sticking point

By writing my recent progress report, I became aware of how little practical activity I’d achieved so far in 2016: a creative year, but I also remembered later that I’d taken some night photographs in Edinburgh recently that I didn’t publish here. For some reason, WordPress always reports an error every time I try to upload a photo from this shoot, but I’ll keep trying.

St Andrews Square was host to an installation by Groupe LAPS called Keyframes. It’s worth following the link to see other versions of this installation. But better still, go and see the installation in situ, it’s there in Edinburgh until 28th March 2016. Each stick figure lights in turn, giving the impression of movement, thussuccessfully combining static sculpture with animation, which, together with the soundtrack, made it an impressive piece.

And following that discovery, I went out on another night photography expedition, and I’m working my way through the resulting images this weekend, so I will post the results soon.



Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 animation, photography, sculpture No Comments

progress report

We’re over half-way through February, so it seems high time for a progress report on 2016: a creative year, so I’ll take a brief look at each area:

Ukulele, guitar

I’ve attended all four sessions of the Duxford community music group in the first half of the spring term, and the list of pieces to practice has grown each week. During this current half-term break, I’m concentrating on Frere Jaques, Everything Stops For Tea, Messing About on the River, 12 Bar Blues, and Brain Damage (yes, the Pink Floyd track from Dark Side of the Moon). It’s good to have a variety of numbers to focus on, but this has distracted me from  following the programme of exercises in Ukulele Aerobics by Johnson Chad.

On a more practical and slightly more public note, I’ve accepted an offer from one of the volunteers in the Cambourne Timebank scheme to help me develop my ukulele and guitar playing. We’ve provisionally arranged to hold our first session one evening this week.


The nights are still long so it’s a good time of year for low-light photography, but, although it’s been a relatively mild winter so far, I find it too cold to go out taking photographs without a specific event to reach, so I keep postponing my tentatively-planned expeditions. I got as far as buying two small torches for light painting but haven’t used them yet. Instead, I’ve read two of my photography books on using off-camera flash guns: Studio Lighting Unplugged by Rod and Robin Deutschman and Speedliter’s Handbook by Syl Arena. Yes, I know that reading about something isn’t the same as actually doing it, but I’ve hardly used my flash gun and feel very unprepared to start using this versatile piece of equipment without a lot of guided practice and experiment.


I seem to be bombarded with ideas for coding projects. Everywhere I go, I want to create a code version. The latest two ideas are: a drawing programme with a kaleidoscope feature, based on an exhibit at the Camera Obscura World of Illusions in Edinburgh that Mandy and I visited last week. Mandy found it very therapeutic, so a browser-based sketch written in p5.js seemed a perfect way to create one for her.

The second recent idea is a representation of a visual metaphor used in The Brain with Brian Eagleman, a documentary series currently showing on BBC. The metaphor was to illustrate the impact of multiple minute differences, and consisted of a box with several rows of mousetraps, each primed with a table tennis ball. Brian dropped another table tennis ball into the box which triggered a mousetrap into releasing its ball which then flew up then landed on another trap which then released its ball. Within seconds the box was full of colliding balls all landing on traps and releasing yet more balls. It seemed a perfect opportunity for some OOPs coding, but I’m daunted by the idea of trying to simulate the physics of spinning balls. This calls for a simplification.

Drawing and painting

No activity to report.


I’ve offered to help Laura, the organiser of Cambourne Timebank to set up a website for the scheme, and to illustrate the scheme by taking photographs and editing a video of activities.

In conclusion, I have achieved little finished output for the first seven weeks of 2016, but I have plenty of material to work on in the coming weeks. To keep myself on track, I need a thorough review and overhaul of my Trello board dedicated to 2016: a creative year.


Saturday, February 20th, 2016 coding, creativity, music, photography 1 Comment

thirstquenchin’ acetastin’ motivatin’ goodbuzzin’ cooltalkin’ finger-pickin’ g-chords

This morning saw the first major step of 2016-a creative year: I went to my first Saturday music workshop in Duxford. The ukulele section was a small friendly bunch, led by Martyn who also leads the guitar group. There was a small bit of chord theory, playing groups of chords in particular keys, followed by introductory finger-picking which revealed my poor technique of holding chord shapes whereby my fingers are resting on other strings. So, as a result, and as I  suspected, I now have a lot to focus on in my practice.

But I will press on, undaunted, and keep pickin’ those fingers and honin’ those 12 bar blues as well as jumpin’ Jack Flash which are my first targets.


Saturday, January 9th, 2016 music No Comments

a creative year

I’m giving 2016 a theme: a creative year. My focus for the year is to: develop creative skills.

I’n recent months, I’ve posted the results of my night photography expeditions, and I plan to continue these, branching into experiments with light painting.  In addition to photography, I’m keen to extend my ukulele playing, and I’ve arranged to start in a community music workshop that meets on Saturday mornings in Duxford. I’m also looking at other creative skills: drawing, painting and coding.

Prompted by a post on the Trello blog, I’ve created a Trello board for specific goals and tasks to help me focus on developing these creative skills.

