Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wise words from Cartier-Bresson

"We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory".

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Digital vs Film Debate

When I first began learning to take pictures, barely 10 years ago for the first time, film was very much the dominant medium. I had never heard of a digital camera, even in 2000. My first "proper" camera was the Nikon F65, and I still have it to this day. These days, I work exclusively in digital, with my trust workhorse Nikon D80 - but I still use a lot of my old kit.

I don't have much to say on the Digital vs Film debate that hasn't already been said. However, today while sitting in the gallery of the Camera Club, I came across these wise words from the Photograms Annual of 1895:

"It is quite possible that the man who first introduced a T-square or a compass, was looked upon as a charlatan, who succeeded in gaining accurate geometrical forms, by mechanical means, which had been before his time only possible after years of patient study. A few sordid draughtsmen, no doubt, saw a rival endangering their means of livelihood. For any draughtsmen to fear photography is obviously to write himself down incompetent, but now as then, incompetence is peculiarly fluent in defence of the position it has usurped. This attitude, however, belongs to a past order of things, and at present we find critics well able to distinguish between art and artifice, who are willing to credit the photographer with supreme control of the latter, and even to allow him a certain place within the limits of the temple of art itself."

Perhaps such words apply equally to the "old school" Film and the "young pretender" of digital.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Being a Tourist Again

London Eye at Night

London Eye, Photo Plod

Sometimes, it's fun to be a tourist again in my home city. On my way into work, I pass several of London's most famous landmarks. Although I always admire them, I don't have my camera with me when I pass them, and I'm usually reluctant to spend much of my leisure time wandering around the city because of other commitments. The other day, though, I decided to take advantage of the Bank Holiday and an early shift and take my camera with me into work.

After my shift had finished, I wandered down to Waterloo Bridge and took a series of photos down the Embankment, facing towards the famous South Bank. Nearly 3 hours went past in freezing conditions, and I barely noticed. I had enormous fun, carting my kit around from one position to the next, taking photographs of things that I knew had been photographed a million times before - I spent most of the evening fighting for space in among all the tourists and other amateur togs - but it was a strangely liberating experience.

There are probably not many original ways to photograph the London Eye - so I didn't try. In the picture above, I just applied basic rules of composition, set the aperture to f/14 and fired off a 30-second exposure to bring out the colours on the river, which has been reduced to a smooth sheen. A Google Image search for "London Eye" will bring up millions of results - and, overall, this probably looks like most of them. But this is my shot and I enjoyed taking it. After all, isn't that what this hobby is about?

Getting "out there", taking photos and not giving a damn about what other people think of them is great fun. So, be a tourist again - get the camera out and take your versions of all those landmarks you've seen a thousand times before.

You can view my full set of images over on my Flickr stream.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Travelling Around

One of the (only) perks of being in the Metropolitan Police is that officers get a significant travel concession within a certain radius of London on rail travel. This often drastically cuts the price of train tickets to almost anywhere in the country, since travelling through London can add a lot of money onto the price of a typical train fare.

This weekend, and for the next couple of days, I'm taking advantage of this - and the Travelodge sale - by heading off down to Bath in Somerset. It's one of my favourite towns in the country, and the home of the Royal Photographic Society.

Annual leave + camera = happy Plod!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Compact Cameras

Although I love my trusty Nikon D80 very dearly, it can sometimes be rather bulky to carry around with me - especially with a couple of lenses in tow. I have been pondering buying a compact camera for some time now, just so that I can always have something to hand if I want to photograph it. The trouble is, I don't really know the first thing about compacts.

I've seen a lot of good reviews about the Canon S95 (sacrilege for a dedicated Nikon user like me), but even the reduced price of £299 strikes me as a lot of money for an everyday camera. The Canon Powershot G12 is meant as an offering for "serious" users, but at £389, it's also a very "serious" investment. I could purchase a lot of kit for my D80 for that!

I'm a bit torn. When we go away on honeymoon to the Maldives, I want a small waterproof camera that I can use while snorkelling, and I certainly don't want to spend a lot of money on this. I've investigated the possibilities of underwater housing for my existing kit, but the prices are utterly ridiculous - I wouldn't see much change out of £2000 for a D80-compatible kit, which is about 3x the cost of the camera itself when it was brand new in 2006.

So, I want an underwater compact *and* a good quality "surface" compact, all for under £300. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

View from the ISS

View from the ISS Cupola, Douglas H. Wheelock

Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, a NASA astronaut, has recently posted an amazing series of photos from his time aboard the ISS. Sadly, owing to the end of the Space Shuttle program, I have no idea how many more such images we'll be seeing over time. The series of 29 images is posted here.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Flickr Notes

One of the worst features of Flickr, I find, is the ability for users to add "notes" to photographs. I don't mean the comments (though God only knows how annoying those 'I'm an admin for blah blah blah and we'd like you to add this to blah blah blah' comments are), but the ability to "tag" areas of an image. Take this for example:

This is a perfectly good photo of US troops sorting an enormous number of parcels over Christmas during WW2. However, I think it has been completely ruined by a huge number of inane, unfunny notes plastered all over it. Most of them are lame attempts at humour or shit captions, and woefully out of place.

Notes can be disabled, and I do wish they would do so with all photographs in the Commons. I find it incredibly annoying that the second my mouse hovers over some of these most popular of photographs, up pop a hundred crappy comments. Flickr, take note!