Mar 232013
 

So many things are going on in my head right now. I’ve been reading teh interwebs for two days straight and I’m feeling like my dislike for people in general is justified. Of course, ‘teh interwebs’ (sic) is where the trolls live so I’m probably being unjust if I base the whole of humanity on a few, but still.

What made me write this post is a thread I read on an IMDb forum regarding the film ‘Monsters’ [2010] written and directed by Gareth Edwards and shot for around $15,000. It’s an awesome movie considering the low budget.

Filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens the director used natural light almost exclusively except for a couple of tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black. The effects were done in Adobe CS4 and the editing in Premiere. The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy, the director and the 2 main leads. Most of the extras were locals and a lot of the scenes and locations were shot opportunistically.

Awesome! But by fuck were the trolls out to get this one on the forums.

I replied recently to another thread on another site I use to people who were criticising a short animation. Most of them were not criticising the story or the characters, they were criticising the actual cinematography and the techniques used. This was on a gaming site.

My comment was simply; “if you can do better go out and do it. If not, have respect for the man that did. If you actually have the skill to do a better job and think that the film maker could have done things better or improve on his technique, send the director an email and offer to help him.”

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. I know I welcomed it as a photographer. If someone obviously had more talent than me I learnt from them if I could and listened to what they had to say. I ignored the ‘I could do that’ trolls. If they could, they would’ve and I would be copying them

The two things that got to me on the ‘Monsters’ forum were 1) the thread criticising the lead male for portraying a professional photographer badly and 2) criticising him (the photojournalist) for going with the girl (that he didn’t know) in the first place (into territory infected by the ‘Monsters’ of the title).

Amongst the many reasons Scoot McNairy was criticised for playing a photojournalist badly was that in one of the last scenes he just stands and watches the monsters rather than shooting them (with his camera). That led me to thinking about the incident I was involved with only two days past. And. Bear in mind I ‘am’ (or was) a professional photographer.

20 March 2013. I was on the King Harry Ferry (a chain ferry) crossing the river Fal when I watched a car roll off of the concrete slipway, onto the riverbank and stop with it’s front wheels in the water. I was on the opposite side of the Fal. The driver, an elderly male had apparently (I was later to learn) stepped out of his car to take a photo and either didn’t apply the handbrake properly or the handbrake failed. As of writing there hasn’t been any more information.

The driver and one other male seemed to dither about by the car, one of them wandered back across the slipway to a moored and beached dinghy with an outboard before sauntering back. Neither male looked overtly worried in so much as they weren’t about to get their feet wet. As we (the people on the ferry) watched, the car began to slide into the water. The driver looked panicked and the skipper of the ferry was already on the radio and the phone to the emergency services. A manager from the ferry company had got into a small boat and was making his way across the river towards the scene of the accident.

A disabled woman was trapped in the car! With two dogs. As it slipped under the water.

When the ferry was about thirty feet from where the car had probably settled underwater I was begging the guy in the boat above the car to throw me a rope so that I could dive down and see what I could do for the woman in the car. He refused and refused. I begged. His reasoning was that the water was too deep, 25/30 feet at that point, and that the visibility was nil and that the river was tidal. I knew it would be too dangerous without some kind of safety line myself and was feeling awful and frantic that I wanted to help but wasn’t being allowed to.

When it was obvious that the ferry could dock and cause no more difficulties to the car it pulled onto the slipway and having the only four wheel drive with a tow bar (I drive a Land Rover) I figured that if a rope could be hooked onto the car I might be able to tow it out of the river. The guy on the small boat was desperately trying to hook the car, which he couldn’t see, and was only approximately sure of it’s location, with his anchor. If he could manage it, I could try to tow it.

Two inshore lifeboats arrived. Neither having a diver they agreed that trying to hook the car with an anchor and me towing it was probably the best idea available at that time.

Two offshore lifeboats and a helicopter arrived but still no diver. The best shot was a local mussel ‘free’ diver named Matt Vernon, (a fucking hero!) he spent ages in just a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins diving down in the nil visibility, and near freezing water trying his best to get some kind of line on the car. At one point he did and the line was tied to my car by the coastguard on the shore and I was instructed where to drive and how slow. I moved perhaps 15/20 feet before the car got stuck (I was later told) on the ferry chain and my clutch began to burn out.

The rope was then tied to the winch of a fire engine and at that point it couldn’t tow the car out of the water either.

This was perhaps three quarters of an hour after the car had gone into the water with the woman.

