Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Face of Cancer

Photography is an art with many branches and, when practiced by experts, never fails to amaze me. The awards season is when the best exponents show us their skills.

This week it's the turn of the scientist cameramen and the place to see it is the Images of Research competition held in Germany. Here are two from the entry list but you can see them all on the link.

1st place was "The Face of Cancer" by Dr. Martin Oeggerli, whose company, Micronaut GmbH, produces stunning images from the invisible world studied by the Swiss University research laboratories of Basel and Vienna. Here is a metastasizing cancer cell originally extracted from a human carcinoma. This is the second time Martin has won this award.

3rd place in Fascination of Research was this computer tomograph of a leopard, sectioned in a CT scanner by Steven Seet. Below is how he did it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More from the IPA Awards

The International Photography Awards released in New York are so awesome this year I make no apologies for showing you some more. I like them, anyway. The categories are widespread and pros and amateurs worldwide have their own sections.

"Goal" by Chan Kwok Hung from Hong Kong won the Moving Images Pro award. Here Myanmar trainee Buddhist monks relax after school in the traditional boys way with a football.

"Mother and son" by Californian Chris Minihane was placed in the Nature:Wildlife non-pro section and shows two rhinos heading home to the bush from Lake Nakuru, Kenya.

"Skate Dawg" by Lennette Newell from the States was placed in the Pro:Pets category. I include it because it makes me laugh each time I look at it!

Have a look at the home gallery of the IPA to see them all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Huntress at Fourteen

This award winning picture by David Chancellor has cause something of a stir. It shows a 14 year old girl from Alabama named, Josie Slaughter, returning home from a hunt in South Africa with her kill, a young buck, across her horse.

Chancellor calls it 'Huntress With Buck' and entered it successfully in the National Portrait Gallery Awards in London where it won the prestigious Taylor Wessing Prize, worth £12,000.

David spent two days with the family on their hunt and the Gallery director, Sandy Nairne, says of the shot, "It's a powerful and beautiful portrait; a worthy winner amidst a strong international submission."

Chancellor explains the shot; "The contrast between the peace and tranquillity of the location, plus Josie's ethereal beauty and the dead buck, was what I wanted to explore. Here was a vulnerability and yet also a strength."

However, inevitably, there are those who disagree.

Speaking to CBS News one viewer says, "Too bad about the buck. But some rich people like killing trophy animals. It's what they do for distraction."

Another bites "It's appropriate that her last name is Slaughter." And so on.

The Gallery issued a reply; "The Gallery acknowledges that the portrait does portray an emotive subject. The role of the documentary photographer is to be objective and neither celebrate nor condone the subject."

The moral choice, surely, is for or against the hunters, the Slaughter family in this instance. You may agree or disagree with blood sports and the raising of your children as part of it. Britain's royal family ritualistically 'blooded' all their kids with fox blood at an early age. Hunting is one of the two oldest professions on earth, but it's a personal choice and it's legal.

But what David Chancellor is doing is being an observer, a recorder of events, albeit a very talented one. His presence didn't create the kill, it would have happened without him. We presume that was what the family were there at a hunt venue for.

Many years ago, when I was picture editing the Daily Express, my photographer, the legendary Bill Lovelace, came across a public execution in Bangla Desh. A large mass of locals were gathered to witness the bayonetting to death of three locals condemned as 'spies.' Bill and an AP cameraman recorded the horrific scenes. The picture spread in the Express caused uproar with Lovelace being accused of inciting the killings, which he did nothing of the sort.

A photographer's job is as a fly on the wall. Don't incite and don't interfere.

Well done, David Chancellor. A very evocative and thought provoking picture. It's up to the rest of us to make judgements about it's content.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Death of Bullfighting

A petition of 180,000 signatures to ban bullfighting has forced the closure of Barcelona's last bullring, the Plaza Monumental. Now it is being banned in the autonomous region of Catalonia altogether. Before it disappears freelance photojournalist Charlie Mahoney took an essay of pictures at the ring that are a brilliant insight into this ancient, dying bloodsport. They are reproduced in the splendid online newspaper the GlobalPost. Love the subject or hate it, his depictions of the fans and the bullfighters is a superb piece of photojournalism.

