Sharp Images: Fuzzy Concepts

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
Ansel Adams

The great Ansel Adams was famous for pre-visualising his images before he photographed them: prior to pushing the button he already knew in his head how it was going to look when he’d finished the entire process from setting up the photo to hanging up the print in the darkroom. Though this isn’t true of all his images, the famous Moonrise was a grab shoot in the finest sense of the word, involving the car skidding to a halt so he could leap out and get the shot. But generally he was a considered image maker who thought and planned his images

“The simple lesson of previsualization – that is as applicable today as when Ansel Adams was capturing his spectacular images of Yosemite National Park – is that while one might get lucky, and capture a fine image, the far more likely result of approaching a subject without an idea already in mind is disappointment”

Andy Ilachinsky

Great artists of all kinds produced in the past, produce today, a great number of sketches and working drawings before committing paint to paper or chisel to marble, refining the idea and exploring alternatives as they worked towards the finished piece. Sure, Paul Klee said that drawing was taking a line for a walk, but that doesn’t imply that he was unaware of the path it was going to take.  I, and I’m sure most other creative people, know what it’s like to work on something, trying different things and ultimately realising that what is wrong is the idea itself rather than the execution; to use the expression from the joke about the tourist who asks somebody in rural Ireland for directions and gets the response, “if I was you I’d not be starting from here”. When I was at university I often realised that if my essay was boring and pedestrian then the problem was the structure I’d picked for it. Before you create something, be it image, sculpture, dress, hairstyle or building, you need to know clearly what you want the result to be like, not necessarily exactly how it is going to look, but how it makes you feel.

Last year I found myself disatisfied with my photography. I knew I was better than I had been but felt I wasn’t improving or getting to where I wanted to be. So I asked a professional friend of mine if she’d mind looking at the photos I’d made on holiday that summer and give me one or two pointers; a critique which would just give me a couple of things I could concentrate on getting right. One of them was this image of Eastbourne pier, with which I was rather pleased actually, I wanted some beach and a low viewpoint and the line of posts in the foreground and the clouds were interesting, all of which I’d thought of when I made the image.


Then I read her critique in which she said “the thing with that is I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at, the pier, or the posts, or that clump of weeds”. She’s right of course, totally right. The flaw isn’t in the execution, I’d got into it everything I wanted…what was wrong was that I’d missed the key fact that it wasn’t really a photograph of anything. I should have thought about what the main point was and then asked myself if the other things were detracting from it. Looking at good professional work it’s clear, once I’d internalised it, that there is no doubt what we’re supposed to be looking at in the image; they’re not photographs of this …they’re photographs of this. Go and check out the amazing portraits of of Bella West, her subjects are not always in the middle of the frame filling the space, sometimes they’re off centre, or quite small, or not looking at the camera…but they are always full of intention – Ms West knows exactly what photo she’s taking before she takes it. There’s a nice interview with her here if people are interested in finding more about her and her work – Mike Browne calls her compositions “off the wall”; it’s fine to go off the wall if you know why you’re doing it!

So is this entire blog post a fuzzy concept? Let me know in the comments!


Too little imperfection; why we like analogue

Okay, this is not the blog post you were supposed to be reading today. That was going to be originally one on ‘sharp ideas: fuzzy concepts’ but after seeing Pop Goes the World at Tate I was going to blog about pop art.

You’ll get those in the future.

So why the suddent deviation from the plan (yes, I have a plan)? Well it was inspired by three things
1) Occasionally I put a roll of film through my Pentax, sort of for old time’s sake, which I was doing today
2) I was in my local Boots, The Chemist, when I saw that they were selling rolls of 35mm roll film, their own colour and Ilford monochrome
3) Watching tonight’s countryfile and seeing an item about photographer Jack Lowe and his project to photograph all the UK lifeboat stations using a vintage ambotype plate camera.

Which all got me thinking about using film (and plates), about analogue photography, indeed thinking about it to the point where I thought I may as well turn my thinking into a blog post. Analogue: What’s the Attraction?

