Jan 112011

I purchased the Interfit EX300 twin studio flash kit which comes with a softbox and shoot-through umbrella through the Amazon Marketplace from Hawks Photo Video on December 28th 2010. Due to the new year period, delivery took a while as is expected at this time of year.

The delivery estimate was good, I received an SMS message from Hawks on the morning of 9th January 2011 to say that the delivery was expected between 2:30  and 5:30 that day. It arrived shortly after 2pm.

When I arrived home from work that evening, I unpacked the kit. The Outer brown cardboard packing box was in good condition, but appears to have been opened and resealed. The inner display box was also in good condition.

Inside the boxes, the flash kit was all packed inside the included carry bag which was unzipped – I found that a bit suspicious. On unpacking the kit, everything initially looked fine. I unpacked both lighting stands, put the heads on both, and attached one reflector.

When I built the softbox, I noticed some discolouration on the front screen at one corner – it looks like  a burn or scorch mark, but I don’t expect it will affect the flash at all.

The second reflector has damage to one side and to the attachment slot, so it is not possible to attach it to the flash head. I tried to attach the umbrella to the second flash head, but could not unscrew the lock-nut far enough to put the umbrella shaft into the hole at the front. On checking the other flash head, it seems that the holding bracket has been bent about 45 degrees. Only one head is damaged in this way.

Connecting the first power cable was no problem, but I couldn’t plug in the second cable as the plug has one bent pin. This means that although both flash heads work, I can only use one at a time.

The damage to the plug would require a lot of force, so I can only assume that this happened before the items were packed in the carry case – possibly an ex-demonstrator model? As can be seen from the below screenshot, the item I ordered is described as ‘New’.

I contacted Hawks to report the damage the same evening at 10:30pm, and got a response from them today (12/01/11) at 12:00. They have offered to pick up the damaged kit and replace it and want to know when would suit me for collection – sounds like good service to me!

At 6:50pm the same day, I told them I’d be available on Monday or Tuesday for them to collect it. I suggested they could send out the replacement kit now and have the delivery man pick up the damaged kit. I have had no reply from them and have sent a chaser at 4:40pm 14/01/11 – not such good service after all!

The items which need to be replaced are:

  • 1 x EX300 flash head
  • 1 x Power cable
  • 1 x EX300 reflector
  • 1 x EX300 softbox outer diffuser

but it sounds like they are replacing the whole kit.

Screenshot of order on Amazon.co.uk

Screenshot of order on Amazon.co.uk

EX300 softbox with discolouration on front diffuser

EX300 reflector with bent attachment slot

EX300 reflector with bent attachment slot

Ex300 reflector with dent and scratches on side

Power lead with bent pin on plug

Power lead with bent pin on plug

EX300 Light Head with bent Umbrella mount

EX300 Light Head with bent Umbrella mount

So, they arranged a collection of the damaged kit on Monday 17th, but they refused to send out the replacement kit before they had confirmation the damaged one had been picked up. I wasn’t able to take any more time off work to be in to receive the new one when it arrived, so I asked for it to be delivered on Saturday (22nd). On Saturday morning, I got a text saying my delivery would be between 10:36 and 13:36. it actually arrived at 15:14. The new kit is in perfect condition and seems to work well. It’s a shame it took 13 days to get the replacement, and I had to be available in the flat for 3 days.

Hawks replaced with no quibbles, but the service could have been much faster. Maybe they should have offered a partial refund too.

I am delighted with the flash kit – It seems to have plenty of power for portrait and small group shots and I am really happy with the photos I have taken using it.

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Jan 292010

IndywoodFILMS presents: ‘Invasion Of The NOT QUITE Dead’ teaser promo…

In August 2009, a special teaser promo was created to raise awareness for a horror feature film called ‘INVASION OF THE NOT QUITE DEAD’ which has the support of such names as: Tom Savini, Kevin Pollak, Ken Russell, David Hess, Lloyd Kaufman, HG Lewis, Lee Boardman, Justin Kerrigan & talk show host Jonathan Ross.

The teaser was shot on S16mm film on location at a small farm in Kent and stars horror veteran Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday), Efisia Fele and Frank Jakeman.

