Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birte Person - wildlife photographer extraordinary


Birte Person is a Danish wildlife photographer who lives in Australia. Passionate about the plight of our planet's endangered species Birte travels the world with her cameras, recording them to make us all aware of what we have to lose. She is a brilliant photographer whose pictures are a joy to see. She will tell you that the world would be a better place if it was ruled by animals and not us.

 "You have never seen a monkey put a fence round a coconut tree and proclaim it his. No, he calls the rest of the tribe to share it instead. Isn't it strange that a man who likes to wander in these places (rain forests) is called crazy and a vagrant but the man who cuts down all the trees in these places is called an entrepreneur."

Her home in Australia is in a rain forest setting. She breeds endangered frogs there to release them into their natural habitat wherever they are low in numbers.

You may have seen these great shots above of a rare white Bengal tiger at feeding time in the Singapore Zoo. Nearly extinct, there have been only 12 sightings of one in the wild. They occur naturally in one in 10,000 births. The result is a tiger with white fur, black stripes, blue eyes and a pink nose.

Birte explains, "I was on my way to another conservation shoot in Asia but decided I had to stop and look at these magnificent creatures. They sit in anticipation on the rocks, waiting for the first morsel to be thrown, then it is a huge lunge into the water by all of them (five). It carries on until they all get some food."

Bengal tigers are fully grown at two to three years of age. Males weigh in at 200 kilos and three metres in length. They live up to fifteen years in the wild.

You can visit Birte's brilliant gallery of wildlife pictures here. The pictures are her copyright.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pap zapping

pic:Bojan Pancevski

One of the definitions of 'celebrity status' has always been how you treat the Press. The relationship is fickle at best. Mostly either party wants something from the other. A bit like the old Hollywood casting couch auditions. The Press has it's 'needs' and the auditionee needs her/his five minutes of stardom. It's a marriage of convenience. They can't live with or without each other.

Up to a point. At Level One the wannabee celebrity is pointed by agents, PR's, managers or their mum to the latest hangout to mingle with the other aspirants, knowing that the paparazzi pack will be in waiting. For their part the Paps must make a living, servicing the tabloids and magazines. It's an agreed alliance. Mayhem often ensues because demon drink is taken and the 'celeb' goes into exhibitionist mode, having no experience of how to behave before the cameras, which is an unforgiving beast at best.

There are, of course, exceptions. Joan Collins went from a Rank starlet in these venues to become queen of Hollywood.  Jack Nicholson made headlines with his early hours exits with a blonde, a beam and a cigar. They were beloved by every paparazzo and journo they met.

Class will out and the very few who can handle it go on to Level Two.

Have you ever wondered why you don't see the true stars weaving drunkenly out of nightclub doors at 4.00am?  Firstly, they are clever enough not to go to the same venues. Secondly, they don't get raving drunk before the cameras (with some notable exceptions.) The true stars smile sweetly, say nothing outrageously stupid and move on like proper pros. If they want publicity for their latest project their management sets up an interview/picture op with selected journalists, usually in a swanky hotel.

So the link between media and celebrity is managed one way or the other.

There is a Third Level. We'll call them the 'Ghosts.' Men and women who seem, with fame to disappear from view. Now this takes serious money. Did you notice how JK Rowling vanished as Harry Potter became famous? The harassed, single-mum look vanished, too. Then she reappeared at selected events, suddenly svelte and beautiful. Paul McCartney has spent a lifetime as a 'ghost.' Even at the biggest event the organisers don't know if he will turn up until they see him, often late through the back kitchens. This is the price of true fame, and it costs giga bucks in management and security. For sure, in their shoes we would all do the same. Such is the insecurity of the modern world. The 'global village' also means the villains get closer, too.

Now Level Four is something else. The shy billionaires. Men and women who will do anything not to be photographed at all. The reclusive Howard Hughes was moved around in a fridge in public by his staff. The twin Barclay Brothers, high on the Sunday Times Rich List, live in a castle on the Channel Island of Brecqhou, shunning all publicity, only photographed when they were knighted by the Queen.

Then there's Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Owner of Chelsea F C. Said to have lost 4.7 billion sterling in the financial crash, he's now only worth 7 billion. Just enough to commission the world's largest private yacht, Eclipse at 724 million pounds and 557 ft long. Two helipads, two swimming pools and a retractable roof over his bed so that he and his girlfriend, Daria Zukhova, can watch the stars as they plough the world's sea lanes. It also has a French missile defence system and an escape mini-submarine. Presumably all the 60 staff can't fit in it, so it's just for him and her, then? James Bond would love it.

Now what is his crowning glory on the Eclipse, which wants for nothing? It's this:

An anti-paparazzi shield. Infra-red lasers detect the electronic light sensors in any cameras, known to photographers as charge-coupled devices, that are pointed at the Eclipse. If the system detects such a device it fires back a focused beam of light into the offending camera, thus disrupting it's ability to take  pictures. The staff can shoot it manually, too at any loitering paparazzo on a quayside.

So we come full circle. Happy paps outside Chinawhite, making wannabee celebrities famous. Hapless paps zapped by Roman's guards with their laser guns. Who would be a photographer!

ps. My pap, Henrietta Fox, wouldn't be put off so easily! Try zapping a 1000mm lens in a bush, 200 yards away.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The school with no books - only readers

A Boston prep school headmaster, one James Tracy, has made this amazing leap into new technology. A school library with no books. Instead he has replaced all the books at Cushing Academy with 18 eReaders. So reports

Mr Cushing apparently sees books as "outdated technology," so out they went into the trash. In their place he has installed 3 TV's, laptops and the 18 eReaders. Plus a coffee bar, presumably for use whilst students wait for an available eReader to become free. Reported cost? $500,000.

Good luck to the far sighted Mr Tracy. A pioneer indeed. But do I want my kids to be the first at Cushing to use it? As the Americans say, I'll take a rain check on that.