Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Golden Hours

"The Golden Hours are slipping away" Thus spake my ONC Electrical Engineering lecturer in the last weeks before the summer exams, way back in 1970.

Thanks mate. No pressure then....

So, the final day of 2011 is slipping away. Your last chance to make your mark on the year.


Dusk: Not so much a golden hour, more like a golden fifteen minutes. Once it's gone, it's gone



So, to get your excellent dusk image (or your amazing sunrise shot) you need to think, plan and act fast...

Friday, 30 December 2011

Mixed Message

I wonder what this picture says to you? A Garden of Remembrance somewhere. A much missed friend or partner?

It all depends on the context.





No, this isn't in the corner of a cemetery. It's just a small plaque at the entrance to the village car park. If people find lost items on the ground round here, they leave them where you might see it, next time you are passing.

That's something to remember...

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Balancing Act

Here's a balancing act: It's an example of balancing light. 

Usually we speak of balancing the photo flash power with the ambient of background light, so that the picture looks natural.

However, here we have a different task. We are balancing the artificial lighting with the dusk colours in the sky. 



Fortunately this is a simpler task, it doesn't involve Guide Numbers or wireless triggers, it is judged by eye and adjusted by time. Simply wait until the fading dusk matches the floodlights perfectly, then take the shot...

The cresent moon is a nice bonus BTW.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Huf and Puff

Depressingly stylish, efficient and well made: The German Huf Haus. Pah! Germans! Do they do everything well?



On second thoughts, don't answer that...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Recovering

The road to normality beckons, Christmas is over for another year, and I am back at work tomorrow. So, here's a parting shot or two at the festivities.



and...



My newly acquired electronic viewfinder has transformed the Olympus Pen camera, and makes it a great deal more useable.


In fact the Pen conspires with my fabulous Zuiko 50mm macro to get astonishingly sharp shots. The ZD 50 lens was never fast at autofocus, and on the Pen it is terribly slow, so the answer is to treat it as a manual focus lens and it works just fine...


Monday, 26 December 2011

Honesty

Continuing my Presteigne theme today, here is the Kings Head Book Shop. This is an object lesson in trust. there's on-one there. The door is open, the lights are on. It's full of old books.



It's an Honesty Shop, you see. They trust you to take your money to the shop down the road and pay them. Houghton Lodge also operated an Honesty Parking and shop policy when we last visited the place.

Honesty and trust. Perhaps that's a lesson for us all this Christmas.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

I wish all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas, and offer my humble apologies for all the rubbish you have read on these pages this last year...

Perhaps next year will be better.


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Presteigne Condition

Here is Presteigne, mid Wales. A splendid small border town stuck in the 1960s, and it is still just how country towns used to be. We've been here before and I am much impressed with the place.

Here's the narrow High Street on a rainy day. Here you find Anne's Fruit and Veg shop, a mini supermarket, a Butcher, the Tourist Information shop and much more. It all on a human scale, the pace of life is slower. Free Parking for 20 minutes, no return within the hour.



Many of the houses are wood and stone construction, and there's lots of little corners to investigate. Even on a rainy day it has a charm of its own.




Worn out by the Christmas Shopping? Escape from the rain and have a leisurely late breakfast in The Coffee House right next to Albert Square while the world goes slowly by...




Thursday, 22 December 2011

Shortest Day

At last, the days are getting longer (at least in theory). For the first time in years, I was too busy to take a picture on the Shortest Day, so here are some from previous 21st Decembers: Click for larger version.



Ooh, roll on lovely Summer.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Night shift

I work in a village that is on top of a hill. As a result we tend to get weather that is different (generally worse) than the surroundings. Yesterday was a case in point: It was dull, foggy and raining most of the day, and so it was no surprise to find the outside world dark, cold, damp and foggy in the evening after work.

Out in the stable yard they were busy on the last jobs of the day, and the single outside light gave the place an atmospheric look.




Keeping horses is a high maintenance pastime. So, if you have a reasonable income and time on your hands*, forget Golf, get a horse. You will find your days are suddenly filled with activity.




*A retired Civil Servant for example...

Monday, 19 December 2011

Victoriana

The Victorians have a lot to answer for, especially at Christmas. Take this picture: Many of the elements in this traditional scene, at the back of our church, is Victorian.
The idea of the Christmas tree, and the little tableau below it are Victorian. The romanticised Christmas figures look suspiciously Anglo Saxon, rather than Middle Eastern. This is another Victorian feature. 

In the background you can see the floor tiles and the pews they installed, items we will have great trouble removing.




Even our splendid stained glass tells it's stories with a romantic Victorian slant, think Holman Hunt Anglo Saxon look.

This church must have looked like some modernist experiment when all this new stuff was put in, and I suspect it was seen as a great improvement at the time.

Improving your church is a difficult task these days. Removing the Victorian tiles, pews and  pipe organ is now close to impossible due to various  interested parties.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Veg serenade

Is we walked through the Borough Market in Halifax I heard the sound of singing, not something you normally hear there. Usually there is that quiet but determined buzz of trading.

We quickly found the source: Not some canned music event, but real singers (including the Mayor..) apparently serenading the vegetable stand. I regret I didn't have my wide angle lens with me, so this will have to do.


Serenading vegetables, now that's the spirit of Christmas

PS. Mangos, 99p if you are interested ..

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Big Sky

A biting cold westerly wind greeted me yesterday on by short walk round the village. Westerlies are not generally cold, so there must be something odd going on up there.

Here's a big sky picture aided by my new ultrawide* lens. If you place the horizon at the bottom of the frame, then the view at the top of the frame is almost directly overhead.
I rather like the range of colours in this one. Even at this time of year the Sun can still show the promise of warmth for the months to come.


*If this lens were any wider, there would be a danger of getting your ears in every shot :-)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tis the season

You know Christmas is near when the pub menus have tinsel on them.


Is this really what Christmas is about, I ask myself...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ominous

Low sun and ominous shadows transform the village green well covering into something more akin to an extra terrestrial visitor. Well, that's how it seems to this human being.





Careful use of exposure can bring out powerful silhouette effects in everyday scenes.

Monday, 12 December 2011

End of season

At the top of the hill, there's the local cricket club. In the summer you can see folks watching the evening practice sessions as the Sun sinks behind the distant trees with pint in hand. (The people, that is, not the Sun)

The ugly clubhouse has transformed itself into a passable pub and even features live music on occasional evenings.

Come the winter and all outdoor activities cease. The drinkers move indoors to watch the crows on the pitch with pint in hand.



Sunday, 11 December 2011

Blank look

Have you noticed how shop mannequins are evolving? Darwin would be proud of them. They've clearly discovered they don't need eyes, or even faces any more. All that is required is the ability to stand perfectly still all week long.

Yet no matter how abstract they become we still manage to regard them as human in some way. 

We were out shopping. Sitting in the Old Man's chair in the ladies department at Debenhams I was aware of a blank faced presence nearby. I turned and there was this alarming figure  scrutinising me.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Speedy sunrise

Aaah, the P+S camera. The Point and Shoot camera, that is. Much derided and scorned by real photographers. I keep one in the car. It's an early Olympus fixed lens item, three megapixels, from 2004. It was £120 new but you get them on ebay for ten pounds or less.

However it still takes great pictures, in it's own way. So, driving to a job first thing yesterday I was much impressed by the clear blue sky and the sunrise, so I grabbed a sequence of shots out of the car window. Aperture: f2.8 to f6. Speed, about seventy miles an hour.







P+S. Pick it up. Point it and Shoot.




Simples.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Worm's eye view

Out for a walk in the winter sunshine in the village. I came across this rather seemly patch of fungi next to an equally seemly thatched cottage.

Using a combination of ultra wide angle lens, ungainly squatting and holding the camera in the grass, I managed to obtain this worms eye view.



Of course you could also see the world this way if you fell over on the way home from the pub...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Red and Blue

Another low sun opportunity: The tiled village church roof contrasts well with bare trees and blue sky.




The pitch of the roof indicates it was probably thatched in years gone by. I doubt the Church of England has many thatched churches these days.

(Thanks to metal prices the C of E has fewer and fewer leaded roofs these days... )

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Point of view

December, and the sun is as low as it will get. This brings new lighting opportunities, and is the only time of year that the Altar at the old village church has sun.

I tried two attempts at this view, and here's the first, taken through the less than perfect Victorian glass, with the focus on the Altar






I'm not certain all that out of focus lead work is a good thing, so I repeated the shot this way round.



Now the focus shows the imperfections in the class, and seems to shut us out of the church. I suppose with a tripod and the right lens I could have both elements in focus, but life, as always, is a compromise..

