Why I took up photography

In 2006 I moved to a cute flat in Athens with a view of the Acropolis and of the mausoleum of Philopappus of Comagene (where do names like this come from?). It was a great place to live before and after the riots began. I hope it still is. As a city with a higher population density than Shanghai that doubles in size every generation, it’s where my heart is. Looking over five million people in a city created practically overnight in 1923, I loved Athens.

Great as this flat was, there was a small glitch: a tiny lift that often broke down. I used to do the shopping for a little old lady on the fifth floor and even braved the riots to get her vital necessities from the local convenience store, where rioters and policemen called a truce to buy cigarettes. (I remember going back, younger …

Back from beyond

Now that my telephone and Internet connections are finally working I can do some useful things…

Firstly, offer my sincere apologies and thanks to the wonderfully patient members of the four groups I host on my own:

Atheism and Humanism

Full Frame

Lost in Space



You’ve been very forbearing and I was chuffed to see so many works awaiting moderation when I finally managed to get back to you. Thanks for bearing with me.

Secondly, point out that bursting the bubble for a month is not necessarily a bad thing…


Digital age in Provence

Getting a phone line – much less an Internet connection – is proving much harder and longer than I expected. I can’t penalise members of the various groups I host with the slow, slow, slow rate of progress of France Télécom, so all groups are now open for works. I’ll check in every couple of days until I have a permanent access.

Thanks for your patience,


Temporarily closing groups

This is to inform members of the following groups:

  1. Atheism and Humanism
  2. Full Frame
  3. Lost in Space
  4. Marmara

of which I am the sole host that works will not be accepted for the first half of September. Apologies for this, but I am moving and it takes my ISP up to a fortnight to install my Internet connection and phone lines. I think members deserve better than having hundreds of works “piled up” and/or accepted in one fell swoop.

I will of course post a message in each group although the view stats for group messages indicate that few people read them.

Again, sorry about the time it takes to get this done – it’s one of the few downsides of living in a medieval Provençal village.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.


The Curiosity Rover

As you know, the great interplanetary monster that eats quite a lot of our Mars probes has let one through and now we’re spoiled for choice. What you don’t know is that I work for the JPL and they sometimes let me leak some of their findings. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t own up to this, but I know I can trust my RB friends. This is the latest from the Curiosity Rover’s vast array of optical equipment with a little bit of work enhancing the image:

Naming names

RB has a rule about not naming people, but I’m going to break it (sort of). I want to thank:

Ms J

Mr B


Mr D

for their invaluable perspective, common sense and advice.

I’ve had one of those unpleasant experiences hosts in the bubble know only too well. The above are wonderful reminders and excellent examples of what this community really is. Thank you.


Mac users and the © sign

How many years has it been since I stopped “using” a Windows PC and started “working with” a mac? Can’t remember, but I do miss the old alt + 0169 for the © sign.

And today I learnt what to do in OS X: option + g.

option + g!

It’s that simple…

I’m that simple…

The universal title generator

I was recently stumped for a title and was told in a comment to number works. I replied rather pretentiously that I believe titles are part of the work. Consider:

  1. Troilus and Cress
  2. Last Tango in Scunthorpe
  3. Waiting for Godalming

and you seen what I mean.

But on a far more modest level, my titles are for the most part obscurantist puns of the lowest order. Recent examples include bizarre references to Livy, Wordsworth, Magritte, a farting contest in a play by Aristophanes and the infinite monkey theorem, although the work boasting the title “Bugger Off!” needs little or no explanation. I’m particularly proud of “4-8 words would be great… not just plain old ‘sunset’”, perhaps because I nicked it.

My point is that titles are not descriptions or even names; they’re ideas underscoring or putting i…

Can someone explain the appeal of HDR to me?

I feel like a tone-deaf spectator at a Bach recital, but HDR is a mystery to me. I understand its uses in high contrast and architectural situations – so much so that I even purchased a copy of Photomatix Pro and am happy with my first attempt (see here) – but everyone seems to tick the “Surreal” Lighting Effects button which, IMO, could easily be renamed “Drop acid”. I just don’t like the lurid glow, trippy colours, soft images, artifacts , etc., etc.

What am I not seeing?

Improving the bubble experience - my wish list

This may not be the place to voice a wish list, especially not one as modest as mine. I don’t know where else to share it, so any advice both on the substance of these suggested improvements and how to make them heard would be welcome.

