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: My photographs

Friday December 26 2014

The gap between my eyesight and the eyesight of my camera grows and grows with the passing of the years, as my eyes inexorably dim and as my cameras inexorably improve.  Even I can regularly manage quite decent shots with my latest camera.  As a result, I become ever more immobilised by having to choose good ones from the enormous piles of decent shots I often come back with, after a day out.

Yesterday was a bit different.  I went to the home of Michael Jennings for a Christmas Day lunch, picture 1.1 being the most striking thing I saw from out of his front window.  The day was lovely, but the light, though wonderful, was fast fading, so Michael and our mutual lady friend and I went out for a short (by my photographic standards) walk to take advantage of it.  Which meant that I took, by my standards, only a few pictures.  Which made it easier to choose and stick up a few half decent ones.

image imageimage imageimage image

Picture 1.2 is my favourite of these.  Thank God for London’s religious diversity.  Much as I loath what Islam says in its holy scriptures, and much as I am critical of people who go through the motions of worshipping these writings, either because they truly believe what those writings say (very wicked), or because they don’t but think that they it doesn’t matter or that they must (also wicked – yes, I mean you, Moderate Muslims – stop saying that you believe stuff that you also say that you don’t believe), I do like that having Muslims in London keeps shops open and taxis running on days like Christmas Day.  Michael fixed a couple of Uber taxi rides for me, and both the drivers had Muslim sounding names.

I don’t know what the church is in 2.1 but it looks pretty behind that leafless tree.  And Tower Bridge always looks pretty to me.

Re those two Tower Bridge shots, I’ve always liked how digital cameras do the opposite of the human eye, and turn urban skies bluer and brighter as they actually get darker.  It’s all those orange-coloured artificial lights, burning relatively brighter as the sun sinks, together with the actual darkness on the ground, impinging upon the Automatic setting.

Thursday December 25 2014

Photoed by me in the Kings Road, last night:

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I trust I make myself clear.

Tuesday December 23 2014

Ever since I first got a digital camera, I have taken occasional “wildlife” photos, of the not-actually-very-wild-at-all animals of London, mostly ducks and geese, and cats and dogs (especially cats), and occasionally squirrels.  Very occasionally, I get something worth showing, here (that cat being a French cat) or somewhere.  Mostly I prefer inanimate objects to the other sort, because inanimate object keep more still.  And in the case of those living creatures called digital photographers, they also are good at standing very still.

The last time I photoed a pair of birds, they were intensely aware of my presence and very angry about it.  But the other day, just after I had been photoing that Christmas tree, I came across a pair of birds who were utterly oblivious to my presence.  They were very well turned out.  And they were doing all manner of photographically interesting things.  They were standing asleep on one leg, waking up and stretching their wings, doing coordinated dancing, shagging, more coordinated dancing, and then they hopped down off their perch and and onto the grass to have breakfast, or whatever it was.  (All this happened at about eleven in the morning, so if it was breakfast it was a late breakfast.) I took over a hundred and fifty snaps of them.  Below is a ruthlessly edited selection: 

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The point of showing all these snaps is not just to enable you to click and enjoy at will.  It is also to make the point about how totally indifferent to my very close - not to say downright voyeuristic - presence these two handsome birds were.

I was still calling these these two birds ducks when I uploaded all those pictures.  They looked all scrunched up and small when doing that asleep-on-one-leg thing.  But actually, I think they’re geese.  Whatever.  They are Londoners.

The only reason I was out and about that morning was because I was walking with Goddaughter 2, who was on her way to France, to Pimlico tube.  As it turned out, I contributed nothing to this first leg of her journey, not even helping her lug her luggage down the steps into the station.  But I am still very glad I took this walk.

Saturday December 20 2014

Busy day today, so another from the I Just Like It directory:

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It’s the head of Hymn by Damien Hirst, when it was outside the Tate in 2012.

Behind it, we see that the Shard is nearly ready, but not quite.

Friday December 19 2014

Indeed.  Here is a photo I took soon after snapping the first of those anarchic roofs, of some china animals:

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Now I think we can all agree that the cat there looks sufficiently like a cat for me not to have to say which the cat is.  It’s the cat.  But - and I didn’t just think of this as something to say on Feline Friday because I have long thought it about this particular version of the cat – I think this version of the cat looks like it has begun (only begun you understand) to morph into a dog.  One of those white furry dogs that is about the same size as a cat, but a dog nevertheless.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the way its face sticks out at the side, rather too much for a cat.

And quite aside from that, I like the photo.  Those horizontal colours.

Also, the bloke on the right, wearing a plate on his head instead of a hat, looks a lot like David McDonagh

Thursday December 18 2014

Last Monday I was in the Covent Garden area.  Having a little time to kill before the event began which had brought me there, I naturally took photos.

The one I like best that I took at that time was this one:

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Forget that balustrade in the foreground.  I’m interested in that big round building behind it, and in the contrast between the severe repetitiousness of vertical wall, and the picturesque jumble of functionality that has erupted on the top of the building.

I’m getting out of chronological order with this next one, because I took this shot after attending the event that had got me to Covent Garden.  But never mind about that, because this is yet another study in repetitiously good mannered vertical walls, topped off with yet more rooftop anarchy:

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Nothing would make me happier than to think that the planners and the architects will continue for ever just not seeing all this rooftop anarchy.

But now take a look at the top of this building (which I photoed, from the other side of the river and with much zooming, on the same day (October 25th of this year) that I took these Shard pictures):

image

Because of the new fashion for making walls which are not quite vertical, and roofs which are not quite horizontal – roofs which are consequently, from a distance, from some angles, clearly visible – all roof clutter has been banished.  To be more exact, the roof clutter has been covered up.  An indoor place has been found for it.  Anarchy has been eradicated.

Wednesday December 17 2014

When it’s finished, it will look, according to the picture on the outside of the site (which is an outdoor hard copy of the first picture here), like this:

image

Here is what it and its surroundings will look like from above.  My home can be found in that picture, this Thing being only a short walk away from it.

But, as of now, in contrast to the above simulations, it looks like this, which I think I somewhat prefer (what with all that lovely scaffolding):

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Hang on.  Is that a Christmas tree I see up there (in among all that lovely scaffolding)?  Yes it is:

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After I started taking photos of this Thing Under Construction, together with its Christmas tree, one of the men doing the constructing made “stop doing that” gestures.  I was standing on a public pavement.  They were building a small skyscraper with a Christmas tree on the side of it.  Did they think they could keep this secret, and impose martial law for a quarter of a mile around all this?  I just laughed out loud and carried on, and of course they did nothing about it.

Can you spot why “Sculpture” is included in the category list below?

Tuesday December 16 2014

Photoed by me earlier in the month, outside Green Park tube station:

image

Is this fair?  Publicising these two face-recognisable guys, after they’ve had a hard day hard selling something that looks like it was a rather hard sell?  Well, they’re in uniform, a uniform donned precisely to attract attention, which is what I am giving them.  They are public figures.  Insofar as they are rather letting the uniform down, that too is a public matter.

They remind me somewhat of Dan Aykroyd’s drunk Santa in Trading Places.

In this clip, Aykroyd (a) answers questions about Trading Places, and then (b) plugs his vodka-in-a-skull-bottle.  Really.

Quote:

“Love Capitalism.”

Yes.

I am, however, puzzled by those strange looking marks in the wall, at the top of the picture.  Anyone?

Monday December 15 2014

This morning I had reason to be in the vicinity of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at about 10 a.m.  Later you will learn why, but in the meantime, just to say that this uncharacteristically early-in-the-day expedition enabled me to reacquaint myself with an old friend, in the form of the delightful footbridge that allows the ballerinas of the Royal Ballet School to make their way to the Royal Opera House, without having to risk being damaged by traffic or by the public:

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The ROH is on the right there.  I like how the squares in the bridge echo the strong right angles of the building and its roof details.

I also like the blue sky.  But, you think that’s a blue sky?  That’s not a blue sky. 

This is a blue sky.

Saturday December 13 2014

Back when I took these two pictures (September 15th 2007), this was the camera that most impressed me, because its screen was so big:

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Now, it is this camera that impresses me most, because its screen is so small:

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More and more postings here, I predict, are going to be of pictures I took a while back.

Friday December 12 2014

I just chanced upon this list of London’s twenty tallest buildings.  What I particularly like about this list is that it includes date of construction.

No less that sixteen of these tall buildings were built during this century.  The other four are: One Canada Square (the pointy Docklands one), “Tower 42” (aka the Natwest Building), the “South Bank Tower”, and the Guy’s Tower (aka the ugly little monster now dwarfed by and right next to the Shard).  Those are all twentieth century.  All the rest are twenty first century.

That last one, the Guy’s Tower was, when first perpetrated, the tallest building in London.  I did not know this.  Now it holds the number eighteen spot.

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That’s a picture I took of the middle of the Shard and of the top of Guy’s Tower from Blackfriars Station (the one on the bridge) when both that station and the Shard were still being constructed, in 2012.  I chose that picture because in it, the Guy’s Tower looks particularly ugly and bedraggled and stained and horrible.

I recently speculated that the Guy’s Tower might have made the Shard possible, by destroying all concerns about aesthetic suitability in its area.  Now I am starting to suspect that it may have had an even more profound effect, on the whole of London.  I mean, if that horrid Thing is the tallest Thing London has, then the sooner we build lots of other taller Things the better.  That’s what I would have been thinking in the seventies, if I had been thinking about London Things at all at that time.