There is, among audio engineers old enough to remember, a nostalgia for what is called ‘analogue warmth’, it’s hard to pin down exactly what this actually is but essentially it comes down to a desirable level of imperfection really. See this great article in Sound on Sound which also references digital imaging for some insights. Back in the days of the old Victor Blackman column in A.P. he always said medium format was better than 35mm as the resolution was better, and lens tests always involved blowing up images from the corner of 35mm frames to insane levels to see how much detail they had; my memory is that these were always of dockyards, maybe the office overlooked one, or maybe I’m imagining this. It was all about ‘sharp’ because sharp was good, the holy grail of a good image. But now we’ve got sharp, we’ve got sharp as never before, we’ve got sharp so sharp that if they weren’t photoshopped to within an inch of their lives even photos of top models would make their skins look less than perfect. Bizarrly, what do we do as part of our post-processing workflows pray tell? We apply sharpening, as though the bloody things weren’t already sharp as razors. Then we apply some extra contrast (I say ‘we’ because I do it too) because somehow contrast looks good, we’re used to contrast being on the high side. Hey, film never looked like that…

And, I suspect, that’s why many of use who remember film (and some snappers who don’t of course) are happy to go back to it. Because the photos look like photos. Take a look at this photo of mine, the year is 1979 and it’s from the first roll of film I put through my K1000 which was my first 35mm slr (I still have it, it still works). No idea who any of these people are because in 1979 it was okay to wander down to the local school fete and photograph kids with whom you had no connection, which in retrospect is quite alarming. It’s not a great photo, though I love the expression on the little girl’s face, but the blacks are nice and rich without needing too much contrast, and it’s sharp but not un-naturally so. It looks better on the print rather than this scan by the way, because it’s a totally analogue process from start to finish on the print.

School Fete - 1979

Now I’m not going to type here and say that digital is rubbish, or even bad, because it’s not, it’s really good and I shoot most of my stuff on digital cameras now and I love doing that, but I love shooting analogue too. I think the issue is that everything that was said about the wonders of digital audio and imaging are perfectly true, that it would be sharp and clear; I remember a friend who heard one of the first CD players saying “the amazing thing was that there was no noise between the tracks!!!” That they’d be portable, and storage would be bigger and so we’d get more sound onto our players or more images onto our cameras. That with a digital camera we wouldn’t have to either do all that smelly stuff with chemicals and black out the bathroom, or wait for them to come back from the processor’s. All those things are true, and what made them such attractive concepts was that at the time they seemed to offer solutions to the things we disliked without us realising that a lot of those things were fundamental to what we enjoyed. We didn’t realise that actually, we could have too much sharpness and contrast, to much clarity and perfection.

Choose Simplicity over Fussiness

I came across the following quote on the blog Esme and the Laneway

If in doubt, choose simplicity over fussiness

Esme writes mostly about vintage fashion, and in this post she’s interviewing Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage in Melbourne, about a book she had written. When I read it I thought how much it reflected my views on what looks good; what I think counts as good design and visually satisfying art. In fact I think it’s a great maxim for many other things beyond the visual; think about how much we like the devices we use to be intuitive and simple without loads of knobs, buttons and dials. We don’t like to have to fight our way through technology to use our devices and I don’t think we like to fight our way through needless fussiness in our visual environment. So how am I interpreting ‘fussiness’ here? It’s not ornamentation per se, it’s ‘ornamentation for the sake of it’, ‘ornamentation to no point’, ‘ornamentation which doesn’t know when to stop’, ‘ornamentation just `because you can‘.

I’m going to say here that I think this viewpoint isn’t new, however much it seems very late 20th century onwards. We think of the victorian living room chock a block with ornaments and patterns, or the over the top and over-wrought craziness of victorian gothic and, let’s get it out there, the Albert Memorial. But at the same time you have the whole arts and crafts thing going on which produced some very clean design. “Now hang on!! (I hear you crying) William Morris Wallpaper!!”. Well, to be honest, I think Morris is right out there on the edge of pointless ornamentation, the same way his buddies the PRB are in painting. Not arguing there. But it was about so much more than Morris; take a look at arts and crafts furniture and much of it is very clean and non-fussy. I’m not going to take a trip through the art and design history of the last couple of hundred years, apart from saying that Art Nouveau is going to be my exception in that a lot of it is very fussy but I really like it…in moderation.

So what is is about simplicity which is so satisfying? I think it’s because you can have a lot of it without it clashing. Patterns are much easier to over-do. Fair Isle cardigan + muted dress = looks great. Plain cardigan + floral patterned dress = looks great. Fair Isle cardigan + floral dress…you get what I’m driving at here. When you start introducing ornamentation you are putting limits on what you can do, how much of it you can have without it looking like a mess. When I was a kid in the 60s and early 70s we had wallpaper, patterned wallpaper, every room different…and patterned upholstry on our living room suite…and patterned curtains. Takes a lot of skill to pull that off; looking back at old photographs it was skill my parents didn’t have. The only saving grace is that my parents weren’t picture people because it would have been bloody hard to hang pictures on it. What do we do now when we decorate? We paint rooms in ‘white, not quite’ shades (I remember when those first came in) and quite often use the same colour throughout the house. It’s so much more forgiving than the wallpaper of my youth, you can pick rugs for the floor, or hang pictures on it, or cushions for the chairs with much greater ease and change them around without having to redecorate because the walls aren’t going to fight with anything. In fact, hopping back to Art Nouveau, you could get a wonderfully fussy Mucha print and hang it on those plain walls and it would be fine, becuase it wouldn’t be fighting with other patterns and colours.

One final clothing analogy…why is the classic evening wear for women the LBD? No points for getting this one right

Ophelia and the Art of Beautiful Dying

Ophelia, we’ve all seen her. Lying back in the river in that dress, beautific smile on her face surrounded by flowers and foliage. Just in case somehow you’ve missed out on this painting, though to be honest I think you’ll have seen it somewhere, perhaps on the wall of a certain type of teenager, here it is.

We’ve probably all heard the story of Lizzie Siddal in the bath catching a cold too (she caught a cold, got over the cold, though her dad still stung Millais for a £50 doctor’s bill, go dad…).

I heard a quote on a TV documentary, and I can only find it on one website though I have no reason to disbelieve the truth of it, that a critic said that Millais had ‘even made dying beautiful’, and bloody hell hadn’t he just? There she is, floating down the river, flowers slipping from her fingers and her complexion just the right shade of pale and interesting.

Much over the years has been made of the amazing attention to detail Millais got into the painting, weeks spent on the side of the hogsmill river (yes, we know exactly where) getting all the flowers and leaves right to the point where a botany professor once said that he’d be able to use it as a teaching resource. Then all the time with Lizzie in that bath (a story which every damn website feels the need to recount painting her as the dying Ophelia. Yes, it’s a painting which is all about accuracy John Everett, we get that…

Though of course it isn’t because nobody drowns like that!

First off, sorry to say angst-ridden teenagers of the world, nobody dies beautifully. Your body, however crazy you may be because your lover has murdered your father, wants to live and if you start breathing water it really wants to get some air instead. The UK lifeboat service the RNLI released some very disturbing videos about what drowning is like, and this chap recounts his near-drowning experience while surfing. Go off and google for images of dead bodies if you don’t believe me on this one. After you’re dead, especially under less than ideal surroundings, you look like crap rather than somebody who has slipped into sleep. Ophelia isn’t a distraught teenager driven to suicide by despair; she’s sleeping beauty with duckweed.

You read a lot about how this painting shows Millais’ obession with detail and accuracy, all those days on the riverbank getting the flowers right, etc. But the painting has nothing at all to do with accuracy because the actual subject of it is entirely devoid of accuracy! It’s a painting of a drowning girl..devoid of the actual act of drowning. This page makes the suggestion that actually this Ophelia just after she’s drowned, which of course allows Millais to avoid all that nasty drowning stuff but really only shifts the question of accuracy along a notch because if she’s a corpse what in heck is she doing with those hands? Now my experience with dead bodies is zero, but common sense tells me that on the whole they’re not inclinded to pose their hands and arms like that, and even if she’d managed to drown in that pose they’re going to collapse again once she’d died. Even the much vaunted foliage is flawed as, because it took so long to paint, flowers appear next to each other which just don’t do that(see here).