Visit www.theindywoodproject.com and help them to independently raise funds to make the feature film, they are currently receiving an incredible amount of media attention due to them selling pre-order producer packages to help raise our £100,000 budget, so far as of Jan 29th they have sold 449 producer packages to 18 different countries, raising over £16,000 – help them to continue the success…

I am preorder number 10 and have recently upgraded to VIP Executive Producer status.

For more information on how you can help the production of ‘INVASION OF THE NOT QUITE DEAD’ please visit: http://www.theindywoodproject.com or http://www.invasionofthedead.com

and for real time updates why not folow them on twitter: @indywoodFILMS

and our official facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Invasio…

or contact writer/producer/director Antony Lane: adlane@indywood.co.uk

Dec 052009

Edinburgh Winter Festival

Originally uploaded by Lesault

Yesterday, @rich_dyson invited me to join him taking some long exposure photos of the Edinburgh Winter Festival in Princes Street Gardens. We met near the ‘Giant Wheel’ and set up the cameras in the middle of Princes Street looking towards the wheel, carousel and helter skelter. I knew I wanted a long exposure to blur the wheel and people, and to get some nice light streaks from taxis and buses passing in front of us. With my 18mm lens at the smallest aperature, the exposure was about 15″, so I put put on an ND8 to increase the length of exposure. I am happy with about 3 of the 20 or so photos I took, the best is probably this one. (20″ f/13 iso100 18mm)

After that we took a wander through the ‘Scottish Market’. I had taken a photo earlier of ‘Amelia‘ (1/60 f/1.4 iso800 50mm) who was doing Tarot readings in her Gypsy Caravan (are you still allowed to say ‘Gypsy’? I can never remember)… although I did see another woman giving readings there earlier – I wonder if there really is only one Amelia. I did a bit of photoshopping to add detail back into the sitter’s white hat and reduced the exposure of the background which was a bit bright before.

We set up on the Plaza between the Art Galleries at the bottom of the mound where I took the photo you see on this page (10″ F/9 iso100 92mm). It is actually a merge of 2 photos, the wheel, shed and clock tower are from one, the sky, trees and helter skelter are from another – I think it was worth editing to get the nice sky.

I had never tried a long exposure with my long lens, so I also took a close-up of the clocktower on the Balmoral Hotel (5″ f/9 iso100 149mm) from the same position.  Unfortunately, the nice moonlit clouds were beginning to disappear.

Aug 062009
The cast of Chomp! take over the Royal Mile

The cast of Chomp! take over the Royal Mile

This evening I was doing the City of the Dead Underground City tour at 9pm, but I was on the Royal mile from about 6.30 to see the street performers and generally hang out. At about 7pm, the cast of “Chomp! The new Zombie Musical” took over the High Street.

Usually at festival time you get hundreds of posh schoolkid luvvies who are in productions and make a fool of themselves on The Mile trying to get people interested in seeing their shows. Chomp! seems a little different – these actors are really getting into the part – a gang of zombies came sprinting up the Royal Mile, chasing each other and terrorising members of the public. Luckily the army arrived and a huge fight broke out between them and the zombies.

There was some extremely realistic looking punches being delivered between a zombie in a bowler hat and tails (who I assume is the leader) and one of the soldiers. Then suddenly two of the Zombies broke into song… “Shooting Out The Brains of the Dead” – A jolly ditty about DIY zombie lobotomy – brilliant!

The show is on in C-1, Venue 34. 5:15pm 7-8 August. I’m working both nights so I can’t make it – you should go though!

Update, If you missed the show live, Andy Evans has made a video of one of the early performances available:

Chomp! The new Zombie Musical – Act 1

Chomp! The new Zombie Musical – Act 2

Aug 042009

Having made my own jump rings from silverplated copper wire, I decided to put them together into something that looks a bit more like some jewelery. The result, a 7″ bracelet with a chain made of double links and a box-chain central section.

2x2 chain with Box section

2x2 chain with Box section

The joins in the links are much tighter this time round than my last attempt. Things to work on for the next one are to scratch the links less with the pliers while closing them, and to make the chain of silver rather than plated copper.

