“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”


Articles about photography, including my own.

Balloon Animal

No, not that one. This one is a sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth called Pisces. It’s made out of 10,000 balloons; apparently, the artist and his assistants had to wear earplugs during construction to protect themselves against the squeaky noises.

The sculpture is in the Grand Gallery, National Museum of Scotland until April 14th; it’s well worth a visit if you’re in town.


Pretty Fly

Seen on my phone while in a hotel in Philadelphia last week. If you’re wondering why I think this is funny, you probably need to view this reference video.

Silver & Light

Ian Ruhter makes photographs with a large camera. A very large camera. His camera is so large that it is essentially the rear end of a big blue cargo van, which at least means transportation is built in.

He’s using the wet collodion process which amongst other things means pouring noxious chemicals over the plates in the field. The introduction to his short documentary shows some of this process in a deliciously misleading way, and has a fair bit of footage of the plate preparation and shooting processes.

The plates themselves, which in this process also carry the final image, are large sheets of metal. I thought I was stretching things a bit when I worked with 5x4 inch negatives: one of Ruhter’s standard plate sizes seems to be 5x4 feet.

If you’ve never seen large images from a direct imaging process like this, it’s tempting to regard this as a bit of a gimmick, or at best just a way of making a really large photographic print. That’s not what you experience when you stand in front of something like a 20”x24” Polaroid. Photographs like this have a physical presence; it’s immediately clear that they are, to paraphrase what Ruhter says in the film, not enlargements and not copies, but original and unique objects.

I’m really glad there are still people in the world crazy enough to do this kind of thing.


EPS International 2012 Entry Closes Soon

The Edinburgh Photographic Society has been running an annual open exhibition since its founding in 1861; this is believed to be the oldest continuously running photographic exhibition in the world. That’s one and a half centuries, which makes my paltry two-decade-or-so stint as the exhibition’s Database Wrangler look rather paltry.

This year, the 150th Annual Exhibition of Photography will be held in Edinburgh from the 7th of August to 4th September. Entries for the exhibition close on the 22nd of June, which means that you still have time to participate if you’re quick.

This year, the awards available have been extended to commemorate the 150th Exhibition, so if you have ever considered entering this would be a great time to do so.

Entry forms and copies of the rules can be found at:

Good luck!


No Hats

Please do not take photos with hats on

Seen on a recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, which is probably the last place you’d expect to see any attempt to constrain the use of any kind of headwear.

Obviously they don’t mean you can’t wear your own hat while taking photos; what they want to prevent is people wearing the display hats for the purposes of having their photographs taken. Or at least I think so; there were no hats in the vicinity of this particular notice.

Bedside Chocolate

This is another “snapshots from my travels” picture, from a recent trip to Zürich, Switzerland.

In many countries, it’s common to find an inedible boiled mint on your hotel pillow. In Switzerland, hoteliers apparently have tastebuds that work.

More Pixies Inside

There used to be a joke in photographic circles that most people had rolls of film printed with “Christmas at each end and a beach in the middle”. This blog hasn’t been idle quite that long, but I’ve just got back from a very nice vacation in Bruges inspired by the visit I made for the conference mentioned in the last two entries.

Mmmmmm, chocolate… and, apparently, pixies. Who knew?

Dueling Fingers

Dueling Fingers
Originally uploaded by nklingenstein

The wireless networking may have been problematic, but the human networking was excellent. Spirited argument between friends (see picture) is always great fun.


Twigs card

I’ve been promising myself a set of properly prepared MOO cards since I got some free samples a year ago.

I finally got round to doing this; the cards arrived just in time for my trip to the Internet2 Fall Member Meeting, and literally an hour before the postal strike started.

For this batch, I went through a lot of old images looking for images that would work in the 70mm by 28mm format; most of the results are still crops from much larger images, though. One thing I found very helpful this time round is that you can download a Photoshop template for the card format, including guides to help you allow for a safe area and off-card bleed.

I’ve uploaded all the images I used for this batch as a flickr set for anyone who is interested; they are CC-licensed, so feel free to use them for your own cards if you like them.


Piraeus Lion

Arsenale Lion
Originally uploaded by iay.

I was contacted a couple of days ago by a Wikipedian who had seen this picture in my flickr stream. He had a story to tell about this lion, he said, and would I be prepared to re-license the image appropriately to allow this?