Charlie Mahoney's work in this field takes him all over the globe and has won him many awards. His brilliant website is well worth a visit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

International Photography Awards

The photographic awards season is upon us and I decided to select a few I liked from the International Photography Awards. Just released in New York, the awards are open to pros and amateurs worldwide and has many categories. They all will compete for the overall prized title of Int'l Photographer of the Year and a $10,000 payday.

This one is called "A week in December." It's by Chris Frazer-Smith from the UK and won the Professional Book Cover category. It depicts a businessman passing a Muslim woman on a bridge in London and has a beautifully captured sense of movement, space and style.

This is "Backstage Dior" by Roxanne Lowitt from the USA, also in the Professional Book category. I love mono pictures and you can hear the clink of champagne flutes and smell the perfume. It's all about glamour.

Originality is so refreshing in photography. Here, Andreas Smetana from Australia captures the theme Teamwork by using sailors of the Australian Royal Navy to outline their warship.

And finally, one not for the squeamish. I believe photography must be directed to give it purpose and meaning. It's a powerful tool when used with passion, provoking a response in the viewer. Here, Tommaso Ausili from Italy collated an essay inside a slaughterhouse he titles "Hidden Death" to highlight the suffering and torment behind our food chain. It's not pretty but it's not supposed to be, but it is art.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why the Paparazzi are necessary

This is why. Today's Daily Mail has an exclusive paparazzi shot of Prince William's future bride, Kate Middleton, with her mum and dad after a visit to Westminster Abbey, no doubt to see her wedding venue close up.

Why's that so clever? Because the establishment didn't want you to see it. It's not a 'photo opportunity,' stage managed to suit them, with all the right things said, polished and painted. It's an intimate moment, an insight behind the scenes, it puts us inside the story, but, without the good old paps, we would never be privileged to be there.

It's what national newspapers used to do when they had staff photographers, when a picture editor could afford to waste some staff time doorstepping possible venues. An old Daily Express staffer, Stanley Meagher, once lay in the rafters of Streatham Ice Rink for six weeks to capture the moment the young Princess Anne went ice skating for the first time. But then they had 51 photographers in London alone, they could afford it. Now they have one.

Only the paparazzi can afford the time to invest in such adventures in the hope of a big pay day. And they deserve it as long as they keep within the laws. Without the paps, such touching insights would be lost. This picture by, Bushell-Almasi-Deidda/Eroteme, will become part of the historical record. It wouldn't exist without them.

And don't be fooled by any detractors. Class act celebs know exactly how to use the paps to their advantage, and that includes the royals, the others just don't know the publicity game.

Press photography has now been privatised.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ancient vase for sale. Any offer accepted.

So, my love and I found this vase in my grannie’s bathroom. When Grannie Flo passed on there it was, nestled between her Glastonbury wellies and the Aldermaston CND march banner she cherished unto death. Sniffing it, I guessed she used it to keep her stash of hash fresh, and later, to keep her false teeth in. It now whiffs of Steradent.

The vase is kind of bluish with a green fluorescence and, seeing a similar jug go for 53 mill at Bainbridges Auction House, we expect big things from our evaluation. Okay, not £53m, but maybe the late 30’s? We were a little peeved that the auction house would take £12mil in fees but, heyhoe, what the heck. It will leave enough to refurbish our shed into a serious player in the real ale brewery game. At least, we can clean the mysterious green mould off the containers.

Anything left over will go to my Mum’s weight lifting class to upgrade their equipment. The sight of middle-aged grannies toting purloined road bollards over their permed heads brings one to tears. I did suggest, at the annual vicarage bring-and-buy, they borrow the brass altar chalices to work out their diminishing, vapid triceps, but the vicar wasn’t best pleased.

The auction house that sold the vase employs eight people and their highest sale previously was £100,000. This latest hit, netting them the said £12m in fees, is £1.5m per head, although I doubt they will share the proceeds. I guess life isn’t like that.

And so, art lovers, here I stand, vase in hand. Don’t concern yourself with the cracks, the Araldite can hardly be seen. Although the Artists Mark may appear to be marker pen to the uninitiated and the ancient Chinese script maybe borrowed from a laundry bill Uncle Cyrus brought home from Singapore when he was deported for mistakenly flashing a Papal Nuncio in the seventies, any anonymous Chinese buyer won’t see that anyway.

