Thoughts on photography and life


Dear Tim Cook. I need $1 Billion Dollars. Please.

Dear Sir,

To be honest, it might actually be a lot less than that but you silicon valley types seem to favour billions.

Instagram – $1 Billion
WhatsApp – $19 Billion
Beats – $3 Billion

Millions are for those who aren’t imaginative enough to spend a billion – am I right?

Removing tongue from cheek for one second, I am cognisant of the fact that Apple sits on a huge cash pile, and am deadly serious in my request.

You will no doubt be aware, that our oceans are festooned with plastic of all types.  From toothbrushes to cigarette lighters and carrier bags.

A TV series called “The Island” featuring Bear Grylls, aired here in the UK recently.  The most abundant resource that the participants found washing up on the beaches of their remote Pacific islands, were plastic bottles.  Thousands and thousands of plastic bottles.  A genuinely shocking amount.

A brief image search will show you sickening pictures of areas where the plastic has accumulated into huge floating islands.  Apparently in places it’s thick enough to walk on.

The time is right for something to be done about this menace.

What I envision, are ocean going ships that would dredge, process and ultimately recycle – perhaps back on land – vast quantities of the stuff.

I’m no naval architect, sailor, marine biologist or recycling expert, so the intricacies of doing this are beyond me.  It will take a lot of very bright people to make it happen.  As luck would have it, you have access to lots of very bright people!

As a guide to cost, Queen Mary 2, the biggest most expensive cruise liner ever built cost approximately $840 million.  Surely a trial vessel could be produced for a small fraction that?

Seriously, cleaning up the oceans is something that absolutely NEEDS to happen.  Apple has the money to do this.  You have the discretion over that money to make it happen.  You personally have the status, such that your leadership would make this a reality.

It’s frankly unimaginable that either of our governments could stop their internal bickering for long enough to make it happen.  “Spend a tiny percentage of the defense budget on some hippy eco project?  Wash your mouth out with soap, young man!”

Please do give it some thought.

Yours sincerely
Gavin Hall

To save the world – just do what you can do

It’s easy to become depressed and defeatist when you read about the environmental challenges facing the planet.  What can we as individuals possibly do to make an impact?  Why even bother trying?

On this occasion, let’s lay climate change to one side – I don’t want the central thrust of what I’m saying today to be disregarded by those who take issue with climate change.

If mankind’s mission was to vandalise the planet, we would get an A+. From poaching to deforestation, pollution of rivers and the desecration of the oceans, many things need to change – soon.

The environmental cause has been championed for several generations now, yet it seems humankind keeps redoubling its efforts to make things worse.

It would be easy to blame large corporations, rampant capitalist greed or the Chinese for our problems.  At that point we could conveniently throw up our hands and say, “Yes I’d love to help, but what’s the use – just look at China.” And then do nothing.

Doing nothing is an understandable response too.  People lead busy lives.  People lead stressful lives.  “I’m struggling to make ends meet here, and now you’re burdening me with saving the world? Sorry I’m just one man.”

“I’m just – one – man.”

That right there is the key to all of this.  The planet has been placed into its current position, by 7 billion “just one men” going about life with the idea that what THEY do makes no difference.

It does though.  Each and EVERY action that each of us takes makes a difference.

To halt the decline or begin to repair this beautiful planet will require some amazing thinking by the greatest minds alive.  It will require new technologies to clean up the mess and reduce our usage of finite resources.

On it’s own though, that will be insufficient.  Indeed developing new technologies is not for the masses to worry about.

What is needed, is for every person to be aware of their actions in the context of, “What if everyone on the planet did this today?”

It’s important not to become burdened with the notion of “saving the world”.  Humans are everywhere – manpower is not lacking.  We just need to save our tiny corner.

Can I recycle an extra plastic bottle today?  If everyone in the UK did that, that would be an extra 63 million bottles not in landfill – or the ocean.  IN ONE DAY!

What if everyone in Africa could be persuaded to pick up one piece of litter and put it in the bin?  That would be 1.15 BILLION pieces.  IN ONE DAY!

What if everyone in the USA could be persuaded to swap one meal per month from beef to a vegetarian option?

