I’ve been getting excited recently about my shiny new(ish) fisheye lens, which has done nothing short of revolutionise my roundography, as I say here. However, that’s not the only new lens I’ve thought necessary to acquire. My new status of Mother has demanded of me that I begin my Crafthole family album as quickly as possible, since our boy changes almost daily.

For the first four months of his life I have been snapping away at him, as you would expect, but I have felt the results singularly uninspiring. This picture of me in the early eighties, taken by my Dad on his splendid and much loved Pentax, was my standard:

What I love about this is the wonderfully shallow depth of field that really gives such a sense of softness and intimacy. Beautiful. I am so glad that my Dad amassed this collection of family snaps that can be thought of as true portraits.

I know a bad craftsman always blames his tools but this sort of image really is impossible without a lens with sufficiently low F number. My Dad had his portrait lens, and I wanted mine. And I got it (with a bit of financial shifting, squeezing and moving). It’s a 50mm, F1.4 Nikkor thing of joy. I couldn’t be more happy with it.

Here is my first attempt, taken the day the lens arrived (yesterday):

I can’t wait to see the pictures as they come in the next few years. I hope to give my son a documentation of his childhood as thoughtful and intimate as the one my Dad gave us.

Joyous new arrival!

April 29, 2011

I posted this .gif shortly after I made it in my post about zoetropes. I wanted a good record of my eight-and-a-half month pregnant body before the long-anticipated Event, which could have happened any time.

That was 27th March, and one week later, on 3rd April, a few days before his official due date, George Frederick, or Freddy as he is known by his family, was born. He changes everything, and not just for us. I am now a mother, Crafthole is now a father, my mum and dad are now grandparents and my siblings are uncle and aunt for the first time. It seemed to us in our delirium of newness and happiness that he changed the whole world: he appeared in the precise week that the buds on the trees became leaves and the blossom bloomed for the start of spring. The trees outside my hospital window were bare when we went in, and green when we came out, blinking. They really were. Freddy was the Bringer of Spring.

On 20th April we returned to exactly the same spot as above and took another series of photographs (and just look at the difference).

The .gifs below were taken largely because I cannot help myself… He is shown being weighed on his fifth day of life as a citizen of the world,

and being bathed against his will about a week later.

First Zoetrope Strip!

March 29, 2011

I’ve recently developed a new obsession, which I think I can trace back to the wonderful Muybridgizer iPhone app. This was made to accompany Tate Britain’s recent Muybridge exhibition, which unfortunately I never actually saw. It’s a lovely fun app that allows you to make little movies, Victorian style, covering movement lasting around a second. Here’s a lovely post demonstrating the app better than I could.

This got me thinking: what a lovely way to make my family album come to life. I’m due to give birth in a week or two and have been thinking a lot about how to document the new arrival in a way that feels permanent and interesting.

This was an attempt of mine last weekend when Crafthole & I walked out in the beautiful springtime sun and took a little sequence to show off my 8 1/2 month pregnant belly:

However, the lack of any way of exporting the moving image or individual frames really limits the usefulness of the app in making a real record. I decided therefore I would be better, and happier, doing it myself. So, I cast around for a zoetrope of my own and settled on this little one from Ancient Magic Toys:

After taking my little Muybridgizer sequence, we switched to the proper camera and took a sequence of twelve, which I treated in photoshop:

…and made into a strip:

I now have only to wait for the zoetrope to arrive to see how it actually works out, but in the meantime I’ve made myself a little sneak preview. I think it will work out fine! (if the animation below doesn’t automatically start, click on the image)

This should be the first of many little movies this year, I think it will be the start of a lovely family album.

November in Pictures

December 2, 2010

All the pictures have captions and *slightly* larger versions here.

Of course, the highlight of this month, and possibly my life so far, was my twenty-week scan on 23rd, during the course of which the very energetically moving @babycrafthole was promoted from an It to a He.

What an aid to the imagination this knowledge brings: during our walk on 28th the vision of us with a little boy tripping after in a couple of years time was glorious. We talked about it a lot for the first time as we walked. Of course he was picking up beetles and cones and leaves: we have fond hopes that he will be an enthusiastic little naturalist. I have little fantasies of taking him on fossicking holidays in Devon and lots of country walks. It’s all very easy to imagine this sort of vision of the future when I’m at home in Watlington with Crafthole, but at other times, which is most of the time, it feels far too remote to me.

This month I felt the baby’s little kicks and wriggles for the first time, which slowly became more and more noticeable, less ambiguous and more often until they have become unmistakable. The 29th was the first day that they were quite relentless. It is every bit as strange as I had always assumed it would be, and prompted me to consider that I wouldn’t be a man for all the world: what an experience this is.

As ever my idyllic week at home in Watlington was passed very joyfully. I was even moved to retrieve my camera from the drawer it’s been in for the last several months and make some more offerings to Flickr. I must be happy :-)

I also published my first calendars, ready for the new year. I’ll write a post about that on my website blog. I have so far sold two and blew my share of the money immediately on an album..

I must also mention the wonderful surprise that appeared on our doorstep on 20th. We are now the very proud owners of a genuine pair of Retronaut’s goggles, courtesy of The Retronaut himself, as a wedding present. We screamed with delight when we opened the parcel!

I’ve posted a couple of bits about long and short exposures lately and this seems to fit in well with them. I started thinking about the power of photography to capture the world in ways new to the human experience in my post about some star trail photographs I took earlier this year. In that instance, a long exposure allowed me to track the movement of the stars across the sky in a single image, stretching out the points into arcs of light. This is a view as real as any other photograph but invisible to our unaided eyes because it occurs over a longer time-span than our senses operate at. I elaborated on that point a bit here.

This image is the same principle, but in reverse: it is also a view invisible to my eyes because it is too fast.

To my eyes, the event looked like sheet lightning: I couldn’t resolve a bolt at all. I saw the whole sky turn white and back to black almost before I knew what was happening and really expected the camera, who’s shutter was thankfully open for a twenty-second exposure, to register something similar. I was amazed when I first saw this image.

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Hee hee, this is my first attempt at time-lapse photography. It’s done with my new (to me) iPhone, which we treated ourselves to the day after Crafthole was offered his new job, about a week ago. It is a never-ending source of excitement to me at the moment.

The angle is weird because I don’t have a little tripod for it yet. It was propped in place in a drawer for the THREE HOURS that this film represents. It was taken during a visit to my granddad’s, who loves jigsaws. I was with my dad and my sister and none of us can stand them, but they pass the time and give us all something we can do together.

We didn’t manage to finish the jigsaw as we were ready to slit our wrists after so long and had to stop.

Next logical step… a time-lapse painting…

Just to add to a previous post about a star trail photograph I took, where I mentioned the way that long and short exposures can bring about a different sort of image than the one we see with our eyes. I said that our perception seems to work on a 1/20 second time lag, and that is why moving pictures work with just over 20 frames per second. I used the example of a waterfall photograph, but without an example to hand.

Well, last weekend Crafthole & I found ourselves looking at a weir and I thought I’d use it to qualify my statement. This is a 1/20 second  exposure, which freezes the image exactly as it is seen in the real world:

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I went back to my star trail photograph this evening and made up another set of photographs I took, this time pointing at the plough.

This time I altered the levels to bring out as much as I could from the image, and was excited to see I’d got a meteor in it!

I did the same to the previous one to see what I could see, but sadly no meteors. Lots of stars I couldn’t see before though.

On Saturday night I tried something I have been meaning to do for literally years: a star trail photograph. I love these images, they represent the best thing about photography, which is that far from simply setting down moments as we see them, it has the power to reveal the ordinary world in ways never possible before. Think of a still of a waterfall and how unnatural it must have looked to the first people ever to capture such an image: an imperceptible fraction of a second frozen solid with individual drops crystallized out of the movement blur. This is a perfectly mundane sight to our eyes, despite the fact that before the nineteenth century no human eye in all history ever saw such a thing.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are long exposures.  A 1/20 second exposure produces a fairly natural-looking image of a waterfall: this seems to be about the time-lag our brains work at (hence the number of frames per second in a movie) and anything above starts to look progressively less like the world as we perceive it. Movement creates a cumulative image and averages out randomness, giving moving water a milky-white look as all the random chinks of light blur into each other. [I found myself standing in front of a weir a couple of weeks after posting, so took some photos to illustrate this]

The cumulative nature of long exposures can bring out signals too dim to see with our constantly refreshing visual sense, and it can also combine the effect of continual movement over time. To point a camera at a cloudless night sky for thirty seconds will capture enough light to show up stars, and any exposure much longer than a minute is enough to show them changing apparent position in the sky, which seems astonishingly fast to me.

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Roundography in Action

May 20, 2010

I am thinking of ways to illustrate the ’roundographic’ process and thought what better than a little movie of one being made down the road from me at Thornhill park, Dewsbury. I’m going to redo it because I was inexplicably wearing the most awful winter sack (I didn’t think about what I looked like until I downloaded the pictures) but still made it up as an experiment. I think it looks funny… I wonder how I have the nerve to do this in public places.

So, here is the process from Crafthole’s perspective, my perspective and the final image.


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