Urban and the Shed Crew done filming?

•April 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

I think the years of filming on The Hobbit skewed my perception of movie shoots. Honestly, I thought they were just getting started. (Yeah, I knew it was supposed to be like a month or six weeks. Time flies.)

Part 2 of Thorin Thursday — Did you get your question answered?

•April 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I recognize at least one name.

Is the world reaching beard peak?

•April 17, 2014 • 6 Comments

Some Australian researchers believe so. Thorin doesn’t think so, though.


Collateral attractions: They’re on their way to HobbitCon in Germany this weekend!

•April 16, 2014 • 2 Comments

Jed and Sadwyn Brophy leaving Wellington, courtesy of Jed Brophy’s twitter:


And from John Callen on Facebook:

Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 3.57.06 PM 10157147_240760792792992_6325099748107823196_n

and from Peter Hambleton’s twitter:



Best wishes to everyone who will attend!

Servetus: The remote, atmospheric Joseph McCarthy Connection

•April 16, 2014 • 7 Comments

bust.125wSo — now that it’s signed and sealed: As everyone knows by now, The Crucible fictionalizes elements of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s as an allegorical comment on the anti-Communist sentiment of the 1950s U.S. A major figure in the creation of that mood was Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Joseph McCarthy was born in Grand Chute, Wisconsin — a township in the area that’s been the location of many a meeting between me and Obscura — and lived out his childhood and teen years on a farm less than two miles as the crow flies from the house where I grew up. McCarthy Road was the school district boundary between my school district and the next one over, and the school bus drove past that farm every day. When I was growing up, you could see the original farmhouse, and we knew the (unrelated) family who farmed there, but I haven’t driven that way recently so I don’t know if the house is still there. The joke was that the failure of McCarthy’s agricultural ambitions (he had a sideline in chicken farming that didn’t take off) led to his decision to finish high school (in Manawa) and then move on to higher education (at Marquette University in Milwaukee). Of course, I did the obligatory report on Senator McCarthy in high school history. At that time you could still look at the original plat book for that part of town; in the meantime most of the McCarthy memorabilia in the public library has been either archived or defaced beyond legibility — it was already a problem with the library books in the 1980s when I did my report, although it was interesting to read all the different opinions people wrote in the margins of those books. McCarthy died while my parents were in high school, but my father worked in bookkeeping with his sister, Olive, in his first job out of high school at the (now demolished) Elm Tree Bakery on West College Avenue. He’s buried in one of the Catholic cemeteries in Appleton and a fair number of people who are still around remember him.

When I was a kid, the bust above was on display in the Outagamie County Courthouse — McCarthy was a local hero and respected figure in the area, and he’d been a Outagamie Circuit Court Judge. The first attempts to have the bust removed began in the mid-1980s, when I was in high school, and for the last decade or so, the figure’s been housed in the Outagamie County Museum.

Other random McCarthy-era judicial / political data that you might not know unless you remember the 1950s personally or are from the area: Greta van Susteren, of CNN and Fox News fame, also comes from our area — her father was Urban van Susteren, betimes a close friend of McCarthy and also an Outagamie County Circuit Court judge (an elected position). His judicial career ended in the mid-1980s over a series of accusations of judicial misconduct as a result of which he was suspended from his position by the state Supreme Court. I remember that vividly — it was all over the papers just as I was getting interested in reading news.

I peek onto the Internet and the Richard Armitage rumor’s confirmed!

•April 15, 2014 • 34 Comments

That’s a very nice message to get. Congratulations, Mr. Armitage — on something one suspects you’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. And congratulations to all the fans who will finally see our hero on stage. I think the summer’s going to be one long party in that regard!

Meanwhile I’m chopping up fruit to take to the Fuzzies’ house for the second Seder. Chag sameach / gut yontiff (happy holiday!) to everyone. As the Haggadah says:

This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover. Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves. Next year we will be free.

May everyone who’s reading be freed from anything that’s enslaving them. Talk to you again soon.

*ooof*: [Cos Every Girl's Crazy] ‘Bout a Sharp Dressed Man

•April 15, 2014 • 13 Comments

Today’s image has been sitting in my “to be ooofed”-folder (really, that’s what it is called) on my PC for a while. It is a bit of a departure from the polished portraits and press shots of Mr A that we have seen since last autumn, and you may be shaking your head that Guylty is going to talk about that particular image today. Somehow, I went *ooof* when I encountered it. Despite all its explainable and excusable short-comings. But bear with me.

bts original

Poised for the Shoot: Richard Armitage in a Behind-the-Scenes shot for Leslie Hassler, 2013

There it is. Do you remember when this came out? It was mid-November 2013, I think, and we snaffled it up, mainly for the fashion that was being shown on that delightfully attractive clothes horse man in the picture, and in anticipation of what we were going to get when the shoot was published. So what do we see? This is a candid shot of RA sitting for Leslie Hassler, literally and figuratively speaking: In the shot we see the subject sitting on a stool, looking off-camera. His pose is relaxed with the hands placed on the subjects thighs, the legs slightly indecently spread. RA is dressed in shirt and plaid tie, a winter coat, jeans-style trousers, the evidence of boots just about visible at the bottom of the frame. While his body is turned (almost) towards the camera, his head is turned further to his left, at a three-quarter angle. Behind the sitter we can spot the set-up: a backdrop, a flag, and in the gap between them a wall and a window.

A flag? The Union Jack, to celebrate our English boy? Where? No different scenario.  This is a different type of flag that has nothing whatsoever to do with symbolising a country. I am talking about the dark board that is visible to the left of RA (his perspective). This is a device that is called “flag” in photo speak. It derives its name from the purpose it serves: It is meant to block the impact of light, whether it is from an artificial light source or ambient light, and to reduce lens flare by shielding the camera from an otherwise used light source. (The term becomes clearer when you think of synonyms of the verb “to flag”, i.e. to weaken, to reduce, to lessen.) Flags can consist of small rectangular pieces of black material or card that are attached to a light stand – or they can be good old boards that rest on the floor. You can see how they work in this picture I took at a portraiture shoot – the sitter stands between two flags which are facing the photographer to shield the camera from the light spill of the two soft boxes behind and which illuminate the background. (Off topic: The round light in my photo that is trained onto the sitter, btw, is a beauty dish, which creates the soft, lovely light that works so well in portraiture and beauty photography.) The flag creates what is called “negative fill”, i.e. it blocks the ambient light from the window.

Images like this one are interesting because they give you an insight into the set-up of a photo shoot. Here we can also see that RA is being photographed in front of a grey backdrop. It’s hard to tell, but these backdrops usually are long rolls of paper in any colour you want. Mostly photographers use white, grey and black backdrops, btw, because you can create colour on the backdrop by illuminating it separately with a studio light to which you attach a “gel”, a see-through piece of plastic in the desired colour. (See here for a tiny pic of me playing with an entirely unsuitable psychedelia effect on a kiddie shoot – the colour is created by a red and a blue gel respectively.) So white, grey and black is really all you need as backdrop colours in your studio. You may wonder why photographers don’t simply paint three walls in their studio in those three shades but fiddle around with unwieldy rolls of thick paper. The reason is that a backdrop needs to be covering the floor as well (when you are shooting full-lengths) in order to create continuity (no harsh line where the wall meets the floor behind the sitters ankle) or when you intend to have a continuously monochrome background colour which also facilitates replacing with another background in Photoshop. (Some photographers have proper “infinity walls” built into their studios where the transition between wall and floor is not a right angle but a concave curve.) The rolls are placed on a rig from which you simply roll a new stretch of backdrop once the already used stretch has become dirty or folded or damaged. It’s a bit like an out-sized loo roll. With (amateur) sitters usually coming too close to the backdrop, and walking with their shoes over it, it pretty much gets ruined after just one shoot. I don’t think Hassler produced any full lengths in-studio. They are half-length max. So strictly speaking she did not need a backdrop that covered the floor. But it is good photographic practice to have the set-up in place – just in case…

I remember heated discussions back at the time the above image appeared on the net about the colour of the coat and the shirt. The styling was seriously drawn into question. Mr Manly Male dressed in a powder pink shirt and a baby blue coat? What the??? I knew back then that the shirt wasn’t pink and the coat wasn’t baby blue but that the camera caused colour aberrations. This photo was (most definitely) shot with a camera phone – it is blurry, it has an overexposed window in the background and it has unrealistic hues in it. You can tell from the lack of composition and disregard of the background that it was merely meant as a quick snap for social media purposes – hence the use of the camera phone for quick upload. And that pretty much explains the weird colours of the garments. The relatively simple camera of the smartphone cannot balance out the light interference in the room: ambient daylight from the window, studio lighting (probably the tungsten light that lights a studio from the strobe when it is *not* flashing). Compare the camera phone image with the finished article:


Richard Armitage – sharp. In a shot by Leslie Hassler, 2013

The shirt is white and the coat is grey.

The aberrations you see in the camera phone image are the reason why photographers take care to set the correct white balance in their camera. However, they also adjust tint and colour temperature in post-production, something you can easily do even in basic editing programs such as Picasa or MS Picture Gallery’s editing tool. You can play with the little levers and see the image change. For the fun of it, here’s an edited version that is a bit closer to the truth but still not great.

What you can take from this is that there is no replacement of conventional digital cameras by camera phones, however many pixels they may already have. The final image by Hassler is a million times better, has higher contrast, correct tint and colour temperature, perfect exposure, proper composition and is sharper. Well, the sharpness of the man translates into the image, I suppose…

May I confess something in this intimate circle of friends at the end of my *ooof*? Despite the “Return of the Mojo” *cue Star Wars theme tune*  I am lately far more excited about the whole “shrining business” than about *ooof*ing. Is Guylty turning her back on photography? Far from it. I still shoot every day, but I find that a lot of my creativity is currently focussed on my crafting project (RAPS)- and what certainly suffer are the *ooof*lets. I suppose there is only so much creative energy at my disposal, and much of that is going into the design of the little drooling aids. My own photography is not really suffering, though, because in lieu of holding on to the shrines, I take photos of them for my own archive. And I have found that I am re-engaging with still life photography, something I hadn’t done for a while. I mostly shoot portraiture these days, with the occasional product shoot thrown in. (And the usual holiday snapping, i.e. street photography and landscapes for fun.) So I have to forgo the *ooof*let once again. There are only so many scenarios you can fictionalise when you look at an image of a photo shoot. Let’s hope that the Urban crew spoils us with another shot from the set, soon. That one really got my imagination going.

Happy Easter, Pessach, Spring celebration to you, m’dears.


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