Wednesday 29 April 2009

Killer Cows

After yesterdays post I was asked why I had spoilt such a nice sunset by sticking that big ugly blob in front of it. Well there is a reason for that..

Temple field has been a bit of a muse of mine for the last few months. I am convinced that there should be a really good picture there but so far the best I have managed is this:

Tree and Temple
(Click to view large)

So on Sunday I decided to head back there and get some shots, but I was faced with the killer cows of Temple Field. I know what your thinking: "You great big jessie, their only cows". Well my last encounter with them four years ago left me a little bit wary of these beasties, here is the story:

As I entered the field I noticed a sign saying Bull in Field. Luckily, I had left my assistant, Boysie the tripod carrying cocker spaniel, at home so I thought I should be alright if I kept my distance from the cows or bull.

There was no sign of the cows in the field anyway, so I headed down the hill and up the other side to the small round temple at the top. As I got to the top and placed my tripod in front of the temple, suddenly cows appeared over the hill round both sides of the temple.

I figured I wouldn't want to take pictures in amongst the cows so I started to move away down the hill. Almost immediately I heard a movement behind me. I turned round quickly and 2 of the cows were now a lot closer than they were before. I spoke to them loudly and clearly, telling them not to be so silly (like most landscape photographers I speak fluent Friesian with a slight Guernsey accent - OK I just babbled incoherently but you get my drift). I then turned and started to walk away.

Temple Dawn
(Click to view large)

I had taken no more than a few steps when I heard a rumble behind me and there was this cow charging towards me head down. Faced with the prospect of being flattened by 2 ton of sirloin, I opted for the only thing I could think of, which was my best stern school teacher voice. I stood still, raised a hand and shouted, "Just stop that now" to my surprise it worked! The only problem was that I was now staring this cow/bull in the eyes and it was little more than 5 foot away from me. I think it was probably a cow rather than a bull but I wasn't going to break eye contact to check.

So there I was now in a staring competition with this cow/bull thing. I didn't dare look away or show any signs of fear as I figured that as soon as I looked away I would have been steam rolled by Aberdeen Angus. Eventually after a few hours of staring (well it seemed like hours, I doubt if it was more than a couple of minutes in real time), a cow behind mooed and the bull/cow dropped its head and backed away. I figure that the moo was the cow equivalent of "leave him Terry he's not worth it".

I carefully made my off the hill and out of the field - keeping a constant watch over my shoulder for the wayward cow and his head-but of death.

So now do you blame me for not wanting to join the cows in Temple Field?

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Just Me

After the attack of the killer swan on Sunday, I popped up to Temple field in Upshire and took the opportunity to try a few self portraits. I thought I would share it with you so you might have an idea who it is producing these ramblings.

Chris and Sunset, Temple Field - Epping Forest, Upshire

Monday 27 April 2009

When Swans Attack!!

So there I was at Roydon Mill on Sunday evening taking a few shots checking out the potential of the place as location. I had setup my tripod and pretty much had the place to myself, apart from the local swan who came over to see what I was doing. Having decide I wasn't of much interest the swan moved to the other side of the river & left me to my own devices.

A short while later three lads came down the river in an open canoe, enjoying a journey in the evening sunshine. I immediately noticed that the swan had adopted a pose that looked to the untrained eye as if it was saying "Right I'm aving you". It's wings came up and it headed at full pelt towards the canoe.

The Attack Begins

The chaps in the canoe first tried paddling faster to get away, but there was no way this swan was going to let them escape. They tried to scare it by splashing the paddles but it just kept coming. The river goes under a bridge at this point and out of my view, so I grabbed my camera & tripod and legged it up to where I could see down the river. Just as I reached that point the swan managed to turn over the Canoe! Three chaps,bags, bottles, cans and paddles were dumped into the canal.

I went down to the side and helped them haul themselves and their boat out of the water. A chap from a narrow boat came out to offer a hand and said "That bloody swan had a couple in a rowing boat over last week".

So now the lads decide that they needed to collect up all the rubbish that had come out of their boat (very public spirited) and retrieve one of their paddles. But the swan was smart and circled the floating paddle waiting for the next encounter.

The Swan Circles The Paddle

A narrow boater threw some food for the swan and it headed down the river, so an intrepid two set sail to retrieve their gear.

The Intrepid Two

But the swan wasn't to be so easily beaten, it came hurtling back towards them with its wings up in a very aggressive posture, determined to deal with these interlopers. the canoeists soon adopted a technique of "paddle a bit throw something at the swan, grab something out of the water..repeat".

