Monday, May 28, 2007

In times gone by...

"The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and wat’ry depths; all these have vanish’d.
They live no longer in the faith of reason!
But still the heart doth need a language, still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names."

From Schiller’s Piccolomini (II.iv.110ff), translated by S. T. Coleridge

In times gone by, you could stand outside Happy Snaps, press your nose to the foul-tasting window, and watch photographs appear as they were being developed, trundling, in a long, unbroken strip, up a conveyor belt to be dried, diced, and parceled up for their owners. who'd come in an hour, a week, or a day. Occasionally, a picture would break the mould of satisfactory, passable pictures, and a bored-looking lab technician might stick a sticker on it, giving standard advice about using a flash, or a tripod. But, very occasionally, there'd be a picture for which there was no sticky explanation: a strange, torn, half-image, and incongruous double exposure, or, perhaps, something had gone horribly, horribly wrong the lab's C41 processing drum, and prosaic things like colour balance had been thrown to the wind.

The age of digital doesn't allow for such mysterious pictures that exist beyond the power of all mortal photographers. At least, that is what I thought until this morning, when I successfully recovered every single one of the 200 images that I took yesterday on a single memory card, which, inadvertently, in a state of tiredness and slight drunkenness, I'd formatted. Twice. And recorded video over:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Magic light...

With the barest fractions of nature's resources, it transpires I can create magic light. In any direction. On demand. Does that make it less magic?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Three photos, all alike in dignity...

Three duck photos, all of them personal favourites from the cute-fest that was the past week. One of them was taken with an Olympus C-5050, a four year-old digicam that's worth no more than £100 these days. The other two were both taken with my aged Olympus E-1, but one was taken with a slightly battered lens from the 1970s that cost £65; and the other used not one but two modern lenses at the same time that, combined, have a high street value of £1000 (provided you're foolish enough to shop on the high street - what's the matter with thee? hast though not heard'st of the inter-net?).

But which is which is which? and does it really matter?

This week, I'm beginning to think that perhaps every camera has its unique points, has its place in the world. Except, maybe, this one. No excuse for this at all in a modern and cultured civilization.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007



Feather duvet...


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Revisionist History

After watching the excellent 300, I've been thinking a lot about the Battle of Thermopylae, 480BC, when King Leonidas of Sparta funneled the massive army of Xerxes I into one narrow pass, thus taking the edge of the military advantage off Xerxe's superior numbers. The historian, Ctesias, narrates that, on the first day, the Spartans fought a force of 10,000 and only suffered a handful of losses. Herodotus mentions that on the second day, Xerxes sent 10,000 of his finest troops, known as the "Immortals", who were most afraid as they came up against walls made from the corpses of those who'd fallen the day before.

A new fragment, attributed by experts to Herodotus, was discovered this week in the Great Library of Alexandra collection. Having lain unread for thousands of years, the new papyrus fragment finally yielded its secrets to archivists armed with the latest in mass spectrometry and infra-red equipment.

Remarkably, it suggests that contrary to previously known accounts, the Immortals may have come up against, not a wall of human corpses, but a wall of very fluffy ducks, living and breathing, and looking tremendously, tremendously adorable:

Well, the movie took liberties with history - why can't I? :-)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Big and Small II

This week, various shops across the globe started stocking Olympus's new camera, the E-410, a gently updated version of the E-400 that enjoyed a Europe-only release back in September.

Whether or not it's better than the E-400 remains to be seen. Certainly, it has a larger buffer, faster autofocus, all things that make it good. But I wonder whether we've seen the last of a breed with the E-400, which had a lovely but expensive and rather scarce 10 megapixel sensor made by Kodak, similar to that used in the illustrious E-1. The E-410 sensor's a bit like the Panasonic one in the E-330, which seems to yield slightly more muted images.

The forums, this week, were filled with the usual chatter: people who found themselves incapable of holding the camera because it didn't have a grip on the right side (digital newbs); people who had the hands of giants grafted onto them at birth who couldn't operate the new miracle of rare device; and the usual nay-sayers telling folks like me that we'd wasted our money on a dead-end digital system that was to go the way of the dinosaurs.

A whole bunch of other people, however, rather cautiously welcomed the little camera and were eager to find out whether they could get away with carrying a little less gear if they got one. But then came the advertising, over at the specially constructed site. And then the same people started wondering whether they had, after all, been lusting after a girl's camera.

Because, look, the well-known Japanense actress, Aoi Miyazaki, stars in the advert. And she's little, and quirky, and talks to small children, and giggles at dogs.

Having decided the E-410 was, indeed, a camera for young women, the community moved on... "Fworgh", they said in unison, "Would you just look at that strap?"

And, then, they wondered whether, if they bought the new camera, Ms Miyazaki would like them better.

If I was a camera designer, I'd be rolling my eyes right now. Presumably, they'd been running around, sourcing new sensors for the new global camera, presumably they'd been stressed about putting the finishing touches on the E-410's new cousin, the E-510, presumably there were software modifications to the end with the new TurboPic III image processing engine which promises less digital noise at high ASAs without sacrificing too much fine detail, presumably they'd been wondering how to cram all this in into the smallest digital SLR ever made in the history of photography.

And, all that time, they could have just impressed the world with crochet.
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