How Strange This Is

So, I downloaded a new application, because it was just so cool. The Photographer’s Ephemeris, an application which runs on Adobe’s “Air” platform, will tell you when the sun and moon rise and set, and where they’ll be in the sky, anywhere in the world. Behold!

Lynedoch Crescent - Winter
Winter in Glasgow: the sun never visits the rear of our house, only staying up for 90° of 360°, giving us about 7.5 hours of weak daylight. The yellow line is sunrise, the orange line, sunset.
Lynedoch Crescent - Summer
Summer in Glasgow: the sun comes up and floods our bedroom, then goes down … 270° around the sky, giving us about 7.5 hours of “night.” Again, the yellow line is sunrise, the orange, sunset.

For those of you who haven’t visited (and why not?! Hmm?!), this place is crazy and crazy.

I plan to spend some time, now, tinkering with the application to see just when the moon will be ideally situated for some good photos of it. Hopefully the camera will be back from the shop soon, so that I can take some good pictures when some more friends visit next week.


Photo Geekery II

So, I took the camera down to the local Canon Authorised Service Centre (Yes, here were far too many uses of “s” in that … we’re in the UK, where these things happen.). The local wizard declared that, yes, something was wrong. Was this Canon’s fault? The combination of lens and camera? Nobody knows, but, ya know, we’ll recalibrate everything “under warranty” because, well, Canon seems not to have done so at the point of manufacture.

Let’s call that, oh, around 10,000 photos which aren’t focused correctly. Soft focus? Well, that’s for those people who think that zits can be remedied by blurring the picture. Me, I prefer to be given the option, rather than having it forced upon me.

It just seems a shame to me that all of my photos in D.C. will be … feeble, weak, diffuse.

You think I should switch to Nikkon?


Photo Geekery

Awhile ago, our friend L asked me whether I still liked the Canon EOS 7D. I was quite enthusiastic in my response, but have since thought that, well, maybe not. It’s been rather hit-and-miss, as far as the photos go, and I’ve wondered what’s up, thinking that maybe I should have splashed out for one of the professional models rather than this “pro-sumer” version.

Why? Well, because the thing just doesn’t quite focus right. It’s fine for most things, viewed at low resolution, but … well, you don’t buy a 18-megapixel camera, costing upwards of $1,500 just for the body, to have “mostly good” pictures.

I’d thought that it was just the lens … but, on searching out comparisons between the 7D and the 5D Mark III today, I discovered that there are many many people out there who have had similar troubles, and worse.

Rather than return the thing, I’ve opted to try to make it work.

Lynedoch Crescent D 400

I updated the firmware, did some AF microadjustments, and changed the focusing method. Will this fix things? Well, my initial feeling is that the camera should go back. Even after all of that, things just aren’t as crisp as they were using the previous model.

I don’t have the additional $4,000 to put out for the professional one, though, so … I’ll keep tinkering. Or, maybe, when we get back from D.C. this next week, I’ll send it into the repair center. I hope that they can make it work!


To HDR, or Not…?

Sometimes HDR is the better option, sometimes not. The images on the left are the “pure” images, while the ones on the right are composites of 3 images. Which ones are better? Well … it’s all a matter of taste, really. I think that, of the top pair, the non-HDR image (left) is best, and of the bottom pair that the HDR image (right) is best. Why? Well … I can’t say, really. It’s up to the viewer to say what’s important about the picture, I guess.

Charing Cross 483 Charing Cross 483 HDR
Charing Cross 484 Charing Cross 484 HDR

I guess that with the top image I don’t really want to get any detail of the fence, while the bottom image gives me more of an idea of the character of the flower in HDR. But … well, it’s really a matter of taste, I suppose. Which do you prefer?


Abandoned Places

Finnieston 163
Charing Cross 343
Charing Cross 344

This is more just a call for you all to go look at a page: Abandoned Places In The World. It’s something I come back to, time and again, simply because it’s so evocative.

Byres Road 1
Byres Road 2
Charing Cross 167

Would I go to any of these places? Well, no, probably not (although that abandoned island off the coast of Japan seems way cool, and as if people ought to have moved in). But … these places are evocative, somehow, in a way that the pretty places are not.

Why take pictures of just “the beautiful?” Why ignore what is all around us: the gritty, the lost, the abandoned, the forgotten?

True, I’m guilty of it: I have taken 860 pictures of flowers, alone! Yet, I’ve also taken 95 pictures of “abandoned furniture,” and 302 pictures of “what in the world?”

The flowers, though, and the castles, and whatever else, seem to overwhelm things, giving an imbalanced picture of the world.



Seemingly Boring Photographic Subjects

Sometimes I take pictures of things which appear … well, not interesting. It’s not immediately clear why I took this picture, for instance. Have a look, and see if you can see why it was interesting to me.

Finnieston 193

Do you notice how the light-pole lines up exactly with the corner of the building, giving the illusion that it’s actually attached to the building, but that the shadow it casts upon the building tells you otherwise? And how the car obscures the base of the light-pole, so you can’t verify whether it’s attached or not?

Fun with perspective, light and shadow, and exposure.


Photographic Lunch

Every few weeks, my coworker A. gets his hair cut. I’ve told him that he could do just as well by buying a set of clippers, but he doesn’t listen. No matter, though, as I usually take the opportunity to go with him, and to wander around downtown Glasgow while he’s wasting his money. It costs me £1.50 or so, and I get a good half-hour of photography in.

