Wednesday, 2 June 2010

EXPOSED - Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera


Tate Modern 28 May – 3 October 2010

I'm going to see it one Saturday soon. The reviews (click on the blog-post title above, to go straight to the Tate Modern link) make it sound a bit creepy, photographers shooting images of people in public places without asking permission. You do get great un-made-up-faces, but it raises the question 'Should that photographer have asked permission first ?' It is a chance to see close up the originals of seminal images which litter the coffee table books all around us.

What do you think ?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

I asked them to turn the volume down . . .

Click on the blog-post title and it whisks you off to 'Etiquette on the Underground'. The two guys I asked to please turn down their music when we were all waiting for the Victoria line Underground train on Friday morning hadn't read about how to deal positively with a polite request.

One of them came over and gave me a shove when he grabbed my arm. He said 'How far away are you ?' (I was about two metres distant, and their 'rap' was up to no 10 on the scale.)
I walked away and turned my back, hoping that they would leave me alone. They came towards me again, so I pressed the big GREEN button on the platform-edge intercom marked 'Emergency'. I was explaining the situation (dangerous for me) to the control room guy - I left him as I said I wanted to get to work, and would be getting on the train which was just arriving.
This train terminated at the next station, a combined Underground and Overground (Railway) station. My usual journey was up an escalator and two flights of stairs, and only went to the Overground railway platform. I kept looking back to see if those two guys were following me (I was a little scared, to be honest, even though there were hundreds of people in the station.)

I walked to the very end of the platform (opposite the exit stairs at my destination). Usually there's no-one else there. And there wasn't on Friday morning. I took a deep breath and felt relieved that I'd got away from the two angry young dudes who'd not wanted to hear me ask them to turn down the music. I rang my partner to say how silly I'd been to start the whole thing off by asking perfect strangers to think of my well-being and adjust their volume. Just then, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the guys. Standing right next to me on the platform edge. Smiling at me. No-one else there. S***.
I stayed on the 'phone, but she got very upset when I explained that I had those two angry guys for company. I told her that I'd try and move back down the platform, where I'd noticed a railway office. And I did. Somehow, and by shouting to the scores of people waiting for their train that I was being stalked by two guys behind me, I walked easily down the 50 metres to where a guard came out to see me. He went to talk to the two guys who seemed to want to teach me a lesson. They stayed up at the far end of the platform. I stayed down by the railway office. The railway guard came with me to my station up the line. No-one came to hurt me (those two guys didn't know where I intended to get off).

I was a nervous wreck for the next hour. Everyone was very nice to me at work. Offers of cups of tea came thick and fast. I got to hear everyone's stories about how their father/ brother/ sister was harassed by someone on a train platform. I had a normal day after that. It's in the past now.
So, what do I do next time ? Do I ignore the awful racket squawking out of a tiny mobile 'phone speaker ? Do I whip out my 'phone and put on The Grimethorpe Colliery band ( ) at no. ten ?
Well, on Friday afternoon I was reading upstairs on a no 279 bus. Two loud school-boys sat down opposite. One asked the other 'Put on some music ?' When he did, it was really loud, the usual volume. I looked them in the eye and said 'I'm trying to read my book.' They turned the volume down by half. I went back to reading (Andrew Marr on politics at Westminster, as reported by lobby correspondents over the past few decades, since you ask).
So, what have you done in that situation ? Do tell me, as I'm not sure what the correct thing is for all parties to do, when someone plays very loud music, etcetera . . .

POST-SCRIPT - I went to work again on Monday. I went down the stairs and stood again on the platform. I looked around. There were even fewer people sitting and standing today than on Friday. I was s***-scared, but no-one came to get me. I got on the train. I got off at the next station. I went up to the Overground platform. Nothing happened. I got on the Overground train and went to work. I came home. it's really finished. I can sleep soundly tonight. It's just my dreams which will be disturbed for a few weeks, but then the memory of being stalked will disappear, like a chimera. A happy ending, really . . .

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Condolences should never be a chore . .

Simon Callow has written a fabulous obituary in The Sunday Times today, for one of his heroines Lynn Redgrave. Old people like me will remember her as the lead in Georgy Girl, the film which put insouciance on the map in the '60's. Click on the blog title to see his write-up.
On the Bank Holiday my friend Peter passed away. I met him at St John Ambulance, and we fell into a habit of idle chit-chat, as you do. He was a cyclist and photographer, same as me. He used to cycle from central London to work in west London via a detour to Waltham Abbey, an extra thirty miles, just to keep in training. It was a bit easier for him in those days, the 1930's, as there were fewer cars about.
He'd had a really exciting life, in the War he'd served in the Ambulance Corps, been a POW, and returned to civvy street afterwards. His enviable job was as a bio-medical person, seconded to The Met assisting as a photographer to the forensic pathologist on occasion. When I first met him about three years ago he was then about 85 years old. He still drove his car all over Britain, attended the St John Ambulance meetings every week, and could talk about whatever you like for hours . . . He was a joy to know. Sending a condolence card to his family seems somehow less than what's required.

