Holga Presets

I went on a bit of a Lightroom preset orgy recently and downloaded tons of free sets and am only now getting round to checking some of them out.  They are quite varied in quality, and obviously are suited to particular types of shot.  One set that really caught my eye is the freely available Holga pack of 10 presets – what a terrific retro feel they give to crisp modern images.

I know that we have suffered an oversaturation in retro film processing in the last couple of years, largely down to Instagram and iPhones (I love Instagram, not a criticism), but with current tastes as they are….retro is so cool, and I can’t see this changing any time soon.

It does amuse me that we spend so much time and effort with modern equipment including DSLRs, computers, smartphones, etc. (of which the combined development costs must run in billions) to recreate an effect on the emerging imaging technology of yesteryear that brought photography to the masses.  Progress in many ways, not in others.

Holga Presets-1

The original image:

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A Culture of Abuse

There is a growing culture of abuse in this country, we all sadly know this from personal experience no doubt, but I am getting increasingly concerned with the instant and seemingly punishment-free methods using Twitter that seems to be escalating the frequency and intensity directed towards individuals who simply do not deserve it.

Now I am a massive Twitter fan – having been on it for just over a year I have been exposed to a lot of great people and stuff (I am more of a reader rather than a tweeter).  There are so many uses of it, that I think there is a little bit of Twitter for everyone in some form or another.  Sadly, as with the society we live it, it is being populated with complete and utter morons.  We know they exist, we all went to school with them and have probably evolved away from them as we get older with a bit of luck.  But they are still there, they seem to be coalescing and multiplying and getting online with phones that are a lot smarter than they are.

One aspect of Twitter I like is the ability to follow the odd famous people: in my case the ones who’s views I respect, jokes I appreciate and talents I admire.  I am not a stalker by any means, but just enjoy the odd 140-character output they offer.  Now with fame comes the inevitable situation of being disliked, that’s just life, you can’t be liked by everyone.  However, I find it deeply worrying that people think that they can openly abuse those in the spotlight with offensive language, racism, homophobia and similar hate-filled tweets and think it’s OK to do so.  There is the argument that if you don’t want to receive it then simply get off Twitter.  Free speech and all that too; but why should they have to put up with it ? They shouldn’t.  The true and appreciated aims of their tweets towards their intended audience  is over-shadowed by such trolling incidents.

Yesterday was the football match known locally as the Steel City Derby.  A game that always brings out the animalistic, tribal instincts in many a Sheffield supporter of both persuasions.  Most of it does remain innocent enough, but my walk though Hillsborough both to and from the game illustrated how it can turn nasty, both verbal and physical.  This spilled over onto Twitter last night, when one of the United players, an 18-year-old lad called Harry Maguire, was abused by a few Wednesday ‘fans’, the most notable from one guy with a direct message of abuse (that included calling him a c*nt).  Clearly still fired up by the game, he replied with a mild taunt along the lines of “who are you? someone watching from the stands?”.  Quite a good put down really.  It didn’t go down well and more jumped on the bandwagon.  He received a lot more as a result, and I also think that Harry’s a Wednesday fan too just to make it even more ridiculous.

End result: Harry has left twitter, either by his own volition at being sick of the abuse, or advised/instructed to by the club to avoid unnecessary attention.  Either way, a great lad who was quite interacting with his fans is no longer there.  The most worrying aspect of all this: the guy who hurled the abuse that kicked all this off appears to be an employee of Sheffield Wednesday!  If true, I hope that they show some professionalism and show him the door as soon as possible.  His account has disappeared too.

Should people have to put up with abuse to their face? No.  Should they have to put up with it on social media sites, just because they are famous?  No.  Is there ever going to be a solution to this? Doubt it.  I just hope that the efforts of those like Stan Collymore, who is actively reporting all those who racially abuse him (with some pending convictions as a result), will start to quell the morons that do this.  We can only hope as I am not sure this is going away any time soon.

Damn gene pool.

