Friday 25th April 2008

A time for change

Some months ago all training clients at the time, were sent a questionnaire by post, and a few weeks ago now we asked for your feedback on this newsletter and support site, and we are grateful to all who responded. A lot of good points and suggestions resulted and have allowed us to target better our objectives and to redesign and expand the online system.

So what did we learn

You felt we should not duplicate what is widely available like camera and lens reviews, but perhaps index some of these, and were not excited about our photo challenge idea, but you did like and want to see more location guides and this section expanded, and you liked the photographers diary section.

You also had some suggestions to what you would like to see, including new types of information. You liked the concept of the information that had appeared all being built into a resource and this being indexed, but had difficulty in finding information amongst the many buttons. You felt we should show you when you were moving within our site and which were outside links, and what type of information was on each link.

You liked the in depth articles, but didnít see a lot of point in definitions or very short items. You also suggested several other pieces of information or link pages that would be helpful.

Across Britain in cities, towns and hidden in the countryside are many windmills. Many are open shortly over a weekend see below for information.

Image taken with Nikon D2h, with
70-300mm lens at 200mm, ISO 640, 1/640th, F12

Over the last couple of weeks you will have noticed a few changes taking place, principally starting to improve the indexing and this week there is a far more substantial reorganisation, including the button and major changes to the indexing system. Behind the scenes the changes are even greater with just about every page moving about with a completely new web directory structure.

You will notice we have less buttons, this is because a number of items, including the large articles section has now been moved to be within an expanded topic section and also included in the alpha indexes. The same has happened with a number of other sections.

We still have a little more to do, both in indexing and particularly reorganising the reference section, and indexing this section better.

We are as, you have requested, now focusing our attention on those areas you wanted, and in particular expanding the location and diary sections. We have also devised a key system, with symbols to help you see easily the type of information on each page and the type of location.  This was in part tried out last week, allowing a few of you to give us feedback on this, we have this week reduced a number of these in size, as well as adding new ones, and removing a few.

The other major change you will spot is that we now have both a topic and alpha index of the site as a whole rather than just the location section, although we still have to complete the addition of some items into the alpha index and sort out the reference pages to add into this.

We are introducing a number of new format pages, and the type of page can now be seen from indexes and links.

There are now a small number of symbols that are the first symbols by links:-

Featured Location, a location guide that contains a lot of information including photographs. Symbol EYE, well worth a look at.
Location, a location guide with a lot of information, including large grids, but is not yet up to featured status. Symbol is a map pin.
Quick Location Guide, smaller amount of information, with a link to tell you where you can find out more.  With some this is all that is required, in other cases, we will in the future expand these to become location guides or featured location guides. Symbol is a timer, indicating these are quick guides.
Route Guide, a guide that includes a route or local area including a number of locations, for example a path, canal or a local area guide. Symbol is a compass.

List   Often this is a list of a type of location, usually linked to other location guides or external information or both. Usually a link on the title of items in the list are linked within our site, for example to location guides and links to the right are external. In some cases we donít have links just information, and in particular with longer lists of locations, where we have defined a type and location, so are at this point identifying the location and often the grid reference or a map link. As featured topics are covered these will usually include a list page linking you to all the locations mentioned.

Other lists occur to support articles or give lists of links, for example list of reference information or list of suppliers. Generally the same rules are being used, in that items linked by title are internal, links on the right are external.

Article Ė identifies that the page contains an article we have produced. The symbol is of a jigsaw piece, as all knowledge is like pieces of a jigsaw, and you need to gain a collection of knowledge for the picture to make more sense.
External Web Link Ė Showing that when you follow this link you go to another website, usually this will be into a new window, allowing you to look at that website, and close the window to return to our site. The symbol is links in a chain.

Putting your mouse pointer over a symbol will remind you what it means. It may take us a couple of weeks before we can get symbols on all pages throughout the system.

In many cases for example the alpha index, you will find several symbols, the first of these is one of the ones above, telling you the type of page, the next one or several indicates what is at a location, and in some cases there are extra ones after this that tell you who owns it, if it is free or you have to pay to visit, and if there are restrictions, either in terms of photography, taking dogs, or it has restrictive opening arrangements.

In the topic indexes and county indexes, you will also find the same symbols. County pages use the first 6 sections of the topic index for its classification.

You will also see these same symbols appearing within the location guides, on link information. Putting your mouse over any symbol will display its meaning, and clicking on it takes you to the key page showing all the symbols in use.  You can also see this page by clicking here. This page has changed since last week and will continue over time to develop. We are not yet using the amenity symbols but developing these for potential use on route guides and the like.

