Monthly archive

Haven’t you got better things to do?

Photergraphing Britain

It is a special thing where you can submit your photos to this Flickr group How We Are Now, and they will be displayed on big screens in the Tate Britain, and there will be an exhibition of prints of the best 40! So if you go to Tate Britain and you see some familiar looking pictures, they might be mine!

You can send in 4 so these are the ones I have chosen.

Moon and planets

On the night of May 19th the Moon appeared to pass very close to Venus, it was a beautiful sight just after sunset. Unfortunately as the Moon was fairly new, it necessarily set not long after the Sun, and seen from the UK had not reached its closest approach before setting. This picture is from earlier on in the evening. The Moon is sneaking up on Venus, in preparation for giving it a wedgie.

Closer shot of the crescent Moon. Note how the low-angled morning light shows craters in deep shadow along the terminator. That is just an astronomickal term, there is not a killer robot from the future living on the Moon. Or at any rate if there is, it is not visible in this photo.

Jupiter is high and bright in the south at the moment, and I got this nice picture from my cosy living room with just the 200mm telephoto. It is no trick to be able to see Jupiter, as it is genuinely awesome in size, bigger than all the other planets put together, twice, and a bit more, but I was pleased to be able to see the four principal moons as well: from left to right, Callisto, Ganymede, Io and Europa.

If you looked at the Solar System from far away, you would conclude there was one main planet, Jupiter, plus some annoying specks. Jupiter has more moons than the Sun has planets (over 60 at last count), but then it acts like a giant Dyson, vacuuming up any asteroids and comets that wander too close, with no loss of suction! In 1994 the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet hit Jupiter, creating an explosion about the size of the Earth, and seriously denting its no-claims bonus.

If you expose for its moons, Jupiter is just a bright blob, so here is a picture attempting to show detail of the planet itself. You can see its coloured bands and stripes, especially the large white equatorial zone. It is sometimes said that Jupiter is a failed star, and in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2010 it is turned into a star by some helpful people from a black monolith. This would be convenient for us here on Earth as it would provide valuable light to see by at night, and deter burglars. In reality though that would not happen, as Jupiter is a long way short of enough mass to kick-start nuclear fusion, but on the other hand if you have a giant black monolith you can do basically anything.

Hob nobbing with celebrities

It is funny how things work out as yesterday I was really cross due to missing the train by 0.001 microseconds, which is the smallest time that exists and is known as the Planck interval, because you feel like a planck for having to wait around for the maximum time for the next train.

But then I saw the actor Marc Warren! He was waiting for the tube at Finchley Centraal, just like me! So we obviously have a lot in common, except being an internationally famous top celebrity film and TV actor who is in a hit TV series with hott actress Jaime Murray. He looked just like a regular person eg he was tutting over the time to the next train, and texting on his mobile.

I always want to say something if I see celebrities eg “hello it is you off the telly isn’t it”, but fear this lacks originality. Paul Darrow wrote an autobiography called ‘You’re Him, Aren’t You?’ Ideally I would look coolly at him and say ‘Ah, Marc, how lovely to meet you. I’m a great follower of your stage work. Do let me know, won’t you, if you can come to my little cocktail gathering on Saturday. It’s just a few closely selected friends, eg Al Pacino, Harvey Weinstein, Helen Mirren ekcetera.’

Instead I would probably actually just go ‘TV BLOKE!!!’ right in his surprised face.


This is a study of light and fractal chaos, or more prosaically it is someone smoking. Light and fractal chaos sounds better on one of those gallery labels though.

These are basically some experimintal photos where I was trying things out, it does not always work, but it is fun anyway. If you do not like them it is no good complaining.

A visual celebration of my friend Matt, a bit like Andy Warhol might do, except with less soup.

A cricket match I happened to illegally watch from over the fence. I thought I would try my finger at a bit of sports photergraphy, it is not easy especially as they keep changing ends when you are not looking!

Some mud. You could imagine it might be a satellite photo of a very dry country or something, or perhaps the web of a pissed-up and frankly slapdash spider who has let himself down.

This is a composite exposure of a plane going past my house, that is a tecknical way of saying I cut out bits of several pictures and stuck them together with non-toxic school glue. You can see it has gone a bit wobbly at the end where I accidentally joggled the camera!

Mystery bird challenge

I saw this yesterday out on the common, I do not know what it is though. I did not find it in my Big Boys’ Book of Birds, so hopefully someone who knows how to identify different types of bird from quite a long way away will be able to tell me what it is. It was quite small, about blue tit size; my best guess is some kind of tit or warbler. That is probably wrong though. Apologies for the bad picture as it is covert surveillance footage.

Edit: Thanks to whizzerandchips for identifying this as a Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). That is two lifers in one day as I also saw a swift!

keithlard investergates

Yesterday was the first time I’ve been mobile enough to go down to Henrietta’s Pond for a few weeks. I was worried that I’d missed all the breeding season and seeing such as ducklings, cootlets and moorchicks, but I do not think I have, as I did not see any mini-birds there. At Aldenham Country Park a couple of weeks ago I saw some baby mallards, which were very cute, and I also saw a pair of nesting grebes! Which was terrific.

I was quite excited at one point as I thought I saw Henrietta sitting on a nest, because she has not had a mate for more than a year now and missed the last breeding season. But then she went off and a moorhen was there instead, so it seems unlikely to be a nest, unless the moorhen was babysitting for her. Later I saw Henrietta deep in conversation with a mallard drake. Question, can Pekin ducks mate with mallards? This is something to Investergate.

There is normally a decent size family of Canada geese there, but yesterday there was just one solitary goose moping around the place. So perhaps all his family have gone off on holiday, or maybe they are nesting now. I was a bit worried as I know where their previous nest was, and a whole bunch of people started tramping noisily around the pond, shrieking, laughing, breaking branches, and generally making a racket all over the nesting area. But as they were not startled by an explosion of furious geese, I conclude the nest must be somewhere else.

It made me cringe a bit because if you want to look at birds and such like Wild Life, the only real qualification required is the ability to be quiet and still. It is a bit comical then if you are lurking super stealthily in the undergrowth, and 100 drunken party goers start doing the conga past you. Still it is a busy path along the Dollis Brook there, and the birds are quite used to people, in fact if you go near the pond, Henrietta will try to mug you for biscuits.

I also saw a jay which is pretty exciting, as I saw my first one ever at Aldenham. I thought it was just a big-ass magpie with snappy dress sense, but there was a helpful board nearby with a big picture of a jay, with a caption underneath saying ‘Jay’, in case you did not know what it was. It is no good laughing as I do not know about any types of birds, blame it on my country upbringing.

A jay yesterday. (GFDL picture by Marek Szczepanek from Wikimedia Commons)

I also think it is great that its Latin name is Garrulus glandarius, which means ‘talkative bird that eats acorns’! I think if I was a bird I would be known as Garrulus currymunchius. So that is the end of the Bird News.


This is my best picture of Venus which is not that good, but let’s see you do better. Venus is top of the bill in the evening sky at the moment, if you look roughly due west. Basically if you see a blazing bright white light in the sky, that is Venus, except if it is a plane of course.

Venus is completely white and featureless in visible light due to a permanent blanket of thick cloud. However it does show phases, even to the naked eye; in the picture above you can see that it is not quite a circle. Look out on May 19th because Venus will be passing very close to the Moon. All the planets (as well as the Sun and Moon) appear to follow the same line in the sky, called the ecliptic. The signs of the zodiac are those constellations which lie closest to the ecliptic, because you can see where a particular planet is in its orbit by looking at what constellation it is in. For example Venus is currently passing from Taurus to Gemini.

Venus is a very strange place, a world of acid rain and metal snow, racked by continual lightning storms and hot enough to melt lead. Atmospheric pressure at the surface is the same as the bottom of Earth’s oceans. Venus is covered in volcanoes, but due to the high pressure, they do not form mountain peaks; instead the lava spreads out to form thick goopy puddles, like hot cheese oozing from an overloaded toasted sandwich maker. If anyone lives there it is a safe bet that they’re looking to move, ideally to somewhere with a better climate and more local amenities.