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Photography

Cameras

An interesting thing happened a few years back.

There were two new music formats out. MP3 and a DVD – Audio. MP3 won, and DVD -Audio is dog biscuits. Why? MP3 was convenient. Oh, lower quality than even CD but so what? I recall reading at the time to get the monty out of DVD – Audio you needed to go to Richer sounds with a dump-truck full of money. Or you could buy an iPodule.

Much the same has happened with cameras. What fundamentally is revolutionary about the digicam? Well my Sony Alpha 55 is much the same as my Pentax MZ-50 film camera in many ways. What is different is ubiquity and the price per shot. This laptop has a camera. OK, it’s only really for Skype etc but did I not see people with laptops round the sites of Paris using them to take pictures? Yes. Did I also see loads of people using tablets? Yes. or iPhones and similar. Forget the quality and feel the convenience. There has been an explosion in photography. And it’s just like download music. Dog cheap and dog rough.

Now here is something I hate. I was in this gaff in Paris. It’s gorgeous. The stained glass is kick-ass.

Now this is one of my piccies…

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That is from the big round window in Sainte-Chapelle. It is Christ presiding over the Book of Revelations. The full window has the Beasts and the Whore of Babylon and all the rest. I took it with my 300mm Tamron lens. Numpties were using flash on Samsung Galaxies. Seriously. Now you don’t have to be an f/stop philosopher to realise that photographing stained glass from the inside using a flash is an exercise in utter futility. But who cares? It costs nothing (near enough).

Now if we roll back time something weird happens. Now obviously an iPhone in many ways is a better camera than some wooden box that Lewis Carroll would use but I’ve seen his piccies and they are gorgeous. Technically brilliant. At some level the sheer cheapology of it has resulted in crapology. Back when Victoria was on the throne a photograph was expensive so folks took care. Now it’s cheap as chips and thoroughly automatic for the people so the quality has gone done hill like a cannon ball rolling off Mount Everast. In Sainte-Chapelle there were hordes of folk taking pictures with every form of gadget imaginable. And then there was me and a woman in her 20s with a Nikon DSLR who was holding it right – as I was with my Sony. The simple truth is our society has not coarsened morally as much as economically. I am as guilty as everyone else. I have taken puerile photos of puerile things. At high quality on my Sony with an 8 Gig card I can take 1000 photos. On my Pentax I can squeeze a roll to maybe 39. I can delete as I wish with the Sony too. I can feck around with the settings. It’s a nightmare when you review them. Umpteen piccies of the same thing from the same angle just with different ISO or exposure. And bear in mind the Sony has SteadyShot so for a static image I can get down to 1/20s sometimes and that is hand-held and still looks good.

I know I must sound like an old git but… I do have a point. The ubiquity of the image cheapens it because well, it is cheaper. On the Paris Metro (line 1) I sat opposite a Japanese bloke who was photographing everything. He grabbed a shot of the “stand clear of the doors” sign. Why? God knows. The image I reproduced above is of Jesus Christ on the last day in stained glass in a gorgeous late medieval chapel. One I think is worth more. Not financially but culturally. And no. I am not being a snob.

It’s like twitter. Back in the days of writing copperplate letters people had to think about what they wrote. Is it any surprise the number of celebs etc. who have posted on twitter something immediately regrettable? Or indeed even twitter addict Stephan Fry who felt the need to say he was stuck in a lift? If you don’t have to think then what you produce is either vile or banal or both. Mr Fry is clearly an intelligent chap so why such dross? He has the technodiction as have we all these days and he’s got it bad.

No, I don’t want to go back to cuneiform and graven images but we need to think before we shoot. Or tweet. Or whatever. Consider txt-speak. That wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t cheap as air. People would take time to craft a txt msg if it cost a quid a throw.

And yes, I appreciate as a blogger this is trivial junk. But it matters to me. To put it bluntly I wanted to share the above image with you the moment I took it. I hope you like it. It took about 15 mins to find it and I’m still not sure it is the definitive one! As I said, I’m just as guilty as everyone else of cheapening the image. And the letter and all the rest.

I can’t write English with a pen anymore. Seriously.

