Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Some terrible puns

Transcribed from this image of some tearable puns.

A dyslexic poet
writes inverse.

I break into song
if I can’t find the key.

Bakers trade recipes
on a knead to know basis.

Jumping off a Paris bridge
makes you in Seine.

Acupuncture is
a jab well done.

Once you’ve seen one shopping centre
you’ve seen the mall.

If a clock gets hungry
it goes back four seconds.

The bride got a new name
and a dress.

A bike can’t stand alone
because it’s two-tyred.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

[photography] My perspective

Robert Boyer has written a couple of really interesting blog posts on (primarily) the differences between a 35mm and 50mm field of view, from the perspective of someone who is very much a ‘50mm guy’, i.e. someone with a lot more experience with, and a strong preference for, the field of view provided by a 50mm lens.

Given that the comparison was between the Fuji X100S, with its APS-C–sized sensor and 23mm actual lens, and a Nikon D600 with a 50mm actual lens, there’s also some discussion on the differences in how much control you have over depth of field when comparing the two sensor formats.

The bulk of the text, though, is about how shooting with a different lens than you’re used to is a pretty uncomfortable and disorienting experience at first, but one that can also open your eyes to new possibilities.

These posts resonated with me, as in the 10 or so years I’ve been doing photography, I think I’ve mostly settled into being a ‘35mm guy’, although I didn’t really know it until I got an X100 whereupon it became clear that this field of view matches well the kinds of pictures I like to shoot – ‘contextual’ stuff, pictures of things in their surroundings. The view feels comfortable: just wide enough to avoid feeling claustrophobic, but not so wide as to swing the other way into attempted agoraphobia.

Look around you

I say ‘attempted’ agoraphobia because I’ve found it impossible to really reproduce the feeling you get when standing outside and looking up to the sky, really looking and feeling how enormous the world is, and how tiny and insignificant you are in comparison. It just doesn’t come across in reasonably-sized photos. All you achieve by attempting this using a super-wide lens is making things in the middle tiny, and things at the edges weirdly stretched.

So given that I’m never likely to make any multiple-metre–wide prints, and I have little interest in exploring how super-wide affects near–far relationships, that kind of lens holds no appeal.

Over there, in detail

I felt, and still do feel, that most of the time the field of view of the X100’s lens was just right, but there were times when I yearned for something longer, something I could use to close in on the detail of a thing. I think this was partly influenced by Kirk Tuck and his various posts of cityscapes and portraits taken at or around a 75mm field of view. That is to say, his posts helped me recognise something that was already within me, kindled that small flame a little, enough that I could no longer ignore it.

And so it was that I began to look for a way to satisfy this need. The Olympus 45mm lens seriously tempted me, but the only compatible camera that I felt had the necessary features (built-in viewfinder, small size) was the Olympus EM5, and alas it just felt horrible in my hand: cramped, squishy buttons, and uncomfortable bits digging into my palms. NEX? Not with those lenses. So that left Fuji, and either the XE1 or the XPro1.

I can see clearly

After an initial couple of months with the X100, trying both viewfinders, I eventually settled into using the electronic one almost exclusively, despite previously using DSLRs for years and being thoroughly used to optical finders.

Used to, but never entirely comfortable with, it seems: I find EVFs to be less of a mental strain, in that I can see before I shoot what the photo will (more or less) look like. I can see when the camera’s meter is getting confused, and dial in some exposure compensation accordingly (gotta love that EV dial).

Thus, the XPro1’s biggest differentiator from the XE1, its viewfinder, wasn’t an advantage to me. That combined with its larger size, and the fact that the XE1 came in a (money-saving) kit with the well-regarded 18–55mm zoom, made up my mind.

And then a funny thing happened

So then everything was fine, right? After all, the 18–55 has as much telephoto as I’d realistically want, and of course goes pretty wide too, covering the same 23mm the X100 does, making that camera basically obsolete. Right?

Not really. First of all, the XE1 + 18–55 is still pretty big, significantly more so than the (coat)pocketable X100. It’s also heavier, right on the threshold of being uncomfortable to carry in my hand for an extended period of wandering around, and not particularly fast in terms of aperture compared to the f/2 of the X100 (it’s certainly a good bit faster than most 18–55mm lenses, though).

