Saturday, 30 October 2010

Experiments In Light and Motion

Pretentious title, oh yes, but not a pretentious subject. There are all kinds of arguments among “serious” photographers, for and against digital cameras, but as I don’t fit into the serious category I won’t be going into them here.

For me, digital was a revelation and rekindled my interest in photography. It gave me the freedom to wander the streets taking pics of anything and everything that catches my eye without spending a fortune on film and processing and most importantly without having to wait to check the results. It also gave me the freedom to experiment.

All photography should be fun and as well as taking conventional pics, I do like to play with light. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort and , providing your camera has some form of manual control, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Any SLR and many compact cameras will allow you to set a long exposure time. All you need then is a dark place and a light source.

Forget the rule book, point your camera at the light source, press the button and move the camera while the shutter is open, simple. If you have a manual zoom, use it while the shutter is open. Be adventurous and do both at the same time. You can even hold the zoom ring steady and rotate the camera instead. Experiment with different shutter speeds and apertures. It doesn’t really matter, providing you don’t drop it, none of this is going to do the camera any harm, and if you don’t like the results just delete them.

If you want to go a little further, try using your camera in a moving vehicle, or fix the camera on a tripod and move the light source instead. The possibilities are endless

On the whole, the results are unpredictable but that is part of the fun and with some practice you can give the pictures some sort of form.

Just try it, you might like it!

There are more examples in my Motion Set here

Thursday, 28 October 2010

One New Change

The City of London’s first large shopping centre opened today. It is situated at the eastern end of St Paul’s Cathedral and is, to my mind, an eyesore. Completely disregarding its surroundings, it squats there, a mass of uncoordinated angles and, dirty looking, brown glass. 

I have no problem with modern buildings. The blend of old and new is part of what makes the City such a wonderful place to explore, but I have watched, with dismay, this thing growing, like some kind of fungal infestation, along side one of the Worlds greatest buildings, What can the planners have been thinking?

Is a shopping centre really needed here, I’m not really qualified to comment, but I suspect not. The City is really quite well endowed with shops serving the needs of its denizens. Lumping more of them together under one roof probably isn’t going to improve their lives.

I have been told that “hate” is a word I use too freely to describe things that I really don’t like and that is a fair comment, but I am very close to hating this building. In deference to the sensibilities of my friend, I will just say that I intensely dislike One New Change.

Of course there is a ringer in the camp, isn‘t there always? It does appear to serve one useful purpose for someone like me. There is a roof terrace with, apparently, excellent views of the City and St Paul’s. Will I swallow my pride and actually visit this roof terrace. Of course I will, I can’t resist a high view point and have a very basic need to point my camera at everything and from every angle, well, almost everything, but is it likely to change my view of the whole development? I very much doubt it.

I suppose the clincher is that it’s there. I don’t wish them ill, nobody wants to see a business fail but on the whole I wish it hadn’t been built.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Turning The World Upside Down Revisited

This visit took place on a changeable day and immediately after a short, sharp rain shower. The result of this as that the character of the pieces had changed. 

On this day, the least interesting of the group was, surprisingly, the large Sky Mirror. Although still impressive in itself, the even sky tone left it looking a bit flat.

In my last post I suggested that Non Object (Spire) was the least successful of the four pieces. I was wrong. Perhaps it’s just growing on me, but I now think that it actually sits very well in it’s surroundings and that it’s complex shape throws up some very interesting reflections. It even has the ability to reflect itself.

Along with all the other pieces, C-Curve was covered with an even coating of raindrops. This had the effect of softening the reflections. The wet concrete plinth also became a reflective surface, giving another aspect to the whole thing but the most interesting result of the wet surface was that, with a bit of a squint and a lot of imagination, the convex rear surface gave an almost pointillist view of the world. Seurat would (possibly) have loved it!

C-Curve continues to be the most entertaining. We never seem to tire of seeing ourselves in a mirror, and if that mirror gives an unreal view, then so much the better. There is much fun to be had here!

Lastly there is Sky Mirror, Red. By the time we reached the Round Pond the sky had changed to a cloudless blue. This resulted in the mirror turning from a searing red to a far more subtle purple. I’m not sure why this surprised me………….but it did. It wasn’t an unpleasant surprise!

This exhibition definitely rewards multiple visits.
An Afterthought Revisited

In my original post, I complained about the Hi Viz jackets that had been issued to the security guys. I’m very pleased to say that my advice has been heeded and that they are now wearing, far more acceptable, black jackets. OK, it may not have been my advice that they were taking but who cares, the end result is a definite improvement.

After the Afterthought Revisited

The maintenance vehicles were also out of sight. Again, I suspect that this had nothing to do with my earlier comments but they were worth making anyway!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern

Has the World gone mad?

On Tuesday the latest exhibition in the Tate Modern’s Unilever Series opened to the public. The piece by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei consist of 100 million hand made, hand painted, porcelain sunflower seeds spread over the floor of the Turbine Hall. Unusually for an artwork, visitors were able to touch, walk on, sit on or even lie on this extraordinary installation.

Sadly, it seems that there is an unanticipated dust issue and, in the name of Health and Safety, we are no longer able to interact with this artwork.

At the time of posting, this was the latest statement from the Tate’s website

Update: Friday 15 October 2010 

Although porcelain is very robust, we have been advised that the interaction of visitors with the sculpture can cause dust which could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time. In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the sculpture.

The installation is currently viewable from the Turbine Hall bridge. Revisit this page for updates.

Please do not remove any of the seeds.

The request not to remove any of the seeds seems slightly superflous, given that if you are not near enough to breath in the dust, you are probably not near enough to grab a handful of seeds and leg it out through the doors, avoiding rugby tackling security bods on the way!

The problem, if there actually is one, would largely apply to the staff who spend their day raking the thing into shape. They have been supplied with masks to protect their health. I suspect that the average visitor would inhale less dust than they would walking along Oxford Street………..and would spend less time doing so!

It seems to me that if you are not allowed to make any kind of contact then all you are left with is a statistic. I accept that 100 million hand made items, spread out before you, is pretty impressive, but it is just a statistic.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able see it yet, but a friend, who visited yesterday, made the point that looking at it over a barrier was like “looking at an empty parking lot”.

Updates and more information on the artist and his work can be found here

To return to my original question. The answer is, of course, yes!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Does Anyone Really Understand The London Postal District Boundaries?

The boundaries are a bit of a mystery. Sometimes they make sense but quite often they don't. They frequently meander around with no apparent regard for development or geography and occasionally they rampage across the landscape , cherry picking specific locations for no apparent reason. Perhaps there are logistical requirements, spreading out the workloads of the poor beleaguered posties. Or perhaps it's all a big Post Office in joke. Who really knows?

You do have to ask yourself, just why it is necessary for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to be in five different postal districts? Surely, it would have made sense for the boundary to follow the perimeter of the parks. It was hardly going to tax the resources of any one district, but no, the parks are unevenly divided between W1, W2, W8, SW1 and SW7, with the lines curving and twisting through the parks. The Serpentine, for instance, largely belongs to W2, but SW7 takes a bite out of its southern shore. The main north south boundary on the western side of the parks deviates to take most of the Round Pond into W8 but still manages to leave part of it behind in W2!

There are examples of this strangeness all over London, if you care to look. In reality, of course, it makes very little difference to our lives, but it is nice to know that this City so often seems to find a way to avoid conforming to what most people would consider to be logical…………….and I like that!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Thoughts From the Launderette - Pt 1

Why the launderette? Well firstly, my washing machine has had enough and is refusing to wash another load, Secondly, I have no enthusiasm for shopping for white goods, thirdly, the launderette is close to home, clean and I’ve never had to wait for a machine. So, why the thoughts? I usually bring a book but 30 minutes is a frustratingly short time with any book that’s worth reading, so I thought I’d try something different to pass the time.

For the last couple of weeks I have been carrying around paper and a pencil. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have this idea that there is an artist hiding in there, struggling to get out. A friend assures me that, with patience and care, anyone can produce an acceptable sketch but so far there is no evidence that this is true. I have tried landscape, architecture, still life and figure (the last from memory, but my memory isn’t that good ;-) but they all seem to come out looking more or less the same. If any of them came out looking like any of the subjects it wouldn’t be too bad. Sadly that isn’t the case. It’s said that there is always an exception that proves the rule. Well, I think that I am it.

So for the time being, I will be content to snap a few snaps and scribble down the odd piece of nonsense, in the hope that the artist will one day make an appearance.

By the way, did I mention that there is also an author and a musician lurking in there. That’s more people than there are in this launderette at the moment……………strange huh?