Computers, butterflies and cacti. Or are they cactus's?

I haven't blogged for a while despite wanting to keep it frequent and not give it up.  Part of the reason was my laptop died.  It would no longer power up something wrong internally I gather.  So it will have to go Ebay to a new home.

Like most of us I own a smart phone and I also have access to a tablet.  They are both fantastic devices but when you are left to using solely mobile devices their limitations quickly become apparent. 

So for four weeks or so I have been without a computer and whilst my relatively new Fuji XE1 has a fantastic internal RAW converter creating brilliant JPEG files I had no way of getting them off the camera without a computer, AARRRGGHHHH!!!!

But I am now back online with a proper computer thanks to my beautiful and generous partner.  I grew up learning Windows from 95 through to 7.  For seven years I have also been using Ubuntu and a few other Linux variants but now I have joined the cult of Mac.  I would have loved another laptop but with a 3 year old running around I think desktop is a better choice, plus I had a great monitor sitting around doing nothing.  So a mac mini is now sitting in front of me.  And with all the photos taken off the memory card it was time to take some more so why not use it while taking my Son Alex to RHS Wisley  to look at their butterfly exhibition.  It is only on for a limited period, apparently butterflies have a brief existence in this world.

I have never been to WIsley before and frankly it is not somewhere I would have thought about going to.  But Alex seemed very excited as we wandered around the grounds.  It is a very pleasant place and surprisingly we managed to get an afternoon in the UK this year where it did not rain!

As we got to the rear of the site we found the glass house that housed the butterflies.

Inside the glass house it was hot and humid and filled with people most of who had a camera in hand, I guess I was not the only one!

The butterflies where everywhere and massive.  Some where quite obvious, particularly where the fruit was but if you stopped and looked around you could find a few camouflaged away.

Beautiful creatures full of colour.

After a wander around it was time to think about going home.  We walked back through the gardens of cactus in the glass house and flowers in the outdoors.   Flowers and plants are often an opportunity for me to take some more abstract images.  The cactus was looking a bit sorry for itself but a little adjusting in Adobe Lightroom reveals a lovely image perfect for the new computer desktop

So is the plural of cactus cacti?  I have no idea.

If you live nearby get yourself down to RHS Wisley as the butterfly exhibit ends this Sunday (9th March 2014).  Especially if you have small children, they will love it!

 

Masters Snooker, Fujifilm XE1 and Pentax manual lenses

Today's blog is pretty much as it says on the tin.

 

I took the Missus to  Alexander Palace for the Masters Snooker on Friday.  Her Birthday is days before Christmas so it was effectively a Christmas/Birthday present.

 

The Fujiflm XE1 is not renown for sports photography as it lacks phase detection autofocus and therefore cannot track subject.  But snooker is hardly a fast sports so that shouldn't matter.  I don't however own a native long lens for the XE1 so I wacked on the Fotodiox Pentax adapter and my 135mm Pentax manual lens.

Arriving at Alexander Palace it was a horrible wet day so we parked up and walked the hill.  It is a wonderful venue far different from the modern buildings you tend to find.  It sits on a hill overlooking central London.

Into the venue the organisers World Snooker had set up a table in the  entrance hall offering visitors the chance to show their skills (or lack of skill)  on a match table.

Later the BBC recorded their VT intros at the table and we got the opportunity to see the legend that is  Stephen Hendry . Manual focus on the XE1 is pretty simple and good fun.  More importantly they are fantastic value for money.

We then settled down in the venue to watch the legend, the truly amazing Ronnie O'Sullivan demolish Ricky Walden who really didn't put a foot wrong he just couldn't get on the table.

We then had a nice walk around the grounds and then some lunch.  While eating a gentleman approached us asking for the menu, it was none other than the great Steve Davis.  We then settled in for match two, a quick photo of the arena and then snooker time.  Probably could have and should have taken more photos but was enjoying the snooker too much. 

Ally Pally is a wonderful venue and if you get the chance do go there.

Photography through the ages

Today i wanted to write about something that I have been thinking about for the last few days since an early Christmas lunch with my Grandmother.  The title of this blog is a bit misleading, upon reading the title you might think you were expecting to read about The History of the Camera, digital photography now, 35mm film in the 80's and going even further back.

But no, I was more intrigued about our generational attitude toward photography and specifically having our picture taken.  As I mentioned earlier I had lunch with my Grandmother before Christmas, she is 92 years old and to be slightly morbid I want to ensure that I have some good quality images of her before she passes away.  Particularly so that Alex, my Son, has images that will hopefully recall nice memories as he is only 2 years old.  I brought along my camera and took a few photos while we were in the pub.  Not the best place to be taking photos candidly.

I took this photo of my Grandmother and I am incredibly pleased with the end result.  The image that came out of the camera was a bit meh it had lovely light coming from camera right through the window but a horrible tungsten orange light from camera left.  In addition the pub wall behind her is grotty and full of holes with a large beam of wood chopping her head off.

Now I am all for getting your images right in camera but sometimes you just have an image that is crying out to be rescued.

Afterward I looked at the final image and started to think about how well my grandmother had posed.  No wide "rabbit in the headlights" eyes or squinting.  No gormless expression, just right, as if she had done it many times before.

It got me wondering if there is a generational thing about appreciating someone taking the time to take your photo.  Today everyone has a camera even if it is just in their phone.  We all can get very self conscious about having our photo taken which often leads to poor posing.  I would imagine that my Grandmothers generation would have grown up with very limited access to photography and having your photo taken was probably an unusual, exciting and privileged occasion for many people.

 

I think we all need to appreciate that we live in a world today where we can record our passing through time and create images and videos that will help us to recall friends, family and events for many years to come.

Three Gregory men enjoy some time together and apart

My Son, Alex, is 2 years old and like most children attends a nursery.  He attends nursery 2 days a week and normally his Grandmother takes him and collects him.  It is a very convenient arrangement for Alex's mother and I as Tandi Nanny lives a short walk from nursery.

I therefore rarely take Alex to nursery as we drop him off at Tandi Nanny's house.  Tandi Nanny has gone on holiday to spend several weeks watching The Ashes so I took the day off to look after our Son.

Alex's Mother had made sure that I knew what I was taking and what I was supposed to do when dropping Alex off at nursery.  I never considered myself to be someone who would have children and I am not very good at the "job" but I had told Alex to remind me to "look in the tray" before leaving on collection.

Life is hard enough looking after yourself let alone another person.  

Nursery only lasts three hours so I needed to find something to do in Guildford until pick up time.  The obvious option is to succumb to the gargantuan commercial juggernaut that is Christmas Shopping but for me there is only one place to do your Christmas shopping.

I recently sold my Nikon gear and have gotten into bed with Fujifilm and their XE1.  I cannot deny that it is an incredibly sexy camera if you are a geek.  I had read glowing reports of Fuji's X camera's from Zac Arias and David Hobby (if you have any passing interest in photography check them out).  What really made me take the plunge was two things, Fuji continuing to update their X cameras on a regular basis bringing new features and fixes via firmware upgrades.  And Nikon seemingly happy to bring out yet another camera with a few more gigapixels J Dennis Thomas explains it better than I could here

Okay so I am rambling on a bit now, let's get back on track.  Three hours to kill while Alex has fun at nursery.  Let's take the XE1 out for a spin. 

Not far from nursery is a little gem of a spot hidden away in busy Guildford near to the droning A3 road.

Bowers Lock

I was hoping for a bright pleasant Autumn morning but as is usual here in the UK it was overcast (maybe, Alex, that explains our hair colour).

After the lock the river winds off into the distance.  A silent, peaceful gem in the middle of Guildford.

I'm naturally a loner.  I enjoy time on my own, but that is something very rare to me now.  This was a great chance to be silent, to think, to not think and to rest my mind. 

Try to defrag my brain

 

Defragmentation

There has been a lot of recent talk about mental health particularity in sport.  I think it is something that even today is not understood or accepted.  I do wonder sometime if I suffer but I always think to myself there are far more troubled people out there than me.  I liken it to a whirlpool or black hole.  I am lucky that I have wonderful people who persistently pull me out of the hole whether they realise it or not.

I continued down the river and thought I had found my way back to the car.  A bridge heading back across the river

 

Bridge Home?

Unfortunately the bridge was a private access so by now it was time to head back and collect Alex.  Don't want to be late and lose more Father points!

I managed to collect Alex without making any mistakes, we met Pops, had lunch and then headed to Guildford Spectrum for a bit of bowling.  Spectrum is really starting to show it's age now but Alex won't notice that.

Pops, Alex and I had fun it's amazing how quickly he has grasped bowling

 

This ball is not too big

This ball is not too big

Am I winning?

Alex and I bowled while Pops sat and watched.  The arthritis and yet another return of the cancer has left the strong Dad that I knew a frail and old man.

 

Pops

It was soon time to think about making our way home.  Alex was looking tired and could do with a nap.  I think Pops was tired too.

The Fujiflm XE1 is a great camera but significantly different to a DSLR but I am getting used to it. One of the issues is the battery life and I foolishly left the spare in the car.  I just had time for one last photo of Alex and Pops having a cuddle.

 

Cuddles with Pops

A great day.  If you have read this far, spend time with those your love, and capture the moment.