Last Wednesday evening we drove up to the a place called Seahouses and checked into our bed and breakfast. We then grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few beers before getting to bed for some rest before our first taste of diving in the UK sea. We dove in several locations in and around the Farne Islands with Sovereign Diving
. Thursday morning we had an early start out on the boat.
We started off with a wreck at about 20 m just off the side of one of the small islands called Knivestone, and then got a little lunch and after a good surface interval we were at our next dive. This was much shallower at about 6 m on a sandy bank just off a beach. It was called Corrington and there was quite a spread out wreck and loads of life. The highlight of which were the lobsters for me.
We all had a really nice meal together in the evening at the dive operations restaurant after washing our gear down and leaving it to dry. Shared a few tales and took in all the photos of the seals hoping we would be lucky on our second day of diving and meet some seals!
We saw a few seals from a distance on the first dive, but the currents were really strong. Louise didn't feel very good after that dive so she gave the last dive a miss. I buddied up with Mark and Grant on the last dive and that had to be the best of the lot for me. We went through quite a narrow gulley, caught sight of some seals playing around near us. Had a quick look at the wreck at about 12 m and then came up and did our longest safety stop ever whilst playing with the seals. I have put all the decent pictures I got here
along with my favourites in the sub album.
All in all a great introduction to UK diving. Shame Louise missed the best dive, I suppose it means we will just have to go back some time. When we got home I had to complete the knowledge reviews for my rescue diver course and had a really long day at TigerDive
doing the classroom stuff and pool work. Next Saturday is my first visit to Capernwray
to do the open water part of the course.
After singing Dyson's praises yesterday I suppose it is only fitting another company makes my blood boil today. I don't think I ever wrote about it but a couple of years ago my wife and I went to Ibiza to spread my brother's ashes with my family. I took my SLR camera and ended up taking about seven rolls of film out there. Louise took them to Jessops
in Sheffield city centre near Ponds Forge. We used them a little before that and I actually bought my SLR camera from them about six months earlier.
She asked for one hour processing when she dropped them off on her lunch hour. We went to collect the films at about 16:30ish after work and they weren't ready - in fact they had not even started to process them. The machine wasn't doing anything at the time. They actually lied and claimed that she had asked for four hour processing (we didn't even know they offered that - all that was advertised was one hour or next day I believe). They weren't even ready in four hours. They had a kid with long hair in the back who did the processing and he actually started talking about Louise with the other staff whilst she was stood there - hurling insults at her which she overheard as he wasn't talking as quietly as he might have thought.
I complained to the manager, he was pretty spineless and didn't do anything about this rude employee. He offered us the processing for free, but then when he realised how expensive it would be backtracked and offered it to us half price. We stood there and waited whilst the kid who was so rude continued to process the film. In the end (after about 45 minutes) we got our photos and I let the manager know again just how unhappy I was. I also wrote a letter of complaint to their head office and got a reply back basically saying we're sorry and not a lot else.
Then yesterday I was placing an order with Club 35
whom I have found to be very good over the last year or two. As I was looking at the negatives I noticed that the photo I wanted an enlargement of has had its edge sliced off. Looking through the other negatives quite a few of them are like this. Now Jessops is supposed to be an award winning photo processor (part of the reason I paid more to use them) but I also remember him slamming the blade down as he was chopping up the negatives. To me that is just gross incompetence or possibly even malicious. I prefer to believe incompetence but I suspect it was malicious.
That guy didn't have a clue how much or how little those photos meant to me or my wife. Hopefully the guys at Club 35 will be able to make an enlargement from the negative anyway, but I really just wanted to write this post to express my sheer anger. Jessops should discipline their staff if they behave in such a manner, it upset my wife and that guy has damaged the negatives to my pictures from an event that will only ever happen once. It also reminds me how much trust you are forced to put in strangers and how it is so easy to let you down...
Just a quick note to say we had a great holiday in Malta in the end. The diving improved greatly in the end and Aquaventure
showed us some great sites. Unfortunately they never managed to get us out to the Camino caves which would have been great to see. I did go on four really nice wreck dives though to the Rozi and the Um El Faroud - doing some penetration into the engine room of the Um El Faroud. Louise and I also went to the much older wreck of the HMS Maori on our last dive of the holiday which was excellent and he even found us a sea horse which I got a few shots of.
I have put up the digital photos here
but have not had chance to improve the colours and stuff yet - some of them look much better with a little tweaking. A lot of the wreck photos also look amazing in black and white. I don't think I have any prize winners yet but they are a great set of pictures for my first diving holiday with the camera (in my opinion at least). I would love to hear what other people think of them. I really have the bug for diving now too so I am hoping to get into the UK diving scene a little over the Summer too. Some of the videos I made are really big, they play fine under Linux for me but Windows seems to have issues on friends systems...
We also went horse riding while we were away, it was Louise's idea and we both really enjoyed it. The weather wasn't great and the food didn't improve at the hotel at all but we had a great time in the end. I also got quite a nice tan. The Internet over there was so amazingly unreliable and slow too with the wireless taking up to 20 attempts just to associate with the router sometimes. Good to be back in the UK where things like this work a lot better
I am packing again this morning though as I am on a residential course out at Lake Windermere for a week with the UK GRAD programme. Cut off from civilisation again... Then I can play with my photos a little and get my SLR photos developed too - I have quite a backlog now. Great holiday though and I am about ready to get back into my work now - get that thesis written up!
We got to Malta safe and sound. It was really hot at the airport but got really cold by the time we got to the hotel. When we got here it was like the hotel time forgot - it seems to be stuck about forty years in the past which is why so many old people are here I guess
It is nice enough but quite basic for a four star hotel - the Mellieha Bay Hotel
We went on our first dive today with Aquaventure
who are at the beach in our hotel complex. I have been looking forward to going on another dive for a good few months now but I was disappointed I am afraid... It was the shortest dive I have done so far at only 34 minutes, the shallowest at a max depth of 7.6 m and an average of about 4 m. It was also the coldest (15 C) and the one where I had the most air left at the end. I came up with just under 130 bar... There were very few photo opportunities in Slugs Bay too - I will put a few up with this entry though such as the sea slug I found.
It was nice to finally get to use all this new equipment though. My underwater camera enclosure seemed to work well, although the woman who sold it to me just told me I need the fibre optic kit to get rid of back scatter... If she had told me that when I asked at the dive show I would have bought one there and then. Never mind - I will get the best photos I can with what I have available. Even though the water was cold my wet suit kept me warm. Louise gobbled through her air - she only had 80 bar left but she gets a lot more nervous.
We have arranged a car for the next four days (three full days) and have two dives booked on Friday, one on Saturday and one or two on Monday I think. Hopefully I will get a few wreck dives in next week too as well as some caves. I really hope the diving does get better - I think we were spoilt in the Red Sea!
Lousie managed to beat me this morning too - she pasted me at Scrabble whilst we were sat at the side of the pool. Back to the evenings entertainment anyway...
On my recent trip to Baltimore I read my second Discworld novel - Going Postal
. I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than Thud! It is a very clever book and it appealed to me on many levels. I especially enjoyed the Clacks and the parallels my mind drew with areas of modern life and some of the practices of the operators of the Clacks. Moist was a fun character if not a little predictable, all in all a great read in my opinion.
However Dan Brown's Digital Fortress
was a big disappointment to me. It was predictable and terminology was used in a clumsy and in some cases incorrect fashion. He made the common mistake of calling crackers hackers and tried to dramatise the breaking down of a firewall in a way that really did not work for me. If he really did consult with ex-NSA agents I fear for the security of the NSA! I thought it might be a fun read but it really wasn't. I may yet read the Da Vinci Code
but after reading this book I am in no rush to get it.
So a bit of a mixed bag. I found Dan Brown's writing pretty simplistic with silly amounts of twists at then end that were almost funny but not really. Whereas Going Postal was a really fun book that had me amused all the way though. I have bought Night Watch
and Thief of Time
by Terry Pratchett - both were recommended by friends.
I also bought The Art of Diving
on a friends recommendation as his friend Alex Mustard did all the photography. I have to say the photos are amazing and I can only hope to take pictures approaching that quality whilst I am in Malta. I also bought An Essential Guide to Underwater Photography by Michael Aw and Matthieu Meur when I was at the London Internation Dive Show (Amazon doesn't seem to have this) and got it signed by the author (first book I have ever had signed). Hopefully that will help me to take some nice pictures - I tested out my underwater camera enclosure and strobe yesterday ready for the holiday
Well I am back from Baltimore now. Louise joined me on Thursday and as there were no relevant talks on the last day of the conference we went to the aquarium for the day on Friday. That was really fun and it is a pretty good aquarium. We saw the dolphin show twice as I really like dolphins and went around the Australia exhibit they are currently showing.
We had a really nice meal that evening at the Capitol Brewing Company and I found one of the nicest beers I have ever tasted! It was called Fuel and was made from coffee and chocolate among other things. It was quite strong but very nice, I couldn't find any to buy to bring home though... Saturday we took the train down to Washington DC for the day.
We paid for a day pass on the tour bus and started off at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. I was amazed that is was free entry, but the queues were long and slow. Once in I had to put my bag through a security scanner, I asked the security guard if it was film safe and he didn't listen at all but took my bag off me and pushed it through. I will find out when I get them developed I guess.