What if each person kept their television for an extra year before replacing it?  Or – shock horror – maybe even kept it until it broke?

Can you see how easy this could be?  No one has to go out of their way or make a huge sacrifice.  No one need become overawed by the size of the task.

We each have to do what we *can* do today.  With 7 billion of us at it, giving Earth a break is not so hard to do.

Street photography in Hong Kong – Chinese New Year

Street photography has never been one of my strong suits. I’ve always felt uncomfortable pointing my camera at strangers. However, if you have a compact camera, you can get away with a little bit more. The public assume you must just be a tourist, whereas someone with a DSLR is clearly either a pervert or a paparazzo!  (As I mentioned in a previous post, the people of the Far East are far more accommodating of those with cameras than we are in the West.)

Recently I bought a new compact camera (thanks in part to a mega load of Amazon vouchers from my credit card reward scheme) – the Sony RX100 Mk3. While I haven’t used it enough to write any kind of a review, I can say one thing – the articulated screen is great! You can stand there head down, like you’re looking your phone, all the while snapping passers by. It’s also brilliant for capturing low angles that would otherwise need you to lie on your belly.

Anyway, the following images are from a recent trip to Hong Kong. Most of them are from the Chinese Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park. Incidentally, 2015 is the year of the goat/sheep. See if you can spot any images which give this away!

Click on any of the images to enter slideshow mode.

An afternoon of golden sunshine in Rio

Barra is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro. It’s also quieter and safer than the trendy tourist spots such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

However this is still Rio – which means that the beach is the place to see and be seen. In the middle of a summer’s day, the heat is almost unbearable and only the super committed (or should that be committable?) sun tanners are out on the beach. Come an hour before sunset though and the sun loses its sting, instead bathing everything in warm golden light.

This is what I hope you get a sense of in these images.

They MADE me shoot him!

Yokohama diners at nightClick for a larger view


An amusing side story to go with the previous post about my photowalk in Yokohama….

I was wandering around with the trusty Nikon D90 atop a tripod – stopping here and there to assess potential shots. I paused to take a couple of shots of the restaurant on the left, which as you can see was almost deserted. Anyway, the staff of the next door restaurant became convinced that I must be a travel photographer shooting for some magazine or other. They definitely wanted in on the action, and were most insistent that I showed them some photo love too. In fact they were not happy until I had made several exposures.

I was of course more than happy to oblige – in the West, people are nowhere near as keen to have their photos taken, so it was a lovely treat to have enthusiastic subjects!


Yokohama photomooch

mooch – verb (used without object) – to loiter or wander about

The City of Yokohama, Japan. A great place to hang out with a camera and watch life in progress. Despite the astonishing population density in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, the people here are friendly and welcoming.  Unlike westerners, they aren’t camera shy either and look with a benevolent eye and people who skulk around with a tripod.  I’d like to share with you a few of the images I made while there, including the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel and the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel.

Creative use of dull days

It’s easy to look out the window on an overcast day and feel uninspired.  However if you wait for sunshine to arrive, your chances of success here in England are poor before you even start.  With this in mind I set out, determined to make the most of a dull day.  While autumn has been gathering her thoughts, summer has been busy putting on a late show.

The wonderful gardens at Anglesey Abbey provide a lovely stomping ground for anyone wishing to enjoy this.

Overcast days may lack drama and contrast, but the light is soft and even. Combined with judicious lens selection, I was sure there were interesting photos to be had.

Photographer and author, David duChemin, whose work I admire greatly, is a firm advocate of wielding the camera with vision and intent.  “What is the photographer trying to say here?” he asks. “What do you want to say?”

This is not always easy.  Wandering around snapping any old thing is a path with less resistance.  Also, if you don’t state your intention, it’s harder for others to judge your work a failure.  No matter – judge away dear viewer.  What I had in mind here, was to create a painterly look in the camera without the use of Photoshop plugins.

To create this effect, I combined the soft light from the overcast day with an 85mm lens, wide open at F1.8.  Not great for maximum detail such as you might expect in a biology textbook, but just what I was after here.

If nothing else, I hope this post inspires you to pick up your camera, get out the door and make the most of what the day has to offer.



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