Month: March 2019

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.

And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 21/03/2019


Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat.

** Updated 27/05/2019**

Last month, when I was in South Africa, I bought a small plastic tugboat at the local el-cheapo shoppe. It was a simple bathtub type boat with waterjet style propulsion, and stickers stuck on it and with the propensity to listing and sinking. It does not have enough of a draught to stay upright without batteries in and it leaks like crazy. It is not a very successful tugboat, it’s more of a typical cheap and nasty toy designed for a few days enjoyment and then a swift final voyage to the dustbin or under the bed.

Now you may ask what this has to do with the price of eggs? People who know me are aware that I am a ship enthusiast, and once upon a time I used to have a large fleet of ships, of which two were radio controlled. 

My first RC boat was a “Damen Stantug” made by Veron and she had a 29″ fibreglass hull and was quite a large vessel with lots of space in the hull for a small model engine of the glowplug design. Naturally these were not available on my budget so a large electric motor was substituted instead. I also purchased a 2 channel radio and a set of motorbike batteries to run the motor off. Unfortunately a reliable speed control was very difficult to find and I ended up with a large wire wound potentiometer affair that used to run very hot and tended to be somewhat unreliable. 

Once the motor, prop shaft and bulkheads were installed I was ready for a test run and a friend and I headed off to the Blue Dam in Mayfair late one evening with the hull ready to launch. I had installed simple navigation lights and a search light on it so we could see it in the dark and we launched the hull with much trepidation. If something failed I would literally be up the creek without a paddle because retrieving the boat would have been very difficult. Lo and behold everything worked and the hull tore across the water at maximum revs. It was working remarkably well and so far no leaks had shown up although the speed control was running very hot. 

Wind forward many moths later and my tug was finished as per the plans. And, by some strange miracle I have pics of her. She carried the moniker “Dildo” and I am not even going to try explain it. She also flew a small red flag with “Enjoy your pizza” on it, just another quirk that I added. 

Unfortunately the speed control was a major bugbear and charging arrangements for the motorbike batteries were less than ideal. The big motor drew a lot of current and the bike battery worked well enough. The hull was buoyant enough that I ended up adding extra lead ballast in it to bring down the draught. I also managed to score 10 model truck tyres that I wired as fenders along the rubbing strake, and later on I added a small crane, zodiac, electric searchlights, internal lights and navigation lights. I was proud of my tug, she was awesome. 

I also bought a small centre island container ship that could be converted into a superstructure aft configuration made by Graupner under the unlikely name of Neptun. She too was radio controlled and was very fast on the water, too fast in fact and she really had to be reigned in or she would try to imitate a speedboat. Her motor was much smaller and more efficient and I had better battery life with her, although the limitation of both boats was the life of the penlights that were used in the radio receiver (4) and transmitter (8); back then rechargeable batteries were not as readily available as they are now.  

Superstructure midships configuration

Superstructure aft configuration

Of course back then I was living close to a large body of water, albeit a very polluted body of water, so could put a boat under my arm and head out for a quick sail. When I moved from Homestead Park in 1985 I no longer had anywhere to sail my boats and of course not having a car meant that their days of sailing had come to an end, I used the tug once or twice when I was involved with the disastrous attempt at restoring the models ships at Santarama, Alas the person in charge was more of a hindrance than anything else so that all came to nought. Interestingly enough Santarama had a number of radio controlled ships that were probably in operation when the place opened, but they had been laid up and became scrap.  

At some point I had managed to pick up a very nice trawler by Veron too, and sort of completed her but the wood was very dry and the superstructure cracked badly. It was a nice model though and it would have made a nice conversion into a short seas trader. She too was sold in a semi rebuilt state. I recall using her as a demonstration model on navigation lights at a meeting the Titanic Society of South Africa under the name SS Lamptest. 

I sold my large ships in 1999 and I like to think that my tug is still out there somewhere and that she occasionally hits the water and has a blast. I always regretted selling her as she was an awesome boat, but at the time it was more or less a sound idea. I still collect ships though and have a large collection of 1/1250 and 1/1200 waterline vessels, although none can float. And, I have just gotten this poor imitation of a toy boat that I am tempted to refit, although fittings appear to cost more than the boat did. Much to my dismay there is not much of a selection of toy boats suitable for the bath out there, and that is quite sad because occasionally you really need to mess about with boats. 

**Update**

Yesterday while browsing the local overpriced antique emporium I chanced upon a model I have been after for quite some time. Produced by Triang I have seen these on ebay, usually at a horrible price and a poor condition.

The one I picked up is reasonably intact but is in need of attention (and a hair dryer to sort out the warped hull). It has a clockwork motor in it and the key comes out the funnel.

As far as I can see there were 2 in the ocean liner series: Pretoria Castle and Orcades although the only difference between the two was the paint job and Orcades may have been battery powered. I wanted the UC ship because of my interest in Union-Castle. Sizewise it is 50cm long, and surprisingly heavy. The warped superstructure seems to have been common problem with them though and many Triang products from that era suffered from the same problem. Triang also produced a tanker, police launch, tug boat and a drifter but I have not seen them on ebay as yet.  I may have to fabricate masts and booms for her and unfortunately the 1 set of lifeboats is missing, however the motor works and that huge prop spins like mad. As a curiosity this ship is really great, and I believe you could get them in South Africa too and they have outlived the real ship by many years. Nowadays they are really relics of a bygone age of toys.

