Ugly word, ugly actions

A photographer was arrested for taking photographs in Kent – and apparently also for being tallish in a public place (according the Register, although this bit of the story may be apocryphal). Well, being tallish seems safer than looking a bit Brazilian.

Medway Eyes has links to several magazines and newspapers that discuss this infuriating story. (Eg, Henry Porter in the Guardian.)

The wrongness of this incident is self-evident. (For instance, let’s start with the misuse of anti-terror laws to harass people or with the de facto imposition of a requirement to show ID…..)

However, I’m getting soooo tired about banging on about the loss of civil liberties that I won’t bother here. Please take it as read.

Instead, I’m just going to whine about the word “de-arrested” According to Amateur Photography:

A spokesman for Kent Police confirmed this morning: ‘We can confirm that on Wednesday 8 July, at approximately 12.30pm, a man was arrested on Military Road, Chatham. After a short period of time the man was dearrested and no further action will be taken.’

“Dearrested”. It’s not a word.

I’m all for making up words on spec but surely any inventions should add something to the English language, not just make speech uglier, to no purpose.

What’s wrong with “freed”? Maybe “freed” was rejected because it carries a subliminal association with the concept of “freedom,” whereas “dearrested” just reminds you of “arrest.”

There’s a subtle suggestion that the condition of being arrested is the default state, with “dearrest” (sic, not “dearest”, please try to keep up) being the anomaly.

Obviously, being “dearrested” is infinitely preferable to being arrested. But, then, who’d have thought – ten years ago – that using your own camera in a public shopping street could lead to you getting arrested in the first place?

On 9th July, the Metropolitan Police issued guidelines to its police officers to point out that taking photographs was not a crime, but apparently the Home Office was not altogether behind that seemingly innocuous message. And it certainly doesn’t seem to have filtered through to the Medway towns.

In any case, if taking photographs is somehow a crime, how can anyone square that with the ubiquity of CCTV in Britain? There must be scarcely more than ten feet of public space that isn’t being photographed on a 24-hour -a-day basis. The Register pointed out a truly amazing statistic:

As if to underline Britain’s status as the West’s most monitored society, the BBC’s Freedom of Information requests showed that authorities on the Shetland Islands have more CCTV cameras than the San Francisco Police Department.

Pinhole Tutorial

Aside

For people interested in recreating the sometimes stunning effects of pinhole cameras, there is a tutorial on the Ogum blog looking at how this can be done in photoshop.

Photographers become new enemies of the state

Greetings, any time travellers who’ve accidentally crash-landed in the present. If you’ve come from ten years ago, say, you really have my sympathy. You may find some things are a bit of shock. I bet this little story will come as a surprise, for a start, but this is just one of the subtle but wonderful improvements we’ve made to your superficially identical world.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has tabled a Parliamentary motion in support of photographers’ rights.

As a time traveller, you may have idly wondered about the elongated metal rectangles and darkened globes that you see everywhere. They are not uninspired art pieces. These are cameras. CCTV cameras. They don’t need any “rights” because they already have them all. (They are theoretically under the control of some data protection law that says you can have any footage of you but Dom Joly showed, on television last week, that you have a 0 out of 35 chance of getting it.)

It turns out that it’s only the meat-based photographers who are short of rights. The humanoids with visble cameras, with lenses and lens caps and a carrying strap and a bag full of odds and ends. These humanoids are increasingly being challenged for taking pictures. Camerabots are free to take pictures of whatever they want. I think it’s guaranteed in Asimov’s Forth Law of Robotics or something.

The BBC page mentions a photographer who was stopped from taking a picture of a soap star switching on Christmas lights. (I will pointedly not wonder why anyone wants a picture of a Y-list celeb showing that they are capable of operating an On switch.)

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.
After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”, then asked to delete the photos and ordered not to take any more. (from the BBC)

A licence? To take pictures in public place? Where do we get these handy licences? I might need to pick one up when I get my next mp3-player operation licence and my permit to read on the bus.

Even Austin Mitchell has found that he’s been stopped from taking pictures:

Mr Mitchell, himself a keen photographer, was challenged twice, once by a lock-keeper while photographing a barge on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and once on the beach at Cleethorpes.
“There’s a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this.” (from the BBC)

The BBC shows a Metropolitan police poster that asks the public to be vigilant about people taking photographs. (I couldn’t find mention of it on their website.) Hmm, that will be people taking photographs in public in London. That was “London”:a popular (if sometimes inexplicably so) global tourist destination. Tourists: you know, the ones with the cameras.

And the shamelessnessness of constantly using the terrorist/paedophile-kneejerk-panic-effect to get us into line. Terrorists with any intelligence would take their pictures on a phone camera or a hidden camera. They wouldn’t walk round with a big obtrusively-lensed Nikon slung round their necks. And I suspect that there is nothing magic about photos for paedophiles, either. If they can see a kid in the street, they can see a kid in the street, whether or not they’ve taken their picture. Do kids magically become invisible to paedophiles when they aren’t in digital format?

*********Asides – related and random***************

1. In a charming irony, there is an incredibly expensive (£250 million, almost $500 million) and laughable plan to get all the Metropolitan police electronically tagged, like so many absconding juveniles. Who watches the watchers indeed? Well, you can watch them with a GPS but you’d better not take their pictures.

2. The Mr Smith story above reminds me of the orchestrated Daily Mail-style clamour for an extension of “stop and search” powers. This man was pulled out of a crowd and searched, apparently on the basis of being in possession of a photographic device with intent to use it.

It’s pretty obvious that Mr Smith didn’t look “a bit muslim” (unlike Jean Charles de Menezes) or the story might have been much worse. And just imagine what would have happened if he didn’t understand enough English to know that he was being “stopped and searched” so he’d just carried on taking pictures at will.

3. This blog gets many more hits when we don’t actually post. (That speaks volumes for the quality of the prose. Yes, I know.)

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower - Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect,
originally uploaded by etrusia_uk.

This blog has been a bit text-heavy of late. Heather has posted some excellent, thought provoking articles (example, example and example) and I have been slack – spending most of my time working or travelling.

In an effort to try and lighten up the blog, I am going to (irregularly) post images here – hopefully to get some feedback and constructive criticism, but if not it will cheer me up 🙂

My first choice is “Scrabo Tower” from just outside Newtownards, Northern Ireland. This is an odd little tower and I am not really sure about its history, however it is picturesque and the views around it are amazing. As this is a fake-pinhole (a picture edited to look like it was taken on an old-fashioned pinhole camera), it doesn’t really add much in the way of “colour” to the blog – but it looks nice! 🙂

[tags]Pictures, Flickr, Pinhole, Photography, WhyDontYou, Photoshop, Scrabo Tower, Digital Photography, Photo Editing, Black and White, Photos[/tags]

SAN BORJA – HDR on Flickr

SAN BORJA

SAN BORJA,
originally uploaded by werdugo.

This is a fantastic example of the good quality pictures HDR processing can produce – sadly, it is not a picture I took!

It captures a wide range of colours and light, making the picture stand out against the normal “digital” photography people have become used to.

The best bit is this picture does this without creating the strange, otherworldly impression that some HDR pictures have. While I am actually a fan of the hyper-real tone mapping effects on HDR pictures, they can be overused. For me, when a photo has lots of vegetation the HDR looks better if it is more natural.

If you have a flickr account, drop by this guy and tell him what you think of his pictures.

[tags]Flickr, HDR, Photos, Pictures, Photographs, Photography, High Dynamic Range, Photoshop, Photomatix, Picture Editing, Digital Photography, Photo Editing[/tags]

Meerkats Posing

Meerkats Posing

Meerkats Posing,
originally uploaded by chi liu.

Blimey – there I was looking round Flickr for inspiration and I came across this picture of some Meerkats (Suricata Suricatta).

Needless to say, this photo managed to break every “cute meter” on the planet. As far as flickr animal pictures go, it certainly has drawn some interest with hundreds of people adding it as a favourite (quite rightly so) and zillions of people leaving comments.

Oddly, for the zealots who write photography magazines, this picture has drawn so much praise despite it being reasonably “pedestrian” as far as technical skill goes. Just goes to show that all the rules in the world don’t count when you can take a fantastic photograph.

This certainly is a fantastic photograph.

[tags]Photos, flickr, meerkats, pictures, photographs, Digital Photos, Suricata Suricatta, Photography, Digital Photography, Animals, Cute[/tags]

HDR Photographs

Still in a holiday mood, I have been playing with Photomatix trying to convert “normal” pictures into high dynamic range pictures (HDR – read more here and here). At the moment, I am certainly not even up to the beginner standard but I have learned a few things in the last couple of hours. Simply put, HDR is taking multiple pictures of the same scene at different exposures, then combining these exposures to make a single image.

For simple HDR type images, the most common methods (on windows, Linux users get a different set of joy and I have no idea about Macs) are to use Photoshop or Photomatix. In newer versions of Photoshop you have the option to either play with layers and blend your images (can get fantastic results but can also be very hit and miss) or use the Merge to HDR option (File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR in CS3). Sadly, personally, I have never had much success with the automatic option but you might manage it.

Alternatively there is a bit of software called Photomatix (Pro costs $99, Basic is Free) which does a similar job but includes “Tone Mapping.” Peter Hasitschka’s page gives more details (along with some fantastic images) so I wont go into detail here. Needless to say, the tone mapping can give you some amazing results, although I have only been playing with this for the last 30 minutes or so. So far it is worth every penny. Continue reading

Frosty Stonehenge

Thanks to a generous employer, I am now the proud owner of Adobe Creative Studio CS 3. If I am honest, the photoshop bit is not a massive improvement over the previous two CS versions so if you have Photoshop CS or CS2 I dont think it is worth paying for the upgrade. That said, it does have some “workflow” improvements and, as a result, I was able to churn this image of Stonehenge in the winter out in a few minutes.

Frosty Stonehenge - Image retouched in Photoshop CS3

Personally, I like it. The source image was quite poor and badly exposed. This is a lot, lot better 🙂 (But then I am biased!).

[tags]Photos, Pictures, Photoshop, Stonehenge, Wiltshire, Landscapes, Digital Photography, Photo Editing, Photo Effects, Photo Software, Raves, Technology[/tags]

Pictures and Prints

It has been a while since I posted some photos here for you to, err, enjoy so it is about time the blog got livened up a little. I am planning to run off quite a few photos into real world prints using Snapfish (which is, by the way, excellent), but some of the source photos felt like they could do with the Photoshop Goodness.

I am aware of how often I say this, but it never ceases to amaze me that ten minutes spent in Photoshop can turn average pictures into wonderful creations. Now, I am not arrogant enough to say these examples are wonderful (although I think they are…) but they are certainly more eye catching than the originals.

As with most of my pictures they are taken from either National Trust or English Heritage sites. These have been resized in Advance Batch Converter, which sadly reduces the quality a little. On the off chance you would like a larger original (up to around 2760x1840px) then let me know – they are free 🙂 . As you can see, I have a tendency to get enamoured with “Lomo-Style” effects – mainly on the pictures of Stonehenge and Lulworth Cove.

castle ward - path photo Lanercost Priory Lulworth Cove Stonehenge - Lomo version

Although some people may feel that “retouching” the photo after it has been taken is cheating, I disagree, it is all part of the digital imaging process (IMHO of course). Seriously, although I have neither shares in Adobe, nor do I get advertising kickbacks from them, I honestly think anyone who has a digital camera really should get some form of image processing software and learn to use it. The great thing about photoshop is that even after two years, I am still finding new (and sometimes interesting) things you can do to spruce up a picture.

[tags]Pictures, photos, landscapes, Dorset, Lulworth Cove, Stonehenge, English Heritage, National Trust, Photographs, Photoshop, Photography, Photo Software, Photo Editing, Digital Camera, Digital Photography, Lomo, Photo Effects, Lomography[/tags]