Friday, 16 April 2010

2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption: its efffects on Air Transport

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull yesterday has had a significant impact on air travel around the North Sea area and even extending across the Baltic and into northern Europe.

The ejection of tones of ash into the air space of the region has grounded air traffic.

The reason for this is the fear that ash particles can cause the Jet engines used in all (major) modern air passenger.

Exactly this situation (an engine shutdown) has been caused in the past when a 747 was diverted to Jakarta, causing Air Safety authorities to shut down air traffic in the effected air space now.

This makes me wonder about exactly how "robust" our present system is.

Sure, volcanic eruptions don't happen every day, but what if they became more frequent? Iceland is well placed (and a well know volcanic location) to essentially bring air traffic to a halt in Northern Europe.

Its an interesting question, more so to me sitting here now watching the chaos around me which I have just so narrowly avoided (we essentially got on about the last flight out of that airspace this morning).

Perhaps it is a design restriction of the Jet engine (which works using high velocity air intakes and high speed blades) which makes it inherently more sensitive to air quality. I'm uncertain right now if this has any effect on piston engine air craft, which work quite differently and have air filters before the air intake.

Back in the eruption of Mt St Helens similar problems were encountered, I believe for the first time in modern history. Since Jet aircraft are such new things, perhaps with our short experience (of depending on this type of technology) that this may become an important issue as we move forwards.

Finnair gets us through

As someone who believes in complaining loudly, I also like to balance that with praise where praise is due.

I have in the past complained about the service of Finnair to match the climate of Finland (cold and damp or bloody freezing) and while gratefully sitting in Hong Kong at the moment I would like to take a moment to thank Finnair for their job well done in routing us home via another method.

The staff worked hard in the face of adverse customer attitudes. My experience on the counter with one woman who had been working flat tack for 2 hours was efficient un-rattled and professional. Sadly not all of those waiting to be dealt with can be described as such (though most were patient and tolerant).

As you may know there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland yesterday, and this has tossed tons of ash into the air.

Importantly for us at this time into the Air Space too.

We heard on the news of the eruption I checked that flights were running on the net before heading off to the airport.
However by the time we got to Helsinki (3 hours before our flight out to Heathrow) it seemed that flights were being canceled over the northern Air Space.

We joined a (swiftly growing) bunch down in the basement of Helsinki Airport (nice cold floors too down there folks) to sort out our canceled flight.

After a long wait (and order brought to the masses via a well functioning ticketing system), the staff we spoke with identified a flight leaving for HK right about then and shunted us swiftly to that.

A quick sprint across the airport to the departure gate and we essentially got our baggage checked directly in and we walked right on to the plane (which seemed to be being held for us).

Now sitting in HK (with no delay to our travel) we are reading that all flights out of HEL are on hold till Saturday and the situation is spreading across Nth Europe.

The staff's great responce, efficient processing and fine exception handling got us on our way

thanks Finnair

Thursday, 8 April 2010

still gnawing on that: exploring camera ISO effects

yes, I'm still gnawing on this

The last few bog posts (combined with my being in the middle of packing up my house) have given me cause to gnaw further at this topic of open source vs closed Intellectual Property and what effects the move to digital is having on photography.

Make no mistake, I like digital. I like computers (notice where you're reading this?) and have spent quite an amount of energy getting to know my new media (I really only changed seriously to digital 5 or 6 years ago).

snowyJarviRuokoThis is not to say that I do not appreciate film and continue to use 120 roll and 4x5 sheet substantially in my photography.

I don't use film because I'm a luddite, I use it because I know it will give me the look I want.

How do I know? well by knowing my materials.

A friend of mine over in Soundimageplus seems to have started gnawing the same pithy issue, and came up with the thought:

OK - at the moment Canon offer great choices and good value, but what happens when they eliminate their main rival? Will they be so customer friendly when they don't have to try so hard?
and given that he's a self affesed Lieca fan and a Nikon owner this is no trivial statement (though I think personally he's a card carrying camera agnostic with a strong bent towards impulse shopping, but don't tell him I said that).

