Eastbourne pier

My good friend Antony has now started a .com photo blog on the WordPress platform. His first couple of posts are up, and I recommend his photography to everyone. Unlike his previous website, we are now able to follow, like, and comment. So please do all three!
Regards to all, Pete.

Photography by Antony Kyriacou

Like my previous post. I struck gold with the weather in the first week of December.Great weather combines with a day off work = result. A couple of photos of Eastbourne pier as the late afternoon sun was getting low in the sky. Camera used Olympus Pen F and the 75mm f1.8 lens. The first one is mono profile 2,  yellow green filter, metering and exposure comp to create the desired effect.In the second image I used colour profile 2 (chrome film) but omitted the groynes and included more sky.One endearing pleasure of the seaside is the sky, meaning there is a lot of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eastbourne pier and beach groynes (stops erosion).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eastbourne pier fading afternoon light.

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A long night for Neil

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 780 words.

Neil eventually realised he couldn’t move. He knew that he had been asleep, but was unsure for how long. His arms felt dead. Raised up above his head for so long, the blood had drained out of them, and they almost didn’t seem to be there. He looked up to check that they still were, but the mask over his eyes made him unable to see anything.

Trying to move his legs off the bed, it soon became clear that they were stuck fast. A soreness around his ankles indicated that something was holding them tightly in place. No point calling for help, as there was something in his mouth that forced him to breathe through his nose. There was that headache too, one of those that felt like it wasn’t going to go away soon.

Neil tried to shift the weight from his buttocks, with no success. He would dearly love to be able to move just a little, as he felt flattened out against the bed. It was still a bed he was lying on, at least he was certain of that. And he could move his head, but there seemed little point, when he couldn’t see anything. The thing in his mouth was making him very thirsty, and his tongue felt swollen too. He wiggled his toes, trying to get some feeling back into his feet. That seemed to work. He tried the same with his fingers, but nothing happened.

No point getting into a panic. Neil was a reasonable man, known to be calm and logical in approach. He would think. It was definitely daytime, of that he was sure. Something about his senses just told him that. Then again, that would mean he had been there for more than ten hours. That didn’t seem possible.

What if nobody came? He could just lie there forever, or at least until his body was found. Work wouldn’t miss him, as he was on holiday until next week. His wife wouldn’t miss him, as he had told her he was on a business trip until next week. In fact, no-one knew where he was. There was something ironic about that, and he would have chuckled, were it not for whatever was in his mouth.

There was a muffled sound from somewhere. Perhaps it was a door closing. It sounded something like that, but it could have been anything really. Then footsteps, he was sure about that. You can’t mistake footsteps in hard shoes. A slight rush of air, and the definite presence of someone else in the room. He wasn’t sure what to do, how to respond. At best, he could make a gurgling noise, but he decided not to. Better to retain some dignity.

The mask was pulled off, and the light flooded in. At first it was hard to see, but as his eyes adjusted, he looked around. His legs were held by some straps that disappeared under the foot of the bed. Looking up at his shoulder, there were his lifeless arms, also secured by thick straps wound tightly around the slatted wooden headboard. Some contraption was on his chest, and even more straps led from that, tying his body down hard to the bed. Swirling his eyes down to look below his nose, he could see some sort of leather gag, fastened hard around his face.

Then the woman leaned over him. She wore far too much make-up, and her hair was stiff with lacquer. A cigarette was clamped between her lips, and it bobbed up and down as she spoke. “Do you want the gag out now?” Neil nodded, suddenly beginning to remember. It was a relief to be able to breathe properly again, and he flicked his tongue around his mouth, and over his lips. The woman leaned in again, tipping a plastic bottle of water so he could drink from it. When he had quenched his thirst, she placed it on a table beside the bed.

She sat herself in the occasional chair a few feet away, and looked across in a scornful, disinterested fashion. The cigarette almost hit her on the nose as she started talking again. “So, do you want me to untie you?” Neil didn’t hesitate with his reply. “I think I will be alright for a while yet, thanks.” He was very polite. She shrugged her shoulders, and stood to walk over to the bed. Placing the gag back in his mouth, she reached up and pulled the mask back down over his eyes.

As she closed the door behind her, she waved a hand nonchalantly in the air.
“It’s your money, honey. See you in a few hours.”

Exhuming the SLR

s5-picture

This is a post about cameras again. Anyone with no interest in photography is advised to read no further.

About six years ago, I bought a second-hand digital camera. I had been using a long-zoom digital ‘bridge’camera for a while, but I was still shooting film on a full-frame camera, when I wanted to take ‘serious’ pictures. I realised that I could no longer justify the expense of processing and prints, and it was getting increasingly harder to find a reliable company to do the work properly.

After some research, I decided to get a Fuji S5, like the one pictured above. It is what used to be referred to as a ‘clone’, as the body is that of a Nikon D200, which Fuji bought in. They then replaced the processor, and altered the configuration of the buttons and features, leaving the buyer with a solid Nikon exterior and a very different camera underneath the shell. As it retains the Nikon lens mount, I also bought a short standard zoom to fit on it. To be honest, the camera was almost too over-specified. I could hardly understand the user manual, and the confusing array of menu options left me scratching my head at times.