At first I didn’t really notice any of this, since I was still in the ‘newlywed’ phase. Eventually I felt it, though, and wondered about getting a prime to put on the camera for ‘days out’ and other casual uses. Of course, apart from the 18mm, there’s only really one other suitable prime lens: the 35mm f/1.4 (the 60mm is too big, and the 27mm wasn’t available at the time, and besides, doesn’t have an aperture ring).

I thought I’d mostly use the 18–55 still, and keep the 35 for low-light stuff or for when I really wanted to travel light, but as it turns out, I kinda really want to travel light all the time. So why not just use the X100? Well, I’ve become spoiled by the XE1’s faster AF, much nicer AF point selection, and generally nicer buttons.

And the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens is really nice. Really nice. I considered the Zeiss Touit 32mm as an alternative at first, but the Fuji lens just seems to do everything better: nicer bokeh, smaller and lighter, less expensive, and apparently a little sharper too, not that sharpness is particularly important to me – most lenses these days are plenty good enough there.

Tightness

This is where talking about this gets a bit confusing, because I tend to switch pretty freely between using actual focal lengths and equivalent focal lengths, so for the sake of clarity I’ll stick to equivalent, since it’s a more common reference point. The Fuji 35mm lens has an equivalent field of view to a 50mm lens, while the X100’s 23mm lens has a 35mm equivalent view.

Anyway. After using focal lengths mostly on the wider end of things, 50mm feels tight. It’s right on the boundary between wide and tele, so I guess for someone who started out with it, the field of view feels just right, and can be used as either a short tele or a moderate wide depending on the needs of the photo.

Working with a 50mm field of view is not something that comes naturally to me, though, especially not after a year and a bit of using nothing but a 35. For now, my mind is still in ‘35’ mode when I’m shooting with a 50: I try subconsciously stand at the right distance for a 35 view, and I see compositions that work for that kind of perspective, then get frustrated when they don’t fit. I mentioned this in a comment on Robert’s blog – about how I try to compensate for a lack of vertical viewing angle by holding the camera vertically, for some reason not minding that I’m cutting off the sides. That said, a brief look at my Flickr stream shows that of the photos taken with the XF35/1.4 lens, most are in horizontal orientation, so perhaps I don’t do this as often as I think, and/or when I do, the results aren’t very good so I don’t bother uploading them to Flickr.

Wrapping up

When I started writing this, I’d intended to condense some vague, cloudy feelings into something more solid; I felt like 50mm was uncomfortably tight and that I often compensated for the lack of vertical angle of view by framing vertically. Actually looking at my photos, though, shows scant evidence of this, and in fact demonstrates that I can frame horizontal photos with a 50mm just fine, as least enough to satisfy myself for now.

Still, the feeling persists, and I don’t really know what else to do about it other than keep shooting with the XE1/35 until it’s no longer uncomfortable. And hey, now that I think on it, that’s probably another factor driving me to prefer that lens over the 18–55. Maybe once I’m comfortable with the 50mm view, I’ll be happier using the zoom? Let’s see wait a year and find out.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

[WoW] #WoWScreenshotADay 29, 30 & 31

This post is part of a series of screenshot entries into a competition run by Tycertank.

Here we are, at the end: the final three screenshots, which fully catches me up!

29: Lucky

Sometimes when you’re out farming stuff, you’ll get caught up in combat with a monster and while you’re busy with that, another player will swoop in and nab the node you were after. This is unlucky.

Sometimes, you will see a rare node. This is lucky. You will get tangled up in a fight with some monkeymen when trying to grab it. This is unlucky. Another player will show up. This is usually unlucky, doubly so if there is more than one.

Sometimes, though, once in a blue moon, that player won’t be a selfish bastard and will instead heal you whilst smiting your enemies for you, allowing you to grab the valuable node. This is most rare and most fortuitous turn of events.

Yalaera being helped in her farming
A friendly chap helps Yalaera grab a Golden Lotus. Click to enlarge.

30: Cluttered

We’re redecorating my home office at the moment, so for now my work computer and my gaming computer are in the living room together, along with piles of other stuff that should probably be stored away somewhere, and not dumped on my desk.

My desk, cluttered
My desk, cluttered. You probably don’t need to click for a closer look.

31: Dangerous

Outside of endgame group content, there’s really not much in Azeroth that’s dangerous to a well-geared player on a PvE server. Old raids, especially, are doable solo, although most encounters are better with two people.

Unless Mind Control is involved.

A mind-controlled Yalaera smites poor Helvecta while Kael’Thas gloats
A mind-controlled Yalaera smites poor Helvecta while Kael’Thas gloats. Click to enlarge.

The end

At least, the end of this month’s screenshots. Tycertank has a [new word list] for September, if you’re interested, but I think I’ll mix it up a bit and use the words for a #GW2ScreenshotADay instead.

Friday, 30 August 2013

[WoW] #WoWScreenshotADay 28: Corridor

This post is part of a series of screenshot entries into a competition run by Tycertank.

I’m still behind, and I forgot to save #29 to my Dropbox, so I couldn’t edit it and upload it on my Mac. Tomorrow’s Saturday though, so hopefully I’ll have time to do three days’ worth and finally catch up again.

Anyway, corridor… plenty of those in World of Warcraft, and many dungeons are nothing but corridors, albeit sometimes decorated to look like caves and such. I love the art style used for Titan architecture the most, but I think there’s one particular place that new Alliance (and really determined verteran Horde) players are amazed by at first but which sadly doesn’t see as much use in these days of flying mounts.

The undersea section of the Deeprun Tram
The undersea section of the Deeprun Tram, complete with Nessy the thresher. Click to go deeper.

Image notes: It takes ages to run this far down, and woe betide the clumsy fool who falls off the platform – you have to run all the way back to the beginning before you can get back on it. I'm told.

[WoW] #WoWScreenshotADay 26 & 27

This post is part of a series of screenshot entries into a competition run by Tycertank. I’m a little behind on the themes lately, so here’s a two-in-one.

26: Entrance

I thought I’d try to do something a bit non-obvious with this one, starting with a different interpretation of what the word ‘entrance’ even means. There’s the usual definition: “a point or place of entering; an opening or passage for entering, as a doorway.” But it’s also coincidentally the same spelling as the word which means “to fill with delight or wonder; enrapture.

Ophelia, the Siren of the Highlands, entrances Ephram Hardstone’s crew
Ophelia, the Siren of the Highlands, entrances Ephram Hardstone’s crew. Click to bring yourself closer to her radiance.

27: 10 minutes from home

My first idea for this one was to fly somewhere and capture a screenshot of the TomTom waypoint arrow and its (surprisingly handy) estimated time to arrival readout.

Turns out, you can’t fly in any direction from Stormwind for 10 minutes without ending up over the sea dying of Fatigue.

What you can do, however, is follow roads on land for 10 minutes.

A map of how far you can get on land in 10 minutes
What 10 minutes of fast mount land travel looks like. Click to explore.

Image notes: Fortunately, the maps for Burning Steppes, Searing Gorge and Redridge Mountains are all roughly the same scale. The map of Elwynn Forest, though, needed enlarging a little to fit with the others

Thursday, 29 August 2013

[WoW] Re: Missing Words

The Godmother recently posted a list of five things she reckons should be included in the next expansion, and it’s a good list. I originally was going to reply in a comment, but it got a bit long so I’m posting my thoughts here instead.

Player housing

THERE I SAID IT. Just go look at Animal Crossing, New Leaf and tell me that people don’t care about the place they live in. Look at how people dutifully Tilled their way towards Exalted in the Valley. People care about stuff no-one else can see. Just go the whole hog, let people share their homes on Facebook/Twitter and have a contest for the best Decorated Home every month. GO ON YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.

I… really don’t think it would be that hard to implement? I mean it’s basically a tiny raid instance with no enemies, right? Ditto Guild Halls. Of course, the question “how hard can it be?” is the bane of any developer’s existence, so I’ll trust there could well be Implications that I’ve not thought of.

New profession

Do it from the ground up in a way that is easy to level and fun, and then change all the old Professions to match this. You can make NPC’s in each Expansion’s Capital to sell the old patterns for a currency that you get as a drop whilst herbing, mining, enchanting, milling and prospecting. Everyone is happy, nobody loses out and you finally get to streamline all the Professions the same way. If you have problems designing this, gimme a shout. I’ll be happy to help.

I think GW2 has the results part right, in that the stuff you can craft is genuinely useful mostly regardless of level, and the top-end things (level 80 Exotic) are basically equal to anything else in the game. This plus the recent change that makes all currencies account-bound means the ‘gearing up alts’ market is pretty lucrative, and makes it actually worth the effort/cost of levelling professions.

Another thing GW2 does right with professions is making it less of a burden to switch: when you unlearn one in order to try a new one, you don’t lose any progress in the old one, so you’re free to switch back if you don’t like the new.

On the other hand, the actual mechanics of crafting in GW2 are really not that much better than in WoW. There’s a couple of quality-of-life improvements (access to stored materials from any crafting station), but it’s still ‘combine these things and click a button to make a new thing’. There’s zero player skill involved and it’s about as exciting as filling in paperwork.

Couturiers

In every Quest Hub there are people who JUST SELL MOGGING GEAR. That’s right, just mogging stuff: make it recolours of existing gear. I’m not expecting new stuff. Just get the old stuff out there so people can mix and match more stuff. How hard would it be?

This is something Zoe and I have discussed quite a bit, too. We ended up deciding that we’d rather see another GW2 feature: armour dyes! Although the big problem there is WoW’s armour models aren’t at all designed for custom recolouring, so I’m not sure what the solution would be – redoing all (!) the models in the game to make them compatible with a dye system would be a huge undertaking. In GW2 dyes can be made by cooks (as well as being random drops or purchasable from the AH or gem store), so a similar thing could work in WoW, although I personally reckon scribes would be a better fit, since they already make inks :D

More Lorewalker Cho-type NPCs

I’m not asking you to change old stuff, just add an NPC from the Explorer’s League/Reliquary in the levelling zones, to give us more lore background to what’s going on around us. They can be linked to Archaeology certainly, and maybe if you have the time you could do the same kind of stories you’ve utilised with Cho in Pandaria.

<3 CHO IS THE BEST. Well Taran Zhu is cool too, but I like Cho more (and the guy who does his voice. I’m aware they may be the same actor :p ). I love the Seat of Knowledge stuff where he tells the stories of what’s happened so far, and how you play the scenarios to experience the story yourself. If we could auto-follow NPCs who walk around, even better – sometimes I just want to look about, take in the scenery and listen to Cho/other NPC (like the bit in Shattrath), without having to constantly move in tiny increments just to keep up.

Class-specific quests

You proved it worked with the Warlocks. They were ace in Vanilla. Bring them back for everybody, and link them with proving Ground-type ‘learn your class’ quests as you level. Instantly better players, happy because they had a story ALL TO THEMSELVES :D

Well I wasn’t around for þe olde vænilla, and the current class quests you get aren’t terribly exciting (“go on this arduous quest for a reward that you’ll outlevel by the time you finish!”), but the idea of tying them into Proving Grounds is a good one! Blizzard could do a lot more to improve in-game player education, I reckon. The ‘Core Abilities’ thing in the spellbook is an ok start, but many people won’t ever read that, or even know it’s there, and the problem is made worse because it often lists abilities you don’t even have when you pick your talent specialisation.

I wonder if some kind of instanced class- and spec-specific quests would work best? You could start them from one of your class trainers (who basically serve almost no purpose now anyway), and they could accompany you in the instance, giving advice on how your class works. The instance could be different depending on what level you are (maybe one each time you get a talent point?), so by the time you visit a new one, you’d have some new abilities to try out, on which the trainer could advise you of situations where they’re best used.

Proving Grounds could then be a sort of ‘final exam’ – a way to practice everything your spec can do, and really push you to be skilled enough at it so that when you jump into your first raid (be it LFR, Flex, etc.) you’ll at least have some idea about what you’re capable of.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

[WoW] #WoWScreenshotADay 25: Culture

This post is part of a series of screenshot entries into a competition run by Tycertank. I’m a little behind on these, so please bear with me!

World of Warcraft has a lot of history, and very deep and rich lore. The various races all have well-defined characteristics, and it took quite a bit of pondering to come up with something that epitomised each one, yet would fit into a single image.

The mailboxes of the various races of Azeroth
Can you identify them all? Click to examine more closely.

That’s not all of them, as time constraints meant I had to limit myself somewhat.