View Through the Periscope (HMS Ocelot)

Far from the best photo I’ve ever taken but how often do you get to look through the periscope of a submarine?

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Along the Thames (Black & White)

You might have thankfully forgotten but I’m working my way through the Dogwood 2016 photography challenge. I spared you Red (my efforts were dismal) and I’m not sharing Headshot because Sophisticated Young Lady, the only willing volunteer, is entitled to her privacy.

Which brings us to last week’s challenge: Landscape: Black & White. I went down to the Thames on Sunday afternoon; it was low tide.

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Iconic (St Paul’s Cathedral, London)

Iconic

The only photo I remember from my primary school history book is this:

St Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the bombed London skyline, is shrouded in smoke during the Blitz. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail offices in Fleet Street. Copyright: © IWM.

I’m sure you’ve all seen it before: St Paul’s dome standing intact above the ruins, surrounded by smoke and flames, seemingly indestructible, converting into a symbol. Iconic doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was taken on 29 December 1940, the 114th night of the Blitz, by Herbert Mason, a Daily Mail photographer, from on top of the Daily Mail building in Fleet Street. I take my hat off to Mr Mason – quite apart from any other considerations, just for having the guts to stand on an exposed London rooftop during a German bombing raid, taking pictures.

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Just How Difficult Is It to Take a Self-Portrait?

Under certain circumstances: very.

The first challenge of Dogwood2016 was a self-portrait, using the camera’s self-timer. Well, finding out how to do that was easy (I read the manual).

But the rest…!

If there’s anything I hate more than being seen with a camera in my hand, it’s being in front of the camera. I was only sure of one thing: the resulting self-portrait should not really show much of me. If you say that can’t be a self-portrait, yes, it can.

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Take Your Time: The Case of the Neurotic Photographer

One of the greatest impediments to me becoming a better photographer is that I wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a camera in my hand. 

Quick on the Trigger like John Wayne

In a city like London not wanting to be seen taking a picture does rather pose a problem. Even if you use a phone, even if you had an invisible camera, you would be still seen acting like a photographer.

What I’d like instead is to take great photos without behaving like a photographer.

To pull out the camera and shoot from the hip, as it were, in one quick movement, non-chalantly, seemingly without aiming but hitting the target for the first time, all the time. Yeah! Like John Wayne.

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The London Eye at Night (Geometry)

Or, as this post more appropriately should be titled:

A Dummy’s First Attempts at Night Photography

(I’ll let you know when I feel competent enough to write A Guide to Night Photography for Dummies instead. Just watch this space.)

Generally, I much prefer taking pictures in blazing sunshine – they seem to come out so much better with so much less effort. But since winter arrived in London (in as much you can call 10 degrees above zero winter), the only choice is between fuzzy-muzzy-grey or night scenes. I’ll take night any time!

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The Admiralty Arch

Day 20 – the final – assignment called for a picture on the theme of triumph. I decided that’ll have to be the best picture I’ve taken on this course… when I actually stopped and thought about what I wanted to do, remembered the various things I was being taught, and then I managed to do what I wanted to do.

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The Admiralty Arch, London

Red Arrows

The day 18 assignment calls for an edge that ‘packs a punch’: a straight line, a narrow ridge or a precipice. (I’m still waiting for the assignment for the divine curve! Because my favourite photo that I’ve taken putting to use what I managed to learn from photo101 so far and of which I’m inordinately proud wants to be shared.)

But for the moment, a straight line. Something tells me that I might have more than one go at this…

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The thing that really gets me about this whole photography course is the many different ways you can interpret a simple assignment when it comes to visuals. If somebody told me ‘write an essay about straight lines’, well, I don’t know, I might end up quoting Euclid’s Geometry and others might go on about how parallels meet in infinity but in the end, we’re still talking about, well, straight lines? But when  you start to talk imagery a straight line could be anything. An architectural feature. The spine of a book on the coffee table. A contrail.

TGI Maundy Thursday

Day 17 (as you see I’m permanently a day behind!) is on the theme of glass… as in, say, the view through a window.

I didn’t even consider bothering taking a picture specifically for this assignment, partly because I was too busy blogging about The Burning Mountain of Huexotzinco…  but chiefly because I’ve got half a dozen – at least – set of photos from the last half year alone with views through windows. The difficulty was to decide which one to go for.

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To Seek for Buried Treasure

The theme on day 16 was treasure. And the task description did begin with, ‘in the absence of a wooden chest full of gold doubloons…’

“And I was going to sea myself, to sea in a schooner, with a piping boatswain and pig-tailed singing seamen, to sea, bound for an unknown island, and to seek for buried treasure!”

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island

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In point of fact, this treasure from the British Museum is not pirate’s gold; these aureus coins from 160 A.D. were found in a jug below the floor of a Roman house in Corbridge, Northumberland. The Corbridge hoard, as it came to be known, was discovered in 1911. The 160 aureus coins were hidden below a layer of bronze coins wedged in the neck of the jug, which broke under its own weight when the archeologists lifted it out of the ground.

But I did once handle a genuine Spanish real de a ocho, better known as a piece of eight… as well as an Ancient Athenian tetradrachm, merely 2500 years old. (This is why it’s worth having kids! 🙂 They’re your passport to things that you as an adult would have no access to: like handling treasure and entering Boeing cockpits…)

 

The Flamenco Dancer (Or Give Me a Building Any Time)

Assignment for Day 13: Motion. To capture a moment, something or somebody in motion.

Well.

I tried to do this for several days. There was the passing tube train (lucky I didn’t fall in front of it) on the way to work. There were the cyclists in the street. I made five – at the very least – attempts at Boris buses. In my lunch break, I went and startled some ducks on the duck pond in the erstwhile village green (erstwhile seeing it’s now in London). I tried black cabs going round Trafalgar Square. I held up the phone with the camera on pointing down the street for a quarter of an hour in the hope of catching a person jogging but nobody was. (But as soon as I gave up and put the phone away, somebody rushed past trying to catch the bus. Just my luck.) I saw a speedboat on the Thames – it refused to speed.

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The British Museum Goes B&W (A Different Point of View)

Still on the day 12 assignment… The British Museum goes black & white, part II. Turning another earlier assignment into monochrome:

A Black & White  (Different) Point of View

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And have I learned anything from the exercise?

  1. Not all photos look good in black & white.
  2. There are different black & white filters and not all of them suit all the photos. I used the one my photo program calls noir here – and I think the clouds look nice & dramatic. The same clouds almost didn’t show at all with the other two filters (one called mono, the other tonal)
  3. There was a third point, but I got interrupted and forgot what is was! (I’ll put it here when it comes back to me.)

 

The British Museum Goes B&W (Behind the Bars)

Day 12: the assignment is “to capture the beauty and complexity of architecture” and especially, by looking for elements that would come out well in black & white.

When I read this in the morning, I felt a sense of frustrated achievement. Because for last Friday’s assignment I did happen to take a picture of the back façade of the British Museum shot through some bars… which I duly posted. And when I got bored with admiring my handiwork on Saturday, I decided to turn it into black & white – and pleased with the result I posted it on my brand new Instagram account. (Well, I had to put it somewhere.)

And so now here we are. Today the British Museum goes black & white. Part I.

Behind the Bars in Black & White

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