Archive for the 'Photography' Category

Switching to Mac: the challenge continues…

I recently got myself an Apple Mac so that I could find out what all the fuss is about. In many respects it doesn’t matter what sort of a computer you use these days, so long as you have a web browser… However I’m still finding it a bit of a challenge to switch over. The most recent challenge has been finding the hash (#) key on the ‘English (UK)’ keyboard.

As you can see I’ve now got it sussed, but it took a bit of messing around. The keyboard is on a Mac Book Pro, and to get a hash you need to press Alt-3 (or ‘Option’ as I think they call it, and the key with the pound (£) symbol on it). Those funny Americans…

I’ve been having all sorts of problems getting my networked attached storage working too. I have two of these devices: and old LaCie Ethernet disk mini and an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+. The ReadyNAS works fine if I set it up as a Windows share (ironic, I know…), but it just wont work at all if I set it up as an AFP share and enable ‘bonjour’. However, the LaCie device (and I always had the impression that Lacie were more of a mac shop than a windows shop) just won’t work at all. I can try it as a windows share or an AFP share with bonjour, and neither setting will work. It’s very frustrating!

The next hurdle has been screen calibration. I’ve been trying to get the laptop screen and my 19″ LaCie 319 set up the same so that I can run both displays at the same time and have images on either look the same. I set both to the same colour temperature, gave them the same luminance and gamma setting and ran some calibration software that came with my monitor and the Blue Eye Pro colorimeter. No matter what I do they just won’t look the same. The curious thing is if I measure the response of either screen (using the colorimeter) they both report to be the same! Very perplexing!

At the same time I’m playing with Adobe Lightroom, and although I think it’s pretty good software, neither the laptop screen or my LaCie is big enough to make it ‘nice’ to use. I really need to close the laptop lid and use an external display, but have you seen the price of a LaCie 324 Monitor with hood?! They don’t come cheap!

So what other issues am I having?

Well there is mouse that goes exactly where I want it to on my Windows computer, but seems to have a mind of it’s own on the Mac.

And then there is the terminal/shell that doesn’t automatically copy selected text to the clipboard and paste on a right-click.

Talking of shells, the backspace key seems to want to do a forward delete instead in some circumstances. I’ve not worked out the pattern yet, but it’s a very strange thing indeed. And trying all the combinations of Ctrl-Backspace, Alt-Backspace and Cmd-Backspace don’t seem to help this time around. Again, a small annoyance on it’s own, but taken along with all the others it’s getting to be a major irritation!

Finally we mustn’t forget the lack of support for automatic window focus (where the cursor focus follows the mouse). This is a real pain indeed! Most linux window managers that I’ve used over the last 10 years (in fact all that I’ve ever used) have done this without a problem, and you can even do this on Windows, so why on earth doesn’t OS X support it?!

So despite being praised for it’s usability, I’m still having some issues using my Mac.

On the positive side, I discovered is that Safari (which I previously couldn’t stand) supports embedded colour profiles in images. This means that when I look at my photos on flickr, they look exactly how I meant them to look (assuming the viewing monitor has been calibrated). I don’t know if Safari does this on Windows, but it makes my flickr experience much nicer. So much so in fact that I now won’t use firefox to surf flickr! So that’s a good thing.

But I’m nearly there. I’m trying to reduce my clutter so if I can decommission my old NAS and sort out the display problems then I should be able to get rid of some old and bulky hardware and free up some well needed space!

So enough rambling. In conclusion maybe I need to think about installing Ubuntu linux on this laptop instead…. at least things would be more predictable… wouldn’t they? I’m dreading the thought of actually becoming a fan of Windows (XP, not Vista), so perhaps if I avoid installing Linux I’ll never know if it’s better or worse and I can live in the vague hope that it simply must be better, and one day if I ever need it I can switch over… That day must never come.

Right, I only started this post so I had somewhere to check back to when I needed reminding how to get the hash symbol…. so that’ll be Alt-3 then. Remember?

Plunge taken: Apple on its way

I finally took the plunge today and ordered my first ever Apple Mac. They have come on a long way since the last Apple I used — an Apple IIe that I played on at home when I was younger. Highlights of today’s Mac Book Pro order include a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, and a fast-ish 7200 RPM disk.

Despite all the concerns over the security of OSX lately, I think this will be a good move (providing I can get used to the new interface and the one-button mouse). This is going to replace my ageing desktop (a very old Dell Precision 530 workstation running Windows 2000 Pro) for image processing/photography and work, so it should free up a lot of desk space and get rid of a lot of cables. I have an old laptop running XP, so I’m going to nuke that and install Ubuntu Linux on it for sofa-surfing, so then apart from my XBOX 360 and work laptop (when it’s at home) I’ll be a Windows-free zone!

The best thing will be being able to pull up a proper command prompt on my local machine without the need to SSH onto a server somewhere. Sad I know, but it’s little things like this that change using a computer from being a pain to being (almost) a joy…. I’m hoping to see a decent speed improvement on image processing too. I’m going from a single 2.4GHz Xeon with 512KB cache to a two-core 2.6GHz processor with 6MB cache! The jump from a 128MB graphics card to 512MB shouldn’t be all that stressful either :-)

No doubt I’ll post more about this when it arrives… which will be sometime mid-next week :-(

Tags: , , ,

Go go gadget…. Overkill?