What I am saying, to spell it out, is that if that Guy’s Tower had not been built at all, then the subsequent architectural history of London might have been very different, and far less interesting.

Thursday December 11 2014

In October, I posted this, provoked by seeing a drone in a London shop window.  I said stuff like this:

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?

I should also then have read and linked to this piece, published by Wired in February.  Oh well.  I’m linking to it now.

Quote:

Sooner or later there will inevitably be a case when the privacy of a celebrity is invaded, a drone crashes and kills someone, or a householder takes the law into their own hands and shoots a drone down.

Quite aside from privacy issues, what sort of noise do these things make?  That alone could be really annoying.  (Although that link is also very good as a discussion of privacy issues.  Noise is only the start of their discussion.)

My guess?  These things will catch on, but at first only for niche markets, like photoing sports events, or, in general, photoing inside large privately owned places where the owner can make his own rules and others then just have to take them or leave them.  Pop concerts.  If they’re not too noisy, they might be good for that.

This is always how new technology first arrives.  Ever since personal computers the assumption has tended to be that the latest gizmo will immediately go personal, so to speak.  (Consider 3D printing.) But actually, personal use is, at any rate to begin with, rather a problem.  At first, the new gizmo finds little niche markets.  Only later, if at all, do things get personal.

Which is why, I think, the first two sightings I have made of photo drones have each been in shop windows, the first in the window of Maplins in the Strand (see the link above), and the most recent, shown below, in the window of Maplins in Tottenham Court Road:

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And a creepy Christmas to you.  I guess this is the gadget of choice of “Secret Santa”.

Which reminds me.  Now is the time I start taking photos of signs saying “Merry Christmas” to stick up here instead of sending out Christmas cards.  Will I find a weirder “Merry Christmas” than that?  Quite possibly not.

I am looking forward to photoing one of these things out in the wild.

Wednesday December 10 2014

Nothing, apart from this, here, today, but I did manage a posting at Samizdata entitled Anton Howes on the Golden Age that never stopped.

I say nothing, but here is a picture I took of someone in a woolly hat taking a picture at Piccadilly Circus:

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Gotta love that Golden Age we’re living in.

Monday December 08 2014

Here is a picture I took earlier this evening, at Warren Street tube station, the Victoria Line, at the time specified in the picture …:

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… and here is another picture, of the same things, but from closer up and from below, which, as you can see, I took six minutes and one second later:

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The first picture, taken from a random spot quite a long way off and from within a crowd (hence the blurriness) is the problem, and the second picture, taken from much nearer and when I was seated, shows you (without blurriness) what is causing the problem.  There is a sign, and there is a damn great horizontal slab of WTFness, attached to a surveillance camera, right next to the sign, blocking the view of the sign, from everywhere except very near to it.  This arrangement was not calculated to render the sign two thirds useless (see the first picture above), because it is quite clear that no calculation was involved.  The installers of the surveillance camera and its WTFness clearly gave no thought to the sign or its legibility on most of the platform.  But, if a malevolent calculation had been done with the above malevolent purpose in mind, that is exactly where the surveillance camera and its big WTFness attachment would have been placed.  They could not have blotted out the sign better if they had tried.

You see this combination of circumstances quite a lot in tube stations.  Finally, I got around to photoing it, when I saw it, so I can have a bitch about it on my blog.

Knowing how long you must wait for your next train is very soothing, I find.  One of the best things about railway (and bus) services in recent years is that signs such as this one have become ever more abundant.  But, such signs only sooth if it is possible to read them.  They do not sooth if it is necessary to walk half the length of the platform in order to read them.

I am not impressed.

Sunday December 07 2014

Like half of London, it would seem, I’ve been suffering with a cough and a cold and a headache, finding it hard to sleep.  For some reason it all gets worse at night, especially the headache.  Why?

So a couple of incoming emails from Simon Gibbs, concerning some of the pictures I took at that Cost of Living Debate which he organised last October, really cheered me up.

The first email said that one of the pictures I had taken, of one of the speakers, had enabled Simon to flag up, on YouTube, that speaker’s videoed performance, more attractively than might otherwise have been possible.  A photo was attached…:

image

... which Simon described thus:

One of your digital photos on my TV, via the Virgin Media YouTube app.

Then, very soon after that email, another one, longer:

I managed to make some more appear.

The video quality is okay, but the camera was pointing statically at the whole panel. You zoomed in on individual speakers while in action (or at rest), then I was able to crop and add titles and the resulting thumbnail is better than any individual frame of the video.

Here “better” means “better able to encourage someone to click from a list of videos through to the video itself”, meaning they will stand out from the crowd.

And another picture was attached:

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I am delighted that my photoing obsession has assisted Simon in his much more strenuous activities.  And I got in for free.

Which reminds me that I should long ago have done my own selection of snaps from that evening, and stuck them up here.  I may yet do this, and maybe quite soon.