A rant on wheels

Everything changes when you return home to Scotland from a holiday. You are weighed down by a regenerated disdain for the damp, grey Scottish climate that neither enables you to flaunt your denim jacket in complete security nor flash your pins without fear of becoming that person everyone second-glances from beneath their raincoat hoods.

The dissatisfying weather is not the only thing you’ve had your eyes opened to whilst touring foreign lands: why is it all of these European cities use bikes, a free-to-use alternative to driving that would give the Scottish environment a much needed tea break? It would offer Scots a mode of transport that isn’t constrained to an unreliable public transport timetable that we might actually be able to afford, and hey: we’ve got hills! We’ve got scenery! Why shouldn’t cycling with a wee wicker basket be cool in Scotland? Why. Can’t. We. Have. Nice. Things…

Part of the appeal in visiting the likes of Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden is their unrivalled consideration for cyclists. While gimmicky and pleasant to most tourists, I’m quite irritated that the U.K. missed out on what must have been some top secret gathering with the rest of Europe where they collectively decided to construct cycling lanes and give bikers right-of-way on the roads.

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True, the majority of the Scottish population can barely walk to the train station on a Saturday, night never mind navigate a bicycle, but wouldn’t it be nice to have options people?

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Reusing your old film crates

Many moons ago, whilst in a Pinterest rabbit hole, I came across an image of someone using their old film packaging as a way of storing their exposures whilst on the go. It makes sense, right? All of your exposures will fit because they had to fit inside of that little hollow, black crate in the first place. I have been meaning to try this out, literally, every time I’ve changed my film but I just kept forgetting.

Alas, the day arrived yesterday when I could bring this idea into formation within the comfort of my own house where there was no wind, no faffing and no need to fire every piece of packaging into the nearest bin. And hey: it works!

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It also makes for a pretty cool free standing frame! I’m going to try and paint them someday.

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To infinity… and beyond

Good morning.

It is spring. Spring is upon us. I have flowers on my window sill, like any sun-searching millenial should, and, with the clock changes at the end of March, it is noticeably starting to get lighter in the evenings. I no longer have scope to moan about leaving for work in the dark and returning from work… in the dark. As you can imagine, everyone in the United Kingdom’s moods just got a little bit more optimistic.

So, I mentioned having flowers on my window sill; they’re a wee bunch of Morrisons finest, from the reduced section no less. Once unloved but now rescued in the wake of the Easter Weekend passing. I don’t understand why they were reduced, they’re very pretty and brightly-coloured (although, I hate the green ones because they look like weeds).

A-n-y-w-a-y, flower preferences aside, I thought these would be a good way of trying out all three settings on the Lomo’Instant Wide and comparing them side-by-side as flowers, so I’m learning, offer lots of scope for detailed close ups, layered multi-exposures, and everything in between. Plus, they aren’t going to move very far in a vase, and so this helps with the fact that photography of the instant kind is a blind sport.

 

 

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There are three settings built into the Lomo’Instant Wide Camera and *drum roll please* they are:

  1. 0.6mm
  2. 1-2m
  3. Infinity

 

0.6mm

This setting is for close-ups and it’s the setting I have the most bother trying to get good results from, as you will see from this image alone. It’s so difficult to know what you’re focussing on this close up when the viewfinder of the camera doesn’t match the location of the lens.

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1-2m

This setting is a little more forgivable and is best for taking headshots and close-ups whilst still squeezing in as much as possible.

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Infinity

This setting is perfect for landscapes. Nothing goes amiss whilst shooting in this setting.

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Screech

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They advise us to write what we know, and I know of a fear now that I didn’t before.

In a bid to get back into writing fiction, I decided to write a (dramatic) account of my first driving lesson and, I’ll be damned. It worked! The words were flowing probably for the first time since this time last year actually.

Read Screech now.

It is now available to read via ISSUU, a great website for digitalising and sharing your writing. It’s called Screech in reference to the sound of breaks and, um, me trying to play it cool behind the wheel.

Instax: Full Colour vs. Monochrome

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about using an instant camera is waiting for each exposure to develop.

Will it be a good one?

Will it be blurry? Overexposed? Underexposed?

Will it be better than I hoped?

When using the Lomo’Instant Wide for the first time, I was completely blown away by the detail in each photograph given that this Lomography camera uses the same film as the Instax Wide 300 and the Mini 8 + 9 cameras (in half the size) which is produced and sold by Fujifilm. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to try out other kinds of film, so I rushed to Amazon to buy my old favourite: Monochrome.

Monochrome

My first instant camera was a baby pink Instax Mini 8. I used it to death and continue to use it still.

However, each exposure, regardless of the time of day and volume of light in the space being photographed, would usually turn out to be hellishly over-exposed. In particular, people’s faces to the point where my future children will likely look at my old portfolio and ask how old we were when our noses finally started to grow.

To begin with, the brightness didn’t bother me too much as I was attracted to the novelty of the camera more than anything, and a little overexposure seemed to be “the look” famously synonymous with the original Polaroids.

That saying, it did start to get rather frustrating when I got over the novelty of photographing friends and family at parties and wanted to start capturing some scenic shots outside and close up. The only sort of film that was guaranteed to have the right level of contrast was the mini monochrome film by Instax. The Mini monochrome film is particularly good at capturing peoples’ faces and smiles.

Within no time I found myself treasuring each shot as every exposure developed to reveal attractive, chemical greatness.

I wish I could say the same for the Wide alternative.

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Cons

I photographed the same outdoor location using the same lighting settings and lens with both the monochrome film and the full-colour film less than an hour apart. The difference is immediately apparent between the two.

