Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Digital photographers
August 15th of this year was a good photography day for me. I did particularly well on the Blokes photoing front, although I’m not sure if all the male humans here pictured are actually Blokes. Bottom Middle and Bottom Right definitely. But Top Middle and Top Right are probably what you’d call Guys. Bottom Left might well be a Gent, if we looked at his face, and the face of his lady. And as for Top Left, well, you decide.
Once again, I have confined myself to subjects whose faces are not visible. Apart from the subject Top Left. That Top Left one was taken in one of my favourite Strange London Places, which is the little market space, off to the left of the trains (as you look towards the trains) in the concourse of Charing Cross Station. From it, you can then walk along the side of the street towards the river, but at about second floor level, looking down on the street, until you arrive at the down-stream half of the new Hungerford Footbridges, which are on both sides of the old Hungerford railway bridge. It’s one of my favourite little London walks.
The two definite Blokes are both photoing Big Ben, I think. The Bloke holding a “selfie stick” is, I believe, not actually using it as a selfie stick. I’m pretty sure he is photoing what’s in front of him rather than himself. Big Ben, in other words. Could he be far-sghted?
The fountain, being photoed by a Guy, is the one outside the Royal Festival Hall. The other Guy is photoing that Citroen DS23 that has already been shown here.
The bald Gent photo is not technically very good. But he too is photoing Big Ben, as you can see on his screen, which is what makes the photo non-banal.
Nobody ever comments on my photo-collections-of-photoers postings. Which makes me suspect that I am the only one here who really likes them. But, that’s all it takes for a posting here to be a posting.
Yes, because that was when I took this photo:
One of the ways I have got (I think) better as a photographer is that I have gradually identified more classes of object or circumstance to be worth photoing.
This often starts with me just photoing something, because, what the hell, I like it, or it’s fun, or it’s interesting, or it’s odd, or it’s getting more common, or nobody else is noticing it and talking about it, or whatever and I just photo it, without even telling myself why, in conscious words.
Later, often much later, the conscious, verbalised thinking starts. Perhaps because, as in this case, someone else starts talking about it. Guido having a go at that Labour politician was what got my conscious brain into gear on the subject of White Vans. And I then decide to get more systematic about photoing whatever it is.
Mobile Pet Foods is still going, and if that link doesn’t convince you, then note the date on the latest piece of customer feedback here. (That this feedback may be fake doesn’t alter the fact that the dates are recent.)
There is, of course, a cat angle to this.
Indeed. An Asian couple, photoed this afternoon, in Green Park.
The hooded guy crouching in the middle of my shot was the official photographer. The photographer standing on the right was an interloper. As was I of course. Sorry about all the muck on my lens. Photoing into the sun will do that. Personally I think that can actually add to the sunny feeling of things.
Next, my definite favourite shot of this photo-session. The guy running off stage right, has just thrown the white thing into the air and is trying to get out of the picture:
And here is one more, for luck, taken moments later:
Sometimes leaves are okay.
Sometimes, even rather pretty.
I wish them well.
On a sunny afternoon in June, this was the big picture, complete with Big Things, and a bridge, in the background:
I homed in on that photosession, down by the river there.
There were making a bit of a spectacle of themselves, so their recognisable faces would have been fair game, but I took lots of pictures of them, and am able to show you only faceless pictures like these:
My favourite faceless photo being this one:
There was a big crowd looking down on all this. They really can’t complain, and I don’t believe they will, in the event they see those pictures.
When I took this snap, this afternoon, ...:
... all that I thought I was snapping was a selfie session, done by two ladies with conveniently face-hiding hats of agreeably contrasting colours.
When I got home and saw the above photo on my giant home screen, I got two nice surprises. First there was the surprise of how well the photo had come out on such a dull day. But there was also the surprise of what that clip-on thingy is on the iPhone. As so often, my camera saw more that I saw.
A little googling soon got me immediately to such places as this. That’s right, a clip-on, fish eye lens. £10.99.
Only a smartphone camera is thin enough for a lens to be just clipped on like this. Did you see that device coming? Me neither.
I’m guessing that taking a selfie with such a lens makes it much more likely that you will be in the picture, which is presumably quite a problem if you can’t see the picture you are taking. It also gives you a panoramic view in the background.
I wonder if they clocked the bloke photoing them, in that background.
