Camera Club Silhouette - with iPhone

A Camera Club captured against the setting sun - with an iPhone

Wherever I go, I always try to carry a small camera with me for that unexpected scene that will make a picture.

Just recently, while doing my dog-walking duty in a Sydney park at sunset I realised I’d left my camera behind. And then, inevitably, I came across a whimsical scene that had me reaching for the camera that wasn’t there! Curiously, it was a camera club, whose members had gathered on a hill to photograph the city as it began to switch on its evening lights. They were silhouetted against the setting sun, like figures in an Arthur Rackham fairy story illustration.

Thankfully I had my iPhone but thought ‘this is really going to put it to the test’. Extreme light striking the lens and, unlike the camera club, no tripod to assist stability. However, taking a ‘risky’ photo was better than taking no picture at all.

I was surprised by the result. What do you think?

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The iPad - Unveiled by Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs unveils the iPad - but is it for everyone?

Let me say right away that I love everything about Macs – the iPhone, the laptops, the operating system. But as for the just-announced iPad, I’m not going to be rushing out to buy one.
It is fabulous to look at, probably great fun to use and can slip into a small shoulder bag to replace a much heavier laptop. And who needs a giant laptop screen these days? Not even professional photographers who like to look at their pictures on a large scale – if they want to check out sharpness they need only to enlarge the picture.
As a writer, do I require a large screen? Even when I need to have two working windows open, one for source material and one for creating? No – I’ve always managed to squeeze in two windows on my 12in Powerbook G4 screen.
So why doesn’t the iPad appeal? At 9.6in the screen would still be fine with me, if I could split it, but my impression is that it can’t be done in any conventional way. There is a way around it, but I won’t go into that here. The problem for me is with the virtual keyboard. As a touch-typist I will have to look at the keys as I write because I can be guaranteed that without a tactile keyboard and with my eye away from the screen my fingers will drift and I’ll be typing gobble-gook (no rude comments, please). And if I have to keep my eye on the keys, what’s the point of being a touch typist? My work flow will slow down and surely the point of advanced technology is to speed it up.
On the photographic point of view, as my very fine photographer friend Cameron Laird points out, he is unlikely to be taking an iPad – and no other computer – with him on a professional assignment because he won’t be able to use the post-processing programmes Photoshop and Lightroom. While many people won’t necessarily need these programmes, professionals do, for resizing, tweaking colour casts and so on.
The iPad was larger than I expected. My personal feeling is that if you are going to fit one of those into your shoulder bag, you might as well be carrying around a slightly larger laptop. And, by the way, it’s possible to install a Mac operating system onto a Windows netbook and it will run very efficiently.
If I do upgrade by downsizing, if you follow my drift, I’m more likely to go for the netbook with Mac OS than I am to drop an iPad into my bag. But that’s my opinion.
Nice piece of equipment though.

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R.I.P. to PBTD!

On 27/12/2009, in News, by admin
Happy New Year - Courtesy Mr Pitman

Happy New Year - Courtesy Mr Pitman

R.I.P. for PBTD – Anyone following me?

When I was a cub reporter on a small newspaper in Devon, UK, I sent away to the US for a book that I felt would help my career. It was written by a court reporter called Maurice Kligman and was titled: How to Write 240 Words a Minute in Pitman’s Shorthand. It was an amazing book, filled with short-cut phrases he had devised during his years as a court reporter. A little squiggle and it covered a whole sentence such as: ‘What did you say to him and what did he say to you?’ A couple of slashes of the pen and he’d covered the question: ‘Will you tell the judge and jury…’

Having spent months teaching myself Pitman’s shorthand, – downward strokes and forward slashes for sounds (it was all phonetic)  such as P,B,T, D, CH, J, K, Gay – I set to work devising my own short forms as they are known, which I applied over the years as a journalist. I couldn’t live without it and wondered how other journalists, who hadn’t learned shorthand, could really get things down accurately in their longhand scrawls, or spare the time tape-recording an interviewee and then having to play it all back again.

My, how things have changed. Just recently I had to cover a court case and found that while I still knew all the strokes I fell way behind in actually getting them down in my notebook fast enough. I’d lost the knack. And why was this? Because I’d fallen victim to modern technology. I’d learned how to type almost as fast on my laptop as I’d been able to write in Pitman’s. Out on the road I found it quicker to touch the screen on my iPhone and thanks to one of the apps start recording. OK, I then had to play it back, but my improved typing speed meant that little time was lost – and I could immediately despatch my emails and stories from wherever I found myself, again thanks to the iPhone which I could tether to my computer via Bluetooth.

Is this, then, the death of shorthand? I hope not, but it seems that today’s young reporters haven’t learned it. A prime example was a reporter sitting next to me in a court in Queensland, watching as I took notes in Pitman’s. I learned that when he returned to his office he told his News Editor that the case was getting international coverage because sitting next to him was a reporter taking notes in Arabic. Sigh…

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