Sunday, 27 September 2009

Wide angle photography

You may remember that my colleagues from my last school very kindly bought me a wide angle lens as a leaving present when I moved on from there. I spent some of my time over the summer playing with it to see what kind of results I got. I told you that I would be showing you some for the bad shots I managed to take along with some of the not quite so bad ones.

I think that some of the indoor shots that I took were quite reasonable, but I have noticed that the lens produces shots which are considerably darker than any other of my lenses and that vignetting (a darkness around the edge of the photograph) is a constant problem with it.

I have come up with a couple more problems as you can see below:

Unexpected shadow

When I took the night shot of a medium sized oleander I thought the wide angle would be perfect because I could be quite close to the plant but still get it completely in the frame. What I hadn't expected was the effect of the flash. I have used the built-in flash on my camera and you can see that this has cast the shadow of the lens on the side of the photograph. Of course I held the camera vertically, had I held it horizontally the shadow would have been on the bottom. Clearly the built-in flash is not going to work with the wide angle lens - but this is perhaps not a bad thing as I have already started dropping hints to Mrs QB about the possibility of a separate flash gun as Christmas present!


This one wasn't a mistake, I knew what I was doing when I took the photo. I wanted to have this amount of distortion. The corner of the pool is actually a right angle and I think this amount of distortion is quite amazing, though my framing is not as good as perhaps it should be. I did take a somewhat unflattering photo of Mrs QB but I would not dare put it on here! It was a photo of some yachts with Mrs QB stood on the harbour wall looking at them. Mrs QB is at the edge of the photograph and is subject to a similar amount of distortion as the swimming pool. I have learned that being close to your subject but putting them at the side of a photograph is a recipe for a disaster!

Depth of field

I don't often take photographs of people and I very rarely put them on here, but the photo of Captain Jack and Sarah (as before, names changed) demonstrates a good use of the wide angle lens - you get shedloads of depth of field, huge amounts of landscape and at the same time can get quite close to your subject without distortation (as long as you put them in the centre of the photograph!).

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Are we ever going to do any real work this year?

This has been a strange year so far. We arrived in Qatar on the night of the 1st of September and have had precious little work to do since then! A decision was made by the school last year (before I joined) that we would not start teaching during the Holy month of Ramadan this year but would instead start after Eid al Fitr. Fair enough, the decision is made and that is fine. To be honest, Eid seems to have dragged on a little longer than it used to in Dubai but the kids are due to start tomorrow. Or to be more exact they were due to start tomorrow.

Then, as reported in today's Gulf Times the start of the school year got postponed! This is due to worries about the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Oh well! I guess I shall just have to do even more lesson planning!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Everything, including the kitchen sink

When we left Dubai on the 26th of June, we had the opportunity of shipping all our worldly goods to Greece without incurring the wrath of the Greek taxman - so we did. And while we were about it we bought a complete new kitchen including a huge fridge, a dishwasher, a huge gas cooker, a load of units, a new washing machine and a new kitchen sink!

The lot arrived about 2 days before Mrs QB's brother and sister-in-law arrived to stay with us for three weeks. 197 boxes of our personal effects and 2 days to unpack them all, three weeks after we were promised them by the movers who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with brown and describes a kings best hat. What a ball's up that was. But, suffice to say. Mrs QB and I did not manage to get all the boxes unpacked and Captain Jack and Sarah (names changed as usual) arrived to find the house an absolute tip!

They spent the first few days of their holiday helping us to unpack... then the hard work started. Captain Jack and I started to build the kitchen. I am so grateful to my brother-in-law! Honestly, I think Mrs QB and I really would have struggled to do the job - and I don't think we would have been able to even lift the sink, much less plumb it in and fit it properly. Captain Jack and I dug in hard and spent 4 solid days (possibly 5, time is beginning to blur) grafting away and these are a couple of photo's of the result:

The kitchen

The kitchen

The second photo gives a better view of the sink which is honestly big enough to bath twin toddlers in simultaneously should you want to do such a thing - Mrs QB and I will not be putting that to the test any time soon.

The funny thing is, although we have more cupboards and drawers, a bigger fridge than before, a bigger cooker than before and a dishwasher which we didn't have before, the kitchen looks bigger than before! The only thing I don't like about it is the strip light - I haven't yet decided what to replace that with yet but I will, eventually.

Anyway, the kitchen is done, so thank you Captain Jack for all the work you put into the kitchen and thank you Sarah for letting him!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Visiting Friends

We arrived in Qatar twenty-one days ago and this weekend we had some friends from Dubai over to stay with us. What a super weekend! Bob and Carol (no, of course that isn't their real names, but I'm not going to tell you who they really are, am I) arrived on Thursday evening and left today (Monday) - we dropped them at the airport at about 5pm.

Bob and Carol are very good friends of ours and it was absolutely great to see them again. On the Friday evening we had a dinner party - Me and Mrs QB, Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice and Steve and Shirley (no, none of those are real names either) spent the evening eating, drinking, chatting and generally enjoying ourselves and a lovely evening was had by all.

Bob and I are war games fans and spent three days playing a single game of Axis and Allies (the anniversary edition if you are familiar with it). It models the 2nd World War from 1941 and in this particular game Bob resigned after Germany had fallen to an overwhelming Russian assault on the fatherland - a brilliant game and the first time that Bob and I have had a 3 day game! I'm not entirely sure what Mrs QB and Carol did whilst we were war gaming but I know they enjoyed the weekend every bit as much as we did.

We were very sorry to see them go home to Dubai this afternoon but, of course, all good things inevitably come to an end. We are now looking forward to repeating the weekend as soon as possible.

The summer modifications

Over the summer we did some modifications to our beautiful home in Skopelos which, we think, make it more beautiful than ever. Two of the major modifications were the opening up of the top floor and the fitting of the kitchen.

Our top floor was two separate rooms and a corridor between them leading to one of the balconies. The rooms were bedrooms and each had a huge, homemade cupboard built into them. The rooms were small enough, but the cupboards took up way to much room in both of them and one of them was just too small to be used properly. Mrs QB and I decided to have the walls taken down, have the cupboards removed and turn the space into one open plan lounge with absolutely loads of light in it.

I didn't take and "before" pics because I have already got loads of them - on my computer which now resides in Skopelos. Unfortunately, I'm not in Skopelos so I can't put them up. Way back in September 2008 I started putting some pics up but I only put two and they were pix of what was the lounge at that time (it's now a bedroom). However I do have the "after" pics.

The new lounge

The new lounge

The new lounge

As you can see, the room now has windows on three sides and so catches light all day. It is right at the top of the house so other houses in the area don't take any of the light away from it and the noise from the street is not so obtrusive up there. It really is a beautiful room to sit in and, having put a fridge for our beer and wine up there, Mrs QB and I love it and spend most of our time in it.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Time to start blogging again

So, apart from the odd entry here and there, it has been quite a while since I did any real blogging. Mrs QB and I have settled into our mansion here in Qatar and are finding our feet. I finally start teaching again next week (and I'm looking forward to it!), we are finding our way around our new country and I think it is time to blog again.

You may recall (assuming that you have read recent posts) that the ever so kind people I used to work with in my last school bought me a wide angle lens when I left (amongst other things I might add). Now, I have often wanted a wide angle lens but until now have never actually used one. I started playing with it over the summer in order to get used to it and find out what it can do and what limitations it might have.

I will show you some of the results - good and bad - over the next few entries. As you know I like to do available light photography and I am going to start by showing you a couple of the pics I took at night. One of them is with my standard lens and the other with the new wide angle one. For those of you who know Skopelos, the pics were taken from Braxos (pronounced Vrakhos) Bar which overlooks the Paraleia (harbour road).

Skopelos by night - normal lens

This is taken with my standard lens.

Skopelos by night - wide angle lens

And this one with my wide angle lens.

For the technically minded amongst you, both photo's were taken at f/5.6 and ISO200, the normal lens one had a 22mm focal length and an exposure of 0.8 of a second whilst the wide angle had a 10mm focal length and an exposure of 4 seconds. Both photo's were taken on my Canon EOS 400D and the wide angle was taken approximatley 20 minutes later than the normal.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Dubaibilly is dead. Long live Qatarbilly.

Many thanks to The Media Junkie who very kindly gave me detailed instructions on how to change my user name and email address from dubaibilly to qatarbilly, now I will start getting emails again when people leave posts on the blog - hmmm, perhaps that wasn't such a great idea after all. Whatever, I am now finally in as qatarbilly and will remain so for as long as I stay in this place.