Heather has started yet another clearout process, and I guess I will do the same, to see what I can possibly shed before we go. Not sure how successful I'll be though...
The search is over, and we have been approved for our new home. It might have slightly less space than the one we are in, but it does have aircon, which -- as it looks like we might have a hot summer ahead -- is a definite improvement. I am fortunate to be able to escape to a cool place each workday, but Heather has not been so lucky. The timing of the current tenant's exit looks good, allowing about a week's overlap with our current rental, which is what I usually allow, to make sure it's not a rushed & frantic process. Moving is stressful enough, without having to do it in a tight time frame (April last year wasn't a lot of fun). The move should happen in 3-4 weeks.
Heather has started yet another clearout process, and I guess I will do the same, to see what I can possibly shed before we go. Not sure how successful I'll be though...
The little package of bits arrived a few days ago from the lovely people in Hong Kong. I wasted little time in attaching this to that, that to the other, and generally hooking up whatever I could lay hands on. The Tamron and Orestegor lenses can now serve time on the 30D instead of my FD-mount Canons, the old Sigma mirror lens that I nearly sold last year can come back out of its hiding place (and may see light on December's lunar eclipse), and the intervalometer was duly tested... on nothing particularly worthwhile. I waited until today though, to hook the camera up to the Zeiss, helping me to shoot a few sunspots.
The drawback of the APS-C format is that I can't fit the full solar disk in a single exposure. Still, the best of the action was in this part :) If I do want a full disk - as I will at times for both Sun and Moon - I'll need to do a stitch-up; not difficult in itelf, but not ideal in shooting terms.
This was a1/2000 sec exposure, at ISO 100, with a solar filter over the objective. Many exposures were made, but only one was reasonably sharp - the rest were variously affected by wobbly seeing. Here, a spot group is heading for the limb; some bright faculae can also be seen. Below is a detail of the spots. Because of the solar filter, the original image is coloured orange, but for this image I used just the green channel (for best definition) and colourized the image for a more natural tone. It is entirely artificial though.
It became apparent, while testing the interval timer, that the camera battery was past its best. One run last night, shooting time-lapse star trails, petered out after 17 shots. With little hope of a favourable reply, I emailed the retailer to see if the battery was included in the warranty - it was. They will post a replacement, and I can keep the current one, which will be at least be an emergency spare. I suspect though, that for long exposures I might be better off with a mains supply or a larger battery pack. I'll see how I get on with the new battery first.
They say there's no rest for the wicked, but today (Sunday), I'm resting. I worked yesterday, so today and tomorrow are mine... unless anything crops up. We do have to continue the search for another property, as our first application was passed over, so are just about to go and look at the outside of a couple, then see if we can get in to view properly tomorrow or Tuesday.
Heather just baked a batch of muffins; raspberry and ginseng peach. 'Moist' is one word; certainly delicious and still warm. Now, we need a coffee to wash them down, so will repair to somewhere worthwhile after seeing those two houses.
Sunday duly came & went, as has Monday, all but a few hours. Just time to fit in another muffin... I suspect we missed the boat regarding those 2 houses, as the call to the agent today has not been returned. There was a couple here on Sunday, looking around with a view to buying; if they are interested (and they seemed to like it), then the pressure will be on to find us a new place sooner rather than later.
Today we went to buy some potting mix (Heather puts plants in it, or something), and had a rather nice and filling lunch afterwards just round the corner: toasted Turkish, with bacon, egg and salad, and a good coffee, of course.
This afternoon I placed an order for a few adaptors for the 30D, so that I can attach it to the Zeiss, and also to be able to use some of my older lenses. I acquired a Tamron 24-48 SP zoom a couple of months ago, along with a Canon AE-1 and a couple of lesser lenses; they belonged to the late husband of a lady I visited to advise about a strange photo of the Moon. When I expressed a measure of delight in seeing them, she offered them to me, happy that they would go to someone who appreciated them; I reluctantly accepted the offer. Anyway, I reckon the 24-48 will be a pretty good lens - judging by the brief film test that I gave it - and should sit nicely on the 30D, perhaps being optically better than the 17-85 that's mated with it just now (it will lack autofocus and fully auto exposure, but I can live with that). I have also ordered a remote release/timer, so that I can shoot some time lapse sequences of star trails etc, or a series of exposures on the same object through the Zeiss, to be stacked later. I haven't bought any photography gear for years, and it's quite diverting. I never was a gearhead though, unlike some others of my acquaintance. I admit to being perhaps inordinately fond of my Benbo tripod (British made, don't y'know), and, of course, the obsolescent Canon FDs, but everything else is more or less just 'stuff'.
One of my reasons (justifications) for buying a DSLR was so that I could get back into astrophotgraphy. Film is all very well, and Ektachrome was almost a legendary emulsion, but CCD/CMOS sensors are far more efficient at gathering faint light. An image that might have required 10 minutes of carefully-guided exposre on film, might now be achieved in 30 seconds with a static camera. Anyway... I have exercised the beast with the main telescope at the Brisbane Planetarium, just to make an initial test of its capabilities. The results, such as they are, can be seen on the Astronomy page.
Our landlord (landlady, actually) has decided to put the house on the market. Our HOME. We've been here just 16 months, and are nothing like ready for a move yet. There is, of course, the possibility that it could be bought by an investor, but I don't fancy taking that chance, not with the shortage of suitable rental properties. So, we went to view 3 houses today, the only 3 that Heather thought at all worthwhile (and within our budget, suitable for pets, etc). The first one had absurdly small rooms, and signs of wear & tear, mould, etc that the agent said unlikely to be fixed, so it was fairly quickly crossed off the list. The second one was in much better order, but it looks like competition for it will be very stiff, and the rent is at the top end of what we want; nice area though. 3rd on the list would benefit from freshening up slightly, not to mention an improved kitchen, but had a mature mulberry - in fruit - overhanging the back fence. House and block slightly larger than our present one, plus aircon, so it would do. Need to find out when it's available, but the place is empty & being cleaned at the moment, so probably fairly soon. We have to give a month's notice on our current lease, which has 6 weeks to run. Fingers crossed for a good outcome.
In other news... I went to an exhibition opening last night, featuring photographs and photogravure prints, 2 of which I'd have liked to bring home. There were also digital reproductions of salt prints - the technology that William Henry Fox Talbot used in the 1840s, for printing his Calotype negatives. I commented that it would be appropriate to make such prints from negatives taken with my Victorian camera, and the artist agreed enthusiastically. I went back to her studio this afternoon, armed with said camera, and we have agreed to get together for a photo outing, probably early next year, and then repair to the studio to get printing. The resulting body of work will (we hope) end up as a joint exhibition, with the camera on display as well. I've missed having access to a darkroom since leaving the Observatory in 1995, so this will be great fun, especially using an old (although new to me) printing process.
I knew, in buying a DSLR, that I was setting myself up for a love-hate experience that might be biased more towards the hate side of things for a while. Having grown up with manual, mechanical cameras of various vintages, it took me a long time to get used to modern developments. I grant you that matrix metering impressed me pretty quickly, while testing a Canon 620 many years ago, but I never did love the rest of the modern, LCD-screened shooting match. I loved my 1978 EF, with its heavy brass body and curious breech-lock lens mount. I still do.
When digital came along, I looked at it with suspicion, if I looked at all. Which I saw an obviously-digital image in print, I'd mutter uncomplimentary things under my breath. There was a certain quality - or rather, lack of it - that branded the newcomer technology second best. Of course, it didn't take long for digital R&D to catch up to the abilities of film, and start to sound the death knell for film imaging. Gradually, manufacturers abandoned film camera production, or just disappeared entirely. (I was surprised to learn of Bronica's disappearance during a long hiatus from taking photographs.)
However, curiosity got the better of me, and I acquired a small digicam, all 2 megapxels of it. Eventually a 5 MP replacement came along, which allowed much better imaging. I was becoming hooked on the immediacy of the digital process, and used film less and less, although there were other reasons too. But, having been accustomed to SLR photography, with the ability to control all aspects of the shooting process, there were a few things I missed, such as selective focusing and full manual control. Hence the 30D.
