Recently in Photography Category
When I was up in Derby earlier in the year for the Format festival, I ran across Leicester Lo-Fi Photography . They were helping people build their own pinhole cameras. So I made one using an old Coke can.
I put this camera, gaffer-taped to the wall by the window where I sit, and left it for three weeks. This is the result.
That streak across the top is probably some Coke that hadn't been completely drunk. A bit of a shame, but this truly is a basic camera - photographic paper inside the camera with just a pinhole letting light in. The photo has been inverted and flipped to get the correct perspective.
In the background you can just about make out the BT Tower. Interestingly, in the foreground is a building that started to get clad in scaffolding while the camera was out. But you can barely see that because it was only there for roughly half the time.
Anyway, a very successful first attempt. I need to make some more now!
Somerset House always has a lot going on, and I managed to tie in three things I wanted to see at the same time this week.
Pick Me Up is their annual graphic arts fair which I've been going to for a few years now. Each year the curators choose artists for their Selects series which highlights up and coming artists from around the world. It being part fair as well as part gallery, everything is for sale. The prints are often in limited editions can cost anything from £5 to several thousand.
In the Selects this year, I particularly liked Ugo Gattoni who's book of Londoners cycling was came out last year and I've been meaning to pick up. I think that prints from this book formed some of the illustrations presented here.
Hattie Stewart's doodlings on magazine covers also catches the eye. William Goldsmith's peeks into a forthcoming graphic novel intrigue, and I did fall a little in love with some of Ping Zhu's characters.
What you notice about Pick Me Up is that even if you go at a quiet time, it's very busy. That's because lots of students - by the looks of things, from A Level upwards - are on visits. The other thing you notice is that everybody has a camera or phone, and they're documenting just about everything they see.
Ordinarily this would be frowned upon, but here it's practically encouraged. A heard a couple of artists explaining that this was an incredibly useful showcase of their work. So when they saw "suits" taking photos they know that commissioned work might come from it.
In any case, even if you no intention of commissioning work, your camera acts as an aide memoire to let you look up artists and collectives that you're interested in later.
I chose a particular day to go along because I knew that A Two Pipe Problem who produce letterpress prints would be there and making bespoke prints. I've always found typography fascinating and had something in mind to print. So despite being very quickly booked up, I managed to get a space to have something printed.
As well as a medium sized press, there were a selection of drawers, each containing one or more complete typefaces to choose from when putting together a print. Of course they also had some pre-printed posters available to buy. But nothing beats that personalised touch.
The process is relatively straightforward. The letters are chosen and then carefully spaced and arranged to ensure an even spread. Obviously laying out the words is something of a skill, and I was completely happy to go with professional suggestions.
"Up to a point, Lord Copper" was the phrase I had printed. It's the phrase uttered by the obsequious Mr Salter to Lord Copper, proprietor of the Daily Beast in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. Scoop - as I've mentioned before - is one of my favourite novels. Salter uses it when Lord Copper says something to which the answer is no. For example:
"Let me see, what's the name of the place I mean? Capital of Japan? Yokohama, isn't it?"
"Up to a point, Lord Copper."
Anyway, it's a phrase which actually means no. And given that Scoop is set in the world of newspapers, having it printed in hot metal (actually, i think it was wooden lettering) seems very appropriate.
And I got to pull the print myself!
The only thing I feel marginally disappointed about is that previously there were inexpensive prints from the featured Select artists available to buy, but for the last couple of years these have been replaced with a pack of large postcards. While they're nice, I preferred the prints.
Mind you, it's not as though there aren't lots of things to buy. I was very tempted by some of the offerings from groups and collectives on display upstairs. Handsome Frank had a very tempting cycling shirt print by David Sparshott and some lovely pictures from Malika Favre, who was also a featured artist downstairs (I preferred the Khemistry set to the Karma Sutra one).
Well worth visiting.
The other two things I wanted to see were two excellent photography exhibitions - one just about to finish and the other having just opened.
The Sony World Photography Awards had been announced the previous evening, and I was pleased that it wasn't too busy wandering around the wide variety of photos on display.
