The end in sight

The vaccinations are rolling out as quickly as we could have hoped and in April it’s expected that up to 40000 people a week will be vaccinated. The infection rate is dropping with less people catching the virus and hospital admissions falling.

Our government has published a plan for exiting lockdown and getting back to normal. Anyone familiar with Northern Irish politics will know this should be taken as a positive sign for the future –  they have all managed to agree on something. We are critical of our leaders, often with good reason, but looking at the way some European politicians have acted during the pandemic we should probably try to complain yes in future. That’s as close as I come to commenting on politics.

I’m looking forward to being able to travel again, Not necessarily abroad but just around the country. I was in Carrickfergus recently and it’s the farthest from home I have been for two months or more. Sometimes I still have difficulty believing that this lockdown is actually happening. I know it has all been necessary but governments having power to tell us who we can spend time with and where we can go should always be a concern.

On the photography front my experiments with images from my iPhone continue. I’m not sure if I mentioned it previously but I’ve bought a Gopro so I’m experimenting with that as well. I said previously that I’ve been mostly using Hipstamatic and wouldn’t be distracted with the many other apps available. I should’ve known better. I’ve rediscovered Snapseed. I had installed it on my phone some time ago and forgotten it was there. I continue to send images off but no sales so far. I’m enjoying creating images on my phone so no pressure.

When things get back to normal I’ll probably start shooting some images for stock again but on a more casual basis than in the past.

Ballyholme, Bangor, Northern Ireland DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0280.JPG

Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Royal Hotel, Bangor, Northern Ireland DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0308.JPG

Eisenhower Pier, Bangor, Northern IrelandDCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0316.JPG

Another Lock Down Looms

In the last post I said that we were in lock down again but it was not quite as strict as the last time. Although accurate at the time things have changed somewhat.

That lock down has been relaxed for a week with cafes, restaurants and bars permitted to open. From 27th November however a more severe lock down is being introduced for two weeks. All non essential retailers will have to close as well as the aforementioned cafes, restaurants and bars.

The business community are not happy, in fact some are livid with the decisions made by the politicians, or perhaps more precisely with the way the politicians are implementing the decisions they have made.

Although I will continue to take images recording the pandemic these are the last I intend to place here unless something momentous happens.

Wash your hands
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, 25 November 2020: People walk past a sign in Donegall Square North reminding the public to Wash Your Hands

Keep Your Distance
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, 25 November 2020: Sign on the ground Donegall Square reminding people to Keep Your Distance. A figure is seen walking out of frame

The Garrick
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, 25 November 2020: A girl walks past tables stacked outside the Garrick Bar, Chichester Street as lock down looms

How much is that camera?

I hark back to the days of film when you bought a camera and used it until it got broken beyond reasonable repair or it was worn out.

Now some camera manufacturers bring out a new model every couple of years. I think Canon and Nikon work on a four year cycle which is a good sign. It shows they expect the likes of the EOS 5D MK4 or the Nikon 850D to last for four years professional use. Many last much longer.

Although not used professionally (but not treated very sympathetically) my EOS 5D MK2 is still going strong and I bought it in 2012 when the mark 3 was released.

You can save a lot of money by buying the camera before the current model. You can save even more by buying it second hand although look out for cashback’s and discounts on new cameras. Some photographers like to have the latest camera and buy it as soon as they can, trading in their old model. This keeps the second hand market buoyant. Buy second hand from a reputable dealer and you can get a very good camera at a keen price. Cameras don’t hold value well and depreciate at probably around the same rate as computers and cars.

The photographic internet is waiting with eagerness for the release of the Canon EOS R5 which is due out soon and by some accounts is a remarkable camera. We know some of the specifications but not the price or resolution. We know that it will record 8K video and is rumoured to have probably a 44 megapixel sensor. It may be over specified for many. To me, the lack of price rings alarm bells. I’ve found that when an item is well priced the amount is usually displayed prominently.

The amount of $10500 Australian was released on an Australian website some time ago. It was later said this was a placeholder amount to facilitate comping. If you are cynical you may well think it was Canon testing the market.

Many will be hurting financially after the crisis and reluctant to part with money to upgrade their current camera, that is more than likely still working just fine. Also I’m not convinced everyone is as eager to dump their DSLR to go mirrorless as some YouTubers would have us believe.

It has been suggested that the R5 will be priced similarly to the EOS 5D Mk4 when it was released. That would price it at about £3500. This pricing estimate seems to owe much to the fact that both cameras have a 5 in their name. It may well be wishful thinking. The Canon 1DX Mk 3 is around £6400 so we can be fairly sure it will be less than this. In a post Coronavirus world what photographers will see as a reasonable price is anyone’s guess. There is also talk of an EOS R6 with lower specifications and a lower price.

Most of us believe that lenses are more important than camera bodies and Canon photographers, who choose to buy a Canon mirrorless camera, may well want to keep their ‘L’ series lenses to keep costs manageable and ease into the new model. Lenses for the Canon mirrorless range, although very good, are expensive. Both current Canon mirrorless cameras, I believe, come with adaptors allowing EF lenses to be used so I imagine the EOS R5 will too.

I’m looking forward to seeing it.

I walked into Bangor yesterday and saw that children had attached artwork to the railings of the Presbyterian Church to say thank you to front-line workers during the Corona virus pandemic. As well as images of Doctors and Nurses and NHS staff, Taxi Drivers, Police Officers, Pharmacists, Supermarket Workers and others were depicted. It was good to see.

Bangor, Northern Ireland, 29 May, 2020: Drawings and art from children thanking frontline workers in the Coronavirus crisis attached to the railings of First Bangor Presbyterian Church, Northern Ireland

The new normal?

Yesterday I walked into Bangor town centre. There’s a lot more traffic on the roads than even a week ago although most shops are still closed. There are more cyclists than usual, many on shiny new bikes and some of them looking a bit shaky.

At the marina there was some activity with boats being tidied in anticipation of the restrictions being eased. We haven’t been given much freedom back so far but people sense the end of the lock down approaching and are moving towards whatever the new normal will bring.

Conversation is turning to life after the pandemic and what the future holds. There is insecurity over employment and Brexit, as always, looms in the background. Whether for or against, it adds to the uncertainty.

There is much discussion about when and how the lock down can be eased. Although it reduced the spread of the virus we have yet to see the full cost with domestic violence, mental health issues and possibly the murder rate increasing.

Many with serious medical conditions have had treatments and procedures postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic. Attendances at Accident and Emergency Departments and referrals for specialist consultations have dropped away as people avoided hospitals. Some dental treatments have been put on hold. There will be a lot of catching up to be done.

With the gyms still closed I’m doing more walking than usual. Proper walking, tramping the roads rather than tramping on a treadmill. I used to walk the roads every day but reduced the road walking when I joined the gym. I’d forgotten walking roads is harder on the feet than walking on a sprung treadmill but it is more interesting. I see people on bikes, jogging and walking and most greet me. When I’m on the treadmill all I can see is the car park.

As far as photography goes I’m constantly on the lookout while I’m out walking and if that doesn’t work there’s always the garden.

I’ve been meaning to get a decent photograph of First Bangor Presbyterian Church for some time. There’s a striking  willow tree at the front but it’s not quite in leaf yet. Maybe in a month or so and with a wider lens.

First Bangor Presbyterian Church
First Bangor Presbyterian Church

While on churches – I noticed this sign for Drive in services. They are possibly common enough in some places but this is the first one I’ve seen.

I’m left wondering if face masks and drive in church services will be part of the new normal.

Drive in Church Service sign, Bangor
Drive in Church Service sign

Hair Dye and DIY

The lockdown continues and with hair salons being closed and no one having any idea when they might open Rosemarie took things into her own hands and got some hair dye.

Surprisingly, as I assisted, things went well and when I wasn’t assisting I took some photographs. Stock sites need more pictures of people dying their hair.

With hair rinsed and dried she did her own makeup.

With hair dressing salons closed during the Corona Virus crisis a woman dyes her hair at home
Home hair dying

On a more glamorous note. In an article about the supermodel Naomi Campbell in DP Review yesterday we are told she did her own hair and makeup and took her own photograph with an iPhone for the cover of Essence magazine. The Coronavirus lock down prevented the magazine from dispatching the team that had been booked. You could say it was Supermodel DIY.

Naomi Campbell was one of the super, supermodels of the nineties along with Linda Evangelista and Christie Turlington. They were as famous as film stars and pop singers. Evangelista is remembered for the quote “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”

Naomi Campbell is not alone. Actor Robert Patinson is on the cover of GQ Magazine having also photographed himself although he used a DSLR rather than a phone. I’ve no idea how much he gets paid for waking up but he looked like he just got out of bed. Somebody said that’s the look many aspire to nowadays.

Some photographers expressed concern about celebrities taking their own pictures. If supermodels can still demand $10,000 for getting out of bed they shouldn’t worry.

Cats and Haircuts

Recently on the Today programme there was a report about a tiger in New York Zoo that had been infected with Coronavirus by its keeper. The report said there was no evidence to suggest the virus could be transferred from cats, big or small, to humans but they quoted a vet as saying that cats should be kept indoors where possible.

The cat below is called Fluff. Fluff adopted us about five years ago and she’s now about six.

Fluff the cat
Fluff the cat. Fluff came to live with us about five years ago and is about six years old. She has a very long, thick fur that gets badly matted when she loses her winter coat in the Spring. Its impossible to comb out so she goes to the Vet for a haircut. This is why she looks a bit ragged.

She looks a bit bedraggled in the photograph. This is partly down to prowling in ditches and through hedges but mainly because she’s recently had a haircut. She has a very long, thick coat and has difficulty grooming. I comb her but when she starts to lose her winter coat the fur gets badly matted and is impossible to deal with.

This means every year, in early Spring, a trip to the Vet, a general anaesthetic and a trim. Just now she’s got a Mohican. You can’t see in this photograph but both sides have been shaved.

Jump forward to a few days ago and as we were eating lunch a woman walked past. My wife remarked that people’s hair was getting untidy as hairdressing salons were closed because of the lock down. I hadn’t noticed, I haven’t got much hair anyway. It’s funny how your mind makes connections. As soon as she said this I thought – they wouldn’t need an anaesthetic like the cat did to get a hair do.

My wife’s comment on untidy hair was enough for the Coronavirus conversation to kick off. It’s on everyone’s mind. How long will the lock down last? How long will it take to develop a vaccine? When will people be able to get tested for antibodies? How long will it take to get back to normal?

We’re into the third week of lock down and no one knows how long it may last. The priority now is to stop the spread of the virus and keep people safe. It is possible that we will have to live with this illness, perhaps for many months – eighteen months is often mentioned – until a vaccine can be developed. We can’t stay in lock down for that long.

Bloomfield Shopping Centre car park
Empty Bloomfield Shopping Centre car park

The people in the NHS are doing a fantastic job but they’re running at full throttle and we can’t ask them to do that indefinitely.

At first I couldn’t believe what was happening, it felt unreal, it still does sometimes. There were many like me. Now as it sinks in, people are starting to talk about the economic carnage and the problems that will follow as we try to move back towards some normality.

The medical emergency will have a knock on effect for years because many treatments have been postponed as medical staff deal with the pandemic and waiting times for some treatments were lengthy prior to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Hand sanitiser and mouse
Keep your hands clean. Hand sanitiser on desk with computer mouse

Who knows how long the economic emergency will last? The billions spent to support us all during the pandemic will have to be repaid. Factories, retailers, education, the NHS, the economy in general will not recover overnight.

Stay safe.

It will get worse, then it will get better

We’ve been in lockdown now for nearly two weeks because of Coronavirus or Covid 19. We were told it would be for three weeks but now there are mutterings of it lasting much longer, possibly until the end of April. They say this will save lives so no argument from me.

I heard an epidemiologist on Radio 4 recently talking about the pandemic. He said it would get worse and then it would get better. Simple and to the point. His words had the ring of truth.

Few will have seen anything like this in their lifetime. I’m in my sixties and I certainly haven’t. I stare in disbelief at closed shops, closed schools, the queues at supermarkets and people wearing masks. And it’s happening everywhere. It feels like the world is closing down.

I’m practising social distancing as are most people. It is amazing how quickly talking to someone from six feet away has become the norm. People avoid getting too close to each other when passing on the pavement.

Some Health professionals are putting their lives on the line every shift they do. Some have died. Essential workers, many doing, what were previously classed as everyday jobs, expose themselves to danger by continuing to work and are now spoken of with a new respect.

Using a thermometer
A woman taking her own temperature

I’ve become very selective where I get my news. Online forums are overflowing with advice on how to deal with the pandemic. Many keyboard warriors have moved from Brexit and climate change to Coronavirus. I have little interest in politics but It quickly becomes obvious that many opinions on what action should be taken to fight the pandemic are coloured by dislike of those currently in power rather than any basis in fact.

The coffee shops are all closed or at least the ones I go to and I’m working on learning how to make a decent cup of coffee. Lesson one is that it tastes much better when someone else makes it.

On the photographic front things are quiet. I go out most days for a walk as my daily exercise and of course bring a camera. Having said that most images are from around the house and garden as my routes for walking don’t offer many opportunities for photography.

I think I need new routes.