David's Blog

Deer in the Fog

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In a post last week I said I wasn’t a nature photography, pfft, here is a picture I took at Point Reyes, California. I could talk about how I went to the area in search for the Stags, or how I spent a while stalking it or in how I spent ages in Photoshop re-colouring it but that’s pompous tosh. Photography is often luck, trial and error. I took seventy photographs and this one came out well.

So go out with your cameras and get lucky! (erm…)

Finding people in Photographs

Funerals are never fun; they are not designed to be so I suppose they probably are success to a brief – but I don’t like them. When I pass I want to be buried with my cameras (my first a blue two eye piece one with dinosaur stickers, my second a Canon T70, my third a canon A-1 and at present a very battered and well used Canon 600D) and a round said in my name.

When a family member dies you often find hundreds of small b/w photographs of people you don’t know and people you know but don’t recognise. Due to my interests and work people often give me the photographs to restore, digitise, or just keep as (like books) it seems somewhat wrong to throw them away. Often you re-find someone in these, see your old 90 year old grandmother in a different light – as a yummy mummy or a happy twenty something, both strangely familiar and alien to you. Often a person appears you never really knew, and you suddenly realise, you were far to self-absorbed to understand.

About 6 months ago I wrote a blog about finding lots of pictures of my Partners Grandmother (Still alive) and merging them in chronological order to have her growing old in one photograph. You can see that here.

I won’t be able to do that with my nan, all I have is fractures and fragments of a life. I wonder in our digital, online, photo world what will we leave behind? I doubt my future children and grandchildren will be able to find me the same way I can re-find my elderly family. That makes me slightly sad…

Whale Watching

whale watching

Above is a picture of what I saw when I went whale watching, next to it is the average picture I took. Call me Ishmael if you may, I saw the great white Devil but I never quite captured it in all its glory.

This is partly because we were 100m away, partly because (like an iceberg) you see so little of the fantastic mammal bust mostly because I am not a nature photographer.

I did take one worthwhile(ish) photograph, a blow hole and a tale of two Grey Whales (I like to think mother and Calf – although I have no proof of this -) That I intend to send to the marine biologist on the trip due to it’s distinctive and clear markings. I started to ponder about the worth of still and moving photography as documentation purposes.

Whale With this in mind BBC2’s fantastic nature programs, I have the complete Life Collection by David Attenborough, suddenly seems not just entertaining factual programs but crucial cataloguing for future peoples. “This was life on earth; this was how our co-inhabitants lived” future generations can say to further future generations while showing photographs and film we take now. This generation can only say “Sorry all you have left are photographs.”

So with the idea of photography as important time capsule for future generations to judge, perhaps we shouldn’t take so many selfies in club toilets?

Embrace Your Mistakes: Hummingbirds

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One of the real joys of my time in San Francisco was watching the hummingbirds. these little critters buzz around your head like little mechanical drones. Adorable to look at I was convinced I would take some pictures to show my Facebook followers.

More fool me, these birds are incredibly fast and only visited our balcony in low light. So All I produced were blurry, grainy silhouettes. If you have hummingbirds near you and want to photograph them, then follow the tutorials here and here. I hope you have better luck than I!

Bain’s Law

There’s a law for everything. Today I came across Betteridge’s Law which dictates that a “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” One of my favourites is Hitchens’s Razor, a nice play on Occam’s Razor, where “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” A well known one is the Streisand Effect, where one try “to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely

I have decided to add to this list with Bain’s Law. “The tweet that becomes most widespread will be the tweet with the most spelling mistakes.

I formulated this law as I noticed I had much* activity over a tweet recommending a Nick Cohen Article on Rupert Murdoch.

Last week @NickCohen4 took on the Pope this week he takes on the great diety @rupertmurdoch

I giggled, put my phone away and decided to eat breakfast. That evening I re-found my phone to see a flurry of activity** it had been retweeted by Cohen himself, the Buzzfeed political editor, a few small time Labour politicians and many a nice person and blogger.

Alas it also had many a response with “Deity you dick, get it right.” Did any of my nice tweets with no selling errors get any retweets or publicity? No.