The overall winner was a series by Andrea Gjestvang, a Norwegian photographer who's shot a wonderful series of photographs of some of the survivors of the appalling massacre of the young on the island of Utoeya outside Oslo in July 2011. Some of those featured have suffered debilitating injuries, and there was a sense of resilience in the photos.
The photos are organised into a categories, and there really isn't a duff selection in there. Indeed my only complaint was that we were sometimes only getting a very small selection of a larger collection that had been entered into the awards.
William Eggleston was the featured photographer for a lifetime's work. A room of his photos of America from the sixties and seventies was wonderful. I love his photograph of a redhead sat at the counter of diner (disappointingly not in the catalogue).
A good selection of winning photos can be found at the In Focus section of The Atlantic website. But the pictures have featured widely in the press in recent days, including a good selection in middle of The Guardian (you need to see these pictures in a large scale).
At the end of the exhibition, Sony, the sponsor, presents a number of the pictures on a 4K TV that must have been about 60" in size. Seeing photos that way really is rather stunning. I'm not saying I prefer a screen to properly printed piece of paper. But for some images, it can really impress.
Across the Somerset House courtyard, another exhibition was just coming to the end of its run. Landmark: the Fields of Photography is a rather spectacular collection of landscape photographs from a broad variety of photographers. Edward Burtynsky always attracts the eye with his industrial landscapes, or landscapes affected by industry.
Mathieu Bernard-Raymond's Monuments are very clever and wondefully executed, putting physical stock price charts into landscapes, while Simon Roberts' We The English series is witty and clever.
All the photos are available on The Positive View Foundation's website.
At this point, I had planned on crossing the river to see the Norman Parkinson photos on display in the National Theatre. I can never get enough of his photo "The Art of Travel." But I had seen too much visual art for one day, so I left!
Today is World Pinhole Photography Day, so I thought I'd have a play with a camera that I've had kicking around for a while. Unfortunately, I suspect that it's because I've had it for over a year, and left it out a bit too close to a sunny window, that I got the results I did.
I took my Stenoflex camera out to a local country park to take photos. Now one thing it doesn't mention anywhere in the packaging is how fiddly it is to change pieces of photographic paper. I knew this, and had bought a changing bag. That's effectively a completely black bag with room for your hands to change things like film, in complete darkness. To be honest, if you want to take more that a single photo when you're out and about, you need one of these.
Photos taken I went into the darkroom (aka my bathroom) to develop the prints. Unfortunately, of the ten shots, five were completely exposed, and the other five had - let's say - an ethereal quality.
Actually, I quite like them in spite of that.
As I say, I think that even though my paper was properly kept in its dark packaging, at some point last summer it sat far too close to a sunny window, and that's probably part of the difficulty I had with it.
Anyway, here are the results!
I've just spent a few days in Moscow giving a talk to the Russian Academy of Radio at their annual get together.
Clearly, if I was going all the way to Moscow, I was going to be sure to find a bit of spare time to get out and take some photos, and the good news was that the hotel I was staying in was an excellent place to start. Thanks to Katherine at the Russian Academy of RadioI managed to get my room at the Baltschug Kempinski upgraded to a Kremlin/Red Square view. The hotel was just across the Moskva River!
I can't pretend that a couple of days in Moscow has left me with a great deal of knowledge about the place, but I did learn the following:
- The Champions' League kicks off insanely late because of the four hour time difference. That means a 7.45pm UK timed game ends around 1.45am local time. That didn't prevent me watching Celtic beat Spartak on my arrival.
- Russians really do deal with snow exceptionally well (well nearly always). There'd just been the first significant snowfall of the year before I arrived, and bulldozers, dump trucks and men with pick axes and brushes were busy all over the city clearing away the snow and ensuring that Moscovites didn't fall over on the ice, or that the traffic (slow at the best of times) was any worse than normal. Even at the airport, the deicing process was painless - even if it was slightly concerning that we were taking off in a quite decent amount of snow. I noted that Stansted and Luton had both been closed with much less snow the morning I'd departed.
- The Metro really is fantastic. Even the paper tickets work with RFID chips at around 60p a trip. They tunnels are deep below ground, and the halls and vaults are massive. My only complaint is that everything is in Cyrillic. Obviously that's not surprising in itself, but actually they seem pretty good at putting Latin-lettered versions of most signs up alongside Cyrillic versions. But on the Metro you're on your own. You need to play close attention when you catch transport.
