Better to Give than Receive?

As I sit in my little office – listening to some soothing jazz, I’m also looking at some of the art work hanging on the walls.

Here, in this little room, it’s all my own work crammed onto the walls, but elsewhere in the house, I have images belonging to other photographers – it’s either something that’s been gifted to me, or something I’ve bought.

Which got me thinking….. why don’t we hang more of our own work on walls at home in areas where visitors can see it?

Some time ago, a friend of mine got for me some simple black frames, with no backboard and no glass.  I’ve used them over and over.  It means that I can mount up an image, seal it into the frame – hang it on the wall – and then, when I’m tired of it, I can swap it out for something else.

Some images seem to last much longer than others – in other words, they seem to have a long shelf life.  

I’ve noticed that photographs by other people have hung in the same place for years – and I still stop and look at them as I pass.  Not every day granted, but often enough that I know I still like them.  Similarly with paintings – I have a small collection of original oils which I have never ‘gone off’…… so why do I change my own photographs so frequently?

Well, partly I think it’s to do with me being my own worse critic – I see the faults that maybe others may ignore….  

I used to do a lot of home decorating – wallpapering and what not….  When people came to visit – they’d say nice things about it, and it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve said “well if you look up there in the top right hand corner – yes up there, in the shadow – you have to look carefully, the pattern doesn’t match…….  Sound familiar?  I’ve been in houses where the host/hostess has done exactly the same thing……

Why do we do it?  And the answer is…. Sadly, I have no idea…….. but often self critique is not harmful – and most times it’s actually beneficial, allowing us to learn from our own mistakes.

Which brings me to the next thought……

A couple of years ago now – after having read a book called ‘The Gift’ I offered a number of prints for free to the first people who asked for them.  I’d said they could choose from anything on my website, and I’d get it printed to no larger than A4 and post it out.  I did this for four months, and each time the offer went out, the number of people asking for prints exceeded the limit I’d set myself.

It was fascinating to me to see who was asking for them – and mostly it was people that I knew…. I asked one lady why she’d never asked me before for a print of something, and she said that she felt too embarrassed to even ask….

It was a great exercise to do though, and I loved being able to send something out in the post that I knew was going to be appreciated.  A couple of folks even sent me pictures of the print framed and hung on the wall…..

It’s interesting though to think that the images I make, that I like the best, are not the ones I’d give away unless they were specifically asked for.  This of course might be just because I like and enjoy making ‘odd things’, or experimenting with my photography.

I’d love to use my images as gifts, but I’m not certain who it would gratify more, me or the recipient.  I suppose it’s one of those things I shouldn’t worry about……….

After all, Vivian Maier never displayed her photos, instead placing all of her energies in to taking them.

In the end you have to love what you do, or give up and go home……..

Excellence and its Benefits

It’s been a miserable year, with all the stresses of a pandemic, and the worries that ensue. I think I coped pretty well till the second major lockdown, but during that, I’ve got pretty fed up with the restrictions. Life has to go on, and I know that the restrictions are needed. Hopefully by next spring, we will start to see light and Christmas 2021 should be verging on ‘normal’ whatever that turns out to be – the ‘new normal’…. anyway…..

We are plugged into a news cycle all the time – between the internet, TV, radio and podcasts – all the newspapers, magazines, we are somewhat bombarded by all the bad news of the world.

I’m finding that all the news stifles my creative juices, and it’s been hard sometimes to make myself go out and make images… When I’m feeling all tense, sad, argumentative (nothing new there I suppose on the argumentative front!), and generally under the weather – I feel angry at something I have absolutely no control over – and that makes me scared.

What’s the solution?

For me, it’s friends, family and a good support group….. after that, it’s music, books, and good quality television.

I find that if I can get out for a walk with the dogs, alone, or with a friend, I come home feeling much better. A walk with a friend and my camera, some images to process, and play with on a wet day cheers me up immensely.

