Monthly Archives: January 2012

January 2012 Round-up

Well, that’s the first month of 2012 out of the way, which can only mean that it’s time for the eagerly awaited monthly report


Oh dear, this really hasn’t gone very well this month, has it?

January 1: 216.2 pounds (15 stone 6.2 pounds, 98.1 kg)
January 31: 220.4 pounds (15 stone 10.4 pounds, 100 kg)

That’s a quite shocking rise of 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg), which won’t do at all.


No real change here. I haven’t been eating anything different or extra…


Out of 21 working days this month, I walked to work a quite unsatisfactory 6.5 times (the 0.5 being the day the rain made me give up trying at Gateshead), walked part way home three times, and managed 8 walks worth mentioning. Garmin logged 43 miles in January, which isn’t enough. Must do better, etc.


Including this post, the total for January is a quite moderate 59.


Not enough walks or pictures taken. Not the best start to the month, really…

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap

For the last few years, I’ve been sort of vaguely searching for the best way to carry my camera when I’m out and about. The BAG QUESTION is one that I may settle soon, if things work out as I hope, but for now I want to mutter about the STRAP QUESTION, or how to carry the camera once it’s out of the bag and I’m ready to take actual pictures.

For the purposes of this report, I’m specifically talking about my full-size Canon DSLR with a suitably large and heavy lens attached. The kind of thing that’s too big to simply slip into a pocket, you understand. Over the years since I got my first DSLR, I’ve tried a number of things:

  1. The Canon-branded strap that came with the camera – apart from the cool factor of having the camera model displayed on the strap, this thing is just plain nasty. No padding, digs into your neck or shoulder.
  2. A similar kind of strap, but with a large padded section to spread the weight – better, but still has the issue of positioning. The camera either bounces off your body or you have to hold it steady. I’ve never felt comfortable with hanging it off one shoulder – the thought of a 5D with an expensive bit of glass hitting the ground is not a pleasant one.
  3. A wrist strap – this is actually pretty good for a bout of continuous shooting. No strap bits to get in front of the viewfinder, and it lets you move the camera around to avoid obstacles as you’re walking. But it’s a bit cumbersome if you need to get your hand into a pocket, so you’d pretty much have to have a bag handy.

I’ve looked at a few other things, but nothing that really seemed quite right. Until now. I’d seen the range of products from Black Rapid before, but mentally filed them away. But I recently caught up with a post on the Undfind blog about using their bags, which I mentioned recently, in conjunction with the Black Rapid straps. This looked interesting, so I had a proper look, and decided that I’d probably be wanting their RS-7 R Strap. What you get is a sturdy metal attachment which screws into the tripod socket of your camera (or large lens, depending on what you’re carrying) and a well-padded and adjustable sling strap you wear across your body. There’s a secure connector on the strap which attaches to the thingy you’ve attached to the camera. The camera then hangs reasonable comfortably at your waist. When you want to take a picture, it slides up the strap quickly and easily.

But don’t take my word for it, have a look at the demo videos on the product page.

I bought it from, together with a couple of accessories – a pouch big enough to hold a mobile phone or some other bits and pieces, and a cover that protects the strap’s buckle from being undone by anyone lurking behind you. I’ve since bought a couple more of the FastenR-3 devices, so I can leave one permanently attached to the Canon, the Olympus and my big Sigma 70-200mm lens. Other accessories, including fasteners that play nicely with certain tripod quick release plates are also available.

I’ve been out with it a few times, and so far, I like it a lot. This kit isn’t cheap (the main negative comment I’ve seen is that it’s a lot of money for a strap), but it does work well.

Weight and Stuff Report – 31 January 2012

Up again to the heaviest I’ve been so far this year. Mutter. Must do better, etc.

I can’t think of anything else to add to that, so here’s the picture of the day – it’s a section of the new development in Gateshead town centre. An interesting curve there…

Taking shape

Taking shape

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level

Hmmm. What have we here? Is it a Cunning and Evil Plot to make fans buy new copies of something they already have? Well, that might be part of the commercial justification for the project, but in this instance, it might just be worth it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation started in the late 1980s, long before DVD, never mind HD TV, and was accordingly made for the TV standards of the time, specifically the US standard of the time, which means that when you look at recordings on modern equipment, it doesn’t look as good as you might hope. I’ve got the original DVDs (the first issues in those big plastic boxes that were considered essential for expensive collector’s editions in those far off days), and while they’re nice to have, the picture quality isn’t significantly better than it was on VHS, because of the quality of the material used.

But, and this is a very big but, while it was edited and mixed to late 80s video, it was actually made on film. Visual effects shots were composited (that’s the technical word, apparently) from separate film shots and layered (or however it works) to build up, for instance, a sequence of a starship (a model) orbiting a planet (probably a painting) firing energy weapons (animated, perhaps). And the interesting thing is that the majority of all the original film negatives still exist.