Another point. I learnt to take piccies on a seriously good optically (though heavy) Zenit. It belonged to my then girlf. It weighed a pig-iron ton. Of course I had to learn. I also had to do, as part of my physics degree, a photo course with Tony, the Nottingham University Physics photographer. Fascinating. It was a horrendous day in December and I slipped coming down the road on the ice and snow so I was soaking but he taught me the f/stops. Certain readers around here probs know how cold Nottingham is in winter. That is when I really got into piccies. Tony and Rachel. Tony was a nice guy and she was an uber-munt. But that is when I learnt. Greece was field practice. I have loved cameras for years and oddly enough I only really got into them once I got into SLR/DSLT territory. Before that I was a mere snap-shooter. Now I am not.

I have to say something mind. In 1996 I go up the Empire State Building early in the morning. NYC looks gorgeous and I have the Pentax K1000. And the film rips. That is an utter buggeration. I would have rather been anally raped by Lady Gaga with a 12 incher (actually if she uses enough lube that could be fun) than that happen. I got pictures of lower Manhatten and the Twin Towers at dawn but they no longer exist. Not like that is an option to go back anymore. Tnank you Al Queda! You can shoot a fourteen year old in the head in Crapistan (Now being treated in Brum) but can you build 110 storeys? Nicht. No you can’t. You can create chaos, slaughter and slavery. And no this is not Islam. Turkey isn’t like that. Sayeed (Mancunian Pakistani) at the corner shop ain’t either. His wife, a Mulimmah, wears a saree. I guess she is c.40. She looks very nice. It is flattering. It’s no burkha.

The depraved bastards. You know the 9/11 mob shaved their pubic hair to be righteous. I quite like (female – obviously) pubic hair but I also like the smooth look. The later is more fun for oral sex. But shaving is more morally righteous according to Big Mo. Certainly when moral righteousness involves making killing 3000 people more morally righteous than getting the Gillette out. They shaved to be righteous in front of Allah. Not shaving your body hair or killing 3000 people. It’s a toss-up innit?

I know where I stand here. I like piccies. I take hordes. I do not regard any image as wrong per-se. Being against graven images went out with the bronze age. I do think we ought to take care with piccies but is a nude image wrong or indeed any image. I posted an image of God. Call me. It is the fundamental (to me) idea of libertarianism. “Many things we should not do, but that shouldn’t make them illegal.”

Terrible photos should not exist but that should not make them illegal. Taking such shots is it’s own punishment after-all.

Daily Mash Article of the Century.

I mean Daily Mail obviously but who knows or cares anymore?

This chilling image of Myra Hindley which appeared on the side of a family’s fridge was enough to send a shiver down their spine.

Note a family’s fridge. Single folk can have Charlie Manson in their dish-washer and the Mail couldn’t give a flying fuck.

And anyway is it possible to have a non-chilling image of Myra Hindley? Actually, no scratch that. The one everyone knows is that photo-booth image. They’d make Kylie Minogue look like Adolf Eichmann. And I like Kylie – the extremely attractive Aussie songstress. The deranged Germanic genocidal maniac I like less so. Though he makes good polenta. Mussolini taught him that. Or was it Franco?

Anyway this is the fridge…

… and this is Myra Hindley…

Shocked friends soon commented on the striking resemblance to infamous Hindley, who together with her lover Ian Brady, tortured and killed five youngsters between 1963 and 1965 around Greater Manchester.

Note the way that is written. Why is Hindley the more infamous? Because she was a woman and therefore ought to give children lollipops? My understanding was Brady was the prime mover here and Hindley was almost a victim. That is not giving Hindley a let-off but banging Brady to rights. I have found it remarkably easy to spend 38 years not killing or aiding the killing of children.

‘It wasn’t really until we took the photograph that everyone went “oh my God”. As soon as we looked at the photograph we thought it looked like Myra. And then we got spooked massively all night.’

Debby, 44, who moved from Kent to work for Club La Costa on the Costa del Sol in Spain, uploaded the photo to Facebook.

The Costa Del Sol, “In Spain”. Oh, fucking behave! Where else would it be?

And spooked “massively” all night! Because Myra Hindley (who is dead) lived in her fridge. Well, I got a microwave full of the Yorkshire Ripper. And who the fuck photographs their fridge anyway? I have photographed wonderful sunsets and stuff but a fridge? A fucking fridge! Because a serial-killer might be there in spirit? To put on Facebook?

A classical education is clearly not required by the Met.*

While London looks increasingly like a city under martial law it is nice to see the Met still have time for pursuing nonsenses as well as going round looking like characters from some post-apocalyptic FPS game…

There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.

But the sensitive souls of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini’s photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.

