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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

Saturday October 25 2014

It’s one thing to see a photo-drone reviewed in DPReview, and costing the best part of a thousand quid.  It’s quite another to see one in the flesh, in a London shop window, on sale for less than four hundred:

image

Photoed by me through the window of Maplin’s in the Strand, late this afternoon. 

Here are the details of this gizmo, at the Maplin’s website.

Okay, that must be a very cheap camera, but even so, this feels to me like a breakthrough moment for this technology, if not exactly now, then Real Soon Now.  Note that you can store the output in real time, on your mobile phone.  Something tells me that this gadget is going to generate some contentious news stories about nightmare neighbours, privacy violations, and who knows what other fights and furores.

What might the paps do with such toys?  And how soon before two of these things crash into each other?

Friday October 24 2014

A few days ago, my beloved Panasonic Lumix FZ150 started misbehaving.  An immobile black blob, the same blob every time, started inserting itself into all the pictures.  Disaster.  I shook the camera to see if it might be a superficial problem like a bit of gunk which further shaking might move to a harmless spot, but the black blob never moved, not by one pixel.  I am sure this could be mended, but I didn’t have time for that, because last night I was about to attend that Libertarian Home cost of living debate, for free, on the clear understanding that I would take lots of photos.

Besides which, I hate not having a camera on me at all times.  Who knows what unimortalisable dramas I might have to endure while being bereft of the ability to photograph them?

So, I immediately went out and bought another camera, from a shop.  I chose the FZ150’s smarter younger brother, the Panasonic Lumix FZ200.  This camera was a bit costly, yes, but, having been around for a while, not as costly as it might have been.  And, it works better than the FZ150 in low light, or so everyone who cares has been saying.  At indoor meetings, for instance.

I had hoped that the FZ200, being so very similar to and merely a bit better than the FZ150, would use an identical battery, which would mean that I would then have two spare batteries for the FZ200, in addition to the one it came with, on account of me having bought a spare for the FZ150 when I bought that.  Alas, not.  The FZ200 has its own somewhat different battery, and that meant I needed yet another spare battery.  Now that SD card space is infinite, it is batteries that are now liable to run out, what with all the snaps you can now put on your infinite SD card.  One battery, for a big event or expedition, is not now enough.

So, I ordered an FZ200 battery via Amazon, and paid extra for it to arrive yesterday, instead of just whenever.

And it did arrive yesterday.  Once again, just as happened with that book that reached me the day before yesterday, the fundamentally important thing got done.  I wanted the book and I got it.  I wanted a new back-up battery, pronto, and I got it.  Good.

An email arrived first thing yesterday morning, saying that the battery would arrive between 11.54 and 12.54, and that I should be in at that time, to sign for the package when I received it.  Excellent. This email was identical in format to the ones telling me about how Macmillan Distribution (MDL) would be delivering the book that they had been promising, but I recognised the email about the battery as genuine, because it had lots of Amazon verbiage at the top of a sort that always signifies genuine Amazon business.  Again, good.  I was all set to write an admiring blog posting about this latest delivery service, the one that delivered the battery, an enterprise called DPD.

Saying when a delivery will be made, to the nearest hour, is a huge step forward, when the receiver is householder in a household rather than an office worker in an office.  An office can have someone present throughout any given day, to receive incoming items and generally communicate with the outside world on behalf of all workers based there, present or absent.  But the idea that a householder should be expected to wait around all day just to sign for one incoming delivery is, frankly, contemptible.  As soon as a delivery person knows approximately when he’ll be arriving, and the chances are he will know this first thing in the morning, that information should be communicated to the householder.  This used not to happen, but with these two delivery enterprises, it did.  As I say, this is a big step in the right direction.

In both of these cases I did get this message.  The book was promised between 8.30 and 9.30, and it arrived then, by which time I just about believed that the book emails were genuine.  This battery was promised between 11.54 and 12.54, and it arrived then, just as I expected it to.

But all this fuss and palaver about timing becomes rather superfluous if all that the delivery person actually does when he arrives is leave the thing, unsigned for, in whatever place near to the householder he considers sufficiently near.  The whole point, as insisted upon in both emails about this, of stating a specified time of arrival, is to make sure that I, the householder, was present in person, to sign for the thing.  But in neither of these two cases was my presence, as it turned out, actually required.  My buzzer, the one outside the front door of all the flats where my flat is, is working fine.  I checked, using a visiting friend to hear it when I myself went downstairs and buzzed.  Yet neither of these two delivery persons deigned to use this buzzer.  They knew the number.  The book deliverer even found his way right to my own personal door.  But, no buzzing.

Let me spell it out.  Both delivery companies told me I had to be there during the hours they each specified.  Failure by me to sign would mean no delivery and further palaver while re-delivery was negotiated.  These proclamations may have been offered in good faith, but they were false.  I did not have to be there.

I got what I wanted.  But if the original supplier wanted proof that I had received the items in the form of my signature, then DPD and MDL, in the form of the two delivery persons, would be unable to supply this proof without faking it.  Were my signatures forged on little electronic devices, I wonder?

In the case of the DPD person, the person who did not even try to get my signature had, according to the DPD email, a name: “Mark”.  I had been anticipating something better from “Mark”. Sadly, not.

The basic problem here, I think, is that the service supply chain is too long and is out of control.  Suppliers of products promise in all sincerity that products will be delivered in exactly the manner they promise.  But the person they are depending on to keep that promise doesn’t care about that promise, or not about all of it.  He knows that, so long as the punter gets his hands on his precious thing, then whether any signing happens is, as far as the punter is concerned, a secondary matter.  Being commanded to be somewhere you didn’t actually need to be is annoying, yes, and this is what happened to me, twice.  But not getting the thing is something else again.  Had one of these items (especially the battery) not arrived when stated, then you can be sure that I would have been complaining.  But complaining as in trying to get my hands on the damn battery, not complaining as in just marking the whole scenario out of ten, after my basic problem (getting the battery) had been entirely solved.

By the way, when I enabled the graphic decoration of one of the Macmillan Deliveries (MDL) emails, the email then proceeded show me a picture of a DPD van.  Either Macmillan are all mixed up with DPD, or else Macmillan stole the DPD email and neglected to expunge DPD from it.  Or something.  I really do not care.

But that’s typical.  Who the hell was I dealing with here?  Who, in the event that either of these items had not turned up at all, would I have had to direct my seriously angry complaints?  As opposed to these mere grumbles about a basically satisfactory state of affairs, underneath all the crap.

When you have a major complaint to aim at one of these complicated supply chains, then you could well be screwed.  It may take you many hours or even days to find out even who to complain to, let alone how to gouge satisfaction out of them.  (Although, to be fair to Amazon, they take responsibility for everything that they do or that anyone unleashed via them does, for and to you, which is all part of why I bought that battery through Amazon rather than by some other cheaper but less dependable means.  (The previous sentence is a short explanation of why Amazon now rules the world.))

But (and to get back to my point before all the brackets), when it comes to lesser complaints, complaints about blemishes on a system that basically works pretty well, well, this is why blogs were invented.  With a blog posting, you can slag off the entire universe.  You don’t have to be bothered with which exact bit of the universe it was that did you wrong.  You can just tell your story.  Then, instead of you begging the universe to correct things, the universe, if any of it cares, has to convince you that there was no problem and to convince you to stop saying it.

In case you are wondering why I have gone on at such length about a basically rather minor problem, the answer is that I am optimistic about problems like this actually being solved.  A business often does a basically good thing, but rather crappily, while they struggle to get it totally organised and running totally smoothly.  People buy whatever it is, but sneer at the crap, because it is crappy and because they can.  The businesses then hears all the sneering and gets it sorted and gets even better.  Compare and contrast: the government.

This is a point I have made here before.  Follow that link, as you now don’t need to, and you will read me deriding a plan to refer to a Big London Thing as the “Safesforce Tower”.  Salesforce is a perfectly decent business, which does whatever it does.  But it had a silly plan to change the name of a Big London Thing from something sensible to something very stupid.  And guess what, what with all the complaints about this plan from me and from multitudes of others, that ridiculous circumstance has now been corrected.  Not in the way I would have liked.  Salesforce has still not been shamed into civility.  But nearby politicians have forced civility down Salesforce’s throat.  And the Heron Tower will not now be officially called the “Salesforce Tower”.

Although, London being London, this tower might now actually be called the Salesforce Tower, unofficially, in perpetuity, as a joke, given that no other joke name now obviously suggests itself for this rather ungainly erection.

By the way, it turned out that one battery sufficed for last night’s meeting.  But, I did not know that this would be the case beforehand, and had I only had one battery I would not have felt free to take as many photographs as I did feel free to take.  With public meetings, it’s a numbers game.  The light is bad and people are constantly moving about, so half your pictures will be rubbish right off, if only because someone was blinking at the time.  The trick is for the other half of your pictures still to be a large enough collection for you to be able to pick out a few truly good ones.  So, the spare battery was useful, even if I didn’t make any actual physical use of it.

I realise that very few readers indeed will have read right to the end of this ridiculously long-winded and repetitious posting.  But, having written it and having posted it, I feel better.

Sunday October 19 2014

Here is another way I might get those high up views of London that I am always searching for:

image

DPReview review here:

In my own experiences, aerial shoots have proven difficult to pull off. The window of shooting time was limited, the cabin was cramped, and the first time I ever stuck my camera out the window, the lens flew off and I miraculously caught it in mid-air. It was also roughly $250 for an hour.

But within the past couple of years, aerial photographers have been introduced to a burgeoning market rife with little flying machines that don’t require passengers, don’t need fuel to operate, and can fit inside a cubic foot. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the era of user-operated photography drones is upon us, and it’s already kicking into warp speed.

I’m guessing that the technology of it would be beyond me, and the legality of it a minefield.

Saturday September 27 2014

Earlier I showed you a old facade being carefully preserved.  Here is another:

image

But where exactly is this facade.  The photo was taken in May 2012, and I didn’t take any note-taking shots of where this was.  And I cannot now find any mention of it on the www, only a website of the enterprise that constructed it.  (This I learned by taking a closer look at the stuff at the bottom of the picture than I am according to you.  My original pictures are really very large.)

I like to think that I am becoming a better photographer as the years go by.  What I mean by this is not so much that the photos are getting technically better.  They are, but that is largely down to the cameras I use getting better.  What I mean is that I am, I hope, getting better at deciding what to photo, and better at recording what I photoed.

Maybe that is an idle boast.  But maybe what is now only a boast will, because I have here written it down, will become an influence on actual practice in the future.

Friday September 19 2014

I only found out about the wonder-gizmo below with its 65x zoom (scroll down a bit there) because I had gone looking for cats stuff.

A fun bit of news on the cats front today illustrates how seriously the oh-so-serious Guardian now takes the whole cats thing, along with the rest of the media after a decade and more of cattery on the internet.

A cat-blogger lady called Jackie Smith has done a book of cat pictures, called Cat Walk:

I don’t think Cat Walk is book about cats. It’s about learning to see beauty within arms reach. It’s about hunting for words like a mouse hunts for cats. It’s about walking, but not really covering distance. The same paths are travelled, but each time the light, the season, the thoughts inside make it different. It does have something to do with the character of cats, but also to do with writing, looking, seeing, being in a place.

This man should be told.

My favourite bit is where she says “It’s about hunting for words like a mouse hunts for cats”.  Because it’s not enough to hunt down the right words.  You have then to arrange them in the right order.  I mean, a mouse hunting for cats?  That’s some mouse you got there lady.

My current camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, has been my best ever bar none, and it has resulted in my longest ever period of not looking at new digital cameras since I first started looking at new digital cameras.  Oh, the FZ200 did cause me a twinge of annoyance.  But the FZ150 was basically the answer to all my prayers.

But now, this Canon SX60 HS has well and truly got my attention:

image

What that has is 65x zoom.  (My FZ150 has 25x.) 65x zoom!  65x!!!

I already know, because I have seen pictures like the one above, that this Canon SX60 HS has a twiddly screen This for me is a deal breaker, if a camera doesn’t have it I mean.  I’ll be reading the reviews to see if it seems any better in a general kind of way, and in particular at picture quality (which, after all, is what it is all about), and if they say it is better, generally and particularly, then I will be very tempted.

Friday September 12 2014

The Guru was finally able to deliver God/Godot this evening, but he only just finished, so time only for a quota cat, photoed by me in Tate Ancient yesterday:

image

More about that picture here.  It’s by David Hockney.

I didn’t know that you are allowed to take photos in the Tate, but I did so with increasing confidence.  There were official looking people well able to intervene and stop me, if they had wanted to.  But, they didn’t.  Interesting.  Was that always the rule, or is it only recent, in response to an irresistible tidal wave of students taking notes with their iPhones?

Monday September 08 2014

Yes, I love it when that happens:

image

Congratulations to Jackie D for capturing it.

Friday August 22 2014

I loved them when I photoed them last January.  Now the chimney pots and rooftops of Paris get serious Real Photographer attention, from Michael Wolf:

image

One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.

Wednesday August 20 2014

One of my favourite www destinations just now is the Evening Standard website.  Presumably because there are other Evening Stardards in the world besides the Evening Standard, the Evening Standard of London, the website of the Evening Standard is called “London News” (even as its website is something different, involving the world “standard").

A lot of this is because, more and more, I love London, and the Evening Standard, not unnaturally, has lots of London stories.

A particularly fine one recently featured this delectable photo:

image

The young woman is an Evening Standard journalist, Miranda Bryant, and the swimming pool is on floor 52 of the Shard, being one of the amenities offered by the Shangri La hotel.

One of the edges of this swimming pool is right next to the glass wall of the Shard, and I can’t help thinking how great it would be if the glass wall of the Shard were to double up, at this point, as the wall of the swimming pool.  Think of the photographs this would provoke.  This is why God invented x50 zoom lenses.

An ultrazoom photo I have long wanted to take of the Shard would feature a gorgeous young woman in silhouette, at the top, where the light goes right through the building.  But such a woman swimming might be even better, especially if the light could go right through that also.

One of the reasons why architecture is such an influential profession these days (if you are one of the top dogs of the profession – one of the “starchitects") is that the kind of down-the-pecking-order architects and engineers whose job is to contrive things wanted by their bosses or clients, and make these things work properly, can now, it would appear, make absolutely anything work properly.  Therefore, the starchitects, the ones who decide how things are going to be and to look, can now make them be and look any way that their starchitectural whims determine.  (See, e.g.: Zaha Hadid.) Not so long ago, a swimming pool high up in a skyscraper would be a disaster waiting to happen to everyone foolish enough to situate themselves anywhere below it, and in particular a disaster for any idiot architect silly enough to ordain such a thing.  Now, it is just a matter of some starchitect saying “do it”, and it is done.

Thursday July 10 2014

Following these, more from Colossal.  This time it’s: Portuguese Umbrellas:

image

It was posted in August 2012.  Better, far better, late than never.  I found this in their list of top twenty postings, top in popularity, presumably.

Another of those Things That Have Been Encouraged By Digital Photography.  The Art is temporary, but the pictures of the Art will last far, far longer, on many, many hard discs.

More umbrella photos from the same photographer (Patricia Almedia) here, suggesting that they were taken in July of 2012.

Tuesday July 08 2014

Yesterday, London was bent totally out of shape by the Tour de France.  It became a French provincial city for the day, as I suppose some French people think it is always.

It rained.  I was otherwise engaged, and in any case did not fancy fighting my way through crowds for the mere chance of snapping a herd of cyclists racing past me for about twenty seconds, especially after I had watched a Lance Armstrong documentary on my television.  What a shit.  And what a shitty sport.  Besides which there would, I reasoned, soon be plenty of photos on the www of the drugged up veloherd pouring past the Docklands Towers, the City and its Big Things, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and so on.

