24 August 2009

Future Gardens, St Albans, Herts

A new meaning for the word "enhanced".

Apparently threatening to kill someone's children and rape their spouse is an "enhanced interrogation technique". How marvelous. How brilliant. How humane. Well done to everyone involved - mainly Americans and Brits no doubt.

23 August 2009


Is there anyone left in the world who hasn't made a documentary about lithium production in Bolivia? For the love of god, we know they have a lot - good luck to them with it, they could do with a break. Now, isn't there something else to talk about?

Physiology Major

Every so often (more and more as it happens, but we'll let that pass) I get swelling around my upper or lower lip. I believe it is a food allergy, possibly yeast*, but it is happening with increasing frequency so today I thought I'd look up what other possible causes there could be. To this end, I am grateful to the Wellcare Site for this incisive and helpful pointer:

"One can easily differentiate between the Upper (Labium superiors) and lower lip (Labium inferioris). The lower lip is somewhat larger."

Apparently you need a degree in Yin-Yangery to be able to spot this, though with years of practice I reckon most people could achieve a better-than-50-50 result if they studied hard enough.

*When I was a kid, my father used to work in the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association in Chorleywood and as such he was partially responsible for developing the Chorleywood Process, used in the creation of the plasticky white bread that, at times, we all have a yearning for, especially toasted with peanut butter. Anyway, every Friday he would bring home a still-warm loaf of freshly baked bread which we children loved and would devour almost instantly. I now wonder if there were all sorts of different yeasts and chemicals used in these - it seems likely, though I guess I will never know. I was wondering if these loaves were somehow responsible for my current annoying ailment - probably not, but it makes for a bit of a story. If it were true, I would guess that my bro and sis would have similar problems, but aside from an allergy to olive trees they don't so unless there was olive oil put in the bread (and heaven knows this is so unlikely - we're talking about the early 1970s here) this appears to be a blind alley.

Well now...

I am currently operating both a Mac and a PC at home and therefore see this blog on both from time to time. What is striking is how much better the pictures look on the Mac. Shiny, rich, alive. The old Vaio makes them look washed out and anaemic. I don't know if there is much I can do about this but it is a shame that the pictures are not going to come across as well to the 93% of the population that use PCs and not Macs. Perhaps I can jigger with the colour space or something - I will have to look into it.
FWIW, the Mac remains annoying from the "old dog / new tricks" aspect, but I am speeding up on it. The most annoying aspects remaining at the moment are the absence of a maximise button and the lack of an option to resize a picture (and keep the original)at the right-click of a mouse. Other factors (processor speed, portability, shut down and start up speeds) are great, although I don't know how much they are due to a change of OS and how much they owe to the fact that technology has moved on in the last few years and the spec would be better on any machine I bought in a similar price bracket.
BTW, the reason I've not posted more pictures on here with the Mac is because of the lack of an image resizer and the issues I'm having sorting out an alternative method - I know I could duplicate, then resize and then post but I'm looking out for something neater; if I can't find anything in a day or so though, I will sort some pics out anyway via one of the cumbersome methods.

22 August 2009


Taken today at Future Gardens near St Albans in Hertfordshire. I do apologise for the glowing hands - I'm not sure what went on there. Anyway, note that this is one of the AM models that does not, sadly for him, have the realistic hair (which, btw, was only realistic in the sense that it was nylon and therefore recognisable as hair only if your mane is as dry as my own).

17 August 2009

Well the machine may be faster at processing images, but the idiot using it isn't - this took so long I gave up half way through .... enjoy!

Taken at the British Museum today. Not really that dark or that yellow (although there was a twinge of the latter to the page) but I can't fine tune on this machine yet. I'm trying to come to term with Capture NX2 as well - if there is a more poorly designed piece of software (anything by Sony excepted of course), I've yet to come across it.

Mac vs. PC

First impressions (I am a new macbook owner) are not so good. Smooth looking, sleek and fast, yep, but here are the annoyances:
1. The @ key - why is it up there and not down where it should be?
2. WTF is a disk image? And where do the programmes go? Why don't they stay on the task bar where I put them?
3. "Oh macs, they are so intuitive" you hear the fanboys eulogise. Then in that case why in the name of Steve Jobs doesn't my machine recognise my camera? @You have to tell it to start a programme when you plug it in@ - well I did that and it worked yesterday but not today - do I have to do this every time?
4. And what is it with the maximise button? The screen is small enough as it is without all the acreage given to the icons at the bottom and then the windows I want to maximise instead going to about a quarter size and then back again? 'Oh but it chooses how much window you need to see' - well thanks but I'd like to be the judge of that.
5. Forward delete - is that so hard?
6. Change the appearance of the desktop etc? "Oooh no sir, we can't allow that. Besides, why would you want to change it when it is soooooooooooo beautiful and cool?" Why, well because I bought the machine, remember?
7. I want to resize a picture on a PC? I download Image Resizer and thereafter, every time I want to perform this most simple of operations I right click and choose a size, keeping the original intact at the same time. Simple, easy to use, done. On a Mac? Download some software, install it (lord knows how), then open it up every time I want to resize a picture, drag the picture in, choose the parameters, lose the original unless I've already copied it, close the application, find the copy... yada yada yada. Those Mac fanboys, I'm starting to despise them!
8. The brightness of the screen seems to come and go like waves on the beach.

