Sunday, May 27, 2007

All (fairly) quiet on the photographic front

I haven't had the time or inclination to take many photos recently, but there were a few fantastic night-time skies, and I did spend an hour or so with my telephoto lens and the wireless remote, trying to take pictures of the moon. It's hard. You need absolute stillness, and although I figured my shutter speeds were fast enough, I never took into consideration the movement of the moon which is massively magnified when you use long lenses. Even though the pictures looked crystal clear on the LCD, they were disappointingly soft when transferred onto the laptop. Here is the only one I was reasonably happy with, and even this required great sharpening and cropping.


Astrophotography is like this great white elephant in the corner of the room that I refuse to acknowledge the existence of. I know I'd love it. I also know that I don't need any more equipment, other than a simple device made out of a couple of pieces of wood and a bolt, and a stopwatch. I used to think that photographing 'deep sky' stuff was a question of great magnification, but in fact what you need is lots and lots of time to collect enough light to bring these things out. I can feel that this sort of photography is within my reach, and I can already imagine the shivers of excitement that I'd get when successful for the first time.

I also know that it might drive me utterly, irreversibly, insane. Astrophotography involves stuff that my brain was not programmed for, such as Hard Sums, and Following Instructions Properly. Even trying to follow the instructions for something that is supposedly simple, calibrating an equatorial mount, drives me just a little bit mental. It's frustrating that something so incredible is within my reach, but at the same time quite far.

The only other photo I put up on Flickr recently was this one:

The Woods

This was actually taken a few months ago. I never delete any photos. Ever. Even blurry, out of focus, boring photos that were just taken at the spur of the moment and have to real meaning. This isn't because I think I might use them, but I think more just a natural instinct that I have as a hoarder; I subscribe to the timeless fallacy of the hoarder, that "it might come in handy one day". Well for once it did. This shot, in colour dull and lifeless, sort of appeals to me in black and white. I saw it while looking over some old pictures, and when I turned it into black and white, it instantly looked miles better. You can make out the nice lighting of the trees, their long shadows due to the fact that it was taken late in the evening. The figure on the right, just out-of-place when in colour, takes on something of an ethereal quality when the picture was transformed. I think if I saw this picture I would be fairly impressed.

But is it art? Probably not. I didn't intend to take the picture that eventually emerged; I must be honest with myself about that. It's technically bad, as it was taken in bad light without a tripod. I didn't see it as a black and white picture at the time, nor did I think about the effect the 'figure' would have on the photo. Still though, it may not be art, but I know what I like. Even if it wasn't an intentional moment of artistic inspiration, I think that the fact that I saw it and realised its potential at some point means that I must be getting somewhat better at this photography malarkey.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sunsets, dogs and Torc Waterfall

There's somthing about the sun. There's something about snow, but there's also definitely something about the sun. Especially for an asthmatic smoking moron for whom coughing and spluttering seems like an inextricable part of life. Then the sun comes along and warms places that I didn't even know could be warmed, and stays. Waking up every morning with the sense, even before the eyes are opened, that it's going to be another perfect, blue-sky day, knowing that at least for the moment I can breathe like ordinary people. And of course it's great for photography too; crisp, clear colours, shutter-speeds as fast as you like, being able stay outdoors in comfort for hours and no danger of the camera getting ruined - it's like a dream come true.

Of course, being Ireland, it didn't last that long. One morning I woke up, and the sound of soft rain, almost inperceptible - like a TV with the volume turned down low on a channel of static, and the wet, the wheezing and the sneezing were back. Oh well, at least it's better than nothing...

Unfortunately I didn't take as much advantage of the photo-favourable weather as I should. My laptop had to be sent away, and I realised a couple of things. Without the immediacy of being able to view photos straight away, and scarily, the ability to do advanced editing on them, made me much less likely to take photos at all. I didn't realise how dependent I was on Adobe Lightroom.

Here are the only two photos I took over the last month or so that I am any way happy with. The first two were from Spanish Point:


Spanish Point Sunset again

I also went to Torc Waterfall last weekend, briefly, but of course full of expectation of a wonderful phototography opportunity. This didn't happen, of course. I don't think waterfalls could be any more of a photographic cliche if they tried. They're right up there with sunsets. I did manage to get a few that I quite like in black and white, however:

Torc B&W (1 of 7)

Torc B&W (2 of 7)

Torc B&W (3 of 7)

Torc B&W (4 of 7)

Torc B&W (5 of 7)

Stone & Water

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pandora to block international listeners from May 3rd.

I just got his email from, a fan-bloody-tastic internet radio station that plays you music with similar qualities to other music you like:

"Dear Pandora listener,

Today we have some extremely disappointing news to share with you. Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora's streaming service for most countries outside of the U.S.

It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is for us. Our vision remains to eventually make Pandora a truly global service, but for the time being, we can no longer continue as we have been. As a small company, the best chance we have of realizing our dream of Pandora all around the world is to grow as the licensing landscape allows.

Delivery of Pandora is based on proper licensing from the people who created the music - we have always believed in honoring the guidelines as determined by legislators and regulators, artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers they work with. In the U.S. there is a federal statute that provides this license for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the U.S. and there is no global licensing organization to enable us to legitimately offer Pandora around the world. Other than in the U.K., we have not yet been able to make significant progress in our efforts to obtain a sufficient number of international licenses at terms that would enable us to run a viable business. The volume of listening on Pandora makes it a very expensive service to run. Streaming costs are very high, and since our inception, we have been making publishing and performance royalty payments for every song we play.

Until now, we have not been able to tell where a listener is based, relying only on zip code information provided upon registration. We are now able to recognize a listener's country of origin based on the IP address from which they are accessing the service. Consequently, on May 3rd, we will begin blocking access to Pandora to listeners from your country. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We will be posting updates on our blog regarding our ongoing effort to launch in other countries, so please stay in touch. We will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you. We deeply share your sense of disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding."

This really is disappointing - was one of my absolute favorite services on the internet. It works, too - I've bought several albums by artists that I heard solely thanks to Pandora. It pretty much stopped my using piracy to source new music. The music companies should be begging Pandora to play their music, not the other way around.

A sad day...