Photography 2014

Another year passes, another 1,266 photos added to my Flickr account, bringing my the sum total of my photographic life on Flickr to a grand 13,667. Although I’ll probably take a few more photos between now and the end of 2014. I’ve shot with a range of cameras this year. I started in January toting a Fuji X-S1 and an HTC One mobile phone.

They’ve both gone by the way. I was fond of the Fuji and sad to see it go. My back up camera was my trusty old Olympus Pen EPL1 which I had to rely upon again until I purchased my new Fuji X-M1. I’ve added two prime lenses to that, a telephoto lens, a smart camera bag and an iPhone 6. I’ve never been better equipped.

Some of my photos have been better than others. According to Flickr, my most popular by views was this one of the Tower of London, viewed by 437 people. A long way short of my most popular photo, Saxy Lady. She has collected more than 17,000 views over the years. Almost all, I’m quite sure, drawn by the title. Almost all, I’m equally sure, disappointed with the result.

These numbers are all good and well, but I don’t take photos for the numbers. Most of my shots are ‘memory shots’. The sort you’d put in an album to look back at in the years to come. Some of them represent my efforts to be creative. Some are both of the above. I have my favourites. I have selected 15 photos I’ve taken this year for the gallery below. There are memories and a little bit of creative processing in all of them.

Do I have a favourite amongst them. Yes, indeed I do. The last shot, of a family on the pier silhouetted by the impending sunset.

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Merry Christmas

We celebrate Christmas for the twelfth time on this little blog of mine, and the time has come to offer the traditional seasons greetings. Over the last decade and a bit I have had people leave a comment from every continent bar Antartica. And visits, fleeting or otherwise from most countries on planet earth. My statistics page tells me that at least one person from 164 countries has passed this way since February 2012 alone. Most have been from the US, the UK and Mexico, in that order. But there have also been solitary sojourns from the likes of Sudan, Djibouti, Swaziland and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Even one chap or chapette from Iran. The Ayatollah got sloppy with his censorship!

This is very much a multicultural blog. Not only has it been the story of a Brit and a Mexican forging a life either here in the UK or over there in Mexico, but we’ve visited plenty of places inbetween and further afield. Then there are those varied international visitors offering their opinions on all that has been written. Yes, that’s you! May that continue for many years to come. Some people may choose to fear diversity, but over here we embrace it and enjoy the myriad of cultures, languages, foods and other stimulating treats on offer from every corner of the world whether we meet a thousand miles from here or just around the corner from Chez Denness. And it is in this spirit that Mrs P and I wish you all a truly…..

Geséende Kersfees, Gèzur Krishlindyet, Melkame Yeledet Beale, Gozhqq Késhmish, Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah, Felices Pasquas, Shenorhavor Dzenount, Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun, Poket Kristmet, Shuvo Boro Din, Zorionak eta Urte Berri On, Vrolijke Kerstmis, Vesele Vanoce, Feliz Natal, Nedeleg laouen, Tchestita Koleda, Gun Tso Sun Tan’ Gung Haw Sun, Kong He Xin Xi, Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth, Mitho Makosi Kesikansi, Srecan Bozic, Veselé Vánoce, Glædelig Jul, Vrolijk Kerstfeest, Merry Christmas, Gajan Kristnaskon, Rehus-Beal-Ledeats, Häid jõule, Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad, Maligayang Pasko, Hyvää joulua, Joyeux Noèl, Goede Krystdagen, Nollaig Chridheil, Gilotsavt Krist’es Shobas, Froehliche Weihnachten, Juullimi pilluartsi, Kala ChristouyennavV’ya pave mita tupara-pe, Barka da KirsìmatìvMele Kalikimaka, Shub Naya Baras, Kellemes Karácsonyi ünnepeket, Gledileg Jól, Selamat Hari Natal, Nollaig Shona DhuitvBuon Natale, Kurisumasu Omedeto, Sung Tan Chuk Hav, Wanikiya tonpi wowiyuskinv, Felice Festa Navititas, Prieci’gus Ziemsve’tkus, Linksmu Kalédu, Schéi Chrèschtdeeg, Nollick ghennal, Il-Milied It-Tajjeb, Meri Kirihimete, Shub Naya Varsh, Utzul mank’inal, Yá’át’ééh Keshmish, God Jul, Bagga Ayana Dhalehu Gofetatini Esenee gae, Wesolych Swiat, Boas Festas, Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi, Sumaj kausay kachun Navidad ch’sisipi, Sarbatori Bellas Hristos Razdajetsja, Buorre Juovllaid, Ia manuia le Kerisimasi, Hristos se rodi, Subha nath thalak Vewa, Veselé Vianoce, Vesele Bozicne, Feliz Navidad, God Jul, Ia ora i te Noera, Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal, Sawadee Pee Mai, Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun, Srozhdestvom Kristovym, Naya Saal Mubarak Ho, Chung Mung Giang Sinh, Nadolig Llawen, E ku odun, e ku iye’dun!