Personally I quite like the picture and I think it’s a bit more “artistic” than “ravished”.

An officer took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed officers from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.

“Alerted”? I mean this morning a copper in Leeds on his way into work spotted and then alerted his colleagues and then apprehended a double murder suspect. That’s “alerted”. And why two coppers? I dunno though in the current climate of Olympic and Jubilee paranoia I guess it’s lucky they didn’t send a SWAT team.

Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s sons Tyrone and Jamie, said: “We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. The show, Metamorphosis, had been running for a month and was really well received.”

Now that is the nub of it is it not? Bestiality is illegal though to be fair I’ve always tended to see it as it’s own punishment. But is “condoning bestiality” or indeed condoning anything actually illegal. Or did the cops just take offence and make it up? Like when they made-up a death penalty for being a Brazilian electrician in South London?

The final day of the exhibition was on Saturday and the gallery was taking down the artworks when police arrived. Ms Mehta pointed out that for prim Victorians, the myth of how Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped young Leda and produced Helen of Troy, was an acceptable form of erotica. But the explanation that the picture was based on a legend that had inspired countless generations of artists failed to cut the mustard with the police, she said.

They didn’t know anything about the myth. They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down. They asked us whether we had had complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.

As I said I rather like it. What is this about, really? I suspect at some level the cops were acting due to the our old friend – the absurd and illiberal Violent and Extreme Pornography Act. To summarize. This act potentially makes almost any image deemed pornographic potentially illegal. Everything from an old copy of the Sun (with Sam Fox aged sixteen back when that was legal) to this rather famous example of Japanese art**. Yes, it is retroactive and yes it applies to paintings or drawings or CGI as well. It is not just victimless thought crime (though it is) but it’s a also a strict liability which means that if a court decides it is Frankie Vaughn or could be construed as such you’ll be taken up the Gary Glitter.

It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.

Because it wasn’t one. Or shouldn’t be. God knows. The law doesn’t.

*Or even a passing aquaintance with English law or Peel’s Principles of Policing. Or a Terry Pratchett Watch book.

**A peculiarity here is that this image would be regarded as very naughty by the Japanese due to the depiction of pubic hair. In comparison here it would appear now that a shaven woman is more likely to get you into trouble for making the image look child-like. Yes, an image seen to be of a child regardless of the model’s actual age can be illegal. Yes, the actual age of the model is no defence. And neither is the purpose for which the image exists. Here is a theoretical example. Let’s imagine my wife (33 – but still sometimes gets IDed for buying wine which like nude modelling is an 18+ thing) and I take some foxy piccies of her in the buff. I have potentially committed a child pornography offence even if it is entirely for private purposes. Of course if this photo-shoot ends with us having sex that is OK but filming or photographing it might be illegal if it was deemed by a court as a representation of a minor. The fact that this was an entirely consensual act between a married couple for their own fun with no intent to sell this is as kiddie-porn would not be a defense. This is strict liability recall.

Spot The Difference

Image H/T PetaPixel

The images have a similar theme: a red Routemaster bus against a greyscale Westminster Palace background.  Both shots of familiar London landmarks and fairly innocuous as such images go.  At least you would think so.

The image at the top is the intellectual property of Temple Island Collection (TIC), a company that produces souvenir gifts.  The lower image belongs to New English Teas (NET).

So far, so mundane.  So what?

If you scroll down to the bottom of TIC’s page you’ll see this:

TEMPLE ISLAND SCORE SECOND COPYRIGHT VICTORY OVER NEW ENGLISH TEAS

However, TIC fail to elaborate what their victories entail.

Take another look at those images.  Red Routemaster bus, greyscale Westminster Palace.  There the similarities end.  The compositions are different even if the subjects are the same.  We’ve all seen similar images and they are nothing new.  Here’s one selling promoting London and Hyde Park Towers hotel.  Here’s another one being sold as a poster.  Such images are all over the internet and have been popular with the souvenir/poster buying tourists and public for decades.  It’s a typical London scene that must have been photographed millions of times.  Yet NET has been denied the use of their image on product packaging by a British judge because of a perceived breach of copyright.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Red bus + greyscale Westminster Palace = copyrighted by TIC.  Kerrrrr-ching.

So you want to market goods promoting Britain using an image synonymous with all that is London and British. You shoot a photograph of a world renowned London Routemaster bus using Westminster Palace as a backdrop.  You then Photoshop the image in a popular and highly unoriginal way and use it to sell your merchandise.  Job done.  But wait, what’s this?  TIC own the intellectual rights to ALL similar images even if the composition is different and the concept of a coloured subject against a greyscale background predates Adobe Photoshop by a century or more?  How come you suddenly have no choice but to approach TIC for a licence to use your image commercially?  Has the UK gone completely nucking futz?

Sadly, the answer is yes.  Yes it has.

We have a controversial and deeply stupid copyright law ruling to blame for this latest insult against fairness and common sense.  For photographers nothing is safe from the lawyers and the legal system.  Not familiar landmarks.  Not tried and tested photographic manipulation.  Not even the fruits of your creative imagination.  Not unless you are a bastard and patent your output even though it’s not original by a long shot.

You can read about the whole sorry story here.

Gonzo Cameras

I currently have in my possession a 40+ year old Pentax Spotmatic (it’s my Dad’s). I live near enough Manchester and I know a camera shop there in which such a device is positively youthful (why I have it). I shall not carry my Sony DSLT near the shop for the resident f/stop philosophers will reach for pitchforks and such. HD video, 10fps continuous autofocus, 12800ISO, 8Gb SDHC cards – unclean, unclean! Thing is I am to get a battery for the old Pentax. Further thing is it set me thinking. The Sony Alpha SLT-A55V is of course digital but has a standard Minolta lens fitting. So… could I fit it with some cheap second hand lens for frolics? I mean I appreciate that it will probs play havoc with the light metering and focus and such but I know enough to busk it.

The thing is just round the corner is a shop that sells Dianas. Now for 140 quid you can get a Diana (they are based upon some Commie thing from way back) and a huge number of lenses and stuff chucked in. As I have an MSc in Astrophysics I do know a thing or two about optics and stuff so I appreciate from a technical viewpoint they are junk but lomography looks fun and with a digital camera costs nothing really.

Any of you guys done any gonzo photography? Mated a grands worth of Nikon to a junk-store lens, even played with a Diana (using 120mm roll film !!! – yeah and my band’s next single will not trouble the download charts for it is only available on wax cylinder – so send a postal order for 4 shillings and sixpence now to avoid disappointment!)? Having a “proper” camera with interchangeable lenses (I suspect like a lot of folks I went SLR>digital compact>DSL(R/T)) that does like everything has if anything made me want to go back to basics and really play. Seriously. Honestly I can say most of the 4000+ images recorded in the last few months have been on fully manual. I do though keep “face detection” on for a larf. It spooked (quite literally) the bejesus out of me in the Hagia Sofia. I was photoing a fresco of Christ and it clocked His visage. I didn’t know whether to be more awed by those Byzantines or the cunning chaps at Sony.

I dunno. I mean it’s like taking acceptable “snap-shots” is just too easy. It narks me. It does. You go anywhere fun and you see all these twats doing the “zombie” with an effing Christmas Cracker Samsung (also available in pink*) without a viewfinder (hence the “zombie”. It annoys me in places of worship in particular. Even with my old Kodak Z7590 I can take pictures without flash. Up the ISO, use the 2 second timer, secure it against shake. Wankers will be wankers though.

Anyway, rant off. Can I use junk-store lenses? It could be fun.

*That was a TESCO ad from last Crimble. A camera on a Christmas shopping list was specified as “Samsung” and “pink”. Nothing about zoom or megapixels, just “pink”. Cameras are black, silver or a combo or they are owned by Hello Kitty. The later is utterly theatrical gayness.

English Country Garden

Been taking advantage of the recent weather and taking photos.

For all you f/stop philosophers out there the camera is a Sony Alpha SLT-A55V. Lenses used are a Sony 18-55mm and a Tamron 70-300mm. The later sometimes in macro mode. It’s a great piece of kit. Fast as fury focusing and shooting (SLT, not SLR). Purists might object to the EVF but I prefer it. Frankly you’d have to pay a lot more to get a Cannon or Nikon in the same league. All pictures were taken at full resolution – 16Mpixels so I’ve had to crunch ‘em a bit.

Daisies…

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Spining thingy…

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Tulgy Wood with Auto HDR engaged

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St Mary’s…

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Tomb without HDR…

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Tomb with HDR…

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Can you spot the bug?

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At actual 16Mpixel size…

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There is more to come but I’ll leave it now so the Cats server doesn’t have kittens.

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