Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- Timing shits instead of forcing them
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- Classic cars in Lower Marsh
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- A selfie being taken a decade ago
- Gloucester Road with evening sun
- Lea River footbridge
- “Yeah, no …”
- … but there were some cute lighting effects
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This and that
No I haven’t forgotten about that wedding. There are quite a few more photos to show to the massed ranks of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom readers, this time of photographers:
Amateur and ubiquitous digital photography has transformed wedding photography utterly, but I don’t think it has yet seen off the professionals, provided they learn to keep up.
The fundamental difference between the amateurs and the pros, and I’m guessing this applies to many other things besides photography that I already know about in other parts of my brain, is that whereas amateurs hope they will get lucky with some of their efforts, but can’t guarantee it (especially, with photography, if the weather turns hostile), the pros know how to get good results every time, no matter what.
And even on a perfect day such as this one was, the pros still have an edge, because they are better at handling really bright light, just as they are better at making the best of insufficient light.
With wedding photography, the pros can also spend the time getting to know their customers, getting a feel for what kind of people they are, and in particular finding out which photos are going to be in the must-get-right category. What you pay for is the certainty (as near as is humanly possible) that a decent number of your wedding snaps will be really good.
And then the rest of us pile in with our amateur efforts, and maybe manage to add a few more snaps to the Greatest Snaps collection, even as that list will still be dominated by the pros. (I suppose one should add that amateurs are an invaluable back-up in the event that you get seriously unlucky with your pros, even if it’s only because the pros are good pros, but they got seriously unlucky for some appalling freak reason.)
All of which is a preamble to flagging up Mike & Heather, who were the pros on this particular occasion. You can surely tell from my snaps who Mike and Heather are. If you are in any doubt, they’re the two in, to name but one, the bottomest, rightest picture above.
As to the quality of the work Mike and Heather did, I can only guess and hope. Well, more like assume. But something else that I can be entirely sure that these two very nice people did definitely bring to this party was that they are very nice people, who fitted in well with the rest of us, and in my case, even gave me a few nice little tips. I recall a wedding where this did not happen. The pro photographer (there was only one) seemed to regard all of us amateurs as the enemy, and even the guests generally as hardly more than a necessary evil to be either ignored or else shooed out of the way at important photographic moments. You can see how a pro wedding photographer might come to feel this way, but even so, that’s not what you want, is it?
One of the laws of life nowadays is that as soon as you buy your ideal gadget, an even more ideal version of it arrives, and you think, ooh, I wish I had waited and got that one instead.
Within weeks, or so it seemed, of me buying my Lumix Blah Blah 150, out pops the Lumix Blah Blah 200 which does everything the Lumix Blah Blah 150 does, but even more. In that case the improvement was photoing in low light, which is something I like to do quite a lot when photoing speakers at meetings, indoors.
And now, I buy a Google Nexus 4 Smartphone, which is okay, in fact very okay. But this looks even better, this being a Samsung Blah Blah, which is a smartphone, but with a substantially bigger screen. The Google Nexus 4 is Google’s answer to the question: What is now a great Smartphone? A smartphone being the size of regular Smartphone. Samsung, on the other hand, asked the question: What is the maximum size of screen a Smartphone can reasonably have? Which I think is a better question.
Here is a picture that shows the difference. On the left is a regular Samsung smartphone, which is the exact same size as my Google Nexus 4. On the right is the new Samsung Blah Blah, which is a smartphone, but bigger.
Although I can get typing done happily when I am out and about, I have to admit that a bigger screen would be better. That way you get a smartphone and a tablet. A “phablet”.
I first set eyes on this Samsung Phablet the night before last, when I attended a meeting also attended by a friend of mine who already had one, despite the fact that this particular phablet has yet to be launched in the UK. He showed it to us. I was impressed. His was bigger than mine.
A recent piece about this Samsung Phablet (sorry – have forgotten where this was) said: Who the hell wants a smartphone this big? Well, I do. Better for typing, better for reading books, better for everything, and well within my geriatric weight limit.
The thing is, you want everything done when you are out and about with one machine. What you (by which I mean I) do not want is to be lugging around a phone and a “tablet”, which is why tablets are a no-no for me, as yet, unless you go for something like this. This Phablet changes that completely.
Despite me having missed this particular bus this time around, I really hope that this phablet formula catches on. The good news for me is that the Samsung Phablet now costs around four hundred quid, and I paid only a bit over two hundred for my Google Nexus 4. But with luck, phablets will soon be only two hundred quid, and I will be able to buy one with a total cost to me of buying a phablet now. And of course the two hundred quid phablet in a year’s time will be a year better than the phablet is now.
And note this. If Rob Fisher is right (I think he is) about what a good idea it is for all your computing to be done with the same little box of tricks, this phablet, being bigger than the smartphone, will accommodate more tricks.
To anyone who says, but talking into this gadget would be ridiculous, I reply: no, it would not. I might look ridiculous to you, but I do not care what looks ridiculous to you, only what actually is – or, in this case, is not - ridiculous for me.
The same rule applies to taking pictures with a tablet. Does this look silly to people to whom it looks silly? Yes. Does it make sense to those who now do this? Yes, perfect sense. Get used to it. Photoing with tablets is here to stay. Ditto photoing with phablets, when people start doing that.
Here are a couple more pictures of smartphone-tablet-phablet related kit that I encountered while trying to learn more about the Samsung Phablet. First, a gadget for combining a smartphone and a pair of binoculars:
This is not yet a thing you can buy. Watch the video there and you will learn that so far this is just an idea, which is still at the stage of soliciting investment.
And here is a picture of a zoom lens that you can attach to a tablet.
This seems like a slightly better idea. But what do I know?
The person writing the article with this picture at the top of it does the usual this-looks-ridiculous routine. But personally (see above) I don’t think it is ridiculous.
I really hope I get to see someone doing this, and photo them myself, before cameras inside tablets get to be so good that you don’t need to shove more lenses on them from outside.
No, not taken by me, of course not. By my compulsively globe-trotting friend Michael Jennings, who has recently been trotting around in Georgia ...:
Foreigners, eh? An endless source of fun.
… and in Warsaw:
The Warsaw one being bigger, because the title of the email in which this one arrived went:
This is my favourite photo for quite a while.
I’m guessing this is because the old Soviet-imposed Palace of Culture is upstaged behind and beside by skyscrapers, and in front by Polish people actually having quite a good time, buying stuff, doing capitalism etc.
I can remember when that bag of wind John Gray was saying that liberated Eastern Europe, for which people like me had such high hopes, would all end in tears, because in John-Gray-world high hopes always do. But look at it now!
I visited Warsaw in 1984, I think it was. I recall rather liking that Palace of Culture, even though I wasn’t supposed to, on account of the nastiness that it was built to spread, and probably also because of the defencelessly fine stuff that got smashed to rubble to make way for it. I could entirely see why the locals all hated it. I, on the other hand, considered it to be an example of one of my laws, which states that the splendour of a building is inversely proportional to the excellence of what goes on inside it when it first opens for business. Later, better things can get done in the thing. But the tendency is: not to start with.
Inevitably, this blog, if it persists much longer, will become more and more concerned with the experience of getting old, this being one such posting.
As you get older, you “sort of” know more and more things. You don’t know them properly. But nor do you entirely not know them. You sort of know them. You once did know them, or think that maybe you once did know them. Yeah, I remember reading about that, way back when I read about it. I think. I’d forgotten it. But now that you mention it, I sort of remember it.
Here is a fact that I sort of know, which is that in the Isle of Man, proper Isle of Man cats (as opposed, I presume, to the imports) have no tails, as this picture illustrates:
That’s one of a collection of facts about the Isle of Man.
