Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Snowy greetings from Sweden

We've taken a quick break between Christmas and New Year to visit the Swedish side of the family. It's properly wintery here, temperatures dipping below -10 at night and everything covered in hoar frost and a thick layer of snow.

We're being fed to the max of course, delicious meals of turkey, lamb and reindeer being interspersed with at least 2-3 cake breaks per day (and seven distinct varieties of cake at each sitting, naturally). We brought over a christmas pudding from the UK which Lisbeth steamed, flambeed and served with rum butter - absolutely fantastic, and will need to be repeated next year. Steaming really seems to add something to the old xmas pud, leaving it much lighter and generally just mouth watering. Maybe we should get another one in while they're still in the shops :-)

We did manage to fit in a couple of good walks around all the food, exploring the whitened countryside and wading through the fog that seemed to roll in about lunchtime each day. I've put a few photos up on Flickr to give you a feel for the atmosphere here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Birdworld!

We'd passed the signs for Birdworld quite a few times going to and from the M4, and the visit of Mattias, Jenny and Harry gave us the perfect opportunity to drop in and check it out.

Almost immediately we came across one of the highlights of our visit - a duck in a tree.



The adventurous duck was followed by a round of hot chocolate while we waited for Harry to wake up, then a wide variety of brightly coloured squawking avians. Harry also got to play with some farm animals and a few scary amphibians (piranha and crocs - both obvious mainstays of any bird-place). The afternoon was a clear success in that Harry is now curled up on the sofa with mum, under a blanket :-)

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Invasion of Francorchamps

Last night we walked from our campsite out in the sticks into the center of Francorchamps. Francorchamps, you understand, is a small town of maybe five bars, so center is a relative term. It nestles near the top of a valley, surrounded by forest and fields. The race track is laid out below it, hidden in the trees but well within audible range.

We'd targetted Francorchamps as the only cafe near our campsite sold nothing but omelettes and we'd had some of those already. We werent expecting great things, having already grown acustomed to the unvarying diet of sausage-in-a-bun and waffles at the track, but Francorchamps still managed to disappoint. The steakhouse had a special menu on for the grand prix, seemingly consisting of lukewarm mechanically reclaimed chicken 'stuffed' with ham and cheese in various mushroom sauces (a 'ham and cheese fricasse' according to Rich, almost inedible to Jelte and I). It is fair to say that Belgium hasnt yet impressed us on either quality or diversity of cuisine.

My strongest memory of the evening is of the walk back to our campsite. As we started up the hill the town spread out below, lit by the setting sun and covered in a pall of smoke. The smoke came from the hundreds of barbeques littering the campsites that completely surrounded the village, and was complemented (if that's the word) by a mixture of 70's rock and 80's pop. The opening scenes of Gladiator sprang to mind, armies massing for battle (but with more ACDC).

As we neared the crest of the hill we passed the Germans. They seemed to have been segregated into a field all of their own, in which they'd pitched a big tent and built a bonfire out of pallets they'd brought with them on a truck. They'd also set up a pair of 4 foot speakers and some form of bar. Some prior planning here, clearly. As we passed Iron Maiden was playing (followed by Deep Purple) and one guy was leaping about in front of the fire playing air guitar using a burning log. Another was supporting on inflatable guitar while a third threw more fuel on the fire. The others were falling about drunkenly. Opposite a small crowd of inquisitive campers from the neighbouring site had collected, possibly curious as to when the Germans' tent would catch fire. The music was so loud we could hear it almost back to our campsite.

It was a beautiful sunset. Apparently the locals hate Grand Prix weekend, cant understand why.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Which giraffe? Part II...

So the votes are in (via the blog, Facebook, Twitter and - gasp! - direct interpersonal communication), as follows:
  1. Giraffe 1: five votes
  2. Giraffe 1's head with giraffe 4's neck: four votes
  3. Giraffe 3: one vote
I put the first two together with my personal favourite, giraffe 4, and re-traced and coloured all three for a final giraffe-off...