Well some time ago I was digging around in the bowels of RAW files produced by the Fuji S5 camera (with an eye to moving towards that) and found they were simply stunning ... even if only (and perhaps particularly at) 6MP. You see their superCCD is really supper ... but any wedding photographer out there reading this already knows that ...

To the point I discovered some interesting points. Canon it seems, (they won't admit anything) do some skulduggery in (probably the analog) signal processing pre writing to RAW on their incremental ISO that results in predelivery of combed histograms in their RAW data. For example:

So, before you introduce any banding into the picture yourself you start out with it. As my surfie mates would say back in the 80's
This was brought to attention on a forum back in 2006 after one programmer who was a photographer noticed the phenomenon. The response from Canon was via Chuck Westfall was this:
Hi, Peter:

I appreciate your interest, but we do not comment on our image processing algorithms. Our cameras are basically offered "as is," and we do our best to make sure that image quality is as high as it can be. Canon's official statement on EOS 30D image quality is as follows:

"The image quality of the EOS 30D and all other EOS Digital SLRs conforms with Canon's internal quality standard at all available ISO speed settings. We have no further comments to offer on this issue."

Best Regards,

Chuck Westfall
Director/Media & Customer Relationship
Camera Marketing Group/Canon U.S.A., Inc.

it was nice of them to discuss this to any extent ... wasn't it.

To be fair how many people have put Kodak or Fuji to task on their film stocks and got very far?

Probably noone (unless you buy 10 Km of 35mm stock at a time ... say in LA somewhere)

Of course the difference (in my view) is that as a film camera user I can say "no I don't like this film stock" and go use another one ... after all, its just a cassette of film I load into my camera isn't it... Heck I could (and did) mix n match brands within my camera system (especially the 4x5 LF one) but with a Digital I'm really trully wedded to a system.

As some may know a divorce is expensive

Now, Peter did some interesting analysis on the EOS cameras back then, and has published his data here. I'd like to take a moment to discuss the significance of the 5D and the the 30D data.

First, this is the data he got of signal to noise ratio of each of the ISO settings of the camera. As always higher signal levels (over noise) is better ... so a higher number is better. We know (or should know) that a camera goes "down" in quality as we push over its "base ISO". On the 5D that is 100 ISO

Peters data supports that notion and further suggests that by using fractional ISO you will drop down significantly in quality. In fact many fractional ISOs are lower in quality than 800, so you may as well set that.

Bet you won't find that in the manual.

This indicates to me that using auto ISO on the camera will quite likely result in lower quality images (assuming its not biased to choose the best ISO ... but then who'd know?)

The situation is even more interesting with the 30D. Where it seems the fractional ISO's are in fact the best with 160 being the best:

and a rapid trail off towards the 1600ISO end (with an advantage to be using 1250). These data are in "counts" which is a linear representation, some people may prefer seeing this as DB so he also presents that:

This just makes it more obvious that you don't use anything past 1600 on that camera (and if you took some test shots you'd probably see that too ... DPReview seems to have)

This is the step between 1600 and 3200 on their review

significant isn't it...

Peter reports
that 100 looks worse than 200 because at ISO 100 the pixels saturate at only 3398 counts and even though the dark noise is lower (StdDev = 2.11) the dynamic range ends up equal to (3398-128)/2.11 = 1550. At ISO 200 on the other hand the saturation is 4095

Thanks mate, re-reading this helps me with the observations I had with RAW testing on my G1 (some time recently).

Pete thinks that the intermediate levels are constructed ones, but looking at the data he's presented here I think that the intermediate levels (like 160) are the real base levels and the "proper" levels (100, 200) are the constructed ones .. perhaps for some fine efficiency tuning.

So as Peter observes:
Considering the above and that the 5D was released in September 2005 it is an impressive achievement and the camera still holds it own against many current (as of February 2008) cameras.
What I see is that technology has not really developed significantly since the 5D (and perhaps before) and that all the new stuff is just about regurgitating the stuff that the subscription editors already had in their pockets to dish out gradually.

the more things change, the more they stay the same

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

faults in the lakes

even when the lake is frozen, water and levels keep moving underneath it ...

