I had a dream (albeit a rather short and insignificant one)

Last night I dreamed that champignons are dangerous. That’s right, newsflash.

Now, before you inflict your kindness by sending me interpretations of my dream please realise that I’ve heard of Freud and Jung, and that I have no particular need to be analysed.

What I found most interesting about my dream was the quality of images and story I was experiencing. It was all fully believable. It was realistic to an extend that it took a second or two after waking up to realise that the mushroom was an illusion, and that my mind got tricked.

This reminded me of the mysterious ways in which our brain functions, and how we often see what we want to see or don’t see what we don’t want to see.

Those of you who have studied photography, or other forms of art and design, will be aware that it is our brain that sees, not the eye. The eye is a highly developed arrangement of lens and sensor that allows for signals to be send to the brain. There the information is interpreted and assembled in a rather complex process involving a range of areas within our brain.

The result is a stream of images that is a fairly good interpretation of our actual surroundings. But it is not perfect, and the brain is working hard to keep our world relatively steady and balanced. In the process some information – colour for example – may be radically misinterpreted to ensure that we do not suffer from visual overstimulation.

I have no idea how the processes of dreaming and seeing are connected, but I do know that our interpretation of what we see is often not consistent with what is in front of us. Sometimes the brain seems to make things up even when we are awake. So it comes as no surprise that it also does so when we sleep.

I often do eye/mind exercises when working with 1st year photography students. The tricks are intended to show students how fallible our senses can be, and how this knowledge can be of importance when designing with colour, tone and perspective.

Here’s a little gem for you that fools just about every photography student. It often takes them a little time to accept that they’ve just been fooled by their brain. If you have Photoshop or know how to find your computer OS colour meter, you will find that squares A and B are identical in tone. But most people – no matter how hard they look – won’t see it that way.

Checkerboard and shadow illusion by ©Edward H. Adelson/1995
Checkerboard and shadow illusion by ©Edward H. Adelson/1995



7 billion – and counting

Ok, I get it now. The world will end. It’s official. The Mayans were right.

Don’t worry about food shortages, stranded whales, peak oil, funny weather or rising sea levels. It’s simple, and it’s not the economy.

With the added human weight Earth is getting podgy. The extra mass will increase gravitational pull between the Sun and Earth. 12 Dec 2012 marks pivot point, with Earth getting sucked out of orbit. Curtains…good night…sayonara…auf wiedersehen…good bye and good luck.

Just kidding. It’s the economy. Enjoy your weekend.

7 billion? I’m outta here.

Spammers are random – and so is this post

I’ve been spammed. I’m vaguely annoyed as I got spammed repeatedly and I don’t like it.

I should be grateful, as I’m certain that spammers are part of the few bothering to visit my blog.

There’s my long suffering sister of course, an interesting but slightly potty woman living in northern Kazakhstan, and a guy claiming to be an inuit sitting in an igloo somewhere north of the arctic circle. That’s it, but it’s good – start small, think big.

My sis and the woman in northern Kazakhstan are genuine, they’re true-heart  followers.

But I have my doubts about the inuit. In recent emails he called me a geezer and Google Analytics places him somewhere in Greater Manchester. He also claims to use an antenna made of reindeer antlers (ok…possible) and that my blog gets rain fade during adverse weather.

I know the world’s moved on, but that’s rather intricate technical knowledge for a guy who should be spending most of his time worrying about global warming. For all I know he could be King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, tired of ruling the masses and dreaming of a simpler lifestyle. On the web you can be anyone. But anyway, I have my suspicions, I think he’s kidding me. It’s Wayne Rooney, I know it is.

I have a friend who, like King Abdullah, needs a change. She too is busy and life is always complicated. She’s ready to move to the Antarctic to spend a winter meditating with the penguins. She needs a break, but penguins?…they have their own stresses. Maybe her and inuit should meet and walk into the sunshine.

Anyway, as I was saying, there’s futures at stake.

So, spammers, I’ve got my readers, now please go and hassle someone else for a while. Better still, go and get a job, like the rest of us.

Light matters

As a photographer one of my daily pleasures is working with light. In many years of taking images professionally I never lost my sense of amazement at this beautiful medium we work with. It makes me happy.

