Category Archives: Opinion

The new iPad as camera…

Having bought the new iPad for its dazzling display qualities, I finally got round to checking out what its improved camera could do. Now, with a brace of Nikon DSLRs and a Canon G11, I’m not especially in need of another camera, but driven by curiosity I decided to give it a run. Perhaps I should issue a warning here that this is not a serious review because the iPad camera is not a serious camera.

First up, its handling characteristics  make you look like an idiot, 50 years of working as a pro photographer has long ago inured me to what people think of me while I’m shooting pictures. The Ipad’s screen in bright conditions is practically unusable. This problem prompted me to drag out my old large format dark cloth. It was a great improvement, but stopping the cloth from falling over the lens was difficult. Now I look like a complete idiot, but at least I could now compose a picture effectively.

Using a dark cloth to view the new iPad screen. I call this my iBurka. © Rob Walls 2012

A quick candid shot. I guess one advantage with holding up an iPad is that most subjects, even those familiar with picture taking with a phone, are unaware that you are taking pictures. © Rob Walls 2012

The Cascade Brewery near my home. A picture I took while out for a walk a few hours ago. The iPad screen grid is useful for architectural shots. © Rob Walls 2012

As far as colour rendition is concerned, the new iPad suits my penchant for vivid colour.

To sum up: as a camera it will do in a pinch. The pictures are as sharp as one could expect from a device such as this. Great for taking pictures for a blog, but it’s handling is about as responsive as that big ship in the minutes before it collided with that chunk of ice 100 years ago (couldn’t resist working in a reference to the Titanic). No design changes I can foresee are ever likely to make the iPad into a decent camera, but then again, that’s not what I bought it for. I don’t think, I’ve ever owned a device that has given me more pleasure while contributing so much to my productivity.

Shooting from beneath my iBurka it occurred to me that a fun iPad accessory would be a clip-on dummy set of bellows with a fake tilt shift lens panel and a tripod mount that would make the iPad look like a conventional 10×8 view camera. After all, there is already a cover that disguises the iPhone as a Leica. (please note I am stamping this idea with my ownership right here:-))

Now the truly great thing about photography with the new Ipad is that with picture sharing via Twitter, the iPad camera brings back to my photography much of the playfulness that I used to experience when shooting with the Polaroid SX70. This sense of play is enhanced by the fact that pictures on the iPad are costing me nothing. I used to get free film from Polaroid, so it was the same with the SX70. Being able to shoot oblivious to cost and unhampered by the limitations imposed by knowing that the pictures don’t need to meet a certain quality standard for publication, is a truly liberating experience.

(Now I’d like to explore it’s video possibilities. With the addition of a Movie Mount it actually might even have reasonable handling capabilities. The new iPad mount is expected to be available in a month or so.)

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Filed under Australian, Digital photography, News, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

MONA visited, revisited, revisited and revisited…

Despite the howls of protest and criticism from more conservative professional museum curators, they cannot put down the overwhelming success of David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. Walsh himself, has described it as “a subversive adult Disneyland”.

It is not without controversy, attracting such negative comments in TheMercury  as “You sick bastards. That place better be shut down soon. What is the world coming to? What will the next generation of children turn out like after viewing such revolting, hellish ‘art’. They’ll be torturing mutilating murderers.”

“Mr Walsh has made a very big mistake in setting up this thing in Berridale. It’s going to become the biggest white elephant ever in Tasmania. I see it as an extension of the sewerage treatment plant that’s situated right next door to the “museaum”. Both facilities are full of excriment that should be flushed away. It’s a joke people. A joke.”

On the other hand, there are many who actually get David Walsh’s vision and are rewarded and stimulated by it: “WOW, regardless if you love it or hate it, you have to agree this will put Hobart on the map of Australia for the world to see. It is probably the biggest push the city has ever had to come into this century and compete with the bigger cities around the world. Its private, yet free. What a selfless visionary Walsh must be. I wish I still lived in Hobart to see this gem. This “museum” might go a long way to help Hobart lose its “redneck” image to the rest of Australia. Congrats Walsh.”