Did I miss anyone…?

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The Family Tree

Old photos keep popping up. Here’s a triple feature, with what is surely the oldest photo I will ever post. That will be the black and white one. Of course. It’s a photo of three or four generations. It was all explained to me, but I’ve forgotten. The babe is arms? That’s my grandad. I introduced him to the blogging world just a few weeks ago. His presence helps date this photo to the mid 1920’s. There was a date on the back of the photo, providing a birthday sometime in 1893 for the gentleman in the shot, my great grandfather. I suspect the oldest lady was plodding around London whilst Abraham Lincoln was sat on his throne in Washington.

Twelve months short of 70 years later, I appeared on the scene. Do you like those collars? They date this photo. Very much the 1970s. The decade of cursed fashion. But fashion can be replaced. Hereditary curses are harder to fix. See that feeble and clearly unsuccessful effort to form a side parting? It doesn’t work. I have a widow’s peak and need to look no further than my grandfather when seeking  the culprit.

I also have two crowns. I don’t know who to point the finger at for those. If my hair is a certain length, I’ll wake in the morning with two devilish looking hair horns. So I try and keep my hair short. The net downside to all this is that I don’t/can’t have a hairstyle, per se. The side parting was soon abandoned for the ‘look’ as featured in the bottom photo. I’m sure you can pick me out by now.

But every cloud has a silver lining. A non-hairstyle is awfully easy to manage. Wash, towel dry, pat down, hit the streets. I don’t remember when I last used a comb. I’m guessing some time in the 1970s, shortly before that photo was taken…

 Family-Tree

Fuji XF Lenses

For my birthday a couple of months bag, I got a new camera bag. A very nice bag it is too. It’s lightweight and compact enough to carry around without getting an aching should. It’s big enough to pack my camera, two or three extra lenses, my wallet, my Kindle Fire and other small odds and ends. It’s also a sling design, which is important. It’s good to be able to swing, unzip and retrieve the camera quickly when an unexpected potential photo turns up.

But what I really needed was an extra lens or two. Fuji are trying very hard to push their X range of CSC cameras. I originally bought my X-M1 and 16-50mm kit lens on a special offer – they threw in a zoom lens (XC 50-230mm) for free. And their promotions keep on coming. Some of the deals seem crazy. But Fuji’s X range is one of the newer CSC options, and I guess they want people to buy into the system. Sell a camera, you’ve got a customer for the life of the camera. Sell them the lenses, you’ve got them for life.

The latest offer was too good to turn down. To be honest, whilst the Fuji kit lenses are pretty good for kit lenses, they are still kit lenses. You’ll never get the most of out a good camera with kit lenses. So I now have a pair of prime lenses, the f1.4 35mm and the f2.4 60mm macro. I chose the latter largely because the pancake lens I really wanted was not in the offer. I’m pleased to say that I think I was ‘forced’ into buying the right lens. How good are they? I feel my photography has been transformed. I have awakened. I finally have some proper photographic gear!

