Darkness Falls

Candle

Sitting in the dark at home… it went out at 5:30pm before it was too dark, but now it’s totally pitch black. ☹️

The power was due to come back on at 7;30pm, but we just got an update saying it would now be 9:30pm.

We’ve already been to Melton, grabbed some dinner and kills some time walking around the shops not spending money, but just looking… and now we’re home again.

It’s funny how much of our lives depend on power… I had to be the ‘automatic’ garage door opener tonight when we went out, and when we came home.

I am, of course, writing this on my Laptop at the moment, tethered to my iPhone, using the Internet, so I guess I’m doing OK… just no Netflix. 🤪 Though I do have enough data left on my plan to watch a couple of hours of Netflix if I felt the need.

Remember the old days when the power used to go out and you’d have to remember which drawer in the kitchen the candles were kept in… and that it used to go out so often that we used to have to have candles in a particular drawer so we could find them in the dark, or with the help of the good old Dolphin torch!

As of now we have the light from our little Hue Go (we call him Hugo) which will maintain full-power light output for 3 hours. We also have our phones with flashlights on them and if need be we have a Godox LeadPower LP800X Inverter that we use for our studio lights that we could use to power devices for a time, not sure how long because we’ve only really used it for powering our studio lights so far.

I think I’ll put my laptop away now and maybe grab a book and the Hugo and read for a time before calling it a night.

Feature image from iStockPhoto

Official Spy’s Handbook

You want a tell about my life, well here you go… I’m, on occasion, paranoid.

I’ve admitted to very few limited people, and may have mentioned on these very pages, that I have a few weird proclivities, particularly when it comes to entering strange or enclosed places.

  1. I check for exits. I need to know if I want/need to get out of the location fast where the best exit is likely to be.
  2. I build scenarios in my head… what might happen while I’m here and how would I counter it if the happening is negative.
  3. Who looks like they may be a combatant and how would I handle them.
  4. What can I use as weapon. As an example in a movie theatre this could be everything from “how hard would it be to remove the arm from a chair”, to “how quickly can I fold a popcorn box into a hardened stick”.

Yes, I’m weird like that. A therapist might say it has to do with never feeling safe, of having social anxiety or something in that vein. But it goes beyond that because if I’m with others they are definitely included in the plans in my head… and it’s never, what can they do to help, it’s what do I have to do to protect them. So maybe I have a bit of a hero complex thrown in for good measure.

Well, I often wondered where it comes from, and the armchair therapists out there may have a point, but I prefer to believe it has to do with my obsession with a book when I was a kid.

The Usborne Official Spy's Handbook
The Usborne Official Spy’s Handbook

I first found out about an Official Spy’s Handbook when I was in primary school, I’m not certain it is the Usborne version but I imagine it was, how many could there be? Anyway, this book I obsessed over, it talked about how to see if someone was following you, doubling back, altering your routes to not have. a routine, checking in mirrors and windows for tails, how to lose a tail, how to mark a drop site, etc I had that book down. If it still existed in the Shalvey Primary School Library with the original borrowing card I’m pretty sure my name would be all over it, I had that book out all the time.

Carrying Secret Messages from The Official Usborne Spy's Handbook
Carrying Secret Messages from The Official Usborne Spy’s Handbook

Recently it came up, I’m not sure how or why, but I saw something that reminded me of it, so I went looking and have found a new imprint of it, and well, I’ve bought a copy, I’m waiting for it to arrive. Nostalgia is a crazy thing.

I look forward to reading it again, it’s a kid’s book so I’m not sure if it will stand the test of time. Maybe when I’m finished with it I’ll send it onto my nieces in New Zealand so they too can learn the art of the spy.

Feature image is from iStockphoto.com

Have it All – Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz is back with some new music… the sentiment of the song is awesome, we should all wish for everyone to have everything they can have… and we’re not thinking material items, we’re thinking a right to good education, to good health, and to happiness.

We’re too often focused on what someone else has, we aim to keep others down so we can feel important and wealthy, and it’s no wonder when that’s pretty much how every country on Earth operates.

Instead we need to want everyone to have a good life; through the betterment of those around us we too will grow.

I want you to have it all!

Annie Lennox – Bare

I just performed a search on my own site for “Annie Lennox”, I felt surely I have blogged about this album before… but nope, can’t find it, which is weird, I was still a prolific blogger 14 years ago, when this album as first released… 14 years ago… fark, I’m feeling old right now.

Annie Lennox - Bare
Annie Lennox – Bare

Bare is an album that didn’t get a lot of play, in fact Annie didn’t even release any official singles from the album. A few promo singles sent for, well, promotion and I think a single remix single collection that wasn’t widely available. Not sure why the album didn’t get much love. 🤔 

I have certainly always loved it and thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting a beautiful, at times haunting, melodic soundtrack to their day.

The best I can find to share with you is a live recording of a heavily cutback version of Wonderful on Annie’s YouTube channel. Her voice, it’s just so precious.

Annie has also recently released a “Retrospective” video. A video that talks about her albums “Diva” and “Medusa”, I have to assume this video was actually made before “Bare” else I’m left to wonder why “Bare” gets so little love, even from its maker. There is a screen capture (shown below) of the exact same outfit as the “Wonderful” clip above, so who knows.

Screenshot from the Wonderful video clip
Screenshot from the Wonderful video clip

The Warp Tool

Man, I spend too much time looking at the crotches of people… as a photographer, it seems this is where a lot of things can go wrong. Mostly though, it’s with Zippers.

I have found the warp tool in Photoshop an invaluable tool to aid in tidying up things that go awry. As you can see in the sequence of images below we are protectors of modesty. And it really doesn’t take very long at all.

Zipper 1: Identify the problem
Identify the problem
Zipper 2: Make a selection greater than area you need to correct. Copy and paste in place.
Make a selection greater than area you need to correct. Copy and paste in place.
Zipper 3: Use the warp tool (Command+t srcset=
right click > Warp) with the top layer with some transparency and move around until it’s in place.” width=”525″ height=”416″> Use the warp tool (Command+t > right click > Warp) with the top layer with some transparency and move around until it’s in place.
Zipper 4: Return to 100% and mask off anything that looks wrong.
Return to 100% and mask off anything that looks wrong.

Instagram sucks, but is a necessary evil in modern times

My Instagram

There’s a thing on Instagram where people follow others, purely with the hope that those they just followed will follow them back… then the buggers unfollow.

Usually when I get a new follow, I’ll jump onto their Instagram feed and check them out. I’ll usually give them a few likes if I like their content and if they are matched followers for following, or have more follows than followers, and I like their content I’ll follow.

If, however, they have tens of thousands of followers and are following few it is rare I’ll follow back; unless they have exceptional content.

It’s an annoying model to work by, the idea that they follow thousands and thousands only to unfollow them, they become “influencers” and declare themselves such in their profiles, in the hope of getting wares from brands, and that has largely worked in the past, but hopefully that time is coming to an end.

For me, on Instagram, at time of posting, I have 760 followers, I’m following 2,436 with just 42 posts. I’ve never been one to care too much about my follower numbers, but I’m hoping to get some more models interested in shooting with us so I need to reach a wider audience to do so.

Cultivating a social media following is hard work. You need to follow, comment and like other people’s work, you need to continually produce material and you need to push it hard. Or you need to do what the others mentioned above do, follow a bunch of people purely so they follow you back, so you can then unfollow them to appear more popular than you are. Ultimately though, it’s a constant battle with the algorithms that manage the social media sites. How to get seen more often when the site is no longer showing content in date order, rather determining by their own rules, how you will appear to others. The only way to beat that is to have more followers and to have more interactions… and the only way to do that is to do the same back. Follow more, interact more, appear more… and that’s just what the sites want, more engagement, more information, and more they can sell on to advertisers for targeting. It’s becoming quite the sorry excuse for a “social” interaction.

Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress

Mark Zuckerberg testifies before congress

A day a lot of people have been waiting for has come. I’m currently watching a Facebook live stream by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Mark Zuckerberg testifying to a joint hearing titled “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data”.

Senator Cruz just grilled Mark Zuckerberg on whether Facebook is a political platform (acting as an entity entitled to First Amendment rights) or a safe-harbour (which would allow users to post anything). Mark Zuckerberg replied that Facebook is a platform for ideas. Cruz, not happy with the answer repeated the question two more times then went into a mini-tirad about republican and “conservatives” being oppressed on Facebook. He cited pages that were removed, he specifically referenced them as “Republican”, “Christian”, “Conservative”.

Cruz wanted to know Zuckerberg’s personal knowledge of the 15,000+ safety workers whose job it is to vet content for hate-speech and the like, he wanted to know if Facebook only hires liberal employees who may have a bias towards removing Republican content.

I’m thinking Cruz missed the point as to why this Judiciary Committee was formed… because of the role of Facebook in the election of a Republican President through the use of Facebook user data that was mined by an app developer and used to set up Cambridge Analytica, a company that has been involved in a bunch of misleading activity in a bunch of elections all over the world.

