Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ready to venture out after man flu

Apart from a lingering cough, that's the man-flu over and done with. I'm looking forward to getting out and about with my camera again... and the ideal opportunity is just round the corner.

The Barbican International Jazz and Blues Festival has its official start tomorrow, Friday 1st May.
..and my godson arrives tomorrow to check out Plymouth Uni to see if it's worthy for him to study at. Gonna have to do a bank holiday weekend shop run to stock the cupboards ready!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Questions and answers from this community

I've now added the ability for the growing community here to post questions that can be answered by any members / followers.

Obviously it needs to be something related to photography - camera and digital darkroom techniques, printing etc and newbie questions are encouraged.

If it's about black-and-white techniques, either in-camera or in post processing, I'll certainly chip in. But if it's to do with colour, others will have to answer, which I'm sure they will.

I've started the ball rolling - scroll down to the end of the right hand column and you'll see the gadget and my question.

Let's see how we can all help each other :)

Monday, 27 April 2009

April freebie draw

I've been announcing my monthly prize draw on the gfc enlarged view (the canvas as they call it) for a couple of weeks now. Your chance to win one of my signed prints.

I thought it made sense to post about it here, too, so here goes...

Each month, the names of all the members of my site / followers of this blog, who are also my gfc friends get put in a hat. At the end of the month the first name pulled out gets one of my signed mounted fine art prints.

Ok, there's a bit more to it than that encourage you all, reviewing and rating my work will influence how many copies of your name gets put in the hat each time!

So skip over to my galleries now and do your thang. Go on, do it now, I'll start you off in the monochrome gallery

I'll be announcing the winner at the beginning of May - Good Luck!

A couple of template updates

Just been dabbling with my blog template. I've added the gfc Wall gadget. It's been on the main site since I started using gfc and I thought it made sense to have it here as well.

It's intended for general posts, stuff not related to a particular blog entry.

I've got it set to allow anonymous posts -- is it just me, or I am I too optimistic that it won't end up getting abused?

We'll see would be so nice to be pleasantly surprised and be able to leave it set this way forever.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

And now for a musical interlude...

My musical tastes are quite eclectic and thanks to Folk Art by Campbell Jane I bumped into some upbeat, energetic country and western that I've enjoyed -- partly for the simple but wonderful rhyming, partly for the catchy tune but mostly for the great chorus which brings it all together.

Never heard of these folks before (I'm in the UK) but a drum roll, please, for Joey and Rory...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Exploring the thought that I treat my images like poems

A painter who visited my work asked:
The hay stacks - a lot of atmosphere in this pic - wonder if you see your photos as poems (reading it on different levels?)
I said in my reply that it was an interesting topic that I'd explore some more in my blog. The short answer is - yes, often, sometimes more so, sometimes less.

So here goes with the long answer

First, a couple of concepts I'll be relying on. Beware, I'm not formally trained so might not use the right words but hopefully I'll get my meaning across. [Amusing mixing of levels, here: Note to self, a picture paints a thousand words, so why don't I use a photo to express what I mean? Oh, I'm going to, don't get ahead of yourself!]


Interpretation and subsequent meaning is in the eye of the beholder - if the beholder is a cat, don't expect the meaning you derive to be the same as the cat's (unless, of course, you happen to be a cat reading this).

Two humans would likely agree on key aspects but even then, differences between them (some from nurture, some from nature - and think synesthesia here for an extreme example) will lead to differences in impression. Some will "get" connections that are implicit in the work more quickly than others.


Levels appear in many contexts; for example, between a subtle pun in the title chosen for the piece and elements of the piece itself.

A good example of this is the haystacks work above. Its title is Hay303 Stacks and if you care to look, you'll find it explained that this was taken on the UK road, the A303. Ok, you see what I did there. But there's also a hint of something else - there are three haystacks on the skyline and the fields are razed to the ground, barren (=0). There's lots more subtlety in there but that's all from me about it, there's got to be some mystery!

This one has the title One, Two Three - Snow! (rhymes with the way we started races when I was a kid - "one, two, three, go!" so there are echoes of childhood simplicity mixed up with image simplicity). AND there's also the one road, two pavements (sidewalks) and three objects - or one lampost (also = the digit "1"), two squares, three surfaces.

Back to the poem question

To me anyway, a poem has certain characteristics before you get to the actual words used and their meaning. The meter / rhythm, the inner structure (how many syllables to a line, how many lines to a stanza) and the overall structure of how many stanzas. (In simplest terms, anyway, and from a non-poet's viewpoint.)