I was listening to a podcast on photography a few months ago, and a book was mentioned that had nothing to do with image making – it was about a detective called Harry Bosch – my ears pricked up because the detectives’ real name was Hieronymus Bosch – named after the great Dutch Painter who lived in the year 1500. I’d heard of him because of a different podcast where there had been discussion about one of his major works called ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ – now, if you’ve not heard of this, then I suggest you give it a look – especially if you like things that are a little off the wall….. anyway, I digress……

I searched online to find the book that had been mentioned, and enjoyed it very much – later I found that there was a TV series too – called ‘Bosch’ which I started to watch, and can’t get enough of……

Harry Bosch enjoys Jazz – (bear with me here), and I spent some time trying to find out what he was listening to in his home. I found a website that had a list of the music, and someone made up a playlist.

With the benefit of Amazon Prime, I was able to get a list of jazz personalities that I’d never heard of, and now have a great list of superb music that I’ve not listened to before.

The upshot is that if I listen to excellent music, read excellent books, and watch excellent programming – talk to excellent friends, and get out for walks and some exercise generally, I WILL feel better – and the more I do it, the better I feel.

So now I’m listening to the Red Garland Trio, Miles Davis, Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams, Artie Shaw, and Boz Scaggs…. to name but a few……

Listening to things like this (or whatever your predilection for music), reading or watching can lift the spirits, and suddenly today I felt like doing something creative.

When we surround ourselves with excellence, it can promote the same in ourselves.

Get out and shoot

Go and shoot they said, the weather will be great they said…… It was lovely when we set out.

In the talk that I give, I discuss the weather, the vagaries of shooting and the stuff you forget to take with you. I also talk about attitude, and what you do at the other end of your drive when things don’t turn out as you anticipated.

It was a fabulous morning, a light mist hanging over the fields – not light yet properly, and the idea of a low mist, a high tide, and the ‘Sound Tower’, one of the Structures on the Edge – down on the coast, kept me moving.

It’s about 30 miles to where we wanted to be – around a 50 minute drive along winding roads, and with the fog getting thicker all the time, there were thoughts about turning around and getting home for a bacon sandwich…

“Carry on”, I said to myself, “Practice what you preach”…. “Wish I’d brought my ‘normal’ camera” I thought, and not the drone….

Still, it looked like it might be OK. We parked up, and wandered onto the beach to be met with a wall of sea fog, but with the sun making a brave effort to poke through. “We’ll launch” we said….. and up we went……

What I didn’t think about was the transmission issues in fog between drone and transmitter…. should have done of course… and at one point it sat in the sky and refused to land – a moment of panic to be sure, but all was well and down she came – I thought better of a second attempt, and only took a couple of images…. here they are…..


The light turned out lovely, and I did get the bacon when I got home…. maybe I will check the forecast in a bit more detail next time before I leave the house……

Wrong weather, wrong mood, wrong camera, wrong lens…….. good photo !!!

I think……

I’ve Never Flown A Drone Before!

A few weeks ago, a friend told me that another friend was selling his drone, did I fancy getting one? I wasn’t sure……….

We decided in the end that we would buy it between us and give it a go.

What did we know about drones? – absolutely nothing…….

However, once it arrived, we found it easy to set up, and get running.  The cables were a bit fiddly till you could sort out where they went, but once the batteries were charged, it can be put it into ‘idot’ mode, which makes for an easier start.

The basics are easy – left control, up and down and rotate, and the right for forwards, backwards, sideways – but getting the knack of using both levers at the same time was a bit more complex.   You also have to take into account that the camera lens can be moved up and down through 90 degrees. Lots of permutations here.

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The first lot of video was shaky to say the least.  Stop start, and too quick rotation meant viewing made your head spin, and getting up the nerve to go to the maximum legal height of 400ft was a bit hairy.

The Boring Bit

To legally use a drone in the UK, over the weight of 250g, it must be registered.  It can all be done online and there are two parts to this.  

  1. Anyone responsible for a drone needs to register as an operator.  This is currently £9 annually.
  2. Anyone flying a drone must take, and pass an online education package. This is free, and renewable every three years.
  3. If you want to fly commercially, a whole raft of other requirements are in place.

So, registration complete, test passed (first time – though in fairness it’s not difficult) – and away we go.

What’s hard?

Thinking in three dimensions is not easy for me – yet …. For a start, the thing is moving, and it’s far away from you usually.  Taking stills is not too bad as it will hover and the gimbal helps keeps the image steady, plus you can see what the camera sees on your mobile phone app.   Video though, for me, is a whole new skill.

So, I’ve got the footage (bad though it may be) and I’ve got some photographs.  Processing them is easy – the drone shoots its own version of RAW – in this case DNG files, which I can deal with in Photoshop and Lightroom.  The video footage though – well Lightroom can’t handle it – Photoshop is limited, so what else have I got?  

I use a MAC, and the free software that comes with that is iMovie – and it actually works pretty well.  I’ve got a fairly powerful computer that can handle video, but bear in mind that the files can be huge.  I shot in 4K (which is the best quality this drone can handle), and after 40 minutes flying the other day, I came back with 30Gb of footage, which when downloaded and edited made for a bit of a wait whilst the files were exported afterwards.

I’ve also been learning a bit more about how YouTube works. The finished files are a bit too big for me to keep locally, and there’s free space so far on the web, which I can link to. Something else for me to learn….

The other interesting thing I found is that you can take a still image from the video footage, and the quality isn’t bad. (See Below)

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So how am I doing?  Well, it’s been an experience for sure – and some of the images I can already see potential for.

I was initially a bit disappointed with the quality of the stills. The camera is 12Mp but really does need good light to get the best from it. The sensor of course is tiny – but you can work the files to what I consider an acceptable standard – they can be noisy but software can sort most of that. It’s a bit like flying a medium quality mobile phone. (Though I know that some of the newer drones have much better cameras).

I’m always talking about taking a risk, and experimenting with photography, and this is a whole new way of seeing the world.  It’s going to take practice, and although I’m thinking of buying another one (that’s all mine)….. I’m going to wait till I really get to grips with my half of a drone……..  

For those of you who know all this already, I’m sorry to ramble on, but it’s an exciting time.

Fingers crossed I can keep up with this, and hopefully get to make some video that is actually worth watching….. till then… fingers crossed.


As the DJI website says – “Let’s Fly”

Being Quiet

I’ve stolen this title from a podcast that I listen to, where the talk was about being digitally quiet as well as physically quiet.

This came from the fact that, (for reasons that are unimportant) I put Facebook back onto my mobile phone as a temporary measure.  I’d deleted the app over 12 months ago, but every now and again wished it had been there – and yesterday I put it back on for one day – and I wish in some ways I hadn’t.

We went to the Festival of the Air in Cleethorpes and I’d had this idea that I could post to FB a video of the kite flying – which was incredible by the way…..

What I found was that I got to looking at other things rather than just posting the video, and a couple of photos. It became a huge distraction, as I became more bothered about the upload, than I was about what was going on around me.  In the end I uploaded a photo or two – and the video, and then deleted the app again – it was just too much for me to deal with, AND absorb what was going on around me.

Once again, I noticed the number of people (this time including me for a while) who were watching the parade, the kites and all the other attractions through the small screen of their phones – almost like it was a sin to watch the real thing with their own eyes.

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I don’t think I take enough time really to stop and look.  There’s too much digital noise going on, and sometimes I feel I’m being dragged into directions I don’t want to go.

I’m an advocate of playing around though – I think that it’s essential to take time off from the serious bit of photography.  So this weekend – apart from the Facebook distraction – I decided to play with the images – I took them just because it was interesting to me, and not because they were truly ‘artistic’ in any way.

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I call it photographic doodling. It’s a great way of limbering up the artistic juices (of which I’ve been sadly lacking for weeks and weeks) – It’s the process of playing around, and not the result.  It’s been good to just mess about, and see what comes out.

Facebook has been removed from my phone, and I hope will never, ever, get put back on again, I need the peace and quiet after all….

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Where East Meets West -Part 14 – Greenwich

As my Meridian journey comes to an end (at least for the time being) it was only fitting to visit the place where it all began.  The Greenwich Observatory.

We set off, on a blistering hot day in the middle of July, for two days in Greenwich, to meet the heroes of my story really – the Harrison Clocks.

John Harrison, lived in Barrow – about 30 miles north of my home – he performed his first sea trials of the now famous H1 clock, on the Humber Estuary, before continuing with his other clocks H2, to H5.

Harrison was born in Yorkshire – moving with his family to Barrow when only a youngster – he and his brother together built a number of long case clocks (the first of which is now in a museum in Leeds) – a further clock, commissioned for the turret of the stables at Brocklesby park was made of oak, and Lignum Vitae (a very oily wood that made lubrication of the clock unnecessary).  Here it is, and still running for the last 300 years.

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Harrison was a man of many skills and he used these to systematically improve the performance of the pendulum clock. He invented the gridiron pendulum, consisting of alternating brass and iron rods assembled so that the thermal expansions and contractions essentially cancel each other out. Another example of his inventive genius was the grasshopper escapement– a control device for the step-by-step release of a clock’s driving power. Developed from the anchor escapement it was almost frictionless requiring no lubrication because the pallets were made from wood. This was an important advantage at a time when lubricants and their degradation were little understood.

In his earlier work on sea clocks, Harrison was continually assisted, both financially and in many other ways, by George Graham the watchmaker and instrument maker. Harrison was introduced to Graham by the Astronomer Royal, Edmund Haley. who championed Harrison and his work. This support was important to Harrison, as he was supposed to have found it difficult to communicate his ideas in a coherent manner.

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(London viewed from the Greenwich Observatory)

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And the observatory itself.

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You can see from the crowd how busy the place actually was.  It was impossible to get a straight shot of the Meridian Line.

Also, sadly, my site here does not support video, so I am unable to upload the video I did of the H1 – H3 clock movements.  However, you can see below – the changes from H1 to H4 (I didn’t see H5, as this is in a different location in London).

 

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Harrison died on March 24, 1776 at the age of eighty-two, just shy of his eighty-third birthday. He was buried in the graveyard of St John’s Church Hampstead, in north London, along with his second wife Elizabeth and later their son William. His tomb was restored in 1879 by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, even though Harrison had never been a member of the Company.

Harrison’s last home was 12, Red Lion Square in theHolborn district of London. There is a plaque dedicated to Harrison on the wall of Summit House, a 1925 modernist office block, on the south side of the square. A memorial tablet to Harrison was unveiled in Westminster Abbey on 24 March 2006, finally recognising him as a worthy companion to his friend George Graham and Thomas Tompion, ‘The Father of English Watchmaking’, who are both buried in the Abbey. The memorial shows a meridian line (line of constant longitude) in two metals to highlight Harrison’s most widespread invention, the bimetallic strip thermometer. The strip is engraved with its own longitude of 0 degrees, 7 minutes and 35 seconds West.

A further memorial to John Harrison will be erected in Barton town centre later this year. I believe the installation of the statue will be in September, with a formal unveiling in October of 2019.

I hope you have enjoyed this meridian journey with me.  Maybe there will be more to come.

In the meantime, I hope to have this talk ready for the road by the end of September this year.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

Where East Meets West – Part 13 – Holbeach

Holbeach is a fenland market town in the South Holland district of south Lincolnshire.  It is 8 miles from Spalding, 17 from Boston, and 43 from Lincoln.

The town’s market charter was awarded in 1252 to Thomas de Moulton, a local baron.  All  Saints Church, was built in the 14th century and the porch, which was built around 1700, possibly incorporated parts of Moulton Castle.  The associated All Saints’ Hospital, for a warden and fifteen poor persons, was founded by Sir John of Kirton, in 1351. 

The image below is the meridian marker here.

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Until the beginning of the 17th century, the sea came to within 2 miles of the town and there were severe floods recorded in the 13th and 16th centuries. The land drainage programmes that followed moved the coastline of the Wash to 9 miles away, leaving Holbeach surrounded by more than 23,000 acres (93 km2) of reclaimed land. In 1615,

Further enclosure of marshes were recorded in 1660, in Gedney, Whaplode, Holbeach and Moulton.  The work included the building of an embankment, and resulted in 9,798 acres being added to Holbeach parish.  You can see part of this embankment below.

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Holbeach also had a workhouse (as did most places) – and only read the following if you have a strong stomach… !!!

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In April 1882 the master of Holbeach Workhouse, Walter Brydges Waterer, was accused of the manslaughter of a workhouse inmate, 22-year-old Thomas Bingham.

Poor Thomas suffered from a skin disease, and therefore to treat him, Waterer had left the man in a sulphur-burning cabinet, which was used as a treatment for what was known as “the itch”, or scabies.

The patient stood naked inside the cabinet with his head poking out of the top. The sulphur was then placed on an iron tray at the bottom of the cabinet, beneath a grating, and ignited by a piece of hot iron.

On this fateful day, though, Waterer had left Bingham encased in the cabinet and disappeared to attend to a matter elsewhere, but then completely forgot about his patient.

Others were eventually alerted by Bingham’s cries for help, and he was released…but on stepping out of the cabinet, he had been so hideously burned that skin and flesh appeared to just slide away from his body. Thomas Bingham died a few hours later. Waterer was found not guilty of manslaughter.

And sadly also, here ends my trip around Lincolnshire – I’ll be doing one more post – following on a trip to Greenwich, which seems to be to be a logical final step.

I’m busy now putting the talk together which will accompany the photographs taken on my journey.  In the meantime.  Onwards to Greenwich…….

 

There’s Too Much Noise

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much going on around me, and it’s distracting me from my photography.

Not the camera – but the rest of it – the internet (in particular Facebook), the computer generally, the radio, the television – it’s all getting to be too much.

I know I’m not taking enough time over my photographs – I feel rushed…. complete this, edit that, mount up this one… and I know I’ve talked about this before – and still done nothing about it.  Well from this minute forward I will – I promise.

I’m trying to be on a Facebook hiatus.  I do check in to look at what’s going on from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I did.  I’ve turned off the TV (other than Wimbledon) and I’m listening to podcasts only in the evenings.

I think that the more I can turn off technology, the more I should be able to concentrate on my photography – and do you know, it’s starting to work for me.

I’ve found more time for my edits, and am now looking at some photographs I took about 2 weeks ago and appreciating what I can do with them.

The plan is to go back to images I took ages ago, and re-edit them. I think that because of the rush to produce I’ve not always done my best, so I want to start again, and get some prints done, and keep up with the blog too.

Last weekend, was Armed Forces Day in Cleethorpes – I was away (on family business) for part of it, but did manage to join a couple of other photographers on the Sunday afternoon.  We shot some aircraft displays, and I purposely took far fewer images than I would normally do – and the results were much better.  The other plus side was that I actually watched most of the displays – something I would normally miss, as I’d be hidden behind the camera frantically trying to track a Eurofighter as it shot across the sky.

Here’s a couple from last weekend then, a fast one, and a slow one…….  the rest of the edits will just have to wait!

Where East meets West – Part 12 – Spalding

I’m nearing the edge of Lincolnshire now – and was thinking that Spalding would be the furthest point on my journey South down the Meridian Line.

I still have to re-shoot some of the places I’ve visited already, as I’d like to get some more sunshine into the pictures.  Also, I want to visit Greenwich, as this seems to be the place where it should end……

However….. yesterday we visited Spalding…. for the first time ever… so what is Spalding – what does the place name mean?

It’s both English and Scottish: a habitational name from a place in Lincolnshire, so called from the Old English tribal name Spaldingas ‘people of the district called Spald’. The district name probably means ‘ditches’, referring to the drainage channels in the fenland.

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The river Welland runs through the middle of the town, and it was at one time, the town was well known for the annual Spalding Flower Parade, held from 1959 to 2013. The parade celebrated the region’s vast tulip production and the cultural links between the Fens and the landscape and people of South Holland (the clue is in the name)…

Archeological excavations at Wygate Park in Spalding have shown that there has been occupation in this area from at least the Roman period, when this part of Lincolnshire was used for the production of salt. It was a coastal siltland.   At Wygate Park salt making seems to have come to an end by the mid-3rd century AD; climatic change and flooding may have made such activities difficult, causing the practice to die out.

The river was well used, and boats carrying all kinds of produce was moved up and down and out to the sea.  You can see the merchants houses still, though some have had major conversions on them.

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We didn’t have a lot of time to spend, so we moved a little further north to visit a memorial we had seen signed on a previous visit.  This was to the Pilgrim Fathers, just outside Boston.

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During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Protestant non-conformist religious beliefs flourished in England. One such belief was that of the Separatists, a group of Puritans with strong Lincolnshire links – Gainsborough was at the heart of the Lincolnshire Separatist movement, and another group was based just over the border at Scrooby in Nottinghamshire.

Separatists wanted the freedom to worship God away from the constraints of the Church of England. When Elizabeth was succeeded by King James I, there was a clampdown on such groups, it became illegal not to attend church and the Separatist Movement was banned in 1604.

Wanting to escape persecution, The Separatists decided to flee to The Netherlands, a far more tolerant Protestant country. In 1607, both the Gainsborough Separatists and the Scrooby Separatists travelled to Boston where boats were waiting to take them to Holland.

The Gainsborough Separatists successfully completed their journey and joined other English Separatists known as the Ancient Brethren in Leiden.

Unfortunately, The Scrooby Separatists were betrayed by their boat’s captain. Shortly after setting sail, they were intercepted at Scotia Creek (where this memorial stands),  a few miles down river from Boston.  They were arrested and all their goods seized.

The Scrooby Separatists were brought to Boston Guildhall where they remained in the cells whilst awaiting trial at Lincoln. After several months in prison, they were released and returned home to Scrooby penniless. Sympathisers eventually raised enough money to fund a second escape attempt, which this time was successful.

After living peacefully in Leiden for several years, the Ancient Brethren decided to sail for America in search of a better life in 1620. They hired two ships, the Speedwell, which was to transport passengers, and the larger Mayflower, which was to carry supplies, for this very hazardous journey across the Atlantic.

Unfortunately, the Speedwell started to take in water off the coast of Devon and it became obvious that the ship would be incapable of crossing the Atlantic. The passengers transferred to the Mayflower, which set sail from Plymouth on 6th September 1620 and landed in Massachusetts after an arduous two month voyage.

This small group of people became known as The Pilgrim Fathers, the founding fathers of America.

In the 1630s, another group of Lincolnshire Puritans left Boston for America. They founded a new settlement in Massachusetts and named it after their home town – Boston.

One of the most important of these settlers was The Reverend John Cotton, who was the very controversial Vicar of St. Botolphs’ Church in Boston. The Reverend Cotton made many enemies by preaching his non-conformist views and regularly found himself prosecuted at Lincoln’s Law Courts. In 1633, he sailed across the Atlantic to Boston, Massachusetts, and soon became spiritual leader of this church-dominated state.  His influence increased further when he helped to draft the fundamental laws for the colony that are still applicable today.

You are able to walk further along – past the memorial, and views of the Boston Stump can be seen on the horizon…

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A pillbox from WW2 still marks part of the estuary

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For the time being, this is where my Lincolnshire journey will end, but I think there will be a further post about Spalding.  We visited the parish church which is beautiful, and also the Alms houses there.

I shall revisit some of the places, and research some more, before finally completing the talk that will go with this exploration.

In the meantime… enjoy…