Thursday, 19 June 2008

Sheep Wranglers Caught in the Act

Well, not really. But it did look funny seeing truck full of mini Superlambananas stopped outside of the cathedral in Liverpool.

These were delivered around Liverpool as part of the 2008 Capital of Culture celebrations. A total of 125 Superlambananas have been placed around the city and are on display for 10 weeks.
Unfortunately, one has already been stolen from a small flock of construction Superlambananas from Hope Street, near where these photos were taken.
Being the cynic that I am, I expect there to be many more reports of the poor things being stolen and vandalised during their display period.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Inspirational Photography... in Lego

A friend of mine sent me a link to a flickr album the other day which totally blew me away. As I've said before, I both love and hate flickr. This is a reason to love flickr.

One of the things I often say when viewing other people's photos is "I wish I could recreate that shot". Well, Balakov has recreated some of the most famous photos of all time in Lego. His Classics in Lego set contains macro photos in which Lego figures are posed to recreate a famous picture. Not only does Balakov give you the Lego picture, but he links to a copy of the original,Tennis Girl and shows the setup of the shot too.

One of my favourites of his collection is the recreation of the Tennis Girl photo from 1976 (seen on the right). I unfortunately, never bought the poster as a kid. I certainly knew of its existence. There is a great story about the photo on wikipedia, which, for me, gives it even more importance in the world of photography.


Balakov's most recent (re-)creation is of the 1967 Bigfoot sighting. This is yet another image which has been in and out of sight during my lifetime. Every time someone announces they have seen bigfoot, the news/documentary/magazine drags out this famous still for comparison.
In this picture, I particularly like the fact a Chewbacca figure was used. I think it adds a certain irony; one picture contains a fictional furry character from a famous film, the other contains Chewbacca. :-)

The only problem I have now is that I see these images and say "I wish I could recreate that recreation of that shot"...

All images were used in this article with prior permission from the author. Thanks Balakov.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A Night on the Tiles

.... or Tales of a Park Bench.

The other night I went out to meet friends. I went to the Clachen in Soho (no you aren't on Lifelongpubrun). I won't blog about the pub just yet as I didn't manage to get many pictures of the pub.

One thing I did do was take a few photos on my way home. When going from Soho to Chesham, one must go through Baker Street station.
This station is filled with references to Sherlock Holmes because he lived at 221b Baker Street (now the home of the Sherlock Holmes Museum). The tiles to the left can be seen in the concourse area of the station. There are also friezes representing some (if not all) of the Sherlock Holmes stories down on the underground platforms; probably something worth gong to photograph at a later date.

Once I have reached Chesham, I have quite a long walk home. One way I can go is via Bois Moor. While walking I took a few photos of various things I passed (trees, muggers, etc.). Upon reviewing them, I noticed two photos which looked quite nice, both of the same green park bench. Admittedly I did get a bit snap-happy, mainly because I could; I love digital photography!

I really like this photo. Admittedly, the park bench is not the most photogenic, but the way the flash plays across the bench and touches the tree gives me a sense of solitude. The grass also looks quite frosty, which is again the flash doing its bit, this time with the dew.


It took me ages to work out what was going on with this second picture of the bench. The night was quite warm, but it was too far away from sunrise for the dew on the grass to start evaporating. I also don't smoke, ruling that out. The only explanation I can come up with is that I breathed quite heavily before taking the picture, so that the foggy breath reflected the flash. I feel it gives a certain eeriness to the picture.

These three pictures are a great example of why digital photography is great. Sure, none of them will win any awards for topic, composition, or quality. What they do show is that no matter where you are, or what time it is, do not be afraid to take pictures. First of all, you never know what will come out. Secondly, if you don't take photos, you cannot review them and try to improve! In computing, there is a saying RTFM (I'll let you google that one). In photography, it should be TTFP.


Monday, 19 May 2008

Getting Back to Posting

Having been back from honeymoon for a couple of weeks, I expected to be back to full speed on my posting, but I haven't got myself in gear for posting any of my pictures.
I have been attempting to go through the many photos of my wedding day and from the honeymoon. One thing that has been indispensable when viewing pictures online has been PicLens.

PicLens is a browser add-on which enables you to view, in full screen, any pictures or videos which are on whichever website you are viewing. You can also search flickr, picasa, youtube,facebook, and other sites directly in PicLens. Definitely worth a look.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Why I Love to Hate Flickr

Like just about every other photographer who publishes their photos on the internet I have a Flickr account. In fact, posting my photos to, and exploring Flickr was what really got me back into photography. I loved putting my photos up for friends, family, or anyone to view and hopefully comment upon. I also loved the inspiration I got from exploring other people's photos. Many a better photographer than I uses Flickr as a showcase for their photos.

After a while, I grew less enthusiastic about Flickr. One of my  main problems is with the comments which people leave on photos. Quite often, all they say is "Great shot" or "You have been nominated to post this photo on [group xyz]". These kind of comments annoy me. Why did you like the photo or feel it should be nominated for a group? Which part was it? How can it be improved? If a photo moves you, say so! There is not one photographer I have met who would not appreciate praise of criticism of his/her work.
The other thing I dislike about Flickr is their map; although this is only since they changed it (about a year ago now, I think). I feel that it is not user friendly. It's default is a semi-working pseudo-tag-cloud. It is only once one plays around with it a bit (quite a bit!) that it becomes clear how to change the map to something useable (tip: click on the three pink dots in the top right). The map may have got me into geotagging my photos, but why change a main feature of your site to something less useful?

Finally, Flickr has come under attack recently for being overzealous with its censorship. Because the company is owned by the big monster that is Yahoo!, it must toe the corporate line. However, my personal feelings on this are that it is not so much a problem with people putting content on, it is that Flickr does not have decent enough filters. Why not have a level of censorship on the searches akin to SafeSearch where the user must adjust their search settings to be less stringent? It is not a perfect solution, but it would be a lot better than having "Flickr are censorship bastards" pictures everywhere.

10 Reasons to Like Flickr:

1. Put your photos somewhere for your friends to see them.
2. View other photographer's work and comment on it.
3. Have people comment on your photos.
4. Join Flickr meetups/scavenger hunts to meet other photographers in your area.
5. Browse by tags for similar photos or inspiration.
6. Surf a world map for photos taken in a particular area.
7. Find your digital camera model and see pictures that other cameras have taken with theirs.
8. Ability to specify permissions and access on a per picture basis (compared with Picasa web album).
9. Organise your photos quickly and easily.
10. Whatever your style of photography, there has been one taken for you to look at.

10 Reasons to loath Flickr:

1. Users who comment with "Nice shot".
2. Users who comment with "I have chosen your photo for group X" and don't tell you why.
3. A world map user interface which is difficult to understand and therefore off-putting to the less technical user.
4. If you don't have someone jumping in your photo, you probably won't get to be on the front explore page.
5. A very small limit of 200 photos and 3 albums (compared with Picasa web album).
6. "Hot Tags" always containing the same thing (pic-a-day).
7. Too many pictures being stolen by people who do not know international or local copyright laws.
8. A blog whose only real purpose seems to be to advertise Flickr's latest affiliation/marketing campaign.
9. Tag clusters; why can't I just drill down through tags?
10. Groups cannot be browsed for, just guessed in the search box.

Three Badly Timed Photos

I spent the weekend up in Liverpool. There are some quite picturesque parts of the city. One of the nicest areas of the city is Hope Street. It is on the outskirts of the city and has a cathedral at each end (one of which is the fifth largest in the world). Other features of the road are The Everyman Theatre, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Luggage sculpture, The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, The Everyman Bistro, and various other cafés and restaurants.
Every year there is the Hope Street Festival which is a food and drink lovers paradise, as well as including many varied performances from artists, actors, and musicians. I recommend going there if you find yourself in Liverpool.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

With everything that Hope Street has to offer, I thought I would take some photos with my new camera, mainly to blog about the street, but also as a possibility of placing them on Picture Nation (my stock website of choice). When I downloaded them off the camera, I was not impressed at all. They are very dark, and the shadows make the photos look very flat. one can also see that I didn't actually take a second look at all before taking the pictures.

Looking North Up Hope Street

So, back to the drawing board with this set of photos. If you are taking street scenes, or pictures of a public place, take a second look before pressing the shutter release. If I took a second look before shooting the cathedral, I may have seen the seagull flying past, and probably would have waited for the person walking up the steps to move away. The other two have similar problems (the person by the theatre, and the car). I also would have realised there was no longer any light in the street and not taken the photos. Still, if I got it right every time, there would be no fun in photography for me.

Looking South Down Hope Street

Friday, 4 April 2008

Post Processing Fun

Part of my enjoyment of photography is the thrill of the hunt. I like trying to find a good shot, and then playing composition/exposure/aperture roulette to get the film to see what I see. I have taken many photos which I thought would look good, only to see I could have used a different aperture to reign in the depth of field.