I managed to get it set up in the most basic shooting format, and then started to learn about the ‘crop factor’ that applies to APS-C sensors in the DX format, as opposed to the full-frame film cameras that I had been used to. They lose around a third of the focal length, so the lens that would have been known to me as a 28-80MM, was marked as an 18-55. I bought a spare battery, a U/V filter to protect the lens element, and a 4 GB Compact Flash memory card, which was huge compared to the tiny Xd card I had in the previous Olympus. This new Fuji weighed a ton, was built like a battleship, and really looked like it meant business. When it was released here in 2007, it cost £1,000 just for the body, a price to match the build quality. Fortunately, I had paid less than half that, including a brand new lens.

As soon as I began to use it, I was a happy man indeed. The well-known Fuji colour rendition was immediately apparent in my results, and the weighty beast ensured steady shooting, especially as the lens was also stabilised by the addition of the new Nikon VR system. I carried it around happily, sometimes using the small built-in flash to good effect in daylight fill-in, as well as purchasing a large Nikon accessory flash too, though that was rarely used. I had the desirable ‘one camera-one lens’ set up at long last, with a weather sealed body built to last.

But then I stopped taking it out. The large size necessitated using a decent camera bag to lug it around in, and having it around your neck on a strap for long periods proved to be irritating and uncomfortable. The appearance of this photographic dreadnought in a crowd would make people think I was very serious indeed, and they started to ask me to take all the photos. Others would joke that I thought I was “like David Bailey or something”, and it was impossible to blend in with such a monster clamped to your face. And I always had to keep an eye on it, and wonder where I had left the camera bag, instead of enjoying the occasion, like everyone else.

Eventually, I used it less and less. It went back into its bag, and didn’t see the light of day. I had decided to invest in something lighter, potentially pocketable, (in a big pocket…) and with a slightly longer zoom, as the 80 MM (equiv) on the Nikon kit zoom was always not quite long enough. So I bought the small and lightweight Fuji X-30, which I have written about before in this blog. I started to take a lot of photos again, many of which have been posted here. More importantly, I took the camera out more, often just dropped into a shoulder bag, or stuffed into a large coat pocket. And I experimented with the settings, encouraged by a more intuitive menu system. I was happy again.

But the smaller Fuji only has a 2/3 sensor. This is some six times smaller than the APS-C sensor in the larger SLR, and as a result picture quality does suffer. This is an acceptable trade-off for the easy to carry size and feature-packed small body most of the time, but that big brother lying dormant in the camera bag was often at the back of my mind.

So I decided to exhume it today. I dusted it off, and charged both the dead batteries. I installed the unwieldy compact flash memory card, and read some reviews and instructional pages to refresh my memory of what went where, and how this or that worked. But I had forgotten just how vast the setup menu is. There are literally over one hundred possibilities of how to set up the different functions on this camera, and that’s even ignoring the menus for using the internal flash. So now the camera is looking as good as new, fully charged, and ready to go. But it is going to be a while until I get my head around the menu functions, and have it ready to actually fire the shutter.

The next time you see any photos on this blog, they will have been taken with my old camera, freed from its enforced exile in the depths of a camera bag. Time will tell if they are any better.

The blogging gift that keeps on giving

Not long ago, I wrote a post about the fact that people are reading a particular one of my posts every day. Except for one day that it escaped their attention, ‘Whatever happened to?: Jamiroquai’ is keeping its lead as the daily front runner on my blog for the last two months. It has even managed to beat ‘The Driest County In England’, and ‘Dereham: A Norfolk Town’ into second and third place, respectively.

Since it was published on the 4th of September, this niche music post has been read an impressive (by my standards) 164 times, including three times today. Although many posts are read between 50 and 80 times within days of being put up on the blog, it is usual for them to drop off the viewing radar very quickly. Not so with this one, as the daily views keep trickling in, rarely less that two a day, sometimes three.

Given that I have already written about this veritable blogging phenomenon, you might expect that I have since been contacted by fans of the band, even band members themselves, to tell me why they keep reading it. That has not been the case, sadly. The silence on the subject has been deafening. But I am not in the least ungrateful, far from it. I welcome as many interested parties who want to read about that band as would like to come to this blog and read my post. I never expected such a post, on a humble blog like this one, to ever generate so much interest.

Perhaps if they (and I) had also been that interested in the later career of Jamiroquai, the group wouldn’t have fallen from grace? Just a thought.

