Archive for Photography
I’ve uploaded the set of photos I took during a recent trip to Nefyn, North Wales, to my photo gallery. I experimented a little with the camera but mainly just aimed to capture the feeling of some of the places I visited. I particularly liked the pictures of the old quarry which, with the mist looming over the nearby mountains, look rather mysterious.
Over the past two years my photo gallery has been populated with countless pictures of all the places and events I have visited. When it first went online it was also seeded with pictures dating back many years, some of the pictures were in fact so old that they had been scanned in from prints which came from the first film camera I’d ever owned.
Times change though and while the gallery (powered by Gallery2) did the job, there were problems. Server load seemed to be a significant issue. Load spikes happened sporadically and plugins which allowed the gallery to work with WordPress compounded the problem. There was also complexities involved in uploading photos. A gallery had to be created, the pictures uploaded to the server, and then the location of these uploads “pointed out” to the gallery script so they could be “imported” to the gallery its self. These initial uploads then had to be deleted to free up space. While uploading pictures direct was possible it was laborious for large galleries such as the kind you create when you return from holiday. Adding titles, captions and comments was also a hassle to the extent where I decided not to do it at all.
I sought a new gallery solution which would primarily address the server load issues but also bring other benefits and found it in the lightweight photo gallery software known as ZenPhoto. The primary attraction was the incredibly small install size of around 1Mb (taking into account that I required few of the plugins and only one theme). This brought with it the performance boosts one would expect from a smaller but well written code base.
The added bonus is the features. There is a file based upload system. You create a gallery in the web interface. This creates a directory on the server. You then upload your original digital camera photos to this directory. ZenPhoto then does the rest; ensuring uploaded pictures are added to the database and that thumbnails and smaller representations of the images are cached. As all this is done on the fly as pictures are viewed rather than all at once, server loads are kept down still further.
Another nice feature is that because the original photos are more easily retained a link can be provided to download the image direct, meaning those with a desire to order prints can do so without contacting me. While retaining the original was an option with Gallery2 it never seemed quite as intuitive and simple to do as it is with ZenPhoto.
Also provided is a built in reader for EXIF data contained within images. While Gallery2 had this feature it came as a plugin (which no doubt incurred performance issues) and needed to be added to your theme. While I’m sure not everyone wants this, I do and indeed consider that it should be standard in all online photo galleries.
The final seriously nice thing is the AJAX supported themes. Simply put this allows you to quickly upload a gallery as described above (in pretty much the same time it takes your connection to upload the images) and then as you step through the images for the first time (I always used to do this anyway to check things were OK) you can add a title and caption to each image by just clicking your cursor on the field, editing the content and clicking submit. The form lets you know when its saved and you can then move onto the next image. It strikes me that this feature alone means that in the time it took me to merely get a large gallery of photos uploaded with Gallery2, I can get them uploaded and also add titles and captions with ZenPhoto.
There is of course the option to customise the URL structure of galleries with ZenPhoto so that when the time comes in the near future to move all my past galleries to the new setup I won’t have to trawl my site updating links which is always nice.
You will no doubt notice that only one gallery is currently online (the long awaited photos of my graduation) but rest assured the other photos will follow soon so the gallery is back to its former glory. Please play around with the new features and leave some comments on some of the pictures if you fancy doing so.
If you like the new gallery or particularly if you decide try out ZenPhoto (or even to use it on your site) I’d be interested to hear from you in comments.
I found a brilliant blog post today which details a number of rare clouds that can occasionally be found in the skies and provides some stunning pictures of them. Really quite fantastic I thought, in fact it makes me think I should be looking to the skies more often!
Easter came early this year, more so in fact than in the 90 odd years easter that preceded it. Still it was the end of term and for that a short break was called for.
At the start of the vacation period I spent a few days in Middlesbrough with Heather where we spent time chilling out, going on day visits to local areas, practicing our cooking skills in the evening and solving a murder mystery puzzle (its amazing how engrossing they can be once you get started!). It was nice to really chill out for once and also properly enjoy days out and relaxed evenings which although we very much enjoy we hadn’t been able to do for quite a while due to work commitments.
Another thing that occupied some of our time while away was Heather’s Victorian dolls house that she is building from scratch. I spent a few hours with her helping to get the painting right, fix some of the hinges and ensure the house all fitted together. This is a really special project as it isn’t just a normal dolls house but one of considerable size. It has 10 rooms with an attic, basement and traditional frontage. It’s going to be fantastic when its finished. I don’t have a picture of it but I found one on the web to give you an idea of the kind of thing I’m talking about.
During the holiday I also got a chance to get my camera out and take a few shots of the places we visited. Most of these involved boats of some description but there were a few others, in particular some spectacular shots of stormy weather at Whitby. We climbed a lighthouse to get a better view and were nearly blown off. It was one of our best days out for a while.
After my break with Heather I spent some time with my family over the Easter weekend. I got to see my sister which, now she is at university, is a rare occurrence. We all went out for a meal together on Easter day which was a very nice affair. During the rest of my stay with my family I spent time fixing things around the house, relaxing, having the odd drink, and meeting up with James to catch up. When I wasn’t doing all that I chilled out on the computer throwing radiators at people.
Sadly all good things must come to an end and I had to return to Leeds to continue work on my project which is pretty much all I have been doing since. Still as I keep reassuring myself it will all be over soon and hopefully the standard will be good enough to clinch the mark I want.
On Tuesday morning I awoke early in the morning to find the ground, trees and cars ouside totally covered with rime. Given that this is not a common weather phenomenon and created a beautiful spectacle I decided to take some pictures. Some of them came out quite nicely. I carried my camera with me to campus later in the day and took a few more pictures.
If you are wondering what “Rime” is then I found a Wikipedia page offering a good explanation with some pictures bearing a resemblance to my own!
So I’m back on the blog again, coinciding with my return to Leeds after spending Christmas with my family. It was a pleasant break which was very relaxing given how busy the tail end of last term had been. I did get some work covered but I kept it light so I could rest up for the exams and tumultuous term that lie ahead. It was fun to see everyone and I still can’t believe how much food I got through over the festive period. I still feel full from Christmas dinner!
For those looking for the photos I took of all the various family gatherings, you can view them in my gallery
On 5th November I headed out to the Hyde Park public bonfire and firework display with Heather. It was a really enjoyable evening and the heat from the fire made it almost feel like it was a summer day – I certainly didn’t need my full winter coat! It seems amazing that over a year has gone by since I was last at the display, but its still as good as I remember.
The smell of bonfires and the thick air that comes with firework smoke always remind me of growing up in St. Albans and the huge firework display laid on in Verulamium park every year. Its amazing how vivid a memory such smells can conjure up.
I decided to take my camera along and setting the ISO up high I tried to take some night time shots of the bonfire and the fireworks afterwards. I was rather impressed with the results considering I wasn’t taking all that much care with my photography (I was too busy watching things with the naked eye!) and have thusly shared them with the world in my gallery.
Well, this is a turn out for the books. I’m blogging again! I never thought I’d be away from the blog for this long since I first started it, but somehow I got side-tracked on so many other things that I just didn’t realise how long it was since I’d posted something, then when I did realise I wasn’t really in the blogging frame of mind. Still, I’m here now and I intend to get back to proper regular posting as that’s what goes down the best.
So what have I been doing to keep me from my blog? Quite a lot actually so I’ll give a quick run down.
- Large amounts of work at X-Lab
My lack of blogging started with a lot of pressure at work to get the first version of the X-Lab lab to lab messaging system finished and presented to a group of people who could help us to take the project forward and get interfaces with existing lab systems written for it.
To cut a long story short, 12 hour days, numerous late nights and a lot of coffee and pizza deliveries saw us through and we got the system completed on time and suitably impressed those at the demo to allow us to take the project forward and (hopefully) get it deployed in labs when we have finished version 2
This, for me, feels like such a great achievement as I’ve never worked with Microsoft technologies quite so much as this before and to get a success like this felt really great. I hope that I will be able to see the project fully succeed in the future as its one of those things that has the potential to positively impact thousands of people.
Watch this space!
- Holiday with Heather
At the end of July I went on a long weekend break with Heather. We stayed in North Wales and did a little sight-seeing and plenty of relaxing on the beach in the surprisingly abundant sunshine which bathed the region. It was our first chance to have a holiday away together and we both really enjoyed it, not to mention the fact that it was some good quality “together time” before Heather headed off to Middlesborough to stay with her family for the rest of the university vacation. Feel free to check out some of our holiday photos in my gallery.
- Holiday in Jersey
Last year I went to stay with Michelle in Jersey and this year I went back to stay with her again. Its a great place to go away on holiday and its always nice to go and stay with friends.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get out on Michelle’s Dad’s boat and take some pictures from off the coast of Jersey and my trip also coincided with the annual battle of flowers parade which was as spectacular as it had been the year before and with a whole new set of wonderfully decorated floats to enjoy.
One of the highlights of the trip was going to Jersey Zoo, founded by Gerard Durrell and having read Durrell’s books on animal collecting it was fascinating to see what his trips and writings from around the world had created.
The weather throughout the week was excellent and when I wasn’t socialising or on sight-seeing excursions I spent most of my time walking along beaches or lying in the sun reading books. It was a well needed rest and lots of fun to boot. Michelle has some great friends and it was really nice to see them again. Thanks to Michelle for letting me stay!
- Catch up on work and student society planning
Since return from my various holidays I have been playing catch-up trying to get a mountain of work done. There is not much to report here except that I hate paperwork and I never realised that agreeing to do so many student run websites was going to cause this much work to be thrust upon me in August. Ok, thats a bit of lie, I did know but took them on anyway as I know I can do a good job and it will be nice to have my name on a load more student sites and to see them used and enjoyed by new students and committee members alike. Getting these things done will also get more things on my portfolio which is always good for business.
One of the really good things which has come out of this surge of work is the opportunity to work with Christina Fowler, a recent graduate and expect in graphic design, she is assisting me by completing the design work for the new Leeds RAG website. Its nice to be able to spread work in this way and also share ideas. If all goes well I look forward to working more with Christina in the future, her work is certainly very impressive.
Seeing as its the summer holidays I have been taking every available opportunity to attend parties and go out for meals and drinks with friends. Drunken arrivals back home have been one of my main reasons for not keeping this site as up to date as it otherwise might be! There are some great pictures floating around facebook of some of these evenings and there are also some really good ones of Claire’s birthday Otley run in my gallery.
As you can see I’ve all round been pretty darn busy. Still I’m not going to avoid blogging for that length of time again, in fact I hope to go back to writing here on a regular basis along with other blogs and forums that I have been neglecting lately.
I’ve really been playing about with my camera a lot recently, as such I’ve got lots of various pictures to share in my photo gallery and have linked to them below
I also took a load of pictures when I went out with friends to Tropical World in Leeds, so feel free to check these out as well. If you have any comments about the pictures, particularly if you are into photography yourself then please post up. I’m still trying to get to grips with working out the correct f-stop and shutter time settings without resorting to the auto features of my camera and I’ve already noticed that some pictures have turned out slightly under or over exposed so I’m hoping to improve on that. If you have tips about this aspect or any other of my pictures then feel free to share!