Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “photography”

Canon cameras: caveat emptor

As we are planning to go on holiday on Monday, and thought we might see some scenery and meet some people we had not met before, I counted my pennies and thought I could just afford a better camera, and so bought a Canon 1200d.

Canon 1200d Camera -- would not format memory card

Canon 1200d Camera — would not format memory card

When I got it home, however, it would not switch on at all. We charged the battery fully, but nothing happened. It was completely dead.

So today we took it back to the shop. They did not have a replacement in stock, so they phoned around their other branches, and discovered that their Centurion branch had one in stock, so we drove over there to collect it. I switched it on in the shop to verify that it did actually switch on, and we broughjt it home.

But when we tried to use it, it said it could not read the memory card — we should either format it, or insert a new one. So we tried to format the card, but it didn’t do that either. We tried a different memory card, with the same result. I tried formatting both cards in my computer, just to check to see that there was nothing wrong with the cards themselves, but they formatted fine. We tried a low-level format in the camera, but it gave up after a couple of seconds.

So there we were, with two dud Canon cameras in a row. It’s too late to get another one now, before we go on holiday, so we’ve asked for a refund. We’ll continue to use our cheap point-‘n-shoot compact cameras. The problem with point-‘n-shoot cameras is that sometimes it is impossible to see what the camera is pointed at at all. In bright sunlight the viewing screen is invisible, so you just point vaguely in the right direction and hope that you won’t just have a picture of the blue sky. Composing photos as you shoot is impossible. When you get home, cropping with photoediting software can improve the composition somewhat, but not all that much, if all you got was the blue sky.

Unfortunately it seems that no camera shops in South Africa stock decent brands, like Pentax. Our film Pentax cameras are nearly 40 years old, and still work fine. It’s just that film photography is so much more expensive.

Update: Third time lucky

Today (Sunday 16 August) we returned the second dud camera to the shop in Centurion, where we had got it. The staff were very helpful and found another branch that had one in stock, and we went to the Colonnade to collect it. We were most impressed by the firendliness and helpfulness of the staff at all three branches of the retailer, Photo & Beyond, trading as Kodak Express Digital Solutions. It wasn’t their fault that the cameras didn’t work, and they went out of their way to be helpful even at times when they were pretty busy. We got the feeling that the firm treat their staff well, and that they are happy in their work.

Cherie’s Place » Avebury

Avebury is a fascinating site that connects to other prominent features in the ancient landscape. What remains of the Avebury Circles is largely reconstructed. In the 1930s Alexander Keiller having purchased the site of Avebury and part of West Kennet Avenue started to excavate the site and in time restore the site to some of its former glory. Where stones had been removed he placed concrete plinths to mark their former position. The outbreak of WWII put a stop to the excavations and restoration. Sadly the excavations have never been resumed.

via Cherie’s Place » Avebury.

Thanks to Cherie for a fascinating description and some beautiful photos.

Avebury

via Cherie’s Place » Avebury.

One of the reasons that I found it so interesting was that I first learnt about Avebury in a series of stories about moles — my review of the first book in the series follows below.  The moles had a religion connected with stones and silence, and so Avebury, with its standing stones, was a kind of holy place for them. The moles also had special ceremonies on longest night and shortest night, and so it seemed appropriate that last night (or is it tonight?) was the longest night here, and the shortest night at Avebury.

The series of mole books unfortunately seemed to deteriorate as it went on. I got the impression that the author wrote the first one because he enjoyed it, and the others because he was under pressure from his publishers to produce sequels. The second and third books weren’t too bad, though not up to the standard of the first, while the last three in the series were dreck.

But anywau, many thanks to Cherie for posting the information and the pictures at such an appropriate time.
Duncton Wood (Duncton Chronicles, #1)Duncton Wood by William Horwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On reading this for the first time, it seemed to have been inspired by the popularity of Watership Down by Richard Adams. What Adams did for rabbits, Horwood does for moles.

The system of mole tunnels under Duncton Wood is large, and moles in one part hardly know those from other parts of the system. There also some parts of the system that are almost forgotten, and there are also some customs that have been forgotten as well, so that the moles are using their centre, the silence of the Stone at the centre of the system. This enables a cruel tyrant, Mandrake, to take over the system.

Two young mioles, Bracken and Rebecca, the latter Mandrake’s daughter, meet, and eventually embark on a liberation struggle.

The moles are given a philosophy and a mythology that is very human, and yet it somehow does not seem to diminish their moleness.

View all my reviews

 

A tale of two cameras — or is it three?

In August 2008 I bought a new digital camera. It was a discontinued model, a Samsung S630, going cheap. It was an improvement on the one we had, though. It had a zoom lens and autofocus, and 6 megapixels, whereas the old one was fixed focal length, fixed focus, and 4 megapixels.

It worked fine for a couple of years, and then started to get unreliable. It wouldn’t take photos, it wouldn’t shut down half the time, and so my wife and I bought a couple of new ones to take on our holiday last year, Olympus X44. They were similar to the Samsung, but had 14 megapixels, though we kept them set on 8 megapixels for ordinary shooting to save disk space.

Here they are:

Cameras1

That one was taken with my HTC ChaCha cell phone.

But I have since discovered that that the Olympus has its own problems. The autofocus seems to be pretty erratic, and produces pictures like this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Samsung, on the other hand, seems to have started working again. Replacing the batteries, rather than simply recharging them, seemed to do the trick.

The Samsung is also easier to operate.

It has a knob on the top that you turn for the main settings — auto everything, movies, reduce camera shake, manual setting and so on.

On the Olympus, these settings appear on the screen, except that in bright sunlight you can’t see a thing on the screen, not even the picture you’re trying to take, so you just have to hope for the best. Even when you can see the screen, finding the setting you want can take a long time, by which time whatever you want to take may have vanished. A killer wildebeest could have cantered away. The hit-and-run driver could have run long ago. With the Samsung, one turn of the knob and you’re there — movie, still, whatever.

But the cell phone camera seems to be more reliable than either! It even takes movies, with sound.

The past as it was: rare color photos of Czarist Russia

Most of us have, or at least have seen, photos taken about 100 years ago: ourgrandparents and great grandparents in stiff poses, the women wearing enormous Edwardian hats, the children looking like miniature adults. The photos are black and white or sepia, and it is hard to imagine that our ancestors lived in a colourful world.

Hat tip to Ad Orientem: Rare Color Photographs of Czarist Russia:

The Library of Congress has a display of photographs taken by the royal photographer of Czar St. Nicholas II online. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was given special funding and transportation by the Czar, including a private train, with the commission to create a photographic record of his vast empire.

But when we see them in colour, kids look like real kids:

Back in those days colour photographs were taken only by professionals, and were expensive. They were only used rarely, for book illustrations and things like that, because of the cost. A special camera was used, which took three negatives either simultaneously or in quick succession, through red, green and blue filters. These could then be projected on a screen through filters (rather like early video projectors, which had separate red, green and blue lenses), but were usually used for making colour plates for books.

It was only after the First World War that colour film became available for amateur use. At first there were many different processes. Some were additive (red+green+blue), like Dufaycolor (one can see a lot of them in 1930s National Geographic magazines). These had the filters built into the film — OK for large format negatives, but the pattern of the filters was intrusive in 35mm film, rather like an enlarged 0.5 megapixel photo today. So subtractive processes, like Kodachrome and Kodacolor, were developed in the 1930s and 1940s, where the silver in the image was replaced by coloured dyes in the development process. The problem with this is that dyes fade, so a lot of old colour negatives and slides have faded and lost much of their original colour.

But Prokudin-Gorskii used a camera that made colour-separations with three negatives, using silver, not dyes, and, by using digital techniques, the colour is as fresh as the day the pictures were taken. And so we can see Edwardian (well, actually Nikolaivian) pictures showing what the people really looked like a century ago.

It’s a fascinating collection, and you can see more here.

Cellphone cameras

I was playing around with my cellphone camera a couple of days ago, late one night when we stopped at a garage to buy some cold drinks. While my wife was in the shop I took some available light photos with my cell phone just to see what happened.

Here is the garage forecourt:

I then rested the camera on the steering wheel and took the car instrument panel, less than a foot away. I expected an out-of focus underexposed blur (it was lit only by the forecourt lighting), but the result was actually quite readable.

I’m impressed.

For those interested in such things the phone is a Nokia 2760, which I think is pretty near the bottom of the range. I got it free when I switched my account from MTN to Vodacom at the beginning of the year, but have only just worked out how to get the photos off the phone, so I hadn’t used the camera much.

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