In the words of Chris de Burgh…

“There’s nothing quite like an out-of-season holiday town in the rain”

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Hiking into the future

Today I realised there was yet another reason why I want a self-driving car.

It’s for when I’m walking.

The challenge with going for a good long walk in the country is often finding a nice circular route that will bring you back to where you parked the car.

But imagine you didn’t have to do that. Imagine that you could just walk from point A to point B and the car would be waiting for you when you arrived. You could then ride home in comfort, or, perhaps, enjoy lunch from the picnic hamper in the boot before setting off for the next reunion at point C. You could do this for days.

What’s even better is that you wouldn’t need to know your destination in advance! You could wander lonely as a cloud, floating o’er hill and dale, until you spied a welcoming tavern. While enjoying a pint of their finest ale, you would summon the car, and it would be parked outside by the time you wanted to leave. (And take you home, of course, if the ale had been particularly fine…)

An aerial view of the past

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Queens’ College in 1947, before the modern architects got their hands on it.

The Britain from Above website is fun to explore – you can search it for archive images.

Here are views of Cambridge, starting in the 1920s.

The lifeline?

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From Tim Urban’s wonderful site, Wait But Why, comes a discussion of Why Cryonics Makes Sense, in which he explains — in his usual light-hearted, cartoon-illustrated, occasionally-profane fashion — how he moved from thinking:

Cryonics is the morbid process of freezing rich, dead people who can’t accept the concept of death, in the hopes that people from the future will be able to bring them back to life, and the community of hard-core cryonics people might also be a Scientology-like cult.

to actually signing up for an appointment with one of the big cryonics companies.

If you are of a religious persuasion and believe that your deity of choice is likely to provide a better chance of long-term survival than Alcor, Inc., then you’ll probably have dismissed cryonics out of hand, but the article may at least persuade you that cryonicists (your new word for today) are not complete nutters. They completely understand all the possible hiccups that might not allow you to be revived in the future, but think that the experiment — which is less costly than you might think — is worth undertaking. They view cryonics in much the same way that people in the past might have viewed organ transplants. An interesting read.

Wait But Why adopts an unusual format for these longer pieces, going into some depth on a subject to explain it for normal readers, yet doing so in an amusing way.

There are shorter, amusing posts on the site too — see How I handle long email delays, for example — but for the longer ones, if, like me, you seldom sit there twiddling your thumbs and thinking, “Where can I go to read 14,000 words on some random topic this morning?”, then I recommend signing up to get them in your inbox.

Patron of the arts

Rose and I enjoy visiting art galleries, and occasionally making some modest purchases. Actually, we’d like to make a lot more, but on the occasions when we aren’t limited by budget, we’re limited by the available space in our little house.

So if I told you that we had recently ventured into life-size bronze sculptures, you might think we’d finally abandoned reason for madness.

But then, you’d need to see a picture of our latest purchase.

Let there be light

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Playing with my Canon flashguns using PocketWizard FlexTT5 triggers and an AC3 on my Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-Pro 2. They work fine as long as you don’t need TTL metering. (I don’t.)

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For those interested in the details…

20160320-11534604-600First, I set the flash mode on the camera to ‘Forced flash’ to make sure flash is always triggered even if the camera thinks there’s enough ambient light.

Next, even though the camera just sees this as a simple on/off flash trigger, I want the AC3 to be able to control the flash levels on the Speedlites, so all of the communications between those bits need to be in TTL mode to get that level of control. So the Speedlites are in TTL mode, and all the PocketWizards are also configured to use TTL communications.

Finally, I want to adjust the levels manually, so the switches on the AC3 are set to the ‘M’ position, and I can use the dials to turn the individual flash levels up and down from the camera, even if they’re buried inside a softbox, or somewhere similarly inaccessible.

It’s possible you may see one other glitch if you try this, but it’s easy to fix. The central connector pin on the bottom of a flashgun does the basic triggering. The other ones are for the surrounding control communication, and manufacturers handle this differently, so Fuji equipment will be expecting different things on these pins from Canon kit, or from PocketWizards designed to work with Canon kit. This can cause confusion – in fact, when I first tried this, I got strange messages on the X-Pro 2 screen about internal temperature warnings – others have seen this too, and it’s presumed to be a bug in the early firmware, since it happens instantly when the camera is switched on from cold. This morning, I had no problem, but it may be a good idea anyway to stop the different parts from trying to communicate when they don’t speak the same language.

20160320-12214801-600Some people just put tape over the extra pins. Perhaps somebody sells a hotshoe adapter that only connects the single pin. I had a really dumb PC-sync-to-hotshoe adapter in the bottom of my bag, so I put this between the PocketWizard and the camera, and plugged it into the PC-sync socket on the Fuji… and it all worked beautifully, as well as giving me a bit of extra space for reaching controls and things. (See the top picture above.) Who would have thought that this old connector from the 50s would be a good way to connect to sophisticated high-speed bi-directional radio communication systems?!

All in all, I’m very happy with this setup, and it gives me one less reason to carry my heavy Canon kit around.

A celebratory introduction

One of our favourite furniture shops in the area, Angela Reed in Saffron Walden, now has a cafe. And it’s very good.

I have a new camera. It’s also rather good. Time to celebrate by bringing the two together, I thought.

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We then went to see a different catering establishment: the old kitchens at Audley End.

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Oh, for the curious, my new toy is a Fuji X-Pro 2… a nice update to my much-loved X-Pro 1. These were quick test shots with my 18-55 zoom.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser