Just a Black Box…

This morning I posted these words on my Instagram feed. It seems appropriate to share them here too…


This Sunday, here’s a thought to consider on photography:

As I’m about to make a photograph, I remove the ground glass screen (used for composing and focussing the image).

Just before I fix the plate holder to the camera, as in this case at Southwold Lifeboat Station, this is what I see:

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe

Frighteningly simple, isn’t it?

It’s just a black box and a lens. That’s all cameras are…black boxes and a lens. Truly.

When I travel on my missions, I just use this camera and one lens; my lens cap is my shutter – I count elephants in my head when I’m making an exposure (have you seen Gregory’s Girl?).

As there are no equipment choices to make, my mind is free to concentrate on making the best photograph I can with what I have.

So many people confuse ‘cameras’ with ‘photography’. I’m afraid I cannot have camera conversations like “So, are you a Canon man or a Nikon man?”

It actually makes me shudder.

Cameras do not make you a better photographer…you make you a better photographer.

You can have all the pixels and knobs and buttons in the world. It might have cost you £2000 but, unfortunately, it will not make you a better photographer.

Q: So, what will?

A: Other good photography!

Buy good photo books. Old ones. New ones. Immerse yourself in them. You’ll find out what you like and what you don’t like and, I promise, you’ll become an infinitely better photographer in no time…


THE LIFEBOAT STATION PROJECT

With that in mind, why not pop over to see what I’ve been up to with my black box and lens at The Lifeboat Station Project?

I’d love you to join me…

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe

Animated Chopin

I love a bit of piano, in particular at the moment Debussy and Chopin.

As if the score isn’t beautiful enough, here is Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Opus 9, No.2 performed and animated by Stephen Malinowski.

Make sure you see it right towards the end as the music simplifies with glorious delicate flourishes…

Mercedes: Poultry in Motion…?

A little treat for the weekend…

This video for Mercedes has been doing the rounds recently.

In essence, it highlights how cars will never be as good as nature’s finest chickens…

Sunday Digression: The Great Mystery

Just a little digression on a Sunday…

Last weekend, I took the long drive south from Newcastle with my boys and visited my Granny near Southampton.

She had a stroke recently but, thankfully, has made an almost complete and miraculous recovery.

Her recovery is all the more poignant for us as she has now outlived her elder daughter, my mother, by more than thirteen years.

Like so many in modern times, my Mum was brought down by the Big C, passing on to The Great Mystery at the ripe old age of 42 (I was 24 at the time).

She used to love walking along the shore at Warsash where the River Hamble meets Southampton Water, a spot where we were to eventually scatter her ashes.

I hadn’t been there for a while, so I suggested to Granny that we take a wander along there together.

Southampton Water, Fawley Oil Refinery, sunset

Looking for America…

As the sun set and the tide slipped away, I remembered Mum telling me that, when she was a young girl, she used to look across to the gargantuan Fawley Oil Refinery on the far shore and think it was America.

It’s a sadness for me that my boys didn’t know my Mum. Callum was two when she died and Jude wasn’t yet born.

Still, it was lovely to know that we were all walking together along a path she had trodden herself on many an occasion…

Sunset over Southampton Water and the River Hamble

Phonebloks: A Phone Worth Keeping?

Before I go any further, take a look at this pitch for Phonebloks — it’s just shy of 3 minutes long and will be worth it:

What do you think?

As somebody who likes to keep the tools of my trade working for as long as possible, I’m pretty excited by the concept; a seemingly sensible proposal and a slight antidote to the Upgrade Generation.

A “slight” antidote because it’s by no means the whole answer but a step in the right direction, don’t you think?

At the very least, the throwaway mentality might be slowed…

“Phoneblok is made of detachable bloks. The bloks are connected to the base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a blok breaks you can easily replace it; if it’s getting old just upgrade.”

And it is only a concept at this stage — Dave Hakkens simply seems to be ‘putting it out there’ in an effort to spark enough interest from enough of the right people to maybe, just maybe, get this thing off the ground.

Phonebloks, a phone worth keeping

I must admit to being quite surprised by his note on copyright, though:

“If you want to set up this platform please do, the sooner the better. We would appreciate it if you would keep us updated though, we might have some ideas for it!”

It seems strange, after all his efforts, that Mr. Hakkens doesn’t have any rights over the idea and is willing to just ‘let it go’. Or maybe I’m missing something?

Of course, people will likely get hooked on the modular bits-and-bobs but I like the main ethos — that this is a phone worth keeping and that you only replace the modules that need replacing if they become faulty or outdated.

Oh, and it’s like Lego for grown-ups, which is good (!).

How can you show your support?

I’ve joined the Thunderclap for 29th October.

If you think this is a great idea, join the Thunderclap too, which will help really spread the word — I hope it can work in some way shape or form.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

Great North Humanity

Until a couple of years ago, like Charlie Brooker, I would never have dreamed that I’d become a runner.

I’d watch the London Marathon on television and be full of admiration for those who took part but it was always in a separate box for me, not part of my life.