Peter was REALLY enthusiastic when he found out I'd bought a Bronica medium-format film camera, and was actually using it to shoot projects, in preference to just doing it digitally . . .
He did like this 35 mm. transparency of Canada Water, one I shot just after meeting him for the first time.

Monday, 3 May 2010

It's the little things which make life good . . .

Gosh, how easy it is.

I have been agonising for weeks, trying this and that to write metadata (you know, copyright, who took the shot, where it was taken, etcetera.) to multiple images simultaneously.

I have just copyrighted 330 jpegs, in ten seconds. MUCH quicker than doing them one at a time . . . and it seems to imprint the metadata and then automatically save the new information all in one go. So simple. Click on the blog-post title, and Peach-Pit will show you in a few super-easy steps, using Adobe Photoshop CS4. Open one image from that folder of 330 due to have the same metadata (copyright, etcetera), write the info you want to include, export as a template.

Opening Adobe Bridge (Browser in Photoshop CS2) I opened a folder (the 330 jpegs I processed from that recent shoot), selected ALL images (easy to do), found the 'Import' tab, and there it was, 'Template X'. 'Hey voila' and there it was, embedded into all 300 images in a flash. No need to save each image, it was all done automatically.

Now, back to work . . .

Gosh, I am getting near the end of this task . . .

Clicking on the title gets you to a link about outdoor living; the cycling, the camping, stuff I used to do before being very busy took over . . .

My goodness me, the past six months has been a Sisyphean task (the guy pushing the large person-sized rock uphill, written about in Greek mythology).

It starts (on my photography course) when you get a little behind (the negatives don't process or print well, it rains for two weeks when you want to shoot outdoors), you cannot make a set of images which 'go together' well enough to complement each other and tell a story (which is what the brief has asked you to do).
Then personal matters intrude - you know they shouldn't, but life doesn't seem to observe etiquette in this way - you spend days sorting through complicated personal finance and getting legal advice when someone else is trying to make you liable for a HUGE amount of money they have taken, which you are supposed to ensure is safely looked after.
You work part-time on a peripatetic basis, and are always on the end of a telephone or sending e-mails, looking for the next day's work . . .
You spend weeks and months trying to organise a Photography Final Project, which you've always wanted to do and now you have a reason to carry it out - photographs of the Labour Party on the hustings just before the British General Election (later this week). None of your many letters and e-mails and phone calls are returned.

So you give up. But still needing a Final Project, you try on several old ones, and something gells.

Now, the 'American Football in London' project was NOT a piece of cake. A very steep learning curve was overcome, in terms of shooting crisp and well-composed imagery which they wanted, and which I could use for my project. That's done now.

I no longer have to go out four days a week and shoot the training and the games at football pitches in London and elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, it has been lots of fun, and just like being a professional. I still have the opportunity to shoot at future fixtures, and look forward to doing so. it is challenging to anticipate the 'decisive moment' in oppositional pitch-based team sport; pressing the shutter button just as the players collide, or the pass is thrown, or the touchdown is kicked over the bar; that is almost all you need to do.

As well as remembering to keep the shutter speed at 1/500th of a second, the aperture small enough to keep the depth of field you envisage for that shot, and the ISO low enough to give 'smooth-grained' digital prints A-2 sized or larger. You're shooting in daylight in a temperate-zone spring-time location, so every time a shadow falls on the playing field, the exposure changes too.

And, I've been run over by players sliding off the field at my feet, once at each football game. . . you have to leap fast to scoot out of the way . . . difficult to see the problem rushing towards you at very high speed, if you're following the action through a telephoto lens . . .

But I've got a week or two of sifting through 6,000 digital images to find the 'Top 50' which might be exhibition quality. And, I've got to cram scores of pages in a virgin workbook chock-fill of the ideas I've had and discarded about shooting this major piece of work.
But, I now feel this task is within my grasp. There's the printing and mounting of the chosen mages, ready for the Degree Exhibition in June. Expensive, but I am certain I'll get it there and on time.
And, before I forget, there were a couple of other pieces of college work which fell by the wayside. I'd better get them written up (today would be ideal, wouldn't it ?) and handed in. Then I can sleep the sleep of the innocent once more , don't you think ?

How are you going to vote ??

This title links to a blog about voting, candidates, etcetera. They say young people won't vote, because the process is " . . . nothing to do with me, mate."
A frightening demographic is that this (British) election on Thursday will be decided by the 'over-55's'; there's lots more of them than the 'under-25's', and they DO get out and vote.
Apparently many of us are reported as confused about which party manifesto says exactly what on various policy topics. And, we've all been bamboozled by the charisma or not of the leaders in the televised debates.
it's easy for me - I'm in one of those mainstream parties, and have been for decades.