Nah, you can never have gadget overkill! Long time no blog. So what’s been going on? Well, not a huge amount hence the lack of content, but today was a bit of a gadget frenzy. I got a Blackberry Perl to replace my work phone (a brick of a phone in the shape of an Orange SPV M5000), and so far I’m fairly impressed with it. I guess most notably it’s a lot smaller than the SPV. It’s too early to write a long review on the thing, but the sound (when using it as a telephone) was a bit poor. Other than that it seems OK. It’s small and I can get my email on it nice and easily.

But a new mobile phone doesn’t make a gadget frenzy, does it?! So what other goodies did I get then?! Well, seeing as you asked, my Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ (or Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ since they got bought out) arrived today. This is a networked attached storage (NAS) device, and I’ve got it to store all my RAW images from my camera. It has four disk bays, and my version came with 2 x 500GB drives. This gives me a total storage of 500GB, but with disk mirroring for redundancy. As I run out of space I can add more hard disks to the two spare bays to increase the storage space.

So far I’m extremely impressed with it. Performance-wise it seems much quicker at both read/write activities than my older Lacie single-disc NAS, and the configuration interface is very good. I also picked up a cheap APC UPS. The ReadyNAS detects the presence of the UPC (via a USB lead), and it improves the buffering/writing speed to the NAS because it knows it has a more reliable power source (so can rely on the RAM in the NAS for buffering more). My UPS is still charging up, so I’ll find out tomorrow if this all works as expected.

So that’s the gadgets done. In other news, I had a short ‘break’ in Marrakech a few weeks ago. My one tip from that trip would be to never fly Royal Air Maroc! They seem to be the most disorganised airline on the planet — or at least that I’ve encountered. I took some photos but they’re not that great. I’m sure if I hadn’t been delayed for 7 hours in Casablanca airport I wouldn’t have been so tired for the next few days, which would have meant I could get up early to take some photos in the best light. Instead I mainly snapped around midday!

Ho hum.

Tags: , , , , ,

Perseid Meteor Shower from Leith Hill Tower

(Hmmm, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it….).

I popped up to Leith Hill Tower this evening to try and get some photos of the Perseid meteor shower. I only realised it was madness while I was stumbling around in the pitch black wood trying to find the right path that goes to the tower. The tree cover rendered my GPS useless, and at one point I really thought I was going to spend the night in the woods!

Anyway, I eventually found it, and bumped into a local warden and his wife who were also star gazing up there. Leith Hill is the tallest point in South East England, and you can see London to the North and the sea to the South. On a clear night like tonight London stood out like a sore thumb - really spoiling the sky IMHO.

I saw loads of meteors, but as you can see from the photo, I failed to catch any on film (or digital). It’s all about the journey though, not the destination… (read: “I don’t care what the photos came out like, so long as i had fun taking them!”).

Right: it’s a school night so I really must get to bed!

Tags: , , , ,

Royal Albert Hall

More evening shooting, this time the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington (London, UK). I wasted about three quarters of an hour on the other side of the building as I thought I might get an interesting photo with the traffic going past, but when I got home and inspected the results I wasn’t too impressed.

I’m still getting to grips with my new camera, and last night I fell into the trap of not looking too closely at the histogram, relying instead on the preview picture in the LCD. This image looked a lot brighter ‘in the field’, and the sky was pretty impressive. Maybe I need to tweak it a bit more, but I guess the learning is half the fun….

I used my flashgun to fill in the pedestal in the middle of the frame as it was a bit dark compared to everything else. Anyone watching must have thought I was mad - running from side to side during the exposure firing my flash!

Although the camera was level, I think I was positioned a bit too far to the left — the statue isn’t quite in the centre of the building and the paving slabs aren’t parallel to the bottom edge of the frame. However, the verticals are nice and square, so that’s something to be pleased about ;-)

Tags:

River Thames by Night


IMG_0755, uploaded by Mark Sweeting.

Popped up to London last night to take some photos of St. Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge with a couple of friends. It almost didn’t stop raining, but it was worth hanging around…

Linton Festival - a chance to try my 5D


IMG_0674, uploaded by Mark Sweeting.

I went to the Saturday evening portion of the annual Linton Festival last weekend, which gave me a chance to try out my new camera (Canon EOS 5D).

The festival was great, with a nice selection of real ales and some good bands (mainly blues while I was there, though there was some jazz too earlier on).

I was messing around with my 17-40mm lens most of the time, which on the full frame sensor gives an amazing wide angle view! As it got darker I switched to my 24-70mm lens, which is great for low light and was used for the photo above.

Although I’ve still not really put the camera through it’s paces, I’m very pleased with it so far! It looks like the EOS 5D Mark II is still a while off, so glad I finally jumped in now while the prices are (relativley) low!

The low light performance of the camera seems excellent (with very low noise), and the bigger viewfinder makes it much easier to see if the subject is in focus! I still feel that it slightly over-exposes the images compared to my EOS 20D, but I guess I just need to get used to the meter.

Tags: , , ,

My new baby: EOS 5D

I treated myself to a new baby today: a Canon EOS 5D. I’ve been after one of these for a long time - it seemed so fitting as I used a film Canon EOS 5 for many years before I got into digital with my EOS 20D. I’m pretty sure that Canon are going to replace the 5D with an EOS 5D Mark II, but given the likely price hike when the replacement comes out, and the relativly few enhancements that you’ll get for that extra money, I think I’ll be pretty happy with this version.

The best thing about it is the full frame sensor and the massive viewfinder that this gives you. This makes all my lenses much wider than they were on the 20D (in fact, its just like using them on my film SLR ;-) ), which is fantastic for some of the kinds of photography I like.

It’s been chucking it down with rain today so I haven’t had much of a chance to play with it, but I’ve got all of tomorrow still to come!

TTFN :-)

Tags: , ,