Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

English punctuation 101

Text messaging has created a generation who does not know basic English punctuation, so here is the essential guide to achieve better marks for academic writers.

Colon (:)
Colons are used to indicate a list, summary or that a quotation is about to follow.
Pack the following for the weekend: bathers, underwear, pyjamas and an umbrella.

Additionally colons can be used to link two separate but supporting statements that form a single sentence.
Television dumbs down society: the more you watch, the less you know.

Semicolon (;)
Used to link two complete, but linking sentences.
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When sentences contain multiple commas, semicolons are used to internally compartmentalise the sentence.
When you step off the bus; turn right at the first corner, then take the first left, then left again.

Full Stop (.)
There are three specific uses:

At the end of a sentence.
It’s her birthday today.

To indicate abbreviated words.
He’s study for a B. Com.

To abbreviate dates.
The reservation is for 2.3.15 – 5.4.15

Full stop inside or outside of quotation marks?
American English places full stop inside the quotation mark.
He said “I don’t want to go swimming.”

British English places the full stop outside of the quotation mark.
She said “But swimming will help you lose weight”.

Ampersand (&)
Ampersand’s are used to indicate a close connection between two people instead of using ‘and’. Ampersands should not be used to replace the word ‘and’.

Is that operetta a Gilbert & Sullivan?

Quotation marks – double (“ ”) – single (‘ ‘)
Double quotation marks, quote-exact direct speech or published text. They can also indicate irony or nicknames.
He said “what do you mean by telling me it’s ‘OK’ to leave the door open?”

Double quotation marks are also used to describe the name of something in a sentence.
You call that “art”? (Irony).   Damien “Einstein” Smith. (Nickname).

Captain Smith went down when “The Beagle” struck the reef.
Jennifer Dalziel wrote her first novel; “The Widow Maker” when she was 14.

Numbers in text (Nine)
She brought six donuts and 12 sandwiches.

Single digests: zero to nine; are written as text while numbers with two digests or more are written numerically.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF)
Where each word is abbreviated with a single letter no full stops are required and each letter must be capitalised. Often minor words, known as articles, are omitted.

Department of Education. (Dept. of Ed.)
Where a word is abbreviated without it being reduced to a single letter the abbreviations are not capitalised and a full stop after each abbreviated word is required.

Capitalisation of nouns.
Thanks to text messaging it is common to capitalise nouns or other words which should not be. Only proper nouns are capitalised. A proper noun is the specific name given to a noun.

Jeremy is studying in the library. (Library as common noun)
Jeremy is studying in the Mitchell Library. (Library as proper noun)

Pay attention to these conventions and your written will be appear more academic. The content is another matter!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Zealand's Watergate

In June 1972 members of Richard Nixon’s staff broke into the Democratic Party’s offices to steal documents as part of a dirty tricks campaign to derail the Democrats November presidential election campaign. They needn’t have bothered, as the hugely popular Richard Nixon was re-elected with the fourth biggest margin in US political history claiming 48 out of 50 states and winning 23.3% more than his opponent. However the relatively insignificant news story about the break-in escaladed as the White House denied involvement and sought to discredit the journalists investigating the story.

Fast forward 32 years to innocent New Zealand and a strikingly similar situation has developed. New Zealand’s governing National Party has been outsourcing its dirty tricks for years to right-wing bloggers and friends in the media in an endeavor to keep their popular Prime Minister clean. Jason Ede, the prime minister’s senior staffer hacked into the main opposition party’s computers to collect damaging information to feed to a sleazy cash-for-comments blogger Cameron Slater. When Cameron Slater overstepped the bounds of decency by rejoicing at the death of a car crash victim in early 2014 a disgusted hacker broke into Cameron’s email and downloaded Slater’s dirty laundry which he forwarded to investigative journalist Nicky Hager. Nicky Hager produced a New Zealand best seller ‘Dirty Politics’ with the material.

John Key with pussy at New Zealand's parliament.

New Zealand's third Jewish prime minister John Key’s reaction to all this was neither outrage or calls for an investigation but ‘so what?’ Nicky Hager whose credibility and integrity are beyond question has found himself on the receiving end of insults while no one in the National Party has denied the serious claims made in his book are true. The National Party is outraged someone found out.
Nixon’s Watergate Scandal took almost two years to run its course culminating in his disgraceful exit in August 1974. The parallels with New Zealand are similar. Dirty Politics’ first scalp has ironically been the country’s corruption tainted justice minister Judith Collins but surely more should follow. As the country goes to the polls in four weeks the scandal has had a surprisingly small impact in opinion polls but as voters digest the implications it is bound to produce a backlash of some kind. The main opposition party, which is no stranger to dirty tricks of their own, has not been a beneficiary of the scandal, but minor parties have been.
New Zealand has a veritable smorgasbord of parties contesting the election so thinking voters may well choose to support the smaller parties who have more integrity than the National-Labour duopoly. While John Key may do a Richard Nixon and win the poll, New Zealand’s Watergate ought to burn on and be traced to its ultimate source; the prime minister's office. If a political event in New Zealand history has ever warranted a Royal Commission of inquiry, then this is it. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who is targeting Malaysia Airlines?