The Bain Effect in action.

*Comparatively.

**Comparatively.

Why are Politicial Posters so Rubbish?

This blog is staunchly apolitical, unfortunately Politics has other ideas. I was planning to write a blog about how awful the photoshop and Image-skills of the Facebook and supposed political party Britain First are. However, with the shooting in France the other day I decided to look at the idea of offence, political imagery and Britain First.

But first, in general, why are Political parties so awful in putting images to their words? I mean really. Look at this latest Conservative Poster:

conservatives-road-election-poster-officialIt’s an all-to-literal (and all-to-common) generic political-image that any of the three main parties could of produced. I assume the ‘artist’ was hired with the brief “make a poster as bland as humanly possible,” to be fair, they succeed. Yet when I first saw it I pondered “Why are they paving over the Union Jack?” Secondly I pithily (or was it pathetically?) tweeted “Conservatives: Paving over the Cracks” (Have I got News For You, I’m awaiting by the phone). And just so I don’t show any political-bias here’s Ed’ Miliband looking like an Aardman Creation– but less voteable. B6w_bICIQAAzHH7

This is rather complexing, political art/ political statements can and should be brilliantly effective. I have not the eloquence to talk about the barbaric Paris shootings, just type into twitter #JeSuisCharlie to see a billion more eloquent voices and opinions than my own. I do, however, want to talk about the political art that came out of it. To the right is my personal favourite (apologies I have seen it attributed to many artists, but if you know who it’s by please leave a comment), just compare it to the Conservative one above. Yes I know it’s not for a Political party but it is Political. One has a message (however simple) that’s made obvious with a few well-designed imagery, the other’s just a bumpy road (get it?! “Vote Conservative: bumpy road ahead” COME ON BBC hire me already, this is satirical gold!)

Buzzfeed (the first and only time I’ll link them) collected many (well, 23) examples of well-designed images that have come out of the shootings. I advise you look. Now to move on…

Britain First, if you haven’t the privilege of a Facebook friend (and while on the subject can we re-name Facebook to Lad-Bible-and-people-you-knew-five-years ago-book?) re-posting a Britain First post then frankly dear you, you are in luck. A supposed political Party, Britain First are an offshoot of BNP, run by a portly, thuggish, recently convicted-criminal and all round numbskull Paul Golding. The party would describe themselves as Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, Misogynistic, Homophobic, Fundamental Christian and Fascist. Except they wouldn’t, because judging by their Facebook Feed they have the collective intelligence of an anaemia. Remember, this blog is apolitical and none of this last paragraph can be debated, except perhaps the last line, you could argue they have less.

A blog could be dedicated to fact-checking their claims but that would take too long and you could just follow Exposing Britain First instead. Or one could be dedicated to their obvious but successful Facebok tactics, but a very worthwhile blog has been written about that also. Instead I will focus on the cretins’ awful, awful photoshop taste. Earlier I complained the three main parties’ political posters were bland. Here I will show you awful:

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These aren’t even the worst, just a standard of their tat. Where do begin? Images represent a thousand words and yet all I see is “Yuck.” Political Parties live off of votes, being a Facebook parasite Britain First live off Memes. Both the right and left image shows Churchill who appears prominently in many of their images. The why is obvious, Churchill has enough charisma and backstory to be shared about (all the three main parties, The BNP and UKIP claim he would support them if he were alive today). The cult-of-churchill is alive and kicking and but we know he’s British, what’s the point of pointing the Union Jack behind him? Also I have a backbone cheers – I’m not prone to liking posters that chastise me. Who am I fighting against? Unlike the Conservative poster with it’s plodding message on economics we are left unsure what this message is. Immigrants I suppose, but thats’ only a guess, it could be Vampires or genetically modified chipmunks.  Jumping straight to the third image on the right. What does Warning: Made in Britain mean? It’ll be more expensive AND more dangerous than China and had it’s heyday in the ’40s? I’m not sure that’s the best way of advertising your countries goods. If I could invent a time machine I would (after many fun shenanigans) show the nobel prizewinning laureate his face planted next to utter crap – I’m not sure he would be that pleased.

The middle image is so mind-numbingly tedious I can’t really be bothered to type about it, I know I promised but wants’ the point?

Political images should incite me into action. At present all they seem to do is incite me to tedium. The Paris shootings unfortunately showed how stupidity reacts when incited, freedom of speech is far more Important than our petty freedom to be offended. Thus I will not criticise Britain First or any other political Party for being offensive but rather other their poor design skills.

Satirising is alive and well and great art is being produced all the time because of that right. It’ll be nice if the artists who create these would be headed by our Politicians who will commission something we could stand behind or heartily disagree with, not just shrug off with a “mhe.” This message is also directed towards Britain First, maybe one day I can say “wow, this fascists really know how to design.”

Reclaiming the Hobbit

Perhaps the geekiest post I have ever blogged, for this I give no apologies. After sitting through the Battle of Five Armies out of a dull sense of “I should” rather than any enjoyment it’s time to start thinking “What if It wasn’t a trilogy but one very long, or two films?”

Of course actually editing the Hobbit into two (or even one three-hour film?) and releasing it online would suddenly make me a very poor editor indeed. If New Line were happy to sue a twenty year old pub for being called The Hobbit I doubt they would look kindly upon me editing down their movies and putting it up on torrent sites.

But lets imagine that we live in a universe where big businesses are quite happy to let small individuals play around with their stuff for a non-profit bases. Where everyone knows that creativity does not live in a bubble and things can be adapted into something new.  What then would we edit out?

It would be tricky to edit out lines of dialogue or even trim scenes down due to the displacement of the score. It could be done of course, you would just have to mute the original and put the score back over, probably by buying the rather whimsical soundtrack. The easiest option would be to cut out whole scenes together. For me the things that would go straight in the bin

1. Azog would be the first to go, not every scene of course, the ones that actually add nothing to the plot such as back story and Him Vs Thorin could stay but all the cliched “bad-guy dialogue” would go straight in the bin. If I had my way he would go completely, but i think that would be impossible as he (it?) is so interwoven into the darn film.

2. The Necromancer. Yes he is mentioned in the books and yes Gandalf goes off to fight him off pages but what did he actually add to the plot? Take him out and nothing has been lost.

3. Cut out the love story between sexy-elf and sexy-dwarf. Gender balancing a seventy year old book is perfectly fine and a bad-ass lady elf that did more than sulk and cry should be applauded but do we really need this cringe-worthy dialogue? In Battle of Five Armies you could have her sacrifice herself by going over the cliff edge with Bolg. Two characters and thirty minuets of screen time of Legolas gotten rid off. Simples.

4. Radagast. Could he completely be removed? Certainly he could from the second and third films but I would be interested to see if it was possible from the first – again like the necromancer, Legolas and  Stephen Fry’s henchman what does he add to the film except running time?

There are minor edits as well, I believe when Bilbo faints in the first act of An Unexpected Journey the scene could instantly cut to the next morning rather than having Gandalf tell us about Golf. The barrel sequence in Desolation of Smaug could be cut by half with nothing lost and do we really need all that darn talk about the Prophecy? When you look at Battle of Five Armies I think 45 minuets could be salvaged (mostly all the shots with Thorin and Blibo where great) and everything else could be gone.

But these are just some of my gripes. What would you guys add to the list? You never know, maybe one day I’ll actually do the cut and you can read about my arrest on twitter…

My Alternatives to Adobe

Being a modern corporate “filmmaker” now means not just being able to Shoot and edit to a high standard but being able to use After Effects, colour grade, create 3D creations with cinema 4D, animate vectors in after effects or flash (some still use this I hear), take photographs, draw basic vectors ill Illustrator, use photoshop AND I have been to meetings where the client also wants me to use “in-design.”

People who are regulars on this blog (thank you) will know that I am a lover of all things “cheap.” Cheap is great in amateur photography where I can use reversed lenses, tubes, old lenses and second hand cameras to get the results I need and in filmmaking too with now everyone turning to DSLR shooting i can use the same techniques on a shoot. Post production is a different matter.

