Thursday, 31 March 2011

Character building

I kept my photographer's eye open while on Cyprus last week, and it seems to me there is a lot of sitting around going on. Tourists  like us sit around with their beers and Greek Coffee Metrio planning where to go next.

Ex-pats sit around and complain endlessly about everything. Locals just seem to sit around and watch the world's foolishness pass by before them. In the morning they sit in the sun to warm up, but they seek out the shade after noon.

This excellent character with the splendid moustache is a waiter-owner of a neighbouring restaurant... I suspect he is recharging his batteries before facing what passes for the lunchtime rush.

You cannot sit around if you have a job and are on duty. The Orthdox Priest here was standing in the shade overseeing the National Day parade. This is a long drawn out march past by all the students from the local school. They parade led by Greek and Cypriot banners and flags, and march in their best school uniforms to a pre-recorded soundtrack of snare drum and bugle: A tune consisting entirely of two notes.

Another afternoon. No customers. Time for the barber to sit in the shade and read the paper. It's all go isn't it...

All three of these street candids were taken using the twist and tilt live-view rear screen on the Olympus E600 camera. You don't have to hold the camera up to your eye, or even in front of your face to get a picture these days...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Greetings dear reader!

Well, we are back from a week in Bedfordshire and I've started the photo blog once more.  So without more ado, here is my first Bedford for you to peruse: Isn't it splendid?

Yes, we've had a week away in Cyprus, staying at Polis near the Akemas Peninsular. We do like Cyprus, its quite Brit friendly, and nice and quiet at the West end of the island. 

There's a lot of British history attached to Cyprus - quite how the locals view it is another matter, because it was only after a long struggle through the fifties and sixties, they finally gained their independance from us.

The colonial legacy that remains includes 13A mains plugs, driving on the left, and rather more old Bedfords than you see here in the UK. They will rust away eventually, but they take some time about it.

This is a splendid Bedford coach from the late fifties I guess. It may well be a Bedford J truck converted to a coach because the bodywork seems a bit strange in places. I love the roof rack by the way. Nice touch...

From a previous trip (we have been to Cyprus five times now) here are two Bedfords that appeared to be still in use 5 years ago...

More on Bedfordshire tomorrow.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Short Pause

Well, dear reader, after an almost unbroken run approaching 140 posts, I will take a short pause to recover and develop some new views and new attitudes....

All being well, I should be back in a few days. If however you need a daily dose of my ramblings, then you could have a wander around my posts. They start

BTW, this isn't a large Moon, its a dwarf horse.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Big Moon

Does this moon look big to you?* Apparently the Moon has popped round to visit us this week, and is closer that it will be for decades.

This just underlines my general distrust of the Moon. In the winter the Sun is low, in the Summer it is high in the sky and these are facts you can depend on. The same does not apply to the Moon, it seems to be all over the place, sometimes its almost over head, even in Winter. 

Every now and then it wanders in front of the Sun, to the consternation of all concerned. In fact our Moon is the largest in relation to its mother planet of all in the Solar System, and looks spookily similar in size to the Sun, from our perspective. Solar eclipses are non events on Mars.

So, now I discover we can't even trust it to stay where it's supposed to. This is all rather odd behaviour for our closest neighbour, and I do wonder if a sattellite so capricious should be allowed control of our tides..

*BTW It should look bigger in this picture, I enlarged it by seventy  percent compared to the foreground...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Forty Years On

Roughly forty years ago, in 1971 I left work and went to University to take a degree. (In those days it was worth having a degree, only five percent of the population had them, and you could get a small grant as well). I maintained my links with the electronics industry and was delighted to get a packet from Texas Instruments offering me a free red LED to try.

This was the point that LEDS passed from esoteric specialist items to a commodity product. I recall my amazement when I connected a battery and it lit up. It didn't get hot, it didn't have a filament to break and it took hardly any current.

What an amazing invention.

Of course the only colour commercially available was red, and so it remained for some years. Slowly orange, amber and green appeared and LEDS became mainstream. They revolutionised electronics with their low power and long life. You could now build indicators into equipment without any thought of how the "bulb" would be replaced when its filament went.

I put red LEDs in all my projects, even when they were not strictly required. However, blue or even white LED remained an impossible dream, and as for intensity, well you could never describe LEDs as bright.