Yesterday was a fabulous day for it, as it was quite sunny (in between showers), and the clouds were phenomenal. Taking pictures in high contrast situations, though, is a special kind of thing. To demonstrate the challenge, look at the two images below.

Around Glasgow 504 Around Glasgow 504 HDR

The image to the left is “what the camera saw” … but it’s unfortunate, because it washes the sky out, and doesn’t show the beauty of the building at all. The one on the right, though, is a composite image: I took three photos, one overexposed (to show the building), one properly exposed (to get most of the content), and one underexposed (to get the sky). These three images were then blended together to give you the image to the right.

This photography technique (High Dynamic Range) tries to mimic the way the eye actually sees the world: when your eye focuses on something, your pupil dilates or contracts, to “meter” the area in focus. So, you’re constantly making the world more balanced, in terms of contrast. Doing this photographically, though, is rather a challenge. Some of the attempts I’ve made have been really eerie, and some have been absolutely stunning (or, at least I think so). Take a look at my photoset, and let me know what you think.


Stop Motion

While working away at the writing yesterday I put the camera onto a tripod, plugged it into the computer, and told the computer to take a picture every 5 seconds. This went on for 868 shots (I’d forgotten to change the batteries out for fresh ones). So, the video below represents 72.5 minutes, compressed down to just under 90 seconds. Combined into a video using JPGVideo, at 10 frames per second, it’s a marvel.

We love our park, but we truly love the clouds, and the sunshine. It gives an overwhelming sense of peace to watch the clouds roll on by. Just today we got some sleet, bouncing off of the windows … and now it’s sunny again.

Random Shadows

Don’t know what this hook is for, in all of its ornateness, but it cast a lovely shadow on the side of the church.

Woodlands Road 74

This guy seems to have found a precarious hold upon the corner of the church. Is he a dog?

Woodlands Road 75

Nose to the grindstone for another few weeks. Back to regular blogging some day soon.

Glaswegian Strangeness

Glasgow Uni 635

So, when I take pictures, I often try to take … interesting things. This means that last week, as I was waiting for the lady at the Computing Services office to track down some software for me (NVivo 8, in case you’re interested), I noticed this ironic juxtaposition: a Bobble-Headed “Buddy Christ” and wasp killer. Christ seems to be giving it a big thumbs-up. This was in the security station, just outside of the office. Politically correct? Not in any manner!

Charing Cross 418

Once again, walking with a camera around your neck means that you’ll attract attention. These blokes were passing me, as I walked to work. They casually said, “take my picture!” They actually sounded more like they said, “tack mah pitcher,” but they got their point across well enough, and I’m used to this sort of behavior: Glaswegians seem to want to be immortal, in some manner, and often ask for me to take their pictures. I’ve even started to notice people who seem to want to ask, but are too shy – they just sort of slow down a bit, watching. Of course, some of them are merely wondering why I’m taking pictures of anything at all (this being the Surveillance society it is).

Around Glasgow 407

As I was taking this picture (I swear it’s an evil imp standing upon a flying monkey, but T. disagrees, insisting that it’s a dragon or a bat or something), a man came out of the building and asked, “can I ask why you’re taking pictures of this building?” I pointed out the interesting architecture, and tried to sound as Californian as possible, because … well, he was wearing a name-badge on a lanyard around his neck, and came inappropriately close to me. I suspect he was building security or something, but have no way to know. As the building was next door to a building named Queen’s House, I figured it to be a safe bet he was security. Whether the queen’s ever lived there, I have no idea, but … well, it was odd. What’s stranger than that was that he felt the need to explain to me, when I asked whether there was a problem with me taking pictures, that he used to take pictures too. I asked him what kind of a camera he had, to which he replied (after looking at my camera’s name) that he’d had an old Canon. Right. Not an uncommon brand of camera, mind you. Just the first time I’ve run into this in person, although I do tend to follow the issue of photographers’ rights, just in case something like this were to come up.

Charing Cross 413 Around Glasgow 449

These kids … well, they’re models (as it says on the advertisements, just on the right, about halfway up the side of each piece, and in every other image on the campaign website), but they’re supposed to represent children “in care.” Foster care, I’d assume, not juvenile detention. Is this an issue? Do people look down upon children because their parents were awful? And how would anybody know such a thing?

I don’t know about how “care” works here, but I do know that I’d probably tend to relate to someone because of who they were, not because of who their parents were. That may be me, though, particularly because I despise nepotism, cronyism, and favoritism (where who you know definitely trumps what you know). Perhaps this is more of a problem in Scotland or the UK than in California? I have no idea, and the whole ad campaign strikes me funny.

What I find even more odd than the existence of this campaign is that the ads feel the need to point out very clearly that the people in them are not in care. How strange is that? I mean, sure, you wouldn’t want somebody to see them elsewhere and shun them … but that seems to be part of the point, isn’t it? If you’re trying to address discrimination, you’d think that pointing out these kids as good kids, paid to be in the ads, implies that 1) kids in care are not good, 2) being associated with “being in care” actually is something for which to be ashamed, and 3) you should be ashamed that we have to hide kids in care from you, lest you mistreat them. Take a look at their other images and it becomes clear: no children in care were involved.

Around Glasgow 436

Lastly, I leave you with some particularly strong women (this picture taken looking straight up): they’re either holding up the architecture, or they’re hanging onto it. Either way, they’ve got to have quite a bit of muscle!