(... and the odd rant)
All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).
Monday, November 9, 2015
Posted by Duncan at 12:35 PM
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Occasionally, when either necessity dictates or the mood takes me, I set to in the kitchen, and concoct something that I hope will be edible. I dislike using recipes, so tend to either stick with standards (meat, veg and multi-ingredient mash; fish and whatever; bolognese, con carne, or just stuff mixed and cooked in whatever time-honoured fashion is appropriate... you get the picture) or invent something as I go. The latter can be a risky venture, leading to unpalatable or just disappointing results, but thankfully I can usually pull off something worthwhile.
Tonight, I fancied something inspired by a simple rice-and-lentils meal we enjoyed with friends years ago, when we dropped in with little warning. It was tasty and simple, and despite their disclaimer that it was nothing special, I liked it very much. Why I should wait 22 years to attempt something similar is beyond explanation.
Here's the gist of it:
Lentils with rice and vegetables
• 1/4 cup green lentils
• 1/4 cup brown lentils
• 1 cup rice and ancient grains (or just brown rice)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 carrot, grated
• 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
• a dozen or so round beans, chopped
• 1/2 small red capsicum, chopped
• handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 can chopped tomatoes
• small amount of chopped salami, cabanossi, etc, if desired (I desired)
• sprinkle of basil and oregano
Simmer lentils for about 10 minutes, then top up with cold water, add rice and simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until cooked.
Saute onion until soft, then add garlic for a minute or so. Add carrot, beans, capsicum, chopped tomatoes and herbs (and meats if used), and simmer while rice & lentils are cooking. When all is nearly done, add cherry tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
Drain rice & lentils when ready, rinse with hot water, and add vegie mixture with salt & pepper to taste.
If daughter is not eating with you, add mushrooms to the vegie mix, or anything else that she would otherwise object to.
It was scoffed satisfactorily, and Young Man of item-with-daughter status ate his before leaving the kitchen, then obliged with preventing a leftovers situation from arising.
It's what's called a result, I believe.
There was no photograph, so here's something completely different.
|Lunar occultation of Saturn, 14 May 2014|
Sunday, October 25, 2015
I virtually always carry a camera with me; two, if you count the one in the phone. Very often, I also carry a desire for a coffee. Not that I'm a caffeine addict: at home, I drink decaf - it's simpler, as Heather doesn't do caffeine if she can avoid it, so we only have to have one jar in the cupboard, and that decaf is as satisfying as a legit cafe brew.
When we were in Ipswich some time ago, we were gasping for a cuppa, and couldn't seem to find anywhere that looked like they served a decent brew; when we finally found somewhere, it was pretty disappointing, so we effectively wrote off Ipswich as a coffee-free zone. Since then however, we have found a few places worth a second visit.
One such is Nourish Real Food Cafe, in Brisbane St. It's fairly new, light, airy, and the tables aren't crammed in together. The food is adventurous and the coffee perfectly good. The building was renovated about 18 months ago, and they have gone for the bare brisks look, contrasted by a faux laneway to one side, presumably going to other premises.
My camera eye can be drawn by all sorts of things, but the play of light and shade is usually pretty tempting. Once, at a gallery, I was as fascinated by the shadows cast by a series of exhibits mounted on a row of small shelves as I was with the art itself. There was no artist statement attaching to the shelves. Here, it was the clean lines and subtle shadows on a textured white wall that stopped me in my tracks.
Inside the cafe, it was the walls that fascinated me. Nothing new or terribly unusual about bare brick walls in a modern establishment, but it was the pattern that seemed unusual. Heather knows a thing or two about bricklaying bonds (who'd have thought?), but this didn't seem like a bond that would have made it through building control. What would I know? The apprentice's first attempt?
The last few posts have touched on my inability to abandon film photography, but these were taken with the digital camera that I usually carry. I suspect that in the next five years it may expire; it's unlikely to last another ten. However, I have just bought a bulk load of black & white film, and shall soon run it through some cameras still going strong after 40 years or more. After film camera values plummeted in the last decade, they are becoming valuable again as a new generation of photographers discovers the appeal of traditional non-digital methods.
I shall also be exploring the world of developing the film in coffee and vitamin C—a combination known as Caffenol—which sounds nuts but is chemically quite plausible and has a growing number of advocates and practitioners. And why not do something different, if it works? Watch this space.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
A bright, clear crescent Moon did shine down last night, and with a young man interested in seeing through the big scope, I stirred myself to grant his wish. While looking at the ancient surface, I noticed that the seeing was pretty good, so got the camera mounted for a few snaps.
