Apr 272011
 

Digitial Photography Review, more usually referred to as DPReview, recently had a poll on the question: What should we call mirrorless cameras?

Mirrorless cameras are cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G models, Olympus Pen Digital models, Sony NEX and Samsung NX series.

DPReview prefaced the poll with this introduction:

Just what should we call mirrorless cameras? Ever since the launch of the Micro Four Thirds System, the photographic world has struggled to find a satisfactory generic term to describe similar systems. The current front-runners appear to be “mirrorless” or “compact system cameras” but there is nothing like consensus yet. We have put some of the more common options and some alternatives we have had suggested to us, in a poll to see how you think of these cameras. It is a chance to have your voice heard, since we have had more than one camera maker ask us which name is most widely recognized. So have a look to the right of this story and register your vote.

If the cameras are called mirrorless cameras, why do they need a new name? It seems the photographic world did not struggle too much to come up with the term mirrorless camera. With this poll, DPReview has simply instigated an exercise in redundancy.

But the geeks and techno-freaks want something to chatter about, anything rather than take photographs – the sole purpose of a camera. No, these people would rather spend hours debating the merits of a CCD sensor versus a CMOS sensor. And of course everyone who posts on DPReview is an “expert”.

The trouble with DPReview is that it takes itself far too seriously. It is essentially an amateur production that cashed in on the Internet explosion and all credit to them for doing that. But where is its authority? It doesn’t really have any since it was never put to the marketplace in the same way that print publications are.

The preface to the poll would be a little more credible if it named the camera manufacturers that see DPReview as the font of all knowledge. Are camera manufacturers facing such hard times that they no longer have marketing departments or cannot afford to hire a marketing consultant to find out the answer?

I guess there is nothing wrong with self-inflating one’s ego. It certainly hasn’t done Donald Trump any harm.

If DPReview is so all-knowing and speaks for the camera industry, why has it never reviewed the Ricoh GR Digital III camera? DPReview does seem to have an inherent bias against Ricoh cameras and likes to play its favourites – another reason to level the charge of amateurism.

The results of the poll are now in.

The winner was Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera with 45.2 percent of the vote, a total of 14,392 votes; second place went to Interchangeable Lens Compact with 18.6 percent, 5,920 votes.

One wag on a DPReview forum noted his disappointment, I would guess tongue-in-cheek, that the poll did not have Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Format as one of the voting options.

I think that comment was the only good thing to emerge from this exercise in futility.

Boys and their toys, huh?

Apr 222011
 

Jacksonville’s Corporate Run took place yesterday evening. It is a run/walk of 5K and attracts in the region of 3,000 participants from the city’s corporations, government agencies, financial and legal firms.

My wife is the office administrator of the Jacksonville office of a leading Florida legal firm. As a cancer survivor, she is very much into health and fitness, working out every day at a gym in San Marco and following the strict eating regime imposed by Weight Watchers. She ensures her firm has a good number of participants in this annual event.

The finish line. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

She ran the 5k in a time of 32:19 and was considerably faster than several women half her age and less than six minutes behind the fastest woman from her firm — a 27-year-0ld attorney.

I just go along for the free food and beer and to socialize with my wife’s work colleagues, many of whom are the bright young things striving to carve out a legal career and the wealth that comes with it. Of course, I also take my Ricoh GRD III along. The resulting images are unlikely to fall within the realm of fine art photography, more like reportage images from my days as a journalist.

Runners stretch out before the race. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

After the race, one of the young attorneys called me across to meet a fellow Brit – a guy in his late twenties.

We were introduced and I asked him where he was from in England.

“London,” he replied.

“What part of London?” I asked.

“Watford.”

“Watford’s not in London,” I said in a somewhat derisory tone.

“It’s the northern most Tube station,” he fired back.

Inwardly, I said to myself, “Whatever.”

“So you are a Watford supporter,” I said, bringing the conversation round to the universal topic of football.

‘No, Tottenham Hotspur,” he said unashamedly.

Back in England, people who live in a town with its own football club but who follow a more glamorous side from another city are known as glory hunters.

I had met my first glory hunter and one who also had an abysmal knowledge of geography.

In order for Watford to qualify as as part of London, it would need to be one of the 32 London Boroughs that make up Greater London. It is not.

Watford is borough separated from Greater London by the Three Rivers District Council to the south. To say that it is a part of London is like saying Macclesfield is part of Manchester.

But I guess London is a better line when trying to impress American girls. At least most of them have heard of the UK’s capital. And if they haven’t, he could be on to a winner.

I never did find out what he did for a living in Jacksonville but it is obviously something that draws on his innate talent for dispensing bullshit.

Apr 202011
 

Searching for video footage of Stoke City’s 5-0 triumph over Bolton Wanderers in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, I came across a web site called The Original Winger.