I’m quite pleased with the decorative section in the middle though – really tight due to the aspect ratio of the rings.

Aug 022009

My second set of Moo mini-cards arrived a few days ago. I’m delighted with this set too. My last set featured photographs of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and were intended to give to people who had been on my ghost tour and wanted my details. This new set are a bit more colourful and light hearted for general use where I don’t want to scare people away.

The thing I like about moo mini-cards is their quirky shape and size – they are different to any other business card anyone will have in their wallet (unless you’re at a tweetup where everyone seems to have them!). I love that you can get many different images printed in one order for a reasonable price. Anyway, these are my newest cards – let me know what you think!

Moo mini-cards

Moo mini-cards

Aug 022009
10m of 0.8mm Silver-plated copper wire

10m of 0.8mm Silver-plated copper wire

I found a shop on St Mary’s Street in the Old Town which sells jewelery making supplies and picked up a 10m length of 0.8m silver plated copper wire for the bargain price of £4.50. At home I looked around for a suitable mandrel and found a short length of metal bar from an old portable TV aerial (who said jewelery-making wasn’t glamorous?) and set about winding the wire round it. Winding will be much easier next time when I get a decent length mandrel and drill a hole in it to hold the wire. In this case, I just did it with my hands. I have a lovely blister on my index finger to prove it. Lesson learned.

Once the wire was wound, I slid the mandrel out and was left with a (not very springy) spring. It wasn’t as uniform as I had hoped for – the diameter was the same all the way along, but there were a few small gaps between each turn. I suspect this won’t make a huge difference, but some rings will be more open than others when I am finished. Hopefully it will not affect the size of each ring too much.

Wire after removing mandrel

Wire after removing mandrel

Before cutting it, I decided to make sure that I didn’t lose the rings all over the floor. Paul had recommended taping the wire before cutting, but I am out of masking tape and Sellotape wasn’t sticking so well. I slid a length of thread through the middle of the wire and tied it in a loop – my thinking was that most of the rings would end up hanging on the thread. This was fairly successful although I found a lot of the rings ended up linked round the blade of the saw – this meant that the thread tended to get a bit tangled. Next time I may try without the thread or tape. I was holding the rings between my fingers anyway, so I don’t think too many will fall.

I put beeswax on the blade of the saw as recommended (for silver anyway – not sure what I was supposed to use with copper) and it seemed to do the job. It cut much more quickly right after applying the wax, so I stopped regularly to apply more.

After being so careful not to drop any of the rings, I was a bit gutted when I stood up and knocked them all over the floor anyway.

Hand-made jump rings

Hand-made jump rings

I now have 110 shiny little circles ready to link together. I suspect I’ll need more to make anything useful (Terri’s Byzantine chain bracelet took 200) but I still have plenty of wire left over to make more.

Jul 152009

A couple of years ago, I got a Nokia N-95 mobile phone with a piece of software installed which would read 2d barcodes knows as ‘QR Codes’ (The QR stands for Quick Response). QR Codes were developed by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994 and were initially used for tracking parts for a car manufacturer. They can store 4,296 alphanumeric characters (or 7,089 numbers) – much better than the standard 10 digits you get with a ‘normal’ barcode.
The codes are very popular in Japan as most people have a smart phone, and any smart phone equiped with a camera can read and decode the matrix. They are used to store URLs, phone numbers, addresses etc. and are often seen next to contact details in adverts in magazines. They can even be used as billboard adverts to be read at a distance. This allows mobile users to access your website without typing in URLs.

A giant QR Code linking to a website, to be read with a mobile phone.

A giant QR Code linking to a website, to be read with a mobile phone.

Photo by Nicolas1981

It occurred to me that 4,296 characters is easily enough to write a short, informative description of a place of interest, and include a URL which could be clicked for more information.

This would integrate nicely with a blog where you could have a post describing a place and its history, other interesting areas nearby etc. The excerpt could be encoded as a QR code and printed as a sticky label (as small as possible so it is not intrusive) and stuck on a post/wall/information board at the physical location. This would allow any visitor to the area to read the excerpt without an internet connection. The excerpt would contain a link to the full article on the blog and the comments fields could be used by visitors to record their experiences and recommendations of other places to visit.