I will take an offer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Will & Maeve go Zingg

Press HERE for some serious Swiss boogie.

Silvan Zingg is a self taught Swiss piano player who fell in love with boogie woogie the moment he heard the great black jazz pianists of the 20's and 30's. For ten years he has held a boogie woogie festival in Switzerland. Not only is the event memorable for its guest piano players but the fantastic dancers who strut their stuff. Just like Will and Maeve here. Have you ever seen a better dancer than this young guy?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are Waterstones as Mad as a Hatter?

Today I received a terse email from Waterstones:

“We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland.”

Eight, actually. Oh, dear! What have I done? Broken some ancient ritualistic more? Driven sheep up the high street at Mickelmas? Sold a virgin a coloured headscarf? It gets worse.

“We regret that with immediate effect, we are no longer able to sell eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.”

It’s a bank raid alert! Are granite-faced villains smuggling Bank of England layout plans hidden in downloaded Harry Potters? Is Alice’s Mad Hatter really crazy? Put that teapot down and raise your paws, rabbit!

Maybe Kathleen Winsor’s classic novel has been re-titled “Forever Amber Alert.”

But no. It’s just dear old Waterstones getting fusty again without thinking it through.

Let me explain: I live in Spain. One million expat Brits live in Spain. All read books in, wait for it, English. Now not all of them have an e-reader, but who’s to say they won’t in the future. It’s a safe bet a lot will if current trends continue.

They buy goods from a thousand UK companies from Lakeland to Marks & Sparks. Christmas will see the internet humming with goods to loved ones in Blighty. Millions of pounds worth, coming and going both ways.

But not from Waterstones, oh, no. They mince around with mealy mouthed phrases about ‘territories into which we can sell ebooks.’

Here comes a new technology product and immediately some Adolf wants total control. On the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Don’t they know those spooky airwaves travel over oceans and mountains? So the million English speaking Brits in the Iberian Peninsular must get their future downloads in their mother tongue from where, exactly?

Well, we’re already doing it. If I tell you where, these greedbags will try to stop it. I’ll give you a clue. It’s where you get all those aggravating spam messages for Viagra and the like. Now the e-book trade wants to drive book downloading underground, too.

Isn’t progress wonderful.

Is the Tate missing the point?

Ready to Wear 1999 by Angela de la Cruz. Short listed.

It's the annual Tate Britain shindig for the Turner Prize in December. Always controversial, it's a great way to see the work of up-and-coming artists, whether you agree with the winning choice or not. Edgy art, outrageous art and obtuse message art vie for the £25,000 prize.

What a pity, then that the organizers don't show the same entrepreneurial zeal the artists do. On press day the gallery tried to make photographers sign a contract stating that their published work "must not result in any adverse publicity for the Tate." Obviously, many refused to sign and walked away, including the Evening Standard, Reuters and the Press Association.

What are these people at the Tate on? Do they think that press cameramen decide what goes into their publications? There are Night Editors and Editors whose job is to decide that. The poor camera guy is lucky if they even talk to him. So the Tate can 'publish' whatever they like on their walls, including dead sheep in formaldehyde, but the press can't? Who has made the Turner Prize such big business? Pictures in the Tate catalogue? No, it's the press men and the huge publicity it receives annually.

Do grow up, Tate - there's no such thing as bad publicity!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love & Talk

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, in which a divorced woman finds herself through a world journey, gave this speech to the famed TED conference. She entitled it "a different way to think about creative genius" and it's very entertaining and somewhat enlightening, too. She has a site here. If the movie is half as good as her speaking then it will be a treat.

For those who might not have found TED yet, he's not a man, the letters stand for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and these conferences, held each year in Palm Springs, Long Beach and Oxford, England, carry the title, "Ideas Worth Spreading." The speakers are inspirational figures from all walks of life and the podcasts are free on their site with many fascinating speakers. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Covering the Chile miners for only £100,000

What wonderful images came out of the Chile miners rescue. I watched in one sitting fascinated from 1 to 33. Utterly compelling news coverage.

