The excitement and anticipation of a new notebook

Do you remember film ?  Taking home an new box of Kodachrome 64 slide film.  Gently prising open the yellow and red cardboard flap and retrieving the hermetically sealed foil wrapped canister.  Then finding the bit of foil that rips easily and getting a slight whiff of the cellulose as the seal is broken.

ImageImage  Kodachrome 64 film canister and box

36 virginal instances of delight just waiting to receive and record whatever takes your eyes fancy.  Or 36 opportunities for wanton wastefulness should I choose to snap away with unbridled abandon or take time and compose each shot to absolute perfection ensuring that composition, focus, aperture and speed dance in total synchronicity to ensure the perfect image is sent back to me in a couple of weeks perfectly mounted in a beautiful mount waiting to be projected to seemingly infinite size onto my screen.

That feeling of eager anticipation and trepidation has gone forever with digital only instantaneous feedback of either a good or bad capture.  Then again a bad capture can often be rescued in post production.

I feel a similar sense of excitement or doom when I slit open the wrapping on a new notebook.  Those crisp and creamy pages waiting eagerly to receive my thoughts, ideas, ramblings and doodles.  Am I going to to sully those pages with a pencil.  A good old fashioned one that requires sharpening or one with the clinical precision of a propelling hypodermic styled implement.  My favourite pen is a Pilot Frixion rollerball where mistakes or changes of mind can be easily erased.  It is amazing how something looking so permanent can be simply removed with just a few strokes of the rubberised tip.

Maybe I will use the total statement of opulence in the form of my Mont Blanc Meisterstuck resin and platinum medium tipped royal blue ink ball pen which flows with permanence and style often only used to impress clients.  I have never been able to bring myself to use a disposable bic styled biro nor anything with a promotional logo on the side.  I find them so utilitarian and disposable.  Not somehow worthy of my often pathetic and almost unreadable scribblings.  I also find the permanence stilts my thought process as I know that one single mistake will be visible forever in the beautiful notebook.  A permanent reminder of my fallibility.

My scribblings feel elevated somehow when placed into a good notebook with a good writing implement.  The notebooks I favour most have understated and classic black covers, fit snugly into the pocket of my jacket so are available instantly should I need to get something down on paper.

Image  3 months worth of Moleskine notebooks

The Moleskine which was once primarily used by arty types has become popular with the general public through good marketing and excellent distribution or the German Leuchtturm notebook are both my favourites and both with their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Moleskines have hard covers and a pocket where I can store receipts, business cards or other stuff that might otherwise clutter up my wallet.  

The Leuchtturm also has a pocket but comes with a tactile soft cover so is better for stuffing into my jeans.  Leuchrrurm means lighthouse in German.  I kind of like this as I am drawn to the solidity and permanence of lighthouse structures and that they are sited in remote and hostile environments by the sea.  It has numbered pages so I can index my thoughts with teutonic efficiency.  Not quite so many thoughts though as this notebook has less pages than the Moleskine.

I fill up a dozen or so of these notebooks each year and sometimes when a new project starts so does a new book often way before the old book is full.  Each time this happens I think that perhaps a Filofax would be more suited to my lifestyle however the rings always seem to be in the wrong place for my left handed writing clunkiness.   Filofaxes (or filofaxi) were an excellent invention but for me better left consigned to the 1980’s.  I do however still use an A5 filofax for complex business projects where more space is required.  I did find a 6 ring system that is slimmer than most whilst on a recent trip to Shanghai which is less cumbersome to carry in my messenger bag.

A small black notebook coupled with my iPhone is all I really need.  A quick method of taking down notes, writing to do lists and speedy mind mapping held on perfectly styled paper and an electronic database of contacts, important reference information and appointments synchronised with my macbook through iCloud on the iPhone.  When I’m travelling really light I resort to just this and a Fisher Space Pen which is guaranteed not to leak in my pocket.

I do not like the conformity suggested by lines in a notebook.  To me they distract.  The Leuchtturm comes with dots that act as a guide but do not push my writing in any particular and uniform direction.  The Moleskine is plain and is perfect for sketches, mind maps and doodles.

If there was a diary with the just date at the top and only dots printed on the pages this would be perfect for me.  Constant scouring in stationers has been so far fruitless but maybe one day.

There are Moleskine and Leuchtturm diaries as well as loads of different styles of notebooks available but the system described above works for me.  There is also a fusion of electronic and paper in the form of Evernote but if ever I want to capture my written thoughts electronically the iPhone has a perfectly good camera where the images are instantly uploaded back to the cloud.  A remarkable innovation in comparison to that Kodachrome 64 slide film.

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Relative merits of Moleksine, Leuchtturm and iPhone written in a Moleskine Pocket Notebook and on an iPhone 5

Pen is a Pilot Frixion slimline

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Portland Bill

There is something special about sea air especially on a winters day. An onshore wind is scouring the already barren and deserted cliff top here at Portland Bill. Sea spray and saltiness is tasted with every breath. The wind is constant and occasional gusts threaten to steal my hat or thrust me wholly to the floor.

A winter storm is blowing in and the white horses prancing across the english channel taunt me to retreat to the comfort and warmth of the cafe with the ‘open’ neon sign beckons invitingly.

Camera and tripod hastily stuffed into bag and off I walk with dogged purpose towards the sanctuary and promise of steaming tea and a light lunch. It is a struggle to open the door but with more than slight effort it slowly relents only to slam into my back as if to reinforce that I should not have been outside on a day reserved solely for the elements.

Peering through the window from my table complete with cloth, teapots and china cup everything looks calm and civilised. Just the distant white tops foaming and prancing give an indication of what might be the other side of the glass.

The Velbon travel tripod stood up well to buffeting from the wind during the 25 second exposures with the light held back by a HiTech 10 stop IRND filter. This created an unnaturally misty and still ocean which looked calm and dare I say it tranquil in the final exposure.

On setting up the next shot just before the shutter was depressed a rogue wave hit the rock I was balancing on and created up spray that shot over my head and soaked me and camera with equal disregard for the damage that salt water can do to sensitive Japanese electronics that live inside the Fuji XPro1.

Dripping and a bit cold I make a hasty retreat to higher ground my mind creating news headlines, “Photographer swept from rocks in worst storm of the winter” My imagination was running free. This was a mild blow, maybe 4 or 5 on the Beaufort scale. It became apparent to me that I had been away from the sea for far too long.

At Portland Bill there are some views that all photographers aim to get. The old jib crane to the Dorset side of the lighthouse. Portland Bill itself with rocky ledges in the foreground. Pulpit Rock and the waves crashing around then maybe the old fisherman’s huts which these days are more likely to store bucket and spade than fishing nets or lobster pots.

Tea is nearly drank. time to venture once more out into the tempest for more photography. The light is dropping so shots will be better. Just need to find some interesting compositions.Image

View from the ledges by the gib crane

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Notice on Pulpit Rock

It seems health and safety gets everywhere these days.

In order to reach this notice you have already risked broken legs clambering over boulders that I’m not sure whether they were left by the sea or quarrymen years ago.

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Portland Bill and waves hitting the ledges

I had to lean against Pulpit Rock to get this shot.  It was too windy for the tripod and there was little or no protection from the spray.  Surprisingly the images have failed to convert the ferocity of the weather or it just felt worse than it actually was.  A low tide kept the worst of the waves away from me.

All fairly standard set of pictures from Portland today.  This was primarily a scouting trip for a night shoot I hope to do soon.  I went with the intention of long exposure images but these didn’t do justice to the weather experienced.Image

Pulpit Rock

Note the imprint of a fossil in the foreground.  This must have been quite a find.

Beaufort Wind Scale

0 Calm Sea like a mirror
1 Light air Ripples but without foam crests
2 Light breeze Small wavelets. Crests do not break
3 Gentle breeze Large wavelets. Perhaps scattered white horses
4 Moderate breeze Small waves. Fairly frequent white horses
5 Fresh breeze Moderate waves. Many white horses
6 Strong breeze Large waves begin to form; white foam crests. Probably spray
7 Near gale Sea heaps up and white foam blown in streaks along the direction of the wind
8 Gale Moderately high waves. Crests begin to break into spindrift. The foam is blown in well marked streaks along the direction of the wind
9 Severe gale High waves. Dense foam along the direction of the wind. Crests of waves begin to roll over. Spray may affect visibility
10 Storm Very high waves with long overhanging crests. The surface of the sea takes a white appearance. The tumbling of the sea becomes heavy and shock-like. Visibility affected

Appreciation of photographic art

Every six months or so I am invited to a local camera club to talk about photography.  Subjects have been wide and varied from portraiture through to lighting, landscape, use of cameras and recently street photography.

The main premise of my talk was that photography comes in many guises and the most rewarding is when you take something that appeals to you.  Not to judges or competitions or other photographers or camera club members.

Sometimes I hear that an enthusiast photographer has become despondent because a club member or judge has harshly criticised his or her work.  I usually say that beauty and art is in the sole eye of the individual and as we are all individuals our tastes will vary wildly.  One mans meat anothers poison etc.

During this particular talk I presented a selection of mine and others street photography explaining that as long as there was something in that picture that I liked I didn’t care about anyones opinion.  This resonated with the audience and at the end of the session I was rebooked on the spot for another session.

This time I presented the work of Iain McKell a social documentary photographer originally from Weymouth.  The image that first brought him to my attention was one of a rather attractive girl looking intently into the camera whilst holding her hand over her mouth.  This was one of many from a project which became a book called The New Gypsies.  His next book entitled Beautiful Britain charts thirty years of quirkiness and although interesting did not captivate me as much as his other book.

The prime reason for showing and discussing these works was primarily because they defy all that camera clubs and competitions ram at members on a weekly basis:  Composition, Depth of field, Focus, Exposure, what camera was used (usually whether Nikon or Canon) and finally whether the subject interested the judge.

On looking at Iain McKell’s work you get the impression that the most important aspects are relationship with subject and story are far more important than ‘conventional’ rules.

The end result was a lively debate where some of the old guard felt that Iain Mckell was not a photographer at all and where some of the newer more arty members felt liberated.  Either way, 2nd hand copies of The New Gypsies are for sale for anything from £350 to £3500 and his current book, Beautiful Britain sells at £25.

If you see The New Gypsies in a charity shop invest and maybe invest in Beautiful Britain too.

The second half of the evening consisted of constructive reviews and editing of some ‘brave’ members images.  It was interesting to see how much more reserved the old guard were in their criticism.

Spam and fat inboxes

Things have been busy recently to the point that I am turning off my smart phone for a break from interruptions and distractions. I noticed recently that in a five hour period I had received 75 emails.   On going through these I discovered that only one of them was not advertising or spam.

Each email was deleted and my life continued.  Then over the next five hour period another 80 emails arrived.  On reviewing these 75 of them were advertising or spam.  Thats 149 emails in a working day that I didn’t need.  I have spent today unsubscribing from every advertising email received.

The unsubscribe process has been interesting with some instantly advising that my request has been complied with and no more communication will appear.  Some asked for more information, some asked for me to log in when I don’t remember signing up in the first place so user name and password would be near impossible.

I will continue to do this over the next 10 days and see if my inbox becomes more manageable.

Want to work here ?

You must be at your workstation ready to begin at 08:00.  You must remove all vestments to your personality.  Including shoes, clothing, smart phone and leave these in your locker.  You must adorn a uniform and your wear an ID with your allocated number clearly visible.  You must not wear any form of unapproved apparel including a coat, hat or gloves and in certain instances a watch.

You must not have any contact with the outside world whilst at your workplace, email, web browsing and phone conversations are banned unless on Company business.  Drinking or eating at your desk is banned.  Having a coffee when you need one is banned.  Personalising your workspace is banned.  Standing out in any way and not blending in is banned.  Having conversations other than about work is banned.  Showing any form of personality is banned.

Your working life will be orchestrated and choreographed sameness.  Twelve hours at your workplace is the expected norm.  With every minute of that twelve hours choreographed by a computer and PA system which sounds when you have to be at your workstation, sounds again at 08:00 when you must attend a team briefing, again at 10:00 when you are allowed to leave your workstation for a strict ten minute break then at 12:00 for a thirty minute lunch and a final ten minute break at 15:00.  The end of day announcement is at 16:40 but is ignored by the management who have set expectation of a 19:30 departure at the earliest.

On a Friday the contracted end of the day is at 13:00 to make up for the long hours during the week but woe betide any employee who logs off any time before 17:00.

Modern devices that assist your productivity and help you manage and control your time are banned.  No electronic personal devices, no tablets or smart phones.  If your desk is not completely clear at the end of your day it will be photographed and you and your team will receive demerits.  You and you alone are responsible for cleaning your desk and removal of rubbish not just from your waste bin but to a central refuse area.

Toxic work environments rely on fear, intimidation, threats and lies.  Where Powerpoint becomes more important than physical delivery.  Where your personality and individuality is systematically removed to the point when you have no identity left and the only thing remaining in your life is the Company.  At this point you accept that this is the way things are and pension coupled with apathy lead to begrudged acceptance.

When the goodwill bank has ran dry but when goodwill becomes the norm and expectation exceeds all bounds of what is reasonable.

Where give and take means giving little and taking a lot.

Happy employees deliver a much better level of customer service and want to please.  They are empowered to take ownership for issues and come up with creative and astonishing solutions to satisfy their customers.

Sad employees hide behind Powerpoint slides, never commit, never take risks and avoid responsibility.

Employees that do not feel empowered will only do the minimum they need to do.

Employees that do not feel valued do the minimum that is required.

Employees that feel threatened will not take any initiative.

Employees that are tired make mistakes.

Time spent on internal presentations and bureaucracy is time that could have been spent on saving money or satisfying customers.

The balance should be no larger than 80/20.  That is 20% on Admin and 80% on the core role. When this balance shifts things will inevitably slide into decline.

About 30 years ago just before I left home my father gave me some advice which his father gave to him and I believe is still as relevant now as it was then.  This advice was firstly to always have clean shoes.  People notice clean shoes and first impressions are important.  Secondly, good life must be lived in balance but the best and most fulfilling life is balanced three equal ways,  work, family and an interest.  When these three are in balance then all flourish, if one takes priority the other two suffer initially then over time the third suffers too.

For businesses to be successful this must be taken into consideration.

I’m off to rebalance my life.  See you on the other side.