There's nothing groundbreaking about a pic of the crescent Moon, of course, but it's always pleasing and never looks the same twice—unless you wait a long time and look at every possible opportunity. On this occasion though, there was a pinprick of light inside a large crater, evidence of day breaking upon a central mountain peak ... and who doesn't like a mountain sunrise?
The telescope is effectively acting as a 1200mm f8 long lens, which is pretty big on a crop sensor camera (Canon 40D). At ISO-400, the exposure would be reasonably short, except that I wanted to make the most of that little sunlit mountaintop, so took exposures of 1/13, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 second, to get detail in both highlights and dark areas near the terminator (the day/night boundary). I then combined all 5 exposure levels to make an HDR image.
|The southern highlands, at top, appear more heavily cratered as they haven't been overlaid with lava,which process produced the dark 'seas' in the northern hemisphere.|
|Maurolycus, with central peak lit|
|The crater trio Catharina, Cyrillus and Theophilus, beside the Sea of Nectar|
|Sea of Tranquility; Apollo 11 site circled|
Sunday, October 18, 2015
It's been far too long since I've posted here, so here's a post I made as a guest on the 35mmc (35mm compact camera) blog. I became temporary custodian of a point and shoot camera ("The Traveling Yashica"), and used that quaint but not-yet-dead medium, photographic film. It was fun, even if I didn't love the camera. The premise is simple: receive the camera and shoot a film, then blog the results:
"I have decided to send my Yashica T5 around some of the nice folks I cross paths with on twitter, get them to shoot a roll of film then send the camera to someone else who wants to take part.
All I ask is that anyone who ends up with the camera sends me some photos and a little bit of a backstory to go with them." -- Hamish Gill
As I still love the look and palaver that goes with using film (I never stopped, just stopped shooting it except on very rare occasions), I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do.
|Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium at dusk|
Posted by Duncan at 8:34 PM
Monday, May 12, 2014
There has always been a bit of a left-of-centre* streak in my photography, albeit with plenty of straight-down-the-middle conventionalism to balance. I studied photography in a 3-year diploma course, specialising in applied photography in my final year, and encountered all sorts of photographic possibilities along the way. That course led me into employment at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh; not your average job for a freshly-minted young photographer. (* When I say 'left-of-centre', I suppose I should say 'right-of-centre' as well, since I dabble with 3D stereo pairs, but that's another matter; you can investigate here.)
As an aside, whenever I use film these days, the smells take me right back to 197X; they were just an incidental part of the photographic process until the 90s, but now they are an incredible nostalgia trigger. I should get a bottle of Paterson Acutol, just so I can open it for a sniff every now & then. (I don't miss the benzene-based colour chemistry of the 70s & 80s; it just smelt psychoactive.)
So, how did my left-of-centre radicalism manifest? Often, it was just through taking a shortcut to a result, such as shooting a pic on a cut-down sheet of enlarging paper, rather than load a whole film. Or processing in a developer not intended for the job, just because it was available. Sometimes though, I'd shoot pictures with the question 'what if?' in mind. I was always an advocate for the idea that, never mind what the rule book says, have a go, and see what works. I suppose it's surprising, given that attitude, that I never took to cross-processing, but there you go. I wouldn't want to be predictable, would I?
These days, as well as doing less and less photography as time goes by, I use traditional materials on a very infrequent basis. One thing that does get me loading a camera with light-sensitive silver-based materials is pinhole photography. It is possible to do pinhole with digital, but the small sensor size—even if using a full-frame DSLR—is rather limiting, as is the field of view. So, when I see a piece about anyone using traditional materials, or cameras before electronics really took over, I'm immediately interested.
Pinhole photography is photography almost at its most basic (I'll allow that photograms are even more basic): no lens, no shutter, no aperture, no light meter, no viewfinder. Just photographer and instinct. In practice, I might use a hand-held light meter to gauge the right exposure, but it's not absolutely necessary, after a bit of experience. There is something very satisfying about creating a photograph without all that modern technology has to offer.
When I read of a project to create pinhole photographs with 100-year exposure times, I was therefore immediately interested. For a few years, folk have been creating solargraphs—year-long exposures that record the Sun's movement, both east-west and north-south. These photographs are taken using photographic enlarging paper, but are not developed in the normal way; instead, they are scanned as soon as the camera is opened, to record the image that has appeared on the light-sensitive material.
