Husband, father, geek.

by Chris Pearson

Sorry Casey, I Bottled It...

It started with a brief twitter conversation about writing a blog and developing in the newest hip language that the cooler kids where using. Node.js if you’re interested, I can tell you are. After a brief exchange I resolved to write my own blog engine.

It was called Hex and it even rendered out posts. Then I had to index the posts from disk and decided to try object oriented JavaScript which is when it all went wrong, this I hate you. Combine this with my then 12 month old twins discovering how their legs worked and the project was canned.

Fast forward 5 months and I am ready to give things a second go. However as the title suggests I bottled it. Rather than home rolling my own engine I’ve used Jekyll. I went with this option as it’s simple but I remain in control. It also allows me to use Github Pages as my host for free and so saves me £3 a month. Maybe I’ll finally get backblaze with the money.

So here we are, I’ve done it. Maybe people will read this, maybe they won’t. I’ll never know as I’ve not added analytics to this page. This is about the journey.

Flood Damage To The Local River

For while now one of the species that I’ve been meaning to do more about has been the Kingfisher. I’ve bought a book on them, unread, and made a list of spots where Kingfishers have been reported and thought about the images I want. But primarily I just want to see one. I’ve not seen once since I was young on a trip to a restaurant in Yorkshire where one was flying up and down outside.

This weekend I decided to do something about it and visit one of the locations on my list, the bird hide at RHS Wisley Gardens in Surrey. Built in 2010 blog posts talked of a lush river side hide and a fantastically built hide to watch the wildlife, and Kingfisher, from. It seems time has changed things a touch.

A robin sits on a vine covered stree opposite the bird hide at RHS Wisley Gardens

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2013 In Review

I’ve been in two minds about as to write this post, as with last year it has proven to be a rather mixed year and rather sparse photography wise.  As I mentioned at the end of the year started of with several hospital trips for my health, and it turns out it ended that way also.  Not for my health however, it transpired that we are expecting twins in the new year!

The year started slow as I wasn’t allowed out unsupervised until I was cleared by my consultant.  Once this had happened I began making regular visits to the local Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve and began following a small herd of roe deer that frequented the fields.

A roe deer doe feeds on a wooded area between a river fork

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Bushy Park Rut 2013 - Video Clip

I have made a short clip of the rut in Bushy Park from the other week. This is my first effort with video, there’s so much to learn!  The sound is probably the biggest issue but I would need an external mic to do any better really.

Pretty happy with the quality from the D7000 and I edited in the new iMovie.  Whilst this doesn’t offer buckets of control there’s enough there to string a few clips together and to adjust the exposure down a touch.  The interface is much cleaner than the last version of iMovie and I now find it usable.  Some of the pre planned effects and transitions are a bit cheesy so I’ve tried to stick to fairly simple fades and clean titles.

Bushy Park Rut 2013

Last week I was able to get out to visit this years rut.  Originally I planned to visit Richmond Park this year but changed my mind to stick with Bushy Park as in previous years as it’s closer and I know my way around.  Richmond will have to wait for another year when I can find a guide to go with!

I started with a visit on a Sunday afternoon in the rain.  I hoped to get some moody slow shutter images of the rut in action but the rain stopped as I arrived and it just left everything looking flat and boring.  The plus side was this trip showed I wouldn’t need the TC’s for my next visit but I’d take them anyway.

On the Wednesday of last week I got up at o’dark thirty to ensure I arrived before dawn to try make the best of the golden morning light.  Sadly I couldn’t make much of this due to the placement of the deer and the cloud cover but I did take a few nice images.

Stag at dawn

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River Wey Swans

Last weekend I managed to find some time to head back out to the reserve to see if the roe deer had come out of their summer hiding to prepare for the upcoming rut.  Sadly there was not a deer in sight but there where a few spots that looked like they make be starting to make a few stands but time will tell on that one.

Just as I was thinking of leaving I saw a family of mute swans coming down the River Wey on the current.  There was a pair of adults and a cygnet just starting to mature from the dull grey to the brilliant white of an adult swan.

A pair of mute swans with their cygnet

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First Moonlight

I have recently been starting to investigate the world of astronomy and astrophotography. After a lot of reading up on the subject on a clear I went out to photograph the moon seriously for the 1st time, “first light” being the astronomy slang for the 1st time you use something.

A waxing gibbous moon (91%) imaged from Surrey, UK.

Taking the images with a modern DSLR and photographic lens isn’t overly complex.  Focus using autofocus, set a good exposure (I used ETTR here to ensure nice noise free images) then fire.  The key difference to terrestrial images is volume of data.

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Photographing The International Space Station

One of my many interests that I had as a kid was the stars. I remember going on late night hikes as a scout and watching them migrate across the sky. On one occasion we did a dusk to dawn night hike during the Perseids, which has just happened for this year, and seeing dozens of meteors leaving trails across the sky.  As with most child interests other things soon come along and my interest in the sciences was stolen away in the 90s when computers began to really take over the world, but it never truly went away.

Recently, through my interest in photography, I began to be drawn back to the stars thanks to some of the amazing astrophotography being done over the last couple of years. The Astrophotographer of the Year run by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich has had some great images and the book is worth a look.

Due to light pollution where I live what I can photograph without some specialist kit is limited, they need to be comparatively bright.  2 such objects are the moon and the International Space Station, or ISS.

ISS pass 2103-08-12 21:24

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Morning Visit

I had booked yesterday off a while ago as the eldest was heading to ZSL Whipsnade zoo on a school trip and figured, if she gets to go, so do I.  We invested in a family membership so have been visiting a lot recently.

This time was different though as it was the first time I took the 300mm 2.8 VR II with a view of getting some proper images.  I still had the youngest with me, and the wife so it wasn’t 100% focused but more so than normal.

Juvenile Coot

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Patch Update - June 2013

Whilst I haven’t blogged about it in a while I have been making regular visits to the local nature reserve over the last month.  June seems to mark the start of a quiet period that I noted last year, the last few visits have revealed very little to point a lens at.

Sadly on a recent visit I found a roe buck corpse tangled in the fencing that’s in place to stop the cattle falling in the river.  The body seemed reasonably fresh as there was no sign of any scavenging or decay.  I called the ranger to let them know and he also shared my disappointment at such a find.

On my last visit the grass was really starting to grow, which for me is a problem.  I suffer from hay fever and whilst I take medication to help I still suffer a lot at certain times of year.  Last night resulted in my worst reaction for years, this combined with the slow down in sightings means I will be staying away for a month or so.  Hopefully once the pollen season is over I will be able to head over again.

In the mean time I intend to investigate another local site which is reported to be home to badgers, and possibly Kingfisher.  With any luck I’ll be able to find something there and there won’t large amounts of long grass to cause me problems!

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