Manipulating The Image

The other day I was having a quick scan through my email junk folder. It’s always interesting what can be found there even if it’s just scammers pretending to be a pretty girl who is in love with me. Oh well, poor girls, can’t blame them really.

One email that caught my eye before hitting the permanently delete button was one asking me to follow a girl called Olivia Casta. Looking at her picture she seemed to be a very pretty girl but even so, I wasn’t going to click the link on the email, after all, that’s what the scammers want you to do; click on a phony link. I did a search for her on google and she came up as a popular model and influencer on Instagram.

I am on Instagram although not knowing that much about it I rarely post anything there apart from the occasional graphic trying as usual to bring in more readers to my blog. Come to think of it, I don’t even look at Instagram that much at all.

Olivia Casta

I did a quick search for Olivia on Instagram and there were various people associated with that name, most of whom seemed to be posting pretty much the same pictures of the same pretty girl dressed in various skimpy outfits.

Going back to Google I was about to search for something else but looking down the list there was another hit on Olivia. This one at a site called caveman.com claimed that Olivia Casta really wasn’t Olivia Casta.

That looked kind of interesting so I clicked on it and it claimed that Olivia Casta was really another lady called Maria Tretjakova. There was even a picture of this other lady in the same pose as a picture of Olivia. Whoa, this was really odd! It seemed that this author claimed that Maria was using a face app teen filter to make herself look younger, the giveaway was apparently that each picture of Olivia Casta has the same sweet smile, in fact exactly the same sweet smile.

Well I decided to take a look and see if I could find the Face app. I looked on my iPad and the app was available in my app list. I tried to download it but like a lot of apps I try to download these days, a message came up asking me to upgrade my software to version 14.0. Now that is a problem because my iPad says I’m on 12.5 but it also says that I am fully updated. In order to update my iPad I would actually need to go out and buy a newer model which is really just not acceptable because I spent a lot of money on my current iPad only a few years ago. Oh well, I won’t be exchanging my blog profile photo for a faceapped one of me looking considerably younger any time soon.

After this little excursion into face imaging it got me thinking about Lee Harvey Oswald. I’m sure you will probably know that Lee Oswald is the man accused of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Lee worked in the Texas School Book Depository and three shots from the 6th floor were fired at the President on the 22nd November 1963. One shot hit Kennedy in the head causing a wound from which he could not possibly have survived.

A rifle was found at the scene, a rifle that had been ordered by a man called Alex Hidell and Lee Oswald, when later arrested at the Texas theatre was carrying an identity card in that exact name.

image courtesy wikipedia

Oswald turned to the TV cameras and asked for ‘someone to come forward’ presumably to help him but no one ever did. Oswald himself was in turn later murdered by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner right in the underground car park of the police headquarters and people have been asking ever since, was Oswald guilty? Did he shoot the President? Did Ruby shoot Oswald to silence him?

Well one of the things that looked pretty bad for Oswald was a photo of him holding a Mannlicher Carcarno rifle, the same rifle apparently that fired the fatal shot. The thing is, Oswald said that the photo was a fake, a manipulated photo designed to frame him. So was it?

There is quite a nice scene in the film JFK where Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison is explaining things to his team, that they have to look at things like the CIA and that black is white and white is black. As he does so, on the screen is a montage of someone manipulating an image, taking a picture of Oswald and fixing it to a picture of someone holding the rifle.

Now despite all this controversy over the photo and Lee Oswald claiming it was a fake, Lee’s Russian wife Marina, actually said that she took the picture. It was taken at 214 West Neely street in Dallas, a rooming house where Lee was living at the time of the assassination. Was Oswald lying or was it Marina? Marina was taken into protective custody by the FBI after the assassination so was she telling the truth or just going along with what the FBI had told her to say?

These days, images are so easy to manipulate. Somewhere on my hard drive, I’ve got a version of this picture with my face in place of Lee’s but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it.