Now, somebody has come up with the idea that you could load a simple camera with black paper, and expose it for a hundred years to create a record of urban change during that period. Not black photographic paper, mind you, just black paper. Photographers, as well as scrapbookers, generally like the idea that a photograph will last for a very long time, if processed and stored properly. Cheap paper can contain acid from the manufacturing process, and will consequently not last for a very long time if exposed to light (the acid will also harm any other materials stored with it, but that's another story). Papers intended for archival use will last much longer, but ultimately, papers exposed to light—especially UV-loaded daylight—will fade or turn yellow, and that will be the mechanism that's relied upon in this project.
To anyone who has used that lovely material, Cibachrome, there may be a resonance here. Unlike every other photographic material where exposure, followed by development, created an image with either granular silver or colour dye, each Cibachrome print began with a sheet of enlarging paper that contained all the dyes already in place; it looked brown before exposure etc. The technical beauty of Cibachrome (for me) was in the process of developing a silver image and then bleaching that image and the dyes associated with it, leaving only the dyes that weren't affected by the exposure, leaving a direct positive image (it was used for printing from colour slides, not negatives). (It also meant that the image was sharper, as the dyes in the unexposed emulsion limited light scatter.)
I just loved the brilliance (both literal and metaphorical) of the Cibachrome method, and thought that it had been discontinued years ago, after it had been renamed Ilfochrome; however, the Ilford site says that it is still available. This chap seems to think that it was on the way out, and shows the material being used for original in-camera photography, rather than for printing.
The point about that apparent digression is that the photographer behind this project is using black paper, which should gradually be bleached away to a positive image; or so the theory goes. There are many questions, of course, about this project: will the cameras still be there in 100 years; will the exposures actually work; will the images be worthwhile, in any broad sense of the word? If all goes to plan, it might make for a fascinating exhibition/book/blog post; it if fails, then likely very few people will notice or care … but I suspect that's art for you.
Read about the project here: petapixel.com/2014/05/09/100-cameras-will-photograph-berlin-ridiculous-100-year-exposure-times/
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
When we lived in Edinburgh, one of our favourite pastimes was to go for a drive through East Lothian. We'd just pick a road and head down it; with plenty to choose from, we'd have a different journey each time. East Lothian is a coastal county, bounded to the north by that well-known Scottish linguistic joke, the Firth of Forth. It is a green place, containing both coal-mining towns and pastoral land—and even the odd site of historical importance (a hoard of Roman silver was found on Traprain Law in 1919).
Having moved to the New South Wales north coast 16 years ago, we found the opportunities for similar explorations a little more limited, although we did have a few favourite roads through the Coffs coast hinterland. Four years ago, the move to Brisbane's southern suburbs reduced the opportunities even further, although we have taken the occasional meandering route home through some of the older suburbs, to enjoy a glimpse of the city's older residential architecture.
More recently, we have been nursing a notion that moving inland to a large country town might be a good idea. Although there is no mandatory retirement age in the Brisbane City Council, I start drawing my UK Civil Service pension in less than five years, with the old age pension 5-10 years beyond that (depending upon how far those particular goalposts are moved by government policy).With that notion in mind, we finally took a trip to Toowoomba, having said many times that we should.
My introduction to Australia (apart from the few days in Sydney after arrival), was two years spent in the small country town of Coonabarabran, the local centre for staff working at the UK Schmidt Telescope, to which I had been assigned for a while. Coming from the cultural sophistication—not to mention the ancient roots—of a city of 300,000 people, I felt as if I'd arrived in the Wild West. The strange shop awnings, some unsealed roads, and huge cars that you could play 5-a-side football upon, were a world away from the Georgian architecture and horizon-to-horizon asphalt of Scotland's capital. However, I took to it pretty quickly: the change was refreshing, and I grew to like living among just 3,000 people, in a simpler, more honest way of life. In a way, this place seemed to have a lot in common with the in-your-face bluntness of Glasgow, than the behind-closed-doors cliqueish attitudes of Edinburgh. And, because Heather had grown up in such places, whenever we travelled thereafter, we would compare places to Coona', which seemed like the 'real Australia'.
It is partly with that feeling in mind that we feel drawn to smaller town life, although I would also welcome a move to the drier side of the Great Dividing Range, where tools don't go rusty and camera lenses (among other things) don't do mouldy, like they do in a humid coastal environment.
In between our first planning to see Toowoomba, and our actually going there, Heather had gained a friend just an hour further west. The visit was therefore to kill the proverbial two birds. We could have done with another day or two, but it had to be something of a flying visit—which just means we have an excuse to do it again later on.
