27 November 2016

Thomas Heaton – Landscape Photography on Location: Travel, Learn, Explore, Shoot

in Bucharest, Romania
Landscape Photography On Location: Travel, Learn, Explore, Shoot by Thomas Heaton
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

I have discovered the work of UK landscape photographer Thomas Heaton through his YouTube channel around a year ago, and I have been following his videos with interest and enjoyment ever since. He has quite a talent for staging and keeping the story focused and fun. And that’s before starting to consider his actual photography, his attention to light and composition. The results are quite impressive. What I find very appealing is his discipline and restraint (if you can call it that): he strives to capture a single image per location, with the best lighting and composition, and do the least amount of postprocessing required. Since my passion for photography started with a film camera where you don’t have the luxury of shooting dozens of versions of the same scene to select the best later, I can relate closely to this style of working. I think many photographers would improve their skills considerably if they would adopt this approach for a limited period at least.

Professional lenses do not make the sun rise. Full frame cameras contribute nothing to the freezing of a Scottish Loch or the scattering of light in the earth’s atmosphere. A carbon fibre tripod has never been the known cause of the Aurora Borealis. No! You are the main contributing factor to a good image. You need to be planning and preparing. You need to be out of bed and hiking up that mountain before anybody else. You need to know your subject and learn when those magical conditions are likely to happen.

26 November 2016

Politico Magazine: ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’

Ari Fleischer: As we were flying out of Sarasota, we were able to get some TV reception. They broke for commercial. I couldn’t believe it. A hair-loss commercial comes on. I remember thinking, in the middle of all this, I’m watching this commercial for hair loss.

Gordon Johndroe: [Putin] was important—all these military systems were all put in place for nuclear alerts. If we went on alert, we needed Putin to know that we weren’t readying an attack on Russia. He was great—he said immediately that Russia wouldn’t respond, Russia would stand down, that he understood we were under attack and needed to be on alert.

Ari Fleischer: Putin was fantastic that day. He was a different Vladimir Putin in 2001. America could have had no better ally on September 11th than Russia and Putin.

Rep. Adam Putnam: We get to Barksdale, keep in mind that we haven’t really had good TV images. We were all overwhelmed with emotion, because we were all catching up to where everyone else had had a couple hours to process. I called my wife and said, “I’m safe. I can’t tell you where I am.” And she said, “Oh, I thought you were in Barksdale? That’s what I saw on TV.”

Sonya Ross: I had started on the White House beat on September 11th, six years earlier. I said to Ari at some point, “This is my White House anniversary.” He laughed, “Some anniversary party you threw.”

Mike Morell: It was about an hour from touching down, pretty late in the day, a lot of people were asleep, and the lights on Air Force One were turned down. The president came back into the staff compartment. I was the only one awake. I said, “How are you doing?” “I’m just fine, thanks for asking.” One of the things that struck me, he transformed right before my eyes from a president who was struggling a bit with the direction of his administration on September 10th, to a wartime president, just in a matter of hours. I could already see this new confidence and power in him.

Karl Rove: I watched the fighters and I realized this was no ceremonial escort—this was the last line of defense in case there was a MANPAD [surface-to-air missile] on the approach to Washington. They were going to put themselves between Air Force One and whatever the threat was.

Garrett M. Graff

Gripping article (that could be made into a movie) about the September 11th terrorist attacks told from the unique perspective of the staff accompanying president George W. Bush. Together they spent the next eight hours in the only plane flying in the air, with very little information about the events down on the ground and trying to make decisions that could save or imperil the United States. It’s only 15 years ago, but the difference in terms of communicating are enormous. Also, I find it intriguing how, despite little to no contact with the outside world, Al Qaeda was already being singled out as the organization behind the attack – suggesting their plans were known to intelligence agencies but they didn’t take any action to prevent them. And with Donald Trump as president elect, it’s chilling to imagine how a similar scenario will play out under his leadership.

22 November 2016

iOS 10 is the most retarded update in the history of iOS

Even though Apple’s latest mobile OS was launched more than two months ago, I felt no need to update or try it out. Previous updates used to have many changes and improvements to talk and be excited about, but this one felt particularly unimportant. I don’t use Siri or Apple Maps, two of the main apps reportedly improved in iOS 10. iMessage also received much hyped changes in the form of flashy, utterly unnecessary stickers and gimmicky invisible text, but it’s another app I rarely use because, well, cross-platform apps are more convenient. As a photographer, I was interested in the ability to save RAW images from the camera – alas, Apple decided to keep that feature exclusive to its newer phones (6s and above I think) – in an effort to encourage the slow replacement cycle I’m sure.

Co.Design: “This $1,500 Toaster Oven is everything that’s wrong with Silicon Valley Design”

This salmon had become more distracting to babysit than if I’d just cooked it on my own. This salmon had become a metaphor for Silicon Valley itself. Automated yet distracting. Boastful yet mediocre. Confident yet wrong. Most of all, the June is a product built less for you, the user, and more for its own ever-impending perfection as a platform. When you cook salmon wrong, you learn about cooking it right. When the June cooks salmon wrong, its findings are uploaded, aggregated, and averaged into a June database that you hope will allow all June ovens to get it right the next time.

And yet, June is taking something important away from the cooking process: the home cook’s ability to observe and learn. The sizzle of a steak on a pan will tell you if it’s hot enough. The smell will tell you when it starts to brown. These are soft skills that we gain through practice over time. June eliminates this self-education. Instead of teaching ourselves to cook, we’re teaching a machine to cook. And while that might make a product more valuable in the long term for a greater number of users, it’s inherently less valuable to us as individuals, if for no other reason than that even in the best-case scenarios of machine learning, we all have individual tastes. And what averages out across millions of people may end up tasting pretty … average.

