Sunday, 18 April 2021

By The Tide of Humber

Not the Humber

Another year, another crop of literary anniversaries. We've already had Keats's death (but still no satisfactory answer to my hat-related query), and now it is Andrew Marvell's 400th birthday. To the non-specialist, Marvell is probably mainly known as the author of a single poem, "To His Coy Mistress", which you can read here if you've never come across it, or your memory needs refreshing. It's a fine, much-quoted and anthologised poem, wittily combining those eternal themes of sex, death, and the passing of time. However, Marvell was a complex character – poet, Member of Parliament for Hull, a man of shifting political loyalties, possibly gay, possibly a spy in Holland, possibly even a Dutch double-agent – and he wrote a number of even better and more interesting poems that reflect the shifting nature of English society and politics during those dangerous and transformative years. There's a decent summary of his life and works here.

Now, although this is not a literary blog and I no longer have anything of any great interest to say about either the man or his poems, if I ever did, I read a poem in the TLS recently (no. 6156, March 26 2021) – one of three published as "Three poems for Andrew Marvell at 400" – which sparked a certain series of Marvell-related memories, thoughts, and events which have a baffling conclusion. This is a slightly convoluted story, and in the end one with no great significance to anyone but me. So, bail out, or bear with me.

The poem in question is "By the tide of Humber", by Angela Leighton. You can read it here (apologies, if it seems I'm setting rather a lot of homework this week). If you enjoy poetry, and know a little about Marvell, I think you'll agree this is a very good poem indeed. To peer through the elaborately-worked surface of "To His Coy Mistress" and scry the death by drowning of Marvell's father in the Humber lurking beneath it is a remarkable and, as far as I know, unique insight. It is also couched in some wonderful language: I love "hackling flow", for example, which I take to describe the sort of agitated, cross-cut wave patterns I have often seen walking down by the Avon when the tidal influx starts to back up the river's weaker outflow.

It often seems that there are even more good poets at work out there than there are good photographers. Certainly, nearly every week I seem to come across some new-to-me name, a poet who is apparently well-established, with several well-reviewed and even prize-winning books put out by a major publishing house; this, despite decades of (admittedly casual and intermittent) poetry reading. Only recently, for example, did I come across Thomas A. Clark (via Andrew Ray's blog Some Landscapes), who has managed to reach "selected poems" status without previously attracting my attention. I can't decide whether it's me, him, or his publisher that needs to try harder... Which is just a face-saving way of saying that I had never, to the best of my memory, come across Angela Leighton before. So, naturally, I looked her up.

To my surprise, it turned out that she is an exact contemporary of mine, born in February 1954. Moreover, like me, she was an undergraduate at Oxford from 1973-76 and, also like me, was studying English. Which is a matter of curiosity and interest to me, if not to you. Having had a certain number of, um, Marvellian encounters myself in those youthful years, I made a hasty scan through my still reasonably reliable memory bank, just in case this was someone I might have had good cause to remember. I also sounded out various friends, just to be sure; but it seems our paths never crossed, Oxford being a rivalrously collegiate university, further sub-divided by many circles of interest which only rarely overlap. Which is probably just as well. I was an arrogant, hedonistic, and unreconstructed young man in those days, quite unlike the arrogant, sober, and thoroughly reconditioned old man I am today.

Anyway, having settled the question of any possible intersectionality or kompromat, the main point, for me, was this: the writer of this excellent poem on the subject of Marvell must have sat the same finals papers as me. Oxford final exams are a relentless trial of stamina: in 1976 we sat eight three-hour papers over four days, dressed in stifling formal academic dress (so-called "subfusc") during one of the hottest summers on record, sitting at those silly little collapsible desks in the very same Examination Schools building we had occupied three years previously. It's a feat of endurance you tend to remember vividly, or attempt to wipe from your memory, especially if you had to undergo the extra mile of torment known as a "viva": which in my case, I did, twice... 

Now, it is no great secret that there are two main routes to exam success. The first is to study long, deep, and hard, so that you enter the exam room equipped with an encyclopaedic knowledge of your subject, ready to counter whatever the examiners can challenge you with. Let's call this the Berowning Version [1]. The second, which we'll call the Ladbrokes Method, is to game the system: you study the form of past papers, and make an educated guess as to what is likely to come up this year, and thus where to concentrate your revision efforts. In extreme cases, this "revision" amounts to an attempt to catch up with the work you failed to do while diligently pursuing opportunities for intersectionality of the more entertaining kind. It won't surprise you to learn that I was a Ladbrokes scholar and, as it happened, for the "1600-1740" paper I had placed a heavy each-way bet on Andrew Marvell.

So I was completely flummoxed, that hot June morning, to discover that, yes, the anticipated question on Marvell was there, but, no, I could not frame any sort of answer to it. It was a long time ago, Tuesday 15th June 1976, but the memory is still vivid. The question quoted a famous couplet from "The Garden" ("Stumbling on melons as I pass, / Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass.") and asked, bafflingly, something like: "What does this tell us about society in 17th century England?" Well, who the hell knew? Apart from the unhelpful conviction that a subliminal rhyme with "arse" was lurking in the background, I drew a complete blank, and had to lever my Marvell quote-hoard edgewise into some other, vaguer question. So it struck me as amusing that Angela Leighton, co-candidate in that year's finals, had returned to the scene of what, for me at least, had been a bit of a shipwreck, so to speak, and one that only a very select band of people could possibly also have experienced or witnessed. So I sent her an email that both admired her poem and recalled that exam-room alarum.

Angela Leighton was kind enough to reply – I always think it's a good measure of any artist, whether they respond to fan mail (yes, looking at you, Alice Oswald!) – saying, in effect, that she could not recall that fateful "stupid and un-literary" question but wasn't surprised that I could. Which made me realise that, although I could recall the actual quotation and the pure, pharmaceutical quality of my perplexity, I couldn't actually remember the bizarre and unplayable spin put on the question by the questioner. I may be lazy, and prone to distraction, but I can be relentless when my curiosity is aroused. So I did the obvious thing, and asked the Oxford English Faculty Library whether they kept a collection of past papers, and if so would anyone be prepared to dig out and dust off the set from 1976 and give me the exact wording of the question in the 17th-century paper that included a quotation from Marvell?