Mainstream media coverage of the mid air disintegration of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic this morning has all the hallmarks of following a pre-prepared script. The questions which are not being asked are more disturbing than the ones which are. The conformist global media consisting of the US' ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN networks, the UK's BBC, Australia's ABC (and other networks) and also Qatar's Al Jazeera are all reporting the story in an almost identical manner as if a script had been written before the event and they are omitting identical questions.

The facts
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crashed at 14:15 local time while flying at 10,000 metres over the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine. 

At this point in time nothing else can be stated with certainty. The numerous YouTube clips of the impact do not prove anything. The Donetsk republic, which the mainstream media are uniformly describing as 'pro-Russian forces' have denied any involvement, yet within minutes of the confirmation of the crash they have been blamed. Until an investigation is carried out the facts remain scares.

What questions are not being asked?
Malaysia Airlines has lost two Boeing 777's in four months. Why Malaysia Airlines? And why Boeing 777's? Is it just bad luck and coincidence?

Without any wreckage, bodies or credible radar tracking records being published it must be admitted that there is actually no real evidence that MH370 did actually crash on 8 March. The vague scenario of possible routes into the southern Indian Ocean lack credibility and contradictory 'pings' picked up by Chinese and Australian vessels prove nothing. The absence of wreckage should caste further doubt on the claim the aircraft met a watery graveyard in the middle of nowhere. Despite an absence of hard evidence the mainstream media were quick to point to the the possibility of the Muslim pilot being a terrorist.

Why has the mainstream media instantly pointed the blame at the Donetsk republic and not the possibility of another 'terrorist' attack? The YouTube clips and debris field seem to indicate a mid air explosion which would be consistent with a Lockerbie-style midair bomb exploding. Why was it suitable to suggest a terrorist attack on MH370 when there was no evidence, while for MH17 terrorism is not being suggested? It is likely because this story's script writers want the blame to be ascribed to other villains? - Russia and their friends in the Donetsk People's Republic. 

Surface to air missiles capable of destroying a Boeing 777 in mid flight are either the Russian made Buk, S200, S300 or S400, all of which Ukraine possess. Russian news network RT reported that 36 hours before the crash, Ukrainian military forces moved a Buk missile battery into the area. Donetsk republic self-defence forces do not possess such sophisticated weaponry and no evidence has been produced proving otherwise. During the recent civil war in the eastern Ukraine 10 Ukrainian military aircraft have been shot down, but all were flying at low altitudes and were hit by conventional anti-aircraft weaponry incapable of hitting high altitude commercial jets. There is a vast difference between shooting down a military transport plane approaching a runway for landing and a passenger jet barely visible from the ground. This is the reason IATA had not recommended closing airspace over the region. Consequently media claims linking previous military downing with today's crash lack credibility.

The Ukrainian military has a track record of shooting down commercial jetliners at high altitude which they did less than a month after 9/11. On that occasion the Ukrainian military denied one of their S200 missiles struck the Israel-bound Siberian Airlines flight S7 1812 on 4 October 2001; however they later admitted their guilt. While the Donetsk republic gains no advantage in downing a passenger jet, Ukraine does and they have a track record of both doing it and lying about it.

The other question that the mainstream media have not asked concerns the other tragedy that has been pushed from the limelight today - Gaza. The Malaysia Airlines crash is providing a media smoke screen for the atrocities that are unfolding in the ghetto city of Gaza at this very minute. Because the media has focused on the airplane crash, blamed on 'pro-Russian forces' the gruesome spectacle of the slaughtering going on in Gaza goes under reported. Is the timing of the Malaysia Airlines crash a coincidence? Is it possible this event has been planed to distract the media from a different event?

