Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

English: The first photographic portrait image...

English: The first photographic portrait image of a human ever produced. “Robert Cornelius, head-and-shoulders [self-]portrait, facing front, with arms crossed”, approximate quarter plate daguerreotype, 1839 or Nov.. LC-USZC4-5001 DLC Also see: Library of Congress, American Memory, complete source description. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Selfies came to prominence in the early 2010’s when improvements in design – especially the addition of front-facing cameras – started to appear in Smartphones.

Therefore it was no surprise that in 2013 Oxford Dictionaries announced that selfie, meaning  a type of self-portrait photograph, had been chosen as the word of the year.

But selfies were nothing new, In the early 2000s, before Facebook became the dominant online social network, self-taken photographs were particularly common on MySpace and Flickr.

Even further back Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself, in 1839,  which was also one of the first photographs of a person. Because the process was slow he was able to uncover the lens, run into shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap. He recorded on the back “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839

Selfie as a word seems to originate on September 13th 2002 in an Australian Internet Forum – ABC Online

Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie

The debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900 led to photographic self-portraiture becoming a more widespread technique. The method was usually by mirror and stabilizing the camera either on a nearby object or on a tripod while framing via a viewfinder at the top of the box.

Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna at the age of 13 was one of the first teenagers to take her own picture using a mirror to send to a friend in 1914. In the letter that accompanied the photograph, she wrote,

“I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”

Now to my selfie – I’m not a great one for self-portraits. I prefer to be behind the camera not in front. Annie Leibovitz was once asked by Ingrid Sischv “Did she ever think about doing a self-portrait”? Her response sort of sums up my feelings about self-portraits or selfies….

I think self-portraits are very difficult. I’ve always seen mine as straightforward, very stripped down, hair pulled back. No shirt. Whatever light happened to be available. I’d want it to be very graphic – about darkness and light. No one else should be there, but I’m scared to do it by myself. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. The whole idea of a self-portrait is strange. I’m so strongly linked to how I see through the camera that to get to the other side of it would be difficult. It would be as if I were taking a photograph in the dark

So finally,  here’s my selfie

Weekly Photo Challenge - Selfie

That’s me, it’s graphic, about dark and light. I’m on my own on the beach using the last light of the setting sun. It was mid-winter so too darn cold to strip my shirt off and unlike Annie I don’t have any hair to pull back. But I think I’ve managed to achieve the essence of a self portrait as described by Annie. What do you think?

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Floors – Week 6/52 of 2014

Floors - Week 6

OK! A bit of a grab shot this week. I’ve not really had time to settle down and put together a decent post, sorry. The challenge this week was Floors, normally I would go out but with my schedule this week it’s got to be the floor in my house. Now the floor on it’s own is pretty boring so I included a “selfie” for a bit of added interest.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Object

…with most of my photographs, the subject appears as a found object, something discovered, not arranged by me. I usually have an immediate recognition of the potential image, and I have found that too much concern about matters such as conventional composition may take the edge off the first inclusive reaction. – Ansel Adams

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

How I wish I could have said that about this photograph. I found the tool further down the hill lying abandoned in a ditch. I wanted to use the rocks in the foreground but thought there was something missing. So I moved the tool. What do you think? Does it add anything to the photograph?

Whether you agree or disagree that the tool adds something to the photograph also consider the ethical standpoint.

If I move something into or out of the scene I am about to photograph is it ethical? Granted it may make the photograph aesthetically pleasing but is it really a true representation of that time and place.

the camera machine cannot evade the objects which are in front of it. No more can the photographer. He can choose these objects, arrange and exclude, before exposure, but not afterwards… Your photography is a record of your living, for any one who really sees. – Paul Strand

Nowadays with digital cameras it is easy to capture a photograph and later manipulate it, in Photoshop or similar, to add or remove elements. Is that any different from me doing the same prior to pressing the shutter.

Retouching had become controversial ever since Franz Hanfstaengl of Munich showed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris a retouched negative with a print made from it before and after retouching. It was, Nadar recollected, the beginning of a new era in photography. – Beaumont Newhall

If you shoot in RAW it is inevitable that you will carry out some alterations to your photograph. Maybe boost the colour or sharpening? What about exposure, highlights, shadows? All are candidates for adjustment, in some way. But is it any less ethical than adding or removing something from your photograph?

