Archive for the 'Photography' Category

Nikon release impressive D80

Nikon has released the D80, as an upgrade to the D70s. The specs look pretty neat. Ken Rockwell thinks its 95% of the high-end D200 in a plastic case… Tempting!

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Lebanon – Emergency Demo today

Most of you who know me will know that demonstrations are not really my cup of tea. I don’t generally find them a productive use of time. On top of that they normally attract the sort of ‘hard’ socialists with whom I can often find very little in common.

Nevertheless I have been appalled not only by the scale of Israeli state terrorism perpetrated against the people of Lebanon but much more so by our government’s complicity in these war crimes. Specifically, diplomatic support, supply of arms, and passage provided to US air transport of munitions. I am not prepared for these to go on in my name and it is very difficult to see what writing to MP is going to do.

So, God-willing, I shall be taking part in today’s emergency Stop the War demonstration. (Meeting at 12 noon, Hyde Park Speakers Corner, to march to Parliament Square.) If, like me, you feel that you cannot allow our government to continue acting, as it has, in our names, then I urge you to come too. If you can’t make it then at least sign the letter to Tony Blair or do something else constructive to show your opposition.Incidentally I am curious that permission has been granted for a demonstration in Parliament Square, given the problems protestors have faced recently with the Serious, Organised Crime & Police Act (SOCPA), most notably Brian Haw. Events could be “interesting” and so I’m tempted to dust off the covers to my hitherto-underutilised camcorder. Perhaps the day may also my first ever YouTube contribution!

Of course Parliament Square has, in recent years, become more difficult to protest in even before SOCPA. I remember when I was President of Imperial College Union, we received legal counsel advising against holding a demonstration in Parliament Square. Since the establishment of the Greater London Authority, the Square has been the responsibility of the Mayor, whose policy has been to promote Trafalgar Square for all public events. I guess the move to Parliment Square may reflect the success of the Mayor’s strategy in that there is so much cultural activity now going on in Trafalgar Square that there is now no space for political protests there. In any case I am glad we are going to Parliament Square. Trafalgar Square is nice (especially now that the Northern part has been pedestrianised) but it is a cultural centre, not a political one. Political protest in London rightly belongs in the vicinity of Parliament.

Lunar Eclipse on Tuesday

For those of you who aren’t on the ICU AstroSoc mailing list, there is a total lunar eclipse taking place this Tuesday (4 May) evening. Weather-permitting, it should be visible in Britain.

This being one of the few Tuesdays in term-time when I don’t have an evening meeting, you’ll probably find me on the roof of the Huxley Building attempting to photograph the eclipse. Having not had the time to go to one of the AstroSoc ‘Star Parties’ so far this year, I might even get round to paying my membership fee!

I’ve never tried photographing a lunar eclipse before, so it could be quite fun. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a telephoto lens long enough to get a frame-filling picture (unlike the sun, which I have photographed, the moon is much smaller). My telephoto coverage maxes out at 420 mm and I’d really like something in the 1000 – 2000 mm range. Still the landscape shots *could* be interesting (though very unlikely in Central London) and I may be able to borrow a camera/telescope lens adapter to use with the AstroSoc telescope. It’s not worth spending money on as, frankly, the visibility from Central London will be pretty poor due to light pollution. With hindsight, my solar photography filter was a waste of money and I don’t wish to repeat that mistake!

Apple’s iPhoto rules!

Some of you may know that I use an Apple Macintosh computer system at home. Like most computer nerds I went through a fairly geeky phase when I would get into fanatical Mac vs PC arguments. (Actually in the early years I was a PC fan and hated Macs with a vengence for being wussy computers.)

I’ve since come to realise that life’s too short to worry about petty things. I use a Mac because, much of the time, it just makes my life easier. Amateur photography is one of those areas where the Mac particularly excels.

I’m currently still using a film camera (mainly). However, I now get all my photos processed on to PhotoCD and am progressively scanning old albums. Managing JPEG files on a computer hard disk using a file manager is do-able but has its limitations. You want to be able to browse a collection, quickly, and break it down by any number of factors (film roll, event, time, etc.). By far the best program I have come across is Apple’s iPhoto software. It used to be free by they now charge for it – and it is well worth the investment.

iPhoto works well in managing your photo collections and turning them into screensavers and wallpaper. One of its best features is being able to link in with .Mac to automatically publish photo albums on your web page. As an integrated package for a novice computer user it’s hard to beat.

I am not a novice computer user. I actually have a degree in the discipline and I want to host my own web pages. What’s more, .Mac hosting can become quite expensive when you want to host your entire photo collection (the per MB charges are relatively high compared to hosting your own server on a high speed internet connection). So what I ended up doing was exporting albums out of iPhoto and then using Adobe Photoshop to generate basic HTML pages with thumbnails. This would work but was not particularly elegant. I would have to manually hack each HTML file to include a custom header/footer – which I was not enthralled by (so eventually wrote a script to do it) and I lost all the rich information about each picture held in iPhoto.

Then I stumbled across Zachary Wily‘s excellent iPhotoToGallery software. Honestly, this software is a God-send! It’s a simple plug in to iPhoto that let’s you export directly to web sites using the open source Gallery image library software. I can now export any of photo albums from iPhoto to my online photo gallery with just a couple of clicks. Fantastic! It’ll take me some time but sooner or later I’ll have loaded all my Photo CDs and scanned quite a few recent albums and have them all online. Woohoo!

Thanks Zack!