So when we come down to it, what IS this painting about? It’s about pretty much all the other work by the PRB: great colours, ideally with an idealised pretty girl in it. Don’t get me wrong, on the whole I like the Pre-Raphaelites, but they’re not big into ‘real’ girls are they? You’ve heard the joke? ‘What’s the thinnest book in the world called?’ ‘Tolkein’s decent female characters’ – the same is true really about the Pre-Raphaelites depictions of women. Though they may have been better in real life, after all Millais obviously was a more attractive option for Effie than Ruskin was so either he was actually good company…or Ruskin was really dire (given the rumours that Ruskin didn’t even know what female plumbing looked like before they got married, it may be the latter). Ophelia had what it takes to be the subject of a great image, young, pushed over the edge by death and betrayal she kills herself in a great setting, it could be full of emotion and drama. Carravagio could have painted that; Francis Bacon could have painted that; Klimpt could have painted that; Bernini could have sculpted that.

Millais spent weeks painting flowers, then stuck a girl in a bathtub and painted her. What you see is what you get. It’s beautifully done and beautiful to look at, and devoid of reality and emotion.

Some other websites
Looking Down From Above

Too many images?

How much art is too much? Or more to the point, how many images can you take in before you get jaded, like a gourmet who has put away one serving too many of some exotic vegetable?

We live in an insanely visual age, and humans are visual creatures. Back in the old days, before the turn of the millenium, you got your new image fix in one of several ways: you bought books and magazines, you visited galleries or you popped into your local branch of Athena (and probably at some time bought a copy of Tennis Girl). However you did it, your choice was limited to a few dozen things at any one time, and if you left your local Athena with something it was going to have to fight for the limited space on your wall with other images you liked and sometimes you had to swap pictures in and out if you had too many. If you took your own photos you pretty much were limited to 36 at a time (especially if you shot Kodachrome and weren’t hugely wealthy). Making or choosing images was something you thought about.

But now we, as a society, produce images in hithertoo unimaginable quantities. While we used to shoot of 36 frames on a roll of film now we shoot off five, six, maybe more times as many as that on the most mundane subject. Why shouldn’t we, unlike a roll of Kodachrome it doesn’t cost us anything, storage is cheap. I’m sure I remember paying about £8 a roll for Kodachrome in the 80s, using an inflation calculator that works out at £23 now. You can pretty much get a decent 16GB SDHC card for that and put several hundred images on it, and then reuse it again and again. There’s no cost insentive to thinking before shooting any more.

So after we take our photos, what do we do with them? Well we want to show them to people of course, which in the old days involved getting out the projector and running through the roll, or putting them in albums, or if you had shot slide and were feeling really flush and it was a really good image, you got it printed off (I could never afford real Cibachrome). With the digital image we can get a digital photo frame which will cycle through 100s of images without you having to do anything. Or even more popular we can upload them to online image sharing sites. The figures for these are astounding, and slightly alarming. These are Sagan Numbers people..

Flickr – about 6 billion images increasing at the rate of about 2 million every day
Instagram – around 40 billion
Facebook – 250 billion plus
even new boy 500px is claiming around 50 million

That’s a lot of photos, it’s an amazing number of photos, I think it’s an unworkable number of photos, it’s more than you could look at in a lifetime (it takes over a year and a half to look at a million images if you give them a minute each, and don’t take any breaks, or sleep).

Based on their website, I reckon the Rjiksmuseum has under a thousand images on show. The total collection size of the Louvre is only in the region of twenty five thousand pieces and according to Wikipedia the entire collection of the Hermitage in St Petersburg is three million; that’s equivalent to less than 2 days image uploading to Flickr.

Which rather raises the question: when we’ve got so many, how do we find images worth looking at?

When we go to a gallery, or for that matter went into our local branch of Athena) we had a limited range of images through which to browse. In even big galleries the art isn’t all in one huge space, they divide it up into rooms with a smaller number in each and we can wander round and allow our eye to be taken by something. Suppose they were like one of the big image hosting sites, imagine that all thousand paintings and drawings in the Rijksmuseum were arranged along one wall of a huge corridor streatching into the distance: how would we react to that experience? Would we get to the end? At what point would we get image fatigue?

