Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Two iPhone Panorama apps Compared (Photosynth, DMD Panorama)

I have two panorama photo apps on my iPhone so the other day I decided to test them with a couple of views each taken on both apps.  The apps in question are Photosynth, a free app from Microsoft, and DMD Panorama produced by Dermandar. £1.49 at the time of writing though the price does drop to free from time to time. Both are available for download in the iTunes app store. Both apps automatically take the series of shots and stitch the result automatically with no opportunity for the photographer to have any say in what is going on.
These panoramas are exactly as produced by the apps on my iPhone4.

First view taken at the end of my lane where the track peters out to arable fields.

2012-07-29 12.38.27-2

DMD Panorama:
2012-07-29 12.42.39

The second view is across the field from the lane which is about two feet below the level of the field:

2012-07-29 12.41.56-2

DMD Panorama:
2012-07-29 12.43.33

The first thing which stands out is the difficulty I had keeping the phone level for each shot with DMD Panorama. This results in an uneven horizon which should have been virtually flat in both views. The reason for this is the way each app is presented on screen while taking the panorama.

Photosynth shows what has been taken in a white rectangle and the latest view in a green rectangle. The idea is to keep the rectangles level with each other. As you move round the white rectangle moves and when the green dot meets the edge of the white rectangle the next photo is taken. I find it easy to concentrate on the rectangles and keep them reasonable well lined up. Also they are easy to see in bright conditions.

By contrast DMP Panorama shows only the present full view. Near the top of the screen are Yin and Yang symbols. These move together as you rotate the phone and the next photo is taken when they meet up. The problem I found was they were very hard to see against a bright sky and concentrating on those it was hard to keep the phone level with the resulting uneven horizon. There are text warning on screen about keeping the phone vertical but they are hard to read in bright light and I found them distracting.

From the point of view of ease of use I found Photosynth better - but - it did make a mess on stitching the sky on the second panorama view. This could be easily 'fixed' with a bit of Photoshopping but it would have been nice if the app had done a better job here. All in all though there is little to grumble about with Photosynth considering it is always a free app.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Juvenile Coal Tit

Over the past few weeks there have been many different juvenile birds visiting the garden. From my observations the very bad weather earlier in the breeding season doesn't seem to have had the drastic effect I expected. Today I was fortunate to catch a couple of brief glimpses of a juvenile Coal Tit. It was a pity it didn't stay long enough to get the video camera set up but I did manage a couple of stills. This is the better of the two:

Juvenile Coal Tit

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Collared Dove + Toad?

Just one video this week. In  fact there seems to have been a scarcity of opportunities for new videos recently so here is one left over from last week.

A Collared Dove visits the Bird Table:

A couple of evenings ago I spotted a creature slowly and awkwardly ambling across the back garden. My first thought was a small rat as it appeared to have a tail but on closer inspection it turned out to be what I assume was a toad. From a distance its long trailing back legs gave the appearance of a tail as it moved.

P1030956 copy

Looking at the lack of ridges on its back, its dry warty skin and they way it only walked and never jumped I assume it was a toad. A creature I had never seen before, let alone in the garden. It was very obliging and stayed in one place while I put the TZ7 within a few inches of it to take some flash portraits.

P1030957 copy

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Can you help with Dog Bins iPhone app

I spotted a new free iPhone app (compatible with the iPad2 and upwards) which eventually could be a useful resource to responsible dog owners who clean up after their four legged companions.

Dog Bins
 Dog Bins

The idea of the app is to build up a database of dog bins so if you are walking your dog in an area which is new to you the app can be used to locate the nearest bin(s) on a map. I think this is an imaginative and useful idea. The presentation is neat and easy to use.  It uses GPS to show your position as a blue dot with any nearby bins show as red pins on a street map.

The one snag at the moment is the database will have patchy coverage as it requires us, iPhone users in any country, to help by photographing any bins we see and uploading the information which is sent with the GPS location. This is easily done inside the app. You have to sign up to use the app but that is free, quick and easy though you have to give an email address which is used to verify your account.

This shows the position of one of the bins I photographed in my village:
2012-07-24 21.12.22

Tapping the pin shows the nickname of the person who uploaded the photo and tapping that shows the photograph which may help in recognising the area where the bin is located:
2012-07-24 21.23.55

At the moment it can take a while to upload the photo, depending on 3G reception, but I have been in touch with the programmer, James Barrow, and there will soon be an update which will reduce the size of the files and therefore reduce the transmission time. I look forward to this improvement as the longer it takes the greater the battery drain while GPS is being used.

I think this is a brilliant idea and I hope as many iPhone / dog owning people as possible will help by installing the app and contributing to the database. Even if you don't have a dog but like to walk on clean paths then consider photographing your local dog bin(s) and uploading the information. You will have to install the app but you can always delete it afterwards.

As James checks every upload, and by the looks of things crops the photo, I can see him being very busy if this catches on.  I have no connection with the programmer just, as you may have guessed, an enthusiastic user.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wings for Wednesday

Two days of wall to wall sunshine has brought out the Blue-tailed Damselflies at the garden pond. I saw several males and females and there has been plenty of activity. I was beginning to think they had all perished in one of the recent heavy rainfalls but these must have been sheltering somewhere or were late emerging from the pond.

Blue-tailed Damselfly

I was amused watching a juvenile Great Tit. It was searching the top of the post which holds up my clothes line. There are always spiders webs there so I guess it was on a spider hunt.

I think I saw one down there:
Juvenile Great Tit

No. Maybe it was this side:
Juvenile Great Tit

Down there then?
Juvenile Great Tit

All right. Who said I should have gone to Specsavers?
Juvenile Great Tit

In the end it gave up and went back to the seed feeder.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Panorama on the iPhone - revisited

Not just on the iPhone but also on iPads which have a camera.

DMD Panorama app
Yesterday I came across this interesting app for the iPhone / iPad which takes panoramic photos. This app normally costs between 69p and £1.49 but for a short time each month it is available free on the iTunes app store. Anything which is free is worth a try. Wow. Such an easy app to use and so very fast at producing the final result.

This is a quick twirl round my scruffy back garden in early morning low sunlight.
First the photo produced:

2012-07-24 08.12.58

Now that will be a bit difficult to see what is what without going to Flickr and enlarging it. The final 360 degree photo is 5843 x 800 pixels.

But - on the iPhone or iPad the photo can be scrolled inside the app. Also the people at Dermandar who wrote the app  give the facility to have a free account where you can upload the photo and then get a code from the site to embed it on your blog / website with the ability to view full screen. (Click on the arrow at the top right hand corner of the flash view.) The mouse can be used to move the view left or right.  Two codes are given:

Javascript / HTML5 / Flash (which doesn't seem to work for me)

and Flash:

I can see this being useful for lovely scenic views which should be more pleasing to the eye than scruffy back gardens. If you visit dermandar dot com you can browse lots of panorama shots which people have taken with this app. A right click on the flash view gives a menu you can use to visit their site.

When I looked on the iTunes app store this morning the app was still free to download but this will probably change soon.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Clouds - Time Lapse - No Dogs

Not a single dog in sight amongst the clouds  ;)
Another piece of time lapse on a breezy morning.

Canon 350D
Canon EFS 18-55mm  on manual focus (46mm)
Intervalometer: Yongnuo Digital  Timer Remote Cord MC-36b
423 shots  1 photo every 10 seconds
jpgs converted at 10 fps to wmv using 'Images To Video' on the PC

About 70 minutes cloud movement in 42 seconds
You need a reasonable size memory card for this as the 423 photos took up 1.14GB
Video size  20.8 MB

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Cloudy Dog

Funny how the brain tries to make sense of random things. I was gazing out of the kitchen window and watching the clouds:


One particular formation immediately made me think of a dog lolloping along with its floppy ears bouncing and its bushy tail blowing in the wind.


By the time I got round to photographing it the shape was already breaking up.

This morning while I was processing the files I could see the dog but this time it has a cat riding on its back.


The above should give an insight of my peculiar imaginative processes. Oh dear. Does that mean I need a larger or smaller allowance of vino?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Woodpecker - Thrush - Young Great Tit

It has been a better week for taking some new video clips. First is the unexpected visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker helping itself to the peanuts.

On the same morning there was a rare visit to the back garden from a Song Thrush hunting for and finding a snail. Behind the wood is gravel which the thrush is using as its anvil to crack open the snail's shell.

Finally from earlier in the week a young Great Tit on a peanut feeder.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Rare Visitor to My Garden

Do you believer in coincidences? Only this week I was looking at Shirl's great photos and video of a Great Spotted Woodpecker family and thinking I have only seen one once in my garden and that was a very brief visit. Early this morning you could have knocked me down with a feather. There on the peanut feeder near the end of the garden was my very own Great Spotted Woodpecker visitor:



Hopefully I also managed to get some video of it. Talk about luck - by the time I had finished the photo session both cameras were flashing warnings that the batteries were nearly exhausted.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

That Yellow Flower + Pest Control

Last week I showed a short video of a flower for you to identify:

ImaBurdie and Matron correctly said it was a Buddleia ; Jan and Keith gave the full description as it was from my Buddleia Globosa bush. Well done to you all.


This afternoon I have a pest control gent coming to eradicate a wasp nest in the back garden. I wouldn't worry too much if it was in the hedge or a tree but this nest is down at ground level where it would be possible for Penny to disturb it.

Early this year I bought a frog shelter which I installed next to the garden pond:


Yesterday I though I would have a look to see if anything was making use of it - frog, newt or possibly to get my first glimpse of a slow worm. Fortunately I approached slowly as the first thing I saw was a constant stream of wasps flying in and out.


The shelter is now surrounded by grass and occasionally Penny likes to chew the odd piece so the quicker the wasps are consigned to their after-life the better. Needless to say the above photo wasn't taken close up with the Lumix but from a distance with a zoom lens on the 50D!


Simon from East Lincs Pest Control, Louth getting ready and carrying out the deed:

 IMG_4494reduced     IMG_4496reduced

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Surprise, Surprise

No. Not a visit from Cilla Black!  Penny and I went out for a last look round the back garden just before bedtime. After her usual check of the regular places where the Hedgehog roams she wandered down the gap between the shed and the greenhouse. She smelt something and went to investigate what looked at first like a large black slug. As she bend down to sniff it I don't know who was more surprised.


It turned out to be a small dark coloured Common Frog which leapt out of the way making Penny jump back. Being the brave hound she is she avoided using that path for the rest of the evening in case the 'savage beast' should try to attack her.


I couldn't stop laughing which further hurt her pride.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Louth Navigation

This morning we actually had blue sky, white clouds and sunshine so it was the ideal time for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

The old Louth Navigation Canal is often just referred to as the Louth Navigation.  It must be well over ten years since I last took a stroll alongside what remains of the canal. It is not navigable as there are no longer any locks. Their sites have been turned into weirs. The route of the canal runs from Louth, in Lincolnshire, to Tetney  on the coast where it meets the North Sea. We had a grand hour or more walking a short section.

This was the first time I had started at the start. In the past I have parked in a lay-by and joined the towpath / footpath somewhere along its route. There is parking by the Navigation Warehouse ......

 (Google Earth view on the iPad:)
 2012-07-15 13.23.04


.... and a short walk down the nearby road leads to the canal footpath by the site of the Town Lock which now houses a tilting weir so that the flow of water away from the town can be controlled.



The first section of the walk is close to the edge of the built up area and has many lifebelt stations in case of emergencies as the canal level is well below the footpath and steep sloping unfenced edges are a trap for the over adventurous. It is so nice in these days of 'elf and safety' to have uncluttered views.


Not a lot to be seen on the wildlife front. Near the edge of town was a large group of ducks though not a single youngster to be seen.

There are other areas nearer the centre of Louth where most congregate so maybe they breed in that area.

One lonesome Water Hen


Plenty of wild plants to be seen including bindweed ....


.... what looked like giant rhubarb plants
Thanks Jan for the ID - Burdock - reminded me of the Dandelion and Burdock drink I adored as a nipper.


.... plus  ????? .....
Thanks Jan for the ID - Himalayan Balsam


.... and a lonesome poppy.


Penny was having the time of her life  investigating everything she could reach though she remained on her lead. It was good training for her as we met many other people walking their dogs.



She was as good as gold saying hello to those which were friendly and staying out of the way of those which appeared more fractious. We met one other greyhound and owner and chatted for a while before continuing on our way.


All in all it was a very pleasant walk. Hard to believe that only a few yards to our right was a line of houses. Every one we met said hello - such a friendly atmosphere - we will no doubt visit again in the not too distant future.



We kept going until we reached the site of the next lock (Keddington Lock) which is no more though the brick pillars which supported the lock gates can be seen either side of the weir.



At which point we about turned and retraced our path back to the Navigation Warehouse.


A bit of video of the two weirs seen on our outing.

Although the water seems to be fast flowing the canal itself appeared slow moving and the water was murky with soil being washed down by recent heavy rainfall.

The Louth Navigation Canal is looked after by the Louth Navigation Trust whose official site can be visited HERE.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


About the only thing which brightens up this long period of dull, cool, dreary weather is the occasional colourful sunset like this one spotted on Thursday night.


Taken with the TZ7 using the sunset setting which brings out the colours. A standard setting usually ends up with washed out colours. Apart from cropping no modification was made to the original photo.
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