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Perhaps the Lomo’Instant Wide isn’t suited to black and white film but having now finally trudged through the 10 exposures in the cassette I won’t be rushing to buy it again for this camera. After the first two shots turned out a little off-focus, I began to wonder whether it actually was my incompetency or the film not agreeing with the device at hand. Every photograph I took seemed a little dull, a little too overexposed, and lacked in focus and sharpness even whilst shooting with a closer lens and the flash on.

Pros

The one good thing about the monochrome film was the silhouette effects it produced. It made for some spooky shots which were quite nice. Again, though, they did lack that level of sharpness that I like most about using the camera.

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I won’t rule out buying monochrome film completely as I didn’t do any sort of head shot using this camera but I would definitely be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

 

 

A Complete Beginners Guide to Cinematic Music

I vividly recall the first time I cried at a film. I was twelve but I possessed the emotional composure of someone triple my age, someone who had dealt with things far more scarring and traumatic than the boy at school who didn’t respond to my homemade Valentines Card. I was on a school trip to York – a rite of passage for all primary sevens – and Titanic was the movie of choice on the bus for the journey home. I assume you can see where this is going.

Once claims of an onion-infused air conditioning system had been euthanised – like my dreams of ever finding love on a boat – at the end of the movie, I realised that I was weeping for fictional causes for the first time which made the whole ordeal that little more mortifying. But it was that bloody flute’s whimsical refrain that turned out to be the painful leitmotif for everything that hurt my head and my heart in life. Watch the video below at your own peril.

A decade on, I am still addicted to the metamorphic powers of audio, particularly that of the cinematic variety. Listening to scores takes me from my present situation to a moment in seconds. For example, to the climax of Titanic where the whistle’s haunting tune narrates the conclusion of Jack and Rose’s epic love story as she submits his frozen corpse to the depths of the North Atlantic. I willingly relive the heartache in remembering his cadaver slipping into those oceanic depths because the combination of James Cameron’s heartbreaking visuals and a perfectly suited musical backdrop, make me feel something I can’t really explain without blubbering.

The creator of the Titanic soundtrack James Horner created the score to be every bit as herculean, unwavering and melancholic as Jack’s infatuation with Rose had been right till the very end *sobs*. And, quite frankly, I’d go as far as saying that the movie would not be the epic motion picture that it is today without its prolific cinematic score – most notably without the distinguishing anacrusis at the beginning of ‘Rose’. (If you’ve ever done ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on karaoke, you’ll know the one.)

 

Horner isn’t the only one of his kind. Cinematic music is definitely an under-rated source of audio pleasure, which is why I’ve have devised this guide of composers and some of their best work to help you cover the important grounds should you decide to break into it. Being no musical expert myself, this should feel completely accessible to anyone! So, go forth and enjoy!

  • Hans Zimmer Check out: ‘Now We Are Free’ – Gladiator, ‘He’s a Pirate’ – Pirates of the Caribbean and ‘Tennessee’ – Pearl Harbour

Zimmer is a master of epics and able to communicate a plethora of emotions to even the least impressionable audiences. He is featured in the Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar and The Lion King soundtracks to name but a tiny part of his repertoire. From the invincible excitement found in Pirates to the melancholic vibes of Pearl Harbour, and the stunning, unmistakable hope that drives the Gladiator score: Hans Zimmer’s portfolio is prolific and cements him as one of the most respected composers and conductors in the world.

  • John Williams Check out: Themes from Jaws and Schindler’s List 

Being the second most decorated Academy Award Winner (only after Walt Disney of all people) doesn’t happen to just anyone, and when you begin trying fathom John Williams’ portfolio you see why. Much of Williams’ magic is creating the themes for which movies become associated with, the ones you are likely to hum along to during the opening credits. A great portion of his success was prior to the millennium; we’re talking Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, E.T., Hook… just about every good film that gives you those coveted feels, Willams likely had his input. His portfolio also includes devising the Harry Potter melody we all know and love and, of course, the unmistakable, chilling theme tune from Jaws.

James Horner Check out: ‘Hymn to the Sea’ – Titanic and ‘The Gift of a Thistle’ – Braveheart 

I spoke previously about this composers emotionally manipulative hold over me (just briefly, don’t think I said too much about it…). All in all, Horner composed, quite literally, one of the most iconic and heart breaking soundtracks of our time with Titanic in 1997, but it contains elements that are reminiscent of his earlier work in Braveheart. His style typically features traditional orchestration (there are a lot of pipes), flutes and female vocals that will warm you, and haunt you, for no less than 84 years.

  • Brad Fiedle Check out: ‘Trust Me’ – Terminator II 

A large-scale composer. Fiedle – whose work was at large particularly between the early 70s and late 90s – is known for his work in the Terminator series. The track ‘Trust Me’ from the second Terminator movie ‘Judgement Day’ is a favourite among fans and described as providing motivation to those in need of a kick. Luckily for fans, Fiedle was never given the chance to record and sequence his technically demanding score on a record until just last year. So he’ll be back, and very soon so to speak.

  • Henry Jackman Check out: ‘Flying Home’ – Kick-Ass and ‘Hit-Girl’s Farewell’ – Kick-Ass 2 

Jackman’s work on the Kick Ass movies soundtracks is riveting and a solid starting ground for those just breaking into the cinematic music scene due to its pop-rock vibe which focuses heavily on big drum beats and electric guitar. The best way to anticipate these soundtracks is to imagine orchestral power teamed with an exciting rock and roll veil. Much of Jackman’s score is an improvisation of Adagio in D Minor, so the chord progressions are pleasant and uplifting – perfect for your anti-hero movie.

 

See also: Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands) & James Newton Howard (Peter Pan, 2003)


Originally published in The Student Advertiser.