Archive for the ‘photography’ Category
No, I’m not moving: the scenery is being moved for me. This is a Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, which means that they can close the DART line. Why do they need to close the DART line? Because the west stand of the Lansdowne Road Stadium
is was built hanging over the DART line.
It meant an all-nighter: these photos were taken long after 2AM, with a tripod in my kitchen, which was an interesting challenge.Some came out really well, with interesting colours, and I may post one or two in my main photo gallery. It helped that I have a camera (Pentax *ist DS) with good sensitivity (ISO 3200), and a fast Sigma 70-200mm lens.
By this morning the stand was mostly gone, leaving nothing between me and the coast but a few low houses. I don’t quite have a sea view, because at that angle the coast is not that close. There are trees, which suits me just fine.
The scenery is changing in my office, too: on Friday I handed in my notice, kicking off a process that will occupy much of the next four weeks. I’ve already been heavily occupied in “knowledge transfer”, mostly informal “mentoring” so far, but I’ll be giving a presentation to colleagues on a particularly thorny product range.
I was going to say something about University, but the U key on my new keyboard is intermittent, so I’ll need to take a look at that, tomorrow. I was drilling holes in one of my guitars the other day, brass dust went everywhere…
For the last couple of weeks I’ve not had as much sleep as I should. There’s nothing in particular keeping me awake; I was simply not getting tired until after 1am, despite getting up at 7am every weekday. Even on weekends, when I could sleep as long as I could wish, I’ve been awake around 8am. It’s probably related to Daylight Savings time, since it’s still bright at 11pm, at this time of year.
After that happened again on Saturday, I decided to take some drastic action to mark the middle of the year. I’ve been up for 34 hours now, with the help of coffee, and took a very-early-morning trip in to Dublin with my camera. Two cameras, actually: I’ve got my old film Pentax going again, though if I get anything off the three-year-old roll of black-and-white currently in there, it might be somewhat avant-garde.
I walked through the Grand Canal Docks area, snapping buildings when it wasn’t raining; there was so little colour in the shots that it wasn’t worth keeping. The first picture above is of a low tunnel under the DART line, with some flash to bring out the texture of the spiralling bricks; the other is a new apartment block under construction. This building is so narrow and skeletal that I would not want to live in it, even if I could afford the extortionate price tag.
On my first-ever visit to Dublin in 1999, I had an “encounter” with a foul-mouthed six-year-old, who followed me down a street cursing and threatening to get his brother. Though Grand Canal Docks is a very upmarket area, it is close to some very downmarket areas, and I “met” two local teenagers this morning. One of them might well have been that same kid from 1999, eight years older: the two of them were drunk or stoned, barking incomprehensible vitriol in my general direction. As a parting shot, as a security patrol came in to view, they finished by throwing a couple of aerosol cans at me. They appeared to be cans of shaving gel, leading me to wonder if they were the latest trend in solvent abuse. Ah, the kids of today – aren’t they precious? Wankers.
I was back home shortly after 7am, so additional anti-sleep measures were necessary: cola, a couple of hours of Guild Wars in the morning, and in the afternoon, a movie on TV that I’d never seen before, but fit the “stay awake” bill very nicely. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is, when you get down to it, a two-hour-long music video. Spotting the bloopers was part of the fun: I mean, could three women really throw themselves ten feet into the air, through glass windows? One of them was carrying a full-grown man, who must have weighed the same as her plus half as much again.
My last cup of coffee was after 3pm, and should have worn off by 9pm, meaning that I can look forward to 8-10 solid hours of sleep tonight. If that means I’m getting up earlier, it will be only temporary unless I set my alarm; without a regular wake-up time, I’ll be up later every day.
Today’s big music news is the Princess Diana Memorial Concert, which did not sound at all promising, but passing through the channels now there was one pleasant surprise: Roger Hodgson, by himself, has got the whole of Wembley Stadium singing Supertramp songs. “Well, this is cosy, innt?” 8)
Saturday will be over by the time I post this, and I will be asleep soon after. This was a day marked by violence and collisions, none of them involving me, thankfully, but still jarring.
