Monthly Archives: October, 2013

Behind the bike sheds


(We have hi-tech bike sheds at the Computer Lab.)

The calm before the storm?


Autumn is definitely here.

Wacky races?

Today I went go-karting at Rye House. This is something I’ve done before, once, almost exactly a third of a century ago. I remember the year because my older step-brothers had to lie about my age to get me in to the track!

I’ve been karting a few times in the intervening years, but never in weather conditions which were as bad – that is to say, as much fun – as today! I think I’ve been on windsurfing trips which involved less water. We all got completely soaked and had a wonderful time.

Oh, and it made for some nice photos, too!






Many thanks to Ray Gordon for organising the trip.

Reviewing peer review

Those of us with a firm belief in the scientific method need to read this Economist article about how easily it can fall short of its ideals.

The good news is that this is being brought to light… In fact, I would propose the term Metascience, if nobody has already coined it, to describe this kind of work: the application of the scientific method to the scientific method!

Bless you

I was telling Rose about a small photographic accessory that plugged into the hotshoe.

“The what?”

“The hotshoe.”

“That’s what it’s called? I thought you sneezed.”

Lighten our darkness

St Mary the Virgin, Saffron Walden

This is St Mary’s church in Saffron Walden, and I love the contrast of dark and light. Doesn’t it look as if it might be floodlit? But that’s all natural light, on a somewhat overcast day. Larger versions here.

Stopping by woods on a soggy evening


More experiments with my new Fuji X-Pro1 this evening. This is a fairly ordinary landscape shot, but I’m pleased with it because there was very little light, it was hand-held (with a monopod) at 1/9 sec on ISO 1000, and it was raining slightly.

Click for a larger version.

Parking restrictions

Parking in our street used to be a free-for-all, but they’ve added some double yellow lines now.


Fuji Fascination

A few days ago I became the proud owner of a Fujifilm X-Pro1, which is one of the most interesting cameras I’ve owned for a while.


It has a pleasingly retro look, is very nicely put together, and follows the old range-finder style, with an optical viewfinder offset from the lens. This design has a whole host of usability challenges to do with parallax and focussing, but it hasn’t stopped, say, Leica, from being rather successful with it – and in the past it was the only option if you didn’t want the bulk of an SLR.

But today we have digital mirrorless cameras for this – you can see through the lens using the digital sensor and a screen – so it is somewhat eccentric still to use a viewfinder in which, quite often, part of the image is actually obscured by the lens itself. But the separate viewfinder also has advantages of clarity and frame rate, and of giving you a field of view larger than the image you’re about to capture, so you can see, for example, whether someone is about to walk into the frame.

The clever thing about the X-Pro1, though, is that it does both. The optical viewfinder has some digital overlays on it showing extra information (framing, focus points and histograms, for example) but can also switch into a fully-digital mode, where you’re seeing exactly what the lens sees. And there’s the screen on the back if you prefer that. Plenty of choice, and exceedingly cunning. It even has some unexpected tricks up its sleeve: if you’re in optical viewfinder mode and focusing manually, you can click a button and it switches to a dramatically zoomed-in digital view, with focus peaking if wanted. Press again and you’re back to optical.

There are much easier cameras out there to use: the autofocus is not particularly sophisticated by modern standards, for example, even when you aren’t trying to do it through a separate viewfinder. Not only is this not just a point-and-shoot, if you pick it up expecting to use it as one, you’re likely to be disappointed. It keeps you thinking all the time, which is partly why I bought it: I thought I could learn a lot from this camera.

But the other reason was the image quality. The Fuji lenses are superb, and the sensor, which is an APS-C size, such as you’d find in most consumer-level DSLRs, is larger than in most cameras of this size and is generally agreed to be superior even to most other APS-C sensors thanks to some Fuji innovations. But the camera has been out for nearly a year and a half, so there are plenty of reviews out there you can read if you want to know more.

I’m still learning and making lots of mistakes, but I’m also loving it. For something that I can sling over my shoulder, and not notice when it’s in my bag, I’ve got a few very pleasing images even in my first couple of days. A few samples below – you can click through to Flickr and find ‘View all sizes’ in the bottom-right menu if you want to get a feel for the clarity.



The Cambridge University Computer Lab


Dr Richard Clayton

Bridge planks

Bridge planks


The Roger Needham Building

Parental influence?

Like mother, like daughter…


Taken in January in a London market

Atomkraft? Ja, bitte.

I’m sitting in a traffic jam behind a car bearing a sticker, “Atomkraft? Nein danke.” (Nuclear power? No thanks!)

I’ve always liked this design, which has been around for some time – the sun with the smiley face makes it into a nice, happy, positive statement. It’s a clever bit of marketing.

However, the sun is, of course, powered by… ?

How DO you make good coffee?

Seth Brown has been doing some experiments. There are still many unanswered questions, but it’s a more rigorous approach than most of us have ever tried!

Nicely done!

Thanks to Hap for the link.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser