Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deleted scenes: Year one

It won't have escaped your attention that I'm not a professional photographer. Professionals don't stubbornly and stingily persevere with the same cheap camera long after its LCD display has broken, meaning they're unable to play around with the settings or even see the poorly framed pictures they've taken until they get back to their hotels. I don't owe you fancy pictures.

But sometimes I'm pleased with photos I've taken, as are thieving bastards apparently. Whether it's down to the serendipity of animals striking austere poses, the sunset picking out details in satisfying ways or me managing to pull a face that doesn't look smug, I'll try to find ways to include as many photos as I can that fit whatever agenda I'm going for in the relevant blog post, giving the nicest ones top billing.

For every photo transferred from my camera to my hard drive there are 10 deleted, and not all of these survivors make it to the internet, especially in the early days. When I've dragged old folders down from the proverbial loft to dredge out any unused pictures of Dave in a cave or Dave from a slightly different angle, I kept coming across photos that I forgot I had, which I never shared with the world because I was worried about storage space or irrelevant pictures distracting from the narrative arc of the post. I can take this much too seriously sometimes.

So here's a selection of previously unseen photos, videos and writings from my first year of travelling, after those first few countries I rebelliously tackled without a camera and excluding Thailand and Malaysia too, which were too big and get their own summer specials. It's guaranteed to be entirely free from coherent plotting beyond 'Dave saw some things and aimed his camera at them.' This post could just as well be titled 'Misc 1.'

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things that don't even look like other things

During my career as a Ghostbuster (Ghostdebunker doesn't have the same nostalgic ring to it), I was regularly disappointed by how easily people would latch onto the flimsiest photographic 'evidence' that seemed to substantiate their belief that our dead ancestors forge dents in metal fireplaces in the background of photos designed to reflect a camera flash from a certain vantage point to vaguely resemble a stretched, out of proportion face, usually missing a couple of key features, but it's the best they could do. Come on, they're dead! Cut them some slack.

Sometimes we might think we see a face in tree bark, an angel in a cloud or Jesus Christ on a dog's arse (that photo sums up the pareidolia phenomenon better than any dissertation could), but what's really happening is the part of our brains that learns to recognise our mothers' faces soon after birth as a self-preservation measure is over-compensating and interpreting random stimuli as familiar objects - faces in particular, or your preferred brand of supernatural icon. It doesn't even have to be very accurate to be perceived as a face, as the seemingly universal recognition of a colon paired with a bracket or other grammatically irrelevant punctuation to express generic emotions attests. N.B. For those who haven't read a couple of Robert Winston books and now think they're bloody psychologists, he means this: :)

This glitch happens more often when the brain is tired or in poor lighting conditions, making late-night paranormal investigation vigils the perfect pareidolia breeding ground. I won't even get into the 'investigators' who deliberately use faulty sound recording equipment because it produces 'better results' than more accurate recorders that don't make a slight breeze passing the microphone sound like Linda Blair violently vomiting green slime in The Exorcist. And don't get me started on 'orb' photos (HOW ARE YOU NOT AWARE OF DUST?)

I'm not on a mission to destroy fun. Pareidolia is at the enjoyable and light-hearted end of the mental illness spectrum and I appreciate it for what it is. I found stories of ghostly apparitions and faces in the floor fascinating when I was a kid, but we're not kids any more - so when you're tired and think a tree looks sort of like a monk, by all means take a photograph, post it to your blog and consider sending it to Richard Wiseman, but don't make more of it than it is and don't insist it looks like a thing when it doesn't even look like a thing.