Many of us are still tied down with Final Cut or Adobe. Within moving image I cannot see a worthwhile competitor coming anytime soon to take over from the (slowly improving) FCX or the (pretty brilliant but pricey) Premiere CC. However in the world of pre-production, image manipulation and now Vector drawings there are several alternatives. I thought I would take this blog to go through some that I use on a daily bases.

 

Scripting:

 

CeltX: Yes I know Avatar was written with Final Draft but do you really want to pay £200 for what basically is a weirdly formatted word processor? CeltX does the job more than adequately. You are able to write a correctly formatted script and incorporate it with your storyboards.

Scrivener: While every other word processor I can think of (Word, Open Office, Pages) forces you by design to start at the beginning and work you way through Scrivener takes a much more intuitive approach of letting you start wherever the hell you like. Being able to import reference material into separate sections and earlier drafts that neither destroy nor district from your main airflow is an intelligent approach. At £30 it is more expensive than the free CeltX but can save you a lot of time.

MindNode Pro: At £13.99 this is neither the cheapest (there is the lesser Mind Node Beta for free) or the most expensive (ConceptDraw is £250!) it is however a very user friendly app that lets you organise your ideas into wonderful mind maps. Great for working on structure and ideas for your script!

 

My Workflow: MindNode Pro then CeltX.

 

Image Manipulation:

Gimp: I used to be in the church of Gimp, perhaps much like non-practising Jews I am a non-practising Gimp user. I first came across Gimp way back in 2003 aged 13. It taught me much about image manipulation, colour correction and layers. For that I say thank you.  It is open-source and constantly expanding, give it a go.

Pixelmator: A mac only app’ at £9,99 it is more reliable than Gimp and significantly cheaper than Adobe’s PhotoShop. Of course it doesn’t have nearly as many features as PS but for the price it is very reasonable and all the basics can be performed here.

Aperture: I moved to Aperture when my subscription to Adobe CC ran out and my previous Photoshop (SC4) failed to open my camera’s RAW. Aperture is a powerful image manipulation and storage system that’s great a tweaking your RAW files. While if you want real-out there style image manipulation you will have to use in conjunction with other applications (Pixelmatr or PS). At £70 it is the most expensive of all my cheaper options so far but well worth the price. WARNING: This application is being taken off the app store early 2015 to be replaced with a “Dumbed down” version- an apple trend that was started with there downgrade from FC7 to X.

 

My Work flow: Aperture and final retouches in Pixelmatr.

 

Graphic Design

Affinity Designer: Costs the same as “renting” Adobe illustrator for two weeks and yet seems to be just as good. Now, I am not a graphic designer nor am I a good drawer but for a few animated projects I have had to either draw or work in collaboration with graphic designers and Illustrator is the program to use. Perhaps not any more. This is a real gem of a program that I have been playing around with for 10 days now. Well worth a look.

 

 

Mammal Hands

Awhile back I created a video for Jazz band Mammal Hands. I am pleased to announce that their album is now out and you can Spotify it or buy it from (among other places) their record-label.  Animalia has been very well reviewed and they are now on a UK tour with the sublime GoGo Penguin.

Go Mammals! (& their hands)!

In an ideal world we would have time in advance to discuss ideas with the client, storyboard, work out a costs, find a crew and then set up shoot. Alas this video (above) illustrates the standard practise. Called up the day before as a friend flunked out I and one other filmmaker turned up with minimal (borrowed) kit to try and film a live performance. I had no idea who these guys were and they none of us – just calling me up on a recommendation of a friend.

So guys (if your reading this) now you are all big time musicians we should work again with ideal conditions, what do you say? Perhaps you could sign my album too?

Macro Photography with Thomas Shahan

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 15.13.06“Life on earth is really, really, beautiful and it deserves closer look”

Readers of this blog will know my love of macro photography and so it was to some joy that I found this video on my Facebook feed this morning. Using Cheapish lenses, extension tubes an old flash and a makeshift portable studio (white paper) Thomas Shahan has created some stunning images of life in the undergrowth.

For those unable to afford extension tubes I have previously wrote a  blog on how you can make one out of an old Pringles tubes and reverse lenses.