Which they did, the very next day. Librarians are wonderful like that, aren't they? Just to be at work in the current circumstances is rather noble; to respond to the mad whim of some ancient alumnus is doubly admirable. I didn't even need to use my access-all-areas On Her Majesty's Bibliographic Service code word (that's right, I am a BS agent). But there was a problem. They sent me an apologetic email with scans attached of the three pages of questions that had been set that year, as deposited in the library. There was no such question on the paper. Not even close. 

WTF? I mean, seriously: What? What on earth is going on here? It is one thing to have a wet sponge of confusion thrown at you when you're young; quite another to have the bucket emptied over your head as you approach old age. I suppose there are only three conclusions to be drawn from this. Either (a) I am a deluded, memory-impaired old fool whose grasp of past events has finally degraded into fantasy; (b) some malevolent spirit or entity has deliberately removed that question from the paper, simply to cause me to question my sanity; or (c) that is not the actual paper we sat in 1976, but some alternative version filed by mistake or design – see (b) – in its place. Obviously, I prefer (c), am prepared to contemplate (b), but fear and reject (a), like anyone else a few birthdays either side of 70. Besides, I have always remembered that stupid bloody question. Always! I think... Worse – or perhaps encouragingly – I don't recall answering any of the nineteen options on that printed, archived version; I'm not even sure I could have done. I certainly couldn't now.

It's a mystery. But, perhaps, as I have speculated before, there is a fourth possibility: I am about to wake up in my narrow bed in our fourth-floor council flat in Stevenage New Town, aged seventeen, and everything that seems to have happened in the past fifty years was merely an intense, detailed, and yet oddly boring dream. Phew! It seems Mum was right about that late night cheese on top of a couple of pints of Greene King. So I will drift around in a daze for the rest of the day, extricating myself from a haze of false memories, and then meet up with some friends in the evening, when I will tell them about the amazing dream I had last night.

I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called "Bottom’s Dream" because it hath no bottom.
A Midsummer Night's Dream


Huginn & Muninn at Chauncy House, 1971

1. "Small have continual plodders ever won, / Save base authority from others’ books", as Berowne puts it in Love's Labours Lost. Plus The Browning Version is a play by Terence Rattigan in which ... Oh, never mind.

NOTE: I am in mid-Wales this week, where the internet and even a phone signal are mere rumours. I will moderate, publish, and respond to any comments when I get back on the 24th.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Unstuffed Birds

Green Woodpecker

Cuckoo and Reed Warbler

Here are a few more of what I have come to think of as "unstuffed birds"; that is, museum specimens given a new life in a new context, some more convincingly than others.

While making these, I have been driven slightly mad by a thrush somewhere out beyond our back garden, endlessly and loudly "singing" its limited repertoire of tweets and twiddles, morning to night. "I'm a thrush! I'm a thrush! You're not a thrush! Are you? Are you? No, you're not a thrush! 'Course you're not a thrush! I'm a thrush! I'm a thrush! ... [da capo]" I believe some of the other local birds have clubbed together to hire a sparrow hawk to take the noisy bastard out.


Sedge Warblers

Friday, 9 April 2021


I got bored with conjuring up new "framed" pictures, so somehow drifted into making a series of "ornithology" composites from my innumerable photographs of museum specimens. At the same time I also realised that my urge to go "dark" – reaching for a skull or some other piece of grotesquerie at any opportunity – is a bit offputting, so decided to walk on the sunny side of the street for a change.

I have to say I like these. I've always been fascinated by birds –I joined the RSPB at age 11, and am still a member – and it's been instructive to fend off the urge to make pictures of "dead" birds (although these are all very dead, obviously) or ironic birds (although I did have fun with three ducks on a wall) and to generally be upbeat in my choice of colours, etc. I can see that the equivalent of a set of Brooke Bond tea cards may be developing here, which could make for a nice, colourful book.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Parable of the Tribunal Reconvened

Tall tales

In the course of my delving into the blog archive (in pursuit of posts worthy of inclusion in a future "best of" Selections From Idiotic Hat volume) I found another one which seemed worth repeating, a full nine Easters later. I used to be good at this blog lark, it seems. Must do better...


The Parable of the Tribunal

In the comments to a previous post, I proposed that to have some talent, in itself, is not enough to achieve anything worthwhile.  You also need
  • Application. That famous "99% perspiration", or the "10,000 hours".
  • A generous measure of selfishness.  Life, particularly family life, with a creative genius is a quick route to despair, divorce, and denunciation.
  • Something to say.  Most rare of all. The Real Thing.  Accept no substitutes.
I might also add
  • A  trust fund.  Or, failing that, a taste for the (very) simple life.
Frankly, if you are in possession of all of the above, any actual "talent" is an unnecessary luxury. And, lacking them, the possession of any amount of "talent" is little more than an embarrassment, like having a car but no ability to drive.

This is particularly the case for those of us brought up in the non-conformist Protestant tradition (my family is Baptist; I am not). We have a difficult relationship with a deity that likes to get quite personal about things like laziness and failure. That notorious "parable of the talents" (Matthew 25:14 and Luke 19:12) is a central teaching for what we might call "shopkeeper's Christianity", and has been responsible for a lot of unhappiness.

Interestingly, those infuriatingly smug "wise virgins", who have loaded up their spare jerrycans of lamp-oil at the pump, also pop up in the very same chapter of Matthew. There's an unpleasantly petit-bourgeois flavour – Thatcherite, even – to these parables that is hard to reconcile with The Man's more profound teachings that challenge precisely this "because I deserve it" world-view. I have to say, Jesus as reported in the Gospels does seem to blow confusingly hot and cold on the subjects of the deserving and undeserving poor, the proper uses of wealth, and how far the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a Building Society account prudently tied to the FTSE 100 Index. Maybe he just liked to play with his disciples' minds.

With which thought, I did read said parable again – it is Easter, after all – and now present it to you from a different perspective. Let the hate-mail commence!


This Industrial Tribunal has convened to consider the case of Simon the Servant brought against Lord Hardman for constructive dismissal.

Let me remind the Tribunal, that constructive dismissal occurs when an employer's behaviour has become so intolerable, or the original terms and conditions of employment have been varied so substantially, that the employee has no choice other than to resign. Since resignation in such a case is not truly voluntary it is, in effect, a termination of employment. For example, in a case where an employer has acted like an utter shit, in order to get the employee to resign rather than dismissing the employee outright, then that capitalist bloodsucker is trying to effect a constructive dismissal.  Are we on the same page, now?

OK, facts:
Lord Hardman decides to go travelling for a couple of months. Nice work if you can get it. He divides up some serious capital, eight talents, between his three employees. However, this is not done equally or equitably. OK, eight talents won't divide by three, but to divide them in the proportion five, two, and one says something about his view of their relative merits, does it not? Also, it is a matter of record (Matthew 25:15) that Lord Hardman at no point explicitly instructed Simon the Servant what to do with the money entrusted to him, though we can accept the implicit instruction not to lose it or spend it on handmaidens. What may or may not have been said in private to the other, more favoured employees is not recorded.

The plaintiff decided to play safe, and stashed the cash in a "hole in the ground" account, paying little or no interest. One talent doesn't go far, and the minimum investment requirement for high-return cash investment products is a statutory two talents. His fellow employees, by contrast, decided to gamble with their employer's wealth. They claim the money was put into high risk structured investment vehicles, that they got lucky, and doubled their stake. In a couple of months, in the current financial climate? We should all be so lucky. However, it is not the business of this Tribunal to make allegations of corruption, money laundering, manna dealing or other improper use of funds against any third parties.

On his return, Lord Hardman went through a little capo di tutti capi routine, that resulted in the promotion of the other two employees, and the ritual humiliation of the plaintiff ("Where's my freakin' vigorish, you wicked and slothful moop?"), with open threats of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Lord Hardman is known to be a "hard man" who, in the words of the plaintiff's deposition, "reaps where he hath not sown, and gathers where he hath not strawed". We think this means that Hardman is a nasty piece of work, using business practices that border on the criminal. A man to be feared, in other words.

It is claimed that the whole thing was a set-up to persuade Simon the Servant to resign (and thus avoid payment of the statutory redundancy lepton). One talent out of eight? It was an insult, and a provocation. Understandably, Simon left Lord Hardman's employ immediately, but was encouraged by the Amalgamated Union of  Slaves, Indentured Servants and Handmaidens to file this claim of constructive dismissal.

The Tribunal upholds the claim of Simon the Servant against Lord Hardman, and awards him the exemplary sum of ten talents, to be recovered from Hardman Enterprises Ltd.

We assert that the Republic of Heaven shall be like unto this Tribunal, whereby no wickedness which has been  perpetrated against any of these, my brethren, will pass without redress and compensation, though we are divided as to the wisdom of casting any rat-faced exploitative wrong-doer into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We also emphatically strike down and reverse the judgement that "unto every one that hath it shall be given, but from him that hath not it shall be taken away even that which he hath" as both implausible and unpronounthable.

Here endeth the lesson.

Addendum 10/4/2012:
I am appalled to be informed that there are people out there who do not know the parable referred to, or who do not have access to a Bible (have they never heard of the internet?).  For the benefit of those foolish virgins, here is the relevant part of Matthew's Gospel:
 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Spring Frames

Here are a couple more of these large "frame" composites. Spring is my least favourite season, but you can't help but be influenced by the lengthening of the days and the brightening and heightening of the colours. Vernally speaking, hijjus lurid is the only way to go. Tastefully done, of course.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

The Owl of Minerva Takes Flight

I've been trawling through the back-pages of this blog, looking for candidate posts for more volumes in the Selections from Idiotic Hat series. This time, I've primarily been looking for material falling into the rough categories of "photography", "art", and "the meaning of life", insofar as these can usefully be separated: tricky! In the process, certain other old posts have been catching my eye, and it seemed like a good idea to give some of them a fresh airing, particularly those that will probably never make it into any collected "best of" volume.

In the posts for January 2012 I found this one, The Owl of Minerva, which is oddly prescient, I think. Not on my part, I hasten to add, unless the ability to grab straws in the wind already noted by genuinely insightful observers of the contemporary scene counts as a kind of wisdom in its own right. [1] Garry Trudeau is surely one of the most acute of those observers, and his Doonesbury strip has been my main source of insight into Americana for very many years. Which may explain why I've never been back there since a trip to stay with friends in Oakland, CA in 1980. So:

The Owl of Minerva

Here's an enlightening quote, from the "Blowback" section of Doonesbury, commenting on a recent strip (22/12/2011):
The quote in the first panel of today's strip comes from "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," Ron Suskind's terrifying article in the NYT Magazine of October 17, 2004. Here's the full quote, which reveals just how delusional that administration was: "In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend – but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency. The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'" My guess is that the senior aide was Karl Rove, but who knows? They were all crazy.
Scary, or what? It seems post-modernism has been driving the policies of the most powerful nation on earth. On the other hand, if you think about it, is post-modernism as a creed any more scary than fundamentalist or "End Times" Christianity? And, if you think about it a little further, Rove (or whoever it was) is pretty much stating a reality. Here is Hegel, that exemplar of clearly-expressed common sense, writing in 1820:
One more word about teaching what the world ought to be: Philosophy always arrives too late to do any such teaching. As the thought of the world, philosophy appears only in the period after actuality has been achieved and has completed its formative process. The lesson of the concept, which necessarily is also taught by history, is that only in the ripeness of actuality does the ideal appear over against the real, and that only then does this ideal comprehend this same real world in its substance and build it up for itself into the configuration of an intellectual realm. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, then a configuration of life has grown old, and cannot be rejuvenated by this grey in grey, but only understood; the Owl of Minerva takes flight only as the dusk begins to fall.
Preface to The Philosophy of Right
Basically, what Hegel is saying – trust me – is what everyone (except experts) knows to be true about complex social events: that experts always get them wrong, until they've become history. But lack of understanding never prevented a politician from acting, and acts, however stupid, always have consequences. What those consequences are, we only discover afterwards. Sometimes, long afterwards.