A cold day with the camera

golden-oaks

After yesterday’s frosty walk, I was again rewarded with bright sunshine today, so resolved to take my camera along on the walk with Ollie, and to venture a little further once again. I got the changing trees above, then carried on to find more.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

First of all, the frosty grass that I missed taking yesterday. This was at 3 pm.
frosty-grass

I then came across a tree that was clinging onto its green leaves.
dscf0522

Sitting for a while in the peace and quiet, I could hear a sound all around me. It took a while until I could identify it. A sound like a woman crossing and uncrossing her legs repeatedly, the swish of nylon against nylon. But there was no leggy lady nearby, and I eventually realised that this sound was being made by falling leaves, brushing against others as they made their gentle descent from the uppermost branches.
dscf0525

I carried on in the direction of the disused railway, spotting this mighty ancient oak preparing to shed tons of leaves anytime now.
large-oak

I have used a similar photo previously, but this time I captured the scene in late Autumn, the trees lining the tracks with various shades of colour.
disused-railway

Ollie often refuses to stand still for photos, but this time I managed to get him as he set off on the path beside the railway. He has his dark winter fur now.
ollie-by-the-tracks

A rewarding walk, despite the cold. Almost two hours in bright sunshine, just before the sun started to set.

Frost on the grass

I woke up yesterday to brilliant sunshine. But that sun carried no heat, despite the accompanying blue skies. By the time I ventured out with Ollie for his walk, there was still a thick white frost on the grass, resisting a whole day of low-lying sun that illuminated the Meadows, and Hoe Rough beyond.

The muddy ruts had solidified, at least at the top, and the flat ground felt hard beneath my boots. The air was noticeably different too; fresher, much colder, and stinging exposed skin on the face. The drop in temperatures had awakened the trees. After hanging on to their decaying foliage for so long, they finally decided it was Autumn, and brown and gold leaves fluttered gently down, like huge snowflakes during a heavy fall, or confetti at a wedding.

It only took a few hours to carpet the open ground, and to cover cars, lawns and pathways too. The familiar rustling of walking through fallen leaves, nothing else to break the silence of the late afternoon. I was grateful for my gloves, my thick socks, and the lined boots too.

This was surely the first day of Winter.

Just been watching…(28)

Gone Girl (2014)

***This is going to be a shorter review than usual. Due to the twists and turns in this film, it is very difficult not to include any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it. I have decided not to, so I am writing this with both metaphorical hands tied behind my back.***

David Fincher is an accomplished film-maker. Anyone who enjoyed ‘Se7en’, ‘Fight Club’, and many of his other films will confirm that. So when he releases a new crime thriller, you can bet I will want to watch it. It took me a while, but I finally did get to see it, just last night. I have never read the book it is based on, but the story is compelling, just from a synopsis. A young professional couple, leading a prosperous and happy life in New York City. The recession hits, and jobs are lost. Life begins to look not quite as rosy. Then news comes from Missouri, the man’s home state. His mother is dying, and needs him to come home and help. They sell up, and relocate to small town mid-west. Using what little money they have left, he and his twin sister buy a bar in the town, and go about their lives as best they can. The wife is left at the new home, regretting the change in fortunes, but determined to rediscover their happiness.

Then one day, he comes home from work, and his wife has gone. The circumstances look suspicious, and it doesn’t take the local police too long to start to focus on the husband as a suspect; helped by a series of clues and some implicating evidence. To make matters worse, his wife’s family are influential writers, and they arrive to help galvanize the local community into a search for their missing daughter. They have always resented the small-town boy who married their brilliant, perfect daughter, and make no secret of their scorn for him. The media gets involved, and soon his life is in the spotlight, and his every move dogged by either the police or the press.

That’s about it. To tell much more about the story would undoubtedly spoil your enjoyment. But I won’t leave it there, as you have to know what I thought of it, don’t you? Well, I thought it was very good indeed. Fincher delivers in his usual style, and the plot keeps us more-or-less guessing right until the very unusual (and therefore satisfying) ending. Rosamund Pike is outstanding in the role of Amy, the ‘Gone Girl’ of the title. She has to play the character as two very different people, and she does so with aplomb. Carrie Coon as the twin sister Margo makes her supporting role into that of a co-star, and is completely convincing at all times. Then there is the weary detective, Rhonda. She won’t believe all the hype, and sticks to what her instinct tells her. Kim Dickens enlarges a character we have seen so many times before, and changes it into something we haven’t really seen before.

This is a film about excellent acting from women. They steal all the scenes, and drive the action too. Mind you, given that the lead male character, Nick, is played by the wooden and generally unwatchable Ben Affleck, that wasn’t too hard a task. I fail to see why he is ever cast in a film, when there are so may better actors around who can actually act. (OK, Affleck fans, do your worst…)

This film is all about twists too. Just when you thought you had worked it out, it turns on its head and leaves you guessing again. Who? What? Why? How did that happen? I confess I did see the ‘big reveal’ coming, but it took a while and I enjoyed the ride, even when I was proved right. This is grown-up film making, shot in luxurious wide screen, and full of atmosphere. Even the bit-part players are just right, from the creepy ex-boyfriend, to the white trash neighbour. It confirms what I already knew. David Fincher knows how to craft an enjoyable and often thrilling film, and he did very well to cast Rosamund Pike too.

Shame about Affleck though.

Here’s a trailer.