Archive for the ‘Pictures’ Category

Nature notes

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

It was almost my birthday today, so we ate lunch at the Three Horseshoes in Madingley, which just gets better and better. What I liked best this time was a lemon sorbet which tasted of all the different smells that lemons have, and not just sharpness and syrup.

On the way home, drove over the downs around Elmdon, hoping to see deer. There were none, but instead two hares in a field, whom I failed to photograph, a very idle kestrel which could scarcely be bothered to move as the car approached him, and—liveliest of all—a rat foraging on the verge of the road above Littlebury, with a bright green-golden tinge to his fur in the sunlight. He ran back to the hedge as the car approached, and then turned to watch us when we stopped and cocked his head on one side and showed his teeth at the intruder. No pictures of him, either, but here’s the more romantic predator.

Kestrel on a telephone pole

Penis envy

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I bumped into my old friend Brian Harris outside the butcher’s, and he had a brand new Nikon D700 with which he had just spent four days shooting behind the scenes at the National Theatre for the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. He was completely in love with it, because the full-frame sensor meant that he could shoot in very low light with no noise at all, even in the shadows. What’s more, he can now re-use all his old film Nikon lenses at their proper focal lengths. In consequence, he’s selling off two D200s and almost all their lenses, and going back — often — to doing things manually.

Deer stalking

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Some things are just too strange to be believed. I was walking yesterday in the fields near Strethall Church and saw what seemed like a cloud of smoke above the farm there. It was pigeons, rising from the field to roost in trees, and the low evening sun had caught the grey undersides of their wings as they eddied above the church. Another flock descended just as I reached the car, and their wings, close up, filled the air with a noise exactly like the server fans in the data warehouse at the Sanger Centre. I had spent maybe ten minutes trying to discover the right term for that sound: it’s not a whirr, nor a whoosh, nor a grumble but something mid-toned. Yet if I were to put in the piece I am writing, quite truthfully, that the fan rooms sounds as if an enormous flock of pigeons were descending on it, all the time, the subs would rip it out in seconds, wouldn’t you, Charles?

I have been trying for years to take a picture of the white hart I once saw in a field near Strethall Church, and this afternoon spotted the herd about a quarter of a mile away, grazing by a hedgerow.

I was able to use the hedge as cover to get reasonably close: this picture didn’t have to be blown up too much from a 200mm telephoto shot and the light, at around 4.30pm, was low and rich. It turned out there are two white or albino deer in the herd, but they didn’t pose for me as these two did.

There are more pictures, some showing the white deer, in a set on Flickr now.

Colour management on Windows

Monday, January 28th, 2008

About fourteen months after I realised there was a problem, I have finally reached a system which allows the faithful reproduction of colours when printing digital photographs on windows. I’m not saying this is the only one. But it works, and it’s cheaper than Photoshop.

The key is colour profiles; your camera and screen will already have them. Really obsessive people will calibrate their monitors, too; but I don’t bother because I use a profile and a reference card. My aim is to get the prints looking right, since they are what other people see.

So the first thing to do is to get a custom colour profile for the printer, inks, and paper that you use — note: you will need a different profile for every paper you use. Fortunately, Permajet do free ones in this country.

Since I print using QImage which is much the best program for getting detail into prints, as well as arranging prints on paper, the custom profiles work perfectly to print exactly what is on screen. I have had that working for a year now; but how to ensure that what’s on screen has the same colours as the original? This is really a problem of white balance, rather than colour profiles, and last month I stumbled across the answer: there is a plugin for Bibble Light which works with colour reference cards to solve it.

I sent off to Mölndal1 to get a couple of glossy colour matching cards; put them beside the embroidery I was photographing; and when I later looked at the raw file in Bibble at full size and rotated it until it matched the plugin mask, it fixed the colours at once, and this fix could then be pasted into everything else from that session.

Since the resulting prints are going out to galleries, it really matters that they should look as much as possible like what they represent. I suppose the total outlay for this system is around £120 — perhaps a bit more. Some of these programs — Bibble, certainly — are cross platform, though Macs presumably have their own tricks. But the point is that this is now rock solid and almost idiot proof, so it’s worth knowing for anyone who needs to produce accurate digital colour in ways that were impossible for amateurs even five years ago, and until recently prohibitively expensive, too.

1 There are American firms that make similar things. Sweden is closest to me.

A thought on lenses

Monday, November 12th, 2007

It is hard sometimes to justify the purchase of lenses to people who are not interested in photography. You can buy a perfectly decent camera for a lot less than I just paid for a 77mm f1.9 Pentax portrait lens. But there will often be a better camera next year. At the present rate of progress you can expect a significantly better camera for the same price every eighteen months or so. I could for example buy a Pentax K10 today for what I paid for my ist1D last summer, and the new camera would have more megapixels (big whoop) but also an anti-shake mechanism, better controls, and a widget for preventing dust from settling on the sensor. For less money I could get the anti-shake and the dust reduction for in a K110 or whatever they are calling it, and still have the lovely light body.

On the other hand, the lens I just bought is a design ten years old. There won’t be anything better on the market in ten years’ time at any price and I doubt it will have got cheaper then either. Almost all my other SLR lenses are second hand and still great. So if you absolutely positively have to spend invest money in camera equipment, lenses are the way to go. And this is a glorious lens for low light portraits. See my mother:

77mm portraits 003

Hello Monday!

Monday, August 13th, 2007


Should I put a flickr widget here instead of the archives? It seems to make sense to me.

Beauty tames the beast

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

I was talking to a very pretty woman: she sat with her hair the colour of slightly burnt cream against the light; behind her shoulder was the back of a couch striped in black and pale orange. What she had to say was — as always — intelligent and animated;yet, god help me, what I thought was “That’s a perfect background. Why didn’t I bring a camera?”

This is, I think, the lasting worth of photography. It makes you — at least me — look at the world as it would be if I weren’t human. My normal order of noticing things about pretty women is

  1. eyes
  2. face
  3. movement
  4. body shape
  5. nothing
  6. nothing
  7. nothing
  8. nothing
  9. oh is the house on fire?
  10. nothing
  11. clothes
  12. adjacent furniture

Obviously, certain clothes and certain suroundings can jump right up the salience but in general that’s how it is. I react like this even to clothes advertisements, which is one reason why they are wasted on me. I always look at eyes, then faces. Only very very much later, if there is absolutely nothing else to read, do I notice what the model is wearing, if anything.

But the camera has no interests in life. It will see without looking at all. Sometimes that way it sees more clearly.

The Rabbit that ate the moon

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Some of you may have wondered what happened to the moon last night. Materialists claim that it was all a result of cosmic mechanics — a clear instance of bias, typical of the BBC. But last night, out on Hadstock Airfield, I saw the real reason. It was the cloud rabbit nibbling at the moon which made it disappear. It took a long time, but then the moon is a lot to eat, even for a very large rabbit. But it is a shy beast, and has hidden below the fold to digest until the next eclipse.


Gift horse looks you in the mouth

Monday, August 28th, 2006

I am not posting these pictures here. I have rather creeped myself out with them. Who would have thought that a horse’s eye could be so very alien? Perhaps I like them because I was caught in a field with three large horses with my sister when I was eight. I don’t think I have ever been more frightened than when they came and stood around us, snorting.

A restless caterpillar

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Also preparing for a journey; even if his will require utter stillness for three weeks.