However, the dear old BBC spent £100,000 sending 26 people to the mine shaft, set up camp two hundred yards away, along with the world's media - and proceeded to broadcast Chilean State TV coverage. The great images of the rescue capsule at the mine head and in the chamber with the 33 trapped men were all delivered by the government TV men. The presenter, Tim Wilcox, wittered on from half a mile away, forgetting his lines and standing looking at the back of a crowd of pressmen with insightful coverage such as "Maria is the mayor of the relatives encampment, if only you could see her. She really is a character, if she were here."

Meanwhile the stills boys were producing brilliant reportage photography such as this:

Hey, it's only license payer's money.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to self publish? Ask an expert.

So you want to publish a book? Your manuscript is ready/been round the agents/mouldering in a drawer (pick any one) and you've used your favourite swear word to describe how you feel about it. As in: "What the #¢$! I'll self publish it!"

It's easy, I hear you say. Everyone's doing it. That should read: (nearly) Everyone's doing it BADLY.

But help is at hand. Clare Christian, a doyen of the publishing industry, who has won awards and experienced both mainstream and self publishing at the top level, has opened her own website. Authors who need anything from a little advice to a lot of hand holding guidance are welcomed.

And the fee? An honesty box. You pay as much as you think her advice is worth to you.

An opportunity not to be missed if you are on the verge of publishing your own masterpiece.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Dam worth its Salt

They say salt gives you a heart attack? Now I know why!

How far would you go for a pinch of salt? Or rather, how high?
These Ibex in Italy climb with stunning dexterity, and not a little courage, to get a lick of it on the towering Cingino Dam.

Personally, I'd go without.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Everything has a funny side

Okay, I've told you I like quirky stuff. Following the YouTube revelation of Mary Bale dumping the pussy in the bin, which I totally deplore, here's a contributor who has my sense of humour adding his/her version. Well, it made me laugh, surely there's a funny side to everything, however bad? But, as I said, I'm quirky.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

China's brilliant straddling bus

When you’re battling your way to work this morning, feeling like a boiled owl and spitting feathers, do you hope that the men in suits in the Ministry of Transportation are bursting with innovations to help you out? Or do you suspect they plan more speed cameras, taxes, bicycle lanes and phased traffic lights to further frustrate you? And will you be selling your car to buy a bike to help them out?

It’s not the same everywhere. New transport systems peak, so historians tell us, after about 50 years. The canal, the railway and, latterly, the car all went into decline at half a century. Motorway building has reached its capacity unless we want to concrete over the countryside.

But something new always comes along. Usually it’s the emerging, technologically strong nations that supply it, as the Victorians did in their heyday. America appears too introverted to oblige, scratching at its own financial wounds, obsessed by big oil and politics.

The emerging powerhouse of the East is maybe where to look.

Since spending time in China a few years ago I am fascinated by this diverse, contradictory, dynamic, overwhelming continent. The dichotomy between old and new, rich and impoverished, communism and a modernist version of freedom makes this country, that covers an area the size of the USA, equally frightening and fascinating. To me, we seem like Lilliputians prodding Gulliver and hoping the strings will continue to tie him down.

Previously they built the first magnetic levitation train in Shanghai. The Maglev only runs 30k, shuttling passengers from the Airport to downtown Shanghai in eight minutes at 430kph, but it was hugely innovative. No track, no wheels, just electro-magnets. I featured it in my book, The Deadline Murders.

Now the Chinese have stepped up the transport game once more, this time in Beijing. When faced with too much traffic, a need to widen the road system and way too much pollution they wanted an idea to carry more commuters, knowing it was impossible to dig an underground system. Enter The Straddling Bus, a design to get more commuters to work with less emissions and less traffic.

It’s blindingly simple. Instead of widening the roads, they are building a trackway either side. Placed in it will be the wheels of a series of these straddling buses that each carry 1200 passengers 4 m above the roadway. Each allows the normal traffic to pass by underneath. The bus creates an arch across the roadway, allowing vehicles under 2m to pass through. The bus stops are set high and the commuters enter and depart from the roofline. And it’s run by electricity and solar energy. The first track will be laid in Beijing’s Mentougou District at the end of this year.

I think it’s brilliant Chinese inventiveness. Tell me we are working on something that clever?

Friday, July 23, 2010

R.I.P. A great legacy

When the roots of an oak whither, the body of the tree can’t sustain its leafage and the leaves become redundant. It’s the way the tree's life evolves unless the cause is found and rectified.

In my particular interest, this is what’s happening to Press photography. It’s that terrible word, Redundancy. The root decline of newspaper sales is bringing about vicious staff cuts and with it the loss of specialised skills, honed by decades of on-the-street experience. New blood can’t replace it, freelance paparazzi don’t have it, reporters with cameras will never achieve it.

So what is it that’s lost?

It’s the knowledge once gleaned by an apprentice snapper working beside a grumpy old news editor on a local news agency/newspaper who works that apprentice all hours God gives for tuppence. Driven to make a flower show into a photographic marvel, naming everybody in it correctly. Or knocking a door in tragic circumstances to collect a picture of the bereaved, without adding to the angst. Befriending the zoo, the local theatre, or the ballet school on a quiet day for an offbeat picture. Or suppressing your fear and climbing with the steeplejack up the church spire during restoration. It’s the diversity of experiences rubbing against your untrained creative skills. It’s learning what to take pictures of. It’s creating something relevant.

It’s being a freelance, thinking on your feet, watching the news, anticipating events forced by the need to eat and pay the rent. Then producing a portfolio of well considered pictures so much better than those of others around you that your work forces its way into the national newspapers. Then that old news editor grudgingly buys you a pint.

And finally, one memorable day, spreading your wings, being invited onto the staff of one of the great titles or news organisations, achieving a life’s ambition. Once there you are tested again. You cover another diverse diary of daily assignments that stretch your life skills to their limits, whilst allowing you to display your matured creative talents.

If you got to the top of that oak tree you joined an elite, leaving thousands in your wake.

Not so today.

The grim reaper accountants are wailing to the newspaper barons, Newsprint is doomed! Get out fast! Save what’s left of your fortunes! And that’s what they’re doing. And so the prophecy is self-fulfilling. Almost daily photographers are being cut on the nationals and the local papers. The cry is: As we’re all doomed don’t improve the content, cut the staff instead.

What nonsense. An editorial hall of proper newspapermen has more imagination, drive, verve, piracy, guts and gladiatorial entrepreneurship than an empire of bean counters. Their wails simply reflect these quill based assassins’ own bland, anaemic outlook. Their holy grail is the punter-in-the-street with a cellphone camera. It’s cheap coverage, who cares about the content? That way is the death knell of quality picture coverage.

The papers will end up looking awful and amateurish. If the paper’s owners know this, they don’t seem to care.

But there is a legacy of hundreds of picture journalists past and present who do – and behind them the shades of thousands more who dedicated their lives to great picture coverage in our national newspapers. That’s why Fleet Street was remembered as the best in the world.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Are the Snaparazzi cramping the paparazzi's style?

The Paparazzi bar in Bratislava

When top German paparazzo, Hans Paul, said of his celebrity pictures trade, “there’s hardly any money to be made anymore,” you have to take him seriously. Hans once made $120,000 from a single, pregnant Julia Roberts picture.

The pap snaps industry, said Hans, is under serious threat from the new kids on the streets, known as the Snaparazzi or MOPS – industry jargon for Members of the Public with phone cameras. Others report that apparently, non-photographers are turning pro in their droves: and they include ex-gang members, waiters, garage mechanics, bus conductors, the desperate unemployed and even the homeless, in order to make a buck. There are even children paparazzi. It’s now a new street sport. In the modern Oliver Twist, Fagin will run a team of kid paps.

Now there’s an iPhone app for .59p called CelebAround which buzzes in your pocket should you be within 500 metres of a celebrity. Presumably you then drop the wife and shopping to dementedly pursue the hapless C list starlet around Tescos.

Hans’ point is, of course, that all these citizen snappers are accepting peanuts from the tabloid Picture Editors for their ‘exclusives,’ because they don’t know the street value of their snaps. A picture sold for fifty quid by Mavis from accounts, who came across a soap star in a clinch with a married footballer on her lunch break, would fetch many thousands in the hands of a savvy pap.