In 1972 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the consequences of the French Revolution and, famously, he confused the events of 1789 with les événements of May 1968 and as a consequence delivered up an unintended but much quoted bon mot: "Too soon to tell", he replied.

Excellent! It seems that sometimes the Owl of Minerva can be knocked out of her tree prematurely, if only briefly, and by accident...

1. This reminds me of an anecdote I was once told about an exam scenario, in which one of the questions involved envisaging a certain diagram reversed horizontally. One child had the brainwave of turning the paper over and holding it up towards the window; only one other realised what he was doing and did the same. Thus demonstrating two different kinds of intelligence. Or, um, cheating, if you prefer.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021


One of our neighbours is a retired nurse who, in pre-Covid times, would join cruise ships as an in-house (on-ship? off-shore?) medic, on the understanding that if a passenger got seriously ill and had to disembark she would accompany them to hospital on shore. Usually some ill-favoured backwater like, oh, the Bahamas? But, now that all the cruise liners are permanently moored at various locations off the south coast, like an invasion fleet of sybaritic champagne-vikings, she keeps herself busy by offering dog-walking services, which means finding suitably dog-friendly routes around the neighbourhood. Monday was a beautiful early spring day here in Southampton, bright and cool, so I went for a lengthy walk along part of a new route suggested by her, which takes in the municipal golf course, and a track passing under the motorway I hadn't previously known about. The whole walk circles back within scent-range of a cattery deep in the woods, which strikes me as reckless, from a dog discipline point-of-view.

I took the Light L16 along as a suitably portable photographic companion, and also to get a better sense of its limitations. The three photos here are typical: nice enough, but not outstanding in any of the terms by which we measure the finer points of a photograph, much in the way a dog-show judge assesses the shape of the ears or the hang of the tail of a "best of breed" candidate. Compared to carrying a DSLR equipped with the equivalent of a 28-150 zoom, obviously, there is no contest in terms of portability. In terms of IQ, however, it's nowhere near, and I'm not even sure how well it would stack up against the more recent versions of, say, the Sony RX100, which are clearly best of breed in the portability stakes. And then there are all those latest bright-eyed and bushy-tailed smartphones, snapping and yapping at the heels of this pioneer of computational photography...

So I thought it would be worthwhile to look briefly at the primary objections raised by reviewers and early adopters of the Light L16 (this review is typical, and fair-minded), and give my responses, based on a few weeks of light use.

It's too expensive. True. It was far too expensive at around £2000, but it is no longer offered for sale new at all, and used examples can be had for much less. However, I am always shocked by how much even "affordable" cameras cost when new: the "sub $1000 camera" is a category equalling "cheap" on the review sites. And the latest and greatest smartphones cost even more.

The auto-focus is slow and erratic, and lacks image-stabilisation. True. I think the former was addressed to a certain extent in later software updates, but this is not a camera for sports fans, or anyone trying to record lively dogs or toddlers. But image-stabilisation? On sixteen different sensors simultaneously? Forget about it!

There is no aperture priority mode. True. This is because all sixteen of the phone-style camera units are at a fixed f/2.0 aperture. Which somehow becomes a default f/15 when ten of those images are loaded into the Lumen software and assembled into a single image. A claim I take with an enormous pinch of salt, as my experience of small-sensor cameras at even f/5.6 is that they produce photos that are sharp from front to back – the way I like it – whereas the L16's composited images rarely are. You have to wonder if the designers really understood what "f/15" actually means, in optical terms. There is, after all, a lot of misinformation on the subject of aperture out there.

The files are enormous. Not necessarily true. You can choose to export at 8 MP or 13 MP if you want, which is hardly enormous. OTOH a "full" DNG file at the widest zoom (equivalent to 28mm in 35mm terms [1]) is 80 MP, which is. Quality wise, I see no real difference between my preferred 13 MP exports and their "full" versions. In fact, to my eyes, the smaller files generally look better. If it's high resolution you're after, you need to look elsewhere.

The file size varies according to focal length. True. Why this is the case requires a complex explanation which gives me a headache: it just does, OK? The longest zoom is always 13 MP, even as a "full" file, whereas the widest is usually 80 MP, and the two optimal settings in between (the equivalents of 35mm and 75mm) are 52 MP. Which is weird, but a necessary consequence of the design, apparently. And as so far I have chosen to export everything as a 13 MP file anyway, who cares?

The workflow is clumsy. True. I've already described this in a previous post, so won't again. Other than to say it would be a bit less clumsy done on a single computer, but disk space and processing power mean I have to split the job between a desktop and a laptop. But any workflow adding extra time-consuming steps is not a good thing, unless it delivers superlative quality, unattainable by other means. Which it doesn't.

Lumen is not very good. Not true. It is terrible; truly AWFUL. A grim but necessary step on the road, like that one night in a really bad motel, or crossing some international border at a snail's pace in intense heat in a tiny car with no air-conditioning. This combinational phase of the workflow really did need to be done in-camera, even if it would have imposed a greater processing-power burden. Imagine if a proposed smartphone design offered great imaging capability, but only after uploading the files via a USB cable into some clunky proprietary software, still in beta... The sales team would be checking their calendars: is it April 1st?

The image-stitching is imperfect. True. The seemingly random areas of unsharpness are my main beef with this camera. Everything else can be worked around, but this is a serious flaw. Serious enough that, if I can't figure out a way to deal with it, I will probably write this whole thing off to experience, and stop wasting my time. Typical example:

It's a nice enough picture, until you look more closely. Notice the abrupt change in the sharpness of the grass about two-thirds of the way across in the detailed image? And how the left-hand log is sharp, but has smeared edges, and the right-hand log is soft all over, with the same blurry halo? It's not as if these massive logs were blowing around in the light breeze.

The camera and software are now unsupported. True. Which is a shame if you paid full price for it not so long ago. I suppose that's what comes of buying into some bleeding-edge concept camera from an outfit with no track record: "buyer beware", and all that. I got mildly stung by a Kickstarter enterprise years ago that offered much but delivered little, and decided then to stay well away from tech-optimists flying kites. They rarely set out to defraud or sell anybody short, but when reality bites they tend to cut and run. Light won't even acknowledge the existence of their camera, now, and have since moved on to – yikes! – driverless car technology.

In the end I can't really disagree with or improve upon this review by Albert Lee: The Light L16: brilliant and braindead. His conclusion: "On the upshot, I do have a new found appreciation for how good the cameras I own really are. It’s like returning a terrible rental car and falling back in love with your car, all over again." Indeed. Hey, Fuji darlin', the weather's nice, fancy going for a walk?

What? Oh, the title of this post? It's just a feeble play on Minor White's first collection for Aperture, published in 1968, with the title Light⁷.

1:1 details of the photo above at 13MP and 52MP
(the latter admittedly only partially processed).
Closer to smartphone than DSLR IMHO. And f/15?

1. 35mm focal lengths have become a photographic lingua franca for lenses, which is odd, really, given how few people in 2021 will have ever used a 35mm film camera, or even a so-called "full-frame" digital camera. You'd have thought the actual angle of view would be a more useful way to compare lenses, "75°", say, instead of endlessly repeating "the equivalent of a 28mm lens".

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Certain Variations


Lares et Penates

I have nothing much to say about this little gallery, other than to point out that, once a pleasing array of elements has been assembled, the variations that can be "played" on it are infinite: the art lies in picking the ones that work.

South Bank bicycle
South Bank chair

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Empty Frames

Pretty much all of the effort involved in producing these "framed" images has gone into making the frame and the setting. The photograph within each frame has already been taken, evaluated, processed to an acceptably finished state, and – in my own estimation, at least – rated a success: it is already banked creative energy, so to speak. Perhaps as a consequence, some of the frames have started to seem even more interesting than the photographs within them. This may well simply be a short-term response to the fresh investment of energy: it is a given of creativity that your most recent efforts shine most brightly, like a wet pebble picked up on the beach. After a few weeks in your pocket the temporary shine has gone, and a more sober assessment can be made. Some are keepers, most are not.

So, just out of curiosity, I started removing some of the photos from their frames – the photo is just a layer within a multi-layered image, easily toggled in and out of visibility – just to see what the resulting "empty" image would look like. In some cases, I found I was looking at something that was, in its way, a more exciting picture. It was as if the photo had acted as an interior scaffolding, suggesting colours, shapes, and textures, which could then be taken away to reveal the finished construction.

Or perhaps it's more like seeing the reverse side of a frame flipped to take the place of the picture? Anyone who has rummaged through the racks and stacks of old pictures in a junk shop will be familiar with the sensation that the unseen, secret side of most framed pictures can be more interesting to look at than the front. The purposeful, layered assembly of nails, string, tape, backing paper, wood, card, and old labels can make an unintentional collage much more attractive to the eye than some faded watercolour or fly-spotted print imprisoned behind glass [1].

"Empty frames" does feel like an appropriate metaphor for these strange days of absence and immobility, like wandering the deserted rooms of a gallery whose exhibits have been stolen or stored away, leaving just marks on the wall. Which thought prompted another experiment: what about placing a "ghost" image within the frame, like the offset of an old illustrative plate onto its protective leaf of tissue? One thing leads to another...

1. BTW, whatever happened to "thunder flies" (a.k.a. "thrips")? In summers past, swarms of these little blighters would appear, and seemed to find their way inside most picture frames: junk shop pictures usually have some entombed between the mount and the glass. I haven't seen any for years, now, not that I miss them. Silverfish, OTOH, grrr...

Monday, 8 March 2021

We're Going To Need A Bigger Frame

I often find that, once I've been going on a project for a while, there comes a point where I start to get carried away, making bigger and more complex pictures, combining and recycling more and more elements from photographs, existing digital images, and graphical frames and patterns that I've put together previously. You might call it the "decadent" phase, and I usually dial it back a bit.

However, with these "frame" pictures, I've been happy to let excess rip for a while, as it seems to suit them. In the case of these three the actual image area is about 80cm x 32cm @ 300 ppi, which would result in a framed object about 95cm x 45cm: a little on the large size, not least because I couldn't print them myself. However, printed at a tighter 360 ppi they're 66cm x 26cm (call it 80cm x 40cm framed), still large but not impossible if I use A3+ roll-paper. Something, admittedly, I have the capacity to do, but never have (I'm not even entirely sure what I've done with the roll-feed thingies). In reality I'll probably either never print them, or get them done at theprintspace, whose services I recommend to any UK or EU photographer. In which case, why not go large?

Well, one good reason not to is the cost of the framing; another is the difficulty of storing very large prints unframed. I've been here before. I seem to go through these occasional periods of gigantism, producing larger and larger pictures, until the point of impracticality is reached, and the benefits of small pictures become compellingly clear again. I still have some quite large framed work adding to the clutter in our house, pictures that were shown at an exhibition a couple of years ago, but failed to sell. I'd sort of assumed they would sell, and the price, obviously, included the cost of the framing. As it is, I'm stuck with the bloody things; a permanent reminder that small is not only beautiful, but cheap to frame, easy to store, and generally more popular with the buying public. Although, paradoxically, my experience is that larger pictures seem to be much easier to get into an exhibition in the first place: gatekeepers and buyers are not the same people, of course.

And yet here I am making these large pictures again... Some people never learn, and I suspect I am one of them.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Beaver Teaser

This year being the 200th anniversary of the death of John Keats (in case you hadn't heard, he died of TB in Rome on 23rd February 1821) there's a lot of Keatsiana and Keatsiosity about at the moment. A lot of it is, ah, Keatsch, but recently the Guardian asked five poets to name their favourite Keats poem, and among the usual suspects Rachel Long chose one I had never come across before. In fact, on first reading I was sure it was either a parody, or perhaps something by Robert Browning, not least because of the publication date given: 1848. Huh? It was this:

Modern Love

And what is love? It is a doll dress’d up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, and so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long,
Till Miss’s comb is made a pearl tiara,
And common Wellingtons turn Romeo boots;
Then Cleopatra lives at number seven,
And Antony resides in Brunswick Square.
Fools! if some passions high have warm’d the world,
If Queens and Soldiers have play’d deep for hearts,
It is no reason why such agonies
Should be more common than the growth of weeds.
Fools! make me whole again that weighty pearl
The Queen of Egypt melted, and I’ll say
That ye may love in spite of beaver hats.
It seems “Modern Love” was first published in 1848 in Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats, edited by Richard Monckton Milnes, and is an unpublished fragment. I don't have a scholarly annotated complete Keats to hand (this is one of those times when I miss spending my working day deep inside a university library), so can't confirm in which drawer or behind whose fridge it was found. Lacking a rhyme scheme, it's also hard to say whether it's complete or not. It does have some nice touches (I love "Cleopatra lives at number seven"), and there are a couple of things about this poem I thought worth commenting on. No need to take notes, though.

First, those boots. I think this is a classic case of some poetic language which it has become impossible to read with its original sense intact; not least, in this instance, because our modern reading is both better and more appropriate to the poet's original intention. Having died in 1821, Keats had no way of knowing that "wellingtons" would, one day, come to have the primary sense of a utilitarian knee- or calf-length work-boot made of rubber, with a certain sure-fire hilarity factor. In his day (I'm leaning heavily on Wikipedia here) "Wellingtons" as pioneered by the fashion-forward Iron Duke were, apparently, a trendy item – dandyish, even, as worn by the likes of Beau Brummel – but made of leather, though, and suitable for evening dress, and most emphatically not green or polka-dotted [1]. "Romeo boots", too, have subsequently become an actual Thing, although I confess I'd never heard of them before. But the central idea that the alchemical eye of love can transmute the lead of the everyday into the gold of romance is surely enhanced, and given an appropriately wry twist, by our contemporary reading.

But then there is that final line: "That ye may love in spite of beaver hats". I have to admit, despite decades of reading and interpreting poetry, that I have no idea what that means, or is meant to mean. This seems to be an example lying at the very opposite end of the symbolic spectrum to those wellies: that is, a reference whose living significance and resonance has been irretrievably lost, at least to the "common reader". Setting aside any smirking about subsequent meanings of "beaver" – settle down at the back – I do know what a "beaver hat" is. Felted beaver fur was prized as a suitable material for hats for centuries, in many shapes and styles, and the demand for it is what exterminated the European beaver, and probably goes a long way to explain all that North American unpleasantness in 1776 and 1812.

The lead up to the final line makes perfect sense: Pliny's tale of Cleopatra's pearl cocktail is well-enough known. The idea of setting foolish lovers an impossible challenge – to reconstitute an object of enormous value frivolously consumed in the name of love, an act which was itself the result of an extravagant wager – fits nicely with the rest of the poem: an imaginary pearl tiara conjured from a plain comb, Cleopatra living at number seven, and so on. In which case "I'll say / That ye may love..." must mean something along the lines of, "do that – yeah, right, as if! – and I'm, like, go for it then, you loved-up saps". But why "in spite of beaver hats"? Something to do with exaggerated military headgear or martial vanity? Some kind of "know your place" put-down? Did the wearing of a beaver hat – presumably fairly common in Keats's day – have some significance lost to us now, just as the "MAGA hat" will one day require an extensive scholarly footnote? Or maybe it's really just a temporary placeholder, like McCartney's "scrambled eggs"? A "soft misnomer", perhaps, that will wait, forever now, for substitution? The thing is, after all, an unpublished fragment.

But I still find it as baffling as Browning at his brownest, and I cannot fathom it; can you?

Friends! Explain to me that beaver hat
That Keats invokes, and I will surely say
I love thee more than Paul loves scrambled eggs...

1. Actually, I was brought up to be a wellington (inverted) snob. My father followed the 1950s working-man's fashion for black, fabric-lined wellingtons turned down at the top like a cuff to stiffen the boot and ease foot insertion. No-one seems to do that now, though, not least because so many style-conscious labourers seem to have adopted the leather jackboot or toe-protecting lace-ups. But any wellington resembling a riding boot, or any colour other than black is and always will be wrong. Although it's true my best ever pair were loose-fitting, short-knee Hunter Argylls, black with a narrow red stripe at the top. Classy!

Saturday, 27 February 2021


It has often struck me, when visiting galleries and museums, that the frames that surround masterpieces of art are often oddly out of character with the work itself. A boldly modernist painting (for example, the painting above by André Derain, photographed in the Pompidou Centre, Paris) is as often as not encased in some elaborately moulded and gilded confection, like a set of spanners in a velvet-lined jewellery box. You can only speculate that the original owner had rather less appreciation of the nature of the work they had acquired than they realised, or perhaps that the gallery has made use of whatever frames of a suitable size it already had lying around, a legacy of previous centuries. Of course, an elaborate setting can make even a set of spanners look rather special, particularly if you intend to hang them on the wall. At the other extreme, you will also see important work that has been stuck into the sort of minimal, barewood frame you might lash up to hold chicken-wire in a guinea-pig run. And, somehow, this ostentatiously careless minimalism can be more intrusive than any amount of gilded foliage.

Framing matters. It is a very instructive experience to take work to a professional picture-framer, especially if you can find one sympathetic to a broad spectrum of picture-making. There is much subtlety of judgement and empathy required to find just the right combination of moulding and mount to optimize a picture in its intended context: it's easy to forget that the fate of nearly all "works of art" offered for sale is to become just one element in some stranger's interior decoration scheme. Photographers and photography galleries tend to duck this issue by standardising on the austere narrow dark wood moulding with plain white window mount, which makes perfect sense, as photos tend to be of standard sizes, and it's a uniform approach that saves on effort and expense. For example, I was immensely grateful to let the Fotoforum gallery in Innsbruck do all the framing for my exhibition there in 2014, using their stock of standard frames. Setting aside the near impossibility of getting eighty framed A3 photos from England to Austria – I couldn't even get ten plus luggage safely in the back of the car – the expense would have been way beyond my pocket. But colour pictures, whether paintings, prints, or photographs, almost always benefit from a careful choice of moulding and mount. Done well, it should enhance the picture without drawing undue attention to itself; done with a high degree of taste and bravura, the whole thing can become an object of permanent visual delight.

I had a lot of fun preparing the ornamental versions of the photos that went into the "illuminated selection" version of my Let's Get Lost book, some of which also ended up in this year's calendar. Much as I love photography in its purest forms, there's actually something even more fulfilling about creating graphical contexts for your own work. I imagine it's like furnishing a room or choosing an ensemble of clothes, although admittedly neither of those are activities I know much about (as anyone who knows me will attest: chaos and clutter follow me everywhere, like a pair of devoted but poorly house-trained wolfhounds). So, in pursuit of more lockdown distraction, I felt inclined to go further down this pleasantly decorative road.

I quickly became interested in the idea of actually embedding a frame into the picture itself, partly as a sort of "meta" gesture, partly to entertain myself – I hold to the outmoded belief that art-making is meant to be enjoyable, and at best is simple fun – and partly to make a more attractive object out of an already (in my view, at least) outstanding photograph. So I ransacked my backfiles for photographs I had taken in the many galleries and museums I have visited in recent years that included whole frames that could be extracted, emptied, straightened up, and recycled, the more ornate or unusual the better.

When I started out, the "meta" side was uppermost in my mind. I created several pictures where the whole image contained a framed version of itself, so that it became its own context, and highlighted the selectiveness of the "framing" of photography. Um, very witty, Mike. But quite quickly my ornamental impulse overpowered this dry, po-mo approach, and started splashing the digital paint around just for fun. At which point the project took off, and I found myself knocking out several new pictures a day. The total stands at around sixty at the moment. Some of which, if I say so myself, are indeed objects of visual delight.

Inevitably, the "side by side" pictures are getting mixed up in this "framed" project, and producing some of the most interesting results. My only problem now is that I'm running out of frames, and all the galleries are shut. I'll just have to invent my own... But no problem, it's all good fun, and way better than resorting to Netflix, biscuits, or uncorking a bottle at an unseemly hour.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

It's Getting Lighter

Light L16 with protective rubber "bumper" attached

Reminder: I recently bought a used Light L16 camera (you can read about it in this previous post), mainly out of curiosity about the potential of computational photography. Yes, I suppose I could simply have bought myself a better phone, one with state-of-the-art computational photographic features, but TBH I won't pay that kind of money for a phone and, besides, I'm quite happy with my antique iPhone 4s (it's a phone), and the L16 is far more interesting, photographically, even if you can't phone or text anyone with it (it's a camera). I like having my devices separate, just I like having the word "electricity" in the name of my electricity supplier, and the word "gas" in the name of my completely different gas supplier. Did I forget to mention that I turned 67 earlier in February? It's a boomer thing.

Despite rising daily a bit further out of the dark Solstice pit here in the north of the Northern Hemisphere, the combination of Covid lockdown and poor weather has meant that I haven't really been able to get out and test the quirks and capabilities of the L16. I have taken a few snaps on my daily walk around the neighbourhood, but the light has usually been so drab I wouldn't normally have bothered to take a camera out at all. So, instead, I set up a test scenario indoors, which amounted to nothing more than putting a tripod in front of the pinboard by our front door, and swapping various cameras onto it to test against the L16. The results have been interesting.

Now, it has to be said that although my arsenal of cameras is, by most people's standards, large, they're all quite dated models, all bought second-hand, and hardly the gold standard for comparative testing. Nonetheless, they're what I've got and use, so from a personal p-o-v the most realistic benchmarks. Here they are: 

Fuji X-20: 12 MP 2/3" sensor, fixed zoom at 35mm equivalent

Fuji X-70: 16 MP APS-C sensor, fixed 28mm-equivalent lens

Fuji X-T1: 16 MP APS-C sensor, 18-55 kit zoom at 35mm equivalent

Sony DSC-RX100 II: 20 MP 1" sensor, fixed zoom at 35mm equivalent

As an afterthought I delved in the back of the camera cupboard and also retrieved the Fuji X-100 (12 MP APS-C sensor, fixed 35mm-equivalent lens) and the Ricoh GR (16 MP APS-C sensor, fixed 28mm-equivalent lens) and added them to the comparison. I set all cameras to "auto" (which is what I normally do these days), placed each on the tripod, and took a "raw" shot or two from about 4 feet away from the pinboard, which is about 2' x 2' 6" in size and fits nicely into the 35mm-equivalent frame. The light falloff from the glass surround of the door on the right is fairly steep, giving an interesting range of light and shadow.

Pinboard scenario, photographed by Light L16
(This is a pretty accurate representation)

Having got my shots, I processed them minimally in PhotoNinja [1], simply to get a TIF file from the raw file, without any sharpening, noise reduction, colour adjustment, etc. With one exception, I got pretty much what I was expecting from the conventional cameras, unsurprisingly: I've used them enough to know what I'll get. The smaller sensors (X-20 and the Sony) were noisy, and the built-in zooms were fine in the centre but fell off in quality towards the edges. All the Fuji 16 MP APS-C sensors were pretty good, and further processing would have improved the result considerably. Ditto the 12 MP sensor in the X-100. The exception was the Ricoh. I'd more or less stopped using that camera, partly because one of the blades of the lens cover had stuck open, but mainly because it seemed to make a poor job of very bright areas out in the real world. However, it delivered an exceptional result under these circumstances: sharp, noise-free, with good colours and that hard-to-define quality of "modelling"; I resolved to give it a proper outing as soon as possible. It is, after all, easily the most pocketable camera I have.

