Monthly Archives: June 2014

June 2014 Round-up

Wait, what? Half way through the year already? Does that mean it’s once again time for the ever-popular[1] monthly report? I’m afraid it does, so here goes…

Weight

More random fluctuation this month…

June 1: 215.6 pounds (15 stone 5.6 pounds, 97.8 kg)
June 20: 215.9 pounds (15 stone 5.9 pounds, 97.9 kg)[2]

That’s a statistically insignificant rise of 0.3 pounds (0.1kg).

Eating

Oddly enough, despite being on holiday, I’ve been moderately well-behaved on the eating front this month. I’ve even been drinking less wine! What effect this will have on my weight is something that we’ll discover when I get home.

Exercise

Before heading for Wales, I managed a few moderate walks, and I’ve walked a fair distance over the last few days. Much of it uphill. In both directions. And castles have lots of stairs, you know. So did the hotel, come to think of it…

Posting

This exciting report brings the monthly total to 49, the highest so far this year.

Stuff

Ooooh, let’s see. I sold two cameras and bought another one, and added a lens to my kit. That’s about it, I think…

[1] For an arbitrary “not very” value of popular
[2] Last weight recorded before being struck by the lurgy and going on holiday

Stuff Report – 30 June 2014

Steps taken: Not a lot

After all the activity of the last few days, it seemed like a Good Plan to have a quiet day in, so that’s what we’re doing.

Here are some more photos from Chester Zoo. First, these baby elephants were playing a lot:

Time for a swim

Time for a swim

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/5
Shutter speed: 1/480s
Focal length: 121.8mm
ISO: 200
Location: 53° 13.6154′ 0″ N 2° 52.9316′ 0″ W
Taken: 26 June, 2014

And this vicuna seemed to want to pose nicely for my camera

Hello

Hello

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/220s
Focal length: 200mm
ISO: 200
Location: 53° 13.4845′ 0″ N 2° 53.0106′ 0″ W
Taken: 26 June, 2014

And I suspect this visitor may not have paid to get in

Zoo visitor

Zoo visitor

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/80s
Focal length: 104.9mm
ISO: 200
Location: 53° 13.533′ 0″ N 2° 52.7321′ 0″ W
Taken: 26 June, 2014

More to come…

The Time Traveller’s Almanac

To give its full title, The Time Traveller’s Almanac: The Ultimate Treasury of Time Travel Fiction – Brought to You from the Future, is an enormous anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. I spotted the large hardback in Waterstones and mentally filed it as something to consider getting later – partly because of the hefty price (£25 or thereabouts), but mostly because of the size of the thing – getting on for 1,000 larger than average pages. But when it showed up as a Kindle special deal at just £1.09[1], I could hardly click the “buy” button quickly enough.

Having read the whole thing over the last week or so (aren’t holidays great?), I’d say it’s well worth the full price (though you might want to budget for wrist supports if you buy the hardback). It contains a delightful range of sf stories ranging from the Victorian period (including an excerpt from H G Wells’s The Time Machine), passing though the whole of the 20th century and including Charlie Stross’s Palimpsest, which was a delight to read again. While some of the stories were familiar to me, some I hadn’t seen at all, others I hadn’t seen in so long that they were “as new”, and overall the standard is very high indeed. As with all anthologies, there were some that didn’t quite work for me, but these were in a small minority.

Along with the fiction are some section-opening essays which touch on various time-related matters. How much you will enjoy these will depend on personal taste, of course. I founds myself skimming the prog-rock dominated one relating to the influence of time travel on popular music, for instance…

Not all the stories deal with actual time travel as such – some are more loosely time-related, but that just adds to the interest.

In short, if you’re at all interested in time-related SF, and you’re keen on a bit of wibbly-wobbliness, you’ll more than likely enjoy this collection.

Watch out if you’re buying the Kindle version – it’s also being sold in sections. Getting the single book version seems to be cheaper most of the time (though not always as cheap as it was the day I bought it!).

[1] Note: today’s UK Kindle price is a still quite reasonable £6.71

Recharge 10000 – portable USB power

Over the last few days, while travelling around North Wales, I’ve been letting the GeoTag Photos app on my iPhone do its tracking thing. This has worked very well, with nicely accurate locations available for the numerous photos I’ve been taking. This works just about perfectly with Lightroom now – the app uploads the track file to Dropbox, and Lightroom can load it directly from there, making geotagging images incredibly easy.