A confession. I have shot most of my photography up to now in auto mode. Sometimes I switch to aperture priority. But mostly in auto mode. Creativity was always in the post-processing of the image. Since mounting these lenses on my camera I have shot exclusively in manual mode. Having decent aperture rings on the lenses and dials on the camera makes it easy to shoot in manual. And the results are all the better for it. I’m not forcing myself to shoot in manual mode, and then having to think about what I’m doing. It instantly became a natural and instinctive way of shooting.

Fuji XF 60mm f2.4 Macro.

The macro lens was the first to arrive. The name is really a bit of a misnomer. It’s not what most people would call a macro lens, capable of only a 0.50x magnification. Fuji have just released an extension tube for about £70/$100 which increases that to a more respectable 0.76x.  It’s a bit of a jack of all trades. Decent for close-ups, portraits and as a compact telephoto lens. Bright enough for use in all lighting conditions.

The focal length is a bit long for general use though. Photos are sharp. Bokeh is easy to create. Depth of field is easily controlled with pleasant, soft background blur. Colour and tone are spot on. While that longer focal length does sometimes mean I have to back up, back up and back up a bit more to get everything into my shot, for the most part it’s pretty easy to leave it on most of the day. The shot below is one of my favourites so far. But there’s a whole bunch of sample images in a set on Flickr – click here.

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Fuji XF 35mm f1.4

I noted that the 60mm is a bit awkward to use for general use. That is what this lens if for. A much shorter focal length means it’s a great street camera to tote. But it really comes into its own after dark and indoors. It’s a very bright lens. Like the 60mm, it’s a high quality metal lens that feels like a top of the range piece of gear. The rings are smooth and precise. This is the lens that will spend most of the time mounted to my camera. Sharp, great colours. The full package. With its own set on Flickr – click here, and a sample below starring Mrs P.

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A London Christmas

I love Christmas. I love London. Most of all, I love a London Christmas. The streets are busier than ever, but full of laughter, jingles and twinkling lights. The infamously cold and dour Londoners manage to turn frowns into smiles, and it is entirely possible that you will witness that rarest of events – a conversation spontaneously break out on the Underground. This is often known as ‘Festive Cheer’ and whilst it is highly contagious, fear not, it will pass. The cure to this seasonal disorder is commonly referred to as January. So make the most of a happy London while it lasts!

I jest, of course. London is a great place to visit at any time of the year, and the locals are much friendlier and more helpful that their international reputation would suggest. Except on the Underground. It really is bad form to attempt to chat to the person next to you! But I digress. Christmas is an excellent time to visit London.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s an expensive city at the best of times. At Christmas, it must be completely unaffordable. There’s no getting away from it. London is a very expensive city to live in. But to visit? It is almost certainly a lot more affordable than you think. Traditionally, one of the most expensive aspects of London is accommodation. But times have changed and a combination of an increasing number of hotel rooms, greater competitiveness and some very intelligent online booking sites means that prices have never been more affordable. Venere is an excellent example of a hotel search website that provides market leading rates across a wide range of hotels for every budget.

Once you’ve arranged a place to lay your head, what else is there to do in London? So, so much. If you fancy putting on some skates and hitting the ice, you’re spoiled for choice. Do you choose the glamour of Somerset House? Or how about skating in the shadow of the gothic wonder that is the Natural History Museum? There are also rinks at the Tower of London an Canary Wharf. But the finest place to skate in my opinion is at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Which is far more than just an ice rink.

You should also go for a walk along the South Bank, starting from the London Eye Ferris wheel. There’s a whole Christmas Market going on there, with roasted chestnuts and mulled wine being served at multiple huts along the way. There are other markets well worth visiting of course.

There’s all the shopping too of course. Oxford Street is reputedly the world’s busiest shopping street. I can believe it. Pop into Selfridges for some serious glamour. Or, if you are just window shopping, stay outside and marvel at their legendary window displays. Fortnum and Mason isn’t too far away just off Piccadilly Circus. Then there’s the uber famous Harrods, which is a veritable institution in shopping. Last, but not least, pop along to Covent Garden which has been rejuvenated in recent years and houses saome fabulousb boutique shops, and undercover market and a huge selection of places to sit down to eat, drink and get merry.

Finally, just like any other day of the year, except for Christmas Day itself, there are some of the finest museums, castles, palaces, cathedrals and galleries in the world for you to explore. The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s, the Tower of London, the National Gallery, the various Tates, the Victoria and Albert…the list goes on and on. So what are you waiting for?

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Blast From The Past

I don’t sell many photos these days. In fact, I don’t sell any photos these days. It’s been a year at least since the last one. Maybe two. I used to sell a handful each year, almost entirely through Flickr. It was never my biggest source of online income, but the half dozen or so shots that I flogged in a good year added some useful pennies to my bank account.

But I may have sold the one below. I say may, because I haven’t received the cash yet. Never count one’s chickens till they hatch. But I live in hope. Does anyone care to play a guessing game? A point for the person who can name the artist. Two points if you can name the location you’d find this mural. No clicking on the image through to Flickr though. That’s cheating.

Super Medicine

Year of the Cumberbatch

Twelve months ago I had only vaguely heard of Benedict Cumberbatch. Slightly weird looking fellow. A name absolutely made for the stage. I hadn’t watched a thing he’d ever been in. What a difference a year makes. This is largely down to Mrs P, who became a fan. Female Cumberbatch fans like to label themselves by…well, they swap the ‘a’ for an ‘i’. Mrs P prefers to be known as a Cumberbabe. It’s more dignified.

We binge watched all three series of Sherlock. I hadn’t previously been that interested. Sherlock? Old hat. Figuritively and literally speaking. And besides, Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century? It just didn’t seem right. It turned out to be brilliant. Breaking Bad brilliant. But without the crystal meth. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The cast. The videography. The scripts. Ten out of ten for the lot.

There’s also Starter for Ten, an old movie we found on Netflix. It’s a movie of its time, but perfectly enjoyable. But he wasn’t finished yet. Another older production, Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, was given a limited release at the cinema this summer/autumn. It’s a theatre production, expertly filmed and a thoroughly brilliant modern production of a classic. We watched it at the Odeon in Bournemouth, which is the best place to go and see it. Not because of the luxurious seating, or the audio quality. At Bournemouth you can go and meet the author straight after the show. Mary Shelley is buried in a cemetery just behind the cinema.

Ten days or so ago we went to the Museum of London, which is currently hosting a Sherlock Holmes exhibition. Photography was not allowed unfortunately. It cost £12 per person to wander around the history of London’s most famous detective. This mostly consists of paintings, snippets of film, movie posters, costumes and bits and pieces about the author and his inspirations. Was it worth £12? Probably not. But given the value for money we get from London’s museums, what with most of them being free, it seem a little bit much to complain.

This week we went to see his latest film, the Imitation Game. Based on the true story of Alan Turing, one of the world’s true geniuses. The ‘father’ of this electronic device that I am currently using to tell you about the film. It is, needless to say, quite brilliant. I’ve used the brilliant a few times now, I am aware of that. Yet I feel I have under utilised the word rather than overused it.

You may know the story of Alan Turing. If so, you will undoubtedly enjoy this movie. On the other hand, you may not know his story. I won’t spoil it for you. But suffice it to say that it’s a very human story set on global stage. Had Turing not been such a secret, Mr Churchill might well have opined that never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to that one chap over there. A statistic is produced at the end of the movie. It’s eye opening. Given the ultimate tragedy of the story, it’s eye watering. And you too will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.

You may even find yourself telling others that you are a Cumberbabe. Or, if you share my gender, a Cumberbloke.