- GUM may be the "State Department Store" but it's more like Bond Street placed in one high class shopping mall. Every single shop was a designer brand of some description or another. Sadly, that meant that I couldn't find anywhere in the centre of the city that wasn't insanely over-priced. Regular Russians clearly shop out of town.
- They really know how to light up their landmarks. It helped my photos no end.
- There are something like 55 radio stations in Moscow. This really does seem like an awful lot. On the other hand, it means you see branded cars, co-promotes and so on all over the place.
- There are some really poor dubs of some western films and TV series on some stations. To properly do a dub, you need to remove the dialogue track and replace it, leaving other sound elements like music and effects intact. However on more than one occasion, the English language dialogue track was simply lowered, and people spoke over the top of them. That leads to all dialogue having two voices at once, making it very hard to hear anything in any language. Still at least there is some good taste. The IT Crowd was being shown nightly (and it had been properly dubbed).
- If you really must, you can get your photo taken with a Vladimir Putin lookalike in Red Square. On other hand, you can also get it taken with Mickey Mouse.
- If you like ice skating, Gorky Park is exceptional in the winter. Not so much an ice rink as a full ice park.
- Whoever has the Moscow Range Rover dealership is definitely doing very well for themselves.
Anyway, more photos here.
And since I was able to shoot video, here's some of that.
Orford Ness is not the easiest place to get to - particularly without a car. For me it was three trains, a ten mile cycle ride and a ferry crossing. But it's well worth it for the fantastic nature reserve and some essential military history surrounding the development of RADAR and the atomic bomb.
A number of photos here:
[Note: This is a first draft. I'll drop in some photos when I get a chance to process them]
Today was a swimming day, and I had a 10am session. Having decided that security was very swift I didn't get in too early today, but I still ended up with an hour to kill before competition started. I did use the time to discover some of the walkways and paths that are little hidden from general view and mean that the Olympic Park really is a park. With all the bridges and waterways, it's an interesting site.
I did venture into the megastore while it was empty, and I can tell you that they have an awful lot for sale. Sadly, I can confirm that I came away with some T-shirts.
Over in the Aquatic Centre, I found that my category E ticket meant that I was incredibly high up. I mean really high. I couldn't actually see any more that the first couple of rows of seats on the other side, I was that high. Having said that, I was quite nicely placed for the finish line, so I can't complain.
What I will moan a little about is the shortness of the session. We had heats for three events, each 200m, and each with five heats. The session started at 10am, and was over before 11am. That's not a great deal of time. Yes, I got to see Phelps in the 200m butterfly and there were some fine performances. But I do think that a few more events might have been scheduled in the session. I think it's probably because TV networks want to stretch out the swimming events over lots of nights.
I also know that I wouldn't want to be in some seats for the diving. You could find yourself an awfully long way from the board. Anyway, all the seats I could actually see were fully occupied.
Out in the park, I had more time to explore. All the sponsors of the Olympics get their own pavilions. BMW has a very smart looking one with water running down all its walls and cars on top. The public are allowed in and get to watch a ten minute ad before being allowed on the roof to see the cars, and get some nice photos. They were all very friendly and even offered to take photos of me.
Meanwhile Coca-Cola's pavilion was all about "pin trading". Pins are badges, and there seems to be an enormous collecting aspect to Olympic badges. Inside the pavillion there were upwards of 150 badges available just for the London games. Then there were traders inside and outside who carry books of badges they're willing to sell. I suppose it's the Olympic version of stamp collecting.
I didn't come away with any badges.
The people running the Orbit statue/viewing platform to let me in early. I think they were pleased that I just came up to them with an actual ticket. You ride up the giant helter skelter in a lift and then walk down the steps on the outside.
The view is excellent from the top, but you might find that you're better off with a compact camera rather than DSLR up there. That's because the wire they've put up to stop anyone falling off the top is so fine that you can't poke a sizeable DSLR lens through the mesh.
There are two levels of viewing platforms, and you can take photos through the glass inside too. I found it handy to use a lens cloth to give the windows a wipe to remove the smears of young hands on them!