The title of the piece is Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Isle Of Man (But Were Too Afraid To Ask). I don’t know about you for sure, but guess that, like me, you are becoming rather tired of this lazy old joke, having read it before far too many times. Why would anyone be afraid to ask about cats not having tails on the Isle of Man? About diseased vaginas, dangerous government agencies with scary reputations, illegal drugs of various sorts and how to buy them, yes, you might be afraid to ask about those, even as you might want to know about such things. But about whether cats on the Isle of Man have tails? What’s scary about that?
Besides which, there might be a great many other things you might also want to know about the Isle of Man, besides the things on this list, such as how much it costs to fly there from London, whether it has nice but cheap hotels, how good the buses and taxis are, and so on and so forth. So, not necessarily “everything” by any means.
And further besides which, these are not really things you’d ask about, unless you already sort of knew about them. If you did not know the sort of things on this list, you wouldn’t think to ask.
Despite which, thanks to 6000 for mentioning this list. If it had just called itself an Isle of Man Interesting Fact List, it would have been entirely excellent.
Another symptom of getting old is when you start out a blog posting saying it’s going to be about thing A, but by the end it’s about some other and completely different thing.
Well, I’ve had another of those longish spells of silence, referred to in this earlier posting at the end of last month.
When I have a longish spell of silence, such as the one that has just ended lasting ten days, my problem is that I keep thinking that another day won’t hurt, and that when I return, I must do so with a big bang, i.e. a brilliantly big or important posting. Which causes the spell of silence to prolong itself even more.
So instead, what I eventually do is just shove up any old thing, ...
So, once again, here is any old thing:
That was taken in Southwark Park, on the first day of this month. I like the shadows there.
However, Southwark Park was, for me, rather a disappointment. The idea was that from a big open space such as it seemed to be on the map, …:
... I would be able to see some of London’s Big Things, a few of which are quite close. But alas, the place was chock-a-block with trees, as you can tell from that map if you scrutinise it a bit. Which meant that Big Things were hardly visible:
In the summer, when the trees will presumably be covered in leaves, this place will be a total nightmare.
So, on with the wedding. I’ve done the weather. I’ve done signs. I’ve done weird technological things. Now for some preparations. The signs, the technological things and the preparations all having been snapped while I waited for things to get properly started.
The good thing about signs, technological things and preparations is that they stay still, and are hence rather easier for a photo-dumbo like me to photo. Especially in all that bright sunshine.
But when it comes to preparations, there is also the fact that the work done by those preparing all these preparations deserves recognition, before all those damn people arrive and muck everything up. One of the particularly nice things about this wedding was the way that the help was, as it were, included. The people being paid to help make the wedding all just so were all treated as humans, rather than as invisible wage slaves. They were included, so to speak. Various paid helpers were, for instance, thanked, by the Groom, in his speech. Nice touch that, I think.
Note the big circular greenhouse-like structure featured in photo 1.2 there. Chatting with one of those helpers, I learned that it was the fairly recent addition of this piece of architecture to all the other architecture at this place that really turned it into a great wedding venue, because then they had a nice big space where people could shelter if the weather was not good. The floor, being made with big stone slabs, could get wet without any permanent damage being done. Imagine what it would be like on a rather rainy day, with sunny intervals and scattered showers, with people going out and getting mud all over their shoes, and then coming indoors to avoid the scattered showers. On carpets: nightmare. On stone slabs in a big greenhose, containing big mats to clean your shoes if you wanted to venture onto the carpets: no worries.
But on the day of this wedding, the weather was perfection. It has now reverted to being cold and miserable, which just goes to show that this wedding’s weather luck was better even than it seemed on the day. Not only did this burst of perfect weather follow two months of weather misery; it also preceded more weather misery.
So, photographic possibilities temporarily exhausted, I sat down in the sunshine and read some more of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist, until other people finally started arriving. I have been thinking quite a lot lately, as a particular thing, about the matter of optimism and pessimism.
In the last of those pictures, the “Thank You” is to us guests, for showing up.
Bookshops are doomed, if my behaviour is anything to go by.