I think the following would help the bubble and bubblers.

I really would like this:

Change the background colour

I would like the option to change the background colour from that glaring off-white to something else, in my case, a dark grey – at least in my pages. All too often my works look dull and torpid because of the surrounding glare, which requires me to add “better bigger” to every work I add. Which leads me to…

At least 800 px wide displays of work

As a host, I look carefully at work I moderate and always click to enlarge. This is not enough. Other …

Home printing

Disclaimer: this is a general introduction to home printing which assumes little or no prior knowledge. Any brands mentioned below should not be taken as an endorsement of these brands.

First of all, this is not an economically viable alternative to POD services. Although fairly good inkjet printers are not particularly expensive, their ink is the costliest substance in the world by volume and good paper doesn’t come cheap. Add to this all the mistakes when learning and the occasional FUBAR print when the printer jams, ink dries up, etc. So why do it? All sorts of reasons: to exercise total control over the entire photographic process (I’m convinced all of us “enthusiast” photographers are control freaks); the pleasure of producing something oneself; the (almost) instant gratification of …

Photography / holiday info about Provence, SE France

If anyone’s planning a holiday / photo trip to the SE of France this summer (northern hemisphere), I’ll be happy to offer some venue information / the odd bit of logistical/linguistic help. I live midway between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, about 70 km North of Marseilles and an hour’s drive from Arles and the Camargue wetlands.

Here are some examples:

Avignon Festival – July 2012
This is the French equivalent of the Edinburgh festival in the medieval city of Avignon, which has a direct high-speed train link to Paris. Hotels are booked solid in the city and parking is nearly impossible during the festival.

Les Rencontres d’Arles – opens 2 July
Arles is home to the French national school of photography. Exhibitions and courses (in French) until September. It’s also where you’ll …

Photographing in France

France has stringent privacy laws which English-speaking visitors really need to appreciate. If you’re coming to France this year and are planning to photograph street scenes, please consult the nearest French consulate prior to departure about your rights as photographer. It’s just possible they have a fact sheet. Please note that you are subject to French laws whilst in France; being a tourist is not a get-out-of-jail-free card (unless you’re an accredited member of the diplomatic corps). The following is offered as a general pointer and should in no way be considered professional legal advice. Thanks to Byron for prompting this with his excellent journal entry on photographers’ rights.


Here’s an easy one: you cannot use a tripod in public areas. They’re considered a…

AWB and how to deal with it

I’m old enough to remember when AWB meant “Average White Band”, a very funky Glaswegian group that sounded more Detroit than Detroit did. In photography, once you’ve taken your platform heels off, it refers to how cameras measure the colour of light.

It may come as a surprise to learn that light comes in different colours. This is particularly important to compact camera users. Our cameras guess the colour and produce jpgs that are harder to correct for the camera’s mistakes than RAW captures. The result is all too often seasick portraits under fluorescent lighting or distinctly jaundiced subjects in candlelight or tungsten lighting. If you’re old enough, you may remember getting film prints back from labs where only the first three shots were correct and everything else was strangely blu…


Nearly every digital camera uses a passive autofocus system that falls into one of two categories: phase detect (mostly SLRs) and contrast detect (mostly compacts, bridges and hybrids). The technologies used are fascinating, but the results can be frustrating in the extreme. As I’m old enough to remember a time when AF didn’t exist and because my favourite lenses are MF, I thought I’d have a go at explaining how AF works and what to do when it doesn’t.

Basically, a small motor in the lens or body of the camera adjusts the lens’ focusing mechanism in light of the processor’s reading of separate light rays from the subject (phase detect; think “dam busters” range-finding) or by measuring contrast on a given subject (contrast-detect). This is done more or less at the same time as exposure me…


Several bubblers are in mourning today. Of less world-shaking importance, so are the English version of Wikipedia and other Internet resources. The reason is various on-line sites protesting against two bills before the US Senate and House of Representatives that are intended to introduce criminal sanctions against sites infringing US copyright law.

The 96% of humans who have the misfortune of not being Americans may wonder why we’re being deprived of the very right to information decried by these sites (admittedly for today only). Well, the US legislature has frequently considered its laws have global jurisdiction (Helms-Burton comes to mind) and these bills, if they become law, would sanction sites outside the US. One consequence is that if you violate US copyright law in RB, you and yo…

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