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Piers Cawley Practices Punditry


Railsconf Europe Photos

I’ve finally started uploading the scans from RailsConf Europe last week. There’s still one more roll to scan and another 9 shots in the camera, but I’m pretty pleased with the results so far. I didn’t really start shooting until about halfway through the last day. The light in the hotel was horrible and I just wasn’t in the mood, then suddenly I’d shot three rolls and was wondering where I could find another roll of Neopan 1600 at 9pm in Berlin. It didn’t hurt that I found some really nice light (at least for a black and white photographer with fast film). The shot of James Duncan Davidson above was shot using one of the large LCD screens that were dotted around the hotel as a softlight. It’s the sort of trick that can cause endless pain when you’re shooting in colour, because the white balance is such a bear, but the magic of fast black and white film means I just didn’t have to care.

Later on, I found an even better lightsource – in the atrium there were columns with 3 or 4 big LCDs displaying conference information, which meant they were mostly white. I spent a chunk of the evening grabbing people and asking if I could take their picture in “The best light in the building”. I just wish I’d spotted it earlier in the day when there was more daylight as well, that really would have been gorgeous light.

Published on Sun, 30 Sep 2007 02:56:22 GMT by Piers Cawley under .

What I've been up to recently

Cast an eye over my new venture. It’s pretty much a place holder site at the time being, but I’m beavering away at the bits that need beavering away at.

Published on Tue, 05 Dec 2006 18:09:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , . Tags

Blessed are the toolmakers

My dad drives a vintage Fraser Nash. I say drives, but that’s only half the battle, a large part of his Nash time is spent fettling it. It’s an old car; bits wear out, break or drop off. And because it’s an old car, you can’t just nip round to Halfords and pic up a replacement; nor can you head down to the breaker’s yard and cannibalize something else. So he has a lathe and a milling machine and a bewildering collection of tools. When he needs a part, he will disappear into the machine shop and, after sufficient swearing and/or bleeding, he will emerge with a newly made part. For dad, it’s all part of the fun of running a vintage car. If he weren’t able to do the work, the Nash would have had to remain a pleasant pipedream.

I don’t know my way around a machine shop, except in the vaguest and most theoretical way. The tools I’ve grown up knowing to use are programming languages, editors, fine manuals and the mental tools a grounding in mathematics brings.

So, when I’m putting a new photography business together, and I realise that a couple of the supporting software tools that I had vaguely assumed ‘should exist’ don’t actually exist, I know that it doesn’t matter. I may not know Cocoa programming yet, but I know programming, so I’m confident that, like dad in his machine shop, I’ll be able to knock something up that does the job.

On reflection, I realised that this is probably a good thing. If I can set up and run the business with a combination of off the shelf software, then it’s trivial for potential competitors to reverse engineer the business and do the same (let’s assume here that the business is a success) and I’m left competing on margin in a service industry. No fun at all.

Being able to make my own tools gives me a competitive edge.

Why aren’t there more tool makers?

Published on Tue, 05 Dec 2006 11:07:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , , . Tags , ,

Everyone is human...

Why do people have to be human with my new computer?

You would think that arriving home and opening up a brown cardboard box and pulling out a shiny new 15" MacBook Pro 2.16GHz would be a fine thing wouldn’t you?

It’s rather less than fine when what you’d paid for was a 17" MacBook Pro 2.33GHz.

Annoyingly, it turns out that this wasn’t a case of someone in the local store pulling the wrong box from the stockroom. That would be easy to fix. Instead, it turns out that someone in Northampton had a moment of humanity and mislabeled the box – the stockroom monkeys in my local branch have apparently checked the apple labels of all the MacBooks in the shop to no avail.

Apparently the nearest real one in the store network is in Sheffield. Assuming that’s not also subject to humanity in Northampton.

Bugger. No new toy until at least Tuesday.

But why the new computer now?

I’m in the process of setting up a new, photography related, business and, good as my G4 Powerbook is, it can’t run Aperture, which is a key part of the game plan, hence the new kit.

Watch this space for details; I shall of course post more once I’ve got the new website up.

Published on Sat, 25 Nov 2006 01:59:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

Dear LazyWeb

I would love to be able to run a slideshow on a second screen based on a ‘live’ album in Aperture. So, when I drop an image into an Aperture album on my primary screen, it shows up when appropriate in the secondary screen slideshow.

I can live with having to take an explicit ‘publish changes’ type step from within Aperture, but I’d rather not, and I certainly don’t want the secondary slideshow to stop.

Published on Tue, 14 Nov 2006 07:24:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags , , ,

Lightning Lightning talks

This year’s EuroOSCON had no lightning talks scheduled. Then, late on Wednesday night, I noticed that a talk had been cancelled. Aha! I thought. I asked around a few people I knew who normally go for the lightning thing, got a critical mass of interested parties, went and found Nat and we were good to go.

And it was good. Even if we hadn’t organized the session at less than 12 hours notice it would have been good.

I gave a talk on having your photograph taken that I’d delivered at EuroFOO; Russ Nelson showed us his prototype Bluetooth chording keyboard, BooK had a fabulous series of sensationalist magazine covers showing what really goes on at YAPC::Europe; Gerv Markham gave a 45 minute talk on Phishing: Conning the Unwary For Fun and Profit in 5 minutes; Ewan Spence gave out some Podcasting tips (and recorded the whole thing); Suw Charman of the Open Rights Group talked about the ORG; Damian Conway managed (just) to get through the 101 things he loves about Perl 6; Jesse Vincent did a talk he’d written that morning about a script he’d written two days before. And… I probably missed someone out.

Excellent talks all. Thank you people, we’ll have to do it again some time.

Looking at James Duncan’s photos from the session, it seems I missed out Dennis Kaarsemaker, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what he talked about.

Published on Sat, 23 Sep 2006 16:16:14 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

EuroOSCON on a shoestring

“Good news! Those lovely people at Fotango, grateful for the use of the photo of their MD I took, have offered to pay for a EuroStar ticket to Brussels for EuroOSCON.”

“Bad news! I still can’t afford to stay in a hotel.”

So I’m going to play the shamelessly cheeky bugger card. If any of you fine readers is going to EuroOSCON and has a hotel room floor/unused half of a twin room/sofa where I can crash, then I would be delighted to hear from you.

Published on Mon, 21 Aug 2006 12:35:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags ,

That time of year again...

I’m still in two minds about going to EuroOSCON this year. That’s not quite true. I want to go, but I can’t afford to go. I certainly can’t afford to pay for my own ticket, and if I could I would probably have put it towards a Macbook Pro.

Looking at Eurostar prices, it looks like it’d cost me at least £285 + food and taxis to do the ‘hallway track’, which is arguably the most interesting part of these conferences.

Still, at least one of my photos will be there. I just got mail from Fotango asking if they could use my photo of Simon Wardley at last year’s EuroOSCON for his attendee photo.

Which is flattering. There’s a whole set of photos from last year’s conference. Here’s a few of my favourites.

So, now the trick is to find someone who’ll stand me to a conference ticket and possibly a hotel room in exchange for more photos like these.

By the way, if you are pictured in any of the photos in my flickr stream and want to use the image for the same sort of reason as Simon (which isn’t quite compatible with the non commercial part of the OpenContent license they’re released under), please drop me a line or comment here. I shall be happy to grant such permission. If you want to use ’em in print or advertising or what have you, we need to talk.

Published on Fri, 11 Aug 2006 10:28:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

New Toy!

Remember the new camera I ordered back in December? It finally arrived last Friday, about a month after I expected it.

It’s lovely. Nikon seem to have addressed almost all the things that were really starting to piss me off about my D100. Most importantly (for me) I’ve not yet run out of image buffer while taking real photos; something I used to do all the time when I was shooting with the old one. 21 frames isn’t quite a whole roll of film, but I don’t want to shoot a whole roll of film in 7 seconds very often…

So, rather than fill my Flickr stream with pictures of the box it came in and my office (which seemed to be the common theme of many of the early photos in the flickr D200 pool…) I gave myself a little project which I call:

Sage People

I wandered down to the Sage Gateshead and photographed and talked to the people sat in the atrium. I had a great time; I’ll probably do it again and soon. Part of the brief I gave myself was that I wouldn’t simply take photographs, but I’d get everyone’s permission first and find out why they were in the Sage that afternoon.

Published on Sat, 25 Feb 2006 07:20:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags , , ,

Finding the upside

My D200 didn’t arrive on the 15th of December. Jacobs are blaming Nikon, Nikon are probably blaming Jacobs. To compound my error, I took the D100 down to the Mill for Christmas, but forgot to take the battery charger. So, no Christmas photos from me.

Which is a good thing. The problem with taking a camera to parties is that the camera turns me from a participant into an observer. Sometimes, being an observer is great; other times, not so much.

So, a cracking Christmas was had by all and there will be no embarrassing photos. (Although there were a couple of moments when I wished I could have pulled my trusty Ricoh GR1 out of my pocket and snapped the kids who continue to be exceedingly cute.)

Published on Wed, 28 Dec 2005 05:48:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , . Tags , ,

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