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Rob's Site Blog - April 2008

Udated Tasks List - 26/04/08

Right - stuff still to do this month on the site:

  • Clear backlog of unanswered emails
  • Book review - Charlie Waite "The Making of Landscape Photography"
  • Using filters with the S5700 article and guide
  • GTN Episode.
  • Ways to archive / back-up pictures for free.
  • Using free photo editing software.

Phew! I won't get it all done, but these lists help to keep me on track....

PhotoWalks Added - 25/04/08

Photowalk 1Determined to take more photos to improve my technique and Photoshop editing skills, I've come up with a new format that helps me group together images in what are like mini assignments. What I do is decide to walk around a particular area, taking lots of pics with my S5700, and have my Geotagger on in my Pocket. Then when I get home I can edit the images, and create a Google Earth .kmz file - which includes the track and my pictures.

I've done two so far, and the idea is to expand the format by including tutorials on how I took,and edited the pictures, hopefully with screencasts, to make the articles really useful. The first one I did was a walk around Fort Brockhurst, and the second a walk around Gosport Sea-Shore.

Have a look, tell me what you think, and I'll work on some screen casts once I'm a bit happier with my editing techniques.

If it works out well, this could be the basis for that second site I was thinking about earlier in the month...

 

Eeek! Hard Drive Failed! - 16/04/08

Well, it had to happen, didn't it? That forewarning by chkdsk below led to a hard-drive i/o error. I tried the drive as a slave on another pc, but chkdsk still had trouble reading it, so it was off to the store to get a new hard-drive, and then the hell of reinstallation.

As I was activating XP, and getting out my Office installation discs, feeling peeved, I thought, no, I'm not going to install all this stuff and slow down my pc and chew up the hard drive. I'm going to go as far as I can into cloud computing, that is I'm going to use free Internet applications accessed through my browser rather than the more traditional desktop solution.

I've replaced Outlook with Google Mail / Calendar / Remember The Milk. You can now get Google mail to access up to five other email accounts, so that's great. The only problem I have is that when I get mail from the comments forms on this site they all come from the same e-mail address, so Gmail treats them as one long conversation, which makes it difficult to pull out individual entries. I've looked at the help and this is something that Google are working on. It would be nice if Google Calendar had a tasks app built in, but for now Remember The Milks Plug-In for Firefox will do nicely. I'll do text editing in Google Docs.

So all I need on my PC are the likes of Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Google Earth, Virtualdub, Audacity, Itunes (bah!), Firefox, and some other small, related applications. I'll tell you how I get on.

Hard Drive Saved By Chkdsk - 08/04/08

When turning my computer back on, occasionally I was getting a registry error which Windows was repairing, but last night I got a severe failure - on boot up my system was getting stuck at the check disk stage of windows - and nothing was happening.

A quick search of the web revealed I should run chkdsk from the command line, but that didn't do anything until I added a parameter: " chkdsk c: /f /r" (This instructs chkdsk to repair errors and recover data.) . I then rebooted, and had to wait almost two hours for the thing to work, often I thought it was stuck, but I just went away and had a coffee.

I can now say that my system boots quicker, runs faster, and I don't get those errors. Well done chkdsk!

Wrestling With Idea For Another Site - 07/04/08

Hmmm. I've been thinking about whether it would be a good idea to set up a different website dedicated to photography, more of a blog style site, on a different url, using Wordpress as my CMS (Content Management System).

My thinking was that this site is a bit eclectic - too many different subjects - and maybe it would be better to focus on one idea on another website. It would basically be photo tutorials - everything from taking the picture through to image editing and publishing. I also like the idea of using a CMS to make the act of publishing the articles a lot simpler instead of having to use Dreamweaver.

After thinking about it, I've decided not to. My reasoning is that the Photography section of this site is a good a place as any, and I'm not that really a good enough photographer to justify telling other people what to do. I'm better off doing a similar thing here, see how it goes and what the feedback from visitors is like, then maybe I'll do a separate blog.

By the way, I've been sticking to my plan, and all pages should now have a contact form and a link at the bottom to the main subject page. Yay! (Only two years late....)

Brother Blue Sky, Brother Backlit Sky, Brother Dusky Blue Sky, Brother Reflecting Sky and Mr Green Jeans - Understanding Exposure, A Great Book by Bryan Peterson - 06/04/08

I've just finished reading this great book, Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson. Its all about how to make sure your photos are exposed correctly, how aperture size and shutter priority can give you artistic control over your photos, and how you successfully take pictures in difficult lighting conditions.

Peterson basically encourages the Photographer to use full manual mode whenever possible. You then need to decide what artistic effect you want. If you want a narrow depth of field for a shot that just focuses on your subject, set your aperture to a large diameter with a small f-stop, then set your shutter speed to get the correct exposure. For a wider depth of field, close down the aperture with a larger f-number.

To create a sensation of speed (motion blurring), set a slower shutter speed, then adjust your aperture to get the correct exposure. To freeze the action, set a high shutter speed - 1/500th, then adjust your aperture to correctly expose.

The author then goes on to explain his concept of The Sky Brothers. These are some guidelines to help you decide what you should point your camera at to get the right exposure in certain situations, once you've set your aperture or shutter speed. Basically on sunny days point your camera at the blue sky, set your exposure and then take your shot. If you want a nice evening / dawn shot with silhouettes, take your exposure from the left or right of the sun. For dusky shots, take the exposure from the dusky part of the sky. For nice reflections of the sea, rivers or lakes, take your reading from the water. For shots where the sky isn't available, point at some vegetation near by, or into something with a variation of colours.

Peterson looks at other techniques too, and its refreshing to have someone look at Photography from a camera point of view, not software, and although I was reading an older version, the lack of digital techniques didn't matter.

I, for one will be switching to manual mode the next time I go out, turning metering to spot, and I'll see what I can come up with.

 

April Must Bring More Focus On Content - I've Been A Bit Distracted Lately! - 05/04/08

Right, here we go. I've really been enjoying my camera recently - with the addition of HDR and some cool Photoshop Plug-ins, I think my images have been gaining depth and character (check out my Flickr account to see if you agree.) All this has however been distracting me from my main goal - to keep this website expanding into a useful resource on the web. I've been struggling with whether to start another site, more like a Blog, using Wordpress as my CMS, but I'm going to keep with sciuridae and have a plan and schedule for April. Here it is:

  • Review every existing page to make sure it has a comments form and back to related category link.
  • Submit a new sitemap file to Google.
  • Voip article.
  • Garmin Colorado article.
  • Garmin 800 article.
  • New TomTom articles by model.
  • Dash GPS Article.
  • Manual mode S5700 Podcast.
  • GTN Episode.
  • HDR Photography article.
  • Photography tips article - sharpening, noise reduction.
  • Getting into istockphoto (hopefully!)

I'm going to go for it this month and give this site the attention it deserves. The only fly in the ointment could be if I get accepted into istockphoto - then I'll be pumping out the pictures!

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