So, how have I fared in the 3 days since then? Well, I have taken some time to become at least partially familiar with all of the buttons, custom functions, etc. I have snapped a few shots to get the feel of the beast, testing its performance against what I understand. On Day 2, I returned to the dealer, troubled by the camera's failure to let me set the aperture manually: sometimes it would, other times not; as it was bought 2nd hand, I suspected a fault. When the salesman didn't immediately have the answer, I was somewhat dismayed. However, after a minute or so, he remembered the reason - something I'd not picked up from my initial perusal of the manual. Good; smile returned.
Day 3 brought another problem, which bothered me for an hour or so, until I remembered I'd set a custom function deep in the bowels of the menu, and forgot to check exactly how it worked. Once I'd reset that function, no problem. Later on, I noticed a setting on the top LCD, which shouldn't have been set like that, and indeed, elsewhere seemed to be fine. Could I find how to reset it? No I couldn't. The button that would logically have given me the required access showed a normal setting, and adjusting it achieved nothing, at least, not the desired result. In the end, I had to go into the main menu and return all settings to default, to get rid of the errant setting. By now, the once bright and shiny joy had started to tarnish, and I was beginning to feel quite tired. I have yet to take any proper photographs with this camera, although I have learned more about how many hot pixels a camera can have, on long exposures.
Some years ago, I discovered CameraQuest. On that site was a page about a reissued Nikon rangefinder camera, the SP 2005. I fell in love with that camera on sight, and am still moved by it. I knew that I could pick it up, have it loaded within a minute, and start shooting almost right away. There might be 2 or 3 settings I'd need to look up in the manual, but that would be it. Shutter speed, aperture, focus, shoot. I wouldn't be scratching my head for hours, or having to join a forum to get help.
The very lovely Nikon SP 2005.
Image copyright Stephen Gandy, all rights reserved.
I like the look of the Fuji X100, just because it presents as a traditional-looking camera, with shutter & aperture controls as you might expect (even a 'T' setting). It has clean lines and a classic, uncluttered finish. The rear of it looks like a modern digital, but viewed from the top it looks like a normal camera. I feel I could be very comfortable with it.
Maybe I'm getting old, or perhaps I'm just a grumpy curmudgeon. I hope that I become comfortable with the new toy, but I don't imagine for a minute that I will still be holding it fondly, 30-odd years from now, whereas I intend to be buried with one of my EFs.
I bought a 2nd hand computer yesterday. It's fairly compact, but moderately heavy for its size. All black, with just an optical input. It's a few years old, and has been superseded - as technology tends to be - by more refined models with a better song and dance routine, but it should do me for a while. The GUI has more menus than Masterchef and is almost as tedious. It goes by the name Canon 30D.
I thought a full move into digital imaging was long overdue; 'long overdue' as in 'he's one of the few sentient beings on the planet who doesn't own a DSLR'. I have been using small point-and-shoot digicams for several years, and have struggled to get them to produce something approaching respectable work, but the proper photographer in me decided that enough was enough.
So, am I happy now? Well, let's see: I fundamentally dislike using menus to control settings; I dislike being totally battery-dependent; even by my standards of using large, brass-bodied cameras, this is a large weight to carry around; I can't use my old FD lenses, but I knew about that. On the credit side, proper control of exposure and depth of field is once again available to me (not to mention colour balance); the autofocus is pretty quick, and very likely accurate to boot; the ability to shoot rapid flash exposures is good (the wee Powershot needed about 10 seconds to regain its composure, so if you missed the birthday-cake-and-candles shot, tough). Beyond that, there are all sorts of widgets, frills and embellishments that I will come to know in the fullness of time, and likely ignore. For now, I shall play with the new toy, and see where it takes me.
Oh, yes: it has an ultrasonic lens cap. Honest - I can't hear it at all.
I came to reading relatively late in life. As a child, I loved browsing the family bookcase, with Newnes Family Encyclopædia, Pears Cyclopædia, The Wonderful World of Nature, and other such worthy tomes, but I don't recall reading an entire book until I borrowed Lemon Kelly and the Home Made Boy from the library when I was around 10. Thereafter, I was a sporadic and infrequent reader, and could probably count on the fingers of three hands the number of books I read in the next decade or so. My wife, on the other hand has always loved reading, becoming utterly absorbed in various lives and adventures from an early age. I slowly started the reading habit only once I was well and truly old enough to know better (probably after I had developed the habit of routine sobriety), but initially it was through picking up books that my wife was reading, and delving into them occasionally. In this way, I read a few of the Earth's Children series, beginning with Clan of the Cave Bear. However, I did not make it all the way to the end, unlike she-who-must-be-obeyed, who waited patiently for the recent release of the final book in the series, The Land of Painted Caves.
