Tag Archives: opinion

No news is, um, news.

It may have escaped your attention, but Blighty had a general election last week. We managed to somehow not elect a majority party to govern us, and talks have been under way in order to work out whether the third party will support one or other of the bigger parties in some form of power-sharing deal.

It’s all very interesting, if you’re into your politics. Let’s say it’s been dragging on now since Friday. There’s plenty of stuff happening, but it’s all behind closed doors, and those involved are being very tight-lipped about it.

Which isn’t helping the 24-hour news vultures, who have been thrown into a complete loop by the lack of information. They’ve resorted to political correspondents interviewing political reporters, who can only to report nothing new has happened, and it’s likely nothing new will happen for some time, and some people have arrived and/or departed from a meeting without saying anything concrete to anyone, but this is probably what they might have said, according to “a source”.

Effectively, the media has resorted to reporting on the reporting of the non-news, simply because they think they need to be first to break news if anything actually does happen. Which they don’t.

I mean, Europe’s in financial meltdown, a man has a bullet lodged in his head, some volcano is still erupting, BA is set for more strikes, we may see new Ladas arriving in Britain, over 60 people have died in violence in Iraq, decreasing biodiversity will damage economies, oil is still spewing in the Gulf of Mexico… Yet, we’re expected to believe that it’s more important to hear from a reporter who was nearby when someone went through a door but wouldn’t answer a shouted question.

Why don’t they just drop the farce and report on proper news until something actually happens? They’re making themselves into even more of a parody than they were to begin with! What makes it worse is they “break” the story in some weird game with the other news vultures where they try to be the first with the latest breaking news. Why not just let the story happen, find out what happened, check it actually happened, and then tell us about it?

Why do we need 24-hour rolling news anyway?

Struggling

I’ve been venting on my Facebook page for some time, but as I’ve now decided to give the Posterous thing a go, let’s see how it works.

Life has been hard at Snaptophobic Towers. My freelance work fell off a cliff during last year, thanks to those greedy bankers. I’ve been in and out of “proper work” since February, and I’ve picked up a bit of freelance design stuff again.

Only, I can’t do the design stuff any more.

In the olden days, a client would give me a brief, we’d chat around what they were after, and ideas would begin to form in my head. Very quickly, I’d have the kernel of some designs laid out and presented.

Now, since everyone with a PC and Microsoft Word is a designer (so they think), the joy has fled from my allotted task. I’m embroiled in a simple brochure web site and presentation folder design for a new client. I’ve known my contact for some years, and worked with her before. This should be a breeze.

Only it’s not.

I’m not enjoying this. It should be simple. I should be able to translate the simple ideas in my head into the digital forms needed, but they won’t make that transition.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this mental block. Worrying about worrying only makes things worse. Sadly, I find it too easy to be distracted at the moment—a sure sign things are not going swimmingly. See? I’m even finding it a distraction enough to blog about it.

It’s no good. I have to concentrate on getting this done. I need to break the log jam, and I need to make it work. What else can I do with my life otherwise?

File this under “I Don’t Get It”

When I sketched out my list of topics I wanted to cover in this blog o’mine, HDR was quite high up the list. I can be slow on the uptake sometimes, and it was only really last year I discovered what HDR actually was.

For those of you who are still in the dark, High Dynamic Range Imagingis a technique, actually a range of techniques, designed to give an image a much wider tonal range than can sometimes be achieved at the time of firing the shutter. As the linked Wikipedia entry puts it:

The intention of HDRI is to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to shadows.

Further research surprised me, because the techniques and ideas have been around a lot longer than digital imaging, yet HDR has only really come to prominence through the ready availability of digital cameras and suitable software for subsequent manipulation of the image.

I won’t go into the how and why, because I’ve got some links to tutorials and how-tos which you can follow if you like. I really wanted to raise the topic because, well, I just don’t get the appeal.

From what I have seen, HDR or tone mapped images done well are simply stunning. It really suits some landscapes and architectural photos, bringing out details otherwise lost in a flatter and more accurate colour representation. When done badly, however, extreme halos and the almost pop-art colours only serve to emphasise the desperation of the photographer to salvage anything remotely artistic from a rubbish photo!