Basildon Park

I must start watching Downton Abbey. Everyone says it’s a fine show. But…I don’t know. It just seems all a bit meh. Especially when I can be in Downton Abbey. If only for a few hours. We recently visited Basildon Park, a National Trust property, and scene of one of the recent episodes of the television series. They are mighty proud of that fact, judging by the number of banners and leaflets telling us so. They’ve even made a video.

It’s a grand old Georgian house with some very green and pleasant lands. Mrs P and I both love visiting National Trust homes and gardens. It’s a form of escapism. But you don’t simply leave behind the noise of town, the stress of work and the familiarity of home. You leave behind the whole of the 21st and 20th centuries. Sometimes more.

It was our last National Trust visit of the season. The houses all closed down at the beginning of November for a well deserved winter break. We’ve had our moneys worth this year though. We’ve been right across southern England, through Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Berkshire, West Sussex, Wiltshire and Kent. We’ll probably renew our memberships next year. Or soon after. If you’d like just a little photographic tour of Basildon Park, click here and be whisked away to Flickr.

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Timelapse Photography

Who doesn’t like a well done timelapse video? They add a surreal touch to the everyday world. I have three to share with you that I think are absolutely fantastic. The first is a visual representation of the invisible architecture above our heads that ensures aircraft don’t (often) fall down on our heads. The second is more of a tutorial, but it starts off with a cinematic timelapse of the milky way. I’d like to do some astrophotography. Maybe soon. And finally, with Mr K particularly in mind, is a very creative layered timelapse of Boston. All three videos are really well worth a few minutes of your busy day.

And all three videos are well beyond my budget and skill level. Still, I have my iPhone 6. I have the new-ish Hyperlapse app, And I recently had a front seat on the top of a double decker bus in London. I quite like the results. I’d like to do something a little more complicated. Maybe I will. Until then, here is the (rather short) effort I produced. Will anyone name that street without peeking a look at the video’s title? Alas, the video will start in low quality. You’ll need to click on the settings cog and select HD. Does anyone know a trick to embed YouTube with an HD default?

11.11.11

The last century has seen a number of dates immortalised and seared into the public consciousness. The most recent pair would be 9/11 and 7/7. Dates that symbolise graves events that changed the world. But neither of them, nor any others, can quite match the importance of 11.11.11. I mean, it’s so important, the digits list not just the date and month, but the hour too.

Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. Veterans Day. Call it what you will, it is the day that nations stop and remember their fallen servicemen. This year has greater import than normal. It’s a hundred years since World War I began. The war to end all wars. Except, it didn’t turn out that way, did it.

I often think that the day might be more productively spent remembering the likes of Asquith, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Tsar Nicholas II, Franz Joseph and the Kaiser. And all the other political and military leaders that have since sent troops to their unnecessary and untimely deaths in battle. The foot soldiers themselves are memorable only for their unfortunate habit of running into bullets and blasts. Moments that they themselves would probably rather forget. Well, I guess they did just that, fairly instantly…

Perhaps we never learn from history, because we spend too much time looking at the wrong stories. I don’t wish to take anything away from the undoubted bravery of Britain’s fighting men, but there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel that any man or woman who has signed up to join the army, navy or air force in the last few decades has done so in the full knowledge that they are more likely to be sent to fight an immoral war in someone else’s country than to defend the motherland.

And yet, for all that, we do need a military force. Someone has to sign up. We have to trust in our governments decisions when it comes to armed conflict, and cross our fingers each time that this will be one of the more justifiable sorties.  I guess there are 364 other days of the year to point fingers at the warmongers .

We went to the Tower of London this year, to see the vast swathe of ceramic poppies filling the moat. The display is now complete. More than 800,000 red dots, each signifying a British life lost. It’s an impressive sight, if impressive is the right word. Does it do justice to the scale of the conflict? I’m not sure. Previously, the losses seemed unfathomable. Hard to grasp. Unthinkable.  Now we have a visual display that perhaps, somehow, makes the concept of 800,000 dead people a more manageable concept.

There were hymns being played. Militaristic hymns. Tunes that have been played down the decades and centuries. The state egging on the soldiers to war, assuring them that there’s a god on their side. That there is a moral justification for killing the enemy infidels. That’s an aspect of our culture that seems to be either missed or glossed over. Of course, when it’s a religiously brain washed foreigner charging to the chant of another god, we notice.

It’s kinda funny. Humans are far more similar than they are different. Even in their ability to perceive or create differences and their desire to snuff out those on the other side. Even now there are objections to any German joining in with a Remembrance Day service. Ignorant of the fact that war and division don’t end wars. Peace and unity ends war. Such is life.

Click here to see the full set of photos on Flickr.

Prague 1973

While working for British Airways (or one of its previous incarnations) my grandfather struck up what was to be a lifelong friendship with a pilot of a Czechoslovakian airline. This was back in the days when most Czechs were held tight behind the iron curtain. Not so the international flying pilots, of course.

My grandfather went to Prague to visit him a few times. One of those trips was in 1973. He took plenty of photographs, all carefully transferred to slides and stored in secure cases. I dare say they haven’t been seen by a single soul in decades. Today they can be seen by everyone and anyone with a web browser and an internet connection.

Again, I could have done more work on the photos. But I’m really after quick and easy. But nonetheless, I was pretty happy with the results. So, without any further ado, I present to you a slideshow of Prague in the midst of the Cold War. You can see the full set on Flickr by clicking here.

42

The number 42, or μβ to my Greek friends, is a funny old number. Aside from being a pronic, abundant and sphenic number it is also the third primary pseudoperfect number. It is also the perfect score on the US Math Olympiad and the maximum number of points one can obtain in an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

The fastest way to cross the planet? Drill a hole through the earth, suck all the air from the tube you’ve created and allow gravity to do its thing. The journey time? It will take you precisely 42 minutes. It’s an unlucky number in Japan, because it sounds too much like ‘unto death’. Which is exactly what might occur if you did decide to do that free fall journey through the earth.

It’s also a bit of a religious number, is 42. There were 42 Egyptian gods and goddesses, 42 generations in Matthews’ Genealogy of Jesus and according to Revelations the Beast will hold dominion over the earth for 42 days. Not forgetting the Gutenburg Bible, aka the 42 Line Bible. Each page consisted of 42 lines, you see. Will the number 42 get you to heaven? I don’t know. But it can get you to the moon. It’s easy. Just take a piece of paper. Any old piece of paper. Now, fold it in half 42 times. Your piece of paper will reach to our lunar friend. Seriously.

Did you know that the only jersey number retired by all Major League baseball teams is the number 42 shirt? Unless its Jackie Robinson day, April 15, in which case everyone wears a shirt with the number 42 on it. There was once an episode of Doctor Who titled ’42’ that lasted, would you believe, a total of 42 minutes. Lewis Carroll was positively obsessed by the number 42, littering his work with the digits for no apparent reason.

You might well be beginning to think I’ve come down with a bit of 42 fever today too. But there is a point to all this. Today is my birthday. Can you guess how old I am? That’s right, I’m 32. I wish. Obviously, I am in fact 42. It’s not an otherwise important milestone. So I’ve had to justify the number 42 with some pretty tenuous, but entirely genuine, facts and figures.

But perhaps it should be a big day. After all, 21 is something of a biggie. And this is the second time I’ve passed 21 years. I remember my 21st. A night in the pub drinking ciders spiked with vodka. It was a good night, which finished without being arrested, hospitalised or projectile vomiting. To be fair, in the UK, this probably amounts to an unsuccessful 21st birthday celebration.

But most importantly of all, I am sincerely hoping that this will be the year that I will finally understand the question. I know the answer. The answer, of course, is 42. And it makes perfect sense that this will be the year I am enlightened. What is the damned question??