Since its opening last January, more than 350,000 visitors have passed through its dramatic reflective portals. Last week, I made my fourth visit and again drew deep satisfaction, enjoyment and visual stimulation from being challenged by MONA. Here are some pictures from my last two visits:

The Museum of Old and New Art as seen from the Derwent River © Rob Walls 2011

Visitors to MONA reflected in the mirrored wall of the main entrance © Rob Walls 2011

Bit.Fall by Julius Popp

White Library by Wilfredo Prieto, a library of blank books, blank pages

A visitor viewing Philip Brophy's interactive Body Malleable

China-China - Bust 82 2004 by Ah Xian

Sidney Nolan's massive and magnificent, Snake

Artifact by Gregory Barsamian

After three hours of visual stimulation even the tools and ladder of the exhibition installers begins to look like an installation © Rob Walls 2011

More visits planned in coming months…

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Opinion, Rob Walls, Tasmania, travel

ABC and Organic Gardener, trying it on…

This week I received a “deed of copyright” from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Organic Gardener, a publication I have on a few occasions contributed to. I was at first puzzled as it is nearly two years since I’ve had anything published in that fine magazine. Now, I’m all for contracts when it comes to publishing, but this particular deed I was being asked to sign, wanted me to grant them a fixed re-use price for my photographs of $20 per use, plus the use of my work “on any website owned or controlled by the ABC…for an unlimited time gratis”.

The specific clauses in the ABC Copyright Licence Deed

Normally I would just ignore a rights grab like that, but in this case I felt compelled to respond. I wrote to the ABC as follows:

Thursday, 22 September 2011

 Dear Ms White,

 I am puzzled by the request to sign a deed of copyright related to my material previously published in Organic Gardener.

 While I respect the need for contracts within publishing, I will not sign overarching deeds of copyright related to material already published, that gives the ABC retrospective re-use rights at rates so low.

 Organic Gardener is entirely free to re-use my material whenever they choose, at a rate negotiated with me at the time. I am sure your experience is the same as mine, but I have yet to encounter any supplier of goods or services that will allow me to decide what I want to pay. As the author and licensee of my photographs, it is my prerogative to decide the rates they are offered at. If you disagree with what I ask, it is your right to say negotiate or say no.

 I have forwarded copies of your deed of copyright to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Australian Commercial and Media Photographers.

 Yours sincerely,

I’ll let you know if there is any follow-up….

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Digital photography, News, Opinion, Photographer, Photographers' rights, Rob Walls, Stock photography

Gazing wistfully at old magazines…

Now this isn’t about photography, though I guess it was driven by a nostalgia for the great picture magazines of the 1960s. Leafing through a 50-year-old copy of Look magazine (May 22, 1962) this morning, I became absorbed in a pictorial essay about Lenin, “The true story of the evil genius who launched the global Red threat”; then I put off the photo-editing chore that I had schedule by getting stuck in an op-ed piece by Senator Hubert Humphrey, “Big Business; Is it Too Big?”, and then procrastinated further with an article about a “secret” cure for arthritis (what happened to that secret cure?).

From the perspective of 2011, the cold-war dominated take on communism was fascinating; in hindsight Humphrey’s take on big business being the engine room of a healthy democracy (well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?) seems merely wishful thinking, in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis…and the one still looming.

But to me, the most absorbing aspect of this time-machine was the Madison Avenue, Mad Men style advertising of the day. The 1962 model Valiant marketed with a headline that reads, “Valiant-owned and operated by 364,000 independent Americans”. Motown magic! “Enjoy Life with Miller High Life; same good taste everywhere because it’s brewed only in Milwaukee…naturally“. Campbell’s Soups, “Why our soups look as good as they taste. They’re color-planned all the way from seed to simmer”>

However, the copy line of one ad just grabbed me by the throat for its lyrical quality. I must confess, this line has stuck in my head, ever since I bought the magazine in the St Vincent de Paul op shop in North Hobart, a year or two ago. I guess this is what good copywriting should do. But one has to wonder whether it resonates because of a filter of fifty years.

Pontiac ad, Look Magazine, May 22, 1962

Has copywriting ever aspired to such poetry? Who wrote this? An enthusiast of haiku? Did it sell Pontiacs? Did its author stick to his craft? Or move on to write the Great American Novel? Was he a she? So many questions…while I

Gaze wistfully

at passing Pontiacs

no more!

Now I reckon that’s powerful good copy And beautiful too!

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Filed under art, Opinion

Objects in the landscape…

While driving along this morning on my way to Exmouth (for some odd reason pronounced X-Mouth, not X-muth) I was listening to that jingoistic ABC program “Australia all Over” delivered by the irrepressible Macca (a man who seems to prefer to be known by this puerile diminutive; Macca, rhymes with okker). Anyway, amongst all the syrupy Mother’s Day filler that was supposed to bring a lump to our collective Antipodean throats, he threw in Dorothea McKellar’s reading of her own poem, “My Country”Ah, patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson once claimed.

Most Australian and many non-Australian children have at some time had this sentimentally dreary doggerel pushed down their throats and it was with highly conflicted emotions that I drove along Highway One to the educated and rather un-Australian tones of dear old Dot as she recited her most well-known verses. On the one hand I was moved by passing through the “sunburnt country, the land of sweeping plains”, she described.  On the other hand I saw that poem as the anthem of those who would wrap themselves in the flag while pushing away the boats of refugees, reluctant to share the love of this “wide brown land” with anyone other than those born here.

I had been increasingly experiencing the narrowing horizons of this wide brown land. “No overnight stopping”, “No camping except in official campsites”. No this, no that, no entry, no cameras, no fires,etc etc.  McKellar, in the final lines of her poem says,

“Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.”

There will  soon be sign that says “No homing thoughts without a permit”

Well that was a somewhat discursive rant as I sit here in an “official” campsite in Exmouth Shire surrounded by the monster 4WDs and caravans of the grey nomads. I know where I would rather wake up and that is where I was yesterday and this morning. In the lee of some white barked eucalypts watching the rising sun colour the nearby ranges, in an “unofficial” illegal campsite I had found for myself on the banks of the Fortesque River, far enough from the road to make the sound of the passing road trains no more than a sibilant surfing whisper.

So finally, here are a few objects I discovered by the roadside in McKellar’s sunburnt country…

No loaves? © Rob Walls 2011

Obviously someone doesn't love this sunburnt country © Rob Walls 2011

A symbol of progress or oppression? © Rob Walls 2011

And finally, one for the family. Yes I'm OK. With one of the hundreds of termite nests that stand like sentinel terracotta warriors on the approaches to Exmouth, Western Australia © Rob Walls 2011

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

Fake tsunami photos

Sydney Morning Herald photo editor, Wade Laube, on the vile internet photo hoaxers distributing fake pictures purporting to be from the recent Japan tsunami: http://tinyurl.com/4vvzdud

Or read here on Wade’s blog: http://tinyurl.com/4hc7nuf



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Filed under Digital photography, documentary photography, News, Opinion, Photography, Photojournalism

Words fail me…

When it comes to the subject of children and photography, the perverted views of those who would “protect” our children leaves me aghast. Yes, their stance towards the subject of children in art and photography is nothing more than perverse.

You can read Robert Nelson’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald (Knee-jerk fear seems the rule in matters of children and art SMH Jan 6 2011) about the Sydney Childrens Hospital’s craven response to fear of criticism of this photo by artist, Del Kathryn Barton, by the new puritans here:

Nick O’Malley: Why this photo cost hospital a charity bonanza


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