Voskhod instruments by Tom Royal on Flickr
Valentina Tereshkova with Vostok 6 by Tom Royal on Flickr
Voskhod Capsule by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Heron by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr

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January 30th, 2009


Went to Brighton today to be beside the seaside and see Si. More photos here, slideshow here.

Dear Nice Microsoft People..

January 21st, 2009

For the next version of Word, could you add some sort of political rant filter? Nothing fancy, mind – just search for a couple of strings, like so:


Oh, and stick the same thing in Internet Explorer, please. The world will thank you for it.


It’s not the same as being there

January 20th, 2009

Millions Watch

.. but I’ll gladly take it.

Less flare

January 19th, 2009

People watching people

I really should learn to use a camera properly; you know, buy a book or something. Instead I’ve been slowly working things out over the years, which is satisfying but often frustrating in a “wish I’d known that when I was in…” kind of way. Case in point: lately I’ve been having problems with lens flare.

Having attended a lovely wedding at which I was pretty much unable to photograph anyone inside because of the dark (can’t afford an external flash to bounce and my zoom lens is large enough to obscure the built-in one) I decided to buy a simple, bright lens. In the end I picked up a really old Nikon E 50mm f/1.8, and it’s great: almost twice as bright as the zoom, and easy to focus because it was made in the days that auto-focus didn’t exist. It’s also tiny – on the D40 it barely protrudes beyond the prism/flash housing – and stupidly light. Oh, and cheap. Cheap is good.

The problem, though, is flare. Point my modern zoom lens, with hood, pretty much anywhere other than directly at the sun and you’ll get a clean picture. When pointing the 50mm lens pretty much anywhere outdoors I was getting the most amazing light effects: blobs, swooping arcs, upside down headlights in the sky where they’d obviously reflected somehow inside the glass (there are probably technical terms for these things, but I don’t know them). Sometimes they’re pretty, mostly they’re a pain.

Anyhow, today I finally figured it out, and the answer is simple: just stop the lens down. At anything wider than f/4 you get crazy flares. f/5.6 or higher and things get better. Stop it all the way down to f/22, if you can, and there’s no problem even with bright light sources in the frame. The photo above was 5 seconds, f/22 at ISO200.

So, there you go. Simple. And it only took me three sodding weeks to figure out. Nuts. For my next trick, maybe I’ll learn how to actually take some interesting pictures.


January 17th, 2009


Photo: Oak Ridge, taken by Ed Clark for Life Magazine in 1945. Details here.

Since visiting the Cold War Modern exhibit I’ve been looking for more information on the American National Exhibition held in Moscow in 1959. So far I’ve turned up depressingly little that I didn’t already know, but I did stumble back into Google’s Life Magazine archive.

When it was launched a few months back I vaguely noted that this project sounded interesting. Now I’m convinced that it’s one of the best things on the internet. Search for anything from 1860 to 1979 (the Nixon/Kruschev kitchen debate, for example) and it turns up photo after photo after brilliant photo. If you have a few hours to lose, do go take a look.

On an entirely unrelated note, I’ve made some changes to the design here: out go the red leaves, in comes something more blue (this is a decision entirely unrelated to politics). If you spot any oddnesses, please let me know.