Saturday, March 29, 2008

News Blackout... Or "Blackout News"...

Or even "cab elk no stu w" which the online anagram generator insists is proper English.

Yes, I'm sat here in my cold, dark and drafty room, in almost complete darkness. I'm not complaining though, I've got my hangover water, and my Admiral's Pie. So I'm in a generally good mood today.
Why am I sat in complete darkness? Well it's to do with this Earth Day thing. The general idea is that major cities around the world turn off all unneccessary electric lighting and equipment from 8pm-9pm local time. It's one of those symbolic gestures, though I daresay it should amount to a pretty cost saving for the cities as a whole.

I joined in, turning out my lights and all my electrical appliances (excluding the computer, obviously) not because I believe that humankind is going to singlehandedly destroy a four and a half billion year old planet, but because in general I approve of green technology, as long as it doesn't negatively affect me. This despite our (soon to be ex) government's policy of taxing anything not-green into oblivion, regardless of the fact that other much larger much more polluting countries have no pollution legislation or interest in energy efficiency whatsoever.
I've always seen our country's stance on climate change as being like the cat that stands in the bear's path while the lion sits idle, but nevertheless, I approve of symbolic gestures in general, so here I am, in the dark.

So what did I do today? Actually, and in a manner that's completely unlike me, I woke up at 4am, rolled over, went back to sleep, woke up at 07:40 and got out of bed. I left for work nice and early, taking the opportunity to have breakfast on the way to work, I relaxed when I got at work, had my cup of coffee and everything - it's been a pretty laid back and easy going kind of day. I worked. Well, I sat in my chair, mumbled and stared at my screen, so officially I worked, which when your boss isn't SUPER hot on facts and figures, is pretty much the same thing.

I came home to discover that one of my ebay presents has arrived - I got paid on wednesday so I went on a (random but inexpensive) spending spree, ordering a few little odds and sods that I kinda wanted. So what arrived today?
A lens reversing ring (ebay item). Yay, go me. Basically it's a piece of metal with a screw thread on one side, and an F mount on the other. It cost me four quid ($8 at current exchange rate). For a thin, lightweight and almost insubstantial piece of metal.
I felt kinda taken for a ride, until I actually put it on my camera and gave it a go.

Well, it definitley does the job. Wow. If only £4 could go as far as this little piece of kit in every job.

Just a little note to tell you all that I accidentally closed firefox while typing this - thank feck for automatic backups!

This thing has given my camera capabilities it didn't have before, it has essentially taken the place of a dedicated macro lens costing over a hundred times as much, and while a dedicated lens might produce better results, I don't have £400 to kinda spend on something I won't use that often.

But yeah, I came in from work, opened my package, and started playing around with the camera. Out come the gems collection, and hey, out come the photos. It's a decent piece of kit my camera as I say about 8 times a day. Light goes in one end and decent photos come out the other.

So here's my camera set up with the lens reversing ring - notice that you can hardly see the ring itself, but how all the lenses are the wrong way round on the camera. Notice how the huge lumbering hulk of a camera is focused on a tiny little jewel parked next to a ruler, the sole purpose of which is to highlight its tinyness.

I figured that for macro photography, the best subject was my gem collection. the little yellow thing in the photo is an 8mm citrine. Under the power of the lenses though, it became so easy to turn it into something spectacular.

Well, kinda spectacular, see, one of the bitches about lens reversers is that the lens has no connection to the camera, so there's no autofocus, there's no apeture control (at least not from the camera's point of view) in laymans terms, once you put a lens on the wrong way round on a camera, the camera can't help you - you're on your own and the photos you take, you take without help from the camera's focus or light sensors.

I took one photo as a kind of reference guide, just to show you how small these stones actually are. Here, you can see how tiny this stone is (Yes, the ruler is incredibly out of focus - one of the problems with macro photography is that when you're taking photos of really small things, you lose all of your depth of field - this basically means that it's impossible to get more than a tiny area in focus).

Once I'd got the practice in, I started playing around, got a few more gems arranged together and took a few photos until I came up with some good results.

This was the best I think. The largest stone is only 10mm across, the smallest only 4mm. Those lenses sure do a good job of capturing all the detail.

Well, now Im off to spend more time on my computer, and start my *holiday*. Okay, I spose I'd best explain.