The top Pap Masters like Darryn Lyons, the legendary boss of Mr Paparazzi, he counts his earnings in millions, is aware of this, and offers online to sell-on your phone celeb pictures at top prices. Many others do it, too, but the brilliant Darryn is the pack leader.

The national newspaper Picture Editors, of course, hate it. Pressured forever by their bean counters to cut costs, nothing pleases them more than when a fresh faced punter rings who, “just wants to see his picture in the paper. Pay me what you like.” That’s donuts all round!

What an extraordinary outcome for the trade I worked in all my life and, to a small degree, I am responsible for it. I’ll explain why.

The broadsheet Daily Express of the sixties and seventies sold 5 million in its pomp. Still rich from the post war need for entertainment it was said it had ‘a barrel of gold in the front hall for the staff to dip into on assignments.’ With no commercial television worth speaking of and the BBC still hidebound there was no opposition, except other papers.

What it had was a ferocious and, some say, corrupt Union system. They wanted to dip their beaks in the barrel, too and many fights ensued. I was its Picture Editor in the late sixties, early seventies. I had 50 cameramen in London, many more abroad and could call upon 37 in Manchester and 43 in Glasgow. All on big salaries with backup staff. So no need, you see, to buy in domestic pictures. We were self sufficient – but at huge cost.

(I once bought out an entire Boeing 707 at Heathrow just to fly a cameraman to rendezvous with the Queen Elizabeth. The liner was half way across the Atlantic and under threat of a hijacking.)

Enter the digital eighties. Moving still pictures got easier. Scan them and transmit without loss. Wonderful. Entrepreneur Eddie Shah launched the first colour edition paper, called, Today – and I picture edited it. Murdoch’s Sun had taken on the Unions at Wapping, leaving us alone. Staff photographer numbers were down to twenty, and four in Manchester. Now Agency snappers made up the difference. The paper still came out – but my digital picture systems made it easier for freelances to offer their work, helping to fill the paper. Editors then clamoured for Diana pictures and celebrities. Beady-eyed Management smelled a trend.

Who needs staff photographers? Why can’t we fill it with paparazzi and Diana pics.

Come the nineties, the Daily Mirror moved East and I joined as its Picture Editor to oversee the picture move. London was now gridlocked. No cameramen could get from East to West quickly so I set it up as a transmission paper. No darkrooms, just a trusty laptop, a car and a digital Nikon. When the IRA bombed Docklands and closed our offices, we got the pictures into the paper from a kitchen in south London.

Every innovation I introduced, from the first electronic picture desk to electronic video grabbing in the eighties, culminating in free-to-air picture submission and contracted electronic picture library access in the nineties, was done to speed up the editorial process. Get the paper out quicker and with better picture quality.

But the trend became obvious. Less staff were needed to produce national papers. Now papers are printed by tiny staffs, with bigger buy-in budgets. All Snaparazzi are welcome. The Nationals, with web news sites cutting into their sales, now have skeleton picture staffs. The once grand Express has two photographers, the Mirror two, but all have an open door policy for any offered pictures from anywhere.

And behind them all are an army of ghosts, made redundant by progress.

That is the price of change in a relentless world.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup encounters of the famous kind

Here's a dream football encounter. Pele v Maradona v Zidane. Of course, it never happened on the pitch but here the incomparable celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz created it in a Madrid bar for posh luggage company Louis Vuitton. Click the link to see the film of this historic encounter.

And how much would this trio be worth at today's prices? If Cristiano Ronaldo is worth £80 million then these three would cost about the price of a NASA space shuttle flight to Mars - with Louis Vuitton luggage, of course.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wild Wonders of Europe - stunning photography

A bee-eater (Merops apiaster) tossing a bumble bee in Hungary. The bee-eater is a specialist in bumble bees, wasps, bees and other larger flying insects. It is one of Europe's most colourful and exotic-looking birds and lives in colonies burrowing into sand banks.

The Musk ox, or Ovibos moschatus, in the Dovrefjell national park, Norway

Dalmatian pelicans, or Pelecanus crispus, on Lake Kerkini, Macedonia. At 16 kilos and with a 3 metre wing span, the Dalmatian pelican is, together with the great bustard and the mute swan, a competitor for the title of The World's Heaviest Flying Bird.