Now you might say that a colour adjustment was fine and well within the bounds of ethical practice. But colours can be changed in software like Topaz Restyle so as to render the new photograph quite unlike the original. The content will be the same but the context will not. For example, you can make a photograph look like it was taken at sunset when in reality it was midday when the shutter button was pressed.

In the end ethical policies may be down to where the photograph is used. The fashion industry and the editors of fashion magazines may think it is permissible to alter photographs used in magazines,  but news editors more often than not would deem it unacceptable for anything to be changed from the original scene, including colours.

How did you answer at the beginning of this post? Did you think it was OK for me to add the tool into the scene prior to pressing the shutter button?

Consider this. Nowadays many media outlets rely on us, the public, to become journalists and help them capture the news. How often have you seen appeals for photographs on your local TV station, or in our case SKY News, when some big news event has happened? Or what about the Weather Man, sorry Person. They’re always asking for sunset/sunrise photographs to use as backdrops. Could I in all honesty send in my photograph knowing it had been altered?

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Macro – Week 5/52 of 2014

Macro or Fill The Frame

It’s only when you photograph a lens close-up do you realise how dirty and dusty it is. When i come back from every photography day out I have a regime of cleaning my camera and lenses. Do you?

I use a soft brush and air blower to remove sand and dust, looks like I’m going to have to rethink this strategy though.

This weeks challenge is to take a Macro photograph or Fill the Frame. I don’t have a dedicated macro lens but my Samsung P&S does have a reasonable close-up function and I used it to photograph my Sigma 10-20 lens. One of the reasons I quite like the Samsung is the DOF is quite good in macro mode.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

Do you ever wonder how they come up with the subject for the Weekly Photo Challenge? I know I do, because sometimes their choice seems strange to say the least.

Juxtaposition

Welsh ponies are allowed to roam wild in many parts of our countryside, locally, the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia has a semi-feral population of about 180 animals roams.

On the way to photograph the Aber Falls I came across this pony waiting to get through the gate into a protected area.

And now for something completely differentt…..

The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force. During displays, the aircraft do not fly directly over the crowd apart from entering the display area by flying over the crowd from behind; any manoeuvres in front of and parallel to the audience can be as low as 300 feet,

Red Arrows

The ‘synchro pair’ can go as low as 100 feet straight and level, or 150 feet when in inverted flight. The team use the same two-seat training aircraft used for advanced pilot training, at first the Hawker Siddeley Gnat which was replaced in 1979 by the BAE Hawk T1. The Hawks are modified with an uprated engine and a modification to enable smoke to be generated, diesel is mixed with a coloured dye and ejected into the jet exhaust to produce either red, white or blue smoke.

Talking of smoke. How would you like a train passing by your bedroom window every half hour during the summer months. That’s what happens in Llanberis as the train from the Snowdon Mountain Railway makes the  journey to the top of Mount Snowdon and back..

Puffing Billy

For over a 100 years, trains have completed the journey from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in England and Wales. Using a rack and pinion railway system single carriage trains are pushed up the mountain by either steam locomotives or diesel locomotives. The trains travel a distance of 4.7 miles (7.6 km) to reach the summit. The railway is operated in some of the harshest weather conditions in Britain, with services curtailed from reaching the summit in bad weather and remaining closed during the winter from November to mid-March. 

Health and Safety (or as we call it Elfin Safety) laws in the UK are pretty strict and the legislation is mostly aimed at the workplace, dealing with risks such as unguarded machinery.But all too often Elfin Safety Killjoys impose draconian rules for the playground and entertainment venues with little understanding of the law.

For example one school banned the use of leather soccer balls, instead the kids had to play with balls made of sponge. Always a favourite at school sports day, the Sack Race was banned in case a child tripped or fell over. And you can’t use the playground in case you graze your knee. But this one is a cracker. One Holiday Company banned bumping on the Dodgems (Bumper Cars) at several sites they owned. You can only go round and round, all the cars in the same direction, how boring. 

Which brings me to my next photograph.

