Westminster Bridge at Night

Westminster Bridge at Night
Taxi pickup on Westminster Bridge, London

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Mobile Phone Cameras

I'm not intending to rant, so if this comes out as such, I apologise.

In case you are unfamiliar with one of my particular prejudices, let me tell you what I think of Phone Cameras.

Not much.

It doesn't matter what electronic wizardry you pack inside the things, how much editing software you include (in what is supposed to be a phone) to con an increasingly gullible and materialistic public into spending unrealistic and obscene amounts of money, at the end of the day, they have:

(a) lenses and sensors which are smaller than and old-fashioned toothpaste cap.
(b) screens which you can't see properly in anything other than pitch darkness.
(c) the most awkward camera controls ever invented.
(d) a huge attractiveness to morons.

In the photographic food chain, mobile phone cameras are, in my opinion, plankton.

But that's not to say that they don't have their uses.
Stitching up innocent people for example.
Turning the world into 1930s Nazi Germany by recording everyone's slightest movement and reporting it to anyone who will listen so that all right-thinking PRIVATE citizens live in fear of so much as breathing at the wrong time...

Well anyway. Back to topic.

Yes, they do have their uses, as this picture shows. Sunsets wait for no-one and if the phone is the only camera you have handy, then they fill a gap.

f/1.9  ----  1/500 sec  ---  ISO 40  ---  3.6mm

ISO 40? Even my DSLRs can't get ISO 40 at f1.9! But then, with decent size lenses letting in a proper amount  of light, they don't need to.

Still. It was an amazing sunset, worth capturing.
But don't be fooled. This picture took a fair deal of post production, just to bring the drab in-camera image back to something approaching the glorious scene I was trying to record. It'll do, but that's about all, in my opinion.

There are some very skilled people who produce some incredible shots using phone cameras. And I say, "Congratulations and Respect to them."
But for every one of those, there are hundreds of know-nothings who get lucky once in a lifetime. And for every one of those, there are millions upon millions whose useless talentless dross chokes social media and other platforms.
"Photographs" which, in the days of film (remember the Kodak Instamatics?) would either have been returned from the lab with a "Low Quality" sticker on them or been consigned to the bin. Or more likely, and more to the point, not taken in the first place.

It is the mobile phone camera, and its easy accessibility to everyone with a thumb, whether they know the front of a lens from the back end of bullshit or not, that has largely reduced the position in society of the serious photographer, (amateur or professional) to no more than dubious eccentricity.

These days, to film everything at random and invade everyone's privacy with a mobile phone is normal and even acceptable, whilst creating a carefully framed shot, recording a good-quality image for posterity using skills and experience gained over years with top quality equipment is likely to get you labelled as some sort of pervert.

And that, as you might have guessed, pisses me right off!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Grad Filters

I got this shot in what some might describe as "the old fashioned way."
That is, the colour effects were done in the camera rather than in Post. It was a miserable day, leaden skies, grey river, drizzly. Generally not very nice.
I had a couple of graduated filters in my bag so I decided to experiment. Well, why not? I rarely if ever use them and this seemed like a good time to try.

Tacking across the Thames at Purfleet, Essex
f/6.3  ---  1/250 sec  ---  ISO 200  ---  70mm  ---  Yellow Graduated Filter from the top
I used a tobacco-coloured filter to begin with, but that is very brown and just made a dull day duller, so I went with this yellow one instead.
When I first saw the result, my reaction was "Yeuch!" but I have to say that it has grown on me since. It's interesting if nothing else, and maybe the colour has something to say about the air quality in Greater London.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Crush Yer Nuts!

Photographically speaking, I am not excessively proud of this image, but it serves to help me make a point - and it's not about photography.

Take a moment to look at this picture. You see a Sparrow about to make off with half a peanut.

Just look at the size of that nut, compared with the Sparrow's beak. Now he is a big boy and will probably be able to swallow that great lump. If not, his beak is well suited to giving it a good bash and breaking it up a bit.

But think of Sparrow chicks. Or Tit chicks. Or other kinds of small bird chicks. Already (second half of February) the Little Brown Jobs are starting to find places to nest. Eggs will follow and when they hatch, parents are going to be working in relays to feed their young. And although they do their best, they don't have the smarts to realise that a whole peanut, or even half a peanut, will choke their poor offspring to death in one meal. They are hard wired to feed their chicks at every opportunity.

So please, if you put out peanuts for the birds, as we do, start thinking about crushing them up, at least between April and September.

You really do only want a handful of nuts each time.
Otherwise it takes too long to chop them up and you're
left with more powder than nuts.
We use our blender for the job. But there's a method to doing that, that I have had to work out for myself. Because blenders are over-efficient for this sort of thing, if you put in too many at a time, and/or whizz for too long you'll end up with powder. So start off with just a handful. You don't even need to cover the blades. Then give three or four half-second whizzes. Let the nuts settle between times.

Of course, you'll have to do this several times to create enough chopped nuts to be of any use. Takes a while.

Okay, okay, but I never said it was a quick fix, did I?

We get some powder with this method, but there are still enough chopped bits to be useful. And it beats messing about with a rolling pin. You can use a colander to separate the powder out, and the bits can go in the nut feeder. The powder doesn't get wasted. We put it on a tray with seed and meal worms and it soon vanishes. But it does seem to put the birds off the peanut feeders, which is why we go to the trouble of separating it out.

Of course, you could just buy chopped or crushed peanuts. But that's the expensive way of doing it and anyway, where's the fun in that?

The powdery bits can be mixed with seed and/or meal worms, raisins etc and put on a tray or table, or they can be mixed up with beef fat to make fat balls,
or whatever you like that's good for the birds. And the crushed bits will go in your peanut feeder and help raise another generation of small birds.

Monday, 11 February 2019


F/5.6  ---  1/800 sec  ---  ISO 640  ---  300mm
It seems to me that Starlings sometimes get a bit of a bad press in the UK. They are noisy and argumentative and have a reputation for chasing smaller birds away.
But I think they are charming and their plumage is absolutely stunning. Worth remembering too that native Starling numbers in the UK have plummeted in recent years. The world would be a much poorer place without these beautiful birds.