Monday, 5 December 2011

Lo Fi Photo

Lomo and Holga have a lot to answer for. The low fidelity movement using these two cameras has glamourised bad optics and weird colours in the past few years. I suppose it is a backlash against the digital camera pixel race and the search for the perfect image. 




While it's fun to see a blurred and distorted image from time to time, I wouldn't like my camera to produce this sort of result all the time.




So - we can compromise. Here's a modern technology camera (a Pen E-PL3) making nasty pictures. Simply grab an old lens, any sort of lens,  and hold it in front of the camera body. Cup your hand to keep stray light out and fiddle about tilting and moving the lens until you see some sort of image.

Well, maybe it does have some sort of arty attraction ...



Click. Instant Lomo!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Uncool coffee

A new retail estate has slowly taken shape on our edge of town. You know the sort of thing: A large car park and lots of rectangular industrial units dressed up to look like shops. To start with it was under subscribed and generally poor, bit in recent years it has filled out and become quite popular.

A sure sign of popularity is the arrival of a small Marks and Spencers store and joy of joys, this brought with it a small M+S restaurant. This is a wonderful thing, a place for a cup of tea and a sit down in amongst all the retail madness.

So what is so special about this modern tea shop?



Well. Unlike the Costa coffee place across the car park, this place is deeply uncool. No-one under 35 would dare be seen in there. As a result the service is quick, the queue is short and the list of coffees is not infinite. Just perfect for an old codger. What's betting it goes broke...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

String

As you all know, Snaar is the Dutch word for string, and so it is only fitting that I pay tribute to this excellent if hairy product. Just think how much of the world is held together with string...

As a lad on the farm I learnt that much of British agriculture is held together with six inch nails and baling twine. Nails are much more effective than screws, they are faster and can be tapped home with a basic hammer or a Stillsons if you have no hammer.



Actually, I grew up believing that the Stillsons pipe wrench was in fact an adjustable spanner, and the eighteen inch Stillsons plus a two pound hammer were the approved tools for removing bolts.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Mr Nasty

I don't like this guy.

He claims to be a doorstop, but I have suspicions he roams the house at night looking for trouble.


In his defence, he does live in the conservatory, and he may have been driven mad by the bells...



Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Last legs

Confused by the late and mild Autumn, our giant daisy produced a new flower recently.

What is happening to the seasons? Autumn is the new Spring. Summer is the new monsoon season, and Winter is the New Ice Age.



Just keep hold of this fact, fellow Winter haters: The shortest day is only about 3 weeks away. Excellent!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Shiny thing

Here's a rather voluptuous chrome tap, and an exercise in lighting. How do you photograph a shiny thing then? Every surface reflects and, in a way, it has no colour of its own. First we clean the tap and remove every fingerprint. Then we get out the big sheets of white card, and the white shoot through photo umbrella, flash and radio trigger.

After all that effort you might think the result would be perfect, but no. Now I understand why people make their own softboxes for taking pictures of jewellery. 

Rather like photographing glass, photographing shiny things seems to be a specialised art. Try again Pete...


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Modern Icon

It seems to me if you want to illustrate some technology story on television, then you present a tracking shot along the surface of a computer board with some voice over introducing the subject. The viewer gets to see a parade of complicated chip like things with silver legs and some other technical looking items in the background. Everyone is impressed.

The problem with designing electronics is these modern icons fall down immediately. They are showing you some ancient printed circuit board they found lying around. It's very rare I see some pcb on TV that presents brand new technology, because the world of electronics moves on so quickly.

What about this then eh? This is one of my own designs...




Shiny, technical and impressive? 

No, I don't think so. This is a design from ten years ago and as such it is hopelessly out of date. Show this to any design engineer and they would be overcome with indifference. The chips are too big, the tracks are too big and those via holes are definitely too big. Where's the dense packaging you see inside any mobile phone?

So let's have some sympathy for the frantic world of this old electronics designer where Everything you know is Wrong...*

*Speaking of which, watch this excellent Youtube thing :-)


Friday, 25 November 2011

Old Icon

Now here's a question for you. 

Imagine you just wrote a novel about phone tapping and you wanted an image for the cover to illustrate the theme. What might you use? I suggest you might end up with a picture of good old reel to reel tape. 

I suppose an image of an audio cassette might work, but old fashioned tape seems to have entered the public consciousness as the tool of choice for evil back room boffins.

The truth is that audio is recorded direct to computer disk or memory chip these days. I imagine a picture of a memory stick hardly says Watergate to the public imagination. This is strange since more and more people have never actually seen an old style recorder.