From left to right: Giraffe 1, Hybrid Giraffe 1+4, Giraffe 4

It was a hard call, but in the end giraffe 4 won me over with its quirky lopsided grin and eyes that seem to be staring right back at you. Bel liked the idea of portrait cards (yay!) so my order is now in and I await the result with anticipation. Thanks to everyone who expressed a preference, cards will be on their way once I get some!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Which giraffe?

So I'm finally getting round to ordering myself some proper business cards for my new job. By proper I mean with my correct job title and email address, unlike the current ones.

We're allowed (encouraged, in fact) to put our own illustrations on our cards, but I'm not exactly a dab hand at illustration (not enough gadgets involved). I thought the next best thing would be to commission some original artwork, so while I was helping him move house over the weekend I persuaded my mate Laurie to sketch me a few telegraphically enhanced giraffes...
The nature of the giraffe being as it is, I clearly get the option of going for a non-standard orientation too...






So, which giraffe and what orientation? Cast your vote in the comments and I'll put in the order at the end of the week...

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Reports of my demise have been greatly exagerated

No posts for two months, I know, I know. New job, hectic social life and Twitter seem to have conspired to keep me away from the blog for a while. I'm back now with a quick update before dashing off on holiday next weekend.

Its been a busy photo time of late, and though I still have a huge stack of photos in the processing backlog I have managed to work through my last couple of weekends away in a vaguely timely manner. As such, now available for your perusing pleasure, are:


The best of the shots from my trip down to Devon to photograph Dave Gander and the band at the Goldcoast Festival in Croyde. Possibly the only time I'll get a backstage pass at a festival :-)


A smattering of the shots from the stag weekend that I arranged for Rob in Talgarth two weeks ago. I'm in some of these so I clearly didnt take them all - well done Rich! Warning: It's a stag weekend, you know what to expect...

For anyone wanting to replicate our little Welsh sojourn I can heartily recommend staying at Joe's Lodge (so long as you're a group). If you plan a little in advance you can book a glider flight with the Black Mountains Gliding Club (we just pitched up and watched, but it sure looked fun). And if you want to go nightclubbing in the Brecon Beacons...

Next stop Italy, more photos to add to the backlog and a whole wedding to shoot...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Zion Canyon National Park

I've been working through the photos from my USA trip and I've managed to whip the Zion set into shape. They are now up on Flickr for your perusal. There are a few more to come here at some point, as I shot a bunch (154 stacks...) of HDR that I've still to process. Still these are a few to be going on with :-)

Zion Canyon, originally uploaded by Ian Hutton.

As you'll see from the photos, Zion was awesome. Spring is a great time to visit: the crowds aren't there yet, it's not too hot and the flowers are out in force. The highlight was the hike up to Observation Point, a 2000 foot elevation gain (straight up a cliff) to get a breathtaking view right back down the canyon. The variety on that hike is amazing, initially switch-backing up the cliff before sneaking back into a twisty slot canyon through which you access a deserted bowl in the back-country before hitting the mesa-top and hiking the last mile along the cliff edge through the trees to the point itself. I was stoked, as the Americans would say; quite possibly the best hike I've done in my life.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Life in the Hollywood Hills

Back in the UK now, trip over. I had a quite interesting taxi ride back from Gatwick, as they go. Instead of the normal M25 loop we went cross country (ooh).

Highlights included:
• Ringo Starr's house
• Oliver Reed's former house
• Chris Evans' former house
• David Shephard's former house (the artist rather than the cricket umpire, disappointingly)
• The house of a man who also has his own 747
• The Parrot pub (famed for its food, apparently)
• The Sainsbury's where Penelope Keith shops
Not bad, eh? I gave him a bit of a tip for all that.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Zion

A late start today allowed me to recharge my batteries after a tiring week. I got into the park late morning, grabbed a late breakfast/early lunch and then set about some exploring. I started easy with a pretty level trek up to Emerald Pools along a track that hugged the base of the cliffs, affording great views up and down the valley. The pools themselves were nice enough but somewhat mobbed - it's spring break so there are lots of college kids kicking about the place.