Ditto for the Great North Run.

Living in Newcastle, however, the difference with the latter was that I could hear it all going on outside my own bedroom window.

The loud tannoy, the cheering crowds and, of course, the Red Arrows.

As Sue Barker looked at me judgementally, I even photographed the GNR on television in 2006 as my contribution to Julian Germain’s Running Line.

Great North Run 2006, Sue Barker

Sue Barker judging me for watching in bed in 2006…

Finally, watching it from the comfort of my bed in 2011, I thought, “This is ridiculous. I’m reasonably fit. I need to get off my backside and give this a go!”

Great North Run 2006 for Julian Germain's Running Line

“Feel Better”, the banners read…

And, lo, it was decided. I trained wholeheartedly, ran my first Great North Run in 2012 and raised lots of money for the Lifeboats in the process.

Great…?

It was indeed great but very hard. This year I ran it for the second time and it was even better. So much better that I’m more bitten by the bug than ever.

So why is the Great North Run ‘great’?

For me, other than its obvious size, the run is so humbling and moving…

The humanity and endeavour is extraordinary. Folks of all ages and abilities running together for charity, for loved ones or simply for themselves.

When the going gets tough, you only have to glance over your shoulder and see a fellow runner who’s recently undergone cancer treatment to know it’s simply time to suck it up and get on with it!

The personal and collective achievement is astonishing.

Real Ale for Real Runners…

With 56,000 entrants, this is now the largest mass participation event in the UK (much bigger than the London Marathon) and the largest half marathon event in the world — it really does have to be seen to be believed.

Great North Run 2013, Runners on Central Motorway

My wife captured the throng as it passed the mile mark on the Central Motorway…

Even among so many peopIe, I’ve yet to hear a cross word come from the lips of anyone involved (not true of other ‘sporting’ fixtures I’ve attended with similar crowd sizes).

The same goes for the crowds who turn out to show their support, crowds that are practically unbroken on both sides of the road for 13.1 miles.

Then there are the sights and sounds:

…the children holding out their hands for high fives…

…the drumming bands pounding out their beats, tapping into our primeval nature…

…supporters handing out beer as “real ale for real runners”…

…Elvis singing for us, ever-present year after year around the eleven mile mark…

…not to mention the Red Arrows forming the customary heart in the sky over the sea.

Give it a Go!

If, like I did, you feel that the Great North Run ‘isn’t for you’, I urge you to reconsider and give it a go. It’ll likely enhance your life in so many ways.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the fundraising element and have nearly reached my £2000 target for the Tynemouth Lifeboat Station this year.

The Great North Run 2014 reminder service is now open, so how about it?

One Last Thing…

On finishing this year’s run, there was an extraordinary statistical coincidence — once the data from so many runners had settled, my finishing position and bib race number actually matched!

Great North Run 2013, Matching Position and Bib Numbers

I tend to get very excited about this kind of thing. The probability of this happening in an event with 56,000 entrants must be extremely slim.

Picture the scene:

  • I applied online to enter the Great North Run;
  • The ballot closed;
  • My running number was assigned to me based on my predicted time;
  • On race day, I made my way to the start line and stood in the designated zone;
  • I started the 13.1 miles and competed among the hustle and bustle;
  • 2 hours 12 minutes later, I crossed the finishing line in a position that matched my bib number!

What are the odds, I wonder, and how often does it happen?

It seems that I could even have placed a £1 bet on it and I wouldn’t have had to work another day in my life!

A mathematician friend of mine seems equally intrigued and is looking into it.

I’ll keep you posted…

By the way, if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here (donations of any size are much-appreciated).

Lust for Lifeboats

I love boats. However, I particularly love Lifeboats.

As to why, it’s quite simple…

I love any environment that is well-designed for the purpose in hand, with everything in its place and nothing more.

Boats tend to epitomise that for me but Lifeboats do it with aplomb.

The Severn Class Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland, is a mighty-fine example and one that many were able to enjoy on Lifeboat Day yesterday…

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Instruments

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Deck Hatch — observe neatly aligned screw heads and locks!

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Engine Room — one of two MTU M94 series 2000 V10 marine diesel engines producing 1507hp (1124kW) at 1500rpm…apparently.

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Immaculate bodywork and bolts (neatly aligned hinge screw heads too!)…

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Crowds gather through the warehouse door on Lifeboat Day…

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

A gunwale with a few stories to tell…

Tynemouth Lifeboat Station

Waterproofs (no humans present)…

When I was a young boy of eight, I always wanted to be a Lifeboatman but boring adults used to remind me that I wouldn’t be able to earn a living as a volunteer.

Every once in a while, I still daydream of being a Lifeboatman.

Speaking to crew members yesterday, it appears I still have time yet. Firstly, however, I just need to move to within eight minutes of the Lifeboat Station. Time for a family meeting…

Tynemouth Lifeboat, RNLB Spirit of Northumberland

Living the dream…

If you’d like to support me and the RNLI on the Great North Run 2013, please visit my JustGiving page. Your donations, no matter how modest, will be greatly appreciated.