This is a précis of the whole story. There had also been an off duty policeman directing traffic, a community police officer trying to co-ordinate things on shore. The ferry standing offshore with two ambulances and a fire engine. A fire engine on the submerged cars side of the water with two coastguard trucks, four police cars and an ambulance.

Including the emergency services on the opposite side of the river, on the river and in the air there were eighteen vehicles. Not one of them had a trained and equipped diver.

Cornwall has the most coastline of any UK county and this local region, Carrick, is one of it’s most coastal with tourism and fishing both playing a major role. The nearest major town; Falmouth (along with the Carrick Roads area where the river Fal and river Percuil meet) has the third deepest natural harbour in the world.

EIGHTEEN emergency vehicles, at a coastal emergency, and not one diver.

Again, this is a précis. I struggle to think about that afternoon and have prayed for the man that lost his wife and dogs. For the woman that died and for the dogs and for all that were involved and that might be feeling a little raw for their involvement.

As a man, I hope I did everything I could to help. I beat myself up for not getting into the water and forcing the issue of the ferry guy giving me a rope but I know he did the right thing by refusing; while I was giving a statement to the police the officer said that the only thing more galling than losing someone to an incident like this (and he’d never, in ten years been to an incident like this) was losing two people when the person that tried to help ended up dying too. It’s a sobering thought.

As a photographer. As the only photographer on the incident side of the river. I actually considered being able to get photos that no other journalist would be able to get and wondered the financial value of said photos…

Ultimately, I decided against it. As a photographer I decided against it. This wasn’t a tsunami or 9/11 where the disaster was worldwide news. This was a local, personal tragedy and as such my role was to help and not to document a media event that would not have world wide ramifications and photography would not be part of it’s history.

Thinking about the forum comment that sparked this blog post, unless you’re there, unless you’re a photographer you have no idea how you’re going to react to a situation or whether you feel the need to document it. By saying that ‘not taking photos’ is a bad representation of a photojournalist the troll has no idea. I was there and I didn’t take photos. To not take photos shows humanity in some situations and an actors job is to be as naturally human as possible.

Troll… You have been pwned!

As for item #2. Why did the photojournalist decide to go cross country (across a monster infected area) with a girl that he’d just met?

I’d like to think that all things being equal. In that situation, I might make that decision too. Like Luke Rhinehart. The ‘Diceman’, sometimes you have to throw the dice and take a risk. Even if the dice are metaphorical, sometimes you have to roll them and do something unexpected. As the events of the 20th have shown, life is too often, too short. We have no idea when ours will run out and one has to make the most of each moment. One minute you can be admiring the scenery and within ten minutes either yourself or your family and pets can be dead.

Dead is forever. This moment, this life is fleeting. Even your allotted eighty or so years, seen in perspective, in time, is but an eye-blink. What percentage is your allotted life, of time that has gone before, since the beginning of time until the end of time with the implosion of the universe? It is an infinitesimally small amount of time. That’s all you have, all you will ever have and you don’t even know how long that time is.

Live! Live in the moment. Live for today. Take risks, take calculated gambles and live. Experience life. Enjoy life and if you don’t, find a way to. Find someone to share it with. Take a risk and talk to the girl you feel you’ll have no chance with because the chances are she feels just as insecure as you do. Take that walk in the countryside. Stop and smell the flowers. Play with your kids and pets. Take a holiday. Spend some money recklessly, swim in the ocean, hike cross country. Talk to a stranger. Look out to sea and smell the salt. Tell your folks you love them, eat ice-cream in the winter, try sushi for the first time. Just fucking enjoy and experience life because it is too fucking short not to.

Why did the journalist go cross-country with a girl he’d just met (but probably fancied)? Because he could!


Feb 042013
 

So the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, opposes gay marriage?

That’s fine…The Bible is the word of God and Leviticus 18:22 states that homosexuality is an abomination and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. No more argument needed… I’m sorry that I argued ‘for’ gay marriage and tolerance for homosexuality when I was at Alpha meetings and suffering a crisis of faith.

However, I’m going to write a letter to Justin and ask him for answers to the following questions I’ve also worried over recently:

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my new neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter Faye into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what does he think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking a few, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the French, but not to Germans. Can Justin clarify? Why can’t I own a German?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath.. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can Justin settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that as I grow older and perhaps due to my diabetes I now wear reading glasses. Does my vision really have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, (I’m actually a skinhead!), even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die? Should I kill myself too?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? I also enjoy pork scratchings with a pint. I’m guessing this is a double sin?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I’m sure he’s researched these things extensively, so I am confident he can help. I’m going to also thank him again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging…


Jan 112013
 

The opening passage from what is currently chapter ten of my upcoming book. At the moment in ‘first draft’ stage and un-edited…

I read a passage in Jon Richardson’s book It’s Not Me, It’s You:

I could quite happily get through a 40-year marriage without ever suspecting that my partner went to the toilet at all…”

I totally know where Jon was coming from. Totally. I’m all for sick and inappropriate jokes. Niggers, Pakis, the Welsh. All are fair game. Necrophillia, Peadophillia and the Welsh shagging sheep can be pretty funny in the right circles at the right time, but toilet talk? I just don’t. I’m very British about going to the toilet. One pretends one doesn’t. Of course, everyone shits. I’d just rather they didn’t and if they have to I’d rather they didn’t tell or show me. A wee I can deal with just. As long as the girl (or boy) I’m with is having a delicate tinkle and not pissing like a horse. I can even pee in public. In a wood on a long walk with friends as long as I’m behind the statutory tree. Shit is another thing altogether. A steaming pile of smelly turd that scrapes down the toilet pan leaving greasy streaks that needs to be removed as soon as possible. A lingering stink, from some people so bad one can almost taste it. Shit is awful!

Imagine then my horror, when dog-sitting for Elizabeth, (that’s Ee-Liz-A-Beth not Elizab’th) to find that not one toilet in her house had a loo brush. Just a bottle of bleach.

“Loo brushes are disgusting” she replied when I plucked up (from somewhere very deep inside) the courage to enquire why not.

“What the fuck! Greasy shit streaks over white porcelain aren’t?” I thought.

“Just put bleach down the pan” she carried on.

Yeah right, ‘cos that will clean the bowl in about, what? A day? As well as the dogs I was ’sitting’ I was also looking after two teenaged girls. I was horrified to think either one of them might use the bathroom after me, an inevitability, and find my horrid brown stains and know it was me and not the others sister. Even the Queen shits. I know that. It’s just that I doubt she advertises it or wants a phone-camera pic of her last one showing up on Twitter. I bet the Queen has a loo brush in every and each of her two hundred or so toilets across all of her estates.

Like the Queen, in my house, I have a loo brush in every toilet. All one of them. I, like Ee-Liz-A-Beth find them pretty disgusting but (unlike Elizabeth) a necessary evil. To reduce the vileness I have bleach in the container you put the brush in. That way I figure the brush is permanently being cleaned. Sure, it’s going to get shitty but at least I’m attempting to lessen the germs and vileness.

I’d loved Elizabeth for years. I mean really loved. Really really loved. Could I live in a house where the loo brush was banned, even for a short two weeks? I was going to find out. I wondered to myself, if things had been different, would Elizabeth and I have argued about loo brushes had we ever lived together in our own house. We had certainly discussed living together once-upon-a-time. Who would have won? Would I have capitulated and lived in a loo brush free house, buying gallons of bleach on a weekly basis? I have no idea.

I’d love to know what you guys think…


Dec 152012
 

Colour me wrong but I’m a bit tired now of hearing about how Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide. Today it was second billing on the news after the Connecticut shooting tragedy.

Connecticut ‘IS’ a tragedy. It deserves to be news. My heart goes out to the parents that lost children; however old and also goes out to the survivors.

Jacintha Saldanha isn’t really news. Maybe it was, the first day, due to the connection with the Royal Family. But. Get over it already. Between 4000 and 6000 people commit suicide every year in the UK and the news doesn’t give a toss about them. Jacintha was obviously suffering some form of mental illness. Millions of people are.

The death of Jacintha is merely sad… For the news to be fair it should also list the names of the 11 to 17 other people that will also kill themselves today.


Feb 122012
 

When asked what the best camera was, Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Barry Staver said, “It’s the one you have with you.” Photographer Chase Jarvis liked the quote so much he went out with his iPhone and created a book, an app and a website around it. Recently, ‘living legend’ Annie Leibovitz called the iPhone 4S “the snapshot camera of today.”

I’ve already said myself how owning one and using one has rekindled my love for photography. The iPhone’s simplicity rocks! It only has one button; shoot. If you want more, more you can have in the way of apps; Camera+ gives you shoot, focus and exposure. You can edit on the fly and post your photos to all of your social media sites or keep them to yourself in the Camera Roll.

Annie Leibovitz described the iPhone as accessible, easy and the modern version of the “wallet with the family pictures in it”.