Mark Wilson

Interesting idea! I’m sure many people would love to have an intelligent oven that can quickly cook meals without much intervention while they’re doing other things – the closest thing today to a Star Trek food replicator. But the current implementation looks all kinds of bad.

21 November 2016

The New York Times: “The Right Way to Resist Trump”

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

Unfortunately, the dynamic has not ended with the election. Shortly after Mr. Trump gave his acceptance speech, protests sprang up all over America. What are these people protesting against? Whether we like it or not, Mr. Trump won legitimately. Denying that only feeds the perception that there are “legitimate” candidates and “illegitimate” ones, and a small elite decides which is which. If that’s true, elections are just a beauty contest among candidates blessed by the Guardian Council of clerics, just like in Iran.

Luigi Zingales

Sad but true. Twitter is full of outrage against Trump and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. If people don’t learn to pick their fights, these are going to be a couple of very long and angry years. Not to mention counterproductive: as during the campaign, constant attacks directed at Trump only serve to strengthen his image of outsider, rally his supporters and distract the opposition with a thousand fake causes while he pushes other agenda. The noise is even more annoying as non-American; I’m seriously considering filtering out tweets about Trump (and Mike Pence) from TweetDeck.

20 November 2016

Tan Twan Eng – Grădina cețurilor din amurg

in Bucharest, Romania
Tan Twan Eng - Gradina ceturilor din amurg

Există o zeiță a Memoriei, Mnemosina, dar nu și o zeiță a Uitării. Și cu toate astea ar trebui să fie, pentru că sunt surori gemene, forțe pereche care ne însoțesc pe drumul vieții până la moarte, luptându‑se să pună stăpânire pe noi și pe ceea ce suntem.

Richard Holmes, Rătăciri prin memorie și uitare

După o viață în slujba legii, întâi ca procuror al crimelor japoneze de război, apoi ca judecător, Teoh Yun Ling se retrage în munți la Yugiri, singura grădină japoneză din Malaezia, lăsată moștenire de proprietarul originar, Aritomo Nakamura. O supraviețuitoare a lagărelor japoneze de concentrare din Asia de Sud‑Est în timpul celui de‑al Doilea Război Mondial, Yun Ling suferă acum de o boală neurodegenerativă incurabilă care îi va eroda încet dar sigur memoria, furându‑i identitatea și amintirile tumultoase – care este de altfel motivul pentru care s‑a retras prematur din postul ei. Singurii apropiați din tinerețea ei rămân vechiul ei prieten Frederik, proprietar al plantației vecine de ceai Majuba, și bătrânul servitor care a avut grijă de grădină de zeci de ani. Deși caută izolarea, Yun Ling permite unui specialist japonez în stampe să viziteze Yugiri pentru a examina opera lui Aritomo și a o reproduce pentru cunoscători. Fost grădinar al Împăratului Japoniei, Aritomo fusese exilat din Țara Soarelui Răsare înainte de război și a căpătat o notorietate neașteptată pentru grădina lui din munți și mai apoi din cauza dispariției misterioase în junglă. Prinsă între propria memorie care se năruie și amintirile răscolite de întoarcerea în grădină, între Zeița Memoriei și cea a Uitării, Yun Ling se hotărăște să pună pe hârtie momentele care i‑au definit viața, atât cât le mai poate reconstitui.

Deși scrisă de un străin, romanul Grădina cețurilor din amurg mi s‑a părut că întruchipează într‑un mod excepțional spiritul japonez. Personajul lui Aritomo reflectă pe de o parte datoria neclintită față de Împărat, chiar și atunci când nu este de acord cu deciziile acestuia, pe de alta o complexitate greu de pătruns, ascunsă de lume nu de frică sau rușine, ci dintr‑un simț al demnității și intimității. Cu fiecare dezvăluire despre trecutul lui se nasc alte întrebări, la care însă Yun Ling nu mai poate găsi acum răspunsuri, ci doar reinterpretări ale propriilor experiențe într‑o nouă lumină.

19 November 2016

The Guardian: “China’s memory manipulators”

Observing China sometimes requires a lens like Nagel’s. Walking the streets of China’s cities, driving its country roads, and visiting its centres of attraction can be disorienting. On the one hand, we know this is a country where a rich civilisation existed for millennia, yet we are overwhelmed by a sense of rootlessness. China’s cities do not look old. In many cities there exist cultural sites and tiny pockets of antiquity amid oceans of concrete. When we do meet the past in the form of an ancient temple or narrow alleyway, a bit of investigation shows much of it to have been recreated. If you go back to the Five Pagoda Temple today, you will find a completely renovated temple, not a brick or tile out of place. The factory has been torn down and replaced by a park, a wall, and a ticket booth. We might be on the site of something old, but the historical substance is so diluted that it feels as if it has disappeared.

Other emotions are more ambiguous. The bluntest I have experienced is this: a country that has so completely obliterated and then recreated its past – can it be trusted? What eats at a country, or a people, or a civilisation, so much that it remains profoundly uncomfortable with its history? History is lauded in China. Ordinary people will tell you every chance they get that they have 5,000 years of culture: wuqiannian de wenhua. And for the government, it is the benchmark for legitimacy in the present. But it is also a beast that lurks in the shadows.

Ian Johnson

Interesting perspective on China’s troubled relationship with the past, the tension between its millennia-old traditions and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The current leaders are trying to reconcile them and consolidate their legitimacy on Confucian teachings, but the whole effort reads like a benign version of the fluent, state-controlled history in 1984.