So, here we are in the brave new world. The road at the end of our housing estate has suddenly sprouted a single LED powered street light. Suddenly all the Sodium lights look old fashioned. 

Imagine! A white LED outdoor light that is bright enough to illuminate the pavement. How times change.

Friday, 18 March 2011


"....things move from a highly ordered state to a disordered state. This is the principle of entropy."

The Second Law of Thermodynamics would have us accept that Entropy is maintained or increases in all physical interactions. It seems when things rust away, they are just following this principle.

So rust and disorder are woven into the fabric of the Universe, which seems a rather deep prospect that I leave you to ponder.

Meanwhile I am still much concerned about what this old sign, spotted on a Devon stately home, used to say....

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Non Cat

I've decided what this blog needs is a certain amount of Quantum Mechanics. This, as we all know, is the branch of Physics that brought us Schrodinger's Cat, the iconic thought experiment that illustrated the Uncertainty Principle.

This Principle states that the result of a Quantum Mechanics experiment can exist in two mutually exclusive Quantum States right up to the point that it is observed. Only after the point of observation does the result of the experiement become plain. A object can exist and not exist at the same time and it is only when it is observed that the actual result can be known.

As Schrodinger guessed, this may be applied to non sub-atomic particles, and here I illustrate it with his actual cat

As you can see, it is indeed in a Quantum state.

Now here we have the cat at the very moment of observation. At this point it is in limbo, it's not clear if the cat exists or does not exist.

Here is the result. Clearly in this case the Cat does not exist. This turns out to be the experimental result on a surpising number of occasions.  In fact the growth in clandestine Shrodinger's Cat experiments has brought with it a remarkable rise in the number of missing Cats. Walk around your neighbourhood, or glance in the window of your newsagents. 

Each one of these plaintive "Have you seen our Cat" posters is actually the result of someone's secret Quantum Mechanics experiment.

By the way, Financiers have recently applied this methodology to banking. The theory states that the bank has money in its vault and is also simultaneously bankrupt at the same time. These conditions exist comfortably together until someone examines the accounts.

Its all just Quantum Mechanics...

PS. I will have written more on this subject in the future

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

For Ever

I am a great fan of Winchester. We generally go visiting or shopping a few times each year. Even if the town centre is heaving and the green at the front of the Cathedral is covered in tourists, you can still find quiet spots if you go searching.

Here is a little detail from St Swithun upon Kingsgate: A church over the gate to the Cathedral close, for example.

But here in St Lawrence church, you find a surprising and rather public demonstration of charity.

I am impressed by the liberal use of the phrase for ever. They obviously had more faith in the banking system and the accrual of interest than we have these days....

A Groat Loaf, or a share in the Cemetery, anyone?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Spring Colours

Here are a couple of examples of nature's colours this springtime to lighten our mood amongst all the depressing and worrying news.

Here's a sunlit macro of a lichen encrusted twig that I spotted recently. I'm not certain what the tree gets out of it, but the lichen seems to be enjoying itself.

My favourite method for flower pictures it to get to the same level as the flower. If that means the camera has to be put right down in the grass, then so be it. Fortunately my DSLR has one of these new fangled swinging rear screens, thus avoiding the embarrassing and painful business of grovelling in the mud to get the shot....

Monday, 14 March 2011

Rural sights

Here are a couple of rural sights spotted while out for my wanderings today.

Firstly, I do apologise for the subject matter, this really isn't acceptable. I don't know what the owners were thinking. You can't just allow something like this to happen and ignore it. Someone should come along with a spade and sort this out. The smell is awful if you get up close, and clearly no one wants to wake up in the morning, look out of their window and see something like this. Yes, I know you see this sort of thing all over the place in the countryside, but that doesn't mean we all have to put up with it.


Sorry about all that, but it just had to be said. Now, let's move on to a much nicer subject.

Isn't this a pleasing sight! Yes, this is more what I call  typical countryside in March This fine display doesn't just happen on its own, no, it takes real effort by all concerned. I just wish our road looked something like this, and it could do, its just a matter of everyone getting together to do their part.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Hard at Work

I suppose by my time of life I should be retired, or I should be in charge of some large admin department somewhere, devoting my weekends to perfecting my golf swing.

Instead I solder on at the bench and the CAD pc screen, spending my time chasing impossibly small electronic components around tiny circuit boards with tweezers and iron.