So light really does matter, and often is the difference between a good image and one that wouldn’t work. At times it’s in the polish provided by subtleties, at others it lies in a radical manipulation of and change to what nature is providing.

Below is an example of how I work with light to achieve a pre-visualised and pre-designed image. The first example shows the result of using only sunlight. The second is the final image after some considered change to the lighting, mixing the available sunlight with electronic flash light.

Where I come from photographers are often referred to as photographic designers. I am very fond of this term as I think that it conveys the skill, thought and creativity that gets applied in photography.

Photographers design, mould and form with light, be it natural or electronic.  We make – instead of take – images using light. Yes we use cameras, it’s our tool, but the real enjoyment, the one that never ceases to fascinate, is making light work  aesthetically and exploring the never ending possibilities it provides.

This rugby world cup got me thinking…National Failure Day

For most people who have given their best, to hear that one has failed is not comfortable. But failure is a necessary part of eventual success, and to positively deal with it is a required skill in becoming successful.

A former boss once told me that I couldn’t write if I tried.

In her eyes I had failed. She was having a bad day and I never found out if she really meant it or if I was her lightning rod. But in many ways she made me think. What if I couldn’t write? I’m a photographer not a writer. Would it really matter? Would the world stop spinning just because of my incessant tries and perceived failures at lining up the right words in the right order?

Of course not, the worst that could happen is that nobody would care to read my writings. And would that matter? Not in the final analysis. What does matter however is that I get a sense of pleasure from writing and that it often brightens my day. For me, it doesn’t have to be good, it has to be fun! And it has to keep my sister amused. What really really matters is that I still try and that I’m allowed to find my limits. And to find those limits I’ll eventually have to fail.

The recent rugby world cup final highlighted that failure and success are often very close. Success rarely comes without the risk of failure. Watch a baby learn to walk.

What would have happened had the All Blacks lost the final? How different would be the perception of their efforts had the French converted just one try? It was thrilling and it was close. What was clear is that each one of these All Blacks accepted the risk of failure for a chance at success.

Risk taking and risk management should be savored as much as a successful outcome. The latter will eventually follow the former.

We need to try things out, and be prepared to fail. How else would we ever discover if we could be good, or even great, at anything? We all could have been world beaters if only we had………….you get my drift…………..

To that end I propose a national failure day. A holiday where everybody goes out of their way to try something new. A day on which we push ourselves and try our very best to fail, to find our current limits. And with it to maybe find a new inspiration and hidden talent.

We need to fail, it’s the flip side of success.

At the end of it all, as kiwis like to say…she’ll be right, mate.

All Blacks for President (if we had one)

In this country full of deliriously happy rugby nuts rugby heaven has just arrived.

Congratulations to the All Blacks for becoming the world champs, and to all the coaches and staff who helped to make this happen.

I have no idea what it really takes to win the most coveted trophy in world rugby. Looking at these guys after the match though, and seeing images of some of them when they were younger ABs, it must have been a monumental physical and mental undertaking.

I seriously do not understand how their bodies cope. If I got up each day to spend a significant amount of time running into brick walls someone, at some stage, would mention that it isn’t all that healthy. Perhaps all those quietly efficient medics behind the scenes – the doctors, physios and osteopaths – also deserve to stand on the podium to receive gold medals. I just can’t see anyone winning a rugby world cup without them.

Last but not least, a round of applause to the French for turning up to the final to compete. Against most predictions they made the ABs work hard for their trophy – it’s rather small don’t you think, why couldn’t it be bigger? – and no doubt raised the collective blood pressure around the country.

In any case, this country is happy, and as the famous saying goes…all credit to the boys.

Go the All Blacks!

You are such a baby…

…and of course she is. It’s gorgeous little Mae, well on her journey to growing up.

She’s pictured here during one of her first milestones. A wonderful naming ceremony with mum and dad, brother Luke, grandmas and grandpops and others who will fill her life with love and laughter.

It was such a beautiful day, in a special setting where a part of Mae will always be.

Weehoo, go Mae go…

Mae's Naming Ceremony, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand
Mae’s Naming Ceremony, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand.