Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wait Until Dark

I've waited for years for this film to be released on DVD and after finally manging to get my hands on it I was not disappointed. In Wait Unitil Dark the timelessly beautiful, and possibly the most photogenic woman ever, Audrey Hepburn plays a recently blinded woman persecuted in her apartment by a gang of evil drug smugglers (the most dispicable of which is played by Alan Arkin). The film starts off rather slowly, but gradually suspense and thrills build up unto the rousing final duel between Hepburn and psychotic murderer Arkin. The film's last 15 minutes are simply pulsating. Judged as one of the most gripping and thrilling sequences ever committed to celluloid, with one huge superbly well-judged moment of nerve-jangling shock. Most of all Wait Until Dark is a movie of suspense. As with all great scary movies (Psycho, Jaws, Alien, The Exorcist) it is what you (and in this case, the heroine) can't see that terrifies you. Don't let the fact that this movie was released in 1967 put you off, this is definitely worth watching. The still below is from the final few minutes, and my god did I jump!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tea in the Park

This timber-framed haven is situated adjacent to the woods in Forge Dam Park (Sheffield) and I think it has to rate as one of my top 10 favorite places in the whole world. It hasn't changed in the 25 years I've been visiting it, apart from one or two new additions to the menu (chips and cheese, and fish finger sandwiches - verging on trendy!!!). I love places like this, they exist as timewarps, instantly familiar and homely, something you only really miss when you can't access it. I hope the cafe will be there forever, a place I can take my children to for a hot chocolate, or an ice cream, after they've fed the ducks or been on the swings. You can keep your wi-fi cafes and stainless steel, Forge Dam Cafe is the best eatery in town.

Christmas at the Covered Market

It's a macarbe olde world in Oxford's covered market. Built in 1771, after the academics, aristocrats and religious leaders complained so much about the revolting conditions of the market stalls on Oxford's streets, the covered market houses all the food produce stalls and shops Oxford has to offer. The salty tang of seaweed and fishing vessels mingle with the secnt of roses and lavender, the aroma of freshly baked pies, pasties, the sharp smell of marinating olives and the stench of Oxford Blue cheese. The mustiness of the second hand bookshops, the snippity snip of the barber's shop, the gleaming jewellry stalls, the tea shops, the market houses something for everyone. Buskers move amongst the tight allyways, drawn to the crowds. Over the hum created by the busy shoppers you can hear the sounds of an italian soprano or the harmonies of a barber shop quartet.

Christmas time is especially magical. Trees adorn the ceilings, ready for stall assistants to hook down with a long pole, truss up with twine, and deposit on your shoulder for the journey home. The Butchers stalls groan under the vast weight of their displays - plump pink turkeys plucked clean save for a ruffle of feathers around their neck, hang infront of every shop; venison, rabbits, pheasant, plump porkers and the occasional Highland deer clad in a coat of coarse gray-brown hair swing from huge hooks. It's how meat is meant to be seen - organic and real. Holly adorns every surface and lights twinkle from the ceiling. The shopper is transported back to Victorian England. Friendly, congested, facinating, vulgar, anchient yet cosmopolition, stimulating all of ones senses the covered market is one of Oxford's real jewels.

More pictures of the covered market can be found in my flickr gallery.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Great Fog of 2006

In the middle of last week parts of Britain was engulfed by a thick freezing dense fog. It was kind of spooky, the Hound of the Baskervilles and tales of Jack the Ripper sprang to mind. Most internal flights were grounded for days, and the roads and railways felt the burden of folks trying to get home for Christmas. Luckily, those who I knew who were flying in and out of the country made their final destinations, and now the fog has lifted to make post xmas travel slightly easier. But for those who missed it here's an attempt at capturing the great fog of 2006.

Friday, December 22, 2006

DxO Lighting: Give more pop to your images

Another fab tool from fd flickr toys. DxO Lighting enhances your photo's exposure and dynamic range at a click of a button, you can upload photos to the tool or it will work directly with your flickr archive. Of course all this can be done in photoshop and iphoto ect, however its's a great alternative for those who don't have this software.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brighton Rocks

Starting to get the hang of night photography - shutter speed very low, f level about 2.7 and a tripod. More pics from my visit to Brighton can be found in my flickr gallery.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why the world is so dotty on Dawkins

So far all of my blogs have really been about pictures...words about pictures. I feel that words themselves have been slightly under represented, so here's some thoughts pieced together about what words do, mostly spurred on by a keynote I just attended given by the very charismatic Steve Fuller at a research conference in Brighton. Apologies for the intellectual divergence from my usual postings!

This year Richard Dawkins was voted the UK's top public intellectual in a poll by Prospect Magazine. But what is it that makes him the most intellectual human being in Britain...other than that selfish gene of course? What fascinates me about Richard Dawkins is not so much the ideas and theories he so adamently, and (self professingly) arrogantly, puts forth, but rather the power of his words and and medium that he conveys them in. This guy is a genius, when he talks he is not tied to his power point presentation, he does not need his science lab to protect him, he just uses words. He can convey his point using any medium he wants - the public lecture, the 50 line newspaper column, the TV documentary, the science book, an academic paper, a high brow debate. And what's more he can argue and defend his ideas without batting an eyelid. He has autonomy, he can think for himself, and speak for himself, he is the perfect example of what the university dreams of producing, intellectual enlightenment.

Powerful words combined with a large dose of charisma have powerful effects. As a result Dawkins now has his own congregation. I do find it slighly amusing that he reminds me of preachers I saw in Africa: "If you dont belive me, if you question me, you are an idiot - it's common sense" - the tone used by both camps. Now, I am not generally a sit on the fence person, if you have two equally as strong opposing views, it does not mean that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may quite simply be the case that one view is just plain wrong. But often it is the interchange of words, the ability to have understanding of multiple viewpoints to form your own ideas where the real value lies.

My views on Prof Dawkins...I generally agree with what the professor professes, but that does not mean I do not question some of what he says, take what he puts forwards as gospel. I do think that religion and intelligent design have a place in science studies classes. We need this power struggle of ideas to create autonomous intellectuals. Personally, I do not think that Dawkins understands enough about the history of secular humanism to give it a fair run for its money. I have sympathy for religious beliefs and can see that religion has, in the case of science, been a positive influence, leading to scientific breakthroughs that people accept today even if they don't believe in God (Monotheism, Newton, Mendel...). Dawkins says religion is the root of all evil. Well, even if that were true, it's also the root of all science...I don't believe the two are disaggregated. When Darwin killed God, he also in a sense killed man. Reduced to animals we often ignor that there are things that make us human, a spirituality, it's so easy to shift the blame for our actions onto biology. An easy exit.

Dawkins, he deserves to be at the no. 1 spot, his intellect comes from places other than just his ideas: the words he constantly rewrites so his knowledge can be a public good, his ability to defend this knowledge very bloody well. However, a critical foil should always be applied to any intellectual idea so new words can be formed.

Will return to my pictures next time :-)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

365 days

Now here's an interesting concept I've just come across. Everyday for 365 days you take a self portrait and post it on Flickr (see stephenpoff, sadandbeautiful, and chrismaverick for instance)

It seems to have become quite a popular hobby, and a flickr pool has even been created called 365days. I can't decide whether this is a cool and challenging experiment that enables the world to see how your shape changes from day to day or just incredibly self-indulgent, narcissistic, exercise. I'm not sure I would have the inclination, or the confidence to do something like this. And how does one find something new in oneself to photograph everyday for 365 days??? Hmmmmm . . . it's certainly got me thinking about different types of portrait though - hair, toes, beauty spots, tatoos, piercings, earlobes - all the little bits of a person that makes them them, a faceless portrait if you like.