Photography, Psychology, Society

The Patience of the Landscape Photographer

English: Ashness Bridge, Borrowdale, English L...

I’m in the English Lake District and I’m here to get away from work and relax but also to take some more landscape photos. As any good landscape photographer will tell you patience is something that is as important as a neutral density grey grad filter.  Sometimes you have to revisit the same spot day-in-day-out, or even week-in-week-out until the weather and lighting are just right as a landscape’s appearance can be completely altered by cloud, the angle of the sunlight and the time of year.

Patience is something that can be lacking these days as I witnessed yesterday when walking past a place called Ashness Bridge.  As I approached the bridge, coming down from the fell above, I saw a small group of men stood in the flowing stream beneath the bridge, expensive cameras on tripods, the aforementioned neutral density grey grads in place (the sky was a combination of sunshine and cloud so the grad helps to avoid underexposing the foreground or overexposing the sky).

One of the group wanted a “picture-perfect” image of the apparently famous bridge and was becoming increasingly annoyed at the other tourists and car drivers that were intruding into his shot and rather than be patient and wait he began gesticulating at a car driver, shouting at walkers and generally being a bit of a tit to put it politely.

The attitude of “I’ve got an expensive camera here, I’m a real photographer, get out of my way” was evident and it is one that gives photographers a bad name – as pretentious and inconsiderate.  No doubt the group had to press on to the next photo opportunity but this is no excuse, if they had prepared properly then all they would need to do was wait patiently for the right moment and fire the shutter, as I did later after they had gone.  I don’t mind having people in my photos as they add scale and context but if I’d waited a few seconds I could have taken a shot free of humanity altogether. I had considered pointing my own camera at the camera club when the man had started shouting, perhaps shouting back “could you get out of my way too please, I want a shot of those trees” but I didn’t as I felt the irony would have been lost on them.

As for my own patience, well put it this way I’ve waited one year, two weeks and three days approximately to reshoot two images I took last year on the summit of Walla Crag near Keswick that last year I messed up due to forgetting my neutral density grey grad filter.

This year I got the shots and I now only have to tweak them a bit when I return home before uploading them to Flickr.


Imaging Atoms

Graphene Micrograph

Graphene Micrograph (Photo credit: Argonne National Laboratory)

As well as looking out into space and simultaneously back in time with the Hubble space telescope to understand where we came from scientists are also looking further inwards to understand how we are here.

In the last few months the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have confirmed the existence of a Higgs boson though this is simply a beginning rather than an end as there is still much to understand about this fascinating sub-atomic particle that is theorised to give matter mass and whether it is the Higgs Boson they expected based on computer models.

Now a team at IBM have used a modified form of Atomic Force Microscopy to image a single molecule showing the atomic bonds.  This technique would enable, for example, inspection of sheets of single-atom thick Graphene for imperfections.  As with so many discoveries and new technologies this will no doubt have many more future applications as well as furthering our understanding of our world.

[Higgs Boson & Molecule Imaging at Gizmodo UK]

Funny, Random

I For One Welcome Our Feline Overlords

Portrait of a male tabby cat

Portrait of a male tabby cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was inevitable.  It was irresistible.  It is this month’s excuse for a cat picture.

Minnesota recently played host to the worlds first Cat Video Film Festival to honour the joy that our furry friends’ recorded antics have given us.  Follow the links to see more, though please watch the Ninja Cat video recommended by Gizmodo’s reporter.

[Gizmodo UK]

Jubilee Britain, Science, Tech

21st Century Hobbies & British Pi

English: Extract from Raspberry Pi board at Tr...

English: Extract from Raspberry Pi board at TransferSummit 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been said that having a hobby is a particularly British thing, when I was younger I used to spend evenings listening to REM albums while building model aircraft – many of which still linger in my mum and dad’s attic along with my old school books.

In the past some people have collected stamps, cheese labels and even old street lamps (which looked more like street theft in the BBC documentary on hobbies I’ve just watched while thinking about the subject of this post).  All these activities though gave people ways to enjoy their leisure time and as we reached the end of the twentieth century technology was playing its part in hobbies whether it was in building kit computers, programming home computers or playing video games whose graphics required a kind of leap of imagination that would be unthinkable to today’s Call of Duty playing generation of gamers.

Hobbies were something to be wanted, something to share and talk about.  Today though many of us grown-ups at least don’t have hobbies possibly because of the vast array of distractions from TV and the internet (and yes I’m aware of the irony.) 

Ooh, QI’s on the telly, er, be back in a bit…

I have heard people saying that their hobby is buying and selling things on Ebay, others that when they’re not watching TV or down the pub they’re on Bingo or Poker sites so the prospect of making money is a major driver rather than the satisfaction of making something or completing a collection.

One area that had been fading but is now bounding back is computing as a hobby – and typically it’s a British invention that is leading the charge.  Raspberry Pi began as an attempt to reverse the decline in the numbers of students going to Cambridge to read computer science which had once been the domain of many hobbyist programmers.  A group at Cambridge identified that something had changed in the way young people used computers; they were being taught word and excel in ICT lessons at school (when I was at school I was taught about mainframes) and at home they used games consoles and PCs rather than the ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s of the eighties where part of the enjoyment was typing in your own programs.

What was needed was a modern Speccy – a low-cost computer that could boot Linux and be programmed to do whatever you wanted.  The computer was designed and even before it went on sale its low-cost and versatility sparked the buried creative juices in hobbyists across the country and it has sold fantastically well and is soon to be Made in Britain too.  The foundation set up to develop the computer has also had enquiries from developing countries where such devices can provide access to technology previously unavailable.

The little one-board computer will be finding its way into a myriad of homebuilt projects in the years to come as well as its original use in encouraging the next generation of British tech engineering pioneers.

[Raspberry Pi 2.0  Gizmodo UK]  [Raspberry Pi Games Platform BBC News]

Science, Tech

Worldwide Collaboration & Amazing Discoveries

English: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) begi...

English: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) begins its separation from Space Shuttle Discovery following its release on mission STS-82. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As more of the world’s population is permanently connected via broadband to the internet the potential for distributed computing and collaboration on projects increases.

Already projects such as Seti@Home have used computers belonging to members of the public who’d signed up to the programme to background process signals received from space and other similar projects are in operation; Wikipedia is edited by an army of volunteers the world over as well as individuals who may only use their own specialised knowledge to create or edit a particular page; and researchers have been digging information from the vast resources of Google Earth.

Now ESA have opened up the archives of Hubble space telescope imagery to the public so that previously unprocessed data could be unveiled in all it’s glory.  The volunteers were unpaid but prizes were given for the best images to emerge from the process, those involved were simply doing it for the challenge and the chance to make a new discovery.  One such volunteer, Judy Schmidt, did discover an object that would have otherwise remained unseen in the immense vault of data.

A sample of the images can be seen over at Gizmodo UK and ESA’s site.


Still a Place for Paper

English: Moleskine notebook and diaries. Белар...

English: Moleskine notebook and diaries. Беларуская: Нататнік і штодзёньнікі Moleskine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some time ago I wrote about a small notebook you printed out from your PC, now Moleskine and Evernote have buried the paper versus digital debate and produced a digital compatible notebook.

Previous attempts have involved clipboards that record your pen movements, pens that record, well, their own movements and entirely digital tablet-type virtual notebooks.  The new books however use specially formatted paper that can be photographed using the Evernote app and will then be instantly available in a searchable form in your digital notebook.  Stickers can even be used to instruct the app where to save the page.

Best of both worlds?  Could easily be.

[Techcrunch via Gizmodo UK]


Apps The World Needs

2Lens toy camera

2Lens toy camera (Photo credit: slimmer_jimmer)

Forget universal translators and apps that make it look like your phone is a cheap toy camera from 1973 while allowing you to say “look how cool I am, I’m a real photographer because my pictures look so authentic”, the world needs apps for people (like me) who can’t remember other people’s names, those who can’t motivate themselves to use the gym membership they bought and the many who really need to prove that the person they’re listening to is very, very wrong.

Gizmodo has made the call, now we need brave developers to step up, any takers?

[Gizmodo UK]