Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Photography bug

So my re-birth of interest in photography is going well. I'm getting to know my way around my new camera, but I though the only way to really start to understand it was to do a course.

I booked a Level 1 Photography course through Jessops the high street photography store. I hadn't been in a Jessops for years, and to be honest thought they were long gone.

Anyway, course booked I turned up at the Cardiff store with 5 other people at 10am on a Saturday with my camera. Our experience ranged from enthusiastic but not experienced to the more experience, but the general take, was people wanted to get the best out of their gear.

The level 1 course is pretty basic - our tutor, an engaging young lad called John, who clearly knows his stuff took us through everything from how to hold the camera properly, to aperture, shutter speed, composition, exposure and more. I knew some stuff, but learnt a lot. It was a good, fun day, and my photos have definitely improved since the day.

I've now booked onto the Level 2 course, which delves deeper into camera controls and principles, and I'm certainly enjoying my new found enthusiasm for photography.

Here are just a few samples of what I'm achieving. They're not brilliant, but they aren't bad.

Cardiff Queen Street Station

Wife and daughter on Penarth Pier


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Canon EOS 100D: Quality gear

I must admit I like a camera. I'd class myself as an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to photography, nothing more, but whether you're like me or someone a bit more competent, there's no doubt that the right gear can make the difference.

I've owned cameras since I was knee high, including a Brownie, an old Praktica SLR, moving through old 35mm compacts. My first digital camera was a Canon Digital Ixus 55 - in fact I still have it, along with at least 3 other digital cameras ranging in age and functionality, as well as my iPhone which can take a pretty decent pic. My most recent acquisition was a Panasonic Lumix TZ60 about 6 months ago. Whilst it's a very decent camera, there are times when I feel it just doesn't cut the mustard. Sometimes it's picture quality, sometimes it's responsiveness or battery life.  Don't get me wrong - it's a very decent bit of kit and highly pocketable, and maybe I just haven't learnt to use it to the best of its abilities.

Over the last 6 months I've been lusting after a "proper" camera, and the Canon EOS 100D had caught my eye. My brother in law has one and when I gave it the once over I was impressed. It's small for a DSLR - claimed to be one of the smallest and lightest DSLR's out there, although it's still a chunky DSLR! Let's face it, you're not going to be slipping one of these into a pocket for a night out, and with additional lenses, you can find yourself lugging a fair bit of kit about.

After many weeks of humming and ahhhing, I took the plunge yesterday. My immediate reaction why did I wait so long!

Frankly, this is a stunning camera for the price. I paid £319 and with £30 cash back due from Canon, that means it's effectively £289. It comes with an 18-55m lens although you can buy it body only at around £279. I did add a 70-300mm Sigma lens for £89, which again is very decent value, and a lens that has pretty good reviews.

I'm not going to bore you with all the marketing stuff - you can find that from Canon themselves here.

What I will say is as soon as you fire this up, you know you've got a very good bit of kit. After years of compacts, and compact travel zooms, hearing (and feeling) the "thunk" of the shutter is a joy - no debate about whether you've taken the shot here! The autofocus is quick, the battery life seems great (full afternoon of shooting and hasn't dropped from full), enough settings to keep me happy, but a sensible auto option that works well. It has a large touchscreen on the rear, but I prefer taking picture with a viewfinder (which is one of the reasons I bought and like the Lumix TZ60 - it's one of the few compact travel zooms with a viewfinder option), and fundamentally it takes really good pictures.

I'm really impressed with everything about the camera. So far I've pretty much just fired off a load of shots on the auto setting, but I'll be getting to grips with the more intricate settings and possibilities in time. If you love photography, and want to make the best of it, there's no doubt that having a decent camera makes a huge difference. That's not to say that you can't take great photos with a compact, travel zoom, or even today's raft of very decent smartphones - I've taken some belters with my iPhone 6 when light and conditions are right.

So would I recommend this EOS 100D. You bet. I've fallen in love with this lovely bit of kit already.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The alternative revealing first interview of Paul Trollope - Cardiff City's new boss

New and old
New City boss Paul Trollope with former manager  Russel Slade
Courtesy of talksport
This afternoon, Wales Online published what it called "The full revealing transcript of Paul Trollope's first interview as Cardiff City boss". Having read this, I think it's neither full, nor revealing. In fact, it seems to me that this is a bunch of tired old football cliches, and answers that you would absolutely expect from a new manager - after all, we've all heard most of these answers every time a new manager is unveiled anywhere in the world.
And for the record. This isn't a dig at Paul Trollope. It's a dig at the way this story is reported. I mean, is there really any revealing substance here? Really? 

