Starman · Jan 19, 07:12 AM
The Bowie mural in Brixton, taken a week after he’d passed away.
Like most techies I have a todo list of things I’d like to hack on as long as my arm, and xmas is one of the few times I get to act on them. However, I don’t want to spend all xmas doing my day job in another form, which is what a lot of the list would look like.
One of the things I wanted to get going again was the screen in our kitchen. We have a nice framed monitor on the wall that we used to use with our CODA screen back in the day to display photos, weather, social media feeds, etc. One of the reasons I was particularly sad when Camvine and CODA went away was not just because of the effort myself and others had poured into the company, it’s because it was a genuinely useful product, and I’ve not since found something that would let me manage content on my wall so easily and our kitchen display has sat unused since.
I often want to get something up and running to replace it, but the amount of boilerplate to get to the position of doing the fun part (displaying pictures and feeds with any sense of style) just puts me off. But then I happened across a tutorial for Apple’s Quartz Composer, which let me do all the fun bits right away without any tedious code, and has a path to making it into an app when I’m done.
Quartz Composer is a lot of fun – it’s a node based system where you wire up operations to make a simple flow that results in nice things appearing on screen, and allows many interaction modes. I imagine all my design friends are laughing at me for taking this long to find such a tool – I’ve always had my head down in the nuts and bolts, which is why I imagine I skipped over this originally. Within half an hour I had something up and running displaying my photo feed from 500px, and a day or two later something slightly more polished.
I looked forward to pouring more time into this project over the coming months, but unfortunately, I’ve also discovered Quartz Composer has been abandoned by Apple. Whilst you can still use it, it’s got some serious issues on El Capitan, initially I was going to post links to tutorials I followed here, but I can’t really recommend anyone give it a try. Which is sad, as it delivers both a simplicity to prototype up visual and interactive interfaces very quickly, but then also turn them into production quite simply too.
Still, for my own uses here, it continues to function for now, so I have a working screen in my kitchen again.
A little while ago I wrote about how I was trying to re-invigorate my photography life by switching from my trusted but bulky Canon 7D to a smaller mirrorless Compact System Camera, Fujifilm’s X-E2, and I thought I’d follow up with some results of the experiment. Not only have I used the X-E2 way more than I’d used my 7D for the preceding years, but I’ve probably also ended up using the 7D more than I otherwise would have as well.
To start with, the X-E2, particularly when wedded with Fujifilm’s 35mm f/1.4 lens, is such a small and easy to carry camera, I just have it on me more, which instantly increases the likelihood I’ll use the thing. As technically better as the 7D is, it’s not able to demonstrate that if I just leave it at home all the time. I got a lovely small bag from Case Logic that’ll fit this camera, one or two lenses, and my iPad (and, at a push, my tiny MacBook), meaning I’m generally set up for most trips with a camera and a couple of lenses (essential if you’re a prime lens snob like myself).
The lenses for the X-E2 follow the camera in being generally smaller and lighter than the equivalents for the Canon, which makes it easier to cart a few around. I was very fortunate that my friend Quentin generously let me play with some of his lenses to get a feel for what they can do, and I’ve ended up both getting a very wide angle Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 prime lens, and a 55-200mm Fujifilm zoom. The quality of the glass in both is wonderful, and they’ve all been put to use in anger over the last half year at events like Goodwood Revival, and more recently when Laura and I did a 10 day trip around California (from which I’m still processing slowly the 1000 photos I took!). Having that flexibly to carry a few lenses without breaking your back with the weight really opens up opportunities that would otherwise be missed.
Whilst the Zeiss 12mm did exactly what I expected, and has done so exceptionally well, it’s been the zoom that’s surprised me the most, taking some outstanding shots like the one below, where before I’d have assumed I’d need a prime to get such a clear and crisp image (click through to see a larger version).
Whilst I’ve been really pleased with the X-E2, there’s a couple of instances where it isn’t suitable, which is why despite my love of the wee Fuji I still cart around the Canon on occasion. Firstly, the autofocus on the X-E2 is very slow compared to the 7D, and as such, it just isn’t good for wildlife or sports events – though to be fair, I also lack a suitable zoom lens for the Canon currently, which is why I’ve been trying to get by with X-E2 for such things, but it really does struggle in that area. The other reason is just kit – I started playing with long exposure shots recently, and I happen to have filters for the 7D, but not yet the X-E2.
Still, I can attribute my renewed photographic output (no matter what camera I have to hand) to the X-E2, and that means the experiment of swallowing my DSLR snobbery and getting a CSC camera has certainly been a resounding success.
(For those curious, the photo above was also taken with a Zeiss lens – the one in my Lumia 930 :)
(Dear me, found this in my drafts folder. Let’s pretend it’s late September still…)
Last weekend (ahem) Laura and I attended Goodwood Revival. For those not familiar with it, Revival is a weekend long automotive equivalent of a historic reenactment event, set across the 30s to 60s, all hosted by Lord March at Goodwood, a mecca for motorsport and automative enthusiasts. It’s not the sort of thing either Laura or I would have attended had we not been invited along by one of Laura’s work colleagues, who happened to be racing in one of the events, but I’m rather glad we did.
Goodwood Revival starts with the carpark. Normally you’d despair at parking in a field with a mile or so to walk to the event; not so at Goodwood, where the car park is essentially a free entry motorshow that would rival many other events around the world. There’s a specific set of fields set aside for show cars that fit the theme (yes, multiple fields), and then there’s just the general car par which is studded with random exotica. You could easily just lose hours walking around here, and I suspect quite a few people do.
The next thing that hits you as walk around (in which Laura and I partook too) is the degree of LARPing at Revival. I’d estimate at least three quarters of people attending had taken the opportunity to dress up, some with minimal effort (I wore as much tweed as I could find) but a good percentage going the full hog, and dressing up as mods, or WWII RAF folk (in theme – Spitfires and Mustangs were buzzing the show taking people for a ride all weekend) or many other wonderful themes. It meant that the event had a wonderful surreal quality to the weekend, with so many people in the spirit of the theme; you feel like you’ve really stepped out of the normal world for a day, which makes it much easier to switch off the real world and relax at the event.
Once inside the event there’s a lot of vintage race cars and motorbikes on display, but unusually most of the time are not static museum pieces, they’re here to race. All weekend long the fortunate owners are here to race these cars against others from the same era. And they don’t pull punches either despite the incalculable worth of all that old metal hurtling around – you can see them taking corners on the ragged edge of what the car will cope with, and there were several offs that no doubt would cost what I paid for my house to repair. But these are cars still living the life they ere built for originally, which is a wonderful sight to see and hear.
Laura and I weren’t that fussed about any given race, which meant we could take a relaxed time, watching just a few laps of a race to see the cars from whatever period was on track, and then returning to looking at the other stands showing off cars, the various stores of memorabilia, or just watching all the people in fancy dress. A very chilled day spent with people doing exactly the same.
It was totally not what I expected from such an event, which I thought would be stuffy and a bit dull; whilst I like cars, I don’t like them as display objects, I like them as working bits of engineering. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Revival likes too – this isn’t a nod back to a postcard view of the past – it was literally a revival of these wonderful classics. I guess the clue should have been in the name.
You can see some more pictures here, and if you’ve been convinced this is worth a look, perhaps we’ll see you there next year – we’ve already booked our tickets for 2016.
Another attempt at long exposure sea. I think the technique is getting there, but the subject needs work.
Taken at Stir, the new coffee shop in Cambridge. Their cups are such lovely colours.
This is mostly for Jason, just to show that I can post pictures that haven’t been processed once in a while.
These lights are a hipster cafe cliche, but I do love them for shots like this.