(Here's one I designed earlier)

Later that same month: Here we are, attacking the unsuspecting board with test equipment and data manuals. 

This is one of the lonelier moments in the Electronics Designers life: Making a new design work for the first time is always a testing time (pun inteded). This new thing has never seen the light of day before, there are no previous examples to fall back on for comparison. No-one else in the company understands it to the detail that I do, so there's no-one else to ask.
Is the schematic right? Did I make any mistakes on the layout? Will the processor start? Are there mistakes in the Assembler or the VHDL code? Will there be some fundamental error?

I've always maintained an Electronics career is a moving target. It doesn't matter what knowledge you have accumulated over your years in the business, some of it will look out of date in two years, and most of it will be useless in ten years. It's just that sort of game.

So there you are. It's hard at work... but being positive, at least I work indoors :-)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The long and short

The best camera is the one you have with you... It's no good having some super pro camera and lens set if it it too bulky or too heavy to take with you. 

Having said that, it is a very dedicated photographer that carries a camera at all times...

Anyway, here is a street shot that I was able to grab because I did have my camera with me at the time. (I will not be showing you all the great pictures I missed because the camera was at home...)

Friday, 11 March 2011

It's another sign

Continuing my theme of signs and weird stuff spotted: Here's a statue glaring at the passers by from a maintenance compound in a London Park...

The old gardeners sheds at a country house, but not for the likes of you and I.

Stating the obvious, during the big floods near the Severn.

Mr Jacket's baked potato van has long gone from Newbury, as has this building, lost beneath a new development.

On Iona: This shed is apparently B.T. property, so keep out.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

It's a Sign

It's good to develop your powers of observation as a photographer. I am always on the search for odd stuff to snap. Problem is, what do you do with these wierd or just plain odd scenes. They don't make good wall furniture.

So, dear reader: here are some for you to savour, together with my reactions at the time...

 "OK, Fair enough.."

"Yes, but what? Where?

Erm, Toilets in the sky?? And - Garden Shed??

No comment...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

There's always one

In days gone by, you were warned that angry farmers might shoot your dog if it was caught Worrying Sheep. This is a reasonable precaution, however I put it to you that sheep are always worried. If you walk past them briskly they scatter in fright. If you walk towards them slowly, they are even more worried.

What is he doing? Is he a threat? What should I do? Should I tell the others?

OK, maybe stilt-walking down the farm lane wearing my chicken outfit is a touch flamboyant, but hey, its a free world... Nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Old Wall

Here is the old churchyard wall in the village where I work. Parts of the church are a thousand years old, with some distinct Saxon hints in the structure. Its been here a long, long time.

So: If they buried an average of ten people a year in the church yard, that means... well work it out yourselves. Its still going on, three or four have been added in the past year.

The result of all this excitement is that the churchyard is now a good three feet higher than the ground to the south, so the old flint wall was topped with this brick wall a century or more ago.

Even this measure proved inadequate, for I am certain they built it in a straight line originally. Today the wall is supported with a total of fourteen leaning brick buttresses.

I quite like it: Its a charming example of rural vernacular irregularity...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Flash Light

I was asked to take a picture of a rented office to form part of the  for-rent flier recently. I know the room has windows on two sides, but it would clearly need more than that to make it look good. Furthermore the interior lighting is the usual nasty fluorescent tubes.

I took my two off camera flashes with their cheap radio triggers and the widest lens I have and I partly opened the blinds to let a fair amount of daylight in. The first flash was set on a stand at head height off to camera right and set to 1/8th power and aimed at the white ceiling. By setting shutter to 1/30th this balanced quite well with the daylight, but the view through the open door was dark and uninviting...

So I rigged the second flash out in the hall, also pointing upward. It needed 1/4 power to balance the lighting, I guess it was darker in there and the ceiling is higher.

All done and burned to a CD in 15 minutes.

Lessons learned: I need more gear (!) like a flash umbrella, a third flash and trigger receiver. I also need some method of attaching flashes to random objects to avoid buying another light stand, and some spare batteries would probably be wise....

Oh, and a check list of gear so I don't leave stuff behind...

It turns out that I wrote more about flash in the future.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Dubious Pleasure

Cryptic crosswords. Hah! What's going on there then? Someone takes all the effort to arrange interlocking words in a symmetrical grid, then they present you with a blank canvas guided by dense and impenetrable clues.

Would it not save everyone's time if the crosswords were just published with all the words filled in. Result! Job done!

And what is it with Cryptic Clues? 

28 Down: "Whale eats Horse, apparently?".  or 11 Across "Vicar aspires to enter church". What on earth does than mean, and what has it to do with the crossword. Anyway even I know that Whales don't eat Horses, so it's downright misleading.

No. We always reach for the Easy Crossword, and sometimes we don't even finish that one.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Marketing Hype

Introducing the new DR-xII from Gizmo Industries. This innovative new design is set to take the intra-wall furniture market by storm. This product features a Twin Rotary Support system with attractive decorative details. TRS allows surprisingly smooth operation with none of the sliding or lifting that cheaper options require.

The xII also comes with an integrated Entry Enablement Device located on the opposite side to the TRS for maximum convenience. The EED is installed at the perfect height for manual operation and can be used by people of all ages after suitable training.

The reinforced bodywork is made from sustainable sources and is an attractive addition to any suitable orifice, adding style and substance. The laminated construction is secured with a matrix of hand crafted metallic retainers.

Security concerns are firmly addressed by the Access Denial Feature placed conveniently near to the EED. ADF is a mature technology providing a robust segregation of users and peace of mind for the owner-operator.

Finally, this particular model also features carefully graded environmental control with a peripheral air exchange mechanism built into the design.

(Example image only. Decorative surround not included. Delivery and installation extra. Our policy of continuous product development may mean the item supplied may exhibit differences from the example shown. Available in white. E&OE)

Available to order....

Friday, 4 March 2011

Twigged it

It's that time of year when the local Rooks start to tinker with nests. They are refurbishing last year's nests or else building new ones. Until now they've spent their days just messing about in the sky, so far as I can see.

There is a lot of ferrying to and fro with the essential stuff that makes a nest. In fact I have never succeeded in grabbing a classic "bird with big twig" picture, so this will have to do.

This is the point that I start to wonder how this works. Imagine you are a young Rook, and this is your first nest. Something drives you to go find your first twig, which you take to the very top of a hundred foot tree.

How do you get that first twig to stay there while you go and find another one. How do you join them together so they stay fixed to the tree? Bear in mind you don't have arms and hands, just a beak...

Perhaps that rhythmic taptaptap from the woodland is not Woodpeckers after all. Perhaps it is actually Rooks with their secret staple guns....

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Going Home

After yesterday's gloriously faked pictures, here's one that is gloriously genuine. This was just as seen, taken using 600mm equivalent telephoto lens*.

After so many dismal days this last month, I was very pleased to see some sunshine and blue sky today. There was the makings of a fair sunset so I drove home the wrong route. (There is clearly a right route, its shorter but uglier). Here on the wrong route I finally found my shot. A March sunset over Watership Down, North Hampshire.

I do like the back lit mist effect in the valley trees, something similar is visible at sunrise under the right conditions.

*Technical note regarding this Olympus lens. That's actually a 600mm equivalent zoom lens, no lens hood, straight into the sunset: And no lens flare.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Two Views

Here we are, about a thousand feet up on the Pennines with a spendid sunset. The hills recede towards Lancashire and the clouds reflected in the reservoir. Aaah...

Another summer evening. This time looking towards Shalbourne over the Kennet Valley. Ranks of trees march westwards over the hidden village of Speen.

Both of these images are mangled and partly faked. There never was a lake in the first one. I flipped the sky and drew in the shoreline to create the illusion.

The right hand third of the second image is a reflection, added to make the picture wider. I merely adjusted the trees in places to destroy the giveaway symmetry.

To quote the Moody Blues: Red is grey and yellow, white. But we decide which is right, and which is an illusion.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

An Invitation

One of the many theories of composition is that a good picture invites you into it. The viewer should feel intrigued by the view and be set wondering what is through that door, or round that corner. Well, it's just a theory, so let's try some examples...

Here is a view down some of the Painswick Yews that carries with it the invitation to explore.

And here is a lucky alignment of arches and windows in a dissolved Monastery in the Yorkshire Dales. Each doorway or window offers an opportunity to go further into the image.

And here is a narrow alley in Florence. Here the deep shadows and the distant sky draws you towards the figures further down the lane.

This theory of invitation is what draws me to poke my camera down alleys and side lanes, generally annoying those around me...