Photo of the week: Christmas Card

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This is the first edition of “Photo of the week”.

I created this to be our family Christmas card for the year that has just passed. It was a nightmare to photograph. The fake snow is polystyrene packaging crumbled up. Oh and when they say never work with children and animals they are speaking the truth. In the end I gave up trying to photograph them both together I ended up doing Eddie afterwards and photoshopping him in.

More photoshopping was done to add bloominess style and darken the background to make it feel moor outdoorsy in a way.

Somerset Photos

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I’ve uploaded the somerset photos to flickr baby.

I’m trying out a new look with these and that look is called “OMG Why is that so over-saturated!?” I quite like the look but I’m sure I’ll get bored of it soon.

There are 374 photos in the Somerset set and you will have to study every single one of them right this instant because I am going to test you, and if you fail that test… well your life will not be worth living.

Holiday’s over

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Back from my little family holiday in Somerset.

I was really blown away by how lovely the region is both aesthetically and in terms of friendliness.  The countryside there is very welcoming towards walkers, well set up paths, styles and all that.  They have a hilly area of country there called the Quantock’s, which offers up some great views.

We went to many pubs and none were trashy, all well looked after with the friendliest publicans you will find anywhere.  Best of all, every single person in Somerset seems to love dogs, every pub allowed them in, even in the restaurant areas, no where up north seems to let you bring a dog anywhere near.  Even the pubs which served expensive food welcomed Eddie with open arms, really really good food too, a sample of dishes I had in these places would be…  Monkfish, John Dory, Scallops, Rabbit and lamb (with a historically creamy parsnip mash!), um I didn’t all that in one evening lol. All with Eddie at my feet. :-)

Downside would be that Somerset seems to have the worst mobile data reception ever. Earlier in the year we stayed in Wales and the cottage had wi-fi, thing is I don’t think it was intended for us, but it was unencrypted so I can’t really complain that the cottage in Somerset had no such luxury.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent data connection from my mobile either (I hook my mobile to my iBook when away to get proper internet).  In Wales I could get a really solid connection via GPRS and at good speeds, I could download all sorts at a good 40KB’s.  In Somerset I couldn’t get above 5KB’s (is that WAP speed?) and it would only ever stay connected for about 5 minutes.   Hence why I never bothered to blog.

Actually, I would have hoped to have the photo’s all done but I went a bit mad with the camera.  I’ve got 576 photos to master and thats with the out-of-focus, blurred, overexposed etc deleted.

Uh oh.

ColorVision Spyder

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My iMac Core Duo 20″‘s screen hasn’t aged gracefully. Either that or it’s always been this way and I haven’t noticed until recently.

I quit smoking way before getting it, mind you, the cealing it pretty damn nicotine stained, but I don’t think that will damage an LCD being long since ex-smoke. Also, only the rear of the mac is facing a window, so there can’t be sun damage either. And yet, the default profile now looks like hideous brown poo.

I’ve profiled it using both superCAL and the built in apple affair, they help tons but I don’t necessarily trust my own eyes to do it correctly.

So I’ve bought a Colorvision Spyder Express. It’s a piece of plastic goodness that contains some kind of sensor. Plugs into the comp via USB and you dangle it infront of the screen and the software flashes different shades of colours and measures what the sensor is seeing to create a nice accurate profile.

Well, it worked great on my iMac. I thought it looked a little blue at first but that’s probably because i’m used to the poo. Now, after starring at it more it looks great, if maybe a little dark, I’m used to gamma 2.2 so it isn’t that, but I think maybe all the fudging the poo causes less light to get through.

Next I tried the Sammy TV I have the mac connected to via DVI-HDMI. With the express this shouldn’t be possible because you are supposed to go pro for multi-display set ups. But if you rename the profile file and also change the “desc” property in the profile you can trick it into letting you have more profiles on the same machine. I set the TV to “Movie” which is the only screen mode that disables the dynamic contrast, sure to confuse the spyder. Then let it roll. But hmm, it made a right mess. Gray’s were all over the show. I didn’t mind too much though because being a TV I’m sure its made for overly vivid video rather than accurate stuff.

The arrgh I’m having is to do with my iBook G4′s Display. I kind of expected a little trouble because this iBook screen has a very very bad viewing angle. But I’ve done it several times, I’ve even wrapped plaster tape around it to keep it nice and flush with the display but it always makes me a profile with tons of pink. Especially the OSX brushed metal windows show up the pinkness.

What am I doing wrong? Grr. I know for a fact that the one person who reads this is a graphic designer by trade, and so I presume he has done many a monitor calibration in his time. So… help!

I’ll Sigma you in a minute

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I want a new lens for my camera bitch.

113_big.jpg The friend who got married the other day bought a canon 400d to take on honeymoon pro. First thing that struck me about that camera compared to my e-300 is the speed of the menu, it’s really zippy, whereas mines more of a “down – pause – down – pause – select” affair. The big thing though is that along with the standard kit lens he also bought quite an interesting fixed-zoom lens. They are sometimes referred to as a “prime” lens, for reasons which are lost on me. But the advantage is that not having to cater for zoom allows the manufacturer room for other things, including a really big aperture. You’re able to take photo’s indoors with no flash and only ever a minor increase in ISO level. So of cause, I now want one.

Problem is, canon owners have the luxury of a back-catalogue of lenses stretching back to the stone-age, there’s thousands of the damn things. The lens mount my olympus uses, called the “Four-Thirds” standard was developed purely for the digital age and as such there’s only a modest selection to choose from so far.

Olympus don’t seem to care to create the sort of lens I’m after, luckily Sigma make their lenses for all the current crop of mounts including the four-thirds standard, which is what my camera uses. They have just the lens I want! The Sigma 30mm f1.4. But it’s freaking expensive, around 380 USD and goes for around 270 quid over here.

I could by an OM lens pretty cheap, which work on my camera using an adapter. But you lose Auto-Focus which ain’t no good.

I’m guttered actually because I had a winning bid for the Sigma on ebay but some crazy fool out-bidded me right in the last minute, I was just seconds too slow increasing my bid. So now i’m pissed off at myself for not using a bigger maximum bid in the first place.

Lightroom networks just fine

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I’m now using lightroom after all


I originally poo-pooed lightroom because it didn’t offer any obvious way to share your library over a network, and I want to be able to edit photo’s upstairs on my iMac and be able to show people photo’s occasionally on my iBook downstairs.  It doesn’t let you open a library over a network either.

I’ve been using bridge for a while because it doesn’t use a central library.  But after a few weeks it becomes very very slow, beach balls all over the place. It doesn’t seem to have a very efficient cache, it ironically seems to make it slower rather than faster.

So I thought, well what now, and grudgingly gave lightroom another go. Turns out lightroom is freaking great and I was totally dumb not to realize how it can work perfectly over a network.

All you do is store the photo’s in a traditional folder layout on the HD, and alway import them without moving them to the catalogue.   Set a preference to always write changes to the files metadata and you’re away.  It’s even got a folder list, clever enough to have the parent of the most high level folder of a photo existing in your library.

So what you do is create a different catalogue on each comp and import the photo’s over the network without copying them.  Then each time you want to update lightroom on the other comp all you have to do is right click the folder in the folders panel and select “synchronise” it doesn’t take long at all and it works just great.

Also, for some reason it doesn’t seem to be affected by Adobe’s policy of ripping off people in europe.  RRP in the US is 299USD, in the UK it’s 205GBP including VAT.  Not only that, are selling it with 50 quid off!  Bargain!

I dunno if this makes even more angry that people are forced to import creative suite from america though.

Old Photo People

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This week CBT is heating up, I had to visit some kind of enthusiast group. We chose a local photography club because I have a passing interest and also because this week some slide show was scheduled so I would be able to sit back for the most part.

So I stressed and stressed about it, spun between bottling out and going..what..the..heck about 200 times.  Luckily when the time came to set off I was in the what..the..heck phase.

Hmm, well from the CBT perspective it was quite a success.  Sure I felt pretty hot and bothered and couldn’t relax, but at least I went and managed to get inside.

Rather interestingly the club has been going for over 150 years , unfortunately so had most have the people there.  OMG it was full of pensioners!  I was at least half the age of the next youngest person there!

Still, I’ve been celebrating/recovering from the ordeal by getting drunk.  I now feel sick.

My Wii through a lens

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Random finger itches…

My Wii has been despatched!!!!!  Woohooo!!! I’ll either receive it monday or tuesday.  I’m completely trembling with anticipation.  Only issue is that zelda hasn’t shipped yet, but i’m reckoning the sports stuff will be fun enough for the time being.  I’m going to need to track down a 2nd wiimote so that we can have a family christmas day playing it after the mulled wine and with the fire burning.  Awww.

Can’t remember if I’m mentioned on here but I finally managed to buy a second hand 40-150mm 1:3.5-4.5 lens for my DSLR. It’s quite obnoxious looking when its fully zoomed out and you’ve got the hood on the end it, I look like the paparazzi with it.  Haven’t done anything spectacular with it yet… haven’t really been anywhere to exploit it.  Anypoop you can see a rather random gathering of my efforts with it… My flickr photo’s tagged 40-150mm

Captain, can I take a look at your whiskers?!??

Mac Security

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Bought a Tripod today, Scott Kelby told me not to get a cheap one, but this was only 50 quid, yet it’s the brand he recommends. So is that good or bad? It’s pretty damn fine actually, it’s light and has a ball head. The legs and that seem stable enough but the the quick-release socket where the camera goes has a tiny tiny amount of give and I’m wondering if it’s enough movement to shake when the shutter goes. Dunno.

I was listening to a mac podcast the other day and they brought up a subject I hadn’t given much thought to. It’s all about security, a boring subject, especially where the mac is concerned because it’s almost a non-issue but there are some surprises.

The Mac has 3 user levels where security is concerned and they are almost impossible to compare to the 2 windows provides so I won’t even bother. The do anything security level is “root” which anyone familiar with unix will know about, if you are logged in as root you can cause huge huge damage such as reformat the hard drive.

Next is admin who can modify most desktop level things without hassle, but can even do root level stuff by giving an application permission to escalate the user level. An admin only needs to give their own password to do this.

The least privileged user is “standard” who can access their own files and that’s about it. But, they can provide an application with admin access by providing the application with an admin’s username and password.

With a fresh installation of Mac OS X, after you have given the welcome sequence a username and password to use the machine with you will be logged in as “admin”, this is the default user-level and all would seem well because the OS hasn’t given you any rhyme or reason to change things. Well, this podcast mentioned that this is really dumb, in fact there is even a flaw with the package installers, they can, if they wanted escalate your user-level to root without even prompting. I’m actually quite shocked at this, if you use your mac day-to-day as a standard user you will have no such risk, it is impossible for an app to escalate to root without you giving it an admin’s login details.

I’ve dropped my account to Standard and I haven’t had any problems or naggles at all so I recommend everyone to do this. The only hassle is that when you do something like drag an app from a DMG to the Applications folder you will need to provide the admin account details. Ack, it’s not bad though, I can live with that quite easily. Also, when you are a standard user threes a gotchya with the terminal you should know about. Standard users don’t have access to sudo, so when you read a tip that says things like do “sudo defaults penis.plist erect = 1″ you will need first to poop “su admin” where admin is the name of the admin account.

Peak District and Dolly Mixture’s

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I’ve admired for a long time but I never think to check there for music, because their catalogue is far from exhaustive and it’s mainly dance/electronic based, of which there hasn’t been an awful lot i’m interested in recently.

Anyway, today I went to iTunes to purchase “So This Is Goodbye” by Junior Boys and then I stopped for a second to wonder what the alternative online stores are, I checked and am sooooo glad I did. Not only was it a pound cheaper, 6.99 rather than 7.99 at iTunes but it’s encoded at 320kbit/s (almost obscenely high!) and without any DRM, and this isn’t any dodgy Russian thing, the artists get the royalties they deserve. I also bought the new singles/b-sides compilation by Tortoise, it’s 3cd’s of music and just 8.99! bargain. Also, you can pay by paypal so you you don’t have to go through too much torture in the way of registering.

We took Eddie for another country walk, this walk was from bakewell to hadden hall and back and offered plenty of scenery to try out my camera, I’m still far from a photography expert though. Tell you what, what I’ve noticed now that there’s more photo’s in iPhoto made on it, when you scroll up and down through the thumbnails its really really obvious which are from the DSLR and which are from the compact because the DSLR ones through and through have more vivid colour, the ones from the compact look kind of pastel compared.

I bought a registration for FlickrExport a few weeks go and I realised today that it’s a bit silly to have paid for FlickrExport and yet be using a free Flickr account. So I’ve finally paid for a pro one today, however I didn’t upgrade the account I have been using because it isn’t included in public searches and tag pools, I occasionally upload screenshots to it and these are considered copyrighted material, if they notice they flag your account to not be made public. So, i’ve setup a new account, a pro one for photo’s and I’ll use the free one for screenshots and dodgy things I guess.
The Scobe or whatever he’s affectionately known has been praising some beta software by Microsoft, Codename Max (sounds way to much like Mac’s), I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is so I was intrigued to try it out. It has a flashy interface which requires a good 3D card I think, so I have to boot into bootcamp for that. So I booted into Vista to download Max and install it, and do you know what? The Installer told me I need XP! OMG! In fact, even better it told me to “upgrade” to XP.
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