Sometimes this creates a fault line along the lake pushing up chunks of ice

lake Cracking

Of course in Winter the day is short and although the sun moves angle slowly it gets dark (ish) soon.

Depending on how you think, it can be quite lonely out there ... or it can be quite beautiful...


I normally don't like to share my solitude ... but I guess its not going to disturb me this time :-)

who framed film?

sure digital is now quite good, its perfect for snapshots and has been for years, but why are they killing film? People seem to want it ....

Film seems to have some benefits for people, as while digital is penetrating many markets totally, there remains a number of film users in other areas, some of them even converts from Digital.

Now I know well what the advantages of Digital are, but given all of that I still choose to use film. For some reason the market is either shooting itself in the foot or (apparently) pulling products which are in demand.

Clearly film is a delicate system, requiring proper handling of the negatives in particular. More and more minilabs seem to give me back scratched negatives, or ones with drying marks.

Scanners are disappearing, with Nikon discontinuing the LS-V and then the LS-5000 and perhaps soon the LS-9000 too ... despite there clearly being a market for them (given the complaints I read on back orders not being filled).

What the hell is going on? I thought this was a market economy? Are Nikon torpedoing their excellent range of scanners because they fear it will subtract from their DSLR sales (and they have almost cancelled their Camera range ... but mysteriously not quite).

Sure, a Digital SLR gives us 90% of what we can obtain from a good film scan ... in some ways it offers things film doesn't (HDRI comes to mind) but in other ways it lacks.

I find it interesting that for ages there have been claims trying to substantiate that Digital is better than film while to me now it seems that the ability to match what is in film has only recently been reached (even then only with respect to resolution) ... yet, back on the first shoot out on LL where a D60 was pitted against 6x7 120 film we could read this:
Then in mid-2002 I upgraded to the Canon EOS D60. This cameras clearly surpassed 35mm film quality in every respect and so I retired my film-based Canon EOS 1V.
what a joke ... thousands of readers who never had the chance of owning or using these cameras fell for this and I'm certain it helped the penetration of digital. Without access to the stuff they could only trust this reporting.

It was not until years later that when I owned the 10D myself that I could say clearly that this is not the case.

My G1 Panasonic (which is a 12 megapixel camera) clearly out performs my 10D (which is 6 Megapixels); and as shown below the G1 is nearly dead even with 35mm film on an LS-4000 scanner, so if the G1 betters the 10D how in hell does the 60D better 6x7 film?

Back some time ago I did this comparison between wide angle lenses on my G1 vs 35mm full frame. I was interested to compare bokeh and depth of field, I found that I liked the bokeh of the 21mm better than the 11mm.

35mm film with a 21mm lens overview image:

G1 with 11mm overview image

At that time I used negative film, and in looking around my scans I found something I didn't expect to find ... that the humble 35mm film had as much detail and resolution as the digital ... this is my comparison close up of the images

Even with the mushroom being closer to the camera on the digital image, the film still shows a more detailed rendering of it. Notice the yellow tinge to the edge of the mushroom? Yep ... channel blow outs. Still, looks OK (if you don't know what you're looking at and you're not very discerning).

Having tested my 10D and 20D against 35mm (but using a 2900dpi scanner) I had felt they were close enough to 35mm film to really not make 35mm worth my while using the film anymore. Had I seen this sort of result (obtained with 4000dpi) I would have remained using 35mm for a system camera and "better images" and kept using digital for compact camera snaps only.

Also, at that time I also took some slide film, and recently I sent that slide to a friend with a Hasselblad (Imacon) E-5 scanner. As I took it I realised my shadow was in the foreground, but here is the overview of that image.

and the detail (again at the same 50% zoom as above)

at 6000dpi the Imacon/Hasselblad reveals a little more detail than the 400dpi scans and easily keeps holding together. I am sure it is better than uprezzed images from the 12MP G1.

This is not a unique finding for me as over the years I have found I can get consistently good images from (*even 35mm) negative film, it has only been in recent times (like the since the full frame cameras like the 5D and the current crop of APS or 4/3 cameras) that I can actually match the quality I get from 35mm film (and certainly not 4x5).

For instance looking at this recent test comparing 35mm neg with my G1


you can see that in many ways they are quite neck and neck


The technology clearly exists and has existed for some time for us to be getting good quality images from our film (even and perhaps especially 35mm) but for some reason we get served up junk.

So its really hard to see that this film is as inferior to digital as the LL view on the D60 seems to have shown ... it gets harder to swallow when one considers that my G1 shows so much better than my 10D did and still pulls slightly behind even 35mm film ...

Another knife in the back of film ... I wonder if they paid him silver pieces?

Of course Digital gives us convenience!

but in some other ways, film also gives us convenience. I can keep a camera like an Olympus Trip 35 (which has no battery) in the car and have something always ready to take a picture ... try that with a digital (oh, the battery is dead).

In reality most casual photographers don't even pull the images off the media cards any faster than they'd drop their film at the shop.

So why not start the digital pathway from there? After film capture??

I know quite a many folk don't know the first thing about computers (and more who won't admit that but don't). If a low cost pathway existed to give film users digital images to use we'd all be winners.

Well I know that Noritsu makes a fine system which will give good 6MegaPixel images from 35mm film, right at development time.



which equals what I can get with a Nikon LS-IV @2900dpi, not bad for $5 extra when developing the roll ...

I know that Noritsu make scanners too ... they are hardly compact, but if they're specs are anything to go by (and compared to the above image they would seem to be) they're great stuff.

For instance their HS-1800 model:
  • USB 2.0 operation
  • makes 4492 x 6774 pixel images at the rate of 88 images per hour
  • even seems to handle 645 120 film (but at a lower image density for some reason. Its 4824 x 3533. Perhaps its scanning the width at a different height? If so it should be able to handle 6x9 even)

Perhaps it this was marketed better people might be buying it ... instead one reads of people hoarding old Nikon scanners (often drastically in need of service) as the scanner market vanishes.

There are other makers out there filling niche markets and indeed some minilabs have good systems on them standard ... if only there was some education and knowledge among the labs there would be no reason why film users could not access high quality images at low prices ...

but perhaps that's the problem ... everyone wants to charge more more more?

Film it seems is too cost effective for the low volume market.

There seems to be nothing between the Pacific Film (which strikes me as crap) and Epson flatbeds (which are ok, but ICE is barely functional and resolution is suitable for high quality 8x13 inch and acceptable quality to 20inch wide) and then the Imacon / Hassleblad (for those who are happy with that price) and Drum scanners (dissappearing breed too I notice).

Are labs even helping to kill off film?

I know that I can get better scans from my film at processing time, but its never pressed and I have consistently got rubbish from minilab owners. I'm sure it was a total fluke that I got my great experience from my first go with the Noritsu, I actually had to bargain with the operator to get them to drive their machine right.

Right now I'm about to go and pick up some film from the local developer. I asked for images on a CD ... but they could only give me a lousy 1024x768 ... what a joke.

No wonder people turn away from film.

If I didn't know better I would too

a post scriptum

Lens Bubbles comment got me thinking ... I would like to add that for me too 99% of the time digital is great. I've had A3 prints done from my Coolpix 5000 (which is 5 megapixels) and thought they were fine (heck I know they're fine). I don't really wish to be scanning (and hence I often argue that it would be good if the labs could actually do this properly). Its not that its film, its that it costs to be in the cycle of digital SLR upgrades and without spending thousands the body's are really not significantly better than the film systems were.

I guess that this article needs to be couched in the terms I was thinking of yesterday when I wrote about digital and its effects on the camera market.

As evidence of my belief in digital being 90% enough I'll make available this image taken with my Coolpix 5000 (in raw)

Click to download a full sized image.
Finland sunset 100ISO Coolpix 5000

print it out to A4 or A3 and I'm sure you'll agree that its good enough to hang up there on the wall

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

stitched up tight

They say competition improves the breed.

But in nature not everyone wants to compete ... excluding the competition can result in expending less energy. Plants are thought to do this in a process where they produce a chemical (which metabolically costs them) that excludes other plants and prevents seeds from germinating. There is a fancy name for this (Alleopathy) and while it is uncertain what the mechanism for operation is, there is significant scientific evidence to support this exists.

I feel that while it would seem that the move to digital has been mainly driven by the market and to the benefit of the consumer I have a feeling that this is not the entire picture.

I think that there is a significant benefit to the camera makers (the so called Camera Zaibatsu), that the move to digital will allow them to stitch up the market and essentially make it impossible for anyone to compete with them or anyone new to enter the market. They would then own the market. Could be worth the metabolic effort.

Until digital cameras came about it was more than possible to make a new camera and bring it to market, it happened from time to time.

The Bessa L series is a recent example of a (relatively) small company (Cosina) bring out a camera to leverage off another camera systems lenses. A quick round up of the relevant Voigtlander history is found here:
  • In 1970 Voigtländer was merged with Zeiss-Ikon.
  • In 1974 Voigtländer became part of Rollei .
  • 1980 Plusfoto became Voigtländer's sales organisation.
  • Since 1987 Ricoh and Chinon make cameras for Voigtländer.
  • In 1994 the last part of the original Voigtländer company in Braunschweig was closed.
  • In 1995 Ringfoto bought Plusfoto and the Voigtländer brand.
  • In 1999 the popular 35mm viewfinder camera body Bessa L was introduced, developed and produced by Cosina
There's another pair of names in there which I've owned in the past, Ricoh and Chinon. The Chinon also was a camera which leveraged the fine Pentax range of lenses.

The Bessa L was a small light 35mm viewfinder camera:

Cosina 107-SW by Hans Marvell

and made use of the wealth of Leica lenses and other lenses which used that mount.

Cosina 107-SW by Hans Marvell

The little Cosina was:
  • visually pleasing,
  • compact,
  • light weight and
  • cheap
Naturally it was a hit.

Having owned cameras like the Chinon CE-4 I can say it was interesting to have a camera which provided a difference to the way the big companies cameras operated.

Not only was it cheaper, but it was an easy to use, light camera that took Pentax lenses (I had a Pentax MX at the time, so the CE-4 was a cheap addition to my 'system' to give me an aperture priority body) and had a both aperture priority & manual operation.

The camera had a cunning method of showing you (in the viewfinder!) the shutter speed you had selected and the speed you should select for the aperture you had dialed in (recall that the aperture ring is on the lens on the Pentax lenses).

Like my MX operation in M allowed me to essentially use the camera to pick my own exposure compensation to within 1/2 a stop on the fly as I was looking through the view finder by adjusting the aperture ring. Naturally I could just pop the shutter dial onto Auto and have Aperture Priority.

Fuji shocked the world with the introduction of a new folding 6x7 medium format camera just recently

the digital revolution

Barely 10 years later we have a situation where the move to digital has called the shots to such an extent that film cameras are virtually no longer made. Many major companies have either merged or disappeared and not even all the major camera makers make their own sensors.

There are fewer players on the market than there were and it (unsurprisingly) people are complaining that diversity in the market has all but vanished.

To enter the market today as a camera maker enormous tool up costs must be borne and perhaps other un-known hurdles such as finding someone who will supply you with a sensor at a rate that will make you competitive.

As increasingly people are discovering that "less is more" and writing that you don't need a stack of expensive (and heavy) zooms that are equipped TLA's , EWV and multi-jizmatic image stabilisation. Ken Rockwell who has been on this path for a while recently wrote an article suggesting that you really don't need a plethora of lenses. Let me quote a salient point from his article:
As I get older and smarter, it is extremely difficult to shake-off the desire to acquire and carry more gear, but the less I carry, the better my pictures have become.


Because the only thing that leads to great photos is thinking about the photo before you take it. I said thinking about the photo, not thinking about the camera.

Myself, I came to the conclusion back in the 90's that I didn't wish to spend big bucks upgrade my EOS 630 body to an EOS 1 when in fact the 1989 EOS 630 had a bigger brighter viewfinder than the EOS 1 and came standard with a 5 frames per second motor drive (should I need it).

As I was making my money from product photography it was lenses which made the difference for me, and I bought 2 (TS-E 24 and TS-E 90) for nearly what the 1D would have cost me. I am sure they served me better.

The move to digital has provided also a far more compelling reason to upgrade bodies than ever before. While my 630 still serves me today, my 10D (yes, of course I used digital) became eventually unattractive and a 20D (which took EF-S lenses and had 5 fps motor drive, much better turn on times ...) was introduced into the house.

It was only when I picked up my 630 for some specific reason (black and white film for instance) I was reminded of the better view finder, nicer feel, slimmer body how porky and cumbersome my new EOS cameras were ....

With these cameras I'm always looking around for something better, but with my 630 I just couldn't see any benefits.

So now with the market occupied / distracted with body upgrades (and a market in which the numbers and diversity of competitors is regularly shrinking) I am starting to feel that digital was rather the two edged blade. Not only has it almost killed off film in areas other than 35mm, but it has reduced the diversity of cameras as the market seeks to find some "optimal" lowest common denominator (for the mass market) and keeps the carrot moving forward for working professionals.

Open source vs Corporate "IP"

Since Daguerre took the first ever photo of a person in 1839 Photography has been a combination of open source and company Intellectual Property (NB a closed secret). The thing which bothers me is that its tending more and more towards the closed side of things.

With the existing companies making less new lenses (aside from cheaper iterations of plastic kit zooms) and obsoleting their old stuff (even Nikon can not put every lens on every camera without some caveat) it makes for an uncertain future.

With more and more photographers knowing less and less they will be tempted to focus more on understanding which scene mode to use for a photograph and thus be easily distracted by marketing clamor to upgrade.

Despite the runaway success of the micro 4/3 cameras and their ability to work with almost everything ever made, Cosina have backed away from even simplyadding a micro 4/3 mountoption to their existing lens range. No redesign required, just essentially put an adaptor onto the lens as standard. Heck you'd have thought they could save money by taking their existing range, reducing the lens size and coverage (they are designed for 35mm) and making the same focal lengths for micro 4/3 ... but nope. Not worth it it seems.

I fear that this does not bode well for the future of diversity in Cameras

While companies like Panasonic and Olympus have released the micro 4/3 cameras (which benefit enormously in popularity from the fact that many many non-system lenses can be fitted) they have been very slow to deliver on the promise of more compact lenses ... or infact many lenses at all.

I'm not entirely certain that the ability to uses any and every lens was a design intention or an accident. I notice that when Panasonic introduced the G1 there was no "factory" adaptor available for it to use other lenses. By the time that Olympus released the E-P1 there was a rapidly growing after market industry on eBay selling adaptors for all manner of legacy lenses; it was hardly a surprise that Olympus introduced the MF-2 adaptor to allow the use of Olympus Legacy lenses.

I have infact already waffled on about the issues that I see standing in the way of micro 4/3 being able to extend their system significantly.

There is talk of Canon and Nikon entering this market, but I will be surprised if they do anything to require them to bring out a competitor to their existing DSLR range.


I think we need to remember the Kiss principle:
"Keep it Simple Stupid"
Not everyone needs a 3Ds or 5DMkII ... while some photographers seem to lust after them as if they were some goal unto themselves I find that mostly they get in the way.

Sure, both are great image making tools; but I for one feel rather silly with a $2500 camera and a pair of simple lenses (EF24mm f2.8 and EF 50mm f1.8) costing less than $400 together (even new). The entire equation seems ... unbalanced. Even if I add in my Olympus 100 f2.8 (lovely portrait lens) and a EF300f4 IS lens it is still tipped over towards the camera costing the most.

By distracting photographers from photography and getting them to focus on gear acquisition camera companies stand to benefit the most and (in my view) photographers and photography the least.

Once upon a time 35mm cameras were able to provide both compact and professional system cameras. The image to the left was taken with a humble (and inexpensive) Olympus trip 35. It was taken on Kodachrome slide film and makes a nice 40cm wide print. A compact digital today would be pressed to do such.

We seem to have drifted away from expecting that compact cameras can be high quality, and with 35mm back in the 1970's companies were making small light weight cameras that were also system camera. Stuff like:

Simple, light, compact and high quality. Perhaps not working professionals cameras, but photographers cameras. I suspect quite a many working professionals also used these cameras personally too.

Photography not cameras

Interestingly the photo I took this weekend which my family liked the most was of my God Daughter. I took it with a simple camera (Olympus E-410) with a 30 year old Olympus 50mm f1.8 lens on it (which I paid $12 for).
(Gosh, its only the other day she was peeing in my hands at her christening, now shes walking round the house)

Perhaps this is another reason the camera zaibatsu are keen to get you into the upgrade cycle and expensive camera body mindset ... you won't mind paying $1300 for the 1Kg EF24-70 f2.8 lens rather than $300 for the 270 gram fixed focal length EF24mm f2.8 lens (which by the way is optically excellent and rates higher on photodo than a Leica Elmarit R and costs 10 times less too)

There is no profit in selling fine quality items that last a lifetime ...

The future will be interesting to watch ...

swan dive

With Winter well in retreat the lakes and inlets to them are clearing and the Swans (parked over the lake in slightly warmer regions like Estonia) are starting to return to Finland to begin the nesting season.

I thought that this year we have had a more rapid thaw than previous winters, even though we have had far more snow than recent years.

(As an aside I will be interested to see how next year fares as the Climate change debate took a swift kick by those who seek to deny evidence rather than examine it carefully. It will be interesting to see how fickle the public is if next winter is warm in Europe. I wonder if any of those who slammed the process of collecting data and examining it will then have the balls to step up and say "heck I was wrong, we just don't know yet, lets keep looking"... but I doubt it)

I found these guys "heads down bum up" doing some team synchronized swimming ...

syncronised Swans

Well, after a long fly and a loud hoot we all need to fill our bellies. So we decided to see if we could get closer so we towed a small boat over to the inlet at the far end and slowly paddled down ... but we didn't get very close before they were soon aware of us

and soon they were hooting and clearly unhappy ..

even with a slow and quite approach in the rowboat they looked like they started walking across the ice away from us...

so rather than disturb them more, and perhaps force them to fly away we pulled back and "beached" (on the ice). Perhaps being exposed to us may have let us get closer the next day (although we didn't end up trying).

Strangely the Skido did not bother them as my father in law roared around the area within half the distance we got to.

This backs up other experiences I've had in Australia where nesting river birds are totally unconcerned about the "noisy jetSki hooligans" but very agitated about the bird watchers attempting to get close.

... I'm sure however it would be another story if he'd stopped.

So with that under our belts we though we'd head back to our nest where the Skido driver and boat owner got a well deserved rest with the grand kids.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

when did we become so bloody precious

I have found that there is a new website lampooning the Tourism Australias new campaign "There's nothing like Australia" (warning to stuff shirts: that links to the lampoon site).

Seems quite funny to me, but it seems to have pricked up the ire of some of my fellow Australians who are quite vehemently against it.

For example:

Geeze mate, turn it up!

The Kiwi right below you says it all, right on the button.

This response sounds exactly like the sort of crap which causes road rage stabbings on our highways. This underscores exactly what is wrong with some groups of modern Australians who have forgotten how to have a good piss-take and laugh at ourselves.

For your info mate, knocking ourselves used to be a national pass-time ... so loosen up and undo your hatband a bit, its clearly on too tight.

when the bloody hell did we become so precious we can't have a laugh at ourselves? Go watch some Hoges or Gunsten on youtube and lighten up.

If that doesn't help, I suggest you go out for a surf with your mates:

if we can't laugh at ourselves then we've become something very un-likable.