Nowadays, in the digital age, this isn't as big a problem as it was during the 35mm days. One of my pictures of the last entry was a little red flower. When I brought it up on my monitor, I felt that the picture could have benefited from a shorter depth of field. Just one stop would focus the eye in on the flower, and hide a not so exciting background. So I went about trying to do this manually.

I use GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) as my photo processor mainly for the fact I cannot afford Photoshop. The advantage of GIMP is that it is free and contains many of the features of Photoshop.

So, a quick bit of searching lead me to GIMP Guru's tutorial. I followed the instructions and came up with this:

So, from this:

We get this:

I think it works quite well. Click on the pictures to see the larger versions.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Macro Fun

Having bought my snazzy Canon Powershot, I haven't done much photography with it. However, a couple of days ago it was just light enough when I arrived home to take some photos.

One photographic technique I enjoy is macro. Nearly everything looks dramatic when taken so close that one can see all of the fine details. My new camera has a macro function which works quite well. I was very surprised by the quality of the shots, particularly when they were handheld. I think the built-in image stabiliser helped me out a bit. My composition leaves a bit to be desired, but I am rather happy with the results. Particularly the red flower.

White Flower Macro

Blue Flower Macro

Curly Red Flower Macro

By the way, if you know what these flowers are called, please leave a comment. I would love to give them a proper name rather than "Blue Flower...", etc.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

New Camera - Welcome to the Digital Age

Since starting this blog, I have become more enthusiastic about taking pictures. This resulted in me brushing off my 35mm camera (and getting a new body for it), and using my N95 more often for snaps. Well, this weekend saw the dawn of a new age. I finally went and got a decent digital camera. One which will (hopefully) enable me to take higher resolution digital photos, and become more creative with my pictures.
Typically, this weekend past was one of the worst weekends for running around with a new camera. It was cold, windy, and snowy.

So, about the camera. It is a Canon PowerShot A720 IS. I actually bought it without knowing quite what I was buying. I had wanted an A550 for a while, but did not even know the A720 existed. But having bought it, I am continually impressed with the features and cannot wait to get to know the camera better. Some of the features of my new camera are:

Aperture Priority
Shutter Priority
Manual Focus
Manual Flash Power Output
Panorama Mode

This isn't an impressive list of features for a DSLR. In fact you would expect them as standard. However, the A720 is a compact rather than and SLR. Having aperture and shutter priority it almost unheard of in all but the higher end of digital compacts. Certainly pricewise, this is not the most expensive, nor is it the most fully featured. But it takes excellent photos, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Police Seek Man After Assault on Amateur Photographer

Police are seeking this man after he assaulted a photographer

London Transport Police are seeking the man in the above picture after he assaulted an amateur photographer on December 12th 2007. It appears that this person did not like his photo being taken:

"The photographer told him he could not delete the shot as it was not a digital camera. The man then attempted to grab the camera and punched the victim in the face. The victim suffered cuts and bruising to his face as a result of the incident."

Quite amusingly the picture that the photographer took, and that the man was so keen to get hold of, is now being used on his wanted poster. Read the full article by clicking on the photo of following the link here.

As both an amateur photographer, and one who uses 35mm film, I understand the predicament. From my point of view, if I take a photo of someone and they do not want me to have it, I can only assure them that I will honour their request, and would offer to send them the negative and photo for their piece of mind. The article does not say if the photographer had offered this option. I can only hope he did.

As an interesting aside, one of the places linking to the story is the blog Going Underground. It is an excellent blog and well worth a look. One of the questions in the comments on this article was if photography is permitted or the London Underground or not. The reason for this is that the London Underground is private property, and therefore the owners can decide on the rules, rather than the area coming under a general 'public places' rule. Anyway, John B read through all of the info and it appears that amateur photography is allowed provided flashes and tripods aren't used.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Chicago Cloud Gate - Feb 2008 (part 2)

And so, onto day two of taking photos of the Cloud Gate. I found myself awake quite early and so decided to head down to Millennium Park to get some shots before the place got too packed with tourists. Although there were tourists, they didn't get in the way too much.
On the way up to the area where the Cloud Gate sits is one of the best photo opportunities. Taken from the side of the Cloud Gate, it is possible to get an excellent shot of the Chicago skyline reflected while not actually featuring in the photo. 
If one stands behind the wall in the photo below, it is possible to take the second photo.   

Admittedly, the second on is not that great. The N95 doesn't have optical zoom, so I wasn't able to take a picture without the railing in it. I could crop the shot but I quite like the buildings in the background, particularly the steam rising from the CNA building.

