Saturday, 31 July 2010


This is the third, and final, post about our recent trip to Herefordshire. On the Sunday morning we drove south from Fownhope and parked by the river just north of the small hamlet of Hole-in-the-Wall (I wonder if it has anything to do with the book/film Stardust?). We walked along the road and by the river and saw a number of interesting things; damsel flies, buzzards, sheep, mayflies, mistletoe. Unfortunately I failed to get photos (good or otherwise) of most of the things we saw.

The one exception was this Scarlet Tiger moth which sat perfectly still while I shoved a camera right up to it -- the macro mode on the camera focuses well at just a couple of centimeters.

I've no idea how many species of birds and insects we saw over the two days but I'm guessing it was quite a lot and certainly helped to make it a memorable weekend.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Since the beginning of the year, and after reading A Village Lost and Found, I've been dabbling a little in 3D photography. From the results so far (first attempt, second attempt) I'm certainly no T. R. Williams, but it has opened up a range of interesting photography ideas that I'd never previously considered.

Taking good sequential stereo views (where you take the view for one eye and then move and take the second view) is difficult enough but combining them correctly to produce a good stereocard is as difficult, if not more so. You have to align the images both vertically and horizontally, and crop out sections that don't appear in both views. When you have two aligned views you still need to decided on which 3D format you want to display the images; parallel, cross-eyed, red-cyan, amber-blue ...

Of course, as with previous problems, the answer, as far as I'm concerned, is to write a piece of software to either 1) do the work for me or 2) make life as easy as possible. So without further ado let me show a screenshot of 3DAssembler.

This shows the side-by-side editing mode. There is also an overlayed editing mode as well as a preview mode to see the final 3D result. 3DAssembler currently supports four 3D formats; parallel and cross-eyed for freeviewing (i.e. without any special glasses) and two anaglyph formats, red-cyan and amber-blue. Lots of people have red-cyan glasses kicking around (I have four pairs from the Shrek +3D DVD, as well as a pair that came with the programme for The War of the Worlds live show) that you can use with 3DAssembler. The amber-blue anaglyphs can be viewed using ColorCode 3D glasses, which are becoming a popular way of presenting 3D content as they give better colour re-production than red-cyan (I have a pair of ColorCode 3D glasses I got free with a TV guide so I could watch a 3D episode of Chuck). Given that pictures are often easier to understand than words (certainly my words) here are examples of the four output formats for you to try viewing; parallel, cross-eyed, red-cyan and amber-blue respectively.

So if that has whetted your appetite for 3D photography you can download 3DAssembler and have a play around. If you haven't any photos to try it with then there are some example photos included in the download.

If you have any comments/suggestions about 3DAssembler or ideas for future versions then please leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

v2.2.1 - 09/12/2014: Re-packaged so that there is an easy download available given that it is almost impossible to launch a Java programme from within a modern web browser.
v2.1.0 - 04/12/2010: You can now create portrait 3D views without having to use an external program to rotate the images. This release also includes a fix for a memory leak which should make the application more responsive.
v2.0.0 - 11/09/2010: You can now use zooming to help align the images properly, you can also now specify the exact values for the three alignment options using the advanced ribbon. The final image can also be cropped which helps to remove items that only appear in one view. There is also a custom anaglyph option where you can specify how the RGB channels should be produced. Added support for importing and exporting stereo versions of JPEG (*.jps) and PNG files (*.pns). There are also lots of performance enhancements and bug fixes.
v1.4.0 - 20/08/2010: Mostly bug fixes and a few bits of updated artwork. Also you should now find that 3da files are linked to the application so you can open a saved project easily.
v1.3.0 - 07/08/2010:You can now configure the auto layout feature based on the scene type and restrict the directions in which the images are aligned. There are also quite a few performance enhancements which should make the application work a lot faster. I've also opened up the source code -- you can get all the details from the Hudson project.
v1.2.0 - 22/07/2010: Quite a few bug fixes and error handling but the main improvement is that it is much easier to now move the images around using sliders instead of buttons.
v1.1.0 - 18/07/2010: A few bug fixes, but I've also added a green-magenta anaglyph format which should work with TrioScopics3D glasses (I've got four pairs that came with the Coraline DVD). I don't think this format is as good as either red-cyan or amber-blue but I've added it for completeness. Here is the same example as before in this new format:
v1.0.0 - 16/07/2010: First public release

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Wessington Pasture

After wandering around Broadmoor Common we all jumped back in the cars and made a second attempt at finding Wessington Pasture. This time we were successful. The reserve is a mixture of woodland and open pasture and we saw quite a lot of wildlife.