I was chatting to a university student yesterday; he asked 'Well, why don't you vote Lib-Dem, then ?" I said I'd have to resign from my party. I can instead only hope that they get back to the policies they used to have in the good old days . . . he is un-decided, but he thinks he'll vote Lib-Dem. I said "Please vote, it does matter."

As easy as falling off a . . .

You know how it is : you're cleaning the gutters and you just want to get it done (mucky hands, wet leaves on head, you can picture it . . .) I was on a little ladder just like the one in the picture, and was just twisting 'round to get down off the top.
One second you're fine, the next you're free-falling. In my case it was only less than 2.0 metres. I Ianded on my feet. I didn't bang my head. I was winded, but that was it.
Except for the past three weeks it FEELS LIKE I landed on my arms (I didn't). It is like having had both arms twisted around past the point where they usually don't go - the fall lasted one second, and three weeks later my arms are nearly pain-free. Click on the title for an H + S advert . . .
What do you suggest I do next time ? I did get right back on the ladder, and I finished cleaning the guttering.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Geoff Holt - Quadraplegic sails Atlantic

Geoff wrote an article in The Sunday Times about his single-handed sail across the Atlantic. Feel inspired; read a similar article about him by clicking on my blog-post title.
Photo by Phil Yeomans. Post created using the iPhone. It took 300 seconds to complete the post; can you do it quicker ?

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow, snow and a bit more to come . . .

My road at mid-morning today. It is 0 degrees Celcius, but with the 28 mph (46 kph for the Canadians) gusts from the north-east, it will feel like -5 or so. As you can see there's lots of ice. Snow is fluffy and you have trouble slipping on it. Ice is super-slippery, and even more so when it's about freezing and there's melted ice-water lying on top. I put grit on the pavement (sidewalk for the Canadians) down my side of the road, and that is great for getting up to the top of the road, where the Council has gritted the road and pavement.
I am writing this particular blog as my sister Mad (who lives in Fort St John in Canada, about ten miles from the Arctic Circle. It gets down to - 50 Celcius there in the winter, but warms up in the summer.) rang and left a message that she'd seen horrendous reports on TV, of people marooned in the countryside, pregnant mums unable to get out of the house to the maternity ward, etcetera. She was ringing to find out if we were coping.
Mad, we are fine. The central heating is getting a good workout, and our cat Pixie hasn't been out in the garden for a few weeks now. There's lots of grub in the shops, and anytime I want a bottle of whiskey, it's just next door. I am waiting for a thaw, as I'd like to get back on my bicycle. One downside is that there's no supply work for me as a teacher, because 1,000 secondary schools in London are shut. Something about the playgrounds being too slippery.
it is snowing gently outside my window as I write this blog. Unusually for central London, it is staying when it hits the ground. We are due for a BIG fall later today (click on my post title for the official Met Weather forecast for my area); as we have no idea how to control a motor vehicle in the snow over here, it is safest if they keep all the cars off the road until the snow is cleared, but no-one seems to care.
The man on the radio said it was warmer in Antarctica than in London yesterday. By the way, Happy Birthday for tomorrow Mad. Will you be doing a spot of ice-fishing through the river ice ?

Postscript : six of us in my road (there's ninety front doors here) got out and scraped the compressed snow (turns into slick ice, doesn't it !) from the pavement in front of our shop or house. We got a little carried away, and the next thing you know, half the pavement down the north side is cleared (our little road is 300 m long, each house-front is five metres wide). The guys who go to the gym bashed away at the ice on the end of the road, where the cars are sliding about.

Tip - use a six kg. hammer with a one metre long handle; drop it from a height of 300 mm (watch out for your toes). This makes a shock wave which disrupts the molecules, and then you can sweep the ice bits out of the way. Cheaper than grit and salt, as well. There's sixty thousand Arsenal football fans in Finsbury Park this afternoon, and I'm sure those coming down our road will appreciate our efforts.

Friday, 8 January 2010

ONE Tetra-byte back-up . . . .

For the past three months my Macbook Pro has been without a full back-up. Silly really, but no-one told me what to do when both the hard disk drive and the back-up drive are 98 % full. I went to the mecca at the Apple Store on Regent Street yesterday, and they said 'Normally you delete to make space.'

Very sensible, but I've been sticking files on the computer from five years ago, as and when I needed old photos, old spreadsheets, and so on. My buddy Ben had said 'Don't just buy another Time Capsule, add an external hard disk drive to it, and save money !'. The Apple Geniuses agreed, and so I got a Lacie 1 Tb drive, which has a USB 2.0 connection (my existing Time Capsule only has RJ45 and USB 2.0, they forgot to put Firewire on it).
Yesterday I had 316 Gb used on my MacBook. This morning I've dumped 80 Gb so far, all onto the new back-up. Wow, it is like losing weight . . .click on the post title to whizz to an online article all about Time Machine . . . if you don't have a Mac, this is a REALLY good reason to change over from a PC . . . another reason is that they're a lot more fun to use and to look at. Yes, I know, PC's are catching up . . .