Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring Rain...

Well, okay, it's not exactly "tomorrow" but I'm lazy like that.

I'm sat here in my warm comfy house, while the first of what is supposed to be many squalls pelts down outside.

So what is going on with all the spending then?

Well, when I went up to my bro's and had a look at his autofocus 50mm lens, I never realised that you can actually pick them up pretty cheaply. So I ordered one, for £52, and it arrived today from Hong Kong, only 3 days after ordering it - that's fast. The reviews rave about it, it's apparently a VERY good lens for the money. And it looks good too - it's the most modern lens I own.

My old 50mm lens is sat in a box, well wrapped, ready to be shipped down to Middlesex. I had hoped to ship it today but it seems I have to wait in for a bed to be delivered (I didn't order it). The guy finally paid for it, and a bloody good price he got for it too. Yeah, I made a loss on that one. Still.

I've ordered a few other goodies too. An SB800 flash, 1gb of memory for my laptop, and a USB 2 card for my laptop. I've also ordered a memory card for my cam, a USB cable to replace my annoyingly short one, and a little spirit level thing so I can get my camera straight when I'm shooting things. I've put a couple of things up for sale too, and if I can sell them I might get another new lens.

So that's it really. I had a load of beer on saturday night, but to be honest, I didn't really enjoy it. I think I'm losing interest in beer now.

Still, life goes on :).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cash haemmoraging alert!

I'm just leaving myself a little note here so I can look back mid month and laugh: Congratulations me, I've used a £60 mouse on a £70 desk to spend £293 in 5 minutes.
Still - I've spent more in less before, and I am owed money by more than one person and I have stuff to sell on ebay too etc etc etc.

More to follow tomorrow :).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blog Value Pack! 2 for 1!

Chapter One - Cat Fighting!

Disclaimer: Animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Not by us though, and not by any life form capable of being prosecuted. (He's fine now, and has been checked out by a vet).

So, it's 6pm, I'm laid on my nephew's trampoline with my hands behind my head, listening to the birds singing, basking in the sun almost like the cat on the grass next to the trampoline, and staring into the blue sky.

I'd been asked to move some stone chippings from my sister's old house to her new one. She's had to move out temporarily so they can refurbish her house, and so after a pretty damn painless move (not like the last one where I had to do everything to the garden short of dig it up with heavy machinery and start over) we've got everything sorted and she's all settled in. My nephew's trampoline and his playhouse are set up in the garden, and we're all relaxing outside.

My mum's driven home, leaving me to spend some time with my sister and nephew, and my nephew's roaming around the garden and his playhouse, I'm lounging around on the trampoline, my sister's doing work on her laptop on the garden table. It's turning into a nice day.

Throughout the afternoon, my nephew and I had played on his trampoline (I was playing on it to keep him happy. Okay, I was playing on it because it's fun too).

Tommy, the black and white cat, was on his lead secured to a post in the garden. He wanted to explore, but we didn't want to lose him so he has a little harness and a lead to stop him from wandering off. For an hour he happily roamed about and ate the grass, sniffed the plants and generally practiced looking cute and curious.

After a while we decided to swap and let Tigsy - a brown and black tabby cat who is tommy's litter-mate out into the garden, so Tommy goes back in the house, and Tigsy comes out on the lead. My nephew kept occasionally going inside and leaving the door open, so I had to catch Tommy (who evidently loved being outside) and return him to the house.

Later on, it gets colder. We've brought the cats in and are now relaxing inside. It occurs to me that we've not seen Tommy, and during a search of the house, I realise why as I find both the hallway door and the back door to the garden open. The little dude's wandered out, and despite half an hour of looking, was nowhere to be seen. He's apparently done this before, so we left a cat box outside for him, and ordered some food.
I spent the next two hours wondering what he was up to, and I realised that while I don't get on with cats in general, I took a liking to Tommy and Tigsy because they're both cute and sociable.

Anyway. Time passes, and while we're eating our food we suddenly hear this loud miaowing/screeching outside. Evidently two cats that don't like each other. One of them is Tommy. We both leap up from our food, my sis runs outside and comes back in carrying a struggling Tommy, who is soaking wet. Evidently he's so psyched from his fight that he is scared of/wants to attack everything.

We lock the doors as my sis cuddles him, we're glad he's okay, and we're glad to have him back.
He moves in my sisters arms, and with alarm, we both notice that he's left a bloody fur print down my sister's arm - he is hurt after all!

Of course, what should we do? The vets were closed, the PDSA was closed, what were we sposed to do with this injured cat? Tommy calms down, and gives my sister the opportunity to examine him - a small injury to his back right paw, he can still walk on the leg and the bleeding has stopped. We both kept an eye on him as he walks around quite happily, occasionally licking at his leg, but still frightened, jumping at every sound.
Tigsy comes in to check on him, and starts sniffing him. Tommy sees Tigsy sniffing him and calms right down, glad to be home and back in the company of his litter-mate.

And then Tigsy's lifts his tail straight upright, the fur standing out on end, making it super bushy and 3 times the size, and starts emitting the most alarming howling/whining noise I've ever heard him make, his eyes constantly fixed on Tommy's. Tommy responds in kind, by doing the same, and starts spitting and hissing. Uh oh.

Anyway we get the cats seperated, and while we're checking if Tommy is ok in the kitchen, Tigsy's sat on the stairs making this weird noise.
The two cats have got to live together though, and in the abscence of any advice from the cat charities (out of hour, no one to talk to) we determine that we've got to get the cats back used to each other. Tommy stinks - we notice that he's soaking wet, because not to put too fine a point on it, it looks like the other cat has pissed all over him, making him stink of enemy-cat. We rub a little pet shampoo foam over his back, taking care to keep clear of his leg, and the howling from Tigsy subsides a bit.

We get both of them on a lead, I've got one, my sis has the other, and keeping them close and under control, we let them first see, and approach each other.
Again, both start howling and hissing at each other, but this dies down as they get used to each other again.

Over time, we let them get closer, and they howl less and less and become more accustomed to each other. Eventually, Tommy sits down almost next to Tigsy, who responds by going to sleep.
We let them both off the leads, ready to seperate them if there are any problems.
Tommy goes straight over to the corner and starts relaxing, while Tigsy roams around the living room. He roams round close to the chair, turns round the corner, and there's Tommy.
Both cats freeze, and we both intently watch Tigsy gingerly walk up to Tommy, ready to stop any fighting.
Tigsy starts sniffing Tommy intently, while Tommy sits there and lets it happen.
And then Tigsy starts licking him - literally, he's there licking Tommy's forehead, almost as if he's welcoming him back to the house, and identifying himself as a friend. Tommy growls a little bit eventually, and Tigsy responds by wandering off and sitting down nearby. Seems we have peace at last.

I went home after this, but according to a phone call this afternoon, Tommy has been examined and is recovering nicely. Both he and Tigsy are getting on as well as ever now, and life seems to have returned to normal.

So what else have I been up to? It was my brother's birthday a couple of days ago, and we all decided to go to Pizza Hut to have a nice family celebration. Of course, as always happens, my mum waited until I was totally skint (had no money) before announcing that it's my brother's birthday in xyz number of days - three days before payday. I remember though that my brother asked me to order something for his camera a while ago, and while I never received the full order, I kept one half of it (they kept my money - meh). Operating on the basis that something is better than nothing, I grab his impromptu "present", and off we go.

What followed was a nice family night, less of a birthday party and more of a family occasion. It turns out my bro never did buy a screen protector - my present to him - so hopefully this one will come in useful for him. Of course I felt a little guilty that that was all I was able to offer him, especially since ht and his fiancee had bought me two lovely presents for my birthday, but I did mitigate it by remembering the "Buy the laptop or don't buy it, I don't care, and I'm not lowering my price" attitude he gave me before I bought my laptop. Seemed more than a little mercenary.

Still, I bet it was a disappointing birthday for him, which is sad, but seems to be for the par in our family when you consider how crappy my birthday was. Still, will keep my eye out for something I think he'll like - it would make a nice random surprise for him to get a belated birthday present :).

