Thursday, 25 February 2010

Letter to Altonians

This is an open letter to the people of Alton in Hampshire, my home town:

People of Alton (and there abouts),

There is a battle raging in the town over whether the Coors Brewery should be permitted to sell their sports facilities (what's known as the Bass sports ground) near Anstey Park.  Many of the local residents object to this for many reasons:
- there is a covenant on the current sports ground stating it should remain in use only for sport
- relocation of sports facilities to Anstey Park means massive loss of public green space in the town
- the coors site would be redeveloped as a supermarket or possibly dense housing

Why should the town lose a park so Coors can profit from land sales on which there is a covenant?

If you agree, you can find out more information from:
http://ansteyresidents.org.uk/
http://www.weloveansteypark.com/
http://saveansteypark.org.uk/
or the Facebook group
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=299652801351

Things you can do to help:
Display the poster from the weloveansteypark.com web site
Object to the two planning applications concerned,
  http://www.ansteyresidents.org.uk/object_to_footballhub.php
  http://www.ansteyresidents.org.uk/object_to_supermarket.php

These campaigns are all fighting the same cause with the aim to protect our open spaces and ensure any development is sympathetic to the surrounding area and sited appropriately in the town.

Thanks for your time in reading this,

Graham White

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

New Lens

I've saved writing about the new lens I was given at Christmas until I've had a decent chance to use it.  I've wanted this for quite a while now, inspired by my friend Mim and her wonderful portrait photography <shameless plug>you can hire her by the way</shameless plug>.  I'm deliberately not showing off any of my pictures in this post until I've got a little better at using it.

My only other two lenses don't have a massive maximum aperture so it's great to finally have a fast lens in my arsenal.  The benefit of greater lens speed is to widen the aperture which allows for throwing the background of your subject out of focus.  This has the benefit of making the subject stand out and drawing the eye towards it.  It's particularly great for portrait work.

The other great plus to this particular lens is it's just about the smallest, cheapest, lightest lens Canon make.  This thing is tiny, weighs something like 130 grams and is less than 80 quid!  It's just about the best bang-for-your-buck you can get in my opinion.

Usage is obviously quite simple as it's fixed focal length so there's no zoom ring to worry about.  You only get a focusing ring and an auto/manual focus switch, no image stabilisation switch to worry about either.  It does feel very strange to use at the moment though, because of it's size and weight it gives the camera a completely different feel.  Not to mention that I'm used to zoom lenses so there's nothing to twist unless you're manually focusing.  You have to move yourself in order to frame the subject as you want and while none of these things are bad, it does give a different feel to the experience of taking pictures.  The results, though, speak for themselves, you can produce really great images from this lens which is a real shocker given the price.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

Recently I've been playing around with creating HDR style images. I'll save the full technical explanation for someone else.  In my own simple words for the uninitiated, it's a post processing technique where you combine multiple images of the same scene taken at different exposures. The reason for doing this is that your camera is only capable of "seeing" a certain range of light and colours, you usually tell it which range to use i.e. whether you want an underexposed or overexposed image. Some scenes are too mixed in terms of different light levels, you could expose for the dark areas or the light but perhaps not both. This is where a technique such as HDR comes in handy, allowing you to retain the detail in the shady areas as well as the well lit areas for example.

HDR images can look like they're not photographs, perhaps computer generated, depending on the algorithm used to render the final image.  However, in the right hands they can look pretty cool, for example this one from the Flickr HDR Group:

I'm still very much learning, I've been working with these three images:

My best attempt so far is:

I think I've still got some way to go, but it's been fun trying and learning.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Contributing to BloGTK

I was meaning to talk about BloGTK before my previous post on the topic but never quite had the time so here's a quick follow-up to fill in the holes...

At the end of last year I decided it was about time I filled in a scripting gap in my knowledge, namely Python, so set about finding something to code.  I'm also a blogger (D'uh) and have always been frustrated at the lack of a decent off-line client for the Linux desktop.  Enter BloGTK, both a blogging client and written in Python.

Step 1 before thinking any further about contributing or reading any source code is to seek permission from my employer.  I was glad (and surprised) to find getting permission to contribute to open source projects is actually very quick and simple.  A short note to my manager and a couple of days delay later yielded the rather simple response:
Graham

Approved

Regards, ...

BloGTK didn't do a couple of things I consider essential for my blogging purposes, the main one being support for uploading and embedding images.  I wrote and submitted a couple of patches to the project, learning a lot about Python along the way.  The latest development snapshot of BloGTK (which will probably become version 2.1) includes support for uploading to Picasa and Flickr.  If you went looking for Flickr support as a result of my previous post then you'll either have to grab the development code early or wait a while until the release of the 2.1 version.  In the mean time I'll do battle with Flickr to find out why they think BloGTK is a personal web site or gallery in order to publicise the App through the App Garden.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Flickr Appgarden Violation‏, really?

Today I unexpectedly received the following from Flickr in reference to BloGTK.
Hello,
 
The App Garden is a place for software developers to
showcase applications they've created. Because your app
doesn't appear to fit this description it has been set to
private.
 
Your API key is still active and fully functioning , it's
just not public in the App Garden.
 
The App Garden is not a place to showcase a personal
website or gallery. Please only publicize app pages for
applications that you have developed and that are related
to
the Flickr API. You can review the App Garden guidelines
here:
 
http://www.flickr.com/services/apps/about/
 
Thank you for your understanding.
 
Regards,
Flickr Staff
I hold Flickr in very high regard for their openness, interaction with the community and the great API.  This is also the reason I'm happy to sign up for a pro account vs other services I use heavily (such as Geocaching.com) which are a closed managed community.  So I was surprised to find this note in my inbox this morning which appears to be an automated message or at best the staff member simply hasn't looked at the application before criticising and taking action.