Red Kites in Hampshire (follow up)

Its funny how one very small post I made on this blog earlier this year has sparked off quite a few comments about Red Kite sightings in Hampshire. Thing is this is quite significant and as a member of the RSPB, it is very exciting to see that these splendid birds are living what seems to be a very comfortable existence.

My interest in this particular species goes back many years. Continue reading “Red Kites in Hampshire (follow up)”

Has the blog had it’s day?

I enjoy blogging don’t get me wrong because it encourages me to write and that’s the reason – I love to write and many years ago, for awhile I wrote articles for a couple of magazines. I went for a job with Future Publishing (Technical Editor) back in the Commodore Amiga days. I had to write an article before going for the interview and that was their way of shortlisting candidates. I got through the first stage and was shown around their offices in the beautiful city of Bath. It was exciting and I was only in my early 20’s at the time. It was also the early days of the web, blogging hadn’t been invented, yet alone Facebook and the social media phenomomen. I can’t help but feel it could have ended up a little bit like the film “Sliding Doors” albeit without the romance and about a young geek who would later discover that whichever path he took he would end up….

Here!

The web has democratised writing, journalism, photography and many other industries. The 20 year old Nick wouldn’t have dreamt any of this stuff up back in the day. Yet I feel we are approaching another turning point again (if we haven’t already and I missed it). Blogging has reached maturity and I can’t help but feel that it needs something, more, not sure what exactly, in order to keep it alive. Read on and I shall share some industry inside info!

A whole industry has evolved around CMS systems which is what I ended up working with pretty much exclusively for a long time as a web developer and have worked with some big organisations. Now I am torn as once upon a time I enjoyed working with PHP and MySQL the essence of WordPress (upon which this site runs and many millions of others). The problem is my work has led me off on a tangent, a good one but a confusing one. I now specialise in Javascript and don’t panic this post is not going to get all geeky and techie for those readers of mine who aren’t Developers. We can do a great deal more in the browser now and the architecture of web applications has taken a seismic shift in a whole new direction. I feel like at times, I am sat on the top deck of a fast ferry whisking me away and I am watching one phase of my career rapidly vanish in the sea of technology….

If I had taken that job back in 1992, I would have been putting together a floppy disk for the cover of the issue each month with some tips on how to use your new shareware or public domain apps! Yes apps! We didn’t call them that then but that’s what they were. Ok, they took 5 minutes to load before you could use them and you couldn’t carry them around in your pocket either.

So back to the theme of this article, what next for blogging? What next for this individual site?

Well I am a web developer after all and as Director/Founder/CEO/Etc of HeadForCode.com it is time to give you an insight into my vision for what could come next. My mind is full of ideas, visions and other junk (added that to see if my Wife is reading this).

Let’s bear in mind some other people have in the past challenged WordPress, Drupal etc with new ideas. I think some of the best alternatives out there are Medium, Tumblr and a few others. Now there are some other new ways of building sites, that I’d like to introduce you to and to share some actual examples of such.

Static Site Generators and the JamStack

Just now I hinted at one of our other websites, our company site http://www.headforcode.com and it is a good example of a whole new way of building sites that in some ways aren’t actually new. Ok, a big contradiction I know! The HeadForCode site has no database, it is based entirely on Markdown files. Markdown being a file format that is easy to write and is later “compiled” to HTML, there are plenty of examples out there to explain it in more depth, should it be of interest.

We then “deploy” the site once it is “built” to a server that features a fast CDN network, so that visitors get to see a very fast site indeed. It is also less prone to hacks because it is based on static files and no database at all. Just like back in 1991, see another link back to the start of my story.

Some people call this the JAMStack which stands for Javascript, APIs and MarkUp. This is significant as I hope to explain this better in some future articles that I am going to write which explain the benefits of this to both developers and non-developers. We still need to maintain the well established relationship of Developer/Consultant with that of the customer who will be given control of their content. In the future that content could be pulled in from a variety of sources. The aim being to create far more spontaneous web content for the consumer.

I have often thought about Photographers (being one myself) and how WordPress works as a solution. It can get very messy when implementing your site, you end up adding tonnes of plugins and if you get involved with template design and editing, that too can become a mess. Well at least that is my experience with WordPress when I’ve worked with clients.

Some people may use external services for dealing with their photography, such as Instagram and here is another example of something I created… https://nickogram.netlify.com/ which is another one of these new SSG things. I just re-build it to import the latest photos already hosted on Instagram. Ok this is all very well for me being a developer and if you are not, it’s not much cop. However what if a company took this idea and built something they could offer Joe Public, where you sign up, pay your money and voila.

Just some ideas guys, the marketplace is set to become busier and I’d like to see less of Facebook and the big companies trying to muddy the waters of what was originally Sir Tim Berners-Lee great idea.

