Inspirational Hyperreality

One of my favourite website, Smashing Magazine, has a rather wonderful entry today regarding that most modern aspect of art – Hyperrealism.

There are examples a-plenty showing the incredible skills of some exceptionally talented vector artists. Some of those images are just astonishing and make me wish that I had even a small fraction of the level of skill of these people.

Smashing stuff indeed

Not all photographers are sex pests

It seems like nary a day goes by without reports of some poor photographer having his collar felt for taking part in their hobby. Boing Boing have this particular subject close to their hearts and are regularly reporting on incidents where people with cameras are finding their days spoiled by suspicious-minded idiots.

Last month South Shield’s premier blogger Curly spent a few minutes having to explain himself to some policemen after taking some photos at a funfair. There were children playing on the dodgems and some local made the logical assumption that Curly intended to molest some of the poor dears and called the police.

To the Peelers’ credit, however, they quickly determined that our photographic protagonist was, in fact, an upstanding member of the British Public and let him go. Unfortunately there’s still some semi-panicked moron in the area seeing peadophiles at every corner.

Where is this going to end? Why didn’t this person just as Curly why he was taking photos rather than assuming the worst and called the feds? Why are photographers seemingly becoming the latest object of fear when people should be more concerned about people they actually know.

Taking photos in public is not illegal

There have been a few news articles recently covering the problems that some photographers are having while using their cameras in public places. It seems that there are a growing number of incidents where the police, or other figures of “authority”, are mistakenly apprehending photographers because they think that they are operating illegally.

The BBC had an article last week suggesting that some photographers are being mistaken for “terrorists”:

Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, say campaigners.

Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.

After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”, then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more. So he slunk home with his camera.

Wow, so taking photos in the middle of Ipswich is illegal? What about elsewhere in the country? Boing Boing have an article today about one photographer who was hassled by security guards in Middlesborough. He was threatened by a number of people, included some seemingly ignorant members of the public, because he’d taken some photos of these security guards. Boing Boing links to this photo on Flickr where the guy explains what happened:

My friend and I were photographing in the town. I spotted a man being detained by this security guard and a policeman, some kind of altercation was going on, i looked through my zoom lens to see what was happening and then moved on.

Moments later as i walked away this goon jumped in front of me and demanded to know what i was doing. i explained that i was taking photos and it was my legal right to do so, he tried to stop me by shoulder charging me, my friend started taking photos of this, he then tried to detain us both. I refused to stand still so he grabbed my jacket and said i was breaking the law. Quickly a woman and a guy wearing BARGAIN MADNESS shirts joined in the melee and forcibly grabbed my friend and held him against his will. We were both informed that street photography was illegal in the town.

Clearly these incidents are distressing for the photographers involved. I’ve taken a few candid shots in public places before and I’ve been lucky enough not to have been hassled like this.Unfortunately it seems that street photographers are now considered to be a huge threat to public safetly. Why is this?

There’s an air of paranoia in the UK, and elsewhere in the world, at the moment. Someone is out to get us and everyone is subject to suspicion. Chapter Thirteen Photography has an excellent article about this very thing called Public Photography – Stop and Search:

Unfortunately in the current age of tabloid press and moral panic there is an enemy under every bed. In fact if the press are to be believed the general public is composed solely of sinister people we are to all to fear and distrust (for our own good and their circulation…).

Are they looking at me? (by rutty)Sadly for photography the collateral damage of this culture of paranoia has been a certainty in the eyes of many of the public that any photographer in any public place is either a paedophile or a terrorist. It would seem in the eyes of the angry mob that there is no possible other motive for taking pictures in public places. The magazines heavily illustrated with photographs tell them this so it must be true. Right?

This misplaced paranoia has led to a terrible public backlash against street photography. What used to only arouse peoples curiosity and often their cooperation, now causes suspicion or hostility. Occasionally it also causes a call to the police from the general public.

The article paints a bleak picture of life on the street for the jobby photographic artist. My own experience hasn’t been anything like as terrible as they’re letting on but then I’m not out there every day waving my camera around at the general public. However, when I have tried street photography I had this constant thought going around my head: “I hope that no-one gets upset about me taking their photo”.

I really shouldn’t care what people think if I did. People have no right to privacy in public places, as Chapter Thirteen mention in their article:

Your rights are covered in superb detail at the following site: Sirmo.co.uk. I summarised below but think the document at the link is excellent and worth a thorough read.

  1. It is not ever illegal to take pictures in a public place in the UK, irrespective of what is going on.
  2. Children have no more right to privacy than an adult does when in a public place.
  3. Any member of the public has no powers to demand ID from anyone under any circumstances.
  4. Forcible deletion or removal of images or destruction of film from your camera is an assault.
  5. Detaining you and taking your camera would constitute an unlawful imprisonment or theft and both would include an assault.
  6. Even child protection officers (CPOs) have no right to stop you or demand ID, only the police may do so

I personally feel like I’m invading someone’s privacy when taking photos in public. I’ll try not to take pictures of individuals because that makes me feel uneasy, but it is not illegal to do so and photographers that do enjoy candid street photography in public places should be defended by the authorities, not illigitimately assaulted by shopping centre goons and wet-behind-the-ear police officers.

MP Austin Mitchell seems to be leading the charge to protect photographers’ rights. I whole-heartedly support his lobbying and hope that this situation does not get any worse. Photographers’ rights need to be protected as much as any individual in the UK.

I used to be indecisive

… but now I’m not so sure.

OK, I’ll admit it. That’s a really old joke but it does kind of sum-up my approach to this blog’s design. I find a theme I like, try it out, decide to keep it and perhaps make a few changes to personalise it. The problems start when I see something else I quite like, my mind is changed and a new theme is attempted.

Such a time is approaching once more.

I’ve already tried two themes and I really like this Redoable theme, however it was written for earlier versions of WordPress and it seems that there are a few little niggles cropping up. For starters, the sidebar formatting isn’t quite right (there’s a redoable graphic that overlays some of the text) and the comment flood protection is a little over-enthusiastic. It’s supposed to stop the same person from commenting twice in less than fifteen seconds but it prevents anyone (even me!) from commenting twice in some indeterminately long period. I’ve changed the theme temporarily and this fixes it, so it’s definitely caused by Redoable.

This is a shame. Even though I hardly ever get anyone commenting more than once at a time it needs to be fixed so I went looking to see if anyone else had the same problem. There’s no mention of it on the redoable page although there’s a WordPress support thread that suggests that some themes cause similar problems.

However, in my quest for a solution I’ve found some alternative themes that might be nice to try out. I say “themes” but they’re really a bunch of skins for a single theme – Sandbox. Now, Sandbox was a very simple theme that is easily skinnable and they’ve run a competition for designers to provide attractive and useful skins. You can go through them all at the live preview site.

Some of the designs are rather twee but there are a good few in there that I could quite fancy using. I like simple designs (a bit like me!), especially ones that I can easily adapt to my own uses.

Expect some further changes over the weekend then.

20 years – a life in telecommunications

The 31st of May 2008 will see me complete 20 years in the field of telecommunications. Twenty years ago, on that date in 1988, I joined the Royal Air Force in the L Tech TC (Electronic Technician Telecommunications) trade, thus starting a long, and interesting, career enabling people to communicate with others.

I spent 12 years in the RAF before I joined Marconi, one of the most famous and recognisable names in the field. I started working with much more modern telecomms equipment, mostly SDH but also touching on some photonics and data. However, Marconi became a victim of over-ambition and when the telecommunications bubble burst the company hit some big financial problems.

Luckily for us Ericsson stepped in with an offer to save a large part of the company, thankfully for me the portion that I was working in. Optical Networks fitted into a gap in the Ericsson portfolio and we were spared redundancy like so many of our peers.

Unfortunately the dreaded “R” word has reared its ugly head once more. Ericsson are performing some “site consolidation” and my Beeston site is going to be shut later on this year. This was announced on the 12th of March this year to a stunned audience of Beeston engineers. All of our jobs are on the line. Much of our product portfolio is being moved abroad (to cheaper countries) and we’re going to enjoy the prospect of reapplying for a reduced number of vacancies in Coventry.

From the company’s perspective this is all very understandable. The industry is suffering at present and most of our competitors are also consolidating and shedding jobs. However, this doesn’t make it any nicer to take.

I’m going to be pushing hard to make it to the new site in Ansty. I like working for Ericsson but I also appreciate that there may be other opportunities out there closer to home. I don’t want to move from Beeston and I’ll commute down to Coventry if I have to, but I’m also going to keep an open mind about any potential local jobs.

To help me with this I’m going to be making several posts about my past career. I think this is going to be interesting for me to write, but will also focus my mind, and memory, on past expertise. I’ve worked on a wide range of technologies and I think that blogging about my past work will help me to recall much of this in the event of my attendance in an interview. It’s important to make a good impression and I’d want to be able to express myself positively and knowledgeably. I’ve done some great work over the years and I think I’d be a real asset to any employer – I want to make sure that I put that across well enough when the time comes.

So, expect some lengthy posting on various telecommunications topics ranging from the 1950s technologies of TACAN and Clansman radio to SDH, Gigabit Ethernet and various operating systems. It’s revision for me and may be of interest to others – at least, I hope so!

My glorious football career could be over

Well, all good things have to come to an end, eventually. It seems that my knackered old limbs are incapable of sustaining my inelegant lurches around the football pitch. I’ve succeeded in injuring my bad knee again.

Thankfully, it’s nothing like as bad as last time, although I doubt that I’ll be able to take any further part in this season. This was my first match since my first injury and it’s not much of a surprise that I manage to twist the same knee. I even managed to do it in the first ten minutes so that I then had to spend the rest of game keeping goal. Ineptly.

Clearly my knee is not up to the twisting and turning and I should probably give it up as a bad thing. I’m certainly going to stop playing for this season and only exercise my knees in straight lines (that is, not in a twisty-turny fashion).

My Dad tells me that bad knees run in the family. He’s had operations on his from all the abuse he gave his patellas while running around the 5-aside pitch, and I have an aunt who is similarly afflicted with clicky knees.

Bizarrely, my right knee, supposedly the good one, starting to double-click this afternoon. That was a little disconcerting. No doubt I’m actually going to have to consider some physiotherapy as I’m not intending dying anytime soon and these legs are going to have to transport me about for a good few years yet.