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Thursday, January 7th, 2016 coding, creativity, drawing, music, photography 1 Comment

comberton duck pond and beyond the infinite

It’s not quite slit scan, but while I photographed the village duck pond on my way home from my most recent night photography expedition, I tried zooming in/out while I held the shutter open:

Cambridge Christmas-7
Cambridge Christmas-8
Cambridge Christmas-4
Cambridge Christmas-5
Cambridge Christmas-6

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Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 photography No Comments

christmas fun fair

Thanks to the distractions of Christmas and New Year, it’s taken me a while to process the photos I took of the Christmas fun fair on Parker’s Piece, but here they are:

Cambridge Christmas-1-2
Cambridge Christmas-1
Cambridge Christmas-2
Cambridge Christmas-3


Saturday, January 2nd, 2016 photography No Comments

more p5.js

I spent most of a day this week watching p5.js videos by Daniel Shiffman on YouTube. He has long been a favourite coding author of mine, and I have two of his books: Learning Processing and The Nature of Code, which I backed on Kickstarter. His style of delivery isn’t as polished as those on the Introduction to Programming for the Visual Arts course on but I like Dan’s enthusiasm and energy. I was particularly keen to learn about OOPS in p5.js.

As a result of watching Dan’s videos, I now have a sketch for my maze project that generates blob objects at random intervals which then set off in their allocated direction.

My next steps are to:

  • re-watch the section on loading images so I can pick and load a labyrinth path at random
  • re-read the sections in my Processing books on basic trigonometry
  • develop my findTarget() function, which is my attempt at a path-following algorithm
  • upload my sketch to a server so I can have it running live on the web

My copy of Make: Getting Started with p5.js arrived in the post today, so there’s lots to keep me busy over the next week or two.



Thursday, November 26th, 2015 coding No Comments


I’m excited to have discovered p5.js, the recent implementation of Processing in JavaScript. Kadenze is currently running a free UCLA introductory course in it, which I’m enjoying. The prospect of using Processing in a browser environment is great. It would have made the interactive elements of the Erasure exhibition at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery much easier.  I haven’t signed up for the paid version of the course, so I have less direct access to tutors. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the sessions that cover the elements that p5.js can do that Processing can’t, though with the recent introduction of Processing 3 I’m slightly out of touch with its newest capabilities.

I still have the mandala project ticking away in the back of my head, and the possibility of achieving it online may be sufficient stimulus for me to make some real progress at last, but while writing this very paragraph, an e-mail arrived from Kadenze informing me of a new course starting on graphic illustration. I succumbed and am now enrolled. There was no session this week on the p5.js course so  I thought ‘why not?’ Of course, there are lots of reasons why not, most of them listed on cards on my Trello boards, but it could be interesting and useful. There’s nothing to lose if it doesn’t work out as long as I keep focused on the other things I want to achieve.

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Thursday, November 12th, 2015 coding No Comments

….these just in….

In my recent expedition on Sunday evening, I deliberately avoided photographing the front elevations of famous buildings, but in doing so, I’ve got a series of more or less anonymous shots that leave me feeling underwhelmed. That’s a shame because I enjoyed the experience and I intend to repeat it but there are lessons to be learned for next time (see below).

Some of the later shots have water droplets on the lens catching the streetlights and creating starbursts, lens flare and other unwanted artefacts.
Cambridge After Dark-6

Cambridge After Dark-8

Cambridge After Dark-9

Cambridge After Dark-13

Cambridge After Dark-14

Cambridge After Dark-16

  1. Be ready to pack everything away discretely so I can nip into a pub to use the toilet.
  2. Take an umbrella to hold over the camera.
  3. Shallow depth of field doesn’t look good in low-light images, so use a narrow aperture.
  4. Take the flash gun and long cable for off-camera fill-in lighting.
  5. Take a torch to experiment with light-painting.
  6. Take more time – don’t be in a hurry to get home (see point one).
  7. In the darker areas, keep the shutter open on Bulb setting, and try longer exposures.
  8. Experiment with photographing people.



Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 photography No Comments

the excluded middle

The excluded middle is a logical fallacy, or false dichotomy, often employed by politicians when trying to manipulate people into accepting their (usually extreme) viewpoint. So it’s often useful and revealing to try to spot the excluded middle whenever you realise that someone is trying to persuade you into something.

This got me wondering about the nature of digital, which is often said to consist of 1s and 0s or On and Off. This seems to be a perfect hunting ground for an excluded middle. Here, however, the excluded middle isn’t a mass of fractions or a lukewarm On-ish-ness. I’ve often found myself hung between the digital and analogue, but recently I seem to have reached a tipping point that has emphasised not only the duality but also the precariousness of my balance between the two. So much so, that, rather than the options being digital and analogue, they seem to be virtual or visceral and I feel called still more strongly by the former. My middle ground of hovering between the two no longer seems to be tenable or, to continue the alliteration, viable.

And what has prompted these musings, you ask?

Yesterday, it struck me that, without really being aware of the significance, I had created yet another board to organise my life in Trello. My latest board is for planning our meals for the week ahead. I have a limited repetoire of dishes that I cook, so it made sense to have these on cards in a list then deal them  out to lists for days of the week according to family members’ commitments in a way that reduces repetition. It also links with my groceries shopping list. And where I’ve found a dish on the web and saved it to my Kifi library, I can take a screen clip (Cmnd- Ctrl-Shift-4) and paste it (Cmnd-V) to the appropriate card in my planner. I can even copy and paste the URL to the recipe as an attachment to the card. No other family members collaborate in my Trello boards, but that would be the next pulse on the circuit path to a completely virtual existence.

(Trello tips and tricks courtesy of the Trello Ultimate Board, which was itself included in a set of techniques on the Trello blog.)


Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 digital life, productivity No Comments