In the afternoon I went shopping, and carried my camera, because I heard there was going to be a parade of Unionists through Dublin. I thought there might be an photogenic angry scene or two, but the reality was far far worse, and I’m not annoyed that I missed most of it. The mere presence of Unionists in Dublin was enough to attract Republican thugs from across the 26 counties, and they didn’t even need to see the Unionists to go on the rampage, attacking police and wrecking half of O’Connell Street.
Unlike London in 1999, I didn’t get to see the fighting for myself, only some running people, and a long view of a Garda (police) baton charge. A view of the aftermath was quite enough.
Next: a bruising Rugby clash between Scotland and England, the “Auld Enemy”, at Murrayfield near Edinburgh. After 80 minutes of scrums and rucks, plenty of kicks but no tries, Scotland came out 18-12 winners to pick up the Calcutta Cup for the first time since 2000.
At least I got a leather jacket at a good price. Can I go to sleep now?
Thanks to Scott Fletcher of PodCheck Review for the “shout out” yesterday, though I should warn folks that this site may not be quite what he led you to expect. Recently it’s primarily been my Blog site, where I get to spout off about anything that gets my limited attention. I’m on holiday (a.k.a. vacation) from my day job at the moment, which explains the recent flurry of activity.
I have a stereography page that documents my initial experiments, but I haven’t done much photography of that type recently. I migrated to a “real” camera a year ago, a Pentax *ist DS digital SLR, and though I have a Loreo 3D lens for it, I’m not happy with the quality of the results so far. I need to spend more time with it, and that means setting up lighting etc. indoors, since here in Ireland the outdoor light is poor in winter, what little of it there is. (You don’t realize how poor it gets until you see how a camera’s metering struggles to find a usable exposure!)
PodCheck Review is well worth listening to, for an alternative viewpoint on the world of Podcasting, from someone who has not (yet?) “drunk the Kool-Aid”, as it were. By that I mean the pursuit of the goal of doing Podcasting for a living, as many would like to do. In my view the numbers don’t stack up: I think there is a serious misapprehension of the size of the market. You can’t really compare it to radio, not unless you want it to be radio – that is, full of commercials, yet not a good investment for advertisers… who really listens to commercials on radio any more?
Even Adam Curry, the main driver of podcast commercialization today, gets this – he is fond of saying that without passion about a subject of interest, podcasts just don’t catch the ear. My question then is: how can you commercialize something that depends on the way someone feels? Could you sign a contract that specifies what you will deliver and when you will deliver it, if there will be times when you don’t have passion for your subject?
I used to write for a living, a decade ago: I took a computer testing job, initially writing comparative test reports to be handed off to a “real” writer, but then doing the actual writing, once people noticed I had a knack for it. This was the job I referred to yesterday, the one that nearly drove me mad, and made me resign for my health’s sake. I don’t have access to any of the work I did back then, and while I think I did wonders under pressure, I would not want to put my name to work that I was not enthusiastic about.
If you’ve tried listening to Podcasts and found yourself doing a Queen Victoria impression -”We Are Not Amused” – I can recommend PodCheck Review. Not only is it entertaining, it gets additional credit for avoiding all the things that threatened to turn me off: a) Scott has a great voice, well-recorded and produced, b) it doesn’t go on too long and outstay its welcome, c): it has a good mix of fact and opinion. Most important is d): – that is, it’s clear that Scott is Passionate about Podcasting!
I just took two quick tests on colorvisiontesting.com, along with a colleague; while I have doubts about such tests, because of the variability of computer monitors, these ones gave a clear result, confirming that I’m colour-blind relative to “normal” people.
I would never have known I was severely colour-blind if not for the Ishihara tests, which I took under medical supervision years ago. One translation of Ishihara (石原) might be “stony wilderness”, which (I suppose) describes where the Cones should be in my retinas; I hope that means more Rods, since I do think I have good night vision. Apart from that, the only effect visible to me, outside the tests, is difficulty distinguishing between similar colours in poor light – which I thought everyone had problems with.
I took a more thorough test, a few years ago, in the research department of the Royal Victoria Eye Hospital here in Dublin. (An Irish institution named after an English Queen, with the Royal prefix? Hey, if it ain’t broke…) It involved laying little pots of colour in order, e.g. from blue to red. Didn’t do too well there either, if the tut-tutting of the researcher was any clue. (I admit to being slightly distracted by the researcher, who was named Hilary, and was rather beautiful in a slightly Lilith Sternin Crane fashion.)
So, if I’m colour-blind… what am I doing learning photography? Or should I stick to black-and-white film? I find some software colour correction of digital images to be overactive, but I think I have to trust it, at least on pictures aimed at this site.
No, it’s not spelled “color”. I don’t mind using some American spellings, particularly those where a “s” is replaced with a “z” (e.g. “realize”), since I think the change aids in correct pronunciation, but this one is a little beyond the pale (pun intended)…
Yesterday I finally gave up my struggle against the mobile phone, and signed a contract with O2 Ireland. At least I found the handset I wanted, a Nokia 6021, which is almost unique in having Bluetooth, which I want, but no camera, a feature I definitely do not want in a phone.
Even if I did want a camera, my office asks that we don’t carry cameras in our building. We’re not such a high-security office that they need to enforce this tightly, and I sometimes carry my SLR camera to use on the way there and back, but that might change. Besides, why would I want a toy camera when I have a real camera?
My first cell phone was a Nokia, a model I can no longer find any details on, but it was very well-built, and survived numerous knocks and the loss of half its antenna. The 6021 is a fraction of the size, but solid with no protrudng antenna. I think I’m more in danger of losing it than damaging it. As with all these phones, the microphone lands halfway up my face when in use, but a test with the voice recorder sounds reasonable. This phone supports Push-To-Talk too, although O2 doesn’t, yet.
Not long after arriving home, last night, I had the Nokia PC Suite installed. When it works, it works, but I don’t think I’ve seen a flakier piece of software. Sometimes it locks up to the point where I have to reboot the phone and the laptop. Other times it pops up a dozen error windows saying “phone did not respond”, in the middle of normal operations. The text message facility works well, and I bet the people I wrote to are wondering how I got the full spellings and strange punctuation in there…
I found out last night that one of my photos was selected as finalist #17 in a photo competition this week: RTÉ Summer 2005 Weather Photo. This is a quarterly competition for photos to use as a backdrop to the weather forecasts on the Irish national broadcaster. I’ll be getting my 15 seconds of fame in the weather forecasts of 4 August. Yee Haw!
My entry was one of the pictures I took early one Monday morning, just over a month ago, while adjusting my circadians for the trip to Paris; another from the same session, just a few minutes later, is in my wraparound blog entry. It illustrates one of my favourite things about digital photography: my winning picture was actually cropped out of a larger picture that was taken in Portrait format. Good thing I had plenty of pixels to play with. The guys at RTÉ cropped it a little further for a widescreen format, which I can’t complain about – it’s got to fit within their screen format.
OK, it’s not much, but it is “One Little Victory”, useful encouragement to go out and shoot some more. Even if that means staying up all night again, and hitting the scene at 5AM.
Part II of the Paris Air Show report: before I get to the planes and the flight displays, a little about the airfield and the facilities. All the general public spectators were crammed into a small section of the flight line – the area closest to the runway – though there was more space further back. I arrived not long before the flight display was due to start, so I went straight to the flight line and spent most of the afternoon there, taking pictures.
It was a very hot day, with almost no shade, and the organizers broadcasting warnings to everyone to drink plenty of water. Could you get water? At a price. A baguette (sub) with jambon et fromage (ham & cheese), a 500ml bottle of Coke, and a 500ml bottle of water came to €12 ($15), more than double the typical street price.
The displays had an element of unreality to them: the Airbus A380-800 was parked just in front of us, the last in a row of three Airbuses taking part. First the little A318, then the incredibly long A340-600. This thing just kept on going, long past the point where other planes would have stopped. Landing it must be a hair-raising exercise in centre-of-gravity and airspeed control.
The A380-800 is shorter, but its sheer bulk makes it the first plane to have a takeoff weight in excess of a million pounds (454 tonnes). The test pilots kept its flight display relatively sedate – it’s maiden flight was only a month ago, after all – and they didn’t even raise the gear, saying it takes 30 seconds of level flight to accomplish that. (It would have been halfway to Versailles in 30 seconds.) I didn’t get a good view of any of the landings, which was a disappoinment, seeing as the landing is the most crucial part of any flight.
After an hour I was fried, after two hours I was grilled, and after three I was roasted. By 4PM I decided I needed to get out of there. On the way to the hotel, however… describing this scene is going to stretch my descriptive vocabularly somewhat.
- A veritable cornucopia of hot, tired, sweaty people, stacked 42-deep around the bus stops, and the show is not quite over. I couldn’t even see which queue I should join, not that I had a chance of getting the bus, so I joined the hordes slogging their way back to Le Bourget station.
- At each intersection was a large, angry gendarme, clearly unhappy about spending his Saturday directing traffic and pedestrians. Loud whistles, heated disputation, wild gesticulation, oh my.
- Two kilometres later, I arrived at the station to find the masses wending its way inwards. As far as I could tell, tickets were optional, with a sign telling people to buy €2 tickets for central Paris, and nothing else.
- Hot, bothered, and distracted by all the commotion, I neglected to look where I was going and fell over a tree emplantation, so my right ankle is now in a state somewhere between “twisted” and “sprained” Cue much Anglo-Saxon swearing and quizzical looks from the locals. (A week later, considering how slowly it’s healing, I call it a mild sprain.)
- Since I’m heading north, I limp straight through the gates on to the platform, and am mildly surprised to find I made the right choice, and could get on the right train when it arrived.
- Whew, right? Not quite. I know I’m going to Villepinte, so I get off at the Villepinte station, before I remember not to do that. It’s a 1/2 hour wait for the next train, sadly, before I can head for the right station, Parc D’Expositions. Walking was not an option, with my painful ankle swelling up.
- A hotel that was supposed to be quite close to that station turned out to be quite far, and I had to pull into another hotel for directions first. I must have looked a fright, but I at least got them to give me some cold water too. This other hotel was really close to the station, so guess where I’m staying next time, expense be damnedm if there is a next time.
- The hotel I chose this time was really inexpensive, but was a painful half kilometer from the station. It was OK for one night, any longer and would I have sleep-walked my way out the window. It had some semi-permanent residents, welfare cases who put on a classic “white trash” performance for my benefit – heated arguments about money at 2am.
To add insult to injury; I managed to drop my iPaq later that evening. All my contact and appointment data was wiped after the battery came out, but at least it’s all on my home PC and work PC too. I don’t need any of that in my hand until I go back to work, and it can still play MP3s etc. I even took this opportunity to try Linux on it, which is also data-destructive. (Call it a work in progress.)
A week later, and the skin on my arms is still coming off in clumps, and I’m very red in the face. In my concern to get decent photographs, I neglected to carry a hat or sunscreen, didn’t I?
The holiday is almost over, and it’s back to work on Monday, at which point I’ll find out whether my trip to Germany is still on, or not. If so, it’s not back to regular work directly, and I have to prepare to deliver product training. The most flattering part, so far, has been hearing what my department will be charging for my services. That’s per day, multiplied by three days of training plus a day for travel and a day for preparation, plus costs for travel and expenses. (But it’s still much less than trying to buy this training from an external provider.)
Well, that was fun. I’m getting much better at finding my way around places, compared to a decade ago. I got up early and left home at 04:15 or so, thinking the bus to the airport would arrive at 04:30 at advertised. It arrived at 04:20, about a minute after I arrived at the bus stop, and was surprisingly full for that time of the morning. Some check-ins at the airport were mobbed at 05:00, with people queueing around the terminal for cheap holiday flights, though my check-in was no problem.
The flight boarded on time, but left about half-an-hour late, and the excuse was a new one on me: “we have a wide departure window”. Meaning… what exactly? That the tower gave you a wide time window, in which case you gave no excuse for leaving late in that window… or that the airline decided they could afford to be slack at that time of the morning… which is also no excuse. At least they served a nice little continental breakfast, different each way, which was even more welcome on the way home.
This was my first visit to Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, and quite an experience it was too. Let me see… if you’ve seen U2′s “Beautiful Day” video you have a general idea of what Terminal 2 looks like, but not the scale of the place. It contains six medium-sized terminals under one huge roof, A-F, an overall size roughly equivalent to Heathrow Terminal 1, 2 and 3 combined or Chicago O’Hare International. Terminal 1 is a separate huge building of its own.
I landed at Terminal 2F, and after a bus ride to the Terminal proper I had to take one of the walkways to the central area of the Terminal, where the RER station was. One of those walkways collapsed just over a year ago, killing six people, and that area is still cordoned off.
This is the point at which I ran head-first into Paris’, well … interesting transport system:
- Try to catch the advertised bus from the airport to the Air Show? The information desk said to go to the bus stop at the RER station, which was what I remembered. No show – no bus turned up in 3/4 of an hour, no signs anywhere, no hint of a schedule.
- OK, back to Plan A: the train. Should be simple… until you try to buy a ticket:
- Ticket office? Not for the RER (suburban railway), only machines. Machines that don’t take notes, only coins and cards.
- The machines are running OS/2 Warp – old – and in French only. (I later found a machine in a remote suburb of Paris that did have an English mode, but putting some of those at an International Airport would make too much sense, of course.)
- That’s manageable, because I have enough French vocabularly to get by.
- The thing was: of about eight machines in the station, only two were working. The hedgehogged ones had “fixed by July” signs on them, and the working ones had huge queues behind them.
- I resigned myself to joining the back of the queue at one machine… the screen of which was stuck with an inscrutable message… then it rebooted. The rest of the queue started swearing, in a multitude of languages, then wandered off to the other queue leaving me in front.
- Great: after an extended self-test the machine was running again, and I could see how to buy a single to Le Bourget. No notes accepted, no coins in my wallet, so a card it had to be. I tried three different cards, and each was refused; carte non acceptee. This process was interrupted by concerned queries from those behind me: “is it working? taking the card? what card is that?”
- No luck, I thought, and turned to walk away, but someone stopped me in time: it had worked, it just hadn’t told me clearly.
- The train was there, and I made it on board just before it left. At Le Bourget station the shuttle buses were filling up, but I was on one in ten minutes, and at the airfield in ten more. Whew.
It’s just after six on Friday evening, and I’ve managed to rearrange my sleep patterns to allow me to bunk down before ten, so I can be up again at four. That’s what I need to do to catch the bus to the airport for my 06:40 flight to Charles De Gaulle, for the Paris Air Show. I don’t know how wise it is to muck around with your sleep patterns, but the process has been interesting, at least.
I started by trying to bring my wake-up time forward gradually, from around 08:00 to 04:00, but it backfired badly last Saturday night when I couldn’t get to sleep until well after midnight. When the alarm went off at 06:00, I woke up, but spent about half an hour stuck in “first gear” before dozing back off till nearly 11:00.
Then I thought I could use an old method of mine: the Wraparound. You execute a Wraparound by lengthening your daily cycle from 24 to 28 hours, so that you get six nights sleep in seven days. It started off well, when I was able to stay up to 08:00 on Monday morning, ahead of schedule. I even got out to the beach at around 05:00 with the camera, and took some of my best pictures so far. There were few clouds in the sky, just enough to make the sunrise interesting, and plenty of light.
That backfired too: this time I couldn’t sleep long enough to keep the wraparound going steadily: I was up by 12:00, less than five hours sleep, and wilted by 08:00 on Tuesday morning, yet slept till only 14:00 or so. I must need less sleep as I get older, but it doesn’t mean that I stay awake much longer, I suppose. It all worked out for the best, though: I was so tired on Tuesday that I could get to sleep earlier, and by Thursday I was up at 04:00, like I was today and should be tomorrow.
One nice thing I discovered today is that there will be a coach service direct from the CDG terminal I’m arriving at, 2F, to Le Bourget airport a few km down the road, where the show will take place. Good – saves me the hassle of dealing with the RER (suburban rail) line so early in the morning, though the cost is exorbitant – €10 each way. I will need to use the train later to get to my hotel, but I should have plenty of time to figure that out.
The only remaining question is: how am I going to post this? I have no Internet access at home – which explains the gap in entries – and the Dublin Airport free access was absent last time I was there. I hear the Press tent at the air show will have WiFi, and I’d like to see them keep the microwaves in the tent, eh?
Never mind the Special Olympics in 2003: if any proof was necessary that Dublin has arrived as a world destination, I found it today, in the freezer section of Superquinn’s in Blackrock. That’s right, folks; Ben & Jerry now make a Dublin Mudslide flavour. It was OK, I suppose, but I’ve had better ice creams.
Ice cream (with liquer), steak, a fine Brie: what’s the occasion? My birthday, again. I used to mention Bing Crosby as someone I shared a birthday with, but it seems I was wrong about that – he was born a day later, according to more authoritative sources. Never mind; besides Queen Catherine the Great and David Beckham (who turned 30 today), other names I can drop are those of Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti and actor Duayne “The Rock” Johnson. Ye Flipping Gods…
Today was the May Day Bank Holiday here in Ireland, and I actually took the day off for a change, I normally work these days and take a more useful day in lieu. My afternoon went on another of my mad walks down the coast, this time to Dún Laoghaire (Dunleary), the harbour and ferry port. The word of the day was “grey”, with a few gaps in the cloud providing a little colour. As I found at the Leopardstown Racecourse a few months ago, this strange light fools my camera into underexposing, and this time I soon remembered to compensate for the effects.
As before, there was little point in keeping what little colour the images contained, and it was back to black & white. Mucking about with different colour balances had little effect, even with the RAW data from the camera that had no in-camera processing. There are more pictures on the Dublin gallery page (follow the Gallery link). I haven’t trawled through all the pictures yet, so I should have a few more later, including some 3D work.
The swivel to Pivot on this blog has gone through rather well, despite a few teething problems with user IDs. Still on the topic of swiveling and pivoting: I’m in the market for a decent tripod for my new camera.
The web server program (Apache) on my server runs under an administration account, since it serves multiple clients, and that includes PHP scripts. It only becomes an issue when those scripts create files, as Pivot and SPGM (the picture gallery) do, and when they do that the user ID on those files is “nobody”. That’s better than “root”, and allows me to work with those files, but if I modify one of those files offline and upload it, that operation takes place under my own user ID. That leads to a failure of the copy at times, sometimes a good thing, since the files I’m overwriting are auto-generated, and I shouldn’t be making such changes. At other points the files are the ones I’m creating directly, where I need to overwrite them. I’ll need to be more selective with the user IDs and permissions on the directories, which will mean a little work.
As for a camera tripod: should be simple, right? Hardly: looking at just two major manufacturers, Gitzo and Manfrotto, presents a bewildering array of options, construction materials, head types, with anything as serious as my camera costing a hefty sum. I expect a truly professional photographer would not balk at such prices, saying “you get what you pay for”, but I’m definitely a light traveller, physically and financially. I’m trying to develop a “have camera, will travel” posture, but the most serious tripods are so large and expensive that they would make travel more difficult than it already is. More research is needed.
The first Japanese lesson of the new year went off fairly smoothly. I’ve retained the grammar, which is good, but I’m still struggling with the sheer amount of new vocabulary being thrown at us. Last night was just revision of last year’s work, but that still included plenty of new vocabulary, and many more words that we saw just once and never mentioned again.