Monday, March 31, 2008
On the vertical hair of Michael Richards's Kramer
No shock waves hit the set of Seinfeld
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
(The Odd Shots concept came from Katney. Say "G'day" to her.)
The response I received to the post Seeing The Light was very interesting. Several of the comments on the post - as well as a series of emails I received - asked how the photographs were taken. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I've been testing a couple of little Pentax cameras over the past fortnight. The shots of the Ray-Bans against a cloudy sky were taken with a Pentax Optio S10 - an ultra-compact, very slim camera that packs a lot of punch - 10 megapixels, no less.
Maybe it's my background in newspaper and magazine design/ layout, because I "saw" the image in my head before I started taking the shots. Often, that's half the battle when it comes to creativity. But because I knew precisely what I wanted, it was just a question of hitting the trigger.
In answer to your queries, I held the Ray-Bans aloft in my left hand and I had the camera in my right hand. When you think about it, that's a really interesting scenario, because it's not often that the camera and the object being photographed are actually up in the air and therefore subject to a certain degree of human unsteadiness.
I shot about 24 frames, then reviewed each of them on my computer so I could check the overall clarity. I wanted one image to show the clouds through the lenses of Ray-Bans and a second image along the same lines, except that I wanted the details of the glasses (gold frames and the little plastic nose pieces) in sharp focus.
Photography - like any branch of art - can be as complicated as you make it, or as simple as you make it. Simplicity gets my vote - every time.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The question is: What's the most important thing you've ever lost?
This week's interview is with Craver,
who writes the blog Craver VII.
The first of the standard weekly questions: Why do you blog?
Can I tell you how I reacted when I first heard about blogging? I was repulsed by the notion of an egomaniac going on and on about himself and then expecting other people to read it.
I like to think of blogging this way. Imagine that the editor of a widely circulated magazine wanted to publish your articles ... anything you want to say, anytime you feel like talking. You can use your own photos, stock images, or stick with plain text if you like. Blogger fulfills that fantasy, plus it adds a social dimension. Now I’m hooked.
What’s the story behind your blog name?
It’s an anagram of my real name. (It’s easy to figure out, but please don’t use my real name on the internet.) Initially, a computerized jumbling of the letters offered “Rev Vicar I,” but that was way too pompous, so I kept searching.
I chose “Craver VII,” because there are a number of things that I am passionate about. The seven things I “crave” are listed at the header of my page. Hence, "Craver" and Roman numeral seven.
What is the best thing about being a blogger?
Between the money and the fame, it’s hard to say. Plus, it’s a good outlet for this hypocritical egomaniac (see question #1). I like shrinking the globe (see photograph above) by engaging in continuing dialogue with people from different parts of the planet. It might be another person who believes the same things I do, or someone whose world view is very, very different. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from connecting with people.
As a bonus, occasionally, I get to say something that strikes someone as funny or profound. People have emailed me to ask that I pray for or with them. That is a great privilege that I do not take lightly.
What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?
Grace and truth. That is to say, maintain civility; try not to judge people's intentions, and be honest. It’s very easy to say something that you wish you hadn’t. Cyberspace doesn’t filter out the pain and consequences of poisonous verbiage. And be careful that you don’t compromise integrity and respect by trying to fool your readers.
What is the most significant blog post you’ve ever read?
I literally wept when Charity Singleton announced that she had cancer. As a result, I began praying regularly for her.
What is the most significant blog post you’ve ever written?
I don’t know. Seriously. On the one hand, a glib, perfunctory scribble might get an amazing response, but when I work hard to pen something moving, the whole world goes on vacation from blogging. A friend told me this weekend that he liked treacher-ice. Brief and light. Yeah, I like stuff like that. For something more profound, how about Fervent and focused?
Today's Sunday Roast with Craver VII is the ninth in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This first shot (above) was taken with a little Pentax Optio 33LF, back in June 2005. I was walking down Flinders Street, early on a Saturday morning. I started shooting a city-based sequence long before dawn and by the time I got to this spot, the sun was just starting to cast a glow through heavy cloud in the east. To the west, the cloud was fragmented and the sky was a delicate range of colours.
I shot this from the northern pavement of Flinders Street. As you can see, construction of Eureka Tower was still in progress. To the right is the silhouette of the famous dome of Flinders Street Station and to the left is the perimeter wall of Federation Square, built to commemorate the centenary of Federation, which took place in 1901. The perimeter wall, interestingly enough, brings a touch of parallax to the scene. And yes, that's a bird in flight above the brown building to the right of Eureka.
