Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maybe I should go into business...

Chapter one: Ebayness

I have been spending hours and hours on ebay recently. Since playing with that little tamron lens, I've been taken with the idea of getting a wide angle lens for my camera, and I figured there were a few things that I wasn't using, so up they went.

Days later, and I've raised a few hundred quid, I'm (still - see below) almost at the point where I can buy the lens, and things are going well.

Admittedly I'm running round like a headless chicken to and from the post office, and my ebay seller's fees are not far off three-figure sums. I'm reasonably stressed trying to keep on top of everything, what with setting reserves, finding boxes (which I'm beginning to run out of), and things like that, but I'm sure after the miniature furore has died down, the effort will be worth it. As I write this, there are only a couple of auctions still open, so hopefully once they're done, I have only to ship those two items and await the (hopefully!) positive feedback, pay the fees off, and we can draw a line under the whole thing and move on. With a few hundred quid more in the pocket than before.

Halfway through my selling spree, I decided I had gone to so much effort to make money, and I hadn't (despite being on track to exceed the cost of the new lens by a wide margin) really got anything in return (the money just sits unused staring at me, etc). I fancied a new digicam on account of the fact that my old one now seems to enjoy eating batteries (maybe it was just the batteries that were getting knackered, in retrospect) and besides, I just fancied something cool.

So I decided to buy an awesome little piece of kit, the Canon SD780IS (as it's known in America - over here it's called the IXUS100IS (I think)). An awesome little digicam, 12 megapixels of fun, complete with a beautiful 2 and a half inch screen and High-Def (well, 720P) video recording, all contained within the smallest compact camera body I've ever seen on the market. Look at the photo. The thing it's resting on is a (credit-card sized) membership card of mine. That's how small the camera is. It's a tiny little thing. It even has an optical viewfinder, though being no bigger than 6mm by 5mm, the viewfinder is extremly squinty to use, it does come in useful from time to time.
I ordered the camera last saturday (having paid £10 for fast delivery) and after a few days of waiting at the window looking for the post van (seeing it twice drive down the road to someone else's house, and then up again out of sight), I got woken up at 9am on friday by the stupidly loud doorbell, pressed by a very nice man who wanted to give me a camera. You'll notice that I said the SD780 was the American name of the camera. You'll also notice my camera is an SD780. Yep, it's a grey import, I do believe, so if it does go wrong, well...
I just get in touch with the seller, who has included a one year warranty with it.
Why did I buy a grey import? Simple. To buy the camera over here would be £230. To buy a grey import from ebay, was £180. A substantial saving, and after having a very long play with the camera, let me assure you that it is absolutely top notch, even if the paperwork doesn't add up :-).

Chapter Two: The New Lens

As I say, I've been struck on getting a wide angle lens for the camera (which camera!? Er, my D200). I've been doing some more reading around, and as cool and sparkly as the little tamron lens seems, its competitor, the Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 seems to edge it in three very important areas. One, the tokina is built out of higher quality materials and is substantially more sturdy. Two, the tokina lens is absolutely razor sharp, where as the tamron is a bit fuzzy by comparison. And three, the tokina is a much faster lens than the tamron, being a professional standard F2.8.

Sorry for the mumbo jumbo there, read the links if you're interested in learning what I'm talking on about, if you're not, suffice it to say that the Tokina lens is substantially better than the Tamron lens. It's more expensive, but I've decided that I intend to stretch to the cost.

So that's settled, hopefully I'll have it soon.

What else have I been up to? Not much. Another trip to Manchester, which was pretty good.
This time, they redirected the planes down to the runway nearest the beer garden, so I was running round like a headless chicken trying to take photos of them zooming off to various places.

So yeah.
I'm knackered, so I'll leave you to it :).
Have fun!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Canines, Nephews and Sticky Labels...

I'm concentrating on having a good night, which makes blogging a little difficult. Still I soldier on.
Yes, after getting back into the swing of things, fitness wise, I'm sitting in my nice arm room, with finest beer, having just eaten a lovely (well, a bit overdone) fish and chip supper, listening to tunes and wandering around the internets, which is now a singular noun rather than a plural.

I woke up several times this morning to what is probably the nicest feeling on earth - that of discovering that you've woken up early, and you're free to go back to bed. Eventually though, the time came to go to an interview at the AFCO in town, just to confirm that I was happy with my job choices and ready to proceed. Eventually, despite being subjected to a personal space invasion by some woman or other, and having to listen to the ramblings of an unemployed feckwit who left his last job because he became violent when he didn't receive something or other that he felt he was entitled to, I arrived in town still sane, and after a reasonably nice breakfast made my way to the AFCO.

I got there in good time, and was seen fairly quickly, only to be told that the interview had in fact been cancelled, as some more paperwork came to light. My recruiter was good enough to ask if we could skip it, and after being told no, we got through it all with a minimum of fuss and effort.

I was feeling cheery on the way back home so I popped into a shop I don't normally freqent.
Jessops, a national chain of camera specialists, have suffered from a somewhat poor standing with me, after I went into one of their stores (Meadowhall - this was a few years ago so the staff there are probably completely different people now) asking for advice, and was practically told to either buy the item, or not buy it, from a disinterested and apathetic member of staff.
Me being the sort of person I am, I didn't make a fuss and simply bought the item, swearing under my breath never to visit one of their shops again.
However, in a camera created daze, I wandered into the Sheffield branch of jessops to have a look about, and spent a short time staring lovingly at various lenses and bits of kit.

I had a chat behind the guy with the counter, who to my (unfairly held, in retrospect) surprise turned out to be polite and friendly. After a short chat about filters, I decided that this guy was doing his job well enough for me to end my unofficial boycott of the place, and bought two sparkly new filters for my lenses :-).

I then decided to push my luck a little, and after a while of looking at various lenses, came across a little rising star. The Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DiII LD Aspherical (IF) - to give it its full name, is an ultrawide lens designed for cameras like mine, and it feels like a little gem. As the guy was kind enough to get it out of the basement, and put it on a camera for me to look at and play around with for myself, I've found that the optical quality is good (The review says it's poor, but then the review says that the 18-105 is poor, and I've found that a cracking little lens), and the build quality is great. Everything fits together well, the lens is compact, but not light, and feels well put together. The guy behind the counter even accompanied me out into the street so I could see what it was like in the real world, instead of inside a dark shop.

I was going to get the Tokina 11-16 lens, as it allegedly has higher optical quality, and higher build quality. However, at £429, it's also £90 more expensive, and that's £90 I don't really want to throw at it.

But I loved the tamron, and the time I spent in the shop chatting to the guy behind the counter about pretty much everything, photography related, has convinced me to put the three year old grudge I've had against Jessops to rest, which is good - I don't like animosity.
I found that Jessops will print my photos in A3 for me too, and even up to A0 if I want to step up to the price. I don't have that kinda room in my bedroom, but A3 is good!

So, what else have I been up to?
Well, in the past week or so, the dog came to stay. For six days. My family, being the mostly "busy" type of people (busy in the way that only people who don't like walking dogs can be) that they are, the care of the dog seemed to fall pretty much solely to me.

After a few days my nephew comes to stay as well. He's apparently solely under my care. Great! No one asked me if I would help, or even if I was busy or able to help, I get the impression he was dumped at my bedroom door with a "here, take care of him" shouted after him.

The three days went fairly quickly though, and through it all, the sun shone and shone.
One time, I took them both out for a big long "mystical trek" round the local housing estate, through all the "secret passages" (alleyways) and everything.
We spent a good 90 minutes out, before we took a little detour down to my mate's old house.
Nothing special about it, a house opposite a patch of grass surrounded by trees and the stream.
But it was weird, the last time I walked down that road must have been ten years ago. Almost everything was exactly as it was when I was a kid. I wasn't sure whether to feel happy that it hadn't changed with time, or sad that both he (my pal) and I had.

We forded the stream though, and walked back up to the park. After a brief session of chasing the dog around the new bike track (during which time I learned that bike tracks are best suited to bikes, and during which time the dog learned not to run down hills too fast for me to keep up (as her paws parted company with the floor and left her swinging by her neck - eek!).

Eventually, we went off to the park where we stayed for a while before disappearing off home.

The days passed interminably, as I tried to keep both the nephew and the dog in check without getting too disgruntled at the sudden and complete loss of my personal space/time.

Eventually though, and after one occasion where my nephew opened a shop (by sticking adhesive price labels over everything in sight), it was time for them to leave, and after a protracted goodbye, I had my life back to myself again - woo! I've always said, kids and animals are great, as long as you can hand them back to their owners when you've had enough.

Yesterday though, I found occasion to be at my sis's house, trimming the grass and the trees, and getting on with those other summery jobs. My time there coincided with the Wimbledon final, and as we sat out in the sun, my sister brought the TV outside for us to watch the tennis in the garden... It was surreal, but a fairly laid back day.

Though it's nice to have my personal space back, and I'd like to keep it for a while longer.

As the scorching heat of last week fades away to be replaced by leaden skies and rolling thunder, I'm sat wondering if those five or six perfect days were all the summer we are going to get this year.

Hopefully not, eh? Let's hope summer continues to be as beautiful as it has been.

EDIT: As a little surprise pressie, I have here a couple of tunes that I should have thrown in with "Back on Track" a few entries down the page. Some music to keep us company on our journey to Strensall.

Enter Shikari - Juggernaut


Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss A Beat - with the best song lyrics in the world ever.

"What do you want for tea?"
"I want crisps"

The customary pictures :-) Nothing exciting this time round :-P.

Epilogue: 8th July.

That Enter Shikari tune, while originally well liked by me, has fast worn out its welcome. Over the course of a few days, the tune reinvented itself as a musical bout of talentless screaming egotistical U2 "let's-save-the-world" tree planting construction opposing yoghurt weaving hippie nonsense.
So that's that then.