Danger

Gwrych Castle is a crumbling ruin and obviously the owners felt that they had to protect themselves from legal action should anyone hurt themselves whilst clambering over the ruins. So they put a great metal fence up all around it, have these signs every 50 metres or so and occasionally have random security patrols. So why leave a break in the fence that is obviously used; you can see the well-worn path leading to the castle.

As I said at the beginning of this post I sometimes find the concept for some of these challenges rather abstract. Hopefully this week I have managed to fill the brief? Let me know….

 

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Depth of Field – Week 4/52 of 2014

52 of 2014 - Week 4

I have featured this lighthouse so many times in my photographs that by now should be able to name it without prompting from me. No prizes for guessing, but what’s it called?

And so to this weeks challenge. In optics, particularly as it relates to film and photography, depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

How many times have you seen a landscape photograph that is in full focus from foreground right through to the background? Yet, sometimes by minimising depth of field and selectively focusing on our subject we can create a more impressive photograph.

Or to put it another way. By controlling what is in focus, as well as what is not, the photographer can direct the viewer’s attention to what he wants them to see in his photographs.

The 52 of 2014 Challenge on Flickr allows for post processing of photographs, in fact some of the challenges will have an element of post processing to them. So for this week I thought  I would play around and make the photograph look like a vintage print. What do you think? Does it work?

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

Vintage paper with plenty of copyspace for text

John and Harriet Arthurs lived nearly all of their lives in Sampford Peverell, Devon. In a previous Weekly Photo Challenge I used a photograph of John and Harriet’s gravestone to explain how I use a digital camera to record family history information such as gravestones, churches, places the family lived.

Born in 1817 in the tiny village of Uplowman, Devon, He married Harriet Dunster at the parish church of Taunton St. Mary in 1843. John and Harriet moved to Sampford Peverell where he worked as a farm labourer until his death in 1892.

Nothing remarkable here, but John and Harriet had four children, three of whom moved to the industrial north to work.

First of all Richard Arthurs, the eldest son, moved to Bolton to work in the coal mines. Think about it. Why would anyone swop fresh air and working in the open for the dark and dusty coal mines? Simple really, through necessity.

The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain signalled new manufacturing processes, using machines instead of the previous hand production methods. Increasing use of water and more importantly steam power meant greater demand for coal.

Agricultural improvement had already begun prior to the Industrial revolution and more and more farm labourers were no longer able to work on the land. As the revolution in industry progressed a succession of machines became available which increased food production with ever fewer labourers being required to work the land.

Richard had no choice, He had to work and the main employers of the time were the industrialists of the north.

Later Edward and Emma followed their brother, eventually settling in Manchester, one of the greatest industrial towns of the North.

Normally the photographs I use in my blog are mine, all mine but today I used a stock image as the background for the photograph of John and Harriet. The Terms of Use mean that i must notify you that the background image is © Sandra Cunningham / Fotolia 

 

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Contrast – Week 3/52 of 2014

52 of 2014 - Week 3

This has to be one of the most confused challenge weeks. I know we are only at week 3 but what a subject; “Contrast, between colour, texture, b/w. or any interpretation that shows the difference between the lights and darks of an image”.

Alright here is my interpretation of that challenge. First of all I photographed a clock face from a 1930’s clock, which was cropped to just give a partial portion. After that it was quite simple. Apply a Topaz Labs Filter called Black and White Effects, specifically the Infrared False Colour Preset. this now gave me contrast between colours with some texture and although not quite Black and White it had lost a lot of the colour saturation.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

Dinorwig Slate Quarry was the second largest slate quarry in Wales, indeed in the world, after the neighbouring Penrhyn Quarry. It covered more than 700 acres (2.8 km2) consisting of two main quarry sections. At its peak in the late 19th century, “when it was producing an annual outcome of 100,000 tonnes”, Dinorwig employed over 3,000 men and was the second largest open-cast slate producer in the country. By 1930 its working employment had dropped to 2,000  and it kept a steady production rate until 1969, when the quarry closed.

Dinorwic Quarry

However, the Victorian workshops remain open to tell the story of the Welsh slate industry. Built in 1870, the workshops are patterned in a similar style to a British Empire Fort with a central courtyard, clock tower and marvellously detailed windows.

National Slate Museum

Now a Museum the Workshops and Buildings give us a window into the lives of the quarrymen and engineers who, seemingly, just put down their tools and left the workshops for home.

Lets start with the Chief Engineers House. Responsible for all of the engineering work in the quarry the Engineer lived in a house which was part of the courtyard.

The Engineers House

Right up until the closure of the quarry in 1969 Engineers and their families lived here. As we see it today it is furnished as it would have been around 1911, with red velvet curtains and the organ in the parlour reflecting a higher standard of living than the houses of the ordinary quarrymen.

The kitchen was more basic but even still it was far better than what the quarrymen and their families had.

The Kitchen

In the 1800’s demand for slate grew which meant the slate industry was rapidly becoming the most important in Wales and subsequently the main employer in Gwynedd. Workers started to move from the rural areas to the slate quarrying areas where the work was demanding, dirty and dangerous. But the pay was better than labouring in the farms. With the influx of workers the population of Ffestiniog parish grew from 1,648 to 11,274 between  831 and 1881. Unfortunately available housing did not grow as fast  and often two families would share the one house. In situations like this children shared a room with their parents, either sleeping on the floor or sometimes sharing the same bed as their parents. Always a problem, the houses suffered from dampness, poor water supplies and blocked sewerage. Consequently typhoid and tuberculosis were constant threats.

Towards the rear of the museum stands a row of 4 terraced houses, which originally stood near Blaenau Ffestiniog at Fron Haul in Tanygrisiau. Condemned by Gwynedd County Council because of their poor condition they were moved In 1998 to the National Slate Museum. Cramped and not very luxurious the houses are typical of the terraced housing to be seen all over the quarrying areas.

Quarrymans Cottage

When you visit the workshops there is a large variety of machinery on display. The quarry and workshops were, in the main, self-sufficient due to the technical abilities of the staff. In the repair workshops you can see a riveted boiler for a narrow gauge engine which was built in the company’s boiler workshops at Port Dinorwic.

Machine Shop

In the machine shop there is a lathe dating from 1900, used for turning all sorts of things — from the incline drum’s wheels to turntables. There is also another lathe, 6.4 metres long, used to turn the transmission and propeller shafts for the company’s fleet of steam ships.

National Slate Museum

The slotting machine, on the other hand, was used to cut keyways in gear and pinion wheels, sprockets and drive pulleys.

Most of the machines to be seen in these workshops could still do a good day’s work, and indeed some of them are still used from time to time.

Repair Shed

An area that really fascinated me was the Pattern Loft where patterns for metal objects were carved first using softwood. Although much was done by hand sometimes the pattern makers used mechanical equipment, pillar drill, fretsaw, lathe and whetstone.

Light and Shade

The pattern makers carved cogs, parts for steam engines, even the bell for the clock above the gateway. Although some mechanical tools were used the detailed delicate patterns were all carved by hand. Other workers were not allowed in the Pattern Loft in case they distracted the pattern makers attention and, if his hand slipped he ruined the pattern.

The Pattern Loft

Today you can still see some of the 2000 different, fantastically intricate, patterns in the pattern loft all of which were carved by candlelight:

Administration of the quarry and workshops was carried out from the Clerks Office and Stores. In the office was a telephone which connected various parts of the quarry to the workshops.

The Office

In the Clerks Office, just inside the door, hung a Tally Board. Every one who worked at the workshops had their own tally, which had to be presented at the end of the day. Today you can see the Tally Board hanging in the window as you enter the Slate Museum.

The Tally Board

This weeks challenge was about windows and hopefully this short article has given you an insight, or should I say window, into the support services for the quarrymen who worked in the dangerous and difficult environment of the quarry. Their life was hard, especially in the 1800’s and early 1900’s but the skills of the craftsmen in the quarry workshops produced machinery which helped the quarrymen work the slate from the mountain.

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Easy commenting

I need your help…again. At the beginning of this year I refreshed “Say It With A Camera” by changing the theme to Parament.

Since then I have noticed that the number of comments on blog post has dropped quite substantially.

So a quick question. If you wanted to comment do you find it easy enough to leave a comment?

Thank you in advance for taking the time read this and hopefully comment.