Wild Wonders of Europe
ISBN: 9780810996144

I love masterful photography in all its genres. A camera in the hands of a top professional can, I believe, produce art. My background is in newspaper photography but I love all the other branches of the craft, too, especially great wildlife pictures.

On the 28th of May a brilliant book of wildlife photographs is launched by publisher Abrams. Its author is Staffan Widstrand.

The book is called Wild Wonders of Europe and features wildlife and landscape pictures shot in 48 European countries. Abrams grandly bills it as "one of the largest photography projects ever undertaken" and I can quite imagine this to be true.

This is a coffee table picture book well worth the £29.99 they are asking.

picture credits:
The bee eater is by Markus Varesvuo
The Musk ox is by Vincent Munier
The Dalmatian Pelicans is by Jan Peltomki

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Apple wins Monaco Grand Prix

Smart work by Apple to put their new iPad in the hands of BBC presenter Jake Humphrey for the Monaco Grand Prix today. With a TV audience estimated at an average of 650 million, peaking at one billion, what better place than the glitzy Monte Carlo race to be seen using the must have accessory of the year - especially when nobody outside the USA can yet get one! Just watch the pre-order list soar. He's smart, that Steve Jobs.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Front Line Cameramen

I've been privileged to work with many great war photographers in my career, sending them off to cover 11 wars from the safety of my cushy desk in Fleet Street. Some are sadly not with us today and some still active around the world's trouble spots. Apart from a few war junkies they were mostly staff photographers and freelances thrust into the war zones by their newspapers and news agencies during times of conflict. They were not fearless individuals, careless with their lives but family men and women, dedicated to recording the true face of war with the front line troops. All were eyewitnesses to history in the making, taking the same risks as the soldiers, sailors and airmen alongside them.

Usually they came home to headlines and awards but, every so often, they paid the ultimate price for their dedication.

Since 9/11 nineteen photographers and journalists have died in Afghanistan, most recently Michelle Lang, aged 34, from Canada's Calgary Herald and Rupert Hamer of the Sunday Mirror in the UK. His cameraman, Philip Coburn, was badly injured and lucky to escape with his life.

Today I begin an occasional series called Front Line Cameramen which will honour one of the top men and women, past or present. To co-incide with the launch of his new website I begin with Mike Moore.

Mike has been a Fleet Street photographer for over 30 years with the Evening Standard, the Today newspaper and, currently, the Daily Mirror. He has won the prestigious British Press Photographer of the Year 3 times, Royal Photographer of the Year twice and News and Feature Photographer of the Year. He's also won 2 World Press Awards.

His conflict coverage reads like a map of the trouble spots of the world and include Afghanistan, Iraq, Angola, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Rumania. He was embedded with the 4th Armoured Brigade in the Gulf War, spending two months as the only cameraman with the famous Desert Rats, living with them in the front line trenches. Penguin produced a great record of his time with them called Desert War. ISBN 0-14-016513-4. If you want a feel of what it's like going to war with the First Royal Scots it's on Amazon.co.uk at an impossibly bargain price and worth a hundred times more.

In quieter times he lives in England with his wife, Helen, and two children.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nature's life forces with your breakfast read

Living beneath the Icelandic volcano

Spirals of dust swirl about star V838 Mon. across trillions of kilometres of interstellar space, 20,000 light years from Earth. NASA

The pollen from a mallow flower. It's spines help it cling to bird's feathers.
Micronaut, supported by Pruftechnik Uri GmbH

Those awesome pictures at the very heart of the volcano I brought to you in the previous post drew an eruption of comments from around the world. The Boston Globe site was engulfed by over 7,346 of them in many languages. They also make fascinating reading, if you have the time. (click on the link if you want to read them.)

All interpreted them differently, as you would expect from such a diverse audience.

Some ‘saw’ the face of Jesus in the cloud, of course. Some praised Allah. Others praised the farmers who struggled on under its emissions. Many feared for the animals wandering lost in the darkness. The cynics dealt with it through corny jokes such as, “where are the virgins when we need them for sacrifice.”

All were stunned by the magnitude of Nature.

