Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summertime!

10:25PM

I'm walking home, having just been let out of work an hour early. I'm off home with a heavier than normal shoulder bag (it was 8 cans of beer heavier), and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into them, when I hear something I don't expect to hear at this time of night.

Checking to see whether I'm just going mad (as I occasionally do), I peer over the concrete fence into the cricket field, and see the cricket club packed with people enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine. People are smoking out on the verandah and from one of the other bars/restaurants (as they all seem to be, these days) come dance versions/remixes of Michael Jackson's best known tunes.

Seems yesterday's sad news has had a predicable but heartwarmingly sentimental response, and as the chorus of "Beat It" drifts over the field, I see that my ears weren't in fact lying to me, and the cricket field is full of parents and kids, playing football, throwing balls around, frisbees etc.
At 10:25. Traffic is sparse, most of the houses have no lights on, but it's still light (ish) and warm enough for kids to play.

And this is the thing I love about living in England. Sure, the stereotypical overcast weather with rain a few times a week isn't far off the mark, but it's not as common as people think.
Even we maintain that stereotype, and everytime we get something out of the ordinary, like the snow earlier this year, the heavy summer rain a couple of years ago, or a national heatwave (due to be repeated next week apparently) that is so hot that the tarmac roads literally start melting, we treat it as if it is something special and new, a novelty to be enjoyed, or endured.

And boy are we in for it next week, or so they say. With 32 degree (89F) heat mixed with heavy thunderstorms, it looks like we're definitely gonna be having some fun. Let's hope no one falls foul of the weather - in all seriousness, heatwaves can be dangerous things. The thunder seems an ever-present threat too, as today's overcast sky turned the colour of lead, and steadily got darker before the night decided the day had had its fun, and turned the whole lot dark blue.

It seems that as far as the national consciousness is concerned, these types of weather are novel and they are special, when in fact, every year I can remember has had some type of odd weather.
It was with this traditional English mindset that I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of everyone out enjoying themselves, late at night, and it was that that has kept me in a good mood, almost an hour later.

I've been spending more than my normal share of time out and about in the lovely summer weather too. My sister has disappeared off for a package holiday, you see, and has had to leave the dog with us.

Tess as she has always been, is a lovable hyper dog that has endless amounts of energy (when it suits her) and therefore requires a lot of walking. Given that I am the most able bodied of my family (they're not old!), this task apparently falls to me.

So Tess and I have walked everywhere. Up hills, down hills, along streams, through streams, across roads, under parked cars, through peoples' kitchens, up peoples' trouser legs, through supermarkets, across rooftops, up trees, down drainpipes, and everywhere inbetween. We've been getting on quite well. The lil' girl even seems quite content to stretch out on my bed and go to sleep when she's tired/I'm not being sufficiently entertaining.

Another cornerstone of the English summertime, is Wimbledon. More formally, "The Championships, Wimbledon"

Ah yes, Wimbledon, that great English sporting tradition, where 128 (if I read wikipedia correctly) tennis players from all over the world (including 2 British players, 3 American players, 6 Australian players, 20 French players, 30 Russian players, and an assorted mess of other nationalities) expert tennis stars get together to do their thing in front of the cheering crowds, under the blazing sun/wet rain and above the grass and electricity/gas mainlines.

Now I have to admit, I'm not a tennis fan. However, I'm not a football/soccer/fussball/futebol/футбол/フットボール/whatever - fan either, but when the national side (or in this case, players representing the nation, are playing, I don't mind sitting down and watching for a few matches. Particularly if Andy Murray keeps winning, as he is doing at the minute (his next match is on monday, don't forget!)

We've even got the strawberries and cream - or my sister and I have at least.
Yes, as we did last year, my sister, nephew and I have been out to the local strawberry field, and after an initially disappointing half hour, have managed to come back with some 5 kilos of yummy shiny red strawberries. You can't have strawberries and cream without cream though, so I took care of that too.

And now, since I'm beginning to lose track of the way the easily-ordered blog post in my mind went from A to B to C, I'm going to call it a day.
Actually I think I'll call it a week. Since I now have 5 days off. Woo!

Here are some pickatures for you :).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nikon D200 Drop Test...

[spoiler - it didn't get damaged].

So my camera's there on my desk, I'm getting my sensor swabs and cleaning solution ready to get some crap off the sensor. I can't remember exactly what I did, but I think I must have got my hand tangled in the camera strap, and I ended up pulling the camera, lens still attached, off my desk.

It falls, in slow motion, before its fall is temporarily broken by my knee (which itself feels temporarily broken). It bounces off my knee to land [relatively] gently on the floor, before rolling under the bed.

Of course, I pick the camera up and give it the once over - once again, not an ounce of damage, not a dent, not even a scratch anywhere. But I've suddenly lost the ability to bend - or unbend - my left leg.

So I spent the rest of the night wandering around like Dr House, on one and a half legs.
What fun!

As for the D200? I spend ages cleaning the sensor and then discover I've got a hot pixel on the sensor! Bloody thing. I was annoyed first time I saw it, but it is literally one pixel, and once I forgot where it was, it became impossible to find again (One pixel out of 10.2 million is difficult to track down!).

Well, that's all! Ouch.

PS, if you're feeling a little cheated, you can read a drop-test review of various camera equipment including the D200, here.
And several drop tests of the 18-200, here, yikes!
And finally, this is what your expensive gear would look like after 5 years of professional use.

That's really all, now!

Epilogue: 14th June

Well, I can walk downstairs normally now with only the very slightest twinge of pain, thankfully the knee seems to have healed okay.
As for the hot pixels, I've been playing silly buggers by shooting the camera at ridiculously high ISOs, and I've discovered I've actually got two hot pixels, one blue, one green (Further shooting turned up about a dozen pretty, sparkly, but unwanted and unexpected hot pixels).

I'm not too bothered though, to be honest. They're hard enough to see with the image at 100%, and even if I did notice them, I could use photoshop to get rid of them easily enough.

I'm not really concerned about the camera producing hot pixels. As Ken Rockwell said, every camera does it from time to time, and with me being a total ass and shooting at ISO 3200, even my camera is bound to show signs of strain from time to time.

So there you go :).