  • I'm pleased to have the opportunity (well I'm glad he's not pleased about it)
  • It's a challenge (No, really?)
  • I will look to add (name me a new manager who hasn't said that)
  • I'm a football man (thank God for that)
  • I'm passionate about the game (thank God again)
  • I've got a good work ethic (that'll help)
  • I'm not going to compare myself to Russell (no, he's *cough* larger and got no hair)
  • The fans have their views (yes we do)
  • I look forward to building a positive relationship with him (the owner.....until it all goes pear shaped as it inevitably will unless you're Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson)
  • Progress = play-offs or hopefully promotion. (no-one's going to say anything different are they?  Let's face it, he's not going to say "Mid-table mediocrity would be just fine by VT")
  • We have to create positivity and belief (good, but hardly revealing) 
  • We have to strengthen but I'm not telling you where. We need to add quality. (yes we do)
  • I want to play progressive football (but I'm not telling you what that looks like because you'll hang me out to dry when we can't do it)
  • We need to find a way to win, that is important (ah, that's the revealing bit...no I'm joking. Bloody obvious statement of the interview)

I therefore offer there, and alternative version of my imagined responses by Paul Trollope to those same questions that came to my mind whilst I was reading this. It's obviously tongue in cheek, and I hope no-one, not least Paul Trollope should he ever sink low enough to read this blog would take offence. 

Congratulations Paul. You're now the man in charge
PT: Thanks. Never saw it coming to be honest. I mean, who'd want to be the boss of this outfit? You're on a loser from the start, but the missus said she wanted an increase in her housekeeping.

It can be seen as the start of a new era, but with Russell Slade head of football and now you being confirmed it's the same faces.
Absolutely. We've just moved the labels. Russell is still the man, I'm just the front. I'm looking to bring some new staff in, add my own stamp to the club. The last cleaner we had was terrible.

Can you talk us through got process? Have discussions been going on very long?
We've been talking for months. No idea have come out of it, we just rabbit aimlessly. The Chairman said we need to give them something, do you fancy a go, it can't be as bad as it's been. Look, I'm not a football man, I'm just trying to earn a crumb. People said opportunities like this don't come round very often, but they do here. Malky, Ole, Russell and now me in the space of a couple of years. You can't say the club isn't full of opportunities.

But you would have seen the struggles that Russell faced in getting the fans support from the start. Perhaps there were some looking for a big name appointment - where can you improve on where Russell perhaps failed in that regard?
Are you saying I'm not a big name appointment? Are you? Do you know how much that hurts? I'm, as good as Neil Warnock, Roberto Di Matteo, Jose Mourinho. You'll see. The only problem I can see is when the fans shout "Do the Ayatollah Paul". I could do with an extra syllable in my name couldn't I?

Have you spoken to Vincent Tan?
I'm not allowed to say his name. We must all call him "The Owner".  I have had a number of constructive conversations with him, and he's told me get promoted or you're out. Oh, and can we shoot even more, because shooting a lot isn't working.

Did you ask him if there's money to spend?
Look, he gives me an allowance every week. What I spend it on is up to me within reason, although the prices they charge for chips and a beer in CCS are outrageous. Have you seen the cost of half a cup of hot water with a teabag in it?

Have you been set any targets?
Be in the Premier league by Christmas. I told him it's a marathon not a sprint. I don't think he gets that.

Do you know where you'd like to strengthen the squad?
All over. People say we need a striker, but frankly I think we need a few more defenders and about 6 reserve 'keepers. Strikers are over-rated.  It's getting people to come to South Wales is the problem. I mean, I know they're planning to cut bridge tolls, but these footballers are on the breadline.

What can Cardiff fans expect from you? What does a Paul Trollope team look like?
Well, it'll probably be 11 men on the pitch. Oh and they'll wear football kit and luminous boots. I like those.  I like to play progressive football as I said, so a bit of passing and if we have to shoot then so be it. 

For all that, I wish Paul Trollope well. He wasn't my choice for a new boss, but he's in now, so let's back him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat....

Except we don't eat goose at Christmas. Turkey of course, at least in our gaff. Sign of the times I suppose.

Which brings me on to a minor rant about the festive season. Now I'm not hugely a man of faith, although I do have my moments (not that many people would know), and it therefore may seem perverse that I'm writing this. But Christmas IS a religious festival, celebrating the birth of Jesus. I hate that it's now largely just the "Christmas holidays". An opportunity to overindulge on food, drink, presents and so on without a thought about why we are doing this.

