Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Manually Autumn

A while ago I posted a picture of my very first SLR camera, a Zenit-E with Helios-44M 2.0/58mm lens. It's a truly delightful camera, hefty but not heavy, simple yet deceptively complex, and has an air of nostalgia about it. After digging it out and using up the remains of the film that was still in it, I decided to get some new film and take some photos properly.

It being, as I have mentioned before, Autumn, I decided to go out in my local area. There is, of course, the housing estate, but I focussed on the Four Greens, a recreational area of sorts right in the middle of the estate. Using the rather amazing lightmeter (all dials and needles) to figure out what the sun was playing with, I opted for some high ISO (the film I got was 400, so had to) but also high shutter speed (1/500th second) pictures. This would require me to use very low f stops, so giving me a very wide aperture and very shallow depth of field. This should, if my plan worked, give the pictures a dreamy look, the high shutter speed washing out the colours slightly and the wide aperture causing softness around the subject.

Out of a 36 exposure film, I got 16 good exposures. Well, by "good" I mean "not a complete disaster". The first 4 were a washout, literally, because the film got stuck and exposed to light. Some of the others, primarily landscape oriented, were cut in half or faded to black or white at either edge. This was caused by the shutter curtain getting stuck, and only properly firing when the shutter was released. This resulted in lots of irreparable damage to the picture, which is a shame. Of course, some of them were duplicates where I was messing with alternative settings, so 16 isn't too bad, all things considered.

Some may remember these little purple flowers from my picture the other day. This one isn't brilliant, but it definitely demonstrates how hard it is to focus through a viewfinder while trying not to kneel in a puddle.
Another recurring theme this week is decorating. My old, decrepit stepladder has finally been put out to pasture, and this is it's final state. Covered in decades of spillage. Nice demonstration of the very shallow DOF of this lovely lens.
I noticed while wandering around in the back yard how well my car's rear window reflects things. It's like a very large, particularly useless fisheye lens. Again, not a brilliant picture but illustrates the point.
My telegraph pole. Well, not actually mine, but it provides my house with interwebs. Nice blue tint to this picture of what is primarily sky. A few leaves got in, so maybe a crop to take them out, but generally I'm pretty pleased with this. I love diagonal lines.
My garden gate. With any of my other lenses, this would have just been a picture of a gate, and not a very good one. The sky is blown out, the DOF would have been far too deep and the colours would have looked ... well, realistic. And on a day like yesterday, that is a horrible dull colour. However, this picture is quite nice. I might describe it as rustic.
The handle of the gate. Got the focus ever so slightly wrong on this one. The latch should have been sharp, but as it stands the edge of the handle and the screws are sharp instead. This is mainly because at f2.8 the focus can be shifted just by rocking back or forth slightly. It was properly focussed when I pressed the shutter, but even a small tilt backward could have moved it. Still, I like this picture. Like the one before, it's rustic.
I have no idea whose ladder this is, or why it's leaning against this tree. This picture is, obviously, of the ladder, but I was trying to use the mirrored pavement and road surface to lead the eye up from the bottom to the top of the picture. It worked, after a fashion.
I ummed and ahhed about whether this one should have been landscape orientation so it fully contained the circular base the tree is on. I decided in the end that no, it is fine as it is. the base, trunk and leaves nicely frame the hint of wooded area behind and the detail in the leaves and trunk are worth the cropped bottom.
Aah! A dragon! This is a carving in a bench made from an old tree stump. I did take a picture of the bench, but the shutter stuck and ruined it. The eye is about 1.5" across, so it gives you an idea of how much a little swaying can throw off the focus.
Sky through the trees. Cliché? Maybe. But I don't care. I like the colours in this picture, and the diagonal trunk gives it a little something of interest.
The gate to the basketball court. The sun was so low in the sky that I've ended up with lens flare. All things considered, I should have taken a picture of the shadow I was standing on, a hint of which you can see at the bottom of the picture. It would have been far more interesting.
Nice little country path. I liked this one because, from my vantage point, the curve of the path matches the curve of the trunk and branches of the foremost tree. The colours and DOF, too, lend a wistful air the picture, and it reminds me of cold mornings walking through the woods.
A bench, sadly graffitied. Notice the almost dizzying blur at the top. I don't know how or why but there are a couple of pictures with almost radial blur at the extremes of the image. I like it.
Rubbish picture, but I included it anyway because, technically, it wasn't completely ruined by camera malfunction. Underexposed, very cold colours, and blown out sky. Never mind.
A leaf! Note that these pictures are scanned and uploaded. No processing, editing or cropping has taken place. This leaf, therefore, is a little off centre. But look at the details.
My local post box. Yes, it is leaning. But note that the bollards and lamp posts aren't. It's been set at an angle and I found it amusing. The scattering of leaves adds detail around the base.

So there you have it. One roll of film from my lovely, ancient, sticky-shuttered camera. I've since found a M44 to Nikon AF adapter so I can use the Helios lens on my Fuji S1 Pro. Let's see what I can make it do when I have the benefits of digital review to assist me!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Apple Aluminium Keyboard on Linux

Since I'm a sucker for shiny things, and since I got used to the lovely keyboard on my Macbook, it only seemed right to get a new brushed aluminium keyboard for my non-Macbook computer. Well, that and a hand injury requiring me to have a keyboard with less than 1/16th of an inch key travel ...

I previously used it on Windows and getting it to work with Bootcamp was pretty easy. I even wrote instructions on my old blog. I've since started using it as my primary keyboard on my desktop machine with Ubuntu, and setting it up on there was even easier. There is a built-in keyboard map for it, and everything just works. I use the US layout because I'm more likely to type # than £, but altgr+3 produces the £ so all is good.

Unfortunately there are two things that irk me about this keyboard. First is that there is no insert key. Second is that you have to hold down Fn, which is where the insert key should be, to make the F keys work. Fortunately a bit of magic can make everything OK.

Building A New Insert

I decided to use F13, which is located directly above Fn, as a replacement insert key. I used xev to determine that the scan code of F13 is 191 (the others following on in a linear fashion). Making it into insert is just a bit of xmodmap magic, so put this line into .Xmodmap in your home directory.

    keycode 191 = Insert

That's it. It will be enabled when you log in. If you want to enable it immediately, type this:

    $ xmodmap .Xmodmap

Magic. You now have an insert key.

Fn-less F Keys

I found many, many blog posts by other people trying to figure out how to convert the media keys into standard F keys. Most of them spent time with xev trying to map the scan code of the F keys to the X11 function key mappings. This is a long winded and entirely unnecessary task if you have a 2.6.x kernel. Add this line to /etc/rc.local:

    echo 2 > /sys/modules/hid_apple/parameters/fnmode

On reboot, you will have standard function keys. The media keys are still accessible by holding down Fn, so it's the best of both worlds. If you are running Compiz, you could map the exposé keys to that. Of course, enabling it without a reboot is as simple as running that command as root.

Monday, 18 October 2010


All my furniture is in a pile in the middle of the lounge. This makes sitting on it difficult.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Painting the lounge. And the lounge floor!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Purple Flower

Still holding on to its petals, despite the weather.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Cuppa Tea And A Biscuit

Enough said.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Still Green

The leaves are turning brown. As I look up and down the road outside my house I see a variety of different shades. My tree, the one right outside my bedroom window, is defiantly staying green to the last. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


I'm in a funny mood today. Have a banana.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Mundane And The Magic

Two pictures today to make up for last week's blip.

First is the mundane. Living and working in the same building saps the creative energy required for good photography. You can't take a good photograph if you don't "feel" the picture. If you're aimless and without vision while shooting, it will show through in the picture. Sometimes you have to shoot the tedious, mind-numbing tasks that get you through the day.

And now the magic. I recently bought some new net curtains. Exciting life I lead, huh? But one benefit of them is that they diffuse natural light wonderfully, as can be seen is the dreamlike lighting of this toy train engine. The train used to have carriages that spelled out the kids' names. Most of them are now missing, but the little engine remains.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Wheel Of Sheffield

The other day I posted a picture of the Wheel Of Sheffield. Well, on Sunday we finally managed to actually go on it. It was quite difficult taking pictures of the scenery due to the horrible perspex windows in the "gondola" you sit in, but I got a few. Sadly there are reflections and stray light all over the place, but they're not terrible.

Looking down Fargate from the top of the wheel. I'd never noticed that the walkways have a curvy pattern built into them until seeing them from so far above. The shadow of the wheel demonstrates the size of the thing.
A wedding was taking place at the Town Hall, and the cars parked outside made a lovely focal point for this shot. The height and the length of the shadows makes the whole thing feel miniature, but I have resisted any and all temptation to make a fake tilt-shift shot. I might make one later but I think it would ruin the clarity of it.
Looking straight down onto Fargate, this time from about halfway up the wheel. The sun was low in the sky by this time, despite it being mid-afternoon. The autumn is definitely here.
Looking over the rooves of Sheffield toward a clear, blue sky, we see the steeple of the Cathedral of St Marie. The curving roof and deep depth of field give a good sense of scale, here, I think. Incidentally, the horizon isn't sloping. That's what shape the city is.
The Peace Gardens from above. A lovely open space with trees and water features, right in the middle of town. The roof of the Town Hall is just visible to the left too. Again, everything takes on that miniature feel.
Reviewing the pictures. I really like this picture. The subtle blurring of foreground and background elements gives a sense of focus, and it just captures a nice moment. I've added a cross-processing filter to give it a bit of a retro feel. In this case, I think it worked nicely.
The wheel itself. Considering this was taken at around 3:30pm, the height of the sun in the sky should indicate the time of year, and the piercing winter light is already showing up.
Walking home again. I like this picture, too; the three kids in amongst the hustle and bustle of town centre life. There's that annoying shadow at the bottom, and I wonder if I'd have been better kneeling to take this picture. Not sure. I like it pretty much as-is. Even the slightly jaunty angle ...

I do have a couple more to post because they're nice shots, but somewhat ruined by the lighting conditions. A combination of a low sun and very diffused light entering the lens from the perspex windows has left me with some ... interesting effects. I'll have a play and see what I can do with them.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Morning dew

Autumn is most definitely upon us. The spiders are spinning merrily, and the morning dew hangs from the webs, glistening in the early morning light.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Oh wheely?

Still haven't been on the big wheel in town. This Sunday, though, I definitely will! Until then, have this picture of it from underneath. Next time, I'll post pictures from on top.

First Support

It's always tough being first support at a gig. Everyone knows that the main event won't start for a couple of hours after doors open, so you end up playing to a pretty sparse crowd. Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou, two parts of the folk band Danny & The Champions Of The World, opened for The Magic Numbers at the Leadmill last night. They did so with aplomb, and didn't let the low turnout bother them at all. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. They were soon followed by Danny, the frontman of aforementioned band, and played a second set as the full line-up. They must have been exhausted.

Here's a close up I took, just because I could get to the stage. I actually managed to stay by the stage for the entire night and got some pretty good pictures of Magic Numbers, too. Well, until some roadie told me "No photos!". Two songs from the end. Didn't really miss much!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Random Round Up

I've not been very photographically minded of late. In fact, I've barely done anything. Trying to get out of the slump I find myself in. In the meantime, have a small selection of pictures I took with my iPhone while bimbling around in my daze.

Bikes parked up at Bedford station
Park Hill flats with their colourful windows
Condiments at Tokyou
The inside of a McFlurry
Platform 4 of Kettering Station