My ebay auction turned out to be a disaster. I bought the lens for £35, and put it up for auction with a Polariser Filter (value approx £15) included. I was very pleased as the price went up and up, at £30 with several hours to go. I figured that it would at least get to £50 and let me buy my new lens. I drifted off to sleep, having been up all day, and woke up later. The first thing I did was check the clock - 02:30am. The auction would be finished by now, time to check how much I'd made.
With horror, I saw that the final sale price was £31.30! There was no last minute bidding frenzy, in fact no bidding at all for the last three hours. Every time I want to buy something, bidders are snapping at it like bloodthirsty sharks, and something triples in value every 10 minutes! My lens when I bought it went from £6 to £35 in the last five minutes, why didn't this happen with mine?!
The thing is now that the bloke doesn't seem to be interested in paying for the damn thing.
Good. Hopefully I can relist the bloody thing and get a proper price for it.

Still, I took the camera out today and got some good snaps of the local ducks again, so hopefully a few of those will have come out okay. I'll see to them later.

And now I'm off to drink Fanta and watch The Bill.

See ya.

And now we come to an entry I wrote a few days ago. I just never got round to uploading it because I'm lazy like that.

Chapter Two - "Kickass Brio" (Friday 18th April, 2008)

So I’m sat here on the makeshift bed we’ve put together for my ickle nephew, in the now almost completely refurbished spare room. Yep, I booked a day off work so I could go to a hospital appointment, and I seem to have spent the majority of the day moving, transporting, redistributing and otherwise relocating household junk - plenty of it mine – from the spare room/bathroom, to the loft.

I went along to my hospital appointment fairly quickly though, in the same seemingly ramshackle (admittedly it is having major renovation work carried out on it at the moment) building.

I was asked to wait, this time in the corridor outside the waiting room. As a good ten or twelve of us sat there in this dimly lit drywall lined corridor, I mused on the paper sign stating “please bear with us while renovation work is taking place” – or words to that effect.

I was seen surprisingly quickly; that is, I’d not got my arse on the seat before I was up again, and had a pleasant chat with the anaesthetist.

I then came home, sunk a can of hyper juice, and got on with building my nephew’s favourite toy.

See, my nephew is a big fan of Brio – a wooden train set type thing. You purchase the track yourself and build the track in any form you want – it’s kinda cool, you can build any track you want.

Now, the saying goes that “Model trains are like boobs. They’re meant for children but sooner or later, grown men end up playing with them”, and I suppose that’s the case here. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t pushing the trains around making brum brum noises or anything, but I did, as I always do, take great pleasure in building the largest and most elaborate tracks that I can. I like beating my own previous creations in terms of size and complexity, and the bigger the track, the happier my nephew.

So as I was saying, I’m sat here right now, my nephew is intently playing with the track, so far we’ve had “train races”, and “train rescue”. I’ll be right back – I’ve got to tag along while he finds something to do elsewhere. Whatever he’s doing, it sounds noisy.

Right, normal operation has been resumed; he’s distracting himself with a playmobil fire engine and a big toy crane that I used to play with when I was a kid. All in all, it’s pretty relaxed. We’re both chilling out in the nice new room, him with his train, crane and fire engine, and me with my laptop and my camera.

The urge to play with toys doesn’t dissipate with age, it seems.

What else have I been up to? Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time duck shooting – that is, photographing the ducks. I’m really happy with four of the photos, so that’s good. I’ve put my little 50mm lens up for sale so that I can buy a more modern Autofocus version of the same lens, and I also intend to get an SB800; A very sparkly speedlight. It kinda surprised me when I had a look at one at my bro’s house. Turn the speedlight on and it powers on with the same high-voltage whine that defibrillators make. I had to resist the urge to shout “clear!” before triggering it.

I’m also looking at selling an engine from one of my old bikes. It’s worth maybe £250/£200, so with some luck, I’ll also be able to buy a Nikkor 18-200 VR lens. You know, the one actually designed for my camera. [Edit, 25th April - no you won't be able to buy that lens, it's over £400! You must have meant the 55-200 VR.]

But hey, my life is so interesting right now that I’ve run out of things to update you on, so I’m gonna carry on chilling out here, and will no doubt end up chasing my little nephew round until he tires out and goes to sleep.

See ya!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Any object, small or large, can be photographed subjectively, all you need...