Don't laugh now there is a swan coming

In the middle of all this someone stopped on the bridge in a car, wound down their windows and shouted "Oi don't throw stuff at that swan". People tried to explain what was going on but they would have none of it. They drove off with a shout of "I'm going in to the office and calling the police". Just as the narrow boater standing next to me said "Fecking Idiots".

Incoming Swan

Having collected their stuff the canoeists headed off with the swan chasing, finally a well aimed bottle on the beak caused the swan to give up the chase!

Battle Over

I think I might visit Roydon Mill again.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Backup to the Cloud - Part Two

Having decided to use a remote backup solution and what I wanted to backup, the next things to look at were to decide on were how I was going to do the backup and which provider I was going to use.

After some looking around I settled on BackBlaze as my remote backup provider. Unlimited disk space for $50 a year didn't seem unreasonable at all.

To be fair the unlimited storage does have some limitations though. It applies to one machine and any disk drives attached to it - except network drives. This is a slight problem if you have your data spread across four machines and some network drives as I do.

Dark Cloud backup?

I decided the best thing to do was to build a PC specifically to handle backups. As long as this PC held a copy of all the data that I wanted backed up then things should be OK. So I took an old PC I had kicking about (it's a Pentium II - remember them), reformatted all the drives and installed Windows XP. XP seems to run rather well on an old machine like that, its the applications that slow it down.

Next steps were to remove any unnecessary items that had been installed (msn messenger & such like) and disable any services not required to store files & connect to the internet. This was followed by installing a virus scanner and the rather long wait as it downloads all the updates and patches for XP to make sure we were protected from all those nasty threats on the web.

It really dosn't matter if the machine is a little slow anyway as the crucial bottle neck is broadband upload speed. In case you hadn't realised ADSL stands for Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line - The Asymetric bit is critical. Downloads are a hell of a lot faster than any uploads and there doesn't seem to be any real way to improve them.

I ran the BackBlaze Speed test to get an idea of what sort of speed I could expect and then ran the TCP otimizer to squeeze out every last bit of bandwidth I could. I seem to be achieving around 2GB a day so it's not great but it's acceptable. The next step was to install the BackBlaze software and configure it to ignore any stuff I didn't want backed up on the machine (like the windows XP install directory).

The final install was to load and configure All Way Sync to copy over all the critical information I need backed up from all the various machines.

For my initial backup I chose to backup everything except my image archive. The initial backup takes a long time as it has to copy up every file (6 Days in my case), but after that things should be much quicker as it just copies up changes.

I have now started adding my image archive to the backup. At 300GB I guess it will take 150 days to upload 7 years worth of images. I figure that isn't too bad, if it took me 7 years to create that much data, half a year to upload it is pretty good. Good job I am looking on this as a long term project.

Once this initial upload is complete things should work fine as long as I generate an average of less than 2GB of data a day, that's 700GB a year. At the moment I am at nowhere near that sort of volume, so it seems I have a workable solution.

Monday 20 April 2009

Backing up to the Cloud - Part One

I might have mentioned it before but I make no apologies for mentioning it again, make sure you have your data backed up. There are loads of interesting and unusual ways that you can lose the information that you need and a good backup strategy is the only way to protect yourself.

Having taken the time to asses my existing backups and possible threats to my data I came to the conclusion that I had no real protection against a total loss event. What's a total loss event? Well in my case I can see some possible events that would fall into that category: flood, fire & theft. A house fire would melt all my hard drives, a flood wouldn't do them much good either and it is possible that some thieving toe rag could break into the house and clear out all originals and backups.

In the Clouds

So how can I protect my data from total loss? Well traditionally the answer is off-site backups. An off-site backup is where you copy your data to disk or tape and then move those devices far enough away from you to ensure they survive a disaster. This is common practice in the business world. Alternatively, we can take advantage of the internet and backup to The Cloud. Having considered a system of swapping portable hard drives in and out of the house, I thought it would be worth trying out the cloud first as its the modern way.

The first decision was to decide what I wanted this backup for. For me this would be a "last resort" backup as I have a layered strategy:
  • Currently active work on any PC is copied overnight to another PC using Allway Sync. This allows me to recover yesterdays work quite easily should I accidental delete or corrupt a particular file.
  • Once a month each machine is imaged to a USB drive, using Acronis True Image. This is to protect against HDD failure and to allow me to recover files that are not on the daily backups i.e. ones I deleted a few weeks ago and suddenly realise I need now.
  • Image archive. Once a month I move the previous months photos to my herd of buffalo.
  • Cloud backups would add the final layer that allows me to protect myself from total loss and to go back to much older files if I need to.
First I looked at each PC and decided what I really needed to store off-line:
  • Email is a major priority, all sorts of things can be kept in the various folders of an email system: logins to infrequently used systems, licence keys for downloaded software, travel bookings, reservations.
  • Documents created in Wod, Excel,etc
  • IView Media Pro catalogues, so I can find all my images.
  • My Image Archive
  • The latest release of Lemon
  • A copy of my website including the templates used to generate it.
Some things I decided not to back up:
  • Music: I don't think I need to keep a copy of my music as I have it all on CD & 2 hard disks. In event of a total loss I would just have to buy all those CDs again.
  • Bookmarks: For some people their web bookmarks are essential but I hardly use bookmarking so there is no need to worry about them.
  • Programs: As long as I have the licence keys I should be able to download the latest versions.

So now we have established the why and the what. In part two we will look at the how.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Photograpny ban on Downing Street ?

I was listening to an interview tonight with former Home Secretary David Blunkett, about the news that Britains most senior anti-terrorism officer was sacked for accidentally allowing photographers to get a shot of a confidential document he was carrying.

Amazingly David Blunkett thought that it raised questions about whether the photographers should be there (in a designated press area no less) and whether they should be authorised to be there. Even worse people were phoning up to agree that it was the photographers who were a security risk.

Whatever next? should we ban photography from any part of London because someone important might be carrying a document about? Should we ban people who aren't civil servants from using the trains because they might pick up a memory stick that some member of the government has left on the train (again)?


Thursday 2 April 2009

G20 Protests round two

After the excitement of yesterday things were expected to be much calmer today. I decided to head down to bank and check out the damage. Things weren't too badly damaged, but a lot of graffiti had appeared.

My Banker

As far as I can work out the protesters were against the war, against the bank bail-outs and in favour of West Ham United!

Graffiti on The Bank

The Duke of Boots in front of The Royal Exchange bore the brunt of some unusual graphic abuse too.


Message for the fallen

Yesterday a protester died of a heart attack and at lunchtime a small group walked into the Bank square to lay flowers and leave messages for the unknown protester.

I think you may have...

As more people arrived scuffles broke out, arrest were made and the square closed down to prevent more protesters joining the fray.


Foot and Flowers

Wednesday 1 April 2009

G20 Protests in London


Today seems to be National Get It Off Your Chest Day, thousands of protesters descended on the city of London to protest about Capitalism, bank bail outs, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, climate change, pensions and squirrel abuse.

Policing the Freedom Bus

Looking at the Law

Yes, today was the day of the much feared and hyped G20 protests. As we walked from Liverpool Street station it was clear that the city was undecided on what it's response should be to the threat.
Some banks had taken down any identifying symbols, closed the front doors and were pretending no one was home. Other buildings were completely boarded up.

On the steps of The Royal Exchange

Five marches converged on Bank junction from all directions. As they marched through the city they were watched from the sidelines by thousands of city workers dressed down in jeans & casuals.

Bank Junction

As soon as the last of the marches had arrived at the Royal Exchange it became clear that the police were implementing a strategy of containment.

No Entry

Press Pile

Slowly chains of policemen were formed preventing the protesters getting out. The lines were doubled up and vehicles were inserted blocking the roads completely.

Holding the Line

I moved round the area attempting to get closer to the action but being trapped inside the Police cordon didn't seem like a good idea. As it certainly seemed that although the vast majority of people were not up for trouble, a few seemed like they might be.

agent provocateur

Masked Man

Wandering round the area I came across Russel Brand and attempted to do a bit of papping. Walking backwards taking a shot of a celebrity and not bumping into the other photographers is harder than it looks - well that's my excuse for the shot not being sharp!

Russel Brand

Billy No Mates

Round by Mansion House I came across an American journalist doing a piece to camera. I listened as he told his viewers that the police were clearing the square. Actually they were doing the complete opposite!

Talking Tosh

An hour later and things got a bit tense as a group of demonstators broke through the police line and trashed a branch of RBS. The riot police went in and it was all soon over. The police lines were restored.

After the Riot

Police Lines

From there I found a tiny group of proestors blockading idea why though.
Your More

Over in Bishopsgate the entire road had been turned into a climate camp, things were extremly good natured and rather fun.


Policimg the Climate Camp

The day went well with almost everyone getting to demonstrate peacefully and things went off much better than predicted.

But the main impression I came away with was how amazingly polite and professional every policeman I met was. They dealt with a difficult situation with tact and humour - makes you proud to be British.

The Bobby is back

Ian Lipscombe is photogrpaher of the month for April

Whilst researching location opportunities here in Sunny Essex, I came across the website of Ian Libscombe. It's always good to see how another photographer interprets locations that are familiar to you but what really impressed me was the quality of the black and white images he produces.

Timber Gate by Ian Lipscombe

Why not visit his website and enjoy the beauty of Essexat its best.

Previous Photographers of the Month