So, what's important in our choice of town? I've said for some time that I could pretty much live anywhere, that home can be where I hang my hat. Coming to Brisbane has been enjoyable, although that might not have been the case had we not managed to find a home in the suburb that we settled upon. Here, there is easy access into and out of Brisbane, on relatively uncongested roads, and the public transport is good; my journey to work is a fairly trivial run of less than 20 minutes, and the suburb itself is good. Retiring to a country town though, there will be no drive to work, and the way out of town will be pretty straightforward anyway.
We have few vices, but one that we do have is the pleasure of seeking out a cafe that makes a good coffee. There is plenty of average coffee around, but I can make that at home, if I'm being sloppy. Joining the Brisbane Coffee Lovers Meetup group introduced us to a few places, and we have found more ourselves. So, we would hope that anywhere else that we settle has at least one place we can repair to, for a well-made cup. After a terribly long drive from home (OK, about 90 minutes), we therefore stepped into the first likely place that we saw, to slake our coffee-flavoured thirst. Sadly, it was quite average. Not bad, but not great. After that, we went walkabout, to see what the town centre had to offer, stopping to buy some things for lunch on the way, which we later scoffed in the botanic gardens. Good, there is at least one excellent deli in town.
The day soon went, as we meandered about both on foot and by car. We had agreed to be at our friends' place for 6, so leaving around 5 was the plan, but we had need of another coffee, after a hard day swanning around†. We spotted a place that looked like it was trying to be a Melbourne lane cafe, and after a quick butchers inside, decided that it seemed authentic enough. Sadly, the coffee wasn't to my palate, so another one was crossed off the mental list.
After our night in Dalby (where the sky was dark and the stars bright), generally chewing the fat evening and morn, we headed back east around midday. This late on Anzac day, the ceremonial parades had finished, and we found Toowoomba to be mostly closed. After another walk around town, we had a delicious lunch at the Biriyani Hut, followed by ice cream and sorbet at the corner cafe, followed by … wait for it … a gorgeous coffee. We'd found it at last, and know where to go next time. The iced delicacies were very good as well, so no complaints there at all. Mission accomplished.
The drive home took us back across flat pastoral land, with cotton, sorghum and who-knows-what-else? Coupled with a blue sky scattered with meteorological cotton-wool above the agricultural kind, a few photos were called for. I dare say I'll be back for more.
† Do swans 'people around', when they're on a long lead?
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Time was, we counted the passage of time in Moons. It's a convenient measure: short enough that one is 'only recently' but long enough that a dozen or so will take you through a set of seasons. 'Moons' in this context, means lunar months—or more specifically, the synodic months from New to Full and back again to New; a period of 29.5 days. (The other lunar month is the sidereal one, when the Moon returns to approximately the same position among the stars.)
The Moon is endlessly fascinating. Whether you are watching a Moonrise over the bay with nothing but your eyes (and possibly a glass of something convivial), or you are studying it at high magnification through a large telescope under a crystal-clear dark rural sky, it has a universal appeal.
For my part, I have watched with telescope and without; with binoculars; with camera; and with all sorts of permutations thereof. I have watched its phases come and go. I have watched the Sun's light slowly creeping across that distant landscape, illuminating crater floors and mountain peaks: a constantly-changing chiaroscuro that Buzz Aldrin described from its surface as 'magnificent desolation'.
In 1976 I was given a second-hand 6-inch (150 mm) reflecting telescope. I had arrived. At last, I had an instrument with a proper mount, driven to follow the movement of the stars (actually, the rotation of the Earth, but let's not quibble), with which I could employ substantial magnification upon celestial sights near and far. By that time I had already decided that I needed to learn about photography, so that I could record what I was seeing through the eyepiece. Little did I know the challenge ahead...
I did try to mate my somewhat ancient SLR camera to the telescope, trying to get decent photographs of Moon and planets, but the results were generally disappointing. Fuzzy, shaken images discouraged me and until I was introduced to the Thomas Cooke 6-inch photovisual refractor at the City Observatory in Edinburgh, I did no more telescopic photography. The Cooke was a fine instrument in a poor situation. Murky city skies and poor 'seeing' were constantly conspiring to reduce image quality, but I did dabble a bit, and even recorded the second Scottish image of Comet Halley with it in 1985.
I have the good fortune these days to work at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, which is equipped with a Zeiss 150 mm refractor. The beauty of that instrument is that it sits on a coudé mount, which means that the viewing end doesn't move with the telescope, which in turns allows any camera to be mounted without upsetting the balance. The drawback to this telescope is its optical system: as an ordinary 'achromat', it is subject to incompletely-corrected colour, so that when taking photographs there tends to be a blue haze around bright objects. (The Cooke, with a 'photovisual' triplet objective, was corrected for red, green and blue light.) So, after trying for a while to take some decent lunar photographs through the Zeiss, I find that unless I want to discard the blue channel and go for a greyscale image using just the red and green, it's of limited use. Which is where I come back to the old reflector (the 'CF', it having been manufactured by the old Charles Frank company in Glasgow).
The reflecting telescope was devised by Isaac Newton as an alternative to the simple lens telescopes of the day, which were even more plagued by false colour than any modern achromat (a-chromat ... meaning no colour, but they don't quite live up to that name). I'd never achieved much with mine in the past, but would a modern digital camera make any difference?
One of the great benefits of digital imaging is the immediacy of it: you can see the image without waiting for a film to be processed and printed. So, when you need to assess the accuracy of focus, exposure or subject targeting, you have almost instant feedback. If the camera has live view focusing then the focus can be refined before shooting, under high magnification (although even then, checking the images on a large monitor allows a final decision).
Fortunately, the image scale of the CF is almost perfect for a crop frame DSLR: the Moon sits comfortably in the frame, while allowing some room to move; it's effectively a 1200mm long-focus 'lens'. I have become enamoured of hitching my Canon 40D to it, and recording our nearest natural neighbour, although it's hardly ground-breaking stuff. No two images will be the same though, due to the changing phase and libration—the apparent east-west and north-south wobbling that allows us to see 59% of the lunar surface (even though the Moon keeps nominally the same face to us all the time).
Here then is a set of images taken over the last month or so, as well as a 3D stereo pair using another image from last year. Enjoy.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
I discovered the art of the bookmash—a.k.a. book spine poetry—via Stan Carey, who maintains the blog Sentence first. I have dipped my toes only briefly into the bookmash pond, as it were, and not for some time. Today, however, I found myself in one of our regular charity shops, and thought: bookmash!
I once introduced the owner of one of Brisbane's second-hand bookshops to this practice, and even perused her shelves in search of an example, but have never—despite threats to do so—rearranged any retail bookshelves to satisfy this particular creative urge.
If you're not familiar with it, the idea is simple: look at book titles and find an arrangement of them that seems in some way poetic; Stan has his collection here. Today's effort was put together fairly quickly, with all of the books already in one small section of the shelf; all that was required was a little shuffling. Judge for yourself if this is poetry:
Tangled webs, kiss, pillow talk.
Lies I told about a girl, tangled up in you.
The dance of anger; Sunday's silence.
Whether or not anyone else noticed this ephemeral poem is a matter for conjecture … but I doubt it. It's just our little secret.
Posted by Duncan at 10:58 PM
Monday, March 4, 2013
Faced with a need for evening sustenance and a relative dearth of raw materials, I delved into the cupboard and the bottom of the fridge. It should be noted that whenever I do this, I will almost certainly produce something that I am more than happy to eat; whether others are keen to join me, might be another matter.
What did I fancy, and what did we have? Well, I fancied something hot or cold, that could be eaten with or without cutlery. I'm easily pleased.
Salmon. From a tin, certainly, but I have fond memories of Mum's salmon sandwiches, so it's a definite contender. Vegies: well, there's a courgette (or zucchini, if you will), 2 shallots, carrots aplenty, a few measly cloves of garlic, a red capsicum - oh, and a tin of brown lentils. Aaaand... brown rice. We rarely eat it, although I really like it (but I don't think the others share my liking to the same degree).
So, the assembled cast:
1 tin salmon
1 tin lentils
1 clove garlic
half a capsicum, cut into large chunks
dollop of olive oil
shake or two of Portuguese seasoning
Grate carrot & chop courgette, capsicum & shallots. Crush & chop garlic. Add all to pan with oil & seasoning and soften over low heat. Before courgette is reduced to mush, stir in lentils & salmon. At some point, start boiling rice, then in the fullness of time, mix all together and serve.
I have no photograph, but it was sort of beige-coloured with various colourful highlights, as one might expect. I toyed with the idea of adding a dash of balsamic vinegar, but decided against. A Lindeman's shiraz did it no harm at all.
It was acknowledged as worth repeating.
Posted by Duncan at 8:43 PM