Sunday, 27 June 2010

GDIF part 3 - Lo Monstre

Lo Monstre is a mechanical dragon from Catalonia, or so you think until you see the first movement of its head, then you'll think it must be alive. Bring a videocam with you to capture the unusual grace of this monster of metal and steam.

Prior commitments prevent me from showing you pictures of any other than today's events but the rest of the 3 weeks is full of similar magic. You can see some of last year's pictures by searching my Flickr stream for 'GDIF'.

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Photo opportunity: GDIF part 1

The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival runs from 24 June to 4 July and consists of 10 days of free (and very photogenic) outdoor arts events. I hope to be uploading cameraphone photos throughout today but don't take my word (or my picture) for it; if you're anywhere near Greenwich (London) then why not bring your own camera along and see for yourself.

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GDIF part 2 - Food Market

For the hungry photographer, there's a food market at Cutty Sark Gardens, right next to one of the GDIF venues, Monument Gardens by the Old Royal Naval College. There's German sausage, Mediterranean, salami, turkey pitta, fajitas, paella, noodles, crepes, and an assortment of juice and ice cream to finish.

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GDIF part 4 - Re-flex

A young wheelchair user watches a most graceful and athletic form of 'pole dancing' at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.

For full details, maps, weblinks, downloads and more, go to

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GDIF part 5 - The Garden

Graeae Theatre put in appearance at the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival again this year. Their piece, The Garden - a tale about a youth given to pulling up plants - is both narrated and signed captivatingly by Caro Parker, and can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Greenwich town isn't the only venue for the festival; there are events along the river and on both sides. See for full details.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, Graeae is pronounced 'grey eye'.

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Photo tip: If you see someone shading their eyes... #photography

If you see someone shading their eyes, face in the same direction they're facing and look for backlit silhouette shots. Turn the opposite way for wonderful sunlit face shots. If the sun is that low, it's heading towards the 'magic' hour when the best light is to be had.
Keep a lookout for signs like this that tell you that there are good photos just waiting to be taken.

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Care International's 'Street Gallery' at Bankside

Care International's photo exhibition celebrating their 25th anniversary is at their 'Street Gallery' on Bankside, in front of the Tate Modern. It's well worth a look whether you're just passing by or planning a visit. It's on now and runs until 18th July.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Known problems with camera lenses

Recently, when trying to take pictures with my 17-85mm lens on my Canon 40D camera, I've been getting an error message: "Err 01 Communications between the camera and lens is [sic] faulty. Clean the lens contacts." At first it was intermittent and sometimes just switching the camera off and then back on again would stop the message from appearing. And cleaning the lens contacts didn't seem to make any difference to whether, or when, the message would appear.

Lately, I get this message more often than not so I had a go at cleaning the contacts, watched a video on the subject and decided that I might not be using the correct cleaning fluid, so I decided to get expert advice - or, at least, as expert as you'll get in a camera shop.

It was obvious that I shouldn't just go to my local optician and ask for 'lens contact solution' as I'd end up with something entirely inappropriate for the job. The video suggested that I should use rubbing alcohol, which I'd always thought was for athlete's feet (though not athlete's foot).

Rather than go straight to my local chemist, I thought it best to get expert advice before buying anything. The guy in Jessops said, "Bring it in and we'll take a look at it." Presumably they had a lens expert on the premises. He confirmed that there would be no charge to get a quote in the case that the lens did need to be repaired.

The guy in Jacobs said that they'd have to send the lens away to Canon, and that it would cost over £100 to repair. I suspect that this is actually the case with Jessops, too.

I'm reluctant to spend this kind of money on a lens that's well outside its one-year warranty, let alone the standard 2-year warranty required under EU legislation. (I suspect that the lens wouldn't be eligible anyway, and not just because I bought it about 27 months ago.)

But then I discovered something interesting. And, quite honestly, more than a little preposterous.

I had a little difficulty understanding the guy in a camera and computer repair shop in New Oxford Street because of his accent and his speech patterns, but I got the gist alright. He said, and I quote him as verbatimly (TM) as possible: "This lens tends to have problems with the aperture control circuit; it will cost £120 to £130 to repair."

I was gobsmacked. He's telling me that there is a known problem with the Canon 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. And it can't possibly be something that Canon doesn't know about as it's quite an old lens now. Yet, as far as I can see, camera shops are quite happy to go on selling it. And Canon are quite happy to go on fixing it. At a price. A price that amounts to more than one quarter of the price I purchased it at.

And if the problem recurs, what then? Would Canon replace it with the same lens with the same known problem? Or would they charge another £100 or more to "fix" it again?

I'm not only left with a bad taste in my mouth, I'm also left wondering if the guy in the repair shop is right about it being a known issue. If so, and if Canon are prepared to continue shipping such a lens to the camera shops, and if those shops are prepared to keep selling it (and without informing the customer about the 'known issue'), and both are prepared to keep taking the lens in for repair at a price that amounts to such a substantial percentage of the purchase price of the lens, then there's something wrong with this picture.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Photo opportunity: Paradise Gardens at Victoria Park

This coming weekend (19th and 20th June) sees Paradise Gardens return to London's Victoria Park, "transforming Victoria Park into a 21st century pleasure garden. A FREE mulit-art form festival presenting the best of East London and International talent and packed with activities for all ages" (from the website). It starts at 1pm and runs until 10pm each day, so that's 9 hours - plenty of time to enjoy the activities as well as getting lots of interesting photographs. The website has a slide show of photos taken at previous events, and you can see a few more on my Flickr stream. If you're in London next weekend, why not pop down to Victoria Park and maybe I'll see you there.


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Monday, 7 June 2010

England v Mexico 24th May 2010

Photo 1 The Mexicans are in town so the English man the battlements.

Photo 2 A lone Mexican mounts the steps and rouses his compatriots.

Photo 3 The Mexicans pose, Chichen Itza style.

Photo 4 Easy to see whose side he's on.

Photo 5 And Mexico sweep to victory after the English abandon the match.

The World Cup came to Trafalgar Square on the 24th of May - or, at least, the fans did. A small group of England fans mounted the steps beneath the statue of Nelson and braved the ear-bashing they got from the much larger group of Mexican fans below. The cat-calling went on for some time before a lone Mexican fan had the temerity (bravery?) to mount the steps and confront the English fans face-to-face before turning to rouse his fellow countrymen. Given the size of the crowd of Mexicans, you'd think the English would retreat gracefully. And so they did. As they slunk off, a group of Mexicans formed a victory pyramid before mounting the steps to take the place of the vanquished English. Of course, the match didn't go so well for them...

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