CHAPTER TWO

I had to go to hospital on tuesday. Hmm where to start. The beginning I spose, the beginning is always a good place to start. Well skipping a load of random rubbish, I've got to go to hospital to have my jaw operated on, remember?

So we finally find this place. It's down a backstreet - sure this's the center of Britain's fifth biggest city so there are a lot of backstreets, but I was still kinda worried. The other buildings, as if in a cartoon, seemed to lean inwards at the top, the traffic was non existant...

I got in and handed in my paperwork and they sent me up the stairs - polished, tidy stairs reeking of the unique brand of "clean" that only hospitals (even our MRSA infested hospitals) contain, I worked my way to a waiting room - essentially a corridor that had been squared off with a couple of partitions that looked like they were in the process of being replaced, with a couple of desks and a few chairs shoved in there. No natural light, only the insipid yellowy green light of the hospital's corridor lights. Every now and again, we'd hear a rumble as the lift/elevator/whatever rumbled up past the floors.

I sat there for about twenty minutes, watching random people come in some go off into some bright doorway filled with natural light, in the manner of one leaving purgatory for heaven (I am not religious! It was a metaphor). Eventually my turn came and I was led out of this almost Harkonnen medical waiting room, past rows of clean sparkly dentist's chairs.

I sat opposite a consultant, an austere scary dude in his late forties or early fifties, who I expected to basically ask me in polite terms "what do you want, what are you doing here"
Actually it was a lot better than that, he explained that loads of people request sedatives when having dental operations (particularly ones that involve scalpels being taken to their gums and drills being taken to their jawbones!) so it's nothing to be ashamed of. Besides it's nothing i've not done before.
He tells me that "You won't be under general anaesthetic, you will be sedated. It's a needle in the back of your hand, and it doesn't put you to sleep, but it does make you feel like you've had eight or nine pints of lager". I spose my yooffull appearance must have convinced him this was a suitable comparison. At least I'm young to somebody.
Either way, you're given a nine-can reward for a needle in the hand? I'll have two. Maybe three.

I hope I don't come out of that place drunk.

anyway, he got me in the dentist's chair remarking "don't worry we're not going to do anything today".
Do I look worried? Well, probably yes, but still. Get off my case.

So I took tuesday off, chilled out, got home, chilled out more. Then I had to work four days in a row - which for me is a lot because i work four days a week - two on, one off, two on, two off.
So now I've booked a week off to get myself back to my normal lazy lifestyle. I've got a few more pressies to recieve from ebay, so I can't wait.

And as a final note, my mouse started working randomly today, seems the trouble is in the charging, not in the using. Maybe I can keep it afterall.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dusty Spring...

And not a Field in sight.

Yes. In the past few days I've been suffering with problems with my camera. I'd discovered some spots on the images that I was taking, but they perplexed me. I noticed that they appeared on some photos but not others. They were definitley spots though and they were annoying the hell out of me.
I took the lens off (sticking the body cap on the camera) and cleaned it. I put it back on - spots still there.
I changed the lens with another one - spots still there.

So I took the lens off, locked the mirror up (so I could see the sensor) and had a look. There was a little dust on the sensor, but it didn't correspond to the dust on the images. I was stumped.

So in desperation, I resorted to doing what I normally do when things go wrong for me - I went off on one and had a go at everyone except the idiot responsible - me. This is a personality flaw of mine and one that I'm trying to remedy.

Anyway, I decided that the first thing to do was to have the sensor cleaned. I didn't want to do this myself though, because the sensor is a smooth shiny precise expensive piece of technology, and if you scratch it, you pay through the nose, ears, mouth and all other orifices to have it fixed. Nikon also advise against cleaning the sensor (beyond blowing dust off with a blower) yourself. The section on sensor cleaning in the manual basically says "Nikon strongly recommend that you do not attempt to clean the sensor yourself, if you do attempt to clean it, you will invalidate your warranty, default on your mortgage, and people will laugh and point at you in the street. Anyway, here's how to clean it". Fair enough, I'll get someone professional to clean it for me. But was dust the actual problem?

It can't hurt to take a blower to it to get the dust out I spose, at which point my mate pointed out that not only did Nikon charge him £90 per camera to clean out the dust from his camera, but it also took them 2 months to get the cameras back to him. (Note to Nikon: I have no proof, I'm just going on what I was told, so don't sue me please! PS: I love your cameras, can I have a free D3X? I promise to do a fair and accurate review?)

"Bugger that" I thought, I'll have a word with a couple of local places to see if they can help. I didn't pay [equivalent at current exchange rates] $1600USD for a camera just to not-be-able to use it for two months. So I sent an email to a local camera place who shall remain nameless:

To: [address witheld]
Subject: Nikon D200 Sensor Clean
Hi there. After buying myself a nice Nikon D200 as an expensive present, it
has taken me a grand total of six weeks to get dust on the sensor. I can't
blow the dust off, and as per the manual, I'm not really willing to attempt
to manually clean the sensor myself.
Is this a service you offer? If so, would you be able to clean the sensor at
the time, or would the camera need to go elsewhere?
Would you be able to give me any indication (if you are able to clean the
sensor for me) of the cost involved?
Many thanks!

Cool. Covered all the bases, which was good. They replied quickly too. I was rather impressed.

To: Squid
Subject: Re Nikon D200 Sensor Clean

We sell the kits you need to maintain the camera.
They cost £90.00 and include all bits to do the job.
Regards
Person.


Bollocks. Well they got back to me quickly, which was good. And that's about the only good thing about it. Obviously hadn't read past the first paragraph. Still everyone's only human, so I won't hold it against them, but I didn't have the heart to send an email back saying "listen you idiot, that's not what I asked", because I'm not that hostile a person. Well I am, but as you noticed, I keep the majority of my hostility to myself :). No, really.
Admittedly, my attempts to blow the dust off were confined to blowing hard into the camera (holding it reasonably far from me so as to not get spit in it - that WOULD be an embarrasing and expensive inconvenience) so like I say I'm going to buy a blower and see if I have any more luck with that. But why didn't the dust on the sensor correspond with the spots on the images?

My dad directed me to the aptly named cleaningdigitalcameras.com which gave lots of useful information that seemed to be a toned down version of Nikon's "If you break it you will die but this is how you do it" advice.

As I was reading, I was there with my camera taking reference photos - eventually taking a few photos of a white sheet of paper just so the dust would show up, which it did.
I noted that there were about 6 spots on the image.

All of a sudden, a thought occured to me.
I put the camera aside and took out a spare lens. I held the lens to my eye, holding it like a telescope, and adjusted the distance between the lens and my eye until I got a clear image.
And I knew.

Take a magnifying glass, look through it, adjust the distance between the magnifying glass and your eye, and you will know too.

The lens inverts the image and projects it upside down onto the image sensor! How stupid, how absolutely stupid of me not to realise! This is secondary school stuff that they teach to 12 year olds! The reason the dust doesn't correspond to the spots on the image is because the sensor takes an upside-down snapshot of what's in front of the lens! Up is down, left is right.
Some damn photographer I am, I sell my images (okay, image) online, but I forgot this basic, basic principle of photography!!!

I flipped the mirror up and had another look at the sensor - the dust corresponded exactly to the spots on the image.

CASE CLOSED.

Now all I need to do is go and get the dust out of there. I'll try this rocket blower first, they're supposed to be good. Ignore the "around" bit, that's just for liability reasons.

So.

What else have I been up to? Well, since my last blog, not much. I came home last night, had my chips as usual and then went to sleep. I woke up at 10PM. Rolled over, grunted and snorted in the manner of the half-asleep and next thing, it was 00:00am. So I got up, chilled out for a couple of hours, spent some time on the computer, read about a few movies, etc, war of the worlds, signs, poltergeist etc, then stuck the TV on and went back to bed.

What followed was a four hour long series of nightmares that literally involved me sitting upright in that manner people with nightmares do, and nearly cracking my head on the cupboards above my head. I mean the dreams were GOOD, but they were of BAD stuff. You know, like my response to really bad events and stuff.

I spose I played prey too much as well, because that featured in it too, kinda.

Sooo, my nephew's present is due to arrive tomorrow PM, at which point we can go and get it assembled, and maybe I can get back that £30 my sister owes me - seriously, I'm skint.
My nephew's coming over tomorrow which will be good, he came to see me tonight, the lil fella, and I was asleep most of the time :(.

