Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gay Cowboys Are Over Rated

As a film lover I always like to watch as many of the Oscar nominated films as I can before the ceremony. That way, when I hear the results I can nod and say things like "Million Dollar Baby deserved lots of awards", or shake my head and say things like "Halle Berry got an Oscar? No Way".

I also find it is a good way to point you in the direction of a couple of films that you may not have otherwise watched. "Sideways" last year for example.

So far this year the best films I have watched are "The Constant Gardener" and "Crash", both of them deserving to be known as works of genius. Last night Victoria and I decided it was time to watch the other big contender in this years awards, "Brokeback Mountain".

I am sure you all know that this movie is about two cowboys who are looking after some sheep alone on a mountain for months on end and fall in love with each other. They then spend the next 20 years trying to come to terms with their 'forbidden feelings'.

This is a slow moving film. It's runtime is 134 minutes. This is not a problem for me. I like slow moving films. The main problem is that this film is boring. About half way through you just wish both the leads would give themselves a shake and stop moping around. Cheer up for god's sake!!

Most of the reviews for "Brokeback Mountain" have said it is a remarkable, powerful, moving love story. If it is it passed me by. There seemed to be no chemistry between the leads. They just seemed to be friends to me. It is possible that because they were both male that I did not really get the story but let's face it, a love story is a love story no matter what the sex of the participants. I just didn't notice any passion.

Both Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are up for Oscars but I hope they miss out. I am sure they are both very good but their performance in this film seemed lacking to me, especially when you compare it to some of the performances in "Crash".

I've also got to say that most of the male cast in this film looked like rejects from "Midnight Cowboy". If you ask me they all looked gay. :-) I mean come on, do people really dress like that?

One thing that was good however was the scenery. Some of the mountain ranges were spectacular. I have to say though that I suspect Ang Lee has a large collection of "stunning cloud pictures" that were added to many scenes as every one had a spectacular sky.

To sum up, this movie is a bit dull and I feel that all the media attention it has received is not really justified. Most of the people shouting about how good it is have probably not seen it.

Watch "Crash" instead.

Friday, February 17, 2006

One all

I managed to pull one back on old Mother Nature this evening when I took this picture opposite on the way home from work.

It's not perfect but I'm quite pleased with it. I just added a little bit of LAB to bring out a little more blue in the sky and a little more red in the clouds.

Unfortunatly I still missed the actual sun though.

There is always tomorrow. :-)

Mother Nature : 1 Christian : 0

When I drive to work in the morning the first half of my journey takes me through the countryside. I get to see Derbyshire at it's best, early in the morning.

Autumn and winter are the best seasons (in my opinion) for displaying nature at it's finest, and every day this week as I have been driving to work I have been amazed by incredible sunrises.

Even if it has been cloudy, as the sun came up it would burn it's way through and rays of sunshine would beam across the sky. Fantastic it was.

This morning I though I would capture this amazing sight with my lovely new camera (did I tell you I had a Nikon digital SLR? Oh yes, of course I did). I left 5 minutes early so as not to miss it and after I parked the car I got out and found the perfect position to take some photographs.

I waited.....

I waited a little longer....

Can't be long now......

BUGGER!!!! The cloud was too think and I saw nothing.

I'll get you mother nature, if it's the last thing I do!!!!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Unknown Regions of Photoshop

My fantastic new camera has got me into doing some more in-depth picture editing with Photoshop and I have recently discovered the 'Lab Colour' colourspace. I have never used anything except sRGB or CMYK colour before as I know what they do and Lab always looked scary and far too complex. However, chancing upon a website showing the basics I decided to give it a go.

Where as RGB and CMYK split a picture into separate colours (Red, Green, Blue or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) Lab Colour splits a picture into luminescence (brightness), A and B, the A channel being Magenta to Green colours and the B channel being the Blue to Yellow colours. By manipulating these channels using curves, levels and various other Photoshop tools you can bring out details and colours that you never know were part of your picture.

Actually getting good results however is extremely difficult, as I found out when I had a go, but they were good enough to inspire me to continue. I have been playing with four photographs I took in my garden, which I have uploaded to Flickr. Feel free to have a look and tell me what you think. I admit they are a bit crap but it is only my first attempt.

I will not torture you with such bad examples for long though as I have ordered a book dedicated to Lab Colour techniques from Amazon. It is called "Photoshop Lab Colour : The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures In The Most Powerful Colorspace". With a name like that it must be great!!! :-)

If anyone has used Lab Colour and can give me some advice, then please do.

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Gadget - Nikon D50 Digital SLR

For many years I was rather fond of photography. My Grandfather was a well known photographer in Sheffield and one of my first memories was standing with him at the front of his shop while he let me hold his Hasselblad. I even have a qualification in Scientific and Technical Photography somewhere.

When I was about 22ish however I suddenly lost interest. I don't know why but I sold all my cameras and didn't take another photograph for about 10 years.

Then Alice was born.

I had bought a Pentax Optio S4 to record everything Alice and it has done very well over the last 15 months, taking every picture of Alice you can see on my Flickr page. Recently though I have been getting annoyed with it's lack of flexibility. I want to have more exposure control and be able to vary the flash power and the depth of field. This is where the Nikon D50 comes in.

Taking pictures of Alice has given me a renewed interest in photography. I want to be able to take better pictures of my lovely little daughter, but which camera to buy?

Firstly, if I was going to invest in a proper camera it was going to have to be a Nikon. The only reason I bought a Pentax last time was because Nikon didn't do a camera that appealed to me at the time, but if we are talking a serious piece of kit you have to buy a Nikon. Forget Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Fuji or Sony (especially Sony). There is a reason why you see so many professionals using them and that reason is because they are the best you can buy. Nikon metering systems are the best, their lenses are the best quality, everything works in a very intuitive manor and their build quality is second to none. In a word, genius.

Next was the decision on what sort of camera to buy. I had been looking at the latest Nikon digital compacts but, as good as they were, I felt that I would have the same problems that I was having with my Pentax. It was a digital SLR that I needed.

Digital SLR's have always been rather expensive, so it was with great joy that I saw that Nikon had produced the D50. This is a fully functional digital SLR for a mere £459, including an 18 - 55mm lens. Sounds like a lot but for a digital SLR it's a bargain. This was the camera for me :-). I shopped around and found one for £380 and took the plunge.

The camera arrived last Wednesday. I don't think I have been so excited about a gadget for years. I was not disappointed. It was lovely.

The build quality is fantastic. It really feels like you have a serious piece of kit in your hand and if actually feels like a £459 camera. After a few test shots I was amazed at the image quality. I've never seen digital images look so good. The battery lasts for 2000 shots (apparently) and it has so many features that I'm going to be spending weeks just finding them all. Best of all though, when you put it in continuous focus mode and track a moving object it sounds like Robo-Cop. :-)

I have had the camera for 3 days now and have only really taken test shots. Like any good geek I want to find out what effect the different settings have on the pictures taken, and what difference to image quality the different filetypes (JPG and RAW) make. I am very impressed with it though.

The camera has many different modes, including Sports, Children, Portrait etc etc etc. The ones I am most interested in though are Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. These give more control of the pictures which is exactly what I want.

My new camera will take me weeks to learn properly but I am sure you will be seeing lots of great pictures over the coming months.

There is only one problem. I bought the camera to take better pictures of Alice but she appears to be scared of it. :-)


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