As more mobile phones have the ability to read these codes, I think this could be a really useful tool for visitors to a city. A nice crossover between the physical and virtual world!

Jul 102009
German style jeweller's saw frame

German style jeweller's saw frame

I think it would be extremely satisfying to turn a length of plain silver wire into a beautiful bracelet, so it’s time to try making my own silver jump rings. I’ve ordered a Jeweller’s saw, blades and (for fashion reasons only) a clip on loupe from TickInTime. Tickintime has been great so far, he quickly answered my question about combined shipping costs and invoiced me about 2 minutes after I asked for a total price. If they arrive safely, he definitely gets my vote as a top EBay seller.

I’ll hopefully be able to find some silver wire in town and will take Daws‘ suggestion of using knitting needles as mandrels. 144 blades should keep me going for a while, but I really have no idea how often these extremely thin blades will break.

Classy looking loupe!

Classy looking loupe!

I didn’t order any files yet, and I suspect there will be burrs on all the cuts which will need to be removed – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Having looked at the price of silver wire online, it looks like I’m not going to save any money by making my own links but I am really looking forward to making everything from basic materials.

I’m off to sit by the letterbox an wait for the postie.

Update: 09:33 11/07/09 Items have been shipped – more great service!

Update: 10:00 13/07/09 Items arrived safely! – thanks Tickintime!

Jul 082009
Byzantine Chain in Sterling Silver

Byzantine Chain in Sterling Silver

A schoolfriend of mine who now lives in Australia has recently been posting some extremely impressive photos of silver jewelery he has been making from scratch. He has designed his own workbench with various size mandrels for winding his own silver wire to make links for his chains. He has been experimenting with many different patterns of joining the links to make some beautiful and intricate jewelery. He has inspired me to have a go myself. Rather than winding and cutting my own links, I thought I’d buy a bunch of links to see if I enjoyed chain making.

After spending a few hours online looking for good reviews of link makers, I settled on the DragonFly Company who had lots of positive testimonials and are based in the UK. I ordered a small batch of jump rings – 200 x 2.75mm x 0.8mm in sterling silver (about £12 including postage). While I waited for them to arrive, I bought a clasp and two pairs of jewelers’ pliers from Helios Fountain which also has a huge range of beads, baubles and bling which I might use in future projects.

2 days later, my package from the Dragonfly Company arrived – A DVD box-sized cardboard box containing a tiny ziploc bag of 200 super-shiny silver jump rings which it turns out are hand made to order and then tumble polished before they are sent out. I also received a very cute dragonfly charm as a free gift – nice touch! and all safely wrapped in tissue paper.

I’d been looking online for sites which would explain the different chain patterns and picked up all sorts of tips on the best way to open and close the links. There are hundereds of sites dedicated to chainmaille which show many different patterns of chain. I decided to bite the bullet and go for a reasonably complicated one to start with, a Byzantine chain.

Following the diagrams at Maille Artisans, I struggled to hold the tiny ring with the pliers and dropped the whole thing on numerous occasions but, after spending a bit of time with it and building up some muscle memory, the whole thing got a bit easier and actually became quite relaxing. As the weather was so nice, I popped the tiny chain, the links and the pliers in the cardboard box and headed out to Greyfriars’ to sit in the sun and finish the chain. After a few hours work, it was complete – I’d used all 200 links without wasting any and the chain fit perfectly round my girlfriend’s wrist.

I’m delighted that my first chain was a success, and after tidying up a few dodgy joins it looks pretty professional. I’m now looking for something else to make – possibly a necklace with a couple of different patterns or a chainmaille ring.

I’m also trying to decide whether it is worth the effort of making the jump rings myself, or just continue buying them from a professional who knows what they are doing and makes links with a precision saw and very tight tolerances. I think it would be very satisfying to know that I had made every part of the chain… anyone know how to make silver wire from a lump of silver?

Do you have any suggestions for a nice challenging second chainmaille project? Leave me a comment with your suggestions!

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