Continue reading "Back From Baltimore"
I have finished moving my old Gallery 1 site from my old server to the new one, and took the opportunity to migrate over to the newly released Gallery 2
. Everything seemed to work really well and the migration went across without too many issues. I had been testing the betas and rcs anyway, but it was great to see the final product. I think my gallery
looks much better now. I did see another Gallery 2 site with the year as a big heading, and the albums taken in that year in that section which I really liked.
Anyway I am really busy and am going to have to shoot. I took the opportunity to add all the photos from my trip to Japan, stag week in Tenerife, our wedding and some of the honeymoon photos. Hopefully I will get time to add more later. I am very impressed overall, but I would really like the photos in the random photo and when you are looking at individual photos to be centred. I will have to see if there is an easy way to do that soon.
I just wanted to share my discovery of Digikam
with you all. It is such an amazing program that does all the stuff I had been wanting after rediscovering my love of photography and getting my new Fuji F10. I have also found a good processing lab that will scan my 35mm films to CD for a reasonable fee for the shots I take with my Nikon F80.
I committed bumps to media-gfx/digikam-0.7.4, media-plugins/digikamimageplugins-0.7.4 and also added the corresponding 0.8.0_beta1 versions to p.mask. The betas seem to be working really well though, and it is much snappier due to using sqlite I think amongst other improvements. The screenshot shows the main UI in action with some of my honeymoon snaps.
Add in the digikamimageplugins package, along with the kipi-plugins and you have a really powerful application that can catalogue all of your photos, edit them, touch them up, prepare backups, CDs and print them. I think it is really starting to come into its own with 0.7.4 and 0.8.0_beta1 having many more image manipulation plugins and a pretty amazing feature set. Just emerge digikam digikamimageplugins kipi-plugins to get all the photo editing goodness
Well we got married on Friday 29 July and everything went really well. It rained all day Thursday and they predicted thunder storms for Friday but it was dry all day. The photos should be really good, I should be able to collect the proofs from the photographer today or tomorrow I think he said. I think everyone there had a great time, and it was really good to see so many close friends and family gathered in one place.
We stayed over at Worteley Hall and set off for Gatwick Saturday, stopped in a Holiday Inn near the airport overnight and flew out the next morning. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Sharks Bay which was a really nice hotel. Occupancy was down to about 65% due to the bombings the previous week in the area, but the staff was great and the resort was beautiful.
We went diving and snorkelling with the Sinai Dive Club
which had a center in our hotel. I got my PADI Open Water Diver, and my Advanced Open Water Diver certifications. Louise got her Open Water Diver and Adventure Diver qualifications as she has a little trouble with her ears.
We had a great time diving in the Red Sea, it really is amazing out there. The sea water was 28-29 C the whole time we were out there, the house reef was really nice and the reefs out in Ras Mohammed were even better. We saw a really old leather back sea turtle swimming past the house reef as well as big Napoleon fish, Nemos, trigger fish, a giant moray eel out hunting (and lots lurking in their caves) and big shoals of unicorn fish, tuna and way more too numerous to mention. We also did a deep dive out at Ras Mohammed. Our instructors Karen and Tati were both great and I can't wait to go back out!
We also made it up to Cairo for a few days. We saw the pyramids, went round the museum and I rode a camel outside the great pyramids which was really fun and a little scary. Cairo was a nice place to visit but two days was more than enough for me. We said next time it would be good to go on a Nile cruise and visit Luxor.
Unfortunately after the wedding and honeymoon and all the other travelling I did before that we are now broke... So we have to come back down to earth and get some serious work done if we are ever going to afford a holiday next year. I also finish my PhD next year and need to find a job! I am sure it will all work out in the end.
I have gotten so many new toys in the last few weeks. My credit cards are feeling it, but I think it is worth it. In my quest for the ultimate office I managed to get two LG L1710B 17" TFT screens for my office! They are great too, I got the nVidia TwinView stuff working in Linux really nicely - although it wasn't as easy as I had thought.
One is coming from DVI, and the other from VGA. I am using Xinerama, and thanks to the excellent AMD64 nVidia driver both displays are still hardware accelerated and perform very well. I also got Dual View working in Windows, but rarely use that any longer.
Then I also got an NEC 2510A Dual Layer DVD writer. It is very good, and fully supported under Linux too. Wrote a few backups of all my photos, all my data files and when I get chance I am going to make one with all my ripped MP3/OGG tracks as it took ages to scan them all in!
Then Louise surprised me too, and had saved up to get me an SLR camera! I didn't expect that at all, but I have been after one for ages but never thought I could spare the money for one. She got me a Nikon F80 with the 28-100 mm and 70-300 mm G lenses. From the first roll of film it all looks great - and we are going down to London this weekend too. That should give me a chance to really get some good shots out of it hopefully.