Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in photographs (part two)

As I explained in part one, I have decided to recap the year through my photography. Consider this my "open letter" to family and friends, a summary of what the year has meant to me.

2014 was also a significant year for Susannah, who accepted a month's residency in Barcelona to develop her interest in graphic art. She produced an intriguing time-lapse photo series for the group show. I was lucky enough to visit for a week, and captured this view of her studio.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in photographs (part one)

It's the New Year, a time for reflection. And this year I have much to be thankful for, because 2014 was truly enjoyable, stimulating, and challenging. I discovered new health ailments (nothing more about those!), travelled to amazing places near and far, heard some fantastic sounds, presented an inordinate number of talks and papers, launched a new career as a film-maker, and made some (personally) significant contributions to research in my field. I also got to watch my wife and daughter enter new creative phases in their lives.

And I took photographs of it all.

So here, in pictures, is a chronology of my 2014.
Friday, December 19, 2014

Some things to listen to (part two: glass half full)

listening 2014

As someone who creates every day of my life, I rarely spend much time on music consumption. When I am asked what I listen to, it's often easier to say "Actually, I don't listen to music" than to explain the variegated form my listening actually takes. There's a jungle of sound out there, sometimes literally.

I have been in more than one sonic jungle this year. Let me take you on a short tour.
Friday, December 19, 2014

My Top 50 Albums of 2014 (part one: the great refusal)

As we come to the purported "end" of 2014, so starts the flood of Top 10 and Top 20 and Top 50 lists. These have made their way to me through news reader and social media feeds. Each author beseeches me to listen to "the best" music, as selected through their own filter. It's not a bad approach, in theory, though how there could have been 50 worthwhile pop albums released in one year, I will never know.

I will give you but one example of such a list; to provide more would be to encourage depression. Drowned in Sound manages to be a popular music site by pandering to both Taylor Swift fans (she's at #3) and those who can bear the Swans in 2014 but would have run screaming from them in 1983 (#10).

Though their musical choices are dull, I remain interested in their name, which attempts to be both world-weary (there's so much music that we are "drowned") and all-encompassing (notice it is "sound" not "music"). Of course their name is just a pose. There is nothing outside a fairly narrow range of pop music on their charts, certainly nothing in the way of sonic art. Perhaps they are emo. Perhaps they are hipsters. I don't know, since I don't understand these terms. (But I have a comments section below, for those who wish to help.)

Looking back at my own purchases, I see that I obtained exactly one album dated 2014. It's a good album, even if it is not a career best from the artists in question. I am safe in saying it is more deserving of your time than the Drowned in Sound Top 50. So here it is. A drum-roll please.

My Top 50 Albums of 2014...
Thursday, December 04, 2014

Micro-Four Thirds lens recommendations: part two

7.5 / 12 / 20 / 45 / 75 (side view)

Welcome to Part Two

In part one of this article I gave some introductory justification and offered a series of images that would help you compare the very different fields of view (FOV) these lens present. I will next discuss the available prime lenses in five categories, from widest to narrowest. I will relate the focal lengths back to "full frame" as a useful standard.

For each I will indicate the lowest price, taken from Amazon UK and SRS Microsystems, so that those of you in Europe have a good baseline for comparison. I should note that I generally buy on the used market, and have therefore completed my lens set at a significant discount.

My criteria include price, aperture (f/2 or better), weight, size, and image quality.
Thursday, December 04, 2014

Micro-Four Thirds lens recommendations: part one

7.5 / 12 / 20 / 45 / 75 (top view)


The Micro-Four Thirds (MFT) camera format has proven to be very popular. The cameras are small enough to be portable and the sensor large enough to take excellent images. A sensor half the size of 35mm film turns out to be a good compromise. Olympus has known this for some time; their original PEN film cameras took "half frame" shots. (35mm is often called "full frame" and I will retain this nomenclature.) The Digital PEN and OM-D line continue this heritage.

Certainly I am a convert, having moved from the Pentax APS-C sensor format. Pentax have some decent DSLR cameras but several lens price hikes ruined the value proposition. They also fumbled the ball badly when it came to the mirrorless revolution. Possibly only Fuji "get it" in the same way that Olympus/Panasonic do -- a well-designed mirrorless system offers enormous practical and photographic advantages over mirror-based tech.