Does she float? yes she does although I am wary of letting her run amok in the murky floodwaters in town.

The white string is my last resort if she starts to sink.

DRW © 2019 -2020. Created 14/03/2019, updated 27/05/2019


Passing time near Paddington

In 2016 I visited London and ended up exploring Little Venice and Paddington Station, and of course my trip to South Africa meant I would invariably end up in the area again. I had spent the morning of the 22nd at the Natural History Museum in London (most of it in the queue), and on my arrival back in London I had roughly 3 hours to kill depending on when I got back from Heathrow. I had more or less decided to spend that time looking around close to the station as it was not really feasible to head down to anywhere else. Paddington and Little Venice were my best options because I really wanted to see whether I could find any Paddington Bear statues in the area.

I left my very heavy luggage at the Station and armed with a map of “The Pawprint Trail” headed onwards. The weather was not really great, and I was not dressed warmly as I had not taken much warm clothing with me on the trip. I had two places I wanted to find and hopefully to photograph the Paddington Statues at those spots. I already had 3 of the statues mentioned on the map:

Paddington  statue in Norfolk Square Gardens

Paddington statue on Paddington Station

Statue on Paddington Station

 

The first Paddington I was after was near Sheldon Square and close to the one corner of Paddington Station. Unfortunately it was rush hour and very difficult to find the statue in the rush of people heading to and from the station.  Fortunately I found him, and he was feeling kind of blue by the looks of it.  Taking an image of him was also difficult as he was under a bridge with sunlight on one side and darkness on the other, and did I mention people walking past just as I hit the shutter button? 

The image to the left has been lightened a bit as his face was mostly in shadow. My pic taken I was about ready to head out looking for number 2, but I was also intrigued to see mention of a Michael Bond statue on the map I had been given at the Paddington Shop on the station. It was not too far away and involved crossing the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal where I was and heading towards Paddington Green. It did look do-able so I turned my bows into the general direction and off I went.  I had roughly 90 minutes to complete the job and I would also be able to have a look at the Church of St Mary on Paddington Green while I was in the area. 

The area around Paddington Station looks like this:

The basin was full of assorted narrow boats, and some where very nicely decorated too, and at this point the sun was trying its best to shine. It was a loosing battle though.

I headed towards a footbridge that theoretically came out close to where the Michael Bond statue was, this is the view looking back from where I had come. 

The bridge crossed under Westway but instead of heading to where the statue was I headed off on a tangent which lead me away from where I should be going. It was quite a pretty area though with many old buildings in it. 

Parking was at a premium and cars were stuck bumper to bumper as drivers tried to nab a spot that somebody was trying to vacate. The building above is part of “St Mary’s Mansions”

I continued walking along St Mary’s Terrace until I reached the Regents Canal. It was home to many narrow boats and quite difficult to get an image that encompassed the whole canal. 

Behind me was the very imposing Catholic Apostolic Church in Maida Avenue but I was unable to get anywhere close to it as the grounds were firmly locked. 

I could not quite work out how this area related to where I wanted to be so I decided to return the way I came and see whether I could find the statue again. Returning to the footbridge I walked in the opposite direction from which I had come and duly found the statue of Michael Bond and two others. Actually it was not a statue but a laser cut silhouette artwork and one of three artworks. It appears as if there are associated plaques at the artworks, but I did not look too closely.

(L-R) Michael Bond OBE, author and creator of Paddington Bear. Alan Turning OBE, FRS, 1912 – 1954, father of computer science and WWII code-breaker. Mary Seacole, 1805 – 1881, Crimean War nurse.

Close by was the Church of St Mary on Paddington Green and an associated hall that appeared to be a nursery school. The church was not a large one and it had an associated graveyard. Unfortunately it was not open so I could not go inside to warm up. It was becoming decidedly miserable by now and I was seriously considering returning to the station.

The church was built between 1788 and 1791 and burials ceased in the churchyards in 1857 when the space ran out.  There are two burials areas, the first being around the church and the original area next to the church grounds depicted below.

The church under my belt I headed back towards that station and the Paddington basin where the other Paddington statue was. It was not too long a walk, but a very chilly one.

The statue was shown as being on the left bank and close to the “Fan Bridge” which was in the down position. I could however not find the statue and had to ask for help from a yellow hi-vis vested person.

Instead of being outside the statue is actually inside a building which explains why I couldn’t see it.

Mission accomplished it was time to head off to catch my train, although I did have an hour to kill till it left and I spent that reading, pacing and looking at my watch, the departure boards and the passing crowds.  Once again the train was one of the new British Rail Class 800’s and I had travelled in one on my way to London on the 22nd. I was able to grab a pic of the old and the new on this occasion, and in 2016 when I was here only the Class 43’s were evident.

I finally boarded my train at 11.25 and at 11.36 the train started to move and I was on my way home. I still had 4 hours of travel ahead of me, but was getting closer all the time. I had originally considered staying in London overnight and only returning home on the 8th, but given the weather and my own state of tiredness it is a good thing I did not.

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 08/03/2019