Of course I agreed, and the Wikipedia article on the Piraeus Lion is now available. Of course I’m immensely chuffed that something I took as a holiday snapshot should turn out to be a bit more useful than that.

I knew there was some sort of story connected with one of the lions when I took the picture, but wasn’t able to see the rumoured graffiti even with it right in front of my face. One of the most interesting things to me about the Wikipedia article is that the second image illustrating the topic is actually an enhanced version of a detail from my own image.

For someone who believes in the Creative Commons, this is a pretty nice unbirthday present.

Cockit Hat

Another slightly odd street sign, this one from Edinburgh. I assume that the reference is a local variant spelling of Cocked Hat. There’s a local dominoes club that uses the same name.

Cold Snap(s)

I spent a few days in the Hyatt/McCormick Place Arcology in Chicago recently, afraid to venture outside lest my limbs break off like brittle sticks in the -15C temperatures. So, here are some entirely unadventurous pictures taken out of the window on the 23rd floor of the hotel.

Moo Cards

My ten free sample Flickr MiniCards turned up from moo.com today. Here’s what they look like, along with the little dispenser the samples came in and one of my current business cards for scale.

The material the cards are made out of is very well chosen. It’s a nice heavy card stock, pretty much matt on the printed side and with a nice soft sheen on the image side. Definitely not gloss, though, which I was a little worried it might be.

The text side of the card — which I think of as equivalent to a standard business card — is just large enough for a few lines of contact details, and that looks great in the format. My flickr avatar image works quite well at this scale, although I’d drop the flickr logo when buying some of these for real.

I’m not blown away by the results I got, though. There are two problems, both at my end.

The first problem is the shape of the cards; few of the images I’ve uploaded to flickr look really good at this very wide (2.5:1) aspect ratio. I can see myself occasionally shooting specifically for this format in future.

The other problem is that a lot of my flickr images end up pretty dingy in this medium (the two you can see here are the best results, and they’re not nearly as punchy as they are on screen). If you’re going to try this product, make sure you have lots of contrast and colour or you might be disappointed: what looks good on the screen isn’t necessarily going to look great on a card.


Venice 2006

We have recently returned from a very enjoyable week’s vacation in Venice, Italy. I have posted a flickr image set of a few of my happy snaps; you can view it as a slide show if you like.

Venice makes a pretty restful place to visit for anyone tired of city traffic noise. They might also have the best gelati I've ever tasted. I heartily recommend the mela verde, limone and melone from Bar Solda' in the Campo Ss. Apostoli if you're in the area.

The photographs were all taken with my Nikon E5700, mostly in RAW format this time round. Post-processing was done in beta 3 of Adobe Lightroom. I must say I am really impressed by Lightroom; I hope they don’t charge an arm and a leg for it once it becomes a real product.

Pink Assassins

Another fun street sign, this one from Burano (near Venice) in Italy. A “fondamenta” is the kind of street that runs along the side of a canal. Just the place you’d expect an assassin to ply his trade, perhaps, but the colour doesn’t match the image somehow.

Mowbrays Slap

Mowbrays Slap
Originally uploaded by iay.

Poor old Mowbray, whoever he was. This street sign is in West Linton, Scotland. I don’t know the story behind it, but perhaps “Slap” is another local name for “small street”. Or not.


Number one in a series of probably at least two “Great Street Signs of the World”.

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate is the name of a very small street in the city of York, England. In York, “Gate” means “Street”, but “Bar” means “Gate” (as in “city gate”). It is probably something to do with those Vikings.

EPS International 2006 Entry Form

If you’re looking for an entry form for the Edinburgh Photographic Society’s 144th International Exhibition of Photography, you can download one here (PDF).


Feed Me!

In Windermere this week for the Core Middleware Programme Meeting, I find this little fellow in my bath.

Alas, I was unable to take up the invitation.

Penny For the iay


It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a 50p packet of sparklers. Two each! Nearly sixty seconds of pure childhood glee in every pack!


Blowing One's Own Trumpet

My 2003 Christmas card won a runner-up prize in this year’s MWORDS Season’s Greetings competition.

[Update 2018-01-17: the competition link in the above paragraph uses the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, as the MWORDS site has now closed.]


Season's Greetings 2003

My annual battle with stacks of paper and bottles of ink has concluded with the printing of our 2003 Christmas cards. If you can’t wait for yours to turn up, you can find a description on the main site.

By the way, I particularly like this year’s UK Christmas postage stamps, which this year are all images of ice sculptures by British landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy.