Sunday, December 23, 2007

Flickr Stats

Flickr have scored gold again and last week launched one of their most requested features, Flickr Stats. If you are a pro member you can now activate the stats tool to give you all sorts of insights into how people arrive at your photos on Flickr, either through Flickr itself or through other webistes. I've been hunting for a replacement for the flickrinspector tool which disappeared earlier this year for a while now and Flickr Stats have filled this needed gap. As well as showing you how many hits you've had on your photos and your photostream on an all time, monthly, and daily basis, one of the most useful components is that the stats show you how people have arrived at a particular photo through a referer (a link on another website) - this is often because someone has used one of your photos on their website (and credited you with a link to the original upload). This makes some interesting reading...for instance through the stats I found that Sundance had recently been used in a digital photography school tutorial, creating a whopping 576 visits to my account on the 13th December, something I wouldn't have twigged otherwise. My account in general (individual photos and photostream) has had over 52,400 hits, nice! Thanks Flickr, it gives me a bit more momentum to keep uploading my photos.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Big Smile

Well, you know you are doing summit right when you find one of your photos used as an example of good prcatice in a digital photography tutorial. Check out the Digital Photography School Tutorial on using a tight frame to create a sense of infinity.

Additionally, it looks like A cupcake, cupcake? has been snatched by a gaming company (flashbang studios) who are using it as one of their user profile icons.

How do I know all this? Thanks to Flickr Stats which has just been released....but I'll write a proper blog on that later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Through the viewfinder

Recently my mate dan (aka smoothfoote) has inspired me to have a go at creating some fake TTV photographs. In a nutshell TTV technique is a type of digital photography that emulates film photography in 'box' cameras, creating a vintage look complete with the dust and grain and scratches. If you are a "proper" photographer you will create a contraption that will allow you to use your digital camera to take pictures "through the viewfinder" of an older camera. However I don't really have enough photography "properness" or the patience to make, let alone lug around said contraption so I thought I'd turn to good old photoshop and the wonderful free-download resources on flickr to create the technique, and why the hell not!

It took me a while to trawl the internet for a decent tutorial and ended up just mashing various tips together so I thought that I'd be useful and post what I did here.

First of all you need (suprise) a photograph you want to overlay the effect on. Then what you need is a photograph someone has taken of a white background who has the proper TTV set up. There are two great places on Flickr you can get these from: The Noise and Dust Through the Viewfinder group and Nadistock .

Armed with these two photos launch both in the almighty photoshop. Drag the TTV image onto you photo and draag the corners to fit the size of your photograph. Then click on the lower righthand layers tab in CS2 called 'Normal' change this to 'Multiply', this turns it into a transparent layer, you then have to play with it, fiddle with the opacity, colour levels, contrast ect. Also use the eraser tool (lower the opacity and make sure it has a feathery edge to reduce the border or make the center of the photograph stand out a bit more).

You may also want to fiddle with you photograph too. I used the 'pinch' tool to distort it a bit, the saturation and hues and added a bit of extra "noise".

"Save as" and hey presto, one fake ttv...here is my first effort:

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Passing the Menin Gate


Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate,—
Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?

Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world’s worst wound. And here with pride
‘Their name liveth for ever,’ the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
As these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.

(Siegfried Sassoon)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Meeting Place


You've been a long way away.
Thank you for coming back to me.
(Brief encounter)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chasing waterfalls

When I took this photo I was not particularly impressed, in fact I thought it would be one to go straight into the computer's trashcan. However, I never delete anything on my camera until I've viewed it on the computer screen and after a few tweaks in photoshop I'm pretty pleased with this one. I like the effect. Its one of the first moving water shots I have done. Nature isn't really my photographic forte but I might give it anothe go after today!

Floating

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Transcending Photography

More and more I'm taking notice of photographs that have had a high degree of manipulation, post processed until they no longer represent the picture that came straight out of the camera but rather something that is a combination of representation and imagination. Digital Art. Some photographers recoil at the idea of any manipulation further than tweaking the levels or cropping the composition. I think however that there is no right or wrong in Art, it is what we define it to be.

