Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category
Not a typo.
It’s an Australian charity which encourages men to grow a moustache during November, to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer charities.
I have never grown any kind of facial hair in my life — I’m not even sure I can — but I’m going to give it a go. It’s a worthwhile cause, and how hard can it be to grow a moustache in 30 days?
We will see. Here is the starting point:
and in 30 days or thereabouts a full fungal facial feature may appear.
I will stop shaving my upper lip on Thursday November 1st.
You may be relieved to hear that there won’t be any further updates on this fotoLibra Pro Blog, which in future will be devoted exclusively to things like lenses, picture sales and apertures (fat chance) but you may come across more mentions on the fotoLibra Groups on Facebook and Linkedin.
And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be hearing from me there as well. Otherwise — I won’t trouble you again. Thank you for your time in reading this.
1834, acoustic, battleships, Bethlehem, Bethlehem PA, Book, British, Brussels, Buchmesse, C. F. Martin, cartoonist, clearances, common heritage, concept, D-35, Dreadnought, Dreams, fotoLibra, Frankfurt am Main, frankfurt book fair, George, German, Germany, guitar rental, guitars, Ideas, image licensing, immigrant, Judea, London, long walks, luthier, Magazine article, Mary and Joseph, music shop, Nasareth, national stereotypes, Nazareth, Nazareth PA, Nazareth Pennsylvania, New York, picture library, pilgrimage, Pont, price agreements, Punch, registered, rent, rent a guitar, RENT-AN-AX dot com, rentanax.com, road trip, SOUTH AFRICA, Strat, strum, The British Character, three continents, Trains, TV series, twentieth century, USA, Wales
What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?
Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.
It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.
There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.
Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*
So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.
Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.
I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as
- Fondness for cricket
- Importance of being athletic
- Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
- Preference for driving on the crown of the road
- Love of travelling alone
- A tendency to be hearty
- A fondness of anything French
- A tendency to learn the piano when young
You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.
Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.
There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.
And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?
Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.
Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.
I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.
Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?
Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.
*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.
subtitled CONTENT vs DEVICES
I wish I knew what it was about the human condition that makes people like me pant after shiny things, wide aperture lenses and items with plugs.
Take ebooks. The Kindle is easily the market leader, but there are people who swear by Nook or Kobo, or who would only read ebooks on an iPad.
Now imagine that you had to make the decision that you would only read books printed by collotype. Or gravure. Or having a sulk because your partner prefers letterpress to litho.
It’s irrelevant. You know it is. I know it is. It’s the same with cameras. Once the short, bloody war between film and digital had been comprehensively won, the same old rivalry continued between the Nikon and Canon camps.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
You can read Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies as a book, on a Kindle, on a Nook, on an iPad, on your Android ’phone if you will.
You can admire a Colin Macpherson photograph in print, on your laptop or on your iPhone.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
It’s whatever you feel most comfortable with. The tools used to create and convey the work are unimportant. What matters is the mind and eye that controls that tool. It’s the brain that creates the content, whether it be Wolf Hall or an Ansel Adams print.
Some artists fall in love with their tools (OK, I could have phrased that more elegantly) like Douglas Adams, who obsessed about his Apple Macs. Others will write with whatever comes to hand (this gets worse). The creator will use whatever he or she is most comfortable with, and it should be the same for the consumer. Don’t feel pressured into abandoning printed books if that’s what you like best. I’m not going to recommend reverting to film cameras, however, because whatever happens you will have to digitise that image at some point. It may as well be born digital. But how will you bear to be reading a book on an iPad One when the 12-year-old sitting next to you on the tube is perusing an iPad Three?
The device is important of course, but the method of delivery is far less important than the actual content. It is infinitely more agreeable to get to the Frankfurt Book Fair by Rolls-Royce than by bus — but the important bit is getting to Frankfurt.
When you finish A La Recherche du Temps Perdu people aren’t going to ask you whether you read it in hardback, paperback or as an ebook, though they may ask if you read it in French or in translation. When you eat a meal, you needn’t ask the cook what oven she uses, especially if you plan on using teeth to eat with in the future. Why then do people say “Lovely photograph. What camera do you use?”
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
Everything you and I buy can be placed in one of three categories:
Consumables: e.g. Food. I eat it. I buy more. Clothes. I wear them. I wear them out.
Landfill: e.g. anything with a plug. If such a remarkable device as an iPad had existed in 1979 when I bought my Mont Blanc pen for £30, it might have cost a million pounds. Today they both cost about £500. In ten years’ time my pen will be worth about £750 and I will have thrown away my iPad. All the ebooks I bought will probably be irretrievable.
Heirlooms: e.g. my pen. I write with it. I will write with it for the next 20 years. Then I will leave it to a niece. It will always be worth more than I paid for it. And the leather bound copy of Follies will be on my bookshelf when I am cold and dry.
The memories of the marvellous books I have read and the wonderful photographs I have seen will stay with me long after the tools that produced them have been consigned to the scrap heap.
The immensely talented and gorgeous Dede Millar* is putting on a photo exhibition in the West End next month.
I haven’t seen it yet but I will, and I urge you to go and see it too. Because it’s such a good idea, such a clever title, and for such a good cause.
Dede is a very old friend of mine. She may mix her metaphors from time to time (I’m still weeping with laughter about the carrot at the end of the tunnel) but when it comes to Smart and Savvy she has few equals. And what a fab name she’s come up with for this exhibition.
It’s a collection of photographs of great women singers taken by great women photographers, assembled under the great title of She-Bop-A-Lula. What’s not to like?
And the expo is in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer Charity. Now I’m not a woman and I never have been but even I can spot a good idea for a good cause when I see one.
It deserves your support. It’s certainly getting mine. It starts on Wednesday March 7 at the Strand Gallery, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP, which is in a wonderful secret part of Central London known as the Adelphi, a little wedge of land to the east of Charing Cross Station and south of The Strand.
You must hurry, because it’s only on for about three weeks — it closes on April 1st. And to cap it all, it’s FREE.
I guess I’ll see you there. Get more info from http://www.shebopalula.co.uk/ — and I have the sneaking feeling this won’t be the only time we’ll be hearing about She-Bop-A-Lula.
*You have my bank details, Deeds.
Jacqui Norman, who never makes a mistake (or so she tells me) sent out a Picture Call this morning for some exciting mountaineering shots for the front cover of a Japanese novel titled “Hidako”.
Of course my knowledge of Japanese peaks is second to none, and the Hidaka range is well known to me (and Mr. Wikipedia). The highest peak is Mount Poroshiri at 6,785 feet. It’s not HidakO, it’s HidakA. But Jacqui says that if that’s what the client ordered, that’s what the client wants.
She said he wanted images to capture the thrills, excitement and danger of mountaineering anywhere, not just on some overblown Japanese hill. Like Joe Simpson’s “Into The Void”.
Ah. Wrong again, Jacqui. Joe Simpson’s “Touching The Void”, not “Into The Void” is one of the classics of mountaineering, as fotoLibra “8,000 Uploads!” member Nick Jenkins quickly pointed out.
And as I remember only too well, even without the aid of Mr. Wikipedia. I have never read the book, because I am consumed with jealousy.
Let me take you back to 1985. I had just delivered the manuscript of Wim Meulenkamp’s and my first book on follies to the gilded offices of Jonathan Cape in London’s Bedford Square (even the electric sockets were golden, there’s posh, yes?). Unfortunately my editor Liz Calder, who had commissioned the book, had left to co-found a new publisher called Bloomsbury, so our book was passed down to another editor, Tony Colwell.
Tony could spare me half an hour to talk about publicity. I was ushered into his office. He greeted me abstractedly. “This is a really wonderful book,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Oh!” I stammered. “Thank you so much!”
“No, no, I’m sorry, I was thinking about this mountaineering book,” he said. “It’s called “Touching The Void”, and it’s by this amazing man called Joe Simpson.”
And for the next 25 minutes Tony praised this incredible book, lauding it with superlative after superlative. He went on and on. I just sat there.
Eventually he glanced at his watch. “Goodness, is that the time? I suppose we’d better talk about your book. Well, we’ll be sending out the usual review copies. Is there anything else? Well, goodbye, so good of you to come in.”
And that was that.
Ever since then, any mention of Joe Simpson’s “Touching The Void” sets my teeth on edge.
I shouldn’t really complain, because Jonathan Cape ended up doing a really spectacular publicity job on “Follies”, and it sold out in 11 months.
And if you want to see a REALLY plush publisher’s office, you should visit Bloomsbury, the company that Liz Calder co-founded. Spread over three town houses in the same Bedford Square, they might as well have gilded the entire interior, such is its opulence. I guess Harry Potter contributed a penny or two.
Oh — and congratulations are due to Nick Jenkins. 8,000 images is one impressive portfolio! Other members could learn a lot from him — and they can, because Nick runs some great photography courses at Freespirit Images.
The New Year is traditionally the time to herald new things, starting with the Epiphany of the Christ Child on January 6th and the chance to play and replay my Desert Island carol, Peter Cornelius’s “Three Kings from Persian lands afar”.
So a happy New Year to you all. At my age things no longer occur, they tend to recur, and it’s rare to encounter something that appears to be completely new. Continuing the religious references, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes thunders “Is there any thing whereof it can be said, See, this is new?”
What I’m writing about today is a camera. That’s not new. But a light field camera is new to me, that’s for sure.
A light field camera? A field camera is one of those bulky great things with bellows, a permanent tripod, and a hood so the photographer can view the upside-down image on the 10×8 plate in darkness. Great for architectural photography, less useful for sports.
A light field camera is nothing like that. ‘Light field’ is the word phrase, and it refers to the way the device captures light data. The ‘light field’ is defined as the light travelling in all directions through all points in space. In conventional cameras — digital or film — the image (or light data) is captured on a flat plane at the back of the box. This can either be film or a digital sensor. The rays of light are combined and recorded as a single unit of light and shade.
In a light field camera, it is claimed that its sensor can capture the colour, intensity and vector direction of all the rays of light in a scene, providing much more data from which to compile an image.