Still, I'll do my best to make it up to the little guy.

Anyway, I'm off to drink vast quantities of beer, and go to bed at stupid o clock. Hope you all have a nice night, and a nice bank holiday weekend.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Very sparkly...

So, I'm sat here, chilling out in the new recreation room at work.
I have to say, for a company that used to have an astronomical turnover rate and very low morale, it's impressive. I'm sat on one of four new computers, with LCD monitors and mostly unfettered internet access, while across the room, my colleagues are either sat chatting round tables, watching the huge (easily 35"+) flatscreen tv on the wall, or playing on one of three Xbox 360's against the back wall.
There are sparkly chairs and cappucino machines, cool blue accent lighting, new carpets, striking blue/white walls, and decent first-floor/second floor (the floor above the floor on the ground) views out over the car park and the wildlife reserve, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is actually a pretty decent place to work.

Which is, I suppose, fairly subjective. Every job has its pros and cons, and I spose this is at the moment, the biggest pro the building has going for it. And while the rec-room is slowly increasing in popularity (it's a bit of a badly kept secret at the minute, no company wide newspoint mention or anything) work is proceeding on getting the rec room downstairs to a similar standard.

Which I suppose is important, because you have to bear in mind that as with any call center job, while you're sequestered inside your own secure office inside a secure building with a secure car park, you're also exposed to the madness that everyday people seem to suffer from, and choose to inflict on other people. My longest call today? Thirty four minutes. Thirty one minutes of which was the caller repeating themselves. I progressed right from "okay, well I'll get xyz to give you a call, thanks" to "I've got to go now" and then right up to "i'm going now" before cutting the caller off mid sentence, if only to save my own sanity - and her phone bill, which she spent 15 minutes complaining about.

Pets? I don't think I'll ever get one again. Not when they seem to cause people this amount of trouble.

So what else have I been up to? Well, I've recently had one of my photos accepted by fotolia, a photography agency that sells royalty-free images. The basic concept is that I take photos, upload them to fotolia, and if they're good enough to pass quality checking, they go up for sale. Money is divided in a 70%/30% split - them and me, respectively. Might not sound like a lot, but the more photos you have and the longer you're a member, the higher the cut you get.

There you go, please buy my photo.
There's serious money in online photo sales though, and the beauty of it is that as you expand your portfolio, your income increases, so unless a client site goes down, your income only ever goes up. Maybe one day in the distant future I won't need a job. Who knows.

Anyway, I'll write more tonight, I've got to be back on the phones in 7 minutes, so time to work my way to the office at the other end of the building. Hopefully the afternoon will be over as quickly as the morning was.

Have fun!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grr, I hate HTML.

You will doubtless notice that the layout of the blog has screwed up.
This is because despite the fact that I am no good at HTML, I have got so sick of the blog taking up a narrow strip down the center third of my screen that I have tried to change the width of the overall blog, to get rid of the massive borders either side.

Obviously you can see the result, I'll fix it when I have more patience.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Special Review - Micansu T700 Tripod

Okay, so this time, I'm posting something a bit different. This is not a blog entry, it is in fact a review of my sparkly new camera tripod. If you're into photography, this may be of help. If not, you can skip this one, you won't have missed anything. Anyway, let's begin.

One thing I've noticed through researching on the internet, is that there's not a lot to be said about Micansu's T700 Tripod. That's not to say that people don't think highly of it, there's literally nothing out there about this tripod.

So today's entry, is a quick review of the tripod, which arrived this morning.

First Impressions:

The package from Micansu (actually vistarex) arrived well wrapped and securely packaged. The postage was reasonably quick, ordered on the sunday evening, arrived on the wednesday,
All documents enclosed.

The first thing that I noticed about the thing was the weight - over three kilos, this is a substantial tripod. Take the head out of the box (boxed seperatley) and you're left with a nice little (if somewhat... budget appearance) carrying bag. This will come in useful so you don't have to carry the thing around in your hands.

Feet:

The tripod comes with feet fitted, nodescript but substantial rounded plastic feet that will probably do the job, but don't inspire faith. Not to worry though, as it is also packaged with a bag of bits, that on closer inspection appeared to be a trio of spare feet - these are much more substantial and work in a ball-and-socket type arrangement to keep the feet level on the floor regardless of how rugged the surface is, By screwing the feet inwards, you expose the rather pointy metal spikes at the tips, designed to dig into soft surfaces and again, keep your camera expensive side up. They're a bit fiddly, but certainly look sturdy.