Sorry, I was trying to come up with a witty title - my box of witty titles is getting rather empty these days. I was looking for inspiration in my new book. Yes, that's right, my book "ebay shots that sell" finally arrived! Yay! Or not.

See, Half of you when you read the title will think "Photos that sell! It's a book about how to sell photos" which plenty of people do on ebay. The other half of you will think "It's a book about photos that make selling products easier". Half B, you're thinking too deeply about things, lighten up.

What arrived was a very sparkly very nicely done book with well over 150 pages, dedicated to helping you get the best out of ebay, using your cameras to help you shift whatever it is you want to swap for money. Which was great.
Unfortunatley, what I ordered, or what I thought I'd ordered, was a book all about how to take the sorts of photos people find appealing, and how to sell those photos online for money. I was basically looking for advice on making money with my camera.

Which leads me semi neatly to my second subject of the night - the trip to the airport passed off perfectly. We got there around 8am, parked up and went out back to set up the kit. No sooner had we got out the back than out of nowhere, over 110 tons of Boeing 757 flew at 160mph more or less past my nose.

What followed was four hours of photographic heaven, these massive aircraft would fly over at maybe 500 feet or so, tops, so close you could see which windows had had their shutters pulled by sleepy passengers, and which ones hadn't. Aircraft landed literally every 2 minutes or so. Every now and again it would go quiet but only until the jet wake of aircraft taking off on the second runway scissored past us, shockwaves cutting the air in half, like invisible bullets shooting past us. Every now and again we'd hear a roar, louder than thunder, and watch as yet another massive aircraft climbed into the sky. I noticed that with one 747, despite the incredible size and weight of the thing, it climbed into the sky in a slow graceful manner, on a constant slope, giving us a view right down its back, almost daring gravity to try to pull it back down again.

I'd noticed that for the first two hours of us being there, there were no 747's. This surprised me, because we were at the UK's third busiest airport. When I asked though, my mate told me that there were no 747's yet because they only used the largest aircraft on the long haul flights, and the aircraft on those flights, typically from the US, hadn't had time to arrive yet.

Eventually though, my mate called me back from my wild photo taking spell, and pointed at something 10 miles out heading towards us. He told me that he could tell it was big, by the way the aircraft behind it was hanging back extra far, to avoid being caught in its wake. As it got closer, it became clear that there were four engines on this one, not two like the others. A 747!

So, I legged it down to the far end of the beer garden, almost at the airport boundary fence, set the camera to continuous high speed shooting and with a couple of bursts, took six or seven photos of this thing as it came over the trees, roaring past me with its flaps down, and touched down on the runway almost out of sight, but certainly not out of earshot. It passed me close enough to read the name on its fuselage; "Pretty Woman" (link is NOT my photo - I'm getting better, but I'm not that good yet!), and she definitley was.

In other news, I've bought myself a laptop, yes, a nice new (not new, first released in 2004) Toshiba Satellite A30. I've got it running okay now, got all the software I need, and some more memory on the way soon to cure its feets and starts. Not a bad asking price for it either, so that's worked out pretty well too. I can now view my photos as I take them, on a 15" screen.

Well, that's just about it, there's other stuff that's happened of course, but this is all about my life at the minute that I want to look on and remember, the rest I'd rather forget at this point, thankyou very much.

I'm going to leave you with some (some better than others) photos :). The first of which will of course, be "Pretty woman" - this is one of mine, in fact, all of them are, and I'm quite happy with them :).

What's going on with this formatting? I'm not sure. They should let you put tables in or something.

But, before I go, have a look at my sparkly (it will be sparkly eventually) laptop :).

Bye! :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More sparkliness

Okay, so a few things have happened since my last blog entry.

Pork rinds for one - last time I hadn't eaten any pork rinds, whereas now I've just eaten a packet of them. They were very yummy, but have left me feeling slightly ill. All that saturated fat.

My phone too, that's changed. The glass front of it has somehow been smashed, so I've had to order a new front (not as expensive as you'd think) to replace it. Which is fair enough, I like my phone, it's a nice slim handset and while other phones come in and go out of fashion, this one seems to have a timeless look about it, it's a design that never really becomes unfashionable.