Changing your image digitally is one thing but there are those that want to change themselves physically. One way of doing that is to get plastic surgery but there can be pitfalls if you go down that road. Marilyn Monroe was rumoured to have had some surgery done to the tip of her nose and her chin but clearly if the rumours are true, the surgery was minimal and turned out pretty well. Others have not been so lucky.

Leslie Ash was one of stars of the TV comedy Men Behaving Badly. I’ve always thought she was rather pretty but it looks like she wasn’t happy with her looks and had filler injected into her lips giving her what the newspapers called a ‘trout pout’. I don’t think I’ve seen her on TV since.

Meg Ryan was another pretty lady who perhaps was worried about her advancing years, she was born in November 1961 making her 61 later this year. Searching through the internet there are claims Meg has had her cheeks filled, some work on her nose, botox on her forehead and volume in her lips. She claims she left Hollywood for personal reasons but perhaps Hollywood didn’t want her anymore when she started to look a bit odd.

Of course, the way we look is important to all of us in some way, however small. Even someone like me, I’m not immune to wanting to look my best. The profile picture of me that accompanies this blog was one taken by Liz back in 2006, 16 years ago. I could argue that I keep it for the sake of continuity rather than wanting to look younger but if I’m honest, I’d have to admit I just like the way I look as my slightly younger self.

Not only do we aspire to look our best and present ourselves at our best to the public at large, whether we are going for a night out or going to the shops (or pinning a profile picture to our blog posts) but we also look up to others who look good and who we find attractive.

When I was a teenager up on my bedroom wall alongside pictures of various racing drivers was a poster of my first crush, Olivia Newton John. In fact, the very first vinyl singles I ever bought were records by Olivia; The banks of the Ohio and What is life? A chart single at the time in 1973 cost about 48p and as those two singles had dropped out of the charts they were half price. To this day one of the few songs I can correctly recite the lyrics to is one of her other songs, Country Roads. I bought many of her albums and followed her career with interest. It was sad to hear of her death last week.

A few years ago, I did a blog post about my own internet presence. I googled myself and talked about what I found. I didn’t feature on Google until page 3 of the results but now in 2022 I come up on page 1. Steve Higgins an American TV personality came up number one just as he did a few years back, then there was Professor Steve Higgins of Durham university and various other Steve Higgins’ until I slotted in at number 7 with my YouTube page which is apparently more popular than this blog which was down there at number 10. I was pretty pleased with 7 but I’m still not happy that my YouTube page rated higher than my blog. After all, I do put the effort in here, writing a new post every week. I don’t post regular videos, just the odd one every now and then.

Not only that, how did Professor Steve Higgins of Durham University get ranked ahead of me?

Update: When this post appeared on Facebook, one of my readers told me in the comments that she had the Face App Teen Filter and sent me a photo of herself using it. The result was really amazing and later she sent me a picture of myself, suitably Faceapped. Actually I kind of like it. Should I start using it as my profile picture? Well, I like it but I’m probably better sticking to reality.


Sources: Instagram, caveman.com and Wikipedia


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Every Picture Tells a Story

The world of digital photography is so easy and convenient. Point your camera and shoot. Upload to social media or your cloud storage and there it is. If your picture isn’t quite right you can lighten or darken it, straighten it, crop it, even delete it if you want and start again.

Things weren’t so easy in the film age. I used to be a pretty enthusiastic amateur photographer and I used to like taking pictures of, well anything really. I’ve tried my hand at portraits, still life and pretty much everything.

When I was a schoolboy my parents got me an Instamatic 126 camera for Christmas. Bit of a mistake on their part as they had to shell out for film and developing too, which must have been painful for them when they saw my first efforts at photography, and probably more so when the fruits of my ‘experimental’ pictures came back from the chemist.

In the 1980’s I had an Olympus OM10 then moved up to an OM2SP. The SP stood for spot programming where instead of accepting the average reading the camera’s light meter gave you, you could choose a particular spot in the image and take your light settings from that. Very useful in a picture with light and dark elements for instance.

I also used to have quite a few long lenses which I used at race circuits, particularly Oulton Park where I spent many a weekend watching and photographing racing cars. I must have looked really professional clicking on my wide-angle lens in the paddock and then switching to my 200mm long lens back on the circuit.

The big difference with photography today is that back then in the film era, you took your shot and then sent the film for developing and and printing and sometimes the results were good, but then sometimes they weren’t. To the developer though there was no difference between a bad shot and a brilliant one, they both cost the same!

Today you can shoot as many pictures as your memory card will hold, free of charge, no developing charges and as for printing, why bother? Just upload to your favourite social media page. If you take a bad picture you can edit it with imaging software. If the picture is too bad, delete it and shoot more. In fact the best way to take a great picture today is to take multiple exposures just like a professional, shoot a shed load of pictures and just delete the bad ones!

Four of my Favourite Pictures.

It’s hard to choose favourite pictures because I have so many of them, anyway, here are four chosen pretty much at random.

Bob the Dog.

I took this picture years ago with our old dog Bob with my Kodak Instamatic. We had such a lot of fun with that dog as children, me and my brother. He went everywhere with us. We took him on coach trips where he was always sick and my brother, my dad and I would deny ownership of him, all looking fixedly through the windows whilst my Mum apologised to everyone and cleaned up the mess.

Ayrton Senna Hockenheim 1988

Here’s a picture taken with my Olympus at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in 1988. Senna was one of the great drivers of the day. Today he is revered as a legend of the sport but I think it’s fair to say that back in the day he really wasn’t that popular. I remember him being soundly booed at Silverstone in 1989 or 1990 but his talent was unquestionable.

The Greek island of Kalymnos

This is one of my favourite pictures and I did have it blown up and framed once but I must have lost it during various house moves. It was taken on holiday on the Greek Island of Kalymnos. I remember flying to some other island and having to take a ferry over to Kalymnos. The ferry though had to wait 2 hours for a delayed flight from London (those bloody southerners) and when we reached the island it was dark. Our apartment was up the side of a steep hill, right at the top and the rep told me lights would come on by a sensor when we got to the steps. After jumping up and down wildly for 10 minutes the lights did come on and I asked the rep to wait till we got to the top and found the keys. He assured me the keys were there but then drove off. Just at that moment the lights went out and stranded us in a deep velvety blackness. More jumping about and waving and the lights came on so we climbed the steps and finally bumbled into our apartment. Inside I opened the door to the patio and in the darkness of the all-enveloping night, I could sense something over the way. It was not until we awoke in the morning that we were finally able to take in the magnificent view.

Blackpool, Lancashire

This last picture was taken in Blackpool during a drive through of the Blackpool Illuminations. It’s a lovely colourful snap which captures the atmosphere of the lights. I took the picture with my GoPro camera but I have a confession to make. I was trying making a video of the lights and when I set up the camera I didn’t have my reading glasses with me and couldn’t quite make out the tiny menu and accidentally set the camera up to take stills instead of video. The resulting pictures were actually a surprise!


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

 

 

Cameras, Vlogging and that Personal Image

Travelling to the Loire Valley region of France this summer I brought four cameras with me. My trusty Nikon D100 SLR was left behind in favour of my Action cam, my GoPro Hero+, my Canon G7X and my always reliable Panasonic HD pocket camcorder. The Canon comes highly recommended as the top vlogging camera of its kind. If you want to look good on YouTube, this is the camera to have, and when I bought it after many moons of trying on eBay I was looking forward to branching out from merely writing about stuff to actually talking and showing you stuff too. My action cam I’ve had for a while but it’s really just a cheap copy of a GoPro camera and the thing is when you have a cheap copy, you tend to want the original. The only thing is, working with GoPro cameras isn’t that easy.

The first thing I noticed about my GoPro Hero+ is that there is no viewing screen so it’s not so easy to set up a shot. However, you can link the camera to your mobile and get a visual confirmation of your shot. Okay, skim back to the manual and I see I have to enable wi-fi. Nothing happened so back to the instructions and then I see I need the wi-fi app. Okay, download that and am I getting anywhere? No. Have I set up a password? No, okay, I sort the password out and finally, we are getting somewhere, can I shoot some video? Yes! Have I brought my mini memory card adapter to transfer video to my laptop? Er, actually, no. Can I do it by wi-fi? Yes, to my phone but I don’t want the stuff there I want it on my laptop. So, I have to download the GoPro pc application. Does it finally work? Yes. Am I bothered? No, cos I’m hot and stressed and I’m off to the pool!

Since then I’ve had a radical rethink and perhaps the age-old written word is more my style after all.

Why the change of heart you may ask. Well, there is not only the hassle of dealing with modern technology as I’ve mentioned above, there is also this. I am getting on a little, in fact not so very long ago I hit the big six O which was quite a turning point for me. The big four O didn’t make much of an impression. The big five O, well there was something, some feeling of me getting on a little but nothing too bad but then along came the six O and there was a feeling of, six O, really? Am I actually that old? The thing is, aging only really happens on the outside. On the inside a guy is pretty much the same guy he has always been. Inside, I don’t think I’ve really changed since I was, well, eighteen, nineteen or maybe twenty. My thinking has always been the same, I’ve matured a little, become a little more sensible (a little) but generally speaking I’m just the same, so how has this sixty thing just crept up on me?

The answer is I don’t really know. I’ve just been chugging along, getting on with my life and suddenly I’m sixty. I have to say I’m not too happy about it and perhaps I should look into making a complaint. The council comes to mind or the government. Perhaps they should have sent me a letter or something. Perhaps they should have picked up the phone and said hello, Steve, do you know what year it is? Maybe it’s time to take it easy, chill out a little or something of that nature.

Come to think of it, I did get a letter -from the civil service offering me semi-retirement- which is why I now only work three days a week. To think, they knew I was getting older but I never twigged!

Anyway, getting back to my cameras, I started off by shooting some background stuff here at our rented gite in the Loire; you know our villa, the pool and so on. While I was messing about and getting used to my New GoPro camera I shot some stuff of me checking out the villa, the pool and the grounds. Then I tried some shots of me typing away on my laptop, knocking out my latest post. I figured I could put a good narration together from some of my old ‘Sun Lounger Thoughts’ blogs or perhaps talk about being a blogger or a self-published author at work, that sort of thing.

One evening after the usual day of swimming, sunbathing, reading and drinking wine, you know, the average sort of holiday day, I thought I might as well review some of that stuff, that video that I’ve been shooting. The big shock was really, who is that old guy in the video who resembles my old Dad? Do we have a serious problem with lenses or filters or can that old overweight guy really be me?

Taking a serious look at myself even my hands look big. Did I say my hands? Just taking another look at those hands and I realised they were my old Dad’s hands, only bigger and chubbier than his ever were. No wonder I’m always pressing the wrong key on my mobile phone with those big chubby mitts!

We find only one tool, neither created nor invented, but perfect: the hand of man.” ― Julio Ramón Ribeyro

The other day in a cafe in the village of Parçay Le Pins, Liz took this picture of me sitting at our table having just eaten fish and chips and supping a pint of lager.

The picture isn’t a bad one. Ok I’m not as young as I used to be but I look reasonably well, I suppose, although I’m clearly not the cool dude in that graphic at the top of the page!

The thing is in a still picture you can put on your winning smile, (not exactly winning in this picture but you know what I mean) turn your best side to the camera, hold in your tummy and all will be ok but with video, things can be a little more revealing.

So, I think I might just put my vlogging plans on hold for a while, just a little while, well perhaps indefinitely. My next video will probably feature me but probably on the narration rather than the visuals . .

 


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space, a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.