Now as every self-respecting Stoke City fan and devotee of The Oatcake fanzine messageboard knows, the “original winger” is none other than acclaimed English author and bon viveur Stephen Foster.

Stephen is well known for his books charting the fortunes of Stoke City — She Stood There Laughing; …And She Laughed No More – as well as the best-selling Walking Ollie and Along Came Dylan.

His most recent work is the autobiographical From Working-class Hero to Absolute Disgrace.

Now if I was Stephen, and being in the litigious United States, I would be in touch with my lawyers regarding the use of the name The Original Winger.

I am joking of course. Stephen aka winger would approve of The Original Winger. It is an American web site based in Los Angeles and inspired by the lifestyle and culture of soccer. I do wish Americans would use football instead of soccer.

Stephen also runs a blog site – Stephen Foster’s Blog – and as enjoyable and entertaining as it is, especially the comments, he has not been able to come up with the five goals that saw Stoke City reach the FA Cup final for the first time in its 148-year history.

Apr 202011
 

Two things caught my eye during my recent rail journey from London to Stoke-on-Trent.

First, the presence of spring lambs in the green fields of middle England. In the 11 years that I have been in America, I have yet to see a single sheep in a field let alone a lamb. I obviously need to travel more extensively within the United States.

Second, for much of the journey the railway line ran parallel to its mass transport predecessor — the canal.

Trent & Mersey Canal, Stoke-on-Trent, England. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The pace of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and the growth of the canal network went hand in hand. A system of transport was needed for the safe and large scale  movement of goods and raw materials and canals provided the answer.

The pottery manufacturers of Stoke-on-Trent were in the vanguard of the move to building canals. Transporting a fragile commodity such as pottery by pack horse had the inevitable consequences with such a fragile product.

Trent & Mersey Canal runs by the former Dolby Pottery works, Stoke-on-Trent England. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The success of the Bridgewater Canal in transporting coal from Worsley to Manchester, and also cutting the cost of coal to consumers by two-thirds, was taken up by the famous potter Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood saw canals as the ideal way of transporting clay, particularly the china clay from St Austell in  Cornwall, to his factory via the port of Liverpool and also as a means of getting his finished goods to the domestic markets of Manchester, Birmingham and London, as well as markets overseas, particularly North America.

Wedgwood was a driving force behind the construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal and shared engineer James Brindley’s vision of a canal network linking the four major rivers of England —  the Mersey, Trent, Severn and Thames.

The Act of Parliament allowing the construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal was passed in 1766. In 1777, the 93.5-mile canal, including more than 70 locks and five tunnels, was completed.

Narrowboat on the Trent & Mersey Canal, Stoke-on-Trent, England. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

At the peak of canal transport, the canal system extended for 4,000 miles before it was eclipsed by the advent of the railways, which from 1840 onwards could carry greater loads and at a faster pace.

The growth of road transport in the 20th Century also spelled the death knell for canals and many of them fell into sad decline after the Second World War.

It was largely thanks to canal trusts and an army of volunteers that the waterways have been preserved not only as part of England’s industrial heritage but also as a valuable recreational amenity.

Glebe Street Bridge and the Trent & Mersey Canal, Stoke-on-Trent, England, ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

In urban areas, such as Manchester and Birmingham, the old canal basins have seen a rejuvenation in the past 30 years, with the development of Salford Quays and Gas Street Basin, respectively, as entertainment and upmarket residential areas.

Canals, with their narrowboats, locks, bridges, tunnels, warehouses and wharves, also provide a great subject for photography.

Growing up in the Potteries, the canal was always referred to as the “cut” as in, “Ast bin dine cut?” In Queen’s English it translates to,  “Have you been down to the canal?”

The construction of the canals by men known as navigationalists, usually Irish in origin, led to the word navvy, to describe a general labourer, passing into the English language.

Apr 172011
 

In what was arguably Stoke City’s second greatest game in their 148-year history, the first being the League Cup final win in 1972, they made it to their first FA Cup final appearance after defeating Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the semi-final at Wembley.

I doubt that any fan, even the most diehard, would have predicted such a victory. It was unbelievable. I am still pinching myself to make sure that it wasn’t a dream.

With the new Wembley stadium echoing to the strains of Delilah, the anthem of Stoke City’s fans, Stoke found themselves with an amazing three-goal lead after just 30 minutes.

Matthew Etherington seized on a sloppy pass just outside the Bolton penalty area to rifle in a sweet shot to put Stoke 1-0 up after 11 minutes.

Six minutes later, a poor clearance by the Bolton’s Cahill saw defender Robert Huth volley home from 20 yards to give the Potters a 2-0 lead.

Exactly on the stroke of half an hour, Jermaine Pennant robbed Bolton’s Martin Petrov and took the ball 70 yards up the field before laying off an inch-perfect pass to Kenwyne Jones who calmly sidefooted the ball past the despairing dive of Bolton goalkeeper Jaaskelainen.

Leading 3-0, it looked like game over.

But I remember Stoke taking a 2-0 lead against Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. Arsenal came back in the second-half and scored a last-minute equaliser to a secure a replay and eventual victory.

At half-time, I pondered whether such a fate was once again in store for Stoke.

Bolton’s manager Owen Coyle made changes to his side for the second half. He had to. The changes gave them a little bit of impetus but not enough to threaten Stoke’s dominance and any hope of a comeback was dashed in the 68th minute when Jonathan Walters, whose career began at Bolton, latched on to the ball and left Bolton defenders in his wake before cutting inside and firing a perfect shot into the corner of the Bolton goal.

Football fans throughout the UK pillory Stoke City’s style of play, saying that it lacks quality. As the TV commentator said of Walters’ goal, “It was quality with a capital Q.”

In fact, all of Stoke’s goals were quality efforts and I should imagine a great many football fans throughout the country will have to change their opinion on Stoke’s style of play.

The lead and Stoke’s ascendancy took on the stuff of dreams 13 minutes later when Walters pounced again after good work by Jones. His cross was deflected by Wilkinson into the path of Walters who chipped the ball beyond Jaaskelainen into the net for his second goal of the game and Stoke’s fifth.

It was not a victory but a history-making rout that will see Stoke meet Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 14.

Stoke will again go into that match as underdogs but, as the saying goes, every dog has its day, and it could well be that Stoke may cause another upset next month to lift the FA Cup trophy.

Here’s hoping that they do.

Apr 172011
 

Today is an important day for the city of Stoke-on-Trent and its premier football club, Stoke City.

The team takes on Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final of the FA Cup and is just 90 minutes away from a first appearance in the FA Cup final. Stoke City was founded in 1863. The club has never won the First Division/Premier League championship and its appearance in an FA Cup final is long overdue.

The last time Stoke City reached the FA Cup semi-finals was 39 years ago, when they lost to Arsenal, 2-1 in a replay at Goodison Park, after a 1-1 draw at Villa Park. I attended both those games.

So I proudly display the coat of arms of the City of Stoke-on-Trent, with its motto Vis unita fortior — United Strength Is Stronger.

Stoke-on-Trent, England. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Stoke-on-Trent came into being when the six towns of the Potteries — Stoke-upon-Trent, Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton — federated in 1910. Various elements of each town’s coat of arms were incorporated into the Stoke-on-Trent arms.

The boar’s head comes from the Stoke-upon-Trent coat of arms and that of the Copeland Family, while the Staffordshire Knot either side was part of Tunstall’s coat of arms.

The Portland vase is part of Burslem’s coat of arms; the camel comes from Hanley’s coat of arms.

Longton’s coat of arms provided the eagle and the scythe was taken from Burslem and Tunstall’s coat of arms.

The Fetty Cross is part of Fenton’s coat of arms.

The Egyptian potter at his wheel symbolizes the city’s once illustrious pottery industry.

Stoke-on-Trent was granted city status in 1925 after a direct appeal to King George V who thought the centre of the pottery industry should be a city. The elevation to city status was announced by the King during a visit to Stoke on 4 June 1925.

Stoke lost its county borough status in 1974 under the local government reorganisation but its status as a unitary authority was restored as Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 1 April 1997.

I will be rooted in front of my computer screen at 11:00 am EST and just hope that I can get a decent livestream of the match. What I would give to be at Wembley.

Borrowing the words of William Shakespeare:

And gentlemen in America now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That went to see Stoke play on FA Cup semi-final day.

Apr 062011
 

Other London churches may be greater and grander but for me St Martin-in-the-Fields offers splendour on a more manageable scale. The name itself evokes visions of a London where the countryside was just a stone’s throw away from the centre of the city.

The front entrance of the church. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The present church was designed by James Gibbs. Work started in 1772 and the building was completed in 1722. Recently, the church has undergone a £36-million facelift by Eric Parry Architects, which won a Europa Nostra Award.

Part of the facelift turned the crypt into a bistro, a highly imaginative use of space and exposing the original brickwork lends considerable character, as do the headstones that form the floor.

The crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The church also plays host to musical concerts — evening concerts by candlelight, free lunchtime concerts and also jazz concerts in the crypt.

I was lucky enough to attend an evening concert during my trip to London.  The Belmont Ensemble of London, conductor Peter G Dyson, played works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. With the strains of Baroque music filling the church’s opulent interior, it was not difficult to imagine being among London society of the 18th century, the women with their low-cut gowns, the men resplendent in their wigs and finery.

Ornate decor of St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The concert, and the magnificient setting, will live long in my memory, an experience to be treasured. My only regret was not to have been able to catch a concert featuring a choral work, such as the one on May 7, when The English Chamber Choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem.

That’s something to look forward to on my next trip.

Chancel window St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.