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Category Archives: Photography

Whitespace and Typography – The Saviours of Usability


…It is not surface, it is not the last thing that needs to be considered, it is the thing itself” – Stephen Fry

Unformatted code is analogous to an essay without paragraphs – or perhaps a paragraph without punctuation: all the data you need to understand the ‘essay’ is there, but without the correct formatting it just appears to be a jumble of words without any real thought or structure behind it. To fully understand the program (essay) we must be able to decipher the constituent parts and understand them as separate entities as well as inter-related parts. In programming, formatting and indentation aid understanding – without them, this task becomes exceedingly difficult. It’s the same as how without punctuation, we cannot fully understand the context of a sentence or paragraph.

It was here that I wanted to write about whitespace and its importance in programming, graphic design and photography. However, browsing the Internet to find some good articles to plagiarise verbatim reference and cite correctly, I came across a great piece on the powerful use of whitespace from A List Apart. Focusing on the design of both web and print media, the theories found there can be translated to many different types of content: advised reading if – like me – you’re a newcomer to design and usability theory.

Clicking through to the author’s website I discover that not only does Mark Boulton work a leisurely 5 minute stroll from my current place of work, but he also creates interesting and beautifully simple presentations – my favourite of which is Better Typography; produced for the Berlin Web 2.0 Expo on the importance of typography in design. With its practical and usable examples and vivid depictions of the impact typography can have, I advise giving it a read. Mark’s kindly allowed me to mirror the presentation locally, and I feel that Paola Antonelli’s TED Talk is a perfect compliment if you’re reading about design and typography for the first time.

Finally, if anyone has a good book recommendation on design, usability, etc. it’ll definitely make a welcome addition to my Intelligence by Osmosis series.

My Top 10 Top 10s of 2007

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I’m afraid I’m lying to you all… this is not a list of my top 10 top 10s of 2007: one of these lists has 19 items on them and one even has 7. I’m sorry. Oh, and some of them don’t even have ‘2007’ in the title. I’m a bad person – I know I am – and for that I apologise.

Regardless, below are my top 10 lists of 2007. You know the ones – they proclaim to contain the best 10-or-so of something from the 12 months that have just passed? Come, soak up the nostalgia:

As a bonus, have the following too:

Something for the Weekend

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This isn’t going to be a regular ‘feature’, but last week I did enjoy linking to some of my favourites sites from the previous 7 days, so have three more…

Open Culture’s Foreign Language Learning Podcasts

Last week, Lifehacker directed its readers to Open Culture – a website dedicated to (quoting the FAQ) exploring “cultural and educational media… that’s freely available on the web, and that makes learning dynamic, productive, and fun”.

On this website are audio and video ‘podcasts’ consisting of a wide range of topics including art and culture, technology, and even law and business school lectures. The section that got me reaching for the bookmark was the ‘Foreign Language Lessons Collection’. Here you can find a wide selection of podcasts to help you learn a new language – consisting of everything from Arabic and Chinese to Tagalog and Spanish!

Mind Hacks on Quinn Norton’s ‘Sixth Sense’ (and the loss thereof)
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Mind Hacks is a website dedicated to finding out how our brains – and consequently, we – ‘work’ through psychology and neuroscience. In this article however they discuss something different: the story of Quinn Norton and the loss of her ‘Sixth Sense’.

No, she couldn’t see dead people, but she could feel electromagnetic fields. How? She had a magnet implanted into her fingertip resulting in her being able to “know what a spinning drive and a ringing telephone wire feel like“.

Her Wired article on how body modification can extend the human senses is very insightful and her final journal post regarding the experiment is almost existential. Well worth the read.

Nature Photography and The Orton Effect

Orton Effect - Courtesy of 'n8ive' on flickr.comThe ‘Orton Effect’ is the name given to a technique where – usually nature – photographs are given an almost ethereal glow through a method sometimes known as ‘soft focus’. You can see an example image here (courtesy of n8ive). It’s essentially the same as taking two photos and layering them together, one on top of the other – with one in focus and the other out of focus.

Not a new technique, this type of photography is also relatively well-known but nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have an online how-to document to hand for reference.

Oh, and it’s named after Michael Orton who pioneered – or at least popularised – the technique.

The Return of Torchwood


This post is golly random compared to my usual fare, but for those who care (not me); Torchwood – the Doctor Who spin-off show – will be back on our screens soon. How do I know this before there are any official announcements? They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s 3,000 then…

John Barrowman Preparing for Take One

Tardis Outside WMC Barrowman Jumping During Take One

As you can see, these are pictures of Torchwood being filmed… right outside where I work. It’s interesting to note that the Tardis is here – the first time it is to appear in Torchwood, so I’ve been told.

The quality of these photos are pretty bad for three reasons: they were taken on my phone; I wanted to get back to my office as I was starving; it was freezing and I was shivering. I’m not making excuses – I’m just trying to make conversation!

Anyway, there you go. A few photos for you Torchwood fans out there… wherever you are!

Did you know Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who? Genius! There’s an anagram of ‘Lloyd Morgan’ in this post somewhere… can you find it?

The City of Lights ’07


The dizzying heights of the 292 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe; the brightly coloured – and fast moving – mopeds littering the city; the impressive and amazingly lit ‘Tour Eiffel’.  Paris, the ‘City of Lights’, is a photographers dream… and nightmare!

My recent trip there was an educational experience for me – a person who has never really photographed at night. It was definitely the time to experiment.

Photographing directly into the light to achieve silhouettes, post-processing into sepia with a ‘film grain’ style, increasing the saturation to make colours jump and blurring objects – all techniques I tried in order to see what results I could get.

Some worked. Some didn’t. All are here for you to see.

What happens when you try to photograph a reflection of the Eiffel Tower in a person’s eye but forget to take off the flash; resulting in a very quick movement of the camera (and loud shouts of protest)?  Here’s an example: 

Blinding Lights in Paris - Sorry!