We don’t go to the Tate and expect to find somebody showing us hundreds of photos of their holiday in Benidorm, because we understand that holiday photos are mementos of the trip and are of interest to our circle of friends and family. Self portraits of people getting hammered while at a stag party I would suggest are of interest to even fewer. Ideally, in the manner of the galleries, we need somebody to curate our experience. Somebody to sift out what is visually exciting from the mass of images of cats (not that they can’t be visually exiting), and family holidays. However that’s just not workable; those of us who use online image sharing need to curate the experience of our lives for our viewers. We need to be brutally critical of our own work and ask not only who is going to be interested in the image (and thus where is the right place to post it), but also is it a good image? If we take 50 photos of somebody, something or somewhere, we need to learn that what we must post is the best of them.

Ansel Adams: Beyond Awe and Wonder

What landscape photographer doesn’t look in awe at the work of Ansel Adams? Hell, what landscape photographer, deep down, doesn’t want to beAnsel Adams? It’s not just the amazing landscapes of Yosemite because a quick check on Flickr will prove that half dome doesn’t always look as arresting in photos. Not doing down the Flickr shutterbugs of Yellowstone here, there’s nothing wrong with your photos; they just aren’t (unsurprisingly) as breathtaking as Adams’ ones. Awe and Wonder, that’s what Adams is about.

Or not.

There’s far more to Adams than amazing landscapes; there are the portraits, and the still lives. There’s no awe and wonder in this photo of an egg slicer.

There’s no awe and wonder in this portrait of a young Japanese girl in an internment camp, but there’s magic in both.

In this article there is an account of Adams’ making the image Moonrise, recounting the fact that he essentially made it a grab shot (in as much as one can grab-shoot with an 8×10 camera) with no planning nor use of an exposure meter; it’s one of the ultimate lucky accidents, though of course there were years of skill and experience backing up the luck. The writer also discusses the fact that the still life with the egg slicer was the result of “forethought, careful planning and execution” unlike Moonrise. The story of the latter is in itself about awe and wonder, the photographer struck by vision battling against time and fate (he almost crashed the car stopping to take it) to realise his vision; very romatic, very Caspar David Friedrich. A man in a studio, working carefully, thinking through all the options and getting it just right is less dramatic, more about artistry than romance.

But then what are we to make of the portraits? They’re not street shots, he didn’t see somebody interesting and grab the shot, he posed and lit them as carefully as he did his egg slicer. They don’t put us in the position of the human against the magnificence of nature; they put is right in the heart of what it is to be human. His photos taken inside the Manzanar ‘relocation’ (read ‘concentration’) camp for Japanese Americans in 1943 and 44 are, I think, the supreme example of this. At the time when the attack on Pearl Harbour was still fresh in American minds, and American soldiers were fighting and dying in the pacific, Adams photographed these ordinary people going about their ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. They’re not photos of ‘the enemy’, they’re not photos of strange exotic people, they’re photos of ordinary people who a year or two earlier had been part of American communities and who were now living their lives as best they could under extraordinary circumstances. They still show his grasp of light and shadow, but not the dramatic printing for which he is famous, the effect is more subtle; it’s about humanity, not drama.

“The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and despair by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment… All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.”

There is so much more to Ansel Adams than the man who was so involved with conservation and the Sierra Club, than the man who created such powerful images of the American landscape, than the man who made photos provoking in our reaction to the landscape a sense of awe and wonder. The courage he had in making the Manzar images do more, they make you look at Adams, the man, with awe and wonder.

Finding out more:

Manzanar collection in the Library of Congress
Biography of Ansel Adams
BBC documentary about Adams on Youtube

ScandoCrime, murder, art direction and scandavian interiors porn

Like many in the UK I’m hooked on Nordic crime dramas on the TV. The Killing, Arne Dahl, Wallander, Beck and best of all The Bridge. The plots are great, the acting is amazing and it’s pretty much always difficult to work out who did it before close to the end. But along with the plots and the acting is the design, both the production design in the way they’re shot and, of course, those interiors. Almost nobody in a ScandoCrime drama seems to live in a house or apartment I don’t want!