Check out MontanaRaven's Alterations and Digital Collages Set on flickr.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Exploring again


Finally I have a new picture in Flickr's Explore: No 345 for August 29th.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Morning Sun



Sometimes I feel like I've been living much too long
And I've wasted too much time
I think I've lost the inner harmony that flows through me
And my body and mind

Like the shoreline that divides the sea and sand
I'm a surface ever changing
I get burdened by the things I just don't understand
And all the mountains left to climb

But then the morning sun comes shining through my window
And it's good to be alive
It's gonna be a golden day
Wings unfoldin' day
Green trees, blue sky

("Morning Sun", Carol King)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Let me take you down...

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NYC, is a memorial to John Lennon. I've always wanted to visit the memorial - Lennon's words and music were always in the background during my chilidhood and I grew to admire and appreciate his talent.
The memorial is in the bit of Central Park outside of the Dakota Building where Lennon was shot and his widow, Yoko Ono, still lives (the building was also the setting for the famous film Rosmary's Baby).

Monday, August 20, 2007

I ate this


There is a saying in photography, “If you can shoot food, you can shoot anything”, well I certainly can't shoot just "anything" and I think food is perhaps one of those anythings I can't shoot (yet!). Lighting, composition...it has to be spot on with food, plus you have to take the perfect shot before it starts to melt, fall apart or is eaten (um ok that's what happened with the cupcake). Keep trying...

Highest ranking in Flickr's Explore yet!!!

Let me just lie here has bounced back in at number 8 for the 31st January 2007. I'm in the top 10!

My latest faves on Flickr

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just like a woman


[Inspired by probably my favorite song of all time]
Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev'rybody knows
That Baby's got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls.
She takes just like a woman,
She makes love just like a woman,
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.
(Bob Dylan)

Unwrapped

Bounced back in...

...to Explore at no.58.


I think that I'm getting the hang of this Explore thing...don't add your photo to too many groups (5/6 max), adding a photo to scoring groups will actually decrease it's interestingness but you still need to get maximum coverage, so swopping groups is good. Plus you need favorites-comments-views, in that order. It's a tricky game!

That's different!


Found "Sundance" on a website advertising farm holidays in Italy!



One of my Oxford boating photos on a betting website for the Oxford Cambridge boat race

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Flickr's Explore: I want in!


Today 17 of my photos are in Flickr's Explore. Non of them however are very recent. Apparently Flickr have changed their secret algorithm so it's much more difficult to be considered "interesting". No longer will adding your pics to lots of groups make it more likely to fall in, quite the reverse in fact. This is annoying because I'm pleased with my most recent additions...a new tactic is needed!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

E.Y. Harburg

Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.
--E.Y. Harburg (Edgar Yipsel) (1898 - 1981)

Fade Away


...I won't be afraid
Just because you don't need me
I will not be ashamed
Just because you don't believe in anything that I say
Now I turn and I walk away from you

I won't fade away
I won't fade away again

I find you down the road that I have walked before
And I know you're alone again
You try to find a better life
Somewhere far away from here
But I need you to believe in me

You try to make me fade away

(Fade Away, 12 Stones)

Monday, July 16, 2007

But you don't see me...



For you, I will always be waiting
And it's you I see,
But you don't see me
And its you, I hear,
So loud and so clear
I sing it loud and clear
And I'll always be waiting for you

So I look in your direction,
But you pay me no attention,
And you know how much I need you
But you never even see me
(Shiver, Coldplay)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Picture This

Channel 4 are currently advertising for participants for a new flagship art series called Picture This. The programme is looking for Britain's best new digital photographer and would be contestants can enter through filling out an online application form and entering their three best shots (portrait, streetscape/landscape and "what's important to me") from their Flickr gallery. Those with Flickr accounts can also vote for their favorite photos by visiting Picture This' upload galleries.

I've entered, so if you happen to be browsing the galleries and you like my photos, please do vote... it will probably amount to nowt, but you never know owt 'til you have tried!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Realm of the senses


The best thing to do in Marrakesh is to give in without a struggle. This is a sensual, colourful world, with a pounding heart and where even the most sensible people go mad or become artists. So much to take in, like the sunset, the snake charmers, the endless cups of mint tea, scolding your tongue on a tangine, the throbbing souks, the evocative atlas mountains, it's residual hippiness. It's a mixture of the exotic and the downright bizarre all revolving around it's main square, Djemaa el-Fna (although so huge it's sort of not a square at all, more like a sunken extent of sky). In this gay-intolerant country, men go there after dark, dressed up as women and perform dances for the entertainment of other men. People tell stories while others sit in a circle, listening, rapt. A man with missing teeth sits with a tray of 100s of teeth and dentures posing for mock dentist photographs with the tourists, pigs heads are skinned and boiled whole for a special tasty treat. The equivalent of the British pub in Marrakech is this square, and it is fabulous; although I didn't really like the snakes, and found the monkeys on chains a bit upsetting. It can be a little tricky, too, if you're a Western woman unaccompanied by a man; the pinching of bottoms is quite fashionable here. But a good put-down (eg "haram" - forbidden) sorts it out. But all in all it was surprisingly hassle free, I felt safer here than I have felt in many European countries.

The hammam (public baths) experience is one for the brave. I was assigned a big woman in wet knickers who spoke no English who put me in a steam room until I was about to pass out then proceeded to rub me with the famous black soap and what felt like a scouring brush. She rubbed me hard. She rubbed me everywhere. She rubbed me in places no man has gone before. She was scraping off sheaves of dead skin in huge quantities - I was, apparently, embarrassingly filthy. I was in pain.

Next came the "massage", which involved some very mean kneading on her part. She rolled me over, pushed me about - the hammam echoing to the not unkind laughter of my fellow hammamees. She made me stand up, and then she threw a bucket of ice-cold water over me; I screamed and the whole place erupted. Believe me, you must be prepared to sacrifice your dignity. Needless to say I felt wonderful afterwards.

So my advice is to give in to weird and wonderful Marrakesh, compelling spectacle and sensory overload that it is, don't follow the guide books, it's simply impractical to get a firm grip on it.

Have a look at my other Marrakesh photos on Flickr

Friday, June 08, 2007

Phone a Glacier?


Today a unique piece of art was unveiled by Katie Paterson which invites views to phone a glacier - in Iceland - to listen to it's "death throes", live via a submerged microphone. Callers can hear the splashes, creaks and groans as great masses of melting ice sheer off and crash into the water.

The melting glacier, Vatnajokull, is Europe’s largest glacier.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rhetorical Question


What do you do when the only one that can make you stop crying, is the person who made you cry?

Monday, May 21, 2007

A house made of sticks

I made a dead wood stick pile in the garden at the weekend to entice friendly creepy crawlies. I think the sticks may be too small (just taken from some dead branches from part of a tree I hacked down), it's certainly not big enough to house a hedgehog, but hopefully some hoverflies, beetles and the odd bumble bee will move in to eat the bad insects.

More on Wildlife Gardening

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mixing Paint


I got the idea for this from a posting on abstract macro photography on the Digital Photography School web site. It's not as good as the example that they give but I love the concept and think there is great potential here to make some nice big prints for the wall. There are a few more in my Colours and Textures Flickr set.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Virtually robbed

An interesting debate is raging on Flickr, again initiated by my most favorite photographer _rebekka. Whilst surfing the net she found that a company was selling some of her landscape photos at a rather tidy profit, they had changed her name and of course had not been reimbursing her any money. Understandably she is rather pissed at this and talks of law suits are flowing in the comments to her posting. In the age of the Internet however, this kind of practice is all too inevitable? Posting your pic under an all rights reserved creative commons license does not ensure that someone will not pinch your stuff. It's frustrating, and unfair, and blatantly wrong, but having a go at suing the company's arse off will probably not benefit her, especially if she does not win. But on the other hand there is a matter of principle, if she nicked the BBC's logo, I'm sure they would take her to the cleaners, why shouldn't she sue? The publicity she is getting from all this (it has already made digg) is by no means bad though, may be she should think about selling some of her prints herself to pay for the legal action. I hope that she doesn't take the step of removing her photos from Flickr, that would be very sad. Good luck to her though, whatever she decides to do, it's certainly opened a great big topical can-o-worms.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How We Are

For the first time the Tate Britain is inviting members of the public to submit photographs for a forthcoming exhibition: How We Are: Photographing Britain (Tate Britain, 22 May — 2 September 2007)

The exhibition takes a unique look at the journey of British photography, from the pioneers of the early medium to today’s photographers who use new technology to make and display their imagery. To demonstrate the evolving nature of photography in the twenty-first century, Flickr photographs will be featured in the exhibition.

The group's photographs will be displayed on screens as part of the exhibition at Tate Britain. The photographs will also be posted and shared on Tate's website and on the website of the exhibition's media partner, The Observer. In the final weeks of the exhibition, 40 photographs – 10 from each of the four themes – will be chosen by Tate to form the final display in the gallery from 6 August – 2 September 2007. A panel of curators, artists, photographers and others will select the final 40 photographs. The final 40 images will also be archived on Tate Online as part of the exhibition's website.

Obviously, the very excitable photographer that I am, I instantly submitted a little batch of my best British photographs to the Flickr pool they've set up and they've been accepted by the administrator - I think that means they are being displayed electronically now!!! Fingers crossed - how amazing would it be to have something hanging in the Tate Britain!!!!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sundance


My own attempt at a eco-woman shot. I think this is my best picture yet and it's done really well on Flickr. It's made Flickr's Explore but I don't understand why it's not higher up with the amount of comments and favorites it's had - but who knows what the secret formulae is to get to that top position. Anyways I'm very happy with it, and it felt very nice and free taking it too!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Surfacing

This week words and pictures came together. I'd just finished reading Surfacing by Margaret Atwood when I came across this picture by one of my favorite Flickr photographer's Rebekka.

The picture strikingly reminded me of the novel I had just read in which at the end the protagonist becomes ferile. Surfacing is often classed as an ecofeminist novel, playing with the argument that two very defined, contradictory, and dualistic worlds exist in the patriarchal society: the feminine and the masculine. On the one hand, the feminine principle represents mother nature, the body, irrationality, emotion, intuition and mysticism. On the other hand, the masculine principle represents rationality, logic, separation from nature, the head, intellectualism, language, and concrete reality. In the novel the Surfacer constantly struggles to function in her masculine dominated society: she feels cut off from emotion and feeling, grapples with the actual language, and initially tries to deny her natural roots. By the end of the novel she has shed her clothes, her words, and lives in the forest as an animal - she becomes part of the landscape. I'm not sure that the message of this book necessarily needs to be "feminist", on a simpler level it could just be "eco", a return to and acceptance of the natural world. At the end of the novel though the Surfacer prepares to rejoin the society which she had rejected, I'm not sure why, it seems a bit of a cop out. May be she had finally discovered who she really was, not radically separate from nature, she felt she could re-enter as a changed person more able to cope with the struggle of everyday life.

This book is considered one of the most important of the 20th Century. Not sure I agree, it made me think though and that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Whilst the shocking events at Virginia Tech yesterday were fully covered by the media, it was the bloggers and flickr users who portrayed the unfoldings of the tragedy, the grief, and the anguish, better than any news station. Within hours blogs held firsthand accounts, pictures had been uploaded to flickr, before the evening a VT Memorial group was set up by the facebook community and a comprehnsive entry adorned wikipedia. The reporters sniffed this out in minutes. Looking through some of the blogs and seeing the endless messages from CNN, MTV, CBC, BBC, every media company imaginable, to "get in touch" to supply them with first hand stories I feel slightly sickened. Once again the bloggers are doing their jobs for them, but for the bloggers it's not a job, it's their lives, in many cases lives that have been rocked beyond belief. The public nature of the blog puts emotions on show, and when those emotions become the focus of the media it can be hard comprehend, as one of the most media-sought bloggers writes:

"This is ridiculous. I find myself getting excited because I'm on the news (Fox News recently shared the blog). Each time I hear something else I get a brief moment of selfish joy before I am stabbed in the heart, realizing that I deserve no credit and that lives are gone, destroyed, and in pain. What is the significance of all this? My postings are simply what I always do-- except I left my thoughts for the public instead of just my friends. This run of emotions is hard to bear. I need to go for a walk-- but of course, what good is that since everything is outside my door. There is no escaping. The chains have been tied to the door."

It's easy to forget that as a blogger the world can see your words, not just you and your friends. We are wearing our lives on our sleaves.

I think that these days it's easy to become numb to the news, every day so many horrible things are reported to be happening in the world. But the unedited "informal" reports and stories that flood the internet, from the mouths and the eyes of the people that experience them, bring me down to earth. They elicit a greater reaction in me than a man stood with a microphone next to a big white news van on the edge of the VT campus twisting language for politics. Reporters without borders.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What makes a good photograph?


I look through all my favorites on Flickr and try to determine what it is I love about each one I select. There are patterns. Along with the obvious choices of vibrant colour and nature (as I love vibrant colour and nature) I find that more and more I am liking long exposures and I love interesting portraits. I think that this is because these types of pictures tell stories. Long exposures reveal an accumulation of moments that, in total, to me, are more like a memory. Portraits go beyond the immediate visual detail. There is a kind of discord / dichotomy that I like about them. I like the passage of time collapsed into a 'still' - and the instant extended - the photograph reveals something that ordinarily is only held in memory. Some photographs are wonderful attempts at making pictures of both 'time' and 'memory' together. I guess I try to hear with my eyes what the photographer is saying.

Photographs featured: Long Exposure Set by _rebekka

My latest faves on Flickr

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Found in the funniest of places

I've been using a tool called the flickrinspector to find out where my photos are being used (they are available under a non-commercial creative commons licence) and they have turned up in the funniest of places:

* The Gay and Lesbian Rowing Federation have used one of my Oxford rowing pictures
* A picture taken of a chocolate cake has ended up in an article in a free software magazine. Naughty naughty, splapped wrists...the author adapted it, not allowed under my licence but I'll let that lie the nice person that I am!
* A blog on Orangutans
* A blog on Flamenco
* Photos of Green College Gardens feature in an online travel guide to Oxford
* Most recently, and perhaps most bizarrely, my naked back sat on a beach has ended up on a free poster to promote ethical patents. Two photos are featured side by side, mine and a photo of the back of a great big sumo wrestler. The caption is "less is more" - I'm taking that as a compliment...I think.

All this lovely free usage does make me wonder though what I would do if someone used one of my pictures to promote or illustrate something I didn't agree with, racism, sexism or an anti chocolate campaign perhaps. I'm just waiting for a foot fetish freak to pick up "Looking for fairies" or "Let me just lie here"...What ho! It's all in the name of art.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another year older but she still prefers fairy cakes!

Where the heart is

Every time I return back home to Yorkshire I try to take some pictures that capture my love for the place that I grew up in. I don't think I'm going to succeed. The landscapes that surround my home are stunning, empty expanses that can not be captured within the viewfinder of my camera and it frustrates me. I can try to explain to you how the South just does not pull on my heart strings the way that the North does, but unless I can take you there I can't.



Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Avatar, My Self?

avatar - the manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form; "the Buddha is considered an avatar of the god Vishnu"

I attended an interesting talk last week by Luciano Floridi entitled “The image, virtual and the real”. Floridi’s focus was “Avatars”, digital beings that are often portrayed as virtual representations of ourselves living online in Metaverses (Stephenson, Snow Crash) such as Second Life and Warcraft. Floridi argues that rather than being ego-polietic (ego=I, Polietic=construction) avatars are a movement away from imaging ourselves towards imagining ourselves; that avatars are not narcissistic representations; they are not an image of ourselves. After all, why exist as yourself in the shitty world you exist in if you can create an alter-ego, build an environment you have always wanted to roam, where you can be who you want to be, carry out your fantasies, and step away from the self? Is the digital age signalling a time when we are no longer obsessed with representing ourselves online and actually make a conscious move to disassociate with ourselves in the virtual world?

At an extreme it is almost possible to eliminate your own manifestation (users who reduce their avatars to 1 pixel and name’s as one character, almost invisible). However, I see avatars as something like having a controllable multiple personality, although users are not always fully conscious of exactly what they are expressing about their personality via their avatars. It's the same for the dreamer. Every visual element in the dream may be a representation of some aspect of the dreamer's identity. Each character and object in the dream is a split off or dissociated component of the self - but the dreamer is not fully aware of this. In the Metaverse we can be shape-shifters, omnipotent, express and experiment with various aspects of identity that we could not do in the “real world”. The avatar question is not about who we are but who we can be.