A panorama of The Thames (and how I created it)


The recent warm weather has given me the opportunity to go for long walks at lunch. Armed my mobile phone and its excellent camera, I oft find myself at the banks of the Thames. It's about as far as I thought I could reach during my hour break and still be able to get back to the office.

Only a little clock watching and a touch of refining my route to the river and I realised I could get across and back quite comfortably. Which gave me the opportunity to shoot from Tower Bridge.

This image, however isn't quite what it seems. The initiated might be looking at it and wondering how I got such a wide sweep from a mobile phone camera.

If you're thinking "panorama mode" then you're wrong. I actually took a series of images, pivoting the camera round between thumb and forefinger to ensure a consistency of shot. I also made sure I had at least a third of the previous shot in the current image. And I worked quickly to try and capture similar lighting conditions.

Back home the images were pushed through Photoshop Element's "Panorama" feature, stitching them together to create a single view. A little cropping and the result is what you see above, or you can download it here.

Not perfect, but good enough for a header on Facebook!

Once these were warehouses (Shad Thames, London)

Once these were warehouses (Shad Thames, London)
Once the banks of the River Thames were lined by warehouses.

Now they are lined by million pound plus apartment blocks.

As ships grew larger and ports closer to the Channel expanded to support them, the old warehouses started to vanish. In their place came blocks of flats - renamed "apartments" to give them a more classy feel and distinguish them from "council housing". What remains of the old warehouses, such as the aerial walkways that linked them together above the streets, have become sought after features that add a few percentage points to the value.

I wonder what will happen to these places a few years from now. Will they continue to escalate in value and move even further out of reach of the common man? Will tastes change and they become less valuable as new developments emerge? Could governments intervene on a wave of some popularist movement yet to find form?

Steampunk London

Steampunk London
Sometimes life isn't complete without a Steampunk inspired sculpture front and centre in your shopping mall.

Roseanne: a portrait in black and white

Roseanne: a portrait in black and white
From my recent shoot with Roseanne.

Hate it or love it: the point of the Star Trek reboot

The rebooted Star Trek films from JJ Abrams has created a bit of a schism in the Star Trek community. A bit like Marmite, it appears you either love 'em or hate 'em. If you're a fan of "The Original Series" (or TOS as it has become known) then the chances are you're going to be on the hate side. Indeed, much digital ink has been expended on explaining why Chris Pine isn't William Shatner, Zach Quinto is too emotional to be Spock and there isn't consistency with the original timelines.

Which surely is the point? The impression I got from the films is they're not made for TOS fans. They're made for people who enjoy good sci-fi, know what Star Trek is and enjoy watching something that doesn't take itself too seriously.

And in that regard they succeed magnificently.

Yes there are problems with the casting (Uhura for a start!) and Into Darkness suffered from having Cumberbatch out act everyone. I also hope there's a "Director's Cut" for Star Trek with a little less lens flare - pretty much my only complaint with the film. Nor could I argue they belong in the catalogue of great masterpieces.

What Star Trek and Into Darkness are, however, is great entertainment for sitting in front of a TV eating pizza and enjoying the company of friends.

Frankly that's good enough for me.

Osaka or the set from Blade Runner?

Osaka or the set from Blade Runner?
As I walked down the street in Osaka, Japan, I wondered if I'd wandered in to the set of Blade Runner. The heavy rain, the umbrellas swarming before me, the bright lights above.

It was truly astonishing to experience.

Roseanne: a return to portrait photography

Roseanne: a return to portrait photography
It's been a couple of years since I've done any portrait photography. I needed to get some shots to use as headers for my business blog and so a model was hired, a set constructed and away I went.

Only rather than just take photographs of hands on keyboards and what-not I decided to test myself on portrait photography again. It was something I enjoyed doing, but I've now more or less given up on. So I thought "why not" and stepped back into that mindset.

This one is natural light, shot on a tripod with a timer and a bit longer exposure than normal. The only treatment is cropping and taking it down into black and white (I prefer black and white for some reason).

Challenge accepted: (or how I wrote a piece of Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction)

Challenge accepted: (or how I wrote a piece of Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction)
My daughter is a keen follower of Fan Fiction. She reads a lot of the genre and even writes her own stories, which are well received by fellow readers. We were discussing it one night when she set out a challenge:

write my own piece of fan fiction.

Accepting the challenge I started looking around for inspiration. Quite a lot of what I came across appeared to involve taking the names and descriptions of characters and inserting them into stories without attempting to mimic the original writing style or even pay homage to the way the chosen characters would respond to situations. My attempt, I decided, would be different.

My target was Sherlock Holmes. The excellent BBC TV series Sherlock has created an outpouring of fan fiction in that vein, but my target was the original writing. I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style and how Watson carefully pieces together what's happening until the final few paragraphs where Holmes's brilliance is revealed. This would be my target universe and I resolved to write in the same style that Conan Doyle used and to tell the story from Watson's point of view.

As happens in fan fiction I decided to continue an apparently unfinished thread or incomplete plot point, so turned to "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb". This is a story that doesn't quite finish as while Holmes is able to deduce some details of the mystery he is confronted with he cannot complete the entire tale as the villains escape.

This wasn't enough. As a science-fiction writer by choice, I wanted to bring in some sci-fi elements without turning the story into something that Conan Doyle would not have written. Rather than create a new character, I turned to the world's favourite time traveller and incorporated Doctor Who. Still keeping Watson's point of view and writing style, my challenge was now to write a Victorian-era mystery that allowed The Doctor to appear in the story seamlessly.

Normally I write and edit fiction quite quickly, only this time the process was longer as I had to use archaic language correctly and ensure I kept as true to Conan Doyle's style as I could. My writing sessions usually started with me reading a couple of pages of original Sherlock Holmes to get my mind in the right place, then attacking the keyboard.

I'm quite happy with the result and think I met my twin objectives of a strong piece of fan fiction and a suitable homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The question, as always, is what do you think about "The adventure of the familiar house"?

Why my support for Charlie Hebdo is on the wane

A few days ago I proclaimed my solidarity with the Je Suis Charles movement. The mass murder in France and the events that followed still sticks in my throat and my heart goes out to all of those affected by it.

However.

There were calls from various celebrities and politicians to reproduce the cartoons. I was uneasy about it then, I'm more so now. Things have become worse, with Charlie Hebdo producing a cover that shows a figure, assumed to be Mohammed, holding the ubiquitous "Je Suis Charles" sign. Seven million sales later and there are mass protests in Pakistan, Niger and other Muslim countries.

Depicting the prophet Mohammed is deeply offensive to many Muslims. The calls by Stephen Fry and others, the reproduction of the cartoons in Germany and elsewhere, the Charlie Hebdo cover, all things that have caused offence and will continue to do so.

We can continue to say "in a civilised society we have the right to do this" but it ignores the fact that in "our society" Islam is now a fundamental element. Our society is evolving to understand we don't cause offence to people with different coloured skins to our own or of a different sexuality or gender. We are learning tolerance and striving for equality of opportunity in so many places and yet we can't quite bring ourselves to respect Islam.

This doesn't mean we should not challenge it (as we should any belief). We should critique it and question its core beliefs. Deliberately causing offence should not be a part of that agenda. Not if we are to retain the moral high ground and demonstrate the sort of inclusive, egalitarian society we so often demand.

Do not be ashamed to admire the human form

Do not be ashamed to admire the human form
The human body is a wonderful thing.

Never be ashamed to admire it.

Be honest while you do.

Tower Bridge: a modified image

Tower Bridge: a modified image
Taken on a Samsung Galaxy 5.

I decided to give it a treatment in Google's "Photo" app on my phone.

Applied:

Vintage followed by HDR Scene with a little tweaking.
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ROSS A HALL
By day I take companies into new channels and markets. At night I write science-fiction, contemplate the future of society and capture the world in images. Feel free to get in touch or follow me:

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