And so onto ExCel and the Fencing. In transport terms it's pretty straightforward getting the DLR a few stops down the line. However look forward to a bit of walking since they're keen for you to use West Silvertown, whereas Custom House is actually adjacent to the venue. But with some time to kill, I was happy to wander around Victoria Dock including seeing people doing wakeboarding.
ExCel has loads of sport going on its enormous shell. Judo, Table Tennis, Boxing, Weightlifting and Taekwondo as well as Fencing. It's fun to spot the athletes and sports federation officials wandering around in their tracksuits. I saw some enormous Azerbaijanis, Poles, Ukranians, and very noticeable from their tracksuits - Russians. Let's just say, if you're going to an 80s party, seek out the 2012 official tracksuit.
Again, there were troops on duty to carry out searches and work the x-ray machines. I had to pour my water bottle empty before going in, and then faced the challenge of finding a water fountain to refill it. They turn out to be inside each of the sports arenas themselves.
Now I can safely say that I knew nothing about fencing. The little booklet that LOCOG sends you with your tickets was helpful to a point, although it mostly detailed transport to and from the venue. My seat was category D which was the back row on one end. But it's actually a better seat that somewhat more expensive end tickets down the front, where you may be closer to the action, but can't actually see a great angle.
It was the women's Epee event with two semi finals, a bronze play off and then a final. The first semi-final went fairly straightforwardly, with Ukranian Shemyakina beating the tall Chinese Sun. Matches are played in three bouts of three minutes on a piste in the middle of the arena. I've got to say that I was really impressed with how it looked. The lighting is dimmed so that you see the fencers against almost darkness. In the Epee, points can be scored simultaneously, and the winner is either the first to 15, or the person with the most points at the end of the three bouts.
In the second semi-final, Britta Heidemann, the reining Olympic champion took on A L Shin from South Korea. The match began slowly, and because they showed lack of competitiveness, the judge moved them straight into the second bout before the first ended - that's something judges can do in fencing!
As we reached the end of final bout it was tied 5-5, and that means that an extra minute of sudden death is fought. The clock was running down and it was still 5-5. There are various interruptions that can stop the clock, and we reached just one second left with the scores level. Yet with one second on the clock we had three double hits with both competitors (neither scoring), and the clock remained on one second. Then the clock showed 0 seconds and we had it reset to one second.
Heidemann finally landed a strike, but there was confusion. The South Koreans weren't happy and thought that the timing equipment must be faulty. It had seemed strange that so much had happened within just one second. It was like one of those rounds of Just A Minute when Nicholas Parsons starts to say "There's just a quarter of a second left..."
We were in deadlock, and the judges were in a huddle.
At this point I discovered that I was sitting next to someone very senior in the US Fencing team (and Modern Pentathlon). He was a previous Epee Olympian for the US Team and was with his mother. He explained that the Germans were certainly going to win, but that the South Koreans would fight it all the way. There's lots of money and prestige attached to fencing in South Korea, and the coach and competitor would be expected to fight it.
He'd been in situations previously and had done the same. Not only did he appeal and get turned down, but he also then put in a written appeal along with a sum of money (something like 100 Euros), and the spectators had to wait.
In the meantime, the German had now been awarded the result after a delay of perhaps twenty minutes. But while the appeal continued, the Korean fencer stayed on the piste. It was explained that she had to do this since if she left she'd effectively be conceding defeat. And South Korean athletes do exactly what they're told by their coaches.
My chum from the US Team said that the coach would be fighting for his very future. And I should expect that it'd take several people to get her from the piste.
In the event this was precisely true.
In fact, my friend said, the Korean coach should have jumped in before a second was added back to the clock. At that point there obviously was something amiss, and that'd have been the time to argue the case. It may have been when we first saw 1 second it was actually 1.99 seconds, and therefore there might have been three opportunities to strike. But perhaps an official timer was slow.
Either way, it was all too little, and the German went through to the final.
The whole thing took about ninety minutes to sort out and a very censorial announcer kept saying that it was all very delicate and that we shouldn't slow hand clap or otherwise try to speed things along.
Sadly for the Korean, she lost a well fought bronze medal match, while the gold went to the Ukranian Shemyakina who overcame the much fancied German. Perhaps she was having an off day.