This shot (above) was taken when heavy fog blanketed Melbourne in July 2007 - which is slap-bang in the middle of our winter. I shot two frames that morning, one horizontal and one vertical. The horizontal shot is a striking image, but I felt then (as I still do) that this vertical frame is more compelling.
To the left is the IBM building, to the right is the Langham Hotel, formerly the Sheraton. And disappearing into the thick fog is Eureka, the tallest symbol of the city I live in. There is something that is "just right" about this image, for which I was bent like a wannabe contortionist. This, and all the other photographs in this sequence, were taken with my Pentax K100D.
I shot this image (above) last October, just after five o'clock in the morning, on Sturt Street in south Melbourne. The colours of the sky were just right for this sort of skyline shot. And then I had a stroke of luck. The floodlights on the angular sculpture in the foreground are normally a range of pink and orange. But they suddenly turned yellow, probably in a final sequence before shutdown as dawn approached. I published a vertical frame from this series of shots the day I took them, but this horizontal frame captures more nuances of all-round colour and perspective. Yes, the colours are natural - and no, none of these images have been edited, cropped or digitally enhanced. That ain't my style.
This shot was taken (and published on this blog) in September 2006, from the footbridge conecting Southbank to the northern side of the city. I was actually shooting Princes Bridge across the water when I noticed a billiant patch of blue sky above Eureka Tower. I shot this frame exactly where I stood, using the metal arch of the footbridge as a natural prop.
Remember the famous motorcycle sequence in the Nicolas Cage movie "Ghost Rider"? That scene was shot on the same arch in this photograph. I shot this using a versatile 18-125mm Sigma lens. The focal length of this shot was a mid-range 58mm.
This final shot (above) in the sequence was taken about a month ago, the first day I was experimenting with my new 70-300mm Sigma lens. It was lunchtime on a warm Melbourne afternoon and this was one of the first frames I shot using the full focal length of 300mm. The top of the gigantic apartment building seemed so close that I felt I could almost touch it.
And if you're wondering, yes, Eureka Tower will turn off all lights for Earth Hour later today. That's not a tall story.
Friday, March 28, 2008
It ain't about recruitment. The Royal Air Force is celebrating its 90th anniversary - with a "show-stopping" diamante-encrusted bikini, part of the RAF Collection's spring range. The RAF hopes sales of the bikini, which features diamante roundels, will soar (no, that’s their pun, not mine). To see the bikini being modelled, go to Ananova.
FOOTNOTE: Bikini a toll.
I learnt a lot in my years as a tennis writer. Having dreamed about Wimbledon as a child, I never could have imagined that I would one day sit at Centre Court, covering the tournament as a fully accredited journalist. My first Wimbledon was in 1981, when John McEnroe finally dethroned Bjorn Borg and my last Wimbledon was in 1987, when Pat Cash thwarted Ivan Lendl in the men's singles final.
Like I said, I learnt a lot. I even learnt about road safety.
How so? Because I learnt how Ray-Bans can actually help you when you're on a dark desert highway (did I just say that?) or on a highway in really bad visibility or in appalling weather conditions.
How on earth did I learn this at Wimbledon? Simply by being observant. Even though the tournament is held in the European summer, characterised by the long evenings, there is often rain and cloud and the light can get rather murky, especially in the late afternoon. The first year I covered Wimbledon, I noticed that the linespeople really had to concentrate on their task even harder in cloudy conditions. But a few years later, I noticed that they all sported Ray-Bans, in bright sunshine and in overcast weather alike.
Curious, I asked why this change had taken place. From memory, I was told that it was official policy of the All-England Club. All linespeople were issued with Ray-Bans and they would wear them at all times. I was told that the quality of the Ray-Ban lenses would actually enhance the clarity of vision in bad light. A crucial white line on the fading grass of the hallowed courts would look clearer through the lenses than with the naked eye.
So the next time I was on a highway in bad weather - returning from Niagara to Toronto, I tried the experiment and immediately I could see the logic. Ever since then, I have always had a pair of Ray-Bans in my car.
So today, as I sat down to write a post for Sky Watch Friday, I uploaded some great sunset photos that I took recently. Then I thought about some of the comments and emails from people who had read my ABC Wednesday post J Is For Journey, in which I mentioned that I had donned my Ray-Bans ("sunnies", as we call them here in Australia) when I drove home from Sydney to Melbourne this week.
And at that point, I decided to scrap the post with pictures of the beautiful colours and the striking hues across the sky, in order to share this road safety hint that I learnt during my career as a tennis writer.
Maybe you have a great road safety tip that you would like to share .... even if you didn't learn it at Wimbledon.
H'es ready to face the music. Former British radio DJ Mike Read, 57, has turned artist - creating a $9,000 picture of Brighton's West Pier - out of liquorice. Titled "Choc Art", it contains more than 20 pictures made of sweets including the liquorice pier and a Brighton rock concert made from - naturally enough - Brighton rock. He has also incorporated his love of music with versions of famous album covers such as The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Abbey Road".
All things Brighton beautiful, all features great and small.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Roy Rogers would have called this a Trigger factor. Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Hawaii has reviewed its rules on pets after a man took a horse up in a lift to cheer up a sick relative. Man and beast were stopped by security guards only after reaching the third floor. The patient was allowed to see them and a hospital spokeswoman said there was a visitation policy for dogs and cats, but not for horses.
FOOTNOTE: Horse shoo.
You might not grasp the significance of the first photograph in this series that I shot yesterday, but those are rain clouds on the horizon. Rain clouds? Yep, real rain. And believe me when I tell you that's a big deal in this country.
Here in Melbourne, where I live, we've just had the hottest start to autumn in almost a century. A week ago, we were sweltering in unseasonal temperatures of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. Our lawn, seemingly resistant to every hot dry spell of weather that we've ever had, finally started to succumb. The emerald green sheen disappeared, slowly but inexorably replaced by widening dun patches that were the colour and consistency of hay.
Then we drove to Sydney for Easter (yes, that's why you haven't heard from me in a week) and as we hit the outskirts of Sydney, we could see the difference. They've had lots of rain while we've been parched. Their paddocks were green, as far as the eye could see. As we got into the city, we could see green grass - a rarity in Victoria, our home state.
Then, as we prepared to drive home to Melbourne yesterday, the clouds began to gather as we packed for the journey of almost 1000 kilometres. We were still on the M5 motorway out of Sydney when the rain started and, for what seemed like the first time in months, I actually had to switch on my windscreen wipers. The horizon got darker over the hills we would have to traverse, and I knew the driving conditions were soon going to get a lot tougher.
Before midday, the weather was was so challenging that it was like driving in the gathering gloom of dusk. Not only was I driving with my lights on, I also resorted to a wonderful safety protocol I learnt in England more than twenty years ago. Because the visibility was nearing the critical grey-out stage, I put on my Ray-Bans. If you've never used high-quality dark glasses in smog or bad light, try it and you'll see what I mean. Their lenses bring a touch of definition to a scene that would otherwise be just an undistinguishable meld of various hues of grey.
But I knew that there was a section of the Hume Highway where extensive roadworks were being carried out. I realised I would not have the comfort and security of a dual carriageway all the way home. Sure enough, just as the weather deteriorated further and the rain came down in sheets of torrential fury, I encountered one of those stretches of winding highway where I had oncoming traffic for several kilometres.
The rain was drumming down, turning the soft shoulder into a red river. I could not pull off the highway, because it just wasn't safe to do so. With a long stream of traffic behind me, I dropped my speed from 110 kilometres an hour to 100, then to 90 and then to 80 and finally to 70. But I had no one in front of me; no one's tail lights to follow through the midday gloom.
For about ten kilometres, I had another problem to contend with. The rain was sheeting down with such intensity that it was starting to pool on the highway. I realised that I would soon encounter the problem of aquaplaning, where my own wheels would throw up a wall of water that would threaten my own steering, even for a millisecond or two. Sure enough, this happened about a minute later, and continued for an agonisingly long stretch.
The other problem I had was that every time a truck or a semi-trailer went past me in the opposite direction, it would almost always obliterate my windscreen with its own inevitable wake. At the same time, the murk degenerated to the point where I could barely see the lights of oncoming traffic.
Another critical factor came into the safety equation at this point. Would the creeks beside the highway burst their banks? And if they did, would I be able to see the danger in time?
I've driven more than half a million kilometres in my time, much of it on highways and freeways. And I can say, hand on heart, that I have never driven in conditions as tough as I did yesterday. But after about 45 minutes of being severely tested by the weather, things started to improve - slightly.
By the time we got to Holbrook, just after 2pm, I no longer needed to drive with my headlights on. We sat down to order lunch at the Submarine Cafe and the owner, a familiar friend from many of our interstate drives to Canberra and Sydney, came over to take our order.
Relieved to have come safely through the dangerous weather, I greeted her warmly, asking, "Did the bad weather hit you as well?"
I had (inadvertently) revealed what a city slicker I am.
Bless her. She could have chided me. But she just smiled. "Bad weather," she echoed, looking happily at the storm clouds. "Bad weather? No, here in the bush we reckon any rain is good weather."
For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
But you can still nominate any post that you think is worthy of attention. Just post a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. The post needs to be recent, published in the last 48 hours. You can nominate more than one post. And yes, you can even nominate your own work. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....
A US driver was stopped on suspicion of being a terrorist after his radioactive cat was mistaken for a bomb. Anti-terror cops using specialist radiation detectors on motorway traffic flagged down the man. But a search of his car revealed only a cat that had undergone radiotherapy for cancer three days earlier.
FOOTNOTE: Felines, nothing more than felines.
The captain of a KLM flight took his passengers on a 1,200-mile detour after refusing to land at a new airport in India because he had never heard of it. The pilot reportedly claimed he knew nothing about Hyderabad's new Rajiv Gandhi International airport, but airport officials insisted all airlines had been notified of it opening on March 14. However, a report in the Times of India revealed a number of pilots had complained their flight computers did not recognise the new airport.
FOOTNOTE: Wild goof chase.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Police in three western Pennsylvania towns are looking for a man who pretends to be a basketball coach and scams McDonald's restaurants out of food and money using bad checks. Police say the man drives up in a school-type bus and enters the restaurants ordering about $50 of food for his "team". The man then pays with a $150 check that appears to be from a school district and takes his food and his change, in cash. The stores learned they were scammed when the checks bounced.
FOOTNOTE: Just a ball-park figure.
State troopers are used to chasing motorists they suspect of drunken driving but say this one came right to them. Staff noticed someone pull into the Washington State Patrol parking lot west of town and watched as the person backed into an unauthorized space and sat tight with the headlights on. After about 15 minutes, a trooper arrested the man in the driver's seat, for investigation of drunken driving. "How often do the drunks come to you?" a trooper asked.
FOOTNOTE: Under the affluence of incohol.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
who writes the blog Mushy's Moochings.
I’d like to think that I have not written that post yet. I’d like to think that tomorrow I will write something so profound, so touching, that I will cry writing it, and world will be a much better place. Ain’t gonna happen! I have already cried writing a post about My Dad, my My Step-Dad, Lacy, the best damn dog ever, and about Leaving Vietnam!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
A laundrette in England has moved a tramp in - to act as overnight security. The homeless man, 50, keeps vigil in the shop in Crawley, West Sussex, after a window was broken last month. Owner Daniel Capstick refuses to have it mended, after claiming the council broke it. He said: "You get yobs hanging about outside, so Barry gives us a bit of security."
FOOTNOTE: Synchronise your washes.
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
We're just recovering from the hottest March fortnight in about a century. Normally the last of the paint-blistering heat starts to recede by the end of February. Sometimes the first week of March can produce the odd hot day or two, but generally the nights bring very cool relief from about mid-February onwards.
This year, though, everything's been drastically different. Not only have we had no rain, we've had an extraordinarily long spell of days where the mercury has hovered between 35-40 Celsius, which is far too close to topping 100 Fahrenheit for my comfort. Then on Tuesday evening came the long-awaited cool change that the Weather Bureau had predicted.
Just before dusk the breeze swung around to the south and the gentle caress of cooler air embraced this parched city. Around sunset I was playing tennis, as I do every evening, when I kept monitoring the sky for photo opportunities. Nix. Nada. Zilch. Just overcast conditions. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see the impenetrable cloud cover, because it had brought cooler conditions.
Then, I saw the first hint of wispy, delicate pink in the east. Yes, the east. Then very rapidly over the next five or six minutes, a long but slender patch of sky in the west, where the sun had long since set, began to produce every conceivable colour.
Over the next four of five minutes, my tennis racquet lay abandoned. Instead, I had my camera strap around my neck, trying to capture the dramatic colours being daubed swiftly across the sky. No sooner did I nod and say to myself that I had the definitive shot of the evening's sunset than a new shade or colour appeared in the sky.
As you can see from the last shot in this series, the vibrant orange, mauve and red were quickly and seamlessly eroded. And I just stood there, fascinated, as the colours you would normally associate with a lava flow down the side of a volcano just vanished, to be replaced by delicate pastel shades.