Zion Canyon is a fantastic mix of big red sandstone cliffs and fertile valley bottom, all carved by the Virgin River. It was originally a desert with sand dunes thousands of meters deep, which was then covered by a sea that laid down a bed of minerals which bonded the sand together into the sandstone we see today. Tectonic activity has since pushed the whole area up (and continues to do so) and the river has carved its way back down again to give us this fantastic playground. Spring is a god time to see the area - not too hot, and lots of flowers and animals about. On the animal front I met some very friendly squirrels, lots of little lizards and a few dozy deer. I also saw some elk, but they were at the elk ranch in town so I don't think that really counts.

I spent the afternoon exploring the top of the canyon, where it narrows down to the point that the river finally fills the whole thing and blocks further progress to anyone not willing to get their feet wet. The late afternoon sun was bouncing off the cliffs and lighting everything up fantastically; I think I got some pretty good photos. I ended the day getting a few shots of the moon rising over the canyon walls.

Tomorrow I'm aiming for an early start and some more strenuous hiking. My target is Observation Point, an 8 mile (12km) round trip climbing (and then descending) 2000 ft (650m). Apparently there's a good view at the top, we'll see...

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

After three tiring days on the stand at CTIA I escaped Vegas yesterday and drove North. Bizarrely clouds had rolled in during the day and it was raining (in Vegas!) as I left. The rain continued on and off through the desert, into Utah and up to my target for the weekend: Zion National park. I met a couple at dinner who'd driven down from slightly to the north through heavy snow, so I guess I was lucky! Turns out it was record precipitation for the time of year round here...

This morning it's clear and after a long sleep I'm refreshed and ready to explore. Time to go see me some canyon.

Postscript: For those who've been following my winning ways on Facebook/Twitter, the final result was $50 up. The secret was to stick to the slots (allegedly better odds) and to quit whenever I doubled my money. That and lots of luck!

Edit: Updated to remove all the line breaks injected by my iPod Touch. Hmmm...

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Death Valley


Death Valley, originally uploaded by Ian Hutton.

I've made it as far as Death Valley and have uploaded the first few photos to flickr (see my photo stream).

After landing at Las Vegas I picked up my wheels (some kind of Toyota pick-up) and hit the road. I arrived in Death Valley late afternoon to be greeted by a sand storm. I managed a few "sunset" photos but the general haze and experience of being sand-blasted soon put me off and sent me searching for my motel. Whilst checking in I noticed that the power was a bit dodgy - the lights went off three times due to the high winds - and just as I made it to the restaurant for dinner the power went out and didn't come back. I gave up, ate an M&S cream egg (thanks K!) and went to bed.

Today was much better, with low winds and clear skies providing the perfect opportunity to explore and take lots more photos. I've been from salt lakes to sand dunes and everywhere else inbetween. Tomorrow I aim to catch the sunrise and swing by a ghost town before heading back to Las Vegas to get down to some work.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Photos from Exeter

A quick note to say that I've uploaded some photos from today's family get-together down in remotest Exeter.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Spring turfing

K read in her gardening book that now was the time of year to lay turf, so yesterday we got a slab to cover the bare patch that had until now adorned the center of the lawn. I got up full of enegry (at 7:30!) this morning and got to work. Turning the earth over before plonking the turf down I made an interesting discover - it seems that about 6' down there is a layer of plastic sheeting that covers the entire garden. Bit of a surprise, that was. You can see it in the left hand photo below. Unperturbed I continued, chopping my turf to shape to leave something that certainly isnt perfect, but that should be more than on a par with the rest of the (somewhat sparse) lawn once its settled in. Here are the during and after shots:


I was on a roll at this point so I just kept on going: K had bought some bedding plants for our hanging basket and they were just begging to be popped into place. A little fiddling about got the bulk of them squished into the basket in a quite pleasing arrangement (if I do say so myself). Even K had to admit that they looked quite nice (though she did sulk a bit that she hadn't got to do it). And that was all before 9:30 - quite phenomenal!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Tweet

I’ve joined all the cool kids and got myself a Twitter account as an experiment. Zach’s advice helped me easily hook it up with Facebook and my blog (see the box on the right) for some great mashed up global status updating. So now all I need is something interesting to say…

[edit] …and I’ve tied in Flickr thanks to their advice.

Monday, 2 March 2009

First class

We spent a fantastic weekend in Cardiff with John and family. We hit the opera, saw the St David’s day parade, took a boat ride round Cardiff bay and generally got very Welsh.

01032009017On the way back we treated ourselves to some first class action. Stopping by the “dining” car for an afternoon snack I happened to spot the appetising choices on the right. Yum, just think of that rail-kill…

It wasn't all bad though, they stocked a pretty serviceable house white and once that ran out K upped our game and moved us on to champagne. We also got unlimited free water and snacks and a very nice sunset. All in all a very pleasant Champagne on the trainjourney, to the extent that we hardly noticed the 40 minute delay and didn't mind at all. Champagne will do that for you :-)

On a geek note I’m writing this with Windows Live Writer, a blogging app from Microsoft (gasp!). It’s actually rather good, the killer feature for me being that it previews my posts in the correct template so I can see the layout exactly as it will look before I upload. And it lets me put rounded borders on photos too – nice. Discovered via lifehacker.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Barcelona

I was out in Barcelona this week at Mobile World Congress, helping to spread the word about the Symbian Foundation. While spending most of my time marveling at such wonders as Samsung's projector phone and Sony Ericsson's Symbian-based Idou (check the 12MP camera and great UI) I managed to find time to snap a few photos. See the taster below and more on my Flickr stream.

The Fira by night

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Dissected Nikon

Tokyobling has posted up some photos of a Nikon D3 with its top half removed. Its fascinating to see the camera's insides laid bare, but even more interesting to see all the glass in that £1,000 lens. Want one...

[via Nikon Rumors]

Monday, 2 February 2009

Tea now!

We were in the British Museum at the weekend, acting the tourist in London. Whilst wandering the galleries we happened on the clock collection, amongst them this classic from the late seventies. Captured here for posterity for all of you who can't start the day without a cuppa - check out that second button in from the right. I'm not an addict myself, but some people would see that as close to magic. Iz, this one's for you :-)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Satellite photos of President Obama's inauguration

Some great photos of the inauguration posted up on Stephen Shankland's CNET blog. My favourite is the last one that shows the crowds grouping around the TV screens along the Mall.

[Added a little later] More great photos (including my favourite again!) collected together at The Boston Globe's The Big Picture.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Ice storm

Ever wandered what those ice storms that thrash the northern USA are all about? The Sacramento Bee has posted up a superb collection of photographs that illustrate the aftermath.

[via Rob Galbraith]

Monday, 5 January 2009

Let there be snow

An early start for my first day back at work (boo!) is cheered slightly by a dusting of snow that brightens up a dark morning. Surprisingly the trains are running on time.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The Black Cat

So New Year has come and gone. The murder mystery party at our place was most excellent, if I do say so myself; without exception the gang got into character superbly and we all had a great time. K did a fantastic job with the food too - gorgeous reindeeer steaks for the main. I can't claim that the sleuthing was too diligent, but that's not really what its all about ;-)

That's me over there on the right, getting right into character as Huges Le Grandbutte, Deputy Major of Casablanca. I'm accompanied by my glamorous wife (and one time star of the Parisian stage) Edith. You might take particular note of the slippers, a critical element of any mayoral dinner suit.

I've uploaded some photos, as has Linda. Enjoy the costumes!

We all toasted in the New Year with a first sampling of the rumtopf - mixed with champagne, naturally. Based on this initial experience plus a couple more samplings since, I've learned a few things:
  1. Rum is quite strong
  2. A strawberry can suck up a surprising amount of rum
  3. Champagne may take the bite out of the rum but it doesn't really temper the impact to any great extent
  4. Nectarines should be quartered, not halved
  5. Rumtopf is very nice with ginger ale or ice cream (or possibly both, though we haven't tried that yet)
We've now (with the support of many friends, I must add!) consumed about 3/4 of the urn and are already starting to think about what we'll put in first when we restart it :-)

To close, here's a shot (courtesy of Linda) of her and Jelte enjoying a midnight tipple.