Largely the questioning that I’ve heard, which is only a little bit from the hours during which Mark Zuckerberg testified, seemed largely ignorant about how the system works, indeed how computer systems work. Cruz in particular seemed only interested in getting it on record that he felt his people were being actively oppressed. Cruz cut Mark Zuckerberg off often when he was attempting to answer a question… it seems that the senators are restricted by time and some want to get as much of their views out as quickly as they could, limiting Mark Zuckerberg’s replies.

The data that Facebook uses is largely provided by us, the user. The other data you may not know Facebook is getting is from the way you interact with other data on the site. The pages you like, the photos your friends post that you like. Also when you’re not actually on Facebook, but you’re browsing other websites, if they use something like the Facebook Pixel, which is invisible to the user, then Facebook gets data about what you’re doing on the site you’re visiting. The same with any site that has a Facebook-supplied “Like” button or Facebook-supplied commenting tools.

A senator asked about Facebook’s declaration that you, the user, own your data, but that you, the user, don’t get a cut of the money Facebook makes from selling access to that data. But Mark Zuckerberg did of course remind him that in the TOS, you are agreeing to allow Facebook to use that data without financial compensation.

A question came up about how the users get to control their content usage. And Mark Zuckerberg replied that for each post, of any kind, users get to decide how that data is used. The senator then went further to ask if the user can determine how Facebook uses the data… and Mark Zuckerberg replied that yes, and quoted the Facial Recognition service that would tag you in photo automatically, he replied that “yes, users can say they don’t want Facebook to recognise them in photos”… but he didn’t say that Facebook STILL records that data, they just don’t show it.

The was clearly a push for Facebook to allow a user to see ALL of the data Facebook captures, including the information about you they buy from data brokers and then match to users through their algorithms, but is never shown to the user.

The hearing continues as I press publish on this post. I just don’t have time to watch it, I have things to do, and I’m not a US citizen and it seems that the blinkers are firmly on with the senators about their own direct constituents and how Facebook affects them. Some of the senators brought up how Facebook allows users to post or target things which would be deemed as illegal if Facebook themselves posted it and in fact are illegal for the user to target or post. An example raised included a realtor who was targeting ads for a new property development to exclude people of colour and how that was illegal according to the Fair Housing Act… I’m all for Facebook doing what they can, but as a global company they can’t also do the work of the police and judiciary of all the nations of the world and all the sub-locations within those nations, to have them do so would be a massive overreach and would effectively make them an arm of the law. If they had to report that a housing firm was targeting only white folk, would they also have to report people who broke local statutes such as drinking alcohol on a Sunday in a location that doesn’t permit it, which they may determine from a person posting a photo of themselves (or being facially recognised in a photo posted by a friend), drinking alcohol where the photo was created on a Sunday. It seems laughable that the government would want Facebook to do something like that, but then maybe, through the call for oversight, they’re also hoping to get access to Facebook’s systems so THEY can have access to all that data at no cost.

Who knows what will come of the testimony from Mark Zuckerberg, likely not a lot, because as I said, Zuckerberg didn’t get a lot of time to respond to questions and the questions largely seemed ignorant of the system, the technology, or the implications of if Facebook did what they asked them to do, the gaping hole it would leave for that one new role for Facebook to have more power than they ever really wanted (or did they).

Nemanja Sekulic on YouTube for Awesome Photoshop Tutorials

How to select ANYTHING in Photoshop by Nemanja Sekulic

I’ve been watching videos by Nemanja on YouTube for about 6 months now, jumping back and watching older videos that seem interesting and to be honest, I’m watching a LOT, if not most of his videos. They are all interesting.

At time of writing Nemanja only has 86,298 subscribers and I don’t understand why that number is so small. When boofheads on YouTube have millions of subs why aren’t people following someone giving quality tutorials for Photoshop? His work is amazing.

I have a subscription to Creative Live and we’ve bought videos from RGG and other sources, and yet none of the retouching videos are as thorough or informative as Nemanja’s. Case in point, the How to Select ANYTHING in Photoshop video included below.

Nemanja literally goes through all the different ways to select objects in Photoshop using the marquee, the quick selection tool, the pen tool, color selection and all of their sub-tools. He even goes into the “Calculations” method which I have never even considered. And he gives a brief overview of the Blendif options which he has a dedicated tutorial for.

It’s a long video at around 36 minutes, but it’s also the ONLY video you’ll need to watch about selecting items in Photoshop.