I used whatever silhouettes I had at my disposal to try and give you an idea of the sheer power of Nature's display. I consider myself fairly well versed on cloud and weather conditions and what sort of light will bring me great pictures. But this was one occasion where I had made up my mind there would be nothing to photograph, other than varying shades of grey.
Just goes to show, we should never under-estimate the great power of Mother Nature.
Shops in the Chinese city of Kunming say they are so short of coins that they have to get change from beggars. Retailers complain that banks don't provide enough coins to maintain their businesses. And it seems even the beggars are make money on the deal, charging 105 yuan for 100 yuan in coins. The city's Wal-Mart is even giving small presents to people who give them 20 yuan coins in change.
FOOTNOTE: Beggar my neighbour.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
(Yes, you!) Watch this space for details.
A French wine maker has insured his nose for almost $8 million. The unique policy was created for Ilja Gort, the Dutch owner of Chateau de la Garde in Bordeaux, to cover the potential loss of his nose and sense of smell. Jonathan Thomas, lead underwriter at Watkins Syndicate who co-insured the policy with Allianz Nederland had the last word: "This certainly is an insurance policy not to be sniffed at."
FOOTNOTE: Olfactory worker.
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to do a photographic assignment for the Canadian Tourism Commission and I got to travel to Quebec City, Montreal and several places in Muskoka. This shot of the Imax cinema was taken on my last night in Montreal.
I did a lot of walking on that trip, especially in Quebec City and Montreal. As far as possible, I did not want to worry about a rental car. Why? First of all, I wanted to be able to concentrate entirely on the photography and I wanted to be able to stop on any street at any time and take as many shots as necessary.
Had I been driving, I would not have been able to focus entirely on the sights and I would have been more worried about finding a parking spot.
It was a balmy evening and I could have put my feet up in my hotel, the beautiful Queen Elizabeth, where members of royalty and heads of state have stayed. But I just wanted to soak up as much of the city as I could, so I had dinner, put on my stout hiking boots (so wisely chosen by Mrs Authorblog) and headed out again.
I was using a Canon EOS 3000, shooting film, but I also had digital technology slung over my shoulder as well. I took this shot with a little Pentax Optio 33 LF. I was literally standing on the pavement outside the theatre and I didn't just want to take a stand-and-deliver shot, so I composed this frame, for a "different" view. Looking back at my Montreal folder now, it's interesting to see I only shot one image of the Imax theatre. No, it's not arrogance - I think I was just satisfied that I had an unusual angle.
The vertical and horizontal neon strips worked perfectly, a great foil against the darkness. But I was also lucky that a street light was in just the right spot, so by shooting upwards (and without a tripod) I was able to use its glow to give character to what would otherwise have been a relatively bare corner of the frame.
If you take a close look at the street light, you'll actually see the reflection of its soft glow across the ridged metal surface of the pole as well. It's a value-added extra that just gives a little more dimension to an image that is basically a very simple shot. As I always say to budding photographers - don't always shoot the first view that comes into your mind, try and see if there are minor add-ons that could enhance the quality of the scene you're trying to capture.
A number of my work colleagues have used my photographs as the background on their computers. One of them, a sport-crazy bloke, has had this shot on his PC ever since I came back from Canada. Why? Because his name's Max - and he reckons I partially obscured the "I" in the Imax sign for his benefit.
Now that's really a case of taking it to the Max.
For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.
Yes, it's true - happy cows produce more milk. That's why Geauga County farmer Bill Timmons has put 200 waterbeds in his barn - for the herd. He spent nearly $40,000 doing it, too. But he says daily milk production jumped more than 20 per cent after just two weeks of the cows relaxing in their new beds. He's one of the first northeast Ohio farmers to invest in the bedding, a trend that began in the United States about ten years ago.
FOOTNOTE: Turn the udder chic.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
From Good Friday, you too can nominate posts for this segment. (Yes, you!) Watch this space for details.
A German pensioner is suing a hospital after she checked in for an operation on her leg – but was given a new anus instead. The clinic in Hochfranken, Bavaria, has suspended the surgical team after they apparently mixed up the notes for two patients. The woman complainant was expecting an operation on her leg, while another patient, suffering from incontinence, was scheduled for surgery on her sphincter. The pensioner , who still needs to have the leg surgery, is looking for another hospital to perform the operation.