Legs:

The body of the tripod itself is made from extruded aluminium, and the top of the legs are covered in a rather nice foam sort of material, which means it's reasonably comfortable to drag around, and you won't burn/freeze your hands on the metal if you're shooting in hot/cold weather. You notice on your first glance how sturdy the tripod looks, even when it's fully extended, and this is a tall tripod, at over 70 inches fully extended, with center column in the lowest position. With the column in the highest position, the camera is some 7 and a half foot above the ground, which is more than high enough for even the tallest photographers (and actually feels a bit precarious when it's balancing up there. But the sturdiness of the tripod isn't compromised, and it's still rock steady. The legs are also adjustable independently, and while most budget tripods will have all three of the legs linked to the center column, with the T700 you can spread the legs out until they're almost horizontal, and each leg will lock into one of four positions - good for extra stability, I imagine,

Center Column:

Unlike my old tripod which used a rack and pinion type arrangement to raise and lower the center column (which had the advantage of being quickly and accurately adjustable, but which spun the control lever around at a frightening rate when you wanted to lower the camera again, frequently jamming it under the legs and potentially causing you to drop the entire kaboodle), the center column in this tripod is again, a simple triangular section of extruded aluminium. It's secure though, and adjustable simply by using a lock nut which presses a pressure plate against the column (so you won't damage it). Unscrew the nut, slide the column to the height you need, and tighten the nut again. Simple.
This tripod however is much more versatile than its rack and pinion cousins, and allows you to actually slide out the entire center column, and re mount it upside down, so that the head of the tripod is in between the legs, and the camera dangles down from the center of the tripod instead of perching on top of it. This allows you to get the camera millimeters above the floor, for more versatility, and is accomplished by removing the security plate at the bottom of the column - a little triangular plate mounted into the column with a press stud type thingie, designed to stop the center column (and your camera) crashing to the floor. Again, very secure, very sturdy. Both ends of the column have a standard screw thread (3/8) on the end, so that you could fit a head to either end. The end opposite the security plate however, has a substantial metal plate that the head could screw to, whereas the plate itself is just plastic. For this reason, I'm using the "top" end as the top.

The Head:

I purchased the tripod with the optional Pan and Tilt head, on the basis that it's less fiddly than the ball head, which is also an option when you're buying.
The head actually ships in four bits - the head, and the three knob/lever thingies that screw into it. Instructions were provided, and the head was assembled quickly and easily. It has several controls, the foremost being the three levers. One controls horizontal panning, one controls vertical tilting in the front-back direction, and one controls side to side tilt, allowing you to tip the camera on its side from 90° at the left extreme, and 30° at the right. The vast majority of (if not all) of battery grips on the market have the controls at the right hand side, so tilting the camera to the right gives you full access those secondary controls in what is a natural and convenient position for taking portrait photos.
Both the side-side tilt, and the side-side pan have little reference markers on them, so you can see how far you're panning/tilting your camera, in degrees.

The head also includes a quick release plate, for those times when you need to get the camera off/on the tripod and capture that quick shot. The quick release plate also includes a small but effective safety catch, so you don't accidentally lose the camera off the top of the thing.

Complaints:

The actual finishing is perhaps my only complaint about this tripod, and it's here that the T700 falls down a bit - just a bit, not a lot.
With the exception of the legs, which are finished in a black enamel/powder coat type finish, the majority of the exposed metal on the tripod is finished in an attractive dappled gunmetal finish. Unfortunatley, my tripod had evidently been knocked or caught by something, either at the factory or in transit, as in one area, a the finish was peeling off exposing bare metal underneath.

In addition, the reference markers on the head seem to be printed on some type of plasticard, and are stuck into place on the tripod - not a problem as this's how I'd expect them to be fitted, except on the side-side tilt reference marker, it's not been centered before being stuck on so it's a little off center. On this subject, as you may have noticed from earlier, there is no vertical tilt marker, and the side-side pan reference marker seems to have no corresponding reference point on the head itself. Also, with the head fitted, you will not actually be able to get the tripod in the little shoulder bag that it shipped in. Aftermarket bags are available, but it's irritating when you need to pay to replace something you already have. That said, you're not likely to lose the tripod out of the bag even with the head fitted, so it still serves its purpose.

My next complaint is that the factory didn't seem to spend any time cleaning the tripod up before shipping it out. Some parts of the tripod, particularly the head, were still covered in swarf from the machining process, and if you were to get that on your camera, it could cause a great deal of damage to the lenses, the lcd screen, or worse, the sensor inside the camera if it got in while you were changing lenses. In addition, the joints of the camera/head, all the bearing surfaces are liberally lubricated with grease. Good, because it makes everything run smoothly, bad because they used more than they needed to and you're at risk of getting it on your camera.

My final complaint is that the feet, which were thoughtfully supplied with the tripod, are actually no good at all. This is not because of any deficiency in their design, but simply that so far, I have tried everything except taking tools to the tripod to get the existing useless plastic feet off, and they are absolutely not budging. [Update: April 5th - I managed to get the old feet off the tripod - you have to push them off, not twist them off]

VERDICT:

FEATURES:
Weight: 7.5lb/3.4Kg.
Closed Length: 30 inches/76cm.
Max Length: 76 inches/196cm.
Quick release clips for easy leg adjustment.
Independently positionable legs adjustable to four positions.
Reversible center column with 3/8 Head mounting thread at each end.
Non slip self-levelling feet, with spikes for soft surfaces.
Quick release plate, with safety catch.
Head is adjustable for 360° Left/Right pan, 135°Up/Down tilt (approx), and 120° Left/Right tilt.
Spirit level indicator.
Supports up to 6Kg/13.22lb.

Pros:
Looks great!
Independantly positionable legs adjustable to four positions.
Self levelling feet with spikes.
Quick release plate with safety catch.
Extremely sturdy.
Maximum height is greater than any photographer would ever need.

Cons:
Sturdy construction means high weight.
Finish poor in some areas.
Factory installed feet will not come off, so can't fit self levelling feet.
No vertical tilt angle indicator.
Will not allow you to tilt the camera directly up at 90° to the horizontal - could be a problem when photographing the sky.

All in all, I am pleased with the tripod. It's extremely sturdy, very versatile. the head solidly locks the camera into position, while the quick release (and the safety catch that prevent its accidental use) is a boon to people that like to go quickly from mounted to hand-held photography. It is an attractive piece of kit, it looks the business too. While there are a few niggles with the overall finishing of the tripod, build quality seems reassuringly solid and you get a lot of versatility that you really don't expect at this price.
Most people have never heard of Micansu, which is a shame, as £70 will net you this tripod and your choice of head. For budding photographers who don't have the £250 most people like to spend on their tripods, this is a great alternative to the more expensive more established names. I am very happy with mine, and look forward to using it in future.
I'll happily recommend it to anyone.

Pictures (Linked to photobucket to be as 56k friendly as possible)

The tripod standing up, unextended

The tripod at its maximum height
Independently adjustable legs
The camera can be easily mounted on top of the tripod
It can also be easily mounted underneath, for macro shots etc
The finish is poor in places though
The adjustment guide on this one wasn't centered properly
Too much grease on the joints could cause problems

Fin.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spam sandwich, please!

Okay, so, it's 11:04PM, the weather outside, well, the weather outside is trying its best to get inside. A lovely gazpacho of freezing rain, hail and sleet, all gently blended together with ferocious winds that drive it at high speed horizontally towards my window.

Which is fine, I'm in here nice and warm (though if the weather is like this in 24 hours time, I will be out running in it - eek!)

So, today I have been working (bloody hell, that snow, for that is what it is, is really coming down now!), or at least maintaining an appearance of working. Tomorrow I shall also be working, but thankfully I'm only on a 90 minute shift tomorrow. Work insisted I take the remainder of my holiday allocation, so I'm going in for only three times as long as it takes me to get there.

After work I came home to find the game I ordered - UFO Afterlight - has arrived (good skills, ebay seller person, I only ordered it 2 days ago). My tripod hasn't, which is a shame as I was rather hoping I'd have it by tomorrow, on account of the fact I'm supposed to be going out to the nature reserve again.

