Videogame Ghosts

Lack of interactivity is something I’m noticing more and more in games. It’s not that the worlds used to be more interactive – it’s that as the detail in games has increased the level of interactivity has not kept pace. So while the Paris of Assassin’s Creed Unity is a really amazing thing – I’ve spent house exploring it – after a while I felt like a ghost. So many games we move though these amazing worlds without being able to really reach out and touch them.

Perhaps these lonely avatars wandering though Paris or Chicago of Watch Dogs are a metaphor for a lonely generation. Unintended of course. But I want to be able to give money to a beggar in Watch Dogs, or just talk to someone in Unity, tell a busker they are great, hold someone’s hand.

So many games with amazing game worlds and the only time we can touch them is with a blade or a bullet.

Contrasting Days

My twins were eight years old yesterday. Eight. I can hardly believe it. Those eight years have passed so quickly and so slowly. It seems such a short time ago that I held them in my arms for the first time. So short a time since Lanie and I cooed over Patrick as he breathed the open air for the first time. Pat had a slight issue with his breathing for the first few minutes and it sounded like he was saying “ello, ello”. Or as we waited an eternity for Kitty to show signs of life – silent, still, no signs of life for a few seconds. Seconds that seemed an eternity, then she burst into life with a lamb-like cry that had the whole room moved. The struggles of the previous year forgotten as we held our twin babies, our pride and joy. I have never felt as happy as that moment. To see the smile on Lanie’s face, the relief there and the love for our new little family. I shut my eyes right now and picture it. One of life’s most perfect moments.

That was the day we celebrated yesterday. A day very much to celebrate. The day I became a grown up. The day I became a father. A father of twins, no less. I fussed around during the day yesterday. I made them pizzas, I bought a little cake and some other treats. I helped with Lego constructions. I took photos while they opened presents and took in their joy for my own. These children are becoming funny clever people that are wonderful to be around. So today was worthy of celebrating them. I am so very proud of them. (more…)

Lent Sacrifice

I’m not a spiritual person – I don’t give up things for lent as a religious observance. However this year I’ve joined my wife in giving up Twitter and Facebook for lent.

FB is easy. I don’t use it much anyway, there’s only so much bullshit “pass this on” rubbish one can take. “Friends are wonderful, if you have a friend share this to show how much you love them”, “Parents are great, share this if you’re a parent”. You know, that kind of shite.

However I love the discourse of Twitter and already on day one I’m missing it. I’ve had to remove the Tweetdeck icon from my taskbar and from my browser just so I don’t automatically open the program by mistake.

I will likely still post on Twitter/FB without visiting and reading the sites purely because my blog can auto post, I can share links via my browser and I will share links from my Flickr photostream. But the traffic will be one way, it’s just auto stuff, not me getting properly involved in the streams.

I live a long way from my family and have no local friends. I maintain existing friendships via social media – mostly Twitter. So it will be interesting to see how I cope over the next few weeks. It’s an interesting experiment – watch as Harry is shorn of his social contact and slowly goes insane.

Front Element Dust – One Man’s Quest

Maybe others have done this before, but I want to relate a little story of how I solved an issue with my Fujinon 18-55mm and a persistent blob of dust on the inside of the front element.

I had this big piece of dust on the inside front element of the lenses. This didn’t adversely affect the image in any way but was annoying me. I believe it was a dust mite, it even seemed to move around a little and would come towards the edge of the lens when I shone a torch there. But I could not shift it completely, it kept returning to the front element.

I read some advice about killing mites in lenses by freezing. So I sealed the lens in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. I didn’t release the lens from the bag until it had returned to room temperature. Whatever the dust blob was it didn’t move again after this. But it was still sat there in the middle of the front element. I had killed the beast but not shifted it.

(more…)

Camera Gear Forums & Obsession With Sharpness.

It is mad how much stock people put in sharpness. On camera gear forums it seems to be the aim for many people – they’ll post what they think is an amazing shot – because it is sharp, not because of the composition, light, subject etc. People rate lenses and cameras on how sharp they are as the primary factor. I think it’s all bonkers.

Back when I used to have a little film camera and all my prints were 6×4 I don’t remember anyone talking about sharpness. Being in focus yes, but nothing more. But now folks can look at 100% images on large monitors they become obsessed with the pixel sharpness, throwing away images that would make pretty large prints before sharpness was an issue – even if sharpness actually is one.

But that’s gear forums for you. Go somewhere more about the end product and there’s less focus (no pun intended) on sharpness. Go to places that are about the art of photography – sharpness much less of a thing there.

(more…)

Bishop David Walker on Poverty

I’ve read an excellent piece in today’s Guardian by Anglican bishop David Walker on the subject of the church’s recent head on collision with the Tories over poverty.

“Most of us would see service provision not just as an end in itself. It is equally the ground on which we stand to challenge and stimulate public sector provision, and our basis for offering a critique of dominant political narratives. Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts this latter in a typically telling phrase: “When you’ve fished enough people out of the river, it’s time to take a walk upstream and see who’s pushing them in.” And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain’s scapegoat culture.”

You can read the article on the Guardian website. Obviously don’t read the comments underneath the article. Never read comments on newspaper websites.

Two Weeks With The Fujifilm X-E2 Camera

Two weeks ago I sold my Sony NEX-6 and various lenses and purchased a Fujifilm X-E2. I won’t go over the reasons why again as you can read them in this post. The camera came with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom lens. I also picked up the 35mm f1.4 and 27mm f2.8 thanks to Fujifilm’s current very generous cashback offer that made the 27mm almost free.

Having shot with the new camera for a couple of weeks I’ve some insight to share about the shift over to Fujifilm from the Sony NEX system. Much of my experience is positive, though there are some negative points too. Overall my experience with the X-E2 is very positive so far and my issues with the system are relatively minor. Given Fujifilm’s commitment to offer regular firmware updates for its cameras these issues are also less important than they would be on a Sony system.

The area I’ve struggled most with isn’t software related but one of handling. The NEX-6 felt great in the hand, even more so than the three different Canon DSLRs I’ve owned. The X-E2 is less comfortable due to its rangefinder layout. There’s less to get hold of in the right hand than a DSLR or NEX camera. There is an official grip available but the price is rather obscene. There are some inexpensive unofficial grips available from China on ebay and I may pick one of those up.

My other issue with the handling is the eyecup. It’s just not deep enough to block strong sunlight coming from the right hand side. Switching to using my left eye with the viewfinder solves this but that is my weaker eye so isn’t preferable. I may have to bite the bullet and wear a peaked cap when I go shooting.

(more…)

Muddied and Bloodied at Burton Bradstock

Today is the first day of a new week. Our youngest is back at school following his bout of chicken pox. And that meant I could finally get on with some work. I had a lot to think about for a new project I’ve volunteered to complete so I decided to go for a walk to get my thoughts in order. I decided to head to Burton Bradstock for some bracing sea air and to get my thoughts in order.

It didn’t really work out that way. Instead I provided a great subject for an amusing gif – should anyone have been filming me. The wind was howling at Burton Bradstock this morning, the sea was wild and the air was extremely cold. Not a lot of thinking got done initially. I’d brought my camera along and walked up the east path from the beach to get a better view of my surroundings.

I wasn’t feeling inspired, even creatively with the camera nor with my thoughts on the report I had to write. Rejoining the path was where things went wrong. The ground was extremely muddy and stepping down a slope the grass gave way to the mud and I began to fall. During this fall I spun around and landed on my chest and face. (more…)

The Whole Women Bishops Thing

Imagine for one moment that rather than being a lapsed Roman Catholic married to an Anglican priest I’m actually a member of the Anglican church. Think harder now, imagine that I’m actually the Archbishop of Canterbury and this is the speech I would give to the Anglican Synod today regarding women bishops and the future of the church.

(more…)

Jumping Ship from Sony to Fujifilm?

Next week Sony will announced its successor to the NEX-6 camera. I’ve owned an NEX-6 since the camera was launched in the UK and it’s been a mixed relationship. As many have discovered with Sony in the realm of console hardware the company is excellent at physical devices, but terrible at firmware. There are so many features that could be easily added to the NEX-6 by a software update yet Sony has failed to do so during the life of the camera. So next week’s announcement of a replacement is likely to be the deciding factor on whether I wave goodbye to the E-mount system and instead jump into the arms of Fujifilm.

I’m in the market to upgrade. I ditched my Canon DSLR gear for NEX-6 in 2012 and have certainly been happy with the result in terms of lighter, smaller gear and image quality. I have no complaints at all about the detail and dynamic range in the pictures coming from my NEX-6 – certainly much better than the Canon EOS 40D and EOS 50D I used to own.

But where I am disappointed is in terms of usability. There are so many little niggles I’ve discovered over the last year or so with the NEX-6. While the image quality is excellent the firmware is just too simplistic and lacking in options that could have been easily offered in firmware updates. For example no options on minimum shutter speed with auto ISO, no ability to turn off pre-focus, no decouple of auto-focus from the shutter button. As someone who used “back button” focussing on my DSLRs that’s a feature I do miss. I’ve also been disappointed with the lenses on offer – yes there are some very good ones – but these are very expensive, there’s little middle ground. F1.8 is as fast as it gets even if you’re will to hand over £800 for a Sony made Zeiss.

But what has this got to do with Fujifilm? The Fujifilm X-E2 and X-T1 have been making eyes at me and I can’t help but say I’m smitten. The X-system appeals to me both in terms of camera design aesthetics, image quality, ergonomics, firmware options (and updates) and the range of lenses.

I’ve come close to ordering the X-E2 a couple of times over the last week or two. But I am now waiting to see what Sony has to offer in the A6000. Despite the NEX-6 being fine hardware and most of its issues being fixable with a software update – I’m willing to give Sony a chance. So I want to see what it can offer in the new model – but it’s also going to have to impress me with some indication of where the lenses are going. I’d like to see a faster standard zoom than the 16-50mm kit even if that is larger and something like the Fuji 23mm f1.4 that isn’t a ridiculously expensive Zeiss offering.

To be honest I’m not expecting Sony to appease me. It’s a shame as I really like the NEX as a piece of hardware. And unlike my switch from Canon I think I’ll likely hold onto my NEX and lenses rather than sell them at a big loss. Certainly it’s worth having a range of focal lengths until I can afford to expand the glass I can afford after an X-system purchase.

So the A6000 is going to have to be pretty special rather than a minor upgrade to dissuade me buying a Fujifilm camera in the near future. The X-E2 with 18-55mm lens seems a very obvious sideways move for me. Though my head is being somewhat overruled by my heart and its lust for the exciting X-T1. Either way I’ll be buying a camera and kit lens and won’t be able to afford any new glass for a while.

What could Sony do to keep me? Nothing in terms of hardware, I believe the hardware is excellent. What Sony needs to do next week – and I think it’s very unlikely it will happen – is convince me that the company listens to users, is interesting in expanding functionality via firmware updates and has a lens roadmap made up of more than cheap lenses and very expensive lenses with little in between.

I’d rather not buy another camera for a very long time. But what I want is the right camera, one that doesn’t hinder what I want to do and one that treats me like a grown up. I’m not sure Sony is interested in selling me a camera like that.