Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Calming Effect of Time in Life, Science and Photography

“Time makes more converts than reason” – Thomas Paine

Have you ever received a rude email or a negative comment on your work? I’m sure your first reaction is one of anger and the desire to strike back, and it is a normal emotion to have. It is your lizard brain at work, as Seth Godin would put it. But we have evolved higher cognitive functions, and we can use them to censor our inner lizard.  If you weren’t born yesterday, you know that lashing out back in anger is totally counter-productive. Let some time go by,  so your desire for revenge lessens. In the end you will calm down and realise it wasn’t such a big deal in the first place.

When my PhD supervisor and I published a paper about 20 years ago that went against the current common wisdom in the field, all hell broke lose and he was the subject of very strong criticism. Luckily, as the junior partner of the collaboration, I flew under the radar. Many years later, a review article in the scientific journal Nature described the theory once so unpopular as having “the most support in the community”.

Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh, sometime after sunset.

Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh, sometime after sunset.

Last week, as I set my tripod on Silverknowes beach to take the picture above, the wind was blowing, creating many ripples on the water. The landscape looked quite agitated. But by using a long exposure time of about 90 seconds, the motion of the water ripples averaged out, and the overall landscape acquired a peaceful appearance. Time has a calming effect indeed.

 

Contrast in Marketing and Photography

We are not very good at judging things in absolute terms. Is £100 for that brand X widget a good deal? Who knows? But when that deal is compared, or contrasted, to the offers from the competition, like brand Y widget costs twice as much with half the features, then we get to think that £100 for that brand X widget is a pretty good deal after all.

Savvy marketers know that you can use the power of contrast to be more persuasive. The classic example is that of the discounted price. The new price is contrasted to the old one to give the potential customer a good reason to buy.

And if your real estate agent takes you around to show you a few houses, it is a safe bet that the first one is going to be expensive and in need of a bit of ‘freshening up’. By contrast, the subsequent houses you visit will all look like great bargains.

The blue background creates a strong colour contrast with the red strawberry, making it 'pop'

The blue background creates a strong colour contrast with the red strawberry, making it ‘pop’ from the photograph

In other words, marketers use contrast to make their offer stand out. And photographers also use contrast to make their subject ‘pop’ from the photograph. In an image, one can use tone contrast, a bright subject against a dark background for example, or sharpness contrast, where a sharp subject stands out from an out of focus background. The photograph above uses colour contrast to make the red strawberry ‘pop’ from the blue background. The use of contrast can be just as effective in photography as it is in marketing.

 

 

Vancouver, B.C. – Goodbye

Every trip must come to an end, and in this last post I’m going to share with you a few more travel photos I took during my two week holiday in the beautiful city of Vancouver, B.C.

A great time to shoot any kind of cityscape is after sunset, but before the sky turns totally black.  The skyscrapers of North American cities look particularly good at this time of day. The photograph of downtown Vancouver below was taken from a location close to the Auto Mall in North Vancouver.

Downtown Vancouver after sunset, seen from North Vancouver.

Downtown Vancouver after sunset, seen from North Vancouver.

The classic sightseeing location in Vancouver is called Cypress View Point. You get a wonderful view of the whole city of Vancouver and one of its landmarks, Lion’s Gate Bridge. It was a bit hazy that day, so the buildings in the distance are not as clear as they could be. One of the advantages of being a resident is you can shoot when the conditions are optimum. As a tourist, you have to take what nature gives you while you are there.

Vancouver at night, from Cypress View Point.

Vancouver by night, from Cypress View Point.

I like to learn new techniques all the time, and the best way to experiment with them is when you are taking pictures for yourself. So I tried doing a few panoramas, a couple of which are shown below. I took many pictures (9 for the first and 11 for the second panorama) and stitched them together in Photoshop.

Vancouver panorama, taken around sunset time from the shore of North Vancouver

Vancouver panorama, taken around sunset time from the shore of North Vancouver (click on image for bigger photo).

Vancouver by night panorama, taken from Cypress View Point

Vancouver by night panorama, taken from Cypress View Point (click on image for a bigger photo)

Also, I’m not really used to taking pictures of moving subjects, so it was nice to practice with the seaplanes taking off from Vancouver harbour. I managed to get a few good ones, like the photograph below.

Seaplane taking of from Vancouver harbour.

Seaplane taking off from Vancouver harbour.

 

 

 

 

 

Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver, B.C.

Situated in West Vancouver, Whytecliff Park is the first Marine Protected Area in Canada and is home to some 200 marine animal species. It is yet another beautiful public park in the Vancouver area.

Whyte Islet from the swimming beach at Whytecliff Park

Whyte Islet from the swimming beach at Whytecliff Park

We were lucky to spot some seals around Whyte Islet. Unfortunately, they were too far away and I was unable to photograph them, but we got a good look through powerful binoculars.

Whytecliff Park also provides some spectacular views of mountains even on an overcast day.

View Toward Howe Sound From Whytecliff Park

View toward Howe Sound from Whytecliff Park

 

Rice Lake, North Vancouver, B.C.

The fourth instalment of my Canadian trip report is about  Rice Lake.

The quiet and calm Rice Lake in North Vancouver makes for some beautiful reflections.

The quiet and calm Rice Lake in North Vancouver makes for some beautiful reflections.

It is a calm, quiet man-made lake in North Vancouver, B.C.  It used to be a reservoir of drinking water for the residents of North Vancouver. Today it is a wildlife refuge. A relatively short hike will take you all around Rice Lake for you to enjoy its natural beauty. The lake is also a popular fishing ground.

The hiking trail around Rice Lake allows you to enjoy some beautiful scenery

The hiking trail around Rice Lake allows you to enjoy some beautiful scenery

The pictures above were taken in the early to mid afternoon, which is not usually the best time to shoot landscape photographs. However, the cloudy skies provided some nice diffuse light, and the calm lake made for some beautiful reflections. On a cloudy day the sky can be quite bright and bland relative to the landscape. In that case, it is usually best to avoid showing the sky in the photographs.