A lot of my postings just now involve me showing you photos I took quite a while back, and this one is also one of those.
What happens is, I rootle through all my past photos, and then sometimes get an idea for a posting about a certain category of thing or human conduct or mode of transport or some such thing, and I start gathering photos to illustrate this, in a separate directory. I am careful to copy photos into the new directory, rather than just transfer them there. One of my rules is, keep all the photos you took on a certain day on a certain expedition all in one place. But, no harm in copying from those directories into other ones which are about particular things rather than particular trips or particular times.
However, what often then happens is that I forget about it all. So, the directory sits there, sometimes for years, and then years later I come across it again. This happened last night, when I encountered a collection of photographs, assembled in 2010, of photographers who were also holding guide books. I could tell that I had never used them in a blog posting, because when I do that, I always give photos different names.
Here are four of those photographers-holding-guide-books photos, all of which involve guide books with the word “Londres” on them:
Click to get the bigger pictures.
I’m guessing that both the French and the Hispanics spell London as Londres, with the French calling it Londr and the Hispanics calling it Lon Drez. But that’s only a gez.
And, yes (google google), I gezzed right:
Londres, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Filipino language name for London, capital of the United Kingdom and England
The guide book while photoing thing always appealed to me, not least because even then I was looking for ways to not photo people’s faces, and guide books often achieved that outcome for me very nicely. But the phenomenon is also interesting because, slowly, it is fading away. You do still see photographers flaunting guide books, but it is rarer now.
Instead, the smartphone is the new guidebook. And, of course, increasingly, the new camera, for people like those shown above. Makes perfect sense.
As for the lady above (in the picture bottom right) whose face I do here display (if you click), well, she was wearing a T-shirt saying, in London’s own language and therefore to attract the attention of Londoners like me: “believe me… i’m incredible”. Somehow I don’t think it was “incredulous”. Ergo, she was attracting attention with her own attention-attracting behaviour, ergo she was and is fair game for her face to go up, totally recognisably, (but nearly a decade later) on my blog.
Nearly a decade later because these photos were taken by me in 2006 and 2007.
This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:
What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground. And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been. It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.
Fireball. Nothing else could have done that.
However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.
A friend of mine has a young daughter who is a very promising ballerina. Young and very promising ballerinas tend to find themselves being guided from time to time by quite significant ballet persons, and I have urged my friend to pass on to any significant ballet persons he meets that they ought to do a ballet based on the antics of us digital photographers.
If any significant ballet persons ask what sort of thing that might involve, I suggest they be shown pictures like these, which I took between 2006 and 2007:
Click on any of those pictures and you’ll see that what they’re all about is the big bodily contortions that digital photographers do, mostly just to get their cameras at the right height. But, there is also the matter of the fun and games the people being photoed often get up to. They do lots of more self-conscious posing.
Quite a few of these pictures have been posted on the www by me before, mostly on this blog. But the idea of this posting is to gather together a biggish collection of such pictures, all in one place, for the ballet persons to say: “Wow! Yes! We’ll do it! Pay the crazy blogger double whatever he asks to let us look through his entire photo archive!”
There’s a whole other clutch of pictures showing digital photographers and their hands and fingers. They wave their fingers about, just to keep their fingers out of the pictures. Ballet people would like that too. In the absence of more pictures here, they could just walk over Westminster Bridge and watch the photographers doing it. Because, provided they are only using small cameras, the photographers do this all the time.
Me being me, there is no category here for “dancing”. So, “sculpture” will have to do, as in humans making sculptures of themselves.
And that’s not to even mention the whole selfie thing, and the amazing human sculpture making that that can involve.
On the left (June 2007), one from the Bald Blokes collection. He is photoing me through a bit of abstract sculpture that regular walkers along the South Bank, between the Wheel and the Royal Festival Hall will recognise. And I photoed him.
And on the right (June 2015), well, it’s me photoing me in a mirror. But what I like about this photo is not that it is a self-portrait, The sight of me I can take or leave. No, what I like is the contrast between the colourfulness of what we see reflected in the circular mirror, and the much more muted reflections to be seen in the shop window behind which the mirror rests. Neither on their own would create much of an effect. Put them together, and you have something, I think.
Click on each to get the big pictures.
