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.