Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wii U finally arrives

Blah blah blah...

Today I received an email from Fotomoto to say that they had been bought out by Bay Photo (the US based printer they partnered with for selling prints in the US). The email indicated that they had had some problems lately, so I wondered what these were (I no longer use Fotomoto myself).

I found some info here: Fotomoto, We're Breaking Up. Basically, Fotomoto were bought out a while back by a company called liveBooks. This company then recently was bought out, but the Fotomoto part was not. When this happened Fotomoto continued to take orders (money) from customers but would not ship any prints, and the Fotomoto administration was flakey for people trying to check on prints ordered through their sites using Fotomoto.

Now Fotomoto has been purchased by Bay Photo, it should be getting back to it's former working self. Not that I think it's former working self was that great anyway for non-US based photographers, though.

I bought a Wii U on eBay about 3 weeks ago. But after 2 weeks, it still hadn't arrived. On eBay I opened a 'dispute' that I hadn't received the item yet on 26th July. This gave the seller until 3rd August to respond. They didn't respond, but I did receive the Wii U today.

In the item listing it was described as Previously Played like new NINTENDO Wii U CONSOLE 32GB DELUXE PACK BLACK. But when I opened the package there was no box or instructions. The gamepad had greasy smudges on it and the power block for the gamepad / gamepad charger had a dirty mark on it like a drop of spilt coffee or something. However, they had also included a number of extra games.

I had bought Super Mario Bros Wii U from a different eBay seller after I won the Wii U auction. So that had arrived quite a while ago. But Super Mario Bros Wii U was also one of the games that had been included with the Wii U. So now I have two copies of it. Doh! I'll have to sell one copy plus the other extra games included (they are ones I'm not interested in, mostly cheap rubbish).

Billy set up the Wii U and transferred the data over from the Wii, which all took ages. (The Wii can't read discs, which is the main reason for buying a Wii U). In the afternoon we played on Super Mario Bros Wii U for a while.

The past week or so I have been trying to set up a justified menu html / css / javascript example. Hopefully I am nearly done now. Just a few last bugs in IE7 to work out.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


It seems that lately I only ever do blogs when I have some open tabs in my browser that I want to get rid of but keep a record of somewhere.

The first one is this parody of jQuery love on Stack Overflow.

Next up, I was trying to get the current page in a menu highlighted for a WP theme I am working on. WP automatically tags the current page in the menu with css class of 'current-menu-item'. So easy, right? Well the problem is that if you use fragment (hash) urls, WP will ignore the fragment / hash.

So if you were viewing page.html, and in the nav you had links to page.html, page.html#hash1, and page.html#hash2, then all three of those entries would have a class of 'current-menu-item'. I can certainly understand the logic of this, but for my purposes I only wanted the current page hash highlighted.

So this required js to read the current url and then apply a class (I used 'current-menu-item-real') to the anchor that matched the current url. I decided I'd like it also to update if someone clicks to go to another hash / fragment on the same page. Looking for how to do this I found there is a popstate event.

However, old IEs don't support popstate, and in IE10 the popstate event does not fire when the fragment / hash changes. So I had to revert to listening for the hashchange event instead.

I found a nice blog of photos of little model people interacting with the full size world: The Little People Project. According their FAQ they use figures designed for use with train sets. They modify them by cutting them up, reposing, and sometimes adding extra bits with modelling clay. Then they paint them. Very creative and well executed.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Attempting Field Photography

This morning I was trying to think of some more ways that a field studio for photographing plants could be achieved.

For the background I tried using some bits of wire stuck into the ground, spaced apart about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Then attached a sheet of white A4 paper to the wires using clothes pegs. For the diffuser I used my small diffusion panel clothes pegged to two longer pieces of wire stuck into the ground.

Background flash I laid on the ground with the head pointed up slightly. Front flash I placed on a gorillapod with a small ballhead. This gave it enough height to shoot down slightly through the diffuser. Camera I hand-held while lying on the ground.

This kind of worked. The subject I chose (a clover flower) was actually too close to the ground for the flash to fully light the background near the bottom of the flower (it was bright but not pure white). The problem is that most flowers grow further from the ground, and this setup wouldn't work for that.

Doing some more research, I decided to buy the Field Studio e-book. I wasn't sure whether it actually included any more information than what was freely available on the web, but it had good reviews and the price was reasonable.

Thankfully, it does include more exact information about the setup used. Basically, you use a Benbo Trekker tripod with the centre column horizontal. On the end you screw a Manfrotto Justin Clamp. This can then hold the background or diffuser.

For mounting the flash, they use a super clamp on the tripod leg with a Manfrotto flexible arm attached to hold the flash. I think that adding a super clamp to the other end of the centre column and then mounting the flash on that (with no flexible arm needed) might work as well.

So it seems that the whole setup is quite big, heavy, costs a bit, and can't really be avoided (unless you have people to hold everything for you). I did want to write about this technique for my photography tips blog, but unfortunately the investment needed would probably put most people off from trying it.

Since I don't have a Benbo Trekker tripod, I had a look at boom arms. Adding one of these to a standard tripod should give the same flexibility of the Benbo's centre column. There is quite a bit of info on (cheap) boom arm options here: Boom Arm - Looking for ideas. There is also a good photo in that thread showing a field studio style setup: Setup for Cherry Salvia.

So I bought a telescopic boom arm for about £20 on eBay. We will see how it works when it arrives. I think that probably using a softbox should reduce equipment and costs quite a bit. It could just be mounted on the tripod normally, and should be more efficient in terms of light output than using a separate flash and diffuser.

Monday, 8 July 2013


Today I tried making a DIY softbox. I wanted to make a collapsible one, similar to the Kitebox. I can't find the kites they used in the UK, but I bought some piano wire instead, thinking this would essentially be the same as how the kites were constructed.

I bought / got given for Christmas all the parts I thought I needed and finally decided to try and make the softbox recently. Unfortunately when I had put the piano wire together in the shape of a panel for the softbox, it would not collapse properly (I wanted it to be able to fold in on itself like a collapsible diffuser / reflector panel.

Since the piano wire didn't work, and I can't get those kites, I was a bit stuck. Then on eBay I saw you could buy a collapsible softbox by Opteka for $20 (Plus around $15 S+H to UK). I tried to find reviews of it, but couldn't find any. So I purchased that, and will see what it's like.

Next, I wanted to try out some Field Studio Photography. This is where you take your studio to your subject (typically plants and insects), rather than taking them to your studio. The guide for the equipment needed and technique can be found at Meet Your Neighbours - How To Make Field Studio Photographs.

Although the guide is quite good, I still didn't quite get the idea of the complete setup. It mentions 2 tripods with centre columns that can be moved in any position. One tripod to hold the background, and one to hold a diffusion panel for (front) lighting. But then, what is holding the flashes? Wouldn't you need 4 tripods, 2 more to hold the flashes?

I thought that maybe I could use my tripod (with standard fixed position centre column) to hold the background flash, and then use a plamp on one the legs to hold the background out in front of the flash. But the plamp was not strong enough to hold a large diffusion panel (for use as the background). It could hold a small diffusion panel. But it was difficult to get the tripod to the height where the flash was in the correct position for lighting the background, while keeping the background a distance from the flash.

I looked into boom arms, and someone mentioned using a superclamp with a monopod. I thought this might be worth a try. I tried it out, but it wasn't really practical. There was no easy way to hold the diffusion panel at one end and the flash at the other.

One problem I had when trying to test this was that my monopod seemed to have a 1/4" to 3/8" tripod thread adapter stuck on it. It was like the standard small adapters, but will a metal ring around the base of it, which covered the top of the monopod. After doing some Googling, it seemed like this was an adapter, and not part of the monopod.

I tried various things to unscrew it, including spraying WD-40 down the centre. But there was no way to move it. The outside of the ring is covered in a pattern, presumably to aid grip in unscrewing, but the ring is just too thin to get a good grip on. I even tried grabbing the ring in pliers, but they just slipped on the ring.

After doing some googling on how to remove a stuck adapter, I found this thread: Embarrased - Does anybody have tips for removing 3/8" thread adapters?. In there a couple of people give a tip of wrapping a towel around the adapter, and then using pliers. The towel should make it so you don't damage the adapter threads.

I tried this, and after a couple of tries it worked. However, it seems like it did damage the adapter thread, despite me double double folding the town around it.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Keyword stuffing is good?

Well, I haven't done a blog post for a while, just been too busy to think of it, plus had a broken computer for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, something came up today that I thought I'd vent my spleen on here. I was writing an article about SEO, and as part of this, I wrote about why you shouldn't overuse keywords, commonly known as keyword stuffing. However, I then looked at the website of Sal Cincotta, a famous Wedding & Portrait photographer. On the website homepage there are a few paragraphs of text in small type below the footer, obviously designed just for search engines, and stuffed full of the keywords 'St Louis Wedding Photographer'.

So I googled 'St Louis Wedding Photographer' and his site comes up top. There is even a page on his site titled 'st louis wedding photographer', and it reads even worse than one of those useless articles SEO companies post on behalf of their clients to article directories. Absolutely stuffed full of the key phrase.

I thought that Google disliked keyword stuffing. I searched, and found this article: Google Webmaster Tools Help: Keyword stuffing. That explains what keyword stuffing is, but doesn't say whether Google approves of it or not. Judging by the search results, it seems like they do!

I bought an SSD today because my Ubuntu VM often seems to be really slow, particularly when losding. And I am pretty sure it is the HD speed that is the problem since you can hear the HD clicking away at a furious pace. I am hoping that by moving the VM file to the SSD and telling Windows to use the SSD as a scratch disk it will greatly speed it up.