Marbled WhitesAn Aggressive SpiderCommon Green Grasshopper

We didn't see much in the wooded section (apart from a quick flash of a green woodpecker) but again we saw lots of Marbled Whites in the pasture. In fact one of the first things we spotted was a pair of mating Marbled whites. The nicest thing about seeing this pair is that we can tell the difference between the sexes -- the female has slightly orange tinted underwing.

When I got bored photographing the Marbled Whites I moved on to a rather aggressive spider that Bryony had found. No idea what species of spider it is but if you got anywhere near it's funnel like web it would shoot straight out at you. On one occasion it nearly jumped onto the camera lens. Having previously been bitten by a spider (slight tinkling and a little swelling) I decided to escape before it could do me any damage.

The last new thing I photographed at the pasture was a charming little Common Green Grasshopper (or at least that is what I think it is from looking at Bryony's field guide). He was very patient and just sat there for ages while I took a number of photos some, like this one, using the camera's macro function about 2cm from him! On the way back to the car I spotted only my second Harlequin Ladybird to add to the day's species list.

Note that if you visit the pasture please don't park on the road. If you open the gate you can drive down to a small car park. We left the cars on the road as it wasn't obvious there was a car park and came back to find a pleasant note from the farmer asking us not to park on the road in the future.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Broadmoor Common

Over the weekend, whilst staying at The Bowens in Fownhope, we did a number of short walks and took an awful lot of photos (616 to be precise -- or, in old money, just over 17 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film). I thought that rather than writing one long post I'd do a number of shorter posts one for each of the places we visited.

On the Saturday morning we set out in the cars to visit Wessington Pasture. Unfortunately we missed the turning (it looked like the entrance to a farm) and ended up at Broadmoor Common instead. According to the information board the common represents a fine example of a flower-rich ancient grassland. The abundance of wild flowers makes it an ideal habitat for moths and butterflies and they didn't disappoint.

RingletSix Spot BurnetMarbled White

As we stepped out of the car I got flown at by a Ringlet butterfly which was considerate enough to then land on some brambles right next to the car and in an ideal place for a photograph. Of course I don't really need to go all the way to Herefordshire to see Ringlets; we had some in the garden yesterday, well we did until the Robin ate one! Just as I was finishing photographing the Ringlet there was a cry from the other side of the car park as my mother had spotted something much more interesting, a Marbled White.

I've never seen a Marbled White before and neither had Bryony. I guess I shouldn't have been overly surprised by their presence. There was a photo of one on the information board and my butterfly book states that the unmistakable Marbled White is a lovely butterfly of unimproved flowery grassland, which seems to match the description of the common on the board. Unfortunately they don't seem to like sitting still, rather they flit from flower to flower annoyingly fast for someone who is trying to take their photograph. In fact it wasn't until we were nearly ready to leave that I finally got a decent photo.

There were other butterflies flitting around (definitely a Small Tortoiseshell) but I didn't get any photographs. I did, however, manage to photograph a day flying moth, specifically a six spot Burnet moth. This sat quite still on a thistle for quite a while allowing us all to take as many photos as we wanted. It still hadn't really moved when we decided to walk a little further up the road.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


A long time ago I ate a muffin. This was, however, no ordinary muffin. I'd just finished a long walk in the Yorkshire Dales and was relaxing in the car park at Kettlewell when I was offered a muffin. Honestly from just looking at it I was a little underwhelmed. There was no thick frosting, no chocolate chips, in fact it looked very plain indeed with just a light dusting of sugar. I took one bite though and was stunned. I had taken a bite from a muffin but it tasted as if I was eating a donut! This donut-muffin hybrid has since entered into myth as I've never tasted another one and neither has anyone else I've talked to about it. I'm not entirely sure why, but last week the mythical muffin reared it's tasty head in my mind and I decided that it was time to figure out a recipe for baking my own.

I knew that I didn't already have an appropriate recipe, otherwise I would have made the muffins before, so I went out and hunted around on the web. I found quite a few different recipes and cobbled a few together to match the ingredients I already had in the house. Once I had settled on a recipe I went straight to the kitchen to cook. Making the mixture didn't take very long but then I had a nervous 20 minute wait before I could taste one. They looked like muffins, but they tasted like donuts. Success!

If you want to try making your own Donut/Muffin hybrids then I've added the recipe I used to the cookbook. Enjoy!

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Bowens Country House Hotel

We've just spent a very nice weekend with family at The Bowens Country House Hotel. The hotel is situated opposite the church in the small Herefordshire village of Fownhope. We took lots and lots of photos so there will be a few more posts describing the weekend but I thought I'd start with a stereoscopic photo of the hotel.
If you know how to view magic-eye pictures then you should be able to freeview this image and see the hotel in glorious 3D. If that last sentence didn't make any sense then have a read of this previous post I wrote about taking and viewing 3D photos. If you want a high-resolution copy that you can print and use with a proper stereoscope then try this one.