Grrr to the fucking gadget!! Fuck Apple and fuck Steve Jobs. I resisted the whole iPhone thing for so long until ultimately I saw the photos a 4S could take and I wanted one. So much thought has been put into the camera. There are rumours, that knowing how important a part of the iPhone the camera is, Jobs was in talks with the Lytro inventor Ren Ng about including the Lytro technology in a future rendition of the iPhone.

I could have waited until the iPhone 5, and then waited until 6 then 7. I’d have waited forever. It’s called procrastination, so I climbed aboard the 4S. And now. Now. The fucking thing has taken over my life a little. So much so that I’ve gotten a little responsibility back and started to blog again.

That’s right, blogging is part of the Neolestat experience and it isn’t updating a Facebook status. It’s a small step forward. I’ve started a 365 photography project and I have ‘productivity’ apps. All down to an 8mp, f2.4 gadget, phone aside.

Problem is though, at heart I’m an artist and in the real world, f2.4 should give you some smidgen of creativity. A little depth of field as it were. But, with such a small lens, what was I expecting? As a photographer and as an artist I’m always looking for more. I love taking snapshots but I also love creating images that fall within the realms of art; images that have effect, technique, colour, and composition. I bought my first DSLR so that I could add depth of field to my images. That’s a fact. A DSLR purely to be able to incorporate depth of field into my photography.

So, seeing as the iPhone is going to be my goto camera until some modicum of success means I have the spare change to be able to go out and buy a Leica M10 and the new Canon 1Ds X I need a way to improve on the iPhone’s ‘kit’ lens as it were: It’s with the Olloclip that I mean to do this.

Olloclip

The Olloclip

Designed by Patrick O’Neill the Olloclip is a 3-in-1 quick-connect lens solution for the iPhone 4/4S that includes a fish-eye, wide-angle and macro lenses that work with both the still and video cameras. Made from CNC machined aircraft grade aluminium, precision ground glass and soft plastic the Olloclip isn’t a cheap lens solution but it’s certainly the best and worth every penny. As a Kickstarter project people had faith in it as a blueprint alone and so far its funding is at 454% of the original figure asked. It seems that Kickstarter is the place to go to fund an iPhone project… Hang on a minute while I register!

Cleverly designed to be one product rather than 3 separate lenses banging about in a pocket or bag the Olloclip is fashioned to clip on and off the iPhone with ease and is engineered to be foolproof with regard to lining up the lenses. It’s soft plastic body means that no matter how many times you slide it on or off the phone you are never going to damage the glass front or back. Like the previously reviewed product; the Glif, the Olloclip is designed to work on a caseless iPhone so for an all in one tripod and lens solution the Olloclip and Glif are an ideal pairing.

To operate the Olloclip, simply slide it onto the iPhone and enjoy the wonderful fish-eye lens with it’s approximate 180 Degree field-of-view and shoot some rad and gnarly skateboard trickery! Or don’t. I just threw that old cliché in for the sick boarders that want a convenient solution that doesn’t weigh them down. As with even the most expensive cameras and fish-eye lenses there is a certain amount of vignetting, don’t hate on it, love it. It’s part of what makes shooting fish-eye so much fun.

When you tire of all that fish-eye goodness, slide the Olloclip off, turn it around and slide it back on. Wide-angle for the win. Tire of that, unscrew the wide-angle lens and you have a perfectly functioning x10 macro-lens. What I do assure you of, is that with three options you’ll never tire of using them all and the standard iPhone lens will seem just that; standard.

Raisin Muffin

Giving Birth to a Raisin (Olloclip macro) Shot and edited with Camera+

Measuring about 20mm (0.78 in) across on average, weighing only 20 grams or 0.7 of an ounce, having lens caps for the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses and coming with a micro fibre cleaning cloth that handily doubles up as a carrying bag a there’s absolutely no reason to leave home without it and more to the fact you’ll probably find that you look for excuses to leave home with it. You’ll become a keen landscape photographer, an URBEX photographer or most importantly you’ll get that fish-eye on, dust off your skateboard and get grinding again.

I can’t gush about the Olloclip enough. For my Canon 1Ds Mark II I only had three lenses. I had the 24-70 f2.8L, the 70-200 f2.8L and the 85mm f1.2L. Now I have three lenses for my iPhone and didn’t have to spend in excess of £5800 ($9140 with today’s currency exchange rate). With an Olloclip attached I’m a happy iPhoneographer!

Skateboard Deck

Longboard Truck (Olloclip fish-eye) Shot and edited with Camera+