For myself, I was also thankful for the skills of the photographers and the brilliance of the modern equipment that made it happen, as you might expect given my background. Modern image technologies bring us closer to Nature. Using it we can try to understand the forces that go into evolving life itself. With the volcano it was lava landscape gardening the Earth.

This week two more brilliant sets of images showing life’s evolutionary forces were published. Each as different as they were similar. Firstly, NASA celebrated 20 years of the Hubble telescope with a release of some of its work. Secondly, the advent of Spring hay fever allowed the brilliant Dr Martin Oeggerli to show us close up one of the culprits causing it, using a Scanning Electron Microscope.

NASA’s Hubble is now an old lady, having been in space for 20 years. Dr Martin Oeggerli received his first camera from his dad only in 2004. Martin’s day job is in the University of Basel Pathology department in Switzerland, doing cancer research work. Hooked on photography he began using his own techniques to colour interpret the wonderful close-ups created there by the Electron Microscope. Now he is a world leader in the art with a company called Micronaut and many exhibitions. Chances are, if you see a close-up of some bug or micro specimen it is Martin’s work.

To me these two diverse images share a common bond. They are the use of science technology to reveal the beginnings of life itself. The pollen in creating the flower. The solar system in creating the stars on which life can live. And that is thanks to the skilled people who use it.

This brings me full circle to the volcano pictures.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Up close and personal with the volcano

I am an old newspaper picture editor. In the modern world of budget cuts and redundancies I often despair of my profession's passing. Today my heart was lifted by The Boston Globe's coverage of the volcano. I can't print them for copyright reasons but Here is How it's Done.

Settle back, click on the link, and enjoy this brilliant portfolio. Well done, the Picture Editor of the Globe.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I don't trust Election Polls

The UK is in the middle of a hard fought election. Each new TV bulletin features the latest public opinion poll results. They are supposed to show us where the parties currently stand with the voters. Independent litmus tests of our polling day intentions.

I don’t trust them from personal experience. Back in May 1979, with the Labour Party in power, amid a general disillusionment with James Callaghan as PM, the Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, was campaigning against him. She was the new leader of the Conservatives. As polling day grew closer the poll predictions had Maggie leading by a canter. It was going to be a landslide.

I was then on the Daily Mail, a UK Tory paper. They set up an editorial Election Desk, a separate ‘mini’ editorial room. I sat with the election desk news editor as picture liaison man. As the political stories rolled in I picked out the picture worthy ones. Come the eve of polling day the news editor’s phone rang, just before print deadline time. It was Lord Rothermere, the paper’s owner, with his nightly check on the poll prediction.

The news ed. told him, ‘Thatcher’s running away with it.’ The good Lord paused and reflected, then issued his instructions. In his paper, on polling morning, there would be an overnight ‘shock’ swing to Labour of 7%.

And so, as the voters finished their egg and soldiers and prepared to go to the booths, the 1st Edition ran with that prediction.

Cannily, he didn’t want the Tory faithful not bothering to come out and vote, assuming Maggie had won it easily without them. So he gave them a shock headline, and it worked, as we now know.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chalk dust on your knees

I’m not a fan of graffiti. I don’t consider it art, just trick typography. It doesn’t bring the satisfaction that art does. It's more a cry for attention. I like street photography and street art, just not four bloated letters filled in with a silver aerosol. That’s just my opinion.

But 3D Pavement Art or Chalk Art which uses anamorphosis to create the illusion of three dimensions, that’s something else. Magnificently transcending when done by the master exponents like German artists Edgar Mueller and Manfred Stader or American master painter in chalk, Kurt Wenner, who worked for NASA as a scientific space illustrator before his love of the Italian Renaissance painters took him to Rome to study them. The UK has Julian Beever who now works all over the world drawing evocative pavement scenes from his vivid imagination.

Anamorphosis has been used since the Romans to induce optical height and width. It was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque paintings.

But these modern masters in chalk create wonderful illusions on our streets and terraces. So successful are they that major companies employ them to spice up their product launches and their work often moves inside galleries now.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign runs the Young Pavement Artists Competition, an annual event with a nature theme for budding new chalk artists with great prizes to be won for the kids who enter. Who knows, maybe one of them will go on to greatness like the top exponents of this brilliant art form.

Here are just a few of the greats: