Saturday, November 30, 2013

A change of perspective

It's been a while since my last blog post, apologies for that, life has been pretty busy.
I recently had the pleasure of taking my 3 year old daughter along to a photo walk. She had no instruction, and was able to take images of whatever she wanted.

The result was...
  • The walk for us went much much slower
  • We lasted a little over an hour into the walk
  • She came away with some fantastic images
Toddlers see the world from a vastly different viewpoint from adults, not only are they much lower down, but ordinary things, like shadows on the ground, or a discarded bottle are far more interesting. The sort of things which seasoned street photographers have retrained themselves to look for are more obvious to a toddler.

The images from the walk can be found in 2 albums, hers is here, and mine is here.

If you have kids, especially toddlers or pre-schoolers, then do this. Hand them a camera, show them how it works but not what to take, and let them go and do it. You may be surprised at what they come up with. If you do then I would be really interested to see the result.

And for the rest of us, try and get a different perspective on things, not just your physical viewpoint, but try and change how you see things, it makes for some interesting shots.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Silver and Cellulose

Having just picked up some images which was taken on 'old fashioned' film, I have been thinking about the differences between film photography and more modern digital shooting.

One thing which stands out is the success rate of shots on film is much much higher than similar shots on digital, so why is this?

Obviously, when there is a tangible dollar value for each click of the shutter there is a greater onus to 'get it right', there is also a limited number of shots per roll before having to reload.

All of this has the effect of forcing the photographer to 'slow down' and actually think properly about everything before committing the image to film. I have noticed a similar effect when shooting with a large, often heavy tripod. We often know what we should be doing, but digital is so cheap, so easy, so throw away, that clicking the shutter costs us nothing. We shoot first and think later and do often this means at end up actually missing the shot we were aiming for.

Thus far I have shot with Kodak Portra 400, and Fuju Velvia 50; both of which are vintage stock that have been frozen for something like 15 years. Both turned out well, and each has it's own unique feel.
The Velvia has fantastic contrast and very intense colours, the Portra is softer and has a subtler contrast and intensity.

Things I have learned...

  • E-6 processing is hard to find these days. Vanbar imaging did a fantastic job, I shall be returning there.
  • Some people will assume that you must be shooting digital, even though they see you winding on the camera after each shot.
  • Even though I know I am shooting film, sometimes I still look at the back of the camera after each shot. Film-chimping doesn't work terribly well for some reason.
  • No matter what you are shooting with, if you slow down, and think, before taking the shot, then your images will be better.
 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Google+ 2 year walk.

The 29th of June 2013 was the day that photo walkers world wide celebrated the 2nd anniversary of Google+ by doing what they do best, holding photo walks. As usual I participated in the Melbourne photo walk with the +Melbourne Photowalkers, and an epic day long walk split into 3 parts.

Part one started at the historic Astor theatre in Windsor, this saw the theatre full of photographers, then meandering up Chapel St. up to South Yarra Station.


Part 2 started at South Yarra Station and followed a winding route (which of course we saw more as guidelines and therefore completely ignored) to the Shrine of Remembrance. Due to a prior commitment I left the walk at this point, part 3 involved Albert park, beaches, and fire spinning.

Highlights of the walk included much street art; +Trace McLean and +George Darsas shooting each other out of windows; and an increase in the number of film shooters, as +Paul Pavlinovich+Hanna Silver, and myself all had old school film SLRs with us, although I did also have a DSLR. There were orbs to keep Orbaliciousness happy, and the usual food and refreshment stops with friends making sure that there was as much socialising as there was photography.

I have post processed a small selection of my shots so far, and will be adding more as they are completed, I may even remember to enter some of the competitions this time.

Once again, if you have never been on a Photo walk before I highly recommend it, and if you are in the Melbourne area we have a great one. Join the Melbourne Photowalkers Google+ Community and follow +Melbourne Photowalk on Google+ to keep updated, and get yourself along to the next walk.

Many thanks to +Paul Pavlinovich+Lady Fran W+Margaret Wong+Nat King+Chris Leighton, and +Paul Francis for organising, to the Astor for being so accommodating, and to all the regulars and newcomers for making this a very enjoyable walk. Apologies to anybody I have neglected to mention.






Thursday, June 27, 2013

Origins

I was looking through some old photos the other day and I found these 2, some early examples of me and a camera.

The first is dated 1984, making me about 8.

Photography had always been around, dad is a professional wedding and portrait photographer (now retired), and my brother Steve also took up photography as a professional. I grew up playing with everything from 35mm, through Medium format, and even some large format 5x4 photography, as well as studio setups and location shoots. I worked for a few years in the family studio before studying I.T. at university.

So in short, I can't actually remember when I started as it has just always been around, I learnt a whole bunch of stuff and played with a whole bunch of cool things, then got out of practice and forgot most of it. Then picked up again with digital and am enjoying being an amateur again.

Over to you photography friends, what is your background story, and how long have you been into Photography.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shooting outside the comfort zone

Earlier this month I was thrilled to be asked along to a shoot organised by +Paul Pavlinovich and +George Darsas from the +Melbourne Photowalk group.
The brief was to take a group of approximately 12 photographers and shoot images of a theatrical production, titled "The Death of Peter Pan"
This represented a fantastic opportunity to get outside of my usual comfort zone and shoot something both different and challenging.

Set in the most romantic of times and in the most romanticised of places – 1920s Paris, Eton and Oxford – The Death Of Peter Pan is an emotionally stirring biographic tale of repressed desire, love and dreamy adulation. 
Source: http://www.beat.com.au/arts/death-peter-pan

We had a special session which took place before the last night of the play, we ran through some scenes, sometimes silently, sometimes with dialogue, and often with the full weight of music adding emotion.

The set was simple, a chair, a table, and an old gramophone.

Thanks Paul and George for organising, thanks to the photographers for inspiration and generally keeping out of each others way, thanks to the cast and crew for your time in making this happen, and huge thanks to Rob Chuter, the director for being so accommodating and allowing us in to photograph the play.


You can see all of my images in this album on Google+

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Solvitur ambulando

This may be a bit of a rambling post (ha ha) but recently, I have been walking at lunchtime.

Back in the U.K. I had a number of places which held some cultural, personal, or family significance. Each of these places was somewhere I could go to when I needed to focus my thoughts, and all of them required some degree of walking, driving, or both to get to. Since moving to Australia I have yet to find alternatives for those places, and so when I need to focus, I walk.

I have had a lot of things on my mind recently, and walking helps me to focus those thoughts into something coherent. Perhaps it is the near meditation of the rhythm of the walk, perhaps it is the absence of other mental distractions, or perhaps it is something else. Apologies to my short distance walking partner +Gordon Yeong, but in order for the thinking part to work I need walk on my own.

Some of the plus points to walking are...
  • Walking has obvious health benefits, and I do feel better for it.
  • As mentioned, walking helps me to focus and organise my thoughts.
  • When walking, you see new, sometimes interesting things and places.
  • When setting out, there is an empowering feeling that you could just keep on going.
  • When it's time to turn around, there is a feeling that despite how far I now find myself from my destination, all I need to do is to put one foot in front of the other, and eventually I will arrive.
  • Instagram goes with me, and I am getting shots I wouldn't otherwise get. 
Does anyone else walk to think, and if not, what do you do to focus your thoughts? Add your thoughts to the comments please.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lensbaby

The thing I get asked about most when out on a photowalk (apart from the bemused 'what is going on' questions from the public prompted by the hoards attending the +Trey Ratcliff walk) are when I am using the Lensbaby composer on my camera. These questions have come both from members of the walk and passers by.

The Lensbaby composer system is easy to explain but difficult to understand, it is a low-tech lens with a sweet spot of focus in the center, the size of the spot varies depending on the aperture used, and the spot can be moved around the frame by tilting the lens which has a ball and socket design.

Aperture changes are made by removing a small magnetic disc and inserting another disc with a different sized hole. The actual aperture is not sent to the camera electronically, however metering in AV mode works just fine. Focus is manual using a ring, and getting this right takes some practice.

The core optics of the lens can be removed and replaced with a different one, so far I have the 'plastic', 'single glass', 'double glass', and 'pinhole'. Others are available. Each optic gives a slightly different look

Lensbaby shots are typified by the sweet spot which falls off to a progressively more blurred outer section. This is great for directing attention to a particular element in the picture, and great for adding a sense of motion. The pinhole optic gives a very soft retro look.

So why bother? It's something a little different, it's something fun, and with practice you can get some fantastic images with one. They are available from most good camera stores, or online. Not everywhere stocks them, I do recall a fantastically bemused look by the assistant in Ted's cameras upon being asked if they had Lensbaby, rather than try and convince him that they do exist, and are actually on their pro website, I decided to purchase elsewhere.


Friday, April 19, 2013

The problem with reader...

...and why the new Google+ based commenting for +Blogger is a great move.

It's old news now, but Google is killing of Google Reader.  Reader is a service that I use daily and so this was unwelcome, but not unexpected news. Given that Reader has not received any updates in a while it had been considered to be 'on borrowed time' for a while.
I use reader to keep up with many many feeds from a wide range of sites and reader brings all of this content together in one place, properly categorised ready for my reading pleasure.

But... This is where reader stops, sure, I can, and often did share these feeds on Google+, but that interaction rarely makes it back to the original article and in many cases the author wouldn't see that interaction. The problem with reader was that it disconnects the reader from the author, it breaks the interaction made possible by the social web.

The social web should be just that, social. When a comment is made on a blog post then the blog author should be a part of that conversation, and that's where the new integration between Blogger and Google+ comes in.

Google recently announced Bringing Google+ Comments to Blogger, this is a huge advance in bringing social interactions to Blogger. Shares of content on G+ are right there as comments on the blog, along with the discussions on those G+ posts. This is a great example of plus being the social layer to the web rather than just another the social network.

Not only is this a good thing for bloggers, it is also a good thing for those who comment on, and share blog posts. These comments and discussions are now right there in the blog, along with links to the plus profiles of those commenting. This puts your plus profile and relevant comments right there in front of others who share your interests. This will result in the building of networks of people with shared interests.

This is early days yet, and I hope that Google will continue the integration into other products, YouTube would benefit from the same level of integration with G+ and would be a logical next step. Eventually I would love to see the technology extended to include any website. We can only wait and see.

So far as a reader replacement goes, I will be using +feedly. I like the interface, but am experiencing some reliability issues both with the website and with the Android app. I'm sure this will improve as they make the break from reader into their own backend, but it is a little annoying at present.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

One year of photowalking

The morning of Saturday 31st of March 2012 was cold and rainy, I dragged myself out of bed at what felt like the middle of the night in order to get into the city for 6am.
This was the the first Google+ +Melbourne Photowalk, and also my very first photowalk. This one was organised on Google+ with support from +Google Australia (thanks for the breakfast guys) to promote the new(ish) social network.
What followed was a slow walk through alleyways towards Bourke St. for breakfast, then more walking up towards Vic Market and Flagstaff Gardens, and back down. I didn't quite make it to the end, not yet realising that the published times should not even be seen more as guidelines, but actually ignored altogether with the assumption that the walk will most likely continue well into the night.

This was the first of many walks, we had a night time light painting walk, we rewalked the original route shortly after, and later went off in a whole new direction to do the eastern part of the CBD. We have been to Geelong, encountered Zombies, and back to the Melbourne CBD more times than I can recall without looking it up. We set the record for the most people at a photowalk when +Trey Ratcliff joined us in January. +Nicole S. Young and +Brian Matiash (the new community manager for Google+ photos, congrats again mate) joined us in March as part of their tour of Australia. A small group even had a trip to New Zealand.

People learn from one another at these walks, the general level of skill across the entire group has risen over the year because of this.
They give photographers a chance to do what they love, without annoying the non-photographers. Being a group of photographers it is quite acceptable for us to take 45 minutes to walk down a 100m laneway, more so than with 'normal' people who are in a hurry to be somewhere.
Most importantly, they are a social event. At the Trey Ratcliff walk there were so many photographers around that it was actually very difficult to talk pictures of anything apart from other photographers.

One year after the original walk, on the 23rd of March 2013 we held the anniversary walk, in Collingwood, dubbed #CollingWalk, this time at a more reasonable hour. The core group of regulars (of which I am happy to be counted), now friends, hit the streets of Collingwood and some fantastic work was produced.

If you like photography, and are in the Melbourne area, do come along to one, it doesn't matter what your level of skill is, or what device you use to take pictures, we have all sorts, from camera phones to DSLRs, even some film users (myself included occasionally), and skill levels from newbie to professional. Sometimes some people (I'm looking at you +Trace McLean) forget to take any pictures at all and come along simply for the social aspect.

In addition to the +Melbourne Photowalk Google+ page, we also have a Google+ community and hold regular events.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ChromeOS adventures, part 2

Following on from ChromeOS adventures, here are more observations.

Memory issues

The Chromebook 550 has 4GB of ram, this should be enough for most use cases, however some web apps are very memory hungry.  I have found that in general use the included Scratch pad app (for making notes which are synced to Google Drive) uses a very large chunk of memory when it is running. The new Google Keep app may improve this specific instance, I have not checked.

ChromeOS has a feature which attempts to recover memory when it is running low by unloading the data in unused tabs. When tabs are unloaded then the tab must  be reloaded when it is selected again.
This varies from mildly irritating when having to wait for the page to refresh, to downright infuriating when the tab is a SSH session from which you have logged into a few different servers and have a shell application running, in this case you end up having to start all over again.

I can see this becoming a bigger issue, especially as native apps become more popular. The new Chromebook Pixel should have a better time of it, having more memory, but the potential for native apps to use more memory will increase with the release of the new, more powerful machine. The root cause needs to be addressed with at least some tabs being protected from a forced reload.

Enrollment issues

Enrollment is tied to the account which was used to enroll the devices, if that account is deleted then the enrollments are lost. There is no way I could see in the Admin control panel to list which account has been used to enroll a particular device, or to see which devices a particular account has enrolled.

If devices are manually enrolled, as is the case with our test devices given that auto enrollment failed to work, then the administrator makes the decision as to which account is used. It would make sense to use a role account in this case, however, if we had a large number of devices then I would not want to be enrolling them all manually.

If devices are automatically enrolled, then the first account to log into the device would be the enrolling account. This could be anybody in the organisation but would probably either be the person to which the device was assigned, or, in the case of pool devices, could be anybody in the organisation. This could be a problem from an asset management standpoint.

Devices can be locked down such that only accounts from the organisation can be used, however, for our enterprise environment this poses a problem. We have 2 Google Apps domains, one for staff and the other for students. This was a limitation of Google Apps when we adopted, and unfortunately, is now something we are stuck with despite there being a solution for this now in Apps.
This adds complexity to the auto enrollment scenario and is something which would require some thought and some discussion to overcome.

Battery

As mentioned in part 1, the Chromebook battery life is very good, a single charge lasts most of the day with only minor recharge stops.

A couple of times now I have closed the Chromebook and returned to it a day or so later to find the battery completely drained, the problem is that closing the lid puts the device into sleep mode, it does not power it off completely. In ChromeOS the 2 modes are not distinguished very well, some of the documentation even refers to "turning off" the device by closing the lid.

Other people seem to be having the same problem as documented, for example here and here.

This is more of a user education problem, from now on I will try and power off with the power button when I know I will be leaving the device unused for an extended period of time.  It only adds a few seconds delay to start up and all sessions are remembered by Chrome.

Miscellany

Can a ChromeOS device replace an existing laptop? at this point probably not, but it's getting close. The Chromebook Pixel has a tagline of "For what's next", which would suggest that Google has plans (when does Google ever not have plans?), there are many rumors posted elsewhere so I'll leave prediction as an exercise for the reader and for other bloggers.

So, what's missing?
  • Availability of accessories, such as extra power bricks.
  • Desktop docking, in an enterprise situation this is very important, and it should connect to at least 2 monitors.
  • Power users desktop apps, things like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Final Cut Pro. Yes, there are cloud applications which do similar things, but for those who need professional features the desktop apps still outclass the cloud apps many times over.
It's going to be an exciting time when what's next becomes what's here, but we can only wait and see.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recipe: Garlic and rosemary baked Salmon with Mash

Being a non meat eater (but an eater of fish) we tend to have a lot of fish dishes, and salmon is my favorite variety.
This is an adapted recipe for a garlic and rosemary baked salmon served with mash, the original idea was found here, but as you can see, I didn't follow that recipe much at all.
My recipes tend to be rather vague with a good amount of 'until it looks right' steps.

Ingredients.



  • 2 Good sized potatoes, good mashing ones like Désirée or similar.
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  • Milk (some).
  • Butter (some).
  • Olive oil (some).
  • Salt and Pepper (some).
  • Lemon juice (about 1 average sized lemons worth)
  • Salmon fillets (better with the skin off).
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic.
  • Whatever veggies to choose to serve it with.


To make the mash.


There are many good recipes for mash, so this section could just say, make some mash, and add the chopped rosemary, but for completeness...
Take 2 good sized potatoes, we prefer desiree Désirée, peel, chop, and boil until soft. Add 1 sprigs worth of chopped rosemary, milk, and butter, salt, and pepper. Then mash until mashed.

To make the marinade.


Take 6-7 peeled garlic cloves and mash/crush with a garlic press. If you don't have a garlic press then crush and finely chop instead.
Fry in oil and butter until they start to brown. You want a good amount of oil and butter, enough to coat both pieces of fish when the marinade is done.
Chop 1 sprig of rosemary and add to garlic.
Set aside and allow to cool
Add lemon juice and mix.

Prepare the fish.


Take the fish and coat on both sides with the marinade.
Wrap in foil, pouring any remaining marinade over the top before sealing.
Bake for 15-20 mins in medium oven, our oven loses a lot of heat, so your milage may vary.


Serve.


Plate up the mash and lay the fish on top. Drizzle any remaining juices from the fish on top.

I served with steamed carrots and honey glazed peas, although this time we didn't have any peas, so they were actually honey glazed peas, corn, and carrots.

Eat.


Enjoy, nomnomnom

Monday, March 04, 2013

Spending the day with toddlers

Walking together.
My wife has been asked to work an extra day a week to meet a deadline, and as I have more accrued leave than I should, each Monday from January until March she has been going off to work on the train and I have been hanging out with 2 toddlers. One of them, "Miss 2.5", is ours, and the other, "Miss 2", belongs to our friends, which may sound a bit unusual but we have a child sharing arrangement which works out well for all of us.

So, what is it like swapping higher education, code reviews, and work place coffee for toys, parks, and nap time? Pretty good actually.


Things we have done:


Visiting the park, going in the "big train" or the "little train", running up and down the decking, playing on the slides and the swings, and looking at all the things. It's cute how Miss 2 waits for Miss 2.5 at the top of the slide so they can both go down together.



Looking at trains, a favourite of Miss 2.0, she loves trains.


It would have been nice to visit the park more often, but the last couple of weeks have been over 30 degrees, which is a bit hot for little ones to be running around the park, and definitely a bit hot for this bigger one to be running around after them.

Reading stories, or watching stories on the TV.  They would, if allowed (which they are not) watch Shaun the sheep or fairy tales on TV all day.

Drawing on the driveway with chalk, including the "what shall we draw" game. We drew houses, cars, bunny rabbits, cats, and a face.

Hanging out in the back yard, playing on the slide and the swings, riding the trike, playing with the puppies, or just having a look at things. Jumping, on the path, on the step, anywhere.

Jumping is fun!

Playing with their toys, or playing with the boxes for their toys, boxes are fun!



Today was the last Monday of the series on which I will be looking after the girls on my own, as next week is a public holiday here in Victoria. Today we read stories and made lanterns.


Things to note:


Shopping with 2 toddlers is not always fun.
Synchronised sleep times, when they happen, are fantastic.
Sometimes they need to be reminded how to share.
Toddlers can be messy, and loud, and fun.

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