These are like the compositional elements in a photo before you get to the actual content itself. They equate in some sense to the viewpoint taken, the framing of the elements and their form and spacial inter-relationships within that frame.

In photos you have the main subject and in poetry the main theme. A poet then carefully chooses words to convey the meaning felt by them during that part of the work, possibly using the rhythm to reinforce but also phrasing things and choosing sound-shapes to bring other echoes to the mind of the reader / listener, as befits the meaning intended. And then they polish, polish and polish some more.

I think I do the equivalent with my photos once I get them to the digital darkroom. For example, in choosing the colour to mono conversion technique to use, I'm building on what tonal relationships -- in and between the elements -- to play up or down, polishing what happenstance put before me and I arranged in the viewfinder. Another example is Knot A Rope Knot - notice there's a rope (knot) sandwiched between two knots on the wooden post.

So with both poems and pictures (and, if you think about music, with that too) artistic expression is about creating a work that encapsulates a piece of the artist's world-view. More than that, to be considered "worthy", it has to survive the translation through their chosen medium to become the observer's impression. And if the same meaning as was intended is felt, then it has worked.

Of course, the observer always has the chance to mis-, over- or re-interpret, and if that results in more than the artist consciously intended ...then all to the good! Either it was there and intended or it was there as an artefact of something else but, nevertheless, still artist-inspired.

How well it is appreciated depends on the inner creation envisaged by the artist in the first place, how well the artist packages that up in their piece, how accurately this piece is perceived and interpreted by the observer and how much their interpretation then appeals to their sense of beauty.

So, finally...

...I think that pretty much anyone consciously "doing art" whether they be poet, painter, musician or whatever, weaves an expression of their art using all the strands available (including multi and mixed levels), that they think are relevant and that have meaning in their chosen medium.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Network timeout - problem source

After months of hassle, getting slowly worse over the last few weeks until it became unbearable, I got to the root of my browsing difficulties.

It's my broadband router firewall. It's not the whole problem, as I still experience issues when using mobile broadband, but it's definitely a huge problem.

With my prodigious browsing activity during recent weeks, my router's firewall has got it into its head that my laptop is the source of denial-of-service type of activity and purposely "holds back" such activity. The sorts of items in my routers log that were at fault were apparently these things:
**SYN Flood to Host** 1xx.1xx.2.2, 2388->>, 80 (from ATM1 Outbound)
**TCP FIN Scan** 1xx.1xx.2.2, 2876->>, 80 (from ATM1 Outbound)

Digging around in its innards like this, I can see that what it's holding back are just ordinary browser requests to the places I'm browsing. Switching off the relevant bits of the router firewall cures the problem.

I'm also using Zone Alarm security suite (belt and braces never hurt!) so I've go a firewall on my laptop too.

Ok, it's not good to switch off bits of a firewall and leave them left off - but with Zone Alarm in place too, I was willing to risk it.

I've emailed the router manufacturer's support dept for advice on changing the settings, so ordinary browsing doesn't trigger this behaviour - it shouldn't be long before this is finally sorted.


UPDATE: I was brave enough to try changing some settings myself and it seems to have worked ok. Gawd, I hate this dark side of technology!

Oh, didn't hear back from the manufacturers yet but don't care now.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

*@&%! Man Flu!!

Been doing masses of stuff in the last week or so, none of which involved a camera :(

My ongoing issue with dropped http connections has abated a little. I've been poking around in my poor laptop's innards to try to improve things. It's most noticeable on Panoramio, Flickr, Google's image search and when interacting with Google Friend Connect gadgets.

Broken images, network timeouts, blog sites not showing and having to keep on refreshing / retrying to get them visible. Aaargh! Still, it's about liveable-with now, just about.

I have trouble believing that it's those sites' servers at fault - they are huge players. I have the same problems whether I connect over mobile broadband or my home broadband, so it points at not being the method of connection.... and yet Google Analytics and Adwords / Adsense reporting / management never exhibit these problems... so maybe it is the other servers after all. Who knows :(

And on top of all this, I got hit by the dreaded man-flu last Thursday... and any of my female readers will know just how serious and life-threatening that can be!

I ventured out to Martin Bush's Spring Exhibition opening event last night. Only managed one glass of wine before I had to duck out. I was in the lull between the end of the coughing fits and the start of the streaming nose, so that worked out ok. It was good to see Cindy there helping to host the event.

And what a well attended evening it was. Martin has a window bay devoted to my fine art prints and there was a lot of interest shown. As the show was primarily about Martin's work though, I played it down. One couple was saying how they loved the wet glistening stones in Sutton Backlane and were equally enjoying my other prints there.

And I've really been focusing on my online marketing - I've started an advertising campaign for my framed prints and I've been making lots of friends via the tastilicious Google Friend Connect.

I'm due a visit up to Buckfastleigh and onto the moors with my camera once this man-flu is done - and some hawking around the south west galleries to do. Hope we get some ideal weather for both :)

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Why is it important for serious photographers to master b/w?

There are certain shots in b/w that really concentrate your mind on the bare essentials. A good example is this great shot from Skyhunter.

I think that to be a great colour photographer (which I'm not - yet), you've got to master b/w first. Without colour to flood your senses, you have to concentrate on what's left - the bare essentials of light and line, texture and tone, pattern and form and, finaly, composition - they way they all interact with each other in the frame.

Look at the photo linked above (opens in a separate tab) - with no colour, what have you got?

Well, to me, there's some uniform texture (not much to concentrate on there, then) the lines of the landscape and they way they flow (lovely interacting / balancing curves); then there's the interesting way the light falls across the scene, giving contour to the land with tonal changes across the full range, from deep black to some highlights of pure white.

Not really a whole lot to concentrate on in making the shot, so with better focus of the mind, how can you not produce well-composed shots with no unintended distractions? It's so in-yer-face with b/w, you quickly learn how to crack the whip and get these elements performing as you want.

I think in mastering b/w, you can then bring all those learnings to colour. A masterful colour shot not only has to have all the colour relationships right but also all those non-colour attributes as well.

I'm in danger of rambling now, but you know what I mean :)

Claiming my blog on technorati

Technorati Profile

Friday, 10 April 2009

Useful guide to safety

I found this useful link to a guide to event safety - the site looks quite dated but the info seems spot on. I'd recommend it to anyone organising an event - from car-boot sales to prom nights.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Outcome of the platter and light experiment

Well, as experiments go, it wasn't bad. I learned a fair bit and learned a bit more about what I need to learn.

Ok, sub-successes:
  • The flashgun still worked
  • ..therefore the rechargeable batteries worked
  • ..therefore the recharger worked
reinforced learnings:
  • A still-life is all about composition
    - spatial relationships between elements
    - their visual weight and balance
    - connectedness between elements
    - relationship with the frame
    - implied spatial relationship with the viewer
  • Only then does light interplay come into its own, revealing
    - contour and form
    - texture and pattern
    - implied "feel" of the elements i.e. response to touch
  • It's difficult to hand-hold both the camera and the flash (for the fill-in light), for this sort of shot - at least not with repeatable results. A tripod for one or both is essential.
So the experiment worked in those respects.

What about the shots themselves? Well, nothing worth shouting about. Although I did learn that a mono conversion on rich tomato-reds can make them look like plump jewels, glowing with their own silver light. (info slotted away for later use.)

I was quite surprised at how the reds responded during the mono conversion... what do you think?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Charged up for a bit of flash...

I finally got some rechargeable batteries and a recharger so I could have a play around with my flash gun. It's been gathering dust since I bought it months ago.

I'd been keeping abreast of mono stuff in magazines bought, but only skimmed first time round. I came across an article about portrait shots where the emphasis was on using natural light beside windows.

All this lot came together today when I noticed the bright light streaming in through my bay windows. I grabbed some tomatoes that were still on the vine, cut a wedge of cheese, put the lot on a wooden platter and placed them in the light.

I set up the camera with aperture priority (actually that's my default, so just checked it was set). I used the flash off to on side, hand-held, and seeing whether I could get the fill-in ok in the way I intended. I used spot metering and exposure / focus-locked on the highlight on the front tomatoe.

I made sure with the choice of tomatoes on the vine, the cheeses and the board that I had good, separable colours during the intended conversion to mono.

Or so the plan goes... but we all know the saying, "the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay"

Watch this space for the upload, once I've got them out of the box and through my digital darkroom workflow...

Oh, and I finished up with a nice snack!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Kiln / furnace shot

This is a shot I overlooked from the pottery shoot the other day. Three pots are in the kiln (furnace) and are about to come out. This is their second and final firing.
The slip-resist coating on the one at the back right can be seen (drips / bumps around the rim).

They are all destined for finishing in a reducing (oxygen-starved) atmosphere. See previous posts for more details.


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