One thing I do know is that I understand an awful lot more about fencing that I used to, and it was incredibly useful to end up next to such a nice and knowledgable chap. He headed off early as he says his team will score plenty of medals (I think he said either three or four). Epee is their weakest event - hence no Americans in the final four.
I went away from the fencing thinking that I'd like to watch some more of it.
The trip home was fairly painless with another wander around the docks to Pontoon Dock station, and by travelling via Stratford and the Javelin trains (easily the best way to get in and out of London), I was home in no time.
What an extraordinarily wonderful day.
Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France in Paris. The first Briton ever to do so in 109 years of the race and 99 editions of it. Chris Froome, another Brit comes second. Mark Cavendish makes it three out of three on the Champs Elysees.
I just had to be there. So a plane ride later (even factoring in an overnight stay in a nice little hotel, it was cheaper than a packed Eurostar), and getting sunburnt in The Tuileries, and I found myself in Paris for the great day.
Roll on the Olympics next week!
A few entirely unrelated things worth noting:
1. Nexus 7 Tablet
Google's announced its new tablet, and I'll let others tell you how good or otherwise it is. What I find quite staggering is Google's UK pricing. In the US, the 8GB entry level model is $199. When you hear numbers like that normally, you begin to wonder what the UK price will be. There are exchange rate variables to consider, and there's also the fact that US prices don't include sales tax (although commonly this isn't charged online, depending on which state the business resides as well as recipient's local state laws).
Anyway, £199 seemed like a fair guess.
In fact it's going on sale at £159. If you do the sums at today's exchange rates (via Google), $199 = £127.64. Add 20% VAT to that and you get £153.17. UK consumers are effectively only paying £5.83 more than US consumers. And as I say, that exchange rate is variable.
I think it's clear that Google is either making no money, or indeed, more likely, making a loss on every device sold at those kinds of prices. And that pricing really puts the pressure on Amazon's Kindle Fire, which of course hasn't launched at all in the UK. Indeed, I'd argue that it puts pressure on the regular Kindle Touch at £109.
Clearly there are some significant advantages of epaper over backlit screens for reading books and achieving long battery life. But you can't watch videos or play games on a regular Kindle. What Amazon does in response to Google in the UK marketplace will be interesting. And how Microsoft price their Surface tablet will also be worth watching, although productivity will undoubtedly be their USP.
2. Soho Stories
The National Trust of all people has launched a really interesting app called Soho Stories presented by no less than Barry Cryer. In many respcets it's similar in the way it works to Hackney Hear (iPhone only, so I've not been able to use it) or The Guardian's King's Cross London Streetstories app (iPhone and Android) in that what you hear is related to the location you're physically in. I do believe that these kinds of applications really do offer a very different and immersive experience in any given area. It should be noted that you can still listen to the audio if you're not able to walk around Soho.
Of course I work in Soho so it's much closer to home for me. But the history of Soho is fascinating, and I've explored it in the past to an extent - particularly Golden Square.
I think these kinds of ideas are terrific, and it's good to see more of them emerging, even if I'm still a little unclear about why the National Trust of all people took this on!
3. Sony RX100
If you want a small pocketable camera, that isn't a compact systeme camera, this really does seem to be it. David Pogue at the New York Times has already called it "the best pocket camera ever made."
In recent times, people have been getting quite excited about systems like the micro 4/3 format from companies like Olympus and Panasonic, Sony's NEX and Nikon's 1 cameras. But for many people a slim pocketable camera without the fuss of different lenses is all they really want. There's the camera in your phone, and then perhaps something a bit better. Better camera phones will certainly kill the low-end camera marketplace.
However, this sounds like it's a lot better. I've been a longtime user of Canon's Powershot G series of cameras that are fully featured and have things like viewfinders and hotshoes. But the RX100 is really interesting. It's as small as the G12's slimline brother, the S100 which I know is excellent, yet seemingly offers a near DSLR experience. The reviews are suggesting it outperforms them everything else in the point and shoot marketplace.
Unfortunately, in the camera world a $650 price point coverts to at least £549 in the UK. And given the initial demand this camera's likely to have, that won't be changing anytime soon.