In transit again

It’s somewhat shameful that I haven’t updated this blog for a month, since I was last in North America for a journalism/digital engagement workshop in Columbia, Missouri. And now I’m back again, fleetingly – this time for a few days in Toronto where I was doing workshops about blogging (building readership and business case development – luckily, not too much detail on how often to update, because I’d have been a bit hypocritical…) for MagNet11 (the national magazines of Canada trade show) and then New York this weekend where I’ve been participating in Sparkcamp, a meeting of interesting minds from the digital and journalism worlds, around the theme of “Real Time”.

And now I’m in the BA lounge at JFK, on my way home, and rather thankful that this is my last travel commitment in 2011. I’m not saying I won’t go anywhere else – I’ve got a sabbatical coming up, after all, and I need a holiday at some point, too – but I’m done with the travelling and airports and hotel rooms and currency exchanges and shuttle buses and air conditioning for a while, I think.

Now that things will be settling down a bit, I’m going to try and blog a bit more/often about some of the things I’ve been getting up to, some of the ideas I’ve been exploring, and some of the things that have been going on. Please hold me to this!

For the moment, though, a slight change of pace.

I’ve fairly recently started using instagram to take and post photos on the move both at home and on my recent travels. I’m megpickard there if you want to link up. Here (and after the jump) are a select few that I’ve taken, along with a little context…

Sparkcamp this weekend was held at the CUNY (City University New York) school of Journalism, which is in a building next to the New York Times HQ, in the middle of the garment district in midtown Manhattan. The streets are lined with fabric shops, piled high with rich colours and bolts of material. As I was walking to the conference this morning, I glimpsed this scene through an open doorway. I liked the framing, and the face there was no-one else in shot, despite it being such a crowded, bustling area.

Found on the pavement
On my second night in Toronto, determined not to fall asleep by 9pm (like I had the night before), I went for a long, looping walk up Yonge Street, then west along Bloor, up through the Annexe, and then down through the University area to the Harbourfront. In the middle of university buildings, on the ground between two cycle racks, I found this (painted? stencilled?) onto the pavement. I thought it was rather lovely, because it was so unexpected.

Think pink
I took this photo while walking through the rain in Brighton, down towards the sea from my sister and brother-out-law‘s lovely new house. The rain meant the pink of the door was particularly striking, and the checked tiles really popped out in contrast.

Late train
On a recent Saturday night, Paul and I went into town for sushi and a glass of wine on a hot day. On the way home, we hustled to London Bridge to catch a late train. As I came down the stairs to the platform, I thought the scene would make an interesting timelapse image. I took several shots, then pieced them together using the autostitch iphone app, then put the resulting image through instagram to increase the contrast. I like the movement in the image (and the fact you can see P on the right hand side, checking his watch, concerned – and not for the first or last time – that my photo-taking is going to make us miss our train…)

A flying visit to the Isle of Mull (or Isle of Mum as it’s known in our house) for a family birthday in May meant only a short amount of time for walking on desolate, windswept beaches this time around. But we got one in, at least…

Think big
When I (finally) got to St Louis, MO, I still had a 2+ hour journey to Columbia. It’s very flat, and the highwayside is peppered with these tall billboards against an impossibly blue sky.

And finally…

Don't want to worry anyone, but I just spotted this scene at Victoria
On my way to Manchester one morning, I passed through Victoria station, and glimpsed this out of the corner of my eye. I have no idea what was going on, though I suspect they were shooting an ad or something. Rather concerning, though!

iPhone photography apps: addendum

After writing not long ago about my favourite iPhone photography apps, I have a small update.

I don’t know if it’s got something to do with the quality of the iPhone 4 camera, or the way they’ve tweaked the algorithms in the app, but my love for CameraBag (at least its Helga setting) has dwindled. It no longer seems to be able to bring out the punch in shots.

So for punchiness these days I turn instead to Lo Mob, which comes with 28 different filters, including TTV, instant, and more. Some are more interesting than others, and I’ve been particularly pleased with the transformative effect it’s had on some of my recent shots – the black and white ones with high contrast are especially effective.

Hard as

Keep calm

It’s almost as good as using an actual retro camera, like my beloved Holga.

Hunstanton groynes


A few recent moments

Given that there’s so much going on at the moment (of which more anon), rather than leaving this place to echo silently (frequently thought of but untended) I’m going to try and get into the habit of posting a few random things whenever I get a chance – photos, links, moments – without much context.

Wafting statue



I know the first rule of blogging is “never apologise” but I’m sure one of the other rules is something like “keep it up” which I have been woeful at doing recently – the terrible timing, so soon after my celebratory tenth blogiversary postings, was noted and probably deeply significant.

Lots of travel, lots of stuff happening at work, lots of really lousy things happening with regard to our housing situation (synopsis: After seven months dangling at the end of a property chain last year, we finally gave up on the place we were buying and found somewhere else with no chain. All progressed well until the owner of the house we were just about to exchange contracts on suddenly changed her mind about the sale which meant we, having given in our notice on current (rented) flat, were very nearly about to be homeless within weeks. We’ve sorted it out now, thankfully, and the hunt continues, though we are surrounded by boxes which I can’t bring myself to unpack just yet.)

So here’s something approaching content: I’ve been quietly making galleries on Flickr for a while. Here are some of my favourites…

What big eyes you have
(What big eyes you have)
Lone tree in winter
(Lone tree in winter)
Migraine-inducing carpet
(Migraine-inducing carpet)


An open letter to Grey London

22 January: Please see the update at the end of this post for what happened next.

Dear Grey London,

I’ve just been made aware of the ad you were involved with creating for Horlicks.

In the middle of the advert at 1’15”, amid the collection of shots of coffee/tea/beverage making and drinking, there’s a brief shot which is slightly different.

It’s a woman sitting on a tube train going along an above-ground track. She’s holding a book in front of her face. The book’s cover depicts a woman’s face. I’ve screengrabbed it below:


I find it very difficult to believe that this shot wasn’t styled on this image I took and posted in August 2006, which has since become well-circulated on the internet.


Your treatment is startlingly similar to my original photo, right down to the woman; the hand position; the ring; the tube above ground; the styling of the cover; the sweep of the hair; the man with his head down, reading next to her.

I’ve written before about advertising agencies using internet-popular ideas and artwork as source material for campaigns, but there’s a fine line between homage and rip-off.

Should I submit an invoice for the portion of the creative work that I unknowingly did on your behalf? Or would acknowledgement of your inspiration be out of the question?

Best regards,

Meg Pickard

PS If anyone else reading this has any ideas about what I might be able to do about this, please let me know in the comments below or via email or Twitter. Thanks.

Update, 22 January

I spoke to Hugo Feiler, MD of Grey London today, after the creative director of the ad forwarded on the email I’d sent him about the issue. Mr Feiler was very pleasant, and said (transcribed from notes taken on phone):

“On reflection, I would agree that we had been influenced by your photo … we shouldn’t have gone on to use such a similar image without speaking to you first, so I’m very sorry about that”

He offered to have the film re-edited to remove the chunk in question. I declined this, but asked him to ask the production company involved to remove the still from their site as proof of their creativity. He has done this since our call.

In addition, as a gesture of goodwill, Mr Feiler offered to make a generous donation in my name to a charity of my choice. I accepted this and am pleased that Oxfam’s Haiti emergency appeal has been able to benefit from this experience.

He went on to say that he would have said and offered exactly the same thing if I’d spoken to him privately before “going public” on my blog, but he understands why I did because of what I do for a living. (I’d actually sent email via the Grey website, to the production company and to the CD’s personal site).

I don’t think that my work was copied maliciously or through an attempt to decieve or claim credit: I’ve worked with enough creative agencies to know how easy it is for something to slip from early-stage random found object moodboard into a concept storyboard and then through to the produced object, all the while getting further and further from the original credited influence. As with most things like this, Hanlon’s razor applies (and especially the Sir Bernard Ingham variant).

In summary, I am reassured that this has been handled in a timely and considerate way by Hugo at Grey London: I’m glad that they’ve apologised and acknowledged the influence of my work, and feel sure that they will have learnt a lesson from this experience about how random internet influences are handled within their creative processes.

Charity print auction: above and below the waves

I’m auctioning a couple of prints of my photos as part of the Flickr group Charity Print Auctions for the Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

St Ives
Something fishy

(Click on the images to see the bidding on Flickr)

Each print is 18×12 inches and will be printed matte on FujiFilm Professional digital photographic paper.

The auction will close on Sunday 17th January 2010 at midnight GMT.

The winning bidder (who I’ll notify) has to pay the winning amount to the Oxfam Haiti appeal and then send me proof of payment.

If you’d like to place a bid, please do so in the comments below each image on Flickr, stating the amount you want to pay. When the auction closes, the person that has bid the most, wins the print.

I’ll cover the costs of production of the print and the postage to the winning bidder (surface mail if international).