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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Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Many of my photographs are taken using the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens fitted to my camera. With a wide-angle lens I can fit more into the frame, especially usefully if I am working with wide open landscapes or the cramped interior of a church as I often do. The downside of a wide-angle lens though is distortion, which is seen in many ways.

When I’m using a wide-angle lens, invariably I will be very close to my foreground interest. With a wide-angle lens the foreground interest objects appear very large in the frame, but as an exact opposite, distant objects will look very small.

Sunset at Talacre

“What has this got to do with Curves”? I can hear you asking. Bear with me. I’m getting there.

Another downside, due to the exaggerated difference in size between near and far objects, wide angle lenses tend to produce a distorted image. This distortion can sometimes work to my advantage by giving the photograph an abstract look, like the curves (at last) in this photograph of Tewkesbury Abbey.

If I had photographed the Abbey on a horizontal plane, i.e. the lens of my camera pointing straight down the Abbey parallel to the floor, then there would have been almost no distortion. But I know that if I point my camera towards the roof, distortion is going to occur and the greater the angle between the floor and the roof my camera creates, the greater the distortion, or curve (that word again) is going to be.

To a certain extent I can correct the distortion, as both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements have lens correction filters built in. Here you can see the result of applying the filter on the image above

The filter has done a reasonable job. There’s still some distortion and you’ll also notice that the image has been cropped quite a fair bit. Personally I prefer the curved image. I deliberately shot the scene the way I did, knowing that there would be distortion. Which one do you prefer?


World Pentax Day

Well actually World Pentax Weekend. Over the weekend of the 23/24 May Pentax camera users from around the world are encouraged to go out and have some fun doing what we all love best, Photography. We can then upload our favourite photos to the World PENTAX Day gallery, giving a snapshot of the entire world, painted through the “eyes” of PENTAX cameras.

As I live near  the beach I felt it was appropriate to capture some of the things that are washed up and also to include my favourite lighthouse.

Talacre Lighthouse

Regular readers will have seen this lighthouse before but I make no apologies for including it in this post. The idea behind World Pentax Day is to get a snapshot of the world we live in and photograph and the lighthouse is one of my favourite subjects.

Moving on to something different but staying on the beach theme. All too often we get lots of debris washed up on our beaches

On The Beach

It is dangerous for the birds who winter here and yet there is nothing we can really do to stop it.

Flotsam and Jetsom

Birds are attracted to to some of the debris, especially the smaller things, but tin cans and especially bottles can be dangerous, bottles more so when they shatter and spread glass over the beach.


We also get lots of trees on the beach. They get washed down from the mountainous regions behind our coast-line from the rivers along the North Wales coast which empty into the sea.


Eventually, they end up back on the beaches, before being washed out to sea again, but whilst they are on the beach, they do make a good subject for a photograph.

That’s my five photographs for World Pentax Day. If you are a Pentax user and haven’t entered, there’s still time to go out and photograph your little part of the world. For more information visit World Pentax Day Facebook page.


Shop Local


There is a lot to be said about shopping local and supporting your local camera shop. Today I had a problem in that I fitted an older Macro Lens to my new Pentax K-30. It wouldn’t come off afterwards and I thought I had ruined the camera or would have to send it back for repair. Before doing that I called into my local camera shop, Cambrian Photography, where I had bought the camera. They were able to get the lens off for me without damaging my camera. Apparently one of the pins had failed to retract when I tried to release the lens. They freed it by inserting some film between the lens and the camera mount, which released the pin.


Olympic Photographs, Not On Here


This Way, Please!

The rules and conditions for using a camera at the Olympic games are pretty draconian, for instance;

Section 19.6.3 states that: “Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a ticket holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a ticket holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally”.

For that reason I won’t be showing you any of the photographs I took inside the stadium. Instead you will have to settle for this one. It’s a photograph of a friendly volunteer guiding us to the stadium. The gentleman was happy for me to take his photograph and hopefully I will not fall foul of the above rule. To make sure I have blurred out all of the logos, not only on the clothes he is wearing, but also on the two bottles behind him. As an additional precaution I have also blurred the passes the gentleman is wearing.

Tomorrow, I am going to Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. I won’t be taking a camera. Why not? Because in the list of prohibited items is this little statement;

Equipment which is capable of recording or transmitting any audio, visual or audio-visual material or any information or data. Mobile telephones are permitted provided they are used for personal and private use only provided that no audio, visual or audio-visual material captured by a mobile telephone may be published or otherwise made available to any third parties including via social networking site.

Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium. It would be nice to record my family standing outside it but I won’t be able to do that. My phone has a crappy camera. I bought it as a phone, not a camera. Besides I have perfectly good cameras more suited but I won’t take the chance on taking one and have it confiscated, never to be returned.

We want you to have an unforgettable time at the games

Just don’t bring a camera so you can record those memories and share with others.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Old Fashioned

My wife’s aunt was a prolific photographer and she was always keeping old things as well. I found this Brownie No 2 Model F in her attic and it still appears to be working.

Brownie is the name of a long-running and extremely popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. The Brownie popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot. The first Brownie, introduced in February, 1900 was a very basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2¼-inch square pictures on 117 roll film. With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use, leading to the popular slogan, “You push the button, we do the rest.” The camera was named after the popular cartoons created by Palmer Cox.

One of the most popular Brownie models was the Brownie 127, millions of which were sold between 1952 and 1967. The Brownie 127 was a simple bakelite camera for 127 film which featured a simple meniscus lens and a curved film plane to reduce the impact of deficiencies in the lens.

Having written an article in the 1940s for amateur photographers suggesting an expensive camera was unnecessary for quality photography, the famous Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy used a Brownie camera to stage a carefully posed snapshot of two young women sitting on railings above a breezy Blackpool promenade.

I’m almost tempted to see if I can get some film for it to give it a go. Do you think I’ll be able to find any?