I have a big box of old reel to reel tapes in the loft together with a 1970s unrepairable Tandberg recorder. All those years ago I would record a new LP directly to tape and then save the LP and play the tape. It was a long and imperfect process.

How times change.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Up to Date

Here's an old friend, a design unchanged for centuries. This was from my Father's toolbox, I've had it for almost forty years and I'm sure it was just as old and beaten up when he had it, so it could be sixty or seventy years old.

There is no way you could improve the design. It still does the job it was designed for. There is no reason to upgrade it for a newer model. I can keep it and use it and it will always be there and always work.

Compare this humble tool to Adobe Photoshop. It seems Adobe have run out of essential additions that would tempt you to pay out for a new version. They seem to be moving towards a cloud computing model, where you pay them a subscription for the use of the software. I assume if you stop paying, then the software vanishes, because it was never in your computer really anyway.





How would it be if your woodworking brace vanished because you let your subscription lapse?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

About time 2

As I've observed before, time is weird. Some things go painfully slowly, each second dragging by at a snail's pace (the dentist's waiting room is one example) while whole decades vanish in a blink (the eighties in my case). How is this possible?

Furthermore, we are not at liberty to travel in time. We are borne along with it as reluctant passangers. The future is completely unknown, the past is a foggy memory and the only time that exists in full reality is the current moment. 


I call this the Tyranny of Now. Or is that the name of my new band? Let's wait and see.



Monday, 21 November 2011

About time

I'm going slightly stir crazy here, having been stuck indoors for three days after a previously mentioned operation. Quite apart from the limited mobility, the weather has been dismal: Here's the proof: Typical Autumn anticyclonic gloom weather.

These flat featureless skies have a function however. If you really are stuck for something to do, you can use the matt grey sky to test and calibrate your lenses for vignetting :-)




However: Let's consider this. In one month's time it will be the twenty first of December, and after that... the days will be getting longer up here in the nothern hemisphere. 

About time too.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Untitled Abstract

What could be less appealing than an untitled picture, and an abstract one at that. No, it's a bad idea. My advice is this: Never call your picture Untitled.

You would be better served calling it Albert. 


So: Here is Albert, an enigmatic study in contrast and form.



Saturday, 19 November 2011

Bleak

Here's a bleak and cold view of the world. I took this one lunchtime last week, the day before I went into hospital for an operation. Black humour? Maybe.

However, speaking as an engineer, there is something rather frighting about general anaesthetic. The idea is that you shut a person down to the point they can't feel pain or be aware of their surroundings. They can still breathe, but otherwise they are out of it. Yet you can bring them back with all their faculties and memories intact. Scary or what...




So let's hear it for the medical profession. I thought designing computers was scary, but doing a power down restart on a person is serious stuff.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Alarming

There isn't much I can add to this rather alarming stained glass window except the basic facts:




The artist is Mark Angus and you find this in St John the Baptist, Frome.

This certainly deserves a Weird tag, I think :-)


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Lovely

Today I return to the Tea Shop. Actually, returning to Tea Shops is a favourite pastime for me. I'm certain we could cure all of the world's ills if only there were enough tea shops.

Here we are in Bath, quite near Bath Abbey.




And this image has the full treatment to give a nostalgic look. It was converted to monochrome, with selective focus and vignetting applied, then sepia tinting. Lovely.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Lunch box

Not available at Subway, lunch for the average stable horse. A nice exercise in browns and blacks delivered by the venerable E-1 camera.




PS. Beware the unstable horse.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mist or Fog

Artists will tell you that when the leaves drop, you are left with the true shape of the trees. Artists may also mention that it's a right pain trying to paint hundreds of twigs. It takes a real craftsman to paint a convincing winter tree. This is when you wish you had taken the impressionist route in your artistic career..

Anyway, it's a lot easier for us photographers, we just have to choose the right moment to portray the tree. Mist is your friend with trees, it adds depth to the view and places all those twigs against a plain background. In this case the misty start seemed to last all day. 

By the way: My definition is this: If it is still misty at lunchtime (as below) then it isn't mist, its fog...






Monday, 14 November 2011

Ginkgo

I spotted this Ginkgo tree during our wanderings aroung the Bishop's Palace on a recent visit to Wells recently.

The Ginkgo is an odd ball, unlike any other tree and regarded as a living fossil. As you see, the leaf shape is quite unusual and rather distinctive. 

Keep an eye out for them: Strike up a conversation, ask them what the old days were like..