Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Midway, Wednesday

DSC09795 (974x1300)It feels like 2014 is drawing closed faster than I would have thought, faster than I might have wished.  The trees are almost bare, brilliant orange and red bushes hugging the ground and fences are the last remnant of autumn.  There’s a bite in the damp air most mornings, commuters huddled into their overcoats, clutching coffee on Platform 3 to London.  My parents report the first big snows of the season in Colorado.

One pair of housemates has found a home nearby, and is celebrating by painting their plates and cups.  I declined to make a commemorative cup, the girls were doing a wonderful job and I stirred up some Taco Night fare instead.  The avocados have been ripening on the windowsill between my potted plants for a week, and there is enough coriander (cilantro) and ripening chili pods to garnish from the herb planters without a trip to Tesco.  With Masterchef Pro in full swing, I opt for John Torode’s recipe, with a couple of supplemental herbs.  

And Dutch beer.

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Today was a London day, meetings with a UK grant agency, the Scottish development agency, and a potential investor.  Between strong coffee and weak tea, I scribble off more emails and make hopeful phone calls.   I drop off my watch and my Nexus for repairs, nibble at the food booths and listen to the music.

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I’m also meeting with my immigration advisor after recent changes were announced:

The Tier 1 (General) visa category will be eliminated in April 2015.  This visa category was offered to highly skilled foreign nationals as an option to move to the United Kingdom and work for any employer.  The government stopped accepting new applicants in 2011 but continued to allow existing visa holders to apply for renewals.  Starting April 2015, the category will cease to exist.  Foreign nationals currently holding this status and employers of foreign nationals working using their Tier 1 (General) status will need to consider alternative options to maintain work authorization in the United Kingdom after this date.

I think that I have a good (although expensive) path open to  converting, but it’s still a paperwork game, making sure that the story is airtight and perfectly documented.

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Meanwhile, Christmas preparations are blanketing the UK.  The faux-Market is rising along Southbank, the Winter Wonderland being assembled in Hyde Park.  Lights are appearing over major streets and fairy sparks are filling the trees.  The stores have converted to holiday-themed sweaters and socks; I’ve bought my first Christmas cake at Waitrose.

I’ll feel better as we close the funding rounds, money secure to complete our clinical trials and enter market in 2015.  After a lot of hard work and creative adaptation, we are very close.  All it takes is that last push to success.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Observational photography

DSC09714 (1300x989)Self-consciously, I’ve been working at raising the quality of my photographs.  Where I once would have taken simple high-contrast landscape, I’ve been trying to put more thought into my pictures.  A good photograph should catch a mood or story, people add scale and comment, animated faces reflect the ambiance and impact of events. 

As with dips into life drawing and pen-and-wash landscapes, I think that it forces me to notice more aspects of a place or time, people and culture, than I would if I just snapped along  from monument to overlook.

A friend has been advising me on what to look for in my next cameras, my brother gave me a book on composition to study.  As with any data acquisition, though, it’s ‘garbage in, garbage out’.  The best photograph is one that doesn’t need post-processing.

I’m trying to move from left to right, pinning the Shard two ways as:

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Thus, I was drawn to a recent FT article on Knut Skjaerven’s thoughts on street photography.  A self-characterized specialist in ‘philosophical aesthetics’, he teaches walking courses in observational photography, looking for examples of how people and environments can interact to elevate photographic composition.

DSC09051 (1300x971)For most people, the goal is a selfie in front of an icon or a striking moment captured mid-flight: disposable images that reveal nothing about either and serve only as waypoint testimonials. There should be more to a picture than what is there to look at, he suggests.  Tension and balance (and light, order, design, and harmony, adds George Seurat), patience and luck instead of arranged stagings.

It’s tricky in practice.  In Morocco, people don’t allow their pictures to be taken (others want to be paid for it). In the United States, parents worry if their children are photographed by strangers.  Government and police worry about terrorist snapshots; art galleries and museums about copyright.

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Skjaerven argues that photographers should watch the configurations of people and their interactions with the location. What pictures would make you feel as though you were standing on the edge of society and looking in at something unique and remarkable, something that would be insightful and memorable a month later.

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Very few, it’s a hard thing to do.  But my percentage of shots that I feel satisfied with is rising, with practice and a bit of study.  ‘still lots to learn and explore, though.