What does this mean? Well of course the science is beyond me, but what I really need to know is what does this mean for the photographer, and obviously as a picture librarian, for image sales? In what way is the resulting picture different? Note that I didn’t say better. It’s not a field camera, after all, which is the gold standard for image quality.
My first thought is lots of data means big file sizes. And what do we do with all that extra data? The answer is nothing, at the moment. We’re back to 1950s Britain, where you couldn’t buy garlic or olive oil because “there’s no call for it.” At the moment, there is no call for it — there is no commercial need for the additional data a light field camera can produce. Here in 2012 fotoLibra has the ability to supply 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit images; we can supply HDR images. We don’t, because we’re not asked for them. At the moment professional picture buyers are content to buy 8 bit JPEGs.
I didn’t see the point of an HD television until I got one. But I can totally see the point of a professional quality light field camera to create images of record for museums and archives. Imagine being able to focus and study every plane of Nefertiti’s head. Wow.
Because here is why an image taken on a light field camera is different. You can refocus on any part of the image — after the picture has been taken. This is not the same as an Ansel Adams image at f64 where every part of the image is pin-sharp; these are images taken at f2 with a very shallow depth of field — which you can subsequently vary at will.
It is fascinating. I can play with these images for hours.
A light field camera has just been launched for the consumer market in the United States. Its brand name is Lytro, and I guess that could go the way that Hoover and Biro (and Kodak once did) to become the generic name for a light field camera. The first Lytro has an 8x optical zoom and an f2 aperture lens. It doesn’t look much like a camera, more like a square tube, and it comes in three colours and two storage sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB — 350 or 750 photos. It costs $399 (£255, €206) and $499. The aperture stays constant across the zoom range, which allows comprehensive light capture in the foreground, the mid ground and the background. The images it produces are 1.2MB JPEGs, which are at the lower end of the quality scale.
Do I want one? No, not yet. Remember, I’m not a photographer, I’m just a bloke who has a camera. Will it be more than just a curiosity? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly cheap enough for many people to be able to buy on a whim and play with, experiment with. Would I recommend you get one? If you’re a curious and inquisitive photographer who’s not strapped for cash, then yes, definitely. I would love to see what real photographers can achieve with such a tool.
At the moment the Lytro doesn’t meet the fotoLibra quality standards set out in our Submission Guidelines.
But I think we’ll make room for it.
Even though ‘There is no new thing under the sun.’
We don’t normally comment on sales we make at fotoLibra, but here’s one that caught my eye: we’ve just sold a photograph of the Eiffel Tower to … a Parisian fashion house.
Update — half an hour later — we’ve just sold a photograph of a Mauritian helicopter to a communications company in … Mauritius.
I love this.
Before I tell you about this wonderful and enjoyable challenge, just a word on the new fotoLibra Version 4.1.
We launched it a couple of days ago and the reaction from both buyers and sellers has been extremely positive, once users discovered where to access all the new features. If they still elude you, please check out the comments in the last blog posting, where all is revealed.
Now for the The Dictionary Game.
It’s summer, time for fun and frolics (it’s raining hard as I write this), and this is an amusing if cerebral pastime.
I used to do this for fun as a kid, but I’m not a photographer, simply a man who takes photographs.
Flip open the dictionary. Find a word you don’t know (come on, there must be one).
Read the definition.
Now photograph it.
Do you see? It makes you think very hard about how you convey the meaning of a word visually. It’s even more of a challenge — and therefore much more satisfying — if the word is an abstract concept. Or a verb.
When you upload the resulting image to fotoLibra, imagine the pleasure of getting a fotoLibrawhack — your picture being the sole one returned when a search for ‘glabrous’ is made, for example.
Here are some words that have sent me scurrying for the dictionary recently:
The great American adman Leo Burnett (he of the red apples in reception) memorably defined advertising as saying to people, ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.’
This is a lesson conned by every marketing student since Leo first formulated the thought.
But now this tripod trope has evolved into a biped.
Advertising now is only about ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you.’ People no longer have to be told how to get it.
We got it. We have credit cards, broadband, Google and Amazon. We all get it.
What a detestable neologism. But I guess there’s no other way to describe the secular gap between the Christian festival of Christmas and the astronomical (or Scottish) festival of the New Year.
I’ve never been sure why New Year doesn’t come at the time of the winter solstice, which this year was 17:47 on December 21st.
In Britain, this is traditionally the time when we skive off. Shopworkers are run off their feet, but the rest of us gaze glumly out of our windows at the steady drizzle, briefly think about taking the dog for a walk then go back and slump in front of the telly instead.
Not fotoLibra! Of course we’re hard at it all the time. At least our Snowdonia office is, judging by the Picture Call I’ve just received from Jacqui Norman. Here in London, however, we’re running a Reactive week, which means we’ll respond to you if it’s urgent (like if you want to buy pictures) but otherwise we’re listlessly sorting through piles of paper, putting them in different places on the floor, and wondering what’s on telly. It’s a form of end-of-year catharsis.
Next week we’ll be back, firing on all 16 cylinders as usual. Stand by for a cracking New Year! We hope you have a happy and prosperous one. We’ll do our best for the latter part.