Christmas is almost upon us and pretty soon the flood of pictures of Uncle Bob in his reindeer jumper will reach its peak. Photography is a very simple thing, you just point and click, right? And with the proliferation of camera-equipped smartphones and other devices you’d have thought that learning how to take a good photo would solve itself, but it really hasn’t. There are some easy rules about photography which nobody seems to know, so here’s how you take a good photograph…
Most people make the mistake of putting the auto-focus square (which appears in the middle of the screen on digital cameras and smartphones to show where the device is trying to focus) on the person’s face that you’re trying to capture.
A few years ago I loaned a camera from a professional videographer for a project I was working on. I asked for some tips and tricks of the trade and he said something incredibly profound and technical, which has stayed with me ever since. He said, “if you’re taking a picture of a person, make sure their eyes are in the top third of the viewfinder.” And that changed everything.
It’s weird at first, because it feels like you’re taking a picture of someone’s chin, neck or cleavage. But the difference is clear:
(Apologies for inflicting Jeremy Clarkson’s fizzog on the interwebs.)
You’ll struggle to find a professional picture that doesn’t follow this simple rule. Just search Google images to see. And if you have an auto-focussing camera (like most smartphones have on them), you can choose to focus on the face by tapping the screen! Amazing how many people don’t know that.
I’m no dare devil, in fact, I’m pretty risk averse, and yet I’ve managed to be in the wrong place at the right time to experience some of nature’s most destructive forces first-hand. I’m a natural disaster magnet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not your average storm-chaser. I don’t have a souped up pick up truck, I don’t live in Tornado Alley, and I don’t look like Helen Hunt. In fact, I don’t chase storms – they chase me. Oh, and earthquakes do too.
15th October, 1987
In the UK we don’t worry too much about hurricanes. That’s something we allow the people of the tropics to stress about. We like our overcast skies, summer snow, winter heat-waves, and Autumns which fall sometime between August and July. Sure, we get strong winds sometimes, but that’s rare. So, in October 1987, when the southern coast of the UK started to get battered by very strong winds, famous British weatherman, Michael Fish, put all our minds at ease:
Phew! However, my family and I weren’t in the UK at the time. We were just finishing up a nice holiday in Majorca. And we were about to fly back home. That night. Yikes.
We were the last aircraft allowed through the airspace between France and the UK before it closed for safety reasons. Fortunately, I was only 3 years old at the time and managed to sleep through the entire flight. My mum and dad, meanwhile, were unable to sleep – mostly due to the terrifying lurching, shaking and dropping of the aircraft.
This morning I sent my Christmas list to Santa Claus, ol’ Saint Nick, Pére Noel, Hanky the Christmas Poo, or if you’re feeling traditional, Father Christmas.
To: Amy (The Wife)
Subject: Christmas List
This year I have been a very good boy, I even let Amy get a rabbit (even though we’re crap at looking after it) and spent a fortune on a dining table and chairs. And a new telly for the bedroom which Amy promises me she will pay me back for and not blow it all on shoes.
This Christmas I would like a guitar effects pedal please. This one will do (or something like it) and an electric toothbrush (that doesn’t need to have effects, or be foot operated).
The Zombiepocalypse happened on a Tuesday. Everybody assumed it would be a Monday. Even you. Didn’t you?!
My alarm clock beeps, as it usually does, at 6:15am. One press of the Snooze button and (9 minutes later) I am vaguely awake. I shower, shave and everything else the modern man does on a morning before a productive day at work. Shortly after 7am I step out of the house and open up my car. As I reverse off the drive and head towards the main road I spot a strange woman on the pavement. She is swaying gently in the Autumnal breeze. She is very pale. And she is eating the arm of a terrified, screaming man.
After several minutes of earnest commuting, and seeing more examples of pale, bloodied people eating people, I decide something is badly wrong.
Ensuring that the doors are securely locked – and selecting an appropriately Armageddon-y track on the stereo – I pull a U-turn and head home to the wife, who is still in bed. She’s a teacher and it’s a school holiday. (Here’s me looking forward to light traffic on the commute, but instead the end of the world has landed.)
I burst through the door and lock up behind me. “The wife!” I shout. “The wife!?” Using her proper name. She stirs.
“It’s the zombiepocalypse!” I shriek, high pitched and incredibly manly.
Several minutes of doubtful, bed-ridden questioning are quelled by one look outside the window. Slow-moving, ankle-dragging zombies are everywhere. Some are eating body parts, others are slowly chasing dogs down the street – the dogs tease them every few steps, peering over their shoulders* at their pursuers. “Oh my god, it’s the zombiepocalypse!”, shrieks the wife.
Taxonomy is the classification and categorisation of… uh, stuff. First we will look at the various kinds of toilet paper you will find, bog roll if you will, their properties and the differentiators between them.
If you go into your local supermarket-me-do, you will notice that for a half-decent toilet roll you’ll pay about 30p. This number drops slightly based on the volume, quiltyness, ply and number of inexplicable pictures of chickens or boondoggles.
The average man consumes his own weight in bog roll once every thirteen days. Well, not consumes, that would be disgusting. But you know what I mean. Uses. Multiply that by the headcount in an average enterprise and the money expunged on what is nothing more than sheets of paper poo-brooms for its staff is astronomical. For corporations, the cost of their lav tissue must be substantially lower than 30p. Especially when the smart, and gastronomically talented, employees will save up for days just to save their own 8-ply silky, aloe-vera-painted tissue at home.
That brings us nicely onto the two categories of corporate bog roll.
After the generous feedback from Part 1, it seemed only right to continue The Gentlemen’s Guide to Toilet Etiquette. Womenfolk, look away now. This gets graphic!
When an aircraft unexpectedly smashes into the side of a Tibetan mountain range at 550mph, those with the foresight to keep their seatbelt on (even after the movie starts) often suffer from a serious psychological burden called survivor’s guilt. There is a similar condition that the men of our noble nation are afflicted with on a regular basis. It is the origin of the British stiff upper lip. It is the very roots of our infamous constitution. It is a veritable pain in the arse too.
There are two types of shitter’s guilt:
Woe! Man Interrupted
You’ve spent hours traversing the halls at work looking for that most holy of holies: an empty gents. There is something so sublime about finding your very own vestibule of serene purgation.
You dance (figuratively speaking, dancing is strictly forbidden in the magical chamber of purification) with unbridled glee as you flit from cubicle to cubicle finding the most well-proportioned and cleanest throne. After a dalliance with almost CSI-like forensic skill, you enter your chosen cube, drop trou, and settle in for the duration. A well practiced porcelain monarch can get comfortable in as few as four or five shuffles; for those less accustomed to precision buttock parking it can be considerably more. Remember: there is no greater sting than a bogseat-induced red ring.