Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Popularity by visits

Two years ago I listed the three most popular blog-posts during that year. I have decided to do the same again for the last twelve months but instead of three this year just the single most popular. This is because the most popular piece by far was the downing of MH17 which took more hits than any other blog-post I have written and almost four times as many as the next most popular piece.

Russian Satellite Evidence

It is strange that the United States, which clearly has satellite images has not released its information even now. Perhaps, as with the weapons of mass destruction evidence for justifying the Iraq war, they are still manufacturing it.

My most popular article for News Junkie Post also concerned Ukraine. I suspect the popularity of Ukrainian news items has more to do with the fact that our media has just not been reporting the true state of affairs.

Ukraine and Crimea's Vanishing Gold

Finally, I have started a new blog about bird stories called 'Tales of Wings and Feathers', which contains my Christmas story of Malinovka.

Tales of Wings and Feathers

Here is wishing everybody peace for 2015.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Duchess's tale (with her kind permission)

I've worked with Duchess many times. One of my best models. She has graced the cover of "Magret de Canard de la Table Ronde" and posed a provocative centre spread for "Duck Times". I have high hopes of this latest photo of mine hitting it big somewhere, perhaps even  - I should be so lucky - "Crème de la crème of Water Fowl". When you get a good model you treat her well. Models are your bread and butter. Just look at how she presents and those beautiful brown eyes with eyelashes some chicks would die for. No wonder all the drakes are after her.

You treat a model well and she in turn will confide in you, tell you all her problems and secrets. If professional photographers did not have to adhere to a strict code of conduct some of the stories entering mainstream would really raise eyebrows, even hackles in some cases. "The last couple of days have been Hell, John," Duchess told me, "absolute Hell. I know you males stick together. But I hope you would never associate with the likes of some of those dirty-dancing drakes. Him in particular." She nodded towards a well-groomed specimen on the mill race who I thought looked quite a respectable sort. She called him Shylock. He was following her some short distance away.
From the photo, which I've entitled "study in green", you can see for yourself he's quite a dapper sort of chap; presentable, smooth and even sporting what we used to call a DA hairstyle. From behind he has very much the rearview image of John Travolta in "Grease". Anyway it was clear he fancied the Duchess. But then who doesn't? "He looks pretty decent to me," I said. "you should call him Travolta."

"Decent," she snapped back sharply, "decent. Look at these." She spread out some photographs on the bank. "It was Shylock who started this fight yesterday at the bridge. He went straight for the jugular of that young swimmer and just because the poor thing looked at me. All the young drakes look at me, and that's all he was doing, looking."
©  Duchess Studio
I could see she was right but to tell the truth I was rather more concerned about the quality of her photo. When your models start taking photos almost as good as your own it makes you think seriously about your future. When I get these negative thoughts I tend to console myself in the comforting knowledge that it is impossible to take professional-grade photos of yourself. My distraction was soon interrupted when the Duchess continued with her tale. "The fight moved round from the bridge onto the edge of Trittiford millpond." Her photo showed that Shylock was now attacking the young pretender from the other side.
 ©  Duchess Studio
"And then his mate joined in." Shylock was going for that pound of flesh nearest the heart. Her photos confirmed her account. He was attacking the young drakeling without mercy. You can see he's only a kid. The poor thing has not yet even developed his full magret plumage. Duchess felt sorry for the juvenile. "To begin with," she said, "I thought Shylock's mate, Antonio, was just as bad as he was until I could get a better angle with my built-in camera. Then I was able to see that he was actually trying to pull Shylock off."
 ©  Duchess Studio
Duchess told me she thought the fight was getting a bit out of hand. "Pack it in boys" she shouted at them "and grow up." As long as I've known her she has never stood for any nonsense and instructed the three of them to take take a dip and cool off. As we went along the mill-race, which is always a good place for a photo-shoot, she in the water, me on the bank, Duchess slipped me another photo. This one was stunning, so stunning. I thought it better even than my 'study in green', the first, and probably last one I will ever take of him. It crossed my mind that Duchess ought to open a studio. Perhaps I might invest in it.
 ©  Duchess Studio
Shylock has a certain something. Not money perhaps. But the cut of his cloth speaks volumes. I had to speak the truth. "What a photo, Duchess. You've captured everything. He's a very impressive drake indeed." I awaited her acknowledgment of my compliment. Instead she lifted those big brown eyes of hers. "John, John, what is it with you males?" Mentally I was not prepared for this. "Just a great photo, that's all. I used to work with male models and I never captured anything quite this good." I thought that would settle her down. "You're missing something." My mind worked overtime to try and deduce what I was missing. I looked at her imploringly. "Can't you see the feathers," she said, "those feathers Antonio nearly plucked out of his wings." Although a bit embarrassed that I had missed this important detail, it was still a good photo in my book. I took a few snaps of Duchess then we turned round and started home.
My problem was I had been looking at it from a photographer's point of view. She was looking at it from a model's point of view. Everything has to be in place for a model, every feather, every eyelash, every toe-nail. I thought of Helen doing her nails in the middle of a shoot. As we trundled along I had failed to notice just how close Shylock had got to her. Duchess had though. "Watch him, he's just behind and he's got a bit of a reputation." I dropped back. Would you believe it?
He picked his spot. He probably thought because of the grass I could not get a half-decent shot of his indecent exposure. And I have to admit this is not the best of photos. Naturally my snapshot of him proves nothing. Photography is such a demanding profession. Yes, I know, being a model is demanding too Duchess. After this encounter I am thinking seriously of not working with male models again. Shylock, if he is not in the duck pen, is unlikely to get work after this. Anyway I need not have worried about evidence against him. Duchess gave plenty of proof of the incident. And from the actual angle it happened. She's so cool.
 ©  Duchess Studio
She was probably as taken aback as me and I think her photo is ever so slightly out of focus. Having said that nobody can discount it is clearly Shylock exhibiting himself. It would stand up in any court of law. So, I thought to myself, you have exposed yourself for what you are. You were after a pound of flesh nearest to the heart earlier, then Antonio, the merchant of Venice, plucked at some of your quills. Now you will be appearing before the beak. And the evidence goes strongly against you.

Unfortunately, just when I started to think a case was cut and dried . . . "Why Duchess? You had all the evidence."

"I don't care" she said.
She went straight for his bits. I think I even heard the crunch. It made me grimace myself. So now there are two cases coming before the beak. Shylock's indecent exposure, and the rather more serious matter of assault and wounding with intent.
Justice Archibald Drake, QC
Knowing Drake they will probably both get tagged. I've seen quite a few birds with these electronic gadgets round their ankles. Not to worry. All's well that ends well and I met Duchess yesterday. We have agreed to go into business together. We're opening a photographic studio: Duchess Studio. Guess what though. Even better for her. She's only gone and got herself engaged to Antonio.