Today's media coverage of the downing of Malaysia Airlines has instantly identified the culprits as the rogue 'pro-Russian forces' despite no evidence indicting them. The finger has not been pointed at the more realistic suspects; Ukraine, terrorists or Israel. In any crime the culprit is usually the one who has most to gain - Donetsk gains nothing while Russia-haters gain everything. Start searching there.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Camera basics: Photography 101

Perspective is the point of view of the viewer; it’s what the viewer sees. Photography and filming begins with perspective. Depending on the angle or point of view of the viewer the image emphasizes different qualities of the subject. There are two types of perspectives; linear and aerial.

Lineal perspective
Is shaped by depth of field and vanishing point. Vanishing point is the phenomenon of objects retreating into the distance appearing to converge as they fade into the horizon, like a road or railway line. 


  • Example of linear perspective – the office tower (New York's Twin Towers) disappears into a vanishing point and also appears to draw closer together at it retreats.
Aerial perspective
Is the consideration of the image within the context of its surroundings. The depth of field usually highlights the subject of the image by drawing the eye there first.


·       Mt Hayden diminishes in significance when viewed its is aerial context

Camera fundamentals
Since the development of the first cameras photographic images have been produced by light shining onto either light-sensitive paper or digital plates. Photography requires a combination of:


The higher the ISO number the less light is required to capture the image. At higher ISO’s brightness is added by adding ‘noise’ to the image which results in a loss of quality. Generally the lower the ISO; the better the quality of the image.

Shutter speed
The longer the shutter is open the more light reaches the sensor, consequently in bright light the shutter speed should be increased which means the shutter is open for a shorter time, while in reduced light the shutter speed is increased allowing a longer time for light to reach the sensors. At slower shutter speeds; greater attention needs to be made to holding the camera stable; so with slow shutter speed a tripod may be required.

The f-stop relates to the focal point or depth of field. The greater the f-stop the smaller the aperture opening, which results in the narrower depth of field producing a blurred background. To bring everything within focus the aperture should be opened up.


Three point lighting


Three point lighting is the standard template that photographers begin with for most shoots. Conventional photographic wisdom states lighting should be placed in position in the following order:

Key light
Being the main source of light on the subject – typically striking the subject from the front.

Fill light
Supports the key light by ‘filling in’ the shadows on the opposite side of the key light. Because it is not as bright as the key light it contributes towards creating the mood of the image.

Creates separation from the subject and the background while creating the 2D effect. For many photos backlight is the most important. It is typically set up last or first.

·        Backlight (left), Key light (middle) and Fill light (right).

·        The above image shows the importance of backlight. With backlight (right) the photo makes the apple leap from the page and look genuinely appetizing.

Mood lighting
Three point lighting is the ‘holy trinity’ of lighting, but other lights can be used to create desired moods. Reflective lights shining underneath glass tables can be used in food or product shots for example, or additional lights shone on the wall can be romantic, moody or create other atmospheres.

Depth of field
A narrow depth of field means only a narrow amount of the field of vision is in sharp focus. Depth of field focuses the viewers’ attention onto the subject of the image. Viewers intuitively sense that the object in focus is the subject of the picture, which is not always the case.

  • Whatever is in focus becomes the subject of a photo. Because the camera is set to a narrow depth of field with only the grass in focus it tells the viewer what the subject is. If a wide depth of field showed everything in focus, the viewer would not know what the subject was. 

Eye lights
Also known as catch light or Obies (in honour of Merle Oberon the earliest proponent of eye light’s importance) are the lights specifically designed to shine into the subject’s eyes. This is desirable to emphasis the eyes in cosmetic shots or to make characters appear more ‘righteous’. Evil characters seldom have eye lights.

·        In the Game of Thrones, the evil King Joffrey is never portrayed with a deliberate eye light, despite his blond hair and elaborate clothing.

·        Meanwhile his righteous nemesis, Robb Stark, despite his dark complexion and attire is practically always portrayed with deliberate eye lights.

Studio lighting

High key
Describes lighting situations where the entire frame is well lit and there is little contrast within the scene. High key is a favourite for advertising and ‘Breakfast TV’ or sitcoms. It typically consists of multiple light sources, which reduce or eliminate shadows.

Low key
Is the opposite of high key where there is considerable contrast within the photographic image or film. Low key images are particularly effective in black and white.

·        Good example of low key shot. 

Are colored sheets placed over lighting to alter the color to create mood or for color correction. For example an orange gel might be used to create a fireside grow effect or blue in a snow shot to create an image of cold. Gels take their name from gelatine, which they were originally made from. They come in a variety of colors and strengths.

Studio photography typically uses backdrops to create mood or disguise the location. They range from boring grey backdrops popular with school photos to vivid backgrounds to create the illusion of nighttime street scenes.

Umbrella stands
Typically used with flash. Light is shot into the umbrella where it diffuses equally and flashes back towards the photographic subject. Umbrellas normally have either a soft white exterior or black exterior. The black exterior will help prevent spill light (light spilling outside its intended destination). Additionally umbrella stands come in metallic silver for a harder light.

Beauty dishes
Have a central bulb, which reflects light into the dish, which then bounces towards the subject. The evenness of the light can be flattering; hence its name.

Rim light
Effectively a form of backlight casting a rim around the subject. Popular with mysterious shots and black and white.

Used to shift the color range by reflecting coloured light onto the subject. Most common colors are gold and white. Polystyrene makes a great reflector. For portrait shots try having the subject hold a polystyrene board to bounce light under their chin.

Used to control, modify or alter the property of the light coming from your lighting source. Diffusers are used to soften light by spreading it evenly across the subject.

Honeycomb flash diffusers are attachments placed on the front of the flash, softbox or light packs which confines the light in a desired direction.

Barn doors
Used to concentrate light into a sort of spotlight to avoid light spill.

Soft boxes
Come in various sizes. They are designed to create soft light because they spread it evenly across the subject.

·        These soft boxes are available from Life of Photo

Are shields to cut unwanted light from falling on the subject. They can be professionally bought shields or even dark cardboard will often do.

Flash sync speed
Bursts of flash are very short, up to 1/250 of a second. If you use a shutter speed of anything greater than this amount your camera’s shutter will open and shut before the flash illuminated the scene. Consequently use 1/125 to avoid any problems with sync or find out your camera’s specific inbuilt flash sync speed and set your camera manually to this rate.

Flash triggers
Are attachments placed on the camera’s hot shoe, which trigger all connected lighting to flash simultaneously. They are indispensible for fashion and studio photography.

Green screen – or chroma key
Green is most commonly used as a backdrop for background replacement, because it is the least commonly used color in the typically photographic color spectrum; however any color can be used. Editing software programs like Photoshop and Illustrator can identify the specific chroma used and replaces it with a different image on a different layer. It’s very easy to get right – just use a backdrop (green screen) that is a consistent color, have it evenly lit and smooth out any creases. Paper or cloth can be used. For film shoots, it might be useful to place X marks on the green screen to allow replacement images to be fixed perfectly, especially in moving shots.

C stands
These are stands with movable arms and are indispensible for backlights, holding reflectors or cutters. Because of the stand’s movable arm the light can be affixed above the subject’s head and not seen by the camera.

Tripods and unipods
Tripods have three legs and unipods have a single leg. Both are designed to stabilise cameras for improved photographic imagery. The strength of the tripod is dependent on the size and weight of the camera. The bigger the camera; the bigger the tripod. Tripods should have one leg protruding at the front to prevent the camera unbalancing and heavy cameras should have at least one tripod leg weighted down with a sandbag to prevent mishap.

Ring lights
Donut shaped lights with the camera shooting from the centre. They can be used as a continuous light source or as a flash for still photography. Because ring lights produce light from multiple angles they can eliminate unwanted shadows.

Color temperature

White balance and degrees kelvin
Light is measured in degrees kelvin (after its ‘inventor’ Lord Kelvin). Additionally the temperature of metal is also measured in kelvin. Despite appearances white is a hotter color than red. Just remember ‘white hot metal is hotter than red hot metal’. Hotter than white is blue. Consequently a warm sunny day with sunshine is not as hot as a cloudy day and filming in glacial ice is even ‘hotter’. Most cameras have white balance dials and before any image is taken the correct white balance should be set to the following:

Blue sky                 10,000 K (Kelvin)
Sunshine                   5500 K
Direct sunlight            4800 K
Cloud                        6000 K
Shade                       6000 K
Tungsten                   3000 K
Fluorescent                2800 K
Candle                      1900 K

The strength of the sun’s light changes with the day. At sunrise and sunset it is approximately 2000 K, at midday it is 5500 K and in the hour after sunrise and before sunset (the magic hour or golden hour) it is 3500 K.

White Balance
Cameras are calibrated by measuring them against pure white. Most cameras have pre-sets but it is possible to set them manually with Custom white balance to get the temperature exact. When images are shot in RAW white balance can be fixed in post-production. Filming or photographing with the wrong white balance will unbalance the entire color spectrum. Indoor photography may be affected by inconsistent lighting. Old fluorescent tubes emit a different Kelvin value than newer ones for example.

Custom white balance
Is useful for two main reasons. When custom white balance is taken in the exact lighting of filming it will be exactly correct. Secondly, it is possible to ‘trick’ the camera by adding warmth or coldness to the custom white balance. For example if you use a blue card to perform your custom white balance it will trick the camera into adding warmth to correct the perceived imbalance. Rarely used color balancing cards can be purchased for this purpose. Results justify their use.


·        Color balancing cards from WarmCards

·        Above example shows how wrong color balance can rob the subject of color.

UV filters
Ultraviolet sunrays are unseen by the human eye, but can be detected with some sunglasses and old fashioned film was highly sensitive to it. UV filters were popular in pre-digital cameras for this reason but are largely used as lens protectors in newer cameras whose operating systems effectively correct for UV.

Polarising filters
Are attached to cameras for three main purposes: darken blue skies (thus making clouds stand out more prominently, reduce reflection from glasses, windows and reflective surfaces and thirdly reduce reflection from water.

Smoke machines
To capture sunlight, moonbeams, exterior lighting shining indoors or to create mood lighting shining through smoke is ideal.

·        Smoke used to exaggerate the sunbeams.

High speed photography
Photography and filming involving sports and moving objects are difficult yet present artistic possibilities. Typically cameras need to be set at a high shutter speed and sometimes compensated with a high ISO (resulting in lower quality). If the camera operator can move the camera with the subject this will result in an interesting blurring of the background because the subject is moving at a faster rate than background.

·        The camera was moving with the bus to create motion blur in the background.

Night photography
Without artificial lighting night filming and photography can be tricky. The following will improve quality:

  • Camera stabilisation. Use a tripod or rest the camera on an immobile object.
  • Open the aperture (f-stop) to the widest possible setting to allow the maximum amount of light to reach the sensor.
  • Shutter speed should be opened to the longest possible (or necessary) thus allowing the minimal amount of light present to reach the sensor as long as possible.

Effects: moving objects such as cars will appear as a streaking light.

Building day/night
An interesting effect can be to take a photo on a tripod of an office building before sunset and another photo in exactly the same position after sunset with the lights of the building shining brightly. In post-production both images are layered on top of each other creating the illusion of a well-lit building during daytime. This ‘trick’ is used to display the interiors of buildings is particularly favoured with real estate agents.

·        This image of Hong Kong is actually two images combined, one during the day showing the sky while one at night showing the buildings’ lights, which look less dramatic during the day.

Sunny 16 rule
A conventional rule states that on a sunny day at F-16 the shutter speed should match the ISO as close as possible. i.e. If the ISO is 100 then shutter speed should be 1/100; ISO400 then put the camera as close to 1/400.

Magic hour or Golden hour
Before twilight as the sun approaches the horizon prevailing illumination comes from indirect light refracted from the west. As a result the dimming light has a lower kelvin temperature and will appear red and shadows will be lengthened. Sunset light appears romantic, magical or golden however it does not necessarily last an hour. How long the magic hour lasts depends on the season and geographic location. The closer to the equator the shorter the magic hour will last.

Fashion shoots verses natural outdoor photography
Like most occupations photographers tend to specialise on specific subject matters of interest. Wildlife photographers, for example, seldom also specialise in fashion photography. Within the photography profession there are specialists in fashion, public relations, weddings, food, sports, real estate, portraits etc. However the most basic division is between photographers who favour indoor shooting over outdoor photographers.

·        her The paparazzi remains the most profitable careers in photography while there remains strong demand for food, fashion and advertising. If the product goes out of fashion it needs to be photographed regularly. Photojournalism, sadly, seldom pays well.

What makes an inspiring image?
An inspiring image, whether it’s a real-life event or an advertisement typically captures a moment in time. Legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson described the phenomena of capturing the ‘decisive moment’. Every event has a highpoint; this is when iconic images are taken.


US Embassy, Saigon, 1975. History was being made in front of the cameraman's lens. 

Influential photographers

Leni Reifenstahl

Berlin Olympics 1936, immortalised by Leni Reifenstahl's lens.

Irving Penn – heyday 1970-90’s

Timeless portraits that evoke emotion

What makes a photographic reputation?
Irving Penn’s body of work is flawless. Without doubt however he censored his own work and only released images he was proud of. If you need to apologise for anything about an image, do not release it, as it is a reflection of your work and your ability. Substandard work, less than perfect is a reflection of yourself.

Irving Penn’s faultless images display perfect lighting, composition, model preparation and communicate a message in the subject. The viewer wants to see and know more.

What makes a great photographer is often just being there with a camera!

France surrenders, 1940. Henri Cartier-Bresson would describe this as catching ‘the decisive moment'. All you need is a camera and the curiosity and imagination to click. You can do the same.