Here’s some links for you to explore, with examples good, bad and downright ugly:

That Wikipedia entry again

Digital Photography School, an introduction to HDR

Digital Photography School, discussion of HDR

I haven’t been tempted to try any of the techniques, I have to say. I do like a nice contrasty image, and while playing with sliders in Aperture, I can almost get an HDR effect without all that tedious mucking about with multiple shots or duplicated layers.

There’s another technique that’s been bubbling about the interwebnet, and it has a crossover with HDR. I’m talking about “tilt-shift”. Again, a technique that predates the digital age, but it’s only really come to the forefront because of the aforementioned accessible manipulation software.

Tilt-shift refers to special lenses which can be adjusted so the imaging elements can be held parallel to the camera focal plane while the whole lens can be shifted up or down. I think. Proper TS lenses are expensive: I think the one that would fit my Canon DSLR is just a smidgen under £1000. Such lenses are ideal for architectural photography, because the adjustments can correct for distortion (where a building may appear to be leaning backwards when framing with the camera pointing slightly upwards).

Why have I brought tilt-shift up at all? Well, the technique is being used to make the real world look like elaborate miniatures. By either using a proper TS lens that gives a true narrow depth of field, or “faking it” later in post production by cunning use of masks and gaussian blurs, the effect of tilt-shift can be startling.I think it’s kind of ironic to be discussing the idea, since this whole blog was aimed squarely at making miniatures look real—polar opposites, if you like!

If you’re still not sure what the fuss is about, here are some links. Be warned: some of the photos are absolutely stunning (and some use subtle HDR to emphasise the detail, which actually works well)!

Flickr set of Fake Miniatures

Smashing Magazine looked at 50 “beautiful examples”

Some of those images are taken with a proper TS lens. Others have been digitally manipulated. Can you tell which is which? No, neither can I, but I can make educated guesses in many cases.

Unlike HDR, I am intrigued by tilt-shift. I will definitely be having a go at this, using software, if I find suitable subjects.

By the way, happy new year! A little late, but there we go. Not sure what the next post will be about, so you’ll have to wait until next time!

 

UV protection

From my earliest days with SLR cameras, I made it a point of principle to purchase a “skylight”, “daylight” or UV filter to screw to the front of any lenses I acquired. The reasoning was sound: if I accidentally clout the lens, the filter takes the strain and — hopefully — the expensive bit of optical glass remains undamaged.

As I moved to DSLR, I continued with that reasoning. Modern lens optics often have a special coating which replicates the job of a “skylight” filter, but the filter glass is optically clear anyway, and shouldn’t give any disbenefits. However, there has been increasing doubt in my mind about whether it’s worth all the extra expense at all.

Some pundits will argue that, for a relatively small amount of money, you’re buying peace of mind. It’s cheaper to replace a broken filter than to have a lens repaired, after all. Others argue that, even with quite expensive optically-corrected filters (and the filter on my Sigma 10-22mm wide anglecost nearly £50!), there may well be a one or two stop penalty in exposure. Another point is that professionals often prefer to use a lens hood as a form of protection against knocks. If you’re going to drop a camera from head height, something may well break whether you have protective filters or not, and a good robust lens hood will do the job just as easily as well as preventing some lens flare. Don’t forget, also, that when you’re not actively taking shots it’s sensible to put the lens cap on!

So, while most of my current lenses do have a UV filter, and I have tested the “one or two stop” argument—inconclusively, it has to be said—I think that in future I shall not go out of my way to purchase a “skylight” filter. I think it’s probably more prudent to spend out on some form of insurance against accidental damage! My shopping list includes some rather nice Canon lenses that come out around the four-figure mark, and I don’t think a thin bit of glass on the front will make me feel any happier if I break one of those!

This may be my last entry here for 2008. I’d like to wish my reader compliments of the season, and let’s see if I get a chance to go out and about with the camera over the next couple of weeks. See you in 2009!