May 2005 was when I first really started noticing my fellow photographers. My archives show that I had been noticing a bit before then, but that was when I really started taking photoer photos, to the point where there are now enough from that time for me now to choose only the ones where faces are not revealed, and still have plenty to pick the best of:
My favourite is 4.3, the penultimate one. The proof that I was getting serious was that I took lots of shots of this guy, which meant that the best shot was good of him and his amazing posture, and it was good of his camera, which like most of them, is of a sort you no longer see.
It is particularly noticeable how many cameras were silver coloured, in those far off days. Now dedicated cameras are mostly black.
We start (top left) with a view of a photographer on the Millennium Footbridge, and end with a clutch of photos taken on Tower Bridge. In between, I walk from the first bridge to the second, along the south bank.
As you can see, smartphone cameras continue to predominate:
As you can see, I am becoming every more careful to avoid showing recognisable - especially automatically-computer-recognisable – faces. I have even included one photo (bottom right) where the whole point and fun of it is that a passing car hid the lady’s face, and thus caused the resulting photo to qualify for inclusion in this posting.
Also, I like that effect you get with glasses (top right), where you get a more focussed version through them of the otherwise blurry background.
Just before taking these photos, on a very sunny afternoon earlier this month, I photoed this oriental lady, apparently using her sunglasses as some kind of photographic filter:
On the left, she is photoing the Wheel. On the right: Big Ben and Parliament. I have removed her face from what I am showing you, but it’s a shame I didn’t catch the picture she was taking on her smartphone. There would have been no harm done showing you that.
It was hard to tell if she had done this kind of thing before, shoving her sunglasses in front of her smartphone. As I say, it was a very sunny day, so maybe not. On the other hand, maybe yes, because it would seem that sunglasses are a very big deal for this lady, this next image being a close-up crop from the picture above, top left, of the lady’s painted nails:
Those are sunglasses, are they not? Or, aliens? Aliens wearing sunglasses?
But then again maybe she hadn’t done anything like this before, because if she had she might have gone straight to this excellent arrangement, instead of appearing only to arrive at it rather slowly:
I have not seen this done before, by anyone. This time I did catch the picture she was taking, reflected in her sunglasses.
That last photo is the money shot, or it would be if anyone were ever to pay me money for my photos, which they will not (see the posting immediately below).
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:
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.
On September 19th 2004, Goddaughter 1 and I visited the inside of the top of the Gherkin, on that year’s London Architecture Open Day, or whatever they call it.
But my camera (a Canon A70) was not very good at doing views, and the best pictures I took were of, guess what, other photographers. And the most interesting other photographer was, I think, this one:
Proof (a) that selfies were being taken before the word itself had caught on, and proof (b) that I had already noticed.
I also like that the camera there looks seriously clunky and out of date. That’s because it was then seriously clunky and is now seriously out of date.
Last night I went awandering along the river, as I so often do, and outside that excellent (even though it’s fake) Globe Theatre, I saw all this:
As you can see, I concentrated on the guy with the very, very complicated camera. And I post pictures of him here, entirely recognisable ones, because, frankly, what he was doing was performing in public, just like the people he was filming or videoing or photoing or whatever it was that he was doing, “digital filming” being my preferred guess. He was smiling (1.3 - top row right). He was part of it. And there was a big crowd watching all this. He reminded me a bit of the guy who fronted this excellent TV show. But the funny thing is, because he was clearly enjoying himself so much, I can’t tell if this guy is a Real Photographer, or an amateur much like me, who has merely hired a Real Camera.
The event, according to snatches of conversation that I happened to hear, was some kind of charity do. The queue contained many rich-looking couples dressed to the nines. And the camera man was busily immortalising everything.
What go me posting all these pictures, just like old times here, was partly the sheer pleasure involved in doing something really complicated with Glorious Godot, so fast and so solid (such a contrast with wade through sewage little Judas). And partly it was picture 3.3, middle row on the right. I love that pose, like he’s crapping by the roadside when on a really awkward holiday in an awkward country, except that obviously he’s not doing that. So, what is he doing? The fact that we cannot see his camera means it all needs explaining, and I thought, well, better put in another picture to show what he was actually doing, and then I couldn’t choose, and then I thought … this will be easy with Godot and there you go.
I still have lots of catching up to do, so what shall I do tonight? I know I’ll go to a Barbecue at Chateau Samizdata. Which they invited me to. I didn’t just ring up and say I was coming round and would be using their barbecue.