Now, it has to be said that the Light "workflow" is cumbersome. I'm short of space on my desktop computer, so I installed the essential Lumen software on my laptop (which is actually a more powerful beast, anyway, and I was forewarned that Lumen requires a lot of processing power). The L16's image files have to be imported via USB cable onto the laptop using Lumen, as each individual image is (or, rather, will be) a composite of ten simultaneously-shot images from the L16's array of sixteen phone-type "camera" units. The Lumen software then does the heavy lifting of processing the ten individual shots into a single image file, which can then be tweaked in various ways (but forget about it – the Lumen UI is terrible) or simply exported as either a JPG or a "raw" DNG file. You can choose to export either file-type at three sizes: 8 MP, 13 MP, or "full size", which varies, typically 52 MP but which can go as high as 80 MP at the wide end and as low as 13 MP at the tele end. I then transfer these processed files onto my desktop via memory stick for further refining. As already noted below, I have to open them in Camera Raw rather than PhotoNinja, my usual preferred raw processor, which does have the minor workflow advantage of opening them straight into Photoshop Elements. Phew!

For comparison purposes I made six versions of the pinboard shot with the L16: three each at the equivalents of 35mm and 28mm: a full-sized rendering, a "native" 13 MP rendering, and a version downsized in Photoshop from full-size to 40cm x 30cm @ 300 ppi i.e. roughly 16 MP. I can't imagine wanting to make very many full-size images – they're between 180 and 250 MB in size, and space on my drives is becoming precious – so the latter smaller versions were of most practical interest. I've put a few extracts here for comparison, more or less at 1:1 size. I think you'll agree that, as one would expect, such differences as there are exist on a plane of significance meaningful only to photographers: the average viewer would see these as pretty much identical, and would need to be shown the "problematic" areas, and would probably also need to have it explained why they are considered to have fallen short of the highest standards. In the end, all modern cameras from reputable brands are "good enough", even ones as ancient, in digital years, as these.

Fuji X-20 (centre)

Fuji X-T1 (centre)

Light L16 @ 13 MB (centre)

Light L16 @ 52 MB (centre)

Ricoh GR (centre)

Sony RX-100 II (centre)

Fuji X-20 (corner)

Fuji X-T1 (corner)

Light L16 @ 13 MB (corner)

Light L16 @ 52 MB (corner)

Ricoh GR (corner)

Sony RX100 II (corner)

So, what do I make of the quality of the Light L16 images? I have to say I am impressed. As I think you can see above, the images are free of the usual lensy problems like distortion, softness at the edges, and colour fringing, and they are relatively noiseless, very sharp, accurate in colour – all of the others are way too "warm" – and have a really attractive 3-D character in their modelling; better, even, than the Ricoh. As you might expect of a collage of ten individual shots, the quality is remarkably even across the frame. However, there are inevitably quirks in what is a complex computational stitching process.

The main thing I have noticed is a tendency for there to be anomalous, isolated areas of unsharpness immediately adjacent to and in the same plane as perfectly sharp areas. I asked advice from an enthusiastic L16 user whose real-world results seemed pretty good and he suggested a number of things, of which this is the main takeaway: motion of either subject or camera seems to confuse the computation, which is something you'd certainly expect in a conventional stitched panorama, with several shots taken sequentially, but slightly surprising here. The obvious answer is to minimise motion of the camera itself, i.e. avoid low shutter speeds, use a support, and use the touch screen to focus and fire the shot, rather than the physical shutter button. It certainly does seem to make a difference. As does using "manual" mode, in which ISO and shutter speed can be adjusted on the touch screen (but not aperture, these being fixed f/2.0 aperture lenses).

There seems to be more to it than that, however, as I noticed oddly soft areas in my completely motionless test shots. This may be a baked-in problem with the algorithms: I notice, for example, that shadow areas adjacent to a bright area will often blur (see the area around the Bulldog clip in the L16 centre extracts). It's also possible I suppose, that my sample has one or more wonky imaging units, perhaps from rough treatment in the past: the alignment of sixteen small cameras is a miracle of precision engineering, after all, and cannot have much, if any, margin of error.

On balance, this is the sort of thing only a "pixel-peeping" enthusiast would spot at very close quarters, and the overall impression is one of high quality; if not "full-frame DSLR-beating", as rashly claimed in the pre-launch publicity, then certainly well up the standards I work to, and exceeding them in some respects. In the end, the L16 is a flawed implementation of a "proof of concept" camera; things could have been so different if they'd only dialled back the pre-release hype. It's such a shame they abandoned it, having already improved it a lot from the original release in response to user feedback. Fuji camera users are used to that firm's commitment to the Japanese idea of kaizen – continuous, iterative improvement, in Fuji's case supplied to users as cost-free firmware updates – and the idea of a wifi-linked, app-driven camera that continuously improves itself is what would have been so exciting about a dedicated computational camera. Even so, I'm looking forward to giving it a proper run-out when the weather and the lockdown conditions permit. For now it's a keeper.

In particular, and even though it's not something I'd want to do routinely, I'm attracted to the panoramic potential of those 80 MB files created when the L16 is used at its widest zoom, the equivalent of a 28mm lens. Sized at a print resolution of 300 ppi that delivers a good, undistorted file 88cm x 66cm, out of a pocketable thing the size of a large, fat smartphone. There must surely be plenty of scope for cropping something interesting out of that much acreage, I'd have thought. Which might even incline me to carry a tripod, which is, I concede, quite funny.

(original file 70cm x 26cm @ 300 ppi)

1. It turns out PhotoNinja can't process Light's DNG files. I asked Jim Christian (PN's developer) why, and he said "The current version of Photo Ninja only works with mosaiced Bayer variants of DNG" but is working on it for a future release. Adobe's Camera Raw has no such problem, fortunately.