I treat them not as shops, but as showrooms. In them, I inspect potential purchases. Then I go home and see what Amazon will charge for anything I see that looks interesting.
A bookshop is not the only place for me to look for books of interest, but it is definitely one such place. The books in bookshops tend to be the more popular titles. This appeals to me for two reasons. First, popular titles tend to be quite good, and are seldom totally bad. Second, popular titles plug me into what the rest of middlebrow England is reading. I thus break out of the libertarian ghetto which I mostly inhabit when internetting. Even if a book is total rubbish, it’s still total rubbish that many are reading, and in that sense worth me reading.
When in bookshops, I used to jot down titles of interest. Now I merely take photos. Digital cameras are not just for taking pictures. They are also for taking notes.
Here are last Sunday evening’s notes, snapped in the big W. H. Smith at Victoria Station:
In each case, click on each picture to get to the Amazon spiel about it.
It may well be that, given Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price offers, one could, in this or that instance, get a better deal for this or that combination of books than one might on Amazon. But Amazon is the way to bet. You occasionally miss out on small savings with Amazon, but you quite often get larger savings, so you end up well ahead. In this case, the big Amazon bargain turned out to be the Bryson book, which cost 1p plus postage (= £2.81). All that is required is a little patience.
The most expensive of these books, even after Amazon had worked its price magic, was the one about 1216. But I still ordered that one. It sounds really interesting.
Great as the impact of Amazon has been on the new books market, I surmise that its impact on the not-so-new book market has been downright epoch-making. (That Bryson book is not so new, having been released in 2011.) Indeed, I surmise that Amazon has created a huge second hand book market where no such market previously existed.
But this too impinges on the bookshop business, because the big cost of books these days is as much reading time as reading money. If people spend time reading somewhat ancient books that they like, they have less time for the latest titles, as sold in bookshops.
A few years back, I got interested in Ian Rankin’s Rebus books. I read one, liked it a lot, and decided to read them all, in order. Why? Because, thanks to Amazon, I could. For a lot less than a fiver a go, I got Amazon to send me second hand copies of every Rebus I didn’t already have. I don’t see how I could have done this satisfactorily without Amazon.
See also: public libraries.
Also, impact of digital photography on trade, discuss. I’m thinking of how much easier it is to sell something to a stranger, by post, if you can cheaply show them a photo, or even several photos. Very cheaply. The marginal cost of digital photography is: zero. Impact of digital photography on trade: epoch-making. With books, you pretty much know what you will get. But, a frock? An item of furniture? Without even a photo, forget it. With photos, you’re in business. Which is more terrible news for shops.
A few days ago I visited Chateau Samizdata. While there, I picked the brain of its Chatelaine on the subject of my Google Nexus 4, because she now has one of these also.
She showed me various useful tricks. In particular she showed me – and helped me to download – an Android app called BUS LONDON, which identifies the bus stops nearest to wherever you are, and tells you what buses are about to arrive at each stop, when, and where they are headed.
BUS LONDON, in other words, provides you with information like this:
That is a photo I took last night at a bus stop near me. I have always, in my pre BUS LONDON life, found such signs to be immensely useful because so very reassuring. A bus to where I want to go will almost certainly be coming, quite soon, is the message I get, and it is most welcome when you consider the alternative. But only some bus stops have these excellent signs. Hence the value of an app like BUS LONDON.
Irritatingly, however, when I was at Chateau Samizdata, BUS LONDON refused to tell me about the bus stop that I was about to use. This is because this bus stop is a bit further away from CS than it might have been, but is worth the short extra walk because of the greater choice of buses that it offers me. This is a stop that buses converge on, so to speak. But once I got near enough to it, BUS LONDON obliged with all the relevant information.
However, when I arrived at the bus stop, which also has an electric sign like the one in the photograph above, this is what I saw:
I stared and stared at this to see if anything further would happen, but nothing did. This is something I have never seen before. Usually these signs either work, almost always, or occasionally do not work and are blank. Never before have I seen a sign behaving like an 80s personal computer, by publicising its problems like this and getting stuck.