To take those in order, the production design is always wonderful, The Bridge has a great colour sense, muted palet pretty much throughout with Saga’s car and coat sometimes the only splash of colour in the shot. Okay, with something as magnificent as the Oresund Bridge to keep using as the backdrop the visuals were always going to be something special though. There is also great use of the rural locations, either eerie empty birchwoods with treetrunks as far as the eye can see or vast open expanses of farmland or moor with nothing between you and the mountains on the horizon.


(image from

They also all seem to have wonderful kitchens, none of the pokey ‘ready-meal focussed’ kitchens of most UK detectives but airey open expanses of blonde wood and shiney worktops. Generally these lead through into living rooms full of bare floors, stylish furnishings and a feeling that somebody cared about how they looked. Well, okay, the production designer did care about how they looked but you get the feeling the characters do to. It’s all about light and space, big windows letting the clear norther light stream into the rooms: okay so there’s probably a nasty psychopath out there looking in through the windows but if I had that house there wouldn’t be, alright? Even Beck, who lives alone in a city centre flat (and has strange oblique converstations with the old boy on the balcony next door) manages to have a living room you’d be happy to come home. And as for that amazing house with the long lounge/diningroom/kitchen Wallander has with huge windows looking out across the fjiord…

Destiny – I want that garden

As any regular player of Destiny will know, it’s Iron Banner this week, which means playing loads of great games of crucible…and, for me equally importantly, it meant the Traveller’s Walk was open and sometimes it gets dark. See, and this is probably not something uppermost in the minds of the concept artists, I want that garden. Or perhaps more accurately, I want that garden lighting effect. The design isn’t that original, it’s very much the sort of thing a modern designer might have come up with for a reasonably sized modernist home, central path flanked by two rills, flanked by two grass borders; various trees offset to either side. In daylight it’s okay, but nothing special…but after dark the lights come on: horizontal side lighters on the two rills; uplighters on the buildings and the tree; various spots picking things out. It’s amazing. The first time I saw it I was all about how much I wanted it. Actually, most of the tower comes alive after it gets dark. The game’s lighting designer really got it right with various concealed lights picking out parts of the structure…and if you go down to the lower hanger where the keeper is there are lovely effects on the walls down there. I like wandering around in the rooms in the hangers too with all the armchairs and sofas (note to the game engineer, why if I can sit on the floor can I not sit on the chairs?), and views out of the windows. I love it.

But it’s that garden with it’s lights I really want!

Unfortunately the lighting effects don’t really come through in a screenshot, but this should give you an idea of what it’s like.

Okay, so we don’t have a modernist home, it’s a pretty conventional semi-detached house in a small rural town. But we could achieve this sort of look, we’ve got trees and large bushes which would take uplighters. Our pond is a wildlife pond so not suitable for lights but we’re going to be adding more water features in the coming year which will be able to take underwater lighting.

I’ve been gathering things I like on my Garden Lighting pinterest..

Why I deleted most of my pictures on DeviantArt

I’ve just gone through my DeviantArt gallery…and deleted almost all of the images in it.

Because, frankly, they just weren’t that good.

It’s not that I dislike them all, or that I wasn’t happy with them after I’d done them; I just don’t think the rest of the planet needs, or wants, to see them.

This was sparked by watching the film Sound City, which is very good (available on iTunes) and well worth watching. During the film Trent Reznor says;

“Now that everyone is empowered with these tools to create stuff, has there been a lot more great shit coming out? Not really. You still have to have something to do with those tools. You should really try to have something to say.”
(I found the quote typed out here)

It’s hard to argue with this. For years we’ve been provided with more and better tools to use the computer to produce art, much of it either very reasonably priced if not actually free. Video, graphics or music: anyone can now put their hands on tools which offer opportunities not even imaginable not so long ago. Digital cameras are really cheap with no costs in film and processing, and loads of people are now carrying ‘phones’ which offer great photography and video capabilities. There has never been a better time to use digital technology to be creative. But access to tools doesn’t equate with ability, just because anybody can make and share their art and music doesn’t mean that it’s worth sharing. Note that I said ‘worth sharing’, art and music are always worth making because the process of being creative is just good for a human being. Years ago I said to somebody I knew that I was a fairly dire 3 chord guitarist to which he replied “there’s nothing wrong with that…so long as you know that”.  On and off I’ve strummed for fun, but I’ve never thought my playing was something anybody else might want to hear.

Desktop publishing has allowed everybody to produce their own flyers and posters without the cost and time involved in getting a designer to put them together and a printer to produce them: but look at any notice board and while you’ll see loads of adverts for clubs, societies, small businesses and events most of them are actually not that nice to look at. They do the job, but they don’t do it elegantly. Think I’m being judgemental and snotty? Okay, take a magazine and find a print advert in it you like. Then go and look at the notice board in your university, or village hall or whatever and see how many of the flyers and posters look as good as that advert from the magazine. OK, so if you wanted to know when the flower arranging club meet or you’re looking for a band to see this evening all those amateur flyers are going to tell you that, but they’re not of the same standard as the professional ones. Because the professional ones have been put together by people who spent a lot of time learning what looks good and mastering the tools to achieve that. Youtube has hundreds of hours of video uploaded to it every minute: thousands of amateur filmmakers (though the term is now accepted to be ‘Youtubers’) producing content on a whole range of subjects which may be of interest. But once you get past the content how many of them have weird lighting, or poor framing, or piles of undone ironing in the background? When did you last see a professional video, or one done by a film school graduate with pairs of knickers drying on the radiator in the background without them needing to be there? You don’t because serious filmmakers know how they want their film to look, have the skills to understand how to achieve that, and put in the time and effort to make it happen.

Which brings me, via my inabilities as a guitarist to why I deleted most of my DA content. See, the reason I’m still after all this time a dire 3 chord guitarist is simply because I don’t apply myself to the guitar, I don’t study the theory and above all I don’t practice seriously. If I did those things then I’d improve. I listen to good players and don’t want to be that good, though a bit of me wishes I was better. Music is something I don’t really want to be better at enough. Graphics on the other hand I love, I look at the work of professionals and wish I could work to that standard. I wish I could live up to Trent Reznor’s idea of having something to say. So I took a long hard look at my stuff on DA and realised that most of it was either dull, or derivative, or badly conceived so I took it down. It’s still on my hard drive and many of them represent a lot of work and learning new techniques, but none of it really showed any skill, or vision, or had anything to say.

Maybe it’s time for us all to remember that being able to produce stuff isn’t the goal: having something to say is

Free Nuke for fun

Greetings to all my new friends at GCHQ and at Fort Meade who had their filters tripped by the post title – sorry for taking your time folks, it’s just a way to create a title for this post. But hey, stay and enjoy anyway!

A few weeks ago I posted on the need for free quality visual creative software if we want to produce the next generation of people who’ll enrich our visual world. Well this week comes the announcement from The Foundry of a free version of NUKE for people who just want to mess around at home and have fun, and who want to learn the software. This is exactly what we need to see from more companies, and all credit to The Foundry for doing it. It’s going to give anybody who wants to the chance to muck around with it with no expense. Everybody wins with deals like this. Of course there are limitations to try and reduce the chance of it being misused by people who really ought to be paying for it, which again is good for everybody because companies need their commercial revenue stream.

If I have one tiny wee gripe about the conditions it’s this one, though I can see why they’ve done it

“The commercial NUKE range cannot load files created with NUKE Non-commercial. The Non-commercial NUKE range can, however, load scripts and gizmos created with the commercial version”

Clearly this is to stop companies getting people to do work at home with the free version which they then import into the commercial one, and I can honesty see why they went with this, but it also means that if kids have access to NUKE at school under an educational licence they can’t then download the free one to use at home and move files into and out of school…which rather goes against my view that we need to have kids doing as much stuff both at home and at school as possible: but again I can see why they did this. Perhaps a future upgrade might allow the product sold to schools under the educational licence to open files from free NUKE?

But, all round this is totally to be applauded, well done The Foundry and let’s hope we see lots of other commercial creative software companies following their lead