Ah well, I'll get used to all this I'm sure.

1. It is in the "wrong" place but I am slowly getting used to it.
2. I still don't understand what a Disk Image is and nor do I understand (3) why it recognises my D50 but not my D700 - driver update needed? Is "driver" the right term when applied to Apple Mackery?
4. Still applies - I'd like to maximise at the click of a button thanks.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid. Apparently there are two bits of software out there (one of them freeware, one costing $20.00) that can change the look of the machine. However, see problem 2, above.
7. Still applies.
8. Possibly this is more me than the machine....

9 August 2009

Colombia Road Flower Market

I love this shot - taken this morning as the sun was starting to warm up the day. I'd just thrown a couple of mugs of tea all over a cafe / the paper / our chairs, so it wasn't an auspicious start but I needn't have worried, the day turned out good in the end.

Miracle @ Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Not the world's greatest pic but I posted it because I'm still thinking the D700 / Nikon sensors turn greens slightly yellow - what does anyone else think?

Kew Gardens

Looks a bit autumnal but see post above.

South Bank

Acetate I think he said, South Bank


Shot Rationale:

Competition - theme: colour. Closing date for entries: End of August.


Too many steps to document. Not yet finished either as the "brown" is a bit manky and the "C" needs work; nonetheless, it is getting there.


5 August 2009

Published Author 2

Here we are - the article, or at least the basis for it - now you don't have to buy the magazine (just kidding - BUY IT ALREADY!):

The Amateur’s Raison D’ĂȘtre.

The other day I read an article that suggested a typical front page story in National Geographic is accompanied by 16 photographs. I also read that, before digital came along, the same stories would have involved the photographer concerned taking an average of 650 … wait for it … 650 rolls of film. Assuming 36 shots per roll that’s 23,400 pictures. For one story. Goodness knows what the total is for those photographers today who might be using digital equipment - one suspects it is likely to be considerably higher.

The same article suggested that the official U.S. Presidential Photographer takes, on average, 700 shots a day. If we assume a few days off on holiday and at weekends, some private time for the Obama family, and some time to spend actually processing those same 700 pictures, that’s still maybe 200,000 shots a year. Supposing a keep rate of 1%, (surely a conservative figure given the nature of the events attended, the degree of access the photographer has, and the fact that his or her presence is welcomed pretty much at all times), that’s a “success” rate of 2000 shots p.a.. What would an amateur give for such a rate?

And therein lies the rub. For the average amateur there appears to be no reason to take 700 pictures a week, let alone a day (some might say that the average professional doesn’t need to take 700 pictures a day, and indeed there is an argument that such a scattergun approach isn’t about creating pictures through Art but about creating pictures through the law of averages, but that’s another story). Of course if my wife was meeting Binyamin Netanyahu one day and attending a D-Day Commemorative service the next I’d have good reason never to put my camera away. But chugging off to Sainsbury’s for late-night opening on a Thursday or leaving for work on a rainy Monday morning in February doesn’t, at first glance, inspire one to pick up a camera. Interest can be piqued, of course, by holidays, competitions, days out, brides, grooms, new babies, even well-taken shots on the daily commute, but picture-taking opportunities can still seem limited to those not employed to make photographs for a living. To the amateur one of the biggest problems over time thus becomes the lack of a rationale, the lack of a raison d’ĂȘtre, for picking up a camera.

But it is against precisely this lack of purpose that the amateur who is determined to improve must struggle. For, unless we decide that we are content with the level of proficiency we have reached, we need to overcome this perceived lack of a rationale in order to continue to improve our art. Finding a reason to go on taking more and better pictures becomes an important part of the challenge for the amateur, even on those rainy Monday mornings. Especially on those rainy Monday mornings. So, I’m going to move away from the screen and pick up my camera bag. There you go – nothing to it!

4 August 2009

Published Author

Had a column published in this magazine this week - wahey! I was even paid (£50 - retirement / packing in the day job beckons). And so the slow progression to professional photographer continues....

I think

I feel an Apple Macbook Pro coming on...do I have to turn into a fashionista?