Up on the Cloud Gate are there are some excellent shots to be had. I really like the one below because it shows such a large part of the Chicago skyline, with a much darker sky than the one behind the Gate itself. Yes, that is me on stage centre. I took the photo-op while people were watching some ice skating on the area below.


Once the ice skating was over, people started milling around, and getting in my way, so I decided to take some photos from under the Cloud Gate itself, something I didn't get to do last time.

This photo and the ones below are taken from the concave area in the middle of the bean. I could have stood there and taken hundreds of photos. Everywhere you looked there were different shapes and reflections happening. I only took these three with my phone camera as there was a family walking towards where I was standing and would have interfered with the photos!

I hope you enjoy looking at the dawn and dusk collection of my Cloud Gate photos. I'm sure it will feature again on this blog since I will probably go out to Chicago again someday, and since I love the way it looks I will definitely go there again.

Be sure to click on the images to see them in larger format.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Chicago Cloud Gate - Feb 2008 (part 1)

Recently I was sent to Chicago for a whole week. I spent most of my time in an office, but I did get couple of evenings and days to myself. Naturally, I used this as an opportunity to run around Chicago with my cameras taking as many photos as possible.
At the time of writing this article, my 35mm photos haven't been processed, so I will be dealing entirely with the photos taken with my N95.

My first real photo opportunity while I was in Chicago came on Friday night (I had been there since Tuesday). I got back to my hotel, The Hotel Sax, dropped off my stuff and legged it as quickly as possible to Millennium Park to capture what was left of the sunset in the Cloud Gate.
It can be most frustrating as a photographer when you have limited amount of time (in this case it was freezing, and the light was fading), and tourists want to get in the way of your intended shot. The couple in this one stood there for what seemed like ages just as I set up for my shot.

It was a shame, because this particular angle captured a as large an area of the Chicago skyline as possible, as well as the moon (click to see the larger image and see below), and the sky behind.

I must admit, I quite like the above crop. It looks like there are two different skies being photographed. What do you think?
In the end I had to take what I could before I both lost the light and my fingers; it was bitterly cold that evening. The photo below is the stronger of the ones I took on the Friday night, showing the skyline, and the sunset reflected in the Cloud Gate.

I am toying with the idea of cropping the building on the right out of the photo as it will focus more on the Cloud Gate reflection. However, cropping my remove too much of the distance element from the 'rule of thirds'. Once again, what do you think?

This is part one of my Chicago Cloud Gate Collection. I will post the next set tomorrow.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Exciting Photos (I Hope)

I'm really excited. This weekend I finally managed to go to the weir near me to take photographs of it and the surrounding area with my 35mm camera. I am excited/nervous about the shots as I tried lengthening the exposure on some of them. I am going to put my film in for development soon and see what comes out, so watch this space! In the meantime, here is a photo of the weir taken on my N95.

Weir From an Old Watermill, Chesham

I really like this area of Chesham. There are a couple of lakes nearby with various birds in them. Further on from that is the Chess Valley Walk which provides some wonderful scenery. Now that I've found my tripod, I'm sure you will be seeing more from this area soon.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Mind Blowing Photographic Opportunity

The Cloud Gate, Chicago

One of the greatest photographic opportunities on this planet must be the Chicago Cloud Gate. It is a highly polished piece of stainless steel. Last summer I was over in Chicago on business and was able to go and see this installation on the north west corner of Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.
The thing I like about the Cloud Gate, or "Bean" (as the locals refer to it), is that no matter where you stand, there are the most amazing reflections of the sky, buildings, people, and and everything else around it.
If you are in Chicago, you would be a fool to miss the Bean out on your sight seeing.

Clicking on the photo will take you through to my Picasa album where you can see a map of where the photo was taken.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Macro Apple

Just before Christmas I sent off some old films I had lying around to be developed. You know the kind, you put it aside to get developed, but moved/forgot/etc. The picture below is from when I was testing my old Dynax 2xi body to see if the rewind motor was truly dead (which it was). Do do this I ran a film through and took a load of handheld macros just for fun.

I think this photo came out fairly well. The lighting was from a desk lamp which accounts for the orange tint to the highlights on the rind. I do own a filter to adjust for bulb light, but did not have it on at the time. Still, I think it is quite nice despite the lighting.

I think I will repeat the exercise this year, but with more preparation, and a tripod. I really quite enjoy macro photography.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Happy New Year!

While watching the neighbours attempting to burn down their houses in celebration of the New Year, we attempted to write 2008 with sparklers.
The better pictures (I hope!) are in my 35mm camera, and so will have to wait. Instead this picture will have to do. Note the car.