over the last few years, and by DSLRs (green):

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But now, take a look at what happens to this exact same graph when you include all the (yellow) smartphone activity, top right:

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At the other end of the above link, they show the graph in all its endless-scroll-down vertical hugeness, huge enough to include all those smartphone cameras.  Above, here, is the exact same graph, but ruthlessly flattened, to enable you to see the entire picture in one go, with no scrolling up and down.

As you can see, the big - very big - story is the sheer quantity of half-decent smartphone cameras there now are in the world, in private personal hands, such as the hands of my friend.

This is a transformation that I have of course been registering, with all my photos of digital photographers, with an increasing proportion of them in recent years using smartphones.  See, for instance, this posting.  Quote:

And of course, there is that vast category that has hove into view in the last few years, of people taking photos with their mobile phones.  No less than seven of the above twelve snaps are of people doing this.  This was not a decision on my part, merely a consequence of me picking out nice photos of people taking photos.

For me, the most interesting titbit in the article with the graphs linked to above (and again), is this, right at the end:

… and 92% of smartphone users worldwide say that the camera is the most used feature on their phones.

That embedded link being to another piece, which elaborates on this point.  The other big use is, of course, texting.

The point being that all these smartphone cameras have not merely been sold to a billion plus people so that they can have them in their pockets.

Almost all of those cameras are being used, to take photos.

LATER:

We also used our phone cameras while we were away. Firstly, so that we could email the kids something each evening and secondly (and photography snobs may want to look away now) because you can actually grab a decent shot every now and again. Oh, and it enables you to do things like this while someone else is using the “real” camera.

... and to make mini-movies.

Friday May 01 2015

Indeed:

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All those pictures bigger, and lots more, here.  (Thank you David Thompson.)

I have, of course, included a couple of feline photos, what with today being Friday.  But, knowing what we do of animals, most of us would probably reckon that only the monkey really has any clue about what is going on, and he only in the sense of perhaps suspecting that this is a thing that makes a picture on itself of what it sees.  None of them really get it, and most of them have no idea at all.  It’s just a peculiar thing.

But, of course, they all look as if they are taking photos, if you want to believe this.

What makes them all look like real photographers is their total and totally unselfconscious concentration on what they are looking at and doing, with no thought of the fact that they are themselves being looked at.  This they all do share with real human photographers.