Two weeks ago we implemented Creative Commons labelling on many of the photographs, and had articles on this, and we will shortly be introducing a labelling system that ties up with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Wildlife Conservation, identifying when showing or discussing animals and the like, how endangered they are.

A number of people suggested we listed available books, or undertook book reviews. This is a huge area, and beyond our resources to do well. We have however found a solution, in that we have added a bookshop to the system, although a part of this system, this is driven from the Amazon system and they handle orders and despatch, and also of course have the payments made when books are purchased. You will find the system also includes the Amazon Marketplace, and this also opens up second hand and discounted books. We get just 4%, so if you spend £10 on a book, we get the grand sum of 40p. As its not likely that vast numbers of books will be ordered through our site, you will appreciate this is provided as a service, rather than as a way to cover the costs. One of the advantages our bookshop provides is that we have sorted out many of the major classifications that would be of specific interest to you. Why not take a look.

We are also shortly going to start adding some small Google Ads to the system, as we are also looking at promoting the system with Google ads. It would be nice to think that one might cancel out the other, but realistically we are going to end up spending a part of our advertising budget as well with Google. The revenue from the Google ads will be small, if producing anything at all, the reason to add them is that we think this will increase the ranking on the Google search engine, bringing pages to more peoples attention.

Another change is that we are going to have far more featured topic weeks, we are aiming towards alternate weeks, but the work involved in each of these is such that this just may not be possible, but we will do the best we can towards this objective. Of course some will be larger projects than others.

We will be also improving the definitions as to how you can become involved, and we have placed a half page advertisement in one photo magazine, aimed specifically at enticing more people to become involved in helping us develop this free resource for photographers faster. We will be adding more information over the next few weeks to make it easier for you to become involved.

We have not tried to produce any articles this week in addition to all the changes, and new explanatory pages throughout the system, but we have still managed to add some more location guides, including the first of the quick guides. With a much smaller grid and less information we can produce these far quicker, and this will allow the population of the location section to grow far faster providing some information and links. There have also been many times where we have just mentioned items in other location guides, especially feature guides where it would have been better to have put these items into a small quick guide. With themed weeks we often have more locations than we can create feature guides for, and at the moment cover the remainder by including them in a list, quick guides will allow us to get more of these included.

Nikon DLSR Firmware Updates and Software Updates

Keeping up to date with the latest version of program issues and checking our camera firmware is up to date is a task that is often overlooked. Several people suggested it would be a good idea if we were to provide details on the up to date position on all of the Nikon Software and different DSLR camera firmware, and update this on a regular basis.

We have as part of our change included this facility which comes off of the reference section but is also indexed into the alpha index. Click here to see this page.

Planning for the Mills Open Weekend next month

You may have noticed the following entry in next months photographers calendar, and if not then we would like to draw this to your attention.

10/05/2008 National Mills Weekend 10th and 11th May 2008. On the 2nd weekend in May each year more than 300 wind and water mills open their doors to members of the public. Many of the mills will be running special family events and activities during the weekend including demonstrations and the chance to buy flour and other produce. Some of the mills taking part are not normally open to the public. Going to the website link will give you details of those that will be open. National Mills Weekend

We have a major featured week coming up shortly on windmills, with a large number of location guides on some, as well as lists for each county windmills are found in, of all surviving windmills, with those of interest to photographers identified. This is not only our largest project yet, but also one that we have specific interest in having decided a few years back to attempt to photograph every good windmill in the UK. Although we have photographed a large number, up until we set about this project we had no definitive listing of what existed and where. One of the problems is that the same windmills can be known by many names, and in some areas you can have several windmills within close proximity.

On the Open Weekend there are both windmills and watermills open, and some of these are not normally open to the public. Some of the windmills are windpumps. Windmills are used usually for powering large grinding stones that grind corn, while a wind pump, looks similar but is used to pump water. You will find quite a few wind pumps in East Anglia. There are three basics designs of windmills/pumps and they come in many sizes.

There are a lot more windmills and watermills than are involved in this open weekend, some of which are open  and some not.

Although some of these are open at other times, and some occasionally. By looking at what is open now, and working out a route, it is possible should you choose to, to get around quite a few over the two days. Some are preserved and looked after by charitable trusts.

Charities and entry fees

To be a charity and have all the benefits and tax refunds etc that go with this there are restrictions. One of these is that you are not supposed to offer something to your members that is not being offered to the public at large. Most however do and get around this in a number of ways. This is one reason why a number of organisations have a single free entry day a year.  Large organisations can work on the concept that in a single day people cannot visit many places, so few would be members would be able to use this instead of paying their subscription. The requirement to allow occasional public access may also apply where public money is going out as large grants towards doing up buildings. The down side of course for most of us is that we cannot take advantage of many of these openings, in some cases because they occur on a single day and some times as we don't know about the buildings being open. Working out when each of these dates is, is not as easy as you might expect. If you come across any, more than a couple of days before, then places let us know, so we can include it in this newsletter.