Tales from the Island – The Salt Farmers

Tim Lewis

The Cini family of Zebbug in northern Gozo traditionally harvest salt on salt pans which have been in continuous use since Phoenician times. The pans have been owned by the family for hundreds of years. Now a new generation are taking over responsibility for salt production and as they look to the future they explore the challenges, such as climate change, and the new possibilities, such as renewed interest in old traditional techniques and tourism.

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ViewPoints

I am starting a new series of drone videos this Summer that I am calling “ViewPoints” which I began a couple of weeks ago, with one new video to share right now, right here and a queue of two others to bring to you as soon as they are ready. I am chipping away at them bit by bit, you know how long these things take at times.

The series of videos will depict some of my favourite places in the UK and occasionally beyond too, after all I have got archives sat on Lacie drives going back a couple of years now. Each video will be pretty short about 3 to 5 minutes long and all of them will be published on YouTube. So if you are on YouTube, please subscribe and like the original videos as well as this post….. ok shameless plug over!

The music in today’s video is really nice and I sourced it from Kevin MacLeod’s archives. Kevin is a prominant name online for providing royalty free music and you can find all the details, attributions etc against the YouTube video.

I have recently upgraded my Mac to the latest OS update and along with it Final Cut, my favourite editing package for Video. It took a bit of getting used to but I think I shall get along with it just fine.

The filming was great fun because we had just shot an earlier video down by Petersfield (which is the next one to come here) where the temperatures were in the high 20s and there was not a breath of wind at all. So we decided to head for the South Downs and up to Harting Down which offers the finest views of the area. To be honest there are views aplenty in the area and I plan to exploit it more in the years to come. I have been there many times before and quite often you can practically be blown off your feet in the Winter months!

Anyway, here is the video, please like it on YT and subscribe (if you don’t mind). Let me know in the comments what you think right here.

Flying over Farnham Park

The above video was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, as I am editing this on a Surface Pro 4. I do also have a Mac which I use with Final Cut. I am kind of exploring both systems and both applications to see which is the most convenient. I shall form an opinion at some point for sure but I am quite amazed with the Surface Pro 4 and how fast it is. I am editing 4K video and unless I start adding various manipulations the video, it handles it all with aplomb.

I am a fan of Lightroom too….. Ok a little bit of an advert for Adobe tonight!

It’s video editing capabilities are limited but in  a way that makes sense because you can very easily jump across to your favourite video editor from within Lightroom. It works well for cataloguing video and for taking screen grabs from an original MP4 or MOV source file.

So here is a little explanation of all of this 🙂

Capture

Frame number 24 above is the original video and following on under 25-35 are a bunch of grabs that I took. I have created a little gallery below for you to enjoy 🙂

Field of gold

DJI_0021-1

The rape seed fields of Hampshire are progressing fast this year, the yellow flowers starting to fade, making way for the greener colours. I found a place to park up and a footpath to follow for a short distance. It is hard to envisage what the view would be like, because all I could see from my angle were the crops, about as tall as I am if not more so.

Once up in the air I could see the tracks left by the farmer and shot a short video. It was from this sequence that I ended up grabbing this image in Lightroom. I then edited it, adding a little bit of a graduated filter effect to the top of the frame to bring the sky back a bit more, to add some balance to the frame.

Then I decided that I should grab an abstract and from where (more or less) the previous  photo was captured, I switched the camera to look down towards the ground below. Expect to see more of this sort of thing from me, I love abstracts and to be able to zoom in or out from above is a thrill.

DJI_0022

It has been a gorgeous afternoon with temperatures nearly reaching 20 degrees Celsius and really feeling like Summer all of a sudden.

Talking of which…

We as a family do like to use rape seed oil in our cooking and there are a number of local producers who market their goods to many local farmers markets and even to the regional supermarkets. The demand for this crop is growing ever higher but I do wonder if we export it? I hope we do, as it is really nice stuff.

One of our favourite snacks is to get some nice bread, fill a couple of small ramekins with just enough rape seed oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Dip dip!! It goes in seconds but it is definitely one of those lovely comfort foods. It is very good for you too, well at least I think so!

Recommended Links

http://www.coldpressedoil.co.uk/

https://leckfordestate.co.uk/produce/rapeseed-oil – Ooh I should write more about this one, it is a great place to visit the whole year round

The curiosity of the general public

Whilst out flying yesterday capturing some video and photography, I initially seemed to be alone, not a soul around. However that wasn’t to be for long! I met a whole bunch of people with the space of 10 minutes, all of whom were fascinated by what I was doing.

The first people I met were a father, son and their two dogs. They were fascinated by the drone and asked lots of questions about it. I demonstrated some of it’s capabilities and showed them some images captured so far.

They left me to it and after capturing a series of photos from the air, I landed up and began packing the gear away into my shoulder bag. Then all of a sudden a party of people turned up, I think they may have been celebrating a birthday or anniversary, they were all smartly dressed but didn’t appear to be a wedding party or anything like that….

A lady of a certain age together with two other women asked me in a very eloquent tone of voice, that kind of voice people used to speak with back in the day, so I instantly guessed her to be a retired teacher, asked;

“Is that a drone? How wonderful, have you taken many pictures?”, she asked.

“Yes, I can show you on my phone”, I replied and promptly presented them with a preview of the footage, there right on the spot. They were in awe, I could tell, or maybe not, I am sure they have seen many amazing things over time.

“Where are you from?”, she then went on to ask

“Oh, not too far away but I went to the nearby school in the 80’s and have always been fascinated by this castle”, I replied.

“Oh”, one of the three ladies went as if in retort. (why do they do that?)

“How old is it?”, one of the other ladies asked.

“1700’s I think, it was built during the reign of King John and played a part in the story of the Magna Carta”, I chirpily replied.

NOTE: My knowledge of history is rubbish because it was actually built in the 13th century not the 18th, “a good 500 years out Mr Lewis, do see me after school.”

Anyway I pointed them in the direction of the information board and made a hasty retreat before they realised I was not a real historian!

Footnote

Despite all of the media stories of how bad drones are for the world and anyone who owns one is an evil narcissistic demon, that is total tosh. I have not yet met one person waving their fists at me in anger with ruddy faces, uttering curse words and threatening to call the Police…. nope not one yet.

Generally people are interested in the technology and I wholly wish to be a good PR representative for them!

King John’s Castle

Having watched one or two videos by my fellow photographers that featured Odiham Castle, I decided to hop in the car and visit the location myself. The closer I got to my destination as I drove into the gorgeous evening light, the more stormy it started to look in the distance as I cruised down the A287 from Farnham towards Odiham. I was conscious of the fact that I may be heading for a storm front, I knew it was too good to be true, an otherwise horrid week of torrential downpours had subsided and had led us all into a fanciful dream that Summer was back. I decided to press on nonetheless in the hope that if the heavens did open once again, it would probably be brief and the sun would pop out again. All photographers know that when that happens, you can sometimes witness an incredibly clear, crisp form of light.

Suffice to say, the rain didn’t arrive and as I pulled up near the Castle, the weather was actually looking like it was on the mend but I had lost the best of the light. Oh well, I shall make do, I decided and made my way down the canal towpath.

The walk isn’t at all far from the nearest parking spot and it is a lovely stroll. I highly recommend it for any time of year, as you get to appreciate Nature and all of her seasons. The Canal incidentally for those of you who don’t know the area is The Basingstoke Canal. We plan to shoot and film more along it’s entire stretch wherever we can in the years to come.

I decided that I will use my DJI Mavic more for photography than video, as photos tend to be quicker to edit and to share on the blog. I shall also collect up as much footage of a location as possible and to take my time over that. Film editing is a longer process, especially if I want to go a little more to town on it, adding music, cutting clips, recording voice overs etc. So I plan to share more video once I have enough to produce a series of mini documentaries. Got to be ambitious!!! Will I follow a theme? Yes, probably quite a few over the course of time and as I practice my flying/filming skills too!

DJI_0016

I joked over on Facebook that I had miniaturised the castle in order to take this photo. In many ways it does feel like I have or maybe I became a giant with a humongous tripod to match? Joking aside, the ability to position a camera anywhere in three dimensional space is still boggling my mind. It is so exciting and I have a head full of ideas for future entries on this blog. So much so, I think I have a firm theme for this site now, which I didn’t feel I had lost at some point in time whilst writing this blog…. I digress!

The DJI Mavic can shoot both RAW and JPEG at the same time. The photos on this page were all shot in DNG format and when I got home, I imported them into Lightroom. All I changed at this point were the white balance as that was off by a long way. I then applied a preset called “Punch” and finally some sharpness to make it look really crisp. The images off the camera were all shot with no sharpness or very little. So it is a very similar process to editing photos taken off my Nikon D7000. The cameras are of a very close resolution too.

The photo below was taken as a test but it clearly shows that on the DJI Mavic, you have the ability to focus and control your depth of field. It is one of the first to offer this and that is pretty incredible. The older drones all featured cameras that are single-focus (I think, correct me if I am wrong) and also suffered from fish-eye distortion. This lens is closer to something like a 50mm with an aperture of 2.8. This makes it a great drone for filing or shooting photography that is quite tight, you can fly through tight spaces using the amazing “Tripod Mode”

DJI_0007

So that pretty much wraps up today’s post, how about a video of Odiham Castle? That will come another time, I want to go back a few more times and shoot some more sequences over the seasons.

Last but not least

It was great to meet fellow bloggers Johann and Roberta Briffa last weekend in Guildford along with two other friends of theirs. The Briffas hail from the sunny island of Malta and regular visitors to this blog, yes there are many of you (joke!) will know Tina and I love the Maltese islands and the people. We look forward to catching up with you Johann and Roberta the next time we visit Malta or when you come back to visit the UK!

Please do check out their blogs, they write frequently, more so than I do and I enjoy every post they share.

https://jabriffa.wordpress.com/

https://chorizoandthyme.wordpress.com/

Roberta, you asked me to blog more, hope this is a good start? 😉