I've also been throwing money at my photography, which devours it like a great big money devouring thing. One of my latest presents is my new lens. An old, but very very fast 50mm lens.
By "fast" I mean that the lens lets more light in over a given period of time, compared to other lenses. This means that the sensor doesn't have to be exposed to the light for as long, which means that exposures are much shorter. How "fast" is my lens? On a decent sunny day, it will happily allow me to take photos with exposures as short as one eight-thousandth of a second. This is fast enough to freeze the rotor blades of a helicopter in flight, fast enough to freeze aircraft propellers or car wheels.

I've also bought a rocket blower, in addition to something else that arrived only a couple of days ago.

As I mentioned in my birthday blog, you saw that my brother very kindly and thoughtfully bought me a lowepro micro trekker. a fantastic lil camera rucksack that allows me to take my camera gear here there and everywhere. However, my enthusiasm for photography has overtaken my available storage space, and it was only a couple of months before the microtrekker was not only full to capacity, but too small. This isn't a deficiency on the micro trekker's part - it was designed to be small, compact and easy to carry, and this it certainly is. But with a camera body with battery pack, six (at least seven before the end of the summer) lenses (count em folks!), two books, a rocket blower, and (by this time next month) a notebook computer and an SB800 speedlight, the little micro trekker found its capacity outmatched by the sheer amount of kit I own/want to own. Then there's the problem of carrying the tripod. A dead weight weighing nearly four kilos. While it's true that I could lash the tripod back to the micro trekker, it would be like carrying round a heavy and unbalanced letter P on my back.

So I went to 7dayshop and bought one of lowepro's largest models, the Compu Trekker AW. This much larger bag arrived a couple of days ago, and has vastly increased capacity. Not only is it designed to carry the tripod on its back, it's also capable of carrying a notebook computer and all the necessary cables. I've stuffed it full of all my camera related stuff and I'm still using only maybe 55% of the internal space of the bag. Plenty of room in there for lenses and a speedlight, and the tripod goes down the back of the bag without any problems at all. Ish.

Anyway, I've got to get all my stuff ready for tomorrow's photoshoot. That's right, tomorrow I'm going out with a mate, he's bringing his camera kit and I'm taking mine, and we're going to one of the local airports. There's a pub right next door to one of the taxiways, and the wings of the larger aircraft literally pass over your head while you're stood in the beer garden.

(56k warning, LARGE image!) View from the balcony of the pub, looking towards the beer garden. So we're taking our camera gear there, and want to get there nice and early so we catch all the international morning traffic (first time anyone's ever gone out with the intention of actually CATCHING the traffic eh?). Hopefully I should get some decent photos.

So now I've got an hour of cleaning all my gear, charging all my batteries etc etc.
Will post again soon, later! :)

Have some pictures. My computrekker all locked up and ready to go, and just how much free space there is inside :).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Drunk as a skunk...

Ever wanted to know what I did after many many alcoholic drinks?
It's not that interesting I'm afraid. Despite the fact that at this very moment I'm having trouble convincing my eyes that I do in fact own only one LCD display, despite the fact that I am convincing my brain that those sparkly 3d cinemas are old hat and my monitor isn't displaying two lines of text at the same time, I am managing to have a good time.
I am sitting watching many music videos which are invariably german in origin, singing alone where I can find the lyrics (i'm surprisingly good at singing german), and that's about it really.
No drunken rant, no political speech, nothing interesting i'm afraid, just me, drunk, and more boring than usual.
Have fun. I'd say I am, but it remains to be see until tomorrow, whether it was worth it.

So what else is on the cards?

Rammstein's normally taciturn and introvert guitarist, Richard Z Kruspe has formed his own band. This is definitley old news. But I don't care because frankly, anyone who keeps abreast of the news and current affairs has better things to do than to waste time on my random ramblings of shite. His band, Emigrate, seems (on the face of it [that means "after hearing one tune"]) to be fairly English oriented. There's something I like about this video, it kinda puts me in mind of Gary Numan.

Either way, if one fantastic band can turn into two fantastic bands, that's good, very good.

I'm off now, to drink more until I can think of something useful to say.