Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Yesterday I came across a little booklet from The Guardian I’d saved ages ago and forgotten about. I read through Photography: A Guardian Masterclass with glee. It refreshed my memory about f-stops, depth of field and ISO and made me want to get my camera out. There were essays and examples of street photography, sports photography, photo journalism. There was advice about setting the scene, emotional awareness, developing an expert eye and investing in a pair of comfy shoes. It confirmed everything I’ve thought since I first picked up a camera – I think I have a good eye, I just need to get my head round the maths, a subject that was never my favourite. I suppose it’s easier with digital though as I can take many versions of the same scene until I understand the effect the setting changes make. At least these days I won’t be wasting film, time and money.

The booklet also reaffirmed what I’ve been saying recently – to me a photo is only any good if I’ll give it wall space. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, even if they’re David Bailey. The proof of this was a mention of Andreas Gursky’s Rhein II. When I looked at it I thought, ‘This breaks every rule in the book’. The golden mean doesn’t come into it, there are 6 layers stacked on top of each other, nothing in the foreground to bring in any scale and to me it is boring – there isn’t even any detail in the sky because it was taken on a grey day so even the lighting is harsh and unforgiving.

Then I discovered that he’d manipulated the image by removing a couple of dog walkers from the foreground and a complete factory complex from the other side of the river. What is worse is that in 1999 the photograph sold for  £2.7m at a Christie’s auction in New York. Would a painting of the same scene have the same value? I doubt it. Would I give you a tenner for it? No, because I wouldn’t hang it anywhere other than the bathroom as a shower curtain.

So last night you would have found me hunched over the computer at midnight checking out 35mm lenses on eBay because Antonio Olmos says it’s his favourite lens and one I’ve never shot with. Now I don’t have oodles of cash to spend on something I might not even like so my choice was a new Canon lens or a second-hand Galaxy. Reviews of the Canon weren’t impressive. They described a lens that would probably produce better results if it was manually focused but that the focusing ring was so narrow as to be useless. In fact, the only thing it seemed to have going for it was its lightness, achieved by cheap plastic casing.

The Galaxy was a Japanese build of high quality steel. It’s coming with a converter ring, works with a Canon DSLR and although it’s been round the block the seller gives it 5/5 for its focusing. I’m hoping it’ll be OK but its price is such that if I don’t like it I won’t have lost out. I’ll let you know how I get on when it arrives.


On other news, the kids are off school for three days for their mid-term break so I’m off with them for two days and HimIndoors is off on Wednesday. I’ll let you into my guilty secret – when I’m off, as well as doing housework and homework you’ll find me on the couch glued to The Real Housewives of Wherever. OMG, how do these women function? It’s like the opposite end of the spectrum to Jeremy Kyle’s ‘guests’ but they’re just as mad. I’m guessing they’re unhinged for the same reasons, no job, nothing meaningful in their lives so they get fixated on the minutiae of each other’s lives, except this lot are filthy rich so their addictions are for Laboutins, botox and ponies, although I’m sure there will be a few class As in there too, it’s just that they won’t be robbing their neighbours to finance it.

Today I have learned:

  • not to feel guilty about taking time out on the couch to watch rich American women on the verge of a pseudo nervous breakdown
  • there’s nothing like the arrival of a cool guitar teacher to stop my children killing each other

Today’s recipe

Crunchy topped chicken


This is a recipe lost in the mists of time in our house but even picky children seem to like it – you’ll see why when you read the ingredients list.


1 chicken breast per person

1 regular bag of ready salted crisps per person

half a handful of grated cheese per person

a good sprinkling of dried basil or oregano

ground black pepper

a good knob of butter

Method: Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 6. Trim the chicken to get rid of any fatty bits. Get out the dish you’re going to bake the chicken in. Open each bag of crisps and crush them, holding the top closed. Tip them into the dish with the cheese, herbs and pepper and mix together.

Melt the butter in a pan and dip the chicken pieces in one at a time, coating each side in melted butter. One at a time put them into the dish and coat with the crisps and cheese. Pour over any leftover butter and bake for 35-40 minutes till cooked through and crispy.

I serve this with chips and salad but you could do Neopolitan spaghetti instead.

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