I have not read Lord of the Rings, Catcher in the Rye, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or countless other works that I really ought to. I have read Catch 22, some le Carré, a little SF, and odd thriller/espionage titles that catch my eye, usually lurking on charity shop shelves. What I have found increasingly absorbing is biography, with First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong being a recent favourite (even if it was rather exhausting).
I have left a few books unfinished—some intentionally, others not—and have an increasing pile 'on the go', which I shall definitely work through in the not-too-distant future. This stack includes The God Delusion, Life: An Unauthorised Biography, and a collection of Ian Rankin's short stories, Beggars Banquet. The current bedtime favourite is A Beautiful Mind, the biography of genius mathematician John Nash, from which was produced the film of the same name. Like First Man, it is a substantial work, and equally compelling. I can't begin to understand the variety of maths that Nash and his colleagues worked on, but as a portrait of a man suffering a catastrophic loss of his mental faculties, it is a very human story that manages to bewilder, amuse, and inspire. It will probably take me at least another month of bedtimes to complete. Once that is out of the way, I shall pick up another biography, that of Keith Richards, Life. I am determined to resist the temptation to leave yet another book unfinished before starting upon it. But now, enough writing: I have a date with a wacky number-cruncher.
Our numbers have increased this week, augmented by the patter of tiny feet. Fortunately, they don't belong to us.
Just before going away for a few days, Heather went next door to procure cat-sitting services, and learned that our neighbour's daughter-in-law was desperately in need of a child-minder - hence her announcement on returning: "I've got a job!" One doesn't normally nip next door for employment opportunities, so she had to elaborate upon this unexpected statement. The outcome is that she has charge of a toddler and a baby, four days a week, for the foreseeable future. I'm happy to find that they are pleasant children, but dismayed that the three-year-old cannot properly form a gerund. What is happening to educational standards? He does ask questions though, which is encouraging, but the question is usually "why...?". For example: "Why have you turned the TV off?" "Because we're not watching it just now." "Why not?" I felt a discussion about the merits of daytime television would not prove rewarding, so left it there.
Needless to say, we will have to consider child-proofing for the first time in a dozen years (although visiting teenagers have been cause for concern in more recent times).
In more personally satisfying (and less challenging) news, I have set up my newly-retrieved telescope once more, and shall point it at a celestial sight ere long. I left it with a friend in Coffs Harbour when we left last year, as there was neither the space in the truck, nor an likelihood that I would do anything with it for some time. However, it's nice to see my old friend again, even if it is like something from a byegone age, compared to the current offerings in Sky and Telescope. With Jupiter now rising before midnight, it's time to put it to use again though, perhaps even with a camera at the sharp end. Watch this space.
The end of my holiday draws near. Haven't really been anywhere, just a 3-day trip to see old friends and family, abandoned when we relocated to Brisbane last year. Encouraged that everyone still remembers us. Moreover, nobody said "Can I have that fiver back?" Mostly, I've been pottering about and just enjoying not going to work.
I do intend to see the Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the QAG, but that will need to wait until my RDO next week; it opens on Saturday, but I'm back at work then. Then later in the week, I'll attend a private viewing at a small studio/gallery in north Bris; I'm exceedingly envious of the space there: it's set up not only for photographic printing, but has a couple of printing presses as well, all contained in a custom-built facility that makes me ache with desire. I discovered Myrtle Street Studio when a friend told me about her entry into a pinhole photography exhibition there. It's small but perfectly formed.
For now though, time to venture into the garage, there to fit shelves into a bedside cabinet, and possibly make a start on a new desktop for Heather. I've often said that power tools are a way of making an arse of things very quickly, so I shall use them with care. If I feel bold, I might even bring out the old spokeshave.