The only trouble with leaving a app GPS on all day, especially when moving in and out of good mobile signal areas and generally using the phone, is that if you’re not careful, you can run out of battery. What you need is some variety of external power pack that can give the phone more charge.

I’ve previously tried one that attached directly to the phone in the form of a case. This worked, but had the slight disadvantage of being absolutely no use whatsoever when I upgraded to a new phone, as it didn’t fit any more. It also suffered from an unnecessarily flimsy on/off slider switch.

So this year, I did some looking, and some thinking, and decided to try something different, and this is it. What you get is a chunky plastic case with a power button, two full size USB ports and one micro USB, together with a short micros USB cable and a padded carrying case. You charge the lump over USB (either from a computer or whatever other USB charging plug you might have already) and then it’s ready for use. One of the two USB ports delivers 2.1 Amps, which is enough to give an iPad a rapid charge, the other is 1 Amp, which is plenty for iPhones, iPods, Kindles and any other variety of smartphone you might have. To charge Apple devices, you’ll need to use your own dock or Lightning cable – I actually added a 0.5m Lightning cable which I keep in the Recharge’s padded case (there’s a handy mesh pocket inside for cables, and a strap to secure the device).

Fully charged, it holds enough power to fully charge an iPhone no less than six times, which is useful if you’re on an extended trip without access to power. It will, according to the manufacturer, hold its charge for months, so you can charge it up and keep it in your bag for when it’s needed.

So far, I’ve used it ot top up the charge on my iPhone just once, and it did what it was supposed to – took it form 60% to 100% in well under an hour (I didn’t actually time it, so this isn’t a detailed technical review. Having used that much power, it’s still showing all four LEDs, suggesting it’s got loads more power in reserve.

There are various models in the range from 2,500mAH to 10,000mAH, so you can get something smaller (and cheaper) than this model if you prefer.

I bought mine in the Apple Store, as it was the kind of thing I wanted to look at before buying. The price was much the same as from online suppliers anyway.

So, early impressions: this is a good product which does what it claims. Full details from the manufacturer:

Recharge UK

Side Gallery: Good News!

It’s not that long ago that things were not looking good for the future of Newcastle’s excellent Side Gallery. A threatened loss of funding meant that this excellent photographic gallery might not be able to continue its programme of exhibitions.

But while I was in North Wales, Good Things happened. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £1.1 million, which will enable the gallery to redevelop its building to provide full access (and lose those scary stairs!), more exhibition space, and much more.

This is great for anyone with an interest in photography, local history and culture in general.

Full details in the press release:

Side Gallery: Press Release

Dark Millennium

I’ve been meaning to get around to playing with the rest of the Nik Collection since I bought it last year. I’ve used Silver Efex Pro quite a lot for black and white images, but never quite found the tuits to play with the other items. But I’ve begun to rectify that – I just threw a couple of images at Color Efex Pro, and it looks like it could be useful, or at the very least entertaining. Here’s a different view of the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay:

Millennium Centre

Millennium Centre

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/550s
Focal length: 10mm
ISO: 400
Location: 51° 27.8894′ 0″ N 3° 9.8452′ 0″ W
Taken: 24 June, 2014

This could be interesting…

Stuff Report – 29 June 2014

Steps taken: 1,213

Well, after all the fun of the last few days, it was time to head back to South Wales. We had planned a stop at the Betwys y Coed Motor Museum, but as it seemed to be having an existence failure, or at least a lapse in visibility, we ended up not going. If it hadn’t been raining, we might have had a wander, and possibly breached its shields, but as it was we didn’t.

We then took a scenic route back. No acts of photography were committed today, so here are a few from the last few days.

Crossing

Crossing

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/900s
Focal length: 42.5mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 58.1421′ 0″ N 3° 5.291′ 0″ W
Taken: 26 June, 2014

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know where that is.

Home entertainment system

Home entertainment system

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/17s
Focal length: 31.5mm
ISO: 6400
Location: 52° 56.1192′ 0″ N 3° 5.3788′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

And that’s an interior shot form Chirk Castle, nicely showing off the X-T1′s low-light performance and the image stabilisation of the 18-55m lens.

Holiday Report – 28 June 2014

Steps taken: 9.862

Today’s first call was at Denbigh Castle, where we enjoyed the view:

Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/11
Shutter speed: 1/90s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 400
Location: 53° 10.8525′ 0″ N 3° 25.2099′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

On a clear day, you can see for a very long way, but today wasn’t one of those.

From there, we went on to Rhyl and its Seaquarium,  where was saw some seals:

Harbour Seal

Harbour Seal

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/80s
Focal length: 55mm
ISO: 400
Location: 53° 19.4142′ 0″ N 3° 29.5124′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

..and some jellyfish, amongst other things

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/4
Shutter speed: 1/15s
Focal length: 31.5mm
ISO: 6400
Location: 53° 19.3918′ 0″ N 3° 29.4906′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

Then we had an unscheduled detour to Rhuddlan Castle:

Rhuddlan Castle

Rhuddlan Castle

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/680s
Focal length: 12.6mm
ISO: 400
Location: 53° 17.3556′ 0″ N 3° 27.9223′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

And then on to Chirk Castle, which by contrast to the ruins seen earlier, is a well-preserved family home. Here’s the front door:

Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/4
Shutter speed: 1/850s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 56.1376′ 0″ N 3° 5.3469′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

…and here’s a bedroom

Nice bed...

Nice bed…

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/3.6
Shutter speed: 1/25s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 6400
Location: 52° 56.1102′ 0″ N 3° 5.3594′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

We had one last stop at Chirk Aqueduct, another Thomas Telford triumph. Not as big, impressive, scary or hard to pronounce as the more famous one at Pontcysyllte, but worth a visit to see it next to the railway viaduct, which can be seen from the walkway of the Pontcysyllte aquedct.

Chirk Aqueduct

Chirk Aqueduct

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/210s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 55.6821′ 0″ N 3° 3.724′ 0″ W
Taken: 28 June, 2014

Then it was back to the hotel for a short rest before another fine meal at Fouzi’s.

Aperture closing

In a not entirely unexpected move, Apple have announced that there will be no further development of their Lightroom rival, Aperture. I last mentioned it about four years ago, when I briefly considered using it as an alternative to Lightroom. I did give it a try, but there was never anything sufficiently compelling about it to lure me away. The fact that Lightroom has had several major upgrades while Aperture has just had the odd tweak does suggest that this is a market Apple is no longer concerned about.

They’re also terminating iPhoto in favour of the new Photos app. This will all integrate nicely between iOS and OS X, but I don’t see much being offered to those odd people who like to use actual cameras for their photography.

Holiday Report – 27 June 2014

Steps taken: 5,463

Rain was forecast today, so our activities were planned around not getting wet. We started with a brief look around the shops in Llangollen. A t-shirt may have been bought. We then went to the station in plenty of time for a coffee and a Welsh cake before the 10:50 departure on the Llangollen Railway. We rode up to the end of the line, then rode back again, where we waited long enough to watch the engine change ends. Here it is:

Steam

Steam

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/100s
Focal length: 55mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 58.2866′ 0″ N 3° 10.2835′ 0″ W
Taken: 27 June, 2014

The next stop was the Llangollen Motor Museum, a lovely personal collection of cars and motorbikes, most of which are in working order (and they’re working on a lot of the others). I’m not a big fan of cars (Geoff, on the other hand, definitely is), but I found much to appreciate.

We then headed up the Horseshoe pass. The rain had arrived by then, so my attempt at landscape photography was quickly abandoned. I have some images I’ll try to salvage when I’m in front of my big screen.

We stopped for lunch at the Ponderosa[1]. Nice place, good selection of food. Popular with bikers (there were quite a few there today).

Then it was back downhill for a visit to Valle Crucis Abbey, a lovely ruin with more bits intact than a lot of abbeys. Here’s the west front:

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/750s
Focal length: 11.5mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 59.3454′ 0″ N 3° 11.2237′ 0″ W
Taken: 27 June, 2014

..and the view from the other side:

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/13
Shutter speed: 1/110s
Focal length: 24mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 59.3354′ 0″ N 3° 11.1321′ 0″ W
Taken: 27 June, 2014

And finally, an in-camera panoramic shot:

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/400s
Focal length: 10mm
ISO: 400
Location: 52° 59.3173′ 0″ N 3° 11.2141′ 0″ W
Taken: 27 June, 2014

More photos (edited ones!) when I get back to a bigger screen…

[1] Cue Bonanza theme….