It's bad enough that you have to dig hard to find a "holy" Christmas card amongst all the teddies and rabbits and puppies on show. Robins and holly and snow encrusted trees are at least in the general spirit of the season.

And the tat. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of Christmas tat - a Santa hat or Christmas jumper, and various iffy decorations here and there, so long as it's not overdone. And I do like a set (or several) of Christmas lights, though I prefer traditional fairy lights to the dazzling blue and bright white type of late.

But I draw the line somewhere. And in a local "bargain" shop the other day I saw (and I kid you not) a "Musical bum" - a mooning arse that presumably when pressed somewhere plays a dodgy version of Jingle bells.

Sigh. Sad times. And it costs £2.49. Suffice it to say I won't be getting one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Cardiff City 2-0 Reading: Some stuff we knew, and some we didn't.

Cardiff City finally ended their goal drought today as they eased past Reading 2-0 at the CCS. For the first time in a long time, fans gave the team a rousing cheer and a well deserved round of applause at the final whilst celebrating a good win against a decent side with an improved all round display. 

I'm not a micro analyst of City,  and this isn't intended tone a match report. But during the game a number of things occurred to me that would exceed  140 character tweet that is my more usual form of social media communication.

1. David Marshall is by far and away the best keeper in the Championship - and probably as good if not better than many in the Premier League. We all knew that anyway, so we didn't find that out today, but half a dozen outstanding saves - three in quick succession, reinforced that.

2. We didn't miss Peter Whittingham. I was going to write that we don't "need" Peter Whittingham, but that may be a step to far. Certainly Slade was forced to juggle his plans after Whitts missed the match though a fifth yellow picked up last time out. But I thought Ralls did a superb job in the centre, and he provided two great deliveries from set pieces for our goals. Whitts shouldn't be a shoe in. Ralls should.

3. Matt Connolly is class. Contentious maybe, as I know he has his detractors, but I've always liked him. He plays football, can play in several positions, although CB is his best spot, has a cool head and can come up with important goals.

4. Mason is good, but only when he gets service. But obvious really, but today he just looked like a short version of Alex Revell. 

5. Noone should start every match. End of.

6. In the brief time he was on, Idris Saadi looks good. Eager and hungry. But it looked like he'd tweaked his hammy just before the end.

7. Slade is still not the man for the job. 

8. Reading's kit. Meh.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad Mini

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is there anybody there?

It's not too hard to understand why attendances at Cardiff City have fallen this year.

Firstly the dire football served up last year will have inevitably put people off. Why pay several hundred pounds to watch such poor entertainment?

Secondly, albeit reasonable value by some clubs prices, it still ain't cheap. Combine that with the end of the 5 year price freeze for those like me that bought "the golden ticket", and it effectively means your paying more to watch some pretty uninspiring football.

The club has made some big noises about doing things to being back the fans. The drum at last nights game v Bristol City, or the half time "entertainment" - in this instance consisting of making small children dizzy and then trying to kick a ball into a goal - aren't really going to do it for me.

There's really only one solution. Start playing decent football and winning games. Sorted

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Back to blue, but the football's pooh

Roger Johnson - always gave it 110%
I last blogged about Cardiff City on 10th January and the return to blue.

In that post I pondered on what I thought the benefits of that rather unexpected u-turn might bring.

  1. The horrendous 'beer mat' badge will be redesigned to make the bluebird far more prominent, but also an interestingly incorporate elements "representative" of VT's culture and beliefs.

    Outcome: Well, we'll see on Monday went the new badge is unveiled. VT says we'll love it as the bluebird features prominently and there's a lovely oriental dragon on it. I'll hang fire on this until I see it.
  2. Season ticket prices would be levelled off bringing parity between the price freeze people like me and others.

    Outcome: As expected, it's a bit more for price freeze people, and a bit less for others. Still decent value, or at least it would be if the football was any good - more on that later.
  3. I suggested a lot of people are going to start buying merchandise if was blue and has a better badge.

    Outcome:It's probably too early to tell, and there's not a load of blue stuff available yet, but I think this will pick up. It may be dependent on that mysterious new badge though.
  4. The crowds will also pick up. The happiness factor about going back to blue will bring people back who said they'd never return whilst we were in red, as well as help the general demeanour and atmosphere at games, where the crowd can direct support at the team rather than venting frustration and anger at the directors box. Just the feel good factor should help crowd numbers.

    Outcome: Er......Well this is awkward. According to Ali when he announces the attendance, we seem to be getting a good 20,000 people plus through the gate. In reality I think it's much less than this. It's clear that the attendances announced are on tickets sold (including ST's) and no bodies through the turnstiles on match days. In fact at one match the crowd even laughed when the attendance was announced it was so far off the mark. We're not idiots (well most of us). Just say the right figure. Or tell us the tickets sold but tell us its tickets sold.
  5. Either way, the return to blue hasn't brought the crowds flocking back, and that's because the quality of football being served up is dire. More on that later.
  6. We might even see a return of my favourite podcast from the boys at 'View From The Ninian'.

    Outcome: No luck yet. I don't think they can find their way out of "Pessimism Corner".
  7. Finally of course VT will be ensuring that there's a free blue scarf giveaway at the next midweek match.....

    Outcome: I did make that up. But he hasn't, although it might be a nice gesture. Perhaps he's waiting for the new badge.
So what about the football? I'm not going to dwell on this. It's crap. Dire. Awful. Abysmal. Shocking. And it's clearly not just me. I don't know anyone apart from Russell Slade who thinks we're playing good football, and even he's admitted at times it's awful.

I have renewed my season ticket(s). God knows why. Having said earlier it's still good value, I guess it's good value if you like being built up with hope and expectation every week, only to have all that hope torn out of you by 5pm every Saturday (or 9.45pm on a Tuesday).

Cardiff City are playing unbelievably bad football. The only saving grace is that there are some teams in the division who are even worse than us.

The manager doesn't appear to have a clue. I don't know anyone who wants him to remain in charge. Today's capitulation against Charlton was awful. They didn't play well, but had shown some glimpses of the old City, but as soon as we went a goal up I knew we'd concede and once Charlton equalised I knew they'd win. There's no fire and no passion. Perhaps that's why VT is changing the badge?

Some players try. Some don't. Some run around like headless chickens. Some still look very unfit. Many look way below the quality we've come to expect at Cardiff City. There are a few bright sparks. I like the look of Kennedy. Manga's generally solid. Marshall of course is imperious in the main. Erm....how many is that?

It was good to see Roger Johnson back with Charlton today. One of my all time favourite City players. Now there's a player who could be a bit of an idiot at time, but when he pulled on a City shirt you just knew he was giving it 110% every time.

I await the remainder of the season with no excitement, no great buzz, no.....nothing. I just go because I've paid my money and I'll support them whatever - isn't that what we die hard fans say?

Put your bloody lights on!

It's not a difficult concept is it? It's dark (or getting dark) so when you are driving you put your lights on.

I've been wanting to rant about this for ages.

I am staggered at the number of drivers I see that assume because they can still see without lights, it's ok to drive without lights and that other people can see them.

I don't know if it's made worse by the current season, with lengthening lighter evenings making it harder for people to think about when they put their lights on (if in doubt put them on), but it's either ignorance or a "look at how I can drive in the dark" attitude.

I have a relatively short commute of about 16 miles, but a significant proportion of that is on a busy motorway, and I am astounded by the number of people I see driving as the light fades with no lights or side lights at high motorway speeds. But it's not just motorways. It's everywhere.

There are two factions I'd like to point the finger of blame at here.

1) The driver
It's not rocket science. Lights are as much about you being seen as you being able to see. I recently drove to Exeter for work and was going down the M5, a particularly busy motorway at the best of time in driving rain - so bad, visibility was tens of yards at times and STILL I found people driving without ANY lights.
And don't just use sidelights - put the headlights on. Sidelights are frankly useless. Put your bloody headlights on!

2) The manufacturers

  • Don't put sidelights on cars - just put headlights in. That would stop idiots driving on sidelights.
  • Those bloody LED driving lights. Lots of people think because they've got them, they don't need "ordinary lights". Have you noticed that in most cases, when the cars on LED driving lights only, there are no tail lights on. Great if you're heading towards a car, rubbish if you're coming up on it from behind. I wonder how many people realise that?
  • Make "automatic" headlights compulsory. I'll never buy another car without auto lights. The dial is stuck on auto and it stays there. The only time I have to go to manual is the occasions when fog can fool the sensor into thinking it's still light.
And, whilst I'm on the subject of lights, how many cars do you see with a blown bulb? Loads. Get it fixed. It's a few quid for the bulb and even if you can't fit it yourself (and frankly the way cars are made these days it's getting harder - I have to take the whole headlight unit out to replace a bulb in my Mondeo). Halfords will do it for about £3 on the spot. Worth every penny I'd say unless your confident in doing it yourself. 

There's just no excuse not to be safe and seen on the road.

Turn them on. Please.