Drones and selfies

Close up blackFor those of you who did not find my opinions on retro compact cameras (see ‘Epiphany’) all that interesting I say: “Good on you!” It’s wise to be a critical reader.

Today I’m going to chat about drones. To those technocrats who insist that these things are called ‘UAV’ or whatever, I say: “No one cares.” These guys at Zano, who are making one, call it a drone. So ‘drone’ will do me.

I frequently ‘drone’ on about these, as they are about to change our daily lives. Whether we like it or not, there will soon be swarms (perhaps literally) of these things around where people live. My bet is that drones will take up some of the technology used in the stalled ‘Google Glass’ experiment. Instead of wearing the tiny camera on the face, the Glass type technology will just fly around the owner (tethered electronically to his or her smartphone) in a tiny aircraft.

Potentially, one might be talking to a person while a small drone hovers above their head. Or, as shown in the Zano video clips, the drone is tasked to fly a short distance and take a ‘selfie’ photo. This shall be known as the ‘dronie’! Now that’s going to be awkward for anyone who thought ‘Google Glass’ was intrusive. Imagine, too, people cycling down the street with their personal drone in hot pursuit. The little drone will be there ready to record any traffic collision, and could even come and land on the prone cyclist when the battery is exhausted. This is all for real, and in the near future.

See: http://www.flyzano.com/gallery/



Hello there photo fans.

I had an epiphany yesterday while looking at compact and mirrorless cameras of various types. In short, I started to think that I was being (potentially) ripped off by marketing. I looked at some of the really hot ‘point and shoots’ (some of which have been christened ‘the best digital camera in the world’) and just could not see the value. Small sensors (in varying sizes), small lenses, impossible viewfinders, difficult to reach controls. In some cases, the cameras themselves were not that small.

When I looked at all this, even the cheapest DSLR from Canon or Nikon started to look like a good buy.

I’ll admit that a few things were working against the compact cameras yesterday. In the first place I looked in, the cameras were all lined up in a narrow high corridor of shelving. They were able to be handled (more on this later) as they had those tether things on them. I did not get much of a look as, first of all, someone had broken wind in that narrow space and it was as though there was something dead (such as a buffalo) stuck in the space. I did not feel like staying, after that.

The next place I looked had no dead buffalo in the corridor of cameras, nor did it have more than 25% of the cameras that were actually charged. Imagine the excitement as I switch on a $1500 compact camera, best in the world, to see…nothing. How about having a battery in them and charging it every now and again? A decent battery should be able to handle being turned on in the store every now and again. Even the cameras that worked did not seem to offer much that I had not seen before on a $100 point and shoot. What was all the fuss about?

Some of the highly rated compacts were about the size of a DSLR, anyway. About the only special thing about these cameras with fixed, tiny lenses seemed to be that they are ‘more discreet’ (than a DSLR). Due to the size of some of them I am not so sure. In any case, I often feel that I need a more obvious camera to get people to look at it. Otherwise I get the group shot with one dude looking off to the left or right somewhere at something only he thinks is important.

A discreet camera is meant to be helpful for street photography. This may be true, but most punters seem to notice any camera that one holds. A compact can be held at waist level (look into the fold out screen), though I can do that with some DSLR too. People will usually see the camera held at the waist or at eye level. If they don’t see the camera, they must think you are holding your hands over your face or crotch. Might as well let them see the camera.

Most of my own ‘street’ photography bores me senseless anyway. Usually to make it interesting you need someone who looks like an extra from ‘The Name of the Rose’ (watch this film to see what I mean) or the guy with a bundle of sticks on his back on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. Little else is worth the bother.

Normally I like nothing better than a shiny camera but these left me cold. Even if I had a spare $10K I felt no inclination to spend $1,000 on any of these.

I’m sure I have missed the point somewhere but, hey, it’s my money.

Letter from the Gold Coast

IMG_5160_edited-1 IMG_5168_edited-1Many of us acknowledge the old, loosely expressed idea that time does not stand still. During a visit to Queensland’s Gold Coast, I have started to think that perhaps it is more accurate to say that places and things do not stand still. More correctly, the human built environment moves and changes, sometimes at a speed we do not approve of.

For some, the pace of change will always be too slow. For others, the built environment changes too quickly for our liking. People change too over the years, creating a complex interaction between changing people and changing places.

My first memory of the Gold Coast is from about 1973, though some old photographs show that I was there earlier than that as a very young child. From 1973 to today is about 40 years of memory of a place. To put 40 years in perspective, think of the changes in the world from the end of WW2 in 1945 to 1985.

For me, for over 20 years the Gold Coast was a sort of holiday haven. Perhaps it felt that way most noticeably in 1994, when on a long holiday from the Army I swam, trained in a gym and generally relaxed by the ocean.

After that it was never quite the same. The ocean and the beaches remain, of course, but the ‘City of the Gold Coast’ has changed. In 1973 the partly rustic seaside strip seemed to be called a ‘city’ as a sort of in-joke. It is less funny today, as the strip of Gold Coast beachfront is joined to Brisbane by an unbroken urban sprawl. Somewhere in the middle of that is the ‘City of Logan’, another expanse of suburbs.

I do not seek to argue that urban sprawl is a good, or a bad, thing. It is simply something that exists now. I do think that people in the midst of the sprawl want something different for themselves, and one of the places that may be found is at the Gold Coast where the expressways end. That, or get on a flight to Bali. This, too, is neither good nor bad. It simply is that way.

Some things that simply are can be considered a useful subject for reflection. I was reminded of this as I read numerous articles or blog posts about matters such as the difficulty of taking children into cafes. Numerous similar articles exist about similar modern day dramas such as the pros and cons of mobile phone use, texting while driving or flying toy drones. It is easy to get excited about all these things and dash off an opinion piece (as I am doing now), but does anyone really care? Getting excited about some of these things is a good way to be nominated for the King Canute ‘Holding back the tide’ award, in that they cannot be stopped. We may wish and hope that our own opinion will win out, but most of the time no-one cares.

If we acknowledge the truth, we realise that the things that concern most people (including your humble correspondent) are trivialities to everyone else. This probably explains why no one cares. They may care if they get fined for texting while driving but generally will not care if they read a million articles for or against the practice. As for using mobile phones while sitting in movie theatres, on that issue I am a good candidate for a King Canute award myself.

I deplore the selfishness and stupidity of people who cannot be without their glowing phone screen for the period of time a film takes to screen. Truthfully, I am sick of asking them to turn their device off. It is not any particular age group of people, so it is not a case of the smartphone generation lording their devices over everyone else. The smartphone has captured the attention of all age groups equally.

Ergo, I am heading for a King Canute award because I seek to hold back the tide of mobile phone use in movie theatres. I am almost certain that the smartphone will win and the ‘solution’ will be that everyone will use phones during movies. Those who do not want the distraction will be invited to sit in a ‘phone free zone’ akin to a railway ‘quiet carriage’. This will succeed in New York where people are used to obeying ‘the rules’ but will fail in Australia where people will sit in the phone-free area to make their call with all that lovely quiet around them.

So, like any good writer of opinion pieces, I cannot tell you what any of this means. We are probably headed for a new era of accepting that things will be working in a different way. Perhaps people in the middle ages came to this realisation when they found they were no longer allowed to spontaneously burn heretics. I might just stop lobbying against phone use in theatres and start asking where the ‘quiet zone’ is so I can make my calls from there.

The Vegas

I have to say that Las Vegas is an unusual place.  I do not agree with A. A. Gill. You can read his story here. I will not detail all his complaints, but the main one seems to be that he had a fight with a stripper. From his account it sounds as though the stripper was in the right.

Gill thought Vegas was trashy with no redeeming features. I don’t agree. I wonder if he dined in some of the fine restaurants, or spoke to some of the people enjoying the shows here.

I certainly found it sad to see people begging on the streets, particularly on the pedestrian bridges. Every city has beggars, which does not make the situation any less sad. I chatted to a lady today who was begging on the bridge leading in to The Palazzo. She had a little with her, which I admit was the reason I stopped and gave her some money. The dog was hard to see, curled up black and tiny next to a toy on her lap.

It was hot out there on the bridge, but she had a little shade for her and the dog. Also a water dish, and a little basket, worn but cared for and just what a small dog ought to have. She said the dog had been vaccinated; I think her mom paid for that to be done. Whoever it was, I’m thankful for that. Where was AA Gill when that happened?

Architecture and open spaces

Well hello readers. The post today comes from a university in the middle of Sydney. I gather it’s a centre of excellence for design. A pity there is no open space at all. Even the huge open spaces inside modern looking buildings seem closed and airless. One can actually cut the warm, stuffy air with a knife in places. in some of these places it actually smells. Not very welcoming. One can also enjoy fellow human beings sprawled as though unconscious around the few sticks of furniture. Oddly, there seem to be no mobile phone ringtones going off: this in contrast to Saturday night at the opera where some fool’s iphone went off at the start of Violetta’s death scene in Verdi’s La Traviata. I’m not sure why performance spaces are so tolerant of this. They claim not to be tolerant of it, but the warning to patrons about turning the things off is so wet that most of them don’t even notice. It usually can’t be heard above the pre curtain going up chatter, and in any case most of the patrons are more interested in talking about themselves at this point anyway.