So, what they’re doing is quite interesting. Take the original film, reassemble all those effects shots and master the whole thing for 1080p and put it on BluRay. Oh, and remix the sound up to 7.1 while they’re at it.

The usual boxed sets will start appearing later this year, but in a crafty bit of marketing, this low-priced sample is now available. It contains the opening double-length Encounter at Farpoint and two more popular episodes – Sins of the Father, in which Worf starts to deal with his Klingon heritage and The Inner Light, in which Picard lives a whole extra life.

My first impressions from watching a couple of episodes last night are  :tigger: Yes, they’ve done a remarkable job on this. By going beyond the usual restoration to making it better than it was at first, but without succumbing to the temptation to “improve” the effects, they’ve made something that’s going to be very tempting when those sets start appearing[1].

It’s presented in the original 4:3 ratio, as it should be – yes, this means black bars on the sides of wide screens, but I’d much rather that than having the image distorted by stretching, squeezing or (horrors!) cropping.

As a low-priced sampler, this is excellent. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a voucher in the box for £5 off the season one box, which provided you remember to send it off, makes this a real bargain.

[1] Though the smart move would be to wait a while and watch the prices drop, as generally happens

Weight and Stuff Report – 30 January 2012

Bother, up again, bother.

It was another day of unexpected staff shortages, so I went in a bit early on the bus, and didn’t have time for more than a short walk at lunchtime, mutter.

Today’s picture is from Sunday’s not quite as planned outing. It’s one of the more entertainingly designed buildings on Westgate Road.

Addams Family, Newcastle

Addams Family, Newcastle

Painting the Toon – John Coatsworth

As I mentioned last year after visiting his exhibition at the Discovery Museum (it’s finished now, so if you missed it, you’ll have to wait for the next one), I’m a big fan of John Coatsworth’s distinctive bendy paintings of Newcastle. I still haven’t got round to getting the prints I’ve been meaning to add to my walls, but I have now got the book. And what a lovely thing it is, too.

It starts with a small selection of John’s earlier, not at all bendy, work, then moves on to the familiar images of the Tyne bridges, Newcastle city centre and so on, as well as some less familiar ones that were painted as private commissions.

And finally, there’s a selection of John’s more recent bending of Paris. It’s interesting to see less familiar locations getting the bendy treatment. In his introduction to the book, John’s friend Torquil McLeod says he’s trying to persuade John to try Italy next, and I have to agree that a bendy version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa would be fun.

This is great as a souvenir of the exhibition or as a cost-effective way of getting a collection of John’s work. If you want some larger or more wall-friendly versions, they’re available from a number of places, including The Picture Framer and More. That’s also a pretty good place to have a look at some of the pictures if you’ve no idea what I’ve just been going on about.

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 January 2012

Bother, up again today…

My plan for today was to walk into Newcastle and have a look at some of the Chinese New Year Celebrations, including the dragon dance and other such things. Well, I to to Newcastle just fine, but when I got to the location, I ran into a slight crowd issue. There were so many people that it wasn’t possible to even see the action – I could hear drums, saw the smoke from some firecrackers, but that was about it. Getting from one part of the activities to another wasn’t altogether pleasant (I really, really, really don’t like being in the middle of a large mass of people), so I decided I’d better give up and go home, which I did. The fact that it had just started to rain put me off even more…

But I did manage a bit of a walk, as the Garmin evidence shows:



As I didn’t manage to see any dragons, today’s picture is a long passage with a light at the end, otherwise known as the High Level Bridge

Vanishig Point

Vanishig Point

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 January 2012

Back down today, all very interesting I’m sure.

Another day in, but I do have plans for tomorrow. While you speculate about that, and get all excited[1], here’s a picture of Roker Pier, with one or two anglers.

Roker Pier

Roker Pier

[1] Note: anyone actually getting excited by that must be very easily excited indeed.

Weight and Stuff Report – 27 January 2012

Hmm. Back down today, in another burst of randomness.

More stuff at the weekend, assuming my tuit supply holds out.

Today’s picture is another one from my recent Wearside walk:

On reflection...

On reflection...

More on Lightroom 4

OK, I’ve been playing with the Lightroom 4 Beta that I mentioned recently. Up till now, I’ve just been playing with the Develop module, and enjoying the new improved sliders there. But I’ve just learned that I should have been looking at the new Books module. This works with the excellent Blurb service, who I used to produce my photobook last year (still on sale, get yours now, etc), making the whole process quicker, easier and altogether more pleasant.

Rather than having to process all your pictures, export them as suitably sized JPG files, loading them into Blurb’s software, then doing it again when you realise you didn’t size the images correctly, rinse, repeat, etc, you can now do the whole process, including uploading your book to Blurb, without leaving Lightroom. Excellent.

I might even get round to producing some smaller, more affordable books once the final version is released…

Thanks to Scott Kelby for the hint.