Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life in the Fast Lane - Can't Be Arsed Photography

Can't Be Arsed (CBA) photography is a type of photography whereby a photographist cannot find the energy or enthusiasm, nor garner the mental or physical resources required, to take the photograph as well as it could have been taken.

Indicators include poor framing of the subject when the camera operator could not be bothered to move very far from their current position. A common example is the inclusion of part of a car window showing that the picture was taken from inside the vehicle, when a 'better' shot would have meant getting out. It is a requirement of this type of CBA photograph that the miscreant could not be arsed to get out of the car.

Vale of Evesham from the M5
In defence of CBA, this does not mean that the resulting picture is inferior. The sense of place and transience in the picture above adds to my personal experience of the scene. I have only ever travelled through or past the Vale of Evesham on the way to some other place, I have never actually been there. Some of this transience is present in the picture.

Skeggy seafront in the rain at night
While CBAs may be characterised by giveaway features, they are not always easily identifiable. The picture of the amusement arcade on Skegness seafront in the rain feels very much like being there. The overall impression was a garish building against a dark and rainy sky. Quite frankly it did not matter whether the picture was taken from the shelter of the car or out in the street. The CBA giveaways include a reflection on the bonnet of the car at the bottom of the frame and rain drops on the windscreen. The 'not wanting to get out of the car in the rain' feeling is part of the picture.

CBAs should not be confused with 'grab-shots' which may exhibit some of the same characteristics but come about when a picture is 'grabbed' in a rush to avoid missing the shot altogether.

Millau Viaduct, France
It would have been difficult to get this picture any other way than from a car. The Millau bridge had recently opened to much publicity. We had driven the route before the bridge was built and it had taken several hours to descend into the valley, drive through the town, and rise to the opposite ridge, a journey of a few kilometres. The valley is now spanned by a bridge and the valley can now be crossed in a couple of minutes. We decided to visit the bridge on the way back from the Côte d'Azure and check out this marvel of civil engineering. This is the resulting grab shot.

The 'grab' aspect was down to a sudden realisation that we were on the bridge we had driven so far to see. The toll booths for vehicles travelling in either direction are on other side of the bridge so we had no warning apart from the massive towers rising hundreds of feet into the air and being visible for miles in all directions; and a load of signs saying 'Millau Viaduct ahead'. Once we had crossed the bridge it would have been a real slog to turn around and go back - which I suppose is another variety of CBA. 

Anyway, I grabbed the camera and got this shot. CBA does not mean that no thought goes into a picture. It was not just luck that this shot turned out as well as (I think) it has. I took a second to check that the framing was approximately OK and that the car in front had just about disappeared as I wanted the feel of the empty road. There are seven pillars on the bridge and two slid by while I was going through this process, but I quite like the cables pouring in from the left, and the colours are very satisfying in a blue/gray sort of way.

There is another sort of CBA picture which are are simply not worth taking in the first place as there are lots of better pictures readily available elsewhere.

The Liver Building
(with triangle of Ford Mondeo in upper left corner)
This photo of the Liver Building in Liverpool is an example. I was parked outside waiting to meet someone. It was raining, the place was deserted and I thought ‘Ah, the Liver Building’. I know it is an iconic structure and that the principal features are the two domes and the Liver Birds. I was aware that taking a picture which showed only a hint of dome and no birds was in some senses ironic. But it would only make an interesting photograph if it were part of something larger. For example it could be one of a series of iconic buildings taken without their signature elements or even famous buildings I had managed to park outside without getting a ticket.  I may have started the collection already as not only do I have a poor quality photo taken in the basement of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest man made structure on the planet, but I managed to park outside it without getting a ticket. (but I digress)

This picture of the Liver Building is only ironic by accident and contributes little to a fuller appreciation of the human condition. Many tourist pictures come into this category. There must be a billion awful photos of gurning idiots standing outside Buckingham Palace, the Empire State Building, Taj Mahal etc. Most are just a waste of time, there are usually much better pictures available for a few pence from local retailers…

Postcards of the Millau Viaduct on sale at the bridge visitor centre

…or online for even less.

The first few of several thousands of quality images of the Liver Building from Google
One assumes that tourist shots are usually to show to the folks back home that the tourist was actually there. Why not just show them the train, bus or plane ticket and get a decent photograph on a postcard? I will leave it to you to divine any deeper meaning behind such tourist pictures. 

Having said that, I took this picture of the Liverpool skyline, complete with Liver Birds on their domes, from Birkenhead or maybe Wallasey (it is a fine distinction to a southerner) to remind myself that I had been there on a bright morning with a 3D sky…

Liverpool skyline

The picture below was taken in the Mersey tunnel. I have stopped the car in the fast lane and laid out my Travel Lodge packed breakfast on the bonnet. The opportunity to do this was worth recording so  I took this truly lazy photo from the driver's seat which neither makes it clear that I am in the Mersey tunnel, that I am stationary, or that the breakfast is not actually on the dash - you'll just have to take my word for it. What a waste of time.

The 'breakfast' was donated by Travel Lodge by way of
a pathetic apology for having given my room away to
someone else the night before. They also ended up paying
around £80 in compensation (but that’s another story).
Anyway, there is probably a lot more which could be said on the subject of Can’t Be Arsed photography. For instance, it is not just about staying in the car, but what ever might be said is unlikely to add much to the basic thesis and besides, I can't be bothered.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Wasn't There - Cashing Out

BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live used to have a slot titled ‘I was There’ featuring interviews with people who were at auspicious events, had brushes with royalty and the like. My contribution to such a series would be more likely to reflect a number of notable occasions I missed:

In 1985 I went to see a touring production of 'Pump Boys and Dinettes'. The cast included Paul Jones (no relation, but a source of constant confusion) Kiki Dee, Brian Protheroe, Carlene Carter and Gary Holton, an old friend of mine from London.

He was better known as the lead singer with The Heavy Metal Kids...

or Wayne in Auf Wiedersehen Pet! depending on your cultural references.

Gary had called to say he was in Brighton and that he would leave a ticket for me at the Theatre Royal box office. After the show I went for a chat with him and expected that we would indulge in our usual pastime which involved finding a sleazy pub, drinking beer and talking rubbish until closing time.

But it turned out that one of the cast's parents had come to see the show and were taking the everyone out to a local oyster bar for supper and Gary suggested I join them. I do not really like eating with large gatherings, let alone with a herd of performers, as they have a tendency to get up their own fundaments. So I said 'thanks, but no thanks'. Gary tried to persuade me and called across to Carlene confirming that "It's OK if Richard joins us, isn't it?" to which she answered very charmingly in the affirmative.

But I stuck to my guns, narrowly avoiding an evening of puffed up luvvies and, unknown to me until a country music loving friend of mine pointed it out, supper with Carlene's mum June Carter, and June's husband, Johnny Cash.