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

Thursday February 04 2016

The following picture explains (a) why all my cameras must have a zoom lens permanently available, as powerful as is within the bounds of sanity, and (b) why this zoom lens must be instantly usable.  In other words why I will not tolerate faffing about with hand-attached lenses.  Which means that all my cameras have had to be “bridge” cameras rather than DSLRs.  I need wide-angle one moment, and then the next moment, by which I often mean the next second, I may need zoom and tons of it.

Here is the picture, which Antoine Clarke took, Twittered, and then phoned me about because he reckoned I would like it:

image

And I do like it.  A lot.  A lorry, with a panoramic photo-view of London on the side?  What, as people now like to say, ‘s not to like?

But Antoine’s attached Twitter verbiage reads as follows:

What’s a Japanese torpedo bomber doing there?!?

What Japanese torpedo bomber?  The world wants Antoine to zoom in on the Japanese torpedo bomber, to prove that there is indeed a Japanese torpedo bomber present.

I hoped that the photo above would download itself from Twitter, and it did.  Good.  But, it was only 640 pixels wide.  (This Blog is 500 pixels wide.) Not so good.

When I expanded what I took to be the Japanese torpedo bomber, I got this:

image

If you already know that you are looking for a Japanese torpedo bomber, then you will, just about, maybe, see a Japanese torpedo bomber.  But a zoomed in close-up would really have helped.

I know how hard it can be photoing vehicles that are, as it were, zooming past.  Often one shot is the best you can hope for, and equally often not even that.  Yesterday a Wicked Campervan zoomed, as it were, past me, with “DRINK TILL SHE’S PRETTY” written on its arse, and I completely missed photing it.  (But no worries.  I think it was the van in a photo you can find by scrolling down in this grumpy article.)

But something about the exact composition of Antoine’s shot tells me that Antoine’s lorry was stationary, or nearly so.  So, Antoine, is there a bigger version of this shot available, more like 4000x3000 than 640x480?  (4000x3000 being what my Panasonic Lumix FZ200 cranks out.) That would supply some Japanese torpedo bomber detail.  Or is there even a close-up of the Japanese torpedo bomber?

Failing that, does Antoine know what enterprise this lorry was working for?  Maybe they have a website, with photos?

Okay, now I’m being grumpy.  It took me a long time to get into the habit of photoing all the incidental detail around a good photo, for future internetting purposes.  But, with apologies for immediately demanding more when given something nice, … Antoine?

Saturday January 16 2016

Given that I am not actually seeing any visuals on a screen, sleeping through the decisive passage of play of the latest test match in South Africa only made it more dramatic.

There I was, making sure I was awake and able to start the recording of Record (as they have now gone back to calling it (it had been CD)) Review, and then getting up for a piss and a cool down before getting back to bed again for a bit of a lie in, by which time England were all out 323, with a first innings lead of 10.  Before dozing off, I learned that Sinopoli’s Cavalleria Rusticana was the winning Cavalleria Rusticana in a strong field, and then I surfaced again and was informed by my other bedside radio that South Africa had lost no wickets in reply and were ahead at lunch, and then I dozed off again, and then got up properly ... to learn from my computer that South Africa were 44-5, oh no make that 45-6, correction 46-7.  Game over.

image

That pic is the last one of these.

A lot of cricket photos these days, including most of this lot, seem to be, not of cricketers doing great things, but of cricketers celebrating having just done them.  The pictures of Moeen Ali’s broken bat are also fun, but again, what you really want to see is the moment when it broke.  The above photo is a refreshing exception.  It shows Broad actually taking the final wicket of the South African innings, with a diving caught and bowled.

LATER:

image

One of the pictures in this.

Tuesday January 12 2016

Yes, a truly wonderful The Wires! sculpture gets long overdue recognition from Dezeen, on account of a lump of religious concrete being put next to it, by an architect.

The photographer clearly loves The Wires!:

image

But Dezeen’s writers are under strict orders.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful and intricate The Wires! are:

imageimage

The rule is set in concrete.

Don’t mention The Wires!

Wednesday December 23 2015

I love these modernist sand castles by Calvin Seibert, featured today at the blog of Mick Hartley (to whom thanks).  Hartley picks out five of them for his blog.  I pick out another for mine:

image

Many more here, as Hartley adds, at Calvin Seibert’s My “Sand Castles” Flickr site.

Here, I think we can say with confidence, is another impact of digital photography.  Seibert doesn’t say in his short introductory spiel (click on “show more") how important digital photography is in preserving something of these castles before the incoming tide or human destructiveness or accident claims them.  But it obviously is.  Would he have developed this way of sculpting, if he had had no convenient way of recording it?

And my other thought is that the website where Hartley learned about these castles, which is called Amusing Planet and which I had not previously heard of, will be well worth making regular visits to.  It says in this post that Amusing Planet has now been in action for nearly eight years.  I must have been there before.  But, I didn’t pay any attention to the surroundings of whatever posting I was looking at.  I should have.

This morning, I met up for a late breakfast in Eltham with regular commenter here Alastair.  I took a ton of photos, because after we had breakfasted we checked out a great view of London just to the south, which Alastair had recently chanced upon and had told me about.  But before I even look at all the photos I took, here is a photo that Alastair showed me today, which he took on November 1st.  November 1st was very foggy, and this is the Walkie Talkie, smothered in fog:

image

If you like the Walkie Talkie, as both Alastair and I do, then: Hurrah!  It’s the Walkie-Talkie!

If you hate the Walkie Talkie, and many do hate it, cheer up.  In this picture of the Walkie Talkie, you can hardly see the Walkie Talkie at all!

Friday December 18 2015

I am happy for all those who enjoy such postings, but recently I have found myself visiting Colossal rather less than I used to.  The Art featured there typically now strikes me as excessive in its laboriousness-to-effect ratio.  I only went there today because guided to this by David Thompson.

The highly positive laboriousness-to-effect ratio is one of the things I especially like about photography.  Click, and it’s done.  Often with an effect that echoes on for decades.  Wow!  Look at that!  And the Wow! in question took almost no time at all to produce.  Okay, there may have been lots of creeping about, and many hours spent learning exactly where and how to creep about and exactly when to go click and what to click at, but you surely get my point.  There’s a basic efficiency about photography that is often lacking in Art.  With Art, it can take ages to contrive the effect, and then you look at it, and, well, yeah, okay, quite nice.  And that’s it.

I agree that digital photography and the internet have between them greatly increased the effect side of the equation.  Without those influences a lot of Colossal Art simply could not and would not have been done.  But the effect still feels to me fleeting, given the amount of time and effort appears to have been expended.

What distinguishes much Colossal Art from the more usual sort of Art that currently hegemonises is that it is not typically done to outrage, but rather to amuse, intrigue and entertain.  The bourgeoisie are not being epatered.  Rather are we being indulged.  A lot of it is the sort of stuff you buy in “gift shops”, just a little bigger and somewhat more complicated and expensive.

And as with the stuff in gift shops, I often like to photo it, or, for a while, take a look at it on the internet.  But I don’t buy it.

So, how about the photography department at Colossal?  Alas (for me), here also we encounter elaborately contrived fakery.  Here too are, mostly, not wondrous moments snatched from the jaws of reality itself, but not-that-wondrous moments faked-up with great effort.  Pass again.

But, and to finally get to the point which got me started on this posting, I did like these photos, for here Mother Nature has done all the work:

image imageimage image

Friday is my day for matters feline.  But recently I gave a Friday mention to some other non-human creatures, and I think I will carry on doing that.  There may even, although I promise nothing, be other non-human, non-cat postings today.

Sunday November 01 2015

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:
:
image

Cranes (and the Walkie-Talkie) in front of the fog.  Shard stabbing through the fog.

Saturday October 31 2015

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:

image

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:

image

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.

My thanks, for the second time in as many days, to 6k for pointing me to these amazing images.

Saturday October 17 2015

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"):

image

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:

image

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)).)

Tuesday September 22 2015

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:

image

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.

image

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:

image

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.

Sunday September 20 2015

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:

image

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.

Friday September 18 2015

Here he is in action:

image

That is one of these cat pictures, and the photographer is Walter Chandoha:

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.

Sunday September 13 2015

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.

Saturday September 12 2015

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:

image image imageimage image image

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.

image

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.

image image

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.

Tuesday September 08 2015

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:

image imageimage image

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.