Other Diary Highlights

WORLDWIDE PINHOLE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY - Sunday .......

This Sunday, 27th April, is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. This celebrates the art of pinhole photography and see this link for workshops and events taking place in the UK. Photographers are invited to take a picture using a Pinhole Camera during the 24 hours of that day and once you have snapped away you can submit and share your efforts to this website.

If you fancy building your own camera for the day, then Corbis have created a ReadyMech Camera where you can download a PDF with a camera design, print it out and follow the instructions to build it and take your photos. To build one of these cameras you will need:

  • Several sheets of good printer paper
  • Cereal box
  • Pen knife or sharp edge for cutting
  • Double sided tape or glue
  • Thin needle for making a pinhole
  • Small piece of foil or aluminium can
  • Roll of 35mm film preferably ISO200
  • Empty film canister

If you want to have a go then click here and download your favourite design. It might be a bit of fun for a Sunday!

Alternatively if you want another homemade Pinhole Camera idea then have at look at this website and see what James Sherwood did with his empty iPhone box. You will need a little more time to build this one.

With all but the bottom end of the Nikon DSLR's you can use a tube set (as in macro photography) and foil over it to build a front end of a pinhole camera that will work with your Nikon DSLR. To do this remove the lens and use the tubes instead. Use only a very small pinhole and put your camera on a tripod. You can get much more involved if you choose, for example using more tubes to get a telephoto effect or less for wide angle and putting the pinhole above the centre to correct sloping tall buildings in architectural photographs.

Other Diary Highlights - Bank Holiday Weekend next week. There are lots of activities going on throughout the weekend, including the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire from the 1st to 4th; the World Stilton Cheese Rolling championships on the 5th, in Cambridgeshire and festivals such as Skipton Waterway, Yorks; Spalding Tulip Parade, Lincs; Urchfont Scarecrows, Wiltshire; medieval jousting at Blenhiem Palace, Oxford and Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire or if you like the seaside, then take a look at the Weymouth International Beach Kite Festival. Take a look at our May Diary for details of all these events and lots more. May is the start of the summer activities within the UK and the diary pages are getting longer.

In The News This Week

Nikon Updates. In the past week Nikon have announced their latest firmware and software updates. See our page which gives the latest versions, how to find out on your camera which version you already have installed and links to the Nikon website to download your copy.

Nikon D40 Firmware Update 1.11 - this updates both Firmware A and B and is correcting an error with the shooting times, that were not always accurately recorded within the image date for images captured in bursts of continuous shooting. To get your update go to the Nikon website, Customer Services, Firmware Updates in left hand panel, and take the link in the list. As the firmware is first downloaded to your computer you will need to take the option relevant to whether you are a Windows or MAC user.

NEW Nikon D3X - There has been speculation and rumour going around for some time and we have as far back as December last year predicted that Nikon were going to launch a new D3x model to it's range. This appears to be more imminent and there are now more rumours after Nikon put a new firmware update version 1.10 on their website for the D3 and mentioned within the text D3x. Three days later they withdrew the update, after technical issues were found! When asked by the photo press to confirm that a new model was on it's way, they refused to either confirm or deny it, merely stating 'Nikon is unable to comment on the development of any future products before their official announcement'. So we wait and see! but I suspect there is a new model on the way as the D2Xs has disappeared from supplier websites. Their website is currently saying that the D3 firmware update is expected at the end of April.

Lastolite have extended their range of colours of Plain Collapsible Knitted Backgrounds to include a black/mid grey and white/mid grey. These backgrounds are made from crease resistant fabrics and are suitable for passport, ID and corporate photos. See this link for more details.

Adobe Updates. New updates for Lightroom and Camera Raw software - the new updates correct flaws affecting the EXIF data and conversions between formats. You can get them from www.adobe.com and take the downloads option and follow the links. We'll try to add Adobe updates to our software version list soon.

Locations Featured This Week

Locations pages added this week cover 3 Featured Locations and 9 of the NEW Quick Guides.

Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire

Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset

Crownhill Fort, Plymouth, Devon

Blackpool Mill, South Wales  

Broad Haven Bay, Pembrokeshire

Broad Haven South, Pembrokeshire 

Burnetts Hill Chapel, Pembrokeshire

Caerbwdi Bay, Nr St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Caerfai Bay, St David's, Pembrokeshire

Ceibwr Bay, Pembrokeshire

Church Doors Bay, Pembrokeshire

Coppet Hall Bay, Saundersfoot, South Wales

 

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