When you don’t know it’s temporary

It’s all very well to say, as I often do, that it makes more sense to photo temporary stuff than stuff that will be around for ever. Sometimes, you do know that something will be temporary, like scaffolding. But often, you don’t know that something will disappear until suddenly, poof, it disappears.

Take those yellow river buses, named after various Shakespearian ladies, that once upon a time used to go up and down the River, for instance. Here is one I found in my photo-archives, photoed on a dim and dreary afternoon in February 2003, arriving at its one-and-only London landing spot, just next to the MI6 Building:

Who knew beforehand that this would stop happening, on account of London’s new super-sewer demanding this landing spot for its own purposes?

Says a rather plaintive London Duck Tours:

Please note that we are no longer able to operate our usual range of tours due to Thames Water’s compulsory purchase of our slipway to build the next phase of the Thames Tunnel super sewer.

For the present time, we will offer a selection of entertaining and informative LAND-based (road-only) tours. Please note that these tours do not have a river splashdown and we do not offer individual tickets.

Happily, long before this particular Duck Tours disaster struck, I photoed the above photos, simply because I enjoyed what I was seeing. Fond thanks to my old Canon A70, despite it having had only x3 zoom.

Are these yellow Duck Tours river buses still operating? I don’t recall seeing any of them even on dry land recently. But, what I don’t recall is a very large category nowadays.

Is this taxi advertising anything or is this just decoration?

I’m talking about this taxi:

Which I photoed in the City of London this afternoon.

In my photoing experience, if a taxi is elaborately decorated, it’s usually an advert of some sort. But on this taxi, I would see no reference to any product or service. So is this Art?

I tried some image googling, but found nothing like this taxi to click on.

Vapour trails

I photoed this vapour trail in December 2005. I’m pretty sure I have others, but this was the first vapour trail I found in the archives:

And I think that it is indeed a vapour trail. But now take a look at this next vapour trail.

That’s not a vapour trail.

This is a vapour trail:

As Michael Jennings, this blog’s technical curator (to whom continuing thanks), would say, this was in Straya.

Aerodynamic contrails occur when a plane lowers the air pressure as it flies, in turn lowering the air temperature and causing condensation to form on the wings. This condensation then trails behind as the plane continues forward.

In certain humid conditions, the drop in temperature and pressure is such that the droplets of condensation will freeze at varying sizes.

When the sunlight shines through these different sized droplets, it will refract at different wavelengths, hence the variety of colours that can be seen.

Blog and learn.

AAArt

I like photos that look like abstract art but which are really of something real.

To quote myself (underneath the August photo there, of London Bridge station seen from above):

I tend not to admire Modern Art. It takes itself far too seriously for my liking. But I love it when real stuff resembles Modern Art. Explain that to me, somebody?

Still working out the answer to that one.

So anyway, it would appear that these guys, agree with me. They call themselves AAA (they arrange the AAAs more aaartfully than this), which stands for Abstract Aerial Art.

Quote (from this):

Taken from a top-down perspective, every aerial photograph we take is of a real place on our planet. We like to compose our images as artworks rather than traditional photographs. Other than slight colour and contrast enhancements none of our images are manipulated in any way. As we always say, “the point is not to work out what it is, but to show how weird and wonderful the world can look from above”.

Actually, not quite my attitude. I like explanations, locations, etc. But, I still like these images.

Here are a dozen (I picked four, then nine, then twelve) that I especially liked:

Here’s the equipment the AAA guys use. Drones. Calling 6k. (The link at the top of this posting is to an earlier posting I did re another of 6k’s drone-photos.)

The new Google building in King’s Cross is taking shape

And the shape is the big green thing that someone has stuck in the middle of this photo …:

… which I found here. More about this building-to-be here.

On the right, King’s Cross railway station. On the left, St Pancras railway station, which is where the Eurostar trains go to and come from. It’s a pretty well connected sort of place. And proof that physical connection remains important, in the world of virtual connection that Google does so much to route us all about in.

A while back I was in and around all this with a friend, and just before I photoed these photos, I photoed these photos:

There’s something very appealing to me about the big concrete towers that signal a big new project like this one, towers ministered to by cranes, cranes which on sunny days often leave shadows on the towers. In a few months, all will be completely different. No sooner are these towers built than they are smothered in something else, after which some degree of permanence will return.

And whereas those earlier towers and cranes I linked to were for Brand X unaffordable apartments, the above towers are being built for one of the great economic and political facts of our time.

Three terrible photos of something interesting

Which is better? Three great photos of something rather boring? Or three terrible photos of something rather not boring? There are arguments for both, but here are three photos that fall firmly into the latter category. Well, they do if you agree with me that what is shown in them is interesting:

I photoed the above three photos while on a recent expedition to my local laundrette. I was in a hurry to get my camera operating, having been concentrating on my laundretting and surprised by what I saw through the front window of the laundrette, hence the terribleness of the photos:

It’s a lady, rollerblading along the road. And in the first photo I photoed of her, I didn’t even manage to include her rollerblades. But, in its inept way, that photo makes the point. If you only knew of this lady that she looked and dressed like that, would you expect her to be rollerblading? I guess the headphones are a clue. But otherwise? I wouldn’t.

In the first photo, as I say, no rollerblades to be seen. And in the second and third photos, she’s way off to the right of the picture. In the third, she’s even behind a street pole., which is, I think, some sort of sign. But, the point is made. A lady who looks like that is … rollerblading. And I can further report that she was doing it with practised assurance. For her, this is a routine. It’s how she gets around. To and from work, would be my guess.

There’s a lot of media frenzy about robot cars. Meanwhile, quietly, with no fuss, and with none of the eye-watering investment by big businesses betting their futures on their particular robot car, people are quietly attaching wheels to themselves, thereby making use of all that space in cities that is being cleared for bikers to bike around in cities, and in general to assume the rights and privileges of bikers, on regular roads, like this rollerblading lady. And it makes sense. Why buy a huge metal box with wheels on it, if you can have the wheels on your feet, in the form of a little skateboard with wheels, or a skateboard with wheels and a sticking up steering system, or just wheels, like this lady? What started as a childhood sport is mutating into a regular means of transport.

Well, I think this is really interesting. The only reason I don’t have many more photos here of people doing this kind of thing is that most of what I photo is stationary, or at the worst very slow moving and quite easy to see coming, so not a surprise. These mobile pedestrians are often gone before I see them, not least because I seldom hear them coming.

LATER: Sometimes I see the rollerblader coming and the photo comes out rather well.

Michael Jennings on China – as seen from Nepal and from Australia

I have one of my Last Friday of the Month talks at my home tomorrow evening. See the next posting for news about that. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts that Michael Jennings jotted down, concerning the talk he’ll be giving in the same series on October 25th. While writing this, he didn’t know he was writing a blog posting. That only happened when I asked him if I could stick it up here, and he said … okay, yes:

In April and May this year, I spent a month in Nepal. I spent a fair portion of this in very remote areas – places (such as the region of Upper Mustang) that were almost literally medieval kingdoms only 30 years ago. These places are no longer medieval and no longer kingdoms, but they are still very poor, agricultural communities. At least, the ones without roads connecting them to the outside world are very poor, agricultural communities. Communities with roads connecting them to the outside world are different. Still poor by international standards, but much richer. The roads are being built with Chinese money and expertise.

These places are also very close to the border with Tibet. These places have always been close to the border with Tibet, but of course, these days this means the border with China. As China has become economically more powerful in recent years, the Chinese influence on these places has become stronger. The locals have mixed feelings about that. The Chinese have resources and get things done, whereas governments of Nepal – and governments of their nearer and friendlier neighbour India – are not known for this. On the other hand, if you cross the border you had better not be carrying a picture of the Dalai Lama, and if a Chinese policeman tells you to do something, you had better do it. (Nepali policemen are fairly amiable, mildly corrupt, and not people to worry about that much). The Chinese are building roads and power stations, which is making people richer. This is generally considered to be good. The Chinese bring money and wealth, but they also bring an extremely authoritarian political model with it, and you can see this in one small, poor country of a very different culture to theirs

This is one relatively small, poor country case of the interactions that a rising China is having with much of Asia and much of the world. At the other end of this are things like the interactions of my native Australia with China. Australia was always rich, but is now very rich due principally to selling iron ore and coal to China for the last 20 years. Australia has a large Chinese community, that has arrived in the country mostly in the last 50 years. 30 years ago, Australia would have been unequivocal in its support for the present demonstrators in Hong Kong, if events such as that had been happening then. These days, the Australian government says nothing. Meanwhile, Chinese students in Australia are spied on by Chinese secret police, Chinese language newspapers in Australia – there are many – are intimidated into taking a pro-Beijing line, and other similar things. Do Australians like this – not much, although Australians do generally like Chinese people and Chinese immigrants individually. Australia is now in an uncomfortable position of gaining much of its prosperity from people with an extremely authoritarian political model that we don’t particularly like.

Two extreme examples, but a great many countries in Asia and Africa (and elsewhere) face the same questions, to varying degrees. I will be giving a talk in which I discuss what this means for the world and where this may all lead.

There’ll be another talk about China on the last Friday of November, which is November 28th, by Hong-Konger-now-based-in-London Katy Lau. No apologies whatever for the “duplication”. First, it won’t be. These will be two completely different takes on China. And second, could any subject in the world be more important just now, or more vast in its scope and significance?

Bike with no chain

This bit of video, courtesy The Independent, impresses me greatly. It’s a new design for a bike, but a bike which doesn’t use a chain:

The bike instead uses a shaft-drive system to transmit power from the pedals to the wheel. … Manufacturers claim it makes power transfer more efficient.

I’m guessing that, if that’s true, this is made possible by new materials, and in particular by plastic that is both very light and very strong.

I particularly like how they include a multi-speed gear, just by having a cog-wheel that shifts along the shaft.

It will be interesting to see if this really is an improvement which catches on, or is merely an internet-friendly idea that turns out, for various simple or complicated reasons, not to be any use.

Says the first (cynical) commenter: it’s not new, and …:

Everything works in a lab.

We’ll see.