Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Battery Bother

Battery Bother

As the tourist season draws to a close hopefully it will mean an end to witless visitors asking for battery chargers.
Many cameras now use a square Li-ion rechargeable battery but sadly this means taking a battery charger on holiday. A step too far it seems for many hapless holidaymakers.
Everyday they crowd into our store asking if we have a charger for their device. It is rare that we have the correct one in stock.
The next reaction is fury, however when we do have the required charger often the potential customer balks at the request for £35 - it can't be that much they argue.
Sometimes then they ask us to charge their battery f.o.c. while they go away for a coffee.

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Memory Card Muddle

Memory Card Muddle
A customer came back into the shop recently claiming there were literally flashers on her digital camera's "flash memory" card.
She explained that the card had been bought with the camera but when she downloaded it she found rather unsavoury pictures.
The card had a picture file showing a groupof five men mooning at the camera! I reckoned a tabloid would have paid for her tory but the customer was luckily happy with a replacement card.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Thief's CV

A sloppy shoplifter slipped police a vital clue after raiding our shop today. The six ft blond man was spotted leaving the Edinburgh branch with goods lifted from a display. A customer told me he thought a man in a blue top had taken battery chargers.

I looked left and right out of the door into Shandwick Place, spotting the likely lifter scurrying towards Princes Street. I ran after him but he must have sensed something or, more likely, heard my size 13s bearing down. He glanced round and broke into a sprint. During the chase towards Lothian Road I shouted out:

"You might as well stop I'm probably fitter."

Hearing this he threw a bag onto the ground. I gave up the chase as £80 worth of battery chargers are not worth a knife in the guts. That is what was inside the Lidl plastic carrier bag.

As an added bonus the clueless criminal had also thrown away a red file containing 10 copies of his cv. Unbeliveably he had included a photo in some copies. It told us he was probably from Eastern Europe and was looking for work in the building trade. It also stated the thief was hard-working, articulate and had much experience in the building trade. His ideal job was diamond drilling presumably with hot jewels.

The two constables, who took my statement, reckoned they might get a result......

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bare Faced Cheek

A clever camera con almost backfired for a customer at our shop. We run a 30-day exchange period, so that if an item is bought as a gift or is found to be unsuitable it can be refunded or exchanged. With many branches nationwide however a crafty person might always use the latest equipment and just pay for consumables.

Often my colleagues suspect certain people who return items such as video cameras within 30 days of buying the equipment for a holiday.

About a six weeks ago I sold a Canon DC10 DVD camcorder to a man who was off to the States on holiday. He returned it just within the 30 days claiming that recorded films were of low quality compared to his previous hi-8 analogue camera.

We discussed the relative merits of recording on mini-DVD and mini-DV tape. For instance the fact that a mini-DV tape can store 22gb of information in one hour versus 1.4gb on mini-DVD. He decided to use his credit add some money and purchase a Panasonic 3-CCD tape machine.

However, a few days later he returned and swopped the camera for a telescope plus partial refund.

On Monday he returned with six mini-DVDs which he had shot during his holiday using the Canon camcorder. Unfortunately he did not realise that before it is possible to play them or download to a computer the discs need finalising in the camera.

Would it be possible he wondered to power up a camera so that he could stand at the counter and finalise his discs! After reminding him that the 30-day exchange is not a holiday hire agreement we allowed him the use of a camera.

Perhaps we should have given him the chance to buy back the camcorder so that he could record discs on his next vacation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


There's a wide variety of cameras in use on Edinburgh's Royal Mile during the festival. Posted by Picasa

Young Juggler

This young lad was a bit of a one trick pony but brave to be entertaining the crowds on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Posted by Picasa

Deceit, Deception and Disinformation

Does the 73 bus man or Thursday morning's airplane to America passenger ever know the truth?

It is likely, as we should learn from history, our leaders only tell us what they think it is safe to know. Intellegience services even apply this logic to themselves so that one link in the chain is unable to repeat the whole story. The person on the ground has been told just enough to do their duty.

Moving up, through command's echelons, there might be a small cabal who are aware of every decision. The power struggle behind the headlines might mean that one politician is in on the story while to another it is news.

Tony Blair either felt safe to fly to the Caribbean because he knew the story or more likely did not have a clue. During past wars, anyone able to commentate in this way, might speculate Mr Blair has a double, understands the disinformation and is holed up in a bunker. Today, with our global 24-hour media that idea is almost laughable.

Blair is not Churchill, who had seen military action at first hand, was properly educated, and whatever he missed at school was well versed in Roman and Greek history. Understanding the past is a leg up to creating the future. Blair however is a champion of disinformation and spin. For a few days Lebanon was pushed to the back burner as our media enjoyed a domestic upset.

Frustrated passengers, some even professional journalists, revelled in the delays and disruption. It is easy to forget that two summers ago we were all agog at revelations of skullduggery and lies about weapons of mass destruction. A government official committed suicide and his reputation was rubbished by the then controller of spin and deceit.

What do potential air passengers know about the latest terror suspects? They all conform to our latest enemies - muslims to a man, woman and baby. It may have been a pre-emptive strike as after 9/11 stories emerged that leaders knew of the imminence of an attack.

Oh, oh this commentary is coming to an end as I have remembered that I have never travelled to America, nor have that desire. Flying via a large airport on scheduled passenger aircraft is a fairly miserable experience.

Edinburgh Fringe Performer 2

Flames and action always make for good pictures, the Fringe shop and crowd make for a great background. Just a slight pity the performer is not facing the camera, still you cannot have everything. Posted by Picasa

Performer at Edinburgh Fringe

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Monday, August 14, 2006



Interesting people with boring thoughts seems to sum up many blogs. The difference three days can make is amazing. Enthusiasm must have overweighed sense when setting up a blogspot on Friday. It seemed logical being simpler than creating a website. Has "photo" already fallen into that category

Reading Dan Farber's "Interesting People" compilation puts life into perspective. People actually bother to spend time submitting this stuff to a site. Has "photo" already fallen into that category? But of course then checked the dates and realised there were no entries on Sunday. So perhaps it is safe to assume (making an ass of u and me) that most of the comments are communicated from work devices, rather than created spontaneously - just idle chat to fill in the dull moments in a writer's life.

This reinforces the notion that most blogs and e-mail communications are written by people who should be doing something else, like working. Once not tied to the desk or blackberry, pontificating their thoughts becomes somewhat less important.

Many recent articles in the Financial Times profile CEO's and other's who have set up blogs to disseminate their tedious thoughts. For perhaps one hour everyday these people hope to boost their efforts and company's performance.

A whole raft of people below try to do some work, perhaps some are being fired for minor misdemeanours. These guys and dolls are lucky if they are able to pay the rent let along afford just the hardware necessary to emulate their bosses.

Sometimes a little guy gets lucky, buys a 2nd user 6-year-old laptop-£100-still 1/6th of a month's take home pay, happens to read a free copy of the FTand is introduced to the world of Mozilla, Picasa, Google Talk, Onspeed amongst others.

Yes, there is free access, in the UK at many libraries, to online resources but it is nothing like having a generous employer setting up all the equipment and a fast broadband or similar link. So the little guy keys away in Wordpad, the laptop does not have Word, but Wordpad is more advanced than 15-year-old Locoscript on an Amstrad also bought 2nd hand for the princely sum of £200!

Perhaps our little guy will make it to a Wifi hotspot to upload these thoughts for free..............

Sunday, August 13, 2006



How was this picture taken?

It is a triathlete, Laura Tingley - if memory serves, in Sevenoaks swimming pool during August 1996, crumbs a decade ago.

Judging from the light in the background there was probably enough to have taken the shot without flash. This statement reveals that the photographer has clearly previsualised the picture before pressing the shutter button.

Back in the days of regular film use an 800ASA film was loaded. A bit extravagent as outside it was a bright summer's day and only one shot would be used from the pool. With 800 it was possible to obtain 1/500th sec at f2.8, hence the out of focus highlights in foreground and background.

Without the luxury of digital and a screen to check the result and although autofocus (AF) was used by many photographers - it had been around since 1985 - I was still wary of it. However, for some strange reason, rather than pre-focus and hit the button at the right moment which was my motor sport technique, I chose AF. The lens was Nikon's superb 180mm f2.8 in its second AF guise with a matt black body but not AFS. (To follow - Why is a prime telephoto lens better than an telephoto zoom? VR and IS versus wide aperture and prime lens use).

In addition on starting at Sevenoaks Chronicle I had inherited an F90 and SB26. This combination enabled FP-flash mode which means that a synchronisation shutter speed faster than 1/250th can be used. So a dash of fill-in flash was used to freeze the water droplets coming off the swimmer's arm. In addition some panning (following the subject's movement with camera and lens) was used although this is not evident in the finished shot as 1/500th cancels it out.

With film it is never possible to be completely certain that all the tricks have worked to produce the desired effect. It was a nervous wait from lunchtime on the Sunday until Monday morning when the 1-hour lab opened.

The negative for this shot is somewhere within the Chronicle's archives. I have a 15 x 10 inch hard copy which was photographed with a 4MP compact digital to produce the file used to illustrate this article. In many ways the original print is of more use to me now than the negative but at the time I was not happy to "give" away my best negs.

In 1997 it was one of two sports photos in my BT Award winning potfolio.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Clearly there is a bit more to this than I first thought. This site will cover everything from incidents which happen during my day-job for a well known large UK photo retailer to my lecture notes from courses in digital photography.

Here's an example of something which happened at work recently:

A customer came in for a Pentax 360 flashgun (£199). There was a long q, a common occurrence in our shop. When it was his turn he told me the item had been put aside earlier in the day. I knew there was a flash in the drawer so took it out, put in batteries and tested it. At the same time explaining that I always did this when selling an item to be sure it worked.

He gave me £100 in vouchers and £100 in cash and I began to put the sale through the till.

"Now then," he said, "Before you finish that let me tell you about your firm's appalling customer service." "Earlier today I phoned, but was on the phone for three minutes unanswered before ringing off. I tried again and the wait was six minutes before I gave up. At the third attempt I got through after two minutes!"

"As you can see we only have three assistants on duty today and there's a big q," I told him, "It has been suggested that we have an answerphone but the problem is that we would never have the time to make a response," I added.

During this conversation phones were ringing all the time in the background.

Rather than finish off his sale I picked up one of these phones. It was a customer wanting something put aside. I hurried off to find it leaving Mr Angry seething.

When I returned he demanded I finished off his sale.

"Sorry," I said, "I have to finish dealing with this caller now."

"You think you've taught me a lesson, don't you," he shouted, "Well, you have made a big mistake, by the end of the week I'll see that you are out of a job, I have your name, this will go further."

Seething with anger I finished off his sale despite being tempted to tell him to sling his hook.

Sometimes I am sure I am not cut-out for the retail life.....


I am getting block for the first time trying to create my own profile. So here goes, am a 40-something shop assistant who lectures photography on the side. In a previous life, worked for a local newspaper - Inverness Courier - as a reporter. Before venturing north, worked for Sevenoaks Chronicle in Kent as a photojournalist.