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50 Lately ... less is more

I've started to use my new iPad Air for processing images I've captured with my DSLRs as well as those taken with my iPhone 5. The iPad's colour accuracy, I've discovered, is significantly better than my ageing laptop's*. Worryingly, this means that the colour accuracy of images processed on my laptop has been way off for some time. I may have muttered a few choice words when this became apparent. And that last sentence may be an understatement.

I've also begun to use my iPhone 5's camera as often as I use my favourite DSLR, my far from fancy Canon EOS 100D/Rebel SL1. The 100D is a featherweight affair - that's why I favour it - but it's a big feather, an iPhone, by comparison, is positively down-like. And always with me. And the camera you have with you is arguably the best camera you have. Plus not having much control over aperture, focal length, shutter speed, and the like means not giving them much thought, which is liberating** and makes the whole deal almost early analogue in sensibility. As does limiting myself, as often as not, to shooting in black and white.
I have a camera, sometimes I use it to make phone calls.
Marty Yawnick

Instagram though. I'm trying, but I'm still not sure it's for me. The social part is lovely but it's also mighty time consuming. And everything's square. And there be Sirens, or some such, because a cache*** of much missed bloggers have sadly been lost on Instagram's shores.

And in truth Instagram mostly isn't about sharing smartphone images of the kind that could win you prizes or make you money, and I'm going to come clean here, that's what I'm ultimately hoping to achieve with my iPhoneography. I'm not the most confident or ambitious of souls but hey, I have a dream! I'll try not to bore you with it too much en route (probably to ignominy). Unless you want me to of course.

How about you. Do you use the camera on your phone much? And what's your take on Instagram? Maybe I'm wrong about it?

It's been far too hot here to knit - 32˚C ... in North Wales ... I think we broke a record - but my cameras' monochrome output is being offset by the colour in my dye pots and there's a dye post pending, promise.

* I could of course attempt to properly recalibrate the laptop, but I don't have enough pennies left in my piggy bank to buy a colorimeter.

** I do sometimes use the exposure lock to manipulate things a little. And apps such as ProCamera 7 instead of the native camera.

*** Or should that be a click? A collective noun for bloggers, anyone?


39 The Colour Collaborative: July: Sail

Posti cover art 'Swallows and Amazons'.

Pietari Posti's cover illustration for the Vintage 'Children's Classics' 2012 edition of Swallows and Amazons won its category in the V&A Illustration Awards 2013. I can totally see why, it's gorgeous ... but isn't Swallow's sail a tad too red?

Ransome generally describes it as brown, but Amazon*, he tells us, "was about the same size as Swallow, only with a white sail instead of a tanned one". As an adult who works with plant dyes that sentence caught my eye**. As an eight year old, reading the book for the first time, I imagine the talk of pirates that immediately precedes it was the focus of my attention.

Traditionally the canvas sails of non-military vessels were periodically tanned to preserve them from rot and mildew. The process might slightly compromise the sail's strength, and it adds a little weight, but tanned sails can remain furled when wet, saving sailors a fair few maintenance man-hours. In the days of fishing under sail most fishing villages would have had a tan house.
... a quantity of bark is boiled, in the liquor of which the sail is immerged [sic], if it be not too large; and when it is, the boiling liquor is used with a mop, and payed over the sail ...The Art of Sail-making, 1843

The 'tanbark' most commonly used at the time that Swallow was built was cutch, which actually comes from the heartwood of Acacia catechu. Cutch is light-fast, wash-fast, inexpensive, gives a golden brown that darkens (and often reddens) with each 'dip', and dyers love it because it's substantive on cotton and linen, meaning no mordant is required. I have an old bag of the stuff in the studio somewhere ... methinks I might have to fish it out!

As a child all I knew of sailing was gleaned from Ransome's books. I tacked into the wind on dry land, just like Roger running "in wide zig zags, to and fro, across the steep field" toward Mother, who held in her hand the telegram from Father on which all the childrens' adventures hinged.


I thought I knew how to jibe, although clearly I didn't. But I could shout 'Jibe O!', and 'Ship ahoy!', 'Keep her full', and other useful nautical terms. I even took to calling corned beef pemmican. And I had a red knitted cap, just like Nancy and Peggy Blackett***, Jacques Cousteau, and most of the Navy once upon a time.

Slops, articles of ready-made clothing which could be purchased from the ship's clothing store, were introduced into the Navy in 1623. "Red caps, Monmouth caps, yarn stockings, Irish stockings, blue shirts, white shirts, cotton waistcoats, cotton drawers, neat leather flat-heeled shoes, blue neckcloths, and canvas suits ..." were all to be made available, but oddly, no breeches!

Brown and white sails, red headgear (and potentially no trousers). Swallows and Amazons. Were you, are you, a fan?

* Originally named the Mavis, and now on loan to the Windermere Steamboat Museum.

** I've had fun with my reading choices this month, allowing the July Colour Collaborative theme to guide them ... Swallows and Amazons, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News and as ballast, Horatio Clare's Down To The Sea In Ships, which also has deliciously wave-y cover art by Pietari Posti.

*** Posti missed a trick with his illustration there! Don't you think a couple of red dots under that white sail would have balanced the composition even better.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

Sandra at Cherry Heart       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

CJ at Above the River       Jennifer at Thistlebear     

And July's guest poster ...
Leanne at Today's Stuff

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤

Many, many thanks to everyone who expressed concern for my dad, in your comments and in your emails. It's tough getting old, but I guess it's better than the alternative!

Posti cover art 'Down to the sea in ships'.


36 Why I write: the junkyard Muse

My turn. Not being much of a one for memes I resisted for as long as I could. But then Sarah at Mitenska picked exactly the right moment to ask me if I'd like to play and I found myself saying yes where previously I'd said no.

What are you working on?

Mostly this blog. But I also write occasional pieces for a handful of magazines and journals. And then there's the long-haul stuff - a by-product of my (sadly now abandoned) PhD - which concerns two obscure eighteenth-century natural scientists, and Emmanuel Swedenborg, and strangeness and skulduggery in Georgian London. Ultimately it will be a book.

How does your writing differ from others in your genre?

Can I skip this one please? As I mentioned in my previous post, I've come to see blogging as akin to bricolage ... the collecting together of a miscellany of whatever is to hand. My mind is a lot like a reclamation yard, filled to overflowing with bits of this and that. Two or three times a week I rummage through the accumulated junk and pick out the makings of a blog post. I guess you could call it mystery writing because I've generally not got a clue where I'm going when I begin.

Why do you write what you do?

Often I set out to surprise myself*. If I can surprise and entertain you, too, then all the better because principally I blog to connect**. And better still if from time to time - and I'm paraphrasing Cicero here so I'd like to think I'm in good company - I can leave us with something to think about.

When I wrote as knitsofacto I resisted the notion that this was a knitting blog. I enjoy knitting, I'm actually quite good at it, but possibly the worst advice I was ever given was to write exclusively about it. Happily, I failed. That I knit is part of the mix, nothing more.

And now I'm writing as me? Expect more from the junk yard! Juxtapositions, oppositions, digressions, excursions, maybe a few alarums. Plus knitting and natural dyeing, of course.

Or there's this: 'Our stories are the masks through which we can be seen ... with every telling we stop the flood and swirl of thought so someone may get a glimpse of us, and ... catch us if they can' (Madeleine Gromet).

Or this. Why I Write (Terry Tempest Williams). With thanks to Sonja for the reminder.

How does your writing process work?

Randomly. Starting points - prompts if you will - and more developed ideas, all scribbled onto Post-it notes, are kept in my planner from Fox and Star. (Never yellow post-its though, they're reserved for book related stuff.) I often wing it. When it comes to blog posts I can rarely find the words before I've found the accompanying image. Sometimes the image will be the prompt. I like tangents. I like to check my facts. A ton of stuff gets cut. The process is easily as important as the product. It all takes a good while.

I'm not going to attempt to pass the 'Why I write' baton on to anyone in particular ... you've surely all carried it already. If you haven't and you'd care too ... it's yours. Do let me know if you pick it up.

You might also enjoy this post - On blogging: Remember Jack Kerouac - which covers similar ground.

The image up top, taken with my iPhone5, actually belonged to a blog post about iPhoneography that didn't get written on Sunday. On Saturday my ailing elderly father was involved in a parking incident. Fans of The Shipping News will understand when I say that the newspaper headline might have read, 'Pensioner in ram raid on supermarket!'. Luckily the only thing broken was plate glass and the only things dented the car's bumper and his pride. But it's been a difficult few days as he struggles to accept that he's no longer safe behind the wheel and will have to rely on others - aka me! - for transport. In consequence I'm even further behind with my blog reading ... a catch up is imminent, I promise.

* I was tempted there to digress into a consideration of autobiographical writing as self-othering, but I do try to keep the didactic, academic me in check, so I didn't.
Postscript. Sonja picked up the baton, and in a few short words - "I write to meet myself." - made poetry of this.

** As C.S. Lewis put it: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." I'd say that holds true for virtual connections too.

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