Pick of the Archives #008

We have some lovely plants in our garden and one summer I spent quite a lot of time crawling around on the grass looking for close-ups or macro has we photographers call such things. I also wanted to come up with some large punchy art shots that we could hang on the wall. You can’t beat some good macro nature shots for that can you!

The plant in the photo above is a Knifophia or more commonly known as a “Red-hot Poker”. The trick with shots like this, is to get in as close as you can and in this instance I used a Tamron 90mm with my Nikon D200 (this was a while ago), mounted on a tripod with an extension arm. The tripod also has legs that can be splayed out further, meaning that you can achieve all kinds of angles and really low ones where the need is necessary. I also a “plamp” which is one of my favourite camera accessories and probably a reflector just off to the side to bounce some light back in. That’s that, shot taken.

You may be interested in taking a look at my tag dedicated to macro and find some more posts spanning the years gone by.

Pick of the Archives #007 – Piazza il Campo

I can recall standing to the side of Piazza il Campo in Sienna that evening and Tina went for a walk around some of the shops nearby, as I needed about an hour to get this shot. The waiting game yields decent results when you have the time to make it all happen.

My camera firmly attached to the the fluid head on my Manfrotto tripod and exposures calculated. Naturally I took quite a few of the scene until I could do no more to improve. I knew that I would probably lose out a little bit in the foreground details but so long as the Torre del Mangia and the sky came together, I would be happy with the outcome.

Later I had to edit out a massive crane in Lightroom that was originally standing behind the Torre and blurred out some of the clouds which already were thanks to the long exposure taken. I needed to adjust the white balance to restore the warmth of light as I remembered it from the scene. Mind you, that said, my camera compensates well for the mixture of twilight and tungsten light sources.

Oh and we had perhaps one of the worst Pizzas in Italy afterwards which was really quite surprising!! Our tip is to eat in the side streets, you get a better deal and better food away from the Piazza. Do however have a nice coffee on the edge of the Piazza in the day time to watch the world go by….


JetPack 4.0 for WordPress

Jetpack, the popular add-on for WordPress has just become 4.0 versions old!


Release date: April 20th, 2016

I have been using Jetpack on my website and some client sites now for quite some time. I know that a few people find JP to be a threat, that WordPress will start becoming too much of a “black box” with fewer opportunities for bespoke web development. However I haven’t really seen it this way, I find it saves a lot of time, especially when most of my work is based around maintaining a number of client sites with more to come onboard in the future. I love the way that JP allows me to hook up my sites to WordPress.com and a centralised dashboard. I think this is perhaps worth further investigation and some write ups here on nicklewis.net.

Read on to find out about the new features it offers and what I have just updated on my website as a consequence.

Performance Enhancements:

  • Protect: the routine that verifies your site is protected from brute-force attacks got some love and is more efficient.
  • Contact Forms: cleaning the database of spam form submission records is more efficient.

Feature Improvements:

  • VideoPress: edit your VideoPress shortcode in the editor with a fancy new modal options window.
  • Custom Content Types are now classier: a new CSS class on Testimonial featured images — has-testimonial-thumbnail — allows you to customize Jetpack custom post types as you see fit.
  • Sharing: social icons are now placed under the “add to cart” singular product views in WooCommerce, making it easier for customers to share your products on social media.
  • Theme Tools: search engines will now have an easier time knowing what page they are on, and how that page relates to the other pages in your site hierarchy with improved schema.org microdata for breadcrumbs.
  • Widget Visibility: now you can select widgets and when to show or hide them right from custom post type single and archive views.

Jetpack UI Improvements:

  • What’s in it for me? We’ve done a better job explaining the benefits of Jetpack and connecting it to WordPress.com.
  • Shortcodes: handy links to shortcode documentation convey the types of media you can quickly and safely embed.
  • Widgets: As of WordPress 4.5, Jetpack widgets now refresh in the customizer without making you refresh the entire page. Live previews, yes indeed.

Bug Fixes:

  • Comments: we fixed a mistake where a comment subscription checkbox appeared on custom post types — despite the fact you couldn’t actually subscribe to those types of comments. Our bad.
  • Contact Forms: we fixed a bug where the telephone field (which can only be added manually) rendered incorrectly — breaking some forms in the process.
  • General: we blocked direct access to the Jetpack_IXR_Client class which caused fatal PHP errors in some server setups.
  • Shortcodes: we removed the frameborder attribute in the YouTube embed code. It was deprecated in HTML 5.
  • Unminified responsive-videos.min.js in order to address a false positive virus alert in ClamAV. Expect it to be re-minified in 4.0.1 once we resolve the issue with ClamAV.