Not to worry, I spose I could always go on thursday.

So, what's with the title? As you probably noticed, I've been the target of some pointless spammer prick. Convinced that whatever product/service they are offering is so bad, so substandard, that no amount of advertising could ever sell whatever it is these mediocrity merchants are trying to peddle, they decide to skip the advertising altogether and trick people to their sites instead.
So you'll notice that to make a comment, you now have to fill out one of those image verification boxes (just type what it says on the screen folks), and wait for me to check your comment before it's added to the blog.
Not that I expect either of these changes will make any difference since I don't receive any comments at all these days - have all my readers deserted me?

So what else have I been up to? The highlight of my day is probably erm. 4am this morning.
I was asleep, I was warm, I was content.
I wasn't bored, I wasn't hungry or irritable. I'm all three now.
But, I've been busy with the camera again (in addition to cleaning every last speck of dust off every last piece of equipment, apart from the 8 or 9 specks of dust that are intently clinging to the low-pass filter inside my camera, which are not visible on the images I take, but are acutely visible to the naked eye - gonna have to get a shop to have a look at the filter if it becomes any worse), I've been playing around taking sparkly shots, and after about 10 minutes work, managed to get this photo, which I'm rather pleased with.

So yeah. This is today's official photo of the day. As for me, I'm going to fiddle around a bit longer with my computer, before disappearing off to bed. I won't go to the [nature] reserve tomorrow unless the weather improves considerably.
Not much point going with my [old] wonderfully springy and useless tripod, now is there.
I suspect I may have a small meal - glass of milk, maybe some fruit or whatever, and then an early night. I didn't have my siesta so I am pretty tired.

Take care, folks.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I need some support...

Yep, it's true.

Whenever I perch (or should that be salmon, yes, salmon is more exotic), whenever I salmon my camera on my current tripod, it's like the stupid thing can't hold its weight. I swivel the camera round on the tripod, lock it off, and the tripod just sinks under the camera's weight. Fair enough. It's a BIG camera, as you've seen.

So I've just ordered myself a new one. See, eBay were nice enough (very nice, I thought) to send me a letter through the post (as opposed to by carrier pigeon or whatever) basically saying "You're an ebay star because you spend lots of money with us. We like you, and to prove it, here's £10 off your next offer"

"Fantastic",
I thought, too grateful to consider the fact that i've been a "yellow star" since I achieved 10 feedback about a year ago, and am now not only a "blue star" at 79 positive feedback (and no negative feedback! see, I told you I'm a nice guy!), but well on my way to being a Turquoise star (100+). But all that colour chart stuff aside, eBay basically sent me a nice colourful letter saying that I'm a nice guy, and giving me money off my next purchase. I like this :). They also gave me a card to put in my wallet, so that if anyone ever steals my wallet, they will also know I am an eBay star!

Anyway. The tripod. Okay, so it's a camera tripod. Big deal. Indulge me, while I try to get excited over an expensive three legged stick.
Well, on the plus side, it is very solid and looks very good. It's got a handy spirit level so I can make sure the camera is level before I start taking pictures, and it also has a "pan and tilt" head with lots of knobs and suchlike so it looks more technical and expensive to passers by.
Seriously though, it's a heavy (very heavy, 3.4 kilos) 71.5 inch tall tripod that will hold the camera rock steady, and allow me to take seriously steady photos with very very little blurring. This is good.
Even better, it also allows me to position the camera millimeters above the ground, so say, I can take pictures like this. Which is also good.

[NOT VERY RELEVANT AND NOT VERY INTERESTING BIT] In true "I've never heard of them before" fashion, my tripod is manufactured by a chinese/japanese company called Micansu, a fairly pleasant sounding eastern name. Said tripod is sold on behalf of Micansu by another company called "Smick Trading". And no one else. Odd, are these two in cahoots or something?
Actually, Micansu and Smick trading are both part of the same company with the incredibly western sounding name Vistarex.ltd, which rather un-exotically, is based in Laindon, near Basildon, in southern England.
Why am I telling you this? I don't know, but it's worth bearing in mind that plenty of other manufacturers do this as well. Belinea for example (the guys who make computer monitors) are actually part of Maxdata, while Matsui, the japanese TV manufacturer, is actually part of the Curry's/Dixon's (Now Curry's Digital, where I bought my camera, see how it all links!) group, and hasn't even been exported TO japan, much less produced there. Or as Wiki says,
[EVEN LESS RELEVANT AND INTERESTING BIT] "Matsui is the brand name of a line of electrical items such as televisions, VCRs, and microwave ovens sold in the UK, introduced in the 1980s. It is an own brand of the DSG International plc retailer, and not an independent manufacturer. Buying a Matsui product is therefore akin to buying the supermarket brand.

Contrary to popular belief, the company is based in the UK. The Japanese-sounding name was chosen as a device for fooling customers into believing the goods were made in Japan, since common perception at the time was that electronics from the Far East were of higher quality than European counterparts. During the 1980s, many Matsui televisions were rebranded Ferguson sets made in the UK.

Since both Dixons and Currys are owned by the same DSG International plc group, some Matsui products are identical to Currys Saisho branded items."

So that's cleared that one up.
What else has been going on over here. Well, despite what the gentle, barely audible breeze filtering in through my open window is telling me, we are apparently due for incredibly severe weather in the next few hours. A huge weather front is due to meet an equally huge spring tide, and is apparently likely to result in a tPratchett esque farcial disaster of incredibly British proportions, you know, like an earthquake that doesn't knock anything over or a tornado that has just enough power to rearrange some cafegoer's chess pieces.
Despite my cynicism though, we are apparently due for a big one, and people everywhere are battening down. It's been quiet all night but it says that the storm front isn't due to reach us for another couple of hours yet, so maybe all hell will break loose, I don't know. Either way, I'm going to stay inside instead of practicing my new balancing-on-top-of-telegraph-poles style of yoga.
It was only tiredness that kept me from practicing this the night of the earthquake, I shudder (pun absolutely not intended. No seriously) to think what might have happened!

So what am I going to do now? I'm off to see whether Herr Ashen has posted any more videos. Then I might go downstairs and grab a burger or something like that. Once I've done that I might rearrange my ammo collection, if I have the patience, and later on I intend to learn how to play Texas Hold-em. If I find I have the required attention span, which I haven't, so far.

Anyway, what's to show this time. You can have a look at my sparkly new tripod if you're photographically inclined, and I also have a desktop wallpaper for you. It's not of anything in particular (It's my computer with the case off - I think it is pretty cool, could be better but hey, you want to see some of the absolute crap some people have as their desktop background).

Here










Right, now I'm off to buy some nice poker chips, maybe. I don't why, I always wanted some poker chips. The nice ones that clink, not the cheap plastic ones.

Take care, all, and I hope we don't get too much damage from the storm :).

Monday, March 03, 2008

And so things start moving again...

Yes indeed. After the success that was my nephew's birthday party, I've had a reasonably good week. I've finally managed to order his present which should come (late - yes, but we had arrangements to make) in the next week or two.

My Battery grip arrived today, and it makes the camera look huge, which is good. It's also quite handy to use.

I spose the most important thing I've done today is arrange to see one of the doctors at the hospital about my jaw operation. I then phoned the AFCO and told them that I can do ADSC as soon as the operation is completed.

So after a night of preparing for an early night and generally tidying the place up, I'm off out, for my first run in ages.

And hopefully this time, I can actually get as far as passing ADSC. I am beginning to really really really hate my crappy terrible horrible job.

Anyway, time for a run, then wind down with a shower, a drink of juice or something and some nice fruity porridge or something like that before I have an early night :).

UPDATE: 11:11PM

Well, I went out for my run, and once I got into my stride (ha haha etc) I actually pretty enjoyed it. I did have a brief moment where out of nowhere a massive huge dog started barking at me (on closer inspection it turned out to be an excitable labrador and his owner) and the rest of my run was pretty uneventful - easier than normal in fact. Certainly in comparison to the one I did at Strensall.

I came back, panting, groaning and snuffling, and dove into the shower, taking care not to brain myself on the hard ceramic tiles.
Okay so I actually hopped in, nearly falling over, and chilled out in the shower, before preparing my supper and coming up here to write this.

I now have a run-induced headache, and my throat hurts, I feel 40 years older, but hey, it was a good run, and now I'm, gonna have a good supper and a good sleep :).

Night.