Quite a coincidence, I think you will agree. Within about an hour of acquiring BUS LONDON, I encounter a bus stop sign that fails to tell me what is due, but no matter, because I now have BUS LONDON to tell me!
I could not shake the feeling that my Google Nexus 4 had sucked all the information out of the sign, into itself, leaving the sign utterly confused.
If you think the reflections of all this info are not strictly necessary, and that the reflections might have been cropped out, well, true, but I do like reflections.
Here is the reflection of the first sign, the one near me, rotated and reversed to make it easily legible:
Off topic, but I like it. If you think this reflection to be an irrelevance, then I suggest you redo this posting on your blog, with the first two images cropped, the final image omitted, and these last two paragraphs also omitted. What? You can’t be bothered? Suit yourself.
As do I. Suiting myself being what this blog is for.
I greatly enjoyed the documentary about Richard Feynman shown on BBC2 TV last night, having already greatly enjoyed the docu-drama about the Feynman Challenger investigation.
Last night’s documentary contained the following particularly choice piece of dialogue:
“Why is your van covered in Feynman Diagrams?”
“Because we’re the Feynmans.”
There is a picture of the Feynmans, next to their van, which I found here, where the picture is slightly bigger.
Does this van still exist, with all the Feynman Diagrams on it? I hope so.
So anyway, back to that wedding. (Here are (1) and (2).) I’ve started so I’ll finish. All the pictures for all these postings are chosen, arranged, uploaded, ready to go. All that remains is for me to add a bit of waffle.
I should perhaps here explain that I was the first guest to arrive at the wedding, by more than an hour. Hence the number of photos here – the previous posting in this series, this one, and the next one - of things without people. It’s not that I suppose weddings to be better without people, or that I dislike people. Not at all. It is merely that near the start of my day, I suddenly had a lot of time to fill. So, one of the things I did to amuse myself was take photos like these:
Spot the odd one out, the unsentimental, here-and-now, nostalgia-free technology.
Is that what future generations will mostly see of the way we now live?
LATER: That was quick.
The idea being to see if I had to log in again. The idea was that I wouldn’t have to. I didn’t have to.
LATER: Log on as in type in my password again.
Further Google Nexus 4 progress and rumination is reported and ruminated by me here.
This posting is a test, to see if I can post stuff to my blog entirely from my new phone/computer, and it looks as if I can.
No links, no complications. Certainly no picture. Just basic text. It seems to be working. Go.
Had a bit of trouble making the categories I had chosen stick. And touching the screen instead of mousing really takes getting used to. (Will those italics show up? LATER: YES) But, basically it works.
That mobile phones have cameras means that even regular people now always have a camera with them. Already, mobile phone cameras are quite good. Soon, they will be as good as all but the best cameras, to the point where ever more people will be satisfied with their mobile phone cameras, and accordingly won’t want to be bothering with dedicated cameras at all. This transition is already under way, a fact which I regularly track whenever I roam about London snapping (among other delights) my fellow snappers and their snapping machines.
This photographer, for instance, looks like he’s using a “phone”, the inverted commas there being because these things are so much more than phones, to the point where the phoning is almost an afterthought. As Michael Jennings said last night, it really is something of an accident that we just happen to call these things “phones”.
Here is a photo I took with my Google Nexus 4, very soon after I got it, of Randy Barnett (already featured here in this earlier posting - bottom right of the first lot of pictures there), speaking at Freedom Forum 2013:
As you can see, the quality is okay, but only okay. Compare with the zoomed photo (at the link above) of Barnett, and you can easily see the difference that a better camera makes. If the Google Nexus 4 camera has a zoom feature, I have yet to discover it.
As the picture above shows, I (of course) had my regular camera with me at FF2013. But last night I was out and about for a short while, without that camera, only the Google Nexus 4. I was dining at Chateau Samizdata, and collecting Amazon stuff that I have delivered there rather than at my own front door, because at my own front door there have been robberies. So anyway, a recent arrive at CS was a keyboard, for use with the GN4, but although pre-warned that this keyboard would require two AAA batteries to make it go, I had forgotten to bring these with me. So, I nipped out to buy some. Without my regular camera.
Sod’s Law decrees that whenever you are out and about without your camera, interesting things will immediately present themselves to you. And one such interesting thing did, in the form of a sign making use of the double meaning of the word Pole. But, Sod’s Law was held at bay by my GN4, which I did have with me, in my jacket pocket, because keeping the GN4 in my jacket pocket at all times except when I am using it is The Rule. Snap snap, which fortunately I had more or less learned how to do:
The GN4 may not be much good for distance Big Things, and the like, but it is fine for a sign.
And since the sign was the point, even though I do like scaffolding, here is the bit of the picture with the sign:
No computerised trickery there, apart from the cropping. More than somewhat blurry, but entirely legible, the whole point of letters being that they hack their way through exactly such communicational barriers.
I know I keep going on about it, but now I will go on about it some more. Signs make great photos. Signs are extraordinarily evocative of the places where they are displayed. Signs tell you what goes on in a place, or what people want to do or are liable to do by mistake, but/and must not. Wherever the public goes, there are signs, especially nowadays, when you are legally responsible for whatever idiotic thing the public does on your patch, unless you can point at a sign saying don’t do that. So, on that wedding day, I photoed signs.
It was, after all, a sign that told me I was in the right place to start with, see 1.1 below. My favourite is 3.2, the one about swan rescue.
No, forget the swans. My even more favourite one is the one that says: this parking space is only for Registrars, 2.2. This told me that there are a lot of weddings here, and that they are accordingly quite good at doing weddings. So it proved.
A fortnight ago today, I went to a wedding. The weather, just as the weather boffins had been prophesying throughout the previous week, was superb:
Click to get a bit of context.
1.1: The weather outside my front door.
1.2: The weather at Aldermaston Station, near where the wedding was to be, when I stepped out of the train.
1.3: The weather at the venue, when I first got there.
2.1: Ditto, this time with a view from the venue. Different view. Same superb weather.
2.2, 2.3: More water-based picturesqueness. 2.2: A cloud! Scary! The little square from 2.3 is a bit lighter than the others, because the photo (click) was mostly landscape, with only a tiny bit of sky, which caused the Automatic setting on my camera to make the sky lighter. The original version of the little square picture featured those sharp shadows, but I decided to stay abstract.
The Bride and Groom, the Groom especially (what with him being the fretter of that team) had been fretting for the last two months about what the weather would be like. Would it be horribly cold? No bother. As another guest said, they chose the first day of Summer.
I have many more wedding snaps to show you, but am doing them in separate postings which each make a few particular points, rather than as a huge and totally unwieldy posting that nobody, apart from the Groom, would have read. That way, I also get some of these postings done, as opposed to (maybe) none of them. That itself being a point.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
As has already been reported here, I have been reading Pride and Prejudice on my Google Nexus 4 ultra-mobile computer-with-phone. And, in Chapter X of this book, I read this:
My highlighted version of that last sentence being:
“As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
So, in Jane Austen time, painters “took” pictures.
I thought that was only photographers. There does seem, does there not?, to be something peculiarly apt about a photographer “taking” a picture. After all, you could only “take” a picture with one click of a mechanical button, as I just did of my Google Nexus 4 with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150, if the picture was in some basic sense already there for the taking, in its entirety. “Take” gets across the difference between photoing someone and painting a portrait of them, by which I mean “making” a portrait.
Perhaps this “take” usage, to describe portrait painting, declined when the painters stopped claiming to produce what we now call photographic likenesses, and, under the competitive influence of actual photography, began to “make” pictures of people, the whole point of and the whole justification of which was that a mere camera could absolutely not “take” such pictures. Such paintings are made, not taken. To accuse a painter of “taking” a picture would be to accuse him of adding nothing.