#teamharry


Homemade Light Tent

After seeing a post via Zite on how to make a homemade light tent I decided to have a go:

I don’t have a macro lens, but have bought some rather nifty macro filters from Polaroid to have a little play with close-up stuff.  To stick to this on-a-budget theme I decided to spend a couple of hours making my own light tent.  The shopping list (and costs) were:

  • collapsible laundry basket – £2.99
  • single white bed sheet – £1.79
  • white card – £2.39 (overpriced in my opinion – damn you Staples!)
  • needle/thread (already owned)

First up, I removed the existing mesh sides to the laundry basket to leave the bendy metal frame – although I did leave the base one there as it would be covered by card. In the post I saw, they stapled the cloth to the frame, but I decided to sew it on securely.  Firstly, I am not a fan of staples – crude and spiky (and they overcharge for card!) – and secondly, it went against my ASD need to have it all white ;)

Nice stich work for me:

light_tent-1

That bit did take me a while, but I was happy with that given the look and feel of it.  Needs an iron though!  I kept the little pouch on it so that I could still collapse it for storage.

light_tent-2

I then cut the card so it fitted the base and curved up the back forming a continuous surface.

light_tent-5

So when it lays on its side there is a good amount of room to shoot little Lego Dr Who dudes professional style product shots.

light_tent-3light_tent-4

 

 

I know that with this extremely cheap option shots are going to be very rough when compared to a material that diffuses the light perfectly, and the macro lenses are a poor substitute for a proper (out of my budget) lens, but from the one test shot I squeezed off I am more than happy with what was produced.

19Feb

This was only lit by natural sunlight shining through the conservatory windows/plastic roof too, hence the greyish tones in the background.  Next step is to get some desk lamps (which would suit my budget style further) on either side to see if they will produce a cleaner, brighter white or if not, see if some lighting options are needed.

Far from perfect, but cheap and a buzz to achieve something without resorting to the easy retail option.


iPad Twitter Clients

I am a bit of a Twitter addict, love it in fact.  I am not a prolific tweeter by any means, more of a reader of my various interests (#twitterblades being the best by far – those guys&gals rock).  I have never really gotten on with the website as I like to retain a last position on my timeline – that just suits the way I use Twitter.  Since getting an iPad last year my choice of Twitter client was a major consideration as I knew it would an app on which I would spend a lot of time.

After using the free Twitter-produced app for a while I knew that I wanted a bit more functionality.  I had been using Tweetlogix and nothing else on my iPod, as it was one hell of a good client (and still is – if you have iPhone I can highly recommend it).  It has lots of good features and just works smoothly and quickly. However, they do not do an iPad or universal build and are not (according to a reply from the developers) planning one either…a real shame.

So I did a bit of research, Lite try-outs and purchases and here are some very brief opinions on the three best ones (I know opinions differ) I have come across:

‘Official’ Client

imageOK, so it has notifications which is a big feature for some.  However, the interface is set in stone and you cannot tweak it one bit; I prefer a smaller font to get a bigger timeline for one.  There are little tweaks/settings at all in fact, so what you see if what you get.  Trending topics are either US or worldwide (who knows?), but unless you need a constant reminder of the fact that hashtags containing the word ‘bieber’ are ever-present, what’s the point of trending anyway?  The conversation view in DM’s is quite nice and I suppose the swiping to drill down and back is kind of iPad-tastic. However, the toolbar takes up some serious real-estate and is waste of screen use.  Basic functionality, but it does what is essentially needed. Overall: 6/10

Osfoora HD

image

I used Osfoora for about 6 months without even looking elsewhere – this a very decent effort indeed.  Even more so when you realise that it’s produced from just one guy!  There is a ton of flexibility with its settings, a very nice dark theme and neat extras such as Instapaper and a Safari bookmarklet.  The toolbar is very small in portrait view so that the timeline is the interface and there are lots of useful options to embed into new tweets and a draft manager too (essential).  As with many apps along these lines, more options are much better than few – you can use/ignore what you wish.  It is fast, smooth and has nice touches like colouring tweets that are mentions so they stand out.  Apart from crashing nearly every time a list is updated, and there being no notifications – not an issue for me – I think it’s a cracker.  Overall: 8.5/10

Tweetbot

imageI think I tried out a free version of this on my iPod a while back and thought nothing of it, but a new release described on Zite (the best newsreader on the iPad – get it!) made me take a serious look.  I bought it pretty quickly and have never looked back.  In a word – incredible.  The interface looks great: well-designed, an unobtrusive toolbar and all requirements are usually a single tap or swipe away – and this is the killer aspect.  For example, tapping a tweet brings up options to reply, retweet (BOTH styles), favourite, common action or see the details.  You can right-swipe it to see the conservation view and left swipe to see any replies.  Nice.

The configuration options are varied, so much so you can even set service settings per twitter account.  It does offer notifications too, and in-app notifications of new tweets and mentions are clear, but subtle.  You can mute users and hashtags just by pressing them, very useful if you don’t want to unfollow (and you can even set an unmute duration too!)  One of the most useful features is the ability to set any list as your timeline with a button at the very top; this has certainly made lists become more of a regular option.  In fact there are tons of good things about this app that all I am going to say is… Overall: 9.5/10

For a client to get 10 in my book, they need to include a really good list management option – none do this to any decent degree although Tweetbot is by far the best I’ve seen.

Others I looked that, but didn’t get more than 5 minutes of a look in for a variety of reasons (mostly because I thought they were poor!):

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MP Inspections

Going through an Ofsted inspection is stressful. As in many professions, accountability to a fine degree is a necessary evil to ensure that standards are maintained and improvements are identified.  However, I am often surprised to the degree that schools are judged, particularly in reference to the resources that the government’s budget constraints allow and how they can never tally with the expectations demanded! More so in small schools where the number of staff is low and the number of roles they have to cover high.

I was thinking that there are other professions that could benefit from a similar, rigorous inspection process where judgements have significant consequences for an entity’s public perception and that drives up standards in the interest of the very people they serve.  How about MPs? Maybe a broad range of their responsibilities and performance could be looked at, assessed, judged and reported to the country? Here’s just a few suggestions:

Value for money

Given the expenses scandal (and the other, less publicised scandal of some of them getting back the money they paid!), this has to come first – a full look at the actual bottom-line cost of ‘doing their job’ and how this relates to performance. Perhaps they too should have a budget, linked to the size of their constituency, and they have to stick with it.  Certainly any ‘perks’ should be flagged as inappropriate, especially in a time where laws are being passed where workers are even being made to pay to park their cars in the very places where they work! Either that or give us all expenses for doing what we do ;)

Independence

Every single business interest should be declared openly, with any financial payments listed. In an ideal democracy, there should be no business interests at all, as they should be serving the public; but as that is never going to happen, some transparency that links personal allegiances to the voting decisions they make.

Attendance

A key indicator in schools! How often do they turn up at the House of Commons? How much time off do they have? Are they away on ‘trips’ for interests when they could be serving the public?  How many actual votes do they take part in, and are there trends in the categories of votes (tax avoidance, transport, etc.)?

Community Cohesion

A scrutiny of them and their teams to assess how well they identify, respond and take action on the interests of their constituents. Random samples of queries and incoming correspondence could be tracked to see the flow of actions and a judgment made on the effectiveness of the actions they take in relation to the nature of the original issue.

Ethics

025035ea6dbd328768e7b25c37f14057_thumbGive the very clear rules regarding the personal qualities needed to be in professions with public responsibility, a look at their spiritual, moral and ethical views.  Are they discriminatory in any way? Have they ever been fraudulent? Do they serve in the public interests all the time? A very key indicator really.

 

If you can suggest some more I’d love to see them.

Overall judgement

Similar to Ofsted, perhaps a tiered system on which most people focus without investigating the actual details:

  • 1 – Outstanding
  • 2 – Good
  • 3 – Satisfactory (although this will be rebranded dependant upon political motives)
  • 4 – Inadequate

A strict, rapid re-inspection for failing MPs could help them get back on track. And for those that fail again? Well, removal of office – its not like we can convert them into an academy is it, an entity controlled by private enterprises with money as a focus…….that’s exactly what we want the MPs not to be!


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