Most of the pictures I found today involved Parliament and Buckingham Palace rather than more modern Big Things, and the veloherd (all with hats designed by Zaha Hadid) of course, and the best Tour de France in London snap by far that I found today was taken three months before the big day, when they were still telling everyone about it:

image

Classic.  Seriously, what better background could there be to a sport that is all about wheels?

Original and slightly bigger picture, with the story, here.

Saturday July 05 2014
Friday July 04 2014

Further to this posting, more incoming from Darren, following my interest in further Oval views, looking to the right of the Spraycan shot in that earlier posting, towards the middle of London:

Here’s the other photo I took at the same time. No Shard, but you can just see Victoria Tower (The King’s Tower) with a nice crane alongside. Not a great view, but then again actually pretty good considering it was taken with a device whose main purpose it to access the internet.

Yes, cranes are always good.  Here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, we like cranes.  And yes, we can all see the Other Parliament Tower, by which I mean the other one besides Big Ben:

image

But now take a closer look (good thing Darren sent me the full sized version rather than a cut-down version) at that Thing Cluster, in the middle:

image

Now you can also see Big Ben itself, and the BT Telecom Tower or whatever it may have decided lately to call itself instead.  I know this Thing as the GPO Tower, and it was the first of London’s modern Big Things.  And there it is, to the left of the spike that is Big Ben.  (Here is another BT Tower picture, one of my best ever snaps, I think.)

The point of photos like Darren’s, and like the previous one taken from the same spot, is not that they are perfect photos.  They are not.  They were taken with a mobile phone, in fading light, for heavens sakes.  What matters is that such photos show what can be photographed from this or that vantage point, what (if you have really good eyesight, better than mine) you can see.

If anyone else - me for instance - wants to go there with a better camera with a zoomier zoom, we now know what we are looking for.  We know that a pictorial snark is there to be hunted.

Thursday July 03 2014

Incoming from Darren:

I just read your comment about The Spraycan always being lit the same way in your

Big Things in the sunset article and it made me realise I might have one or more photos waiting on my phone that I took last night that would confirm your assertion. I wasn’t (deliberately) photographing The Spraycan, of course.

Unfortunately it turned out that rather a large bit of “clutter” had thwarted me - see attached:

image

So, you’d have been watching Jason Roy upstage Dilshan then.

That looks like a great seat you had there, way up in the stand.  A while back, D, you said something about us both going to the Oval.  Rudely (apologies) I now realise I never replied.  Serves me right.  But next time you are going to that high up spot, and there’s space for me, let me know.

The Spraycan is right in the middle of this picture, at the back there, behind the floodlight. The Spraycan being at Vauxhall and the Oval being right near there also, there it is.  Over to the right but further away, there are such things as the Strata and the Shard to be seen, or so I seem to recollect from when I was last at the Oval.

I’d enjoy the cricket too.

Surrey are doing really well just now.  In addition to Roy’s T20 heroics, they are now third in Division 2 of the County Championship and have an outside chance of getting promoted right back into Division 1.  All this after a truly frightful start to the season.  Their last four first class games have been won 2 drawn 2, which may not sound that amazing, but Surrey have topped 400 in their first innings every time, and in one of those innings even got past 600.  The last time they did that must have been in the halcyon days of Ramps.  Now, instead of just the one guy making half the runs, they’re all at it.  Burns, Ansari, Davies, Solanki, Roy (off 55 balls) and new captain Wilson have all got first class centuries in the last few weeks, and Tremlett nearly got one also.

Gloucester saved that game where Surrey got 600, losing only one wicket throughout the last day.  But the point is, Surrey are making big first innings runs again, for the first time since Ramps went off the boil.  Even if you don’t win after that, you don’t lose either, and the bonus points pile up.  For batting obviously, but for bowling as well, because nothing puts pressure on opposition batters like a ton of runs against them.  Gloucester may have escaped heroically, but Surrey still got quite a few more points than them in that game.